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What makes a 'humanitarian crisis'?

26 104 64
04.07.2020

By the end of April this year in one of the countries hardest-hit by COVID-19, an oil-rich nation of some 300 million people including a large Muslim population, more than one in five households did not have enough to eat. Even prior to the pandemic, the situation had been dire with nearly 14 percent of the population dependent on food aid, one in every six children not having consistent access to food and nearly a million suffering from chronic malnutrition. The situation is today complicated not just by disease which has claimed tens of thousands of lives but also by tribally driven, political unrest and fears of bloodshed should the results of the fast-approaching November presidential elections be disputed. Following violent clashes between protesters and police as well as reports of looting, the military has been called out into the streets to preserve order. Journalists have been especially targeted by authorities in the crackdown and thousands of demonstrators across the country have been arrested. The political unrest also appears to have been inflamed by the fact that the pandemic has mostly devastated historically poor and marginalised communities including ethnic minorities and immigrants.

What does a humanitarian crisis look like? What sorts of images does the phrase call forth? The Humanitarian Coalition, a grouping of Canadian aid agencies, defines a humanitarian emergency as "an event or series of events that represents a critical threat to the health, safety, security or wellbeing of a community or other large group of people, usually over a wide area". It goes on to point out that humanitarian emergencies arise when man-made or natural disasters affect poor and vulnerable populations - such as children, the poor, and immigrants or refugees - who are unable to fend for themselves. By this definition,........

© Al Jazeera