The Humanitarian Times
February 22, 2001

 

- COMMON AGREEMENT ON NEW "INTL. DISASTER RESPONSE LAW" (IDRL) achieved at Red Cross-hosted roundtable in Geneva on Feb. 11 & 12 to improve implementation across borders & among key actors.

- BOSNIAN WAR CRIMINALS CONVICTED OF RAPE & TORTURE TODAY, FEB. 22 at the UN war crimes Tribunal in the Hague. 3 Serb paramilitary soldiers were found guilty of using rape as an instrument of terror. The judgment establishes legal precedent that rape (20,000 rapes occurred in Bosnia) constitutes a "crime against humanity."

- MOZAMBIQUE FLOODED AGAIN; ZAMBIA & ZIMBABWE AGREE TO HOLD WATER ack behind Kariba Dam to slow river flow into Mozambique. Populations have been isolated as roads have been cut off due to heavy rains & overflow of the Zambezi, Pungue, Save & Buzi rivers. 40 Mozambicans have died & roughly 75,000 dislocated.

- EARTHQUAKES STRUCK IN EL SALVADOR ON FEB 13, & VIETNAM FEB 20. Salvador's 6.6 Richter quake hit 15 km east of the capital, killing 280 & injuring 3,000. It hit exactly one month after a 7.6 earthquake. Focusing on the psychological trauma, Medecins Sans Frontieres is making radio broadcasts about sleep disorders, anxiety, depression among the survivors. Vietnam's 5.3 Richter quake struck at night the northern province of Lai Chau, injuring dozens . Private donations for earthquake aid can be informed by Interaction's guidelines at: www.interaction.org/disaster/guide2.html, which discourage giving clothing & food: "whenever possible, donate cash...Most essential relief goods can be purchased locally. Unlike material donations, cash donations entail no transport costs." WHO examines the explains the effects of quakes at: www.who.int/repo/eha/ftp/16389.doc.

- NEW PHILLIPINES' PRES. G. ARROYO DECLARED UNILATERAL CEASEFIRE early this week, ending military operations against the Moro Islamic rebels, which may allow 200,000 displaced civilians to return home.

- CHECHNYA: CONTINUING TORTURE & DISAPPEARANCES OF CIVILIANS BY RUSSIAN forces documented by the Physicians for Human Rights (Boston nonprofit) whose scientists estimate that Russian forces killed 4,600 civilians during the latter parts of year 2000. See: www.phrusa.org/research/chechnya/chech_pr.html.

- INVESTIGATION INTO MASSACRES IN AFGHANISTAN URGED BY MARY ROBINSON, the UN's Human Rights Commissioner, as evidence emerges of recent civilian executions by the Taliban military forces. 150 died of cold & hunger last week in Baglan (north central Afghanistan). On Feb 20, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Kenzo Oshima said that 1M people in Afghanistan risk starvation; 150,000 have fled to Pakistan in recent months.

- 75,000 NOMAD FAMILIES LACK FOOD IN SEVERE COLD IN MONGOLIA

- CONGO PEACE PROSPECTS IMPROVE UNDER NEW RULER (KABILA) who agreed to disarm Hutu militia inside Congo pursuant to 1999 Lusaka peace accord, in turn leading the Govt of Rwanda to agree to pull troops back 200 km, & allow UN peace observers; Uganda also said it will withdraw troops. Dozens of combatants were killed in mid-February in fighting between Mayi-Mayi militia (supported by Rwanda) & Congolese Rally forces in the Shabunda (eastern) region.

- HONDURAS MILITARY BUILDUP ALONG BORDER, VIOLATION OF PEACE ACCORD, which prompted Nicaragua to lodge a statement of protest week with the Organ. of American States.

- SIERRA LEONE PARLIAMENT POSTPONES ELECTIONS 6 MONTHS TO NEXT SEPT. allowing Pres. Kabbah to stay in office beyond the March 2000 deadline when the Constitution stipulates his 5 year rule should end. Kabbah's govt controls only half the country's area. British military forces are expected to move into rebel RUF) territory in the near future.UNICEF, WHO & 1,000 local vaccinators just completed a week-long effort to immunize children against polio, setting an example for how impartial humanitarian aid could achieve access to rebel-held areas.

- BURMA MILITARY JUNTA STAFF DIE IN HELICOPTER CRASH INCLUDING GEN. Oo.

- U.S. PRES. BUSH CONSIDERS INCREASING THE GOVT'S FOREIGN AID BUDGET, on the recommendation of Senator J Helms who favors expanding aid through religious groups in tandem with abolishing USAID. Yesterday Bush nominated Andrew Natsios to head USAID. Natsios headed USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Response in the early 90s; Natsios also served as VP of World Vision (an NGO), was a scholar at the US Institute of Peace, & Treasurer of the state of MA.

- UN OCHA ADDS KEY REFERENCES TO INTERNET: www.ReliefWeb.int/Library with the entire text in downloadable .PDF files of numerous core UN & NGO documents, including lessons learned from El Nino, the Landmine
ban, UNHCR's State of the World's Refugees, & the World Health Organ's annual World Health Report

.- NEW WEBSITE FOR OFFERS & PROCUREMENT OF AID SUPPLIES: www.AidMarketSpace.Com

- SPHERE TRAINING ABOUT THE HUMANITARIAN CHARTER, PROJECTS, GUIDELINES, & minimum standards: to be held in Luanda Angola March 12-16 (contact deleoatciuk.org); in Harare Zimbabwe March 26-30 (contact
andrewcatscfuk.org.zw) & Jakarta Indonesia April 2-5 (contact scfemeratcbn.net.id).

- TRAINING: PEACEBUILDING SUMMER INSTITUTE 2001 AT AMERICAN UNIV in Washington DC, will explore mediation, negotiation, facilitation, reconciliation. See: www.american.edu/sis/peace/summer

- CONF: POLITICS & HUMANITARIAN AID, DEBATES, DILEMMAS, DISSENSION February 1 in London, cosponsored by ODI, Univ Leeds & Catholic Agency for Intl. Dev. examined the blurring of humanitarian & political objectives which, as J Mcacrae, said, "confuses ethical basis of humanitarian action & hence risks its legitimacy." The New Humanitarianism, focused on human rights & politics, contrasts with traditional relief, focused on a neutral read of 'needs.' Hugo Slim explained how the new rights-based paradigm challenges the older, conventional "philanthropy" view, oriented by compassion & help but tinged with colonialism & racism. Conf. papers can be downloaded from the web: www.odi.org.uk/hpg/aidandpolitics.html

- INTL FUND FOR AGRICULT DEV (IFAD) CLAIMS POVERTY REDUCTION HAS SLOWED & the goal of halving poverty by 2015 will not be achieved if the current pace continues. In its new annual report, IFAD points out that aid to the rural poor (who constitute of the world's poor) has declined by 70%. See: www.ifad.org/pub/index.htm.

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ACCESS TO ESSENTIAL DRUGS

UN agencies & donors this year committed in various ways to the "Massive Effort" to fight infectious diseases on a global basis, culminating in an agreement by the G8 (donors) in Okinawa in July 2000, setting targets for reduction of HIV, tuberculosis & malaria & "working to make existing...drugs, vaccines, treatments & preventive measures more universally available & affordable in developing countries," the subject of an Oct. conf. in Switzerland by hosted by Winterthur; see www.winterthurhealthforum.org/Whatsnew.html. WHO Dir.-Gen G H Brundtland pointed to proven public health approaches & argued, "if we can take these interventions to scale-and by that I mean to a global scale-we have in our hands a concrete, result-oriented, and measurable way of starting to reduce poverty" (see: www.who.int/inf-pr-2000/en/pr2000-63.html).

Critics, such as Medecins sans Frontieres (an independent nonprofit), argue that resource mobilization will not suffice but that key policy changes are required, for example in how essential drugs are priced in developing countries & how WTO rules apply to patents for life-saving drugs & vaccines. Increasingly, other NGOs & journalists are joining the debate.

- OXFAM CALLS FOR FUNDING FOR ACCELERATED TROPICAL DISEASE RESEARCH & intl. policy that compels multinationals to reduce prices on drugs that treat malaria, tuberculosis & sleeping sickness. Oxfam's report calculates that "each week 200,000 people die from infectious diseases because they cannot afford basic medicines." Oxfam initiated a campaign this month to overturn patent restrictions that prevent poor countries from manufacturing key drugs. Oxfam calls for a $5B intl. fund, under the auspices of the World Health Org, to support public research institutes in developing new medicine & vaccines, noting that too small a fraction of medical research focuses on the major global diseases. Oxfam also asks that "WTP rules be amended to prevent bio-piracy" & require patent holders to disclose biological origins of materials. See: www.oxfam.org.uk/cutthecost/index.html

- MSF'S "ACCESS TO ESSENTIAL MEDICINES" CAMPAIGN ADVOCATES for health exceptions to intl. trade agreements, finding creative & flexible solutions to making drugs more available, & stimulating research for drugs & vaccines for neglected diseases. Medecins sans Frontieres has called attention to large price disparities of AIDS drugs (AZT, d4T, efavirenz) in different markets in different & asks large drug companies to reduce their cost. The campaign promotes solutions to medical needs where for-profit markets have failed to produce needed vaccines (e.g. for meningitis) or assure their production (eflornithine for sleeping sickness), quality, or affordability (therapy for shigella, & kala-azar). See: www.accessmed.msf.org/

- DRUG MANUFACTURER, CIPLA IN INDIA, SAYS IT WILL PROVIDE AID THERAPY in the form of all three drugs needed, to MSF for $350 per year per patient at whatever scale MSF can deliver to the poor in India. Cipla claims that it will lose money in the process, but MSF points to this price break as evidence that AIDS drugs can be delivered at more affordable prices (in the US the cost for the three drugs averages $10,000 per year).

- Yesterday the Bush (US) Administration explained that it would not change the Clinton Administration's policy that allowed developing countries to produce price-lowering HIV/AIDS drugs even where in violation of multinational's patent rights.

- MSF'S BERNARD PECOUL WROTE IN THE JOURNAL OF AMERICAN MED. ASSOC. in Jan. 1999 that "Drugs necessary for the treatment of tropical diseases have begun to disappear from the market because they are commercially unprofitable." While acknowledging the pivotal contribution of drug companies to past progress against tropical diseases, Pecoul argues for greater research into new drugs & that "by establishing public health priorities, recent high-priced drugs must be made available to the poor through solutions similar to those implemented for EPI vaccines where the supply is guaranteed by Unicef."

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February 22, 2001 The Humanitarian Times

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