Urgent action is needed to protect women, children and vulnerable health workers in the Sahel

Women, children and adolescents, and the health and humanitarian workers who provide care and support to them, face increasing challenges and life-threatening risks in these times of escalating conflict and humanitarian crises around the world, According to a comment posted on the British medical journal (BMJ) this week to match World Immunization Week (April 24-30, 2022). While the recent devastating hostilities in Ukraine have captured the world’s interest, there are a number of other long-standing and growing conflicts that also deserve the global community’s attention and political mobilization. In 2020, for example, a record 56 active conflicts were documented globally. In the Sahel region, countries such as Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are subjected to violent attacks by extremist insurgents and unidentified armed groups, causing alarming humanitarian consequences. The armed conflict and attacks on civilians have displaced almost three million people, almost one million since January 2019. The comment’s co-authors, the Rt. The Honorable Helen Clark, PMNCH Board Chair and Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Kersti Kaljulaid, United Nations Secretary-General’s Every Woman Every Child Global Advocate, Former President of Estonia call for a multi-sectoral response to ensure continuity of services for women, children and adolescents in conflict and humanitarian situations. They also urge world leaders to commit to greater investment in safety and security measures for health and humanitarian workers who risk their own lives striving to provide services, support and care to vulnerable women, children and adolescents in the most difficult circumstances. In times of conflict and in challenging humanitarian settings, even the most basic health rights, from access to safe midwifery services to routine childhood vaccinations, can be denied to vulnerable women, children and adolescents who need them. The theme for World Immunization Week 2022, Long Live All, in pursuit of a life long and well lived, provides a timely reminder that while the delivery of life-saving vaccines against dangerous childhood diseases remains a global ambition, has not yet been universally achieved. particularly for those caught up in the conflict. If an armed conflict occurs within a 10 km radius of where a child resides, the odds that a child receives a vaccine are 47.2% lower. Of the 8.4 million people In the northeastern states of Nigeria: Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY states), estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2022, more than 30% of households report barriers to accessing essential health services. Northeast Nigeria also has lower vaccination rates compared to other parts of Nigeria: 42% of children in the northeast have never received any vaccinations, while this is true for only 8% in the southeast (National Population Survey). vaccination coverage, 2016/2017). As a result, many children die from vaccine-preventable and other infectious diseases, such as malaria, acute watery diarrhoea, cholera and measles. Burkina Faso was declared free of wild poliovirus in 2015, but in 2020 it was one of 15 countries on the African continent to experience outbreaks of paralytic cases linked to other forms of poliovirus. “In chaotic and desperate situations caused by conflicts, in distressing humanitarian contexts, health and humanitarian workers are key players in the protection and assistance system. Their intervention fuels hope for the right to health and well-being among the victims and affected populations,” he says. Marlene Temmermandirector of the Center of Excellence in Women’s and Children’s Health at the Aga Khan University of East Africa and PMNCH board member. “The damage and loss caused to health and humanitarian workers in conflict zones demands a multisectoral and equitable response. It is time to act to protect those who protect the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents, even in dangerous security contexts. It is time for all actors involved in the humanitarian field to take concrete and innovative actions so that health and humanitarian service workers are no longer harmed, no longer lose their lives while carrying out their mission.” Women, children and adolescents in conflict and humanitarian crisis situations face additional threats to their lives and well-being. Ten million deaths in children children under five between 1995 and 2015 globally can be directly and indirectly attributed to the conflict. Women of reproductive age living near high-intensity conflict are three times more likely to die than women in stable settings. Health and humanitarian workers also risk their own safety and lives trying to maintain service coverage, care and support for vulnerable women, children and adolescents in conflict situations. They may become victims of conflict, either as accidental victims of attacks or as deliberate targets of hostile forces. Violence against humanitarian workers claimed 484 individual victims in 2020117 of whom died, making 2020 the worst year on record for the second year in a row. In Mali, the SHCC identified 11 incidents of violence or obstruction of healthcare workers in 2020. At least four ambulances were damaged in these incidents. A common form of violence against health providers involved armed groups shooting at and damaging ambulances. These types of attacks often targeted ambulances from voluntary aid organizations and local health care providers. On December 31, 2021, The Burkina Faso Ministry of Health reported that 444 health establishments (30.7% of the total) have been impacted by insecurity in the regions most affected by the humanitarian crisis. 149 facilities are completely closed, depriving around 1.8 million people of access to health care. 96% of these facilities closed due to direct attacks by unidentified armed groups, forcing health workers to abandon their work. ALSO READ: Sahel crisis and efforts to resolve it “To protect those who protect us, there is an urgent need for targeted coordination of investments to promote safe access to services, including the delivery of vaccines and other essential services and products through multi-level and multi-sector public-private efforts” . write Helen Clark and Kirsti Kaljulaid in the BMJ. “If health workers are to provide vaccines and other essential services in these settings, they require constant protection, as urged by the UN Security Council (Resolution 2286) and required by the international humanitarian and human rights law. The international community must hold states and armed groups accountable for respecting international humanitarian law in the territories they control.” The impact of conflict and humanitarian crises on women, children and adolescents and health workers who risk their own lives to protect others will be further explored at an upcoming virtual summit organized by PMNCH, the alliance largest in the world for the health of women, children and adolescents. . On Thursday, May 19, 2022, Lives in Balance: Keeping Commitments in Humanitarian and Fragile Settings will bring together representatives from governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, academia, health professional associations, youth-led organizations and grassroots campaign groups to explore what form a global response to these challenges should take. ==================================================== ======= About PMNCH Established in 2005, PMNCH is the world’s largest alliance for the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents, with 1,250 partner organizations working together through 10 constituent groups: partner governments, donors and foundations, NGOs, adolescents and youth, private sector organizations, health professional associations, academic and research institutions, global funding mechanisms, intergovernmental organizations and UN agencies. PMNCH is organized by the World Health Organization, based in Geneva. 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