Christian Aid deplores the needless loss of life and gunshot injuries in Gaza

Up to two million people have been effectively locked up for 10 years in a tiny strip of land since Israel imposed its complete closure on Gaza, which it enforces from the sea, land and air. Egypt too has closed its border with Gaza.

Christian Aid has raised concerns that the Israeli military’s use of snipers against unarmed Palestinian civilian protesters in the Gaza Strip is illegal.

Christian Aid’s Head of Middle East Policy, William Bell, who just returned from Gaza, said: “Live gunfire on unarmed civilians constitutes a violation of the international legal obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel is obligated to act in accordance with international law.

“For Israelis and Palestinians to be truly secure, democratic and peaceful, and for an end to the poverty that degrades the lives of so many Palestinians, Israel’s occupation and control over their lives must end and all must be treated equally.”

Bell added: “The World Bank has stated unemployment in Gaza is now the highest in the world at over 40%, and much higher amongst the young. Electricity fluctuates between 2 and 4 hours a day and raw sewage flows into the sea leaving a vile stench in the air. Chronically sick patients are denied access to urgent healthcare outside. Families are separated for years on end.

“The UN has predicted that it will be uninhabitable by 2020. It should not surprise anyone that people are demonstrating and want to be able to move freely.”

UN agency that provides humanitarian relief for Palestinian refugees facing crisis

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, known as UNRWA, is facing a crisis. This is the humanitarian agency that provides relief for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. This includes running hospitals and schools that serve about half a million children.

Typically, the United States has provided about one third of UNRWA’s overall budget, judging the organization to be a source of stability in an otherwise volatile region.

The Trump administration, however, has frozen US payments to the humanitarian agency.

It did so in retaliation to a vote at the UN General Assembly in which member states overwhelmingly condemned the Trump administration’s decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel and move its embassy there.

[UN Dispatch]

Africa’s welcome mat: Uganda

The Kyangwali Refugee Settlement Area lies on the banks of Lake Albert on the border between southern Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern Uganda. Most of the refugees in Kyangwali are fleeing inter-ethnic conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and making the perilous journey into Uganda on fishing boats across Lake Albert. Since January 2018, approximately 59 000 people have made the crossing. On a normal day 500 refugees arrive; on a busy day it can be as many as 2000.

Upon arrival at the Kyangwali reception centre, refugees are registered by aid workers and given a wristband for identification purposes. They receive high-energy biscuits and water and those who need it are given emergency health care. Refugees stay at the reception centre for a day or two before being transported to the settlement area, where they are allocated a small plot of land and material and equipment to build temporary shelter while they establish themselves.

In a recent visit to the reception centre, Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, witnessed first-hand the health services that are offered to newly arrived refugees at its small makeshift clinic. Here refugees obtain access to emergency health care. Services include HIV testing and tuberculosis screening, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV services, provision of HIV and tuberculosis treatment to people already on it and other sexual and reproductive health services.

During his visit, Mr Sidibé listened to the stories of many refugees, who told him not only of the impact that dislocation has had on their health and their lives, but also of their aspirations and dreams to make a better life for themselves and their families. “I heard stories of sadness, but also of hope and resilience,” says Mr Sidibé.

Uganda is home to the largest refugee population in Africa, with a population of almost 1.4 million refugees in 13 refugee settlements across the country. “It is beyond admirable to selflessly offer refuge to hundreds of thousands of women, children and men who are in need of international protection,” remarked Mr Sidibé. “Uganda’s refugee policy is among the most progressive in the world and is a model for other countries to emulate.”

[UNAIDS]

UN receives nearly $1 billion from Saudi Arabia and UAE for Yemen crisis

Ahead of the upcoming international fundraising conference for Yemen, the United Nations has received nearly $1 billion contributions from Saudi Araba and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and urged other donors to follow suit and help tackle the world’s worst humanitarian crisis there.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his deep gratitude for the $930 million provided on Tuesday evening by the two donor countries to the Yemen Humanitarian Fund. “These funds cover almost one-third of the $2.96 billion required to implement the 2018 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan, which will enable the United Nations and its partners to help alleviate the suffering of millions of vulnerable people across Yemen,” read a statement issued by Mr. Guterres’ office, following the signing of the memorandum on the voluntary contributions.

More than 22 million people in Yemen require humanitarian aid or protection assistance, including 2 million who are internally displaced due to the ongoing conflict between the Government and rebel forces.

The Secretary-General and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Prince Mohamad Bin Salman Al Saud, discussed the critical need for humanitarian access across the country and for all of Yemen’s ports to remain open to both humanitarian and commercial movement. They also discussed the need for the parties to the conflict to work towards a negotiated political settlement through inclusive intra-Yemeni dialogue.

On 3 April, donors will meet in the humanitarian pledging conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

[UN News]

#MeToo impacting the humanitarian aid sector

With recent allegations against staff at Oxfam and Medecins Sans Frontier (MSF), the international aid sector is currently experiencing a #MeToo movement of its own.

A new report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), “Voices from Syria 2018,” documents evidence of men demanding sex for aid from numerous women who have sought humanitarian assistance in southern Syria. The Syrian women involved allege they were coerced into marrying local officials for brief periods, providing “sexual services” in exchange for necessities like food.

The Voices of Syria report surveyed victims of sexual abuse without identifying particular perpetrators, so the data collected could only identify the broad problem rather than pinpoint specific individuals who are committing these acts. This, combined with the fact that these abuses are taking place in a war zone, makes it particularly difficult to isolate and address the offending individuals.

Humanitarian aid organizations have taken differing approaches towards preventing these abuses. Care, an aid agency that operates in southern Syria, has discontinued using local contractors to distribute aid in the region, following reports of abuse. Oxfam and MSF have also begun to take steps to clean up their own institutions. The UN has a strict code of conduct, which includes a zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse and exploitation.

Even with these codes of conduct in place, UNHCR spokesman Andrea Mahecic claimed that the UN can do little do prevent abuses, noting that “the mere suggestion that the UN can somehow control the situation in a war zone and the implied conclusion that we can somehow turn this on and off is rather simplistic,” continuing on to say that “it is disconnected from the reality of what an aid operation looks like in an open and fierce conflict.”

[Excerpts from a Council on Foreign Relations blog]

Humanitarian crisis deepens in DR Congo

A humanitarian is crisis rapidly worsening on several fronts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The growing humanitarian crisis is underscored by a political one — the refusal of President Joseph Kabila to step down 15 months after his electoral mandate expired.

The crisis situation is particularly acute in the central Kasai region and the eastern provinces of Kivu and Ituri.

A UN report earlier this month found some 13 million Congolese in need of humanitarian aid — twice as many as last year — and 7.7 million are facing severe food insecurity, which is an increase of 30 percent over 2017.

The crisis is further exacerbated by what appears to be the government’s state of denial about the deepening crisis. Kinshasa is refusing to attend an international donor conference scheduled for April in Geneva that seeks to put together a $1.7 billion (1.4 billion euros) aid package.

[Deutsche Welle]

Millions making plans to leave Africa for Europe and US

Millions making plans to leave Africa for Europe and US

Nearly 1.5 million people have left sub-Saharan Africa for Europe and the United States since 2010, while millions more are making plans to follow in their footsteps, researchers said on Thursday.

Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya were the biggest sources of migrants to Europe and the United States among the dozens of nations south of the Sahara, according to the Pew Research Center, a polling and demographic research group in Washington.

Migrants leave homelands that offer few job prospects, low wages and the dangers of conflict, political instability and modern day slavery, the study said.

More than a third of people surveyed in Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria said they had actual plans to move in the next five years, according to the report.

Europe saw an influx of at least 1 million people from sub-Saharan Africa, most of whom headed to the United Kingdom, followed by France. More than 400,000 sub-Saharan migrants went to the United States, according to the report.

Many more people – nearly 5 million – have moved to other sub-Saharan countries since 2010, mostly as refugees, the report said.

[Reuters]

What makes Christian aid workers tick?

Christian aid workers say they are motivated by such biblical admonitions as “love your enemies.” Many say their work can foster peace through cooperation and trust-building. The groups hail from many denominations, including the Quaker-founded American Friends Service Committee, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mennonite Central Committee and the interdenominational World Vision.

Stephen Linton and Chris Rice, both sons of missionaries in postwar South Korea, are also among those who believe that humanitarian aid, delivering food and medicine, builds goodwill. Mr. Linton has traveled to North Korea more than 80 times since the 1970s. He runs a program to treat multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, a widespread problem.

Other Christian humanitarians have turned away from North Korea. “This money is all going straight into the pockets of the regime,” said Nancy Purcell, a Philadelphia-area native who first traveled to North Korea with a Christian nonprofit in 2000. She helped distribute food produced there until concluding in 2004 that the military siphoned off donations. Aid was “prolonging the regime,” said Ms. Purcell, 68.

Christian aid workers say they are confident their donations reach intended recipients. To deliver the food and medicine, North Korean authorities allow the workers to travel to regions otherwise off limits to foreign visitors.

Tim Peters, of Michigan, said he first traveled to North Korea to deliver food during the 1990s famine, inspired by a verse in the Book of Romans: “If your enemy hungers, feed him.” Today, Mr. Peters, 67, runs a Christian group, Helping Hands Korea, that assists North Korean defectors.

[The Wall Street Journal]

UN: Nature’s alarming decline threatens food, water, energy

Climate change will become a steadily bigger threat to biodiversity by 2050, adding to damage from pollution and forest clearance to make way for agriculture, according to more than 550 experts in a set of reports approved by 129 governments.

Four regional reports covered the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Africa, Europe and Central Asia:
– For the Americas, the report estimated that the value of nature to people – such as crops, wood, water purification or tourism – was at least $24.3 trillion a year, equivalent to the region’s gross domestic product from Alaska to Argentina. Almost two-thirds of those natural contributions were in decline in the Americas, it said.
– The Africa report said … unless governments take strong action to limit greenhouse gas emissions, “climate change may be the biggest threat to biodiversity” by mid-century.
– Concerning pollution, eight of 10 rivers around the world with most plastic waste were in Asia. On current trends, overfishing meant there could be no exploitable fish stocks in the Asia-Pacific region by mid-century.
– In Europe and Central Asia, wetlands have declined by half since 1970, threatening many species.

[Reuters]

By 2050 water shortage could affect 5 billion people

More than 5 billion people could suffer water shortages by 2050 due to climate change, increased demand and polluted supplies, according to a UN report on the state of the world’s water. The comprehensive annual study, World Water Development Report, warns of conflict and civilizational threats unless actions are taken to reduce the stress on rivers, lakes, aquifers, wetlands and reservoirs.

Humans use about 4,600 cubic km of water every year, of which 70% goes to agriculture, 20% to industry and 10% to households, says the report, which was launched at the start of the triennial World Water Forum. Global demand has increased sixfold over the past 100 years and continues to grow at the rate of 1% each year.

This is already creating strains that will grow by 2050, when the world population is forecast to reach between 9.4 billion and 10.2 billion (up from 7.7 billion today), with two in every three people living in cities.

By 2050, the report predicts, between 4.8 billion and 5.7 billion people will live in areas that are water-scarce for at least one month each year, up from 3.6 billion today, while the number of people at risk of floods will increase to 1.6 billion, from 1.2 billion.

Demand for water is projected to rise fastest in developing countries. Meanwhile, climate change will put an added stress on supplies because it will make wet regions wetter and dry regions drier. The report says positive change is possible, particularly in the key agricultural sector, but only if there is a move towards nature-based solutions that rely more on soil and trees than steel and concrete.

 [The Guardian]