People's Stories Wellbeing

10 million children across Afghanistan need humanitarian assistance to survive
by Unicef, Action Against Hunger, CARE, agencies
Aug. 2021
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore on children in Afghanistan:
Today, around 10 million children across Afghanistan need humanitarian assistance to survive. An estimated 1 million children are projected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition over the course of this year and could die without treatment.
An estimated 4.2 million children are out of school, including more than 2.2 million girls. Since January, the UN has documented over 2,000 grave violations of children’s rights. Approximately 435,000 children and women are internally displaced.
“This is the grim reality facing Afghan children and it remains so regardless of ongoing political developments and changes in government.
“We anticipate that the humanitarian needs of children and women will increase over the coming months amidst a severe drought and consequent water scarcity, the devastating socioeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the onset of winter.
“That is why, after 65 years in Afghanistan striving to improve the lives of children and women, UNICEF will remain on the ground now and in the days to come. We are deeply committed to the country’s children and there is far more work to be done on their behalf.
“Millions will continue to need essential services, including health, lifesaving vaccination drives against polio and measles, nutrition, protection, shelter, water and sanitation.
In recent years, significant strides have been made on increasing girls’ access to education – it is vital that these gains are preserved and advocacy efforts continue so that all girls in Afghanistan receive a quality education.
“Right now, UNICEF is scaling up its lifesaving programmes for children and women – including through the delivery of health, nutrition and water services to displaced families. We hope to expand these operations to areas that could not previously be reached because of insecurity.
“We urge the Taliban and other parties to ensure that UNICEF and our humanitarian partners have safe, timely and unfettered access to reach children in need wherever they are.
In addition, all humanitarian actors must have the space to operate according to the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.
“Our commitment to Afghanistan’s children is unequivocal and our aim is to see that the rights of each and every one of them are realized and protected.”
Aug. 2021
Water crisis threatens more than 12 million in Syria and Iraq
More than 12 million people in Syria and Iraq are losing access to water, food and electricity and urgent action is needed to combat a severe water crisis, 13 aid groups working in the region warn.
Across the region, rising temperatures, record low levels of rainfall, and drought are depriving people of drinking and agricultural water. It is also disrupting electricity as dams run out of water, which in turn impacts the operations of essential infrastructure including health facilities. Higher temperatures caused by climate change increase the risks and severity of droughts.
More than five million people in Syria directly depend on the river. In Iraq, the loss of access to water from the river, and drought, threaten at least seven million people. Some 400 square kilometres of agricultural land risk total drought. Two dams in northern Syria, serving three million people with electricity, face imminent closure. Communities in Hasakah, Aleppo, Raqqa and Deir ez Zour, including displaced people in camps, have witnessed a rise in outbreaks of water borne-diseases such as diarrhoea, since the reduction in water.
In Iraq, large swathes of farmland, fisheries, power production and drinking water sources have been depleted of water. In the Ninewa governorate, wheat production is expected to go down by 70 per cent because of the drought, while in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq production is expected to decrease by half. Some families in Anbar who have no access to river water are spending up to USD80 a month on water.
“The total collapse of water and food production for millions of Syrians and Iraqis is imminent,” said Carsten Hansen, Regional Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council. “With hundreds of thousands of Iraqis still displaced and many more still fleeing for their lives in Syria, the unfolding water crisis will soon become an unprecedented catastrophe pushing more into displacement.”
CARE’s Regional Director in the Middle East and North Africa, Nirvana Shawky, said: “The situation demands that authorities in the region and donor governments act swiftly to save lives in this latest crisis, that comes on top of conflict, COVID-19 and severe economic decline. In the longer term, beyond emergency food and water, they need to invest in sustainable solutions to the water crisis.”
The Danish Refugee Council’s Middle East Regional Director Gerry Garvey said: “This water crisis is bound to get worse. It is likely to increase conflict in an already destabilized region. There is no time to waste. We must find sustainable solutions that would guarantee water and food today and for future generations.”
In Al Sebat, 30 km away from Hasakah, residents have seen scores of villagers leaving to other areas, forced out by the drought.
“This year we have witnessed a wave of intense drought and as a result our lands did not produce any crops and we don’t have any sources of drinkable water either for us or for our animals,” said Abdallah, a tribal leader from Al Sebat. “It is infuriating to think that the current conditions will force us to leave the rural areas and that our lands will be left as ruins.”
Many farmers have spent their savings and gone into debt to keep their animals alive.
“Because of the drought I was unable to harvest any wheat,” said Hamid Ali from Baaj, one of the worst affected districts in Ninewa, Iraq. “Now I am overwhelmed with debt.”
Aid groups joining today’s warning and call for emergency and flexible funding are: ACTED, Action Against Hunger, Mercy Corps, People in Need, Première Urgence Internationale, War Child, Help, Women Rehabilitation Organisation, VIYAN Organization, Al Rakeezeh Foundation for Relief and Development.

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Haiti needs support as hospitals overwhelmed by quake victims
by Reliefweb, agencies
18 Aug. 2021
Haiti earthquake leaves thousands in need.
The 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit southern Haiti on the morning of August 14, 2021, has impacted an estimated 1.2 million people, including 540,000 children, said Roseval Supreme, Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in Haiti.
"Saturday’s earthquake killed over 2,000 people and injured 12,000 others. Tens of thousands of homes and buildings, including medical facilities, churches, and schools were destroyed.
Right now, in coordination with local authorities and partners, we are carrying out rapid needs assessments in the three departments (Grande-Anse, Nippes, and Sud) most impacted by the earthquake. To start, our emergency response will prioritize improving access to clean water and safe sanitation to prevent disease outbreaks and distributing lifesaving nutrition, hygiene, and other supplies.
As a Haitian and a leader of a humanitarian and development organization that has worked in Haiti for more than 35 years, I worry for my country’s future. We have been hit by one crisis after another, and I fear that we are reaching a breaking point.
We face tremendous challenges, including four million people who are struggling with rising hunger driven by issues including inflation, unemployment, civil political unrest, persistent drought, the direct and indirect effects of COVID-19 – and now the impact of another earthquake.
Now is not the time for the world to turn its back on Haiti. We need partnership and support more than ever."
With over 100,000 people left homeless, Allen Joseph, Deputy Program Manager of Mercycorps, shared an update from the epicenter: "Everywhere is agony. Many, many people are without homes anymore, people everywhere we went were crying, worried. There were aftershocks all through the day."
UNICEF estimates that about 1.2 million people, including 540,000 children, have been affected by the powerful earthquake that hit Haiti on Saturday.
The hardest hit departments of South, Nippes and Grand’Anse are now being drenched by Tropical Depression Grace, which is further disrupting access to water, shelter, and other basic services. Flooding and mudslides are likely to worsen the situation of vulnerable families and further complicate the humanitarian response.
“Last night, I saw strong winds and heavy rainfall strike the same areas already affected by the earthquake,” said Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti, who is currently in Les Cayes.
“Countless Haitian families who have lost everything due to the earthquake are now living literally with their feet in the water due to the flooding.”
UNICEF is working with the government and partners to carry out rapid assessments of children’s needs. UNICEF estimates that it will need US$15 million to respond to the most urgent needs of at least 385,000 people including 167,000 children under the age of five for a period of eight weeks.
This initial funding requirement will be reviewed and adjusted in the coming weeks as the impact on children and families becomes clearer.
Even before the earthquake, more than 1.1 million people in Haiti were estimated to be one step away from famine, including hundreds of thousands of children.
In the area of Les Cayes, an estimated 160,000 people were already struggling to get enough food every day, with almost 40,000 people living on the verge of famine.
Field Manager Carl-Henry Petit-Frère of Save the Children, who has been working in the hardest hit area over the past days, said:
“I see children crying on the street, people asking us for food, but we are low on food ourselves as well. The organisations that are here are doing what they can, but we need more supplies. Food, clean water and shelter are needed most, and we need them fast.
“People are living on the street, unprotected from the wind and the rain. Children were warned not to go into their houses as they might collapse.
“Parents have lost their children, or children have lost their parents. Luckily, we live in a community where children who are on their own are taken in by family members or by other families in the community, but the scenes are heart-breaking.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged countries to step up support to Haiti as the country struggles to recover from the deadly earthquake.
“As assessments reveal the level of suffering, the scale of humanitarian need in Haiti continues to grow,” Mr. Guterres said in a statement. “I call on all Member States to mobilize efforts to support Haiti in averting a humanitarian disaster.”
He reported that relief convoys reached affected communities in Les Cayes, Jérémie and Nippes on Tuesday, while UN Disaster and Assessment Coordination teams are on their way to the country. The UN has also allocated $88 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund which will be used to provide essential health care, clean water, emergency shelter and sanitation.
15 Aug. 2021
At 8:30am on 14 August, a strong earthquake rocked southwestern Haiti just 12km northeast of Saint-Louis du Sud, about 125 kilometers west of the capital Port-au-Prince. The 7.2 magnitude quake, destroyed many buildings and homes and damaged infrastructure and roads.
While preliminary assessments are ongoing, the Haitian Civil Protection General Directorate (DGPC) has reported over 1,300 deaths and at least 5,700 people injured.
Hospitals and schools are among the hundreds of collapsed buildings, with over 4,000 homes destroyed forcing people to seek refuge in shelters, with thousands thought to be displaced.
Many Haitians prepared on Sunday to spend a second night sleeping in the open, traumatized by memories of that magnitude 7 quake 11 years ago that struck far closer to the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Despite its strength the quake is considered less catastrophic than that of 2010, the worst disaster in the country’s history, which left more than 300,000 people dead and 1.5 million others injured.
The earthquake has generated a series of aftershocks, between magnitude 4.2 and 5.2, creating significant concerns as buildings and infrastructure already compromised by the initial quake are now more vulnerable to even weak aftershocks.
The quake could not have come at worst time for Haiti, which is still reeling from the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on 7 July and escalating gang violence which has resulted in the internal displacement of around 19,000 people in the country’s southern peninsula, greatly worsening an already precarious humanitarian situation, with some 4.4 million in need of humanitarian assistance prior to the quake.
While a recent surge in COVID-19 cases has tapered off, the displacement of thousands of people has created ripe conditions for a spike in COVID-19 infections, potentially overwhelming an already weak and overstretched health system that will also have to provide assistance to those injured by the earthquake.
Early reports indicate that local hospitals near the epicenter are already overwhelmed with wounded people, especially in Les Cayes and Jeremie, with the Red Cross and hospitals in unaffected areas providing surge assistance, while Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) prepares to receive patients at Tabarre Hospital in Port-au-Prince.
Significant humanitarian access constraints, a fragile security situation and a fast approaching tropical storm add an extra layer of complexity to humanitarian response efforts in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The southern peninsula, a hotspot for gang related violence, has been virtually unreachable for the past two months due to road blockages and security concerns, while humanitarian personnel have been the targets of repeated attacks.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry has declared a one month nationwide state of emergency. Several governments in the region have offered to support national response efforts.
The Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has been fully activated and search-and-rescue operations are ongoing with support from international partners. Mobilization of national and international partners for the coordination of the emergency response is in progress, including government deployment of volunteers for rapid response teams to conduct search-and-rescue activities and clear collapsed buildings and homes.
Government authorities are monitoring the situation and continue public information operations through traditional media and social media.
The most urgent humanitarian needs are expected to be linked to the provision of medical assistance and water, sanitation and hygiene. Hospitals are reportedly overwhelmed, posing challenges for the treatment of injured people.
As the humanitarian situation worsens, UN agencies and humanitarian partners find themselves already stretched from responding to multiple crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, internal displacement due to gang related violence and growing food insecurity, leaving them strapped for resources to effectively respond to the earthquake.
The earthquake has exposed an already vulnerable population to yet another crisis they lack the capacity to recover from, generating new humanitarian needs on top of those born out simultaneously unfolding emergencies.
Humanitarian partners already lack sufficient resources to respond to the ongoing IDP crisis triggered by escalating gang violence in Port-au-Prince. As Tropical Storm Grace races toward La Hispaniola, affected populations brace for the brunt of potential triple emergency whose required response could potentially stretch humanitarian organizations to the brink.
As such, additional human and financial resources are urgently needed to cope with an increasingly more dire and complex humanitarian situation on the ground.

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