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At Least 1M Children At Risk Of Death In Sahel Drought Crisis; European Commission Donates Over $20M To UNICEF Appeal

“At least one million children are at risk of dying of malnutrition in the central-western part of Africa’s Sahel region due to a drought crisis, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said [Wednesday], adding that more resources are urgently needed to help those in need,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “There are currently 15 million people facing food insecurity in the Sahel, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea,” the news service writes, adding, “The nutrition crisis is affecting people throughout Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and the northern regions of Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal.”

U.N. Official Calls For More Leadership, Funding, Comprehensive Plan To Address Potential Humanitarian Crisis In Sahel

U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos on Thursday “called for strong leadership and a comprehensive response plan, as well as donor support, for the food crisis in West Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region, warning that hunger could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe,” the U.N. News Centre reports (5/24). Amos “met with President Macky Sall in Senegal and Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso on a four-day trip to west Africa to examine the impact of the food crisis,” Agence France-Presse writes. “We can do more to avoid the crisis from becoming a catastrophe in the region but to save more lives we need strong leadership … and continued generosity from the regional and humanitarian community,” she said, the news agency notes (5/24). The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which Amos heads, said that in addition to food aid, “priorities for those in need of assistance include health care and water and sanitation services,” according to the U.N. News Centre (5/24).

Experts Discuss U.S. International Food Aid Programs At Kansas City Conference

Kansas City’s KCUR 89.3 FM reports on the 2012 International Food Aid & Development Conference, where experts gathered this week to discuss food aid programs. The news service writes, “The challenge for governments, aid agencies and recipient countries is to create a collaborative food aid system that accommodates both the needs of the U.S. agriculture industry and growing food insecurity among a mushrooming population,” and quotes a number of experts who spoke at the event.

U.N. Appeals For More Than $500M In Emergency Aid For South Sudan; WFP Says $360M Shortfall To Address Food Insecurity In Sahel

The U.N. is calling for $505 million in emergency aid for the people of South Sudan, with the bulk of the funding going “toward providing food to tens of thousands of South Sudanese, many of whom are returning home from Sudan,” VOA News reports (Doki, 5/15). “It is uncertain whether the appeal will be fully funded, given the status of last year’s humanitarian appeal,” Devex writes, noting that “[o]nly one-third of the nearly $800 million appeal in 2011 has been funded as of May 16” (Ravelo, 5/16). Lisa Grande, the U.N. humanitarian aid program coordinator in South Sudan, “said the amount of food needed for the region has doubled compared to last year,” according to VOA (5/15).

Haitian Government, Health Workers Show Commitment To Nationwide Vaccination Campaign

In this post in the Huffington Post Blog, Dagfinn Hoybraten, vice president of the Norwegian Parliament and chair of the GAVI Alliance Board, examines a nationwide vaccination campaign in Haiti, through which “[h]ealth officials are targeting measles, rubella and polio and [are] also introducing pentavalent vaccine, one shot against five diseases.” He writes, “Questions have been raised, understandably, about whether the international community has done enough to help” after an earthquake devastated the country in 2010, but “the nationwide vaccination campaign is a powerful sign of Haitians helping themselves.”

AllAfrica.com Interviews International President Of MSF

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).

Calling For Greater Protection Of Health Care Workers In Conflict Settings

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).

Malawi Faces Cholera Outbreak After Floods Lead To Declining Sanitary Conditions

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.”

Women In Haiti Face Widespread Gender-Based Violence, Sexual Exploitation 2 Years After Earthquake

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.”

U.N. SG Ban Urges International Action To Help West Africa's Sahel Region

Speaking at the High-Level Meeting on the Sahel on the sidelines of the 67th U.N. General Assembly in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday “called for urgent international support for the people and governments of West Africa’s Sahel region, warning that the area is at a critical juncture with 18 million people affected by a severe food crisis,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “Political turmoil, extreme climatic conditions and fragile economies are combining to create a perfect storm of vulnerability,” Ban said, according to the news service. “The Sahel region is currently facing a swathe of problems, which are not only political but also involve security, humanitarian resilience and human rights,” the news service writes (9/26).