The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders has released a list of what it calls the world’s top 10 humanitarian crises. It includes HIV/AIDS, Somalia, Sudan and the DRC.
Executive Director Sophie Delaunay says, “This is an initiative that we took more than 10 years ago, actually, when we had the feeling that a lot of major humanitarian crises were underreported. And gradually over time, this has evolved into a top 10 humanitarian crises,” she says.
Delaunay says the disease a neglected medical issue, “especially in the midst of a global financial crisis. We have experienced funding shortfalls for a variety of diseases, including HIV.”
Major donors have scaled back their contributions, she says, including PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plane for AIDS Relief) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
“In Sudan, we have experienced limited access in 2009 for humanitarian aid. You know that in Darfur, some aid groups, including Doctors Without Borders, were expelled from the area, leaving a lot of people without assistance,” she says.
But South Sudan is also a growing concern, despite a 2005 peace deal that ended the long war with the north.
“After considering that we’re in a post conflict era, violence is erupting again and creating,” she says, “a growing humanitarian crisis.”
Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
“The conflict has been going on for more than a decade now. So there is nothing new except that the conflict has changed a bit in nature,” she says.
Rebel attacks have targeted many towns and villages, resulting in the killing and rapes of civilians.
“There is more and more indiscriminate violence against the population. Another issue in Congo for us is definitely the lack of humanitarian assistance. Because in some areas like North Kivu (Province) Doctors Without Borders is the only organization providing surgical support,” says Delaunay.
Many others, in addition to Doctors Without Borders, have called Somalia one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. This is the ninth time Somalia has made the group’s top 10 list.
“Clearly, there are very good reasons for that. Because not only is the situation for the people not improving, but we have been forced also over the months to scale down our activity because of the violence in the country,” she says.
She adds that Somalia’s health system has collapsed, saying, “There are major lacks in terms of immunization and provision of nutritional care.”
Malnutrition also a world concern
The group says malnutrition causes the deaths of between 3.5 million and 5 million children every year.
“Malnutrition is what we consider one of the most neglected medical areas in terms of funding,” she says.
She says a World Bank study estimates it would take nearly $12 billion to solve the malnutrition problem.
“What we’ve realized so far was only $350 million is allocated to malnutrition. So this gives you an idea of the huge gap between the needs and the reality,” she says.