WAUNAKEE, Wisconsin — In August, UNICEF broke its single month shipment record for emergency supplies, according to a recent press release. The organization was responding to a variety of issues, from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to the continued conflict in Syria and Iraq, the aid supplies were distributed among many troubled regions.
UNICEF, anticipating an increased demand for aid, shipped 33 loads of emergency supplies over the course of 27 days from its supply hub in Copenhagen.
The countries receiving aid and the context forging the need for it were as follows:
UNICEF dispatched 248 metric tons of supplies, largely medical in nature, to Liberia, a country struggling to combat the Ebola outbreak within its borders. UNICEF hopes the supply shipment, a combination of items ranging from latex gloves and safety goggles to “a range of essential medicines,” will help the Liberia’s medical staff contain the disease.
The Liberian government, which is headed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has implemented a controversial series of quarantines as the country’s death total has increased to over 750. Entire neighborhoods are being cordoned off, leading to conflicts between the hungry quarantined populations and the soldiers trying to keep the epidemic contained.
Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe criticized the policy’s effects so far, saying “you must make the people inside the quarantine zone feel that they are being helped, not oppressed.”
Helping the people of these neighborhoods, whose populations can reach 120,000, in part requires more effective medical facilities: the UNICEF shipment should improve effectiveness.
Central African Republic
The Central African Republic – where conflict has displaced more than 500,000 people and where malaria accounts for nearly 60 percent of all health facility visits – received 26 metric tons in medical equipment and other supplies from UNICEF.
The organization shipped more anti-malarial supplies to the country. The disease, which kills more than 650,000 people each year, is the leading cause of death in the Central African Republic.
As malaria is both “preventable and curable,” the UNICEF shipment should have a significant impact in the effort to reduce deaths from the disease.
Close to one million children in South Sudan need treatment for acute malnutrition in 2014, according to UNICEF. The organization’s recent dispatch of nutritional support and supplies totaling 34 metric tons provided “ready-to-use therapeutic foods” that should help ameliorate the malnourishment of these children.
Moreover, a man-made food crisis in the country has put 50,000 children at risk of dying by the year’s end without treatment. UNICEF’s aid shipment is timely and, of course, sorely needed, but Cosmos Chanda, the representative for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, noted recently that conflict in the country has limited aid organizations’ capabilities for reaching the starving people.
The majority of supplies (500 metric tons) in UNICEF’s emergency supply operation went to Iraq to assist displaced families in the northwest.
Sectarian tensions continue to sow division in Iraq, with the Syrian crisis exacerbating the problem. Refugees from Syria are pouring into Iraq, straining the latter country’s already limited means of providing people with essential services.
The U.N. Refugee Agency plans for there to be roughly 1.3 million displaced persons in the country by Dec. 2015, of whom the agency can assist about half. Continued shipments like UNICEF’s will therefore be essential in order to sustain the families and children in the region.
UNICEF has a fairly well-established system for supplying displaced families in Syria with everything from water purification tablets to education kits. In addition, with winter approaching, the organization has started stockpiling clothing for children to use when the climate becomes more inhospitable.
As ISIS’s involvement in the region has expanded conflict in Syria into something much larger than a civil war, the conflict will probably continue for much longer. Thus, supply “pipelines” in the region like UNICEF’s are invaluable for temporarily replacing the government services that have disappeared because of the conflict.
State of Palestine
UNICEF also deployed 3.5 metric tons of supplies to Gaza, where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has driven nearly 60,000 people in Gaza out of their homes and into shelters.
Most of the supplies are medical in nature and are being used to restock hospitals as many have been hit by Israeli troops during the current conflict in Gaza. Israel believes that Hamas is stashing weapons in hospitals, which are protected by the Geneva Conventions. Hospital officials have denied such claims.
– Ryan Yanke
Sources: UNICEF , New York Times 1, New York Times 2, Relief Web, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, World Health Organization, Washington Post, Washington Post 2, The UN Refugee Agency, Fox News