Monthly Archives: August 2019

Syrian migrants face deadline to leave Istanbul

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Turkish authorities have told unregistered Syrian migrants in Istanbul to return to the province they are registered in, as part of a bid to relieve pressure on the country’s largest city.

But some Syrians told the BBC many were being deported to Idlib, Syria, where fighting is escalating. They say many are being forced to sign voluntary return documents that they cannot read or understand.

About half a million Syrians are registered in Istanbul – but estimates suggest twice that number are living there, having traveled there from the provinces they were first registered in.

Announcing the move last month, the governor of Istanbul said Syrians with the right to be in the city should carry their passports and identity documents with them at all times, and announced continuous checks at bus and train stations.

Turkey has the reputation as being the world’s largest host of refugees, welcoming 3.6 million Syrians since the war began. But patience with the Syrians is wearing thin. It’s been eight years since the war began, and doors are closing in Turkey and the welcome is running out. Polling has shown a decline in support for Syrian refugees – from about 70% to 40%.


White House won’t move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts

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The White House will no longer move forward with a proposal to cut billions of dollars in foreign aid that was allocated in the latest congressional budget deal, according to a senior administration official.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were among those encouraging President Trump to at least scale back the cuts. Democrats and Republicans alike had expressed concerns.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close Trump ally, had called the proposed cuts “concerning,” while Democrats such as House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) decried what she called “the Trump administration’s continued efforts to illegally withhold funding that Congress has approved.”

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the chair of the House Budget Committee, celebrated the decision as “a win,” tweeting “The Constitution grants Congress the power of the purse, and we will not cede that authority to this Administration and their constant executive overreach.”

 [The Hill]

The deadliest places to be a humanitarian aid worker

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For the third year in a row, Syria has remained the deadliest place to be an aid worker, according to an analysis done by CARE International.

A devastating 57 aid workers have lost their lives since the beginning of this year, including 18 in Syria – the largest humanitarian death toll for the third year running – and where a war has been raging since 2011.

While Syria tops the list in terms of deaths, largely as a result of aerial bombing, the world’s newest nation, South Sudan ranks top on the list of the most dangerous places to be an aid worker, with the most security incidents (abductions, robberies and harassments) recorded in 2019, according to studies by Humanitarian Outcomes.

In its new report, Humanitarian Outcomes – an independent research organization that provides global data on aid-worker security – notes that national aid workers continue to bear the brunt of the violence compared to their international colleagues.

The specific risks faced by female humanitarians are of specific concern. Sexual violence against female humanitarian workers occurred in eight percent of violent attacks last year, according to findings by Humanitarian Outcomes, but the number of reported incidents suggests that both victims and organizations may be vastly under-reporting the problem.

Rosalind Crowther, CARE South Sudan’s Country Director says: “Throughout the world, women play a vital role in every aspect of crisis response. … South Sudan continues to experience the greatest number of major attacks on aid operations and we know that every time the rules governing fighters’ conduct in war are broken, human suffering intensifies. Ultimately, attacks on aid workers hurt the world’s poorest.”

[Relief Web]

White House moving forward with plan to cancel foreign aid

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The Trump administration has finalized and is moving forward with a plan to cancel billions of dollars in foreign aid funding, a senior administration official told CNN on Saturday, teeing up a fight between the White House and Congress over the rarely used and controversial move known as rescission.

Bipartisan lawmakers and foreign policy advocates have spoken out publicly against the move to cancel funds to the State Department and US Agency for International Development, warning about their impact on US foreign policy priorities.

The official told CNN that they expect the rescission package to be made public at the beginning of next week. The official said Friday the rescission includes money to the United Nations — including some peacekeeping funds — funding for the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and cultural programs.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a typically staunch supporter of the President, and Republican Rep. Hal Rogers wrote to Trump Friday to express their concern over the proposed cancellation. “Not only do these cuts have the potential to undermine significant national security and anti-terrorism efforts of our diplomats and international partners overseas, but we fear such a rescission package could complicate the ability of the Administration and Congress to work constructively on future appropriations deals,” the South Carolina senator and Kentucky representative wrote.


65 lost and dehydrated Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan migrants found in Mexico

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Mexican authorities say federal police found 65 severely dehydrated and hungry migrants from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka wandering on a highway in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.

The federal Public Safety Department said that the migrants recounted a long, complicated trip in a bid to reach the U.S. border. The migrants reported they set out April 24 from an airport in Qatar and flew to Turkey and Colombia. From there, they moved through Ecuador, Panama and Guatemala before reaching Mexico.

Once in Mexico, the migrants said, they boarded boats and travelled on the Coatzacoalcos River, though it is not clear why. The river does not lead anywhere near the U.S. border.


Uganda: A major country of refuge for families and children

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Uganda hosts over 1.29 million registered refugees and asylum seekers, making it the third largest host country in the world, in addition to being the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa.

Of the total 1.29 million refugees and asylum seekers:
– Over 830,000 are from South Sudan, 350,000 are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 41,000 from Burundi, and 60,000 from Somalia, Rwanda and other countries.
– 61 per cent are children.

In Uganda, refugee children have access to universal primary education, pre-primary and secondary education, vocational training, and tertiary institutions. In the first six months of the year, gross enrollment in primary schools among refugees increased to 72 per cent from 58 per cent in late 2017. However, due to limited resources and infrastructure, many children continue to remain out of school.

Refugee children in Uganda continue to face serious protection risks, including family separation, physical, sexual, and gender-based violence, psychosocial distress, and other forms of violence. Among refugee households, 31 per cent reported having at least one orphan, 10 per cent reported at least one unaccompanied minor, and 25 per cent reported at least one separated minor.

The Government of Uganda, with support from UNICEF, vaccinated over 167,000 children against measles, provided Vitamin A supplementation to nearly 450,000 children, psychosocial support services to over 20,000 children, and promoted access to early childhood education for over 44,000 children.

[UN Children’s Fund]

Quarter of humanity facing water scarcity a big challenge for the XXIst century

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Seventeen nations are facing severe water shortages, with countries such as India and Iran using almost all the water they have, according to World Resources Institute data.

Among cities with over 3 million people, 33 face “extremely high water stress,” per the report. By 2030, cities in this category are expected to rise to 45, affecting nearly 470 million people.

Water scarcity affects every continent. Around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation.

Another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage (where countries lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifers).

Water scarcity is both a natural and a human-made phenomenon. There is enough freshwater on the planet for seven billion people but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed.

[UN/Linked In]

India monsoon floods kill more than 200

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The death toll from India’s monsoon floods climbed to 202 by Tuesday as heavy rainfall kept pounding coastal regions in the west and south, causing devastating landslides and floods in several parts of the country.

Authorities have already moved more than 1.2 million people to relief camps.

The southern tourist hotspot of Kerala bore the brunt of monsoon downpours. “The death toll in the state has increased to 88… and there are still at least 40 people missing,” Pramod Kumar, Kerala police spokesman, told AFP.

Death toll rises from Lekima third largest typhoon ever in China

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Reuters reports the the death toll from typhoon Lekima in eastern China rose to over 40 people, as the storm continued up the coast, racking up billions of dollars in economic losses and widely disrupting travel. China’s state broadcaster said on Sunday more than 3,200 flights had been canceled and high-speed railway lines suspended.

Typhoon Lekima first made landfall early on Saturday in China’s Zhejiang province, with winds gusting up to 187 kmh (116 mph). Many of the earlier deaths occurred when a natural dam collapsed in Zhejiang after a deluge of 160 mm (6.2 inches) of rain within three hours.

The Shandong Emergency Management Bureau said more than 180,000 people were evacuated in the province, adding to an earlier evacuation of roughly 1 million people in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces as well as the financial hub of Shanghai.

The latest update from Shandong brings the total estimated economic toll of the storm to 18 billion yuan ($2.55 billion) in China, including damage to 364,000 hectares of crops and more than 36,000 homes. Shandong alone estimated the total economic impact on agriculture was 939 million yuan.

Lekima is China’s ninth typhoon this year.

A summary of damages as of 12 August, as per Government of China statistics:
45 Fatalities in Shandong, Anhui and Zhejiang
16 People missing in Shandong and Zhejiang
1.45 Million People evacuated in Shandong, Anhui and Zhejiang
8.34 Million People affected in Shandong and Zhejiang

Groundwater resources in Africa resilient to climate change

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Groundwater – a vital source of water for drinking and irrigation across sub-Saharan Africa – is resilient to climate variability and change, according to a new study led by Cardiff University and UCL.

Groundwater plays a central role in sustaining water supplies and livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa due to its widespread availability of generally high quality water.

A consortium of 32 scientists from across Africa and beyond carried out the research., which involved the collation of multi-decadal records of groundwater levels and rainfall to examine how the replenishment of groundwater has responded to variations in climate and geology. The team analyzed observations compiled from nine countries across sub-Saharan Africa representing a range of climates from hyper-arid to humid.

The study shows that in humid areas groundwater is replenished primarily by rainfall that directly infiltrates the land surface, whereas in drylands it occurs predominantly by leakage from temporary streams and ponds.

Dr Mark Cuthbert, from Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences and co-lead on the study, said: “Previous regional-level assessments of groundwater resources using large-scale models have ignored the contribution of leaking streams and ponds to groundwater supplies, underestimating its renewability in drylands and resilience to climate change.”

Professor Richard Taylor (UCL Geography), co-lead on the study, said: “Groundwater offers a potential pathway to sustain increases in freshwater use required to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals 2 (zero hunger) and 6 (safe water for all).”

[Cardiff University]