The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) “reports heavy rains and flooding in parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia are causing havoc among thousands of displaced Somalis in the region” and “flood-damaged roads are hampering relief efforts to thousands affected by the heavy rains,” VOA News reports (Schlein, 11/4). “UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told a press briefing in Geneva that the agency has distributed 4,500 assistance kits so far, which include plastic sheets, plastic buckets and soap,” the U.N. News Centre writes (11/4). “In addition to providing emergency relief for floods, other U.N. agencies continue to increase their efforts to help Somalis who suffer from famine and insecurity,” VOA notes (11/4).
Food Security and Nutrition
“South Korea on Tuesday authorized the World Health Organization [WHO] to resume distribution of Seoul-funded medical aid to North Korea, amid growing calls for humanitarian assistance for malnourished North Korean children,” the New York Times reports (Sang-Hun, 11/8). “Seoul has authorized the WHO to release $6.94 million to equip hospitals in the North, said the official of the unification ministry, which handles cross-border ties,” Agence France-Presse writes. “Seoul decided to unblock its WHO funding ‘by taking into account its stance of maintaining its humanitarian aid for infants, children and other vulnerable people in the North, and the WHO’s request,’ [a South Korean] ministry official said on condition of anonymity,” AFP notes (11/8).
“Brazil is a world leader in the fight against hunger and its experience can be shared with other countries, visiting World Food Programme [WFP] chief Josette Sheeran said Monday … in the northeastern city of Salvador while inaugurating a local branch of a newly established Center of Excellence Against Hunger based in [the capital] Brasilia,” Agence France-Presse reports (11/7). The center “will assist governments in Africa, Asia and Latin America by drawing on the expertise of WFP and Brazil in the fight against hunger, while promoting sustainable school feeding models and other food and nutrition safety nets,” the U.N. News Centre writes (11/7).
Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Catherine Bragg on Tuesday “urged donors to give generously to assist Nicaragua and El Salvador cope with the aftermath of the recent floods, saying that the scale of the disaster is beyond what the small Central American nations can handle on their own,” the U.N. News Centre reports. According to the news service, approximately 1.2 million people in the region are affected by flooding, “[t]housands of homes have been damaged and hundreds of schools, roads and health facilities are closed,” and [w]ater-borne diseases are spreading …, she added.” Bragg also said food security was a concern, as thousands of acres of crops were destroyed, “‘making it increasingly difficult for people to get enough food for the next six months,’ she stated,” the news service notes (11/8).
Relief Officials Concerned Over Malnutrition Among Children In Ethiopian Refugee Camps Despite Food Aid
Humanitarian aid officials are concerned about high levels of malnutrition among young children at the Dolo Ado refugee camps in southern Ethiopia “despite the free availability of Plumpy’nut, a peanut-based paste in a plastic wrapper for treatment of severe acute malnutrition,” the Guardian reports. “‘Maybe they’re not eating it properly,’ said Giorgia Testolin, head of the refugee section of the World Food Programme Ethiopia. ‘The food is there, there is easy access, but why is the situation so bad? This needs to be investigated,'” the newspaper writes, adding a report (.pdf) out last month from USAID and the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS NET) noted some refugees, including children, sell or trade Plumpy’nut for other supplies, such as sugar, tea leaves, powder milk and meat. Overcrowding in the camps also presents problems, as 8,000 people await the opening of a fifth camp, which has been delayed because proper sanitation facilities are not yet ready, according to relief officials, the newspaper notes (Tran, 11/22).
“The triple threat of HIV, poverty and food insecurity is increasingly exposing children to abuse, exploitation and other human rights violations” in Lesotho, Inter Press Service reports in an article examining child poverty in the small southern African country. “In the country of 1.8 million, a good 500,000 out of 825,000 boys and girls live under 1.25 dollars a day and without proper shelter, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Almost 40 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition and are stunted. Both under-five and infant mortality have persistently gone up in the past decade,” IPS writes, adding, “To make matters worse, Lesotho is one of the three countries in the world worst affected by HIV/AIDS. Every fourth Basotho is infected with the virus, leaving a quarter of children orphaned” (Palitza, 11/23).
“A United Nations assessment published [Friday] finds that the main annual harvest in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has improved compared to last year but serious nutrition concerns persist, especially among young children,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The joint report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that while harvests are expected to increase by about 8.5 percent over 2010, the country will still have a cereal import requirement of 739,000 tons,” the news service writes (11/25). According to the Associated Press/Washington Post, “The report says nearly three million people will continue to require food assistance next year. U.N. officials have appealed to wealthy countries to put aside politics to help hungry North Koreans” (11/25).
“Al-Shabab rebels banned some U.N. and international aid agencies from working in Somalia on Monday and began seizing and looting some of their offices in southern and central areas of the country, the Islamist group and aid sources said,” Reuters reports (Ahmed et al., 11/28). “Among the agencies al-Shabab banned on Monday were UNICEF, the World Health Organization, UNHCR, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Danish Refugee Council, German Agency For Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Action Contre la Faim, Solidarity, Saacid and Concern,” the Associated Press/Washington Post notes (11/28). In a statement, al-Shabab, “[t]he main Islamist insurgent group in Somalia, which is still in the throes of a major food crisis classified as famine in some regions, … accus[ed] them of ‘illicit activities and misconduct,'” IRIN writes (11/28). “The al-Shabab statement accused the groups of exaggerating the scale of the problems in Somalia for political reasons and to raise money,” according to BBC News (11/28)
“Although advances in vaccines, nutrition and family health have dramatically reduced the number of child deaths in the past 50 years, nearly eight million children younger than five still die every year,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in this CNN opinion piece. She adds, “To me, this number is unacceptable, because most of these deaths could be avoided” by providing antibiotics, sterile medical supplies, or education on breastfeeding, as well by improving access to nutrient-rich foods and effective contraceptives.
“South Korea said on Monday that it would send 6.5 billion won, or $5.7 million, in aid to North Korea through UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency,” the New York Times reports. South Korea last year suspended aid to North Korea through UNICEF and the WHO, but Seoul last month resumed aid through the WHO, the newspaper notes (Choe, 12/5). “Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Monday it will donate about $5.7 million to UNICEF programs to send medicines and vaccines and help malnourished North Korean children,” the Associated Press/Washington Post writes (12/5).