The Humanitarian Times

May 21, 1999

 

- PAKISTAN COAST VILLAGES SMASHED BY CYCLONE, WAVES & 170 MPH WINDS yesterday, Thursday, just East of city of Karachi. Thousands dead or missing, tens of thousands homeless as a result.

- SIERRA LEONE: GOV & REBELS AGREE TO CEASE FIRE effective May 24, & to permit aid workers access to all parts of country, & to release prisoners of war. Relief groups may soon be able to reach parts of the country that have been cut off. Skeptics of the cease-fire note that many residents of the north have already fled to neighboring Guinea.

- ECUADOR & PERU SIGNED PEACE TREATY TO END 50-YEAR BORDER CONFLICT as the Presidents of the two countries met last week. Violent fighting had erupted over disputed territory in 1941, 1981 & 1995.

- NEW ESTIMATES OF NORTH KOREA FAMINE DEATHS DIVERGE between 2 announcements in the same week, as S. Korea believes 2 mill. died in recent years, whereas the N. Korea govt. Food Damage Rehabilitation Comm. claims the excess death from famine has been approx. 220,000.

- KOSOVO REFUGEES: UNHCR BEGINS NOW TO PREPARE CAMPS FOR WINTER COLD. More immediately, N. Albania camps around Kukes are running out of water. Last week, estimates of civilian deaths (related to war crimes) within Kosovo (not refugee areas) varied from 5,000 to 100,000. Germany says that it now opposes the use of ground troops into Kosovo.

- GUATEMALA: NATIONAL VOTE FAILS TO PASS CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS that would have protected rights of indigenous peoples, strengthen the judiciary & civilian control over police.

- MALAYSIA: EPIDEMIC OF VIRUS COMING UNDER CONTROL claimed the World Health Organization, after 100 civilian have died of the Nipah virus, similar to Japanese encephalitis. Protracted control efforts involved the slaughter of 900,000 pigs that harbor & transmit the virus via direct contact with humans. The most current spread of the disease in the Malaysian state of Malacca led to more closure of pig farms.

- COLOMBIA: NEWLY NEGOTIATED ACCORD IN GUERILLA WAR suggests prospects for peace, after President Andres Pastrana met with rebels inside FARC rebel zone last week.

- NEW UNDP HEAD, MARK MALLOCH BROWN, TO START JULY 1, & is expected to give UNDP focus on coordination & helping bridge current gaps between relief & development. Currently Exec. VP at the World Bank, Malloch Brown also has worked within UNHCR.

- USAID ADMINISTRATOR ATWOOD PREPARES TO STEP DOWN. This week he announced he was withdrawing from his nomination to be Ambassador to Brazil, on which the US Congress had taken no action after many months. Nevertheless he also signaled his intent to depart USAID soon.

- DESPITE TREATY, SOME GOVT’S CONTINUE TO PLANT LANDMINES, reports the new intl. Landmine Monitor: including Yugoslavia (even now), Burma, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Eritrea & Sudan. Yugoslavia also has been one of the leading producers of landmines.

- ANGOLA: GROWING POLIO EPIDEMIC AFFECTS 600+, RELATED TO WAR, reports the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

- UN EXTENDS OBSERVER MISSIONS IN TAJIKISTAN & W. SAHARA UNTIL FALL

- NEW CENTER PROPOSED FOR NATURAL DISASTER REDUCTION IN AFRICA in Nairobi last week, by the Organization of African Unity, in conference with UNEP (UN Environment Program) & IDNDR.

- TALIBAN SAID BY OPPONENTS TO HAVE MASSACRED HUNDREDS after recapturing city of Bamiyan last week.

- DONOR COUNTRIES AGREE TO UNTYING OF AID TO POOREST COUNTRIES & to seek regional approaches to post-crisis reconstruction at OECD’s Development Assistance Committee last week in Paris.

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USEFUL WEB SITES THAT POST KEY DATA ON HUMANITARIAN CRISES

 

- ALERT NET PROVIDES NEWS & COMMUNICATION POSSIBILITIES among professionals involved in relief work. AlertNet makes available new findings & advances in relief work. Established in 1997 by the Reuter Fdtn, AlertNet AlertNet, has 70 humanitarian aid organizations as members. See: http://www.alertnet.org/

- CRISISWEB CARRIES STRATEGIC ANALYSIS plus recommendations on specific areas -- the Balkans, Central Africa, Cambodia & Algeria. It is the website of the International Crisis Group, an independent NGO. See: http://www.CRISISWEB.org/

- DISASTER-RELIEF OFFERS GLOBAL NEWS UPDATED REGULARLY: sponsored by the Red Cross & by IBM (computer corp): http://www.disasterrelief.org/

- HINAP PROJECT AT WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION PROVIDES HEALTH DATA including baseline information on emergency-prone areas & current surveillance data. HINAP is a new project with country coverage coming on line this summer. Currently HINAP offers data on the Kosovar refugees: http://www.who.int/eha/hinap/

- US OFFICE OF FOREIGN DISASTER ASSISTANCE - SITUATION REPORTS analyze how relief matches up against needs; see OFDA: http://www.info.usaid.gov/ofda/situation.html

- RELIEF-WEB POSTS INFORMATION ON ALL EMERGENCIES: both natural disasters & complex emergencies, including UN assessments, financial flows, & NGO activities & perspectives. Coordinated by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: http://wwwnotes.reliefweb.int/

- REFUGEE NUTRITION INFO SYSTEM (RNIS), OF THE UN, SYNTHESIZES nutrition, food, health & demographic data as reported by aid agencies from a variety of crisis zones. See: http://www.unsystem.org/accscn/page6.html

- UNHCR’s REFUGEE NEWS DAILY COLLATES TIMELY MEDIA REPORTS from various media sources:4 http://www.unhcr.ch/news/media/daily.htm

-- For Kosovo-specific reporting, there are list-serves that circulate timely data. Focusing on health related needs is the WHO moderated list-serve, "Kosovo-HINAP"; contact: peacheynatwho.int. Another email report, the Kosovo Action Coalition, can be subscribed to via kosovoactionatinane.com. USAID circulates a Kosovo Fact-Sheet, care of: dgibsonatusaid.gov. The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) circulates reports by email; contact: balkan-reports-requestatiwpr.net.

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RECENT BOOKS

 

-INTL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS/CRESCENT: "WORLD DISASTER REPORT 1998" (IFRC 1998 Oxford Univ Press) looks at urban disasters, shelter, standards in relief, rebuilding Sarajevo, and the impact of sanctions. It finds that relief agencies are being squeezed by lack of resources: "Having peaked in 1992, global aid has fallen in real terms by 17% in 5 years." The World Disasters Report is released annually and includes tables of key statistics, for example of death due to different types of disasters. A section on ‘refugee cities’ observes "as flows of refugees have grown in numbers & speed, the scale & density of their settlements demands greater understanding of their urban dimensions, from their demand for services to their real political structures, that have little relation to any aid agency theory of camp management."

Previous annual editions of the World Disaster Report include dozens of useful articles, case studies & rich data, & most are available on-line via IFRC’s website: http://www.ifrc.org/pubs/wdr/ .

-"DUNANT’s DREAM: WAR, SWITZERLAND & HISTORY OF THE RED CROSS" by Caroline Moorehead (1998 NY: Carroll & Graf Pub) details the early history of the Intl Committee of the Red Cross & how its responsibilities & activities evolved in the European-theater wars in the 1800s, WWI & WWII. Some attention is given to ICRC’s work in recent times in places like Biafra, Somalia & Sudan. It is similar to but more in-depth than J Hutchinson’s 1996 "Champions of Charity: War & the Rise of the Red Cross."

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The Humanitarian Times