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Killing us softly

Fri, 27 Mar 2015 00:00:00 +0000

A recent public outcry in China, sparked by a damning documentary about air pollution, was based on well-founded fear: Of the 100 million people who viewed the film on the first day of its online release, 172,000 are likely to die each year from air pollution-related diseases, according to regional trends.*  Worldwide, pollution kills twice as many people each year as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined,** but aid policy has consistently neglected it as a health risk, donors and experts say.  Air pollution alone killed seven million people in 2012, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures released last year, most of them in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) in the Asia Pacific region.***  In a self-critical report released late last month the World Bank acknowledged that it had treated air pollution as an afterthought, resulting in a dearth of analysis of the problem and spending on solutions.  “We now need to step up our game and adopt a more comprehensive approach to fixing air quality,” the authors wrote in Clean Air and Healthy Lungs. “If left unaddressed, these problems are expected to grow worse over time, as the world continues to urbanise at an unprecedented and challenging speed.” A second report released last month by several organisations – including the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, an international consortium of UN organisations, governments, development banks, NGOs and academics – also called for more funding towards reducing pollution.  “Rich countries, multilateral agencies and organisations have forgotten the crippling impacts of pollution and fail to make it a priority in their foreign assistance,” the authors wrote.  Housebound in China  A dense haze obstructs visibility more often than not across China’s northern Hua Bei plain and two of its major river deltas. Less than one percent of the 500 largest cities in China meet WHO’s air quality guidelines. Anger over air pollution is a hot topic among China’s increasingly outspoken citizenry.   “Half of the days in 2014, I had to confine my daughter to my home like a prisoner because the air quality in Beijing was so poor,” China’s well-known journalist Chai Jing said in Under the Dome, the independent documentary she released last month, which investigated the causes of China’s air pollution. The film was shared on the Chinese social media portal Weibo more than 580,000 times before officials ordered websites to delete it.  Beyond the silo Traditionally left to environmental experts to tackle, the fight against pollution is increasingly recognised as requiring attention from health and development specialists too.  “Air pollution is the top environmental health risk and among the top modifiable health risks in the world,” said Professor Michael Brauer, a public health expert at the University of British Columbia in Canada and a member of the scientific advisory panel for the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, a consortium of governments and the UN Environment Programme. “Air pollution has been under-funded and its health impacts under-appreciated.” Pollution – especially outdoor or “ambient” air pollution – is also a major drag on economic performance and limits the opportunities of the poor, according to Ilmi Granoff, an environmental policy expert at the Overseas Development Institute, a London-based think tank. It causes premature death, illness, lost earnings and medical costs – all of which take their toll on both individual and national productivity. “Donors need to get out of the siloed thinking of pollution as an environmental problem distinct from economic development and poverty reduction,” Granoff said.  Pollution cleanup is indeed underfunded, he added, but pollution prevention is even more poorly prioritised: “It’s underfunded in much of the developed world, in aid, and in developing country priorities, so this isn’t just an aid problem.” Mounting evidence  Pollution kills in a variety of ways, according to relativel[...]



Scale of Vanuatu cyclone disaster complicates aid response

Mon, 16 Mar 2015 00:00:00 +0000

The scale of Vanuatu’s cyclone disaster is matched only by the complexity of the required humanitarian response, according to both the government and aid workers arriving on the battered Pacific islands. “The problem is absolutely massive,” Alice Clements, spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Vanuatu, told IRIN. “We have simultaneous emergencies in 65 islands, with no telecoms, accessible only by boat or helicopter, in an archipelago stretching 1,300 km.” Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale was reported by the BBC as saying the 13 March storm had "wiped out" all recent development and the country would have to rebuild "everything". Half the population - 132,000 people - are estimated to have been affected by cyclone Pam, including 60,000 children, according to UNICEF. Initial assessments indicate 90 percent of houses have been damaged in the capital, Port Vila, with destruction on the southern island of Tanna “significantly worse”, Care Australia reported. Twitter accounts to follow Hanna Butler - Red Cross @hannarosebutler OCHA - Asia Pacific             @OCHAAsiaPac Tom Perry - CARE Australia     @thomasmperry UNICEF - Australia       @unicefaustralia Liam Fox - ABC News       @liamfoxabc Radio Australia Pacific Beat     @RAPacificBeat Tess Newton Cain             @CainTess More than 3,300 people are sheltering in 37 evacuation centres on the islands of Torba and Penama, and the main island of Efate. But the National Disaster Management Office will need help if people remain displaced for a prolonged period.  The humanitarian response “is almost going to be like applying a medical triage, to work out which is the most urgent”, said Clements. Aerial assessments have been carried out so far by military aircraft from Australia, New Zealand and France, with more flights scheduled for Tuesday. Commercial flights have resumed to Port Vila despite damage to the airport. “There is need for logistics experts and light reconnaissance planes/helicopters, pilots, and fuel to deliver supplies and conduct assessments. There is also a need for sea shipping to transport food, water and rebuilding materials,” the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported. The main hospital in Port Vila is badly damaged, patients have been transferred to a newer part of the building, “but there is an urgent need for medical supplies” and “the morgue is unserviceable”. Twenty-four people are confirmed dead so far, but the toll is expected to rise as assessment teams reach the more remote islands. Providing clean water for survivors is a priority. There is a risk of waterborne diseases, especially dangerous for pregnant mothers and young children, and food is also likely to be a problem in the coming days with fruit trees uprooted, root crops inundated, and animal pens destroyed by the 270 km/h winds and flooding. “Eighty percent of Vanuatu’s population engage in subsistence agriculture as a primary economic activity. It is anticipated that emergency food relief could be needed for up to a month, plus longer term recovery support,” OCHA noted. Vanuatu has “3,000 years of experience dealing with an incredible mind-boggling range of disasters, from earthquakes to volcanos. People have great coping mechanisms, but this was a category 5 storm," Clements said. oa/rh 101239 Vanuatu aftermath of Cyclone Pam, 13 March 2015 News Migration Environment and Disasters Scale of cyclone Pam disaster staggering IRIN NAIROBI Bangladesh Indonesia Iran Kyrgyzstan Cambodia Kazakhstan Lao Peoples Democratic Republic Sri Lanka Myanmar Papua New Guinea Philippines Pakistan Thailand Tajikistan Timor-Leste Uzbekistan Vietnam Vanuatu [...]



Vanuatu reeling from impact of cyclone Pam

Sat, 14 Mar 2015 00:00:00 +0000

The closure of the main airport in Vanuatu is hampering the humanitarian response to cyclone Pam, which tore through the Pacific island archipelago yesterday, causing colossal damage. The airport in the capital, Port Vila, is still flooded and trees are blocking the runway, Vincent Omuga, deputy head of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Regional Office for the Pacific, said on Saturday. “There are lots of plans to provide regional humanitarian support, but the challenge is that the airport is not open at the moment. There are indications the government will open the airport to military flights: Australia and New Zealand have plans to move in, and UNDAC [UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination] have a nine-member team on standby, but all flights are currently suspended,” Omuga told IRIN. Reports describe the tropical cyclone packing winds of up to 270 km/h as “devastating” and potentially one of the worst weather disasters in the region. There are unconfirmed reports of casualties, but aid agencies are warning it will take several days before there is a full picture of the storm’s impact. Omuga said the government’s priorities are to open the airport, repair damage to hospitals, and clear the roads closed by the category 5 cyclone. It is expected to declare a state of emergency to facilitate the humanitarian response. “Power lines are still down, there is lots of damage to infrastructure and lots of houses have been destroyed. Many provinces are flooded and inaccessible, and the islands on the eastern side [of the archipelago] were especially affected,” Omuga said. Photo: Alice Clements/UNICEF Winds gusted at over 270 km/h Even a temporary damage assessment in Port Vila is constrained by the extent of the flooding and the trees and debris blocking the roads. Aid workers on the ground “have not gone out of the capital, and not even all of the capital [has been surveyed]. What they are reporting is what they can see from leaving their vehicles and walking around,” said Omuga. oa/rh 101235 Port Vila, Vanuatu, aftermath of cyclone Pam, 14 March 2015 News Environment and Disasters Aid and Policy Vanuatu reeling from cyclone Pam IRIN NAIROBI Bangladesh Indonesia Iran Kyrgyzstan Cambodia Kazakhstan Lao Peoples Democratic Republic Sri Lanka Myanmar Papua New Guinea Philippines Pakistan Thailand Tajikistan Timor-Leste Uzbekistan Vietnam Vanuatu [...]



Cyclone Pam batters Vanuatu

Fri, 13 Mar 2015 00:00:00 +0000

As cyclone Pam, a category 5 storm, makes landfall today on the pacific islandsof Vanuatu, humanitarian workers there say the urban poor are especially at risk. High winds and rains are lashing the islands, and news agencies reported that even solid hotel buildings in the capital, Port Vila, were being shaken by the cyclone, which meteorologists say could unleash gusts of up to 280 km/h. “Thousands of families are living in makeshift, flimsy houses which will not withstand the immense winds and rain we're expecting,” Save the Children's Vanuatu director,Tom Skirrow, was quoted as saying. “Families need to urgently evacuate to safe buildings or the results could be catastrophic.” Aid agencies and the National Disaster Management Office had pre-positioned relief supplies in Port Vila, and “we were fairly confident we had enough to cope”, deputy head of the regional Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Vincent Umuga, told IRIN by phone from Fiji.  But on Friday cyclone Pam’s track turned west, directly for the capital, which “could mean our ability to respond is heavily compromised,” he said. The southern Pacific island nation has a population of 260,000. Regional aid partners in Australia, Fiji and New Zealand have been alerted to the potential need “to increase supplies” said Umuga. But if the airport is damaged by the storm, “that would be the worst-case scenario”. All flights are currently suspended. Vanuatu is an archipelago of over 80 islands with 1,300 kms between the two most distant points of the chain. A cyclone in 1987 killed over 30 people. oa/rh 101233 201503131515410760.jpg News Environment and Disasters Aid and Policy Cyclone Pam batters Vanuatu IRIN NAIROBI Bangladesh Indonesia Iran Kyrgyzstan Cambodia Kazakhstan Lao Peoples Democratic Republic Sri Lanka Myanmar Papua New Guinea Philippines Pakistan Thailand Tajikistan Timor-Leste Uzbekistan Vietnam Vanuatu [...]



Who celebrity advocates are really targeting. And it’s not you.

Fri, 13 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0000

This week was a fanfare for celebrity humanitarians: Forest Whitaker appealed for peace in South Sudan alongside UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos; Angelina Jolie opened an academic centre on sexual violence in conflict with British Member of Parliament William Hague; and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham launched an initiative for children.  In recent years, aid agencies have increasingly used celebrity advocates to raise awareness and money for their causes. There’s just one snag:  It doesn’t actually work. At least not as much or in the ways we think.  According to research by Dan Brockington, a professor at the University of Manchester, public responses to celebrity activism are surprisingly muted. His work is the first quantitative research on the subject.  “Using celebrities for broader outreach, for reaching mass publics and attracting media attention is absolutely not the silver bullet it appears to be,” he told IRIN on the sidelines of a 6-8 February conference at the University of Sussex, where he presented research recently published in the book Celebrity Advocacy and International Development.   Photo: A. McConnell/UNHCR Refugee Rockstar: UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie meets displaced Iraqis   In a survey he conducted with 2,000 British people, 95 percent of respondents recognized five or more of 12 charities listed to them, including the British Red Cross, Save the Children UK and Oxfam UK. But two-thirds of the respondents did not know a single “high-profile” advocate of any of the NGOs (In this case, music executive Simon Cowell and singers Victoria Beckham and Elton John respectively, among many others).  The realpolitik might not be that pleasant. But you'll achieve your goals.  Focus groups and interviews with more than 100 “celebrity liaison officers” and other media staff at NGOs further reinforced his findings.  What’s more, Brockington says, those who pay attention to celebrities do not necessarily know which causes they support.  “People who follow celebrities often do so because they are not political,” he said during the interview. “They are fun, light. You want to live their lives…[People] don’t engage with [celebrities] for the more worthy things.”   Celebrity stardom flat-lining  Despite the rise in the use of celebrity advocates (which, by the way, dates back to at least Victorian times), the mention of charities in broadsheet and tabloid articles about celebrities only increased ever so slightly between 1985 and 2010, according to a separate study by Brockington. “There has also been a decline in the proportion of newspaper articles mentioning development and humanitarian NGOs at all,” the study found.  The perception that celebrities engage the public in the first place may itself be overstated.  After a steady rise in coverage of celebrities in the British press over two decades, the percentage of articles mentioning the word celebrity (only a fraction of total articles about celebrities) stopped increasing around 2006 and is now hovering at about four percent of all articles studied, the research found, validating the findings of earlier studies on the same subject (The study looked at The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, Daily Mail, The Mirror and The Sun).  The magazine industry’s own statistics show a tapering off of readership in recent years after steady growth.                 Photo: Northern & Shell Media Group Statistics from Northern & Shell Media Group show a steady rise in celebrity magazine readership until about 2006 Celebrities can be successful in engaging the public – Miley Cyrus made waves last year when she sent a homeless man to pick up her MTV Video Music Awards; Bob Geldof’s charity single on Ebola quickly rose to the top of the charts; and celebrity-driven telethons like the UK’s Comic Relief ar[...]



An ambitious plan to end statelessness

Fri, 07 Nov 2014 00:00:00 +0000

It is now 60 years since stateless people received recognition in international law, and the UN has two conventions (1954 and 1961) dedicated to their protection and the regularization of their situation. Yet an estimated 10 million people worldwide still suffer the problems and indignities of having no nationality. “It may be a bit of understatement to say that these are the two least loved multilateral human rights treaties,” said Mark Manly, head of the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) statelessness unit. “For many years they were pretty much forgotten and that was in large part because they had no UN agency promoting them.”  Manly has responsibility for the issue of statelessness, even though most stateless people neither are, nor have ever been, refugees, and this week UNHCR launched an ambitious plan to try to end statelessness over the next 10 years.  The plan breaks down the issue into 10 action points, addressing the main reasons why people end up stateless. Sometimes it's because children were not registered at birth, or because discriminatory laws prevent their mothers from passing on their own nationality. Some are the victims of ethnic discrimination by countries which refuse to recognize members of their community as citizens; others, especially in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, have fallen down the cracks between countries, as it were, after boundaries were redrawn and states divided.  In some of the world's major situations of statelessness UNHCR is already involved. In 1989 tens of thousands of Black African Mauritanians fled to Senegal to get away from murderous ethnic persecution. A large number of the refugees who came scrambling across the river border had no papers. Their Mauritanian identity cards had been confiscated or torn up by members of the security forces or by their fellow citizens, who told them, “Tu n'est pas Maure; alors tu n'est pas Mauritanian” (You are not a Moor, an Arab, so you are not a Mauritanian). Senegalese nationality law is generous, and allows them to apply for citizenship after five years' residence, but many have preferred to go home to Mauritania, assisted by UNHCR which supplied them with travel documents under an agreement governing their return. But large numbers are now finding themselves effectively stateless. Manly told IRIN: “What that agreement says, if I remember correctly, is that the nationality of the refugees is 'presumed' - they are presumed to be Mauritanian. However, many people have faced real problems in getting the documentation to prove that they really are Mauritanian, so there is clearly an issue.”  “Some 24,000 have returned,” adds Bronwen Manby, a consultant who has worked on this issue. “But the Mauritanian organizations are telling us that only about a third have got their documents. It's the standard sort of situation,” she told IRIN, “where in principle, of course - but then documents were destroyed, and then they find that the name is Mohamed with one 'm' instead of Mohammed with two 'm's, and then it's in French and not in Arabic - there needs to be more pressure on the Mauritanian government to sort out the situation.” Laws discriminating against women In the Middle East a lot of statelessness is the result of laws discriminating against women, which only allow nationality to be passed through the father - a problem if the father is not there to register his child or is himself stateless. Laura van Waas, who runs the Statelessness Programme at Tilburg University, says it can have a devastating effect on all members of a family.  “It's not just the stateless child who is affected by this. It's the mother, who has nationality, who feels guilty for whom she has chosen to marry. Her children are suffering and she sees that as the result of her life choices. And it's the young men who are perhaps the worst affected. This is seen as a women's rights issue, but if y[...]



Asia's first IDP policy - from theory to practice

Sun, 19 Oct 2014 23:00:00 +0000

"Why does it allow them to stay?" the man asked incredulously. "They should be going back to their homes." Afghanistan's internally displaced persons (IDP) policy - finally passed earlier this year after a long delay, but not yet implemented - is a landmark document. Heavily inspired by the UN’s Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the policy is thought to be the first of its kind in Asia. It grants a whole swathe of rights to those forced from their homes by conflict or disaster, but who have not crossed an international border. Under the policy many IDPs, who often face poor services and limited access to clean water, will be given new rights, including long-term security of tenure. Crucially, it declares that IDPs have three routes to ending their displacement - returning to their former territories, moving to a third site or, controversially, settling where they are, including on private land. Previously they had been encouraged to return to their former areas, despite over 75 percent wanting to remain permanently in their newly adopted homes. Now the challenge is to turn policy into reality. Currently, few IDPs appear to be aware of the new policy and efforts to publicize it are just beginning. At the first ever implementation workshop in the eastern city of Jalalabad last week, a mix of government officials, NGOs, IDPs and local residents debated the topic for two days. On both sides, emotions run high: Many in Afghan society object to those of different backgrounds making homes in their areas, while the IDPs often accuse the government and the UN of neglect. Among them was the middle-aged man, a resident of Jalalabad, who used the question and answer session to demand the policy be rewritten to force the displaced to go back to where they came from. "All parts of the Afghan government have agreed to this," responded Sarah Khan, a representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The man looked little appeased. Afghanistan, rocked by 35 years of war and regular natural disasters, has around 700,000 IDPs, according to UNHCR. While some are recently homeless due to shelling by the Pakistani army on the border, others have been displaced for decades - making new lives but with no guarantees they will not be made homeless again. Obedallah, who gave his first name only, fled violence in the capital Kabul over 20 years ago, eventually ending up in Jalalabad, capital of Nangahar Province. Since then they have been based at the "Kabul Camp" on the outskirts of Jalalabad where they have made new lives. Yet two decades on they face the prospect of eviction as the local government seeks to develop the land for police housing. The new land they have been allocated is next to a mountain, where Obedallah says the facilities are "awful". He hopes the policy will allow them to stay in their homes. "I am very optimistic. If it is implemented, all our rights will be written on paper," he said. The newly displaced, too, are looking to the policy for hope. Amanullah, a 32-year-old father of four, who also preferred not to give his last name, fled his home on the border with Pakistan four months ago, along with 77 other families. They initially fled to one town but were thrown off the land by the owner. Ending up in Jalalabad, they complain that they have had almost no support. Sleeping huddled under tarpaulin, the families fear for the cold season. "Last night it was raining, so nobody slept. The kids were crying throughout the night," Amanullah said. The government and UNHCR give differing reasons for the relative holdups in support. Jawed Snanikza, head of Emergency Response at the Directorate of Refugees and Repatriations in Nangahar, said the case has been referred six times to the UN, while Mahir Safarli, UNHCR's head of office in the region, said government reluctance to setting up camps sometimes slowed down the process. Photo: Joe Dyke/IRIN Amanullah [...]



Guide sommaire du droit de la guerre islamique

Mon, 05 May 2014 23:00:00 +0000

Il y a un regain d’intérêt des traductions de textes classiques sur le droit de la guerre islamique qui viennent s’ajouter aux nombreux travaux sur les liens avec le droit international humanitaire (DIH) et la protection des civils. IRIN vous propose ce guide de références pour vous familiariser avec le sujet. La traduction anglaise commentée du droit international islamique « Islamic Law of Nations » par Majid Khadduri, la première codification de règles de guerre islamiques rédigée par l’homme de loi Mohammad Ibn al-Hassan al-Shaybani, est un bon point de départ. Le Sahih Muslim est l’un des plus grands recueils de hadiths authentiques ; les paroles du prophète Mahomet qui constituent l’une des sources du droit islamique. Voici une traduction des hadiths évoquant le djihad (la guerre sainte) et les expéditions militaires. Le Fiqh al-Jihad (la jurisprudence de guerre) de Yusuf Qaradawi est également un texte fondamental qui donne une interprétation moderne du droit de la guerre islamique d’un point de vue conservateur. L’ouvrage en lui-même n’est pas consultable en ligne, mais vous pouvez trouver des analyses de texte. Khaled Abou El Fadl, de l’Université de Californie à Los Angeles, fait partie des éminents professeurs d’université qui étudient le droit de la guerre islamique. Vous pouvez retrouver son interprétation des sources classiques dans un article de 1999 paru dans la revue The Muslim World. Il y a parallèlement une multitude de professeurs universitaires qui étudient les dispositions humanitaires du droit de la guerre islamique. Citons Nesrine Badawi de l’Université américaine du Caire, Mohammad Fadel de l’Université de Toronto, Muhammad Munir de l’Université islamique internationale d’Islamabad, Andrew March de l’Université Yale, ainsi que Joel Hayward de l’Université Khalifa d’Abu Dhabi. La liste de références de l’atelier thématique sur le droit islamique et la protection des civils proposée par l’association Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP, professionnels de l’aide et de la protection humanitaires) est une excellente source de documentation et d’analyse, aussi bien sur les sources primaires du droit que sur la doctrine du djihad. La liste inclut un séminaire en ligne du programme « Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research » (HPCR, politique humanitaire et de recherches sur les conflits) de l’Université Harvard qui donne un bon aperçu des problèmes abordés dans notre série. D’autre part, vous trouverez toute une série d’articles sur ce forum de l’Université de Syracuse qui étudie le rôle de l’islam et du DIH. Il existe un nombre infini d’études sur le sujet, y compris cet article rédigé par des professeurs d’université malaisiens sur la notion de « participation directe aux hostilités » (DPH) dans le contexte islamique. De même, cet article de Mohamed Elewa Badar qui analyse le rôle de l’islam dans le façonnement du droit de la guerre occidental moderne. Le Comité international de la Croix-Rouge (CICR) a publié de nombreux ouvrages sur le sujet, y compris en arabe (ici, ici et ici ). Naz Modirzadeh, agrégée de droit à Harvard, a publié un certain nombre d’articles de journaux sur la portée pratique de toutes ces théories par les acteurs humanitaires et les spécialistes des droits de l’homme. Dans celui-ci, publié dans le Harvard Law School Human Rights Journal (Journal des droits de l’homme de la faculté de droit de l’Université Harward), l’auteur reproche aux organisations non gouvernementales internationales de ne pas véritablement intégrer le droit islamique. Dans la dernière partie d’un autre article, publié dans le European Journal of International Law (Journal européen de droit international), elle se penche sur l’intérêt et la ré[...]



Rough guide to Islamic rules of war

Wed, 23 Apr 2014 23:00:00 +0000

There is a renewed interest in translating classical texts about Islamic rules of war into English, adding to the increasing body of work on the intersections between Islam, international humanitarian law (IHL) and the protection of civilians. IRIN provides this study guide to get you started. Majid Khadduri’s translation (with explanation) of the Islamic Law of Nations, the first codification of Islamic rules of war by jurist Mohammad Ibn al-Hassan al-Shaybani, is a good place to start.  Sahih Muslim is one of the main references for authenticated hadiths, or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, one of the sources of Islamic law. Here is a translation of those hadiths that address jihad and military expeditions. Yusuf Qaradawi’s Fiqh al-Jihad (the Jurisprudence of War) is another foundational text giving modern interpretations of the Islamic laws of war from a conservative perspective. The book itself is not online, but you can find reviews. Khaled Abou El Fadl, of the University  of California, Los Angeles, is one of the leading academics studying Islamic laws of war. You can find his reading of the classical sources in this 1999 article in The Muslim World. But there are a plethora of other academics studying the humanitarian provisions in Islamic rules of war. Among them: Nesrine Badawi at the American University in Cairo; Mohammad Fadel at the University of Toronto; Muhammad Munir at the International Islamic University in Islamabad; Andrew March at Yale University; and Joel Hayward of Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi.  The reading list  for the Islamic Law and the Protection of Civilians workshop offered by Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP) is an excellent resource with plenty of references, from primary sources to jihadi doctrine and analysis.   It includes this web seminar from the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at Harvard University, which gives a good overview of the issues raised in our series. Similarly, you’ll find a whole series of articles on this forum at Syracuse University, which has an initiative on Islam and IHL.  There are endless studies on the subject, including this examination by Malaysian professors of what constitutes Direct Participation in Hostilities (DPH) in the Islamic context and this article by Mohamed Elewa Badar analyzing the role of Islam in shaping modern European laws of war The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has published a fair bit on the issue, including in Arabic here, here and here.  Harvard lawyer Naz Modirzadeh has published a number of journal articles on the practical relevance of all this for humanitarian and human rights practitioners. This one in the Harvard Human Rights Journal critiques international NGOs for failing to truly engage with Islamic law; while the final segment of this one in the European Journal of International Law delves into why there is so much interest in Islamic law and war.  For more on militant interpretations and application of Islamic law, the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human rights recently published a policy brief rife with examples and insights into Islamist armed groups’ behaviour. A 2010 essay by Human Rights Watch’s Joe Stork is another window into some of the intra-Islamist debate on acceptable behavior in times of war.   Finally, this handbook to refuting jihadism by the Henry Jackson Society is a fascinating attempt to challenge the theological authenticity of militant arguments. Happy reading! ha/oa 99990 Koran, Qu'ran Analysis Conflict Rough guide to Islamic rules of war IRIN DUBAI Bangladesh Burkina Faso Djibouti Egypt Guinea Indonesia Israel Iraq Iran Jordan Kenya Kyrgyzstan Kazakhstan Lebanon Libya Mali Mauritania Niger [...]



Life-saving hepatitis C drug approved, but cost is high

Mon, 23 Dec 2013 00:00:00 +0000

Following approvals in the US and Europe this month of a new drug to treat hepatitis C, activists are pushing for the medication to be made available in poor countries, a development reminiscent of the activism that forced down HIV/AIDS drug prices a decade ago in Brazil, South Africa and Thailand. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that as many as 185 million people are infected with hepatitis C, which is often called a “viral time bomb” because it can exist, undiagnosed, in a person’s body for many years without causing symptoms.  According to the Open Society Foundations (OSF), more than 350,000 people die every year from liver disease related to the virus, and every year an estimated three to four million more people are infected. Many of these people are co-infected with HIV; the illnesses are both blood-borne and have shared routes of transmission, particularly injecting drug use. Unlike HIV, hepatitis C can be cured. But current treatment options have serious side effects, do not always work and are unaffordable for most people. The existing treatment, pegylated interferon, which is manufactured by Roche and Merck, can cost as much as US$18,000 for a 48-week course. Interferon, which must be injected, can, in combination with the drug ribavirin, cure 40-70 percent of patients who use it. But its high cost has kept it out of reach for most patients, except in Egypt and Thailand, where the governments were able to negotiate significant price reductions with drug manufacturers. “How have we got to a global system where new drugs being developed are out of reach of most of the population?” The new drug, sofosbuvir, released by pharmaceutical giant Gilead, promises a leap forward in the hepatitis C treatment. It is orally administered, reduces treatment time to 12 weeks, has fewer side effects, and, if used in combination with other drugs, can achieve a 90 percent cure rate. The hitch? The price tag. In the US, which has some of the highest drug prices in the world, Gilead is expected to charge $80,000 for one course of treatment - more than four times the cost of interferon. While the cost of the drug is likely to be lower elsewhere, healthcare advocates fear the price will remain beyond the reach of poor people. Pricing Médicins Sans Frontières’ director of policy and analysis, Rohit Malpani, says the drug has been priced so high because it cost the company $11 billion to acquire Pharmasset, the original maker of the drug. According to one analyst, Gilead has to make $4 billion on the drug annually, to justify the high cost of the buyout.  This is not a reflection of the research and development costs; it is an assessment of how much the company can get for it, Malpani adds. “Companies will engage in extensive studies to determine what the market will bear, but that is not the way that life-saving commodities should be priced.” Access strategy MSF’s Access Campaign, which lobbies for affordable medicines for resource-strapped communities, is waiting for Gilead to finalize its “access strategy” for poor countries after having received input from a range of organizations. A Gilead spokesperson told IRIN that it would announce the details of its access programme early next year. The company says it is “committed to making its medicines available to patients, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay”, and that it is “working very closely with advocates in communities that are affected by hepatitis C to develop an appropriate access and pricing strategy”. The spokesperson said Gilead wanted to “help ensure access to Sovaldi [the brand name for sofosbuvir] in resource-limited countries, especially countries that have a high hepatitis C burden”. However, Malpani is not optimistic that the reduced price wi[...]