Day 3: 17 March 2021
SESSION 5: “Africa: Food Crisis, Gender and Resilience”
Mr. Amin Awad, Senior Fellow, Advanced Leadership Initiative, Harvard University, Cambridge (MA), USA – Chair – introduced the panel members on issues on the forefront of the current key problems. The pandemics of Ebola and COVID-19 have an economic, health, mental, and death impact on women and children in particular. Inequality, poor governance and planning are making many areas food insecure. Climate change requires strategies on the operational side to offset some of the crisis and work on the advocacy side with planning. Political instability with self-interest alliances bringing destruction and displacement is making areas acutely dangerous and the most vulnerable even weaker. The COVID knock-on effect has created more inequity such as in access to vaccination. Cooperation is needed at field, national and international levels, working together with enlightened and constructive media. Respect for human rights, international humanitarian law and Disaster Risk Reduction need to be reviewed as well as the SDGs, and the society at large needs to get an overview of available resources and bring the world together. Strategies to address the needs of the poorest and develop a solutions-based approach to counter effects of climate change such as food crisis and build their resilience are essential.
Ms. Umra Omar, Founder and Executive Director, Safari Doctors, Lamu, Kenya, by virtual link, elaborated on her work with rural communities and the priority of food security on the continent to become self-reliant. She focused on multi-sectoral approaches to address food security in Africa which entails its intersection with economic and health policy in particular; promote small and medium scale farming to improve income, strengthen the economy and improve nutrition, health, and education, the areas most relevant for women; use digital platforms and technology in seed varieties, machinery and equipment, and waste reduction; and take into account how climate change, disease and pests need to be addressed to make systems more resilient. With real-time impacts of reduced production on women, most of whom are small-scale farmers in the coastal areas, food insecurity is growing. Access to health care, land and to the market for women with grafting and seedling propagation is needed as only 10% of land is allocated to women who also lack inheritance rights. (see attachment)
Mr. Claus Sorensen, Senior Advisor on Resilience, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), focused on resilience in Africa. The Ebola pandemic in West Africa spread fast due to the poor health system, burial rituals and civil tensions. Ebola does not spread by air but only by physical touch, but COVID-19 is not a “stupid” virus and spreads by aerosol as well. Community leaders and radio stations provided warnings while cold chains and motorcycles for distribution were available, food markets were reopened with special measures. It taught that good basic health systems and hygiene are critical and not just in big cities. Information, transparency and engagement for preparedness as well as trust are essential. Drought exhausts reserves in many rural areas and migration to urban areas or abroad lead to gradual erosion of the capacity to cultivate land. This creates the need for emergency food, social safety nets, drought resistant crops, water management, and anticipation, analysis and security sector reform to find a resolution of any conflicts. Building resilience involves local capacity with social, economic and environmental stability. “Act locally, support nationally and adapt internationally.” Only by collaboration between all actors can resilience be achieved in a nexus between humanitarian, development and peace actors. “Dig a hole and plant a tree.” (see attachment)
In his virtual message, Mr. Sean Granville-Ross, Regional Director for Africa, Mercy Corps, focused on the Agency’s programme meeting immediate needs and averting hunger in 17 of the most fragile African countries. The treat of climate disaster, violent conflict, agricultural disease and a debilitating health system exists continuously. COVID-19 is only one in a long line of shocks upending lives and livelihoods but its impact will be hard, in particular on women and girls. The WFP estimates that around 271 million Africans are acutely food insecure or at the risk of becoming so due to the effects of the COVID crisis, and are forced to use negative coping strategies, thus further eroding gender equality and affecting the health, income and food security prospects of women and girls, and especially in protracted conflicts and crises in the (semi-) arid lands of Africa. They bear the brunt of the pandemic with job losses in the informal economy, particularly in agriculture, with a negative impact on food security of households and communities. Mercy Corps prioritises building resilience towards food security aiming at strengthening local sources of resilience, not only for communities to survive the crisis but also to build back better. A main focus is strengthening the resilience capacity of women and girls, and transforming local norms of governance systems to build equitable resilience outcomes for the future.
One example relates to the change in the family norms of violence against women and girls and building staff capacity, making use of online teaching methods. Another initiative has assisted hundreds of unemployed domestic workers to find f jobs by partnering with a mobile app matching service providers with jobs. The many initiatives undertaken by Mercy Corps aimed at tackling the implications of COVID-19 and other complex issues have shown that using extensive information and creative technologies as well as partnering with local capacity can help to bring support to the many challenges and vulnerabilities faced by the people in the region. (see attachment)
Ms. Lola Castro, Regional Director for Southern Africa & Indian Ocean States, World Food Programme (WFP), by video, presented the situation in southern Africa affected by shocks of climate change, COVID-19, conflict, and poor harvests with rain and cyclones, but also drought affecting food security. Smallholder farmers, the majority of whom are women, are most affected. WFP is working on resilience building for 48.5 million food insecure in the southern Africa region. Actions include cooperation with governments, local communities and civil society, natural resource and water management, asset creation, erosion control systems, and early warning systems for potential new shocks. Access to credit savings in small holder farmers in community groups incorporating gender dimension ensuring to give women the power to harness the shocks. Displaced persons want to produce themselves and ask for seeds and tools as well as water management and education. Climate change, conflict and COVID-19 in Eastern DRC has created hardship and show how women produce and trade in the border areas, and how important their role is for the food security in the region. Therefore, investing in women’s resilience and in sustainable food systems is essential to ensure that food systems are not broken by COVID and other shocks. (see attachment)
From the floor:
How can cooperation in the nexus work better? The three streams traditionally work in isolation and nexus can only be successful of all three work together by sharing analysis of the issues affecting the crisis. Each tool of humanitarian, development or military is different but the approach must be joint-up.
External factors such as geopolitics and impact on African continent’s growth, show the need to stop the trickledown approach and to urge leaders to take a bottom-up approach.
KEYNOTE ADDRESS “The Current Situation in the Sahel”
H.E. Ms. Mbaranga Gasarabwe, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for MINUSMA and Resident / Humanitarian Coordinator, Mali, in her presentation indicated that the main threats in the Sahel are food insecurity and prevailing national and regional conflicts in the G5 Sahel group of countries. While at the time of her arrival in Mali in 2009 was supported by donors as a model of democratic governance, the seven neighbouring countries were unstable. However, in the last few years also Mali is in crisis, and the region is facing a great political, security, humanitarian and development crisis. As a result of the collapse in Mali and its neighbours, a large peacekeeping mission was established in Mali facing a multidimensional crisis of conflict, insecurity, banditry, human and commodities trafficking, and climate change with a total collapse of social services. COVID-19 has greatly affected food markets, and the education system with school closures. Some 31 million people in the Sahel are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, basic services, and some 14 million are severely food insecure. The lack of access due to the insecure environment or climatic causes makes it a great challenge to work and bring relief. The G5 Sahel group of countries can work together through the ‘Police de Proximité’ to build trust in the population. One of the biggest challenges in the region is stabilisation and to implement the signed peace agreement, while humanitarians are becoming targets of competitive forces, and all are working at great personal risk. Civil-military dialogue and working according to humanitarian principles must become a solution to a complex issue. The UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel was established for the UN system to create one common strategy and speak with one voice to address the multifaceted humanitarian, development, security challenges in the region and also bring in other actors such as the private sector to take part of the efforts in terms of resource mobilisation. (see attachment)
SESSION 6: “Africa: Contemporary and Future Health Challenges”
Dr. Chibuzo Okonta, President, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) West Africa – Chair – stressed the problems faced in Africa related to conflicts, climate change and the COVID pandemic. He looked at the health impacts of these challenges, protracted crises and resulting displacement. In 2009, a meningitis mass vaccination campaign in over 17 countries carried out and since then no more outbreak has occurred. However, this may change as the immunity must be maintained, a challenge with the lack of necessary supplies and the constant movement of people due to the attacks on health facilities. Access is the number one health problem despite the increase of medical universities or airports providing an opportunity to change the way of dialoguing. MSF created a sixth operational entity in West Africa, but lives of the elderly are at risk due to the lack of drugs. While west Africa could mostly contain the Ebola pandemic with help of public messages, new diseases appear and in southern Africa the new virulent pandemic is a major challenge due to lack of access to vaccines. Women are most affected and face hurdles before getting access to food and medicines. How long should they wait when the beneficiaries become the boss and the agencies become the service providers? (see attachment)
Ms. Chiara Scanagatta, South Sudan Programme Manager, Doctors with Africa CUAMM, Padova, Italy, in a video showed what the agency does in eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its focus is on ensuring local and country resilience, responding to epidemics, providing assistance to refugees and migrants through a human rights based approach. She proposed system strengthening through a development orientation, stating that a development agency can be active in response to emergencies, in recovery, mitigation, and preparedness. By looking through the development lens, it is possible for the agencies medical staff to contribute to the humanitarian response through an integrated and complementary approach. (see attachment)
Mr. Mamadi Diakite, Special Adviser for Security, Humanitarian Affairs and Fragile Countries, UNAIDS, Geneva, focused on inequality in treatment of HIV/AIDS. “The right to health means that no one disease should be fought at the expense of the other”, according to the UNAIDS Director-General. Three strategic priority areas for the agency placing the community always at the centre of response are to maximise equitable access to services and solutions; break down all barriers to achieving HIV outcomes; and to fully resource and sustain efficient HIV responses and integrate into systems for health, social protection, humanitarian settings and pandemic responses. This will be done by mobilising national and international resources to overcome challenges and advance the SDGs. While in 2000 24 million people in Africa were living with HIV/AIDS, their number has now increased to 38 million but the number of deaths has decreased by half as a result of a forty-fold increase in access to antiretroviral therapy. Threats to health in Africa are multiple with the existing and new diseases, emerging pandemics, inequalities, fragile health systems, mobility and humanitarian emergencies. About half of the 74,400 COVID deaths are in North Africa compared to 4.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS and 140,000 AIDS related deaths. Worrisome are the life and future of the children born with the disease as well as the many women affected by gender based and sexual violence in the continent. (see attachment)
“The UAE Red Crescent in Africa”
H.E. Mr. Humaid Rashid Al Shamsi, International Aid Adviser, UAE Red Crescent Authority, described the UAE humanitarian activities in response to the COVID pandemic. The humanitarian aid provided by the Organisation at a cost of UAE 2.8 billion reached some 96 million beneficiaries in Africa. It distributed protective gear and equipment, medical supplies, and worked together with key partners to respond to humanitarian alerts. Its support in response to COVID-19 included food and medicines to Syria, in Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt and Sudan benefitting many households. It also provides food and non-food items to the Syrian refugees in Iraq and to Yemen. (see attachment)
“Activities and Accomplishments in Africa”
H.E. Mr. Sultan Al-Sadoon, Director-General, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Humanitarian Foundation, which is a platinum sponsor of the event, expressed his wish to have been able to attend the DIHAD event in person, rather than contributing remotely. He thanked the UAE for the efforts to organise the conference and for its humanitarian support throughout the world. A considerable amount of humanitarian work is carried out together with the Islamic Development Bank in support of more than 28 countries in Africa, according to the objective of His late Highness King Abdallah to provide support to all those in need, the poor and the vulnerable throughout the world. These projects have brought support to 11.5 million beneficiaries by construction of schools, health centres and universities as well as boreholes in several countries. The aim is to combat famine and regular drought in several countries such as in Somalia. During the COVID pandemic, support to West African countries reached US$ 35 million. (see attachment)
From the floor:
How does the UAE Red Crescent collaborate with national societies when coming to destination countries?
“The West Nile Refugee Child Protection and Adult Safeguarding Project”
Dr. Sukhwinder Singh, Assistant Professor, UAE University Al Ain, addressed the issue of refugee child protection in West Nile and Uganda. He recognised the important work of social workers in addressing solidarity and human suffering. He described what it means to be a humanitarian and work with families excluded from social services and other interventions. In South Sudan, the initiative works with a range of international partners, not the usual humanitarian players but rather international diaspora community whose skills and capabilities and resources can support the work in South Sudan. One interesting example of the West Nile Social Work project is an English football club using football as a therapy for youth experiencing certain types of trauma. His work in the UAE University is focused on training individuals to be leaders in social work, framed as Service for Allah. It refers to the national and international community in responding to particular types of challenges and needs, with altruism as central to the work carried out, which is described as frugal practice meaning it does not require resources. Professionals take their special skills into the humanitarian terrain in a value based framework and concerns of child protection with far more creative approaches working with families facing particular situations requiring response.
More than two third of the camp population in Uganda are youth, women and children with specific needs. Therefore, the project has been very careful not to be parachuted in but to work with partners already on the ground and indigenous knowledge to develop particular types of interventions and responses. This approach seeks to measure the impact towards achieving SDGs and the gains to be obtained from working in this manner. (see attachment)
“An Update on the Epidemiology of Covid-19 in the GCC and Community-Level Good Practices in the UAE”
H.E. Salama Al Ameemi, Director-General, Ma’an, Abu Dhabi, with her presentation spelled out how the Ma’an agency has tackled the impact of the covid crisis. In UAE multiple measures were rolled out multiple initiatives to respond to the pandemic, most prominent of which was the launch of the “Together we are Good” programme to engage and direct community’s contributions towards those directly affected with more than 400,000 people benefiting from the medical, education and food support. By September 2020 of the Community Development Fund reached close to AED 1 billion
in financial and in-kind contributions. Vision of the agency Ma’an was collaboration between public, private and civil society, and social engagement of the Abu Dhabi community to create innovative solutions to social priorities and challenges. Ma’an aims at working together to bring about innovative solutions to tackle Abu Dhabi’s most pressing needs through collective efforts through volunteering and in-kind contributions to ease the burden of those most affected by the pandemic. Community engagement programme has shown to be of high impact in the society with a small team coordinating the actions of many highly motivated members of the public. It also provided electronic means to students and their school fees were paid, healthy workers received free meals and accommodation in hotels and villas, with food baskets distributed by volunteers, and free COVID testing. The activities reached far beyond the UAE and it is expected to have a far-reaching impact giving members of the community an opportunity to contribute to society by social projects for private and business fora. The impact improving the daily lives and the importance of social coherence and collaboration can be measured. The same principle can be applied to future challenges and create thriving communities and improve lives and societies also for tomorrow. (see attachment)
“An Update on the Epidemiology of Covid-19 in the GCC and Community-Level Good Practices in the UAE”
Dr. Fawzi Abdulla Amin, Head, GCC Cluster Office, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Dubai, provided an interesting analysis of the crisis, and focused on good practices of the IFRC in the COVID-19 crisis. One important tool is the data platform from 221 sources on the cases, deaths, tests and vaccine coverage of the COVID-19 crisis. Since the first reported case in China on 1 December 2019 and the first death on 22 January 2020, it took three months to reach the GCC region with seven cases on 29 January.
The total cases reported until now in the GCC are around 400,000, half of which are in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, whereas the reported deaths in the GCC stand at 11,000, of which more than 57% in Saudi Arabia with the largest population in the region. New in daily reported cases now are in the UAE, 41% of deaths in the GCC are now in the UAE. PCR tests carried out per million population are the most in the UAE, followed by Bahrain. The highest death rate per million population is seen in Oman.
Vaccine distribution per million population is in the UAE with 67%, followed by Bahrain. This data gives an interesting explanation of the frequently changing numbers and rates. (see attachment)
“Community Solidarity Fund against Covid-19”
Mr. Mohammed Musabbah Ali Dahi, Director, Charitable Institutions Department, Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD), Dubai, agreed that “humanitarian aid is an obligation and not an option.”
The Department has a global vision in interest of the community in the humanitarian sector. The pandemic hit globally and is also disrupting daily life and the commercial sector in the UAE.
The Community Solidarity Fund (CSF) since its launch has had a positive impact by a multi-sectoral support to meet social needs and manage donations to reach the largest number of beneficiaries. Precautionary measures were complied with and all social gatherings were prohibited to prevent the spread of the virus and increase of infections. Working with the private sector and charitable institutions has shown to be a recipe for the success where harmonisation of all efforts and actors was key. The CSF was launched in the second wave, with special teams to manage the donations and finances and delivery. H.H. Sheikh bin Rashid Al Maktoum has supported efforts of the Department, and support was received from many private sector actors such as RTA, thus raising over AED 500 million in less than three months. The health sector was most to be supported with protective gear and equipment, medicine and respirators. The Fund also provided over 13 million meals for over AED 300 million, including 56,000 food baskets; education supplies such as laptops for distance learning; accommodation of persons who were stuck in Dubai due to border closures; and over 10 million bottles of water were distributed. Currently over 16,000 volunteers are working in the CSF to continue these important activities. (see attachment)
Closing Address and Director DISAB’s Summary and Conclusions
H.E. Amb. Gerhard Putman-Cramer, Director, DIHAD International Scientific Advisory Board (DISAB), gave a brief overview of the main points to take home from the event. Discussions had covered the compounding effects of the COVID crisis on humanitarian aid and development processes. The compounding impact of climate change had been reviewed, as had the specificities of urbanisation, education and employment, this in a rapidly expanding young population. Partnerships had also been looked at, both existing and developing, as had innovation and generous new assistance programmes such as Zakat and Sukuk. The causes and status of recurring food crises had been reviewed, as had gender issues exacerbated health challenges, and the elusive concept of resilience. We had also looked at the future which, on account of our eternal capacities to bounce back, and the resources at hand, give us reason to be hopeful. Despite many challenges, our sessions were well attended and we have been able to have important and excellent presentations and exchanges. We have come to the conclusion that COVID has also given us opportunities to work better together. Humans have to be put at the centre of our actions and nobody can succeed in isolation. To achieve success we need for humanitarian, development and peace actors to plan together and work for the same goal. COVID has far reaching implications going beyond just physical and mental health, also causing economic disruption and political instability. The discussions have shown that although Africa may have been faced with COVID-19 slightly later than other parts of the world, we must work together with governments and local actors to make sure that the continent will not be forgotten in the awarding of the best support, including the provision of vaccines.
We are wiser than three days ago and we must now bring these conclusions into actions.
The 18th DIHAD event will be held from 14 to 16 March 2022, and the theme, possibly focusing on the importance of partnerships, will duly dovetail with issued highlighted by EXPO 2020.
In conclusion, Amb. Putman-Cramer recalled all thanks expressed at the previous evening’s Gala Dinner, adding thereto the interpreters and Ms Magda Ninaber van Eyben for her preparation of the Conference’s report. He then formally declared DIHAD’s 17th edition closed.