Monthly Archives: July 2019

UN calls out Saudi Arabia and UAE for not paying Yemen aid pledges

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United Nations aid chief Mark Lowcock called out Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Thursday for only paying a “modest proportion” of the hundreds of millions of dollars they pledged five months ago to a humanitarian appeal for Yemen.

Both countries each promised $750 million at a U.N. fundraising event in February (that was seeking $4 billion):
– Saudi Arabia so far has paid only $121.7 million and
– the United Arab Emirates about $195 million, according to U.N. figures.

Saudi Arabia leads a Western-backed military coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015. The United Arab Emirates is a key member of the coalition.

The United States sells billions of dollars worth of weapons and military equipment to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. The United States has paid more than $288.7 million to the U.N. Yemen appeal, making it the largest donor for 2019.

The United Nations describes the situation in Yemen – where the four-year-long war has killed tens of thousands of people and left millions on the brink of famine – as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.


Unauthorized migrants face public backlash in Mexico, survey finds

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Mexicans are deeply frustrated with immigrants after a year of heightened migration from Central America through the country, according to a survey conducted by The Washington Post and Mexico’s Reforma newspaper. The data suggests Mexicans have turned against migrants transiting through their country.

A 55 percent majority supports deporting migrants traveling through Mexico to reach the United States.

More than 6 in 10 Mexicans say migrants are a burden on their country because they take jobs and benefits that should belong to Mexicans.

[Washington Post]

UN refugee agency deeply concerned about US asylum curbs

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The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR. says it’s “deeply concerned” about new U.S. restrictions on asylum, saying it will put vulnerable families at risk.

UNHCR comments late Monday came after the Trump administration said it will end all asylum protections for most migrants who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the plan, migrants who pass through another country — in this case, Mexico — on their way to the United States will be ineligible for asylum.

UNHCR says the rule overly restricts the right to apply for asylum, and threatens the right not to be sent back to countries where people could face persecution.

The rule went into effect Tuesday and will affect many refugees fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. It is certain to face legal challenges.


UN statement on the US again withholding funding from UNFPA

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UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, notes with regret the determination by the United States of America to withhold funds from UNFPA for the third consecutive year.

This unfortunate decision will impede UNFPA’s crucial work to protect the health and lives of hundreds of millions of women and girls around the globe, including in humanitarian settings.

Therefore, UNFPA hopes that the United States will reconsider its position. UNFPA remains keen to maintain an open dialogue with the U.S. Government. UNFPA has had the pleasure of welcoming delegations under various U.S. administrations, and none have found UNFPA to be in violation of the Kemp-Kasten Amendment.

Since its founding 50 years ago, UNFPA strives to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.


Millions displaced as monsoon floods hit India, Nepal and Bangladesh

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More than a hundred people have died and millions were forced to leave their homes as monsoon rains have devastated parts of India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

At least three million people have been displaced in north and Northeast India, reports the BBC, including almost two million people in the northern Indian state of Bihar, and more than 1.7 million people in northeastern Assam state, a region known for its tea production.

“Many people have taken shelter on the highways, that will be the state for the next two to three weeks until the water recedes,” Mohamad Farukh, CEO of the disaster relief NGO Rapid Response told TIME about the situation in Assam State. He says that he expects the situation to “deteriorate over the next two to three days” in India as water flows to the region from Nepal and Bhutan.

In Nepal, police said 67 people have died and 30 people are missing, according to the BBC.

Storms have also killed at least 29 people in Bangladesh in the last week, including 18 hit by lightning, reports the BBC.

Cox’s Bazar, a lowland coastal district where about a million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have been stuck after fleeing violence, has not been spared. It is the “most severe weather since the massive Rohingya refugee influx of 2017,” according to a statement on the International Organization for Migration’s website. Landslides, floods and wind have damaged hundreds of structures and directly impacted 5% of Cox’s Bazars residents, it says. “Monsoons and landslides are making the Rohingya refugees’ difficult situation even more precarious,” Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on their website.


I am 15 and am blocking your commute so my generation has jobs to go to and a planet to live on

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“I am going to be late for work because of you! You lot don’t have jobs to go to!” a red-faced woman yelled at last month’s youth climate march in London. Admittedly, by occupying Westminster Bridge, the schoolchildren had caused some disruption, but that was the point. Commuters might be late for work, but [a new generation] will not have jobs to go to or even have a healthy planet to live on unless our governments take immediate action on climate change.

  This group of schoolchildren are part of an ever-growing movement. In May, more than a million children in 1,600 towns in at least 125 countries took part in the school strikes for justice.

Although you might not agree that occupying roads and disrupting traffic is the best way to bring about change, these actions certainly get people talking and it forces the issue of climate change on the political agenda.

Most of us are aware of the catastrophic effects of climate change – from prolonged drought to devastating tropical storms, heatwaves and wildfires. But climate change does not just affect the natural world. It will also intensify inequalities damaging our rights to life, health, food, water, housing and livelihoods. Climate change is not just another political or moral issue that people and politicians are able to ignore. It puts the survival of humanity and our human rights at peril. But it seems that some people –especially the so-called Gen Z (aged 7-22) – see this more clearly than others.

Young people are often dismissed as inactive by older generations who see our obsession with mobile devices and social media sites as a sign of lassitude. But Generation Z are using technology to mobilize. Growing up with instant access to information the Internet has to offer, Generation Z stands to be the most well-informed generation ever. Equipped with instant messaging and mobile phones, mass mobilization of youth for causes we care about is now easier than ever. An army of young people can rally behind the cause of climate change through the tap of a button and co-ordinate themselves to engage in acts of civil disobedience, such as peacefully demonstrating and occupying.

[Amnesty International]

How a community brought down child mortality by 95%

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Imagine a world in which pregnant women and little kids get regular home visits from a health worker — and free health care. That’s the ground-breaking approach that’s being adopted in one of the world’s poorest countries: the West African nation of Mali.

A nurse from the country’s cadre of community health workers visits each of the homes in her designated area, which contains roughly 1,000 people, at least twice a month. She diagnoses, treats and refer patients. It’s part of a free door-to-door health-care plan that began in 2008 as a trial by the government.

When data from seven-year trial was compiled by a team including researchers from the University of California, they found that child mortality for kids under age 5 dropped by an astounding 95%, according to findings published last year in BMJ Global Health. The population in the study area was 77,132 in 2013. During the seven years of the study, child mortality rates for that demographic fell from 154 deaths for every 1,000 live births in Yirimadio, among the worst in the world, to 7 – comparable to the 6.5 figure in the U.S.

And now the program will be extended to the entire country. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta announced a target date of 2022 for nationwide coverage — at a cost of $120 million. This localized, free health care for pregnant women and children under age 5 could help the West African nation meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. A key factor will be the provision of community health care workers who’ll be trained to do the door-to-door work.

The decision has earned praise from policy experts and patients alike. “This is long overdue,” says Dr. Eric Buch, a medical doctor and professor of health policy and management at South Africa’s University of Pretoria, who was not involved in the study. “Free health care for mothers and children under 5 is a very effective way of reducing mortality, and it could have a huge impact.”

The key to long-term success is long-term funding. Mali’s planned reforms rely on external funding from bodies such as the Clinton Health Access Initiative to supplement government spending. But there is no guarantee this funding source will last in future decades, and Mali will need to find a long-term solution that may involve restructuring its budget.


Countries with the highest murder rates

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Armed conflicts are becoming deadlier but a new United Nations report reveals that actually, intentional homicide kills far more people.

In fact, according to the hefty Global Study on Homicide 2019, published this week by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), crime kills significantly more people than armed conflict and terrorism combined. While armed conflict killed 89,000 people in 2017 and terrorism killed 26,000, crime ended the lives of 464,000 people that year. This data is important to track, the report says, because homicide affects not just the victim but also the victim’s family and community. It creates a violent environment that is harmful to society, the economy and the world at large.

Homicide rates are also the first indicator for measuring progress toward the first target under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16: to “significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere.” It also affects nearly all the other SDGs, the report notes, including no poverty, good health, quality education, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities, climate action and life on land.

According to the report, organized crime alone is a major source of homicide around the world. More than half of the 464,000 homicides in 2017 were carried out with guns. Particularly in the Americas, firearms were used to perpetrate about three-quarters of homicides in 2017. These killings account for more than a quarter of all homicides in the world that year.

  • The two regions with homicide rates that exceed the global average were the Americas.
  • Asia, which accounts for 60 percent of the global population, recorded the lowest rate.
  • The rates in Oceania and Europe were also below the global average.

To view an interactive map that lists countries homicide rates, visit this UNDOC resource. 

[UN Dispatch]

African migrants arrive at Texas border and fan out across the country

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United States Customs and Border Patrol is facing a new wrinkle in their efforts to control and manage the flow of migrants across the U.S.’s southern border: a sudden influx of asylum seekers from countries in Africa. The Associated Press reports that migrants from Africa are flocking to the U.S.-Mexico border after flying into South and Central American countries.

In one recent week, border patrol apprehended at least 500 African migrants in the Del Rio sector of the border — twice the number border patrol apprehended in all of fiscal 2018 across the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

Like those immigrants coming to the border in migrant caravans, the African migrants have a plan once they hit the U.S. border. After being processed, they typically fan out to 16 U.S. cities, according to the Washington Examiner, where communities of African refugees are thriving, helped along by non-profits at the border that provide newly processed asylum seekers with paid transportation.

Most African migrants appear to be escaping human rights abuses and violent dictatorships on their home continent. Most, Border Patrol says, are from the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Angola, as well as Cameroon. The AP adds that, in recent weeks, border patrol has processed asylum seekers from Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Sudan.

A report about the Republic of the Congo, published by the U.N.’s Joint Human Rights Commission, claims that there have been “at least 324 victims of extrajudicial or summary executions, 832 victims of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, 173 victims of rape or other sexual violence (114 women, 58 children and one man), and 431 victims of forced labor. The civilian population has been the main victim of the worsening security situation in these territories.”

The widespread violence, the U.N. says, is threatening to create a “mass displacement” of civilians; that “mass displacement” may have already begun.

Increased number of migrants from Africa turning up at US southern border

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Thousands of Africans from Cameroon, Congo and other violence-plagued countries are preparing to cross over the southern border of the United States, according to Customs and Border Protection reports.

  • Border agents from the Del Rio area of Texas sounded the alarm on May 31 about a group of 116 African migrants, sitting on the US side of the Rio Grande, waiting to be arrested.
  • Then, in early June, agents in Eagle Pass, Texas, detained another group of Central African families. In all, more than 500 Africans in a single week crossed the Del Rio border zone.
  • Late in June, agents arrested yet another 310 mostly Haitian and African migrants.
  • Data from Mexico’s interior ministry suggests that migration from Africa this year will break records. The number of Africans registered by Mexican authorities tripled in the first four months of 2019 compared with the same period a year ago, reaching about 1,900 people, mostly from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Until recently, African migrants headed to Europe, but the European Union has slammed the door on them. Now African migrants who head to Europe face indefinite detention in facilities on the north coast of Libya. According to the United Nations, these detention centers are “an outrage to the conscience of humanity.” Toilet facilities are nonexistent, food is crawling with maggots, many adults succumb to severe malnutrition and rape and torture are commonplace.

That’s why many African migrants are coming to the United States. They’re cobbling together airfare to Ecuador (which has a no-visa policy) and then trekking through Panama, north through Central America to the US border.

The African migration is indicative of how much larger the humanitarian crisis at the southern border could get.

[New York Post]