ReliefWeb - Updates

ReliefWeb - Updates

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ReliefWeb - Updates

Afghanistan: Afghanistan: Key Message Update, November 2019

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 05:59:10 +0000

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Source: Famine Early Warning System Network
Country: Afghanistan

Key Messages

  • Conflict and insecurity continue to disrupt livelihoods across most of the country with over 380,000 people displaced since the start of 2019. Additionally, over 440,000 people have returned from Iran and Pakistan to date in 2019. Most of the returned and internally displaced populations are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as these households have limited ability to access labor markets. Moreover, poor households impacted by weak labor markets, and below average remittances in higher elevated areas of the country remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The rest of the country is in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as many households continue to consume own foods, although have below average incomes.

  • Winter wheat area planted is expected to be above last year and the five-year average. Despite continued conflict in most areas of the country, this is mostly the result of more households engaging in agriculture as casual labor opportunities and income from this source is below average. In insecure areas some farmers are facing difficulty accessing their land as conflict in Afghanistan is fluid, although once conflict subsides households return to engage in agriculture activities. Additionally, the normal start to the precipitation season as well as the forecast for average precipitation is leading to increased engagement in agriculture.

  • Afghanistan has shifted from relying almost completely on Pakistan for wheat flour imports to importing wheat flour mostly from Kazakhstan to fulfil the national important requirement. Due to a below average regional surplus of wheat flour, prices are above last year. Based on MAIL data, the national average price of imported wheat flour is 13 percent above last year. Wheat flour prices are expected to remain slightly above last year, although stable as regional trade is expected to take place normally.

  • Based on results of nutrition and mortality (SMART) surveys conducted in 2019, the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence as measured by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ) was 13.5 percent (10.5 - 17.1, 95 percent CI) and 12.8 percent (10.5 - 15.6, 95 percent CI) in Helmand and Daykundi provinces, respectfully. This is indicative of a “serious” level of acute malnutrition according to the WHO classification. Continuation of conflict and high morbidity of acute respiratory infection (ARI) and limited access to health facilities in winter, especially in hard to reach districts of Daykundi and Helmand provinces, in conjunction with a nondiverse diet is expected to have negative impacts on malnutrition during the winter months.

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Greece: Refugee crisis: Switzerland sends tents and beds to Greece

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 05:58:56 +0000

Source: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
Country: Greece, Switzerland

Swiss Humanitarian Aid has launched two aid operations to alleviate the plight of refugees in Greece. Some 600 family tents and other winter equipment have been dispatched to Lesbos Island. Last week, 500 beds from the inventory of the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) were transported to Greece by lorry.

From Monday to Wednesday, 600 winter tents to provide shelter for around 3,000 people will be loaded onto six vehicles in Bern and transported to Greece. The delivery also includes blankets and insulating mats. There is urgent need for this material since the winters on the Greek islands are rainy and cold. The tents will be used to expand the Moria transit camp on the island of Lesbos. Over 13,000 people are living in very difficult conditions in this camp whose infrastructure is designed for just 3,500.

The situation in Greece has worsened this year since the arrival of larger groups of migrants. More than 10,000 people arrived in Greece in September alone. Owing to the problematic circumstances in the reception camps on the Greek islands, tensions between migrants have been rising for some time, leading to unrest.

In view of the urgent need for action, Swiss Humanitarian Aid, which is part of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), has decided to make a further contribution to help alleviate the suffering. Last week, 500 beds and mattresses from the inventory of the DDPS were transported to Greece on three lorries. In Athens, they will be handed over to the Greek army, which will ensure their onward transport to various initial reception centres.

Swiss Humanitarian Aid has been active in Greece since the start of the refugee crisis in 2015, providing both aid supplies and financial contributions, e.g. to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Finally, Switzerland has seconded experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) to Greece to support local authorities and coordinating entities. SHA experts are also accompanying this recent consignment of tents.

Address for enquiries:

FDFA Information
Federal Palace West Wing
CH-3003 Bern, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
E-mail: info@eda.admin.ch
Twitter: @SwissMFA

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Samoa: Kiwi nurses respond to devastating measles outbreak in Pacific

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 05:31:16 +0000

Source: New Zealand Red Cross
Country: Samoa

Seven New Zealand Red Cross health delegates are in Samoa supporting measles treatment and prevention activities, as the number of people suspected to have contracted this disease in the Pacific continues to climb.

Samoa, Wellington - 27 November 2019

The Kiwi health delegates are working with Samoa Red Cross and local agencies in hospitals and vaccination clinics. Deployed nurse from Nelson, Andrea Chapman, says: “We’re trying to get everyone immunised as quickly as possible because measles is so contagious, but also educating people that the vaccination takes 14 days until it is fully effective.

“Although people are being vaccinated, the measles outbreak has the potential to get worse. That’s why we’re also encouraging people to be vigilant and careful.”

Measles is a serious, highly-contagious disease. Statistics from the Samoan government indicate that almost 2,500 cases of measles have been reported since the outbreak began. Samoa’s Ministry of Health has also confirmed that, as at Tuesday, 32 people have died. Most of these were children under the age of four.

Increasing vaccination rates in communities is vital to prevent further outbreaks. Samoa Red Cross staff and volunteers continue to support measles awareness-raising campaigns, hygiene promotion and assisting mobile measles vaccination sites. They are also recruiting blood donors to meet the increasing need.

The Secretary General of Samoa Red Cross, Namulauulu Tautala Mauala, says: “The measles outbreak is moving quickly, so we must act fast. Samoa Red Cross has volunteers at 11 vaccination sites in Apia and is mobilising more volunteers to get to Savaii in the coming days. We have also reached more than 10,000 people with hygiene promotion so far.

“It means a lot to us to have support from New Zealand Red Cross. We welcome the health workers’ expertise and help.”

New Zealand Red Cross has a long history of working closely with Red Cross National Societies in the Pacific through capacity building, knowledge sharing, pre-positioning of relief items and disaster response activities.

Members of the public can donate to New Zealand Red Cross’ response and the work our health delegates are doing in Samoa through our Pacific Disaster Fund - https://www.redcross.org.nz/donate/pacific-disaster-fund/.

For more information, contact:

Mary Baines, New Zealand Red Cross Communications Manager:

mary.baines@redcross.org.nz, +64 27 262 3922

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Sri Lanka: Situation Report - Sri Lanka 26th November 2019 at 1800hrs

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 05:29:30 +0000

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Source: Disaster Management Centre of Sri Lanka
Country: Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka: Epidemiology Unit, Ministry of Health: Dengue Update, 26 November 2019

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 05:25:33 +0000

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Source: Government of Sri Lanka
Country: Sri Lanka

For the year 2018, 51659 and in the month of November, 2019, 76861 suspected dengue cases were reported to the Epidemiology Unit from all over the island. Latest Disease Trends,

Approximately 46.0 % of dengue cases were reported from the Western province. The highest numbers of dengue cases were reported during the 29th week of 2017.

The outbreak situation in 2017 warranted extensive and regular removal of possible mosquito breeding sites from the environment, along with strengthened patient education on management of fever which resulted in a relatively low mortality.

It is very important to seek medical attention in the event of fever and to do relevant laboratory investigations at least by day three of the illness.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 November 2019 10:21

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World: ANALYSIS-As climate change hits crops, debate heats up over use of plant gene data

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 05:22:31 +0000

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation
Country: World

Governments spar over how to share out benefits fairly from new high-tech methods to develop climate-resilient crops

By Thin Lei Win

ROME, Nov 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Rich and poor countries are at loggerheads over how to share benefits from genetic plant data that could help breed crops better able to withstand climate change, as negotiations to revise a global treaty are set to resume in Rome on Monday.

The little-known agreement is seen as crucial for agricultural research and development on a planet suffering rising hunger, malnutrition and the impacts of climate change.

"We need all the 'genetics' around the world to be able to breed crops that will adapt to global warming," said Sylvain Aubry, a plant biologist who advises the Swiss government.

Rising temperatures, water shortages and creeping deserts could reduce both the quantity and quality of food production, including staple crops such as wheat and rice, scientists have warned.

The debate over "digital sequence information" (DSI) has erupted as the cost of sequencing genomes falls, boosting the availability of genetic plant data, Aubry said.

"A lot of modern crop breeding relies on these data today," he added.

At the same time, the capability of machines to process vast amounts of that data to identify special crop traits such as disease resistance or heat tolerance has grown.

Pierre du Plessis, an African technical advisor on treaty issues, said companies and breeders can use DSI to identify the genetic sequence of a desired plant trait and send it by e-mail to a gene foundry that prints and mails back a strand of DNA.

"Then you use gene-editing technology to incorporate that strand into a plant. So you have created a new variety without accessing the trait in biological form," he said.

That process could enable businesses to circumvent the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture which stipulates that the benefits derived from using material from species it covers - including money and new technology - must be shared.

Developing states, which are home to many plant species such as maize and legumes used in breeding, hope to add digital sequence information to the treaty's scope.

This would force companies and breeders that develop new commercial crops from that data to pay a percentage of their sales or profits into a fund now managed by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The fund's resources are used to conserve and develop plant genetic resources - the basis of the foods humans eat - so that farmers, particularly in the developing world, can cope better with a warming climate.

Most wealthy nations, which are generally more active in seed production, argue digital information on plant genetics should be available to use without an obligation to share benefits.

"There's almost no one still doing the old-fashioned, 'let's try it and see' breeding. It's all based on the understanding of genome and a lot of CRISPR gene editing creeping in," said du Plessis.

CRISPR is a technology that allows genome editing in plant and animal cells. Scientists say it could lead to cures for diseases driven by genetic mutations or abnormalities, and help create crops resilient to climate extremes.

But developing nations and civil society groups such as the Malaysia-based Third World Network say companies that develop new crop varieties using this information could lock access to their critical traits using intellectual property rights.

SCIENCE FICTION?

The treaty row emerged in late October when representatives of governments, the seed industry, research organisations and civil society attended a meeting at FAO headquarters in Rome.

Negotiations have been going on for more than six years to update the treaty, which came into force in 2004 and governs access to 64 crops and forage plants judged as key to feeding the world.

Last month, the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and Germany rejected a proposal from the co-chairs of the talks to include "information, including genetic sequence data" in the treaty's provisions on benefit-sharing.

Africa, India, Latin America and the Caribbean pushed back but the meeting ended without a compromise, which negotiators now hope to secure before the treaty's governing body meets on Nov. 11.

The International Seed Federation, a body representing the $42-billion seed industry, says plant breeding still requires the use of physical material and it is too early to set the rules on genetic data.

"Developing policy based on speculation and on things that are bordering on scientific fiction doesn't seem wise," said Thomas Nickson, who attended the Rome talks for the federation.

"It is critical to have the information publicly available, especially for small companies in developing countries," he added.

But Edward Hammond, an advisor to Third World Network, said small farmers needed support, and open access to plant data should not mean a "no-strings-attached free-for-all".

"Resilience to climate change is being grown in the fields," he said. "Interesting and new varieties are appearing in the fields as they adapt. This is not coming from companies using new seeds."

'UNFAIR' SYSTEM

Kent Nnadozie, secretary of the treaty, said if it were agreed the genetic data should be freely available, it would be mostly developed countries that had the capacity, resources and technology to put it to use.

"The fear is that (this) perpetuates and reinforces an unfair system or... amplifies it," he said.

Concerns over increasing privatisation and monopolisation of food crops - which experts say threaten agricultural biodiversity - played a role in the treaty's origins.

Its aim was to build a multilateral approach to access and exchange plant resources, with "fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from their use" as a means to address historical imbalances between farmers and seed companies.

While breeders and seed firms rarely pay for the knowledge and genetic resources they source from farmers and indigenous peoples, farmers usually have to buy the seeds of the improved crop varieties businesses produce and sell.

So far, more than 5.4 million samples of plant genetic resources have been transferred under the treaty between governments, research institutes and the private sector in 181 countries, its secretariat said.

A large majority of those transfers are improved materials from CGIAR, the global agricultural research network, to public-sector research organisations in developing countries tackling food security issues, said Michael Halewood, head of policy at Bioversity International, a CGIAR centre.

"Countries around the world have always been interdependent on crop genetic resources. Climate change is making us all more interdependent than ever on those resources," he said.

(Reporting by Thin Lei Win @thinink; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, and property rights. Visit www.trust.org)

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Kenya: Red Cross boosts disaster-prone communities with blockchain 'cash'

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 05:18:59 +0000

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation
Country: Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe

The technology allows slumdwellers and rural villagers with simple mobile phones to effectively create their own local currencies to bootstrap development

By Laurie Goering

LONDON, Nov 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In Kenya's poor rural and slum communities, residents have lots to sell - from home-grown tomatoes to their labour hoeing fields or teaching children - but few people have enough cash to buy the goods and services, reducing the incentive to produce more.

Barter works for some exchanges, but keeping track of who owes what is an inefficient process. The same goes for village savings and loans groups where transactions are commonly recorded on slips of paper and kept in a locked box.

The Red Cross societies of Norway, Denmark and Kenya on Tuesday launched a two-year effort to help solve this lack of hard cash by deploying blockchain-backed "local currencies" to smooth trade in communities and spur economic activity.

The project aims to improve the use of $1 billion a year in aid distributed as cash and vouchers by the Red Cross - the largest humanitarian donor after the United Nations - to meet needs before and after disasters.

The new currencies use credits transferred by mobile phone and automatically recorded with blockchain. They allow slum-dwellers or villagers to be paid for their labour and spend the credits they earn on local goods and services.

The system works much like Kenya's popular M-Pesa mobile money transfer system, but users do not need to hold Kenyan shillings, said Adam Bornstein, who works on alternative financing for the Danish Red Cross.

Tested in parts of Kenya and Ethiopia, it has boosted economies in poor communities by enabling credits created from work, sales or aid infusions to be traded multiple times and spent locally, he said.

The new programme will expand in Kenya and could also be rolled out in Malawi, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Papua New Guinea, aiming to reach 320,000 users in the next two years.

Paula Gil, a Geneva-based humanitarian consultant, said the technology could bring about a revolution in aid delivery.

"This is the future," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding it was "probably the only true use of blockchain for good".

Will Ruddick, founder of Grassroots Economics, a foundation that develops community currencies including for the Red Cross project, said the blockchain-backed exchange systems could reshape how spending for development and resilience-building was directed around the world.

The system "lets 25 women with (simple) feature phones create their own credit and savings pool using totally automated systems", he explained.

It is also relatively cheap to run, at about $40,000 a year for servers and support to cover all of Kenya, following more than $1 million in initial start-up funding from Norway and other donors, he said.

'RESILIENT LOOPS'

But not everyone has welcomed the idea. Some Kenyan banks fear the creation of more sophisticated community credit offerings could cut demand for their loans, Bornstein said.

And to assuage privacy concerns among users, data is held on secure servers, Ruddick said.

But using blockchain to support a local credit system increases transparency, he said, with donors able to get a near real-time view of how well their aid is working so they can adjust it as needed instead of waiting until a project ends.

Community currencies could also help plug a shortfall in credit needed by small and medium businesses in the developing world, estimated by the World Bank at $2.6 trillion, he said.

Economic expansion in poor communities could bring benefits, from creating more jobs for young people to helping communities attract and retain teachers, the Red Cross experts said.

Paying teachers in local credit that they can use for rent and food creates a "resilient cycle", Ruddick said.

"Those kind of loops are what economies are built on. If they're not there, you end up with the chronic cycle of the Red Cross giving aid every three years because it's not building communities up," he said.

Consultant Gil urged more aid agencies to adopt the innovation to make their work more effective and sustainable.

It took 15 years for organisations "not to be scared of giving people money" instead of food or other aid items to cope with disasters, she said.

"I hope it doesn't take another 15 years to understand we need to support local economies instead of giving people cash," she added.

(Reporting by Laurie Goering @lauriegoering; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

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World: Local water scarcity spilling over into global crisis, researchers warn

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 04:56:59 +0000

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation
Country: Brazil, India, Jordan, Uzbekistan, World

From Jordan to Uzbekistan, water shortages are proving hard to solve, researchers say

By Laurie Goering

LONDON, Nov 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Population growth and climate change are putting increasingly intense pressure on the planet's limited water supplies, with worsening shortages emerging from the Middle East to Asia and Latin America, researchers and bankers said on Monday.

"All the local crises around the world are building up to a global crisis," Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute, told a conference on the issue at London-based think-tank Chatham House.

But easing the threat and ensuring more people have access to a stable, safe water supply will be hugely challenging because water access and distribution are tied up in politics, cultural views and entrenched systems, conference speakers said.

In Jordan, the third most water-scarce country, raising water prices to reflect the shortage would make economic sense - but not when nearly 1.5 million Syrian refugees, on top of 9 million citizens, depend on it, said Craig Davies of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

"It's potentially a powder keg," said Davies, who heads climate resilience investments for the bank. "From a political point of view, it's imperative to keep water tariffs very low."

Uzbekistan, meanwhile, has built its economy on exports of thirsty cotton, something that might not make sense as water becomes more scarce. But "you can't adjust that very easily" without upsetting farmers and the economy, Davies added.

In North Africa, newly available solar-powered water pumps are giving drought-hit farmers crucial access to irrigation - but also removing incentives to use water sparingly as farmers no longer have to buy fuel for diesel-powered irrigation pumps.

"There is literally no control," said Annabelle Houdret, a senior researcher at the German Development Institute who works in the region. Aquifers there could be depleted, she warned.

In many Islamic countries, water is seen as a human right and a gift from God, so asking governments to charge people for better water services can be complicated, Davies said.

In most places the EBRD works, the price users pay for water is far below the actual cost of bringing it to them, he said, meaning there is often too little money to invest in treating and delivering water, and maintaining and expanding networks.

"If you're not paying a rational price for the water, the incentive is to use the water irrationally," he added.

JOBS AND FOOD

Getting water use right in an increasingly parched world is crucial, said Olcay Unver, vice chair of UN-Water, a coordinating agency on water issues for the United Nations.

Three out of every four jobs globally depend on water in some way, including small-scale farmers who produce 80% of the world's food, said Unver, who is also a water advisor for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

By 2050, FAO estimates food demand globally will rise by 50% but "we don't have 50% more water to allocate to agriculture", he noted, adding it is already the dominant water user.

Demand for water is also surging in fast-growing cities, where more than half of people live now and over two-thirds are expected to live by 2050, Unver said.

Getting enough water to everyone is particularly difficult as climate change brings more erratic rainfall, with many places hit by floods and droughts in turn, conference speakers said.

But some countries are coming up with innovative ways to protect or expand supplies.

In India's Gujarat state, for instance, much of the year's rain comes in monsoon season - and then rapidly evaporates, said Gareth Price, a Chatham House senior research fellow who works on South Asia.

But some farmers have begun gathering leftover straw after harvest and piling it in low-lying spots in their fields to absorb and hold excess rain, allowing it to slowly filter into the groundwater, he said.

The innovation - which also helps cut down on burning of field stubble, a major source of air pollution in the region - has won World Bank funding for its expansion, he said.

In Brazil, meanwhile, farmers and ranchers who preserve and plant more forests along rivers to protect water supplies are paid by downstream users under a "water producers" programme, said Paulo Salles, director of a Brazilian water regulatory agency.

Daanish Mustafa, a geography professor at King's College London, said growing water scarcity would unlikely drive a surge in wars, but instead lead to more "unjust cooperation" - cross-border sharing pacts where the stronger party gets the better deal.

Water access is already hugely unequal, speakers said, with U.S. residents using 700-900 litres a day, Europeans about 200 litres and many of the world's poorest just 10-15 litres.

Reliable access to water is crucial to achieving many of the global sustainable development goals (SDGs) - from ending poverty and hunger, to reducing inequality - they added.

Yet climate change threatens to put secure water access ever further out of reach.

"With the SDGs, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel - but the problem is it's almost certainly a climate change train coming," said Christopher Hurst, director general of projects for the European Investment Bank. (Reporting by Laurie Goering @lauriegoering; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

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Ukraine: UNICEF welcomes Ukraine’s move to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 04:54:33 +0000

Source: UN Children's Fund
Country: Ukraine

KYIV/NEW YORK. 26 November 2019 - The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) welcomes the commitment of the Ukrainian Government to protect education during armed conflict, as Ukraine becomes the 100th country to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration.

The Safe Schools Declaration is a political commitment to better protect children, teachers and schools, to support the continuation of education during war and to put in place concrete measures to deter the military use of schools. The Declaration was opened for endorsement at the Oslo Conference on Safe Schools, convened by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in May 2015.

“Education is a right for every child. For children whose lives have been turned upside down by the chaos of armed conflict, schools should be zones of peace, a space where they can feel safe and protected. Unfortunately, far too often this is not the case’, said Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Ukraine Representative.

Since the beginning of the conflict, over 750 educational institutions on both sides of the contact line have been damaged by the hostilities and many more have experienced disruption to education. In the first ten months of 2019, 34 attacks were reported on schools in eastern Ukraine, which is twice as high as the total number of incidents in 2018.

“That 100 countries have now endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration is a positive milestone. But we need every country to commit to this cause, and to translate this commitment into action. Beyond endorsing the Declaration, governments and donors around the world should support education in emergencies to help keep children learning and protected,” Sylwander said.

UNICEF is working with partners across eastern Ukraine to provide support to educational facilities so that repairs can be made to damaged schools and kindergartens, and education supplies, such as educational kits, furniture and sport equipment, can be replaced. In addition, UNICEF and partners provide much-needed counselling, psychosocial support, and information on the risks of mines to hundreds of thousands of children, youth and caregivers affected by the conflict.

Media Contacts

Nina Sorokopud

Chief of Communication

UNICEF in Ukraine

Tel: +380503882951

Email: nsorokopud@unicef.org

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World: MRC ministerial council approves a drought management strategy, other policies, boosting Mekong countries’ ability to prepare for future disaster

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 04:17:07 +0000

Source: Mekong River Commission
Country: Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic (the), Thailand, Viet Nam, World

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 26 November 2019 – Ministerial delegates from the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Council today at their annual gathering in Phnom Penh approved a drought management strategy for 2020-2025, allowing Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam to prepare for and manage drought collectively.

The approved strategy came as the region is undergoing one of the worst droughts that has brought the Mekong water levels to their lowest points in living memory or at least since the last 60 years.

“As we gear up for drought preparedness and mitigation, this strategy will help us reduce the vulnerability of our people and water resource systems to droughts, improve the adaptive capacity of our governments, and advance our information sharing, forecasting and early warning systems,” said Mr. Lim Kean Hor, Cambodia’s Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology and Chairperson of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee.

The Minister, who is also the Chairperson of the MRC Council for 2019, added that this strategy is part of the “MRC’s ongoing effort to assist its Member Countries to combat the present and future droughts that have both national and transboundary impacts”.

Recent MRC studies show that drought events in the lower Mekong basin have increased in frequency and severity in the past decades. The latest drought in 2016, for example, brought serious economic losses to Thailand, estimated at US$1.7 billion.

The strategy is set to focus on five priority areas that have been assessed as “poorly functioning” and requiring “immediate attention” to address droughts. They include drought indicator monitoring, which covers ground, soil moisture and crop condition monitoring, and agreed dry season flow monitoring; drought forecasting and early warning; capacity building in drought assessment and planning; mitigation measures; and information sharing systems.

The five-year strategy will be implemented with funding from MRC Member States and Development Partners.

The Council, who is the highest, ministerial body of the organization composed of water resources and environment ministers from the four Member Countries, also approved the annual work plan for 2020 – 2021, with a budget of about $13 million. The annual work plan is the detailed operational plan, activities and tasks along with associated budgets to implement the organization’s strategic plan at the regional level.

The approved plan focuses on finalizing the new basin development strategy 2021-2030 and strategic plan 2021-2025, and a basin-wide environment strategy for protecting key environment assets. It also prioritizes on, among others, completing the prior consultation process of the Luang Prabang hydropower project, implementing the joint environmental monitoring for mainstream dams and drought and hydropower strategies, and advancing partnership with China and Lancang Mekong Cooperation.

In its yesterday’s preparatory meeting for the Council meeting today, the MRC governing body Joint Committee endorsed the organization’s new Finance Manual and the design concept for reinvigorating the MRC’s data, information, modeling, forecasting and communication systems.

The new Manual, updated from the 2006 Manual, covers solid mechanisms for better internal control and management of the organization’s financial resources, contributing to mitigating risks and enhancing transparency and accountability in financial management.

Aiming to provide faster reactions to address emerging changes, such as sudden water release from reservoirs in the upper basin, to track basin state and development, and to strengthen one of the MRC’s key roles as the regional knowledge hub, the MRC’s systems reinvigoration covers data collection and acquisition, data and information management, data analysis and assessment, and data and information reporting and communication.

The two-day annual meeting will end tomorrow. Next year, Lao PDR will be the host as the country becomes the Chair of the MRC Council for 2020.

Read the news in Khmer.

Note to editors:

The MRC is an intergovernmental organization for regional dialogue and cooperation in the lower Mekong river basin, established in 1995 based on the Mekong Agreement between Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The organization serves as a regional platform for water diplomacy as well as a knowledge hub of water resources management for the sustainable development of the region.

-END-

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Sopheak Meas
Communication Officer for Press
Mekong River Commission Secretariat
E-mail: sopheak@mrcmekong.org
Mobile: +855-12266653

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Philippines: Philippine Red Cross to send additional temporary medical facilities in quake-hit Mindanao

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 04:11:31 +0000

Source: Philippine National Red Cross
Country: Philippines

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) will send additional medical tents to address the health problems caused by the closing of several hospitals in Mindanao that were damaged by series of earthquakes last month.

After visiting the emergency medical tents in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato, Philippine Red Cross Chairman and CEO Richard Gordon ordered for more tents with more beds to be added to avoid patients sharing beds with those caring for them as this may cause disease transmission.

Two (2) additional temporary medical tents from PRC Health Services are expected to arrive in Kidapawan City Hospital by Friday, November 29.

Along with these, portable toilets and a water bladder will also be added to support proper hygiene and sanitation and to ensure adequate supply of water. For Davao del Sur, shelter assistance will be given after assessment and another water bladder will be added to the operating assets of PRC.

“We have to extend medical assistance to affected individuals and avoid possible outbreak of diseases since a number of hospitals are having difficulties in addressing the needs of their patients such as, limited number of rooms while others aren’t safe yet due to cracks as a result of powerful tremors,” Gordon added.

The PRC Health Services (HS) and Emergency Medical Unit (EMU) currently has 2 sets of 6×6 meter tents, 1 set of 6 by 9 meters tent, 20 cot beds and a generator in Kidapawan City Hospital.

These 3 air-conditioned medical tents with improved roofing and 1 additional gazebo tent for duty volunteers, a ward, Out Patient Area and area for Delivery Room are being utilized and headed by PRC North Cotabato-Kidapawan City Chapter.

As of November 26, more than 420 families received hygiene kits and food items while 357 families from Magsaysay received food items (FIs) and non-food items (NFIs) such as sleeping and hygiene kits, jerry cans and tarpaulins in Kidapawan City.

Hygiene kits are vital due to the high risk of catching diseases in evacuation centers as these places are often crowded and practice of sanitation is a challenge. Jerry cans greatly help evacuees as water supply has been problematic since the earthquakes.

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Philippines: First Day: Red Cross gives polio vaccines to 22,029 kids in MM & Mindanao

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 04:10:28 +0000

Source: Philippine National Red Cross
Country: Philippines

The Philippine Red Cross vaccinated a total of 22,029 children in Metro Manila and Mindanao at the start of the second round of Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio for children ages 0-5 years old from November 25 to December 7.

PRC’s target for the 12 day period is 100,000 children, an average of 8,000-9,000 per day for both Metro Manila and Mindanao. Of the 22,029 vaccinated on the first day, 11,290 were from Metro Manila.

“Children being the most vulnerable in our society need utmost care and protection, especially when it comes to their health. PRC aims to have 100,000 children vaccinated against Polio”, said PRC Chairman and CEO Richard Gordon.

A total of 1,113 volunteers and 73 staff were mobilized for this project: 633 volunteers in Metro Manila and 480 volunteers in Mindanao. These volunteers and staff were vaccinators divided into teams composed of a team leader, vaccinator, recorder, and health educator.

The PRC, through its vaccination teams, will ensure that eligible children get their “patak”, and the mother correctly understands the vaccine that their child gets. The parents and guardians were also given orientation on health and hygiene and the importance of adhering to all government required child vaccinations.

Around 4.4 million children 5 years old below need to be vaccinated: 1.3 million in Metro Manila and 3.1 million in Mindanao.

A total of 25 chapters (9 from NCR and 16 from Mindanao) participated in the second wave of “Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio”. PRC vaccination teams graced Quezon City, Pasay, Marikina, Manila, Caloocan, Pasig, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Taguig, Muntinlupa, Paranaque, Davao City, Davao Del Sur, Davao Del Norte, Davao Oriental, Lanao Del Sur, Surigao Del Norte, Agusan Del Norte, Agusan Del Sur, Sultan Kudarat, Cotabato, Bukidnon, General Santos City, Iligan City, Zamboanga City, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi to administer the oral vaccine.

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Maldives: ADB Briefs No. 117: National Geospatial Database for Maldives to Mainstream Climate Change Adaptation in Development Planning

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 04:08:26 +0000

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Source: Asian Development Bank
Country: Maldives

KEY POINTS

• The Republic of Maldives is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, yet it is among the most vulnerable to climate change. The country needs to ensure the sustainable management of natural resources in spite of the impacts and consequences of climate change.

• The government’s environmental management and resource conservation efforts that began in the early 1990s have been constrained by a lack of relevant data and information.

• This brief presents the development of a geospatial database and maps to help Maldives (i) assess disaster risks and impacts; (ii) reduce these by strengthening the design of programs and policies; and (iii) mainstream climate change adaptation in development planning.

• A geospatial database on coastal and marine ecosystems that includes climate risk assessment information makes it feasible to screen for climate risks in development projects and programs at national and subnational levels.

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Myanmar: ADB to Improve Community Resilience, Livelihoods of Around 3,000 Villages in Myanmar

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 03:45:40 +0000

Source: Asian Development Bank
Country: Myanmar

NAY PYI TAW, MYANMAR (27 November 2019) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $195 million financing package for a project that will develop climate-resilient and market-oriented infrastructure and livelihoods in 2,942 villages in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady, Chin, Sagaing, and Tanintharyi regions. This will help reduce rural poverty and strengthen the villages' climate and disaster resilience, benefiting around 1.8 million people.

The project will help identify, develop, and fund 3,000 climate- and disaster-resilient community infrastructure subprojects, which include village access or farm roads, small bridges, water supply, electric grid connection, and multipurpose centers. These infrastructure subprojects, which will be selected based on their contribution to the village’s resilience as well as public and economic benefits, will have a strong gender component, with women comprising 40% of the labor requirements in their construction and operations.

“Myanmar is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate and disaster risk, and people living in the country’s rural areas face the greatest threat, given the lack of development and climate resilience there,” said ADB Natural Resources and Agriculture Specialist for Southeast Asia Ms. Stefania Dina. “ADB’s project will help ensure that people in the rural areas of Myanmar have the necessary capacity, support, and know-how to deal with the effects of climate change, while helping them get out of poverty through livelihood support.”

Myanmar’s rural areas are largely underdeveloped, with only 16% of the population having access to electricity, about 30% lacking access to year-round drinking water, and 25% not connected by any road. Traditional agriculture, which is highly dependent on weather patterns, is the main source of rural livelihoods, accounting for 25.7% of the country’s gross domestic product and 49% of employment. Climate change puts Myanmar’s rural population at risk, affecting their productivity and exposing them to natural hazards and other climate-related vulnerabilities.

ADB’s assistance includes a $185 million concessional loan and a $10 million grant from the Asian Development Fund for the Resilient Community Development Project. ADB will also administer a €24.25 million ($27.58 million) grant from the European Union-financed Asia Investment Facility and a $3 million grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction.

The ADB project will identify, develop, and fund at least 15,000 resilient livelihood subprojects, which include new or improved climate-smart agriculture, livestock, fisheries, value addition to farm and nonfarm products, marketing, and the acquisition for new skills and employment. This project also aims to boost female participation, with over 50,000 villagers, 30% of whom are women, expected to become better aware of climate change effects, while learning advanced livelihood management skills.

The project, which is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2027, will also include a disaster contingency feature. This will allow for the immediate disbursement of funds for the reconstruction of damaged infrastructure and the recovery of livelihoods in case a disaster affects an entire township.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. In 2018, it made commitments of new loans and grants amounting to $21.6 billion. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.

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Albania: Statement by UN Albania Resident Coordinator, Brian J. Williams following the earthquake in Albania [EN/AL]

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 03:43:52 +0000

Source: UN Resident Coordinator for Albania
Country: Albania

We are deeply saddened for the tragic loss of lives and injuries caused by the earthquake which struck Albania today. Our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by the dreadful disaster. We are working with UNOCHA⁩, EU and Albanian authorities to support immediate response.

Jemi thellësisht të trishtuar për humbjen tragjike të jetëve dhe dëmtimet e shkaktuara nga tërmeti që goditi sot Shqipërinë. Mendimet tona janë me të gjithë ata që janë prekur nga kjo katastrofë e tmerrshme. Jemi duke punuar së bashku me UNOCHA, BE dhe autoritetet shqiptare për reagimin e menjëhershëm ndaj situatës së krijuar.

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Myanmar: Myanmar: 2019 NFI Dashboard - Kachin and Northern Shan (31 October 2019)

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 03:34:51 +0000

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Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, CCCM Cluster, Shelter Cluster
Country: Myanmar

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Myanmar: Myanmar: Shelter Cluster Dashboard - Kachin and Northern Shan (31 October 2019)

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 03:33:24 +0000

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Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Shelter Cluster
Country: Myanmar

Shelter Cluster members are currently covering approximately 44% of the shelter needs reported in Kachin and Northern Shan States.

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Myanmar: Myanmar: Kachin and Northern Shan CCCM Cluster Dashboard (October 31, 2019)

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 03:31:54 +0000

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Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, CCCM Cluster, Shelter Cluster
Country: Myanmar

Displacement started in June 2011 due to the fighting between the Government and the Kachin Independence Organization. The majority of IDPs live in camps along the Myanmar-China Border. Approximately 37% of IDPs live in camps in non-Government Controlled areas (NGCA).

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Nauru: Nauru blocking refugee medical transfers - report

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 03:10:47 +0000

Source: Radio New Zealand International
Country: Australia, Nauru

At least 20 refugees approved for medical transfer to Australia have been stopped from travelling by Nauru.

Read more on Radio New Zealand International.

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Samoa: Samoa's measles death toll rises to 33

Wed, 27 Nov 2019 02:25:22 +0000

Source: Radio New Zealand International
Country: Samoa

There's been another death in Samoa's measles epidemic, bringing the toll to 33.

Read more on Radio New Zealand International.

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