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More than 800,000 people are cut off from aid and may be starving in northeast Nigeria
by UNHCR, Norwegian Refugee Council, agencies
Sep. 2018
European states warned the United Nations that more than 800,000 people are cut off from aid and may be starving in northeast Nigeria, contradicting government assertions that a crisis has abated and rebuking the world body for failing to secure access.
Nigeria''s government has said this year that an emergency in the northeast caused by a decade-long conflict with Islamist fighters was easing, and efforts should shift from humanitarian relief to longer term development aid.
But in a letter to directors of emergency programmes at U.N. and other aid agencies, the EU, Britain, France and Germany said the United Nations was failing to press home the urgency of a disaster which had put children at risk of starvation.
"We are very concerned about urgent and unmet humanitarian and protection needs in North-East Nigeria," they wrote. The U.N. mission in Nigeria must push the government to allow "the rapid, unimpeded and unfettered humanitarian access to people in need of life-saving assistance."
The letter said 823,000 people were in areas inaccessible to aid in Nigeria''s Borno state, the area worst affected by the decade-long insurgency by the Boko Haram Islamist group and its offshoot, Islamic State in West Africa.
Children who have left the area over the past 11 months had shown critical levels of malnutrition, said the letter, reviewed by Reuters.
The European countries, all major donors to the relief effort, called for "stronger, strategic and consistent advocacy with the Government of Nigeria to uphold their responsibility to protect and assist their citizens."
The letter was sent to directors of emergency programmes through a body called the U.N. Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC).
The IASC referred queries about the letter to the U.N. office in Nigeria. A spokeswoman there said on Monday she was preparing a response, but she had not provided one by Tuesday evening. Representatives of the Nigerian presidency did not respond to a request for comment.
Nigeria''s call for a change in emphasis in the northeast away from emergency aid and towards long-term development assistance fits a narrative long expressed by President Muhammadu Buhari that the conflict is waning.
Buhari won election in 2015 on a vow to defeat Boko Haram and restore stability and security to the northeast, and is now seeking a second-term campaigning on his government''s success in achieving it.
As part of that effort to portray the northeast as safer, thousands of people have been ordered back to dangerous areas that aid agencies say are inaccessible, and where the condition of hundreds of thousands of people is unknown.
A person familiar with the drafting of the letter said the countries that signed it were trying to express "a lack of confidence in U.N. leadership in Nigeria."
"People are nearing starvation and there is little help for those being returned to inaccessible areas. And the humanitarian situation is escalating not getting better."
Sep. 2018
Rich nations must act to avoid ''refugee crisis'' in East Africa.
Drastic cuts in foreign aid are putting millions of refugees fleeing war and drought in East Africa at risk of malnutrition and diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery and cholera, aid agencies warned this week.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said donor funding to Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania - which host over 2 million refugees from neighbouring nations - has dropped by over 60 percent compared to the previous year.
The lack of funds has meant that conditions in many refugee camps across the three nations are deteriorating - with less food, clean water and sanitation available for refugees.
"Fast and furious budget cuts are hitting the East Africa aid sector hard. If more funding isn''t found, malnutrition will rise, schools will close, and water-borne diseases will break out," the NRC''s Regional Director Nigel Tricks said in a statement.
"Rich nations should step up to support countries that are still accepting refugees. We have a window to avoid a refugee catastrophe in East Africa if we act now."
There are at least 22 million refugees around the world, says the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), mostly fleeing conflict, persecution or rights abuses in their countries.
About 85 percent of refugees are hosted in developing countries in Africa and the Middle East - most of which do not have the resources to support the hundreds of thousands fleeing wars in nations such as South Sudan, Somalia and Syria.
But funding from western donors to support these refugees has dramatically decreased. In Kenya, for example, the U.N. has only raised $97 million to support about 500,000 refugees this year - down 70 percent from the $340 million received in 2017.
Dana Hughes, UNHCR''s East Africa spokesperson, said the "chronic levels of underfunding" were resulting in overcrowded classrooms, families going without food and risks of disease outbreaks due to a lack of water and poor sanitation.
Projects to help refugees become self-reliant and earn an income are either being cut or are in jeopardy, she added.
"Despite the outcry on refugee arrivals in Europe and other wealthier parts of the world, the reality is most live in developing countries," Hughes told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"Countries like Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are at the frontline of the global refugee crises and ensuring programmes to help refugees and bolster services in the countries receiving them is a global responsibility."


600 million children do not have basic drinking water in their schools
by Kelly Ann Naylor
Head of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) at UNICEF
When we think of what young people need to get a quality education, we consider the obvious: teachers, books and a safe space. Farthest from our minds are water, sanitation and hygiene, or WASH. It remains a grievous fact that when people are deprived of their rights to safe water and sanitation, it’s usually the most vulnerable who suffer.
As a WASH specialist, I’ve seen the benefits to communities when systems that provide safe water are built in both humanitarian and development contexts.
In Yemen, for example -- a country brought to its knees as a result of war and disease -- millions of children live in the shadows of a cholera outbreak fueled by the absence of a strong health system.
Children spend on average 40 percent of their day at school. They go to learn and develop skills, but the lack of WASH services at school affects learning and prevents children from realising their full potential.
A recent global assessment of WASH in schools, the first of its kind, shows that 600 million children worldwide did not have basic drinking water in their schools in 2016. 1 in 4 primary school students and 1 in 6 secondary school students have no drinking water service.
Under these conditions, during a seven-to-eight hour school day, the average child - boisterous and energetic - would most likely experience side effects of dehydration: headaches, dizzy spells and difficulty concentrating.
Half the world''s schools lack clean water, toilets and handwashing
The problem does not end there. In 23 percent of schools globally, there are no sanitation services, so some students may defecate in the open -- a cause of preventable disease. And girls may miss school when there are no toilets to manage their periods. Only two-thirds of schools have toilets or facilities where human waste is hygienically separated from human contact in Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania.
We now know that, 900 million children worldwide lack basic hygiene services in school - simple water and soap. This means a bad situation is worsened when children cannot wash their hands.
So, this is the harsh reality of school for millions of children: dehydration, open defecation and the exposure to diseases like diarrhea. School becomes an unhealthy place to be when students lack access to seemingly basic things like safe drinking water, toilets and soap and water to wash their hands after defecating and before eating.
But, we know how to fix this, even in the most dire circumstances. In Yemen, as part of the humanitarian response to the cholera outbreak, WASH programmes were mobilised for more than 1.5 million students in almost 3,770 schools. Through these programmes, children who dare to go to school, despite being on the doorstep of attacks due to the ongoing conflict, were given hygiene kits with soap bars and taught healthy hygiene practices.
If education is the key to helping children escape a future of poverty, WASH is key to helping children safely maximize their education. With access to these services in schools comes the knowledge of its importance to their health and wellbeing, and over time, whole communities may adopt hygiene practices that could help prevent disease.
That is why basic WASH services in all schools by 2030 is a key Sustainable Development Goal target, but, unfortunately, the world is far from achieving this.
So our task is clear. We must prioritise the funding, installation and maintenance of basic WASH services in all schools and inform children of the benefits of using them. Doing so helps protect and promote the health, as well as the future of our children, our families and our communities.
Aug. 2017
2.1 billion people lack safe drinking water at home, more than twice as many lack safe sanitation.
Some 3 in 10 people worldwide, or 2.1 billion, lack access to safe, readily available water at home, and 6 in 10, or 4.5 billion, lack safely managed sanitation, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.
The Joint Monitoring Programme report, Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: 2017 Update and Sustainable Development Goal Baselines, presents the first global assessment of “safely managed” drinking water and sanitation services. The overriding conclusion is that too many people still lack access, particularly in rural areas.
“Safe water, sanitation and hygiene at home should not be a privilege of only those who are rich or live in urban centres,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization. “These are some of the most basic requirements for human health, and all countries have a responsibility to ensure that everyone can access them.”
Millions of people have gained access to basic drinking water and sanitation services since 2000, but these services do not necessarily provide safe water and sanitation. Many homes, healthcare facilities and schools also still lack soap and water for handwashing. This puts the health of all people – but especially young children – at risk for diseases, such as diarrhoea.
As a result, every year, 361 000 children under 5 years die due to diarrhoea. Poor sanitation and contaminated water are also linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, and typhoid.
“Safe water, effective sanitation and hygiene are critical to the health of every child and every community – and thus are essential to building stronger, healthier, and more equitable societies,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “As we improve these services in the most disadvantaged communities and for the most disadvantaged children today, we give them a fairer chance at a better tomorrow.”
Significant inequalities persist
In order to decrease global inequalities, the new SDGs call for ending open defecation and achieving universal access to basic services by 2030.
Of the 2.1 billion people who do not have safely managed water, 844 million do not have even a basic drinking water service. This includes 263 million people who have to spend over 30 minutes per trip collecting water from sources outside the home, and 159 million who still drink untreated water from surface water sources, such as streams or lakes.
In 90 countries, progress towards basic sanitation is too slow, meaning they will not reach universal coverage by 2030.
Of the 4.5 billion people who do not have safely managed sanitation, 2.3 billion still do not have basic sanitation services. This includes 600 million people who share a toilet or latrine with other households, and 892 million people – mostly in rural areas – who defecate in the open. Due to population growth, open defecation is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania.
Good hygiene is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent the spread of disease. For the first time, the SDGs are monitoring the percentage of people who have facilities to wash their hands at home with soap and water.
According to the new report, access to water and soap for handwashing varies immensely in the 70 countries with available data, from 15 per cent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa to 76 per cent in western Asia and northern Africa.
Additional key findings from the report include:
• Many countries lack data on the quality of water and sanitation services. The report includes estimates for 96 countries on safely managed drinking water and 84 countries on safely managed sanitation.
• In countries experiencing conflict or unrest, children are 4 times less likely to use basic water services, and 2 times less likely to use basic sanitation services than children in other countries.
• There are big gaps in service between urban and rural areas. Two out of three people with safely managed drinking water and three out of five people with safely managed sanitation services live in urban areas. Of the 161 million people using untreated surface water (from lakes, rivers or irrigation channels), 150 million live in rural areas.
* Access the report:
Apr. 2018
2018 Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Barometer - Inventory of access to a vital resource, by Alexandre Giraud, Managing Director of Solidarités International.
Even today, around 2.6 million men, women and especially children continue to die every year from diseases caused by unsafe water and an unsanitary environment.
This horrific figure is due to a little-known fact: in 2018, one third of the world’s population is still drinking water that can endanger their health. 2.6 billion people still lack adequate sanitation facilities.
As humanitarian workers, fighting this deadly scourge and its undeserved, atrocious consequences is our daily combat, both in the midst of severe humanitarian crises and at the national and international level, so that the voices of the people we assist can be heard.
On a wider scale, our goal is to defend and uphold the cause of hundreds of millions of people whose most fundamental rights are not respected: families afflicted by war, people living in slums, citizens of failed or failing States, farmers and livestock breeders affected by drought, minorities,etc. More often than not, they are totally off the radar screen, ignored by politicians and the media. They are invisible.
Every year, on the pages of our Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Barometer, we seek to portray the realities of these men, women and children: those who are threatened by cholera in the DRC or Haiti; those who are asserting their right to water in Dhaka; those living in Yemen where water was already scarce before the war; Syrians, Rohingyas, or those living in the Sahel... All those men, women and children whose lives, health and hope for the future are under threat because they do not have access to drinking water and sanitation.
With the assistance of experts from various backgrounds—politicians, humanitarian workers, doctors, academics; this 4th issue of the Barometer examines the current situation of this vital, shared resource, analyzes the causes and consequences of drinking water shortages, highlights the actions being taken to achieve universal access to water and sanitation, evaluates progress made by world nations, condemns the lack of political will and funding, and pinpoints inconsistencies.
It also focuses on a series of proposed solutions, from a local to a global level, so that the forgotten cause of drinking water access will no longer be invisible to the general public, and that appropriate decisions will finally be taken.
Without major political and financial commitments from world nations, without fierce determination from field workers, access to drinking water will not only continue to be a humanitarian emergency, it will also fast become an ever more tangible threat to the whole of humanity:

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