Humanitarian catastrophe continues to unfold in Raqqa

As of June 2017, Raqqa remains the only major Syrian city fully under ISIL control. The so-called Battle of Raqqa is the fifth and final phase of the campaign  launched by the Syrian Democratic Forces  against ISIL in their de facto capital of Raqqa. The battle is being supported by airstrikes and ground troops from the US-led coalition.

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes near Raqqa earlier this year killed at least 84 civilians, including 30 children, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said. In March, a bomb hit a school being used as a shelter for internally displaced persons in the village of al-Mansoura in the western Raqqa governorate countryside. In another instance, dozens of people died while standing in line for bread next to a refugee shelter.

“We are witnessing a humanitarian catastrophe in Raqqa as we previously did in Mosul [in Iraq]. It was caused by a lack of effective effort to deliver humanitarian aid and create corridors for the evacuation of civilian population, as well as persistent mistakes of the US Air Force, including airstrikes targeting civilian sites,” said Oleg Syromolotov, who supervises counterterrorism cooperation with other nations on behalf of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“There is enough evidence to indicate that many civilians were killed, dozens,” Nadim Houry, HRW director of terrorism and counterterrorism division. “When we asked the [US-led coalition]… on how they conducted their investigation they said these were… secrets that they could not share with us.”

One day before the HRW report, Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones, Britain’s deputy commander for strategy and support for Operation Inherent Resolve, told London’s The Sunday Times that the deaths of innocent people is the “price you pay” for fighting the Islamic State.

[UPI]

LDS Church’s humanitarian aid to Africa and the Middle East

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will use $11 million in funds to assist victims of famine in eight countries in Africa and the Middle East. According to a press statement , “LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Church, is partnering with 11 global relief organizations to support 25 projects in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, Niger, Kenya, Uganda and D.R. Congo.”

The church’s donation of cash and commodities will benefit more than 1.1 million people for up to one year, according to the church.

LDS Charities is partnering with key non-governmental and faith-based organizations, including CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, Convoy of Hope, International Rescue Committee, Islamic Relief USA, Rahma Relief, Real Medicine Foundation, Save the Children, UNICEF USA, USA for UNHCR and the World Food Programme.

“With 20 million people on the brink of starvation and 5.7 million children dangerously malnourished in Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and northeastern Nigeria, it’s more important than ever for the international community to take action to prevent people from dying,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, in the church statement. “Our brothers and sisters in these countries need our help to beat back famine and stop the suffering of innocent people.”

“LDS Charities has consistently stepped up to help those who need it most in times of emergency,” said Prerana Issar, World Food Programme director of private sector partnerships. “Their trust in WFP and their compassion and drive to help those who cannot help themselves has made a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition around the world.”

[Daily Herald]

Jennifer Lopez announces humanitarian relief initiative for Puerto Rico

Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony announced the creation of Somos Una Voz (We’re Once Voice) on Wednesday, a humanitarian relief initiative for Puerto Rico, an alliance which includes some of the biggest names in Hollywood, the world of sports and the arts.

Together they have over 1 billion social media followers to help raise awareness of the critical situation and also raise donations for those in need. The Somos Una Voz alliance is working together to rush food, shelter, medicine, power, and communications to those in need that were affected by recent natural disasters.

Funds raised will be distributed among the American Red Cross, Reach Out Worldwide, United Way, United for Puerto Rico, and more beneficiaries to be announced.

A week after Hurricane Maria hit, millions are struggling for basic necessities like adequate food, water, fuel and electricity. Eighty percent of the island’s transmission lines are down, and power may not be restored for at least a month.

[E News]

First group of refugees from Australian detention camps head to US

After years of detention at one of two remote Australia-run Pacific centers, a group of refugees are heading to the United States for permanent resettlement.

At least 22 asylum-seekers who have been held at the Manus camp in northern Papua New Guinea will board a plane in the capital of Port Moresby and fly to Manila, then head to an undisclosed location in the U.S. The public affairs officer in the U.S. embassy in Port Morseby says a second group of about 30 refugees will leave a second detention center on Nauru for resettlement in the U.S. in the coming days.

The refugees are the first of 1,250 asylum seekers that are being resettled in the United States under a deal struck between Canberra and Washington in the final weeks of President Barack Obama’s administration. Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, attacked the agreement during a contentious phone call with Australian Prime Minister Turnbull shortly after taking office, and called it “a dumb deal” in an angry tweet posted in February, before eventually agreeing to honor it.

More than 1,200 asylum seekers from Africa, Asia and the Middle East are being held in Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s northern island of Manus, as part of Canberra’s policy of intercepting people attempting to sail to Australia and seek asylum.

[Voice of America]

Two-State Solution in Israel increasingly unattainable

The United Nations top envoy for the Middle East peace process told the Security Council today that hopes for a two-State solution have been dashed with Israel moving forward with illegal settlement activity at a high rate since late June.

“Continuing settlement expansion, most notably during this period in occupied East Jerusalem, is making the two-State solution increasingly unattainable and undermining Palestinian belief in international peace efforts,” Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov told Council members. Violence against civilians and incitement had also perpetuated mutual fear and suspicion, impeding efforts to bridge gaps between the two sides.

Over the last three months, Israel had not stopped settlement activities, as called for by Council resolution 2334 (2016), he said. In occupied East Jerusalem, plans were advanced for more than 2,300 housing units in July, 30 per cent more than for the whole of 2016.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the destruction of Palestinian-owned property across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, continued; albeit at a significantly lower rate, he said.

Violence persisted as one of the main obstacles to resolving the conflict, he underscored. Nineteen Palestinians had been killed in attacks, clashes and Israeli military operations. Further, eight Israelis had been killed in clashes and attacks, including three Israeli-Arab perpetrators of the 14 July attacks against two Israeli policemen in Jerusalem’s Old City. After three months of quiet, on three separate occasions, Palestinian militants fired rockets towards Israel with no injuries reported, he said. In response, the Israeli Defense Forces conducted five airstrikes in Gaza, resulting in three Palestinians being injured.

While all initiatives to improve the Palestinian economy were welcome, much more needed to be done to support the political process aimed at establishing Palestinian statehood. Economic development was no substitute for sovereignty and statehood.

[From meeting notes of Security Council meeting 8054]

Rohingya refugees struggle in roadside settlements

Some 429,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar since a violent crackdown on the Rohingya community began a month ago following a series of attacks on security posts.

The vast majority are now living in informal camps and spontaneous settlements that have sprung up in Bangladesh, clinging to hillsides and strung out along busy roads. Their need for food, shelter, access to healthcare and child protection is particularly acute.

Sara is – incredibly – more fortunate than many. Along the road south from the Kutupalong Refugee Camp, single mother Agida, 35, and her four children sleep rough on the mud-churned verge, strewn with discarded trash and clothes. She survives on occasional aid packages handed out or tossed from trucks by private donors, and by begging from passing cars. Exposed to the monsoon downpours, she is also terrified for her children. “It’s not safe here for them here,” she says with a desperation in her voice nearing panic. “Someone could take them while I sleep.”

The UN High Commission for Refugees is stepping up all efforts to safeguard the most vulnerable refugees like Sara, and their families, caught up in a tragic crisis unprecedented in the region in decades. At the request of Bangladeshi authorities, the UNHCR is putting up hundreds of family tents and distributing thousands of plastic sheets to help shelter refugees like Sara. The UN Refugee Agency, with the help of backers such as the UAE and the courier service UPS, has now sent four planes loaded with relief items into the country.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, toured Kutupalong camp and asked mothers gathered in the makeshift camp what their children needed most.

“Everything,” they replied.

[ReliefWeb]

Third earthquake in Mexico in less than 3 weeks

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake shook southern Mexico on Saturday morning, the US Geological Survey said, rattling a country still coming to grips with the devastation from two stronger temblors earlier this month.

Saturday’s quake was centered in Oaxaca state about 275 miles southeast of Mexico City. Roughly speaking, the epicenter was between the centers of this month’s two more violent earthquakes — the 7.1 magnitude temblor that hit Tuesday closer to the capital, and the 8.1 magnitude quake that struck September 8 off the southern Pacific coast, near Chiapas state.

More than 300 people have been reported killed in the September19 quake; nearly 100 reportedly died in the September 8 temblor.

[CNN]

Wrath in the path of Hurricane Maria

The Turks and Caicos Islands, a British overseas territory of more than 52,000 people,  felt Hurricane Maria’s wrath Friday as the storm hurtled through the Caribbean while still causing trouble on the battered US territory of Puerto Rico after its landfall two days earlier.

Maria is still producing winds of 125 mph (more than 200 kilometers per hour).

Hurricane Maria raked across Puerto Rico, an island of more than 3 million people, as the most powerful storm to strike the island in more than 80 years, ripping roofs off buildings, filling homes with water and knocking out power to the entire population. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said it could be months before the electricity returns.

A dangerous storm surge and large waves are expected to raise water levels by as much as 9 to 12 feet above normal tide in the Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas. In Turks and Caicos, 8 to 20 inches of rainfall is predicted, and in Puerto Rico, an additional 3 to 6 inches is likely, with isolated maximum storm totals at 40 inches.

Heavy rains are also expected in parts of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Bahamas.

The giant storm’s death toll is beginning to mount. In Puerto Rico, Maria left at least 13 dead, based on preliminary assessments, the island’s governor told CNN’s “New Day.” At least 15 people are confirmed dead on Dominica, and dozens more remain missing.

[CNN]

US humanitarian aid to select countries facing food insecurity and violence

The United States announced more than $575 million in additional humanitarian assistance to the millions of people affected by food insecurity and violence in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Somalia.

This additional funding brings the total U.S. humanitarian assistance to nearly $2.5 billion for these four crises since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2017.

The announcement was made by United States Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green at the United Nations General Assembly.  With this new funding, the United States is providing emergency food and nutrition assistance, life-saving medical care, improved sanitation, emergency shelter, and protection for vulnerable groups who have been affected by conflict.  The United States is also providing safe drinking water and supporting health and hygiene programs to treat and prevent disease outbreaks, including cholera, which has taken hold in all four countries.

During today’s announcement, Administrator Green reiterated the U.S. Government’s commitment to working with international and local partners to avert famine and provide life-saving aid to people impacted by these crises.

[USAid]

Central Mexico earthquake

For the second time in two weeks, a powerful earthquake struck Mexico, toppling buildings, cracking highways and killing hundreds of people.

A magnitude 7.1 earthquake rocked central Mexico on Tuesday, killing more than 200 people, leveling buildings and knocking out power to millions.

Mexico is still recovering from a magnitude 8.1 quake that hit earlier this month off the country’s southern coast. That quake, which killed at least 61 people, was the strongest quake to hit the country in 100 years, according to President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Although the two earthquakes struck hundreds of miles apart, they have some similarities, experts say. The 7.1-magnitude earthquake Tuesday was about 650 kilometers from the epicenter of the 8.1-magnitude earthquake that hit September 8, said Jana Pursley, a geophysicist with the US Geological Survey. Both earthquakes seem to be a result of the rupture of fault lines within the North American tectonic plate.

[CNN]

Richard Branson: Hurricanes are the ‘start of things to come’

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson rode out Hurricane Irma in his wine cellar on his private island in the British Virgin Islands. As many of the same islands brace for the impact of Hurricane Maria, he appeared on CNN’s “New Day” with a message: “Climate change is real.”

After anchor John Berman asked if he saw a correlation between the recent hurricanes and climate change, Branson said, “…Scientists have said the storms are going to get more and more and more intense and more and more often. We’ve had four storms within a month, all far greater than that have ever, ever, ever happened in history.”

“Sadly,” he continued, “I think this is the start of things to come.”

Branson noted that recent storms like Irma, which tore through the Caribbean, and Harvey, which ravaged Houston, Texas, have been extremely devastating.

“Look,” the philanthropist said, “Climate change is real. Ninety-nine percent of scientists know it’s real. The whole world knows it’s real except for maybe one person in the White House.”

“The cost of rebuilding just the British Virgin Islands will be three or four billion dollars,” Branson responded. “The cost of rebuilding Houston will be billions of dollars. If all that money could be invested in clean energy, in powering the world by the sun and by the wind, where we won’t have to suffer these awful events in the future, how much better than having to patch up people’s houses after they’ve been destroyed?”

[CNN]

The necessity of education for refugee children

According to a new report by the UN Refugee Agency, 3.5 million refugee children are currently out of school.

A year ago, in September 2016, the first UN Summit for Refugees & Migrants and Leaders’ Summit on Refugees took place. While we have seen greater attention and awareness on the importance of investing in education for the globally displaced, we must not lose this opportunity to hold governments and donors accountable to commitments made at least year’s historic refugee summits. We must ensure that these commitments are tracked and that students see the benefits of commitments that were made on their behalf.

During this week’s Session of the UN General Assembly, and related meetings and events, we encourage donors and decision makers to prioritize follow-up from last year’s Leaders’ Summit, including:

  • Identify a lead government or entity to coordinate formal follow-up from the Summit.
  • Ensure sufficient monitoring and evaluation of commitments made at the Summit.
  • Provide mid-year and annual reports on commitments made at the Summit.
  • Host follow-up ministerial meetings to track ongoing commitments and generate new support are held, as appropriate.
  • Ensure that civil society is consulted and fully engaged, as our constituencies can be leveraged to assist in this effort.

Efforts to mobilize the support of refugee-hosting governments and the donor community are critical in finding solutions to these unprecedented challenges.

[Global Campaign for Education]

Belgium to double its investment in humanitarian innovation

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo announced in New York that Belgium will double its investment in humanitarian innovation next year.

De Croo said, “More and more people die because of humanitarian crises and conflicts. Still, only one per cent of humanitarian means is dedicated to humanitarian innovation and research. We must change this. More innovation will save more people. This is why next year, Belgium will double its investment in humanitarian innovation to 20 million.”

One of the innovative projects that Belgium is investing in, together with the World Food Programme (WFP), is a program for the development of humanitarian drones. With drones, humanitarian organizations can, among other things, collect more precise information about disaster areas and bring emergency aid more quickly to areas that are difficult to access. Often, the most vulnerable victims are located precisely there.

Together with Handicap International, Belgium is also investing in the development of 3D-printed limbs. In many crisis regions, people with severe physical injuries have only limited access to quality prostheses.

[ReliefWeb]

Three storms raging in Atlantic — with one aiming for Irma’s path

Three storms are spinning in the Atlantic, with one already a hurricane and another one strengthening and forecast to threaten areas battered by Hurricane Irma last week.

Tropical Storm Maria formed Saturday in the western Atlantic Ocean and is expected to be a hurricane by late Monday and a major hurricane by Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center says. By Sunday morning, Maria was about 460 miles southeast of the Lesser Antilles, moving toward the Caribbean at 15 mph.

That means areas devastated by Irma could again be dealing with hurricane conditions by Tuesday or Wednesday.

Hurricane watches have been issued for Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, Dominica and Anguilla. Tropical storm watches are posted for St. Lucia, Martinique, Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose, a Category 1 storm, is spinning about 420 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and 435 miles southwest of Bermuda. Jose currently has maximum sustained winds of 80 mph and is expected to remain a hurricane through Monday night, the Hurricane Center said.

There’s also Tropical Storm Lee, which formed earlier Saturday in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.

[CNN]

‘Humanitarian catastrophe’ unfolding as Myanmar takes over aid efforts in Rakhine state

Nearly 400,000 Rohinyga have fled into makeshift camps in Bangladesh since 25 August, when coordinated assaults on security outposts by Rohingya insurgents prompted a massive military crackdown.

Now, the Myanmar government has taken control of aid operations in the country’s crisis-hit Rakhine state, as reports continue of massacres and “ethnic cleansing” by soldiers on the Muslim population there.

The UN has described the humanitarian situation for Rohingya people in northern Rakhine as catastrophic.  Sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Guardian they fear a deliberate attempt to undermine aid operations.Senior officials and Human Rights Watch said they believe the move could become permanent, ending vital food and health programs run by international agencies. Already there is an aid blockade on UN agencies that workers say is having a severe impact on malnourished children.

“We’re slowly getting kicked out,” said one. “This could fundamentally shift the way we operate here. The amount of time it will take to get back, or even if we are allowed, is all up in the air and in the meantime there could be a humanitarian disaster,” they said. “The government clearly don’t want us there. It’s an attempt to keep us out in a way that doesn’t fall on them; they can use security as an excuse. It’s obvious what’s going on,” they added.

Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, said he believed the moves could be part of a government strategy to hinder the flow of information from the ground. “It’s becoming clear that the Myanmar government may be moving forward with a larger political plan to replace agencies on the ground in Rakhine with the much more malleable and less-inclined-to-speak-publicly Myanmar Red Cross,” he said.

[The Guardian]

Mexico steps up to unique triple disaster threat

There are few countries in the world resilient enough to respond to a hurricane and the strongest earthquake in a century, accompanied by a tsunami threat, all within hours of each other. Such was the challenge that confronted Mexico last week.

Officials at Mexico’s National Civil Protection System, created after the 1985 earthquake that claimed over 10,000 lives, kept a watchful eye on Hurricane Katia, one of three hurricanes newly emerged from the Atlantic, when the country was hit by an 8.1 earthquake which triggered 3-metre waves along parts of the Pacific coastline.

Tragically, some 90 people lost their lives in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Tabasco, and many have been made homeless. But the numbers of affected could have been higher if not for the continuous improvement of Mexico’s early warning systems and disaster risk management for all natural hazards, which has been ongoing for over three decades.

The 8.1 earthquake rippled across Mexico City for a full minute before subsiding, but the “alerta sismica” (seismic alert) gave residents a vital 86 seconds to find safety before it struck. Two years ago this month saw the activation of a new Seismic Warning System operated through 8,200 loudspeakers, to familiarize residents of Mexico City with the sound of alerts that give them up to 50 seconds’ notice of earthquakes. The alerts are also sent to mobile phones and other devices.

Political commitment is key to reducing disaster losses and addressing the underlying drivers of disaster risk, whether that means reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring resilient infrastructure and strong building codes, protecting ecosystems or paying special attention to the needs of impoverished and vulnerable communities.

[Excerpts of PreventionWeb article by Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction and the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction]

UK limits spending on Irma disaster relief as overseas territories ‘too wealthy’

The UK’s £13bn aid budget cannot be spent helping its overseas territories recover from Hurricane Irma, the Government has said. Instead, funding must be collected from other reserves across the Government, which have been described as “scanty”.

Anguilla, Turks, Caicos and the British Virgin Islands are all considered too wealthy to receive emergency funding from the budget, according to international aid rules.

The UK has so far pledged £57m to help fund the recovery effort following the deadly storm. Now, the Government is facing claims that five times more aid could have been sent to help the victims of the hurricane had it been allowed to dip into aid budget reserves.

An unnamed minister told the BBC:  “This great pot of ODA, necessary for development, needs to be spent on crises like this and we have to find a way of doing it.”

A Government spokesman said: “This was an unprecedented disaster and it’s absolutely right that the Government responded immediately to the needs of those affected. This was our primary focus and continues to be our priority.

The way Britain and 34 other developed nations spend their aid budget is governed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development based in Paris (OECD). Countries are given a ranking according to need, which is intended to ensure the poorest nations are given priority.

[The Independent]

Irma leaves trail of destruction and broken records

Irma finally weakened to just a big storm, 10 days after it became a hurricane and started on a destructive and powerful path that killed 40 people in the Caribbean and the Southeastern United States.

Irma was producing very heavy rain across the Southeast, leading to flash floods and rapid rises in creeks, streams and rivers. The hurricane center said that significant river flooding would persist over the Florida peninsula for several days and that parts of Georgia, South Carolina and north-central Alabama remained vulnerable to flash floods.

In Irma’s wake, meanwhile, lay a trail of devastation from the Cape Verde Islands to Georgia. Irma was so strong and so robust that it seemingly set a record for the number of records it set. According to Phil Klotzbach, a noted atmospheric research scientist at Colorado State University:

  • When Irma reached Category 5 — the strongest there is — it stayed there for more than three days, the longest run since forecasters began using satellites to monitor tropical storms more than a half-century ago.
  • Irma kept blowing 185-mph maximum sustained winds for 37 hours — the longest any cyclone has ever maintained that intensity anywhere on Earth since records started being kept.
  • Irma generated the most accumulated energy by any tropical cyclone in the Atlantic tropics on record.

But if there’s one statistic that sums Irma up, it’s this one: It generated enough accumulated cyclone energy — the total wind energy generated over a storm’s lifetime — to meet the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s definition of an average full Atlantic hurricane season.

About 7.5 million customers remained without power in Florida late Monday. Almost 1½ million had no power in Georgia, which experienced the oddity of tropical storm warnings over Atlanta, more than 800 miles from where Irma made its first U.S. landfall. “This will be the largest ever mobilization of [electric] line restoration workers in this country, period, end of story,” Tom Bossert, President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser, told reporters Monday.

The U.S. military spread far and wide in what Bossert called “the largest-ever mobilization of our military in a naval and marine operation. … We have the largest flotilla operation in our nation’s history to help not only the people of Puerto Rico, the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands, but also St. Martin and other non-U.S. islands affected,” he said.

[NBC]

What Hurricane Irma brought

Record-setting Hurricane Irma, which began as a Category 5 storm, has weakened but continued a furious climb up the Florida coast on Monday, toppling cranes, swallowing streets and leaving millions without power, after a multi-billion-dollar rampage through the Caribbean. At least 30 people have been killed.

The storm was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, after striking the Florida Keys island chain as a more powerful Category 4 on Sunday. But warnings of hazardous storm surges remained in effect through vast swaths of the Florida peninsula.

Maximum sustained winds had decreased to 75 miles (120 kilometres) per hour as of 5:00 am local time (0900 GMT).

While southwest Florida bore the deadly brunt of Irma, the eastern coastlines of Miami and the barrier island of Miami Beach were heavily inundated by storm surges.

The death toll is at least 30: 14 in the French island of St Barts and the neighboring Dutch-French territory of St Martin; six in the British Caribbean islands; at least four in the US Virgin Islands; at least two in Puerto Rico; and one in Barbuda. Three other deaths occurred in Florida due to car accidents sparked by strong winds and torrential rain.

In Florida, more than six million customers were without power, according to the state’s Division of Emergency Management. More than six million people had been ordered to flee their homes in one of the biggest evacuations in US history.

The combined economic cost of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma could reach $290 billion, equivalent to 1.5 percent of the US gross domestic product, US forecaster AccuWeather said in a report.

Nearing 300,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar

The number of Rohingya who have fled fighting in western Myanmar has climbed sharply to 270,000, placing a huge strain on camps in Bangladesh where they are seeking shelter, the United Nations refugee agency said.

Two refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in southeast Bangladesh that were already home to nearly 34,000 Rohingya refugees “are now bursting at the seams,” Duniya Aslam Khan, a spokeswoman for the refugee agency, said in a statement. “The limited shelter capacity is already exhausted,” she said. “Refugees are now squatting in makeshift shelters that have mushroomed along the road.”

The refugees in Bangladesh are mostly women and children who have arrived by foot, the United Nations refugee agency said. The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic group that has faced severe repression in Myanmar, where a Buddhist majority has long ruled. About one million of them live in Rakhine State in the west of the country.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate for her long struggle against military rule, has come under increasing international criticism for the plight of the Rohingya. Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, also a Nobel laureate, wrote in a letter Thursday that it was “incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country” that “is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people.”

Previously, Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate, had also confronted Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi on Twitter over the violence against the Rohingya.

[New York Times]