“The world must address the humanitarian crisis in Syria and meet the basic needs of people affected by 20 months of deadly conflict, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development said on Tuesday,” Agence France-Presse reports (Ozerkan, 11/27). USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah “said that at least a million Syrians, forced from their homes by the national uprising and government bombing, would not have food and other vital basic support, and the number could be double that or more,” the Kansas City Star writes. “‘Nearly 2.5 million people displaced from their homes require immediate support,’ Shah said,” the newspaper writes (Gutman, 11/28).
Health In Emergency Situations/Humanitarian Assistance
Emergency Obstetric Care Reduced Maternal Mortality Rates Up To 74% In Two African Projects, MSF Reports
According to a new briefing paper (.pdf) from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), access to emergency obstetric care, including ambulance service, could help save the lives of up to three quarters of women who might otherwise die in childbirth, AlertNet reports (Batha, 11/19). In two projects, one in Kabezi, Burundi, and the other in Bo, Sierra Leone, MSF showed “that the introduction of an ambulance referral system together with the provision of emergency obstetric services can significantly reduce the risk of women dying from pregnancy related complications,” according to an MSF press release. The services, which cost between $2 and $4 per person annually, are offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are free of charge, the press release notes (11/19). The projects “cut maternal mortality rates by an estimated 74 percent in Kabezi and 61 percent in Bo,” Reuters writes, adding, “The charity hopes its model could serve as an example for donors, governments and other aid agencies considering investing in emergency obstetric care in countries with high maternal mortality rates” (11/19).
“A new international food assistance convention will come into force on January 1 next year after the European Union ratified it this week, but critics say it lacks teeth,” AlertNet reports. “The significance of the new Food Assistance Convention is that it marks a shift away from traditional food aid — sacks transported from overseas and handed out on the ground by relief workers,” the news service writes, adding the new convention says food distribution should be undertaken only when necessary, with cash or vouchers otherwise being distributed for people to purchase food within their own communities. “The new convention — negotiated by the E.U. and 35 countries (the E.U. states plus Argentina, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States) — also underlines the importance of linking short- and longer-term food assistance efforts, to enable people to become better prepared for future disasters or high food prices,” AlertNet states.
“The United States announced an extra $30 million in aid to those affected by the war in Syria on Wednesday and called the formation of a new opposition coalition an important step that would help Washington better target its help,” Reuters reports. “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the announcement after talks in Perth involving her Australian counterpart Bob Carr and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his Australian counterpart, Stephen Smith,” the news service adds (Brunnstrom, 11/14).
Medical Aid Group Reports Syrian Troops Seizing Foreign Aid; WFP Warns Of Increasing Food Needs Among Refugees
“A medical aid group said on Wednesday Syrian troops are seizing foreign aid and reselling it or channeling it towards government loyalists, putting millions of lives at risk,” Reuters reports (11/7). “Almost all international aid sent to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is being confiscated by the regime and never reaches civilians in need, [Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organisations (UOSSM),] an umbrella relief group for the war-ravaged country, said,” Lebanon’s Daily Star reports. “However, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), which both work closely with the Syrian Red Crescent, denied their aid was being seized,” the newspaper adds (Larson, 11/7).
“The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) is to deliver emergency aid to the south-east of Cuba, where Hurricane Sandy wrought widespread damage,” BBC News reports. “The WFP is also appealing for $20 million (Â£12.5) to help some 425,000 Haitians affected by the storm,” the news service writes, noting, “The WFP is planning to work with the Cuban government to distribute emergency one-month aid in Santiago de Cuba, which is home to 500,000 residents.”
Ongoing ethnic tension and sectarian violence in areas of western Myanmar are preventing Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) from delivering medical care in the region, the group said on Monday, the New York Times reports. The group “reported that many of its local staff members were afraid to work at refugee camps and medical centers in Rakhine State, where people wounded in clashes need treatment for wounds from guns, knives, arrows and other weapons,” the newspaper writes. “Aid workers have reported severe malnutrition among children and widespread malaria,” according to the New York Times (Fuller, 11/5). “[S]ince the outbreak of violence in June, MSF is operating at a fraction of its capacity due to access limitations largely stemming from threats and intimidation,” the organization said in a press release, adding, “Tens of thousands of long-term residents, previously receiving medical care, have gone without care for months.” In the press release, MSF “calls for unhindered access and for tolerance of the provision of medical care to all those who need it” in the region (11/5).
“A combined effort by health, water, sanitation and nutrition partners, including the World Food Programme (WFP), to reduce alarming malnutrition rates amongst Sudanese refugees who have settled in Maban County of South Sudan, is beginning to yield fruit,” WFP reports in an article on its webpage, adding, “Parents say they have seen dramatic improvements in their children’s health.” Noting “more than 110,000 refugees [are] currently living in four different settlements in Maban County, in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State,” the article writes, “Malnutrition rates soared to alarming levels in the refugee settlements. To address that, WFP in July scaled up its existing nutrition support for new mothers and children, who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of undernutrition” (Herzog, 11/1).
“Flooding in Haiti caused by Hurricane Sandy has triggered a surge in cholera, with three deaths and almost 300 suspected cases, adding to a death toll from the storm of 54,” the Financial Times reports (Mander, 11/2). “Already struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Isaac in August, which in turn set back rebuilding from the earthquake of January 2010, Haiti now faces renewed crises on multiple fronts,” PBS NewsHour’s “The Rundown” writes (Lazaro, 11/2). “Three days of torrential downpours and strong winds brought by Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of Haiti’s fragile agriculture and have put a million and a half Haitians at risk for hunger, the United Nations’ humanitarian-aid coordination office said over the weekend,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which notes, “Potential food-price increases worry international and Haitian officials” (Arnesen, 11/4).
U.N. Refugee Agency Prepared To Send Emergency Aid Into Previously Unreachable Syrian Communities If Cease Fire Holds
The U.N. refugee agency “said Thursday it is ready to send emergency aid to thousands of Syrian families in previously unreachable areas” if a four-day U.N. Security Council-backed ceasefire set to begin Friday holds, Agence France-Presse reports. In an press release, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said, “In all, some 550 tons of supplies are being made available for distribution to up to 13,000 affected families — some 65,000 people — in several previously inaccessible areas,” the news agency notes (10/25). “UNHCR, which currently has more than 350 staff in three offices across Syria, said it has been working closely with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other partners to provide aid,” the U.N. News Centre reports.