Top of the Morning: UN and Syria Tussle over Humanitarian Aid; Palestinians End Hunger Strike; WHO To Declare Polio Emergency

Top stories from the Development and Aid World News Service — DAWNS Digest. 

UN and Syria at Tussle Over Who Gets to Deliver Humanitarian Aid

Humanitarian aid is not reaching Syrian people in need. In part, because the Syrian government is insisting on full control of the aid flow. “The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Damascus have been negotiating for weeks on a plan for the distribution of aid throughout Syria, but U.N. envoys familiar with the talks said the government and OCHA are deadlocked on the issue of who will be in charge. ‘The Syrians want to maintain control of the distribution networks,’ a diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “That position is a non-starter for OCHA, as it should be,” he said. “OCHA can’t allow the Syrian government to use it as a way to get people (they want to arrest) or to deliver aid only to government supporters.’ OCHA has sent a letter to the Syrian government emphasizing the importance of the United Nations being at least partly in charge of the aid operation, diplomats said. It has not turned to U.N. member states to intervene on its behalf and put pressure on Damascus, but could do so if necessary, they added.” (Reuters

Palestinian Hunger Strikers Sign Deal to End Strike

In an episode that has gripped the region, some 2,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have ended a hunger strike to protest their prison conditions, “Most of the prisoners went on a hunger strike in mid-April and have been demanding an end to the practice of administrative detention, where they can be held without charge or trial for an indefinite period. Others wanted better conditions, including the right for prisoners from Gaza to have family visits, which have been banned, and an end to solitary confinement and other restrictions. Six of the prisoners had gone without food for up to 76 days. After negotiations involving an Egyptian mediator, Israel has agreed to consider allowing some visits from Gaza and to return prisoners who were being held in isolation to the main jail.” (ABC-Australia

WHO to Declare a Global Polio Emergency

When health ministers from WHO member states Geneva next week for the annual World Health Assembly they will declare Polio a Global Emergency. The virus is on the upsurge in the three countries in which it remains endemic, and funding for polio control is running dry. “The WHO document on polio prepared for the WHA and sent to India’s health ministry says Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan – the only three polio endemic countries – have seen a significant increase in new cases in 2011 as compared to 2010. Nigeria saw 185% increase in cases. Afghanistan and Pakistan experienced 220% and 37% rise, respectively. Nigeria and Pakistan were the only two countries with confirmed circulation of the P3 virus strain since last September. Compounding the problem is the finance gap that is plaguing the polio fight. WHO says the world is short by $1,090 million against an overall budget of $2,230 million. The document says, “Already in the first quarter of 2012, an insufficiency of financing required some emergency eradication activities to be scaled back in 24 at risk countries. In line with the development of the Global Polio Emergency Action Plan 2012-13, a new more efficient strategy is being examined which would combine the eradication of the residual wild poliovirus transmission with the polio endgame strategy.” (Times of India