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IRIN - Somalia


Drone strikes, diphtheria, and data: The Cheat Sheet

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 23:00:00 +0000

Every week, IRIN’s team of specialist editors scans the humanitarian horizon to curate important sources on unfolding trends and events around the globe: A diphtheria dilemma? A global shortage of the antitoxin used to treat highly contagious diphtheria could trigger an ethical dilemma for health providers in Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugee camps. There were more than 2,400 suspected cases of diphtheria in Bangladesh as of 25 December — but only 5,000 vials of antitoxin available anywhere in the world, according to Médecins Sans Frontières. “There is not enough of the medication to treat all of the people in front of you who need it and we are forced to make extremely difficult decisions,” Crystal van Leeuwen, MSF’s emergency medical coordinator in Bangladesh, said on the aid group’s website. “It becomes an ethical and equity question.” Early cases of diphtheria were spotted in November but there were no available antitoxins in southern Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, where nearly one million Rohingya refugees are now clustered together in haphazard camps and settlements. World Health Organization officials had to hand-carry the first available doses from Delhi in December. There are now about 1,300 vials of the diphtheria antitoxin available in Cox’s Bazar, according to the WHO. Fuelled by low vaccination rates, extreme overcrowding and poor sanitation, the sudden re-emergence of diphtheria in Bangladesh followed years of decline: there were only two reported cases in 2016.           allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="500" id="datawrapper-chart-qkjUQ" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" scrolling="no" src="//" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important;" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="75%"> And garnering the attention required to generate the $4.4 billion the UN says is required by July to stave off a humanitarian “catastrophe” is only part of the battle. Devising the correct response strategy and securing the necessary access in complex and fragmented war zones is likely to be even harder. These four famines or near-famines do have similarities, but they also have different origins, different trajectories, and therefore different needs. Local factors are at play, with each country prone to its own combination of flaring conflict, weak governance, poor infrastructure, and failing markets.   Video: Inside the perfect storm of famine Inside the “perfect storm” of famine leer_jason_cattle.jpg Special Report Aid and Policy Conflict Food Health Politics and Economics IRIN Africa Somalia South Sudan Cameroon Chad Niger Nigeria Middle East and North Africa Yemen Yemen Famine hasn’t officially been declared (yet) in Yemen, but, with more hungry people than any of the other big three areas at risk, this feels rather like a technicality. A reminder of the UN definition: At least 20 percent of households in an area with extreme food shortages and a limited ability to cope; acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent; and a death rate exceeding two persons per day per 10,000 persons due to lack of food. As Somalia found out in 2011-2012, famine doesn’t need to have been declared for many to die. Nearly half its starvation deaths occurred before it met this statistical definition, including almost 30,000 children in just three months. Right now, 17 million of Yemen’s overall population of 27.4 million are classified as food insecure and 3.3 million people, including 2.1 million children, have acute malnutrition. Some half a million children are even worse off – with severe acute malnutrition – UNICEF counts this as a 200 percent increase since 2014. Yemen’s crisis is entirely man-made (UN relief chief Stephen O’Brien said as much in recent comments). As such, to the few paying atten[...]