In a “wide-ranging,” two-part interview with AllAfrica.com, Unni Karunakara, the international president of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), “spoke about the values that underpin the work of MSF, the organization’s culture and its passion for principled humanitarian action,” the news service writes. “Humanitarian aid has come a long way in the last 40 years, says … Karunakara, but he warns that important health care gains made in the last decade may be reversed if funding is not maintained,” the news service notes. In part one of the interview, Karunakara discusses “gains made in reducing medicine costs and providing treatment for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria,” as well as “the challenges MSF faces in remaining independent and principled in conflict situations.” In part two of the interview, “he looks at the future of MSF in a changing world” (Valentine, 5/7).
Health In Emergency Situations/Humanitarian Assistance
In this post in IntraHealth International’s “Global Health” blog, editorial manager Susanna Smith examines how health care workers operating in areas of conflict are “being used as pawns of warfare.” Smith highlights the decision by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) last month to suspend services in prisons in the Libyan city of Misrata due to reports of torture and notes, “[MSF] General Director Christopher Stokes called the situation an obstruction and exploitation of the organization’s work.” Smith cites a Center for Strategic and International Studies report released last week “calling for ‘the mere handwringing that has largely greeted attack on the health care in the past’ to ‘be replaced by concerted international action and a system on documentation, protection, and accountability,’” and concludes, “The international community owes at least this much to these health workers, who give so much and put themselves at risk to care for others” (2/2).
Inter Press Service reports on a cholera outbreak in Malawi’s Nsanje and Chikhwawa districts, located on the southern border with Mozambique, noting that government officials have attributed the outbreak to declining sanitation conditions as a result of flooding in late January. According to IPS, “up to 550 pit latrines were washed away in Nsanje alone, a district hardest hit by the floods,” and “[s]ewage from the latrines has contaminated water sources in the district, including boreholes and dug-out wells, thereby escalating the cholera incidents, according to the assistant Disaster Management Officer for Nsanje, Humphrey Magalasi.”
Two years after Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake, a “crisis of gender-based violence and exploitation is festering — and foreign aid efforts are still failing to protect survivor communities from harm, or to make the criminal justice system more accountable,” The Nation reports. “In a recent study of conditions surrounding four internally displaced people’s camps, researchers with the Global Justice Center and Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) estimate that ’14 percent of households reported that at least one member of the household had been a victim of sexual violence since the earthquake,’” the news service writes, adding, “Victims were typically young, female, and deprived of access to food, water and sanitation.”
This report from the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Global Health Policy Center, titled “Protection of Health Care in Armed and Civil Conflict,” examines how “action [last year] at the U.N. Security Council, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Department of State, combined with a new campaign by the International Committee of the Red Cross and civil society mobilization, led to potential breakthroughs in three key dimensions of protection — documentation, prevention, and accountability.” The summary states, “The opportunity to better protect health services during conflict is palpable” (Rubenstein, 2/1).
In this post on USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” the agency describes its activities in “assisting communities and individuals impacted by the cyclones in Madagascar, Mozambique, and Malawi.” USAID is “providing shelter, clean water, and health protection to those affected by the cyclones” and its “disaster response experts are on the ground working alongside local officials to identify needs and learn what additional U.S. assistance is needed,” the blog notes (2/17).
“A feeble international response to Pakistan’s second major flooding crisis in two years has left millions of people at serious risk of malnutrition and disease, aid groups warned Thursday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “The Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF), a network of the 41 largest international charities in the country, called on the international community and Pakistan to take urgent steps with the next monsoon season months away,” the news service adds. “At least 2.5 million people are still without food, water, shelter, sanitation and health care, putting them at serious risk of malnutrition, disease and deepening poverty, said the coalition of international charities,” AFP writes, adding, “Around 43 percent of affected people are severely short of food and malnutrition levels were already well above the emergency threshold in the southern provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan before the floods struck” (Gilani, 2/15).
“At least 16 people have been killed this week when a category four cyclone lashed Madagascar’s eastern shores, rescue authorities said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports, adding, “Some 65 people were injured and about 11,000 people left homeless after Cyclone Giovanna pummeled the country’s eastern seaboard causing power shutdowns in parts of the island’s port city of Tamatave, rescue officials said” (Iloniaina, 2/16). UNICEF “will start distributing medicines and mosquito nets [Thursday] to the parts of eastern Madagascar hardest hit” by the cyclone, the U.N. News Centre writes.
The medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Thursday said the conditions for hundreds of thousands of refugees living in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp are worsening and people there “are experiencing a ‘humanitarian emergency’ because of the scaling back of aid work,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (2/16). MSF “said the health of refugees at the complex is deteriorating, with recent outbreaks of measles, cholera and acute diarrhea,” and said an estimated one in 12 children is malnourished, VOA News writes. “Most of the refugees at Dadaab are Somalis who fled last year’s severe drought or Somalia’s chronic conflict,” the news agency notes. MSF “called on the Kenyan government, international aid groups, and the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to provide ‘continuous support’ to the Dadaab camp, saying thousands of refugees are relying on their support,” according to the news agency (2/16).
In this post in IntraHealth International’s “Global Health” blog, Editorial Manager Susanna Smith responds to an editorial published in the Lancet earlier this month that “issued a dire warning to the international medical community” about the use of medicine as a weapon of war in Syria, writing, “It is just the latest in a series of reports from across the Middle East on how medical care and medical professionals and facilities are being used to inflict politically motivated violence.” She adds, “The U.N.’s condemnation of this type of violence in Syria specifically is one step in the right direction, but it is high time the international medical community speaks out against the overt violations of medicine’s covenant with society, violations that are clearly a strategic weapon on the part of these political regimes” (2/27).