ReliefWeb - Headlines
ReliefWeb - Headlines
Sudan humanitarian community seeks $1.4 billion to support 6.1 million most vulnerable people
Sun, 12 Jan 2020 07:59:49 +0000
Foreword by the Humanitarian Coordinator
This is a year of transformation for Sudan, offering hope and optimism to millions of people. Their determination, resilience and sacrifice ushered in a new chapter in the country after eight months of protests. Now, this optimism must be sustained and translated into actions that will support aspirations of the people of Sudan.
The transitional government, formed in September 2019, is pursuing a new social contract with the people, prioritizing peace and economic reform. The 2020 national budget has doubled funding for the health and education sectors and aims to prepare for an eventual lifting of subsidies to further invest in basic social services. However, these reforms will take time and the situation will likely worsen in the short term especially for the most vulnerable.
Across Sudan, about 9.3 million people require humanitarian support in 2020. Because of the fragile economy, more people are unable to meet their basic needs, as high inflation continues to erode households’ purchasing power. An average local food basket takes up at least 75 per cent of household income. Families cannot afford a nutritious meal - let alone other essential needs such as medical care, water, and education. With fewer resources, people adopt negative coping mechanisms, exposing them to more protection risks—particularly gender-based violence and increasing school dropout and child labour. The economic crisis has overwhelmed already-weak public services, further deepening humanitarian need in the central and eastern parts of Sudan, where humanitarian partners have a limited presence.
At the same time, years of conflict have impacted millions of people. Some 1.9 million people remain displaced and face protection risks and threats even as they attempt to rebuild their livelihoods or return to their homes. Disease outbreaks, malnutrition, food insecurity, and climatic shocks, continue to affect the lives and livelihoods of many Sudanese. Moreover, the country hosts over a million refugees, providing safety and services, with communities sharing their meagre resources.
Alongside ongoing peace negotiations, the government have signaled their commitment to facilitating humanitarian access by allowing humanitarians to deliver assistance to areas that are not under their control. The humanitarian community are prepared to deliver assistance to those who have not been reached with assistance for years.
It is against this backdrop that humanitarians have developed the 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). Through this HRP, partners intend to support 6.1 million of the most vulnerable people, which will require US$1.4 billion. This includes assistance to sustain ongoing programming and concurrently scale up in other geographic areas to prevent more people from slipping into humanitarian need. To complement activities under this HRP and respond to the needs of people not covered by this HRP, efforts to strengthen and expand social protection programming are ongoing.
In 2020 and beyond, the humanitarian community in Sudan will focus on adapting to the rapidly evolving environment to be more accountable to affected people, including through: 1) enhanced evidencebased programming based on reliable and accurate data and information; 2) pave the way for greater efficiency by establishing systems that will allow for activity based costing in 2021; and 3) effective humanitarian response to save more lives with early action and improve preparedness while aligning humanitarian resilience with social protection programmes.
Over nearly two decades, the generosity of the international community has supported a robust humanitarian response and saved lives. In 2019, we reached least 4.4 million people with assistance. This year, more needs to be done, and earlier in the year, to reach the most vulnerable people.
However, humanitarian response alone is not enough to reduce needs, vulnerability and risks; longer-term action is also urgently needed. We are committed to working closely with the Government and the people of Sudan to create a strong foundation for Sudan that realizes the hope and aspirations of the Sudanese people.
Gwi-yeop SonResident and Humanitarian Coordinator
Security Council, beats midnight deadline, approves Syria cross-border aid in contentious vote
Fri, 10 Jan 2020 22:52:31 +0000
The Security Council on Friday evening renewed a UN operation delivering humanitarian aid across the Syrian border to millions of civilians, but some of the body’s members expressed disappointment that the ‘watered down’ measure cut in half the number of crossing points and duration of the authorization.
Failing last month to extend the cross-border authorization after permanent member Russia vetoed one draft resolution and failed to gain enough support for its own rival measure, the Council faced a midnight deadline Friday for the expiration of its six-year-long mandate along with the possibility of yet another “no” vote from Russia.
Negotiating cross-border humanitarian aid
An upsurge in hostilities in north-west Syria, has displaced some 300,000 people since 12 December.
Meanwhile, against the backdrop of new Council members joining the peace and security body in the New Year, negotiations have been ongoing with Permament Members the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France meeting four times since last week, without reaching a compromise.
The main point of contention, according to news reports, has revolved around the Al Yarubiyah crossing.
Resolution sponsors Germany, Belgium and Kuwait have pushed for the continued delivery of aid through two crossing points in Turkey and one in Iraq.
But the competing resolution from Russia, Syria’s closest ally on the Council, advocates the closure of the Al Yarubiyah crossing in Iraq.
Secretary-General António Guterres has stressed that if the authorization is not agreed to on Friday, the UN border operation in Syria will immediately cease.
In that case, a new resolution providing authorization for the mechanism would be needed for it to operate again.
‘An immediate end of aid’
Last Friday, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, and Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Council in closed consultations on developments in Idlib.
During the meeting, several members cited the province’s deteriorating humanitarian situation to illustrate the urgent need to renew the cross-border aid mechanism before it expires.
And in November, Mr. Lowcock had told the Chamber that four million people across northern Syria were supported by UN cross-border humanitarian assistance.
“Without the cross-border operation, we would see an immediate end of aid supporting millions of civilians”, he had said.
Unacceptable status quo
Prior to the meeting, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia expressed his hope that a solution could be found, saying “we are close, but not there yet”.
“I must tell you that all these cries about the imminent catastrophe, disaster which North-East faces if we close one cross-border point are totally irrelevant because humanitarian assistance to that region is coming from within Syria – for a long time, by the way. And it will continue to come”, he stated.
He maintained that as the situation on the ground has changed dramatically, “the status quo is inacceptable”.
“We have to close those cross-border points that are not relevant anymore”, upheld Mr. Nebenzia.
UNICEF calls on all stakeholders to put children first and ensure their safeguarding in Lebanon
Fri, 10 Jan 2020 14:45:35 +0000
Statement by Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon
Beirut, 10 January 2020 – “As the new year begins, it is time for all of us to put children first and ensure their safeguarding in these times of crisis in Lebanon. All of us –national and international institutions, civil society, private sector, communities, families— must act now to protect girls and boys from the impact of the deepening economic crisis. The situation is deteriorating and increasing the challenges for all children, especially those in families already living in poverty.
According to the available estimates, more than one in four Lebanese families live in poverty, and the crisis is now impacting many families, and much more so children than adults. Exacerbation of poverty is also expected among other vulnerable households in Lebanon.
Increasing poverty can affect girls and boys in many ways, including harming their nutrition, education and health, as well as having long-term impacts on their emotional and social development, future potential and wellbeing. Such crises can lead to an increased risk of abuse and neglect, and higher levels of child labour and child marriage. Young people face reduced opportunities to continue to learn, build their skills and find dignified work.
"In such a situation, girls and boys must be the first to be protected and safeguarded by all stakeholders"
In such a situation, girls and boys must be the first to be protected and safeguarded by all stakeholders, especially since they will be the foundation of Lebanon’s recovery, and the limited public resources in the national budget should be used to protect and prioritize children and young people.
UNICEF is adjusting its strategies to expand our reach to the most vulnerable girls, boys and young people by scaling-up our new Integrated Programme for Child Wellbeing, increasing programmes for adolescent and youth skills development, and providing cash support to 100,000 of the most vulnerable families. While Lebanon’s social protection system struggles to effectively respond to the ongoing crisis for now, UNICEF continues to support access to basic social services and development of national social assistance and calls on all actors to rapidly expand social assistance to poor families. UNICEF-supported programmes continue to address Lebanese children and other children living in Lebanon, and we work with partners and donors to deepen our programming and ensure its funding to expand our support to children and families at risk of falling into poverty in these times of crisis”.
Chief of Communication
United Nations Children’s Fund Lebanon
United Nations Children’s Fund Lebanon
Haiti marks 10 year anniversary of earthquake amid worsening food insecurity
Fri, 10 Jan 2020 13:59:41 +0000
Ten years ago, on January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 300,000 people and leaving over 1 million homeless. The solemn anniversary comes in the wake of urgent calls to action following reports of nationwide food insecurity in the country due to months of drought and political instability; nearly 4 million people are now in urgent need of emergency food assistance. That is one in three people.
In the wake of the earthquake’s devastation, a cholera outbreak claimed nearly 10,000 lives. Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, is vulnerable to natural disasters and the effects of climate change. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew destroyed 90 percent of the buildings along the country’s southern coast.
Political instability is worsening humanitarian situation
In recent months, Haiti has been engulfed in a deepening political and economic crisis. Sustained anti-government protests, sporadic violence, and political gridlock have had a negative impact on the humanitarian situation. "The local economy has now almost come to a standstill," said Jelena Kaifenheim, Malteser International's Regional Manager for the Americas. "If immediate action is not taken, the situation in Haiti will continue to deteriorate. The most important thing now is to meet the emergency food needs of vulnerable people across the country."
Malteser International - Ten years of aid in Haiti
Malteser International responded to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, providing life-saving relief and distributing food and water in collaboration with local community partners. In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, the organization provided cash assistance to affected families, and distributed hygiene kits to prevent the spread of diseases like cholera. Since then, Malteser International has expanded its aid efforts to include reconstruction or equipping of schools and health facilities, including a maternity ward.
“Despite a series of cholera outbreaks, hurricanes, droughts and food shortages, we have made considerable gains in the communities we work with," said Kaifenheim. "People see the latrines, trash cans, and water facilities Malteser international has put in place and they value our presence. Our local partners are involved every step of the way."
Malteser International currently runs community gardens and livestock programs that directly address Haiti’s food crisis. It is estimated that over 50,000 people benefit from these nutrition initiatives. In the rural community of Belle Anse, we recently built a 16 km-long aqueduct that provides safe drinking water to over 20,000 people.
Note to Editors:
Jelena Kaifenheim, Regional Manager for the Americas at Malteser International, is available for interviews.
For media enquiries and interviews, please contact:
Tel.: +49 (0)221 96441 181
Inter-ethnic violence in Ituri, DRC, may constitute “crimes against humanity”
Fri, 10 Jan 2020 11:00:55 +0000
KINSHASA/GENEVA (10 January 2020) -- Killings, rapes and other forms of violence targeting the Hema community in the Democratic Republic of Congo province of Ituri may amount to crimes against humanity, a UN report released on Friday said.
An investigation conducted by the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO)* in the DRC established that at least 701 people have been killed and 168 injured during inter-ethnic tensions between the Hema and Lendu communities, in the territories of Djugu and Mahagi, from December 2017 to September 2019. In addition, at least 142 people have been subjected to acts of sexual violence, the report said. Most of the victims are members of the Hema community.
Since September 2018, Lendu armed groups have increasingly become more organized in carrying out attacks against the Hema and members of other ethnic groups such as the Alur, the investigators said. Among their objectives is to take control of the land of the Hema communities and their associated resources, they added.
The report documents numerous cases of women being raped, of children -- some in school uniforms -- being killed, and of looting and burning of villages. On 10 June 2019, in the district of Torges, a Hema man who was trying to prevent armed assailants from raping his wife witnessed his 8-year-old son being beheaded.
"The barbarity that characterizes these attacks -- including the beheading of women and children with machetes, the dismemberment and removal of body parts of the victims as trophies of war -- reflects the desire of the attackers to inflict lasting trauma to the Hema communities and to force them to flee and not return to their villages," the report said.
"The violence documented... could contain some elements of crimes against humanity through murder, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillage and persecution."
Schools and health clinics have been attacked and destroyed. The report said most attacks occurred in June around the harvest period, and in December during the sowing season. "This makes it more difficult for the Hema to cultivate their fields and exacerbates their lack of food," the report said.
Since February 2018, almost 57,000 people have taken refuge in Uganda and more than 556,000 have fled to neighbouring regions, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. Several camps and villages where the Hema have taken refuge have been stormed, burned and destroyed by Lendu armed groups, the report said.
UN investigators also documented, between December 2017 and May 2018, acts of reprisal by some members of the Hema communities, including the burning of villages and isolated attacks targeting the Lendu.
Army and police forces deployed since February 2018 have failed to stop the violence, the report stated, adding that the security forces themselves had committed abuses such as extrajudicial executions, sexual violence, arbitrary arrests and detention. Two police officers and two soldiers have been convicted by Congolese courts.
The UN Joint Human Rights Office recommends that the DRC authorities address the root causes of the conflict, such as access to resources including land, and maintain ongoing reconciliation efforts between the two communities. It also calls for a strengthened presence of state institutions and armed forces in the area to ensure the security of all communities and their peaceful cohabitation.
The report urged the authorities to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the violence, in addition to ensuring the right to reparation for victims and their access to medical and psychosocial care.
** The UN Joint Human Rights Office, which was established in February 2008, comprises the Human Rights Division of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in the DRC.*
Check full report:
UN Human Rights, Country page - Democratic Republic of Congo (https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/CDIndex.aspx)
For more information and media requests please contact:
In Kinshasa, Mathias Gillman - +243 (0) 997869920/ email@example.com
UNHCR welcomes new law in El Salvador to help people internally displaced by violence
Fri, 10 Jan 2020 10:56:52 +0000
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Liz Throssell – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomes El Salvador’s passage of legislation to protect, aid and offer durable solutions to people internally displaced in the Central American nation due to violence from organized crime and criminal gangs, as well as those who may be at risk of displacement.
The legislation, passed by a resounding majority in El Salvador’s National Assembly on January 9, opens the door for tens of thousands of victims of forced displacement in the country to gain access to life-saving humanitarian assistance, and to have their basic rights restored, including effective access to justice. The law further provides for the establishment, for the first time, of a comprehensive national system that brings together a wide variety of State institutions to collaborate in responding to and preventing forced displacement.
Once signed by President Nayib Bukele, the law can have a lasting positive impact on the lives of the 71,500 Salvadorans estimated to have been forcibly displaced between 2006 and 2016 within their country’s borders, as well as tens of thousands more who are at risk of being forced to flee their homes.
The text of the legislation on internal displacement, drafted with technical support from UNHCR, aligns with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and with other international standards that describe the rights of internally displaced persons, including the right to request and receive humanitarian assistance, protection of family unity, an adequate standard of living and durable solutions. It also establishes mechanisms to allow those affected by internal displacement to protect and reclaim property they may have been forced to abandon in their flight.
The law reflects the growing momentum In Central America and beyond to recognize and respond to the phenomenon of internal displacement. In Honduras, where an estimated 247,000 people have been displaced by violence within their own country, the National Congress is considering legislation similar to the law passed in El Salvador. Mexico also recognizes the serious impact of internal displacement and has expressed its commitment to pass legislation on the issue at the federal level.
UNHCR reiterates its readiness to continue offering technical and operational assistance to the governments of Central America and Mexico to help them mitigate the causes and consequences of forced displacement, in line with their commitments as part of a regional alliance to provide comprehensive protection and solutions to the issue called the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework, known by its Spanish-language acronym, MIRPS.
In October, the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, established a High-level Panel on Internal Displacement to increase global attention and advance solutions for this issue which affects more than 40 million people worldwide due to conflict and violence.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
In Geneva: Liz Throssell, firstname.lastname@example.org, 41 22 739 8941
In Mexico City: Sibylla Brodzinsky, email@example.com, + 52 55 8048-5054
In Panama: William Spindler, firstname.lastname@example.org, +507 6382-7815
In Panama: Diana Diaz, email@example.com, + 507 6646-34-69
In El Salvador: Oscar Ramirez, firstname.lastname@example.org, +503 2209-3585
In New York, Kathryn Mahoney, email@example.com, +1 347 443 7646
Llamado para aumentar el apoyo a los niños y niñas migrantes venezolanos en la frontera entre Brasil y Venezuela
Fri, 10 Jan 2020 09:53:41 +0000
BOA VISTA/PANAMÁ/NUEVA YORK, 10 de enero de 2020 - El Embajador de Buena Voluntad de UNICEF, Liam Neeson, se unió a la organización para instar a la comunidad internacional a aumentar su apoyo a los niños y niñas refugiados y migrantes de Venezuela que necesitan asistencia en América Latina y el Caribe. Neeson hizo eco de esta petición después de concluir una visita de cuatro días a la región fronteriza brasileña con Venezuela, donde se reunió con niños, niñas, adolescentes y familias venezolanas vulnerables, así como de las comunidades de acogida.
Los países de América Latina y el Caribe acogen en la actualidad un estimado de 3,9 millones de migrantes y refugiados venezolanos en lo que se ha convertido en uno de los flujos migratorios más grandes del mundo. El número de familias que salen de Venezuela continúa aumentando. Este año se espera que más de 1,9 millones de niños y niñas necesiten asistencia, incluidos migrantes venezolanos y de las comunidades de acogida.
"He hablado con familias venezolanas que cruzaron la frontera, muchas de ellas con niños y bebés", dijo Neeson. “Están exhaustos, son vulnerables y siguen en estado de shock tras dejar todo detrás de ellos. Como padre, se me rompió el corazón cuando escuché sus historias. Pero también vi esperanza en los ojos de los niños migrantes y refugiados que están aprovechando todas las oportunidades para aprender en un ambiente seguro, crecer sanos y, finalmente, reconstruir sus vidas en Brasil”.
El actor viajó al cruce fronterizo en Pacaraima donde, a su llegada, los venezolanos reciben información sobre solicitudes de asilo y permisos de residencia, además de vacunas, en caso de ser necesario. En Boa Vista, Neeson visitó uno de los refugios más grandes para venezolanos en Brasil. Más de 1.000 personas, la mitad de ellas niños y niñas, viven actualmente en este lugar donde UNICEF y sus socios brindan asistencia humanitaria, incluyendo educación, servicios de protección a la infancia, salud y nutrición, así como servicios de agua, higiene y saneamiento.
El Embajador de Buena Voluntad de UNICEF participó en actividades recreativas y educativas destinadas a preparar a niños, niños y adolescentes para su integración en las escuelas brasileñas. En medio de la creciente xenofobia hacia los refugiados y migrantes venezolanos en América Latina, Liam Neeson se unió a un campamento extraescolar que reúne a adolescentes venezolanos y brasileños para facilitar el entendimiento mutuo y fomentar las amistades a través de actividades deportivas y culturales.
“Durante mi visita a Brasil, vi el poder de los venezolanos y brasileños cuando se reúnen y viven juntos. Me recordó mi experiencia durante el conflicto en Irlanda del Norte cuando presencié a niños católicos y protestantes que se hicieron amigos y rompieron la barrera del miedo y la incomprensión. Estos recuerdos me vinieron a la mente cuando escuchaba a Jesús y Emily. Su amistad es una señal de esperanza para el futuro de los refugiados venezolanos y de las comunidades que los albergan”, dijo Liam Neeson.
Los equipos de UNICEF en el terreno en varios países afectados por el flujo migratorio están entregando asistencia humanitaria en puntos críticos en las fronteras y a lo largo de las rutas de tránsito. Junto con las autoridades locales y las agencias de las Naciones Unidas en Ecuador, Perú, Brasil, Colombia, Guyana y Trinidad y Tobago, UNICEF también está ampliando su respuesta de desarrollo en entornos urbanos y fomentando la integración de niños y niñas venezolanos en las comunidades de acogida.
"Una de las medidas clave para evitar que la crisis migratoria de Venezuela se intensifique aún más es invertir en los niños, niñas y jóvenes venezolanos para estimular su potencial", dijo Bernt Aasen, Director Regional de UNICEF para América Latina y el Caribe. “Más allá de la asistencia para salvar vidas, ahora es fundamental garantizar que los niños y niñas migrantes se integren en los sistemas de educación, salud y protección de los países de acogida. Si se les da esta oportunidad, algún día estos niños y niñas serán los que formen una región más estable y próspera para todos”.
A diciembre de 2019, solo el 41 por ciento de los US $ 69.5 millones necesarios el año pasado se habían recaudado. Este año, UNICEF está solicitando US $ 64 millones para satisfacer las necesidades de aproximadamente 633,000 niños, niñas y adolescentes afectados por la migración desde Venezuela, incluidos los niños migrantes y aquellos de las comunidades de acogida en seis países latinoamericanos como Brasil.
Teléfono: +55 (61) 3035-1947
Teléfono: +55 (61) 98166-1636
Jefe Regional de Comunicación
UNICEF para América Latina y el Caribe
Teléfono: + 507 3017393
Teléfono: + 507 6169 9886
Acerca de UNICEF
UNICEF trabaja en algunos de los lugares más difíciles para llegar a los niños y niñas más desfavorecidos del mundo. Para salvar sus vidas. Para defender sus derechos. Para ayudarles a alcanzar su máximo potencial.
En 190 países y territorios, trabajamos para cada niño y niña, en todas partes, cada día, para construir un mundo mejor para todos.
Y nunca nos rendimos.
Para obtener más información sobre UNICEF y su labor, visite www.unicef.org/lac.
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UNHCR issues recommendations for EU to make 2020 year of change for refugee protection
Thu, 09 Jan 2020 19:33:10 +0000
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has launched a set of ambitious but achievable Recommendations for the 2020 Croatian and German Presidencies of the Council of the European Union (EU). The Presidencies and the envisaged EU Pact on Migration and Asylum present unique opportunities to better protect forcibly displaced and stateless people in Europe and abroad, while supporting host countries.
“As we enter a new decade, and following the success of the Global Refugee Forum, the EU under its Presidencies has the chance to make 2020 the year of change for robust refugee protection,” said Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR’s Regional Representative for EU Affairs.
UNHCR’s Recommendations propose a truly common and workable asylum system within the EU through sustainable reform and revitalized financial support for countries hosting forcibly displaced people outside the EU.
Inside the EU, fair and fast asylum procedures need to be established to quickly determine who needs international protection and who does not. People eligible for protection should quickly be granted status and receive support for integration. Those not eligible to any form of protection should be assisted in their return.
Responsibility-sharing with EU Member States receiving a disproportionate number of asylum claims is also needed to ensure a truly common and workable asylum system. UNHCR is encouraging the Presidencies to advance work on an effective solidarity mechanism, including through relocation arrangements, with family unity prioritized.
“The last decade was one of displacement. This decade can be, indeed has to be, one of solutions, starting right now in 2020,” said Vargas Llosa. “By supporting large refugee hosting countries outside Europe, the EU can also help refugees thrive and not just survive.”
With 85 percent of the world’s refugees hosted in neighbouring and developing countries, revitalized financial support is also needed. UNHCR is calling on the Presidencies to ensure increased and diversified funding, including for development cooperation funding, to further support host countries and help forcibly displaced people rebuild their lives. The next EU budget (Multi-annual Financial Framework 2021-2027) is a key opportunity for the EU to demonstrate global solidarity towards forcibly displaced people and their hosts.
UNHCR remains ready to support the Croatian and German Presidencies, the EU, and its Member States as they work to enhance solidarity with refugees and the countries hosting them in the EU and globally.
Read UNHCR’s full Recommendations for the Croatian and German Presidencies of the Council of the European Union here.
For more information, please contact:
One child dies each day during escalation in Idlib conflict
Thu, 09 Jan 2020 11:36:35 +0000
One child has been killed per day on average in Idlib during conflict escalations in 2019, Save the Children reveals today.
The current ongoing escalation of violence in Idlib — which began in December 2019 — has seen 36 children die, according to Save the Children and its partner organisation Hurras Network, and displaced almost 300,000 people, completely emptying some major towns and cities in the area.*
During previous intensified violence, which began at the end of April 2019, more children were killed in one month than all of 2018 in Idlib. Between April 30th 2019 and July 25th 2019, 90 children were killed during the military escalation in the area, before a ceasefire was announced in August.
Sonia Khush, Save the Children Syria Response Director, said:
“The number of casualties in Idlib continues to grow. They may just be numbers to many, but to their families, they are dearly loved children whose lives have been cut short by a brutal conflict that spares no one.
Our partner Hurras Network documents each death thoroughly and these are conservative numbers. But they are still too high. A child killed each day is not acceptable.”
The freezing temperatures and wet, wintry weather are exacerbating the needs of vulnerable children and families. Hundreds of people are sleeping in the streets of Idlib with no place to go after aerial bombardment and ground fighting emptied the town of Maarat Al Numan and the surrounding areas. Many are trying to seek refuge in mosques, empty warehouses and chicken farms.
Twelve displacement camps in North West Syria have flooded over the past few weeks, which - when coupled with a shortage of fuel – make it extremely difficult for displaced families to combat the cold weather.
“Thousands of families have begun the New Year trying desperately to escape violence with no destination in mind, fleeing with just the belongings they could carry. For many it’s not the first time they’ve had to do this.
“Save the Children is calling on all parties to stop this war on children. The Syrian conflict must not be allowed to set the precedent for the violation of fundamental human rights and international laws, designed to protect vulnerable children, to become the new normal,” Khush added.
Save the Children and its partners are currently responding to needs of families in Syria through distributions of hygiene items, food baskets, transportation out of conflict areas and other items that cover basic needs, aiming to improve the living conditions among the newly displaced populations.
Spokespeople are available. To arrange an interview please contact Joelle Bassoul in Beirut firstname.lastname@example.org 00961 81 600696 or Davina Hagan in London 0044 7732 601762. During out of office hours, please contact the 24-hour press office in London email@example.com 0044 7831 650 409.
NOTES TO EDITORS
From December 20th 2019 to January 7th 36 children in Idlib were killed according to figures obtained by Save the Children’s partner Hurras Network, including 9 children in the first week of 2020.
**North West Syria hosts one of the largest internally displaced populations inside the country, with half of the population having been uprooted at least once, and some being displaced up to seven times over the course of the conflict. Most now live in overcrowded camps and shelters in rural areas with nowhere left to flee to. Food, water and medicine are in short supply, alongside essential services like schools and healthcare.
***Save the Children supports Syrians in the North West of the country through a network of partner organizations on the ground. Their work includes running primary healthcare clinics and a maternity hospital, vaccination and food security programmes, supporting a network of schools and carrying out child protection work.
How WHO delivers supplies to remote Ebola-hit regions of DRC
Thu, 09 Jan 2020 10:44:27 +0000
How do you deliver nearly three tons of supplies every day to halt Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) conflict-affected north-eastern region? For the World Health Organization (WHO), a 40-strong operations support and logistics team works almost non-stop to speedily dispatch materials across an area four times the size of neighbouring Rwanda.
Every day, 2.89 metric tons of medical and non-medical supplies and equipment leave WHO hubs in Kinshasa and in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, to hubs in Beni and Butembo towns and five district warehouses. More than 800 vehicles, one plane, two helicopters, four trucks, 410 motorcycles (for accessing remote villages) and 37 ambulances are needed to move the supplies and team members.
Navigating insecurity, bad roads
However, operating in such a vast area which suffers regular armed attacks and insecurity is a complicated undertaking. Dilapidated roads and a hilly terrain add to the immense hurdles in supplying far-flung areas with urgently-needed materials.
“The Ebola epidemic is won by the public health response, and the field is won by the work of the logistics teams,” says Dr Abdou Salam Gueye, WHO Incident Manager for the DRC.
“As most of the difficulties we encounter are because of the environment, it tells the importance of logistics in this operation. Operations Support and Logistics (OSL) is delivering beyond WHO’s own activities as part of a concerted strategy to confine the virus and end the outbreak as soon as possible.”
Typically, WHO OSL supports at least 70% of an emergency response, comprising supply chain management, operation support and health logistics.
Between August 2018 (the beginning of the outbreak) and November 2019, WHO has shipped internationally more than 900 metric tonnes of supplies to Entebbe, Goma, Kigali and Kinshasa, all destined for the Ebola operation’s main and secondary hubs. Nearly half of the supplies were for infection and prevention control and laboratory work.
The organization has to date also delivered more than 17 million gloves, over 2 million surgical masks, 909 000 gowns and over 200 000 doses of Ebola vaccine. Put together, these supplies are equivalent in volume to nearly two Olympic-sized swimming pools. More than 1000 people have survived the virus and over 257 000 have been vaccinated.
In March 2019, two Ebola treatment centres torched during attacks in Butembo and Katwa towns were rebuilt in record time. The OSL teams have also constructed 11 transit centres (hosting people suspected of having Ebola), and eight Emergency Operations Centres. In partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), they install and maintain water, sanitation and hygiene equipment, drill boreholes and maintain water tanks. They handle patient waste and provide support for safe and dignified burials, a crucial part of the effort to curb the virus. In addition, OSL has built eight base camps housing 750 aid workers.
WHO works closely with the Ministry of Health and United Nations partners such as the World Food Programme and UNICEF as well as the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement in-country. OSL also supports the logistics of some partners and fills gaps when partners lack implementing capacity.
The work of WHO engineers on items such as infrastructure repairs also benefit communities beyond the Ebola response. For example, they have rebuilt a 12 km road and four bridges between two communities near Mangina that cuts travel time from four to one hour – a big win for locals seeking urgent medical help and for farmers needing to get to the market.
All hands on deck
The OSL calls on a wide range of technical skills tailored to emergency response. Typically, they include managers, supply specialists, water, sanitation and hygiene engineers, construction engineers, mechanics, cold chain experts and microbiologists. WHO also has a team of five “flying” logisticians at the ready. These troubleshooters devise solutions to specific problems, such as waste disposal, decontamination, drilling wells for potable water or getting a truck back on the road.
Transporting the Ebola vaccine at the right temperature to maintain the cold chain is a real test of ingenuity. WHO uses Arktek, a vaccine storage technology (with capacity for 120,000 doses) developed by Global Good, a collaboration between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Intellectual Ventures’ innovation lab. The “super thermos” keeps the vaccine at between -60 to -80 degrees Celsius for up to 6.5 days, and uses a tracking tool to check delivery. It was developed to transport vaccines in countries or regions prone to interruptions to the power supply or where refrigeration is not an option.
Zinedine Kada, WHO team lead for OSL in the DRC, says above all, logisticians have to anticipate and be inventive.
“People think logs is just about moving things from A to B. But whenever there is an emergency or isolated case, the logs team is right there to enable rapid public health response by providing required supplies, working conditions, means of transport and living spaces.
“We are also always thinking about the supply chain. If that is weak, our programmes will be weak and we will have failed in our purpose of providing support and emergency care for those in need.”
WHO logistics operations in the DRC is supported by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid (ECHO).
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Red Cross releases funds in anticipation of extreme winter in Mongolia
Thu, 09 Jan 2020 08:10:44 +0000
Ulaanbaatar / Kuala Lumpur / Geneva 9 January 2020 - Forecasts of an extreme winter in Mongolia have triggered the release of funding to reduce its impact on vulnerable herders. This is the first time this early action funding mechanism developed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been used anywhere.
On 2 January, Mongolia's National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring announced more than 50 per cent of the country was at risk of an extreme (dzud) winter. This unwelcome news has triggered the pre-agreed release of CHF 210,968 (217,000 US dollars) to the Mongolian Red Cross Society for forecast-based action from IFRC's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). The funding provides 88 Swiss francs (90.6 US dollars) cash each for 1,000 vulnerable herder families to prevent the starvation, dehydration and cold exposure of their livestock because of poor access to feed, water, veterinary care and shelter. A livestock nutrition kit will support livestock health during winter's lean months.
Mongolian Red Cross Society Secretary General: Bolormaa Nordov said: "Dzud is catastrophic for the agricultural sector, which is vital to the Mongolian culture and economy. We have 70 million livestock, which directly support about a quarter of our people. Horses, camels, goats, cattle and sheep for milk, cashmere, meat and other livestock products are the only source of income for herders.
"Every extreme winter brings misery, hunger and hardship for thousands of families and forces them to move to squatter settlements outside Ulaanbaatar, our capital. This finance allows the Red Cross to help some of the most at-risk people before winter sets in for good."
Using meteorological models and historical data, experts can forecast the probability of extreme weather events with increasing accuracy. Combining weather forecasts with risk analysis allows IFRC funding to be released so people can prepare for extreme weather. The goal of forecast-based financing is to anticipate disasters, prevent their impact, if possible, and reduce human suffering and losses. The key element is to agree in advance to release financial resources if a specific forecast threshold is triggered.
IFRC Head of Beijing Country Cluster Support Team Gwendolyn Pang said: "Forecast-based financing helps communities move from reacting to disasters to anticipating them. Climate change, which brings disasters that are increasing in frequency, length and intensity makes this kind of finance model even more crucial. Simply waiting for disasters to strike is no longer an option."
- Read the Mongolia dzud Early Action Protocolhttp://adore.ifrc.org/Download.aspx... and today's activation announcementhttp://adore.ifrc.org/Download.aspx....
- The DREF forecast-based action was established with support from the German Red Cross and the German Government Federal Foreign Office.
More than 480,000 children in remote Philippines islands receive additional protection from polio
Thu, 09 Jan 2020 00:55:02 +0000
COTABATO CITY, Philippines, 8 January 2020 — The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) continue their support to the Department of Health (DOH) in the remote islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (BaSulTa) to reach 488,000 targeted children under 10 years old with the polio vaccine.
Children in BaSulTa are at risk of infection from polio because of low vaccination coverage, inaccessibility, and security issues in the island municipalities and barangays. To offer added protection to children in BaSulTa, one of the priority areas, a further three rounds of immunisation for poliovirus type 1 targeting all children below ten years old will be implemented. The immunisation schedules include January 6 to 12 for BaSulTa and Zamboanga City, and Mindanao-wide for January 20 to February 2, February 17 to March 1, and March 23 to April 4, 2020.
DOH announced a polio outbreak in the Philippines last September 19, 2019, with the first type 2 poliovirus case found in Marogong, Lanao del Sur. On November 26, DOH announced the re-emergence of type 1 poliovirus in Maluso, Basilan. On December 6, the first case of polio after 27 years was confirmed in Sabah, Malaysia, and revealed to have genetic links to the polio case found in Basilan.
Lessons learned from the previous vaccination rounds in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) revealed that local government units need additional help, especially those in hard-to-reach areas. The DOH is working with the Bangsamoro government and local government units for the implementation of the polio campaign with technical support from the WHO, UNICEF and other partners.
“WHO recognizes that DOH and local government units have been working tirelessly during the holidays to prepare for this response. The high-level political support has been instrumental in the success we witnessed in the previous rounds, and urge all parties to ensure high coverage during this campaign to ensure that all the vulnerable children in these islands will receive the much-needed protection,” says Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO Representative to the Philippines.
“UNICEF is concerned about the plight of children in BaSulTa and the rest of children in BARMM. They are among the most vulnerable children in the Philippines. Vaccination is the only way to protect children from polio. Vaccines are safe and effective. We must all work hand in hand to stop the spread of the virus,” Andrew Morris, UNICEF Chief of Mindanao Field Office, says.
WHO has been supporting DOH and Ministry of Health BARMM in responding to the polio outbreak by deploying personnel to ensure that vaccination campaigns are planned and implemented effectively. WHO also continues to provide financial support and technical advice on intensifying acute flaccid paralysis and environmental surveillance, and on risk communication, aimed at finally strengthening routine immunization programme in the country.
For the polio response, UNICEF assisted health workers before, during and after each campaign. Before each campaign, UNICEF helped the government procure supplies such as vaccines, freezers, ice packs, and vaccine carriers; facilitated the social mobilization component of the program, enjoining civil society, religious leaders and other influencers to spread messages about polio prevention; and lead the microplanning process with each municipality to ensure each child is reached. During the campaign, UNICEF staff provided technical assistance to overcome challenges in the field. After each campaign, UNICEF staff complemented the DOH’s effort in the conduct of assessments in select barangays to check if any child is missed. UNICEF also provided assistance for proper vaccine disposal.
Immunisation is the most effective way to protect children from polio and stop the spread of the virus. WHO and UNICEF call on parents and caregivers to have their children vaccinated during synchronised polio vaccination rounds in priority areas announced by DOH.
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‘Unprecedented terrorist violence’ in West Africa, Sahel region
Wed, 08 Jan 2020 19:45:14 +0000
“The region has experienced a devastating surge in terrorist attacks against civilian and military targets,” Mohamed Ibn Chambas, UN Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), told the Council in its first formal meeting of the year.
“The humanitarian consequences are alarming”, he spelled out.
In presenting his latest report, Mr. Chambas painted a picture of relentless attacks on civilian and military targets that he said, have “shaken public confidence”.
A surge in casualties
The UNOWAS chief elaborated on terrorist-attack casualties in Burkina Faso Mali and Niger, which have leapt five-fold since 2016 – with more than 4,000 deaths reported in 2019 alone as compared to some 770 three years earlier.
“Most significantly,” he said, “the geographic focus of terrorist attacks has shifted eastwards from Mali to Burkina Faso and is increasingly threatening West African coastal States”.
He also flagged that the number of deaths in Burkina Faso jumped from about 80 in 2016 to over 1,800 last year.
And displacement has grown ten-fold to about half a million, on top of some 25,000 who have sought refuge in other countries.
Mr. Chambas explained that “terrorist attacks are often deliberate efforts by violent extremists” to engage in illicit activities that include capturing weapons and illegal artisanal mining.
Terrorism, organized crime and intercommunal violence are often intertwined, especially in peripheral areas where the State’s presence is weak.
“In those places, extremists provide safety and protection to populations, as well as social services in exchanged for loyalty”, he informed the Council, echoing the Secretary-General in saying that for these reasons, “counter-terrorism responses must focus on gaining the trust and support of local populations”.
The Special Representative outlined that governments, local actors, regional organizations and the international community are mobilizing across the region to respond to these challenges.
On 21 December, the ECOWAS Heads of State summit “adopted a 2020-2024 action plan to eradicate terrorism in the sub-region”, he said.
Calling “now” the time for action, Mr. Chambas drew attention to the importance of supporting regional Governments by prioritizing “a cross-pillar approach at all levels and across all sectors”.
Turning to farmer-herder clashes, which he maintained are “some of the most violent local conflicts in the region”, the UNOWAS chief highlighted that 70 per cent of West Africa’s population depend on agriculture and livestock-rearing for a living, underscoring the importance of peaceful coexistence.
The Special Representative also pointed to climate change, among other factors, as increasingly exacerbating farmer-herder conflicts.
“The impact of climate change on security also spawns a negative relationship between climate change, social cohesion, irregular migration and criminality in some places”, he upheld.
Stemming negative security trends
The UNOWAS chief noted that in the months ahead, Togo, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Niger would be democratically electing their leaders and maintained that “all-too-worrying” security trends must not distract from political developments.
“Unresolved grievance, incomplete national reconciliation processes and sentiments of manipulation of institutions and processes carry risks of tensions and manifestations of political violence”, he warned.
In the months ahead, Mr. Chambas stressed that UNOWAS would continue to work with partners on the national and regional levels to promote consensus and inclusiveness in the elections.
“As UNOWAS’ mandate is renewed, we count on the Council’s continued full support”, concluded the Special Representative.
Up to 9.3 million people need humanitarian assistance in Sudan in 2020
Wed, 08 Jan 2020 15:05:59 +0000
Context of the Crisis
After a year of civil unrest and political change, humanitarian needs continue to rise. Some 9.3 million people – 23 per cent of the population – will need humanitarian assistance in 2020. The transitional government is prioritizing peace and ending the economic crisis, issues closely intertwined with the drivers of humanitarian need in the country.
While incidents of fighting have reduced considerably in recent years, the situation of people displaced due to decades of conflict remains unresolved. Some 1.87 million IDPs and 1.1 million refugees and asylum seekers continue to need humanitarian assistance and protection support, both in and out of camp camps and within host communities. Pockets of armed conflict continue in Darfur, and sporadic inter-communal conflicts also continue.
Across Sudan, basic services are lacking, and natural disasters, like floods, affect people each year. But it is a deepening economic crisis, following years of stagnation and little investment in already-weak public services, that is driving worsening food insecurity, deteriorating healthcare, and other needs across Sudan.
Throughout Sudan, most people – 58 per cent of households – cannot afford a basic daily food basket. Over 2.7 million children suffer from acute malnutrition. Medical facilities across the country are not functional due to lack of essential drugs.
Following months of civil protest, President Omar Al Bashir was removed from power on 11 April 2019, and a Transitional Military Council (TMC) was established. Civil protests, led by theAlliance for Freedom and Change Forces continued, calling for establishment of a civilian government, a further break with the previous regime, and ending internal conflicts. On 3 June, when security forces dismantled the “sit-in” area in front of army headquarters in Khartoum, more than 100 people were killed, and several hundred injured, at the site itself and across Khartoum.
After months of negotiations on the formation of a transitional government, on 21 August, Abdalla Hamdok was appointed Prime Minister. The Prime Minister will lead the government during a transition period of 39 months, after which democratic elections are to be held in the country for the first time in nearly 30 years. The Prime Minister has identified building sustainable peace and addressing the economic crisis as the transitional government’s top priorities.
Armed opposition continues in pockets of Darfur, as well as in the ‘Two Areas’ of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. In September, the government and a group of Sudanese armed movement leaders -including Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) Malik Agar faction, the Sudan Liberation Army – Minni Minnawi (SLA-MM) faction, among others –signed the “Juba Declaration”, which provides a way forward on peace negotiations. Meanwhile, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North faction led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu (SPLM-N al-Hilu) and the Sudanese government have also signed a roadmap for negotiations and officialy began direct talks in Juba in October5 . The SLA-Abdul Wahid faction (SLA-AW) has distanced itself from these discussions and remains the only armed group actively involved in fighting inside Sudan.
WFP welcomes Italy's contribution to help alleviate hunger in Zambia
Wed, 08 Jan 2020 11:42:05 +0000
LUSAKA – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a €500,000 (US$ 610,000) contribution from the Italian Government to provide food to people affected by the drought in Zambia.
Drought and prolonged dry spells have left 2.3 million people severely food insecure and in need of humanitarian food assistance.
“In the context of the current crisis, the Italian emergency contribution confirmed in December 2019 is crucial to WFP. The funds will enable WFP to procure around 340 MT of pulses to cover the food needs of about 99,000 people for an entire month, helping WFP ensure that the people residing in the areas most affected by the drought can receive the immediate assistance they need,” said Jennifer Bitonde, WFP Country Representative in Zambia.
“At the same time, WFP will continue to work to strengthening communities’ resilience to future climatic shocks under its five-year Country Strategic Plan (2019-2024),” she added.
As part of the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, WFP is currently supporting the Government’s response by providing logistics support by delivering Government-supplied maize meal, as well as by procuring and delivering pulses to ensure a nutrition-sensitive food basket. WFP is also working closely with partners to monitor food distributions and guarantee that resources reach those most in need.
About 1.1 million people are expected to receive WFP’s support, while the remaining 1.2 million will be assisted by the Government and other partners, with whom WFP is working and closely coordinating.
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US-Iran tension threatens lifeline to millions across Middle East
Wed, 08 Jan 2020 10:23:36 +0000
Statement by Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council
"Tens of millions of people across the Middle East need humanitarian assistance.
Most of them are already devastated or displaced by conflict. Another confrontation among international and regional powers would be deadly for aid lifelines on the brink of collapse.
24 million war-affected Yemenis and 12 million Syrians displaced within the region are extremely vulnerable to any escalation in conflict, sanctions or restrictions on movement. We also see increased anxiety among over 6 million needy Iraqis and 2 million in need of aid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Sanctions have severely affected our humanitarian work for some of the 3 million Afghan refugees living in Iran. For large parts of 2018-19 we could not find a single international bank able to transmit Western donor money to aid Afghan refugee communities in eastern Iran and natural disaster victims elsewhere in the country.
It is already too difficult and dangerous for our field relief workers to serve vulnerable communities in the Middle East. On behalf of the millions in need that have nothing to do with the political conflict, we urge de-escalation of this confrontation and direct talks among diplomats to find solutions. Do not make a difficult situation impossible."
Spread of polio still an international public health concern - WHO
Tue, 07 Jan 2020 20:29:44 +0000
The twenty-third meeting of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) regarding the international spread of poliovirus was convened by the Director General on 11 December 2019 at WHO headquarters with members, advisers and invited Member States attending via teleconference, supported by the WHO secretariat.
The Emergency Committee reviewed the data on wild poliovirus (WPV1) and circulating vaccine derived polioviruses (cVDPV). The Secretariat presented a report of progress for affected IHR States Parties subject to Temporary Recommendations. The following IHR States Parties provided an update on the current situation and the implementation of the WHO Temporary Recommendations since the Committee last met on 16 September 2019: Afghanistan, Angola, Benin, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Togo and Zambia.
The Committee remains gravely concerned by the significant increase in WPV1 cases globally to 113 as at 11 December 2019, compared to 28 for the same period in 2018, with no significant success yet in reversing this trend.
In Pakistan transmission continues to be widespread, as indicated by both AFP (acute flaccid paralysis) surveillance and environmental sampling. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province continues to be of particular concern. The issues noted previously by the committee, including refusal by individuals and communities to accept vaccination, and problems with politicization of the national polio program are still being addressed. Added pressure is now on the program due to confirmation of detection of cVDPV2 in several provinces (see below).
In Afghanistan, the security situation remains very challenging. Inaccessible and missed children particularly in the Southern Region represent a large cohort of susceptible children in this part of Afghanistan. The risk of a major upsurge of cases is growing, with other parts of the country that have been free of WPV1 for some time now at risk of outbreaks. This would again increase the risk of international spread. Major efforts must be made to improve access if eradication efforts are going to progress.
The committee noted that based on sequencing of viruses, there were recent instances of international spread of viruses from Pakistan to Afghanistan and also from Afghanistan to Pakistan. The recent increased frequency of WPV1 international spread between the two countries suggests that rising transmission in Pakistan and Afghanistan correlates with increasing risk of WPV1 exportation beyond the single epidemiological block formed by the two countries.
The Committee noted the continued cooperation and coordination between Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly in reaching high risk mobile populations that frequently cross the international border and welcomed the all-age vaccination now being taken at key border points between the two countries.
In Nigeria, there has been no WPV1 detected for three years, and it is possible that the African Region may be certified WPV free in 2020. The Committee again commended the strong efforts to reach inaccessible and trapped children in Borno, Nigeria, even in the face of increased insecurity. The certification of WPV3 eradication was also welcomed by the committee and underlines that polioviruses can be eradicated.
Vaccine derived poliovirus
The multiple cVDPV outbreaks in four WHO regions (African, Eastern Mediterranean, South-east Asian and Western Pacific Regions) are very concerning, with seven new countries reporting outbreaks since the last meeting (Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Togo and Zambia). Since the last meeting, cVDPV2 has spread through West Africa and the Lake Chad area, reaching Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Chad, and cVDPV1 has spread from the Philippines to Malaysia.
The rapid emergence of multiple cVDPV2 strains in several countries is unprecedented and very concerning, and not yet fully understood.
The committee noted that the GPEI was developing a strategy to address cVDPV2 outbreaks but was extremely concerned that the monovalent OPV2 stockpile was becoming depleted. The committee strongly supports the development and proposed Emergency Use Listing of the novel OPV2 vaccine which should become available mid-2020, and which it is hoped will result in no or very little seeding of further outbreaks.
The Committee unanimously agreed that the risk of international spread of poliovirus remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and recommended the extension of Temporary Recommendations for a further three months. The committee recognizes the concerns regarding the lengthy duration of the polio PHEIC, but concludes that the current situation is extraordinary, with clear ongoing risk of international spread and ongoing need for coordinated international response. The Committee considered the following factors in reaching this conclusion:
Rising risk of WPV1 international spread: The progress made in recent years appears to have reversed, with the committee’s assessment that the risk of international spread is at the highest point since 2014 when the PHEIC was declared. This risk assessment is based on the following:
the WPV1 exportation in 2019 from Pakistan to Iran and to Afghanistan, and more recently spread from Afghanistan to Pakistan;
ongoing rise in the number of WPV1 cases and positive environmental samples in Pakistan, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan;
the quickly increasing cohort of unvaccinated children in Afghanistan, with the risk of a major outbreak imminent if nothing is done to access these children;
the urgent need to overhaul the leadership and strategy of the program in Pakistan, which although already commenced, is likely take some time to lead to more effective control of transmission and ultimately eradication;
increasing community and individual resistance to the polio program.
Rising risk of cVDPV international spread: The clearly documented spread in recent months of cVDPV2 from Nigeria to Chad, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo, and between Philippines and Malaysia demonstrate the unusual nature of the current situation, as international spread of cVDPV in the past has been very infrequent. The emergence of cVDPV2 in Zambia, which had not used mOPV2, raises further concern. The risk of new outbreaks in new countries is considered extremely high, even probable. The outbreak of cVDPV1 in Malaysia in a cross-border population shared between Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia and which is often unreached by government immunization programs is an example of how border populations are at special risk.
Falling PV2 immunity: Global population mucosal immunity to type 2 polioviruses (PV2) continues to fall, as the cohort of children born after OPV2 withdrawal grows, exacerbated by poor coverage with IPV particularly in some of the cVDPV infected countries.
Multiple outbreaks: The evolving and unusual epidemiology resulting in rapid emergence and evolution of cVDPV2 strains is extraordinary and not yet fully understood and represents an additional risk that is yet to be quantified.
Weak routine immunization: Many countries have weak immunization systems that can be further impacted by various humanitarian emergencies, and the number of countries in which immunization systems have been weakened or disrupted by conflict and complex emergencies poses a growing risk, leaving populations in these fragile states vulnerable to outbreaks of polio.
Surveillance gaps: The appearance of highly diverged VDPVs in the Philippines, Somalia and Indonesia are examples of inadequate polio surveillance, heightening concerns that transmission could be missed in various countries. Furthermore, the missed transmission in China for a year illustrates that even countries with generally good surveillance can miss VDPV transmission.
Lack of access: Inaccessibility continues to be a major risk, particularly in several countries currently infected with WPV or cVDPV, i.e. Afghanistan, Nigeria, Niger, Somalia, Myanmar and Indonesia, which all have sizable populations that have been unreached with polio vaccine for prolonged periods.
Population movement: The risk is amplified by population movement, whether for family, social, economic or cultural reasons, or in the context of populations displaced by insecurity and returning refugees. There is a need for international coordination to address these risks. A regional approach and strong crossborder cooperation is required to respond to these risks, as much international spread of polio occurs over land borders.
The Committee provided the Director-General with the following advice aimed at reducing the risk of international spread of WPV1 and cVDPVs, based on the risk stratification as follows:
- States infected with WPV1, cVDPV1 or cVDPV3, with potential risk of international spread.
- States infected with cVDPV2, with potential risk of international spread.
- States no longer infected by WPV1 or cVDPV, but which remain vulnerable to re-infection by WPV or cVDPV.
Criteria to assess States as no longer infected by WPV1 or cVDPV:
- Poliovirus Case: 12 months after the onset date of the most recent case PLUS one month to account for case detection, investigation, laboratory testing and reporting period OR when all reported AFP cases with onset within 12 months of last case have been tested for polio and excluded for WPV1 or cVDPV, and environmental or other samples collected within 12 months of the last case have also tested negative, whichever is the longer.
- Environmental or other isolation of WPV1 or cVDPV (no poliovirus case): 12 months after collection of the most recent positive environmental or other sample (such as from a healthy child) PLUS one month to account for the laboratory testing and reporting period.
- These criteria may be varied for the endemic countries, where more rigorous assessment is needed in reference to surveillance gaps (e.g. Borno State, Nigeria)
Once a country meets these criteria as no longer infected, the country will be considered vulnerable for a further 12 months. After this period, the country will no longer be subject to Temporary Recommendations, unless the Committee has concerns based on the final report.
States infected with WPV1, cVDPV1 or cVDPV3 with potential risk of international spread
Afghanistan (most recent detection 10 November 2019)
Pakistan (most recent detection 12 November 2019)
Nigeria (most recent detection 27 September 2016)
Indonesia (most recent detection 13 February 2019)
Malaysia (most recent detection 26 October 2019)
Myanmar (most recent detection 9 August 2019)
Philippines (most recent detection 28 October 2019)
These countries should:
- Officially declare, if not already done, at the level of head of state or government, that the interruption of poliovirus transmission is a national public health emergency and implement all required measures to support polio eradication; where such declaration has already been made, this emergency status should be maintained as long as the response is required.
- Ensure that all residents and longterm visitors (i.e. > four weeks) of all ages, receive a dose of bivalent oral poliovirus vaccine (bOPV) or inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) between four weeks and 12 months prior to international travel.
- Ensure that those undertaking urgent travel (i.e. within four weeks), who have not received a dose of bOPV or IPV in the previous four weeks to 12 months, receive a dose of polio vaccine at least by the time of departure as this will still provide benefit, particularly for frequent travelers.
- Ensure that such travelers are provided with an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis in the form specified in Annex 6 of the IHR to record their polio vaccination and serve as proof of vaccination.
- Restrict at the point of departure the international travel of any resident lacking documentation of appropriate polio vaccination. These recommendations apply to international travelers from all points of departure, irrespective of the means of conveyance (e.g. road, air, sea).
- Further intensify crossborder efforts by significantly improving coordination at the national, regional and local levels to substantially increase vaccination coverage of travelers crossing the border and of high risk crossborder populations. Improved coordination of crossborder efforts should include closer supervision and monitoring of the quality of vaccination at border transit points, as well as tracking of the proportion of travelers that are identified as unvaccinated after they have crossed the border.
- Further intensify efforts to increase routine immunization coverage, including sharing coverage data, as high routine immunization coverage is an essential element of the polio eradication strategy, particularly as the world moves closer to eradication.
- Maintain these measures until the following criteria have been met: (i) at least six months have passed without new infections and (ii) there is documentation of full application of high quality eradication activities in all infected and high risk areas; in the absence of such documentation these measures should be maintained until the state meets the above assessment criteria for being no longer infected.
- Provide to the Director-General a regular report on the implementation of the Temporary Recommendations on international travel.
States infected with cVDPV2s, with potential or demonstrated risk of international spread
Angola (most recent detection 21 October 2019)
Benin (most recent detection 15 October 2019)
Cameroon (most recent detection 20 April 2019)
CAR (most recent detection 6 October 2019)
Chad (most recent detection 9 September 2019)
Cote d’Ivoire (most recent detection 26 September 2019)
China (most recent detection 25 April 2019)
DR Congo (most recent detection 26 October 2019)
Ethiopia (most recent detection 9 September 2019)
Ghana (most recent detection 8 November 2019)
Mozambique (most recent detection 17 December 2018)
Niger (most recent detection 3 April 2019)
Nigeria (most recent detection 9 October 2019)
Philippines (most recent detection 25 October 2019)
Somalia (most recent detection 10 November 2019)
Togo (most recent detection 16 October 2019)
Zambia (most recent detection 25 September 2019)
These countries should:
- Officially declare, if not already done, at the level of head of state or government, that the interruption of poliovirus transmission is a national public health emergency and implement all required measures to support polio eradication; where such declaration has already been made, this emergency status should be maintained.
- Noting the existence of a separate mechanism for responding to type 2 poliovirus infections, consider requesting vaccines from the global mOPV2 stockpile based on the recommendations of the Advisory Group on mOPV2.
- Encourage residents and longterm visitors to receive a dose of IPV four weeks to 12 months prior to international travel; those undertaking urgent travel (i.e. within four weeks) should be encouraged to receive a dose at least by the time of departure.
- Ensure that travelers who receive such vaccination have access to an appropriate document to record their polio vaccination status.
- Intensify regional cooperation and crossborder coordination to enhance surveillance for prompt detection of poliovirus, and vaccinate refugees, travelers and crossborder populations, according to the advice of the Advisory Group.
- Further intensify efforts to increase routine immunization coverage, including sharing coverage data, as high routine immunization coverage is an essential element of the polio eradication strategy, particularly as the world moves closer to eradication.
- Maintain these measures until the following criteria have been met: (i) at least six months have passed without the detection of circulation of VDPV2 in the country from any source, and (ii) there is documentation of full application of high quality eradication activities in all infected and high risk areas; in the absence of such documentation these measures should be maintained until the state meets the criteria of a ‘state no longer infected’.
- At the end of 12 months without evidence of transmission, provide a report to the Director-General on measures taken to implement the Temporary Recommendations.
States no longer infected by WPV1 or cVDPV, but which remain vulnerable to re-infection by WPV or cVDPV
- Kenya cVDPV2 (last environmental positive specimen 21 March 2018)
- PNG cVDPV1 (last environmental positive specimen 6 November 2018)
These countries should:
- Urgently strengthen routine immunization to boost population immunity.
- Enhance surveillance quality, including considering introducing supplementary methods such as environmental surveillance, to reduce the risk of undetected WPV1 and cVDPV transmission, particularly among high risk mobile and vulnerable populations.
- Intensify efforts to ensure vaccination of mobile and crossborder populations, Internally Displaced Persons, refugees and other vulnerable groups.
- Enhance regional cooperation and cross border coordination to ensure prompt detection of WPV1 and cVDPV, and vaccination of high risk population groups.
- Maintain these measures with documentation of full application of high quality surveillance and vaccination activities.
- At the end of 12 months without evidence of reintroduction of WPV1 or new emergence and circulation of cVDPV, provide a report to the Director-General on measures taken to implement the Temporary Recommendations.
Preparedness - The committee urged all countries, particularly those in Africa, be on high alert for the possibility of cVDPV2 importation and respond to such importations as a national public health emergency. This means countries should ensure polio surveillance can rapidly detect cVDPV2, and plans are in place to respond rapidly with well planned and executed mOPV2 campaigns, and with strict procedures to ensure unused vials are returned and managed so that inappropriate or accidental use is avoided.
International Coordination - Unprecedented levels of international spread of cVDPV require urgent coordinated control measures at regional and sub-regional levels. The committee strongly encourages countries to do more in support of cross border actions, such as sharing of surveillance and other data, synchronizing campaigns and where possible ensure vaccination of international travelers.
Emergency Response – The committee noted the endorsement of SAGE for the accelerated clinical development of novel OPV2 and its assessment under the WHO Emergency Use and Listing (EUL) procedure, which can be used in a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), and added its support to ensure the supply of monovalent OPV2.
Financing - The number of outbreaks is proving to be costly to manage, and the committee urged affected countries to prioritize polio control as a public health emergency and ensure adequate domestic funding is available for an effective response. The committee urged affected countries to mobilize domestic funding to complement the GPEI resources which are being stretched by the large number of outbreaks being fought globally.
Communication - Vaccine hesitancy is a significant factor in the spread of these outbreaks particularly certain countries including Pakistan and Angola. The committee urged countries to invest time and resources into pro-actively circumventing and countering myths and misinformation regarding vaccination is general, and rumors that arise during the course of campaigns in particular. Campaign communications need to address issues around avoiding spreading excreted Sabin-like viruses through good hygiene.
Based on the current situation regarding WPV1 and cVDPV, and the reports provided by affected countries, the Director-General accepted the Committee’s assessment and on 19 December 2019 determined that the situation relating to poliovirus continues to constitute a PHEIC, with respect to WPV1 and cVDPV. The Director-General endorsed the Committee’s recommendations for countries meeting the definition for ‘States infected with WPV1, cVDPV1 or cVDPV3 with potential risk for international spread’, ‘States infected with cVDPV2 with potential risk for international spread’ and for ‘States no longer infected by WPV1 or cVDPV, but which remain vulnerable to re-infection by WPV or cVDPV’ and extended the Temporary Recommendations under the IHR to reduce the risk of the international spread of poliovirus, effective 19 December 2019.
Deaths from Democratic Republic of the Congo measles outbreak top 6,000
Tue, 07 Jan 2020 15:16:10 +0000
Kinshasa, 7 January 2020 - With the death toll from the world's worst measles epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) surpassing 6000, the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for more funding to stop the outbreak.
Under the leadership of the DRC Ministry of Health, WHO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and other partner aid agencies vaccinated more than 18 million children under five across the country in 2019. However, in some areas, routine vaccination coverage remains low and 25% of the reported measles cases are in children over the age of five, who are the most vulnerable.
"We are doing our utmost to bring this epidemic under control. Yet to be truly successful we must ensure that no child faces the unnecessary risk of death from a disease that is easily preventable by a vaccine. We urge our donor partners to urgently step up their assistance," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Since the start of 2019, around 310 000 suspected measles cases have been reported. The epidemic has been aggravated by low vaccination coverage among vulnerable communities, malnutrition, weak public health systems, outbreaks of other epidemic-prone diseases, difficult access by vulnerable populations to health care and insecurity that has hampered response in some areas.
Lack of funding remains a huge impediment to successfully curbing the outbreak. So far, US$ 27.6 million have been mobilized. However, a further US$ 40 million are required for a six-month plan to extend the vaccination to children between six and 14 years and to reinforce elements of the outbreak response beyond vaccination, including improving treatment, health education, community engagement, health system strengthening, epidemiological surveillance and response coordination.
"We recognize the Government's engagement in the efforts to end the outbreak and we are grateful for the generosity of our donors. But we still need to do more," said Dr Amédée Prosper Djiguimdé, Officer in charge of WHO office in the DRC. "Thousands of Congolese families need our help to lift the burden of this prolonged epidemic from their backs. We cannot achieve this without adequate finances."
The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Médecins du Monde, Médecins Sans Frontières, United Nations Children's Fund, WHO and other partners have been supporting the Government to bring the long-running epidemic under control. In December 2019, WHO trained 60 health professionals from the Ministry of Health to conduct a range of services, including community engagement, health education and surveillance. These health professionals are being deployed this week as part of the response.
Video footage and photographs link:
WHO Democratic Republic of the Congo
Tel: +243 817 151 697
Communications Manager WHO Regional Office for Africa
Tel: +242 065 081 009
Yemen, DRC, Syria, Nigeria and Venezuela top IRC's watchlist for 2020
Tue, 07 Jan 2020 14:54:45 +0000
Watchlist 2020 highlights the countries where the IRC assesses there to be the greatest risk of a major deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the coming year.
The countries on Watchlist 2020 have changed little since last year, underscoring both the protracted nature of many of these crises and collective failure of the international community to resolve their root causes. In many cases, constraints on humanitarian access contribute to the already precarious conditions of Watchlist 2020 countries.
Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, Nigeria and Venezuela are Watchlist 2020’s Top Five crises. These five countries were also featured in the Top Ten of last year’s Watchlist.
Yemen tops the IRC’s Watchlist for the second year running, reflecting the impact of the country’s prolonged and internationalized civil war. While there are some positive signs that diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict may be taking root, these are yet to translate into a major reduction in humanitarian need. Yemen’s top ranking indicates the persistent risk of further deterioration of the humanitarian situation due to renewed conflict or constraints on humanitarian action.
There are three new additions (Burkina Faso, Burundi and Chad) to this year’s Watchlist. Four countries have dropped off since last year (Bangladesh, Mexico, Nicaragua and Pakistan). This year’s Watchlist has 20 countries on it, one fewer than in 2019. These changes reflect both the IRC’s evolving analysis and the changing situations in these countries.
Burkina Faso is a new addition to not just the Watchlist as a whole but also to the Top Ten. The IRC deployed an emergency team to Burkina Faso to respond to the rapidly intensifying conflict and deteriorating humanitarian situation in early 2019 and is now establishing a new country program.
Countries on Watchlist 2020 disproportionately host populations in need of hu-manitarian assistance and are among the states least equipped to respond to new crises or sudden deterioration in crises.
UN raises alarm over latest wave of displacement in Idleb
Tue, 07 Jan 2020 08:33:47 +0000
Gaziantep, 7 January 2020
I am alarmed at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Idleb, northwest Syria, where over three million civilians remain trapped in a war zone – the vast majority of them women and children.
At least 300,000 civilians have fled their homes in southern Idleb since mid-December, following a sharp escalation in hostilities. All this is happening in bitter winter temperatures, which pose further risks to people who fled with little more than the clothes on their backs. Many of the displaced are now living in tents and makeshift shelters in inhospitable places, exposed to the elements.
This latest wave of displacement compounds an already dire situation in Idleb – a densely populated governorate already hosting displaced people from all over Syria. An additional 400,000 people in southern Idleb were displaced and at least 1,300 civilians were killed by airstrikes and shelling between May and August last year. This brings the total number of people displaced by fighting in Idleb in the last eight months to over 700,000.
Every day we receive more disturbing reports of families caught up in the violence, seeking refuge and access to essential services in overcrowded camps and urban areas. Many are now sheltering in schools, mosques and other public buildings. Critical shortages of food, shelter, health and winterization assistance, as well as other basic services required for survival, are being reported across Idleb.
Humanitarian organizations are struggling to cope with the increased needs. At least 13 health facilities in Idleb have recently been forced to suspend their operations due to the security situation, exacerbating the suffering of the local population and heightening levels of vulnerability.
On Sunday, we received reports of at least nine civilians killed and 20 others injured in Ariha, following airstrikes in the area. According to humanitarian staff on the ground, the airstrikes resulted in destruction and damage to buildings, including a school, a kindergarten and a mosque.
This is but one example of the daily nightmare being faced by the civilian population of Idleb. This incident follows a string of similar and equally disturbing incidents in the last few weeks. Airstrikes and shelling are now taking place in many towns and villages on a near daily basis.
The United Nations continues to call on all parties to the conflict to take all necessary measures to ensure that civilians are protected, in accordance with international humanitarian law. The United Nations also reiterates the call of the Secretary-General at the end of December for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
The Secretary-General has stated that the only credible solution to the Syrian conflict is a UN-facilitated political process pursuant to Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).