Responding to disasters
Most of the global health discussion in Atlanta centers on addressing the underlying issues of poverty that leave so many people vulnerable to illness and disease. At the same time, however, we play a significant role in responding to more acute problems such as natural and manmade disasters. Two recent developments illustrate this point.
First, several local agencies are engaged in relief efforts to support Syrian refugees. This has become perhaps the world’s largest humanitarian crises. More than 100,000 people have died. Nearly 2 million Syrians are refugees in neighboring countries. That number is expected to grow to 3.4 million by the end of the year.
Spearheading the relief effort from Atlanta is CARE, one of the world’s largest relief and development agencies. CARE reports on its website that it is coordinating with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies to provide direct cash payments to refugees to pay for shelter, food, medical services and other essentials. The agency is working with refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. CARE also operates refugee support centers and is cooperating in the opening of a new refugee camp in Jordan. You can learn more at www.care.org.
Other agencies, including my team at MAP International, are providing targeted relief support. In our case, we have provided several shipments of life-saving essential medicines for use in health clinics set up in Syrian refugee centers in Jordan.
A second recent development was announced by the Hubert Department of Global Health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. It has received a five-year, $500,000 award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish the Emory Center for Public Health Training in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies. The new center expands a commitment to humanitarian emergency response that began when the Rollins School established a graduate certificate in global complex humanitarian emergencies in 2009.
“The development of the center coupled with our partnership with the CDC and our existing work in this area will help further enhance the opportunities for our trainees to learn ways to address the challenges of complex humanitarian emergencies from a public health perspective,” said Carlos Del Rio, MD, professor and chair of the Hubert Department of Global Health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. “We are also able to emphasize our responsibility to the affected communities.”
In global health and development we often talk about relief – providing immediate aid in times of crisis – and development – seeking long term solutions to poverty and ill-health. It is nice to see the Atlanta community engaged in both.