Posts Tagged ‘food shortages’

Venezuelan business group urges government to abort congress vote

July 25, 2017

Reuters
July 25, 2017

Image result for Nicolas Maduro, photos

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s main business guild Fedecamaras demanded on Tuesday that President Nicolas Maduro’s government abort a controversial vote scheduled for Sunday to create a special congress capable of rewriting the country’s constitution.

Critics have called it a dictatorial move and U.S. President Donald Trump threatened last week to impose economic sanctions on Venezuela if it went ahead.

Fedecamaras said the Constituent Assembly was “unconstitutional and unnecessary” and not the way out of Venezuela’s crisis.

“We demand the executive branch abandon its intention to impose a new constitution,” the group said in a statement.

Maduro has vowed the vote will go ahead on Sunday and slammed critics, who he says do not have the country’s interests at heart.

Venezuela is undergoing a major political and economic crisis, with millions suffering food shortages and months of anti-government unrest in which more than 100 people have been killed.

Reporting by Girish Gupta; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Paul Simao

Venezuela grocery store shelvesPeople line up to buy food and other staple goods inside a supermarket in Caracas, Venezuela. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

16 killed in double suicide attack in NE Nigeria

June 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A white sheet covers the bodies of some of the victims of the double suicide bombing in Dalori Kofa village in northeast Nigeria

MAIDUGURI (NIGERIA) (AFP) – At least 16 people died in a double suicide bombing near a large camp for people made homeless by years of Boko Haram violence, Nigeria’s emergency services and locals said Monday.It was the biggest in a series of weekend attacks.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said the attack took place at about 8:45 pm (1945 GMT) on Sunday close to the Dalori camp in Kofa village, near the Borno state capital Maiduguri.

Regional NEMA spokesman Abdulkadir Ibrahim said a first attack by two female suicide bombers had been thwarted by security personnel who stopped them getting into the camp.

“Two other female suicide bombers also detonated their explosives at the adjoining Dalori Kofa village, where they killed 16 people,” he said in a statement.

Earlier tolls given by local people said at least 12 or 13 people had been killed but Abdulkadir said three of the injured had since died of their wounds.

“The 16 does not include the bombers,” he told AFP.

Dalori is about 10 kilometres (six miles) southeast of Maiduguri and is one of the largest camps for internally displaced people (IDP) in the remote region.

There are nearly 50,000 people in the two Dalori camps, with Dalori 1 housing some 35,000 and Dalori 2, which was targeted in the bombings, sheltering around 10,000.

Boko Haram has previously tried to target the camp: at least 85 people were killed in January last year when insurgents rampaged through communities near Dalori.

– A bloody weekend –

The latest attack is the most deadly in Nigeria since June 8, when 11 people were killed in a rare combined gun and suicide attack in the Jiddari Polo area of Maiduguri.

Also at the weekend, Boko Haram attacked Gumsuri village, 20 kilometres from Chibok, killing five people late on Saturday, locals said.

But they were fought off by local vigilantes who engaged them in a gunbattle.

“The vigilantes got the upper hand. They killed 12 attackers and apprehended six others,” said Bitrus Haruna, a vigilante from Chibok, whose account was corroborated by a community leader from the town.

“The Boko Haram gunmen were not lucky. They were confronted by the gallant vigilantes who killed 12 of the attackers and arrested six of them.”

Then on Sunday, Boko Haram jihadists killed three soldiers in an ambush near Wajirko village, 150 kilometres (90 miles) from Maiduguri, a local vigilante said.

Last weekend, gunmen killed eight members of a civilian militia force assisting the military in the Konduga area not far from the Dalori camp.

The spate of bombings underlines the threat still posed by the jihadists, despite official claims they are a spent force.

Since the start of Boko Harm’s uprising in 2009, at least 20,000 people have been killed since and more than 2.6 million made homeless, many of whom are facing severe food shortages or starvation.

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As Gulf Crisis Bites, Qatari Food Factories Seek to Fill Gap

June 11, 2017

DOHA — At a meat processing plant in Doha’s sprawling industrial zone, masked workers toil through the night heaving boxes of raw chicken across a pristine factory floor.

They have been working extra shifts since Monday when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other nations cut ties and severed all transport links with Qatar, prompting fears of food shortages in the import-dependent country.

The Saudi-led push to isolate Qatar by cutting diplomatic and trade ties over its alleged support for terrorism has choked food imports from key transit points in Saudi and the UAE and caused panic buying at shops early in the week.

The spat has forced the tiny, gas-rich state to turn to other foreign exporters including Turkey and Iran but also to its own local food companies to keep supermarket shelves stacked.

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Qatar — worker works in a meat processing plant in Doha, Qatar, June 10, 2017. REUTERS – Naseem Zeitoon

In the meat plant on Saturday, workers hurried about feeding frozen chicken breasts imported from Brazil through shiny metal grinders and pushing them in trolleys into an adjacent room to be packaged.

“We’ve put two shifts instead of one and stopped exporting to concentrate production for the local market … There are plans to treble production,” said Ahmed al-Khalaf, chairman of International Projects Development Co., the parent company of Qatar Meat, in his office adjoining the plant.

Qatar Meat has been working to double its output of chicken, beef and lamb to 40 tonnes per day.

Khalaf says this is proof Qatar can survive without having to rely on neighbors who have shunned it.

STILL DEPENDENT?

Khalaf’s food businesses, which include the meat plant run by one of his sons and a farm that grows root vegetables, both felt the pinch when the UAE and Saudi shut their borders.

Up to 30 shipping containers of Khalaf’s remain stranded at the Jebel Ali port in Dubai, a major business and transit hub for the region.

But by flying in goods directly from countries such as Turkey and using other ports in the Gulf including Salalah in Oman, the factory can cover its demand for raw material.

“Some equipment is coming by aeroplane from abroad to double the capacity of the production line,” Khalaf said.

Qatar, a small desert country, relies heavily on imports to feed its 2.7 million mostly foreign population and nearly half of Qatar’s food comes across the border from Saudi Arabia.

Like many local businesses, Qatar Meat imports all the meat that it processes and packages.

“The raw material – we bring it from outside,” Khalaf said.

‘WE CAN SUPPLY QATAR’

Other Qatari companies are also sensing opportunity.

In his dairy factory, Mohammed al-Kuwari, 30, is working weekends during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to oversee production.

    “The situation is great! As you can see, there’s lots of production and we have a big share in the market,” he said as employees packaged yoghurts with the Rawa brand of his Gulf Food Production company.

The factory is producing 20,000 liters of dairy products per day, up from 15,000 liters, he said.

Gulf Food Production also relies heavily on import, including milk from France.

“It normally comes in by ship but soon maybe it will all come in by air for the same price,” thanks to government support, he said.

As for relations with Gulf neighbors, Khalaf says he is already looking elsewhere.

“I’m leaving next week to make some other arrangements to bring from other countries” including Turkey, Azerbaijan and Ukraine, he said.

(Editing by Keith Weir)

WFP shocked by ‘destruction’ in northeast Nigeria — Food aid needed for 3 million people

March 4, 2017

WFP’s Chief Economist Arif Husain tells DW the humanitarian situation in Nigeria is far worse than anything he’s seen. At a donor conference in Oslo, the UN had appealed for food aid for nearly three million people.

Image may contain: 1 person, food

At a donor’s meeting in Oslo, the United Nations said nearly three million people should be given food assistance to avert a famine in the Lake Chad region by July. The causes of the crisis are drought, chronic poverty and the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency. Arif Hussain, the chief economist at the World Food Program (WFP), tells DW that the situation in northeastern Nigeria is one of the five worse things he has seen in his 15 year-career.

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DW: You have recently returned from a tour of Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, what did you discover particularly in those three sub-Saharan African countries currently facing food shortages?

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The situation on the ground in these four countries; northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, is very bad. The main reason in three of those cases is conflict. Prolonged conflicts. In the third or fourth case, which is Somalia, it is a combination of bad weather as well as conflict.

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The people we are dealing with are extremely poor. Most of these communities rely on agriculture. When there is conflict that means they cannot go and plough their fields, for example; they cannot produce their own crops. That also means they cannot go and herd their livestock, which are income sources for them.

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On the other side, due to these conflicts, the costs of bringing things into the country go up. That means the prices for basic commodities also go up. So on one side, they don’t have the money to buy and they are not producing for themselves. On the other side, prices have gone up and these are happening over a long period of time. This is the situation in northeast Nigeria, this is the situation in South Sudan. And in Yemen, it is not only the rural population, but the urban population is also affected.

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Thirty percent of the population in Yemen lives in urban areas, where they depend on salaries and they haven’t been paid their salaries. If you haven’t been paid your salary, and the country imports more than 90 percent of their food and other essentials from outside, if the currency is depreciating and the ports are not working, you have a situation where one group of people do not have the purchasing power. But it also means that commodities may not be coming [into the country]. In Yemen we are talking of seven million people who are in situation of extreme food insecurity. So for many people in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, their only hope is humanitarian assistance.

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The Islamist group Boko Haram is still active in northeastern Nigeria. To what extent do they contribute to the food insecurity in that region?

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It’s no secret, it’s huge. Because of the insurgency, people are not able to go out. People are not able to cultivate their fields. The commercial traffic is not moving because of the conflict. That means the private sector is ineffective. Most of the roads are laden with IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devises).

 

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The UN says nearly three million people in the Lake Chad region are in dire need of food assistance

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There is total destruction in many parts [of northeastern Nigeria]. Maybe 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside of Maiduguri, which is the capital of Borno State, there is complete destruction there.

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The first time I went there was in summer, I went to one of the camps there. It was a camp for 50,000 people. They had one water point; the rooftop of their hut, the Tuchul, was a metal sheet. There was one communal kitchen preparing one meal for the 50,000 people.

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This is probably one of the five worst things I have ever seen in my 15 year-career at the World Food Program. I have seen Darfur, I have seen South Sudan, I have seen Somalia, but this one was shocking.

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Put it in another way, would the drought or just poverty in this region have caused destruction on a similar scale or is it just Boko Haram that plays a bigger role?

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Most of the people in this part of the world, northeastern Nigeria, Lake Chad area, are poor people; there is no doubt about that. But before this insurgency, they had a life. Traffic was moving, people could move. Trade was happening. Maybe they are not producing that much, but they were producing for themselves.

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We didn’t have an operation in Nigeria. We established our operation last year. In December of 2016, we provided assistance for over one million people. By the end of March, we plan to assist at least two million people. There is a reason why we came in and that reason is because commercial traffic isn’t moving, that means you cannot get out either. That means markets are not working because nothing is coming in. In that type of situation, it feels almost like a jail.

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Imagine hundreds of thousands of people cannot be reached because of the insurgency. This is why full open humanitarian access, meaning not only our abilities as individuals to go in but also to be able to bring in stuff, to bring in what they need, those essential commodities, is so important. And it cannot be for one day. We need full humanitarian access.

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Do you have that access to all the places where people are in dire need of food aid?

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For some places, yes, but for some others, no! For me, the main thing is, number one; everything should be done to stop the conflict because until the conflict is stopped, this will continue.

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While people are working to stop these conflicts, we must reach out to the women, we must reach out to the children, we must reach out to the youths not only to sustain them for today, but to make sure that there is tomorrow and that there is hope for tomorrow and they know that people out there care.

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Arif Husain is a chief economist and head of the Food Security Analysis service at the World Food Program.

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Interview: Chrispin Mwakideu

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http://www.dw.com/en/wfp-shocked-by-destruction-in-northeast-nigeria/a-37803148

Nigeria: Military jet mistakenly bombs camp for displaced people

January 18, 2017

BBC News

Injured people in the camp in Rann, Nigeria, 17 January

More than 100 people are said to have been injured. AFP PHOTO/DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS (MSF)

A Nigerian military jet has mistakenly bombed a camp for displaced people in the north-east, killing at least 52 people and injuring many more.

Aid workers are among the dead in Rann, with the Red Cross saying six of its employees were killed.

The MSF aid agency said that over 200 people had been injured and appealed for help with medical evacuations.

President Muhammadu Buhari, whose army is fighting Boko Haram militants, expressed dismay and urged calm.

The attack took place near the border with Cameroon, where the military is engaged in what it calls its final push against Boko Haram.

It is thought to be the first time Nigeria’s military has admitted to making such a mistake.

Red Cross spokeswoman Aleksandra Matijevic said that along with the staff killed, more than a dozen of the group’s volunteers, who arrived on Tuesday to deliver food to the thousands displaced people, were wounded.

“Our thoughts are now with the families of our colleagues who have lost their loved ones,” Ms Matijevic said, adding that the Red Cross would continue bringing humanitarian aid to those affected by the conflict.

MSF told the BBC that its organisation also had medical teams working in the Rann camp when the bombs struck.

“More than 50 people have been killed,” said Hugues Robert, head of MSF’s emergency response.

“Our team was there and counted the bodies, and more than 200 people have been wounded following these two different blasts from aerial bombardment,” he said.

Damage in the camp in Rann, Nigeria, 17 January

MSF released photos of the aftermath of the air strike. AFP PHOTO/DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS (MSF)

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MSF said it had teams in Cameroon and Chad ready to treat wounded patients.

Many of the casualties, it said, were believed to be displaced people who had fled from areas where Boko Haram had carried out attacks.

‘All in pain’

Gen Rabe Abubakar, a spokesman for the Nigerian military, said that some “remnants” of Boko Haram had been detected outside Rann and the military had acted to eliminate them.

After the military realised its mistake, they were “all in pain”, he said.

“However, in a military operation such as this, from time to time these things do occur,” he added.

“Even though it was highly regretful, it was never intended.”

Gen Lucky Irabor, who commands counter-insurgency operations in the north-east, said there would be an investigation.

A spokesman for the Nigerian president said the administration would offer help to the government of Borno state “in attending to this regrettable operational mistake”.

An injured child in the camp in Rann, Nigeria, 17 January

It is the first time an incident of this type has happened in north-east Nigeria. AFP PHOTO/DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS (MSF)

Boko Haram has caused havoc in Africa’s most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations and abductions.

It is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state.

The group has stepped up attacks in the past few weeks as the end of the rainy season enabled its fighters to move more easily in the bush.

Last month, the UN launched a $1bn (£800m) appeal for those facing hunger and starvation in the region.

It said nearly 5.1 million people in three north-eastern states were expected to face serious food shortages as for a third year in a row farmers had been unable to plant, fearing unexploded improvised devices left behind by militants.

Urgent aid was needed for some 100,000 people, mostly children, at risk of dying of starvation.

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A screen grab made from a video shows Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, delivering a message. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Boko Haram at a glance:

Boko Haram video

Boko Haram has sworn allegiance to Islamic State and often displays its trademark black flag
  • Islamist group founded in 2002, initially to resist Western-style education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Began attacks in 2009, mostly in the north-east, leaving thousands dead and hundreds abducted, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Joined so-called Islamic State and now calls itself IS’s “West African province”

Torment of a freed Boko Haram ‘bride’

The town that lost its girls

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-38654991

Related:

 (Has links to several previous articles)

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Nigerian Jet Mistakenly Bombs Refugee Camp, Killing Scores

DAKAR, Senegal — A Nigerian fighter jet searching for Boko Haram members on Tuesday accidentally bombed a camp for displaced people who had fled the militants, killing dozens of camp residents and at least six humanitarian workers, and wounding numerous others.

The bombing struck a government-run camp in Rann, Nigeria, near the Cameroonian and Chadian borders, an area where Boko Haram had recently increased attacks.

Government officials could not provide an exact death toll, saying they were focused on treating the wounded. Doctors Without Borders, the medical charity, said its teams in Rann had counted 52 dead and 200 wounded as they tried to provide first aid and stabilize patients who were awaiting evacuation.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/17/world/africa/nigerian-jet-mistakenly-bombs-refugee-camp-killing-dozens.html?ref=world

Yemen: Houthi want border truce, amnesty

September 26, 2016

Houthi official in Yemen offers border truce, amnesty

A man inspects the damage in a house after a Saudi-led air strike in old Sanaa city, Yemen, September 24, 2016.REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

A top official in Yemen’s armed Houthi movement on Sunday offered to stop attacks on Saudi Arabia and an amnesty for Yemeni fighters opposing the group if the kingdom stopped air strikes and lifted a near blockade on the country.

The move falls short of demands by Yemen’s government and their backers in Saudi Arabia, but offers rare hope for a pause to 18 months of fighting which has killed at least 10,000 people and pushed impoverished Yemen toward famine.

“(In exchange for) stopping the aggression against our country by land, sea and air, stopping the air strikes and lifting the siege imposed on our country, in return (we will)stop combat operations on the border,” Saleh al-Samad, the chief of a Houthi-backed political council, said in a speech.

Hailing from Yemen’s Zaydi Shi’ite sect, the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa and pushed the government out of its last stronghold in Aden in March 2015.

The advances by the Iran-allied group prompted an intervention by a Saudi-led coalition that has launched thousands of air strikes on the Houthis and their allies in Yemen’s army but has failed to push them out of the capital.

A near-blockade on Yemen’s ports, which the coalition says is aimed at arms bound to the Houthis, has also hobbled Yemen’s already struggling economy and created a humanitarian crisis.

For months, the Houthis have retaliated with attacks on Saudi Arabia from its mountainous strongholds in northern Yemen and has launched around a dozen ballistic missiles at the kingdom, all of which were intercepted.

Fighting has also raged within the country between pro-Houthi and pro-government militiamen, soldiers and tribal gunmen – a tangle of armed groups so complex that any peace initiative would struggle to contain them.

Samad said the group was prepared to pardon its foes.

“(We call) all fighters on the side of the aggression on the various fronts to respond to a general amnesty and come back into the national fold,” he said.

Two shaky truces accompanied previous efforts mediated by the United Nations to end the conflict, and the leader of the Houthi group warned last week that the conflict would last “God knows how long”.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government say that any move toward peace can begin only when the Houthis heed a 2015 U.N. Security Council Resolution mandating that they quit Yemen’s main cities.

Saudi Arabia has said the conflict is an internal Yemeni matter and that it will not negotiate with the Houthis.

(Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Alison Williams)

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Venezuelan security forces push back protesters — Government says no recall this year

June 8, 2016

Venezuelan security forces have held back hundreds of protesters in Caracas as they tried to reach the country’s electoral body. Officials are a step closer to accepting a recall vote against President Nicolas Maduro.

Amid angry shouts of “Traitors!” and “You’re hungry too!” on Tuesday, some 1,000 protestors were held back with tear gas, as police prevented them from reaching the National Electorate Board (CNE) in the Venezuelan capital.

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Tuesday’s protest marked at least the fourth such demonstration in as many weeks. Every time, however, security forces have blocked demonstrators from reaching downtown Caracas.

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The opposition to President Nicolas Maduro claims that the CNE is stalling the recall process – to remove him from office – in a bid to protect Maduro, whom they accuse of driving Venezuela to the brink of collapse.

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In a new development, the president’s opponents said Tuesday that election officials had accepted a 1.3 million signature recall petition as valid. The round-robin is part of the process needed to force a referendum to remove the president from office.

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Economic downturn

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The South American nation has suffered an economic implosion since Socialist Maduro took office in 2013, which has resulted in severe shortages of food, electricity, medicine and other basic products. Despite having the world’s largest crude oil reserves, Venezuela has also been hit hard by falling global prices.

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Nicolas Maduro

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Demonstrators are calling for a referendum against President Nicolas Maduro before January 10, 2017

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Maduro recently announced a few measures aimed at alleviating the hardship faced by many. Among the measures were a shorter working week for shops and government offices, as well as calls for people to stop using electric hair dryers and ironing their clothes.

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‘No referendum this year’

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The opposition is now racing to call the referendum before January 10, which will mark four years into Maduro’s six-year term. If successful, the recall vote would trigger new elections rather than transfer power to the vice president.

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Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz said bluntly on Monday, however, that there “won’t be a referendum this year.”

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Efforts to bring both sides to the table

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International mediators, led by Spain’s former prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, are trying to bring the government and opposition together for talks, but both sides have so far shown reluctance.

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Protest leader Henrique Capriles, who narrowly lost the 2013 presidential race to Maduro, however, said that the opposition would not meet with mediators until electoral authorities set a date to validate the initial referendum petition.

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“We’re not going to sign up for hypocritical negotiations. If people don’t believe in Maduro, they’re not going to believe in talks,” Capriles said.

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ksb/mm/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)

http://www.dw.com/en/venezuela-police-block-anti-maduro-protests-with-tear-gas/a-19312930

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North Korea regime shows off efforts to feed its people despite severe drought

May 4, 2016

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People work in a field just outside Pyongyang, North Korea October 8, 2015. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
People work in a field just outside Pyongyang, North Korea October 8, 2015. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

By ADRIANA DIAZ
CBS News

PYONGYANG, North Korea — Even before we arrived in the North Korean capital, the propaganda push began. As we stepped onto our Pyongyang-bound flight, we were handed copies of North Korea‘s state-run newspaper — printed in English, so we could clearly understand the party line.

One article had a title alluding to the “criminality” of U.S. sanctions.

The music of patriotic North Korean pop stars was piped through the plane for the entire hour and a half flight.

From the moment we landed in the rain at Pyongyang’s airport, security was invasive.

They went through the photos on my iPad, but fortunately took no issue with my biography of Alexander Hamilton.

We were invited to North Korea, along with a group of international journalists, to cover Friday’s historic assembly of the North Korean Workers’ Party -Pyongyang- the country’s only political party.

But first, government guides gave CBS News a tour Wednesday of a vegetable co-operative. The guides kept hold of our passports. They decide what we see and who we speak to.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the same co-op last year. Inside, we were greeted by portraits of his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung.

The same portraits hang in living rooms across the country, like religious icons.

Hong Son Suk is one of 3,000 people who live on the farm. I asked Hong why it’s important to have photos of the leaders in her home.

“We live very happily under the warm love and care of our respected leaders,” she replied. “By having their photos on our walls, they are always with us.”

 

We were allowed to speak to greenhouse farmer Kim Hak Bao, who told us it’s important for North Koreans to grow their own food because, “hostile countries like the U.S.A. and Japan, that do not think well of our country, impose sanctions on us… So we are cultivating our own food with our own hands.”

They’re trying to build a self-reliant North Korea; one that can survive in diplomatic isolation and provide for its next generation. That generation includes the farmers’ children, who, at the age of 14, have already mastered patriotic songs praising the country’s leaders.

Despite the government’s expansion of farms, the United Nations said last week that food production dropped 9 percent last year due to drought in North Korea. That’s the first decline since 2010, and stands to make this country’s already fragile food situation worse.

Malawi president declares national disaster after drought

April 13, 2016

AFP

© AFP/File | Malawi has declared a national disaster due to food shortages caused by drought

BLANTYRE (MALAWI) (AFP) – Malawian President Peter Mutharika on Wednesday declared a state of national disaster due to food shortages caused by drought, in the latest sign of alarm over a hunger crisis across southern Africa.Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia are all suffering food supply problems, while South Africa declared the recent drought its worst in at least 100 years.

“I declare Malawi (in) a state of national disaster following prolonged dry spells during the 2015/16 agriculture season,” Mutharika said in a statement.

“The projected drop in maize harvest is estimated at 12 percent from last year’s output.

“More people will be food insecure and will require humanitarian relief assistance for the whole of the 2016/17 consumption year.”

The World Food Programme said it was currently assisting nearly three million people in Malawi, with about 23 of 28 districts badly affected.

“The current drought situation in Malawi came on the back of a bad crop last year, due to flooding which affected parts of the country,” WFP’s southern Africa spokesman David Orr told AFP.

“The situation is quite dire and we believe the worst is still to come. It will take a long time before the situations improves. Any improvement in the next months would be negligible.”

In February, the WFP warned that Malawi was facing its worst food insecurity for a decade. The country has recently suffered flash floods in the north as well as drought.

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, 2.8 million people — more than a quarter of the rural population — do not have enough to eat. The WFP is currently providing assistance for about 730,000 people.

Southern Africa endured a poor harvest last year combined with a strong El Nino weather phenomenon, which resulted in reduced rains across the region.

South Sudan: “One of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world”

March 11, 2016

By JAMEY KEATEN AND JASON PATINKIN
The Associated Press

GENEVA — Mar 11, 2016, 2:52 PM ET

A U.N. report describing sweeping crimes like children and the disabled being burned alive and fighters being allowed to rape women as payment shows South Sudan is facing “one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world,” the U.N. human rights chief said Friday.

Zeid Raad al-Hussein lamented the crisis in the nearly 5-year-old country has been largely overlooked by the international community, and his office said attacks against civilians, forced disappearances, rape and other violations could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The U.N report released Friday is the work of an assessment team deployed in South Sudan between October and January and says “state actors” bear most responsibility for the crimes. It said Zeid recommends that the U.N. Security Council consider expanding sanctions already in place by imposing a “comprehensive arms embargo” on South Sudan and consider referring the matter to the International Criminal Court if other judicial avenues fail.

In this file photo taken Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016,displaced people walk next to a razor wire fence at the United Nations base in the capital Juba, South Sudan. A U.N. report describing sweeping crimes like children and the disabled being burned alive and fighters being allowed to rape women as payment shows South Sudan is facing “one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world,” the U.N. human rights chief said Friday, March 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Jason Patinkin, File)

In scorching detail, the report, which focused on events in 2015, cited cases of parents being forced to watch their children being raped, and said investigators had received information that some armed militias affiliated with government forces “raided cattle, stole personal property, raped and abducted women and girls” as a type of payment.

“The quantity of rapes and gang-rapes described in the report must only be a snapshot of the real total,” Zeid said in a statement. “This is one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world, with massive use of rape as an instrument of terror and weapon of war, yet it has been more or less off the international radar.”

David Marshall, the U.N. human rights officer who coordinated the assessment team, told reporters in New York that the “machinery of violence” by the government needs to be dismantled.

“It was a reign of terror,” he said.

Also on Friday, human rights watchdog Amnesty International accused the South Sudanese government of war crimes after its troops allegedly suffocated 60 boys and men in a cargo container at a Catholic church and then dumped their bodies in an open field.

South Sudanese People Liberation Army (SPLA) soldier patrols in Malakal on 21 January 2014.

South Sudan’s army has been accused of suffocating more than 60 people. Getty Images

Amnesty said researchers spoke to 42 witnesses to the October incident, including 23 who said they saw the men and the boys being forced into one or more shipping containers and dead bodies being removed.

“We take seriously these allegations as a responsible government,” presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said of the Amnesty report. “The government has dispatched a team to investigate.”

He insisted government soldiers do not kill civilians.

However, Malaak Ayuen, director of information for the South Sudanese military, acknowledged that civilians had been killed amid the fighting.

“If the fighting takes places with you and your family in your room, certain things can get broken,” he said, adding that the rebels themselves are civilians because they do not wear uniform.

“When fighting takes place in the residential area definitely there will be casualties because of stray bullets,” Ayuen said. He said people being burned alive was the result of tracer bullets hitting grass huts by accident. To the reports of rape he said there was no evidence that government forces were involved.

The U.N. report said the human rights situation has “dramatically deteriorated” since South Sudan erupted into civil war in December 2013. The crisis stemmed from a falling-out between President Salva Kiir and his deputy, Riek Machar, that boiled over into an armed rebellion. Tens of thousands have died and at least 2 million people have been displaced from their homes.

Machar has been reinstated as vice president part of a peace deal signed in August, but sporadic fighting and extra-judicial killings persist.

The 17-page report notes that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had already in May 2014 pointed to “reasonable grounds” to consider that crimes against humanity had been committed in South Sudan. In a sign that little has been done since then, the report said “the killings, sexual violence, displacement, destruction and looting that were the hallmarks of the conflict through 2014 continued unabated through 2015.”

Recommendations in previous reports to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, a 47-member body currently in session in Geneva, “remain largely unimplemented,” it said.

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Patinkin reported from Juba, South Sudan. Associated Press writer Dave Bryan contributed from The United Nations.

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