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Syrian Conflict Destroying Country’s Health Care System

“The nearly two-year conflict in Syria has taken tens of thousands of lives, destroyed entire neighborhoods and sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing. But more quietly, it has also eaten away at the country’s health care system,” IRIN reports. Many pharmaceutical factories, “which used to produce more than 90 percent of the country’s drug needs,” have shut down or cut production, the news service writes, adding, “Those medicines that are available have also risen in price, and amid skyrocketing unemployment and rising food prices, many Syrians — especially those displaced from their homes by the violence — are struggling to afford their usual medication.”

Nokia To Donate Infant Delivery Kits To UNFPA

UNFPA and mobile phone company Nokia announced this week that the “company will donate the equivalent of 3,000 clean delivery kits to the fund,” according to an UNFPA press release. “The kits, designed and distributed by UNFPA, help ensure safe delivery of babies in humanitarian settings,” and are being provided as a result of the fund’s social media campaign “Safe Birth. Even Here.,” the press release states, adding, “The campaign, which reports on and tracks safe deliveries in refugee camps and emergencies around the globe, is active on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, and aims to raise awareness about maternal health and the challenges faced by expectant mothers in crisis settings” (12/4).

Examining Concept Of Resilience After Disaster, Emergency In Low-Income Countries

Writing in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, reflects on the concept of resilience, which he defines as one’s “ability to cope and their systems for preparing, responding and rebuilding” after a natural disaster or emergency. “In the United States, these systems are already in place and, for the most part, function well,” but “[t]his is not the case in many low-income countries,” he writes. He continues, “With dramatic weather events and food price volatility only likely to continue and intensify due to climate change, the need to build resilience has never been greater” (12/4).

USAID Introduces ‘First-Ever’ Guidance On Building Resiliency

On Monday, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah “announced the launch of the agency’s first-ever policy and program guidance [.pdf] on Building Resilience to Recurrent Crisis during an event in Washington, D.C.,” according to an USAID press release. “Chronic poverty and recurring shocks drive the same communities into crisis year after year, undermining development gains,” the press release states, adding, “In response to this clear need, and together with our international development partners, USAID has committed, through this policy and program guidance, to better coordinate its development and humanitarian approaches to effectively build resilience in targeted areas of recurrent crisis.” The agency “intends for these efforts to collectively contribute to reduced humanitarian need” over the long-term, according to the press release (12/3).

USAID Urges World To Address Humanitarian Crisis In Syria

“The world must address the humanitarian crisis in Syria and meet the basic needs of people affected by 20 months of deadly conflict, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development said on Tuesday,” Agence France-Presse reports (Ozerkan, 11/27). USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah “said that at least a million Syrians, forced from their homes by the national uprising and government bombing, would not have food and other vital basic support, and the number could be double that or more,” the Kansas City Star writes. “‘Nearly 2.5 million people displaced from their homes require immediate support,’ Shah said,” the newspaper writes (Gutman, 11/28).

Emergency Obstetric Care Reduced Maternal Mortality Rates Up To 74% In Two African Projects, MSF Reports

According to a new briefing paper (.pdf) from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), access to emergency obstetric care, including ambulance service, could help save the lives of up to three quarters of women who might otherwise die in childbirth, AlertNet reports (Batha, 11/19). In two projects, one in Kabezi, Burundi, and the other in Bo, Sierra Leone, MSF showed “that the introduction of an ambulance referral system together with the provision of emergency obstetric services can significantly reduce the risk of women dying from pregnancy related complications,” according to an MSF press release. The services, which cost between $2 and $4 per person annually, are offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are free of charge, the press release notes (11/19). The projects “cut maternal mortality rates by an estimated 74 percent in Kabezi and 61 percent in Bo,” Reuters writes, adding, “The charity hopes its model could serve as an example for donors, governments and other aid agencies considering investing in emergency obstetric care in countries with high maternal mortality rates” (11/19).

New International Food Assistance Convention To Take Effect On January 1

“A new international food assistance convention will come into force on January 1 next year after the European Union ratified it this week, but critics say it lacks teeth,” AlertNet reports. “The significance of the new Food Assistance Convention is that it marks a shift away from traditional food aid — sacks transported from overseas and handed out on the ground by relief workers,” the news service writes, adding the new convention says food distribution should be undertaken only when necessary, with cash or vouchers otherwise being distributed for people to purchase food within their own communities. “The new convention — negotiated by the E.U. and 35 countries (the E.U. states plus Argentina, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States) — also underlines the importance of linking short- and longer-term food assistance efforts, to enable people to become better prepared for future disasters or high food prices,” AlertNet states.

U.S. Announces Additional $30M For Food Aid To Syrians

“The United States announced an extra $30 million in aid to those affected by the war in Syria on Wednesday and called the formation of a new opposition coalition an important step that would help Washington better target its help,” Reuters reports. “U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the announcement after talks in Perth involving her Australian counterpart Bob Carr and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his Australian counterpart, Stephen Smith,” the news service adds (Brunnstrom, 11/14).

Medical Aid Group Reports Syrian Troops Seizing Foreign Aid; WFP Warns Of Increasing Food Needs Among Refugees

“A medical aid group said on Wednesday Syrian troops are seizing foreign aid and reselling it or channeling it towards government loyalists, putting millions of lives at risk,” Reuters reports (11/7). “Almost all international aid sent to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is being confiscated by the regime and never reaches civilians in need, [Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organisations (UOSSM),] an umbrella relief group for the war-ravaged country, said,” Lebanon’s Daily Star reports. “However, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), which both work closely with the Syrian Red Crescent, denied their aid was being seized,” the newspaper adds (Larson, 11/7).

WFP To Deliver Emergency Aid To Cuba In Response To Hurricane Sandy

“The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) is to deliver emergency aid to the south-east of Cuba, where Hurricane Sandy wrought widespread damage,” BBC News reports. “The WFP is also appealing for $20 million (£12.5) to help some 425,000 Haitians affected by the storm,” the news service writes, noting, “The WFP is planning to work with the Cuban government to distribute emergency one-month aid in Santiago de Cuba, which is home to 500,000 residents.”