UN allocates $21 million to help thousands in need of humanitarian assistance in Sudan

The United Nations, through the Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SHF) – a multi-donor fund that responds to critical humanitarian needs in Sudan – has allocated $21 million to help thousands of people in need of humanitarian assistance across Sudan in 2017.

The humanitarian challenges in Sudan are diverse and complex, including in Darfur where over 3 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance. The SHF focuses on providing emergency assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, and also those returning home after a long period of displacement. Funds to the SHF for this allocation have been donated by the governments of Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

“The Sudan Humanitarian Fund will continue to support the frontline responders in Sudan, the organisations working to provide relief every day, especially to the most vulnerable, such as women and children,” said Ms. Marta Ruedas, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan.

The SHF draws on alternative approaches to humanitarian assistance. For example, the SHF funds projects that provide cash to vulnerable people who have been displaced for long periods of time, instead of in-kind aid, thus allowing individuals to procure what they need themselves. The needs of people returning to their homes following displacement are also prioritised by the SHF. By focusing on protracted displacement and returnees, the fund aims to strengthen the link between humanitarian response and long-term development and peacebuilding initiatives. Over $5 million of this $21 million also represents multi-year contributions, which will facilitate multi-year planning.

The SHF plays a vital role in ensuring an effective, coordinated, prioritised and principled humanitarian response in Sudan. Since 2006, the SHF has received and granted over $1 billion to international and national NGOs, and UN agencies, funds and programmes, enabling these entities to provide relief to people in need. In 2016, the SHF allocated $38.8, which represented about 8 per cent of the overall funding available to humanitarian partners.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

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Famine Hits Parts Of South Sudan

War and a collapsing economy have left some 100,000 people facing starvation in parts of South Sudan where famine was declared today, three UN agencies warned. A further 1 million people are classified as being on the brink of famine.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) also warned that urgent action is needed to prevent more people from dying of hunger. If sustained and adequate assistance is delivered urgently, the hunger situation can be improved in the coming months and further suffering mitigated.

The total number of food insecure people is expected to rise to 5.5 million at the height of the lean season in July if nothing is done to curb the severity and spread of the food crisis.

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) update released today by the government, the three agencies and other humanitarian partners, 4.9 million people – more than 40 percent of South Sudan’s population – are in need of urgent food, agriculture and nutrition assistance.

Unimpeded humanitarian access to everyone facing famine, or at risk of famine, is urgently needed to reverse the escalating catastrophe, the UN agencies urged. Further spread of famine can only be prevented if humanitarian assistance is scaled up and reaches the most vulnerable.

Famine is currently affecting parts of Unity State in the northern-central part of the country. A formal famine declaration means people have already started dying of hunger. The situation is the worst hunger catastrophe since fighting erupted more than three years ago.

“Famine has become a tragic reality in parts of South Sudan and our worst fears have been realised. Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive,” said FAO Representative in South Sudan Serge Tissot. “The people are predominantly farmers and war has disrupted agriculture. They’ve lost their livestock, even their farming tools. For months there has been a total reliance on whatever plants they can find and fish they can catch.”

Malnutrition is a major public health emergency, exacerbated by the widespread fighting, displacement, poor access to health services and low coverage of sanitation facilities. The IPC report estimates that 14 of the 23 assessed counties have global acute malnutrition (GAM) at or above the emergency threshold of 15 percent, with some areas as high as 42 percent.

“More than one million children are currently estimated to be acutely malnourished across South Sudan; over a quarter of a million children are already severely malnourished. If we do not reach these children with urgent aid many of them will die,” said Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF Representative a.i in South Sudan. “We urge all parties to allow humanitarian organizations unrestricted access to the affected populations, so we can assist the most vulnerable and prevent yet another humanitarian catastrophe.”

“This famine is man-made. WFP and the entire humanitarian community have been trying with all our might to avoid this catastrophe, mounting a humanitarian response of a scale that quite frankly would have seemed impossible three years ago. But we have also warned that there is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security, both for relief workers and the crisis-affected people they serve,” said WFP Country Director Joyce Luma. “We will continue doing everything we possibly can to hold off and reverse the spread of famine.”

Across the country, three years of conflict have severely undermined crop production and rural livelihoods. The upsurge in violence since July 2016 has further devastated food production, including in previously stable areas. Soaring inflation – up to 800 percent year-on-year – and market failure have also hit areas that traditionally rely on markets to meet food needs. Urban populations are also struggling to cope with massive price rises on basic food items.

FAO, UNICEF and WFP, with other partners, have conducted massive relief operations since the conflict began, and intensified those efforts throughout 2016 to mitigate the worst effects of the humanitarian crisis. In Northern Bahr El Ghazal state, among others, the IPC assessment team found that humanitarian relief had lessened the risk of famine there.

FAO has provided emergency livelihood kits to more than 2.3 million people to help them fish or plant vegetables. FAO has also vaccinated more than 6 million livestock such as goats and sheep to prevent further loss.

WFP continues to scale up its support in South Sudan as humanitarian needs increase, and plans to provide food and nutrition assistance to 4.1 million people through the hunger season in South Sudan this year. This includes lifesaving emergency food, cash and nutrition assistance for people displaced and affected by conflict, as well as community-based recovery or resilience programs and school meals.

In 2016, WFP reached a record 4 million people in South Sudan with food assistance — including cash assistance amounting to US$13.8 million, and more than 265,000 metric tons of food and nutrition supplies. It is the largest number of people assisted by WFP in South Sudan since independence, despite problems resulting from the challenging context.

UNICEF aims to treat 207,000 children for severe acute malnutrition in 2017. Working with over 40 partners and in close collaboration with WFP, UNICEF is supporting 620 outpatient therapeutic programme sites and about 50 inpatient therapeutic sites across the country to provide children with urgently needed treatment. Through a rapid response mechanism carried out jointly with WFP, UNICEF continues to reach communities in the most remote locations. These rapid response missions treat thousands of children for malnutrition as well as provide them with immunization services, safe water and sanitation which also prevents recurring malnutrition.

Distributed by APO on behalf of World Food Programme (WFP).

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MSF urges SA government & researchers to conduct further research for a promising new TB drug

Public health groups, including Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Access Campaign, Treatment Action Group (TAG), the Global TB Community Advisory Board (TB CAB) and Public Citizen, welcomed today’s announcement by Johns Hopkins Uniersity (JHU) and the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) of an agreement that could expedite the research and development of a promising tuberculosis drug and lead to improved treatment options for people living with TB.

JHU holds several patents for the drug, sutezolid, and has agreed to a license deal with the MPP. The license would enable open non-exclusive licenses with multiple drug developers—including product development organizations, companies and governments—to conduct research and develop drug combinations that include sutezolid. It marks the first such open license for a TB drug held by an American university, and the first open license for a TB drug through the MPP. The MPP, an organization funded by UNITAID, has a mandate to increase innovation and access to drugs through voluntary patent licensing.

“This is a significant achievement after more than two years of advocacy stemming from a UAEM student-led petition brought forward by this group,” said Merith Basey, executive director for UAEM North America. “We commend JHU for shifting its stance to prioritize a public health-driven path for the development of this lifesaving drug, and we call on similar leading universities to leverage their significant role in ensuring future access and affordability of medicines such as this one for people worldwide.”

Sutezolid has shown promise in Phase Ila clinical trials, but research stalled for several years while Pfizer held rights on the drug. Since 2013, when Pfizer signed an exclusive license with Sequella, a biotech company, no new studies of sutezolid have been successfully conducted. The primary patent on sutezolid expired in 2014, but Pfizer, Sequella and JHU still hold secondary patents and clinical data on the drug.

Current TB regimens require combinations of drugs to successfully treat TB; JHU’s licensing deal with the MPP would allow for open research on drug combinations that include sutezolid, which is part of the oxazolidinone class.

Groups such as UAEM, MSF’s Access Campaign, TAG, TB CAB, Public Citizen and JHU students and alumni have, for years, called on JHU to license sutezolid as broadly as possible and with a public health approach.

While the JHU and MPP agreement is a major step forward, these groups are concerned that the deal contains no strong safeguards to ensure that any treatments developed will be made affordable for all the people who need them.

“This agreement has the potential to greatly improve current treatment options, but it can only be truly effective if the treatments created are made accessible to people living with TB everywhere,” said Judit Rius Sanjuan, US manager & legal policy adviser at MSF’s Access Campaign.

“Strong pricing and access safeguards should be a key component of any licensing agreement put together by the MPP. Without them, people in urgent need of new TB treatments will remain at the mercy of whatever group or company acquires a sublicense and its definition of affordability, which is often very different from what we as a community would consider affordable and changes arbitrarily depending on country income status,” said Wim Vandevelde, chair of the TB CAB.

Public health groups are advocating for a single affordable global price for any treatment brought to market through this deal. “We are putting drugmakers on alert, including the first that will benefit from this agreement,” said Peter Maybarduk, access to medicines director at Public Citizen. “We will hold you accountable to a global definition, our definition of affordability. Patients everywhere, including here in the United States, need to have access to this treatment.”

They are also calling on Pfizer and Sequella to act in the interest of public health. “We urge Pfizer and Sequella to provide open access to all existing data on sutezolid,” said Lindsay McKenna, senior TB/HIV project officer at TAG. “These data are critical to expediting sutezolid’s development. Without them, researchers will have to redo studies, wasting precious resources and time.”

TB is the leading infectious disease cause of death globally, and new medicines to treat drug-resistant strains of TB are urgently needed. Current treatments for drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) can last up to two years and include up to eight months of daily injections. Even when patients are able to tolerate these grueling and often toxic regimens, fewer than half of those treated are cured. The development of new TB drugs like sutezolid is critical to the advancement of safer and more effective TB treatment regimens. TB is treated with regimens rather than a single medicine.

Sutezolid marks the first drug that, if developed, could use the
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Seychelles values its partnership with IFAD

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) organised the 40th session of its Governing Council at its headquarters in Rome, Italy, on 14th and 15th February. Seychelles was represented by Ambassador Bernard Shamlaye, the Seychelles Governor for IFAD and its Permanent Representative, and Mr Michael Nalletamby, Principal Secretary – Fisheries and Agriculture.

In its statement to the Governing Council session, the Seychelles delegation referred to the steady progress made by the Competitive Local Initiatives for Small-scale Agriculture (CLISSA) project started three years ago and which will be completed next year. Valuable knowledge and experience have been gained through the implementation of the project by its management team and the stakeholders involved and discussions have started with IFAD on a follow up project focused on capacity building in agribusiness for small farmers and fishers.

Noting that the United Nations has declared 2017 the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the delegation said that small farmers and fishers can contribute to sustainable tourism while also benefitting directly from the country’s major economic sector. The potential for small fishers to participate in and benefit from the country’s Blue Economy initiative should be realised through appropriate support.

The delegation highlighted the development challenges of small island developing states in the face of climate change as well as world economic uncertainties. IFAD was recognised as a valuable development partner with the activities it supports reaching where they are most needed.

It commended IFAD on working in complementarity with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and other multilateral organisations and welcomed its support to regional cooperation initiatives, notably in the Indian Ocean area.

The Governing Council elected Mr Gilbert Houngbo from Togo as the next president of IFAD. He succeeds Mr Kanayo Nwanze who has been president for the last eight years.

Mr Nwanze made a working visit to Seychelles in March 2013, at the time that Seychelles and IFAD were negotiating the CLISSA project.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Seychelles.

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