“More than half a million people in northern Mali, occupied by Islamist fighters, need aid to cope with rising food prices, collapsed public services and a lack of health care, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday,” Reuters reports. “Public services practically no longer function, basic health services are not provided and supplying clean drinking water is difficult. Needs are huge,” Yasmine Praz Dessimoz, head of ICRC operations for North and West Africa, said at a news conference in Geneva, according to the news agency. “The ICRC, which deploys 111 aid workers in Mali, is one of few humanitarian organizations to have access to all of northern Mali, where no United Nations aid agencies deploy any staff,” Reuters notes (Nebehay, 9/13).
Health In Emergency Situations/Humanitarian Assistance
In the State Department’s “DipNote” blog, David Lane, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. agencies in Rome, discusses his recent trip to Niger, where more than three million people are food insecure and suffer from malnutrition. “I had expected the trip would leave me feeling depressed and hopeless,” but “by the time I left Niger, I was filled with optimism and confidence in the multilateral assistance and development operations at work on the ground. Amongst their efforts, I saw the components needed to break Niger’s relentless cycle of hunger and malnutrition,” he writes. “I was impressed by how well the different U.N. organizations, … as well as their NGO partner organizations are coordinating their work,” Lane states, concluding, “Emergency and development assistance are both vital to a relief effort, and can be even more effective when integrated” (9/5).
“The United States is adding $21 million to its humanitarian aid package for people displaced by violence in Syria, U.S. officials said Wednesday amid U.N. reports that more than 100,000 Syrians fled to neighboring countries in August,” the Washington Times reports (Taylor, 9/5). “USAID [Administrator] Rajiv Shah announced during a visit to Jordan that the new funds would be made available to the U.N. World Food Programme to help feed Syrians both inside and outside the country,” Agence France-Presse writes (9/5).
“International relief officials reported an increasingly grim aid crisis stemming from the Syria conflict on Tuesday, with two million people there not getting desperately needed help, and a sudden acceleration of refugees overwhelming the ability of neighboring countries to absorb them,” the New York Times reports. “In the province of Homs, so many doctors have fled that only three surgeons remained to serve a population of two million, the officials said,” according to the newspaper. “The World Health Organization said that a United Nations mission to Homs last week had found that more than half a million people needed aid, including health care, food and water,” it writes, adding, “The mission found that the biggest hospital in Homs had been destroyed, and that only six of the 12 public hospitals and eight of the 32 private hospitals were still functional.” The newspaper notes, “At the United Nations, the head of UNICEF and the European Union’s top relief official said that only about one-third of the three million people in Syria who needed help were getting any, and that combatants on both sides would be held responsible for respecting international law protecting civilians during war” (Cumming-Bruce/MacFarquhar, 9/11).
Humanitarian Situation Better, Still Tenuous, In Zimbabwe As E.U. Scales Down Assistance, IRIN Reports
Though the number of people in Zimbabwe in need of food aid has dropped from seven million in 2002-2003 to one million currently, the number could still rise by 600,000 in 2013, IRIN reports in an analysis of the humanitarian and political situation in the country. “Still, two of the country’s biggest donors, the European Union and the U.S., and their implementing partner, the U.N., say Zimbabwe is on its way to recovery and development,” the news service writes, noting “[t]he E.U. has announced that it is scaling down its humanitarian assistance.” IRIN states, “The E.U. has moved from funding only emergency food aid to funding nutrition, health, water and sanitation, and protection programs. [U.N. Financial Tracking Service (FTS)] data show that the health and education sectors are better funded than last year, but agriculture programs are worse off.”
In three separate articles, IRIN reports on the implications of flooding taking place in Africa. “Tens of thousands of people have been affected by flooding in parts of central, eastern and southern Chad following heavy rains in August,” the news service writes in the first article, adding that the floods have affected 445,725 people and destroyed 255,720 hectares of cropland. “The flooding is occurring at a time when Chad is still grappling with food insecurity,” IRIN states, noting, “Waterborne diseases, such as cholera, are endemic in some of the West and Central African countries, often peaking during the rainy season between August and December” (9/7).
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).
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.”