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]