Reducing vulnerability through addressing inequality and power
A new international emphasis on building resilience offers real promise to allow the poorest women and men to cope with, and ultimately thrive, in the face of shocks, stresses, and uncertainty. But only if risk is more equally shared globally and across societies - this will require a major shift in our approach to poverty reduction and fundamentally challenging the inequality that exposes poor people to far more risk than the rich.
In this paper, Oxfam calls on governments and aid agencies to tackle the politics and power at the heart of the increasing effects of climate change, rising inequality and people’s vulnerability to disasters. Major external risks are increasing faster than attempts to reduce them. Since 1970, the number of people exposed to floods and cyclones has doubled. And it’s not just disasters: 100 million people have fallen into poverty just because they have to pay for health care. Many of these risks are actively dumped on poor people, with women facing an overwhelming burden because of their social, political and economic status.
Emergency aid for 2,400 people fleeing violence in Nigeria
Country: Niger, Nigeria
Geneva/Niamey (ICRC) – Several hundred families fleeing violence in northern Nigeria and taking refuge in the Diffa area of south-eastern Niger are being provided with emergency supplies and food aid by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Red Cross Society of Niger.
Around 2,400 people in Bosso, Kablewa, Tchoukoujani and Diffa today began taking delivery of emergency aid consisting of 45 tonnes of rice, beans, cooking oil and salt, and of a stock of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, sleeping mats, blankets, buckets, cooking utensils and clothing, which will cover their most urgent needs for approximately one month.
"These people, most of whom are originally from Niger but settled in Nigeria some time back, in some cases decades ago, are completely destitute. They have been taken in by families that are sharing their meagre resources with them," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of the ICRC's regional delegation for Niger and Mali. "Their situation is very precarious, and they urgently need help."
The Diffa area, where the families have taken refuge, was the scene this year of severe flooding that resulted in a considerable shortfall in agricultural production. "If population displacement were to continue at the current pace, or to increase, there is a risk that the delicate economic and food balance in the area could be destroyed, with consequences for the resident population," said Mr Marti.
Since September of last year, the ICRC has been helping some 400 nomadic Fulani families who fled the violence and insecure environment of the Maiduguri area of Nigeria to settle at various sites in Diffa.
For further information, please contact:
Valery Mbaoh Nana, ICRC Bamako and Niamey, tel: +223 76 99 63 75 or +227 97 45 43 82
Wolde-Gabriel Saugeron, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 31 49 or +41 79 244 64 05
Old crisis, new challenges in Darfur
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
United Nations Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos is visiting Sudan from 20 to 23 May 2013. She will visit the region of Darfur where a shrinking humanitarian community has led to deteriorating services for hundreds of thousands of people living in camps.
Darfur has been in a state of crisis for ten years, and the numbers of people affected have grown steadily during that time. There are now 1.4 million people receiving humanitarian assistance in nearly 100 displacement camps across Darfur.
Since the beginning of 2013, more than 300,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. Many of these people are now seeking shelter alongside others who have been living in the camps for almost a decade.
However, over the past ten years, conditions in many camps have deteriorated as the number of organizations with expertise in delivering basic services to people living in camps has decreased.
Many of the organizations with experience of managing camps have stopped operating in Darfur, either because of a lack of funding or because of the bureaucratic impediments that make working in the region extremely complicated. As a result, people in many camps are living in desperately poor conditions.
Read the full story
Global emergency overview highlights crises in Syria, CAR and Sudan
Source: Assessment Capacities Project
Country: Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, World, Yemen, Zimbabwe, South Sudan (Republic of)
Snapshot 13 – 21 May
In Syria, the Syrian military continued its offensive on opposition-controlled Qusayr, a strategic city in Homs province connecting the capital to the Mediterranean coast. In addition, fighting continues in all of the 14 governorates, apart from Tartous and As-Sweida. On 19 May, President al-Assad insisted he would not resign before elections in 2014. The UN estimates that over 6.8 million people are in need of humanitarian aid in Syria. While an estimated 4.25 million people are internally displaced, of which 1.25 million are concentrated in Aleppo and 705,200 in rural Damascus, the number of Syrians registered or awaiting registration in host countries has surpassed 1.5 million.
The crisis currently unfolding in the Central African Republic is now affecting the entire population of the country, some 4.6 million people, of which 2.3 million are children. According to UNICEF, the poor security situation across the country is severely hindering planned food distributions and other essential supplies from reaching beneficiaries. In addition, access is largely limited to towns and populations along main roads as of mid-May. Throughout the country, human rights abuses committed by Seleka rebel fighters, loyal to the new authorities, are reported by international organizations.
Military operations between warring parties have intensified in Sudan’s Darfur. According to an estimate released last week by OCHA, some 300,000 people have been forcibly displaced in Darfur since the beginning of this year as a result of inter-tribal fighting and conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces and armed rebel groups.
Over the last week, Myanmar and Bangladesh have been affected by the tropical cyclone Mahasen even though the latter had considerably weakened over the past week and become a tropical storm as it made landfall. Although important damages and casualties were reported, both countries were nevertheless largely relieved that the results of the passing of Mahasen were not much worse. The storm had forced the evacuation of 1 million people to shelters. Preliminary estimates indicate that over 70 people were killed either by cyclone Mahasen or while trying to flee its impact in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Last Updated: 21/05/2013 Next Update: 27/05/2013
Global Emergency Overview web interface
Eastern Africa hosts more than nine million displaced people
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Country: Burundi, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, South Sudan (Republic of)
Eastern Africa host to over 9 million displaced people
As of March 2013, there were 9,153,973 people displaced in Burundi, (eastern) DRC, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. This represents an increase of 638,663 people since the end of September 2012. Of the current total displaced population, 2,012,531 are refugees and 7,141,442 are internally displaced persons (IDPs) and people severely affected by conflict.
IDPs in the region are mainly a result of internal armed conflicts and insecurity. Additionally, some IDPs result from various difficult climatic conditions such as flooding, drought and landslides. IDPs resulting from natural disasters are however usually temporary and their estimates are not readily available. DRC, Sudan and Somalia continue to host the highest number of IDPs and persons severely affected by conflict at an estimated 2.59 million, 2.50 million and 1.11 million people, respectively. Eastern DRC has witnessed frequent and widespread fighting especially in late 2012, resulting mainly from clashes between the Government and various armed groups operating in the region. During the last six months, the IDP population in DRC has increased by more than 150,000 people, with most of the displacements being in North Kivu Province, which hosts more than one third (920,784 people) of the entire IDP population in eastern DRC. The insecurity in DRC has further compelled an estimated 90,000 to flee into Burundi, Uganda, and Rwanda in the six months covered by this report.
The IDP population in Somalia has reduced by 254,000 individuals, from 1.36 million people in September 2012.
This is attributed to improved security in Somalia, which has facilitated greater access and verification of IDP populations. Sudan continued to experience significant deterioration of security arising from resource-based conflicts and clashes between armed opposition groups and the Sudanese Armed Forces and armed militias. More than 1.4 million IDPs continue to receive food assistance in camps in Darfur, while another 1.1 million are displaced or severely affected by fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States, according to estimates from the Government of Sudan and the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (SRRA).
The International Office of Migration (IOM) is currently monitoring internal displacements in Ethiopia and at the end of March 2013 released a quarterly report indicating the country was host to some 313,560 IDPs, of whom an estimated 80,000 were displaced in 2013.1 The IDP populations in Kenya and Uganda remain unchanged as no new verification of the population was undertaken during the reporting period. Significant progress has however been made in the protection and resettlement of IDPs in both Kenya and Uganda.
Sudden halt in Syrian refugees into Jordan
Source: Agence France-Presse
Country: Jordan, Syrian Arab Republic
05/21/2013 11:38 GMT
GENEVA, May 21, 2013 (AFP) - The UN said Tuesday the number of Syrian refugees flooding into Jordan had suddenly fallen from several thousand a day to close to zero, warning that fighting may be blocking people in need from coming.
"In Jordan in the last four days, we have seen a significant drop in the number of (Syrian) refugees arriving," Panos Moumtzis, who heads the UN refugee agency's response to the Syria crisis, told reporters in Geneva.
He pointed out that since February, between 1,000 and 3,000 refugees had crossed the border every day, but that "in the last four nights, this number has dropped to almost zero," with only between five and nine people crossing each day.
"This is a situation where we are looking at and monitoring very closely to see what the impact is and what is the reason behind this movement," Moumtzis said.
"If the problem is that people are not being allowed to move, (we want to know) is it security or something else," he said.
UNHCR does not have any staff on the Syrian side of the border, but staff members in Jordan could hear increased fighting and were hearing reports from people crossing that battles in the area were intensifying, especially at night.
"Something is happening there," Moumtzis said, pointing out that while it remained unclear why the refugees had stopped coming, UNHCR was in contact "with everyone" to ensure that "people are able to cross without facing difficulty to reach safety wherever they are."
Syrians have surged out of their country since March 2011, when a crackdown on protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad heralded the start of an armed rebellion.
More than 90,000 people have been killed since then, while over 1.5 million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries, including some 474,000 who have been registered or are awaiting registration in Jordan, according to UN figures.
Another 6.8 million people are in need of assistance inside Syria, including nearly 4.3 million people who have been displaced from their homes.
That means that, all told, around 38 percent of Syria's pre-war population of 22.5 million are in need of humanitarian assistance, Moumtzis pointed out.
© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse
How to avoid a fourth year of serious flooding in Pakistan
SUKKUR, 21 May 2013 (IRIN) - Since 2010, monsoon rain in Pakistan has brought with it some of the biggest seasonal flooding in living memory.
Two months from this year’s rains, weather forecasters are already predicting above normal rainfall and in some areas standing water has yet to drain away from last year’s monsoon.
So, after three years of destruction, how ready is the country for this year’s monsoon?
“The situation is not what we would call optimal, but over the last three years, since the 2010 floods, there have been significant improvements [in government and humanitarian organisations’ capacity],” said Khaleel Tetlay, chief operating officer at the Rural Support Programmes Network, which is working with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Sindh Province to boost communities’ resilience to natural disasters.
“[Whether or not heavy rain will cause flooding] is very difficult to predict. But if we prepare at the federal, provincial and community levels, a lot of damage can be prevented, especially the loss of life.”
The three floods have damaged infrastructure and houses, displaced millions and caused billions of dollars’ worth of losses to the country’s most important sector - agriculture.
The 2012 floods damaged nearly 650,000 houses in three provinces of Pakistan, and affected almost 1.2 million acres (485,623 hectares) of land. Over 12,000 cattle died.
The residual humanitarian impact of last year’s floods and the slow drainage of floodwaters have increased vulnerability. Over a million people have yet to return to their homes, living either in temporary settlements or shelters built next to their damaged houses.
On the other hand, the experience of three years of flooding has also strengthened coping mechanisms and the quality of any eventual humanitarian response.
Reducing the risk of disaster requires investment in several sectors, among them the reconstruction and reinforcement of infrastructure in flood-prone areas.
The need for such work becomes clearer when the pattern of flooding is examined.
While the 2010 flood - which at one point covered over 20 percent of the country - was caused by waterway breaches, in 2012 water levels rose because of heavy rain and a lack of proper drainage in flat areas.
Officials say improving infrastructure to prevent major failures in the face of extreme weather can prove critical.
“In many areas [of northern Sindh], the drainage systems could simply not cope with the rain [in 2012], and that is why water hasn’t drained properly. The idea is to improve these systems, rebuild them properly where needed, so that even with heavy rain, water can be taken away as quickly as possible,” Saifullah Bullo from Sindh Province’s Disaster Management Authority (DMA), said.
The focus from the DMA is on rebuilding embankments and improving waterways and reservoirs. To help drainage, teams of workers are digging new channels in areas where standing water is expected to be an issue.
Reconstruction projects give a chance to “build back better” - making sure rebuilt buildings are more resilient to whatever flooding may come in the future.
“The threat is there, and we have been advising people not to build in very low-lying areas or near rivers and canals. So many houses were completely damaged because they were right next to the channels that overflowed,” Irshad Bhatti, a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Authority, said.
“The idea is to help people make better decisions, keeping in mind the threat of floods. Preparation is the most effective strategy.”
There is a clear once-bitten-twice-shy logic about preparing for the monsoon, after three years of devastation.
At the heart of this is disaster risk reduction (DRR): A dollar spent on disaster preparedness is worth seven dollars in post-disaster relief and recovery expenditures, according to the UN Development Programme.
As Pakistan prepares for the rains with a certain sense of déjà vu, aid workers are asking what can be done to avoid repeating the same emergency relief operations each year.
“The drive for funding DRR has come in part from the fatigue and frustration of… donors,” said Shahida Arif of the DRR Forum, an alliance of 69 national and international NGOs.
“It can seem to them like they are continuously funding activities in post-disaster interventions, when many believe the need for this could have been reduced or avoided with investment in disaster mitigation activities.”
Without an effective DRR strategy and adequate preparation, the effects of natural disasters like floods can linger for years.
Damage to cropland by floods in one year, for example, can have an adverse economic impact on farmers’ livelihoods for years to come, as, unable to plant any crops, they are forced to borrow money to make ends meet.
Without emergency financial assistance, the next plantation cycle is affected too - a serious concern as most communities in areas hit by floods since 2010 rely on agriculture for their livelihood.
The 2012 Monsoon Humanitarian Operational Plan (MHOP) expired in March this year, but activities across several areas are ongoing given the critical needs of the affected population.
The humanitarian partners involved in the plan only received 33 percent of the US$161 million that was needed to fully fund it, leaving gaps in coverage.
But despite funding constraints, humanitarians say they have been able to mix in some DRR activities with the ongoing relief distribution.
While providing treatment and medicine to flood victims, district-level health officials from the Sindh government and aid workers have been instructed to explain preventive measures against disease, including bednets, good hygiene and the importance of vaccinations.
Diseases often spike in the aftermath of flooding as water sources become contaminated and insects like mosquitoes multiply in standing water.
The information could prove useful for people like Mohammed Hayat, a farmer whose village of Mir Sikander in Sindh’s Jacobabad District was completely submerged by flooding in 2012.
“The little one is always feverish, off and on, and I have to spend money I don’t have on taking him to Jacobabad. There is the bus fare, and then any medicines the doctor recommends,” Hayat said. “He has been like this since the floods hit.”
Hayat’s family built a temporary shelter after the flood damaged their house, and have not left their village.
“The water is still here in my village, and the mosquitoes breed on it. We have some nets but there are too many mosquitoes, all over the village,” said Hayat. Most villagers in Mir Sikander were not equipped with mosquito nets when the floods hit, he added.
Better humanitarian systems
The experience of the last three years has taught the importance of coordination and helped build a stronger humanitarian system.
One critical need for villagers like Hayat is shelter, a sector where humanitarian organizations are pooling resources and combining efforts to ensure that their response is efficient and quick.
USAID has helped fund a dedicated shelter cluster team to ensure that relief operations during disasters are efficient and that wastage is reduced.
Several organizations have also conducted pilot projects to gauge the value of using communication technologies to help improve both preparedness and relief operations, relying on the high and growing number of mobile phones in Pakistan.
The CDAC (Communicating with Disaster-Affected Communities) Network ran a three-month project to improve the exchange of information in disaster areas, in particular between those affected and those providing assistance, using technologies like SMS.
A year later, Pakistan NGO Strengthening Participatory Organisation and the Popular Engagement Policy Lab teamed up to set up a [system] where, using mobile phones, those affected by the floods could provide feedback about the assistance they were, or were not, getting.
The effort is expected to be increased this year, and could improve relief operations by directly connecting providers with the affected.
Better coordination systems also include stronger relations between aid organizations and the relevant government agencies, say the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF).
“The framework for emergency needs assessment is in place and agreed by all stakeholders, so it can be rolled out as soon as a disaster strikes. This is a key achievement,” a spokesman for PHF said.
The long term
The under-funding of disaster risk reduction and disaster management strategies means significant post-disaster work will be needed each year that there is heavy monsoon rainfall.
“Due to limited resources, the scale of DRR/M programmes is very small and scattered,” the DRR Forum’s Shahida Arif told IRIN.
“In a calamity-struck country, such as Pakistan, it is imperative that long-term, comprehensive, [two- to four-year] DRR interventions are initiated,” she said.
In addition to funding, the lack of coordination between critical disaster-related institutions of the Pakistan government is a major hurdle.
“For DRR to really work, it can’t just be the [National Disaster Management Authority]. Every department, every ministry, has to be on board so that they integrate DRR into their policies and projects,” a senior NDMA official said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Under the DRR plan of the Pakistan government, 10 federal ministries, including health, food security, education and housing, are supposed to be involved.
“We have made progress with making policy and setting out goals, but actually bringing everyone on board has been a slow process, and it is far from complete,” the NDMA official said. “We are on the right path, but if everyone is not on the same page, it will not work very well.”
As Mali crisis continues, refugee children in Mauritania need schools
Source: UN Children's Fund
Country: Mali, Mauritania
20 May 2013: UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on efforts to ensure that Malian refugee children return to school.
By Anthea Moore and Brahim Ould Isselmou
As the crisis in Mali carries on, refugee children in Mauritania need space to learn.
MBERA CAMP, Mauritania, 20 May 2013 – Although he is only 15, Malal Guisse has already had a hard journey. When crisis arose last year in his native Mali, he moved from his village of Léré, in Timbuktu Region, to the region of Segou in the south, where he lived with his aunt in Niono. He then moved across the border to the Mbera refugee camp in Mauritania.
In Mbera, Malal lives with his grandmother, Fatimata, who raised him after he lost his parents. Fatimata is in her 70s, weakened by age and illness. Her grandson is a source of hope in her life.
“He goes to school, and that fills me with joy!” she says.
Education and opportunity
Mauritania is the largest recipient of refugees fleeing the crisis in Mali. There are around 74,000 Malian refugees in Mbera camp, 58 per cent of them children under 18. With continued insecurity as well as a food crisis in northern Mali, many have been in Mbera for over a year.
“I am happy to go to school, because we have shoes and exercise books. We don’t need to buy pens. We don’t buy anything – we just come!” Malal says. “School has opened my mind with lessons so I can work.”
UNICEF and partners are providing formal schooling in the Malian curriculum for 6,294 primary school students and 249 secondary school students. Girls make up 49 per cent of primary school students, but only 22 per cent of secondary school students. However, many more girls than boys are attending the youth literacy programmes targeting 13- to 17-year-olds – 527 youths, 71 per cent of them girls, are taking advantage of the chance to ‘catch up’ by learning to read and write. In addition, preschool children are welcome in child-friendly spaces, where they benefit from recreational activities and psychosocial support.
Big achievements, big gaps
Moulaye Dahmane, a French teacher in the school, says, “UNICEF has been very helpful for children by providing all the school furniture, the guides and manuals for the teachers.”
Nonetheless, underfunding means that demand for educational resources continues to outstrip supply.
“So far, we have set up six schools which cater for only 7,000 children out of around 30,000 school-age children in the refugee camp,” says UNICEF Education Officer Taleb Bouya. “We need to do much more to offer education to 23,000 children through school creation, equipment, teacher recruitment and training.”
With additional funding, UNICEF plans to expand the number of schools, provide tables and benches and build semi-permanent school structures.
“Our main concern is shelter,” Malal’s teacher Mohamed El Hadi says. “We have temporary school shelters that cannot withstand the wind and the bad weather. We already have overcrowded classes with 70 to 80 pupils, and because of the lack of shelter we have to put classes together. It becomes impossible to work in those conditions.”
In partnership with Mauritania’s Ministry of Education, UNHCR, Intersos, Lutheran World Federation, local NGO ESD and the Mauritanian Red Crescent, UNICEF will expand its interventions to cover more children and add job training for youth who complete the literacy programme.
“Education is what remains after everything is gone,” says Hama Ould Baba, the school director. “If you lose everything, knowledge remains. The future of our community lies in education.”
Fatimata, too, knows that the key to her grandson’s future – and her own – lies in education. So far he has done well in school.
“If he succeeds at school, he will understand everything. If he knows nothing – I am old, I can’t do anything,” she says. “When he completes school, he will be able to work and take care of me.”
Drought conditions persist in north
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Country: Marshall Islands
The state of ‘drought’ disaster proclaimed by the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands on 8 May 2013 will remain in effect for 30 days from the proclamation date, unless reissued by the Republic of the Marshall Islands Cabinet.
Four clusters (Food Security, Health, Logistics and WASH) have been established to support coordination of the Emergency Operations Centre.
Strategic response plans have been developed by the Food Security, Health and WASH clusters.
Drought conditions persist in the northern Marshall Islands. Very dry weather is expected during the next few weeks in the northern atolls.
Hailstorms cause destruction, affect over 14,000 people
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Country: Botswana, Rwanda, South Africa, Zimbabwe
More than 2,000 households lose homes following hailstorms in April.
Partners urgently need $24.5 million for food assistance programmes between May and October.
Initiative underway to exempt some Rwandans from Cessation Clause.
Fresh funding required for Zimbabwe Humanitarian Gaps Appeal as the bulk of current funds is carried over from 2012.