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News Article

Humanitarian Crises Require Stronger Responses

By Miriam Bello | Mon, 10/18/2021 - 14:18

Humanitarian crises caused by armed conflict, natural disasters, disease outbreaks and other hazards are a major and growing contributor to ill-health and vulnerability worldwide. Under these circumstances, humanitarian actions have been increasing, reflecting compromise and commitment to health and a sense of responsibility in the face of increasingly frequent crises.

Humanitarian crises and their continuing effects on health and health systems can undermine decades of social development, explains the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). These crises represent a number of distinct challenges for public health interventions as they are characterized by violence and insecurity, mass population displacement, severely deteriorated daily living conditions and impoverishment. Furthermore, these crises can also cause the sudden and widespread disruption of health services and the health system and limit access to human, financial and technical resources, explains LSHTM. 

During these crises, the approach to healthcare should be built alongside local communities with the support of foreign organizations or other actors to achieve a sustainable attention and eventual recovery of their health systems and status. Humanitarian health responses require both coverage and effectiveness in order to achieve the overall goal of reducing mortality and morbidity, according to Health Resources Organization (HRO). Key criteria to maximize coverage and effectiveness include feasibility, timeliness, maximum opportunity benefit, minimum opportunity cost and cost-effectiveness.

HRO highlights that the response should support a multi-sectoral approach, as improvements in health outcomes are likely to involve coordination between key sectors such as health, water, sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, food security and shelter.

For example, the recent humanitarian crisis taking place now in Haiti after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the country in August 2021. Two months since the event, medical needs remain high in affected areas. While many people injured in the earthquake continue their treatment and rehabilitation, other medical needs have increased in the earthquake-affected areas due to the destruction of homes, health facilities and other infrastructure. Organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have been assisting the country at their local hospitals and clinics with supporting staff but Haiti needs further supplies, reconstruction, water and sanitation services.

Mexico has historically supported other countries during humanitarian crises. These actions are embedded on the country’s foreign relations and Mexico has been sending humanitarian assistance for health to Haiti since the earthquake. The National Civil Protection Council (CNPC) and the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID) are coordinating a team with personnel from the Ministries of Health and Defense, the Navy and the Mexican embassy in Haiti to collect and send provisions to the island. These contributions come from the private sector, various organizations and Mexicans.

In an official press release, the Mexican government informed the ARM Papaloapan and ARM Libertador where sent to Haiti with approximately 1,729 tons of provisions, including food packages, personal hygiene items, clothing, tents, medicines and medical supplies such as face masks and, in one shipping container, a mobile hospital.

“The medical brigades and mobile clinic being transported by ARM Libertador will provide medical assistance to the people of Haiti, as the country's health infrastructure was badly damaged. A third ship is accompanying the two vessels for their safety,” said the communicate.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst