S S writes :
At the mid-term review of the United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for humanitarian assistance held at Geneva on 26 July, the World Health Organisation (WHO) accused the wealthy countries of not responding to the health needs of people in emergencies.
Five out of 21 appeals to international donors to support life-saving programmes for peoples hit by war, population displacement and natural disaster have produced a ‘resounding zero response so far this year’, WHO said in its review. Four other appeals have achieved less than 10% of the money needed to restore any semblance of basic health care.
Overall, WHO has received less than $18 million of the $68 million or 26% that it has asked for through the UN consolidated appeal process. And WHO is not the only agency to suffer. In the recent Appeal for the Drought in the Horn of Africa, the dearth of funding for non-food items was a disturbing pattern across the board, says the Director of WHO’s Department of Emergency and Humanitarian Action, Dr Xavier Leus.
Hardest hit are Burundi, the Republic of Congo, Uganda, Sudan and the Indonesian islands of Maluku where, despite enormous health needs due to continued conflict or its aftermath, donors have so far offered no cash for WHO’s emergency health programmes.
The appeal for Afghanistan has also garnered less than 1% of the $2.8 million crucial to reverse the inexorable decline of the population’s health, while in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tajikistan and a combined appeal for the African Great Lakes region, WHO has received less than 10% of the funds it believes are needed. Only two appeals for North Caucasus and Angola have passed the 50% mark. ‘It is hard to understand why the response is so poor. We are seeing people especially women and children who have shown great
courage, surviving war, escape, drought, and extreme food shortage, now finding their lives threatened by illness and diseases that could be prevented by the most basic health interventions. Yet despite the UN System adopting the favoured approach of single consolidated appeals, funders appear not to respond,’ he says.
In Burundi, for example, where much of the health structure has been destroyed and more than 15 women in every, 1,000 who give birth to a live baby die in doing so, no donor has seen fit to provide the US$ 200,000 WHO believes is needed to re-establish simple safe motherhood practices.
In conflict-blighted south Sudan, 75% of illness and death is caused by mostly preventable infectious disease, yet ordering of critical supplies of drugs and vaccines for outbreak response is on hold because of lack of funds.
In northern Afghanistan, 900 children died in March from measles, largely because primary health care services are, after long years of conflict, so inadequate. WHO had asked for $260,000 to work with NGOs and local authorities to improve primary health care services in the country and $300,000 to train and update health staff with, so far, no response.
Some funds have been received, and rapidly. Of the $18 million received or pledged, 23% has come from Norway, 15% each from the United Kingdom and Australia, 13% from the US, and 5-8% each from the European Community Humanitarian Office, Japan, Italy, Denmark and Sweden.
And WHO has been using its ‘regular’ budget—funds which come from the pool of membership fees countries pay to maintain WHO offices globally to bridge the gap and implement urgent emergency programmes, such as epidemic early warning and control systems, essential drug supply, training in safe motherhood and the management of common childhood illnesses. Maternal mortality and childhood illness are both major killers in unstable situations.