Posts Tagged ‘starvation’

Fighting in South Sudan Casts Shadow Over Peace Talks

March 31, 2018

Bloomberg

By Okech Francis

  • Clashes reported between rebels, army near Ugandan border
  • Famine looms in African nation as four-year civil war drags on

Clashes flared between South Sudanese troops and rebels, complicating talks to end the civil war, two days after a regional bloc called for the insurgents’ leader to be freed from house arrest in South Africa.

The army and rebels blamed each other for instigating the Wednesday clashes in Kajokeji, near the Ugandan border. Rebel official Lam Paul Gabriel claimed 28 soldiers and one insurgent were killed, while army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said he didn’t have details.

 
Lam Paul Gabriel

Fresh violence is imperiling efforts to broker an end to the more than four-year conflict that’s claimed tens of thousands of lives, with the latest peace talks due in Ethiopia on April 26. East African cease-fire monitors on Thursday expressed “deep concern” over reports of hostilities in Central Equatoria, where Kajokeji is located, and areas of the oil-rich Upper Nile region.

 Image result for Lam Paul Gabriel, photos

On March 26, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a bloc of East African nations also known as IGAD, urged the release of Riek Machar, the former vice president turned-rebel leader who’s been under house arrest in South Africa since late-2016.

If he renounces violence, Machar should be allowed to move to any country that doesn’t border South Sudan, IGAD said in a statement. The bloc also said it was resolved to “continue monitoring and taking necessary measures, including targeted sanctions, against violators” of a cease-fire agreement.

The conflict has forced 4 million people from their homes, cut oil production — a crucial source of government revenue — and caused economic chaos. Areas of the country are on the brink of famine and two-thirds of the 12 million population may face food shortages by May.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-29/shadow-cast-over-peace-talks-as-fighting-flares-in-south-sudan

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Hungry Venezuelan Workers Are Collapsing. So Is the Oil Industry

February 24, 2018

Bloomberg

Starving employees are growing too weak for heavy labor, hobbling the refineries that keep the economy running.

A Petroleos de Venezuela worker heads toward a bus stop to travel to work. Thousands have walked off their jobs as food becomes scarce and money loses value.

Photographer: Wil Riera/Bloomberg

At 6:40 a.m., Pablo Ruiz squats at the gate of a decaying refinery in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, steeling himself for eight Sisyphean hours of brushing anti-rust paint onto pipes under a burning sun. For breakfast, the 55-year-old drank corn-flour water.

Ruiz’s weekly salary of 110,000 bolivares — about 50 cents at the black-market exchange rate — buys him less than a kilo of corn meal or rice. His only protein comes from 170 grams of canned tuna included in a food box the government provides to low-income families. It shows up every 45 days or so.

“I haven’t eaten meat for two months,” he said. “The last time I did, I spent my whole week’s salary on a chicken meal.”

Hunger is hastening the ruin of Venezuelan’s oil industry as workers grow too weak and hungry for heavy labor. With children dying of malnutrition and adults sifting garbage for table scraps, food has become more important than employment, and thousands are walking off the job. Absenteeism and mass resignations mean few are left to produce the oil that keeps the tattered economy functioning.

An oil worker’s refrigerator is bare at a home in Anzoategui State.
Photographer: Wil Riera/Bloomberg

Venezuela, a socialist autocracy that once was South America’s most prosperous nation, is suffering a collapse almost without precedent, its gross domestic product dropping 40 percent since 2013. Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), the government oil company and economic linchpin, has fallen into chaos as leaders replaced expert managers with loyalists, padded the payroll and channeled revenue to social programs — and to epic corruption. Production fell by half in the past 16 years. Daily output dropped to 1.77 million barrels in January from a peak of 3.34 million in 2001.

Much of the decline is due to lack of money for maintenance and exploration. Recently, though, hunger is also to blame. A survey by three Venezuelan universities released Wednesday found that that more than 64 percent of residents lost weight in 2017, on average 25 pounds. More than 61 percent of respondents said they had gone to bed hungry over the past three months.

Ivan Freitas, a PDVSA union leader and critic of President Nicolas Maduro’s regime, said Wednesday that in Zulia State 12 malnourished workers collapsed in November and December and had to be taken off drilling platforms for treatment. More go down each day, he said.

Alirio Villasmil, a diver, does underwater maintenance on ships transporting oil in Lake Maracaibo, in western Venezuela. He said in an interview that three people he supervises fainted while working, and he had to rush them from rig platforms to the hospital. He has sent home others too weak to dive.

Jose Bodas, a union leader, says PDVSA managers are branding those who quit as traitors.
Photographer: Wil Riera/Bloomberg

Luis Diaz, a PDVSA tugboat pilot at Puerto La Cruz, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) east of Caracas, said his union has complained to management about malnourished workers passing out on the job.

The Puerto La Cruz region and its ports, where refineries and upgraders are laid out against verdant bluffs and postcard beaches, produce about 89 percent of Venezuelan oil exports, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. About 42,000 workers labor at PDVSA facilities there, processing crude extracted from the plains of the Orinoco basin. Chevron Corp., Statoil ASA, Total SA and Rosneft PJSC partner with the state company to pump it into international markets.

For decades, PDVSA was a dream job in a socialist petro-state. The company supplied workers not only with a good living and revolutionary-red coveralls, but cafeterias that served lunches with soup, a main course, dessert and freshly squeezed juice. Now, the cafeterias are mostly bare, the children are hungry and employees are leaving to work as taxi drivers, plumbers or farmers. Some emigrate. Some hold out as long as they can.

Once coveted, discarded PDVSA jumpsuits are for sale in street markets.
Photographer: Wil Riera/Bloomberg

Those who quit without notice risk losing their pensions, as bureaucrats refuse to process paperwork. Many managers live in terror of arrest since the Maduro regime purged the industry, imprisoning officials from low-level apparatchiks to former oil ministers. In one human resources office, a sign advertised a limit of five resignations a day.

“Management is holding them back to stop brain and technical drain,” said Jose Bodas, general secretary of United Federation of Venezuelan Oil Workers. He estimates 500 employees have resigned at the Puerto La Cruz refinery and nearby processing facilities in the past 12 months — even though superiors have labeled them “traitors to the homeland,” a phrase that often precedes arrest. In the streets, families sell their boots and the red coveralls.

“They’re giving up because of hunger,” Bodas said. “They’re leaving because they get paid better abroad. This is unheard of, a catastrophe.”

Efforts to reach PDVSA and the nation’s oil ministry were unsuccessful.

Wages made meaningless by hyperinflation force workers who remain to rely on the facilities for food. Some change clothes to eat twice, or show up on their off days. Many hoard meals and take them home. Some have started to bring their children. When the cafeterias stopped delivering food in December, protests erupted. A crowd of angry men gathered in PDVSA’s Puerta La Cruz headquarters chanting “Our families are dying.”

“A few weeks ago, punches were nearly thrown at the food line, when the workers realized there was little left,” said Leonardo Ugarte, a worker at the Petrocedeno upgrader, a joint venture among PDVSA, France’s Total and Norway’s Statoil. Faced with the possibility of riots, PDVSA sends workers home when food is scarce.

Dr. Marianella Herrera, head of the Central University of Venezuela’s health and development department, said local health authorities recommend consuming 2,300 calories a day. Since 2015, when the collapse of the economy started to really be felt, researchers found some rural residents consuming as few as 400 calories a day, she said, an “anemic” diet of grains, rice and tubers.

John Hoddinott, a Cornell University professor of applied economics and a nutritional scientist, said people doing strenuous work need at least 3,600 calories a day. When they get less, at first they merely shed weight. Then, torpor sets in.

“Basically, they just can’t work as hard,” he said. “It’s a gradual process, but in the long term it can have very dramatic consequences”

Endy Torres used to enjoy company-supplied meals of rice, salad, a protein, fruit, juice and dessert. Now he goes without.
Photographer: Wil Riera/Bloomberg

Sitting in the living room of his house, on his day off, Endy Torres says he has lost 33 pounds over the past 18 months. He shows his PDVSA identification photo as proof: a chubby-cheeked man, weighing 176 pounds.

Ten years ago, he joined the company expecting an ample salary and comfortable pension. Today, his 700,000 bolivars per month, plus a food bonus of 1.6 million bolivars (about $9.50 altogether) can’t fill the fridge at his grandmother’s house, where he lives.

About 10 people from his department resigned in January. There are 263 plant operators remaining and 180 vacancies at the Puerto La Cruz refinery, he said.

Absenteeism forces those who show up to work extra hours and burn precious calories. The lack of investment in equipment and maintenance has increased technical failures, almost all in the early hours of the morning, he said. When they occur, workers are too fatigued to act quickly, and accidents occur.

“We have a physical exhaustion that we can not avoid,” he said. “We are dying of hunger in the oil industry.”

—With assistance from Lucia Kassai and Andrew Rosati

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-02-22/hungry-venezuelan-workers-are-collapsing-so-is-the-oil-industry

Venezuelans are starving amid economic crisis, food shortages

February 22, 2018

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, right, and his wife Cilia Flores

Reuters

February 22, 2018 | 1:49am

CARACAS – Venezuelans reported losing on average 24 lbs in body weight last year and almost 90 percent now live in poverty, according to a new university study on the impact of a devastating economic crisis and food shortages.

The annual survey, published on Wednesday by three universities, is one of the most closely-followed assessments of Venezuelans’ well being amid a government information vacuum and shows a steady rise in poverty and hunger in recent years.

Over 60 percent of Venezuelans surveyed said that during the previous three months they had woken up hungry because they did not have enough money to buy food. About a quarter of the population was eating two or less meals a day, the study showed.

Last year, the three universities found that Venezuelans said they had lost an average of 8 kilograms during 2016. This time, the study’s dozen investigators surveyed 6,168 Venezuelans between the ages of 20 and 65 across the country of 30 million people.

After winning the presidency in 1999, leftist President Hugo Chavez was proud of improving Venezuela’s social indicators due to oil-fueled welfare policies. But his successor President Nicolas Maduro’s rule since 2013 has coincided with a deep recession, due to failed state-led economic policies and the plunge in global oil prices.

Wednesday’s study flagged Venezuelans’ deteriorating diets, which are deficient in vitamins and protein, as currency controls restrict food imports, hyperinflation eats into salaries, and people line up for hours to buy basics like flour.

Image may contain: one or more people and people sitting

“Income is being pulverized,” Maria Ponce, one of the study’s investigators, told a news conference at the Andres Bello Catholic University on Caracas’s outskirts.

“This disparity between the rise in prices and the population’s salaries is so generalized that there is practically not a single Venezuelan who is not poor,” she said.

The study calculated the poverty rate from 13 different indicators such as income and access to services. If the average of these indicators was above 25 percent, investigators defined a person as poor.

Prices in Venezuela rose 4,068 percent in the 12 months to the end of January, according to estimates by the country’s opposition-led National Assembly, broadly in line with independent economists’ figures.

The study showed that 87 percent of people in Venezuela, one of Latin America’s wealthiest nations back in the 1970s, were living in poverty last year, rising from 82 percent in 2016 and 48 percent in 2014.

The Venezuelan government has not released data on poverty since the first half of 2015 when the national statistics institute reported a poverty rate of 33 percent.

The government did not respond to a request for comments on the study, but its supporters often accuse academics of exaggerating data and being in league with the opposition.

Maduro blames the country’s problems on an economic war waged by the opposition and business leaders, with help from Washington.

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Yemen separatists surround Aden presidential palace

January 30, 2018

AFP

© AFP | Yemeni separatists are seen in the southern city of Aden on January 28, 2018

ADEN (AFP) – Separatists in war-ravaged Yemen have surrounded the presidential palace in the government’s de facto capital Aden, moving closer Tuesday to taking full control of the southern city.The government has accused the separatists of attempting a coup in Aden, where more than 36 people have been killed in clashes that opened yet another front in the country’s devastating conflict.

The southern port city has served as the government’s base since 2014 after the Iran-backed Huthi rebels — who hail from northern Yemen — took control of the capital Sanaa in their fight against the state.

While President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi now resides in Riyadh, two military officials said Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher and a number of senior government figures were holed up in the Aden presidential palace.

“The separatists have surrounded the palace and now control the main gate. Those inside are unofficially under house arrest at this point,” said a high-ranking officer with the Yemeni army.

For three years, Hadi’s Saudi-backed administration was allied with the separatists, driving the Huthi rebels out of the south and back into their strongholds in the north.

But tension between the allies began to surface in April when Hadi dismissed a cabinet minister and the Aden governor in a move that was widely seen as reflecting divisions among his supporters.

Tensions boiled over into armed clashes between the separatists and pro-government forces on Sunday, fuelling chaos in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country where a civil war has already left thousands dead and millions on the brink of starvation.

– Demand for self-rule –

Under the self-proclaimed Southern Transitional Council (STC), the separatists have gained traction since April in their push for self-rule, demanding the reinstatement of South Yemen as an independent entity.

The STC this month called on Hadi to make changes in his government, accusing him of corruption and mismanagement.

The clashes have sparked fears of a repeat of the 1986 South Yemen civil war, a failed socialist coup which killed thousands in just six days and helped pave the way for the 1991 unification of South and North Yemen.

The separatists, who enjoy popular support and are backed by some military troops, have rapidly gained control over all but one district in Aden since Sunday.

More than 36 people have been killed and 186 wounded in Aden in two days, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Brigadier Saleh al-Sayyed, who heads troops that have fought alongside the separatists since Sunday, announced his forces had seized control of the Fourth Brigade, the presidential guard in Aden.

Yemen’s president has urged Saudi Arabia and its allies to intervene in the government’s defence.

The coalition said it would take “all necessary steps to restore security” but has not announced any new operation to help the government in Aden since Sunday.

– Ceasefire plea –

More than 9,200 Yemenis have been killed since the coalition intervened in the war in 2015, triggering what the UN has called the world’s largest humanitarian disaster.

Nearly 2,200 more have died of cholera amid deteriorating hygiene and sanitation conditions, the World Health Organization says.

The United Arab Emirates is a key member of the military alliance, but also has close ties to one of the leaders of the STC — Hani bin Breik, the cabinet minister sacked by Hadi in April.

The UAE has trained a special operations force in the Yemeni army, dubbed the “security belt”, stationed in southern Yemen.

The force supports the STC. Some troops in the Yemeni army are also loyal to the separatists.

Both the coalition and the Hadi government have called for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen, and the interior ministry has publicly called on state troops to stop fighting.

The coalition on Monday called on the separatists to exercise restraint while urging the Yemeni government to “take into consideration the demands of the social and political movement” in the south.

Abducted Yemenis kept in chains in Houthi jails

December 25, 2017

 

Yemeni tribesmen from the Popular Resistance Committees, loyal to Yemen’s Saudi-backed President, disembark from a pickup truck carrying an anti-aircraft gun as they park on a desert road in Beihan, in the Shabwa province, on December 18, 2017. / AFP / ABDULLAH AL-QADRY
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JEDDAH: Iran-backed Houthi militias are keeping abducted Yemeni civilians imprisoned in chains, and forcing them to wear thin prison clothing in sub-zero temperatures.

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Yemenis illegally detained in the Houthis’ “political security” jail in Sanaa have been denied family visits, and relatives are banned from bringing them food, water, medicines and clothes, or to check on their well-being, the Mothers’ Association of the Kidnapped Yemenis said on Sunday.
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“Despite the fact that these are the coldest days of winter, the prison supervisors have tortured our sons physically and psychologically, tied their legs with chains and withdrawn all their clothes,” the organization said. Sanaa is currently enduring temperatures of five degrees below zero for the first time in 29 years.
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Abducted Yemenis in Houthi prisons have also been tortured, and are suffering from serious illnesses because they are denied access to daylight and their health is being deliberately neglected, the mothers’ group said.
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They called on the UN special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, to fulfill his humanitarian commitment to the abducted Yemenis, and appealed to the Red Crescent to visit them.
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The group also urged the UNHRC and other human rights groups to exert pressure on the Houthi militias to release the prisoners unconditionally.
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Houthi prisons, both official and clandestine, hold thousands of innocent Yemenis who opposed the militias’ 2014 coup.
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The campaign of kidnappings and abductions intensified after popular uprisings against the Houthis by Yemenis loyal to the late former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was murdered by the militias on Dec. 4.
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The Houthi militias have also recruited child soldiers to fight for them, and Saudi Arabia is leading efforts to rehabilitate these traumatized children. The King Salman Centre for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSRelief) concluded the second phase of one such project on Saturday, along with the Withaq Foundation, the local company that implements it.
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The project helped 40 children under 15 from Taiz Governorate in south-western Yemen and Imran Governorate in the north.
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Over a month, the children were rehabilitated psychologically, socially and culturally to reintegrate them into the community. There were also awareness and entertainment trips and lectures for the children’s carers.
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The scheme will eventually rehabilitate about 2,000 children from throughout Yemen who have been recruited by the Houthis as child soldiers and human shields.
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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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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.

“DESPERATE MEASURES”

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

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

LAGOS (AFP) – 

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.

by Phil HAZLEWOOD

 

Trump commits $300 million to fight Africa famine

May 24, 2017

AFP

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

VATICAN CITY (AFP) – 

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

© 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