Center for Humanitarian Health Weekly Newsletter
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The Humanitarian Health Weekly Newsletter

Week of January 9th - January 15th, 2017

Humanitarian Emergency News

Italy and Germany step up measures to deter asylum seekers

Italy and Germany, have paid the heaviest price for the EU’s lack of solidarity. Germany has received nearly 1.2 million asylum seekers over the past two years, while Italy received 335,000 arrivals over the course of 2015 and 2016. Under increasing pressure from their electorates and with little chance of EU-wide agreement, both countries are pushing ahead with unilateral measures aimed at stemming the flow of migrants and refugees, and more rapidly returning failed asylum seekers. Italy has renewed a partnership with Libya and has increased the rate at which it deports migrants rejected for asylum. Similarly, Germany is pushing a plan that would make it easier to detain rejected asylum seekers and to deport them from “repatriation centers” at airports. Starting in March, Germany also plans to restart returns of newly arrived asylum seekers to Greece, reversing the five-year EU-wide suspension of the Dublin Regulation, which requires asylum seekers to remain in the first country where they register a claim. Germany has threatened to cut foreign aid to countries that don’t cooperate in accepting back deportees.

Gambians seek refuge in Senegal amid political tension
Several thousand people, mainly children, have crossed into Senegal from the Gambia in the last 10 days to escape growing tension over the results of last month’s presidential election. While some people have decided to stay in the Gambia, many have begun sending their children to Senegal as a precautionary measure amid the political impasse, fearing potential unrest. Gambian President Yaya Jammeh narrowly lost to rival Adama Barrow in the country’s December 1 election. After initially conceding defeat, Jammeh is now contesting the result. Much of the daily border crossing is regular traffic, but preliminary findings also suggest that several thousand people have crossed to Senegal to seek shelter.

Mali eradicates Guinea worm in global milestone against parasitic disease

Mali has eliminated Guinea worm disease bringing the world a step closer to eradicating the debilitating parasitic disease that is now only endemic in three African countries. Guinea worm afflicted 3.5 million people 30 years ago but is now only endemic in South Sudan, Chad and Ethiopia, where there were 16 reported cases last year. Last November, the doctor leading the fight against the disease which can cause worms up to a metre long to grow before emerging through the skin, said the world had never been so close to eradicating Guinea worm. The disease can cause fevers, blisters and extreme pain when the worms emerge from the body. It is spread by drinking unboiled stagnant water containing the larvae. The Carter Center said the disease is being wiped out through community programs that show people how to filter drinking water and prevent contamination. Although the global number of cases has declined, one worm can cause 80 new cases after its incubation period of 10-14 months, so keeping cases low signals the battle is being won.

Special Reports

Bottled sand builds better homes for Sahrawi refugees

Providing adequate housing that can withstand the harsh desert climate is a challenge in Awserd camp, one of five in the area surrounding Tindouf, sheltering Sahrawi refugees who fled fighting in the Western Sahara War more than 40 years ago. Houses built from mudbricks, or adobe, are vulnerable to the heavy rains that periodically sweep in over the Sahara Desert, including one storm in late 2015 that demolished thousands of homes. Frequent sandstorms also fill the houses, and traditional Sahrawi tents, with choking dust, leading to temporary evacuations. Houses made using discarded bottles filled with sand are showing greater structural resistance to water. The thick-walled circular design presents a lower profile to the wind and is better at keeping out the penetrating sand and dust from the sandstorms or “haboobs.” Now, in a project bankrolled by the UNHCR Innovation Fund, the inventor is working with the UN Refugee Agency to construct 25 houses using sand-filled plastic bottles in place of bricks in five refugee camps.


The Crisis Overview 2016: Humanitarian Trends and Risks for 2017, outlines the countries where needs are greatest, and growing. Based on a weekly Global Emergency Overview (GEO), and four years of data on humanitarian needs across 150 countries, ACAPS identified ten countries where humanitarian needs are likely to be highest in 2017, as well as four that merit attention, as they face a potential spike in needs. They also considered the humanitarian situation in the northern triangle region of Latin America, where the wide-ranging humanitarian impact of pervasive gang violence is chronically underreported.

Crisis Updates

Seven Years after the Earthquake: Haiti in an unprecedented humanitarian, food, and climate crisis

The earthquake and the more than 59 aftershocks that followed took the lives of an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 people, and displaced 1,300,000. Despite the billions in aid offered, thousands remain homeless. As of September 2016, the International Migration Organization (IOM) estimated 55,000 people remain in spontaneous or organized camps. Hundreds of thousands of other Haitians are left in precarious ‘permanent’ housing vulnerable to natural disasters. The Category 4 Hurricane Matthew caused widespread destruction of buildings, agriculture, infrastructure and human lives, directly affecting 1,400,000 people, taking an estimated 546 lives, displacing 175,500, and pushing 806,000 into extreme food insecurity. Many Matthew victims continue to live in temporary shelters or shelters pieced together with scrap aluminum, tarps, and wood. Approximately 750,000 Haitians are without safe water, causing the number of cholera cases to double in some of the hardest-hit areas. Although the earthquake, drought and hurricane may make Haiti appear condemned to suffer from natural disasters, in fact the country’s extreme vulnerability to natural disasters is the product of human policies that can be reversed.

Afghanistan now a ‘continual emergency’, as war drives record numbers from their homes

More than 623,345 internally displaced persons fled conflict in Afghanistan in 2016. Based on current trends, the UN predicts that in 2017 at least 450,000 more people will join those already internally displaced. On top of that, Afghanistan struggles to support many of the 616,620 people pushed back from neighboring Iran and Pakistan last year. Pakistan has warned that it will begin forcibly deporting Afghans who have not left voluntarily by March, and the UN expects about a million more. Many of those displaced are leaving their homes for the first time, and they are forced to live in temporary camps where they struggle for survival. The government controlled only 63 percent of its districts by August 2016, compared to 72 percent just nine months earlier, the office of the Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in a report Wednesday. Most territory lost to the government is under Taliban control. But by early 2015, IS had moved into eastern Afghanistan and announced its intention to carve out an area of control.‘continual-emergency’-war-drives-record-numbers-their-homes

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