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Coronavirus – Critical Underfunding Exacerbated by COVID-19 Pushing Displaced People to the Edge

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A shortage of resources for humanitarian operations could have devastating impacts for millions of people around the globe

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has warned that millions of displaced people in need of protection and assistance, and their host communities, are feeling the pinch of massive underfunding, as the COVID-19 crisis continues to increase humanitarian needs globally.

The agency has so far received just 49 per cent (US$4.5 billion) of the $9.1 billion required for its global operations this year. The consequences of this funding gap are particularly devastating in low- and middle-income countries, which currently host more than 85 per cent of the world’s refugees. In many such countries, the pandemic has destabilized economies, exacerbated internal displacement and reduced access to asylum.

A report released by UNHCR today describes the COVID-19 pandemic as a ‘force multiplier’, increasing the needs of the displaced population, including refugees in many countries, while also making those needs more difficult to address.

A shortage of resources for humanitarian operations could have devastating impacts for millions of people around the globe –putting women and children in particular at heightened risk, and disrupting vital services including, health, shelter, water and sanitation, and many other essential relief programmes.

The report highlights 10 situations particularly affected by funding gaps: Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, the Central Mediterranean route, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Venezuela. These situations make up 56 per cent of UNHCR’s annual budget.

While some instances of underfunding are due to new needs resulting from COVID-19, many others pre-date the pandemic and demonstrate the impact that chronic underfunding can have on the lives of displaced populations and host communities.

“As violence, persecution and civil strife continue to uproot millions, the coronavirus pandemic is destabilizing entire sectors of the economy, with millions depending on fragile incomes that are now at risk,” said UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly T. Clements. “In these unprecedented times, the world needs to broaden its focus making sure displaced populations and their generous but under-resourced hosts are not forgotten. The time to step up support is now.’’

Underfunding has already brought many programmes to a halt. Other essential activities, such as child protection, support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, health services, education, and water, sanitation and hygiene activities are on the brink of being cancelled or scaled back if more funding is not forthcoming soon.

For example, child protection and psychosocial care services in Ugandan settlements hosting South Sudanese refugees had to be scaled down this year due to lack of funding. Further reductions in the number of case worker staff will result in at-risk children not receiving home monitoring visits.

Without adequate funds, UNHCR will also have to reduce or stop its winterization assistance to vulnerable displaced people in Syria and Syrian refugees in the region, which includes cash transfers and the distribution of relief items this winter.

Lack of funds already forced UNHCR to end its support to the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan in March. A programme to provide medical equipment related to cancer treatment had benefitted both Afghan refugees and members of the host community.

As of September 2020, a shortfall in funding will prevent UNHCR from assisting Venezuelan families with emergency cash, vouchers and core relief items in key border and urban areas in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a US$223 million funding shortfall has forced UNHCR to cut programmes across a number of sectors. The provision of emergency shelters to internally displaced families in South Kivu Province stopped in January and planned construction of classrooms for Congolese refugee children in Burundi and Zambia has been put on hold.

As well as additional funding, UNHCR is calling for donor flexibility when contributions are made so that resources can be targeted to where the needs are the greatest.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Francis Megwa, an Inexperience Nigerian Doctor, Faces Panel in Ireland for Poor Professional Performance

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Francis Megwa, an inexperienced Nigerian doctor, described as ‘knowing next to nothing’ by doctors at University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) is facing the Irish medical panel for poor professional performance.

Dr. Megwa, who was fired by University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) for lacking basic medical knowledge claims he had always made the hospital authorities aware of his lack of experience.

Dr Francis Megwa told a medical inquiry that the panel who interviewed him for the job of senior house officer (SHO) at UMHL in April 2018 knew about his limitations but he still believed he was expected to improve “in days rather than months”.

A hearing of the Irish Medical Council’s fitness to practise (FTP) committee was informed that Dr Megwa had never worked in a paid role in a hospital since qualifying as a doctor in Romania in 2015.

“This was the level of experience I had before taking up the job which they knew,” Dr Megwa said.

A consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician who interviewed Dr Megwa for his post at UMHL in April 2018, Mendinaro Imcha, admitted the recruitment process could have been better but stated it had improved since the hospital had hired him.

The Nigerian-born doctor, who was placed on call on his first day in the job, is facing two charges of poor professional performance over his time working at UMHL between July 9, 2018, and August 14, 2018.

The IMC claims he failed to demonstrate basic competency in taking a patient’s clinical history, in diagnosing symptoms, inserting cannulas, and in prescribing common medication.

He is also charged with being unable to give a clear history about a pregnant woman who had presented at UMHL with vaginal bleeding or estimate her level of blood loss as well as failing to recommend appropriate treatment for her.

The inquiry heard earlier evidence from witnesses that Dr Megwa knew “near nothing”, was unable to take blood samples, and had to ask what an obstetrician was.

He was accused of incorrectly diagnosing the woman who was 35 weeks pregnant with a condition associated with the first weeks of pregnancy when she was actually suffering from a potential emergency complication.

The inquiry heard Dr Megwa had described working as a SHO with the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Scotland because he felt it was the “most appropriate term”.

Dr Imcha said his CV stated he had previous work experience as an SHO and had completed an internship at his medical school in Romania.

He was also registered with the Irish Medical Council (IMC) and had an EU medical qualification.

The FTP committee heard Dr Megwa had been ranked fourth out of five candidates on a panel to fill vacant SHO posts at UMHL.

He had been scored 55 out of 100 for his medical and diagnostic skills, 60 out of 100 for decision-making and initiative, and 70 out of 100 for communication and personal skills.

The interview panel had noted Dr Megwa was “short of experience but eager to work and learn”.

A member of the FTP committee, Veronica Larkin, said there appeared to be “a big mismatch” between the marks scored by Dr Megwa and his subsequent work performance.

Dr Imcha admitted she was “surprised and worried” when she was alerted within a few days of Dr Megwa taking up his post about problems with his performance, although she still wanted to give him a chance.

However, Dr Imcha said a decision was taken to assess the SHO’s competence after she was notified that his performance had not improved and other staff remained concerned about his treatment of patients.

Dr Imcha recalled how Dr Megwa, who had already been given an oral warning, struggled to answer questions based on what a final-year medical student should know, while she was also concerned that he was unable to specify the speciality he had done during his internship.

The consultant said she had made a complaint to the IMC about Dr Megwa as he lacked the basic knowledge expected of someone who had been to medical school for five or six years and completed an internship.

“We felt it may not be safe for him to continue,” she recalled.

Dr Imcha said she was unaware that Dr Megwa complained that he was shaking and panting with nerves during his assessment meeting.

Dr Megwa said he had learnt to take blood and fit cannulas after just a few days working at the hospital but claimed the only people who really helped him at UMHL were his fellow SHOs.

The hearing was adjourned until a future date.

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Nigeria, World Bank To Raise $30M For Vaccine Plant — Osinbajo

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The Vice President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo said the federal government and the World Bank are working together to raise $30 million to fund a vaccine factory in the country.

VP Osinbajo discussed this on Monday in Abuja at the International Conference on “Access to Health and Socio-Economic Development Beyond Covid-19: The First Multisectoral Approach to Finding Solutions.”

The conference was organized by the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, NIPRD. He said the global health trend has made it essential for Nigeria to establish its own vaccine production facilities.

“Nigeria is in talks with the private lending arm of the World Bank and other lenders to raise around $30 million to help finance a vaccine factory.

“Bio-vaccine Nigeria Limited is chaired by Professor Oyewale Tomori; 49 percent of the company is owned by the Nigerian government with the remainder held by May and Baker Nigeria PLC and they are planning to start construction of a factory.

“ I believe in the first quarter of next year; the plant which is supposed to be located in Ota, Ogun State, will initially, we are told, fill and finish, which I’m also told, means importing the raw materials for the vaccines and then packaging them for distribution.

“Some South African companies are already involved in this task; I believe Aspen Pharmacare and Belvac Institute operate similar facilities.

“Full manufacturing, we are told, should follow in the months or years to come; I’m not quite sure when.

“So it’s obvious that the way forward is more funding for healthcare and research for innovators to develop solutions in pharmaceuticals and medical consumables.”

The Vice President said that through the discussion he had with NIPRD Director-General Dr. Obi Adigwe, he was inspired by the potential and the kind of support that the pharmaceutical industry and research agencies provided.

Osinbajo said the federal government established the Health Sector Intervention Fund which disbursed 76.9 billion naira, or about $185 million, to finance the acquisition and installation of critical medical care equipment.

He said the fund was also intended for the expansion of production lines at various pharmaceutical companies across the country.

According to him, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is also supporting a number of research and development initiatives in the health sector, as it has disbursed a total of 233 billion naira in grants.

Mr. Osinbajo said the NIPRD is also making immense contributions to developing a local cure for COVID-19.

“NIPRD has also developed an impressive variety of pharmaceutical products from indigenous resources and both the Niprimune and Niprimune plus both of which I have the pleasure of seeing, have been found to possess a reasonable property that is able to prevent or combat COVID-19.

“Both products, which have been registered by NAFDAC, are currently undergoing clinical studies at various levels with a view to production approval for emergency use.

“NIPRD Director-General Dr. Obi Adigwe assured that around the same time next year, the institute will launch three new products currently under development at its centers for nanomedicine, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“It is this proactive approach that we must adopt in the face of the slow access to vaccines in Africa and of course in Nigeria.

“Although we have received help from some friendly countries and the Covax alliance, less than 4 percent of our eligible population would have been vaccinated by the end of this year.

“There is no doubt that we cannot afford not to have our own vaccine production facilities.”

He said the COVID-19 pandemic was a revelation for him in five different ways: the unpreparedness of most developed economies; vaccine reluctance and the danger of conspiracy theory and misinformation, especially in a public health crisis.

VP Osinbajo said the fourth revelation was that, in terms of the COVID-19-wide global health crisis, help should not be expected.

“The fifth revelation is that despite infrastructure weaknesses, in Nigeria we have an experienced and robust public health system, populated by some of the best staff in the world.

“But more importantly, we have the opportunity to become one of the leading countries in healthcare,” he said.

Earlier, in his welcoming address, Adigwe said the conference was the first of its kind to bring together multidisciplinary academics to engage, innovate and synthesize new approaches to solving global health challenges.

Keynote speaker Prof Joseph Fortunak, who spoke virtually, said COVID-19 exposed the vulnerability of the pharmaceutical supply chain and urged Nigeria to take drug manufacturing seriously.

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UK Provides £29 Million to Support People Affected by Conflict in Northern Ethiopia

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The Minister for Africa Vicky Ford has announced an additional £29m of humanitarian aid to people affected by the catastrophic conflict in northern Ethiopia.

The announcement marks World Food Day today [16 October] and increases the UK’s commitment to the crisis to more than £75m – making the UK the second largest donor.

The Minister is also calling on all parties in Ethiopia to urgently agree a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid through and for the Ethiopian Government to lift the de facto blockade of humanitarian relief into the Tigray region. The people of Tigray need 500 trucks of critical assistance per week, but less than 10% of this has been met since June.

The conflict has caused a humanitarian catastrophe, with the UN estimating that 5.5 million people face acute food insecurity. Over 400,000 people in northern Ethiopia are experiencing famine-like conditions – more than in all of the humanitarian crises in the rest of the world combined.

Minister for Africa, Vicky Ford, said:

The Ethiopian people are facing a humanitarian catastrophe and are in urgent need of support.

This pledge will provide vital food, water and healthcare to the hundreds of thousands of people facing famine in northern Ethiopia.

This is a man-made crisis. I urge all parties to urgently agree a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to reach starving people.

The new funding comes as the UK’s Special Envoy for Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Affairs, Nick Dyer, recently concluded his third visit to Ethiopia since the start of the conflict in November 2020, where he pressed for improved humanitarian access to the areas affected by conflict.

Special Envoy Nick Dyer said:

On my third visit to Ethiopia since the start of the Tigray conflict, I saw a further deterioration of the crisis and the conditions for humanitarian operations.

We are pleased to provide more funding but humanitarian agencies need access into all areas where people are in need now, so that lives can be saved and catastrophic famine avoided.

The conflict in northern Ethiopia has spread beyond the borders of Tigray now, so we are expanding UK funding to reach those in urgent need in Afar and Amhara.

The funding will be delivered by UN agencies and NGOs, including the WFP, UNICEF, and the Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund. Our partners expect to deliver lifesaving nutrition treatment for more than 100,000 malnourished children, and 27,000 pregnant and new mothers.

The pledge will also deliver clean water and sanitation for 26,000 people and provide services to prevent and respond to gender-based violence for almost 3,000 women and children.

It will also support people who have been forced to flee their homes by the spread of conflict across northern Ethiopia, providing shelter, healthcare, and support to children who have been separated from their families and to survivors of sexual violence.

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