27 December 2008

Top 10 humanitarian crises of 2008

It's that time again, when everyone compiles their year-end Top 10 lists.

And, given the kind of work I do, one that most captures my attention each year is the list of the top 10 humanitarian crises, compiled by Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF).

Below is a list of this year's top 10, presented as hyperlinks to detailed information about each.

One of the items on this list is of our own making -- the unmet humanitarian needs of Iraqi civilians. Our tax dollars have been used to destroy their country, but we haven't done much to rebuild it.

And it goes downhill from there, from the ongoing civil war in the so-called Democratic Republic of Congo to the continued genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, and on and on and on.

Read this list, click through to details about each crisis, and then count your own blessings.

Somalia’s humanitarian catastrophe worsens
"Because of the constant flow of people fleeing Mogadishu, the camps are getting more and more crowded. Families of five have less than a few square meters to settle in, without proper shelter. Despite the insecurity, MSF has still been able to respond thanks to our Somali colleagues, who are taking tremendous risks to provide assistance. We are unable to meet any needs other than the immediate, life-saving needs. Our response is most certainly inadequate when taking into account the gravity of the situation."
-- Kenneth Lavelle, MSF head of mission for Somalia

Beyond the international spotlight, critical health needs in Myanmar remain unmet
"People affected by HIV/AIDS in Myanmar are desperate for more assistance. They want to live healthy and happy lives like any other. The ground-swell is there – HIV patient groups are forming around the country and our medical staff works tirelessly to assist patients. But it is just not enough, the problem is too big. Others must do more."
-- MSF aid worker from Myanmar

Health crisis sweeps Zimbabwe as violence and economic collapse spread
"Imagine a cholera ward with dozens of people under the most basic conditions. For instance, there is only a little electricity so there is hardly any light. It is difficult for the doctors and nurses to even see the patients they are treating. The nurses have to monitor multitudes of IV bags to make sure they don't run dry which is also difficult to do in the dark and when there are so many patients."
-- MSF Emergency Coordinator

Civilians trapped as war rages in eastern Congo
"Year after year everyone waits, and waits, to see if the latest round of violence will bring a period of calm that will last long enough for them to resume a normal life. Year after year people are disappointed. I stayed long enough to live through two of these cycles. The already displaced are displaced again, and then again. Another agricultural season missed. Another school year missed. Another relative lost to violence or preventable illness."
-- Andre Heller, MSF Logistics Coordinator, North Kivu

Millions of malnourished children left untreated despite advances in lifesaving nutritional therapies
"Children shouldn’t have to deteriorate to the point of severe malnutrition to "qualify" for ready-to-use food, which is far more nutritious than the fortified blended flours prescribed and supplied by the United States and other international donors for moderately malnourished children. Yes, ready-to-use food may cost more, but it provides the milk that fortified flours do not... We need to focus on the food quality, not just the quantity."
-- Dr. Susan Shepherd, MSF medical advisor

Critical need of assistance in Ethiopia's Somali region
A drought like the current one is a disaster for us. We lost most of our animals and now we have nothing to eat because all we have is our animals to trade and their milk."
-- A woman living in the camps on the outskirts of Wardher in eastern Somali Region

Civilians killed and forced to flee as fighting intensifies in northwestern Pakistan
"In just a few days, hundreds of thousands of people fled fighting that broke out in the tribal area of Bajuar Agency... The terrorized population fled the region en masse. In the camps we visited, we were told about bombings and people who died. Most of those who fled were unable to bring anything with them. Although they are afraid, they are waiting for just one thing -- to go back home."
-- Fabien Schneider, MSF head of mission

No end in sight to violence and suffering in Sudan
"The media attention and political involvement in Darfur means that everyone knows about the conflict here. But in the last four years, the situation has not improved. In fact, for most people, things are worse. Conditions in many of the internally displaced person (IDP) camps and in rural areas have deteriorated, and the insecurity is a major concern for ordinary people. People are living in fear. Every day is a question mark for survival."
-- Banu Altunbas, MSF head of mission in South Darfur

Iraqi civilians in urgent need of assistance
"The doctors told me I had several facial fractures, and I've already had one operation. They've taken bone from my hip to reconstruct my nose. I'm supposed to have a second operation in two weeks. I don't want to go back to Iraq. I've lost count of the number of friends who've died right before my eyes."
-- Said, 18 years old, an Iraqi patient in MSF's surgical program in Amman, Jordan

HIV/TB co-infections posses health battle on two fronts
"Mortality in co-infected patients is much higher than in patients only suffering TB; their TB evolves much faster as their cellular immune system no longer has control whilst TB infection increases the viral load. No time to waste here: it is a matter of a few weeks before patients die."
-- Dr. Eric Goemaere, Head of mission, South Africa

>> View a slideshow of these crises.

1 comment:

  1. This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 12/31/2008, at The Unreligious Right