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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 Examines Humanitarian Response To Sahel Food Crisis

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. Pledges Additional $58M In Aid For Horn Of Africa

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).

African Countries At Risk Of Social Unrest, Famine Stemming From Food Shortages, Report Warns

“African countries are most at risk of social unrest and famine stemming from food shortages and rising prices, according to risk advisory firm Maplecroft,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The news service writes, “Africa accounts for 39 of the 59 most at-risk countries in Maplecroft’s Food Security Risk Index and has nine of the 11 nations in the ‘extreme risk’ category, the Bath, England-based company said in a statement today” (Almeida, 10/9). “Despite strong economic growth, food security remains an issue of primary importance for Africa, according to a new study by [the] risk analysis company …, which classifies 75 percent of the continent’s countries at ‘high’ or ‘extreme risk,’” according to the statement (10/1). “African countries at ‘extreme risk’ include Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as Burundi, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Comoros, and Sierra Leone, according to Maplecroft,” Bloomberg notes (10/9).

UNICEF, Syrian Government Agree To Expand Humanitarian Operations To Conflict Areas

UNICEF and the Syrian government have agreed to expand humanitarian efforts in the country, where tens of thousands of people have been killed and up to one million people displaced since the beginning of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad 18 months ago, Reuters reports. UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake “said the agency’s agreement with Syria will allow it to go beyond its Damascus operations to reach Syrians in conflict areas” and the agency “aims to vaccinate within a couple of months one million vulnerable children against diseases such as measles, he added,” the news service notes. “The deal will expand UNICEF’s partnership with more than 40 Syrian civil groups and the Syrian Red Crescent, he said,” Reuters adds (Al-Khalidi, 10/8). U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “on Tuesday urged President Bashar al-Assad’s government to institute a unilateral ceasefire, and further stressed the need for other nations to halt arms deliveries to both Syrian forces and the opposition,” according to VOA’s “Breaking News” blog (10/9).

U.N. Rapporteurs Call For Creation Of Global Fund As Social Safety Net For Vulnerable Populations

Two U.N. experts have called for the creation of a “global fund to promote the creation of social safety nets for the most vulnerable people in poor countries,” the Guardian reports. Based on estimates from the International Labor Organization (ILO), Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur for food, and Magdalena Sepulveda, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the creation of a $60 billion fund — with $20 billion funded by rich countries — “would have two functions: to help the 48 least developed countries (LDCs) put in place a ‘social protection floor’; and to serve as a reinsurance provider to step in if a state’s social protection system was overwhelmed by an unexpected event such as extreme drought or flooding,” the newspaper writes.

Polio Vaccination Campaign In Darfur Shows Immunizations Possible In 'Emergency And Conflict Settings'

In an Inter Press Service opinion piece, Siddharth Chatterjee, chief diplomat and head of strategic partnerships at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Sam Agbo, an independent public health adviser in the U.K., write about the unstable situation in Darfur, Sudan, in 2004, and how “UNICEF and WHO in Sudan along with important NGO partners started planning with local authorities on how best to immunize all children in Darfur.” They outline the major challenges, including staff safety, and discuss how multi-agency teams were able to vaccinate 10,000 children in two immunization rounds. Chatterjee and Agbo add, “The polio immunization campaign was the driver for a wider process of improving and ramping up assistance to communities and this made the campaign attractive to mothers to bring their children to the immunization hubs that were established.”

Conflicts Straining U.N. Resources To Respond To Refugees, Displaced Persons

“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).

Aid Organization Urges More Aid Focus On Disaster Prevention Rather Than Reaction

Islamic Relief Worldwide on Monday “urged the U.N. to establish a global contingency fund for disaster prevention as it is cheaper to help prepare for floods and drought than spend billions on emergencies,” the Guardian reports. In a report, titled “Feeling the Heat,” “the charity also called on governments and aid agencies to completely rethink their priorities and put disaster risk reduction at the heart of all aid programs,” according to the newspaper. The report notes Australia, the European Commission, and the U.K. “have put resilience at the center of their aid efforts, while Colombia, Indonesia and other at-risk countries are developing strong disaster programs,” the Guardian writes, adding, “Research from the U.S. government says $1 of risk reduction spending can result in as much as a $15 decrease in disaster damage” (Tran, 10/1). A press release from Islamic Relief states, “Emergency relief saves lives and assists recovery, but too often it treats the symptoms of the profound problems poor communities face without addressing the root causes. Islamic Relief believes the answer lies in disaster risk reduction (DRR) projects — initiatives such as cereal banks and microdams to conserve food and water in drought-affected areas, or storm shelters and raised housing to prepare for cyclones and floods” (10/1).

VOA News Reports On Syria's Health Crisis In Midst Of Civil War

“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.