US Appeals Court deals blow to Trump’s temporary ban on refugees

A U.S. appeals court on September 7 rejected efforts by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump to temporarily bar most refugees from entering the United States.

In the latest legal blow to Trump’s executive order targeting refugees and people from six predominantly Muslim countries, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that refugees who have “bona fide” relationships with U.S. resettlement agencies should be allowed into the country.

The court also ruled that grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins of legal U.S. residents should be exempted from Trump’s 90-day ban on travelers from Iran, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

The court added that “it is hard to see how a grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, sibling-in-law, or cousin can be considered to have no bona fide relationship with their relative in the United States.”

[AP / Reuters]

Mexico’s strongest earthquake in a century leaves dozens dead

A magnitude-8.1 quake, which was felt as far as Mexico City and Guatemala City, was registered off Mexico’s southern coast just as heavy rains from Hurricane Katia lashed the east.

The epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean, some 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) southeast of the capital and 74 miles (120 kilometers) from the Pacific coast.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said the quake was the strongest earthquake Mexico has experienced in 100 years.

It hit late Thursday, when many people were asleep. The states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, home to about 9 million people, are located closest to the earthquake’s epicenter. They are two of the most impoverished areas in Mexico, and were likely hit the hardest.

So far, twenty-three people have been confirmed killed in Oaxaca state, seven in Chiapas state and two in Tabasco, local and federal officials said.

[CNN]

Angela Merkel’s open-door migration policy a million refugees later

A million refugees have taken refuge in Germany since 2015 under German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door migration policy. Many cities and towns took in more refugees than required.

Altena, an industrial west German town, was facing an economic downturn after its ironworks closed. Jobs were lost, businesses shut down, and families abandoned their homes. The population dropped by more than 10%. The mayor was looking for a way to give the town a boost when Merkel made her appeal in 2015.

“First, we wanted to help. There was a human reason to take them,” Altena’s mayor Andreas Hollstein explained.  “But the second reason was a win-win situation. We thought, ‘Okay, we need new people in Altena. …. This will help us invest in the future.'”

Altena, required to take in 300 refugees, took in in 400, and set up a program to match them with volunteer mentors that would help navigate German culture and its notoriously bureaucratic paperwork.

Bernadette Koopmann is one of the welcoming. “I have such a perfect life. I have healthy children, we live in a country that has not experienced war in a long time.

“Others are not so lucky,” she said. “They experience war, devastation, and poverty. I believe it’s not too much to ask for our help.”

[Read full CNN article]

WFP ED: Saudi Arabia should fund hunger relief in war-torn Yemen

Comments by David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), were unusually forthright for such a high-ranking UN official in criticizing one party in a conflict, as Beasley accused the Saudi-led coalition of hampering the provision of aid to Yemen.

“Saudi Arabia should fund 100 percent [of the needs] of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” Beasley told Reuters news agency. “Either stop the war, or fund the crisis. Option three is, do both of them.”

Since fighting began in March 2015, more than 10,000 people have been killed, and millions have been driven from their homes. The country is also facing a health crisis, with more than 2,000 people having died from cholera since April, more than half a million people infected, and another 600,000 expected to contract the infection this year.

Aid groups have also accused Saudi Arabia of blocking needed assistance and goods from areas that are most in need. The UN has accused Saudi Arabia of restricting entry to vessels bound for the key Red Sea port of Hodeidah through which around 80 percent of Yemen’s food imports once arrived.

“The Saudis have created serious complications for us because of the port being blockaded to a certain degree, and the destroying of the cranes at Hodeidah port … That has substantially reduced our capacity to bring food in,” the WFP‘s Beasley said. He added that coalition restrictions had also obstructed the delivery of fuel needed by UN vehicles which travel in and out of Sanaa carrying aid and personnel.

The kingdom has said that hundreds of millions of dollars it pledged to humanitarian programs have benefited civilians on both sides of Yemen’s conflict.

[Reuters]

Aid workers under attack in Myanmar as Rohingya conflict worsens

The Myanmar authorities’ restrictions on international aid in Rakhine state is putting tens of thousands of lives at risk in a region of Burma where mainly Rohingya people are already suffering horrific abuses from a disproportionate military campaign, Amnesty International said.

“Rakhine state is on the precipice of a humanitarian disaster. Nothing can justify denying life-saving aid to desperate people. By blocking access for humanitarian organizations, Myanmar’s authorities have put tens of thousands of people at risk and shown a callous disregard for human life,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Director for Crisis Response.

Aid workers told Amnesty International of an increasingly desperate humanitarian situation in Rakhine state, where the military has been engaged in a large-scale operation since attacks on dozens of security posts on 25 August.

Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee from their homes since the violence began. According to latest UN estimates 90,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed the border into Bangladesh. Thousands of people – mostly Rohingya – are believed to be stranded in the mountains of northern Rakhine State, where the UN and international NGOs (INGOs) are unable to assess their needs or to provide shelter, food and protection.

Hate speech and death threats have been directed against international aid workers, further threatening humanitarian operations. The European Commission reported “intimidation of national INGO/U.N. staff, and looting of some INGO warehouses.”

[DeVex / Amnesty International]

16 million children affected by massive flooding in South Asia

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that an estimated 16 million children are in urgent need of life-saving support in the wake of torrential monsoon rains and catastrophic flooding in Nepal, India and Bangladesh.

Since mid-August, there have been at least 1,288 reported deaths, with over 45 million people estimated to be affected.

Many areas remain inaccessible due to damage to roads, bridges, railways and airports. The most urgent needs for children are clean water, hygiene supplies to prevent the spread of disease, food supplies and safe places in evacuation centers for children.

“Massive damage to school infrastructure and supplies also mean hundreds of thousands of children may miss weeks or months of school,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia. “Getting children back into school is absolutely critical in establishing a sense of stability for children during times of crisis and provides a sense of normality when everything else is being turned upside down.”

In Bangladesh alone, more than 3 million people have been affected by flooding. An estimated 696,169 houses have been damaged or destroyed and 2,292 primary and community schools have been damaged by high water.

[UNICEF]

Adolescents have highest HIV infection rate in Africa

Adolescents is the only age group where HIV rates are increasing faster in Africa, according to medical experts. HIV and full-blown AIDS is also the biggest killer of adolescents in the continent.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by next year at least 1.8 million children will be on treatment from the sexually transmitted disease.

In Tanzania, recent statistics by Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation (EGPAF), a US-based foundation, indicate that out of the 1.4 million people living with HIV, 91,000 of them were children aged O to 14 years.

This was revealed as medical and allied experts are converging on Tanzania for a 13-country conference set to discuss the psycho social support for the children and youth living with HIV.

[The Citizen (Tanzania)]

Much of Bangladesh under water as flood devastation widens

As the world’s media trains its sights on the tragic events in Texas and Louisiana, another water-driven catastrophe is unfolding throughout Bangladesh and parts of Nepal and India. Some 41 million have been affected by flooding since June, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The IFRC has described the flooding in Bangladesh as the most serious in 40 years. The organization estimates that 700,000 homes have been partially or totally destroyed and up to a third of its terrain — much of it farmland — left submerged, raising fears of a coming food shortage, as the country grapples to deal with a shortfall in staple produce.

At its peak on August 11, the equivalent to almost a week’s worth of average rainfall during the summer monsoon season was dumped across parts of Bangladesh in the space of a few hours, according to the country’s Meteorological Department, forcing villagers in low-lying northern areas to grab what few possessions they could carry and flee their homes in search of higher ground.

And still the rains keep coming. In Bangladesh alone, floods have so far impacted over 8.5 million.

“Providing clean water and sanitation are our major priorities right now. The floodwaters will soon become a breeding ground for deadly diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, dengue and Japanese encephalitis,” said Antony Balmain, IFRC‘s Communications Manager in Asia Pacific.

[CNN]

Worst flooding in Nepal in 15 years

600,000 people are affected by the worst floods in 15 years in Nepal. Thousands of houses have been inundated across the Terai province, and 80% of the arable land has been destroyed.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes, threatened by a sudden rise in water levels across the country. Heavy rains are still expected in the coming days. The death toll is likely to rise, and hundreds of thousands of people need emergency assistance.

Displaced people have been suffering from various infections due to contaminated drinking water and environmental pollution caused by the floods. Water borne diseases, fever, common cold, gastritis, conjunctivitis and skin infection are common among the flood victims. Children, women, older people and people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable.

[ReliefWeb]

Flooding in six Indian States –and climbing!

Months of flooding in six Indian states have caused huge economic losses and heaped misery on the millions of people. With millions struggling to cope in the flood-hit states of Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Gujarat, the Indian government is now warning of more floods to come in 12 other states over the next week.

“Flooding during the monsoon season normally happens from June to September, but this year’s floods have been much worse,” Hari Balaji, a consultant on disaster management, told DW. “It has wrecked the village economy and ravaged cities. We have failed to predict rainfall intensity and its impact.”

India’s disaster mitigation and response mechanisms have once again come into question as for weeks the floods have caused immense damages to barrages, crops and entire villages. Aid agencies and the Indian government’s own estimates reckon that over 1,000 people have been killed and more than 32 million affected – displaced or stranded –in this round of flooding.

Humanitarian organizations have warned the floods also have knock-on effects on children by disrupting their education and severely impacting their well-being in the future. “We haven’t seen flooding on this scale in years and it’s putting the long-term education of an enormous number of children at great risk,” Rafay Hussain of Save the Children in Bihar told DW.

“Unfortunately, like flood risk mapping, India fails miserably on forecasting. We have to modernize the flood forecast network and invest in better flood forecasting policy,” Sandeep Duggal, an expert on disaster risk reduction, told DW. Duggal also maintained that a lack of coordination and inadequate training at the ground level remained the biggest challenges in mitigating losses.

[Deutsche Welle]