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).
Health In Emergency Situations/Humanitarian Assistance
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.”
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).
“Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has shut down two major medical centers in the Somali capital Mogadishu after two of its aid workers were shot dead by a former colleague last month, the international medical aid agency said on Thursday,” AlertNet reports. The closure of the two 120-bed centers, the largest of MSF’s 13 projects in Somalia, cuts in half the organization’s presence in the capital, the news service notes, adding that the centers have treated thousands of malnourished children and provided vaccinations or treatments to tens of thousands more patients since August 2011 (Migiro, 1/19).
“Kristalina Georgieva, the European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis response, arrived in Niger on Wednesday to see at first hand the extent of food shortages” in the country and announced the European Union (E.U.) “is doubling its humanitarian aid to the Sahel to nearly â‚¬95 million ($122 million) in response to the slow onset emergency in the region, where an estimated 300,000 children are affected by malnutrition annually,” the Guardian reports. Niger, a “vast landlocked country with an estimated 14.7 million people, most of whom live along a narrow border of arable land on its southern border, is bracing itself for a sharp rise in food insecurity in the ‘lean period,’ when food from the last harvest runs out,” the newspaper notes.
Science Academies Issue Statements To Inform G8 Leaders On Water, Energy, Resiliency To Natural Disasters
“Scientists from 15 countries are calling for a better political response to the provision of water and energy to meet the challenge of feeding a world of nine billion people within 30 years,” Reuters reports. The leaders of “some of the world’s leading science academies” issued several statements on Thursday “ahead of the G8 summit in the United States” as “part of the annual lobbying effort aimed at focusing the attention of world leaders on issues the scientific community regards as crucial,” the news agency writes (Wickham, 5/11).
“A combination of major new conflicts and unresolved ones around the world are increasingly straining humanitarian resources at unprecedented levels, the head of the United Nations refugee agency warned” on Monday, the U.N. News Centre reports. Speaking at the UNHCR’s annual Executive Committee meeting in Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres “said [.pdf] UNHCR’s capacity to help the world’s forcibly displaced was being ‘radically tested’ by the acceleration of the crises, with more than 700,000 people having fled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mali, Sudan, and Syria this year alone,” according to the news service. He said, “Our operations in Africa, in particular, are dramatically underfunded. … At this moment, we have no room for any unforeseen needs. No reserves available. In today’s unpredictable operating environment, this is a cause for deep concern,” the news service notes (10/1).
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.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.
“The United Nations estimates the civil war raging in Syria has left more than 2.5 million people in dire need of food, water, drugs and medical supplies,” VOA News reports. “After 18 months of fighting, thousands are dead and thousands more wounded,” and, “[i]f past wars are any indication, the health and well-being of Syrians will likely be affected long after the last guns are fired,” the news service writes. WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic “says many hospitals and health centers in [the capital] Homs have been badly damaged by shelling” and “[o]nly six of 12 public hospitals remain open, and eight out of 32 private hospitals are still in operation — at greatly reduced capacity,” VOA adds.