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A UN safety net for refugees in Africa

News Stories, 29 September 2008

© UNF/Gore
From left: Former US President Bill Clinton, young fund-raiser Katherine Commale, UN Foundation Vice President Kathy Calvin, UNHCR chief António Guterres and NBA Commissioner David Stern at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.

NEW YORK, September 29 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency and the United Nations Foundation's "Nothing But Nets" campaign have started a partnership to help eliminate malaria deaths in refugee camps.

The partnership which aims to provide long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets to more than 630,000 refugees living in 27 temporary camps in Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda was announced by former United States President Bill Clinton at the closing plenary session of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting in New York last Friday.

"This partnership extends a life-saving safety net to some of the world's most vulnerable refugees," said Timothy E. Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation. "This initiative represents another step toward covering the continent of Africa with anti-malaria bed nets. Malaria is a preventable disease and our growing coalition of UN agencies, faith communities and major companies are determined to reach our goal of eliminating malaria deaths in this generation."

The initiative will mobilize global engagement through Nothing But Nets' partner organizations including the National Basketball Association, the Union for Reform Judaism, the people of the United Methodist Church as well as supporters of UNHCR's ninemillion.org campaign to promote awareness about malaria, raise funds to buy the bed nets needed to protect the refugees, and distribute the nets in UNHCR's camps.

More than 275,000 bed nets are needed to protect the refugees living in temporary camps many of whom have been displaced as a result of the spreading crisis in the Darfur region of western Sudan. With the next rainy season approaching, malaria looms as a major threat to the inhabitants of these refugee camps, which comprise primarily women and their children. Malaria is the largest killer of refugees, and bed nets are the most cost effective way to prevent malaria.

"The rainy season is fast approaching and we must act now to prevent more devastation and loss of life from malaria," said António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. "Nothing But Nets makes it easy for people to get involved and help us save lives. It's simple send a net, save a life."

One bed net can protect a family of four and lasts for three to five years. Each net costs $10 to purchase, distribute and educate about its proper uses.

Katherine Commale, a seven-year-old member of the United Methodist Church, was on stage at CGI to present a check to UNHCR for $2 million raised from Nothing But Nets' grassroots supporters. Commale has raised nearly $60,000 for the campaign since 2006.

"When my mom and I first learned about kids my age dying from malaria, we were really sad," said Commale. "But I knew I could help. I have gotten more kids in my school, my neighbourhood and around the country involved and make a difference. But we're not done yet."

To date, Nothing But Nets has raised more than $20 million, and has successfully distributed nets across Africa, including Gabon, Chad, Mali and Nigeria. The first Nothing But Nets-UNHCR bed net distribution will take place in Uganda in fall 2008. Nothing But Nets will also distribute bed nets in Côte d'Ivoire and the Central African Republic this year.

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Public Health

The health of refugees and other displaced people is a priority for UNHCR.

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Health crisis in South Sudan

There are roughly 105,000 refugees in South Sudan's Maban County. Many are at serious health risk. UNHCR and its partners are working vigorously to prevent and contain the outbreak of malaria and several water-borne diseases.

Most of the refugees, especially children and the elderly, arrived at the camps in a weakened condition. The on-going rains tend to make things worse, as puddles become incubation areas for malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Moderately malnourished children and elderly can easily become severely malnourished if they catch so much as a cold.

The problems are hardest felt in Maban County's Yusuf Batil camp, where as many as 15 per cent of the children under 5 are severely malnourished.

UNHCR and its partners are doing everything possible to prevent and combat illness. In Yusuf Batil camp, 200 community health workers go from home to home looking educating refugees about basic hygene such as hand washing and identifying ill people as they go. Such nutritional foods as Plumpy'nut are being supplied to children who need them. A hospital dedicated to the treatment of cholera has been established. Mosquito nets have been distributed throughout the camps in order to prevent malaria.

Health crisis in South Sudan

Kuwaiti Funds Provide Vital Medical Aid for Syrians in Lebanon

As the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon continues to grow, ensuring access to quality health care is becoming an increasing challenge for humanitarian aid groups and the international community. So, Kuwait's unprecedented donation in April of US$110 million for UNHCR's Syria crisis operations this year came at a most opportune time. Slightly more than 40 per cent of the amount has been used to fund programmes in Lebanon, including the provision of vital - and often life-saving - medical care. In the following photo gallery, photographer Shawn Baldwin looks at the essential work being done in just one Kuwaiti-supported clinic in northern Lebanon. The small Al Nahda Primary Health Care Clinic in the town of Beddawi has a staff of seven doctors and one nurse. Between 600 and 700 people seek medical attention there every month and the clinic meets the needs of some of the most vulnerable refugees.

Kuwaiti Funds Provide Vital Medical Aid for Syrians in Lebanon

Statelessness and Women

Statelessness can arise when citizenship laws do not treat men and women equally. Statelessness bars people from rights that most people take for granted such as getting a job, buying a house, travelling, opening a bank account, getting an education, accessing health care. It can even lead to detention.

In some countries, nationality laws do not allow mothers to confer nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers and this creates the risk that these children will be left stateless. In others, women cannot acquire, change or retain their nationality on an equal basis as men. More than 40 countries still discriminate against women with respect to these elements.

Fortunately, there is a growing trend for states to remedy gender discrimination in their nationality laws, as a result of developments in international human rights law and helped by vigorous advocacy from women's rights groups. The women and children depicted here have faced problems over nationality.

Statelessness and Women

Chad: Health for allPlay video

Chad: Health for all

Refugees in southern Chad receive health care under a European Union-funded programme. A new clinic tackles malaria, malnutrition, respiratory infections and more.
Jordan: Getting Health CarePlay video

Jordan: Getting Health Care

In Jordan's Za'atri Refugee Camp, dust and heat are taking their toll, especially on young children.
South Sudan: Providing Health CarePlay video

South Sudan: Providing Health Care

Mobile clinics and hundred of community workers are mobilized to bring health care to the refugees in Yusuf Batil Refugee Camp.