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.”
Health In Emergency Situations/Humanitarian Assistance
“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).
“Philippine authorities appealed Thursday for help in getting relief to two million people affected by deadly floods in and around the capital, warning that evacuation centers were overwhelmed,” Agence France-Presse reports (Morella, 8/9). “The capital city, Manila, has received two months’ worth of rain in the past 48 hours, leaving much of the 12-million-person metropolis under water,” Deutsche Welle writes (8/9). BBC News reports that at least 19 people have died and more than 80,000 are in emergency shelters (McGeown, 8/8). According to CNN, “U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas said Tuesday that the United States would provide $100,000 for disaster relief” (8/8).
“The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) carried out the first in a series of air drops to replenish rapidly diminishing food stocks for more than 100,000 people in South Sudan who have fled fighting in Sudan,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/15). “The refugees are severely malnourished going for days without supplies after being driven from their homes by the violence,” Examiner.com notes (Lambers, 8/15). “The first air drops were made Wednesday in Maban County in Upper Nile state,” the Associated Press/Washington Post writes, adding that camps there — “along with another in the region called Yida — have received more than 160,000 refugees who have fled war on the other side of the border in Sudan.” According to the AP, “WFP plans to deliver up to 2,000 metric tons of food to Maban over the coming days and weeks” (8/16).
In this post in the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog, Ruby Siddiqui, an epidemiologist with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) based in London, highlights a recent news story in which the organization reports “[m]ortality rates in a refugee camp in South Sudan are nearly double the threshold for an emergency” and examines how such data are obtained in an emergency situation. “Getting good data might not seem the first priority in an emergency, but it is essential to understand and respond appropriately to the needs of the population affected,” she writes and outlines a number of techniques for collecting epidemiological data during an emergency (8/21).