Oxfam nudging big food companies to do right

Oxfam America thinks that it can force the world’s biggest food companies to save the environment and make life better for millions of farm workers.

A campaign called Behind the Brands, led by Oxfam International, an advocacy organization dedicated to fighting poverty, is trying to make the inner workings of the 10 biggest food companies in the world more visible.

They include General Mills, Associated British Foods, Danone, Mars, Coca-Cola, Mondelez, Unilever, PepsiCo, Nestle and Kellogg, companies which collectively control much of what we consume.

Oxfam’s goal is to nudge them by scoring them on a scale of 1 to 10 on a whole host of fronts, from worker rights to climate change.

Chris Jochnick is one of the architects of this campaign and Oxfam America’s director of private sector development. In the following radio spot, he touches on how social media is giving activists more power, why big food companies respond to pressure, and whether corporate executives are his friends or his enemies, as well as some of the tactics he and others have used to influence corporate leaders.

Tactics include speaking up as shareholders at annual meetings or earnings calls, and staging public events, such as the one featured in this YouTube video of activists in Time Square drawing attention to the plight of female cocoa farmers in Africa. These efforts led to agreements with three large chocolate companies — Mars, Mondelez and Nestle — who have committed to doing more to help the female cocoa farmers in their supply chains escape poverty.

Listen to NPR’s Dan Charles and Allison Aubrey talk with Oxfam’s Chris Jochnick


UN: Syrian refugee crisis is ‘biggest humanitarian emergency of our era’

The Syrian civil war has sparked “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.”

That’s according to António Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, who added that while the world’s response to the crisis has been “generous,” it hasn’t met the needs of refugees.

The U.N. agency released new numbers on Friday and the picture they paint is exceedingly grim. A few data points from the report:

  • The total number of Syrian refugees is on the verge of surpassing 3 million people since the conflict began in 2011. (By comparison, Chicago has a population of 2.7 million.)
  • Nearly half of all Syrians have been forced to abandon their homes.
  • One in eight Syrians has fled the country.
  • 6.5 million Syrians are displaced inside the country.

The situation is also growing more acute, according to the report. More than half of the refugees coming into Lebanon, for example, told the agency that they have moved at least once before. One in 10 refugees in Lebanon say they have moved more than three times.


Major surge in humanitarian crises so far this year

From Syria to Iraq and natural disasters to a deadly virus, 2014 has already been marked by a major surge in humanitarian crises — and there are still four months to go.

A UN report released last week says this year has seen a large increase in the number of people needing aid, up to 102 million from 81 million in December 2013.

“2014 has seen a major surge in humanitarian crises around the world,” said the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, adding that aid agencies need an estimated $17.3 billion US to cover the world’s needs, up from $12.9 billion in 2013.

Among the ongoing problems affecting people around the world:

  • The Syrian conflict.
  • Typhoon Haiyan, which hit last November but is still affecting people in the Philippines.
  • ISIS extremism in Iraq.
  • Violence in the Central African Republic.
  • An outbreak of the Ebola virus.
  • Longstanding violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur and South Sudan.

“We’re having a particularly, it seems, difficult period of time right now,” Rachel Logel Carmichael, a team leader in World Vision’s humanitarian and emergency affairs branch, said in an interview with CBC News.

Fen Hampson, director of the global security and politics program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, says natural disasters like hurricanes or typhoons are typically one-off events that are damaging, but prolonged conflicts have more lasting effects on people.

The greatest humanitarian crisis of the last century, Hampson said, was due to the First and Second World Wars, “where you had very large-scale civilian casualties going into the tens of millions, and obviously displaced populations as well.”


Gazans launch Rubble Bucket Challenge

An appeal to garner support for Gaza which imitates the wildly popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge but uses rubble and dirt instead of cold water is picking up steam on social media.

“I have to do something and to send a message all over the world about Gaza,” said Ayman al Aloul, a journalist who started the so-called Rubble Bucket Challenge on Saturday. (Other hashtags doing the rounds on Facebook and Twitter included #dustbucketchallenge and #remainsbucketchallenge.)

When the 42-year-old discussed the idea with friends, some suggested that he use either a bucket of blood or shrapnel. “It came to my mind that it’s good idea to show the whole picture – how Gaza looks now, rubble, destruction, cement with sand, small rocks,” Aloul said.

Aloul’s aims are modest. “If five famous people in the world like actors or presidents will do the challenge, that means I succeeded in sending the message about Gaza,” he said.

The conflict that has killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and 68 Israelis since July 8 has also leveled swaths of the Palestinian enclave.

Watch on YouTube  

The Rice Bucket Challenge

More than a million people worldwide have poured buckets of ice water over their heads as part of a fund-raising campaign for ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

But when word of the challenge made its way to India, where more than 100 million people lack access to clean drinking water, locals weren’t exactly eager to drench themselves with the scarce supply. And so, a spinoff was born.

Manju Kalanidhi, a 38-year-old journalist from Hyderabad who reports on the global rice market, put her own twist on the challenge. She calls her version the Rice Bucket Challenge, but don’t worry, no grains of rice went to waste. Instead, they went to the hungry.

Kalanidhi chose to focus on hunger. A third of India’s 1.2 billion people live on less than $1.25 USD a day, and a kilogram of rice, or 2 pounds, costs between 80 cents and a dollar.

That’s why she’s challenging people to give a bucket of rice, cooked or uncooked, to a person in need. Snap a photo, share it online and, just as with the Ice Bucket Challenge, nominate friends to take part, she suggests.

Kalanidhi kicked off the campaign Friday, and posted on her personal Facebook page. Responses poured in by the hundreds, prompting her to create a page for the campaign on Saturday. It received a hundred likes in just five hours. As of today, the number of likes has topped 40,000 in what she calls a “social tsunami.”


One of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent years

The rate at which the situation in Iraq has deteriorated is the largest reason why it is being called one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent years.

The worst of it commenced in June, when the Islamic State (then ISIS) took Mosul. Today, the number of displaced Iraqis is at 1.5 million — small in comparison to Syria’s 6.5 million — but almost 600,000 of them fled their homes in the past two months.

The other factor that makes this conflict increasingly difficult is the widespread instability in neighboring countries. Jordan and Turkey were already hosting huge amounts of refugees. Still, some refugees had no choice but to leave Iraq. Ariane Rummery, a UNHCR communications officer, said that “some people are actually seeking refuge in Syria, which has been so wrecked.”

The current state of Iraq and the quick escalation in aid the region needs has made this the worst crisis Rummery has seen in the past 10 years.

The United Nations refugee agency has launched a land, air and sea aid push to address the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, one that the organization says is one of the worst it has seen in recent years. There are about 12 sites in northern Iraq that are providing humanitarian shelter for about 140,000 people, but due to continued unrest, the demand could increase very quickly.

[Washington Post]

Russian humanitarian aid delivery an attempt to break a siege?

Ukrainian pro-Russian separatists unloaded desperately needed provisions from some 280 Russian trucks in Luhansk, Ukraine. After delivering their loads of humanitarian supplies, many of the trucks promptly returned to Russia.

Despite the fury expressed by U.S. and NATO officials about Russia’s unilateral delivery of the supplies after weeks of frustrating negotiations with Ukrainian authorities, there was clearly a humanitarian need. An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team that visited Luhansk on Aug. 21 to make arrangements for the delivery of aid found water and electricity supplies cut off because of damage to essential infrastructure. Laurent Corbaz, ICRC head of operations for Europe and Central Asia, reported “an urgent need for essentials like food and medical supplies.”

The ICRC stated that it had “taken all necessary administrative and preparatory steps for the passage of the Russian convoy,” and that, “pending customs checks,” the organization was “therefore ready to deliver the aid to Luhansk … provided assurances of safe passage are respected.”

The “safe passage” requirement, however, was the Catch-22.  Kiev and its Western supporters have resisted a ceasefire or a political settlement until the federalists lay down their arms and surrender. The Ukrainian army has also been directing artillery fire into the city in an effort to dislodge the ethnic Russian federalists.

Accusing the West of repeatedly blocking a “humanitarian armistice,” a Russian Foreign Ministry statement cited both Kiev’s obstructionist diplomacy and “much more intensive bombardment of Luhansk” on Aug. 21, the day after some progress had been made on the ground regarding customs clearance and border control procedures: “In other words, the Ukrainian authorities are bombing the destination [Luhansk] and are using this as a pretext to stop the delivery of humanitarian relief aid.”

Referring to these “intolerable” delays and “endless artificial demands and pretexts,” the Foreign Ministry said, “The Russian side has decided to act. … Those who are ready to continue sacrificing human lives to their own ambitions and geopolitical designs and are rudely trampling on the norms and principles of international humanitarian law will assume complete responsibility for the possible consequences of provocations against the humanitarian relief convoy.”

During a press conference at the UN on Friday, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin claimed that 59 Ukrainian inspectors had been looking through the trucks on the Russian side of the border, and also that media representatives had been able to choose for themselves which trucks to examine.

[Excerpts of article by Ray McGovern, former US Army officer and CIA analyst]

No improvement in Gaza humanitarian crisis

Children play amongst Gaza rubbleCNN reports that 92 people in Gaza have been killed since a ceasefire ended five days ago, adding to the more than 2,100 that have died.

Other effects of the violence, which began in early July: The United Nations, which runs many schools in Gaza, said 500,000 children were unable to begin classes. A spokesman for the Palestinian ministry of education said more than 100 government-run schools are closed while others are being used as shelters.

Most of the blockaded enclave has been without power for 18 hours a day since Israel attacked the territory’s sole power plant on July 29. The damage is said to take up to a year to fix.

People in Gaza also face a shortage of water, with reports indicating that various diseases are spreading among the population that has been displaced due to the Israeli war. According to reports, the displaced Palestinians living in UN-run schools struggle for access to water.

Monzer Shoblak, an official from the local water board, said that the damage from Israel’s month-long offensive against Gaza meant that Gaza was pumping 50 percent less water.

On Sunday, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said it may take months to repair the damage Israel inflicted on Gaza’s infrastructure.

She also said that 97 UN installations, including health centers and schools, were damaged in the Israeli war.

Hamas is urging Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to go before the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli leaders for war crimes. The Palestinians are not currently under the jurisdiction of the ICC, but would be if they sign the court’s Rome Statute, the treaty that established the court. Back in May, a group of 17 human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, signed a letter to Abbas encouraging him to join the ICC.

The United States and Israel and some other nations have pressured Abbas not to take this step, arguing that it would harm peace talks.

Ukraine begins approving Russian aid convoy

Ukrainian border guards began on Thursday to inspect a Russian truck convoy carrying aid earmarked for humanitarian relief in eastern Ukraine that has been stranded at the border between the two former Soviet republics for nearly a week.

Ukraine’s border guard service said that its troops had begun checking the first vehicles in the more than 200-truck convoy as they finally begin the process of entering Ukraine. The convoy had been waiting at the border for a series of formal steps to be completed, including inspection by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

It was not clear when the trucks will finally be authorized to enter Ukrainian territory, which at that border point is under rebel control. The rebels granted Kiev’s border guards permission to access the crossing to check the trucks.

Kiev believed the convoy of about 260 trucks, carrying water, food and medicines, could prove a Trojan horse for Russia to get weapons to pro-Russian separatists battling Ukrainian forces in the region – a notion that Moscow has dismissed as absurd.


UN to deliver over 2,400 tons of aid into northern Iraq by September

A plane carrying the first load of humanitarian aid as part of a multiday operation to help hundreds of thousands of displaced people in northern Iraq has landed in Irbil, the U.N. refugee agency said Wednesday. It’s one of the largest aid pushes the agency has ever undertaken. And it’s much needed.

The first Boeing 747 to land carried 100 tons of aid, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said. Three more flights will follow from Jordan into Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital, with the last on Saturday.

The airlift will be bolstered by deliveries made by road and sea over the next 10 days, with 175 trucks ferrying cargo from warehouses in Turkey, Jordan and Iran.

The shipments include thousands of tents, plastic sheets, kitchen sets and jerrycans, destined for families who fled with little more than the clothes on their back.

In total, the UNHCR intends to bring 2,410 tons of aid into northern Iraq between now and the start of September.

Many have been sleeping rough where they can, finding shelter in schools, parks or unfinished buildings, the UNHCR said. The agency is working to set up a dozen or more tent cities in Dohuk and Irbil governorates where some 140,000 people can be housed.

“This is a massive logistics operation to bring in relief supplies by air, land and sea to help the hundreds of thousands of desperate people who have fled suddenly with nothing but their lives, and are now struggling to survive in harsh conditions,” said U.N. High Commissioner Antonio Guterres. “It’s the largest single aid push we have mounted in more than a decade.”


Near-historic level of humanitarian need right now

U.S. Agency for International Development rep Nancy Lindborg spoke with NPR Morning Edition.

“We are probably at a near-historic level of humanitarian need right now … We have, for the first time in the history of USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, four disaster assistance response teams deployed … to high-tempo, big crises around the world at the same time. And this is in addition to … ongoing needs that are being met in Nigeria, Gaza, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the emerging crisis in Ukraine.”

Lindborg noted a striking contrast between addressing all the current crises and the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last November and December. “It was up and over in about a month,” she says.

“However, what we have now…are really complex, difficult crises that are fundamentally the result of non-democratic governments.” In the Philippines, “Nobody was shooting anyone. And so, for humanitarian workers to be able to go in after there was a clear beginning and move progressively toward a better outcome, there’s something very satisfying about that in contrast with the kind of crises we’re seeing.”

International humanitarian agencies are “at their limit”

Ebola is only the latest among several large-scale humanitarian responses around the world that USAID’s disaster response officials are currently managing.

It’s the first time in history the agency has had to respond to four such humanitarian operations. The other three are in South Sudan, Syria and Iraq.

In a radio interview, Thomas Staal, senior deputy assistant administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, said that the international humanitarian agencies coordinating on all four situations are currently “at their limit.”

Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone are facing the worst Ebola virus outbreak in history, and the team responsible for coordinating the U.S. government response effort has a grim equipment request: more body bags.

With more than 1,000 deaths already reported and concerns that the virus could spread further, humanitarian agencies and their partners taking part in the international emergency response are preparing to ramp up their efforts.

Tim Callaghan, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s disaster assistance response team leader, said that to treat patients, medical professionals must receive additional training specific to the virus and follow a “meticulous” system to ensure they are confident and capable enough to mitigate risks.

USAID’s team is responsible for assessing conditions that might hamper the response and assistance effort. Callaghan did not identify any current bottlenecks for equipment, personnel or coordination, but did note that the persistence of rumors and misinformation has made things more challenging.


Humanitarian workers and reverse culture shock

You’re in a country where everything feels different. The food isn’t what you’re used to; the people don’t make sense. It’s sensory overload and you’re bewildered by all the things around you — the language, the music, the faces, the smells.

Everyone is moving at lightning speed, and you’re still staring at the food in the grocery store, confused about what to buy.

Erin Curtis, a Peace Corps volunteer, isn’t talking about her time in Kazakhstan. She is referring to her trip to the local grocery in Lexington, South Carolina, last month.

Curtis, like many long-term volunteers and workers who return from abroad, was feeling what is known as reverse culture shock.

Five common grievances of returning workers and volunteers
  Waste – “The ridiculous amount of trash we produce in the U.S. was hard for me to look at every day,” said returning Peace Corps volunteer Erin Curtis.
  Choice – Many volunteers feel overwhelmed by the wide variety of choices in the U.S.
  Pace of life – “You feel so rushed in this culture and bombarded with things,” said returned Peace Corps volunteer coordinator Jodi Hammer.
  Relationships – Not only do volunteers miss the connections they made abroad, but they may find they’ve grown apart from their friends at home.
  Language/Communication – Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words after speaking another language for a long time.

For many volunteers and workers, coming home can be harder than going abroad, said Jodi Hammer, a coordinator for returned Peace Corps volunteers.

Read full article 

Insights behind U.S. intervention in northern Iraq

Besides rescuing Yazidis, who are ethnically identified as Kurds, Erbil was another main cause that drew President Obama back to combat in northern Iraq, two and a half years after he fulfilled a campaign pledge and pulled the last troops out.

Erbil is the capital of the oil-endowed Kurdish Regional Government, in northern Iraq. There the United States built political alliances and equipped Kurdish peshmerga militias, and since 2003 it has been the most stable place in an unstable country.

[View maps of Iraq, including location of Erbil, Sinjar mountains, ISIS control etc]

A secure Kurdistan could provide sanctuary for those fleeing ISIS. “The Kurdish region is functional in the way we would like to see,” Obama explained in a fascinating interview with Thomas Friedman. “It is tolerant of other sects and other religions in a way that we would like to see elsewhere. So we do think it is important to make sure that that space is protected.”

Obama’s advisers explained to reporters that Erbil holds an American consulate, and that “thousands” of Americans live there. The city has to be defended, they continued, lest ISIS overrun it and threaten American lives. Fair enough, but why are thousands of Americans in Erbil these days? It is not to take in clean mountain air.

ExxonMobil and Chevron are among the many oil and gas firms large and small drilling in Kurdistan under contracts that compensate the companies for their political risk-taking with unusually favorable terms.  The status quo in Kurdistan also includes oil production by international firms, as it might be candid to mention.

[Read full “New Yorker” article]

400,000 people driven from their homes by ISIS since June

With U.S. airstrikes keeping ISIS at bay and the help of Kurdish Peshmerga forces, thousands of Yazidis have been able to evacuate Iraq’s Sinjar Mountains, making a U.S.-assisted evacuation mission “far less likely,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told CNN’s “New Day” that while the operation is a success so far for Obama, it is a mistake to declare victory too early.

The United Nations on Wednesday announced its highest level of emergency for a humanitarian crisis, saying the number of people on the run from ISIS is of grave concern.

It estimates that more than 400,000 people have been driven from their homes since June, when ISIS swept across the border from Syria into Iraq. Of those displaced, more than 200,000 have poured into Dohuk province in recent weeks, where refugee camp populations have swelled since ISIS began its assault against Yazidis, Christians and Kurds.

Thousands of other refugees sought protection inside the northern Kurdish region of Iraq.

“To be blunt, we don’t have housing for all of them. We don’t have shelter,” a spokesman for the U.N. human rights commissioner, Edward Colt, told CNN at a camp near the Peshkhabour bridge where Iraqis are entering the area. “Thousands of tents are being erected as we speak.”


Conditions for Russian aid to eastern Ukraine

A convoy of 280 Russian trucks reportedly packed with aid headed for eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, but Ukraine said it would not let the mission in because it is not being coordinated by the International Red Cross and could be a covert military operation.

The goods would be stopped at the border and transferred to other vehicles, Reuters news agency reported, citing Ukrainian presidential aide Valery Chaly.

Among the pre-conditions is that these much-needed supplies would be distributed by Ukrainian authorities.  Also, the convoy must cross at a point controlled by the military, not the pro-Russia separatists.

The Russian trucks departed Naro-Fominsk on Tuesday after an agreement was initially reached between Russia and Ukraine on Monday to allow a Red Cross-led humanitarian mission into the eastern region of Luhansk. Luhansk has borne the brunt of the fighting, and food and energy supplies are running short.

Russia has told reporters the trucks will be taking 400 tons of cereals, 100 tons of sugar, 62 tons of baby food, 54 tons of medical drugs and stock, as well as 12,000 sleeping bags and 69 power generators to the civilians of Luhansk.

[Al Jazeera]

Rescue for thousands of besieged Yazidi refugees in Iraq

At least half of the 40,000 Yazidi people besieged by jihadists on Mount Sinjar had escaped by Sunday night, aided by Kurdish rebels who crossed from Syria to rescue them.

The refugees, all members of the Yazidi sect, began streaming back into Iraqi Kurdistan after a perilous journey past Islamic State militants who had vowed to kill them and had surrounded their hideout on Mount Sinjar after storming the area.

Fleeing Yazidis said their escape had been aided by the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish rebel faction, and by US air strikes on Islamic State, positions which had forced the jihadists to withdraw for around six hours on Saturday. Their retreat gave a window for thousands of Yazidis, all desperately low on food and water, to begin streaming down the mile-high mountain and north across the Nineveh plains.

Though many Yazidis have now reached safety, the siege of Mount Sinjar is not yet broken; many thousands more are thought to remain on the southern side of the 60-mile-long ridge, unable to reach the safe passage that the Kurdish fighters had secured towards the Kurdish north.

Britain said it had airdropped food and water to those still trapped. Iraq and Turkey, along with the US, had also delivered aid. However, Yazidis said much of the food and water dropped by the US using parachutes had disintegrated when it hit the ground.

One man who made the escape to Duhok, Ghassan Salim, 40, said: “The situation is critical. It is a human catastrophe. The children are in particular need of urgent assistance. And it is not only Yazidis – all the minorities, like Shabbak, Christians … need desperate help.”

“The drops didn’t reach more than 10% of those who need them. Helicopters and pilots were afraid to come close to the southern part of the mountain – thousands of people in that part received nothing.”

The past week has uprooted Yazidis, Christians, Turkmen and Shabak Shias from lands in which they had lived for several thousand years.

[The Guardian]  

Some humanitarian relief for Gaza

The latest 3-day cease-fire between Israel and the Hamas militants allows some humanitarian aid into Gaza neighborhoods and the reopening of indirect talks on a more lasting and comprehensive deal.

On Monday morning, high school students in Gaza filed the streets as they headed off to pick up their graduation certificates. And people waited to buy fuel for generators as power and communication workers struggled to fix cables damaged in the fighting, while long lines formed at ATMs.

Turkey is pursuing a humanitarian aid corridor into Gaza, with the government’s plan to set up a hospital in Gaza.

Turkish aid organization the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) will attempt to send a humanitarian convoy to Gaza by sea in spite of Israel’s naval blockade, they have announced. The organization, part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, said representatives from 12 countries had met in Istanbul over the weekend and would send ships loaded with humanitarian aid to the Gaza strip “in the shadow of the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza”.

The conflict that began July 8 and has left more than 1,900 Palestinians dead and nearly 10,000 wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. In Israel, 67 people have been killed, including three civilians, according to the Israeli military.

[Associated Press, Reuters]

Iraqi humanitarian chaos

In Iraq, one of the most dire humanitarian nightmares has unfolded on Mount Sinjar, where tens of thousands of Yazidis have been trapped for over a week, after fleeing when ISIS fighters stormed the town of Sinjar.

On Sunday night, the U.S. military made a fourth airdrop of food and water, according to U.S. Central Command. In total, U.S. military aircraft have delivered more than 74,000 meals and more than 15,000 gallons of fresh drinking water, Centcom said.

Britain and France have said they will join the United States in the airdrops. A British C-130 cargo plane delivered aid to Iraq on Sunday, a Ministry of Defense spokesman said.

Iraqi security forces have been able to airlift about 100 to 150 people a day off Sinjar Mountain, said Marzio Babille of UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s agency. The Iraqi air force and fighters with the Kurdish peshmerga carried out a dramatic rescue mission Monday at Mount Sinjar, taking supplies to desperate Yazidis and bringing some on board the helicopter to make it safely out.

Teams hurled out bags and boxes of food, water, milk and diapers from as high as 50 feet before approaching the ground. “We landed on several short occasions, and that’s where — amid this explosion of dust and chaos — these desperate civilians came racing towards the helicopter, throwing their children on board the aircraft. The crew was just trying to pull up as many people as possible.”

It’s already too late to save dozens of children who’ve died of thirst. But for the 20 or so people rescued Monday, the relief was palpable. The crowd on board the helicopter burst into tears as it took off.


US responds to humanitarian crisis in northern Iraq

ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) recently began an offensive on Sinjar, a city in the north western region of Nineveh in Iraq and home to at least 200,000 of the world’s 700,000 members of the Yazidi faith. While most fled to refugee camps in semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, some 30,000 families ended up on Mount Sinjar, where they are now stranded, surrounded by jihadists.

U.S. military cargo planes airdropped 5,300 gallons of water and 8,000 meals onto Mount Sinjar, where it has been reported some Yazidi children had died from dehydration.

The British government said Friday it would support the U.S. humanitarian effort and planned airdrops of its own.

Meanwhile, the United Nations in Iraq was “urgently preparing a humanitarian corridor to allow those in need to flee the areas under threat,” said Nickolay Mladenov, the special representative to the U.N. secretary-general.

After the airdrops, President Obama then authorized “targeted airstrikes” against ISIS. The militant group’s new, abbreviated name, Islamic State, reflects its goal to establish a Sunni caliphate stretching from Syria to Baghdad. Obama made clear he had no intention of sending in ground forces.