France evicting thousands of migrants from notorious ‘Jungle’ camp

French security forces have started evicting the thousands of migrants living in a notorious camp known as “The Jungle” near the port of Calais. (The name “The Jungle” stems from the level of squalor and chaos.)

Authorities intend to dismantle the squalid camp that has housed thousands of people fleeing wars or poverty for a better life in Europe. People were given two choices: east or west France. NPR adds: “And once they’ve selected one of those regions, the authorities pick out one of the towns where they’ve set up refugee homes or centers.”

The approximately 450 homes or centers across the country “are intended to be temporary” and “will each hold 40 or 50 people for up to four months while their asylum cases are examined,” as The Guardian explains.

However, “those who do not claim asylum will be sent back to their country of origin,” according to the newspaper, and “almost two-thirds of those surveyed in the camp have said they do not want to be evicted and taken to French accommodation, while one-third say that they will continue to try to get to the U.K.”

Some migrants say they intend to hide within the Jungle, in hopes of avoiding being moved to another place in France.

Authorities hope the current eviction process will stand in contrast to what happened in March, The Associated Press reports, when they dismantled the southern half of the camp in a “chaotic, even brutal bulldozing operation that drew complaints from human rights groups.”


Three-day ceasefire ends in Aleppo with no humanitarian gains

In Syria, heavy fighting has resumed in Aleppo, after a three-day ceasefire ended with the United Nations saying it was unable to evacuate any of the besieged city’s sick and wounded. Russia and Syria announced the “humanitarian” pause last week, but U.N. humanitarian affairs spokesperson Jens Laerke said aid workers were unable to reach those in need.

“Medical evacuations of sick and injured people could unfortunately not begin this morning in East Aleppo as planned, because the necessary conditions were not in place to ensure safe, secure and voluntary evacuation of sick and critically wounded people and their families,” said Laerke.

Russian and Syrian officials said rebels prevented civilians from leaving Aleppo during the break in fighting, accusing them of taking human shields.

[Democracy Now]

Changing climate threatens world’s smallholder farmers

Farmers are already experiencing the effects of climate change according to a new report released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The world’s 500 million smallholder farming households, who often only produce enough food for their families to survive, are projected to be among the worst hit by a changing climate.

Rob Vos, Director of Agricultural Development Economics at FAO, said weather, including rainfall, is becoming “much less predictable effecting farmers quite dramatically so they don’t know what to expect.” For example, he said in parts of Latin America and East Africa, an entire year’s worth of rainfall is now falling in just two weeks, “then the rest of the year you have no rainfall at all,” he said.

Rising temperatures are also leading to the spread of pests and diseases, he noted.

The report also noted that changes in diet, including increased demand for protein from meat, have put added pressures on the environment.


USAID hurricane assistance to Haiti

USAID is providing nearly $28 million for Hurricane Matthew relief efforts in Haiti, Jamaica, and The Bahamas, making the United States the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance to date.

The funding will provide critical food assistance and relief supplies to communities in Haiti impacted by Hurricane Matthew. A portion of the funds will allow the UN World Food Program (WFP) to provide nearly 2,000 metric tons of lentils, yellow split peas, vegetable oil, and fortified corn soy blend, to help WFP meet its goal of providing food assistance to 750,000 people for three months. In addition, support will be provided to NGO partners to procure and distribute critical commodities-including water purification tablets, plastic sheeting, and kitchen sets-to all three hard-hit areas on Haiti’s southwest peninsula.

The United States is also supporting activities to mitigate the heightened risk of cholera and other waterborne diseases in the aftermath of the storm. This funding will help provide safe drinking water and promote safe hygiene practices in high-risk areas. It will also help give affected communities better access to emergency health care, and improve water, hygiene, and sanitation at health facilities and temporary shelters.

[Relief Web]

Humanitarian pause in Aleppo extended for another 24 hours

Russia stopped carrying out airstrikes in eastern Aleppo earlier this week in order to pave the way for a complete ceasefire in which a number of humanitarian corridors have been opened for those who want to escape the areas of the city controlled by rebels.

To fulfill their obligations aimed at normalizing the humanitarian situation in Aleppo, the Russian and Syrian Air Forces have for four days not conducted any flights closer than 10km (6.2 miles) to the city, the official said.

The Syrian government has been informing both civilians and rebels on ways to safely leave the rebel-controlled part of the city via half a million leaflets it has spread throughout eastern Aleppo, containing information on the humanitarian corridors. Texts containing such information are also being sent via mobile phones.

Militants continue to shell the humanitarian corridors in western Aleppo, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported, saying that at least eight civilians were killed and over 30 injured during the course of a day.

President Putin has ordered that the temporary ceasefire in Aleppo be extended for another day. The humanitarian pause will be in effect from 8am to 7pm local time on Saturday, announced Sergey Rudskoy, chief of the Russian General Staff’s main operations directorate.


Hurricane-battered Haitians survive in caves

For much of the world, Haiti is known more as a crisis than a country. Dictators, corrupt officials and international meddling have competed with earthquakes and hurricanes to destabilize the country.

After the 2010 earthquake flattened the capital and its surroundings, the struggle to get hundreds of thousands of Haitians out of tent cities and back into homes defined the nation’s recovery.

Now after the recent hurricane, schools and hospitals are again overflowing with the displaced, people whose homes are so gutted that leaving them makes more sense than staying.

To many, the only sanctuary left after the storm is a cave. It is a holy place now, having saved hundreds of villagers during the worst of Hurricane Matthew, when nature tore their homes to the ground. It is still the only thing to protect them.

“It is our house that God created when we most needed it,” said Destine Jean, one of the villagers who first alerted the government of the closest town, Beaumont, to the people living in caves. “Without this cave, a lot of people would have died. This is the only shelter we have.”

Officials in Beaumont say there are at least six caves they know of like this one, sheltering a total of 550 people living amid the moss-colored alps of the country’s southwest.

[New York Times]

UN warns Mosul could be facing largest single humanitarian crisis of year

The UN has warned that the liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State group could cause the single largest humanitarian crisis of the year, with up to a million people needing shelter and a forced population movement that no single institution could cope with.

Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, warned: “The UN estimates that in a worst case scenario, Mosul could represent the single largest most complex humanitarian operation in the world in 2016,” she said, adding that billions of dollars would be needed.

“A worst case scenario in Mosul would look something like this: you would have mass expulsion of hundreds of thousands of people. You would have hundreds of thousands of people who are held as human shields inside the town. You would have a chemical attack that would put tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe even more at grave risk. If all of that were to happen at the same time it would be catastrophic.”

Residents are confronted with a stark choice: remain in IS-controlled areas and risk violence and food shortages; or try to escape through minefields and escalating fighting while also risking dehydration.

Mosul has been occupied by IS since June 2014. Normally the city would have a population of more than two million, although at least half-a-million people have fled since IS took over.

[Middle East Eye]

Aid groups prep for humanitarian crisis in Mosul

As the military operation to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS begins, U.N. groups and aid agencies are preparing for a complex humanitarian disaster.

Save the Children, an aid group on the ground in Iraq, estimates that there are 500,000 to 600,000 children trapped in the city. Aram Shakaram, the deputy country director in Iraq,  said in a statement:”Those that try to flee will be forced to navigate a city ringed with booby traps, snipers and hidden land mines. Without immediate action to ensure people can flee safely, we are likely to see bloodshed of civilians on a massive scale.”

Alun McDonald, an aid worker with Save the Children in Erbil, said that he is concerned about the major lack of funding and resources available address the impending humanitarian crisis for the people of Mosul. “…There are so many millions or billions of dollars put into military actions and military offenses, but getting money to deal with the fallout of those offenses is always more difficult,” he said. “The money tends to be steered more toward the military side than toward the humanitarian side of things.”

As many as 200,000 could flee during the first weeks of fighting, and as many as 1 million could flee in a “worst-case scenario,” according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Meanwhile, shelter is currently available for only 60,000 people in camps and emergency sites outside Mosul, according to the OCHA.


How refugees became stranded in Greece

When Europe abruptly closed its land borders last spring to refugees fleeing war, it made a much-heralded promise: Wealthy nations across the European Union would take in tens of thousands of desperate Syrians and Iraqis who had made it as far as near-bankrupt Greece.

But one by one, those nations have reneged, turning primitive refugee camps in Greece into dire symbols of Europe’s broken pledge.

Amid allegations of mismanagement by the Greek government, one such site sits on the grounds of an abandoned toilet-paper factory and still lacks basic heat, even as nighttime temperatures dip into the low 50s. Mosquitoes infest the white canvas tents of refugee families stranded here for months. A 14-year-old Syrian girl was recently raped. There are allegations of stabbings, thefts, suicide attempts and drug dealing.

In what leaders heralded as a remarkable show of “solidarity,” the E.U.had agreed to share the burden, and would relocate 40,000 refugees, mostly Syrians, to member countries stretching from Portugal to Finland. They would be given shelter, aid and a chance to rebuild their lives. As the number of asylum seekers surged, the E.U. later boosted its pledge–promising to relocate up to 160,000.

But 16 months after its initial decision, the E.U. has lived up to only 3.3 percent of that pledge, relocating 5,290 refugees. Last week, Austria’s foreign minister became the latest senior European official to suggest the bloc should simply drop the pretense and scrap what he called a “completely unrealistic” program.

In Greece, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is laboring to get as many refugees as possible into hotels and apartments, but most are still facing harsh conditions in unheated camps as the next winter approaches.

[The Washington Post]

American aid worker kidnapped in Niger

Armed assailants abducted a US aid worker from his home Friday night in the West African nation of Niger, killing a police officer and a guard before fleeing west toward neighboring Mali, Niger’s interior ministry said.

Authorities are taking all necessary measures to locate the American and his abductors, including imposing a heavy military presence between Abalak, where the kidnapping took place, and the border with Mali, said a source who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The assailants stormed the aid worker’s home, the interior ministry said. The slain guard was the aid worker’s bodyguard, according to the source.

The American had been working with the locally based aid organization JEMED, said a spokesman for Youth With a Mission, which is affiliated with the group.

The aid worker has 29 years’ experience in Niger, spokesman Pete Thompson told CNN.

The kidnapping marked the first time a foreigner had been abducted in the area, the government source said. There has been no claim of responsibility so far.


Humanitarian delivery drones

A maker of delivery drones called Zipline International  began nationwide delivery of blood and other critical medical supplies in Rwanda today, through a partnership with the Rwandan government.

Executives at the startup prefer to call their technology “flying robots,” “small planes,” or “Zips” and not drones. That’s because they use a fixed-wing, rather than quadcopter or other multi-rotor design. Quadcopters are the default image people get when you say “drone,” now, as they’ve become mainstream in consumer electronics.

Other startups, including Matternet and Flirtey, have created multi-rotor drones to deliver everything from food and building supplies to medicine and biological samples.

According to co-founder and CEO Keller Rinaudo, the fixed-wing design of Zipline’s drones allows them to fly greater distances on less power than any quadcopter design, and allows them to launch and fly reliably through variable weather.

That detail is critical when you’re flying in areas of the world that do not have the infrastructure to allow frequent recharging, he said. The Zips are also battery-powered, so they don’t have to be refueled where it’s hard to find any reliable supply of diesel. Zipline CTO and co-founder Keenan Wyrobek said the company expects to get 1,500 flights out of each of its small planes before they need a new battery.

[Tech Crunch]

UN warns Mosul could be facing largest single humanitarian crisis of year

The UN has warned that the liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State group could cause the single largest humanitarian crisis of the year, with up to a million people needing shelter and a forced population movement that no single institution could cope with.

Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, warned that the coming battle could push the vast majority of the population of the city out of their homes, and billions of dollars would be needed to help them.

“The UN estimates that in a worst case scenario, Mosul could represent the single largest most complex humanitarian operation in the world in 2016,” she said.

“A worst case scenario in Mosul would look something like this: you would have mass expulsion of hundreds of thousands of people. You would have hundreds of thousands of people who are held as human shields inside the town. You would have a chemical attack that would put tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe even more at grave risk. If all of that were to happen at the same time it would be catastrophic.”

Grande’s warnings came as Iraqi forces moved into position for an expected imminent push on the city. Iraq and its allies have repeatedly signaled that they are planning to retake the city – the country’s second-largest – in the coming weeks.

Civilians who have already attempted to escape Mosul were facing land mines and dehydration, aid agencies reported. Residents are confronted with a stark choice: remain in IS-controlled areas and risk violence and food shortages; or try to escape through minefields and escalating fighting while also risking dehydration.

Mosul has been occupied by IS since June 2014. Normally the city would have a population of more than two million, although at least half-a-million people have fled since IS took over.

[Middle East Eye]

Who destroyed the aid convoy in Aleppo?

Washington blamed Russia for last month’s attack on a UN humanitarian aid convoy near the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the attack was actually carried out by one of the terrorist groups present.

Russia said a US drone was monitoring the convoy, so Washington should know the truth about the attack.

“…The Americans know it too, but prefer to take a different position, to falsely accuse Russia. This is not helping,” Putin said at an economic forum in Moscow.

The aid convoy was attacked on the night of September 20. The International Committee of the Red Cross reported 20 civilians killed and 18 vehicles destroyed.


Africa’s own humanitarian agency?

The African Union (AU) has recognized that there needs to be an urgent response to the humanitarian crisis caused by millions of people being displaced on the continent.

Africa has a huge challenge. Almost 30% of the world’s 41 million internally displaced people and close to 20% of the world’s refugees are in Africa. The root cause of displacement across the continent is conflict. And more people are bound to be displaced given the threat of climate change and a growing wave of natural disasters.

Some of the capacity for an African Humanitarian Agency already exists. However there are certain concerns that need to be addressed:

  • The continent has a wealth of standards and institutions. But standards are often ignored and institutions battle to carry out their functions.
  • People should be appointed for their ability to handle complex humanitarian issues rather than because of their political connections.
  • One of the criticisms often leveled against the AU is that it does little to promote peace and security on the continent.
  • Clear and realizable goals need to be set. One clear target could be that in its first five years, the agency works with states to review laws that criminalize migrants, refugees and other forcibly displaced populations.
  • Currently, 80% of the African Union Commission’s budget comes from the region’s cooperation with the European Union and its member states. This funding trajectory needs to be revisited. A new funding model to foster African ownership of AU programs [could include] imposing a 0.2% levy on “all eligible imported goods” into Africa. This would generate an annual income of about US$1.2 billion.

The African Humanitarian Agency is a welcome initiative. But political, technical and financial support will matter. This will require the AU to take a pragmatic approach. The only question is: can it?

[Mail and Guardian]

More than 750,000 need immediate aid after Haiti hurricane

As the death toll in Haiti soars to more than 800 following Hurricane Matthew, humanitarian organizations face a race against the clock. Rising casualty numbers threaten to overwhelm the few health centers and hospitals not hit by the disaster. Large sections of the population are also at risk from epidemics.

The city of Jérémie in Grand’Anse, which has been almost entirely destroyed, remains impossible to access. It will be several days or weeks before all land routes reopen.

“We are working to supply immediate aid to survivors who have lost everything. Casualty numbers are high,” explains Hélène Robin, head of Handicap International’s emergency programs. “Our teams in the field have two priorities: to provide them with immediate and appropriate care to make sure they do not die from their injuries or develop permanent disabilities, and to supply people affected with the equipment they need to build a shelter and prepare food.”

More than 750,000 people need immediate humanitarian aid and first responders are expecting very heavy damage in the Grand-Anse and Sud regions, particularly in the cities of Jérémie and Les Cayes, according to the United Nations.

[Relief Web]

Haiti faces humanitarian crisis after Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew left a broad swath of destruction across Haiti on Wednesday with flooding, rivers of mud that washed out a crucial bridge into the southwestern peninsula of the country and thousands seeking shelter.

Haiti Ambassador Paul Altidor said his government is confident the number of dead will “remain quite low.” He said the government had enough advance warning to begin to move people away from dangerous, flooding areas and he believes that this saved lives.

“It’s been decades since the Caribbean has seen a hurricane of this magnitude, the heavy downpour. This is something that has not been seen in a long, long time. It is a major, major disaster.”

A United Nations representative to Haiti, Mourad Wahba, agreed the country was facing its largest humanitarian crisis since an earthquake in 2010 that left tens of thousands living in tents and makeshift dwellings. Some 55,000 Haitians left homeless by that earthquake were still living in shelters when Hurricane Matthew struck. Wahba said hospitals were jammed with people and running out of clean water.

The U.N. estimated that 2.3 million people are living in areas impacted by the hurricane.

[USA Today]

Which 10 countries host half the world’s refugees?

Ten countries accounting for 2.5 percent of world GDP are hosting more than half the world’s refugees, Amnesty International said Tuesday.

Fifty-six percent of refugees are being sheltered in 10 countries.

“A small number of countries have been left to do far too much just because they are neighbors to a crisis,” said Amnesty Secretary-General Salil Shetty, presenting the report titled “Tackling the global refugee crisis: from shirking to sharing responsibility.”

Amnesty said the top refugee hosting country was Jordan, which has taken in more than 2.7 million people, followed by Turkey (more than 2.5 million); Pakistan (1.6 million) and Lebanon (more than 1.5 million).

The remaining six nations listed in the top 10 each hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees: Iran (979,400); Ethiopia (736,100); Kenya (553,900); Uganda (477,200); Democratic Republic of Congo (383,100), and Chad (369,500).

Amnesty said many of the world’s wealthiest nations “host the fewest and do the least.”

“It is time for leaders to enter into a serious, constructive debate about how our societies are going to help people forced to leave their homes by war and persecution,”said Shetty.

“If every one of the wealthiest countries in the world were to take in refugees in proportion to their size, wealth and unemployment rate, finding a home for more of the world’s refugees would be an eminently solvable challenge.”


Global poverty declines even amid economic slowdown

The number of people living in extreme poverty is continuing to plunge, despite the 2008-09 financial crisis and slowing global economic growth, according to a World Bank study released Sunday. In the report, “Poverty and Shared Prosperity,” the World Bank says the progress proves that eliminating extreme poverty is an achievable goal.

Here’s the study’s key findings:
In 2013, fewer than 800 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day. That’s less than 11 percent of the global population. As recently as 1990, about 35 percent of all people lived in such extreme poverty.That means about 1.1 billion people rose out of extreme poverty.

50 percent of extremely poor people live in sub-Saharan Africa.

Even with a rocky global economy, earnings rose for the poorest 40 percent of people in 60 out of 83 countries studied between 2008 and 2013. The most significant contributions to declining poverty between 2012 and 2013 came from East Asia and the Pacific.

The World Bank studied several countries where inequality declined in recent years including Brazil, Cambodia, Mali, Peru and Tanzania. It identified six successful policies:

  • Early childhood development and nutrition
  • Universal health coverage
  • Universal access to quality education
  • Making cash transfers to poor families
  • Rural infrastructure — especially roads and electrification
  • Progressive taxation

Though poverty and inequality have continuously trended down, researcher Francisco Ferreira said, “the pockets of poverty that remain will become increasingly harder to reach and address.”


UN warns of world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Nigeria’s Boko Haram region

Up to 80,000 children will die in northeastern Nigeria without much-needed humanitarian assistance, a senior UN official said. Boko Haram’s insurgency has left tens of thousands dead, and millions more displaced.

UN Assistant Secretary-General Toby Lanzer said that without further assistance, northern Nigeria and surrounding areas impacted by the Boko Haram militant group’s onslaught will become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The militant group’s seven-year insurgency, aimed at establishing a so-called caliphate, has left at least 20,000 people dead and displaced more than 2.5 million people in the region. The death toll is likely higher due to consequences of the conflict, including fatalities caused by severe malnutrition and lack of access to medical supplies.

“We know that over the next 12 months, 75,000 – maybe as many as 80,000 – children will die in the northeast of Nigeria, unless we can reach them with specialized therapeutic food,” Lanzer added.

More than 6 million people are described as “severely food insecure” across the Lake Chad region, according to UN figures.


Why humanitarian aid workers are under attack

Military attacks against humanitarian workers and facilities have repeatedly been in the news in the past months; from Afghanistan, to Syria, to South Sudan, among others. This highlights a worrisome trend: the rise in the deliberate targeting of humanitarian workers.

In 2000 there were roughly 91 registered cases of personnel being injured, killed or kidnapped. That number has more than quadrupled ever since—an increase that cannot be explained simply by pointing out the rise in the total numbers of personnel employed in the humanitarian field.

There is no denying that working in war zones and in fragile or unstable post-war societies carries significant risk. Yet the growing trend of attacks against humanitarian professionals should not be downplayed as occupational hazards of a dangerous job. Rather, the increasing risks and attacks against humanitarian professionals should be seen as symptoms of the larger malaise of the international humanitarian sector as a whole.

Put simply, workers on the ground, both local and foreign, are increasingly targeted because of who they are and what they have come to do. This reveals something disturbing: the gradual erosion of the “humanitarian space”—the perhaps fictional yet vital notion of a “safe space” that should allow those providing emergency assistance and relief to operate amid ongoing conflicts.

What could account for this worrisome trend? The reasons are numerous and complex, but perhaps it worth reflecting on at least three important points:
First, when warring parties fight over controlling the civilian population and are deeply committed to destroying and denying their enemies’ ability to govern and maintain territorial control, granting and withholding humanitarian access and assistance become de facto weapons.
Second, these trends at play on the battlefield are reinforced time and time again when they are met with impunity and, at times, complacency from the international community.
Finally, it is important to reflect on how the legacy of the past decade of external military interventions, followed by counter-insurgency campaigns, “state-building” processes, “stabilization” operations and “civil-military partnerships” has at times dangerously muddled up the lines between principled and neutral humanitarian work and politics.

If the “humanitarian safe space” is not preserved and protected, providing assistance will become more difficult. This could have devastating consequences for the international humanitarian system as a whole and, more importantly, for the millions of civilians trapped in conflict-zones and dependent on humanitarian assistance.

[Dr Benedetta Berti, a fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, writing in The National Interest]