UN says half the population of Central African Republic needs humanitarian support

With nearly half the population in the Central African Republic (CAR) in need of humanitarian assistance, some $400 million is required over the coming year to shore up relief efforts that will be critical “to save the lives of people who are among the poorest and most forgotten on this planet,” a senior United Nations official said today.

Clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka rebel coalition and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian, plunged the country of 4.5 million people into civil conflict in 2013. Despite significant progress and successful elections, CAR has remained in the grip of instability and sporadic unrest. More than 13,000 UN staff are currently based in the country as part of the UN Integrated Multifaceted Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic.

Despite its considerable agricultural potential, CAR has some of the highest chronic malnutrition rates in the world – almost one in two children – due to ongoing insecurity, poor access to clean water and health care, as well as lack of seeds and tools. Maternal and early childhood mortality rates are also among the highest in the world.

Eruptions of violence over the past year meant that one in 10 remains a refugee, the majority in neighboring Cameroon, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

[UN News Centre]

Record number of boat migrants reach Italy this year

A record number of migrants have reached Italy by boat from North Africa in 2016, according to official data. As of Nov. 28, 171,299 boat migrants had reached Italy’s shores, the Interior Ministry said, compared to the previous record of 170,100 for all of 2014.

Italy has borne the brunt of new arrivals since the implementation in March of an agreement between the European Union and Turkey to curb the flow of migrants sailing for Greece. In the past three years, Italy has recorded nearly half a million migrant arrivals. Many have fled war, poverty or political oppression.

The influx has brought a record number of asylum requests this year in Italy where more than 176,000 asylum seekers now live in shelters. This is putting the country’s asylum process and legal system under increasing pressure.

Most of the migrants who have come to Italy this year are Africans of various nationalities. Some 36,000 Nigerians have made the trip, about 21 percent of the total, along with 20,000 Eritreans and more than 12,000 from Guinea.

An estimated 4,663 migrants have died in the Mediterranean this year as a record number of unaccompanied minors have come to Italy.


Humanitarian aid work gets more complex and less safe

Following are excerpts of a Newsweek Opinion piece by Thomas Arcaro, professor of sociology at Elon University:

The need for humanitarian support globally is rising at a much higher rate than can be met by currently available material and human resources. In our imperfect world there will always be a need for humanitarian efforts, and those tasked with directly addressing these needs feel both a personal and professional responsibility to deliver.

My research and book, “Aid Worker Voices,” focus on aid workers. Many veteran aid workers observed that the core aspects of the work have slowly become more complex in the last several decades. A lack of safety is an increasingly palpable fact of life. They report seeing friends and colleagues get raped, kidnapped and, yes, even beheaded.

One respondent said about the difficulties inherent in her profession that she just wants to “get back to the work that I am fiercely proud of,” instead of fearing for her safety.

Humanitarian principles like neutrality and impartiality that once seemed so self-evident have been drawn into question, especially on the politically and ethnically complex battlefields of Iraq and Syria. Humanitarian safety protocol that seemed straightforward in places like Aceh, Malaysia or even Port-au-Prince, Haiti, appear almost quaint now on the battlefields in the Middle East where even aid convoys have become targets.

Tufts University researcher Antonio Donini put it this way: “Humanitarianism started off as a powerful discourse; now it is a discourse of power, both at the international and at the community level.” Aid workers are caught in power squabbles as they try to deliver needed supplies, medical care and support for those in need.

The confines of the system within which aid workers struggle to work includes the humanitarian aid industry, and the larger economic and political forces that shape our world.


Southern Africa cries for help from El Niño

Malawi is one of seven southern African countries on the brink of starvation and in a situation that the UN says needs requires immediate action.

It has been devastated by a combination of a long drought caused by a strong El Niño weather cycle and climate change. Successive maize harvests have failed, leaving communities there and in Zambia, Congo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and elsewhere, desperate for food.

Madagascar is the most critical, said David Phiri, UN food and agriculture coordinator based in Harare, Zimbabawe. “Hundreds of thousands of people are on the brink of famine. We may see deaths there from starvation. People appear to have no food or money. The cost of inaction or further delaying our response is too ghastly to contemplate. It needs immediate action,” he warned.

Forty million people in southern Africa and a further 11 million in Ethiopia will need food aid over the next few months, Phiri said. But many may get little or nothing because only 25% of the $2.9bn in aid sought by the seven most affected countries has been pledged. A separate World Food programme appeal for $600m is only half-funded.

[The Guardian]

Thousands of Haitians stranded at US-Mexico border

Desperate Haitian immigrants have been massing along the U.S.-Mexico border for months seeking humanitarian relief.

After the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in Haiti, thousands of citizens migrated to Brazil looking for work. But as Brazil has slipped into recession in recent years, many of them have hit the road again, heading north on a 6,000-mile journey to the U.S. border — by every means of conveyance.

“Taxi, bus, plane, bicycle, boat, horses, and we’ve walked for five days,” says Pierre Smith, 34, a smiling, broad-faced accountant from Port-au-Prince. He’s staying at the San Juan Bosco, an immigrant shelter on a barren hilltop in Nogales, Mexico, while he and 100 of his countrymen wait to cross into Nogales, Ariz.

These Haitians want the same generous benefits that were extended after the earthquake, when they got protection from deportation and temporary work permits. But the U.S. welcome mat is gone, and the new wave of Haitians is in for a harsh reception. The Homeland Security Department announced new rules in September. All Haitians who show up at the border without papers and who don’t ask for asylum are now detained.

Pierre Smith knows this. He and others like him won’t be granted asylum because they’re fleeing poverty, not political persecution — so once they cross, they will join nearly 4,500 other Haitians currently in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“When I get there, I don’t mind staying in detention,” he said, standing on the front steps of the shelter in a black muscle shirt. “I am looking for a better life.”

The United States allowed in 60,000 Haitian immigrants as a result of the earthquake. Now officials have heard that as many as 40,000 more have left Brazil for the United States. However, the US government has run out of detention space. This is why the Haitians are bottle-necked all along the western U.S.-Mexico border.


UN readies to send humanitarian help to Aleppo as rebels agree to aid delivery

UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said he had received approval from armed Syrian opposition groups, saying they would uphold the conditions needed for aid to be urgently delivered to East Aleppo.

Under the arrangement, medical evacuations and new doctors would also be rotated into the besieged city.

Humanitarian workers were prepared to be deployed with hundreds of truckloads of medical equipment, food and other supplies needed in eastern Aleppo.

[Australian Broadcasting Corporation]

Syria’s version of the reason for humanitarian crisis

Many wonder about what is taking place in Syria, and why humanitarian aid does not reach east Aleppo and who is responsible for hindering the delivery process.

Syria’s permanent representative to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari, said the reason behind the humanitarian crisis in Syria is the siege imposed by terrorist organizations and their attacks on humanitarian convoys, in addition to the lack of security in the areas where those organizations exist.

Al-Jaafari went on to say that the Takfiri terrorists, influenced by the Saudi Wahhabi doctrine, are the ones who perpetrate the terror acts in Syria. He added that it is well-known that East Aleppo is controlled by terrorist groups affiliated to the Jabhat al-Nusra organization

He said the terrorism that exists in Aleppo is the same as that present in Mosul, wondering “why they accuse us, while they support the military operation there.”

Al-Jaafari added that the statements of Stephen O’Brien, the UN under-Secretary General for the Humanitarian Affairs about Syria make no mention of terrorism, as if there is no terrorism in Syria.

He also referred to the incident of the US air force describing their targeting of Syrian military sites in Deir Ezzor as a “mistake”. However two days later, it bombed all bridges on the Euphrates river, as well as the power generation plants and infrastructure in Aleppo city, not to mention the massacre committed by French warplanes in Minbij city and claimed the lives of 200 civilians, said al-Jaafari.

He added that resident representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Damascus, Elizabeth Hoff, indicated that millions of the Syrian people benefited from the humanitarian aid, stating that it was achieved thanks to coordination with the Syrian government, taking into account that 75% of the aid has been provided by the Syrian government itself, not the UN, despite the unilateral sanctions imposed on Syria for more than five years.


Close to one million Syrians living under siege

In the past six months, the number of people living under siege in Syria has doubled. Today there are almost one million Syrians being “isolated, starved, bombed and denied medical attention and humanitarian assistance.”

The latest figures from the UN come a week after deadly airstrikes by government forces on rebel-held eastern Aleppo resumed. Since then, hundreds of civilians have been killed.

“Month after month I have reported to this Council that the level of depravity inflicted upon the Syrian people cannot sink lower, only to return the following month with hideous and, with shocking disbelief, new reports of ever-worsening human suffering,” the UN’s under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien said.

A year ago, the number of people living under siege was 393,700. Six months ago that figure had increased to 486,700 but today the UN estimates that the total is 974,080.

The UN believes there to be 275,000 people under siege in eastern Aleppo alone. In Aleppo, humanitarian aid deliveries were last made in July and O’Brien said the remains of those rations were handed out on November 13. He also warned that without food, fuel and access to medicine, the people in eastern Aleppo will “face a harsh winter without heating or the bare essentials for life.”


Disasters are even more disastrous than we think

The devastation in floods, earthquakes or droughts is generally measured by how much stuff or assets people lose–say the number of wrecked houses and the dollar amount it would take to rebuild them. In the course of a year, that adds up to a lot of money: $300 billion by some accounts.

But a new report from a research group at the World Bank says the toll could be a lot more if it were to look beyond stuff that’s lost and see how livelihoods are affected, particularly for a country’s poorest people. Those losses could add up to an additional $200 billion a year, says Stephane Hallegatte, an economic analyst at the World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery group and lead author on the report.

“If magically, next year, we could prevent all disasters, 26 million people would be out of poverty,” he says. Either because natural disasters destroy their wealth and push them down, or the shock prevents them from climbing out of poverty.

When you looked at how much people lost in natural disasters, poor people were losing way more than rich people. When they are hit by disaster, all of their assets and wealth are in material form that can be destroyed. In villages, people have livestock that can die in a drought or flood. And people who are poor are twice more likely to live in fragile buildings that are completely destroyed when flooded or stormed, and they lose everything.

One scary finding from a study in Mexico is that when kids are removed from school because of a shock, 30 percent will not go back. We also have evidence that parents have to cut food intake on the family after a disaster. When this happens to children between 0 and 2, this has permanent impacts on their physical development and the income this person will make for the rest of their life.


Might a humanitarian airport in Gaza fit in a Trump Administration’s foreign policy?

Ahmed Alkhatib is the founder and director of Project Unified Assistance (PUA), a San Francisco-based 501c(3) nonprofit organization, which has revived and developed the idea of an internationally-managed humanitarian airport in the Gaza strip, and brought it to the attention of major regional stakeholders, including the Palestinian Authority (PA), Hamas and senior Israeli policymakers.

The idea is ambitious. Some have called it unlikely.

Nevertheless, Alkhatib has received kudos from a number of senior U.S. and international policy professionals for his analysis of the security and development concerns of all concerned parties, and there are growing indications the major stakeholders may be willing to endorse this concept or something similar.

[Read Forbes interview]

New homes for North Korean flood victims in record time

North Korea has begun moving residents into newly built homes in a region recovering from recent floods that have been described as the worst since World War II.

The Russian embassy quoted Cho In Chol, the vice chairman of the Rason City People’s Committee, who said construction on a cluster of new homes was completed on Nov. 10 and residents were being moved in by Tuesday.

A Western diplomat who spoke to VOA on the condition of anonymity also said victims of the August and September floods were being assigned to their new homes. The diplomat said he has visited sites in the city of Hoeryong, Onsong and Musan Counties and witnessed the construction on 10,000 homes nearing completion, according to the report.

Patrick Elliott, a shelter adviser with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the recovery work has been taking place at an incredibly rapid rate, and at a pace that would usually take 3 years in a developing country.


UN relief agencies deploy emergency humanitarian aid to Mosul

A UNICEF-led multi-agency humanitarian convoy with emergency supplies was the first to enter the Iraqi city of Mosul, while the International Organization for Migration (IOM) continues tracking displaced population movement and constructing emergency sites.

“UNICEF has entered Mosul city for the first time in over two years,” stated UNICEF Iraq Deputy Representative Hamida Ramadhani, adding that the teams, which entered the city this past Sunday, are moving quickly to provide immediate support to communities affected by the fighting.

According to UNICEF, 14 vehicles filled with enough emergency supplies to last 15,000 children and families – a total of 30,000 people – for a month, arrived to the Gogachly neighborhood in eastern Mosul.

Despite a hostile and dangerous environment, the distribution of supplies was completed in six hours.

Other UN agencies, such as IOM are also carrying out relief operations in Mosul, targeting newly displaced people who have fled to more stable areas.  IOM Iraq’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), used by the Government and humanitarian agencies to guide the humanitarian response, currently indicates that close to 98 per cent of all those leaving Mosul are displaced within Ninewa governorate in northern Iraq, where IOM continues to add capacity in shelter and other inputs in anticipation of growing numbers of displaced families.

[UN News Centre]

Humanitarian insights to the Gaza Strip

  • In June 2007, following the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, Israel imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the Gaza Strip, which intensified earlier access restrictions.
  • The unemployment rate by mid-2016 was almost 42%, among the global highs, while among youth it stood at 60% and among females at over 65%.
  • 47% of households in Gaza suffer from moderate or severe food insecurity.
  • More than 70% of Gaza’s population receives some form of international aid, the bulk of which is food assistance.

[UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs]

Citizens of Aleppo face starvation

The last of stockpiled rations were distributed Thursday in east Aleppo, and widespread starvation is expected to set in as winter arrives if no progress is made in negotiations to deliver food and medical aid, the United Nations said.

“It is terrible as we speak; it could get much worse,” U.N. relief envoy Jan Egeland said in Geneva. “I do not think anybody wants a quarter of a million people to be starving. . . . I cannot see anyone wishing to see so many civilians bleed to death . . . because of indiscriminate war.”

Egeland said that “tremendous ground fighting” between the two sides has stopped repeated plans to deliver aid to civilians and evacuate the wounded.

He pleaded with Russia and the United States to continue trying to negotiate some form of cease-fire. “It is only when these two . . . have been leading that we have made progress, when we have not been completely stalled,” Egeland said.

Planned humanitarian convoys have yet to deliver aid, he said, because of the danger and the inability to obtain simultaneous security guarantees from all sides.

“Syria is the worst war, the worst humanitarian crisis, the worst displacement crisis, the worst refu­gee crisis in a generation” Egeland said.

[Washington Post]

Russia considers next humanitarian pauses in Aleppo

Russian Defense Ministry is ready to consider the possibility of new humanitarian pauses in Aleppo as soon as representatives of the UN humanitarian mission in Syria officially confirm their preparedness to deliver humanitarian aid to the city and evacuate injured and sick civilians, the ministry’s official spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday.

“The experience of previous humanitarian pauses showed that assurances of UN representatives about ‘preliminary’ agreements with militants in Aleppo are just words,” Konashenkov said.

He added that “all attempts of any vehicles with humanitarian aid for Aleppo to even approach humanitarian corridors always end in shelling by militants, an impossibility to go through because of mines in the roads and streets.”

The last humanitarian pause in Aleppo was in force for 10 hours on November 4.


Refugees: “They are just like us”

A few weeks ago, I scrambled to evacuate my area with the only five items I could grab–my phone, passport, water, money, and medicine–in the 30 seconds before I had to flee.

Many of the roughly 65 million refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people around the world today have had to make panicked choices like these. But my own “escape” was far away from that. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) had organized the Forced From Home exhibit. The aim was, in part, to put the staggering numbers of the crisis into tangible terms for those of us who don’t have to contemplate actually being forced from home.

We got on a raft like the ones in which so many have risked, and lost, their lives in recent years–though this one stayed on dry land–and later, we were detained at a fenced border where our various legal classifications determined our future. At each stop, hardships from the journey forced us to give up one item, until we were left empty-handed in front of staged refugee tents–where in real life another series of ordeals await those who make it that far.

MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, the international aid group and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is touring the exhibit through five U.S. cities this fall, with a series of West Coast stops planned for next year. With the Forced From Home exhibit, MSF is trying to communicate, in concrete terms, the reality of people fleeing.

Tatiana Chiarella, an MSF nurse from Brazil who has been touring with the exhibit, explained: “For people living in the U.S., or even my people in Brazil, we are so far from the situation that you may hear their stories but you don’t realize it could happen to any one of us.” The people she treated “were just like us, they were doctors, nurses, engineers, lawyers, and suddenly this happened–they have war in their countries and they have to flee for their life and for their families–and they lost everything.”

On the tour I took, I met a student from Charleston, South Carolina, who said: “It pains me to see how unaccepting communities can be of refugees especially when a good amount of people in the U.S. can trace their ancestry to people who left their home because of economic or political issues.”

[Anna Diamond, The Atlantic]

Trump thoughts on Humanitarian Aid

No one knows what the Trump administration has planned for U.S. foreign aid programs and other global initiatives that fight poverty and disease. But the president-elect has commented on a number of global issues. Here’s some of what he has said in speeches and interviews.

In an interview with The New York Times in March 2016, Trump said he was in favor of providing humanitarian aid — the umbrella term for food and disaster assistance — depending on how friendly a country was to the U.S.

But he would also redirect some aid dollars to domestic issues, reports Humanosphere. “It is necessary that we invest in our infrastructure, stop sending foreign aid to countries that hate us and use that money to rebuild our tunnels, roads, bridges and schools.”

Clean water: “Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water,” Trump said in an interview on science, medical and environmental issues with Chemical & Engineering News in September 2016.

Syrian refugees: At a rally in Minnesota on Monday, Trump said he would suspend the Syrian refugee program. According to The Guardian, he said: “We will pause admissions from terror-prone regions until a full security assessment has been performed and until a proven vetting mechanism has been established.”


Trump win sends shock waves to development community

The election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president is sure to send shock waves throughout the global development community as worries rise about his aid policy and stated position on climate change.

Little is known about exactly what a Trump presidency means for foreign aid, in part because in this election development issues have been largely overshadowed by debates over national security, immigration and a myriad of highly personalized attacks.

Yet development is a key issue, especially for people beyond the U.S. borders. Some 65 million people around the globe — more than ever before — are currently displaced from their homes and seeking development assistance to help restore a sense of normalcy in their lives.

The few answers Trump has given on foreign aid policy, mostly in an April town hall, have largely been vague: He would try to help humanitarian efforts, but not if it cost too much. What is clear is that Trump has run on an agenda that rejects American international engagement and that he would not invite Syrian refugees fleeing the crisis into the U.S.

Some worry that his aid policies turn out to be extreme. It’s not impossible to imagine Trump proposing to abolish the U.S. Agency for International Development altogether, to end funding to Muslim countries, or to demand countries refund the foreign assistance they’ve received. It could also mean an end to the recent era of bipartisan cooperation on issues of foreign aid.

[Read full article at Devex]

Differing perspectives on humanitarian aid for Aleppo

Russia and the United States have different ideas about humanitarian aid for citizens of the Syrian city of Aleppo, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Sunday, as he issued a comment on the statement of the US Department of State’s spokesperson John Kirby that the humanitarian pauses organized by Russia in Aleppo are useless.

According to Konashenkov, for the Russian side humanitarian aid means the delivery of food and medications, while for the US side it’s convoys going to the eastern part of the city only “without the right of search and control”.

“Such statements once again demonstrate how differently the State Department and we understand ‘the use’ of humanitarian pauses…

“Over the past months only, we have delivered more than 100 tonnes of most important aid – foods, medications and essentials. This was delivered to all citizens of Aleppo, not limited to its western or eastern part. Meanwhile, the State Department has not delivered a mite to Syrians it is allegedly so much caring for,” Konashenkov said.

[Al Masdar News]

Africa remains the largest target for land grabs

Africa remains the largest target for land grabs, accounting for 42 percent of global deals with 10 million hectares under contract. Mozambique now ranks 18th among all target countries in area under contract, with 500,000 hectares in 60 concluded deals. That puts the country, which in the 2012 report was a top target in Africa, well behind Ethiopia, Ghana, and South Sudan, which have the most on the continent.

More than 1,000 large-scale foreign land deals are now under contract for agriculture covering more than 26 million hectares of land, according to a new report, “Land Matrix Analytical Report II: International Land Deals for Agriculture.” That area represents a remarkable two percent of arable land in the world.

The United States and United Kingdom remain among the leading investors in the amount of land under contract for agriculture. To the surprise of many, China remains a minor agricultural player in Africa.

An international campaign for Land Rights Now is focusing particular attention on women, indigenous communities, and others who do not have secure title to the land and are particularly vulnerable. Fundamentally, the responsibility lies with national governments to recognize communal and individual land rights and stop giving away land to foreign investors.

[Common Dreams]