UN system prepares for landfall of Hurricane Tomas on Haiti

According to reports, meteorological experts have classified Tomas a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is stressing that even with existing pre-positioned humanitarian supplies, the potential magnitude of the hurricane’s impact urgently called for additional emergency supplies and equipment. Tarpaulins and tents in stock only cover 60 per cent of the estimated 500,000 people who could be affected by Tomas. Some minor-scale relocations have taken place – on Thursday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) moved more than 2,000 people from the exposed Corail camp in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, to a nearby disused hospital. A further 4,000 internally displaced persons stayed at the camp to protect their few possessions. Peacekeepers from the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) have also assisted local authorities in the country’s south with the transportation of people to provisional shelters; they are also assisting the Haitian Government and relief partners with contingency plans – on top of helping with the ongoing response to the devastating January earthquake.Of particular concern, according to OCHA and others, is the impact of the hurricane on Haiti’s recent cholera epidemic. The humanitarian agency says the inadequate sanitary conditions in many parts of the country combined with a huge amount of rain or flooding generated by the hurricane could aggravate the outbreak.The UN World Health Organization (WHO) says there are 6,742 cholera cases – including 442 deaths – in Haiti, with confirmed cases reported in the departments of Artibonite, Centre, Nord, Nord-Ouest, and Ouest. WHO has sent to Port-au-Prince emergency health kits for treating up to 10,000 people suffering from water-borne diseases for three months. Other emergency kits, with the capacity to treat between 10,000 to 20,000 people for three months, were sent to other areas. The IOM is continuing its efforts to ensure that whatever early gains were made in containing the cholera outbreak were not reversed by Tomas, with a focus on ensuring that displaced people in camps are provided with hygiene messages as well as strengthening monitoring and case response mechanisms. The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, along with its partners and community mobilizers, has also been sharing health- and sanitation-related information and distributing oral rehydration salts and water purification tablets. Based on its previous experience with Haiti’s storms in 2008, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has had preparative measures in place in the country for some time now. Its essential staff is on standby for a rapid response and food distribution could start in a matter of hours after the hurricane passes.The Programme has pre-positioned emergency food supplies in 32 centres around the country, with enough food to feed 1.1 million people for six weeks, and it has set up an alternate transport system for the hurricane season, including a barge service which connected all the major ports so that humanitarian aid could be transported around the country if the roads became impassable. For the health system’s response to the cholera outbreak, WFP has provided more than 40,000 ready to eat meals to hospitals for staff, patients and care-givers so that they have clean food that did not require water for its preparation.OCHA also warned of the potential impact of Hurricane Tomas on the countryside. Haiti had a serious deforestation problem, and with the rains and winds approaching, there is nothing to hold back the water and the mud, and this could have dramatic consequences for the population, especially those near the coast and those in temporary shelters in the capital. 5 November 2010While calling on the international community to provide urgently needed aid, various programmes and agencies of the United Nations system in Haiti are busily gearing up for the expected landfall of Hurricane Tomas on Haitian shores sometime today or this weekend. read more

Service and Sacrifice UN peacekeeping assignment lifetime opportunity for Nepalese doctor

UN Photo/Amin IsmailCaptain Poonam Khadka while on mission in Sudan’s Darfur region. UN News spoke with one such peacekeeper, Captain Poonam Khadka, who served with the joint African Union-UN peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) in the Darfur region of Sudan last year. Captain Khadka completed her assignment in Darfur and returned home to Nepal in January of this year. The following interview took place while she was still serving with the Mission.UN News: Please state your name, position and where you are from; tell us a little bit about your background.Poonam Khadka: I’m Captain Dr. Poonam Racal Khadka, the Senior Medical Officer working with the Nepal Force Reserve Company (FRC) Level 1 Hospital at UNAMID headquarters in El Fasher, North Darfur. I joined the Nepal Armed Forces in 2011 and have worked in its military hospitals ever since. My family background is rooted in the Nepalese military; my husband, my father-in-law and my brother-in-law, literally most of my immediate and extended family, have worked in the military. The strong military background is my main motivation in my work, especially when you get this rare opportunity to serve in UN peacekeeping missions, where I can make a contribution to global peace and stability and provide support to people in need all over the world. I am gratified by the chance to work in a UN peacekeeping mission, as this has offered me the opportunity to internalise gender-related issues. UN News: How long have you been with UNAMID and what are your responsibilities?Poonam Khadka: I joined UNAMID in mid-2017. My main responsibility is to treat and care for patients who come or are admitted to our Level 1 Hospital. Additionally, I am the Gender Focal Point for the Nepal Contingent. The latter assignment affords me the opportunity to interact with the local communities during sensitization campaigns where we educate them on the importance of health care and hygiene, particularly in the IDP [internally displaced persons] camps. These sensitisation campaigns focus mainly on the critical need for handwashing during cooking or toilet use, drinking safe water, eating healthy food in addition to the protection of the environment through organizing clean-up campaigns in their communities.  UN News: What led you to join UN peacekeeping?Poonam Khadka: Actually, I was nominated by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) as well as my Government. It is compulsory, in my country, for everyone working in our military hospitals to work in a UN peacekeeping mission before he/she completes a master’s degree.  Personally, I was driven by the need to serve humanity and to support vulnerable people, particularly those living in conflict areas or those affected by natural calamities.UN News: Which UN missions have you served with? Poonam Khadka: This is my second UN peacekeeping assignment. Prior to joining UNAMID, I served with the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) from 2014 to 2015. ►See our photo story Nepal: Over six decades of service with UN peacekeeping UN News: Describe what a typical day at the mission is like for you.Poonam Khadka: In UNAMID, we are on duty 24/7. This also depends on the patient conditions in our hospital as sometimes we have to stay overnight to attend to very sick patients and other emergencies. Otherwise, we work the normal 6 hours per day.We have also done external assignments as was the case during the last Nelson Mandela Day commemorative event held in ZamZam IDP Camp, near El Fasher, North Darfur where we partnered with other military personnel from the Indonesian and Egypt Contingents to conduct a health camp. We sensitised residents there about water-borne diseases, the usage of oral rehydration solutions at home and how to keep hands clean to minimise food contamination.UN News: What are some of the highlights of serving with the peacekeeping mission?Poonam Khadka: UN peacekeeping missions operate in a multi-cultural environment where each and every member learns new things and exchanges ideas with colleagues and the host community.  During my tenure with UNAMID, I have taken the initiative to attend HIV/AIDS awareness sessions and participated in various cultural and sporting activities organized by the Nepal Contingent to mark various UN International Day observances.UN News: What are some of the challenges for you personally?Poonam Khadka: The long distance and time away from close family is perhaps my greatest challenge as my current location is very far from my country.  The weather in Darfur sometimes is challenging for me, especially during the sandstorm season and the incessant humid and hot weather.UN News: What do your family and friends back home think about your service with UN peacekeeping?Poonam Khadka: My family and friends are very proud of what I do as they know that we are in Darfur representing our country, Nepal. My family appreciates that our Nepal Contingent is in Darfur to build peace and security and to assist in conflict resolution in the region.Working as a peacekeeper and being a female military officer, who is also a doctor working in UN peacekeeping, fills me and my family with a lot of pride.   UN News: How would you describe your overall experience as a UN peacekeeper? Is there one particular experience/memory you will take back with you when you return home?Poonam Khadka: Coming from a South Asian, male-dominated environment, where female voices are gradually being understood by our communities, I am encouraged that lately gender equality issues are being mainstreamed into the workplace and in families. For instance, I come from a family of five brothers and sisters. My parents opted to send me, a woman, to China to study for five years, while my brothers studied locally in government engineering colleges.Nowadays, in the larger cities in my country, people are changing their mindsets about gender parity but the women in the remote areas still encounter problems in accessing education and theirs voices remain unheard in their communities and families.Personally, I am gratified by the chance to work in a UN peacekeeping mission, as this has offered me the opportunity to internalise gender-related issues. Working for MONUSCO and now for UNAMID has helped build my self-confidence immensely, especially in gender-related approaches in the workplace.UN News: What would you say to others in your home country who are considering serving with the UN?Poonam Khadka: Working in a UN peacekeeping mission is a lifetime opportunity as it accords people like me a chance to interact with people from different countries with different norms and cultures. I learn from them and they learn from me. As a female peacekeeper, I feel proud and grateful that I have the chance to work with other female and male peacekeepers from around the globe. UN Photo/Amin IsmailCaptain Poonam Khadka while on mission in Sudan’s Darfur region. read more