The following blog posts were published in recognition of World Humanitarian Day, which was observed on Sunday, August 19.
Health Workforce & Capacity
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).
“Ethiopia is preparing for a flood of medical doctors within ‘three to four years,’ an influx meant to save a public health system that has been losing doctors and specialists to internal and external migration,” IRIN reports. “‘We are now implementing strategies that intend to increase the current below-World Health Organization [WHO] standard number of medical doctors and retaining them in public hospitals,’ Tedros Adhanom, Ethiopia’s minister of health, told IRIN,” the news service writes. “‘We have now reached an enrollment rate of more than 3,100,’ [Adhanom] said,” adding, “The rate of enrollment in the country’s medical schools has increased tenfold from 2005, when it was below 300,” according to the news service.
“In teaching nurses and midwives in the developing world to care for their patients, a core tenet is that respectful care is quality care,” Catherine Carr, senior maternal health advisor for the Jhpiego/MCHIP-Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program, writes in this post in Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “Around the globe, health-care workers are being trained in respectful, humanized care, because all patients, regardless of economic status or geographic location, deserve to be treated with reverence and consideration,” she continues, adding, “Unfortunately, there is still a huge gap between the maternal care a pregnant woman should receive and what she actually experiences.”
This Lancet editorial reflects on a medical crisis in Syria, highlighting a new report (.pdf) by Amnesty International that “documents the human rights abuses already occurring in the city.” The editorial states, “A disturbing feature of modern conflicts and, indeed, the Arab uprisings, has been the flagrant disregard for the Geneva Conventions, including targeting of civilians, persecution of health workers, and attacks on hospitals, alongside the failure of the U.N. system to prevent these violations,” and it highlights several examples cited in the report.
In this post in the New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog, journalist Sarika Bansal reports on a gap in surgical care in developing countries, writing, “It is conservatively estimated that 56 million people in sub-Saharan Africa — over twice the number living with HIV/AIDS — need a surgery today,” but, “across the developing world, surgical care often does not reach those who need it.” She says that a lack of access to surgical facilities and equipment, as well as a lack of trained health care workers, especially in rural areas, contributes to the problem. “Instead of finding ways to lure surgeons to rural areas” to fill this gap, many African countries, including Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Ethiopia, “have started experimenting with ‘task shifting’ — that is, training non-physicians to do the basic work of surgeons,” she notes. She highlights a medical licentiate program in Zambia that “trains clinical officers in basic surgeries like hernia repairs, bowel obstruction surgery, hysterectomies and more,” as well as “the donor-funded FlySpec (Flying Specialist) program, which charters planes to conduct orthopedic surgeries in remote parts of the country” (8/8).
“Syrians are in urgent need of life-saving medicines following an escalation in fighting, which also threatens further food shortages, U.N. agencies warned on Tuesday,” Agence France-Presse reports (8/7). “Drugs for tuberculosis, hepatitis, hypertension, diabetes and cancer are urgently needed, as well as hemodialysis for kidney diseases, according to the WHO,” Reuters notes (8/7). “‘The recent escalation of clashes had resulted in substantial damages to the pharmaceutical plants located in rural Aleppo, Homs and Rural Damascus, where 90 percent of the country’s plants were located,’ a WHO spokesperson, Tarik Jasarevic, told reporters in Geneva today,” the U.N. News Centre writes. “Prior to the violence which has wracked the Middle Eastern country, Syria produced 90 percent of its medicines and drugs locally,” the news service notes (8/7).
Communal Violence In India Forces Up To 400,000 Into Overcrowded Camps Without Sufficient Food, Water, Medicine
“Hundreds of thousands of people sheltering in squalid, overcrowded camps in India’s northeast desperately need food, water and medicines after fleeing some of the worst communal violence in a decade, officials and aid workers said on Monday,” AlertNet reports. Up to 400,000 people have fled to government-run camps in Assam state, the news service notes, adding Assam’s Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “We are in a state of high alert. … People in the camps are suffering from diarrhea, dysentery, malaria and high fever. We are concerned about the condition of the babies and pregnant women.” According to AlertNet, “Sarma said around 8,000 children under two-years-old are sick, while hundreds of others have tested positive for malaria. There are also around 4,000 pregnant women in the camps who need medical support, he added.” The news service notes that at least 12 people have died, including four children (Bhalla, 8/6).
Inter Press Service reports on the successful efforts of Tanzania’s Kigoma Region “to train assistant medical officers to conduct life-saving c-sections at its rural health centers,” allowing pregnant women with complications to deliver at more local facilities instead of having to travel to regional or district hospitals. Tanzania’s maternal mortality rate is high, at 578 deaths for every 100,000 live births, IPS notes. “[A]t one point the Kigoma Region had the highest rate in the country, at 933 per 100,000 live births in the early 1980s,” but “maternal mortality in this region [now] is considered to be lower than in the rest of the country,” according to the news service.