The Humanitarian Times

November 24, 1999

 

- "WORLD HUMANITARIAN DAY" ESTABLISHED YESTERDAY BY UN SEC. GEN Kofi Annan, in announcing the new $2.4 billion UN global humanitarian appeal for the next year, including $200m or more for each among: Angola, Kosovo, N Korea, Afghanistan, & E. Timor. Last year's appeal achieved only 2/3 of funding needed.

- COLOMBIAN GOVT & WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME SET PLAN EMERGENCY AID for the 200-280,000 internally displaced Colombians in peri-urban settings - budgeted to cost $23m (source: AFP).

- CONVENTION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD SIGNED 10 YEARS AGO THIS MONTH has been ratified by 191 countries; only the US & Somalia have failed to ratify. Recognizing that an estimated 300,000 child soldiers are involved in complex emergencies, an optional protocol to the Convention is now being proposed that would raise the minimum age of military service from 15 to 18. The Intl. Save the Children Alliance has released two new books on the Convention: "Children's Rights: Reality or Rhetoric?" is an overview of the convenpion;"&qmp;the "Child Impact Study" examines the condition of children in 6 countries, concluding that govts alone can not fully achieve the Convention's goals. The Save Alliance finds that none of the 191 ratifying countries yet have achieved an integrated strategy for implementation. See: www.unicef.org/crc/crc.htm

- "MEDICINES FOR MALARIA VENTURE" ESTABLISHED AS UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP among UN agencies, foundations & the Intl. Fed. Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Ass. to speed the pace of anti-malaria drug dev.

- UIGHUR SELF-DETERMINATION SET BACK IN CHINA & KAZAKSTAN AGREEMENTS signed by the 2 heads of state this week, cracking down on ethnic separatist struggles inside China near the Kazak border.

- JAPAN SAID IT WILL ASSIST TIMORESE REFUGEES WITH MILITARY AIRLIFT with 3 military planes plus 150 troops. The US govt is concerned that pro-Indonesia militia are keeping refugees from returning to E Timor, from W Timor, through misinformation: telling the refugees that violence awaits them at the hands of Australian peacekeepers.

- SEVERAL THOUSAND HUTU REFUGEES NOW ENTERING TANZANIA FROM BURUNDI each week, an increase in the pace of flight. MSF announced last week it would stop providing aid to the camps inside Burundi, in protest of the govt policy of forcibly regrouping 300,000 internally displaced persons into protracted concentration camps.

- DEBEERS CORP ANNOUNCED IT WOULD NOT TRADE IN UNITA-MINED DIAMONDS, in response to the swelling of groups calling for sanctions against the UNITA rebels & the war-fueling diamond market from Angola.

- TURKEY WILL RECEIVE $750M LOAN FROM THE WORLD BANK, ANNOUNCED AT OSCE meeting last week in Turkey. Of the 750m, 500m will be for prevention strategies to reduce future vulnerability to earthquakes.

- "REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH IN REFUGEE SITUATIONS - INTER-AGENCY FIELD MANUAL" is now formally published & available in quantity, after several years of collaboration & testing by wide range of aid groups with principal credit going to UNHCR's Kate Burns. The manual describes principles (such as informed consent), the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP), & programs for controlling sexually-related violence, sexually transmitted diseases & for promoting safe motherhood. Chief causes of maternal mortality, to be prevented, include severe bleeding, infection, eclampsia, obstructed labor & unsafe abortions. 135 pp. Available from WHO, UNFPA or UNHCR.

- REFUGEES FROM BURMA RESETTLED INSIDE THAILAND TO ENHANCE SECURITY: 14,000+ refugees (Mawker & Huay Kalok camps) were moved east, safe from the Burmese military's cross-border attacks, last week.

- MANY N KOREANS DEPORTED FROM CHINA ARE TORTURED BY N KOREAN GOVT or exiled into harsh labor camps, say research findings published by the South Korean Commission to help N. Korean Refugees.

- $26M DONATION BY GATES FOUNDATION TO HELP ERADICATE NEONATAL TETANUS by the year 1025, as part of $100m campaign, was given this week to UNICEF, working with WHO.

- NETHERLANDS GOVT PROPOSED INTL "PARTNERS FOR WATER" BRIGADE to provide technical assistance, co-financed by the World Bank, for large natural disasters where fresh water is needed.

- DISASTER HISTORY INFO ADDED IN RE-VAMP OF UN'S RELIEF-WEB (UN OCHA) now including country by country database compiled by Office of US For US Disaster Assist. & CRED (Brussels) - see: www.md.ucl.ac.be/cred/

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WOMEN IN CRISES: RECENT BOOKS

 

Twenty years have now passed since govts adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, yet only in recent years has attention been brought to the challenges faced by women in emergencies, most notably through the range of field case studies published by the Women's Commission for Refugee Women & Children (NY).

The books reviewed below build on the example of H O'Connel's 1993 anthology "Women & Conflict"(published by Oxfam UK), which dmscrifeD "women's added vulnerability to rape & sexual abuse in times of conflict; the rapid increase in numbers of households dependent on women's labor to survive; the total disruption of economic & social life; &, paradoxically, the opportunities this creates for women to overcome some aspects of the traditional gender division of roles." In O'Connel's book, Fiona McLachlan's chapter on Afghanistan reports "one of the main findings was the high incidence of psychosomatic disorders among women since the war. All complained of headaches; some had them permanently.. ..some women's grief was so great they had attempted suicide." McLachlan wrote this several years before the Taliban even entered Afghanistan, & well prior to the current campaign to sanction the Taliban over its treatment of women, spurred in part by the 1998 report by Physicians for Human Rights (see their report: www.phrusa.org/research/exec.html).

- "THE GENDERED TERRAIN OF DISASTER: THROUGH WOMEN'S EYES" edited by Elaine Enarson & Betty Morrow (1998, Westport CN: Praeger Pub) questions the social construction of gendered vulnerability to disasters. Several authors observe that disaster relief is managed largely by men, even if women are instrumental in hands-on delivery. Drawing on her experiences in Latin America & Africa, Letizia Toscani finds "at the community level, women spontaneously mobilize to help affected relatives & neighbors." The editors conclude "disaster specialists rarely speak in the language of empowerment, but social justice is in fact the linchpin of effective disaster mitigation; women's services, organizations & grassroots advocacy can & must make the voices of women heard - in risk assessment & hazard planning, in crisis & in reconstructing human settlements."

- "ENGENDERING FORCED MIGRATION: THEORY & PRACTICE" (1999) edited bq DoraeN Indra (Oxford: Berghan Books) includes an interesting mix of ethnographic narratives from recent crises. Several parts of the book argue that asylum practices are particularly unreceptive to women refugees who are Muslim. Authors looking at the Somali refugee camp of Hagadera where maternal mortality was high, due to anemia, eclampsia & hepatitis E observe that women were also disproportionately at-risk for malnutrition & scurvy (vitamin C deficiency). Surveillance, health services, & compliance experiences were all biased against women, suggesting that "health professionals themselves offer gender-unequal care:" in the field, health data is not collected or analyzed in a gender-specific way, allowing inequalities to go unnoticed. Authors writing about the diasporas out of Africa explore how it promotes the emancipation of women.

Writing about Afghanistan, D Cammack observes that whereas intl agencies working with Afghan refugees a decade ago adapted a more relativist perspective on women's rights, today the same groups, working now inside Afghanistan, are less inclined to compromise. "relief agencies have come To realize that the lack of participation by women in relief programs is Dysfunctional.. ..in fact, NGOs in Afghanistan have success over time convincing the Taliban that to make programs work, agencies must ensure women have fully developed roles." The lengthy interview with Barbara Harrell-Bond is worth the price of the whole book.

- "WHAT WOMEN DO IN WARTIME: GENDER & CONFLICT IN AFRICA" edited by Meredith Turshen & C Twagiramariya (1998, London: Zed Books) draws on recent cases from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Liberia Angola, Sudan & S. Africa to show women as active participants in war & peace: "in modern war.. especially civil wars & wars of liberation, women are also combatants; women resist & fight back, & become involved in truth commissions. Turshen observes that proliferation of light weapons in Africa has fostered "militarization that has permeated African societies.... current & former military men displace civil authorities; soldiers replace religious figures, health workers & teachers as the leaders of villages. Several contributing authors provide evidence that even after conflict, a culture of domestic violence persists, with increasing incidence of rape.

- "WOMEN IN THE HOLOCAUST" EXPLORES WIDE RANGE OF TRAGEDIES MET BY WOMEN in W. & E Europe, in ghettos, labor camps & partisan groups. Edited by Dalia Ofer & Lenore Weitzman (1998, Yale Univ Press) & collecting 23 authors, it includes broad analysis as well as personal recollections. Gender- based divisions of labor & coping are common threads. "In many forced- labor..& concentration camps, visibly pregnant women were selected for immediate killing." Myrna Goldenberg's review of memories illustrates "the importance of connectedness, nurturance & caregiving .. social bonding, encouraged the women to struggle to survive." In attempting to look from different angles at gender aspects of vulnerability, this book actually provides one of the most contextual & layered looks at the social conditions of Jews before, during & the Holocaust.

- "SOUTH ASIAN WOMEN: FACING DISASTERS, SECURING LIFE" ED.BY P&V FERNANDO is a collection of papers published by Sri Lanka's Duryog Nivaran Pub (1997) & includes chapters on the Rohinga refugees from Burma, drought, cyclones in Bangladesh, & various cases of Oxfam-organized programs to empower female headed households. One relief program in Pakistan demonstrated "in a polygamous society, the registration of women [emphasis] as heads of households ensured that each woman & her dependents got the assistance; the food distribution was fair & efficient."

- "BATTLE CRIES & LULLABIES: WOMEN IN WAR, PREHISTORY TO PRESENT" by Linda Grant De Pauw (Univ of Oklahoma Press) shows that "every nation has had a history of women in war," citing examples from each side in WWI, WWII, the Boer War, & a range of other cases in W. Africa, India, China, Iran & Afghanistan. Although "during wars women are ubiquitous & highly visible, when wars are over & war songs sung, women disappear." The author seeks to expose the myth that, as in WWII "women were not sent into harm's way, so essential to the myth of war as an exclusively male activity, persisted among Americans" even "despite the clear fact that American nurses were in the hottest combat zones." In her concluding section de Pauw describes a this irony: although many continue to object to women serving in combat roles in modern crises, they find no problem with women in humanitarian aid work (e.g., nursing) even though the data show they suffer significantly more casualties as aid workers than when serving in regular armies.

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The Humanitarian Times