Category Archives: News

14Dec/19

UN emergency fund injects $125 million to scale up aid in 11 countries with underfunded crises

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Country: Chad, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Niger, Syrian Arab Republic

A new CERF allocation is one of the highest in the fund’s history and will support cross-border crises in and around Syria, the Sahel region and Central America, among others.

(New York, 13 December 2019): UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock has released US$125 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to urgently boost humanitarian response to people in need in 11 countries across the world in 2020.

This allocation is one of the highest in the fund’s history and will support cross-border crises in and around Syria, the Sahel region and Central America, among others.

The CERF provides time-critical funding to sudden-onset or rapidly deteriorating crises and aims to grow into a $1 billion-a-year emergency relief mechanism.

Allocation decisions for underfunded emergencies are based on detailed analysis of more than 70 humanitarian indicators and consultations with stakeholders.

Mark Lowcock, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said “the CERF is a safety net that saves millions of innocent lives in armed conflicts, natural disasters and other crises. This year brought unprecedented demand for humanitarian response as several crises have taken a turn for the worse and other funding streams haven’t caught up.

“This injection of money will help front-line responders provide more treatments for children suffering from malnutrition, primary health care, emergency education, protection, and shelter, water, food and livelihood assistance. I sincerely thank our donors for making this happen.”

The new $125 million allocation is distributed among relief organizations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo ($30 million); Syria ($25 million); Lebanon ($13 million); Chad ($12 million); Niger ($11 million); Haiti ($7 million); Jordan ($6 million); Mauritania ($6 million); Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ($5 million); Guatemala ($5 million) and Honduras ($5 million).

Established by the UN General Assembly in 2005 as a global fund ‘for all, by all’, CERF enables timely, effective and life-saving humanitarian action supporting UN agencies and others to kick-start or reinforce emergency response across the world. With generous contributions from 127 Member States and Observers, as well as other donors, the fund has assisted hundreds of millions of people by providing $6 billion since its inception to over 100 countries and territories, including over $2 billion to underfunded crises.

For further information, please contact:
In New York, Zoe Paxton, zoe.paxton@un.org, + 1 917 297 1542
In Geneva, Jens Laerke, laerke@un.org, +41 79 472 9750

13Dec/19

‘Air bridge’ vaccination operation begins for Ebola-hit communities in DR Congo

Source: World Health Organization
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo

To ensure continued care, WHO has mounted a limited daily helicopter “air bridge” operation to the remote communities at risk that insecurity due to ongoing violence by armed groups.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has seen an increase in the number of reported cases of the deadly haemorrhagic virus Ebola linked to ongoing violence by armed groups targeting remote communities, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

According to the UN agency’s latest outbreak update, 27 new cases were identified last week in the east of the country – three times the average number of infections in the past 21 days.

“The last three weeks were below 10 cases and this is only in four (DRC health) zones, and this is where we need to ensure access to finish the job,” Dr Michel Yao, Incident Manager, with the WHO Ebola Response team in the DRC, told journalists in Geneva. “Unfortunately it is in this area where we are facing the insecurity. This area is a mainly rural area, so for the big cities the outbreak is more or less controlled.”

Although the development is worrying, current infection rates are well down on the 120 cases a week reported during the peak of the outbreak, in late April.

In a further more promising development, WHO reported that in Beni and Mabalako Health Zones, the percentage of contacts under surveillance in the last seven days has returned to levels seen prior to “security events” that have hampered the Ebola response teams in past weeks – a reference to reported violent public demonstrations.

Outbreak in four health zones only

And in a further sign of progress in the fight against the outbreak – DRC’s tenth in 40 years – is the fact that it is now restricted to four health zones, as opposed to the 29 originally identified in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri.

Nonetheless, attacks on healthworkers and Ebola clinics – including deadly violence against Ebola responders in Biakato (Ituri province) in late November – have meant that the vital work of tracing people who have come into contact with Ebola patients and vaccinating them has been severely restricted.

“In these (health) zones, there’s one (area) in particular called Lwemba that we haven’t been able to access for three weeks,” Dr Yao explained. “And when you don’t have access, you can’t vaccinate the contacts and others at risk. You can’t find confirm new cases of infection so you can’t do safe burials, you can’t get infected people out and get them medical care.”

One person near Beni ‘infected 17 others’

Most of the new cases identified in the last week were linked to one individual near Beni town who could have infected 17 people.

“The person who passed away is in a place that’s called Aloya. It’s close to Beni, but this person unfortunately died,” Dr Yao said.

According to WHO, this same person recovered from Ebola six months ago.

It is now investigating whether they were reinfected by someone else – which has never been documented – or suffered a relapse, which has happened before.

Since the outbreak began in North Kivu and Ituri last August, 2,210 people have died from the disease.

It is the second largest Ebola emergency to date, after the West Africa crisis from 2016-2016 that saw more than 28,600 cases of infection.

‘Air bridge’ team has started vaccinations

To ensure continued care, WHO has mounted a limited daily helicopter “air bridge” operation to the communities still at risk.

The health team on board conducted their first vaccinations on Thursday, Dr Yao said.

“The helicopter that we’re using has space for around 20 people so it means we can transport epidemiologists to do their investigations, but above all the vaccination team,” Dr Yao explained, noting that the communities had come to the Ebola responders seeking help. They “want the intervention”, he insisted, “but around we have armed groups that prevent us from reaching these communities”.

He added: “We’re mobilising communities all around to come and get vaccinated in a situation where there are (health) alerts but we can’t go to investigate because access is restricted.”

With up to 100 armed groups believed to operate in the vast forested region of eastern DRC bordering Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, attacks on Ebola-hit communities have sparked a humanitarian crisis and threatened aid distribution, amid serious civil unrest.

“Since the start of this epidemic, there’s been one factor that we haven’t been able to control: the intervention context,” Dr Yao said, adding that “when these communities are attacked, there are demonstrations everywhere, which in fact stops Ebola intervention work”.

13Dec/19

A Moment for Justice in the Central African Republic

Anti-Balaka fighter in Gambo, Mboumou province, Central African Republic, on August 16, 2017. 


© 2017 Alexis Huguet

On December 11, the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for Central African Republic militia leaders Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona and Alfred Yekatom. While they can appeal the charges, as it stands, they will be the highest ranking anti-balaka leaders to face trial for crimes committed during the country’s most recent conflict.

Beginning in 2013, fighting between the Seleka, a brutal rebel coalition of mostly Muslims from the Central African Republic’s northeast that had assumed control of the country, and militias called anti-balaka, displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Targeting any Muslims perceived to be Seleka, anti-balaka fighters launched gruesome attacks on civilians in Muslim neighborhoods.

I remember speaking with a Muslim youth who had been attacked with machetes by former basketball teammates who had become anti-balaka. “They were once like my cousins, now they wanted to kill me,” he said.

The anti-balaka proclaimed to be liberators of the country, but they behaved like the Seleka. Their fighters targeted civilians, used rape as a weapon of war, forced children into their ranks, and deliberately targeted homes and properties of Muslims.

The ICC is right to move forward with these cases and hopefully there will be charges against other responsible anti-balaka leaders, some of whom hold government positions. And the prosecution of Ngaissona and Yekatom puts in stark contrast the absence of proceedings against those Seleka leaders and their allies who continue to control vast territory in the country, although they could be under seal.

Nevertheless, ICC’s move marks an important step in advancing justice for victims of crimes committed in the Central African Republic since 2013. The prosecution of these two anti-balaka leaders should serve as a warning to other would-be perpetrators: justice might be slow, but it plows forward.

13Dec/19

Global effort to strengthen early warning systems expands

Source: World Meteorological Organization
Country: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Chad, Fiji, France, Germany, Haiti, India, Marshall Islands, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Switzerland, Togo, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, World

The Climate Risk Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Initiative, which has invested $42 million in projects in the most vulnerable countries, has received a new contribution of 10 million euros from Germany.

Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States benefit from better weather and climate information

A global initiative to strengthen early warning systems and climate resilience in the most vulnerable countries continues to gain momentum with a new injection of Euro 10 million contribution from Germany.

The Climate Risk Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Initiative, set up in 2015, has invested USD 42 million in projects in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States and has mobilized an additional USD 130 million from public funds of other development partners.

Thus, Fiji now has an early warning system for flash floods. Advisories are issued for sand storms in Burkina Faso, which is also now generating seasonal forecasts and informing small scale farmers through local radio stations on when to plant their crops. Papua New Guinea issued its first seasonal forecast this year thanks to cooperation with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

The latest counties that benefit from CREWS support are Afghanistan, Chad and Togo, with projects under preparation for Haiti, as well as additional financing planned for the Pacific and West Africa.

Gerd Müller, German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, said: “We must move from talk to action. The level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is higher than it has ever been. Climate change is already happening. And those suffering the most are the developing countries who, to crown it all, are the ones that have contributed the least to this situation. That is why it is important that affected countries get proper weather forecasts, so they are not caught totally unprepared when droughts or floods occur. If they know, for example, that a storm is on its way, with heavy rainfall, they have a much better chance of being able to prepare for it and can perhaps also receive timely assistance.”

The Minister said that good weather forecasts not only make it possible to respond better to crises at short notice, they also allow more long-term climate analyses to be made. If it is clear that a lengthy drought is coming, then the planning of food supplies can be better organised.

Therefore, the Minister said, “weather forecasts are the first building block in creating a foundation that countries can use to make whatever adjustments are needed to cope with a changing climate. Germany will help them, because the knowledge is already there.”

Carole Dieschbourg Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainability of Luxembourg, said the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather means that early warnings to protect lives and property are now more necessary than ever.

She said it was vital to close the capacity gap and ensure that weather forecasts and climate information from powerful supercomputers are made available to vulnerable countries and communities.

“We have made progress but we really have to do more,” she told a side event at the UN Climate Change Conference on 11 December.

Ingrid Hoven of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development highlighted the role early warnings play in building resilience to climate change. She stressed the high return from such investments, whilst and encouraging comprehensive approaches to climate risk promoted through the InsuResilience initiative, that include early warnings and insurance schemes.

Germany announced an Euro 10 million contribution to the CREWS Trust Fund, in addition to the initial Euro 3 million contributed in 2016.

In support of these efforts, a new Alliance for Hydromet Development, announced on 10 December, will align international efforts to close the capacity gap on early warnings and climate information by 2030. It brings together 12 international organizations providing assistance to developing countries, including the World Bank and World Meteorological Organization.

CREWS was launched by the French Government and four other countries at COP21 in Paris to ensure that Least Developed Countries and small island developing State are able to benefit. Two additional countries have since joined, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

“CREWS is increasingly relevant because of the growing impact of climate change especially on the most vulnerable,” said France’s Ambassador for Climate Change Brigitte Collet. “It is clear we are in a race against the clock,” she said.

She said that an assessment of CREWS showed that more than 44 countries benefit, out of a target of 76 priority LDCs and SIDS. “France will remain committed.”

CREWS allows LDCs and SIDS to draw on the expertise of three partners: the World Bank and its Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery, the World Meteorological Organization, that also hosts the CREWS Secretariat, and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

In all these countries, WMO has successful identified the most adapted and best available technical advice that is often found in more advanced meteorological agencies to address the needs.

“CREWS is really a success story and is taking real action on the ground,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. Half of national meteorological and hydrological services worldwide still lack proper multi-hazard early warning systems and impact-based forecasts, he said.

For instance, Tropical Cyclone Idai caused massive loss of life in Mozambique earlier this year because, whilst the storm was accurately forecast, there were insufficient advance warnings about the impacts of the Category 5 winds, huge storm surge and devastating flooding, said Mr Taalas.

By contrast, a major tropical cyclone which hit the Indian coastline in Odisha this year killed 38 people, compared to the 10,000 lives lost in a similar storm in the same location 20 years ago, said UN Disaster Risk Reduction chief Mami Mizutori. Better weather forecasts – and in particular better communication and education – were decisive, she said.

Pacific islands are among CREWS beneficiaries. Four out of the lowest-lying islands in the world are in the Pacific.

“The highest point in the Marshall islands is the landfill,” said Kosi Latu, Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

“This puts the scale of the challenge into context. The CREWS project is so important because we are talking about the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. CREWS funding has helped local meteorological services provide weather forecasts and early warnings in simple ways which can be easily understood by local communities.

“The CREWS project enables us to raise the level of consciousness. It has helped to increase the level of understanding of early warning systems in the context of the Pacific,” said Mr Latu.

CREWS has a special gender-sensitive focus because women are often impacted differently than men by climate-related risks and are at the forefront of having action at the local level.