WHO delivers 185 tonnes of medical supplies to Syria

World Health Organization (WHO) has delivered 185 tonnes of life-saving medicines, anesthetics, antibiotics, emergency medical kits and other treatments to over 30 health partners in northern Syria so far in 2018. These deliveries are part of its ongoing efforts to meet the immediate and long-term health needs of hundreds of thousands of displaced and critically ill patients in northern Syria.

The shipments included 1.4 million medical treatments for surgical and trauma cases, reproductive health conditions and infectious diseases, as well as essential medicines for noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In total, about US$ 1.8 million worth of supplies were delivered to 180 primary and secondary health-care facilities from January to April 2018.

Lack of health facilities and qualified health workers remains a serious concern in northern Syria. More than half of the country’s public hospitals and health-care centers have either closed or are only partially functioning.

In order to ensure access to services, WHO equipped 7 mobile clinics that have been deployed to provide primary health-care services, vaccination, nutritional screening and mental health support in areas with the greatest need, where health services are no longer available.

Funding for the medical supplies delivered by WHO to northern Syria is provided through the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) pooled funds, and the governments of Kuwait and Norway.

[World Health Organization]

Malaria parasites present in 23% of donor blood in some African countries

Almost one in four blood bank supplies in certain regions of Africa may have malaria parasites in them, a new study suggests. UK scientists reviewed 26 studies that measured levels of Plasmodium parasites — which cause malaria — among blood donors in sub-Saharan Africa between 2000 and 2017 and found that an average of 23.46% tested positive.

Overall, there is a high risk that a potential blood donor or bag will contain parasites, said Dr. Philippe Guerin, director of the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network and professor of medicine at Oxford University’s Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health.

“Malaria is one of the primary infections that can be transmitted through a blood transfusion in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Selali Fiamanya, a research fellow at the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network who also worked on the study.

Blood supplies are typically screened for blood-borne diseases before being made available to recipients, but Guerin believes that screening is not always being conducted systematically and that when it is, current lab techniques are not sensitive enough to spot all malaria parasites, particularly latent infections or when parasites are hiding in people who are infected but symptom-free.

Blood donors are usually adults, and in regions with high rates of malaria, adults often develop some immunity against the parasite, meaning they could have the parasites in their blood but not feel sick, Guerin said.

Meanwhile, pregnant women and children receive the majority of transfusions in this region, Fiamanya said. The transmission risk of contracting malaria through blood supplies is unknown but is likely to be high, Guerin said. “If you’ve got parasites circulating, the infection risk is high.”


Malaria Summit London

Heads of Commonwealth State and Government, HRH The Prince of Wales, and Bill Gates called on Commonwealth leaders meeting to commit to “halving malaria within five years”. The group said, “That commitment would prevent 350 million cases of the disease in the next five years and save 650,000 lives across Commonwealth countries.”

The Malaria Summit in London united 14 Heads of State and Government, Bill Gates, scientists, private sector and international organizations to make game-changing commitments towards beating malaria at a time when efforts to end the preventable disease had stalled. The Summit’s call to action urged Commonwealth leaders to commit to halving malaria by 2023.

Commitments exceeded expectations by £200m. The Summit featured collective commitments worth over £2.9 billion ($4.1 billion).

The commitments focused on:

  • High level political commitment towards malaria elimination.
  • Significant increase in investment from malaria endemic countries to leverage and complement donor funding
  • New innovative tools to overcome the growing threat of resistance.
  • Improved methods to track the disease to enable more effective and efficient intervention and to prevent resurgence.

Another debt crisis looming for poor countries?

Nearly two decades ago, an unprecedented international effort—the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt initiative—resulted in writing off the unsustainable debt of poor countries to levels that they could manage without compromising their economic and social development.

The hope was that a combination of responsible borrowing and lending practices and a more productive use of any new liabilities, all under the watchful eyes of the IMF and World Bank, would prevent a recurrence of excessive debt buildup.

Alas, as a just-released IMF paper points out, the situation has turned out to be much less favorable. Since the financial crisis and the more recent collapse in commodity prices, there has been a sharp buildup of debt by low-income countries, to the point that 40 percent of them (24 out of 60) are now either already in a debt crisis or highly vulnerable to one—twice as many as only five years ago.

Moreover, the majority, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, have fallen into difficulties through relatively recent actions by themselves or their creditors. But they also include a large number of diversified exporters (Ethiopia, Ghana, and the Gambia among others) where the run-up in debt is a reflection of larger-than-planned fiscal deficits, often financing overruns in current spending or, in a few cases, substantial fraud and corruption (the Gambia, Moldova, and Mozambique).

How likely is it that these countries are heading for a debt crisis, and how difficult will it be to resolve one if it happens? The fact that there has been a near doubling in the past five years of the number of countries in debt distress or at high risk is itself not encouraging.

[Global Issues]

Mediterranean migrant arrivals down in 2018

The UN Migration Agency, International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that 17,461 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea through the first 105 days of 2018, with about 43 per cent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece (36%) Spain (20%) and Cyprus (less than 1%).

This compares with 37,046 at this point in 2017, and over 175,000 at this point in 2016.

The 7,495 migrants arriving in Italy by sea this year represents a 75 per cent drop from this time last year, when over 30,000 migrants had arrived during the same period.

Halfway through the month of April – traditionally early in the busiest season on the Mediterranean’s Central route – traffic is down to less than 100 per day.

559 deaths on the three Mediterranean Sea routes so far this year compares with 918 at this time in 2017, a decline of about 40 per cent year-on-year.


Europe remains the world’s leading donor of development aid

The European Union and its Member States continue to be the world’s leading provider of Official Development Assistance (ODA) with an overall amount of €75.7 billion ($93.7 billion) in 2017, confirm the newly released figures by OECD.

The EU collective constituted 57% of Official Development Assistance globally  in 2017.

Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said: “The EU and its Member States continue to provide over half of the total Official Development Assistance globally, investing in people, stronger institutions and societies.”

“However, I am strongly concerned about the decrease of EU collective ODA and of development assistance worldwide. Achieving sustainable development requires a persistent collective effort. We know we need to do more. As the world’s leading ODA provider the EU must show leadership and responsibility.”

The EU and its Members States have been consistently in the lead of global efforts on development financing.

[Source: Europa.eu]

French development aid slowly increasing

France’s development spending increased in 2017, but after years of successive decline, that has only returned it to 2012 levels.

Following years of decline in the budget for development aid, France increased it by 15% between 2016 and 2017, according to statistics published by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee.

This increase in budget brought French aid up to 0.43% of gross national income (GNI), as compared to the UN’s 0.7% target.

In 2017, only a few EU countries met the UN’s 0.7% target: Denmark, the UK, Luxembourg and Sweden, while Germany, which had met the target in 2016 slipped back under the threshold and spent only 0.66% of its GNI in 2017.


Despite millions of displaced people, Congo rejects UN aid effort

When the United Nations hosts a donor conference next week for the violence-racked Democratic Republic of Congo, one important country will not attend: Congo itself. The government of President Joseph Kabila has said that it will boycott the gathering, denying that his central African nation faces a humanitarian crisis at all.

The move, which took some diplomats by surprise, was another sign of the increasing isolation of the government of Mr. Kabila, who has faced internal rebellion and international criticism for holding on to power in defiance of constitutional term limits. The government’s increasingly bellicose stance comes as it has been blasting what it calls international “meddling” in the country’s politics.

The United Nations says challenges to Mr. Kabila’s rule have caused a collapse of political authority, leading to fighting that has displaced 4.5 million people and left 2 million children severely malnourished. It has declared Congo one of the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies on par with Syria and Yemen.

To respond to the crisis, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance organized the donor conference in Geneva on April 13 to make its biggest appeal yet for aid to Congo to provide emergency assistance — including food, sanitation, shelter and education — to more than 13 million people affected by the violence.

[New York Times]

Sad statistics from Yemen, the World’s worst humanitarian crisis

In early April 2018, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres reported that the Yemen crisis had become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
– Approximately three quarters (equivalent to over 22 million) of Yemen’s population were in dire need of humanitarian assistance and protection.
– Of this 22 million, 11.3 million are children. Nearly every child in Yemen is affected by the crisis.
– UNICEF reported that an average of five children were killed or injured every day since the escalation of hostilities in March 2015.
– 18 million people in Yemen are food insecure. This number includes 8.4 million people who ‘do not know how they will obtain their next meal.’
– Over 1.8 million children are acutely malnourished.
– Not only is food an issue, millions of people in Yemen do not even have access to safe drinking water.
– Last year alone, unsafe drinking water resulted in over a million cases of diarrhoea and cholera. Children under the age of 5 accounted for a quarter of all reported cholera cases.
– Over two million children do not attend school. As Edward Santiago from Save the Children concluded in early 2016 ‘An entire generation of children – the future of Yemen – is being abandoned to their fate.’  Two years after that statement, the situation of children in Yemen has only deteriorated to the point that their future seems bleak.

In all walks of life in Yemen, even treatable illnesses become a ‘death sentence.’ According to Guterres, one child under the age of five dies of preventable causes every ten minutes.  In the time it takes to read this article, a Yemeni child has died from an illness that would not result in fatalities in other countries.

And until the war is concluded, there will be no sustainable solution to this humanitarian crisis, driven by conflict.


How to track the UN’s 17 Developmental Goals

This Sustainable Development Goal Tracker is a public tool to follow the progress of 17 global goals set by the United Nations in 2015, found here.

The U.N. affirmed 2030 as the deadline for the international community to achieve significant growth toward these goals:

  1. No poverty
  2. Zero hunger
  3. Good health
  4. Quality education
  5. Gender equality
  6. Clean water and sanitation
  7. Affordable and clean energy
  8. Decent work and economic growth
  9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  10. Reduced inequalities
  11. Sustainable cities and communities
  12. Responsible consumption and production
  13. Climate action
  14. Life below water
  15. Life on land
  16. Peace, justice and strong institutions
  17. Partnerships for the goals