- Amid a global pandemic, unprecedented needs and growing insecurity, aid workers and health-care responders are staying and delivering to the world’s most vulnerable people.
- Last year was the most violent on record for humanitarians, with 483 attacked, 125 killed, 234 wounded and 124 kidnapped. The UN condemns all attacks on humanitarians.
- OCHA and partners present the inspiring stories of humanitarian #RealLifeHeroes who are stepping up to meet the challenges.
The dedication, perseverance and self-sacrifice of these real-life heroes represent the best of humanity as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis and the massive increase in humanitarian needs it has triggered.
First responders are often people in need themselves — refugees, members of civil-society organizations and local health workers. They bring food, shelter, health care, protection and hope to others amid conflict, displacement, disaster and disease.
But humanitarian workers are being tested like never before, struggling with unprecedented movement restrictions and insufficient resources as needs are outpacing funds.
And all too often, they risk their own lives to save the lives of others.
In recent weeks alone, despicable attacks have killed aid workers in Niger and Cameroon, and since the onset of the pandemic, scores of health workers have come under attack across the world.
According to Humanitarian Outcomes’ Aid Worker Security Database, major attacks against humanitarians last year surpassed all previous years on record. A total of 483 relief workers were attacked, 125 killed, 234 wounded and 124 kidnapped in 277 separate incidents. This is an 18 per cent increase in the number of victims compared to 2018.
This is the eleventh World Humanitarian Day, designated by the UN General Assembly. It falls on the day of the attack on the UN compound in Baghdad on 19 August 2003, which claimed the lives of 22 people including the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Since then, nearly 5,000 humanitarians have been killed, wounded or abducted, and the 2010-2019 decade experienced a 117 per cent increase in attacks compared to 2000-2009.
A surge in attacks against health workers was recorded in 2019, including strikes against medics in Syria and shootings of Ebola workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Most of the attacks occurred in Syria, followed by South Sudan, DRC, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic. Mali and Yemen both saw a doubling of major attacks from the previous year. The UN condemns these attacks, and it calls for accountability for perpetrators and justice for survivors. Relief workers cannot be a target.
Mark Lowcock, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said: “To humanitarian workers everywhere doing important, courageous work on the front lines we say Thank You. You are saving lives every day, and as new challenges and crises are piling on to existing ones, your perseverance is an inspiration. Your protection is also paramount to making sure we can deliver to people most in need. The best way to pay tribute to humanitarian workers is by funding their work and ensuring their safety.”
This year's World Humanitarian Day comes as the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic. To pay tribute to the efforts of humanitarians, OCHA and its partners present the personal stories of some of the #RealLifeHeroes who are stepping up to meet the challenges, particularly local humanitarian workers.
They include refugees who as health workers are playing essential roles in the pandemic response; Ebola health workers who are stepping in to fight COVID-19; and doctors and nurses who continue to provide critical health care to women and children.
Read their inspiring stories here: www.worldhumanitarianday.org
For media: Photos, videos, and social media assetsAbout World Humanitarian Day
In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly designated 19 August as World Humanitarian Day to raise awareness about humanitarian assistance worldwide and to pay tribute to the people who risk their lives to provide it. World Humanitarian Day was commemorated for the first time on 19 August 2009.
The Republic of Korea and WHO sign new Memorandum of Understanding, committing US$ 6 million in COVID-19 PCR test kits for 24 countries in the African region
On 14 August Korean Ambassador, Ms Ji-ah Paik and WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with WHO in support of the Organization’s COVID-19 response efforts in the African region. The new MoU follows a recent call between Dr Tedros and Mr Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea, during which WHO Director-General expressed the need for additional support to scale up the COVID-19 response in the African region. The MoU sets out an in-kind contribution of US$ 6 million in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests / extraction kits to be delivered to 24 countries in Africa in the coming months. PCR has proven to be a critically important laboratory tool, providing results that are reliable and consistent.
“WHO is deeply grateful for this support, which is helping to increase the testing capacity in Africa,” said Dr Tedros. “This tremendous show of support is also strengthening the relationship between WHO and the Republic of Korea. The Republic of Korea is an important partner in global health.”
The support of the Republic of Korea follows the successful management of COVID-19 in the country and is now providing support to other countries. The Republic of Korea has a strong background in fighting infectious diseases, including the MERS CoV outbreak in 2015 and the recent outbreak of COVID-19. Leveraging this experience and demonstrating leadership, it has recently launched the Global Support Group for Infectious Disease Response (G4IDR) in Geneva.
Global health security and emergency response operations have long been a priority for the Republic of Korea. Dr JW Lee, WHO Director-General from 2003 to 2006, understood the critical need for international cooperation during public health emergencies, for trust, transparency and information sharing among all stakeholders in the global community. The first emergency operations centre, the Strategic Health Operations Centre (SHOC), was established thanks to the vision of Dr Lee. Today the SHOC is the hub of the Emergency Public Health Operations Centres Network, with more than 140 member institutions in over 80 countries around the world.
The Republic of Korea continues to demonstrate its commitment to global health, global health security and humanitarian response by supporting WHO emergency response programmes and funding mechanisms such as the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, the Emergency Medical Teams Initiative, the Contingency Fund for Emergencies, as well as their own innovative financing mechanism, the Global Disease Eradication Fund.
“I thank the Republic of Korea, for leading a comprehensive approach to COVID-19 response and control,” said Dr Tedros. “We are very grateful for this in-kind contribution to support COVID-19 response efforts in the African region, and we look forward to our continued partnership together towards achieving better health for all people, everywhere.”
Operational Considerations for Maintaining Essential Services and Providing Prevention, Care, and Treatment for Tuberculosis (TB) in Low-Resource non-US Settings During the COVID-19 Pandemic
INCB, WHO and UNODC statement on access to internationally controlled medicines during COVID-19 pandemic
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) call on governments to ensure that the procurement and supply of controlled medicines in countries meet the needs of patients, both those who have COVID-19 and those who require internationally controlled medicines for other medical conditions.
There is a need to ensure access to controlled medicines such as sedatives and analgesics for intubation protocols for the treatment of patients with COVID-19. Non-COVID patients continue to require controlled medicines for the management of pain and palliative care, surgical care and anaesthesia, mental health and neurological conditions, and for the treatment of drug use disorders.
It is important to remember the needs of existing patients who require controlled medicines for the management of these health conditions. These patients faced barriers to accessing controlled medicines before the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has further resulted in interruptions of the medicines supply chain, and it is critical that access to essential health services and medications not be forgotten or de-prioritised during this pandemic.Need for equitable access
As the pandemic increasingly affects countries with under-resourced health infrastructure and services, it is an ethical imperative to ensure that all people in all countries of the world are able to access essential medicines. This includes those medicines that are under international control.
Governments should ensure that sufficient quantities of internationally controlled medicines, of assured quality, are available and affordable to people under medical care. Throughout the duration of the pandemic and beyond the acute phase of burden on the healthcare infrastructure, it is critical that governments work cooperatively to ensure that no country, no region, no district, no city and no patient is left behind. Competent national authorities, manufacturers, suppliers and distributors play a crucial role in ensuring that internationally controlled medicines urgently needed for medical treatment are available within and across national borders. The supply chain is the foundation of quality medical care because without the necessary supplies, including essential controlled medicines, patients will suffer.Solutions to address barriers
Governments are reminded that in acute emergencies, it is possible under the International Drug Control Conventions to utilize simplified control procedures for the export, transportation and supply of medicinal products containing controlled substances, especially in those cases where the competent authorities in the importing countries may not be operating at full capacity. Competent national authorities may permit the export of medicines containing narcotic drugs and/or psychotropic substances to affected areas even in the absence of the corresponding import authorizations and/or estimates. Urgent deliveries do not need to be included in the estimates of the receiving countries affected by emergencies. When possible, competent national authorities are also encouraged to issue electronic import and export authorizations through the INCB International Import and Export Authorization System (I2ES), PEN Online and share related contingency measures in the forum therein.
Countries should ease COVID-19 related transport restrictions for controlled medicines and consider local production solutions when feasible, to meet the COVID-19 driven demand spikes.
To assist countries as they work to find solutions to the lack of access and availability of controlled medicines, the three organizations suggest the following technical assistance and support documents:
- Countries are encouraged to refer to the Guide on Estimating Requirements for Substances under International Control developed by the International Narcotics Control Board and the World Health Organization for use by Competent National Authorities.
- Countries are encouraged to refer to WHO’s toolkit on the clinical care of severe acute respiratory infections, which includes guidance on the use of controlled medicines for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
- Countries are further advised to utilize WHO’s operational guidance for maintaining essential services during an outbreak to balance the demands of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic whilst simultaneously ensuring that essential health services and provision of medication for other ongoing medical conditions are maintained.
- Countries are encouraged to refer to normative guidance such as the WHO List of Essential Medicines and guidelines for the pharmacological and radiotherapeutic management of cancer pain in adults and adolescents.
- Countries are further advised to refer to and utilize the strategies presented in UNODC’s Technical Guidance: Increasing Access and Availability of Controlled Medicines developed in collaboration with experts, civil society partners and other international partners.
- Under the UNODC-WHO-UICC Joint Global Program, countries are encouraged to reach out to UNODC and WHO for technical assistance and support at the national level that also involves civil society partners.
The work of doctors, nurses, and health care professionals in general, who provide treatment and care to people including the most vulnerable, needs to be supported and safe and effective medicines should be available, accessible and affordable at all times for people who need them.
INCB, WHO and UNODC are committed to continue to work together to address this critical issue and will expand joint efforts to engage with other partners and increase advocacy and technical assistance to countries for improving access to controlled medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate barriers to ensure that both patients affected by COVID-19 or by other non-COVID-related conditions requiring medicines under international control have access to these medicines when they need them.