Afghanistan takes major step to address undernutrition

Source: UN Children's Fund
Country: Afghanistan

Nearly two million children under the age of five suffer from ‘chronic undernutrition’, which results in stunted growth and delayed mental development.
Launching of the National Nutrition Strategy

Kabul, 21 March 2019: Afghanistan took a critical step in efforts to fight one of the highest undernutrition rates in the world yesterday, with the launching a National Nutrition Strategy that provides the roadmap for partnership, investments and action.

Nearly two million children under the age of five suffer from ‘chronic undernutrition’, which results in stunted growth and delayed mental development. About 4 out of 10 children are stunted and are likely to suffer from irreversible physical, mental and social development loss, impacting significantly on school achievement and economic productivity. An estimated 1 in 10 children are wasted, making them more vulnerable to disease and death. Approximately 1.4 million children under five years of age require treatment for acute malnutrition annually, including about 600,000 who suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM). An estimated 3 out of 10 adolescent girls (31%) are anaemic. Moderate to severe anaemia can adversely affect growth and development, cognitive and learning capabilities among young people. The good news is, that we know what works.

In 2017, Afghanistan was the 60th country to become a member of the Scaling up Nutrition Movement and the Afghanistan Food Security and Nutrition Agenda was launched – a multi sector platform to address malnutrition. Furthermore, the Nutrition Counsellor initiative – which has created more counselling opportunities for mothers and caregivers – was approved to be scaled up to all 34 provinces. Finally, nutritional services are at the core of health services delivery throughout the country and this is a chance to highlight the importance of these services. This strategy could therefore not have been more timely and relevant, in our collective and concerted efforts to address malnutrition at all levels, proving a solid roadmap for ‘**Optimal nutritional status for all citizens to reach their full potential in Afghanistan’**.

‘We have wide political support being at the highest level, being either the President of Afghanistan, who endorsed nutrition as a major agenda, or, the CEO, Chief Executive Officer, who is leading the major nutrition meeting himself’, says Dewa Samad, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Public Health Afghanistan.

The UN in Afghanistan focuses on strengthening understanding and support (internally and externally) for why nutrition is a crucial investment during the critical first 1,000 days of a child’s life. This is important, not only for the health and wellbeing of women and children but also for the overall development and economy of the country.

Undernutrition is a symptom of limited access to quality basic services such as health care, safe water and proper sanitation, as well as good hygiene and nutrition practices. Poor feeding practices, such as discontinued breastfeeding, as well as the lack of appropriate and diversified foods have also been principal contributing factors to the ongoing nutritional situation. Although the basic availability of food alone cannot address this issue, the availability and use of child appropriate nutritious foods can make a difference in meeting their specific needs.

Speaking on the day of launch, on behalf of the One UN for Nutrition – UNICEF, WFP and WHO- UNICEF Deputy Representative, Sheema Sen Gupta said "This strategy is a heartening example of partnership between Government, the UN, Donors and the private sector that will serve the best interests of the people of Afghanistan." "We are grateful for the enormous efforts made by the Ministry of Public Health in tackling undernutrition by ensuring that preventive and treatment nutritional services are reaching women and children."

Translating this strategy into concrete budgeted action is an important next step if we are to make gains in addressing undernutrtion in Afghanistan. Longer term development and investments in prevention are essential to improve and sustain the nutritional outcomes of families and communities. Strengthening community and health systems is key towards creating the enabling environment and enhancing the resilience and ability of households towards improved nutrition.

In implementing the National Nutrition Strategy, Afghanistan can secure the opportunity for children to be well nourished in life so that we can protect and secure its future – as the greatest investment and the prosperity of this nation lies in its children.

Notes for editors


Stunting – which results from chronic nutritional deficiency and is measured in terms of a child’s height at a age – causes irreversible physical and mental damage. Stunted children cannot learn, earn or contribute as much to the future of their families, communities and countries.

Children in the poorest communities are more than twice as likely to be stunted as children than in the richest communities. Stunted children are also more likely to contract diseases and lack access to basic health care, and to not attend school. Girls who are stunted are more likely to give birth to babies who have a higher chance of becoming stunted.

Globally, one third of children in rural areas are stunted, compared with one quarter in urban areas. Targeting the needs of the most vulnerable children is crucial in order to break the cycle of poverty.


Proven, low-cost solutions can reduce stunting and other forms of undernutrition. These include: improving nutrition for mothers and adolescent girls; promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life as well as timely, safe, appropriate and good-quality complementary food thereafter; and providing adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals.

Rapid physical and mental development occurs starting in pregnancy and until age 2. The damage caused by stunted growth during this period is largely irreversible. After 2 years of age, a child who gains a disproportionate amount of weight may face an increased risk of becoming overweight and developing other health problems.

Prevention and treatment of malnutrition require access to good food and adequate attention to health and care. Improving access to safe water, promoting hygiene and preventing, treating diseases and supporting the use of nutritious foods are equally important. Nutrition can be improved through education, social safety nets and other poverty eradication measures. UNICEF and WFP work with governments and partners in many of these areas.


Stunting negatively affects school attendance and performance. Recent data suggests that stunting and undernutrition can cause nations to lose at least 2 to 3 per cent of their gross domestic product. On the other hand, leading economists have estimated that every dollar spent to reduce chronic malnutrition can have a US$13 payoff.

Media Contacts

Feridoon Aryan
Communication Officer
UNICEF Afghanistan
Tel: +93 (0) 730 72 71 15

WHO calls on international community to join urgent push to end Ebola outbreak

Source: World Health Organization
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo

No cases have crossed international borders but the risk of national and regional spread remains very high, especially when episodes of violence and instability impact the response.
WHO calls on international community to join urgent push to end outbreak

As the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) approaches 1 000 cases amid increased violence, WHO reaffirmed its commitment both to ending the outbreak and working with the government and communities to build resilient health systems.

Since the outbreak was declared in August 2018 there have been 993 confirmed and probable cases and 621 deaths in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

“We use words like ‘cases’ and ‘containment’ to be scientific, but behind every number is a person, a family and a community that is suffering,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This outbreak has gone on far too long. We owe it to the people of North Kivu to work with them in solidarity not only to end this outbreak as soon as possible, but to build the health systems that address the many other health threats they face on a daily basis.”

More than 96 000 people have been vaccinated against Ebola in DRC, along with health workers in Uganda and South Sudan. As of 21 March, 38 of 130 affected health areas have active transmission. More than 44 million border screenings have helped to slow the spread of Ebola in this highly mobile population. No cases have spread beyond North Kivu and Ituri provinces, and no cases have crossed international borders.

However, the risk of national and regional spread remains very high, especially when episodes of violence and instability impact the response.

“As we mourn the lives lost, we must also recognize that thousands of people have been protected from this terrifying disease,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “We are working in exceptionally challenging circumstances, but thanks to support from donors and the efforts of the Ministry of Health, WHO and partners, we have saved thousands of lives.”

WHO has more than 700 people in DRC and is working hard with partners to listen to the affected communities and address their concerns and give them greater ownership of the response, particularly in the current outbreak hotspots of Katwa and Butembo.

“The communities affected by this outbreak are already traumatized by conflict,” said Dr Tedros. ”Their fear of violence is now compounded by fear of Ebola. Community engagement takes time. There are no quick fixes. But we are learning and adapting to the evolving context every day.”

Despite the challenges, most communities accept response interventions. More than 90% of those eligible for vaccination accept it and agree to post-vaccination follow-up visits. Independent analysis of vaccination data indicate that the vaccine is protecting at least 95% of those who receive it in a timely manner. More than 80% of people also accept safe and dignified burials, a key to preventing onward transmission.

“Despite the increased frequency of attacks by armed groups, WHO will stay the course and will work with communities to end this outbreak together with the Ministry of Health and partners,” said Dr Tedros. “We need redoubled support from the international community, and a commitment to push together to bring this outbreak to an end.”

For the next 6 months, the combined financial need for all response partners is at least $148 million. As of 19 March, $US 74 million had been received.

“We count on donors to help close the funding gap so we can end this outbreak as soon as possible,” said Dr Tedros. “We will still be in DRC long after this outbreak has finished, working with the government and communities on the road to universal health coverage. We are committed to improving the health of the people of DRC now and in years to come.”

Media Contacts

Tarik Jasarevic
Spokesperson / Media Relations
Telephone: +41227915099
Mobile: +41793676214

WFP classifies Mozambique as highest-level emergency

Source: World Food Programme
Country: Mozambique

The designation will accelerate the massive operational scale-up now underway to assist victims of last week’s Category 4 cyclone and subsequent large-scale flooding.
New video material available for download here:

New photo material here:

BEIRA: The United Nations World Food Programme on Friday declared the Mozambique flood crisis a Level 3 emergency, putting it among a handful of top response priorities for the organisation, on a par with Yemen, Syria and South Sudan.

The designation will accelerate the massive operational scale-up now underway to assist victims of last week’s Category 4 cyclone and subsequent largescale flooding that claimed countless lives and displaced at least 600,000 people.

It follows the government’s declaration earlier this week of a national emergency – the country’s first – and request for international assistance. That triggered the activation of global, multi-agency ”clusters” to coordinate relief efforts on food security, logistics and emergency telecommunications (led or co-led by WFP) as well as on water and sanitation.

  • Satellite imagery shows numerous floodplains, including an “inland ocean” 125 km by 25 km – the size of Luxembourg – where water levels surged as high as 11 metres, submerging almost everything in their path.
  • An MI-8 transport helicopter contracted by the WFP-run United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) continued to airdrop food – including WFP high-energy biscuits (HEBs) and micronutrient-rich peanut paste used to prevent and treat malnutrition as well as tents, medicines and other essentials for stranded communities outside Beira.
  • Another 20 metric tons of biscuits airlifted from a WFP-operated UN emergency response depot in Dubai landed in the western city of Chimoio on Friday, and a further planeload is due to arrive in Beira on Saturday.
  • To date, more than 20,000 people have received WFP food assistance.
  • Two more UNHAS MI-8s, and two cargo planes with a capacity of 10 and 20 metric tons, are due to join the relief effort in the next few days.

The procurement and dispatch of large quantities of food for the Mozambique crisis continued elsewhere in southern Africa, including cereals, vegetable oil, and fortified blends from South Africa and Zambia.

Displaced families struggle to survive the winter in Herat, Afghanistan

Source: Médecins Sans Frontières
Country: Afghanistan

Living conditions are grossly inadequate and particularly poor when it comes to shelter, food, water and sanitation with visible consequences on the health of children and pregnant or lactating women.
Project Update
20 March 2019

Widespread conflict and severe drought has forced over 150,000 people to flee villages in northwestern Afghanistan and seek shelter in the city of Herat. Their condition remains extremely fragile, as they face shortages of food and limited access to healthcare. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) opened a winter clinic in Herat to provide much-needed assistance to these vulnerable people.

Little Bibi Hawa is four years old. She has been suffering from pneumonia and fever for four days. Her father, Agha Muhammad, is very worried.

“I brought my daughter here to find treatment for her” he says, his voice subdued, as he sits near the child in the waiting room of our winter clinic for displaced people in Herat. Coping with Afghanistan’s harsh wintry weather is no easy task. “We live in a tent with very cold temperatures outside. We don’t have enough blankets. Our children get sick every other day.”

Displaced by drought and violence

Agha Muhammad is 60 years old, and used to live with his family in Naqchiristan, a small village in the rugged, wind-swept Badghis province, one of the poorest areas of northwestern Afghanistan. His family is one of almost 30,000 households, or 150,000 people, who were forced to leave the rural areas where they used to live because of long-lasting drought, compounded by widespread insecurity.

Much of Afghanistan remains a country at war and fighting is rampant between government forces and armed groups in the region. Any respite in combat is usually only due to heavy snowfall.

“Part of my family is still in our village and I’m concerned about how they will cope,” Agha says. “There is no water, we lost our cattle and there is no work for us to feed our children.”

Most of these displaced families settled in Herat province. However, local stakeholders have proved reluctant to accept the presence of organised camps, forcing newcomers to improvise makeshift settlements and rely on humanitarian aid.

We live in a tent with very cold temperatures outside. We don’t have enough blankets. Our children get sick every other day.

MSF responds amidst poor living conditions

Living conditions are grossly inadequate and particularly poor when it comes to shelter, water and sanitation. Limited availability of food is another issue, with visible consequences on the health of children and on pregnant or lactating women, who need good quality nutrients to feed their babies.

To provide medical assistance to these vulnerable groups, we set up a clinic in the outskirts of Herat, offering free medical consultations, screening and treatment of malnutrition and vaccination for children through the coldest time of the year.

“We opened the clinic to offer medical care during the rough winter months,” explains Abdul Azim Toryalai, Assistant to the Project Medical Referent. “We also run an ambulance service for patients who need to be taken to hospital.”

Jamala is 40 years old, has five children and is expecting her sixth. Her family is originally from the village of Dara-e-Bam, in Badghis province. She came to the MSF clinic to seek antenatal care: consultations during a woman’s pregnancy are routine activity in much of the world, but a lack of options and limited awareness mean they are not to be taken for granted in this region.

“We had no choice but to leave our village, because our only source of income was our land and drought has badly affected our area. We don’t know how long it will last,” says Jamala. “But since we moved to Herat in August last year, my husband has been unable to find a job and we have no income. I am not sure where and how I will deliver my baby.”

MSF helps fill gaps in area with limited healthcare options

The displaced population in Herat has no money to buy drugs or pay for transportation. This further reduces their options for healthcare, already shrunk by the lack of medical personnel in the area.

MSF doctors and nurses from the Herat clinic provide an average of 100 consultations per day to pregnant and lactating women and children under five, while vaccinating roughly 100 people each week.

We also provide ambulance transportation and refer approximately 25 severe cases to local health structures, including obstetric patients. A majority of people suffer from illnesses associated with either cold weather or insufficient food intake.

We had no choice but to leave our village, because our only source of income was our land and drought has badly affected our area.

Struggles left behind, only to find new struggles

Baloch Khan looks older and more mature than his 30 years of age. His story resembles that of many other patients at our clinic: he left Badghis for Herat in June 2018 and now lives with his family in a tent in an informal settlement.

His four-and-a-half-year-old son Asadullah has had a fever for a few days and cannot sleep at night.

“I used to be a farmer, but over the last two years, insecurity and lack of water made our life miserable,” Baloch says. “Agriculture and husbandry, the only sources of our income, became impossible.”

He managed to leave Badghis’s struggles behind, only to find new ones in Herat.

“My brothers and other relatives are still in Badghis and I have no idea on how much they are suffering there,” he says. “But our life here is also very difficult. Most importantly, we don’t know our fate and what will happen next. My children are growing up in a difficult situation, without school and any education.”

Reliant on aid, with more people to arrive

Though there is a public hospital in the city of Herat, it is located more than 10 kilometres from the settlements and treatment is not completely free. This makes it hardly accessible for the displaced population. Many are eager to add that even if they manage to find the money for transportation to the hospital and for a consultation, they will walk out with a prescription for expensive drugs they will never be able to buy.

“We just rely on aid we receive from humanitarian organisations,” says 20 year-old Khadija, whose two year-old daughter Bibi Aysha is being seen for severe diarrhoea. “I am worried. My daughter has been constantly losing weight since we moved here.”

Another 100,000 displaced people still remain in Badghis province and may soon head for the Herat settlements too, unless the situation changes in those rural areas.

'Hundreds of thousands of children need immediate help' after Cyclone Idai

Source: UN Children's Fund
Country: Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe

UNICEF is now appealing for US$23.3 million to support the response in the three affected countries. This amount is likely to rise as the extent of the damage becomes clearer.
This is a summary of what was said by Christophe Boulierac, UNICEF spokesperson in Geneva – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

GENEVA, 22 March 2019 – Children and families affected by Cyclone Idai and the floods in Southern Africa are facing dire conditions, and thousands of lives remain at risk as heavy rain continues to cause massive destruction. Across Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, UNICEF is scaling up our response to help children and families affected. Approximately 1.7 million people are affected by Cyclone Idai; almost half of those affected are children.

Our Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, landed in Maputo last night, and is visiting children and families in and around Beira today, as well as supporting UNICEF’s humanitarian response. The Executive Director described the scene on the ground as desperate, stating that “The situation on the ground remains critical. There is no electricity or running water. Hundreds of thousands of children need immediate help. The priority right now is to give them shelter, food, water, education and protection.”

Our Country Representative in Mozambique, Marco Luigi Corsi, has also visited the affected areas. He said that the deluge has been so extreme in some areas that people have not been able to find higher ground to escape the flooding, forced onto rooftops or into trees for hours on end. While search and rescue efforts continue, there is also an urgent need for food, safe drinking water and shelter. Right now, we are seeing thousands of people congregating in informal, improvised camps. Many of these informal camps are in desperate conditions – certainly not a suitable environment for vulnerable children and families.

In Malawi, thousands of families have been forced out of their flooded homes, and are now lacking basic supplies including food, water and sanitation facilities. The floods have also disrupted learning for thousands of children. Our colleagues tell us that many families are camping out in schools, churches, any public buildings. Children are sleeping in classrooms.

In Zimbabwe, the latest estimates suggest that 250,000 people are in need of humanitarian assistance, of whom 125,000 are estimated to be children. These numbers are likely to increase due to the inaccessibility of the affected areas. Eight districts are affected: Chimanimani and Chipinge were hardest hit due to severe damage to access roads and bridges, which will take at least two weeks to repair.

In terms of response:

In Mozambique, UNICEF is supporting WFP on the food distribution logistics for families in improvised shelters. UNICEF is also distributing water purification products to communities in the affected areas. Without safe and effective water, sanitation and hygiene services, children are at a high risk of preventable diseases including diarrhoea, typhoid and cholera, and also increasingly vulnerable to malnutrition.

UNICEF is also working with partners to set up Child-Friendly-Spaces to provide protection services and psychosocial support to children. Many schools and hospitals have been destroyed or damaged or are being used for shelter. Once the immediate, life-saving, needs are met, it’s crucial that children are able to get back to learning as soon as possible – to provide children with a sense of normalcy in a time of extreme chaos.

In Malawi, UNICEF supplies are arriving for families living in evacuation centres. The supplies include thousands of packets of oral rehydration salts, antibiotics, and hundreds of insecticide-treated bednets. UNICEF partners, including district authorities, Médecins Sans Frontières, Red Cross, United Purpose and World Vision are assisting with supply delivery.

UNICEF Malawi is also training volunteer teachers for deployment and supporting the Department of Disaster Management and Preparedness to assess the situation using drones. Drone acquired photos and videos of the affected area are being used to assess flood damage to buildings and fields, and to help plan the humanitarian response.

In accessible affected areas of Zimbabwe, UNICEF is delivering medical supplies, hygiene kits, jerry cans, soap and water purification products. Hygiene kits for 2,000 persons have been distributed. The country office plans to airlift supplies to those most-affected in hard-to-reach areas, due to damaged roads and bridges, from 23 March. UNICEF is also delivering primary health care packages and essential medical supplies, and nutrition supplies.

UNICEF is now appealing for US$23.3 million to support the response in the three affected countries. This amount is likely to rise.

Notes for editors:

Multimedia assets available here:

For more information please contact:

Christophe Boulierac, UNICEF Geneva, +41 799639244, Andrew Brown, UNICEF Lilongwe, +265 999 964208, Daniel Timme, UNICEF Maputo, +258 82 312 1820, Denise Shepherd-Johnson, UNICEF Harare, +263 772 124 268, James Elder, UNICEF Nairobi, +254 71558 1222, Joe English, UNICEF New York, + 1 917-893-0692,

‘Big data’ to help plan for climate shocks in East Africa

Source: Climate and Development Knowledge Network
Country: World

A new digitally-based tool, incorporating up-to-date climate information and other social and economic data, is being created to help African policy-makers better respond to people’s needs.
A new digitally-based tool, incorporating up-to-date climate information and many other kinds of social and economic data, is being created to help African policy-makers better respond to their constituents’ development needs. Leonie Joubert reports.

Here’s the scenario: sweet potato farmers in the Mukono region of northern Uganda are expecting a reasonable harvest this spring. But the country’s meteorological service has issued a seasonal forecast that doesn’t bode well. They’re predicting heavier than normal rainfall in April, and the root vegetable doesn’t like to have wet feet. If the fields become waterlogged, in all likelihood the farmers will have significant crop damage. That means smaller incomes and tighter household budgets.

The double-whammy is that this might happen at the same time that parents have to pay school fees. So cash-strapped families are likely to have to make some tough trade-offs as they spread their budget between the day-to-day demands of keeping their families fed, or having to buy fuel to cook with, or pay to travel to work, or get their kids into school.

How can local governments respond in a way that will support a community or household like this through the economic shock that comes from weather-related crop losses?

More than that, how will state decision-makers even know, ahead of time, that they have to plan for this eventuality?

This is precisely the kind of situation that a new digital tool hopes to resolve, according to Dr Celia Petty with the UK-based non-governmental development organisation Evidence for Development (EfD)

The EfD team, associated with the Walker Institute, is part of a multi-disciplinary research team Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) that is working in East Africa to design a ‘big data’ solution to small scale farming challenges in a region where rising temperatures and increasingly unpredictable rainfall patterns could threaten families’ livelihoods in future.

‘Big data’ is the jargon that refers to the kind of computing technology that takes large data sets, often from multiple sources and analyses them for trends or patterns. In this case, the software under development is called the Integrated Database for African Policy-Makers (IDAPS) and, according to the research team, will pull together information relating to ‘crop yields, hydrology, meteorology, agronomy, fisheries and livelihoods’. It will analyse these data sets in a way that will help the end-users understand how projected climate variability or change may hit communities in East Africa.

The tool is designed specifically to be used in the field: it needs to have a simple and easy-to-use dashboard; it needs to be able to upload or download data and analysis in a low-bandwidth situation; and it needs to be accessible to people who are familiar with simple and portable digital interfaces, such as smartphones.

But a sophisticated computing system will sit behind the straightforward dashboard interface, explains Petty. Researchers will go into the field to conduct specific surveys or gather data from within communities. They’ll input their data into the system while they’re in the field, checking for errors and improving their data capture processes as they work, and will then upload all this data into the digital ‘cloud’. This is where the computing technology will analyse the data for trends, and produce various interpretations of the information. Government officials, technocrats, decision-makers, or development workers can then access the results of this analysis through the dashboard, and start planning accordingly.

In the scenario of the flooded sweet potato crops, local government could respond to the IDAPS analysis, and the warning it gives about the financial knock families might take in the upcoming season, and consider what kind of policy measures they can take to help those families through the year until their next harvest is ready.

First IDAPS stakeholder consultation where an initial set of use cases were developed by future users of the platform. The meeting was hosted by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST). Key attendees included the leader of the Parliamentary Forum on Climate Change; the Assistant Commissioner, Ugandan Ministry for Water and Environment (MWE); Deputy Executive Secretary of UNCST; a senior representative from Uganda’s National Emergency Coordination and Operations Centre; senior district level technical officers, and representatives of civil society climate change advocacy groups.

‘A platform like this might help a community plan ahead, and look for other sources of income to tide them over to the next harvest. Or maybe a solution is for the state to delay billing for school fees for a few months, as a way to help families cope,’ says Petty. ‘With a forecast like this, issued a few months ahead of time, state departments can plan interventions and measures that can be taken at scale, and are affordable and appropriate.’

The IDAPS tool is currently under development, after a series of workshops with farmers, civil society organisations and government stakeholders, to get an understanding of what their needs are. The IDAPS team plans to pilot the tool at a gathering later this year in Kampala, Uganda.

The Future Climate for Africa work covered in this story is part of the Integrating Hydro-Climate Science into Policy Decisions for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure and Livelihoods in (HyCRISTAL) team. HyCRISTAL aims to develop a new understanding of climate change in East Africa and to work with the region’s decision-makers to manage water for a more climate-resilient future.

This article was written by Leonie Joubert and is part of a series that delves into the science that has been produced by various FCFA projects, and introduces some of the people behind it.

21 March, 2019

ICRC launches website to help families find missing relatives after Cyclone Idai

Source: International Committee of the Red Cross
Country: Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe

The Restoring Family Links website allows people to report that they are alive or that a loved one is missing. More than 200,200 people are registered on the site as missing.
Pretoria (ICRC)—With over one million people affected by the devastating impacts of Cyclone Idai, many families in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi have been separated or lost contact with one another. In response, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has launched a dedicated digital platform in English and Portuguese to help people find their relatives.

"The agony of not knowing what happened to your loved one in a disaster like Cyclone Idai is indescribable," said Diane Araujo, an ICRC delegate deploying to Beira. "This website is a first step in offering families a central place where they can share and look for information about their missing loved ones."

The Restoring Family Links website allows people to report that they are alive or that a loved one is missing. More than 200,200 people, mostly from Mozambique and Zimbabwe, are currently registered on the site as missing. However, this number is likely to rise significantly once services are restored to the many communities without power and internet access.

The ICRC is working with the national Red Cross Societies of Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe to increase the number of Red Cross personnel on the ground who can help register and search for missing people in affected areas. More Red Cross staff will be on the ground in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe in the coming days to set up systems that will help families find their missing relatives.

To search for a missing person or register that you are safe and well in English, please use the following link:

To search for a missing person or register that you are safe and well in Portuguese, please use the following link:

For further information please contact:
Tendayi Sengwe, ICRC Pretoria, +276 64764446,
Crystal Wells, ICRC Nairobi, +254 716 897 265,

Uncertainty for judicial mechanism designed to address justice for victims of violence in Colombia

Source: ABColombia
Country: Colombia

President Duque's refusal to approve the bill is the first time in the history of the country that a President has refused to sign a statutory law already approved by Congress and the Constitutional Court.
**On Thursday 14 March 2019, Ambassadors from Germany, Belgium, Norway, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, European Union and the UN Verification Mission came out in support of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) as one of the central pillars of the Colombian Transitional Justice System providing justice for the victims of the conflict.**

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP, Spanish acronym) is the judicial mechanism that is part of the Transitional Justice System agreed by the State in the Peace Accord (Nov. 2016). It is designed to address justice for the victims of violence, mass atrocity and human rights violations. As such, it is a fundamental element for peace. When ex-President Santos left office, the Statutory Law providing the legal framework for the JEP had passed through Congress and its constitutionality was being assessed by the Constitutional Court.

Following the Court’s declaration of constitutionality, the draft law was returned to the President for his final signature. The then President Duque refused to sign the bill (March 2019), objecting to six important articles. This refusal has far reaching implications, including the likelihood that it will take another 12 months to debate and process the changes. It is also in danger of sending a powerful message regarding impunity, as well as, precipitating a sense of trauma, injustice and exclusion in the victims.

Seeking to reform the law establishing a legal framework for the JEP rings alarm bells for many, as it is seen as the start of a process to dismantle the legal certainty of the Accord. The Accord is a 12-year agreement, entered into by the State and ratified by the Colombian Constitutional Court. It would be a retrogressive step, undermining confidence and with serious repercussions for peace, if the Duque Government does not honour State agreements, including the possibility of ex-FARC combatants abandoning the peace process.

0n 10 March 2019, President Ivan Duque announced that he objected to 6 of the 159 articles. For many legal organisations this was an unprecedented situation because it is the first time in the history of the country that a President has refused to sign a statutory law already approved by Congress and the Constitutional Court.[

[i]]( Seeking to reform the law establishing a legal framework for the JEP rings alarm bells for many, as it is seen as the start of a process to dismantle the legal certainty of the Accord.

The JEP has a limited lifespan: it has started to accept reports and take testimonies from the victims, however, none of those participating in the JEP will have legal certainty until the Statutory Law is signed. Duque’s decision severely hampers the functioning of the JEP and considerably weakens this judicial mechanism. It has resulted in considerable disquiet, likely to affect willingness to tell the truth. This destabilisation is in danger of unravelling what just a few months ago was an advancing peace process.

According to the United Nations System (UN) and the Verification Mission in Colombia, what the Government does in relation to the JEP “…**_ will determine, to a large extent, whether victims’ rights are placed at the centre of peacebuilding.”_**

HLA joined NCVO

HLA joined UK National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in November 2018 as a member organization. NCVO acts as the major connector in the volunteer sector. NCVO promotes volunteerism and serves the organizations that recruit volunteers, as well as volunteers themselves. Since HLA’s team consists of some volunteers at different levels of expertise, joining NCVO will help the organization in volunteer performance assessment and management. Apart from being a platform for volunteers and non-profit organizations to connect and network with one another, NCVO provides a wealth of learning materials for professional development of volunteers and their associated organizations on its website. Its wide range of training courses covers topics tailor made for trustees, board of directors, volunteers’ supervisors, fundraisers, advocacy officers, campaigners and financiers. For more details on what NCVO has to offer, you can visit their website: