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There Has Been a 300% Increase in Measles Cases This Year

19. April 2019 - 15:26

It is not usual that the heads of UNICEF and the World Health Organization would team up to jointly warn the world about a fast spreading disease that stalks children. But a sudden surge in measles cases in the first three months of 2019 is also unprecedented.

On UNICEF’s Henrietta Fore and the WHO’s  Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus write:

We are in the middle of a global measles crisis. Cases have soared across the world, including in places where measles had previously been eliminated — like the United States. In this year to date, the United States has already seen its second-greatest number of cases since 2000. And this past week, New York City declared a public health emergency due to the rapid spread of the virus.

Behind each of these outbreaks, an alarming picture unfurls. In just the first three months of 2019, there have been more than 110,000 measles cases reported worldwide, a figure that is up nearly 300% from the same period last year. And these numbers will represent just a fraction of all the cases that occur. By the time you finish reading this, we estimate that at least 40 people — most of them children — will be infected by this fast-moving, life-threatening disease. […] To do our part, the World Health Organization and UNICEF, along with other partners of the Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, are working to ensure that vaccines reach more people in more countries than ever before. We are supporting national authorities to strengthen health systems and services, respond to outbreaks and build trust. Ultimately, there is no “debate” to be had about the profound benefits of vaccines. We know they are safe, and we know they work. More than 20 million lives have been saved through measles vaccination since the year 2000 alone. But children are paying the price for complacency. It will take long-term efforts, political commitment and continuous investment — in vaccine access, in service quality and in trust — to ensure we are, and remain, protected together. On April 16, the World Health Organization released the latest global surveillance data on measles, saying that all regions of the world are experiencing “sustained rises in cases.  Current outbreaks include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Philippines, Sudan, Thailand and Ukraine, causing many deaths – mostly among young children.”

What is most disturbing is that spikes in cases are occurring in countries with overall high vaccination coverage, including the United States, Israel, Thailand and Tunisia.

Measles is a global health success story

Measles has plagued humans—particularly children — for centuries. It is a fast spreading disease that can both sicken and kill people, mostly children under five years old.  Before widespread measles use of the measles vaccine in the mid 1960s, epidemics would occur every few years, killing an estimated 2.6 million people every year. By 2000 the death toll from measles was around 560,000 children per year.  And by 2017, the last year for which we have reliable data, approximately 110,000 people died from measles — an 80% decline.  The trajectory was clearly going in the right direction, thanks to greater vaccine coverage — particularly in sub-saharan Africa where most deaths occur.

But these gains are now suddenly looking more fragile and the nature of the measles virus suggests that anything less than near universal vaccination means that these outbreaks will continue to occur.


The post There Has Been a 300% Increase in Measles Cases This Year appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

A Revolution in Sudan. What Comes Next?

17. April 2019 - 23:40

Protesters in Sudan have secured the ouster of longtime ruler Omar al Bashir.  The protests began in earnest in December and steadily gained momentum and traction. Then, suddenly,  after nearly thirty years in power Omar al Bashir was deposed in coup on April 11. Now, he is reportedly in prison in Khartoum.

But despite the ouster of Bashir, protesters have not dispersed and are now rallying against the cadre of military officials who have assumed control.

So what comes next in this volatile moment of political upheaval in Sudan?

On the line with me to discuss these events is Payton Knopf. He is a former U.S. diplomat and UN official who has worked on Sudan issues for many years. He is currently an advisor to the United States Institute for Peace

We kick off discussing the events that lead to the ouster of al Bashir. (Note: a podcast episode from January covers these protests in detail,  so we do dwell too much on them in this episode. Rather, we spend the bulk of the conversation discussing this unfolding and fluid situation.)

Payton Knopf explains who these military rulers of Sudan are–and why it is significant that some of them have trained and deployed militias to Yemen and Libya. We also discuss the implications of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for al Bashir and the unfolding geo-political dynamic that may influence how this political crisis is resolved.

If you have 25 minutes and want to understand this moment of profound political change in one of Africa’s largest and most strategically significant countries, have a listen.


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About Payton Knopf

Payton Knopf is an advisor to the Africa program where his work focuses on the intersecting political, economic and security dynamics in the Red Sea. He is concurrently an advisor to the European Institute of Peace.

Knopf is a former U.S. diplomat with expertise in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, and the Middle East. Immediately prior to joining USIP, Knopf was the first coordinator the United Nations Panel of Experts on South Sudan, from its inception in 2015 until April 2017. He was also formerly a senior advisor at the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI)/Martti Ahtisaari Centre and the PeaceWorks Foundation.

Before leaving government, he was spokesman at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations under then-Ambassador Susan E. Rice, having previously served as a policy advisor to U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell. From 2006 to 2008, he was based at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, where he advised the then-U.S Special Envoys for Sudan Andrew Natsios and Richard Williamson on issues related to the conflict in Darfur and to the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for Sudan.

His other State Department assignments included in the Office of Egypt and the Levant and at the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  He was an International Affairs fellow in residence at the Council on Foreign Relations from 2010-2011 where is researched focused on diplomatic engagement with non-state armed groups.


The post A Revolution in Sudan. What Comes Next? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Map of the Day: The 13 Most Overlooked Global Humanitarian Crises

16. April 2019 - 15:05

How do we know which humanitarian crises are most overlooked, ignored or otherwise off the radar?

One measure is how much money is available for the response to a humanitarian crisis. This is a good proxy for the amount of attention that an unfolding humanitarian crisis receives among key donors because the way the international community deals with crises is much like a charity. When a natural or manmade disaster strikes, humanitarian agencies must go to donors, hat in hand, to fund their response.

The largest donors tend to be governments — specifically governments of wealthier countries in Europe and North America. When a crisis attracts their attention, they can be quite generous. But when it’s far from headlines or in a country without much political relevance to those donors, the response tends to be less robust. For one reason or another, crises in some places tend not to be as high a political priority in key donor countries as others. What results, then, is a crisis that is underfunded — and in some cases, chronically so.

Enter the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, known as CERF. This was a funding pool created by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in 2006 that directs funds to those crises that are not attracting the sufficient attention of donors. Donors contribute to this pool, and OCHA distributes it.

The crises in which CERF intervenes can be considered the most overlooked humanitarian crises in the world.

On April 11, OCHA announced the largest disbursement of CERF funds ever, directing $125 million to 13 underfunded emergencies.  These funds will go to UN agencies and humanitarian NGOs that serve more than nine million people across Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Haiti, Honduras, Madagascar, Niger, the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), Tanzania, Uganda and Ukraine.



Another function of CERF is to quickly disburse funds when there’s a sudden need.

And on the same day this record allocation of emergency funds was released, OCHA also announced a $25 million allocation for ongoing crisis in Sudan. This disbursement to Sudan comes at a particularly volatile time, which the country in the midst of a political upheaval.

The CERF allocation will target internally displaced people, refugees, host communities, and vulnerable residents in areas with some of the largest increases in food insecurity, including in East, North, South and West Darfur, Red Sea, West Kordofan and White Nile states.

Food insecurity has increased in Sudan with 5.8 million people projected to be food insecure between January and March, a significant increase from 2018, while the numbers are likely to rise further in the lean season from May. Protection services will also be prioritised targeting the specific needs of children and women, and the vulnerable including people living with disabilities and those with chronic health conditions.

CERF is a good example of why flexibility in funding is a valuable tool to maximize the impact of donor dollars for humanitarian relief.  Not all crisis can attract and sustain the attention of donors. But people in need of humanitarian assistance in those countries are no less in need than people caught in crisis that are higher priorities for donors.

The post Map of the Day: The 13 Most Overlooked Global Humanitarian Crises appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

A Revolution in Access to Medicine is Underway in Five African Countries

15. April 2019 - 16:40

Among the many barriers to quality healthcare in the developing world is the high cost of medicine. This is due, in part, to frequent disruptions in the supply chain. Customers who visit a pharmacy to purchase medicine can’t be guaranteed that the medicine will be something they can afford– or even if the medicine will be there at all.

My podcast guest today, Gregory Rockson, is a social entrepreneur who is pioneering a way to make medicine in several African countries more affordable and access to that medicine more reliable. He is the c0-founder of  a social enterprise called mPharma, which uses data analytics and supply chain management to help small and independent pharmacies control their costs.  This is crucial because unlike here in the United States where big pharmacy chains are ubiquitous, in the places mPharma operates small and independent pharmacies are serve the vast majority of people.

mPharma essentially manages the drug supply of participating pharmacies, and assumes the financial risk if drugs are over or under stocked — sharply driving down the costs.

This is an absolutely fascinating business model and it’s already revolutionizing access to medicine in five African countries and is poised for further expansion.

If you have twenty minutes and want to learn why drug prices in many countries are so high and what can be done to drive down those costs, have a listen.


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The post A Revolution in Access to Medicine is Underway in Five African Countries appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

How to Prevent a Demographic “Youth Bulge” From Causing Widespread Unemployment

11. April 2019 - 12:07

South Africa is experiencing what demographers call a “youth bulge” which occurs when young people make up a disproportionately large percentage of the population.

One key challenge facing societies experiencing a youth bulge large is what happens when young people become of working age, and there are too few jobs.

In South Africa and in many countries with similar demographics, unemployment rates among young people is orders of magnitudes greater than the overall unemployment rate. As my guest today Nicola Galombik explains, when large numbers of young people are unemployed the knock-on effects for society in general can be extremely negative.

Nicola Galombik has embarked on a strategy to reduce youth unemployment in her native South Africa. She is the co-founder of the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, a social enterprise that is not only helping to find young people jobs at scale, but is changing mindsets around employing young people.

Youth unemployment is a key driver of instability in many countries around the world, and as you will see from this conversation the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator has found a formula to take on what is essentially a demographic challenge.

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The post How to Prevent a Demographic “Youth Bulge” From Causing Widespread Unemployment appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

A New UN Report Details Food Crises Around the World

10. April 2019 - 15:36

Every year for the last three years, persistent conflict, climate shocks and economic instability have driven more than 100 million people around the world into crisis-levels acute hunger or worse.

Last year, that number was 113 million people in 53 countries, according to the UN’s latest Global Report on Food Crises, published last week. That’s the same magnitude as if all of the UK and Spain were in urgent need of food, nutrition and livelihoods assistance.

Of those in need last year, more than half were in 33 African countries, and two-thirds (or 72 million) were in just eight conflict-ridden countries. In order of severity, they were: Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan and Nigeria. These countries are expected to remain among the world’s worst food crises in 2019, with large portions of their populations at risk of falling into the “emergency” phase of food insecurity.

According to the classification system used by the international community, “emergency-levels” of food insecurity are more severe than “crisis-levels.” But “catastrophe-levels” are the worst. When at least 20 percent of the population in an area faces catastrophe-levels of hunger, famine is declared. In such cases – as in areas of South Sudan in 2017 – urgent action is required to “prevent widespread death and total collapse of livelihoods.”

Last year, UN officials warned that Yemen was on the brink of the “worst famine in 100 years” if the war did not subside. Although famine was not officially declared, the report says that 65,000 people still faced catastrophe-levels of extreme hunger and loss of livelihoods – and that was with humanitarian food assistance. Had that aid not been available, the UN estimates the number would have been about 238,000.

When the UN first began to publish the annual Global Report on Food Crises in 2016, the number of people who faced crisis-levels of acute hunger or worse was 108 million in 48 countries. In 2017, that number jumped up to 124 million in 51 countries, mostly because conflict or insecurity intensified in South Sudan, Yemen, north Nigeria, the DRC and Myanmar. Unrelenting drought also worsened food insecurity in a number of African countries.

Compared to 2017, the number of people facing acute hunger actually decreased slightly in 2018. The report attributes this dip to less severe climate shocks in some areas and better harvests and humanitarian aid in others (like Nigeria). However, the number of people facing at minimum crisis-levels of food insecurity remained the same or grew in 17 countries, with the biggest increases occurring in Afghanistan, the DRC, Sudan and Zambia.

Despite the modest improvement globally from 2017 to 2018, the report says that an additional 143 million people in 2018 were living on the edge of acute hunger. If faced with any shock or stressor, it warned, those 143 million people would be at risk of being pushed into crisis-levels of hunger or worse.

Over the last decade, prolonged conflicts and insecurity as well as more severe and frequent climate shocks have driven up humanitarian assistance and spending needs by about 127 percent. About 40 percent of that, the report says, have been for food and agriculture needs. These drivers of food insecurity will persist in 2019. And if the political and economic crisis in Venezuela doesn’t let up, we can expect the number of displaced people, refugees and migrants from that crisis to add to the burden significantly.

For years now, the UN has said that as crises become more protracted and increasingly political with no clear solution, humanitarian responses are no longer sufficient on their own. The report echoes this and says their findings “clearly underscore” the need for the humanitarian and development sectors to work together for more sustainable long-term answers to food insecurity. In some cases, this may include investing in conflict prevention and peacebuilding as well.

Without such efforts, the root causes of hunger will continue unchecked, the report warns, and hundreds of millions of lives will be on the line.

The post A New UN Report Details Food Crises Around the World appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Everywhere in the world women live longer than men. Why? A New UN Report Has Some Answers

9. April 2019 - 8:47

Everywhere in the world – but especially in wealthy countries – women live longer than men. Why? According to the latest World Health Statistics Overview published last week by the World Health Organization (WHO), uneven access to health services is a major reason.

The WHO has been publishing the World Health Statistics Overview every year since 2005. But this is the first year it has broken down the statistics by sex.

“Breaking down data by age, sex and income group is vital for understanding who is being left behind and why,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, in a press release.

According to the report, the 73 million baby boys who will be born this year will have an average life expectancy of 69.8 years, Meanwhile, the 68 million girls will have an average life expectancy of 74.2 years.

The report says that the difference between male and female life expectancy cannot be pinned to a single or even small number of causes. Some are biological, others are environmental or social, while the availability and use of health services also plays a big role.

For example, of the 40 leading causes of death, 33 contribute more to a shorter male life expectancy than female. These include heart disease, road injuries, lung cancers, lung disease, stroke, cirrhosis of the liver, tuberculosis (TB), prostate cancer and interpersonal violence.

Globally in 2016, deaths from road injuries were twice as high in men as women from age 15, and suicide death rates were 75 percent higher in men as well. Homicide death rates are also four times higher in men than in women, but 20 percent of those homicides are committed by an intimate partner or family member, most of the time against women.

Men’s attitude toward health care also makes a significant difference in their life expectancy.

The report reveals that in cases where men and women face the same disease, men forgo available health services more often than women. For example, in countries where HIV is firmly established in the general population, men are less likely than women take an HIV test or access antiretroviral therapy. They are also more likely to die of AIDS-related illnesses. Male TB patients are also less likely to seek care than female ones.

But where the gap between men and women narrows is in low-income countries, where women often lack access to health services. According to the report, there are fewer than four nursing and midwifery personnel per 1,000 people in more than 90 percent of low-income countries.

The result is that one in 41 women dies from a maternal cause in these countries, compared to one in 3,300 women in high-income countries. Dr. Tedros notes that the maternal deaths of women in poor communities also has a serious impact on the health of their family members and their community and perpetuates a cycle of poverty.

Globally between 2000 and 2016, life expectancy at birth increased by 5.5 years for both men and women combined, but for babies born in low-income countries, their life expectancy (62.7 years) is still more than 18 years lower than those born in high-income countries (80.8 years). While most people in wealthy countries die in old age, nearly one in three deaths in poor countries are of children under 5 years old. And whereas noncommunicable diseases contribute the most to life expectancy differences between men and women in high-income countries, communicable diseases, injuries and maternal conditions are the main contributors to the difference. Often, the disease and conditions that compromise health in poor countries are also preventable and treatable.

Although there have been improvements in more than half of the 43 health-related Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators, the report notes that global progress has stalled or even reversed for five indicators: road traffic mortality, children overweight, malaria incidence, alcohol consumption, official development assistance for water sector and catastrophic health spending – all of which play a significant role in life expectancy.

Additionally, the world is only on track to meet two of the eight health-related SDG indicators that have explicit targets by 2030: lower mortality under age five to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births and neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births. And although global progress is on track for these two indicators, the WHO estimates that 51 countries will still miss the under-five mortality target if their current trends continue, and 60 countries will miss the neonatal mortality target.

In order to accelerate progress, the WHO says that just focusing on efforts under the traditional purview of ministries of health is not enough. Instead, it requires a “multisectoral approach that addresses the underlying causes of gender and socioeconomic inequalities.”

“My hope is that governments, health providers, academics, civil society organizations, the media and others use these numbers to … move us closer to a healthier, safer, fairer world for everyone,” said Dr. Tedros.

The post Everywhere in the world women live longer than men. Why? A New UN Report Has Some Answers appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

How Fear Distorts U.S. Foreign Policy

8. April 2019 - 2:02

The world has never been safer, wealthier or healthier. So why is it that our foreign policy is dominated by fear and inflated perceptions of threats that can harm us?

My guest today, Michael Cohen, and co-author Micah Zenko seek to answer that question in their new book Clear and Present Safety: The World Has Never Been Better and Why That Matters to Americans.  The book makes the convincing argument that fear mongering has distorted US foreign policy and distracted us from recognizing impressive gains in human development.

This is a very refreshing conversation. One trend that Cohen and Zenko identify an define is something they call the Threat-Industrial-Complex and we spend a good deal of time discussing how that serves to shape US foreign policy priorities.

If you have 20 minutes and want a good corrective on US foreign policy, have a listen.

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The post How Fear Distorts U.S. Foreign Policy appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Trump Administration Banned the ICC Prosecutor from Visiting the United States. Are UN Officials Next?

5. April 2019 - 18:49

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is banned from the United States. Aside from official meetings at the United Nations, the State Department has placed visa restrictions on Fatou Bensouda, a Gambian woman who leads prosecutions of war criminals in the Hague-based court.

The visa-restrictions are ostensibly over a potential ICC investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan — an investigation, it should be noted, that has not actually be launched, and may not even happen.  But what is most significant about this move is that it reveals the extent to which the Trump administration is willing to punish and deter an international official from doing her job.  And this should be deeply concerning to officials at the UN in general, and to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in particular.

This move against the ICC needs to be understood in the context of John Bolton’s longstanding hostility to the Court

The ICC came into being in 2002. This was the same time that John Bolton — and ardent critic of the court — became an Undersecretary of State in the George W. Bush administration.  When George W. Bush came to office, the administration took a highly unusual step of “un-signing” the treaty that created the ICC. At the time, John Bolton called that the “happiest moment” in his life as a public servant.

But withdrawing from the ICC treaty was not the end of US involvement. Rather, Bolton lead an effort in the Bush administration to limit the court’s jurisdiction. He did this by strong-arming US allies to into signing a bi-lateral immunity agreement to theoretically prevent Americans from coming under the court’s jurisdiction. If those US allies refused to sign the agreement, certain forms of military aid would be cut off.

At the time, I reported that this drive lead to some unusual outcomes that seemed to distort US foreign policy priorities. For example, the country of Latvia had some aid suspended in 2003 while it simultaneously deployed troops to Iraq as part of the Bush administration’s “Coalition of the Willing.”

When Bolton left the Bush administration in 2006, US policy toward the court became less adversarial, a modus-vivendi was reached. When Bolton rejoined government last year as National Security Advisor the Trump administration’s stance to the ICC went from indifference to outright hostility. Bolton’s his first major public speech as National Security Advisor was a long broadside against the ICC. It is fair to deduce that the decision to ban the ICC’s prosecutor from the United States is Bolton’s doing.

This move against the ICC should be a warning to the UN

The ICC is not part of the United Nations. But the decision by the US government to issue visa restrictions on the head of a multi-lateral organization should be deeply concerning to many around the United Nations. Specifically, it may foreshadow how the Trump administration could approach relations with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

An honor to share the podium today with @Malala. Together let’s stand up for gender equality. Women will truly be empowered when they can fully exercise their #humanrights and make their own decisions. @WAW_Japan @MalalaFund #StandUp4humanrights #Istandwithher

— Michelle Bachelet (@mbachelet) March 23, 2019

In general, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is ecumenical in criticizing human rights violations around the world. This sometimes includes chiding the United States. Most administrations have been able to balance the occasional criticisms aimed at the United States with the value of having an office at the UN that supports human rights and rule of law more broadly. The Trump administration, on the other hand, has been unwilling to accept any criticism.

Behind the scenes, it is seeking to de-legitimize key functions of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights by refusing to even communicate with officials from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. More publicly, Bolton is seeking to de-fund the entire human rights office.

Michel Bachelet and her office are clearly being targeted by the Trump administration in a way that is not dissimilar to the International Criminal Court. It is not outside the realm of possibility that the Trump administration may seek to do to Bachelet what they have just done to Bensouda. Should that happen, a key element of the world’s human rights architecture would be severely weakened.

The post The Trump Administration Banned the ICC Prosecutor from Visiting the United States. Are UN Officials Next? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

How a Social Entrepreneur is Fighting Counterfeit Medicines in the Developing World

4. April 2019 - 4:06

Not long ago, the social entrepreneur Bright Simons tried and failed to create a platform to pair organic farmers in Ghana with consumers of organic products. But in that failure he made an important discovery that is now revolutionizing the fight against fake and counterfeit goods in the developing world — including potentially deadly counterfeit medicines.

Bright Simons is the co-founder and lead of mPedigree, a social enterprise that combats the problem of counterfeit and fake goods — everything from medicines, to seeds, to auto-parts and more.

As Bright Simons explains, mPedigree takes a systems-wide approach to fighting counterfeits. Its core innovation is a unique product identification marker, called the GoldKeys Platform. Think of it as a scratch off label that reveals a code which people can use a phone to instantly validate the authenticity of a product.

Through this validation system, mPedigree has not only helped stop counterfeiting across many industries, but as Bright Simons explains it’s changing the behavior of individual consumers, industries and even government.

This conversation with Bright Simons will change how you think about counterfeit goods and the systems required to stop this problem and restore consumer confidence and trust.

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This episode is presented in partnership with the Skoll Foundation to showcase the work of the 2019 recipients of the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. The Skoll Awards distinguish transformative leaders whose organizations disrupt the status quo, drive sustainable large-scale change, and are poised to create even greater impact on the world. Recipients receive $1.5 million in core support investments to scale up their work.

The post How a Social Entrepreneur is Fighting Counterfeit Medicines in the Developing World appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Head of UNICEF (Who is a Former Republican Official Nominated by Donald Trump) Warns Against Cutting Aid to Central America

3. April 2019 - 17:00

The head of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, is a former Republican official. She served in George W. Bush’s administration as a top official at USAID, the State Department and even ran the US Mint for several years in the early 2000s. She was nominated to the position by Donald Trump and selected by Antonio Guterres to run the UN’s most visible agency.

This week, she visited Honduras which is experiencing an epidemic of violence against children.  Her statement from upon return from Honduras is worth reading in full.

“A child under the age of 18 dies from violence every day in Honduras. For a country not engaged in active warfare, this figure is staggering. 

“Despite its efforts to reduce violence and protect its youngest citizens, Honduras remains a dangerous place for far too many children and young people. Gangs terrorize neighborhoods across the country, offering young people an impossible choice: Join us or die.

“More than half a million children of secondary school age do not go to school, accounting for 1 in 2 adolescents in lower secondary and 2 in 3 in upper secondary. Dropping out of school is far too often the only way young people can escape gang threats, harassment and forced recruitment, particularly as they travel to and from school through gang-controlled areas.  

“The combination of violence, poverty and lack of education opportunities is causing thousands of children and families to flee their homes. Without access to protection and safe migration pathways, most are forced onto dangerous routes where they are at risk from violence, exploitation and abuse.

“In the words of a young woman I met in Paujiles, San Pedro Sula: ‘We are not migrating to have nicer lives – we are migrating to survive.’

“These children and young people need real investments in education, protection and other services that can help guide them towards a more hopeful future while also reducing some of the causes that drive them to flee.

“UNICEF is committed to working with governments, the private sector and international financial institutions to make transformative investments in education – particularly in the countries of northern Central America – to increase educational participation, attainment and learning outcomes with an emphasis on new technology.

“UNICEF is also working with partners in Honduras to provide children and young people with safe spaces to play, learn and receive training. Those who have been returned to Honduras receive counselling, help returning to school and guidance on the services available to them.  

“Unless the root causes of migration are addressed, children and families will continue to embark on dangerous migration journeys. Funding programmes to end violence, develop skills and create education opportunities will help create the environment these children need to build their futures at home.”  (emphasis added)

Fore’s visit to Honduras comes as the Trump administration is calling for the United States to suspend aid to Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador ostensably as a rebuke to those countries for being the source of migrants coming to the United States. But as numerous experts have pointed out, cutting off aid would exacerbate out-migration from those countries. In other words, this move would have the exact opposite effect from its intended purpose.

Now, you can ad the former Republican official and the woman Donald Trump tapped to lead the UNICEF as among those experts and officials who are cautioning against the reckless cut-off of aid to Central America.



The post The Head of UNICEF (Who is a Former Republican Official Nominated by Donald Trump) Warns Against Cutting Aid to Central America appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

A Race to Stop Cholera in Mozambique in the Wake of Cyclone Idai

2. April 2019 - 16:34

International and local aid workers are racing to stop a cholera outbreak in Mozambique, which so far has sickened at least 1,000 people in the wake of Cyclone Idai.

Cholera is a deadly waterborne disease that can spread easily in disaster situations. The lack of proper sanitation and clean water, combined with crowded conditions at shelters and camps for displaced persons, is a perfect breeding ground for cholera to spread and kill.

This was a predictable contingency for which international and local relief workers have planned. In the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Idai, the World Health Organization began to set up cholera treatment units.  Now international teams are in the process of training local health workers to use and deploy a cholera vaccine.

9 cholera treatment centres are now open with 500 bed capacity, MSF and IFRC are supporting the Ministry of Health to run these centres. 124 people are receiving treatment #cycloneIdai,

— OMSMocambique (@OMSMocambique) March 31, 2019

From the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The cholera taskforce is holding daily meetings in Beira to inform operational response. The Oral Cholera Vaccination campaign is scheduled to begin on 3 April and to last six days. Training for personnel giving the vaccinations is underway. Meanwhile, community sensitization is on-going on radio and through printed communication materials to convey messages related to communicable disease control and when to seek health-care. The Community Engagement Group has amplified messages to address and discount rumours that the cholera vaccination will give people cholera.

Meanwhile, the displacement crisis continues. According to the latest facts and figures from the United Nations, More than 146,000 displaced people were sheltering in internal displacement camps.

Credit: OCHA

Funding for emergency relief could be a problem.

When a disaster like this strikes, the international humanitarian response system snaps into action. But to mount an effective response, agencies need proper funding. This is what often slows down and hinders relief efforts. United Nations agencies like the World Food Program, the UN Refugee Agency and UNICEF operation as charities. That is, they must raise money from donors in order to fund their operations. (This is opposed to the UN proper, which is funded through regular dues payments from its member states). As a result as soon as disaster strikes, fundraising efforts need to snap into place as well.

So, for example, the World Food Program says it needs $140 million to provide food for vulnerable populations in the region for the next three months. UNICEF is asking for $122 million to provide services for 1.5 million across the countries affected by the cyclone.

Other UN-agencies and non-UN relief organizations like MSF, Save the Children and Oxfam are also launching their own appeals to fund their own distinct relief operations — which are done in coordination with each other and with the UN to avoid duplications and streamline efforts.

The extent to which these agencies can raise funds is the extent to which they can mount effective responses to this massive humanitarian crisis. In a natural disaster like this, funding tends to be the main limiting factor in maximizing the reach of humanitarian services and saving as many lives as possible.

The post A Race to Stop Cholera in Mozambique in the Wake of Cyclone Idai appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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Ahead of Trump Meeting, Egypt’s Abdel Fatah al-Sisi Seeks to Consolidate Power

1. April 2019 - 17:02

The White House confirmed that Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is to meet President Trump at the White House on April 9. The invitation to the White House was offered amid a deepening crackdown on human rights and a further erosion of the rule of law in Egypt, nearly six years after al-Sisi ousted President Mohammad Morsi.

The White House visit comes as Egypt is facing yet another inflection point that could further ensconce al Sisi in power. At issue are a series of constitutional amendments that would effectively make al Sisi president for life and create what analyst Amy Hawthorne calls a “personalist dictatorship.”

Amy Hawthorne is the deputy director for research at the Project on Middle East Democracy and co-author of a recent Foreign Policy piece on the current tumult in Egyptian politics.. After years of crackdowns on political opposition, she explains why Egyptian politics is poised to enter a potentially more dangerous phase.

We kick off with an extended conversation about the circumstances that brought al Sisi to power, including the events of Egypt’s Arab spring and its aftermath.  We then discuss the implications of recent moves by al Sisi to further consolidate power.

We recorded this conversation a few days before it was announced that al Sisi was to visit Washington, DC on April 9th. If you are listening to this episode contemporaneously, Amy Hawthorne does a good job of setting the scene for that visit.  If you have 20 minutes and want to learn how al-Sisi has subverted democracy and undermined human rights in Egypt over the last six years, have a listen.


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Security Council Tightens Screws on Terror Financing

29. März 2019 - 14:23

The Security Council unanimously passed a new resolution intended to crack down on the financing of terrorist groups. Resolution 2462, approved on Thursday, requires states to take concrete steps that would make it more difficult for terrorist groups to fund their operations.

In a time in which the Security Council remains divided on some key issues around the world, this resolution demonstrates that combating terrorism is something that the entire council can work together to productively address.

This move by the Security Council is the latest iteration of its evolving response to terrorism.

In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, the Security Council passed a sweeping resolution, binding under international law, to compel states to take concrete actions against terrorist groups. The resolution passed less than two weeks after the attacks and to this day is one of the most radical actions ever taken by the Security Council.

Security Council Resolution 1373 called on states to freeze terrorist financing, pass anti-terrorism laws, prevent suspected terrorists from traveling across international borders, and ordered that asylum seekers be screened for possible terrorist ties. It did this all under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, thereby making these dictates binding under international law. This was the first time the Security Council forced all UN member states to revise national laws to comply with an international standard. (Usually, that is done through the treaty process. Not top down from the Security Council–but such was the sense of urgency at the time.)  The resolution also created a UN body called the Counter Terrorism Committee to monitor and support its implementation.

As the threats from terrorism evolved in the subsequent years, the Security Council would update and revise its approach to fighting terrorism.

In 2014, under the leadership of the Obama administration, the Security Council sought to expand common efforts to disrupt the travel and funding of foreign terrorist fights. At the time, this included hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of people from around the world who flocked to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. Another resolution three years later provided guidance and compelled countries to take action against foreign terrorist fighters after they returned to their home country. In March 2017, another resolution highlighted the links between the illicit trade in cultural artifacts and the financing of terrorism, which was a key source of funding for ISIS and other terror groups.

The resolution passed on Thursday seeks to further strengthen global cooperation in disrupting the financing of terrorist groups.

Resolution 2462, drafted by France, tightens requirements on states to criminalize the provision of financial support for terrorist groups and individual terrorists. It also highlights the need for governments to work with private financial institutions to improve the traceability around financial transactions and calls on states to create financial intelligence units capable of doing the kind of forensic accounting that can disrupt terrorist financing.

From the Indo-Asian News Service 

It also expresses concern at the continuing use by terrorists and their supporters of information and communications technologies, in particular the internet, to facilitate terrorist acts, as well as inciting, recruiting, funding, or planning terrorist acts.

Therefore, the resolution calls upon all countries to enhance the traceability and transparency of financial transactions, including assessing and addressing potential risks associated with virtual assets and as appropriate, the risks of new financial instruments, including but not limited to crowd-funding platforms.

It also encourages member states to apply risk-based anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulations to virtual asset service providers, and to identify effective systems to conduct risk-based monitoring or supervision of virtual asset service providers.

This move by the Security Council demonstrates that on some issues, particularly terrorism, the Security Council can be a valuable forum for codifying global cooperation in the face of threats to international peace and security.

The post Security Council Tightens Screws on Terror Financing appeared first on UN Dispatch.

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New Trends in Global Trade Are Changing How Women Work Around the World

28. März 2019 - 14:53

Global trade is changing how women work.

Supermarkets and major brands source much of their materials and manufacturing in the developing world as part of a “Global Value Chain.” This is a way of obtaining raw materials and bringing goods to market that has become more and more common among major global brands in recent years. One consequence of this trend in global trade and global sourcing has been to upend traditional dynamics around gender and work.

Stephanie Barrientos is a professor of global development at the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester who studies the intersection between gender dynamics and global trade.

Her latest research examines how norms around work and jobs in the developing world are being changed by global sourcing from major brands. As Professor Barrientos explains, companies’ Global Value Chains are having profound implications for women and gender dynamics around work and employment in the developing world.

This conversation is a great introduction to key shifts in global trade over the past decade and some of the downstream effects of how large multinational companies operate.  If you have twenty minutes and want to learn how a brand like Cadbury Chocolates is affecting gender roles in places like Ghana, have a listen.


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Cyclone Idai Has Caused an “Inland Ocean” in Mozambique the Size of Luxembourg

26. März 2019 - 15:23

An “inland ocean” the size of Luxembourg has devastated a massive swath of Mozambique. When Cyclone Idai hit the country last week, it brought heavy winds, massive rains in what has been called the worst storm ever to strike that region of Africa.

Satellite imagery from the European Space Agency reveals that is also caused a massive flood plane, about 125km by 25km. This is the size of the country of Luxembourg.

Here are before and after photos of the parts of Mozambique currently submerged.

Credit: European Space Agency

Credit: European Space Agency. Darkened areas are a massive flood plane


Facts and Figures of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique

The latest update from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reveals a desperate situation on the ground.

As of March 24th, the death toll is 446, though that figure is expected to rise as more areas become accessible.

Some 110,000 people are displaced across over 130 makeshift encampments.

Over 1 million children affected, according to UNICEF

The government is reporting a increasing numbers of a deadly form of acute watery diarrhea.

Meanwhile, power and water services are restored to parts of the main city of Beira, but much of the rest of the region is in dark

The response by international humanitarian agencies is ramping up, including airdrops of food and medicines.  From OCHA:

In Beira, a grid-based system has been put in place to assess and prioritize areas for airlift of essential life-saving kits. An MI-8 transport helicopter contracted by the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) is airdropping inter-agency emergency kits, including food (high-energy biscuits (HEBs) and micronutrient-rich peanut paste used to prevent and treat malnutrition) as well as tents, medicines and other essentials for stranded communities outside Beira. WFP-funded drones are supporting rapid assessments with the National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) and locating survivors trapped in the flooded areas in Sofala. Bilateral support is increasing, with the arrival of both Search and Rescue (SAR) and Emergency Medical Teams (EMT). Two UNHAS MI-8s helicopters and a C295 cargo plane are now operational in Beira.

The crisis stretched beyond Mozambique, to neighboring countries that were also affected. From OCHA


Credit: OCHA

This is a massive humanitarian disaster and by far the worst natural disaster to strike this region in recent history. We can expect the Cyclone Idai response to be a major focus of the UN and humanitarian NGOs for several months.


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“It’s Really Worrying Right Now.” An Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is NOT Under Control

24. März 2019 - 15:57

The second worst Ebola outbreak in history is currently unfolding in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since August last year there have been nearly 1,000 confirmed cases and over 600 deaths.

The DRC is a very large country and these cases are so far confined to the eastern part of the country. This is also the region of the Democratic Republic of Congo that has long been mired in conflict and insecurity. In recent weeks, Ebola treatment centers have been attacked forcing medical staff to suspend operations. Meanwhile, new ebola cases are confirmed on a nearly daily basis.

On the line to discuss is Karin Huster, the field coordinator for Medicins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Border in the DRC.  She spoke to me from the city of Goma, the largest city in the eastern part of the DRC.  We kick off discussing recent attacks on two Ebola treatment centers run by Doctors Without Borders, and then have a longer conversation about the trajectory of this outbreak and what can be done to halt its spread.

One thing that comes though in this conversation is that this outbreak is not under control. Karin Huster explains why the current strategy has not be able to stop the transmission of Ebola and explains how this outbreak can be halted.

The Ebola outbreak in DRC has fallen from the headlines. This episode provides you with a grounds-eye view of why this outbreak continues to fester.


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Why Snakebites are a Global Health Problem

21. März 2019 - 15:47

Getting bitten by a poisonous snake is not just an individual injury — rather it is now recognized as a global health hazard.  The World Health Organization estimates that between 80,000 and 136,000 people die from snakebite in each year. To put that in perspective, that is more than the number of people who died from Meningitis and within the range of the number of people who died from Measles.

Getting bitten by a poisonous snake, or “snakebite envenoming,” is now included in the WHO’s list of Neglected Tropical Disease

On the line with me is one of the world’s leading experts on Snakebite, Dr. Gabriel Alcoba. He is a pediatrician who has treated snakebite as a doctor with MSF, Doctors Without Borders. He is also a public health expert who works with the Geneva University hospitals.

This episode provides a very good introduction to snakebite as a global health hazard. Dr. Alcoba explains the link between poverty and injury and death from snakebite and why the pharmaceutical industry has been somewhat slow to develop proper anti-venoms.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn how snakebite affects people around the world, have a listen


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Refugees may soon be withdrawing their food from ATM machines

20. März 2019 - 11:03

Earlier this month,  the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) and World Vision International announced they will be testing food automated teller machines (ATM) in refugee camps. Like the bank ATMs we’re used to seeing and using for cash, the Food ATM will dispense locally sourced cereals, cooking oil and other fortified blended foods with the swipe of a card.

WFP and World Vision say the machines have the potential to “revolutionize providing food to refugees” by eliminating some of the biggest problems associated with the service right now. In an email to UN Dispatch, World Vision’s East Africa Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs Director Chris Hoffman said that as the largest implementing partner with WFP, World Vision has found that at least 30 percent of food baskets given to refugees are either lost, sold or stolen. Safety concerns are also increasing as some refugees have been attacked while transporting the heavy foods they receive from distribution centers to their homes.

Then, there’s the issue of refugees being exposed to disease and sickness when food goes bad, because usually they don’t have appropriate storage systems, like refrigerators. Additionally, because the food is usually sourced internationally and transported thousands of miles, the entire process is very costly for humanitarian agencies and organizations, not to mention environmentally hazardous.

No longer will the food need to be shipped from abroad, packaged and repackaged on-site then scooped out for the refugees waiting in long lines for their monthly rations. Instead, the Food ATM will be continuously monitored and stocked with locally procured foods, that, in turn, support the local economy and cut costs immensely. It will also allow WFP to better track what kinds of food and how much of it refugees are actually using in order to make the aid more personalized.

The Food ATM actually consists of a number of machines that each contain a specific food item (e.g. one machine for cooking oil and one machine for cereals). They will be housed in a “clean, cool warehouse” within the camp that refugees can visit whenever they want.  In the warehouse, refugees can fill their shopping carts with as much or as little of each food item as they want within the limit of their pre-funded SCOPE card – a WFP digital cash card that’s re-loaded every month. The ease of access means that refugees can choose to only take as much food as they’re able to carry or store safely at home. And in much the same way that a person’s grocery shopping patterns may be difficult to predict, on-demand distribution of food assistance will make it harder for robbers to know when refugees will be collecting food.

The idea for the Food ATM was developed by WFP’s Nairobi Regional Bureau in collaboration with World Vision, and it won a slot at WFP’s Innovation Bootcamp last fall as a “game-changing” idea to tackle global hunger. Just one Food ATM is expected to improve nutrition and safe access to food assistance for thousands of refugees, while implemented at scale, it could be a global solution to food loss for hundreds of thousands of refugees.

The initial six-month pilot will be rolled out this year in Uganda and maybe South Sudan, according to Hoffman. He says that during the pilot, they will pay particular attention to whether the Food ATM is culturally accepted by refugees and implementing partners.

“This is a new idea, and many of [the refugees] have been receiving food in standard ways for many years,” says Hoffman.

For partner organizations, the efficiency of the Food ATM may dramatically cut their staffing needs and require an overhaul of policies and procedures required under the current system. Such large-scale change could become a source of contention.

But if all goes well during the pilot, World Vision and WFP plan to immediately launch five more Food ATMs by the end of 2020 and throughout East Africa over the next two funding cycles. Their end goal, according to Hoffman: to completely disrupt the food aid system.

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Cyclone Idai Has Caused Massive Devastation in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe

19. März 2019 - 15:43

Cyclone Idai is one of the most destructive storms to hit this region of Africa in decades. The death toll is still unknown, but likely to be in the thousands. Hundreds of thousands of people in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique have been displaced and vast numbers of houses, structures and farmlands have been destroyed.

Mozambique is the hardest with vast stretches of land submerged.

From Save the Children

According to the Government of Mozambique, 600,000 people have been affected, more than 1,000 people may have lost their lives and 100,000 need to be urgently rescued near Beira.

Aerial assessments in Sofala province, in the center of the country, show that an area more than 30 miles wide has been completely submerged. They also show that Buzi town, which is estimated to be home to more than 2,500 children*, could be under water within 24 hours.

“The scale of this disaster is growing by the minute and Save the Children has grave concerns about children and their families still at risk as flood waters continue to rise,” said Machiel Pouw, Save the Children’s response leader in Mozambique.

“The assessment emerging from Mozambique today is chilling. Thousands of children lived in areas completely engulfed by water. In many places, no roofs or tree tops are even visible above the floods. In other areas, people are clinging to rooftops desperately waiting to be rescued.

The UN’s International Disaster Relief System Has Been tapped.

When a crisis like this strikes where government lacks the capacity to deal with the disaster on its own, the United Nations system for rapid humanitarian response snaps into place.  UN humanitarian agencies like the World Food Program and UNICEF, and international NGOs like Save the Children and Oxfam coordinate their responses through the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA.

This system has become incredibly efficient in recent years, with specific agencies and NGOs in charge of discrete aspects of the response. This is known around the UN as the “cluster system” and was developed by OCHA following uncoordinated and duplicated responses to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.  This modern form of international disaster relief is able to relatively swiftly get food, medicines and personnel to places affected by a sudden disaster, saving countless lives over the years.

Cyclone Idai has triggered that response mechanism.

From the WFP

Food stocks are being identified in all three countries, as well as in South Africa and Zambia. Twenty tons of high-energy biscuits are being airlifted to Beira from a WFP-run emergency response depot in Dubai. The organization has contracted a transport helicopter to fly into cut-off regions, and is funding drones to support Mozambique’s disaster management agency, the INGC, with emergency mapping. Field personnel, including logistics and telecoms experts, are being deployed.


UNICEF is working with partners to support the Governments of the affected countries to provide life-saving interventions to meet the needs of children and women impacted by the cyclone and floods. The response will include Health, with a focus on cholera response and prevention; Education, to minimize service disruption and enhancing safe access to schools; Protection, catering particularly to the needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs); WASH, to ensure access to clean and safe water, increased use of sanitation facilities and hygiene promotion and; Nutrition, focusing on preventing under-five mortality attributable to malnutrition.

One complicating factor in every response to a crisis like this is funding. UN agencies like UNICEF and WFP are funded like charities. They require constant fundraising, mostly from donor countries, to maintain their emergency relief operations. (And, recently, the Trump administration has sought to eliminate American funding for UNICEF). This means that when a disaster like this strikes, these agencies must go to donors, hat in hand, to fund their response. All to often, donors do not rise to the occasion. In 2018, every disaster in the world –manmade and natural — required $24.9 billion for relief agencies but only about half was actually raised.  

So, even as UN agencies are getting more and more efficient at saving lives in disaster, their ability to do so is constrained by constant funding shortages. To the extent that Cyclone Idai can capture the attention of key donors, these agencies will be able to reach more of the hundreds of thousands of people of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe who are effected by this crisis.


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