Supporting patient needs during a time of crisis

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

In May 2017, Joshua Wamboga, IAPO’s Chair-Elect, plans to host a side event at the World Health Assembly to revisit the issue of healthcare in humanitarian crisis once again. Our partners at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies​ and other State and non-State actors will be invited to attend. Keep a look out for the event dates and venue in April 2017.

Travel anywhere on the road between Kampala and the border with South Sudan and you will start seeing little groups of emaciated and extremely stressed family groups on the move or resting totally exhausted by the roadside. The once tall and elegant herdsmen and women of South Sudan have now been reduced to a broken people left in utter destitution and ill health.

As you get nearer to the border crossing towns of Afoji, Kaya and Musingo, you start noticing that nearly all edible and even non-edible plant foliage has been stripped-off for food; there are many extremely sick and injured patients laid out in the hot sun waiting for medical care and humanitarian relief. They have been left behind as they were too ill or old to continue their flight to refuge.

I have never witnessed these scenes in my lifetime, even when the civil war between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army was raging in early 2000. Uganda, while dealing with its own crisis, created by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army around the border, had reasonable control over the refugee situation then. Our health system and humanitarian aid programmes, with support from the global community, had coped with that.

This is something different.  Inside South Sudan the four horsemen of the Apocalypse; War, Famine, Disease and Death, reign with impunity as the agricultural, transport and health systems collapsed long ago. Refugees are now pouring out into Uganda.

On 20 February 2017, the UN declared a famine in parts of South Sudan. We now need to make sure that all chronically ill patients are safely led to the refuges and that they receive seamless health care.

At the 69th World Health Assembly in Geneva in May 2016, IAPO had raised the issue of access to health services by chronically ill refugees, migrants and internally displaced people under agenda items (14.6), WHO responses in severe large scale emergencies and 14.7 promoting the health of migrants.

IAPO had welcomed the establishment of the regional emergency advisory groups and urged that patients’ organizations and advocates be engaged in the advisory groups. This would be to provide independent insight, advice and assistance to the Regional Directors of WHO on policy and strategic matters related to emergency preparedness and response towards patients in the Regions.

We were very happy that the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region was going to set-up a humanitarian operations and logistics hub in the United Arab Emirates to support the needs of all patients in the region during a time of crisis. We urged that refugees, migrants and internally displaced people patients be engaged in the planning and procurement of medicines and medical supplies for this hub and be present at all decision-making stages to ensure more adequate stockpiling of critical medical supplies to support a timely response to emergency events in the Region and beyond.