Daily Archives: May 5, 2015

New UN guide aims to address mental health needs in humanitarian emergencies

5 May 2015 – Two United Nations agencies today issued a new guide to address the growing needs of millions of adults and children suffering from mental health problems in humanitarian emergencies around the world arising from natural disasters, disease outbreaks and armed conflicts.

“We call upon all humanitarian partners in the health sector to adopt and disseminate this important guide, to help reduce suffering and increase the ability of adults and children with mental health needs to cope in humanitarian emergency settings,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Antonio Guterres, High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the new guide’s forward.

According to the guide, worldwide close to 80 million people are impacted by humanitarian emergencies arising from natural disasters and armed conflicts, such as those in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and more recently, Nepal.

WHO said it estimates 5 to 10 per cent of these people suffer from a mental health condition such as depression as a result of the emergency but “rarely have access to specialized health workers trained in assessing and managing their conditions.”

Dr. Mark Van Ommeren, WHO specialist on mental health in emergencies, told reporters in Geneva that the guide is important because the rates of mental discordance during emergencies had increased and also because when people are experiencing emergencies, they usually live far away from specialists.

The new Mental Health Gap Humanitarian Intervention Guide is aimed at non-specialist health workers so that they can better identify, assess and manage mental health needs.

Contents include modules on assessing and managing such conditions as acute stress, grief, moderate-severe depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy, and harmful use of alcohol and drugs.

In emergencies, most people, adults and children, experience grief and acute distress, but “emergencies also trigger conditions such as depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or prolonged grief disorder, that can severely undermine a person’s daily functioning,” according WHO.

Mental health expert Dr. Pieter Ventevogel, of UNHCR noted that promoting and preserving mental health and psycho-social well-being was part of the agency’s mandate but often it was difficult to put it in practice for several reasons, including the refugee mental situations and the reduced number of mental health professionals available in the area.

“The Guide is the tool which will enable general health workers to identify and manage the most important mental health issues in refugee settings,” Dr. Ventevogel said. “All the health agencies in emergencies [have been] called on to train their staff in the use of that tool and include mental health as part of the standard mental package.”

WHO said the new guide will be used in Syria, where the four-year conflict has displaced more than 7.6 million people within the country and left an additional 4 million seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.

‘Not ghosts but human beings:’ UN rights office launches website on albinism

5 May 2015 – The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) launched today a website dedicated to the issue of albinism aimed at debunking the myths of the rare condition which is “still profoundly misunderstood, socially and medically.”

The website, People with albinism>Not ghosts but human beings, contains a wide range of resources on the condition of albinism, which affects from 1 in 5,000 to 1 in 15,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Hundreds of ritual attacks against persons with albinism, particularly children, have been reported in various countries and many more cases remain undocumented or unreported because of the ostracism of victims and their families, as well as the secret nature of witchcraft.

The United Nations has expressed revulsion at a recent spike in gruesome attacks against people with albinism in several African countries, where in the past six months, at least 15 albinos were abducted, wounded, or killed, including three such incidents in the last week of March.

The website site details some of the key human rights issues that people with albinism faced on a daily basis, and told the stories of 12 people ranging from musicians and models to activists, athletes, doctors and judges who were working to make a difference, to debunk the myths and ensure that people with albinism could live a life free of stigma and violence.

According to OHCHR, the colours on the site have been tested for its accessibility, particularly for people with albinism who sometimes have difficulties reading online sites that have vividly-coloured backgrounds and text. The colours of the site were chosen for their neutrality. The new website can be accessed at: http://albinism.ohchr.org.

John Kerry in Kenya

The Secretary of State is in the midst of a visit to Kenya to lay the groundwork for President Obama’s visit in July. There are many issues on the table, including terrorism, human rights issues and Kenya’s decision to shut down the Dadaab refugee camp. On that latter issue, Kerry announced $45 million aid package to convince the Kenyan government to reconsider that idea. The aid would keep the Somali refugee camp — the world’s largest -open. This AP story has a good run down of the issues on Kerry’s agenda. Later this week, he’ll become the first Secretary of State to visit Djibouti.  (AP http://yhoo.it/1JlBz5j)

Gayle Smith Has Critics…Howard French and Bill Easterly, among others, do not hold back their criticism of Obama’s pick to lead USAID.  “The controversy around Smith lays bare age-old tensions between America’s principles and realpolitik interests.The American government has forcefully withheld assistance from autocratic regimes it is hostile to (i.e. Zimbabwe and Sudan), but less willing to confront US-friendly authoritarians, for example in Rwanda, Uganda, The Gambia, DRC, or Equatorial Guinea (Quartz  http://bit.ly/1QgESyL)

Quote of the Day: “We call for an end to attacks on these vital lifelines and for the Yemeni civil aviation authority to be given the chance to repair the airports, so that humanitarian assistance can be sent to Yemen.” — A rare joint statement from MSF and the ICRC http://bit.ly/1QgDPP7

DAWNSer of the Day: Liz Braden “I am currently the Program Manager at Princeton in Africa which supports a fellowship program offering professional opportunities across the continent for recent college graduates. We are working with 30 partners in 15 countries this year. ” www.princetoninafrica.org


Three protesters were killed in Burundi’s capital on Monday, the Red Cross said, as demonstrations against a decision by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s to seek a third term in office ran into a second week. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1zIppU4)

A meningitis epidemic in Niger has claimed 252 lives since January, a health official said Monday, warning the country was short of vaccines to fight the outbreak. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1JlBHBy)

A proposed law before Malian lawmakers would reserve one-third of government jobs for women, including in elected offices. (Washington Times http://bit.ly/1QgEzE1 )

Kenya’s deputy president has said there is “no room” for homosexuality in Kenyan society, the latest comments from an African government to anger activists and likely also to annoy Western donors who say gays are targeted on the continent. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1zIpqr8)

Youths, defying a government ban on demonstrations, clashed with security forces in Guinea’s coastal capital Conakry, as opposition leaders called for nationwide protests against the timing of elections. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1zIpqrg)

More than 500 delegates representing all stakeholders in the Central African Republic begin a week-long reconciliation forum Monday in Bangui on the future of the strife-torn country, including its proposed constitution. (VOA http://bit.ly/1I9rppu)

As Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia work to end Ebola, critical healthcare services damaged by the epidemic are beginning to be revitalised. (IPS http://bit.ly/1KHqbSa)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday a decision by Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza to seek a third term in office “flies directly in the face” of the constitution. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GVdQZp)


A monitor and Syria’s opposition have called for an investigation into a US-led coalition strike last week that allegedly killed 64 civilians, nearly half of them children, in northern Syria. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1JlBH4N)

Senegal (!?) will send 2,100 troops to Saudi Arabia to take part in an international coalition combating Houthi fighters in neighboring Yemen, the West African nation’s foreign minister said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1GVdLVq)


Nepal’s government will need immense international support as the Himalayan nation begins turning its attention toward reconstruction in the coming weeks, in the wake of the devastating April earthquake, a top official said Monday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1zIpt6s)

Thai police have arrested a man they believe is the key figure behind a brutal human trafficking network that ran a jungle camp where dozens of bodies have been found. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1zIptDf)

The European Union has approved $22 million in financial support and emergency aid to help Nepal deal with the April 25 earthquake. (AP http://yhoo.it/1zIpreL)

The leader of the U.N. Development Program on Monday praised China’s relief efforts in Nepal and said the country’s importance to global development will only grow. (AP http://yhoo.it/1zIprvk)

Climate change threatens some of China’s most important infrastructure projects, China’s top meteorologist warned in a state newspaper, adding the country’s rate of warming was higher than the global average. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1JlBvSR)

Two days of informal talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives produced a series of agreements that, while not binding, raised the prospect of advancement in Afghanistan’s long deadlocked peace process. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1QgEIr9)

The Americas

In Peru, the Shipibo-Konibo people’s promised relocation has been blocked by the city’s new mayor, with the future of their Cantagallo community cast into doubt. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1KHpTdX)

…and the rest

The European Union will not be adopting Australia’s migration methods despite Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s claim that some Europeans are seeking policy advice. (AP http://yhoo.it/1zIpreE)

A new study adds to growing evidence that HIV infected people have immune systems similar to those who are much older. This occurs even when they are being treated with antiretroviral drugs. The older-acting immune systems can make them more susceptible to certain diseases. (VOA http://bit.ly/1JMmFZd)

An international report says Sweden needs to urgently address the declining performance of its schools, a growing embarrassment for the Scandinavian welfare state. (AP http://yhoo.it/1JlBApL)

Belarus faced harsh criticism Monday at a UN review of its rights record, with diplomats decrying an “atmosphere of intimidation” and urging the country to ensure free and fair elections. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1zIpuqX)

Firms in Europe’s Emissions Trading System have swapped a total of 255 million U.N.-backed carbon offsets for European Union emissions allowances from April 2013-2014, data published by the European Commission showed. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1I9nCIO)


Meet the French Countess who sold her family heirlooms to start and anti-poverty NGO. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1R5D115)

Guinea Ebola diary: In the land of lost handshakes (IRIN http://bit.ly/1KHpYOO)

The West and Its Self-Assumed Right to Intervene (IPS http://bit.ly/1I9oQnz)

Lack of Media Coverage Compounds Violence in Libya (CPJ http://bit.ly/1DPMK17)

The rent seeking rebellion cycle (Reinventing Peace http://bit.ly/1bXEg1T)

The Missing Men in International Development (CFI http://bit.ly/1EShbsF)

The Long History of the Garissa Attacks (Africa is a Country http://bit.ly/1KHtKaT)

Why are Ethiopian Israelis protesting? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1KHqgFy)

Part II: One Standard To Rule Them All (AidSpeak http://bit.ly/1KHqlsL)