UN approves $9 mln in aid for crisis-stricken Venezuela

It is the first UN emergency funding for the government of President Nicolas Maduro. (File photo / Reuters)
Updated 27 November 2018
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UN approves $9 mln in aid for crisis-stricken Venezuela

GENEVA/CARACAS: The United Nations on Monday announced $9.2 million in health and nutritional aid for crisis-stricken Venezuela, where hunger and preventable disease are soaring amid the collapse of the country’s socialist economic system.
It is the first UN emergency funding for the government of President Nicolas Maduro, which blames the country’s economic problems on US financial sanctions and an “economic war” led by political adversaries.
Government critics celebrated the move as a recognition by Venezuelan authorities that the country faces a humanitarian crisis — something Maduro has denied in the past — and a step toward treating a population starved of basic services.
But some worry the funds could fuel the corruption of the ruling Socialist Party, which was put on display last week when a former Venezuelan treasurer told US prosecutors he took $1 billion in bribes.
The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) will support projects to provide nutritional support to children under five years old, pregnant women and lactating mothers at risk, and emergency health care for the vulnerable, CERF’s website said.
“CERF allocations are made to ensure a rapid response to sudden-onset emergencies or to rapidly deteriorating conditions in an existing emergency,” according to CERF’s website.
CERF mainly funds projects in countries at war or experiencing other crises like natural disasters, a UN official told Reuters, adding that other UN agencies may have provided funding to Venezuela through separate programs.
Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Aid for Venezuela’s crisis has until now been focused on South American nations that have received most of the 3 million Venezuelans who have left the country amid a mass exodus since 2015. CERF’s website shows it has provided $6.2 million for “Venezuela’s Regional Refugee and Migration Crisis.”
Many governments have been wary of providing direct aid to Venezuela, where officials face sanctions from the United States and Europe for alleged wrongdoing including corruption, human rights abuses and drug trafficking.
“I celebrate them finally accepting aid,” exiled opposition legislator Jose Manuel Olivares, a doctor and activist on health issues, said in a telephone interview, but added:
“This is a government of profoundly corrupt institutions, and (the funds) could end up in a public official’s bank account in a tax haven.”


South Sudan vaccinates health teams in Ebola epidemic

Updated 10 December 2018
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South Sudan vaccinates health teams in Ebola epidemic

  • The ministry of health’s vaccination campaign, with cooperation from the WHO, will target health care and frontline workers in the high-risk states of Juba, Yei, Yambio and Nimule

NAIROBI: South Sudan will vaccinate key health workers against Ebola close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, which faces a new epidemic, the World Health Organization said Monday.
The ministry of health’s vaccination campaign, with cooperation from the WHO, will target health care and frontline workers in the high-risk states of Juba, Yei, Yambio and Nimule, the UN agency said in a statement.
South Sudan is one of several countries bordering the vast DRC, where the new outbreak of the highly contagious viral disease had since August claimed 271 lives by December 6, according to Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga.
A total of 2,160 doses of the experimental vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV have been allocated to South Sudan for a program starting on December 19. This trial vaccine is not yet licensed but is considered safe and provided “under the compassionate-use guidelines in response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in DRC,” the WHO said.
Like neighboring Uganda, where similar measures have been taken for health personnel, South Sudan has declared a state of alert because of the risk that Ebola may be carried into its territory. At present, no cases have been reported, according the WHO.
The experimental vaccine first went on trial during the terrible epidemic of Ebola that ravaged parts of West Africa between the end of 2013 and 2016, at a cost of more than 11,300 lives. The disease spreads through contact with bodily fluids from other people or infected animals.
The vaccine was created by Canadian public health specialists at the National Microbiology Laboratory and is considered highly effective by the WHO, but it works only against the Ebola virus-Zaire strain, confirmed in the outbreak in the DRC.
South Sudan has been torn by civil war for five years in a conflict that has left nearly 400,000 dead. More than four million people — about a third of the population — have fled.
The main belligerents signed a peace accord in September, but the work of humanitarian organizations remains complicated and dangerous.
Participants in the vaccination program have been trained on rVSV-ZEBOV and undertaken a simulation exercise. Meanwhile, the Ebola preparedness contingency plan covers measures ranging from screening travelers, community engagement and provision for safe and dignified funerals, the WHO said.