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).
Health In Emergency Situations/Humanitarian Assistance
“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.
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).
“More than half a million people in northern Mali, occupied by Islamist fighters, need aid to cope with rising food prices, collapsed public services and a lack of health care, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday,” Reuters reports. “Public services practically no longer function, basic health services are not provided and supplying clean drinking water is difficult. Needs are huge,” Yasmine Praz Dessimoz, head of ICRC operations for North and West Africa, said at a news conference in Geneva, according to the news agency. “The ICRC, which deploys 111 aid workers in Mali, is one of few humanitarian organizations to have access to all of northern Mali, where no United Nations aid agencies deploy any staff,” Reuters notes (Nebehay, 9/13).
“Floods in Niger have killed 81 people since July, the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] announced Thursday, adding cholera outbreaks have killed a further 81 people,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Thousands of homes, schools, health centers and mosques have been destroyed, along with large quantities of food supplies, according to the authorities,” the news service writes, adding, “Cholera is spreading fast in at least four places, making 3,854 people sick and notably affecting the Tillaberi regions lying by the Niger river and close to the border with Mali, OCHA said.” The news service notes, “In neighboring Burkina Faso, heavy rains have killed 18 people and made 21,000 homeless since June. … Senegal and Nigeria have also been affected by the bad weather” (9/13).
Humanitarian Situation Better, Still Tenuous, In Zimbabwe As E.U. Scales Down Assistance, IRIN Reports
Though the number of people in Zimbabwe in need of food aid has dropped from seven million in 2002-2003 to one million currently, the number could still rise by 600,000 in 2013, IRIN reports in an analysis of the humanitarian and political situation in the country. “Still, two of the country’s biggest donors, the European Union and the U.S., and their implementing partner, the U.N., say Zimbabwe is on its way to recovery and development,” the news service writes, noting “[t]he E.U. has announced that it is scaling down its humanitarian assistance.” IRIN states, “The E.U. has moved from funding only emergency food aid to funding nutrition, health, water and sanitation, and protection programs. [U.N. Financial Tracking Service (FTS)] data show that the health and education sectors are better funded than last year, but agriculture programs are worse off.”
“International relief officials reported an increasingly grim aid crisis stemming from the Syria conflict on Tuesday, with two million people there not getting desperately needed help, and a sudden acceleration of refugees overwhelming the ability of neighboring countries to absorb them,” the New York Times reports. “In the province of Homs, so many doctors have fled that only three surgeons remained to serve a population of two million, the officials said,” according to the newspaper. “The World Health Organization said that a United Nations mission to Homs last week had found that more than half a million people needed aid, including health care, food and water,” it writes, adding, “The mission found that the biggest hospital in Homs had been destroyed, and that only six of the 12 public hospitals and eight of the 32 private hospitals were still functional.” The newspaper notes, “At the United Nations, the head of UNICEF and the European Union’s top relief official said that only about one-third of the three million people in Syria who needed help were getting any, and that combatants on both sides would be held responsible for respecting international law protecting civilians during war” (Cumming-Bruce/MacFarquhar, 9/11).
In three separate articles, IRIN reports on the implications of flooding taking place in Africa. “Tens of thousands of people have been affected by flooding in parts of central, eastern and southern Chad following heavy rains in August,” the news service writes in the first article, adding that the floods have affected 445,725 people and destroyed 255,720 hectares of cropland. “The flooding is occurring at a time when Chad is still grappling with food insecurity,” IRIN states, noting, “Waterborne diseases, such as cholera, are endemic in some of the West and Central African countries, often peaking during the rainy season between August and December” (9/7).
“About 1.6 million Malawians will need food aid before this year’s harvest, an eightfold increase from last year, because of poor crops and rising prices, the United Nations World Food Programme [WFP] said,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Latham, 9/7). The agency “warned that 15 out of 28 districts were affected by a deteriorating situation, owing to prolonged dry spells in the country,” Sapa/DPA/Times Live writes, adding, “The cost of food is seeing rapid inflation, pushing basic items out of the reach of many Malawians” (9/7). “Malawi will use 25,000 metric tons of stored corn to provide relief, while the U.S. will give food worth $7.8 million, according to [an emailed] statement,” Bloomberg writes, adding, “The U.K. will donate $4.7 million in funding, it said. The first phase of the aid operation will target 200,000 people, WFP said” (9/7).
In the State Department’s “DipNote” blog, David Lane, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. agencies in Rome, discusses his recent trip to Niger, where more than three million people are food insecure and suffer from malnutrition. “I had expected the trip would leave me feeling depressed and hopeless,” but “by the time I left Niger, I was filled with optimism and confidence in the multilateral assistance and development operations at work on the ground. Amongst their efforts, I saw the components needed to break Niger’s relentless cycle of hunger and malnutrition,” he writes. “I was impressed by how well the different U.N. organizations, … as well as their NGO partner organizations are coordinating their work,” Lane states, concluding, “Emergency and development assistance are both vital to a relief effort, and can be even more effective when integrated” (9/5).