Worsening crisis in Gaza following new Israeli import and export restrictions

On 16 July, Israeli authorities announced that they would restrict the entry into the Gaza Strip of fuel and cooking gas through Kerem Shalom crossing, the only operational commercial crossing between Gaza and the outside world. The restrictions follow the imposition of a new set of severe restrictions by the Israeli authorities on 9 July, wherein only food, medical supplies, animal fodder, livestock and fuels would be allowed into Gaza. The entry of all other items, including building materials, furniture, wood, electronics and fabric, was halted, as was the exit of all goods.

Also on 16 July, the Government of Israel announced a reduction in the permissible fishing zone from six to three nautical miles, preventing fishermen from accessing 85 per cent of the fishing areas agreed for Gaza under the Oslo Agreements, with direct impact on some 50,000 Palestinians who rely on fishing for their livelihood. This followed the 9 July termination of a previous extension of the fishing area along the southern coast of Gaza, from six to nine nautical miles.

Today, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, visited the Gaza Strip and called for urgent measures to prevent further deterioration in the humanitarian situation there, following intensified movement restrictions.

“I am deeply concerned about the imposition of further restrictions at Kerem Shalom, which is the lifeline for Gaza’s population. Should they continue, these additional restrictions risk triggering a dramatic deterioration in an already fragile situation and desperate humanitarian conditions, particularly for the health sector,” McGoldrick said.

Of particular concern is the impact that shortfalls in fuel will have on the provision of critical health, water and sanitation services in Gaza, especially with electricity cuts up to 20 hours per day. These developments come against the backdrop of a worrying escalation in hostilities in recent days; some 15,000 Palestinian injuries since 30 March in the context of demonstrations; launching of incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza towards Israel; a health system on the verge of collapse; and an 11-year humanitarian crisis created by an Israeli blockade that has raised concerns over collective punishment and an internal Palestinian political divide. Simultaneously, historically low levels of funding, along with the unprecedented financial crisis facing UNRWA, leave humanitarian partners ill positioned to meet increasing needs or responding to any further deterioration.

[UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs]

An overview of the grand challenges in humanitarian aid

The gap between the magnitude of humanitarian need and the global capacity to respond is massive and growing.

Humanitarian crises directly affect more than 140 million people in 37 countries, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). More than 65 million of these people have been forcibly displaced from their homes — the highest level since the Second World War. Nearly 60% are currently in Africa and the Middle East, including in Turkey, Lebanon, Uganda and Ethiopia1. The rest include refugees, asylum seekers, people displaced internally, those not yet seeking asylum and many more.

Much of this humanitarian need derives from violent conflicts and civil wars that target civilians and their support systems, including shelters and hospitals. Much also follows natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and drought. With climate change, it is highly likely that some of these disasters will get worse and more frequent.

All of these people need aid, and the funds available are increasingly inadequate1. Just one-third of the US$25.4 billion required for humanitarian aid for 2018 will be covered. In other words, the current humanitarian system is buckling. It desperately needs much more programme funding to close the gap.

At the same time, it needs more funding for innovative solutions: uses of technology, products and processes from other sectors; new forms of partnership; and drawing on the ideas and coping capacities of crisis-affected people — in a way that is iterative and rigorously evaluated. A balance of the two types of funding would help the humanitarian system to become more efficient and more effective.


World Cup puts a different spotlight on immigrations in Europe

At a time when populist politicians are trying to choke off or reroute migration flows, what matters to fans of the teams that made the World Cup semifinals–England, France, Belgium, and Croatia–wasn’t the players’ ancestry but that they excelled on the field.

When France’s xenophobic fringes disparage the country’s diverse World Cup team as more African than European, fans say, “So what?” And then respond with a resounding “Allez les Bleus!”

Europe has been enjoying the benefits of migration for centuries, and the diverse rosters at this year’s World Cup are just the latest example. When England faced Croatia in the semifinals, it fielded a team with 11 of 23 players of African or Caribbean descent. Several Croatian players were also foreign-born. And there’s the Algerian-Cameroonian roots of France’s 19-year-old breakout star Kylian Mbappe.

Laurent Dubois, a historian at Duke University, says, “Football allows us to put immigration on stage, a question that is agitating European countries right now.

Yvan Gastaut, a University of Nice historian adds: “For people who see immigration as a danger, this World Cup story won’t resolve that. But it allows us to take stock of the reality of the world, of mobility, movements, multiple identities.” Soon, he predicts, European countries will reach a point where diverse team rosters don’t matter, and “we can focus on something else other than what are our origins.”

That seems a distant dream in some quarters.


Open and shut case on Climate Change

The facts are pretty clear: our world is changing.

A few years ago, we worked with Bloomberg News to explain why we’re so sure humans are causing global warming. Using a sophisticated computer model of the Earth system, we calculated the effect of each individual factor in isolation. The graphic they made is wonderful, and whenever it starts trending on Twitter again it’s a good sign some prominent politician has said something silly about climate change. It’s the clearest explanation I’ve ever seen of who’s responsible for rising temperatures.

The data we used for this project extended only to 2005. But warming has continued through the 21st century. 2015 was the hottest year on record… until 2016. Last year was the hottest year ever measured to not have an added boost from a natural El Niño event. Greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase, and they continue to be the prime suspect behind global warming.

We’ve seen human fingerprints all over the planet. The oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, the atmosphere contains more water vapor, and heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense. The science of climate change detection and attribution—climate detective work—has advanced to the point that we can now confidently blame human activities for some individual extreme events.

It’s always possible scientists have made a serious mistake here. But if you don’t believe people have affected the climate, you need a coherent alternate explanation for the changes we’ve seen.

[Scientific American]

The Rohingya must not become ‘forgotten victims’ says UN chief

Painting a grim picture of villages being burned to the ground and other “bone-chilling” accounts he heard from Rohingya refugees who fled violence in Myanmar, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called on the world to answer their calls for help with real action.

The continuing plight of nearly one million Rohingya refugees driven from their homes in Myanmar was the focus of Mr. Guterres’ trip along with Jim Yong Kim, the President of the World Bank Group, during a visit last week to Bangladesh – the country where the Rohingya have found safe-haven.

The UN chief recalled one Muslim man he met who broke down in tears, describing how his eldest son was shot dead in front of him. The man’s mother was brutally murdered and his house was torched to ashes. He then took refuge in a mosque but was discovered by soldiers who abused him and burned the Koran. “Their horrific experiences defy comprehension, yet they are the reality for nearly one million Rohingya refugees,” Guterres said.

The Secretary-General explained that systematic human rights abuses by Myanmar’s security forces over the past year were “designed to instill terror in the Rohingya population, leaving them with a dreadful choice: stay on in fear of death or leave everything simply to survive.” Since late August 2017, widespread and systematic violence against Myanmar’s mainly-Muslim minority Rohingya, has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes in Rakhine state for Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar area, just across the border.

A Global Compact on Refugees is being finalized by UN Member States, seeking to ensure that, among other things, front-line countries, like Bangladesh, are not alone in responding fleeing waves of humanity. Meanwhile, the UN and humanitarian agencies are working flat-out alongside the refugees themselves and host communities to improve conditions.

“The Rohingya people cannot become forgotten victims. We must answer their clear appeals for help with action,” concluded the UN chief.

[UN News Service]

New Walled Order: How barriers to basic services turn migration into a humanitarian crisis

A new report by the world’s largest humanitarian network is calling on governments to remove the barriers that prevent vulnerable migrants from accessing basic services and humanitarian aid.

Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said: “All people, regardless of immigration status, should have access to basic services and humanitarian assistance. There is no need to mistreat people to have proper border control. Preventing access to adequate food, basic health care, and legal advice about their rights is completely unacceptable. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect.”

IFRC’s report, “New Walled Order: How barriers to basic services turn migration into a humanitarian crisis” identifies a number of factors that prevent vulnerable migrants from accessing the support they need. The IFRC is calling on states to:

  • Ensure that National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other humanitarian agencies can provide humanitarian services to migrants irrespective of status and without fear of arrest. Such services might include legal information and advice, information on rights, first aid, basic health care and shelter, and psychosocial support.
  • Create “firewalls” between public services and immigration enforcement. This involves abolishing rules that require health care providers and aid agencies to report on the people they assist to enforcement authorities.
  • Proactively identify and address factors that prevent migrants from accessing essential health services.
  • Ensure that domestic laws, policies, procedures and practices comply with existing obligations under international law, and address the protection and assistance needs of migrants.

[International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies]

Rescuers race to find survivors after Japan floods kill at least 114

Rescuers in Japan dug through mud and rubble on Monday, racing to find survivors after torrential rain unleashed floods and landslides that killed at least 114 people, with dozens missing.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe canceled an overseas trip to deal with Japan’s worst flood disaster since 1983, with several million people forced from their homes.

Temperatures are well above 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit), fueling fears of heat-stroke in areas cut off from power or water. Some 11,200 households had no electricity.

Though the persistent rain had ended, officials warned of sudden showers and thunderstorms as well as of more landslides on steep mountainsides saturated over the weekend.

Industry operations have also been hit, with Mazda Motor Corp saying it was forced to close its head office in Hiroshima on Monday. Daihatsu also suspended production on Friday at up to four plants.


Illegal immigration to the US a humanitarian problem

Journalists have recently uncovered reports from a February 2017 Department of Homeland Security meeting in which Trump immigration officials argued that immediate prosecution for illegal crossings, which would separate parents from their children, would deter illegal immigration. In fact, CNN reports data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency showing that the number of illegal border crossings has actually increased since the prosecution initiative was announced.

This failure to deter illegal immigration is understandable given what we know about the circumstances. Many are fleeing Central American countries, including Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where gang violence, crime, drug cartels and poverty leave them with little hope for a future. Parents fear their children will be forced into gangs or killed if they stay.

In fact, the number of children who come unaccompanied to the United States has increased recently, with most growth coming from Hondurus, where gang violence and homicide is the worst. It is clear that parents are willing to be separated from their children in order to give them the chance to escape. This isn’t a new phenomenon. In the 17th and 18th centuries, European families sent their children on dangerous journeys to America as unaccompanied minors and even as indentured servants in order to give them opportunities for a better life.

In light of the circumstances, it is difficult to imagine the amount of depraved cruelty our immigration process would have to inflict upon asylum-seekers in order to make staying home the more attractive option.

If legal immigration were a more legitimate option, more people would be compelled to follow the process. As it is, we have made it more and more difficult for people to seek asylum and the approval rate is notoriously low.

[Excerpts of LancasterOnline article by April Kelly-Woessner, political science professor at Elizabethtown College]

Logos on aid supplies: Helpful or demeaning?

When a humanitarian group hands out bags of food or sets up toilets for people who are poor or recovering from a crisis, the group puts its logo on the product. It’s a way of taking credit, which makes donors happy. It’s a way of letting the recipients know where to complain if there’s a problem. And if you’re sitting at home and catch the logo on a TV report, you might be inspired to contribute to that particular charity.

But now, some people are questioning the branding of aid goods. The first concern: How do the logos make aid recipients feel?

Ian Birrell, an international reporter and a contributing editor to Great Britain’s The Mail on Sunday, tweeted an image of a corrugated latrine door from a trip to the Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda in May. Birrell wrote, “So demeaning for those who fled chaos and carnage to be endlessly reminded of their supplicant status.”

Sudhanshu S. Singh, CEO of an India-based emergency relief group called Humanitarian Aid International, agrees.Singh recalls a time when a major relief group provided plastic water buckets for aid recipients — with its logo emblazoned on each pail in huge letters. “I think it’s unfair as each time people take out the bucket to fetch water, others would immediately notice that it is part of the dole,” he says.

Many recipients don’t mind the logos. Cedric Habiyaremye, a Rwandan Ph.D. student at Washington State University, remembers when he was living in a refugee camp in Tanzania as an 8-year-old. Each day, he would see trucks labeled “WFP” — short for World Food Programme, the U.N. food agency — come into the camp.” We were full of joy, because we knew we were going to eat at that time,” he says. “It was a very reassuring time of day. … I feel that I am glad I got to know who served me at the refugee camp.”

Habiyaremye got a chance to visit World Food Programme in Washington, D.C., after he won a global agriculture award. He was so excited to meet some of the staff. “I’d been waiting for this moment for my entire life,” he says he told them. “I just wanted to tell them thank you.”

[NPR]                                                                                                        Read more

Logos on aid supplies: Helpful or dangerous?

Research has shown that there’s a relationship between the visability of a humanitarian aid brand — its public recognitionand donations, says Dmitry Chernobrov, a lecturer in journalism and politics at the University of Sheffield.

Such logos also help ensure that charities and donors get credit for their good deeds. According to USAID’s branding guide, their red, white and blue logo “was developed to ensure that the American people are visibly acknowledged for their contributions.”

Logos have become such a powerful tool that there have been incidents of ISIS stealing U.N. food aid, slapping their own logo on the boxes and redistributing it back to people.

Governments — especially those recovering from a humanitarian crisis — are anxious to get credit, too, says W. Gyude Moore, the former Liberian minister of public works. Except there’s one problem: They don’t often control the purse strings.

It’s the topic of a new paper he’s written for the think tank Center for Global Development, where he is now a visiting fellow. He argues that in fragile states, it’s in the best interests of aid groups and development agencies to let the home country get credit for big-ticket aid interventions and rebuilding efforts — even if their role was to negotiate the deal. After crises, governments and its citizens have a fractured relationship, says Moore. Citizens want to trust that their governments can handle a big shock. And governments want to ensure that they have the trust of the people.

“Public goods like roads, hospitals and schools are the most significant ways the state can make its benevolent presence felt,” he writes. Otherwise, it may lead to “nationwide consequences, ranging from protests to separatism.”

Meanwhile, concerns about safety have made some aid groups rethink the use of logos. In a conflict zone, when logos are emblazoned on products as well as T-shirts worn by staff, that could put staff at risk. Aid workers are increasingly under attack, especially in conflict zones like Syria and Yemen.

“[We used to think that] if we stick [a logo on], everyone will know we’re here to do good,” says Paul O’Brien, vice president of policy and advocacy at Oxfam America. “But there’s less and less of that notion that the branding will keep you safe. We need to get out of the branding game.”