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Shining the spotlight on 5 neglected emergencies

30 Nov 2017
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Cyclone Enowa in Madagascar, March 2017. Credit: UNOCHA/Johnnah Raniriniaina

At this time of the year, people and institutions take a step back to reflect on what’s been achieved and how to do things differently.

For those of us in the humanitarian sector, we look at how much money we mobilized, how many people we assisted and who was left out.

Sadly, it is often the humanitarian crises that make the headlines that attract the highest levels of funding, while others continue to fester with inadequate resources or attention.

“The striking growth in need across the world has left humanitarians struggling to meet demand,” Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Under-Secretary-General for the Office of Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock said in his remarks to the Center for Global Development in Washington DC on 13 October. “Our system was never designed to deal with either the complexity or the volume of crises we face today.”

Today the lives of more than 18 million people in five countries — Afghanistan, Libya, Madagascar, Mali and Sudan — are held captive by protracted crises that rarely make the headlines. In these people’s lives, even a walk to the nearest water outlet or finding a place to give birth, can be life-threatening. Find out more:

1. Afghanistan


A nurse treats patients in Lashkargah Emergency Hospital, in Helmand, Afghanistan. Credit: WHO/Gulbuddin Elham

People in Afghanistan have faced continual conflict for nearly 40 years, but this year the number of conflict incidents was higher than at any time in the past decade.

The intensification of the fighting has led to high numbers of war wounded on both sides of the conflict. Two thirds of the civilian casualties this year are women and children. Afghanistan desperately needs more and better trauma care, and aftercare for amputees. This year, non-state armed groups posed a threat to people’s ability to access health care by forcing health facilities to close temporarily, often to extract improved trauma care for their wounded combatants. In September and October, at times more than 60 clinics in central and northwest Afghanistan were closed, depriving an estimated half a million of people access to health care.

This year, humanitarian agencies received US$285 million of the $409 million they needed to help a targeted 3.6 million people.

2. Libya


Children in Zintan, in Libya’s Nafusa Mountains, play in fields contaminated by explosive remnants of war. Credit: UNOCHA/Jihan El Alaily

In Libya, rival polities, fragmented national and local institutions, insecurity, weak rule of law, and a fast-deteriorating economy, have deepened vulnerability. An estimated 1.6 million people are affected by conflict. Some 18 per cent of hospitals and 20 per cent of primary health facilities are not functioning; while only 6 per cent of health facilities can provide childbirth services.

Libya is the main point of departure for the Mediterranean crossing to Europe. In 2017 to date, 3,033 people have died or gone missing in the attempt, according to the International Organization for Migration. Those who do make it, report horrific stories of exploitation, abuse and torture in Libya, where they cannot access services and live in fear of capture and arbitrary detention, often under inhumane conditions. Alarming levels of rape and abuse, including in official detention centres, has been documented.

Humanitarian agencies appealed for $151 million to meet the urgent needs of just under 1 million people in 2017. At year end, only 57 per cent of this has been received. Additional funding is urgently required to provide food, drinking water, sanitation service and adequate housing among other essential services.

3. Madagascar


Cyclone Enawo which hit Madagascar earlier this year, left a quarter million Malagasy in need of emergency assistance. Credit: UNOCHA/Johnnah Raniriniaina

In Madagascar, at least 810,000 people need humanitarian assistance to get by.

Every year, the Malagasy, some of the poorest people in the world, are confronted by pulmonary plague, which is endemic to country. This year, the country not only recorded a significantly higher number of plague cases, but outbreaks were reported in urban areas as well as remote rural locations, with no previous reports of the disease. This year, the type of outbreak is pneumonic plague, which is more serious and harder to control than bubonic plague. As of 18 November, total of 2,267 cases had been recorded with 195 deaths. The plague season which will continue till April 2018, has also affected tourism, one of the country’s biggest income earners.

Locusts, droughts and cyclones also contribute to suffering in Madagascar. The cyclone season usually takes place from November through April, with an average 1.5 cyclones per year, though climatologists predict a higher-than-usual rate this season.

4. Mali


A mother and her daughter at the nutrition clinic, run by NGO Action Against Hunger, in Timbuktu. Credit: UNOCHA/Eve Sabbagh

With limited progress in the implementation of the Malian Peace Agreement, insecurity and conflict have spread from the north to the Mopti region, in the centre of Mali, exacerbating suffering for millions of Malians. The resurgence of inter-communal violence and clashes between armed groups have triggered new displacements — over 30,000 people this year — and disrupted the livelihoods of thousands of families. Humanitarian organizations managed to access people in need in northern Mali, despite the dangers of operating there.

As of October 2017, some 133,300 Malians have fled to neighbouring Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, where they try to survive in remote refugee camps in the desert. Several communities affected by the conflict struggle to access food, water, health care, education, protection and livelihood opportunities. This year, 3.8 million Malians are food insecure — up from 3 million last year — including 601,000 people whose hunger has reached crisis levels. Some 750,000 children under age five are malnourished, of which 165,000 suffer from severe acute malnutrition and require urgent treatment.

Humanitarian actors provide an essential lifeline for vulnerable communities, but only 42 per cent of the $304.7 million needed to help the most vulnerable 1.36 million Malians has been received this year.

5. Sudan


A nurse measures children’s weight for height at Al Manar Health Center, Mayo, South Khartoum. Credit: UNOCHA

Years of conflict, underdevelopment and climatic shock have triggered humanitarian needs in Sudan for 13 years now. Some 4.8 million people need humanitarian assistance — 3 million of them in Darfur — but response efforts face a funding gap of $463 million. The country’s fragile economy has also been tested by an enormous caseload of South Sudanese refugees. In 2017 so far, about 185,000 South Sudanese refugees have sought shelter and assistance in Sudan, bringing their total number to 454,000. Efforts to help the South Sudanese refugees are only 32 per cent funded.

This year, the lifting of US economic sanctions and opening of previously inaccessible areas provides an opportunity to improve conditions for vulnerable people. But low funding disrupts these efforts. For instance, at least 49 health facilities had to be closed this year due to funding shortages.

Twice a year, the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocates grants to the least funded emergencies with the highest levels of risk, vulnerability and humanitarian need. This is determined by analyzing funding levels; vulnerability indicators, such as FEWS NET food insecurity data; INFORM conflict-risk data; human rights indicators.

In 2017, CERF provided US$145 million to 13 neglected emergencies to provide humanitarian assistance to 27 million people: Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Chad, Cameroon, DPRK, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.

This article was previously posted on Medium.