Category: International Cooperation

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%.

[BBC]

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.

[CNN]

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.

[AP]

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]

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]

Aung San Suu Kyi’s fall from grace as a human rights hero

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When former US deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes first met Aung San Suu Kyi in 2012, she exuded the all traits that made her an international icon for human rights and democracy.

Rhodes had  accompanying Barack Obama in an historic visit to Myanmar, and admired the moral authority of Aung San Suu Kyi. There was a hopefulness, surrounding her, he says.

Now seven years later, she has been stripped of many international accolades, honors and prizes.

At issue is the fact that as the most powerful civilian leader in Myanmar she refused to intervene against, or even publicly condemn, a genocide committed by the government against a religious and ethnic minority.  Some 700,000 ethnic Rohingya have fled Myanmar amid what a UN official has called a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. All the while, Aung San Suu Kyi was silent

So what happened to Aung San Suu Kyi? How did a Nobel Peace Prize winner who spent decades under house arrest in an elegant pursuit of democracy and justice in Myanmar fall so from grace? And was the international community, including the Obama administration, wrong about her all along? Ben Rhodes grapples with these questions and more.  [Listen to Podcast]

Iraqis choose refugee camps over ruined homes

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Despairing of the corpses and debris littering the streets, many Iraqis have left their homes in areas liberated from Islamic State two years ago and voluntarily returned to the displacement camps that housed them during and after the fighting.

“All houses and buildings [of Mosul] are in complete ruin. I saw in my own eyes corpses. I saw a hand of a woman,” said Sabiha Jassim, 61, who has since gone back to the Hassan Shami camp for displaced people. Jassim says there was no drinking water or access to medical treatment for her ailing husband, both of which are available at the camp.

In Hassan Sham camp alone, more than 200 families like Jassim’s have returned this year after having initially gone home. Bodies and destroyed buildings are still a regular sight two years on. In contrast, the camps provide residents with security and comparatively comfortable lives.

Islamic State seized large swathes of Iraq in 2014 and was finally defeated in December 2017. Militants ravaged and looted the areas, leaving behind houses, mosques, and churches in ruin.

The central government says it will need up to $100 billion to rebuild Mosul.

[Reuters]