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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.

U.N. SG Ban Urges International Action To Help West Africa's Sahel Region

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).

Red Cross Says More Than 500,000 People Need Food, Health Care Aid In Northern Mali

“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, Cholera In Niger Have Claimed 162 Lives Since July, OCHA Reports

“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.”