Officials from the U.S., African Union and the international community “are working with Sudan’s government to open humanitarian access to” the country’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where refugees “fleeing fighting between local militia and government troops” have gathered and are in need of food aid, VOA News reports. The officials are asking “Khartoum to approve a plan for humanitarian corridors as more than 140,000 new refugees have left for South Sudan, Kenya, and Ethiopia,” the news service writes, adding that Princeton Lyman, the U.S. special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, “said there are ways to get food aid into Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile without Khartoum’s consent, but they are inadequate to the need” (Stearns, 4/2). On Thursday, the U.S. Senate approved by voice vote a resolution (.pdf) urging an end to cross-border conflict and “calling for ‘the government of Sudan to allow immediate and unrestricted humanitarian access to South Kordofan, Blue Nile and all other conflict-affected areas of Sudan,'” Agence France-Presse reports (3/31).
Health In Emergency Situations/Humanitarian Assistance
In this Reuters opinion piece, finance blogger Felix Salmon responds to a New York Times (NYT) article published on Monday in which journalist Deborah Sontag examines the global response to Haiti’s cholera epidemic. He writes, “There’s no doubt that Haiti’s cholera epidemic was massive and tragic, and that the response to it could have been better, in an ideal world. But Sontag barely attempts to address the question of why the response was suboptimal. … Rather, [she] spends a huge amount of effort tracking down, on the one hand, purely anecdotal stories of individual Haitians who were exposed to the disease, and on the other hand, the detailed story of whether and how the outbreak could be traced back to a group of Nepalese peacekeepers on the island.”
“This week, urgently needed food — 33,700 tons of sorghum from American farmers — will depart the United States for West Africa, as a part of the U.S. Government’s response to the drought in the Sahel,” Dina Esposito, director of the Office of Food for Peace, writes in this post in USAID’s “Impact” blog. She says that in addition to food aid, “USAID is also focusing on improving nutrition, increasing agricultural production, linking individuals to local markets through voucher programs, rehabilitating public infrastructure through cash-for-work schemes, and mitigating conflict, among other activities,” with the aim of “alleviat[ing] poverty and build[ing] community resilience to withstand future shocks” (3/30).
The New York Times examines the global response to Haiti’s cholera epidemic, writing that while “[m]any health officials consider the cholera response ‘pretty remarkable,’ as John Vertefeuille, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director in Haiti, said … [o]thers … believe the bar for success was set too low and more lives could have been saved.” The newspaper continues, “[A]s the deaths and continuing caseload indicate, the world’s response to this preventable, treatable scourge has proved inadequate.”
“Millions of people in Africa’s turbulent Sahel region are on the brink of starvation due to drought and conflict, the United Nations said on Wednesday, and aid response plans are less than 40 percent funded ahead of an expected crisis peak,” Reuters reports (3/29). Following a week-long trip to Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, John Ging, director of operations at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said, “This is already an appalling crisis in terms of the scale and degree of human suffering and it will get worse unless the response plans are properly funded. … It’s a matter of life or death for millions who are on the brink,” according to the U.N. News Centre. “More than 15 million people in the Sahel are directly affected by worsening food shortages and malnutrition brought on by the ongoing drought, which has been compounded by conflict and insecurity,” the news service writes, noting that Ging added, “More than 200,000 children died of malnutrition last year and over one million are threatened with severe acute malnutrition right now” (3/28).
Lack Of Aid Money In Haiti Threatening Health, Human Rights Of Displaced People, U.N. Official Warns
“The United Nations warned on Tuesday that a lack of aid money for Haiti was putting hundreds of thousands of displaced people at risk by forcing humanitarian agencies to cut services in one of the world’s poorest countries,” Reuters reports. Noting Haiti only received half of the $382 million aid request in 2011 and so far has received only 10 percent of this year’s $231 million appeal, Nigel Fisher, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, said, “(Underfunding) threatens to reverse gains achieved in the fight against cholera through the promotion of sanitary and hygiene practices. … It threatens the very existence of hundreds of thousands of (displaced people) living in camps,” according to the news agency. “Fisher said the humanitarian community was urgently requesting $53.9 million for the April-June period to protect those living in camps and to continue to provide services such as clean water, food and crime prevention and respond to cholera outbreaks, among other things,” Reuters writes (Nichols, 3/27).
Political Instability, Humanitarian Crises Reversing Maternal Health Gains In Africa, Health Experts Warn
“Political instability, civil strife and humanitarian crises in Africa have over the past decades reversed countless maternal health development gains on the continent, health experts warn,” Inter Press Service reports. “‘African countries with good maternal health statistics are generally those that have long-term political stability. This shows that stability is a fundamental basis for development. If it doesn’t exist, other priorities overtake,’ Lucien Kouakou, regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF) in Africa, told IPS,” the news service writes.
IRIN examines malnutrition in Chad, writing, “Hovering at around 20 percent in some places, Kanem Region in western Chad is well-known for having some of the world’s highest continual severe acute malnutrition rates,” and, “unless something is done to improve the country’s ‘dysfunctional’ health system (as described by half a dozen interviewees), these malnutrition rates are unlikely to change significantly.” The news service “spoke to Ministry of Health staff, aid workers, government officials and mothers to find out if anything can be done to wean Chad from its dependence on emergency nutrition interventions.”
“The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is warning that more than a million children below the age of five in the Sahel are facing a disaster amid the ongoing food crisis in the drought-prone region of Africa,” the U.N. News Centre reports (3/16). “‘More extreme conditions could see this number rise to about 1.5 million and the problem is that funding is not coming in at the rate that we need in order to prepare properly,’ [UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado] said. ‘So far we have received just one-fifth of the $119 million we have asked for in 2012,'” VOA News writes (3/16).
“Late Chadian government recognition of a food crisis, a slow build-up from aid agencies, and severe pipeline constraints due to closed Libyan and Nigerian borders mean food aid has not yet arrived in Chad, despite many thousands of people having already run out of food,” IRIN reports. “While staff in agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) are working furiously to beat the clock, a lead time of up to six months to get food to where it is needed means that the very soonest food will start to arrive is sometime in April,” the news service adds.