The following blog posts were published in recognition of World Humanitarian Day, which was observed on Sunday, August 19.
Health In Emergency Situations/Humanitarian Assistance
On World Humanitarian Day, recognized August 19, “United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has highlighted the power of individual actions to spark global changes, and praised the work of humanitarian workers who provide assistance to vulnerable people around the world,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/17). In a press release, “UNICEF called on all parties in conflicts around the world to allow humanitarian workers safe, unimpeded access to reach children and women in need” (8/19). “World Humanitarian Day gives us the opportunity to show our appreciation to the thousands of workers … who are working every day in difficult circumstances,” the WHO writes in an article on its webpage, noting, “Health is one of several critical dimensions of humanitarian response, and the sustainable recovery of people under hardship” (August 2012).
In a post in the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” blog, Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, writes that World Humanitarian Day, observed August 19, “is a day to pay tribute to all humanitarian personnel who have lost their lives in the line of duty and to all those who continue to take risks to relieve the suffering of the less fortunate.” She continues, “Humanitarian work is one of the world’s most dangerous professions. Kidnappings, shootings and death threats are all part of the job description in places such as Sudan, Syria, Somalia and others blighted by conflict,” adding, “Those who work in this rocky terrain are increasingly exposed to risk while maintaining a lifeline to the victims of wars and disasters.”
“The first case of cholera has emerged among thousands of people in an impromptu refugee camp in eastern Congo who fled fighting between a new rebel group and government forces backed by U.N. peacekeepers,” according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (Muhumuza, 8/3). The first case was detected on Friday, and since then at least nine people have died of the disease, MSF said, according to Al Jazeera (8/5).
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday reported that nearly 170 people have died, 400 people are missing, and more than 84,000 people are homeless because of severe flooding in the country, the Guardian reports, noting that the World Food Programme (WFP) “announced on Friday the details of its first batch of emergency food aid to the country, although it did not state when it would arrive” (8/4). “WFP said it would send emergency assistance comprising ‘an initial ration of 400 grams of maize per day for 14 days,’” Reuters notes, adding the statement said a recent U.N. mission to North Korea found significant damage to crop fields.
“The situation of 170,000 Sudanese refugees living in camps and settlements across South Sudan’s Unity and Upper Nile states is alarming and there are worries about an outbreak of cholera, U.N. refugee agency officials said on Friday,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (8/24). “‘With the current rain and cold, we are seeing refugees suffering from respiratory tract infections, diarrhea and malaria,’ a spokesperson for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Adrian Edwards, told reporters in Geneva,” the U.N. News Centre writes (8/24). “Most of the refugees are young children — accompanied by mothers who are also sick — with almost half in the Upper Nile state under the age of 11, said UNCHCR,” Agence France-Presse notes (8/25). The New York Times’ “Lens” blog profiles the Intensive Therapeutic Feeding Center in South Sudan’s Batil refugee camp, where “[a]s many as four young children die … every day, according to Doctors Without Borders” (Sobecki, 8/24). In related news, IRIN examines an “urgent need for mental healthcare” in the country, where “decades of civil war have resulted in widespread trauma, and the chronically underdeveloped nation is struggling to provide facilities, staff and treatment for those in need” (8/27).
“Philippine authorities appealed Thursday for help in getting relief to two million people affected by deadly floods in and around the capital, warning that evacuation centers were overwhelmed,” Agence France-Presse reports (Morella, 8/9). “The capital city, Manila, has received two months’ worth of rain in the past 48 hours, leaving much of the 12-million-person metropolis under water,” Deutsche Welle writes (8/9). BBC News reports that at least 19 people have died and more than 80,000 are in emergency shelters (McGeown, 8/8). According to CNN, “U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas said Tuesday that the United States would provide $100,000 for disaster relief” (8/8).
UNICEF on Wednesday “warned that thousands of acutely malnourished children in Somalia are at risk of death because little money is available to help them,” VOA News writes, adding, “UNICEF said it has received only 12 percent of its $289 million emergency appeal for humanitarian operations this year.” “The famine declared in southern Somalia last year is over,” but “Somalia remains the world’s most complex humanitarian situation,” the news service writes, noting that UNICEF “reported that almost one-third of Somalis are unable to meet their essential food and non-food needs.”
U.N. Official Calls For More Leadership, Funding, Comprehensive Plan To Address Potential Humanitarian Crisis In Sahel
U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos on Thursday “called for strong leadership and a comprehensive response plan, as well as donor support, for the food crisis in West Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region, warning that hunger could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe,” the U.N. News Centre reports (5/24). Amos “met with President Macky Sall in Senegal and Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso on a four-day trip to west Africa to examine the impact of the food crisis,” Agence France-Presse writes. “We can do more to avoid the crisis from becoming a catastrophe in the region but to save more lives we need strong leadership … and continued generosity from the regional and humanitarian community,” she said, the news agency notes (5/24). The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which Amos heads, said that in addition to food aid, “priorities for those in need of assistance include health care and water and sanitation services,” according to the U.N. News Centre (5/24).
Kansas City’s KCUR 89.3 FM reports on the 2012 International Food Aid & Development Conference, where experts gathered this week to discuss food aid programs. The news service writes, “The challenge for governments, aid agencies and recipient countries is to create a collaborative food aid system that accommodates both the needs of the U.S. agriculture industry and growing food insecurity among a mushrooming population,” and quotes a number of experts who spoke at the event.