“United Nations member states pledged $384 million on Tuesday to an emergency fund that will allow the world body to respond quickly to natural disasters and other crises in 2013, U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos said,” Reuters reports. “The U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) … has raised more than $2.8 billion since it was launched in 2006,” and “[s]o far in 2012, the fund has allocated $465 million for humanitarian aid in 49 countries, including Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria, North Korea, Haiti and Pakistan,” the news agency notes (12/11). At a high-level conference on the CERF, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “From flood zones to war zones, CERF stops crises from turning into catastrophes. … The Fund does this through quick, targeted support when an emergency starts or by injecting funds in stubbornly under-funded situations,” according to the U.N. News Centre. “The rapid and flexible support offered by the CERF makes it a central pillar of the U.N. agencies’ humanitarian response,” Amos said at the conference, the news service notes (12/11).
Health In Emergency Situations/Humanitarian Assistance
“Despite good rains across much of the Sahel this year, 1.4 million children are expected to be malnourished — up from one million in 2012, according to the 2013 Sahel regional strategy,” IRIN reports. “The strategy, which calls on donors to provide $1.6 billion of aid for 2013, says fewer people are expected to go hungry in 2013 — 10.3 million instead of 18.7 million in 2012,” the news service writes.
“The United Nations and its humanitarian partners [on Wednesday] appealed for $1.5 billion to assist civilians affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria over the next six months, including those inside the country as well as those taking refuge beyond its borders,” the U.N. News Centre reports (12/19). “The twin appeals are for $519.6 million to help four million people within Syria and $1 billion to meet the needs of up to one million Syrian refugees in five other countries until July 2013,” Reuters writes (Nebehay/Charbonneau, 12/19). “Collectively they comprise the largest short term humanitarian appeal ever,” a UNOCHA press release states (12/19).
Writing in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, reflects on the concept of resilience, which he defines as one’s “ability to cope and their systems for preparing, responding and rebuilding” after a natural disaster or emergency. “In the United States, these systems are already in place and, for the most part, function well,” but “[t]his is not the case in many low-income countries,” he writes. He continues, “With dramatic weather events and food price volatility only likely to continue and intensify due to climate change, the need to build resilience has never been greater” (12/4).
On the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) blog, Ashley Chandler, deputy policy director at the USGLC, discusses USAID’s new guidance on Building Resilience to Recurrent Crisis, writing that the policy “is about using existing development dollars more effectively in disaster prone regions, so that less humanitarian assistance is needed in the future.” She asks, “But what’s the ultimate goal?” and continues, “USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah says success will be measured by whether USAID is able ‘to put ourselves out of business’ by reducing the number, volume, and length of time of the ‘infusions of humanitarian assistance needed in the future.'” Chandler concludes, “As America strives to get our own fiscal house in order, the fact of the matter is that we’re also nearing a critical mass for relief and development funding. Meaning, ‘doing more of the same,’ to quote Administrator Shah, is no longer an option. Nor should it be” (12/12).
On Monday, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah “announced the launch of the agency’s first-ever policy and program guidance [.pdf] on Building Resilience to Recurrent Crisis during an event in Washington, D.C.,” according to an USAID press release. “Chronic poverty and recurring shocks drive the same communities into crisis year after year, undermining development gains,” the press release states, adding, “In response to this clear need, and together with our international development partners, USAID has committed, through this policy and program guidance, to better coordinate its development and humanitarian approaches to effectively build resilience in targeted areas of recurrent crisis.” The agency “intends for these efforts to collectively contribute to reduced humanitarian need” over the long-term, according to the press release (12/3).
“The nearly two-year conflict in Syria has taken tens of thousands of lives, destroyed entire neighborhoods and sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing. But more quietly, it has also eaten away at the country’s health care system,” IRIN reports. Many pharmaceutical factories, “which used to produce more than 90 percent of the country’s drug needs,” have shut down or cut production, the news service writes, adding, “Those medicines that are available have also risen in price, and amid skyrocketing unemployment and rising food prices, many Syrians — especially those displaced from their homes by the violence — are struggling to afford their usual medication.”
“Each year, the United States spends more than $1.5 billion feeding starving people overseas,” columnist Farah Stockman writes in a Boston Globe opinion piece. “But our charity comes with a catch: The food has to be bought in America, and much of it must be shipped on American ships,” she continues, adding, “Researchers estimate that buying food closer to where needy people are costs about half as much.” She continues, “We are the last donor country in the world to have these rules,” and writes, “At a time of budget cuts, you would think that one thing Republicans and Democrats could agree on would be making sure every tax dollar stretches as far as it can.” Stockman asks, “Why don’t we just change it?”
“Top United Nations officials [on Monday] called on the Security Council and the wider international community to support efforts to develop an integrated strategy to tackle the complex and multifaceted crisis facing the Sahel region of West Africa,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “‘The warning lights for the Sahel region continue to flash,’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Council, as it met to discuss the situation in a region that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, and includes Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and parts of Sudan, Cameroon and Nigeria,” the news service writes. “In addition to political instability in Mali, the region — particularly in its west — suffers from extreme poverty, with human development levels among the lowest in the world, porous borders that present significant security challenges, as well as human rights problems,” according to the news service.
UNFPA and mobile phone company Nokia announced this week that the “company will donate the equivalent of 3,000 clean delivery kits to the fund,” according to an UNFPA press release. “The kits, designed and distributed by UNFPA, help ensure safe delivery of babies in humanitarian settings,” and are being provided as a result of the fund’s social media campaign “Safe Birth. Even Here.,” the press release states, adding, “The campaign, which reports on and tracks safe deliveries in refugee camps and emergencies around the globe, is active on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, and aims to raise awareness about maternal health and the challenges faced by expectant mothers in crisis settings” (12/4).