Healthy Dose: 1.5 Million Syrians in Need of Emergency Food Aid

October 24, 2012

The World Food Program says it is prepared to provide food to 1.5 million people in Syria until the middle of next year. Reuters reports:

Syrian rebels from the “Al-Qasas Brigade” or “Justice Brigade” run through an olive grove to avoid Syrian Army snipers as they travel between villages on foot in the northwestern Jabal al-Zawiya area.The United Nations agency set the target of 1.5 million months ago and finally reached it in September, after managing to deliver food supplies to just 850,000 people in August.

“It is a record amount,” Daly Belgasmi, WFP regional director for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, told Reuters in Geneva.

Belgasmi said the WFP planned to continue distributing to 1.5 million hungry civilians until mid-2013 under a fresh U.N. humanitarian appeal due to be launched in January for Syria which had a pre-war population was 22 million.

“What we see today is that it is a crisis that threatens to last,” he told a news briefing.

The WFP had no information on the Syrian government’s food security stocks, but fuel for cooking and heating “may be an issue” this winter for many residents, especially the estimated 1.2 million who have been displaced, he said.

“We have full support that we can have access to Syrians without any distinction,” said Belgasmi, who held talks with senior Syrian officials in Damascus last week.

“In the case of Syria, the market looks stable inside. You can go and see oil, vegetables, onions, tomatoes – for how long we don’t have a real indication,” he said.

But some areas remain cut off to aid workers due to fighting between Syrian government forces and armed militants locked in a 19-month conflict that has escalated into a civil war.

WFP food is distributed mainly by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other local partners. Belgasmi estimated that distribution of a maximum of one-third of it was monitored, adding “but we know that the food is going to the right direction”.

“We do not provide any food to any (warring) party, we provide food to those who are in need,” he said.

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Global Health and Development Beat

HIV/AIDS – The antibodies naturally produced by a pair of South African women against HIV may provide clues for future treatments.

Cholera – Seven people are sick with acute diarrhea in Chennai, India, leading to concerns about a cholera outbreak.

Girls – Girls in Pakistan’s Swat Valley still want to go to school, but fear for their safety following the assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai.

Malnutrition – A long-form article on the ongoing challenge of starvation in India in Businessweek.

Pollution
– A new report estimates that the health of 125 million people is at risk due to pollution from factories and mines.

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The Players

WHO – Over 60% of deaths in Africa are caused by infectious diseases, says the WHO.

WHO – Is responding to an increase in fatalities related to Sierra Leone’s cholera outbreak.

SudanNGOs decried the endorsement of Sudan’s main clerical authority for the marriage of girls under 18 years old.

Gates Foundation – The African Women in Agricultural Research and Development received $20 million funding from the Gates Foundation and USAID in order to support African women in agricultural science.

USAIDSays to NPR that an earlier report on its flood aid to Pakistan by the Christian Science Monitor was inaccurate.

UNICEF – Reports that India’s Madhya Pradesh state had teh highest number of infant deaths in 2011, making it the third year in a row.

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Buzzing in the Blogs

Dr. Claire Dunavan says Vanessa Kerry’s medical peace corps for Africa idea could be the start of something big. From GlobalPost:

Those of us who work in the global health trenches see aid differently. And Moyo might see aid differently too when it comes to money for malaria drugs, childhood vaccines, and antibiotics and anti-retrovirals. (On the subject of health programs, Moyo’s anti-aid arguments are decidedly thin).

Nonetheless, we are overdue for new forms of global health aid that offer not just dollars but skilled, motivated workers. That’s where Vanessa Kerry’s fledgling program comes in.

With little fanfare, the news first leaked last November. At a meeting of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health in Montreal, US Global AIDS Ambassador Eric Goosby described a new “medical Peace Corps” that would start by sending American doctors and nurses to a handful of African countries to work alongside local counterparts.

In March, the plan was officially unveiled in Washington DC. With support from the Peace Corps and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP), its organizers announced, would begin operations in July 2013 in Uganda, Malawi and Tanzania.

Several features of the enterprise echo recommendations from “Healers Abroad,” a report published in 2005 by the National Academies of Science / Institute of Medicine. In addition to a “train-the-trainer” model, the authors of “Healers Abroad” favored debt forgiveness as a way to encourage young health professionals to dedicate a year or more of their lives to overseas service.

Educational loan repayment of up to $30,000 per year is a centerpiece of the GHSP. And, boy, is it needed. Given the current debt of the average graduating medical student in the US, (in 2011, roughly $160,000, according to a recent analysis by the Association of American Medical Colleges) the new program’s long-term success may ultimately ride on this key incentive.

Still, the hunger to advance African healthcare seems alive and well. Since Vanessa Kerry’s Harvard office opened its transom, hundreds of inquiries and applications from passionate professionals have flooded in.

Nurses and docs, how about it? Care to take a year-long sabbatical from the stuttering debate over how to finance and divvy the astounding 18 percent of GDP Americans now spend on health? While waiting for others to figure that out, just think of the “Live Aid” you could deliver.

The larger global health community should also be cheering. This new “medical Peace Corps” could be the start of something big.

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Capital Events

Wednesday

12:00 PM – Does Internal Migration Improve Overall Well-Being in Ethiopia? – CGD

2:00 PM – Procurement and Development: A Case Study from Central Asia – CSIS

4:00 PM – Launch of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness – SAIS

Thursday

10:00 AM – Disasters and Displacement: Exploring the Connections – Brookings

12:30 PM – Global Gender Forum: Migrant Women Workers in Southeast Asia: Challenges, Programs and Best Practices – Elliott School

2:00 PM – Public Health and Political Crises behind China’s Growing Tobacco Epidemic – Brookings

Friday

10:00 AM – The United States and India: A Vital Partnership in a Changing World – CIP

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By Mark Leon Goldberg and Tom Murphy; Photo Credit

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