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UN health agency delivers medical aid inside Yemen’s Taiz city after blocked entry

Girls fetching water in Mawyah district, Taiz. This role often falls on the shoulders of girls and young women, often at the expense of their education. Credit: OCHA

10 February 2016 – Following months of blocked access to the Yemeni city of Taiz, and in response to mounting emergency health needs, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today it has successfully delivered more than 20 tonnes of life-saving medicines and medical supplies to meet the most urgent needs of those with limited access to humanitarian aid.

The health supplies, which had been blocked from entering the city for eight weeks, were delivered to Al-Thawra, Al-Jumhoori, Al-Rawdha and Al-Ta’aon hospitals as of 31 January, WHO said in a press release.

“Hospital staff in Taiz City are desperate for medicines and medical supplies so that they can continue to offer the most basic medical care. The delivery of these WHO supplies is a huge step that we are hoping will pave the way for the provision of more medical support to the city,” said Dr. Ahmed Shadoul, WHO representative in Yemen.

It is vital that WHO and partners are given unrestricted access to all people in need, so that they can be urgently provided with life-saving health care.

The supplies include trauma kits, interagency emergency health kits, diarrhoeal disease kits and 170 oxygen cylinders, enough for about 35,000 beneficiaries. In addition, dialysis solutions were facilitated to Al-Thawra Hospital for 30,000 dialysis sessions for one year.

WHO said that three districts in Taiz – Al Mudhaffar, Al Qahirah and Salah – still remain inaccessible and people are in urgent need of food, safe water and life-saving health services. Many hospitals have been forced to close their intensive care units due to a lack of fuel, medicines and health staff, and patients with chronic medical issues such as diabetes, kidney disease and cancer are struggling to access essential medicines and dialysis centres.

Shortages in food have led to a significant increase in prices, with many people now unable to afford basic food items, resulting in increased risk of malnutrition, especially in children, WHO said. The main wells providing safe drinking-water have shut down due to interruptions in power supplies and a lack of fuel for generators.

WHO added that earlier this week, an aid plane landed in Sana’a airport with an additional 40 tonnes of medicines and medical supplies, which will be distributed where they are most needed across the country.

“It is vital that WHO and partners are given unrestricted access to all people in need, so that they can be urgently provided with life-saving health care,” Dr. Shadoul stressed.

Since April 2015, ongoing violence and insecurity in Yemen continues to limit the delivery of aid to Taiz. In recent weeks, the UN has made repeated calls to all sides to allow humanitarian access to Taiz and all other besieged areas throughout the country where civilians have been deprived of the basic necessities of life.

Low on funds, UN and partners race ahead of rains to tackle needs in South Sudan

In Pathai, a settlement in Jonglei State, South Sudan, persons displaced by conflict await registration for food distribution. Photo: UNICEF/Jacob Zocherman

10 February 2016 – With humanitarian needs rising in South Sudan, the top United Nations relief official in the country has called for urgent funding to allow aid organizations to rapidly increase humanitarian action during the current dry season.

“Aid workers are in a race against time to respond in areas previously cut off by fighting and rains, and to pre-position vital supplies ahead of the next rainy season,” said Eugene Owusu, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, in a press release.

“If we are unable to act now, the situation will be much worse, and the response will be much more costly in the months ahead,” he added.

If we are unable to act now, the situation will be much worse, and the response will be much more costly in the months ahead.

Mr. Owusu said he has allocated $20.3 million to top priority projects from the South Sudan Common Humanitarian Fund, which is a multi-donor pooled fund focused on the disbursement of donor resources to humanitarian partners. However, partners urgently require $220 million for critical actions to be taken before the end of the dry season in May, he stressed.

Appealing to donors to “give generously, and to give now,” to replenish the fund, Mr. Owusu said the additional funding was necessary to combat widespread food insecurity, malnutrition, displacement and disease in the country.

This year, about two per cent of the $1.3 billion required to provide life-saving assistance and protection has been received.

“I am deeply concerned that we are facing increasing needs with diminishing resources,” he said. “The world must not let South Sudan become a forgotten crisis. Humanitarian partners are standing ready to respond, but they cannot do so without funding.”

Earlier this week, UN agencies warned that South Sudan faces unprecedented levels of food insecurity, with 2.8 million people – nearly 25 per cent of the population – in urgent need of aid, at least 40,000 of them on the brink of catastrophe, at a time when the war-torn country is traditionally most food secure.

Climate outlook ‘particularly concerning’ in southern Africa due to El Niño – UN agency

A maize farmer and her child in Lesotho. Photo: FAO/Gianluigi Guercia

10 February 2016 – El Niño conditions have caused the lowest recorded rainfall between October and December across many regions of Southern Africa in at least 35 years, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has reported in its latest report.

The agency found that short-term forecasts from January to March indicate the high probability of continuing below-normal rainfall in the south, signaling that this could become one of the worst droughts on record.

“The current growing season, which spans from October 2015 to April 2016, is developing under the peak of the El Niño, with the first phase of the growing season characterized by severe and widespread rainfall deficits,” the situation report highlights.

“El Niño’s impact on rain-fed agriculture is severe. Poor rainfall, combined with excessive temperatures, create conditions not conducive for crop growth,” it adds.

Although El Niño’s impact on people’s livelihood reportedly varies according to preparedness and response capacities, rain-dependent small holder farmers—comprising at least 50 per cent of the population in Southern Africa—are the hardest hit.

In Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, WFP is highlighting that delayed planting of up to two months or more, severely impacts maize yields. “As the window for planting closes, even good rainfall offers limited scope for recovery,” it warned.

In conclusion, the UN food agency underscored that the climate outlook is particularly concerning as it is coming on top of a poor harvest in 2014 and 2015.

“Poor regional cereal harvests from the 2014-2015 season have tightened cereal supplies. On average, harvests were 21 per cent lower than the 2013-2014 season and 3 per cent lower than the five-year average. In total, the cereal deficit for the region is 7.9 million tonnes for the 2015/2016 marketing year,” WFP noted

Source: United Nations

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Karl William

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