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).
Health In Emergency Situations/Humanitarian Assistance
“Children in a refugee camp in South Sudan are dying at more than twice the rate internationally recognized as an emergency, according to new figures [.pdf] released by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF),” the Guardian reports. “On an average day in the Yusuf Batil camp â€¦ three or four children under the age of five will die,” but, “[i]n a ‘normal’ emergency situation, the number would be one or two deaths daily for every 10,000 children,” the news service writes. “The overall mortality rate, which takes into account adults and older children, is also substantially above the emergency threshold,” according to the Guardian, which adds, “About 58 percent of the camp’s reported deaths have been children under five, while more than 25 percent have been people over 50” (Copnall, 8/20).
“More than 435,000 people have been displaced in Mali, as the country faces a complex humanitarian emergency due to conflict and food insecurity, according to a new report released by the United Nations relief agency,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/16). “The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report nearly 262,000 displaced persons have registered as refugees in neighboring countries, including Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria, while another 174,000 are internally displaced in the northern towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal,” according to United Press International (8/16). “The World Food Programme (WFP) says there are 4.6 million people at risk of hunger in Mali,” Examiner.com notes (Lambers, 8/18).
The following blog posts were published in recognition of World Humanitarian Day, which was observed on Sunday, August 19.
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.”
On World Humanitarian Day, recognized August 19, “United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has highlighted the power of individual actions to spark global changes, and praised the work of humanitarian workers who provide assistance to vulnerable people around the world,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/17). In a press release, “UNICEF called on all parties in conflicts around the world to allow humanitarian workers safe, unimpeded access to reach children and women in need” (8/19). “World Humanitarian Day gives us the opportunity to show our appreciation to the thousands of workers … who are working every day in difficult circumstances,” the WHO writes in an article on its webpage, noting, “Health is one of several critical dimensions of humanitarian response, and the sustainable recovery of people under hardship” (August 2012).
“Sierra Leone has declared a cholera outbreak that has left 176 people dead since the start of the year a national humanitarian emergency, officials said Friday,” AlertNet reports, adding, “Jonathan Abass Kamara, public relations officer for Sierra Leone’s health ministry, said the outbreak was the worst in the West Africa country’s history” (Akam, 8/17). “The decision was announced after a meeting between [the] government and officials from the World Health Organization and United Nation’s children agency UNICEF,” Agence France-Press/ReliefWeb writes, noting the government “has also set up a special task force to deal with the epidemic” (8/16).
“Downpours and heat waves caused by climate change could disrupt food supplies from the fields to the supermarkets, raising the risk of more price spikes such as this year’s leap triggered by drought in the United States,” Reuters reports. “Food security experts working on a chapter in a U.N. overview of global warming due in 2014 said governments should take more account of how extremes of heat, droughts or floods could affect food supplies from seeds to consumers’ plates,” the news service writes (Doyle, 8/15). “The U.N. and global leaders have paid particular attention in recent weeks to U.S. biofuels policy as drought ravages corn supplies,” The Hill’s “E2 Wire” blog notes, adding, “They say the country needs to free up more of its corn for food to combat rising prices that heavily affect poor nations” (Colman, 8/16).
In this post in KPLU 88.5’s “Humanosphere” blog, journalist Tom Murphy interviews reporter Jonathan Katz, “the first to break the story connecting U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal to the” cholera outbreak in Haiti. According to the interview transcript, they discuss Katz’s original reporting, the humanitarian response to the outbreak, and the current state of the outbreak, among other topics (8/16).
“Some 2.5 million people face destitution in Syria as fighting grows ever more intense in populated areas, the United Nations top relief official said [Thursday], calling on the Government and donors to facilitate more aid through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the ground,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos “reported that over a million people have been uprooted and face destitution, and that perhaps a million more have urgent humanitarian needs due to the widening impact of the crisis on the economy and people’s livelihoods,” the news service writes (8/16). “‘Their needs for health care, shelter, food, water and sanitation are growing,’ Amos said,” according to Reuters. “The U.N. and its partners are reaching more people with emergency aid every month. But we are only meeting some of the needs,” she added, the news service notes (8/16).