Humanitarian Aid in the form of vaccines

We now have vaccines to prevent nearly 30 diseases. The GAVI Alliance — a public-private partnership focused on increasing access to vaccines in poor countries — has contributed to the immunization of more than 370 million children since 2000.

The World Health Organization estimates immunization programs prevent 2 million to 3 million deaths every year.

WHO also estimates we have an opportunity to reach an additional 22 million infants who live in hard-to-reach or insecure communities across the developing world. Reaching these populations is the key to achieving humanitarian milestones agreed to by the global community — chiefly, Millennium Development Goal 4, which calls for a significant reduction in child mortality by 2015.

We owe it to ourselves to seize this opportunity for a healthier and disease-free world. More importantly, we owe it to our children.

[Excerpt of article by Siddharth Chatterjee, Chief Diplomat at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies]

Global refugee numbers at 19-year high

The number of people who have been forcibly displaced by war and other crises worldwide has risen to its highest level for almost two decades, hitting 45.2 million, according to the UN’s refugee agency.

Annual figures released by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) showed that 1.1 million fled across international borders in 2012, while a further 6.5 million were displaced within their own homelands.

“This means one in each 4.1 seconds. So each time you blink, another person is forced to flee,” Antonio Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees, told reporters.

The total figure of 45.2 million included 28.8 million internally displaced people, 15.4 million border-crossing refugees, and 937,000 asylum seekers.

“War is the main reason for this very high number of refugees and people internally displaced. Fifty-five percent of them correspond to the well-known situations of  Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria,” Guterres said.

Overall, the Afghan conflict continued to produce the most refugees, a position that it has held for 32 years. Worldwide, one refugee in four is Afghan.

The UNHCR has warned that Syrian refugee numbers could hit 3.5 million by the end of this year, while there are also fears that the number currently displaced within the country, 4.25 million, will also climb. Syrian refugees have flooded into neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, stretching those nations’ ability to cope.

“Who is supporting refugees in the world? Essentially, developing countries,” he said, stressing that 87 percent of the world’s refugees were protected by developing countries, up from 70 percent a decade ago.

“So when we see discussion sometimes that exist about refugees in many developed countries, I think it’s good to remind public opinion in those countries that refugees are not people fleeing from poor countries into rich countries in search of a better life,” he added.

Pakistan remained the world’s top host nation in 2012, with 1.6 million refugees mostly from Afghanistan, followed by Iran, with 868,200, and Germany, with 589,700.

260,000 Somalians dead due to famine

Between 2010 and 2012, more than a quarter of a million people died in the famine in Somalia — in part because the world was too slow to react, says the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Philippe Lazzarini.

Half of the 258,000 Somalis who died in the famine were children younger than 5. In the worst-affected area, Lower Shabelle, close to one in five children younger than 5 died.

A report, jointly commissioned by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network, concluded that the world did not do enough after warnings in 2010 that starvation loomed following severe drought.

The year from July 2010 to June 2011 was the driest in the eastern Horn of Africa in 60 years. This resulted in the death of livestock, small harvests and a big drop in demand for labor, cutting into household incomes. Southern Somalia also received less humanitarian assistance in 2010 and much of 2011 than it had in previous years, particularly 2008 to 2009, the report said.

And with reduced supplies available, the price of food staples soared, putting more pressure on poor households.

The result was what the researchers say was one of the worst famines in the past 25 years.

Defining Humanitarian Aid

“Humanitarian aid” is aid and action designed to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain and protect human dignity during and in the aftermath of emergencies. The characteristics that mark it out from other forms of foreign assistance and development aid are that:

  • it is intended to be governed by the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence
  • it is intended to be short-term in nature and provide for activities in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. In practice it is often difficult to say where ‘during and in the immediate aftermath of emergencies’ ends and other types of assistance begin, especially in situations of prolonged vulnerability.

Traditional responses to humanitarian crises, and the easiest to categorize as such, are those that fall under the aegis of ‘emergency response’:

  • material relief assistance and services (shelter, water, medicines etc.)
  • emergency food aid (short-term distribution and supplementary feeding programs)
  • relief coordination, protection and support services (coordination, logistics and communications).

Humanitarian aid can also include reconstruction and rehabilitation (repairing pre-existing infrastructure as opposed to longer-term activities designed to improve the level of infrastructure) and disaster prevention and preparedness (disaster risk reduction (DRR), early warning systems, contingency stocks and planning).

Source: Global Humanitarian Assistance