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Ann Trop Med Parasitol. 2006 Jul-Sep;100(5-6):501-15.

Globalisation, complex humanitarian emergencies and health.

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  • 1Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Pembroke Place, Liverpool L3 5QA, UK.


A new political economy of conflict has emerged in the aftermath of colonialism and the Cold War. Complex political emergencies have been simmering in the post-colonial world for more than three decades. Intra-country armed conflict, often combined with natural disasters, at present contributes to the displacement of over 20 million people world-wide. The international community remains profoundly uncomfortable with the complex political emergencies of the new era, torn between the respect for national sovereignty upon which the international political system of the United Nations and other agencies is built, and the growth of concern with human rights and a burgeoning International Humanitarian Law. Globalisation may have brought many benefits to some but there are also many losers. The Word Bank and the International Monetary Fund imposed structural adjustment policies to ensure debt repayment and economic restructuring that have resulted in a net reduction in expenditure on health, education and development. A downward spiral has been created of debt, disease, malnutrition, missed education, economic entrapment, poverty, powerlessness, marginalization, migration and instability. Africa's complex political emergencies are particularly virulent and tenacious. Three examples that are among the most serious humanitarian emergencies to have faced the world in recent times--those in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan--are reviewed here in detail. The political evolution of these emergencies and their impact on the health of the affected populations are also explored.

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