“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.
Health In Emergency Situations/Humanitarian Assistance
“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.
IRIN this week published two articles examining the humanitarian response to the Sahel food crisis, which “put an estimated 18.7 million people at risk of hunger and 1.1 million children at risk of severe malnutrition.” In the first, the news service “spoke to aid agencies, donors and Sahel experts to find out where the crisis response worked better this year,” noting the “situation catalyzed the largest humanitarian response the region has ever seen and it is widely agreed that this helped avert a large-scale disaster.” The article discusses how early warning reports allowed donors and agencies to “respond earlier and more quickly” than they did to the Horn of Africa drought in July 2011 (10/24).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a statement on Monday “announced an extra $58 million in aid for Horn of Africa countries,” Agence France-Presse/Times Live reports (10/23). “Clinton said the humanitarian situation in the region is fragile, with more than nine million people in need of assistance because of conflict, flooding, drought, and economic problems,” VOA News writes, noting, “The U.S. State Department says the United States has given $1.3 billion in emergency assistance since 2011 to affected people in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti” (10/22). “The U.S. ‘is also fighting chronic food insecurity by helping vulnerable communities diversify and adapt their livelihoods, improve smallholder agricultural and other efforts so they can become more resilient,’ [Clinton] said,” according to AFP (10/23).