29 May 2010Visiting Darfur today, the top United Nations humanitarian official emphasized that the situation in the war-ravaged Sudanese region remains serious, as recent clashes between the Government and rebels have uprooted tens of thousands of people from their homes. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have suspended operations in eastern Jebel Marra due to insecurity. In his meetings today with the acting Governor of South Darfur and other officials in Nyala, Under-Secretary-General John Holmes emphasized the need for the Government to allow and facilitate access for humanitarian agencies. “The problem in eastern Jebel Marra is that we don’t know what the situation is because we don’t have access,” he said. Mr. Holmes – on the third day of his four-day visit to Sudan – also expressed serious concern over the safety of aid workers in Darfur. A staff member from the United States working with the NGO Samaritan’s Purse has been held since being abducted in South Darfur on 18 May, the latest in a string of kidnappings in recent months. In Nyala, he toured the Sakale Ali Wali settlement, where some 1,000 displaced families have been given title to their land for building permanent structures. While they have been given relatively little assistance, their initiative in providing a better life for themselves and their children is evident, despite difficult circumstances. “We need to recognize and to support the efforts of IDP [internally displaced persons] communities to build and sustain livelihoods and move beyond hand-outs,” he said. “We can see here a step in that direction and it is encouraging.” Seven years of war between military forces and rebel groups have killed some 300,000 people and driven 2.7 million more from their homes in Darfur. Mr. Holmes arrived in Sudan on Wednesday after visiting neighbouring Chad during which he toured a region in the east where tens of thousands of people have been displaced by inter-communal fighting and a spill-over of the Darfur conflict. His first stop in Sudan, Africa’s largest country, was in southern Sudan, where he expressedalarm at the threats to vulnerable people in the area posed by food insecurity, displacements and inter-tribal violence, which he called a “recipe for disaster.” The area is scheduled to hold a referendum on independence early next year as part of a 2005 peace accord that ended 20 years of civil war with the northern-based national Government. Tomorrow Mr. Holmes, who also serves as UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, travels to Khartoum for the final day of his visit to Sudan, where he will meet Government, UN and NGO representatives.
A baby has his general health recorded by a data clerk, as part of an effort to monitor levels of pneumonia post-vaccination in Kilifi District, Kenya. Photo: GAVI Alliance/Evelyn Hockstein The findings are part of a report that was released today, One is Too Many: Ending Child Deaths from Pneumonia and Diarrhoea in Marrakech while world leaders meet for the UN climate conference known by the shorthand COP22 to discuss the ways in which environmental issues are negatively impacting children’s health. “We have seen clearly that air pollution linked to climate change is damaging the health and development of children by causing pneumonia and other respiratory infections,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Fatoumata Ndiaye said in a news release.Roughly one child dies every 35 seconds from pneumonia, making it the leading infectious killer of children under the age of five. Nearly one million children were its victims in 2015 – more than malaria, tuberculosis, measles, and AIDS combined.According to Ms. Ndiaye, the high rates in part have to do with the fact that some two billion children are living in areas where air pollution exceeds international guidelines. As a result, she says, many are falling ill and dying. “World leaders meeting at COP22 can help to save children’s lives by committing to actions that will reduce air pollution linked to climate change and agreeing to investments in prevention and healthcare,” she said. Rates of diarrhoea in children are also related to climate change: as precipitation declines in certain areas, the reduced availability of safe water means more children are at risk of contracting diarrhoeal diseases and suffering impaired physical and cognitive growth, if not death. Since 2000, nearly 34 million children have died from pneumonia and diarrhoea. UNICEF estimates that a further 24 million will die by 2030 if further investments are not made in key prevention and treatment options. “These illnesses have such a disproportionately high impact on child mortality and are relatively inexpensive to treat,” noted Ms. Ndiaye. “Yet they continue to receive only a fraction of global health investment which makes absolutely zero sense. That’s why we’re calling for increased global funding for protective, preventive and treatment interventions that we know will work to save children’s lives.” According to the report that was released today, 80 per cent of childhood deaths linked to pneumonia and 70 per cent of those linked to diarrhoea occur during the first two years of life. 62 per cent of children under the age of five live in low and middle income countries but account for 90 per cent of child pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths worldwide.UNICEF urges that funding be targeted towards children’s general healthcare as well as for those groups who are particularly vulnerable to pneumonia and diarrhoea – i.e., those under the age of five and living in lower and middle income countries.