“Sierra Leone has declared a cholera outbreak that has left 176 people dead since the start of the year a national humanitarian emergency, officials said Friday,” AlertNet reports, adding, “Jonathan Abass Kamara, public relations officer for Sierra Leone’s health ministry, said the outbreak was the worst in the West Africa country’s history” (Akam, 8/17). “The decision was announced after a meeting between [the] government and officials from the World Health Organization and United Nation’s children agency UNICEF,” Agence France-Press/ReliefWeb writes, noting the government “has also set up a special task force to deal with the epidemic” (8/16).
Health In Emergency Situations/Humanitarian Assistance
The following blog posts were published in recognition of World Humanitarian Day, which was observed on Sunday, August 19.
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.”
“North Koreans hit by recent deadly floods badly need drinking water, food and medical assistance, an aid group said Wednesday after official media had reported 88 dead and nearly 63,000 homeless,” Agence France-Presse reports. A spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said a team from the organization visited the provinces of South and North Pyongan in the west of the country to assess damage, the news agency notes (8/1). In another article, AFP notes that the U.N. also is sending a team to assess the damage and humanitarian needs of the worst affected areas (7/31). “Even before the latest flooding, a dysfunctional food distribution system, rapid inflation and international sanctions over Pyongyang’s weapons programs have created what is thought to be widespread hunger,” Reuters writes (Park/Blanchard, 7/30). “Following an inspection visit last autumn, U.N. agencies estimated that three million people would need food aid this year even before the deluge,” according to AFP.
“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.
“Rain-battered Haiti is at risk of a fresh cholera outbreak” after “[t]ropical storm Isaac ripped through the impoverished Caribbean island [Saturday],” children’s charity Plan International warns, according to AlertNet (8/26). “The 400,000 people living in camps in the capital Port-au-Prince, such as Jean Marie Vincent, as well as those living in towns to the south of the island, including Les Cayes and Jacmel are among those at risk, following heavy rains and flooding,” Oxfam writes in a press release (Brinicombe, 8/26). “With a reported total of 10 deaths for the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by [Haiti and the Dominican Republic], the scale of devastation was less than many people had feared,” but “the capital and countryside of disaster-prone Haiti did suffer sporadic flooding, fallen poles and scores of toppled tents that housed people who lost their homes in the massive 2010 earthquake,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “Across Haiti, the number of people evacuated due to flooding rose over the weekend,” the news service notes, adding, “The World Food Program had distributed two days of food to 8,300 of the people who had left their houses for 18 camps” (Blanco, 8/26). “Aid groups have prepared clean water and hygiene kits to help prevent the spread of cholera, which Haiti has struggled to control since the earthquake,” according to VOA News (8/25).
“The U.K. government has activated a Â£2 million [$3.16 million] emergency plan to help tackle a cholera epidemic sweeping through Sierra Leone,” the Press Association reports, adding, “The Department for International Development (DfID) says it is using a network that includes private businesses and specialist aid organizations to deliver emergency medical, water and sanitation assistance to affected people in the west African state” (8/25). “It is the first time [DfID] has activated its Rapid Response Facility,” the Guardian notes, adding, “The network was established in March and allows the U.K. government ‘to commit to rapid humanitarian funding’ within 72 hours in response to disasters and rapidly escalating humanitarian emergencies,” (Adetunji, 8/25).
“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).