September deadliest month of 2017 for Syrians

Hospitals, ambulances, schools and displaced people escaping violence are being routinely targeted by airstrikes in Syria, resulting in high numbers of deaths and injuries, and making September the deadliest month of the year, according to the United Nations regional relief coordinator for the crisis.

“I am appalled by reports of high numbers of civilian casualties due to heavy air attacks in Syria,” said Panos Moumtzis, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis . “September was the deadliest month of 2017 for civilians with daily reports of attacks on residential areas resulting in hundreds of conflict-related deaths and injuries.”

Schools and hospitals in Idlib have been forced to close for fear of being targeted. Mr. Moumtzis asserted that targeting civilians and facilities, including hospitals and other medical facilities is “simply unacceptable and constitute a grave violation of human rights and international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes.”

This week, airstrikes on Raqqa City killed dozens of people and injured many others while some 8,000 others remain trapped there. Between September 19-30, airstrikes on residential areas in Idlib killed at least 149 people – the majority of whom were women and children. Three explosions in Damascus city caused the death of 20 people and injured 15 more. Civilian casualties were also reported in Rural Damascus, Hama, Aleppo and Deir-ez-Zor. Three explosions in Damascus city caused the death of 20 people and injured 15 more. Civilian casualties were also reported in Rural Damascus, Hama, Aleppo and Deir-ez-Zor.

“I would like to praise the phenomenal work carried out by humanitarian workers and in particular national staff,” he continued, noting that rescue workers on a daily basis risk their lives to help others.

[UN News Centre]

Who are the Rohingya?

The Rohingya are a largely Muslim ethnic minority in Myanmar at the center of a humanitarian catastrophe, many of whom have ended up sheltering in makeshift camps in Bangladesh, telling tales of killings, rape, and massacres.

But the Myanmar government won’t even use the word “Rohingya,” let alone admit they’re being persecuted. Instead, the government calls them Bengalis, foreigners, or worse, terrorists. This difference between these two terms—Rohingya and Bengali—is crucial to understanding the crisis unfolding in Myanmar, where more than 500,000 Rohingya have recently fled following a government crackdown and which has been called a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing by the top United Nations human-rights official.

Before the massacres, there were thought to be around 1.1 million Rohingya living in the country. Indeed, the Rohingya have existed in Myanmar—a Buddhist majority country formerly called Burma—for centuries. The Rohingya had carved a place for themselves in Burma; with some serving in parliament and other high offices. Their ethnicity was included in the 1961 census.

The situation quickly deteriorated for the Rohingya, however, following the 1962 military coup, when the government refused to fully recognize new generations of the Rohingya population. In 1982, a new citizenship law was passed that prevented Rohingya from easily accessing full citizenship, rendering many of them stateless.

Since the late 1970s, nearly one million Rohingya are estimated to have fled Myanmar. In 2009, a UN spokeswoman described the Rohingya as “probably the most friendless people in the world”. Yet many Rohingya—collectively dubbed across international media as “boat people”—were stuck because they were turned away from a number of Southeast Asian countries where that had hoped to flee to.

[Quartz]

Money spent on MDGs well-invested

A recent Brookings study revealed that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the development agenda set by the US and others for the first fifteen years of this century – were more successful than anybody knew. Bottom line: The study concludes that at least 21 million more people are alive today as a result.

This tells us that the simple MDG approach worked; the U.S. and other, smaller donors helped save a number of lives equivalent to the entire population of Florida. If USAID continues to focus on effective targets, the American public could be reassured that every dollar is achieving the most possible.

The reduction of childhood malnutrition deserves funds. Evidence for Copenhagen Consensus showed that every dollar spent providing better nutrition for 68 million children would produce over $40 in long-term social benefits.

Malaria, too, deserves attention. A single case can be averted for as little as $11. We don’t just stop one persons suffering; we save a community from lost economic productivity. Our economists estimated that reducing the incidence of malaria by 50% would generate a 35-fold return in benefits to society.

Tuberculosis is a disease that has been overlooked and under-funded. Despite being the world’s biggest infectious killer, in 2015 it received just 3.4 per cent of development assistance for health. Reducing TB deaths by 90 per cent would result in 1.3 million fewer deaths. In economic terms, this would bring benefits worth $43 for every dollar spent.

There are 19 such targets that deserve prioritization, because each dollar would do a lot to achieve a safer, healthier world – a result that leads to lasting benefits for the US. When it comes to development, everyone’s goal should be the same. Rather than slashing funds for development, the United States should maintain its global leadership by focusing on the areas where every dollar achieves the most good.

[Inter Press Service]

Pile-up of natural disasters and humanitarian crises

Relief organizations and U.S. government agencies that handle disasters are feeling the pressure of a unique pileup of catastrophic events. Besides the Mexico earthquakes, there was a landslide killing a thousand people in Sierra Leone. And in Bangladesh, half a million Muslim Rohingya refugees have poured in, fleeing violence in Myanmar.

All this has happened as the world was already grappling with the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II: 20 million people at risk of dying from starvation and disease due to conflicts and drought in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

USAID, the agency that delivers U.S. assistance to poor countries, has deployed six separate disaster response teams including teams to help displaced people from Syria and Iraq. “This is only the second time that we’ve had six teams mobilized at once,” notes Alex Mahoney, a top official with the agency’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, or OFDA. The last time was during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. “So yes, it’s unusual,” he says.

USAID’s OFDA says the staffing demands of Ebola combined with several other disasters at the time, including the earthquake in Nepal and the Syrian refugee crises, “stretched OFDA to the breaking point.”

“We didn’t drop the ball on it, but it really took everything we had,” says former OFDA official Jeremy Konyndyk, who is now a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. “We pushed our staff farther and for longer than was sustainable.”

And in the aftermath, he and other officials concluded that this was unlikely to be a one-time occurrence.

[NPR]

Donor fatigue grips USA

The charity World Vision International is a major provider of disaster relief across the globe. So when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, the group revved up its fundraising big-time. “We’ve raised just under $4 million in cash donations,” said Drew Clark, the charity’s senior director of emergencies.

Two weeks later Hurricane Irma roared through the Caribbean and Florida. This time World Vision brought in $900,000.

Then came the big earthquake in Mexico that killed more than 340 people. That fundraising appeal netted $150,000.

And for Hurricane Maria–which has left many of the 3.4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico without reliable sources of power, food or even water–World Vision has only taken in about $100,000.

“There is clearly evidence of donor fatigue,” says Clark. “There’s just a limit to the amount of responses that we can successfully fundraise for.”

“I would say it is somewhat unprecedented,” says Leisel Talley of the epic cascade of disasters. She is leading the international component of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s response to the hurricanes. Talley says it’s not just that the U.S. has been clobbered with three disasters in a row. It’s that this happened alongside multiple other new crises since August.

[NPR]

Qatar Charity and UNHCR to provide aid in Myanmar

Qatar Charity and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have signed a cooperation agreement to set up emergency shelter for displaced Rohingya refugees in Myanmar

Under the agreement, the UNHCR will set up 420 temporary shelters for the Rohingya refugees in three areas in the Rakhine and Kajine states, with funds up to half a million dollars supplied by Qatar Charity.

Rohingya Muslims have suffered due to the recent escalation of the persecution campaign against them, which led to the flight of hundreds of thousands of them towards the borders with Bangladesh.

[ReliefWeb]