Posts Tagged ‘starvation’

16 killed in double suicide attack in NE Nigeria

June 19, 2017


© 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.



Italy Still Isolated in Shouldering Migration Crisis After G7

May 27, 2017

TAORMINA, Italy — Italy chose to host a Group of Seven summit of wealthy nations on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean, looking to draw attention to the migrant crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands of people set sail from Africa in search of a better life in Europe.

But world leaders on Saturday said little that will help Italy manage the steady flow of migrants to its shores or enable it to cope with the growing number of new arrivals.

“Even though this summit took place in Sicily, a stone’s throw from where so many migrants have died, it produced no concrete steps to protect vulnerable migrants or to address the root causes of displacement and migration,” said Roberto Barbieri, the local director of humanitarian group Oxfam.

Rome had hoped to persuade other major industrialized nations to open more legal channels for migration and to focus attention on food security — policies which were meant to lower the number of people who set off for Europe.

Africans have been fleeing toward Europe in the thousands. Most that don’t drown end up in Italy. © AFP/File

But the plan was scrapped before the two-day summit even started, with the United States, Britain and Japan unwilling to commit to major new immigration initiatives.

The final communique outlined medium-term commitments to bolster African economies and promote sustainable agriculture, but it focused more on the need for each country to guarantee national security than on how to limit migration.

Countries “reaffirm the sovereign rights of states to control their own borders and set clear limits on net migration levels,” said the communique.


Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the language was decided “weeks ago” by diplomats from G7 nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and the United States.

“It wasn’t an issue that was the focus of debate, other than recognizing the humanitarian importance of taking people in as this region has done,” Gentiloni said of Sicily, which has seen hundreds of thousands of migrants arrive since 2014.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there had been “excellent” discussion on the need boost economic opportunity, in particular during outreach sessions with five African leaders on Saturday, so that people “are not driven to take desperate measures to improve their lot”.

Both the United States and Britain opposed the Italian pre-summit initiative to draft a stand-alone G7 statement entitled “G7 Vision on Human Mobility”, an Italian official said.

That document included language on the need for open, safe and legal paths for migrants and refugees, according to excerpts seen by Reuters.

Italy has been put under increasing pressure as EU partners have refused to relocate large numbers of asylum seekers, and some have closed their southern borders to keep migrants out of their own countries, effectively sealing them in Italy.

More than 175,000 asylum seekers live in Italian shelters. With sea arrivals at a record pace this year, the issue is hotly debated by politicians facing a general election within a year.

Over the past 10 days, almost 10,000 migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya, where people smugglers cram them onto unsafe boats. Dozens died, including many children.

“We know that the deadliest season is upon us. It starts pretty much now, at least it has for the last few years,” Joel Millman, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, said on Friday.

“We expect these coming weeks to be much worse.”

(With additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

Funding shortfall hits starving in NE Nigeria: UN

May 25, 2017


© AFP/File / by Phil HAZLEWOOD | The Boko Haram insurgency has left tens of thousands of people dependent on food aid


Lack of funding is forcing aid agencies to cut feeding programmes for starving people in northeast Nigeria, the UN said Thursday, warning of growing pressure on resources as refugees return.

The World Food Programme last week said nearly two million people were living on the brink of famine in the remote region, which has been devastated by Boko Haram violence since 2009.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 5.2 million people could need life-saving food aid in three northeast states from June to August.

OCHA said a massive funding shortfall had “forced some organisations to review plans and targets and in some cases reduce food distribution for the upcoming critical lean season”.

That “might negatively affect some of the progress made so far”, it added in its latest situation report.

“This, paired with recent nutrition assessments indicating deteriorating nutrition levels in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (states), is putting increased pressure on food security and nutrition responders,” the agency said.

– ‘Looming famine’ –

Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency has killed at least 20,000 people in northeast Nigeria and forced millions of others from their homes.

Lack of security, plus restrictions on travel and trade, have hit agriculture in a desperately poor region dependent on subsistence farming and fishing.

That has led to food shortages and driven up prices.

The UN says Nigeria needs $1.05 billion this year to fund vital humanitarian projects including food and healthcare provision, clean water, sanitation and education.

But on Tuesday it said the plan to tackle “the looming famine” was only about 20 percent-funded at $24 million.

“We need to do more, we need to do it quicker and we can always do better,” said the UN’s deputy humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Peter Lundberg.

Lundberg called the situation in the northeast “Africa’s worst humanitarian crisis” and said funding was “pivotal” as Nigeria faces up to the aftermath of the conflict.

Aid agencies working the region have stepped up their efforts with the approach of the rainy season, which sees already hard-to-reach rural areas cut off by flooding.

Makeshift dwellings are threatened with damage from heavy rains while the risk of disease — especially malaria and water-borne conditions such as typhoid and cholera — increases.

– ‘Precarious state’ –

Nigeria’s government had wanted to shut camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) in and around the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, by the end of May but was forced to abandon the plan.

Humanitarian agencies say camps elsewhere in Borno are facing increasing pressure because of the return of refugees from neighbouring Cameroon.

More than 6,000 people have registered with the immigration service since early April; 1,500 arrived in the first two weeks of May and 2,500 more are expected in border areas in the coming weeks.

“Returnees are arriving in areas where aid partners may not be fully prepared to provide assistance due to lack of presence and funding”, said OCHA.

“The conditions in return areas are very poor and camps are overcrowded. The situation continues to deteriorate with serious protection implications.

“The returnees are in a precarious state, lacking all basic life necessities, including shelter, food and water.”

Security also remains a persistent problem, with regular suicide and bomb attacks, despite military claims the militants have been weakened to the point of defeat.

Earlier this month, Britain and the United States warned that foreign aid workers were at increased risk of kidnapping in border areas where people are most in need of help.



Trump commits $300 million to fight Africa famine

May 24, 2017


© AFP/File | South Sudan has declared famine in parts of the country, saying a million people are on the brink of starvation


US President Donald Trump told Pope Francis on Wednesday he was committing more than $300 million (270 million euros) to help prevent or tackle famine in Yemen and several countries in Africa.

Trump, meeting the pontiff for the first time, said he had “renewed” the US “commitment to fighting global famine”, with the United Nations warning that about 20 million people across Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen are at risk.

The UN has described the situation as the biggest humanitarian crisis in its history, but donor funding is falling far short.

It appealed earlier this month for $4.4 billion, but said less than a third had been raised.

“As he (Trump) relayed at the Vatican, the United States is proud to announce more than $300 million in anti-famine spending” for the area, a White House statement said.

His announcement came just a day after the US State Department laid out plans to put “America first” and slash Washington’s budget for diplomacy and foreign aid by more than 30 percent.

The deepest cuts will hit foreign assistance programmes and contributions by the world’s largest economy to international organisations like the United Nations and its global peacekeeping budget.

Nearly 23,500 cholera cases, 242 deaths in Yemen in three weeks : WHO

May 19, 2017


© AFP | A cholera outbreak in war-ravaged Yemen has killed 242 people and left almost 25,000 sick in the past three weeks alone, according to the World Health Organization

GENEVA (AFP) – A cholera outbreak in war-ravaged Yemen has killed 242 people, and left nearly 23,500 others sick in the past three weeks alone, the World Health Organization said Friday.

The UN health agency said that in the past day alone, 20 cholera deaths and 3,460 suspected cases had been registered in the country, where two-thirds of the population are on the brink of famine.

“The speed of the resurgence of this cholera epidemic is unprecedented,” WHO country representative for Yemen Nevio Zagaria told reporters in Geneva by phone from Yemen, warning that a quarter of a million people could become sick by the end of the year.

Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread through contaminated food or water.

Reining in the disease is particularly complicated in Yemen, where two years of devastating war between the Huthis and government forces backed by a Saudi-led Arab military coalition has left more than half the country’s medical facilities out of service.

Zagaria pointed out that humanitarian workers cannot access some parts of the country, and that the number of suspected cholera cases could be far higher than those registered.

Yemen’s conflict has killed more than 8,000 people and wounded around 40,000 since March 2015, according to the WHO.

Zagaria pointed out that many of the remaining health workers in the country had not been paid for seven months.

At the same time, he said, lacking electricity meant water pumping stations were only functioning in an intermittent way, and the sewer systems were damaged.

“The population is using water sources that are contaminated,” he said.

Zagaria said the United Nations agencies were preparing to “release an emergency response cholera plan in the next 48 hours,” aimed at dramatically scaling up the number of treatment centres and rehydration centres.

At the same time, he said there was a dire need for funding to help Yemen authorities to make the necessary infrastructure repairs.

“The spread of the disease is too big and they need substantial support, in terms of repairing the sewer system, … treating and chlorinating the water sources.”

Without dramatic efforts to halt the spread of the disease, “the price that we will pay in terms of life will be extremely high,” he warned.

© 2017 AFP

Yemen Cholera Cases Could Hit 300,000 Within Six Months-WHO

May 19, 2017

GENEVA — Yemen could have as many as 300,000 cases of cholera within six months, the World Health Organization representative in the country, Nevio Zagaria, told reporters in Geneva by phone on Friday.

“We need to expect something that could go up to 200,000-250,000 cases over the next six months, in addition to the 50,000 cases that have already occurred,” he said.

“You can understand that with this number the price that we will pay in terms of lives will be extremely, extremely high.”

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Louise Ireland)




Nigeria’s humanitarian crisis could cause ‘mass exodus’ to Europe

May 18, 2017

May 18, 2017

After almost eight years of terror by Islamist militant group Boko Haram, famine looms in northern Nigeria. The unprecedented humanitarian crisis might cause a mass migration to Europe, experts warn.

Cape Town (dpa) – Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram has caused an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in northern Nigeria that could lead to a “mass exodus” in direction Europe, Nigeria’s chief humanitarian coordinator said.

“If we don’t deal with it now, my great fear is that tens of thousands will leave for Europe,” Ayoade Alakija told dpa.

“The migration routes are already there. It’s very simple math, really,” she explained.

Alakija’s concerns are echoed by a new study by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), which shows a direct link between high levels of food insecurity and increasing migration.

Each one percentage increase in food insecurity compels 1.9 percent more people to migrate, WFP found. With every additional year, a further 0.4 per cent of the population migrates, according to the study.

Why Nigeria is Faced With Worst Humanitarian Crisis In Africa, U.N

In the three states most affected by Boko Haram’s terror – Borno, Yobe and Adamawa – almost seven million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to United Nations humanitarian affairs office, OCHA. More than half of them are children.

More than five million people face acute food insecurity, said OCHA, while almost half a million children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition over the next twelve months if they don’t receive help.

They are not only in need of food but also water, sanitation, protection, education, shelter and health services.

Alakija believes the official UN statistics only reflect those in urgent need, noting that Nigeria’s national statistics indicate an even more severe situation.

About 26 million people are affected by displacement and food insecurity, according to the national humanitarian coordination office. At least 14 million of them are in need of assistance, while 8.5 million are in desperate need of assistance.

“It doesn’t get much worse than that,” said Alakija. “The next step is a declaration of famine, which we are trying to avoid at all cost.”

Image result for Nigeria, humanitarian crisis, photos

Nigeria’s military made some important gains in the fight against Boko Haram. The terrorists lost control over many areas in the north-east. Earlier this month, they released 82 of the more than 200 school girls abducted more than three years ago from their school in the town of Chibok.

But almost eight years of insurgency have turned the region into a “chronically underdeveloped” area, according to the UN.

Farmers have missed several planting seasons due to the ongoing threat of terrorism, in areas largely dependent on an agrarian economy. Villages have been destroyed, livestock stolen, fields and crops looted and torched.

Two women sit together on a hospital bed and cradle their babies, who are being treated for acute watery diarrhea at a stabilization centre for malnourished children, at Bay Regional Hospital in the south-western town of Baidoa, Somalia, on Feb 1, 2017.
Photo by Karel Prinsloo/UNICEF

“Access to jobs and food has been practically cut off in north-eastern Nigeria,” said Alakija.

Getting aid to the region is a complex and difficult task because the security situation remains volatile in many parts of the north-east, with aid agencies unable to access those in need, explained William Assanvo, researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Dakar.

More than 80 per cent of Borno State – where Boko Haram has most of its hideouts – remain at high to very high risk for humanitarian agencies, according to the UN.

With the rainy season having started this month, further areas have become inaccessible.

In addition, President Muhammadu Buhari’s ill health has slowed down the responsiveness of Africa’s most populous nation of 180 million people.

After a seven-week medical leave in Britain in the beginning of the year, the 74-year-old in May again returned to London for medical consultations.

Donor funding has trickled in only slowly.

OCHA said it so far received 67 per cent of the eight million dollars required to address the emergency effectively.

Other humanitarian crises around the globe, such as in Syria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen, have dried up the availability of funds.

“There have also been several allegations of aid being mismanaged by national authorities in Nigeria,” said Assanvo.

Government officials in the north-east have been accused of stealing and selling aid provisions and of having sex with women in exchange for food.

Ending the crisis would need more than the provision of food and other humanitarian services, argued Alakija.

“We need to provide hope by looking at the root causes,” she stressed. “Otherwise we leave them with little choice but to leave.”

Since 2009, at least 20,000 people have died at the hands of the Sunni fundamentalists in Nigeria as well as in neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger. According to the United Nations, an estimated 2.6 million people in the region have fled their homes due to Boko Haram.

hunger somalia south sudan nigeria yemenHayisha Mehamed waits to be seen by an MHNT heath worker with her 1-year-old daughter on Feb. 15, 2017.
Image: Photo by Nahom Tesfaye/UNICEF

UN053467_002.jpgWomen wait with their children to be examined and possibly given supplementary food in a mobile clinic run by UNICEF during a Rapid Response Mission (RRM) in the village of Rubkuai, Unity State, South Sudan, Feb. 16, 2017.
Image: Photo by Siegfried Modola/UNICEF

“Islamic State Acts of Genocide” — Almost 10,000 Yazidis killed or kidnapped — But true scale of horror may never be known

May 10, 2017

More than 3,000 people were executed out of a total of 10,000 killed in matter of days in 2014, a new study finds

By Lizzie Dearden
The Independent



‘Devil worshippers’: torture inflicted on the Yazidi people by Isis includes rape, stealing children and forced conversions – researchers say the true scale of suffering cannot be charted

The true scale of the genocide inflicted on Yazidis by Isis during its brutal sweep through Iraq may never be known as thousands remain in captivity, researchers have warned.

A new study published in weekly journal PLOS Medicine concluded that an estimated 9,900 members of the ethnic minority were killed or captured in a matter of days in August 2014.

Of that figure 3,100 were murdered, with almost half executed by gunshot, beheading or being burned alive, while the rest died from starvation, dehydration or injuries during the Isis siege on Mount Sinjar.

Researchers estimated that 6,800 other Yazidis were kidnapped in the brutal campaign, with over a third still missing at the time of the survey.

Lead author Dr Valeria Cetorelli warned that the toll may even be higher because of the reliance of survivors to report deaths and disappearances.

“Because the attack was so indiscriminate, in many cases entire families were captured together if they didn’t escape in time,” she told The Independent.

“It is possible that no one managed to escape, so there are no survivors and zero possibility of being included in our survey.

Remains of more than 20 Yazidis found in Iraq mass grave

“At least one household member needed to survive to report the killing and kidnappings of others.”

While adult men were most likely to have been executed by militants, almost all of the victims who died after fleeing up Mount Sinjar were children under the age of 15, the research found.

Isis’s punishing siege, seeing tens of thousands trapped without food, water or shelter in 50C heat, sparked the first US airstrikes against the jihadi group in Iraq, alongside British aid drops.

The operation, and an effort by Kurdish forces on the ground, let Yazidis flee through a safe corridor through Syria to the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, where more than 300,000 remain while others stayed in Sinjar or moved onwards to Syria and Turkey.

The study, conducted by researchers in the US, UK, Israel and Iraqi Kurdistan, found that children have been disproportionately affected by the genocide.

As well as making up the vast majority of deaths on Mount Sinjar – constituting 93 per cent of deaths – they are also the least likely to have escaped Isis captivity.

Dr Cetorelli, who is also a research officer at LSE and a postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said escapees documented torture, sex slavery, forced religious conversion and recruitment as child soldiers.

“We heard several accounts of girls being gifted or sold to Isis fighters as sex slaves and the boys being forced into training camps,” she added.

“More than one third of the kidnapped are still missing and it wasn’t possible to determine whether they are still alive or not.

“This is really an ongoing genocide because thousands of people are still in captivity.”

Several Isis propaganda videos have featured Yazidi child soldiers, while the terrorist group has also used magazines in attempts to justify the taking of thousands of women and girls as sex slaves.

Researchers said families who failed to escape were rounded up en masse and divided up as part of the “systematic” genocide that saw men and boys above the age of 12 separated and massacred if they refused to convert to Islam.

A woman who was 17 when Isis overran her village told how her 16-year-old brother was killed and nine-year-old brother enlisted as a child soldier, before she was kidnapped as a sex slave and raped by nine militants.

Dalal is among those who eventually escaped but thousands of women and children remain in Isis captivity almost three years after they were abducted, with some killing themselves.

Researchers, who questioned 1,300 households of displaced Yazidis living in Iraqi Kurdistan, said suffering continues despite Iraqi government forces driving Isis back out of the region.

“It’s almost three years since the attack and the people are still displaced,” Dr Cetorelli said.

The Yazidi children of Isis’ training camps

“The Sinjar region has been taken back from Isis but it has been almost completely destroyed so it will be not possible for them to go back for a long time.

“The situation gets worse and worse every day for those living in camps.”

The UN formally recognised Isis’s campaign as genocide in June 2016, saying the situation was “ongoing”, but a lack of formal research on the death toll has hampered international action.

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria found that after classifying Yazidis as “devil worshippers” because of their links to other religions and mysticism, Isis “sought to erase” the population.

It said the group used killings, sexual slavery, enslavement, torture, inhuman treatment and forcible transfer to further its aim, as well as the imposition of measures to prevent Yazidi children from being born, the forced conversion of adults and kidnapping children to be brought up by Isis militants.

The UN said “there can be no impunity” for the crimes, urging the Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court or a tribunal, as well as protecting the long-persecuted Yazidi minority.

Dr Cetorelli urged the international community not merely to focus on the events of 2014, but to help the survivors and attempt to rescue remaining captives.

“Three years ago there was a lot of attention but it’s still ongoing and the international community must retain its attention,” she added.

“We hope that these estimates will support a formal genocide investigation to hold the perpetrators to account.”


Image may contain: text




© Mohamed El-Shahed / AFP (file photo) | Members of the Egyptian police special forces stand guard on Cairo’s landmark Tahrir Square on January 25, 2016.

Relatives of a Christian woman who was killed in the bombing of Cairo's main Coptic cathedral carry her casked in Cairo on Monday.
Relatives of a Christian woman who was killed in the bombing of Cairo’s main Coptic cathedral carry her casked in Cairo on December 14, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
 (December 2016)

Members of the special police forces stand guard to secure the area around St. Mark"s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral after an explosion inside the cathedral in Cairo

The building bombed in December 2016 is next to St Mark’s Coptic Cathedral, seat of the church’s pope. Reuters Photo

A Christian employee at Cairo's Coptic Cathedral checks for damage from the blast after an explosion inside the cathedral in Cairo

The interior of the church, where Christians had gathered, was also hit in the explosion. AP photo

Image result for Reina nightclub attack, photos

Islamist gunman Abdulgadir Masharipov killed 39 people  in the Reina nightclub shooting on January 1, 2017, in Istanbul. © Dogan News Agency/AFP/File

 (December 11, 2016)

David Dosha, the priest of the Church of Mart Shmoni, located in the Christian Iraqi town of Bartella. (Safin Hamed/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

An Iraqi Christian forces member lights a candle at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on October 30, 2016 in the town of Qaraqosh (also known as Hamdaniya), 30 kms east of Mosul, after Iraqi forces recaptured it from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (AFP/ SAFIN HAMED)
An Iraqi Christian forces member lights a candle at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on October 30, 2016 in the town of Qaraqosh (also known as Hamdaniya), 30 kms east of Mosul, after Iraqi forces recaptured it from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (AFP/ SAFIN HAMED)
26 July 2016
A photo of Priest Jacques Hamel taken from the website of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray parish84 year-old Father Jacques Hamel was giving morning Mass when the Islamist attackers stormed his church. AFP



The Isis jihadist group

UNHCR defends NGO charity groups over migrant rescues in Mediterranean

May 8, 2017

The UNHCR has defended charity groups rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean as they come under criticism in Italy. It also reported on a dire situation for children in South Sudan.

Mittelmeer Gerettete Flüchtlinge (picture-alliance/abaca/I. Pastor)

The UN refugee agency has defended private aid groups rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean. Some of them have been accused in Italy of cooperating with smugglers in Libya.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said on Sunday there needed to be a greater effort to rescue a rising number of migrants using Libya as a springboard to reach Europe by boat.

“This is a matter of life or death which appeals to our most basic sense of humanity and should not be called into question,” Grandi said.  “The tireless efforts of the Italian Coast Guard, in coordination with Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, and of NGOs are truly remarkable.”

Italy’s ruling center-left Democratic Party and the European Commission have also defended the NGOs.

NGOs have rescued about one-third of the more than 43,000 migrants who have made the crossing so far this year. On Friday and Saturday alone, some 6,000 migrants were picked up at sea by NGOs, the Italian navy and Frontex reported.  More than 1,150 migrants have drowned so far this year.

Watch video05:04

Italy: Refugees welcome

Accusations of collusion

Italian Prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro has in recent weeks accused some private charity boats of colluding with Libyan traffickers, allegations that have been picked up by some politicians in Italy.

The EU border control agency Frontex in a February report described the NGOs as “unintentionally” acting like a “pull factor” for more crossings by saving migrants close to the Libyan coast. But Frontex says there is no evidence of collaboration between the smugglers and NGOs.

The NGOs, led by SOS Mediterranee and Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), have defended their actions and denied cooperating with Libyan smugglers. They say they are simply carrying out rescues that should be organized by European governments.

Zuccaro has said bigger charities like MSF and Save the Children were beyond reproach, but he accused smaller private NGO boats of cooperating with smugglers. He has presented no hard evidence to back up the claims, which have since been echoed by Italy’s populist Five Star Movement and right-wing Northern League.

Migrants from Africa fleeing war and poverty have created an opportunity for smugglers based in Libya.

War, famine and poverty

The UN said on Monday that war and famine have forced more than two million children in South Sudan to flee their homes.

Seven-month-old Gire is one of over a million children fleeing violence in South Sudan. Help is urgently needed 

Describing it as the most worrying refugee crisis in the world, Valentin Tapsoba, the UNHCR director in Africa, said, “No refugee crisis today worries me more than South Sudan.” He added: “That refugee children are becoming the defining face of this emergency is incredibly troubling.”

In the country of 12 million people, nearly 75 percent of children do not attend school, more than a million children have fled outside South Sudan and a further million are internally displaced.

cw/jm (AFP, dpa)

Growing African repression causing migrant exodus: Oxfam (Also drought, famine, poverty, war, terrorism, corruption, bad government….)

May 6, 2017


© AFP/File / by Gregory WALTON | While more than 1,000 migrants have died making the perilous Mediterranean crossing from Libya to Italy so far in 2017, more than 36,700 people have been pulled to safety


African countries are becoming increasingly repressive and causing more people to leave their homes, British charity Oxfam said this week, as Germany warned of the destabilising effect migration is having on the continent.

Political freedom and the problem of Africa’s brain-drain were among the leading issues on the agenda at the World Economic Forum on Africa held in Durban which wrapped up on Friday.

Oxfam’s executive director Winnie Byanyima said that “repressive laws on freedom of association and speech” were “a driver of migration.”

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble warned at the gathering that “if we fail to stabilise the African continent in the years and decades to come, we will face increasing geopolitical risks” — including more migrant arrivals in Europe.

South African President Jacob Zuma, who hosted the forum of African movers and shakers, described the handling of migration as among the “critical challenges facing the world”.

The total number of migrants worldwide reached 244 million in 2015, and among them a record 63 million were forced to leave their homes, including refugees, people displaced within their own countries and asylum seekers, the World Food Programme said Friday.

Byanyima said that massive outflows from Africa were a damning verdict on the performance of the continent’s political class.

“That is a judgement on the leadership we have on our continent, failing to create economic opportunities for their people,” she told AFP.

“In many of those countries you have repressive illegitimate regimes that spend the money that should go toward empowering their people on security systems, on monitoring their people, oppositions and silencing media.”

– ‘Maintain fighting poverty’ –

A recent survey by CIVICUS, which monitors freedoms worldwide, found that only two African countries were fully open — the island nations of Cape Verde and Sao Tome & Principe.

Not one country on the African mainland was found to be free.

Byanyima also criticised wealthy governments which have diverted their aid budgets into covering the costs of refugee arrivals.

“Rich countries must stop repurposing aid, they must maintain aid for the conflict-affected countries. They must not divert it to meeting refugee costs in their countries or their security needs. They must maintain it for fighting poverty,” she said.

“If they help to make countries stable, to achieve inclusive growth then people will not want to leave their homes. Development cooperation is a tool for peace and stability.”

More than 1,000 migrants have died making the perilous Mediterranean crossing from Libya to Italy so far in 2017, according to the UN refugee agency.

More than 36,700 people have been pulled to safety and brought to Italy so far this year according to the International Organization for Migration, an increase of nearly 45 percent compared with the same period last year.

At least 150 of those killed were children, though the figure is likely to be higher as many underage migrants travel unaccompanied so their deaths often go unreported, according to UNICEF.

Distressing images of African migrants being plucked from heaving seas or the coffin-strewn aftermath of major sinkings have become a regular feature of television news bulletins since the migrant crisis began spiralling out of control four years ago. Last year saw around 5,000 deaths.

Italy’s bid to close the marine migrant route from Africa to Europe was dashed after a deal it had signed with Libya was suspended by Tripoli’s Court of Appeal in March. The deal had been fiercely criticised by rescue groups and human rights campaigners.

by Gregory WALTON



Africa: Collective Amnesia in Famine Response and Long-Range Food Production Solutions



Washington DC — The emerging drought-induced humanitarian crisis–prevailing in countries from Niger in West Africa to Somalia in East Africa–and conflict-driven famine conditions in South Sudan, Somalia, and Northeast Nigeria, have become a regular phenomenon.

Even though these food crises can be prevented, they persistently arise due to the development community’s collective amnesia on what has worked and what has not in famine response, recovery, and resilience-building.

Image may contain: text

We know countries that have constructed robust policies, institutions, and food systems capable of withstanding natural and human-induced shocks fare better than those with weak systems, but approaches to development haven’t changed to reflect this knowledge.

A new approach to drought response and famine recovery must involve building durable systems at various levels. By creating strong systems for implementing policies, building institutions, and growing and delivering food, countries can prevent the most deleterious effects of frequent shocks, and also have the capability to bounce back quickly to a normal development process.

Currently a large segment of population–close to 20 million–faces starvation and possible death. Following the declaration of drought and national emergencies, country governments and international organizations have begun their usual response routine: identifying the vulnerable population, estimating the emergency aid needs, and planning the associated workshops and conferences.

While all these activities are a necessary part of famine response and recovery, it remains a puzzle as to why we keep “reinventing the wheel” to address a challenge that has long been part of the development process. Today, climate change is finally forcing policy makers to rethink their response paradigm: from “relief and development” to “relief to resilient food systems.”

The need for a paradigm shift is clear from the lessons from drought responses over the last 40 years. A key lesson is that unless national response systems are resilient to meet natural and manmade shocks, they will be continuously “firefighting.” Emergency resources will be repeatedly diverted to address annual cycles of drought, while countries lose ground on long-term development plans.

Policy systems resilience

The effectiveness of a country’s national policy system in identifying drought-related challenges and developing intervention strategies depends on the strength of the policy process. The actors in the policy process must develop common goals to address food emergencies and balance these goals with long-term development strategies.

Such balancing in Ethiopia over the past 20 years has built a policy system that is highly adaptable in managing drought while simultaneously investing in long-term development. For example, Ethiopia’s productive social safety nets for vulnerable communities also helped build local infrastructure for sustainable development.

Strengthening policy-making systems including safety nets and subsidies could simplify and shorten the decision-making process, allowing countries to focus their efforts on the most vulnerable groups without forgoing long-term development.

The Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency is an example of linking long-term development with resilience-building initiatives. The Agency coordinates action plans to help provide and enable policy on the assessment, response, and financing of a drought-related crisis. A robust policy-making process under various circumstances can guide policy-making systems to ensure that they are responsive and accountable.

In this respect, the current drought-induced emergencies are an opportunity to strengthen national lawmaking for development and implementation of comprehensive policies and strategies to protect vulnerable populations both in the immediate and in the long run.

Institutional resilience

Existing institutions are inadequate for meeting emerging issues in the development process, let alone the complexity of challenges arising from drought and conflict. In the context of famine prevention and recovery, flexible institutions are essential.

For example, a well-equipped famine early warning system that quickly collects, processes, and analyzes data from around the country is fundamental. In countries where such systems exist, they can assess of the number of people affected and deploy the best responses more quickly than those without an effective system.

During conflict, however, key institutions such as agricultural research either function poorly or completely fall apart. Sustaining local institutions during the conflict period and using them effectively during response and recovery stages can help build their strength in the long run.

These institutions can be useful not only for aid distribution in emergencies but also implementation of social safety nets during normal periods. For example, during times of famine in Bangladesh, the government used schools as food distribution centers.

Developments in information and communications technology, such as mobile banking, provide opportunities for effective targeting and swift transfer of cash resources to vulnerable groups.

Cash transfers to remote areas can help promote trade and markets in those areas. This approach helps build sturdy local markets and creates demand for basic commodities that continue during normal times. Cash transfers through Brazil’s Bolsa Família program is a typical example of this approach.

© AFP | South Sudan government forces and allied militias have denied access to — and sometimes attacked — aid workers and looted relief supplies.

Food system resilience

Resilient food systems can help reduce the impacts of drought on food and nutrition security. Countries that have built efficient food harvesting or distribution systems are better able to prevent famines even when faced with severe drought.

For example, the Ethiopian government invested in service delivery systems to share knowledge on innovations in farming and to provide modern inputs such as high-yielding seed varieties and chemical fertilizers. Strengthening the resources available for communities is a key factor in preventing famines.

Foreign aid assistance in drought-affected countries should focus on both emergency help and long-term building.

A successful example is India’s rural employment guarantee scheme, which uses natural resources to build rural infrastructure for vulnerable groups. Such approaches supply crop and animal inputs, rehabilitate land and water resources, and build micro-irrigation, all of which can help to fight future droughts in the short and long run.

In addition, famine prevention and drought responses need to go beyond country borders.

International and bilateral organizations have been effective in helping governments with famine early warning information and in coordinating food security and nutrition interventions, but in the long run have failed to build sustainable local institutions.

How the current emergency is handled has larger implications for the success of regional commitments such as the Malabo Declaration on agricultural transformation and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

A large population is currently under threat of famine across the African continent from Niger to Somalia. Although triggered by frequent droughts, the famine-like conditions are mostly preventable, except in war-ravaged areas.

Countries with adequate resilience have managed to reduce the adverse effects of drought on vulnerable populations, while others have not.

Even with political will and the current level of international support, the need for building local support as a fundamental part of the response is too often lost to collective amnesia. But if we build on policy, institutional and food capacities, lessons from past efforts and innovations can help achieve food security and prevent famines in the affected regions.