Inter Press ServiceInter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 21 Sep 2017 17:13:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 The Crisis of Refugees and Their Sufferings Call for a Solutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/crisis-refugees-sufferings-call-solution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crisis-refugees-sufferings-call-solution http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/crisis-refugees-sufferings-call-solution/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 16:06:02 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152191 Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

The post The Crisis of Refugees and Their Sufferings Call for a Solution appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Sep 21 2017 (IPS)

The pursuit of international peace and security has been on the agenda of international decision-makers ever since the establishment of the League of Nations on 10 January 1920. There has been a constant ambiguity about the way this commitment has been translated to practice. The Covenant of the League of Nations committed itself “to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security”: nevertheless, the eruption of violence and geopolitical confrontations lead to another major confrontation two decades later. This reinforced the determination of the world community to redouble its efforts to promote peace and security. The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue said that the UN Charter – adopted on 26 June 1945 – did not prevent the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and of Nagasaki less than two months later. The disastrous consequences of the Second World War was a terrible reminder of humanity’s ability to bring the world close to apocalypse. Partly for such reasons more than 60 million people continue to be forcibly displaced today and peace continues to be so elusive.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

This year’s annual theme for the 2017 International Day of Peace “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All” draws the attention of the need of the world community to unite its forces in support of people up-rooted and separated from their kith and kin. Dr. Al Qassim noted that the refugee and migrant crisis have become the symbol of the world’s inability to live up to the ideals of the Founders of the UN to promote peace and justice worldwide. Foreign invasions exacerbating resort to terrorist violence keep peace in jeopardy. So does the simultaneous rise of right-wing populist parties in the West which has become the driving force of xenophobia, bigotry, racism and marginalization of the Other. The combination of these elements once the symbol of a world undermining the peace that its peoples yearn for.

The Chairman has also concluded that the Arab region has been adversely affected by the rise of violent extremism and the proliferation of local and international conflicts. The civil wars and/or internal upheavals in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Iraq have resulted in the forced displacement of millions of people. In total, more than 13 million people have been forced to leave their home societies owing to the lack of security and the surge of violence. Millions of people have embarked on perilous and hazardous journeys over the unpredictable Balkan route. As the latter is being sealed off, they engage on the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa. Walls and fences have been built – and even detention camps – to respond to the unprecedented rise of people on the move. These liberal societies which cursed the Berlin Wall cordoning off the free flow of ideas now advocate new walls to cordon off the free flow of people in distress. He asked: How come that Europe cannot accommodate displaced people counting for less than 1% of Europe’s total population when certain countries in the Middle East provide protection to refugees and migrants accounting for more than 20% of their own populations? Making matters worse, Islamophobia is also on the rise in Southeast Asia where the ominous policy of ethnic cleansing has reared its head once again.

Guided by the vision of promoting peaceful societies and addressing the plight of people on the move, the Geneva Centre will be organizing a panel debate on 15 December 2017 entitled “Migration and human solidarity, a challenge and an opportunity for Europe and the MENA region.” He hoped that the debate will further promote a joint response of stakeholders from the Global North and the Global South responding with one voice to the injustice that is targeting people on the move in the Arab region and in other regions of the world. He called upon decision-makers should remain guided by the principles of international solidarity and justice in addressing the plight of refugees and migrants. We can no longer remain indifferent to a crisis that has become the symbol of the world’s inability to promote peace and justice.

The post The Crisis of Refugees and Their Sufferings Call for a Solution appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/crisis-refugees-sufferings-call-solution/feed/ 0
UN Report Falls Short on Humanitarian Crisis Around Lake Chadhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/un-report-falls-short-humanitarian-crisis-around-lake-chad/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-report-falls-short-humanitarian-crisis-around-lake-chad http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/un-report-falls-short-humanitarian-crisis-around-lake-chad/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 15:09:30 +0000 Florian Krampe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152187 Dr Florian Krampe is a Researcher, Climate & Risk Project, at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

The post UN Report Falls Short on Humanitarian Crisis Around Lake Chad appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Fishing boats, Lake Chad. Credit: Mustapha Muhammad/IPS

By Florian Krampe
STOCKHOLKM, Sweden, Sep 21 2017 (IPS)

It is encouraging to see that the United Nations Security Council is beginning to acknowledge the transboundary dimensions of fragility and conflict, as demonstrated by its newly launched Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Lake Chad Basin region. The report, which was presented in the Security Council on 13 September 2017, emphasizes the need for regional responses and enhanced cooperation of different UN and humanitarian agencies as an important step to addressing the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

However, while a regional response to address the regional security challenge is desirable, the report would have been stronger if it had highlighted the underlying environmental contributions of the region’s fragility.

Multiple stressors converge in the Lake Chad region, which lies at the southern end of the Sahara desert. In the region around the lake–which borders Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria–unemployment, poverty and conflict interact with environmental change and degradation. The mismanagement of water resources, for instance in form of increased water withdrawal for irrigation from the lake’s tributaries, as well as prolonged severe droughts, have contributed to a 90 per cent shrinking of Lake Chad in the past 40 years.

In addition, the ongoing insurgency by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria further exaggerates the reduction of livelihood security for communities in the region. According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP), the conflict with Boko Haram has caused over 10 000 deaths between 2009 and 2016.

The military interventions of the Multinational Joint Task Force and armed forces of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria achieved a sizeable reduction in Boko Haram’s activities. Nonetheless, according to the newly published report: “From April to June 2017, 246 attacks were recorded, resulting in the deaths of 225 civilians.’

The ongoing insurgency and the continued shrinking of Lake Chad, which is the main source of livelihood for millions of inhabitants, is causing a massive humanitarian crisis and intensifies the fragile security situation and increased cross-border displacement of populations.

The Report of the Secretary-General points out: ‘Some 10.7 million people across the Lake Chad Basin region currently need humanitarian assistance, including 8.5 million in Nigeria.’ According to the report, 7.2 million people currently suffer severe food insecurity, of which 4.7 million are located in the north-eastern part of Nigeria.

The food and water insecurities caused by environmental change and mismanagement have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis caused by the Boko Haram insurgency. Although there is a lack of consistent monitoring around Lake Chad, the available data clearly indicates that the region has experience significant environmental changes.

For every year since 2000, the annual temperature anomaly, based on the 1961 to 1990 average temperature, was continuously above 1°C. Research agrees that environmental degradation—and especially the predicted impacts of climate change—will further exacerbate these pressures on the states and societies around Lake Chad.

During the 2017 Stockholm Forum, experts from the region outlined the complex dependencies of local livelihoods on natural resources, in particular the Lake Chad ecosystem, and how important ecological factors are to understanding and addressing the regions vulnerability and fragility.

As Sweden’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Olof Skoog, pointed out during the Security Council debate on 13 September: ‘The effects of climate change and its links to the stability and security are evident. We cannot hide from this reality if we want to truly address the challenges in the region. The lack of follow-up in this area in the Secretary-General’s report once again underlines the need for improved risk assessments and risk management strategies by the UN, as clearly highlighted by the Security Council in Resolution 2349 (2017): ‘The Council must remain alert to the threats to stability as a result of the adverse effects of climate change.”

By acknowledging the adverse effect of climate change in the Lake Chad Basin region, the UN report should have emphasized the inevitable pathways for addressing the current crisis. Managing natural resources sustainably is one of the key factors to achieving regional stabilization, reducing people’s vulnerability, increasing resilience and thereby thwarting the fertile grounds for insurgent group recruitment.

This is only possible when the UN Security Council and other peacebuilding agencies begin to integrate the linkages of environmental, social, and political issues in their peacebuilding efforts in the Lake Chad Basin.

About Resolution 2349:
At the end of March 2017, the United Nations Security Council unanimously issued a Resolution 2349 against terrorism and human rights violations in the Lake Chad Basin. It recognized the role of climate change in exacerbating human insecurity—particularly around food insecurity and livelihood vulnerabilities—which are linked to the Basin’s complex conflicts: ‘the adverse effects of climate change and ecological changes among other factors on the stability of the Region’.

The resolution was initiated by the Security Council member states’ travel to the Lake Chad region earlier in 2017. The resolution tasked the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, to provide an assessment of the situation. A direct mention of climate and environmental change is absent in the newly published report.

The post UN Report Falls Short on Humanitarian Crisis Around Lake Chad appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/un-report-falls-short-humanitarian-crisis-around-lake-chad/feed/ 0
International Response to the Mexico Earthquakehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/international-response-mexico-earthquake/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-response-mexico-earthquake http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/international-response-mexico-earthquake/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 07:32:00 +0000 Tony Redmond http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152180 Professor Tony Redmond is Director of The University of Manchester’s Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute*

The post International Response to the Mexico Earthquake appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Earthquake in Mexico. Credit: UN Photo/Jean Claude Constant

By Tony Redmond
MANCHESTER, UK, Sep 21 2017 (IPS)

Until this week, it had been 32 years since Mexico City suffered its last major earthquake. That was of 8.0 magnitude, which was approximately tenfold greater than Tuesday’s 7.1 magnitude. Over 5000 people died, and outside assistance was offered and received.

Much has improved in the local, regional and international responses worldwide since then, particularly in strengthening the local capacity to respond. Mexico is no exception, and will have significant capacity to respond, fully supported by its neighbours and the Pan American Health Organisation’s (PAHO) disaster response.

It’s possible that specific outside help, beyond the region may not be asked for, but if it is, the medical help will be through the Emergency Medical Teams system at WHO/PAHO, coordinated through its Emergency Medical Teams Coordination Cell.

This will embed with the national ministry of health, and through its online ‘virtual on-site operations coordination centre’, will liaise with those registered international teams who have indicated their willingness to deploy and with government, choose who is best suited to the needs they have identified.

This ensures that assistance is targeted on identified need, coordinated, and in the case of medical practitioners, that they are appropriately trained, qualified and can be officially authorised to practice in Mexico.

The WHO registration and classification system ensures minimum/core standards are adhered to and that all teams are fully self-sufficient, in order not to add a further burden to the affected country.

When thinking about what might be needed to assist, international teams must consider how long it will take to get there and become fully operational. This will shape the type of assistance they can give.

In Oaxaca, Mexico, volunteers from San Blas Atempa help remove debris and clear the streets of San Mateo del Mar affected by the earthquake. Credit: UNICEF/Solís


For example, lifesaving surgery is done in the first few hours, so surgical assistance that takes days to arrive will be too late for this. However, it can be focused on the further management of complex injuries in the survivors if the local surgical capacity for this has been overwhelmed.

Rehabilitation is often overlooked, but providing this type of support can free up beds by facilitating the early discharge of patents and provide much-needed support to them and their families in their homes.

Any major disaster diverts health care personnel from their day-to-day tasks, but unrelated emergencies still continue to occur, and other non-disaster related health conditions still require care and treatment. Support to this less glamorous aspect of disaster response and maintaining essential emergency health care is still important to those affected.

When thinking about international search and rescue, bear in mind that most victims of earthquakes are rescued by their fellow survivors and some by local and regional teams. Very few are rescued by international teams, as it simply takes them too long to get there.

There were hundreds of international search and rescue personnel who responded to the earthquake in Nepal – and they saved 13 people. Everyone else was saved by the Nepalese.

*Addressing Global Inequalities is one of The University of Manchester’s research beacons – examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet.

The post International Response to the Mexico Earthquake appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/international-response-mexico-earthquake/feed/ 0
The Shifting Dynamics of Rhino Horn Traffickinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/shifting-dynamics-rhino-horn-trafficking/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shifting-dynamics-rhino-horn-trafficking http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/shifting-dynamics-rhino-horn-trafficking/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 06:22:39 +0000 Julian Rademeyer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152176 Julian Rademeyer is Project Leader TRAFFIC, the wild life trade monitoring network

The post The Shifting Dynamics of Rhino Horn Trafficking appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

White Rhino at sanctuary in South Africa’s Limpopo Province. Credit: Jennifer McKellar/IPS

By Julian Rademeyer
PRETORIA, South Africa , Sep 21 2017 (IPS)

Recent raids in South Africa have uncovered disturbing evidence of the changing dynamics of rhino horn trafficking from Africa to Asia.

On 12 June 2017, police raided a house in the Johannesburg suburb of Cyrildene and discovered a home workshop where rhino horn was being processed into beads, bracelets, bangles and other commodities. A quantity of drugs, ammunition and bones – believe to be lion bones – were also found. Two Chinese citizens and a Thai woman were arrested at the scene.

“Pendants, Powder and Pathways*—A rapid assessment of smuggling routes and techniques used in the illicit trade in African rhino horn”, a new report by TRAFFIC, released September 18, documents a number of recent cases in which police have discovered rhino horn processed into jewellery. Bags of rhino horn powder have also been found.

The cases are particularly worrying: they signify an apparent shift in the modus operandi of the organized criminals trafficking horn. Prior to these cases, seizures have typically comprised whole horns, or ones simply cut into two or more pieces. Cutting tusks into smaller items may make sense if you are attempting to try and conceal them in order to smuggle them to the other side of the planet, but the implications are potentially far more serious.

In China, TRAFFIC’s routine monitoring of e-commerce sites has found a number of instances of rhino horns beads, bangles and other items for sale, and while the rhino horn powder—the by-product of rhino horn processing—may well be sold for medicinal usage, it appears rhino horn trafficking is morphing into a luxury product trade.

Similarly, investigations by the Wildlife Justice Commission in the village of Nhi Khe, a traditional craft village 20km south of Hanoi, Viet Nam, found “clear and irrefutable evidence of an industrial-scale crime hub” where rhino horn bracelets, beads and bangles were manufactured, primarily for Chinese buyers.

Over the past decade, more than 7,100 rhinos have been killed for their horns in. South Africa, home to 79% of Africa’s last remaining rhinos, is the centre of the storm, suffering 91% of the continent’s known poaching losses in 2016.

Facilitated by resilient, highly-adaptive criminal networks and endemic corruption in many countries along the illicit supply chain, demand for rhino horn is driven by consumers in Asia, with Viet Nam and China identified as the dominant end use markets and the implications of a newly emerging and potentially vast market for luxury products, and the poaching-fuelling demand are indeed serious.

Enforcement authorities in South Africa are already struggling to cope with the traffickers who exploit weaknesses in border controls and law enforcement capacity constraints to provide a steady supply of rhino horn to Asian black markets. Their routes span multiple airports, borders and legal jurisdictions, taking advantage of fragmented law enforcement responses that are hamstrung by bureaucracy, insufficient international co-operation and corruption.

It is estimated that between 2010 and June 2017, at least 2,149 rhino horns, weighing more than five tonnes, were seized by law enforcement agencies globally. This is a fraction of the estimated 37.04 tonnes of rhino horn obtained from the 6,661 rhinos officially reported to have been killed by poachers in Africa between 2010 and 2016 and doubtless entering illegal trade.

While efforts to detect and deter criminals have been hampered by a lack of international co-operation, the new aspects of horn trafficking pose yet further complexity: along the trade routes between Africa and Asia, enforcement officers are focused solely on detecting horns or pieces of horns and nobody is really on the lookout for rhino horn products.

Smuggling methods are infinitely versatile, limited only by imagination and opportunity. As new smuggling methods are identified by law enforcement agencies, trafficking networks adapt and refine their tactics, finding new methods of concealment and new weaknesses to exploit.

The smugglers’ efforts are sometimes crude; wrapping horns in aluminium foil, smearing them with toothpaste and shampoo to hide the smell of decay, or coating them in wax. Over time, more sophisticated methods have emerged; horns disguised as curios and toys, hidden in bags of cashew nuts, wine boxes and consignments of wood, or concealed in imitation electronic and machine parts. Circuitous transit routes, luggage drops and exchanges are used to confuse the trail.

The added complication of seeking out small commodities makes the task of detection even harder. To counteract the newly emerging threat, enforcement agencies need more resources, while it is also vital that investigations do not stop at seizures of illicit wildlife products. Rather, seizures should be regarded as a first step in broader, targeted investigations focusing on the networks and key individuals facilitating the trafficking of rhino horn and other wildlife products.

Unless such measures are taken, the already troubled future for Africa’s rhinos looks bleaker than ever.

*Pendants, Powder and Pathways was produced by TRAFFIC under a project aiming to Reduce Trade Threats to Africa’s Wild Species and Ecosystems. The project is funded by Arcadia—a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

The post The Shifting Dynamics of Rhino Horn Trafficking appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/shifting-dynamics-rhino-horn-trafficking/feed/ 0
Mexico’s Disaster Response System Severely Stretched by Quakehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/mexicos-disaster-response-system-severely-stretched-quake/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexicos-disaster-response-system-severely-stretched-quake http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/mexicos-disaster-response-system-severely-stretched-quake/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 23:51:32 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152172 Central Mexico faced Wednesday the challenge of putting itself back together after the powerful 7.1-magnitude quake that devastated the capital and the neighbouring states of Mexico, Morelos and Puebla the day before. In Mexico City the air smells of dust, destruction, death, panic and hope, brought by the quake, whose epicenter was in Morelos, 120 […]

The post Mexico’s Disaster Response System Severely Stretched by Quake appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The Sept. 19, 2017 earthquake toppled nearly 50 buildings in Mexico City, and left many uninhabitable. Fire fighters carry out an inspection the day after in an apartment building that is still standing but will have to be demolished, in a neighbourhood in the centre of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Sept. 19, 2017 earthquake toppled nearly 50 buildings in Mexico City, and left many uninhabitable. Fire fighters carry out an inspection the day after in an apartment building that is still standing but will have to be demolished, in a neighbourhood in the centre of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

Central Mexico faced Wednesday the challenge of putting itself back together after the powerful 7.1-magnitude quake that devastated the capital and the neighbouring states of Mexico, Morelos and Puebla the day before.

In Mexico City the air smells of dust, destruction, death, panic and hope, brought by the quake, whose epicenter was in Morelos, 120 km to the south of the capital. So far the official death toll is 230, with hundreds of people injured and 44 collapsed buildings in Mexico City.

“Everything is cracked, everything’s about to fall down. Now I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Verónica, who lived in a new building on the verge of collapse on the south side of the capital, told IPS with tears in her eyes.

The mother of three, who preferred not to give her last name, was living alone for the last two years. She managed to salvage a few important things, like documents, jewelry and a TV set. She is now staying with one of her daughters in another part of greater Mexico City, which has a population of nearly 22 million people.

In Mexico City, the municipalities of Benito Juárez and Cuauhtémoc – two of the 16 “delegations” into which the city is divided and which together are home to nearly one million people – were hit hardest, along with parts of the states of Morelos and Puebla.
The capital is built on a dried-up ancient lakebed, which makes it more susceptible to earthquake damage.

On Tuesday, the interior ministry declared a state of disaster in the capital and 150 municipalities in Guerrero, Morelos and Puebla that were affected by the quake, to free up funds from the National Fund for Natural Disasters (FONDEN).

Berenice Rivera works as a seamstress, and she and her co-workers were evacuated from the building as soon as the first tremors were felt. “I ran to pick my kids up at school and went home to check if everything was ok,” the mother of two told IPS.

Given the structural damage to a tall nearby building, Rivera does not believe she can continue to live in the housing complex where she lives along with some 80 neighbours. “We’re going to pull things out and see where we can move to, what else can we do?” she sighed.

Construction workers were among the first to get involved in the effort to rescue survivors, leaving the buildings where they were working and using their hands to remove rubble to find people who might be trapped underneath. It was the start of a wave of citizen solidarity and support that continues to grow along the streets and avenues of the city.

A rescue worker attempts to secure the perimeter of a building toppled by the Sept. 19, 2017 earthquake, to keep former residents from trying to get inside – something that has happened in many buildings knocked down or badly damaged by the quake in Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Gody/IPS

A rescue worker attempts to secure the perimeter of a building toppled by the Sept. 19, 2017 earthquake, to keep former residents from trying to get inside – something that has happened in many buildings knocked down or badly damaged by the quake in Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Gody/IPS

Just like after the 8.0-magnitude quake that left 25,000 people dead in Mexico City – according to unofficial figures – on Sept. 19, 1985, people mobilised en masse to remove rubble in the search for survivors, in a brave and often disorganised show of solidarity.

Although basic public services have been restored, economic, commercial and educational activities have come to a halt. The work is focused on finding survivors under the rubble, assessing the damage to buildings, and depending on the result, demolishing them and relocating the residents while planning the reconstruction effort.

But more buildings are at risk of collapse because of the damage suffered. In addition, the quake – which happened on the 32nd anniversary of the worst quake in the history of Mexico, during a drill on how to deal with a disaster of this kind – will have environmental and health effects.

“The situation is very difficult,” Mexican-American Juan Cota, who has been living in the capital since 2011 and works in the financial sector, told IPS. “There are damaged buildings that could collapse.”

Cota was in a café on the south-central side of the city when the quake began. His apartment survived, but some of his neighbours were not so lucky.

The Mexico City government has opened at least 41 shelters for survivors throughout the capital.

Mexico’s foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, tweeted that the United Nations would head the rescue and aid efforts.

According to its model for estimating earthquake damage, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) predicted up to 1,000 fatalities and economic losses between 100 million and one billion dollars.

The USGS stated that “Extensive damage is probable and the disaster is likely widespread. Estimated economic losses are less than 1% of GDP of Mexico. Past events with this alert level have required a national or international level response.”

The quake has further stretched the country’s disaster response system, already overwhelmed by the 8.1-magnitude quake that hit on Sept. 7, with an epicenter off the coast of the southern state of Chiapas, and which also affected the state of Oaxaca and Mexico City.

Over two million people were affected by that quake, including some 90 people who were killed, according to government statistics.

In August, the World Bank Group issued its largest ever catastrophe bond to Mexico.

The bonds are divided into three categories of insurance: Atlantic Ocean hurricanes, Pacific Ocean hurricanes and earthquakes, providing Mexico with financial protection of up to 360 million dollars against losses.

Similar bonds were issued in 2006, 2009 and 2012.

Each year, this Latin American country dedicates some 1.5 billion dollars to the reconstruction of public infrastructure and social housing affected by natural disasters. Between 2014 and 2015, FONDEN disbursed 137 million dollars to address the damage caused by hurricanes, heavy rains and flooding.

The earthquake has fanned the flames of the debate about the construction standards in force in Mexico City, which were upgraded after the 1985 tragedy. “They say they’re stricter, but look at that building. It’s new and it’s about to come down,” said Verónica.

Cota believes the standards are not always enforced, mainly because of corruption. “They ignore them…they have to be revised and enforced, because the earth will continue to shake and there will be more damage,” he said.

Tuesday’s earthquake occurred near the area where the Cocos Plate, off Mexico’s Pacific coast, is pushing underneath the North American Plate – a phenomenon that points to further quakes.

The post Mexico’s Disaster Response System Severely Stretched by Quake appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/mexicos-disaster-response-system-severely-stretched-quake/feed/ 0
A Trump Doctrine of Hypocrisyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/trump-doctrine-hypocrisy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-doctrine-hypocrisy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/trump-doctrine-hypocrisy/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 19:38:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152169 In his first address on the global stage of the General Assembly, United States’ President Donald Trump touted an “America First” approach at the very institution that is meant to inspire collaboration between nations. During his 45-minute speech, President Trump praised national sovereignty, referencing the concept a whopping 21 times. “Our government’s first duty is […]

The post A Trump Doctrine of Hypocrisy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

In his first address on the global stage of the General Assembly, United States’ President Donald Trump touted an “America First” approach at the very institution that is meant to inspire collaboration between nations.

Donald J. Trump. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

During his 45-minute speech, President Trump praised national sovereignty, referencing the concept a whopping 21 times.

“Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens — to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values,” he told world leaders.

“As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.”

But in a global world that relies on each other on issues such as economic growth and environmental protection, can a “me first” approach work?

Peace Action’s Senior Director of Policy and Political Affairs Paul Kawika Martin says no.

“To say one country first over the other certainly is not going to deal with these issues,” he told IPS.

Though the President highlighted the need to work together to confront those who threaten the world with “chaos, turmoil, and terror,” his actions seem to imply otherwise.

Starting with withdrawing from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement to tackle global emissions to threatening funding cuts to not only the UN but also to its own State Department which handles diplomacy and foreign assistance, the U.S. seems to be far from working together with the international community.

As Trump received applause upon speaking of the benefits of the U.S.’ programs in advancing global health and women’s empowerment, he has also sought to eliminate such programs including the gender equality development assistance account ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues and has already withdrawn all funds to the UN’s Population Fund.

“Talk is cheap when you don’t fund the efforts you tout,” said Oxfam America’s President Abby Maxman.

“Mr. Trump continues on a path that will cost America its global influence and leadership,” she continued.

Martin echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “We talk about working together but we don’t seem to do the things that you need to do to work together, which is making sure you have the right diplomacy, supporting the UN, and supporting other international fora.”

He particularly pointed the U.S.’ refusal to participate and sign the new nuclear ban treaty.

Adopted in July, the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons is now open for signature and will enter into force 90 days after 50 countries have ratified it.

Brazilian President Michel Temer was the first to sign the treaty.

However, the world’s nine nuclear-armed states including the U.S. boycotted the negotiations and announced they do not ever intend to become party to the document.

Instead, President Trump used his address to lambast both North Korea and Iran for their alleged pursuits of nuclear weapons and make war-inciting claims.

“We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said.

“It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future.”

Martin noted that no country would act kindly to threats of annihilation.

Such threats have instead only served to increase tensions.

Since Trump threatened “fire and fury” on 8 August, North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests.

The President continued to say that the Iran Deal is the “worst” and most “one-sided” agreements, threatening to withdraw from it.

As nuclear tensions continue escalate, Trump’s threats of war and unwillingness to cooperate gives security to none, particularly not Americans.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein criticized the President for his remarks and noted the hypocrisy in using the UN stage of peace and global cooperation to threaten war.

“He missed an opportunity to present any positive actions the U.N. could take with respect to North Korea…By suggesting he would revisit and possibly cancel the Iran nuclear agreement, he greatly escalated the danger we face from both Iran and North Korea,” she said.

“He aims to unify the world through tactics of intimidation, but in reality he only further isolates the United States.”

Martin highlighted the importance of diplomacy rather than intimidation.

“Diplomacy is the hardest thing. It is harder to get together at a table and work on a deal but that’s what needs to be done.”

President Trump did express his support for the UN and its work, citing former President Harry Truman who helped build the UN and made the U.S. the first nation to join the organization.

He referred to Truman’s Marshall Plan which helped restore post-World War II Europe, but still went on to urge nations to “embrace their sovereignty.”

However, it was Truman that spoke of a “security for all” approach during a conference which established the UN Charter in 1945.

He urged delegates to use this “instrument for peace and security” but warned nations against using “selfishly,” stating: “If any nation would keep security for itself, it must be ready and willing to share security with all. This is the price which each nation will have to pay for world peace.”

“Out of this conflict have come powerful military nations, now fully trained and equipped for war. But they have no right to dominate the world. It is rather the duty of these powerful nations to assume the responsibility for leadership toward a world of peace.

That is why we have here resolved that power and strength shall be used not to wage war, but to keep the world at peace, and free from the fear of war.”

Truman’s collective action approach helped prevent another devastating world war.

However, President Trump’s non-cooperation and combative words signal a darker future in global affairs.

The post A Trump Doctrine of Hypocrisy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/trump-doctrine-hypocrisy/feed/ 0
Poor Orphan Crops…So Valuable, So Neglectedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/poor-orphan-crops-valuable-neglected/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poor-orphan-crops-valuable-neglected http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/poor-orphan-crops-valuable-neglected/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:49:23 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152166 When ‘think-tankers’ in the mid-1990s formulated their famous “think global, act local” slogan, they probably did not expect humankind to require a couple of decades to implement such practical advice. At least this has been the case for the so-called ‘neglected’, ‘under-utilised’, ‘minor’ or ‘promising’ crops, which have been forgotten over the last century. Now […]

The post Poor Orphan Crops…So Valuable, So Neglected appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

A group of people heading towards Mangoky River (Madagascar) past Baobab trees. Baobab leaves and fruits are sources of food for people and fodder for animals. Credit: FAO/Aris Mihich

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

When ‘think-tankers’ in the mid-1990s formulated their famous “think global, act local” slogan, they probably did not expect humankind to require a couple of decades to implement such practical advice.

At least this has been the case for the so-called ‘neglected’, ‘under-utilised’, ‘minor’ or ‘promising’ crops, which have been forgotten over the last century.

Now scientists and policymakers are beginning to recognise the value of these colourfully dubbed ‘orphan’ crops, affirming what local communities have already known for generations.

What Are They?

But what are they all about? The United Nations leading food and agriculture agency provides the answer with some specific examples — the African Yam Bean and the Desert Date, and Ber, a stocky tree with a vitamin-rich berry.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) explains that the African yam bean, cultivated mainly for home consumption, is planted for its seeds, which are high in protein and low in calories, and are often eaten after being dried and ground into flour or simply boiled and seasoned.

The starch-rich, tuberous roots, similar to spindly sweet potatoes in shape, are consumed either fresh, cut into strips in salads, or dried and ground into flour. The leaves can also be cooked and eaten much in the same way spinach is.

The crop seems to be little affected by altitude, and flourishes at elevations ranging from sea level to 1,800 meters. It takes five to seven months to grow and produce mature seeds.

They appear on a vine growing to between 1.5 and 3 m in height, green in colour or pigmented red. The vines twine clockwise around the stakes or climb around other crops for support; indeed the African yam bean is often used as a living fence. Due to its attractive, large pink and purple flowers, the plant is also cultivated as an ornament.

Scientists are beginning to recognise the value of orphan crops, affirming what local communities have already known for generations

Moringa seedlings at a nursery in Tanzania. All parts of the Moringa tree are edible. Credit: FAO/Daniel Hayduk

Special Qualities

The UN specialised agency relates some of this crop’s main qualities: typical of legumes, the African yam bean adds a natural nitrogen boost in the soil and reduces the need for fertilizers in areas where it is cultivated; the crop is highly adaptable and capable of growing even on acid and highly leached sandy soils of humid lowland tropics; it is usually intercropped with maize or cassava and also used in crop rotations, and it is mainly used as food for people, but is also used to feed animals.

The point is that the excessively long cooking time (4-6 hours), among other factors, limits the food use of the beans. However, this issue can be overcome using traditional cooking techniques, such as soaking the seeds in water from 4 to 8 hours – a practice that will reduce both the cooking time and the anti-nutrients.

Among others, FAO also explains, some of the nutritional value of the orphan crops are that African yam beans, for instance, have the advantage of producing both beans (pulse or grain) and an edible tuber; the small tuberous roots are white-fleshed, spindly and long like sweet potatoes, but contain more protein than sweet potatoes, cassava or yams, and the dried beans are also rich in protein (18.9 per cent), with a good amount of dietary fibre (16.7 per cent) and 1.5 per cent of fat.

Overlooked by Everybody…

In spite of their high value, they have been overlooked by researchers, extension services and policy makers; governments rarely allocate resources for their promotion and development, FAO underlines. That results in farmers planting them less often, reduced access to high quality seeds, and loss of traditional knowledge.

Why? Simply because these species have been overshadowed by those in greater demand. For example, of the 30,000 edible plant species, a mere 30 are used to feed the world.

“Yet these neglected and under-utilised crops can help to increase the diversification of food production, adding new species to our diets that can result in better supply of particular nutrients, i.e. essential amino acids, fiber, proteins.”

The UN agency also notes that, in addition to diversifying nutritional intake, orphan crops provide economic and environmental benefits–farmers can grow them on their own, as part of crop rotation systems or inter-plant them with other crops, protecting and enhancing agro-biodiversity at the field level.

And having a bigger number of species to choose from in a crop rotation system allows farmers to have a more sustainable production system, it adds. By changing species in a crop rotation system, the cycle of some pests and diseases is disrupted and probabilities of infestations are reduced.

“By expanding the portfolio of crops available to farmers, we can help build more diverse and resilient cropping systems,” FAO Assistant Director-General Ren Wang said.

Scientists are beginning to recognise the value of orphan crops, affirming what local communities have already known for generations

Allanblackia tree in Kribi, Cameroon. Credit: AfricanOrphan Crops Consortium (AOCC)

In fact, the UN food and agriculture agency, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), among others, have agreed to work together to strengthen the capacities of FAO member countries and to better focus research and development, plant breeding and seed delivery systems.

Food Security, Nutrition…

“Imagine the positive impacts on food security, nutrition, health, safety and farmers income if crop varieties that rural African families, especially women, grow were more nutritious, higher yielding, and resilient from climate change, drought and pests.”

With these words, FAO announced what it called “an uncommon partnership” of 15 government organisations, scientific, agricultural bodies, universities, companies, regional organisations and NGOs, along with a network of 20 agricultural and horticultural centres, devoted to improving the diets and livelihoods of the 600 million people who live in rural Sub-Saharan Africa, and they believe that this vision will be a reality.

In this partnership, the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC) is the driver to generate the genomic resources for the selected crops. Approved by African Heads of State at the African Union Assembly and led by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the AOCC is in fact sequencing the genomes of 101 African food plants.

They Know…

Smallholders and people living in rural areas in Africa grow a huge variety of edible plants other than rice, wheat or maize. These crops, including the African yam bean, have long been neglected although they represent an excellent alternative food supplement to most diets, FAO says.

Grown in pockets of tropical Central, West and East Africa, the African yam bean has great potential to contribute to overall food security and improve local diets. This crop is not to be confused with the other yam bean, the jicama, which comes from Latin America.

The African yam bean is a traditional crop, high in proteins and starch, is highly adaptable to adverse environmental conditions and can fix nitrogen in the soil, which means it does not require a large amount of fertilisers. It is usually grown together with maize or cassava, adds FAO.

In short, scientists and researchers are now discovering what farmers and rural populations have been aware of generation after generation. Better late than never.

The post Poor Orphan Crops…So Valuable, So Neglected appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/poor-orphan-crops-valuable-neglected/feed/ 0
Macron Defends Globalist Approach at UN General Assemblyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/macron-defends-globalist-approach-un-general-assembly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=macron-defends-globalist-approach-un-general-assembly http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/macron-defends-globalist-approach-un-general-assembly/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 13:59:33 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152160 French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a sombre speech at the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, denouncing Myanmar’s “ethnic cleansing,” and calling for better protection of refugees in the world. His decisive speech at the lectern took sharp turns from the U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech earlier that morning, who focused on a nationalist agenda, urging […]

The post Macron Defends Globalist Approach at UN General Assembly appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a sombre speech at the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, denouncing Myanmar’s “ethnic cleansing,” and calling for better protection of refugees in the world.

Emmanuel Macron. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

His decisive speech at the lectern took sharp turns from the U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech earlier that morning, who focused on a nationalist agenda, urging leaders to put their countries first as he invoked his “America First” vision. Macron led his speech with a multilateral approach, and vowed instead, to fight climate change with all member countries. In a press conference later, he added that would try to persuade Trump to reconsider his decision to pull out of the Paris agreement.

Macron, a centrist who ran his recent presidential campaign on open borders, kept in line with his advocacy for protecting refugees as a “moral duty.” He addressed human trafficking along the Mediterranean route, and said that greater checks and a “humanitarian infrastructure” should be put in place to stem blatant flouting of “fundamental human rights” by traffickers.

While Trump touted topics that invoked a mainstream media frenzy—but are nevertheless important national security issues—such as threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea, and reiterating his critical views of the 2015 Iran deal by slamming it as an “embarrassment,” Macron led the speech in a more conventional way, as is convention, in essentially the headquarters of world diplomacy.

Macron said that he was willing to open dialogues with the North Korea’s leader, and added that migration and terrorism, which are political challenges, couldn’t simply be addressed by “short-term” strategies. Similarly, he committed to contribute to developmental aid, and said that the process, for him, began with investing in education. “We must give the opportunity to young boys and girl to obtain an education to choose their own future, not the future that is imposed on them by need but the future that they should choose for themselves,” he said.

In the end, in spite of criticising the world body as a “club for people to get together, talk and have a good time” before, Trump praised the UN body for its immense potential to bring deliberations at the world stage.

The post Macron Defends Globalist Approach at UN General Assembly appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/macron-defends-globalist-approach-un-general-assembly/feed/ 0
Latest Major Hurricane Leaves Dominica “Devastated”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latest-major-hurricane-leaves-dominica-devastated/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latest-major-hurricane-leaves-dominica-devastated http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latest-major-hurricane-leaves-dominica-devastated/#comments Wed, 20 Sep 2017 13:07:56 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152156 As Hurricane Maria continues to barrel its way across the Caribbean, details are slowly emerging of the number of deaths and the extent of the devastation left in its wake in Dominica. Maria made landfall on the tiny island of 72,000 on the evening of Sept. 18 with maximum sustained winds of nearly 160 miles […]

The post Latest Major Hurricane Leaves Dominica “Devastated” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
A tree felled by the outer bands of Hurricane Maria in Antigua. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

A tree felled by the outer bands of Hurricane Maria in Antigua. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

As Hurricane Maria continues to barrel its way across the Caribbean, details are slowly emerging of the number of deaths and the extent of the devastation left in its wake in Dominica.

Maria made landfall on the tiny island of 72,000 on the evening of Sept. 18 with maximum sustained winds of nearly 160 miles per hour.“Our governments must redouble their determination to confront the naysayers of climate change, however big and powerful they may be." --Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Lester Bird

Hartley Henry, Principal Advisor to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, said he had spoken with the prime minister early this morning via satellite phone.

“It’s difficult to determine the level of fatalities but so far seven are confirmed, as a direct result of the hurricane,” Henry said in a message. “That figure, the Prime Minister fears, will rise as he wades his way into the rural communities today, Wednesday. The urgent needs now are roofing materials for shelters, bedding supplies for hundreds stranded in or outside what’s left of their homes and food and water drops for residents of outlying districts inaccessible at the moment.

“The country is in a daze – no electricity, no running water – as a result of uprooted pipes in most communities and definitely to landline or cellphone services on island, and that will be for quite a while.

“In summary, the island has been devastated. The housing stock significantly damaged or destroyed. All available public buildings are being used as shelters; with very limited roofing materials evident. The country needs the support and continued help and prayers of all.”

In a Facebook message a few hours after Maria’s arrival, Skerrit said the island’s immediate priority was to rescue people who were trapped and provide medical care to the injured.

“I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating… indeed, mind-boggling,” Skerrit said.

The Prime Minister had earlier posted that roofs were being torn off everywhere by the powerful storm’s winds. He himself had to be rescued from his official residence.

Following Skerrit’s social media posts, everything went silent. Communication with Dominica since then has been close to impossible.

According to Henry, “Little contact has been made with the outer communities but persons who walked 10 and 15 miles towards the city of Roseau from various outer districts report total destruction of homes, some roadways and crops.

“Urgent helicopter services are needed to take food, water and tarpaulins to outer districts for shelter. Canefield airport can accommodate helicopter landings and it is expected that from today, the waters around the main Roseau port will be calm enough to accommodate vessels bringing relief supplies and other forms of assistance.”

Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne said Wednesday, “The last I’ve heard, which would have been this morning, is that there is widespread damage to property, there has been up to seven fatalities so far. I understand that there are some remote areas that they have been unable to get to.

“They are asking for supplies including tarpaulin, water, food cots. As you know, in the case of Antigua and Barbuda, we have some supplies here. We are awaiting the all-clear so that a chopper that we have on stand-by could fly into Dominica. They have not given any landing permission yet so we are just waiting to hear from them.

Browne added that he spoke with Skerrit the night of the hurricane until after he lost his roof.

Dominica was still in the recovery phase following Tropical Storm Erika which hit the island on Aug. 27, 2015, killing more than two dozen people, leaving nearly 600 homeless and wreaked damages totalling more than a billion dollars.

That storm dumped 15 inches of rain on the mountainous island, caused floods and mudslides and set the country back 20 years, according to Skerrit. The island was inadequately prepared for a storm such as Erika. Many roads and bridges were simply not robust enough to withstand such high volumes of water.

In a national address shortly following the storm, Skerrit said that hundreds of homes, bridges and roads had been destroyed and millions of dollars in financial aid were needed to help the country bounce back.

“In order to get back to where we were before Tropical Storm Erika struck, we have to source at least 88.2 million dollars for the productive sector, 334.55 million for infrastructure and 60.09 million for the social sectors,” Skerrit said.

Skerrit and his counterparts in the Caribbean have long argued that large industrialized nations are to blame for the drastic change in the climate and the more frequent and stronger hurricanes being witnessed in region.

“Climate change is real.  We are the victims of climate change because of the profligacy in the use of fossil fuels by the large industrialized nations,” Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne told IPS on his way to the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.

“These nations, that have contributed to global warming and sea level rise, have an obligation to assist in the rebuilding of these islands. The funds required to rebuild is beyond their means and I join the clarion call of Sir Richard Branson, for a Marshall plan to rebuild the islands.

“Our common humanity, as citizens of a common space, called planet earth mandates a spirit of empathy and cooperation among all nations, large and small,” Browne told IPS.

Just over a week earlier, Browne’s own country Antigua and Barbuda suffered a similar fate as Dominica when Hurricane Irma decimated Barbuda, the smaller island of the twin-island nation.

A powerful Hurricane Irma, churned its way across the tiny island, killing a two-year-old child and leaving millions of dollars in damages.

When Irma’s core slammed into Barbuda, its maximum sustained winds were 185-mph, well above the 157-mph threshold of a Category 5 storm.

Browne estimates that it will take up to 300 million dollars to rebuild Barbuda, home to 1,800 people. All of the island’s inhabitants had to be evacuated to mainland Antigua after the hurricane.

At the time, Irma was one of three hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, the first time since 2010 that three active hurricanes have been in the Atlantic, according to reports.

“The whole idea is to deal with this Barbuda situation and to speak to the issue of climate change,” Browne said of his attendance at the United Nations General Assembly.

“I don’t think they care,” Browne said when asked if he believed the United States in particularly would be listening very carefully to what he has to say.

“But we have an obligation at the same time to advocate on what is clearly an existential threat, one of the most significant threats facing the planet. And no matter what they think, I know that America think that their interest is first, second, third until they get to last but we have a common humanity, we all occupy a planet called Earth and as far as we are concerned we are all inter-dependent on each other and perhaps sooner than later they will come to that reality,” Browne said.

During a special sitting of Parliament to discuss the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma on Barbuda, former Antigua and Barbuda prime minister Lester Bird said it’s time the “naysayers of climate change” wake up and face reality.

“Our governments must redouble their determination to confront the naysayers of climate change, however big and powerful they may be, even when we have a President of the United States, who should really be chastised for withdrawing the United States from [the Paris Climate Agreement],” Bird said.

Although the United States remains part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in June this year President Donald Trump ceased all implementation of the non-binding Paris accord.

That includes contributions to the United Nations Green Climate Fund (to help poorer countries to adapt to climate change and expand clean energy) and reporting on carbon data (though that is required in the US by domestic regulations anyway).

“Hurricane Irma nails the lie to all who claim that climate change and global warming are fantasies,” said Bird, who served as the second prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, from 1994 to 2004.

“The increased heat of the sea fed Irma’s size and intensity. The world has never witnessed a hurricane of the strength and size of Irma when it stormed through Barbuda leaving destruction and devastation in its path. Little Barbuda stood no chance against such a gigantic force,” Bird said.

“That is why I urge the government to continue to fight in the international community for mitigation against climate change and for the means to build up resilience in our island states; not just Barbuda but all of the island states that are low level.

“The prospect of climate change could even bring Tsunamis and undermine the existence of these islands as is demonstrated in Barbuda,” Bird added.

Meantime, Bird said Caribbean civilization is under threat because of climate change.

“Barbuda now lies prostrate, dispirited and depressed, a mangled wreck as the Prime Minister [Gaston Browne] has said. It is positive proof that the very existence of our civilization is now under deadly threat,” Bird said.

“This is the first time since the 18th century that there is no human person legally living on Barbuda. Over 300 years of human habitation has been abruptly interrupted. That must not be the fate of our island communities. Our heritage, our civilization, our identity depends on it.”

Hurricane Maria is the third in a string of devastating hurricanes to sweep through the region in recent weeks.

Some 42 deaths have been blamed on Hurricane Irma which has decimated many countries in the Caribbean including Anguilla, British Virgin Islands and the Dutch and French island of St. Maarten / St. Martin.

The post Latest Major Hurricane Leaves Dominica “Devastated” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latest-major-hurricane-leaves-dominica-devastated/feed/ 1
Bangladesh Needs to Shore up Its Flood Defencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/bangladesh-needs-shore-flood-defence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bangladesh-needs-shore-flood-defence http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/bangladesh-needs-shore-flood-defence/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 12:14:27 +0000 Mahfuzur Rahman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152154 Bangladesh is a disaster-prone country with floods hitting almost every year, leaving a trail of destruction despite having early warning systems. Now experts say it is time for the delta nation to think more seriously about how to deal with the recurring onslaughts of floods more effectively by strengthening its flood defence. The recent severe […]

The post Bangladesh Needs to Shore up Its Flood Defence appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

The premises of a school inundated by floodwater. Shibaloy in Manikganj district, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/ IPS

By Mahfuzur Rahman
DHAKA, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

Bangladesh is a disaster-prone country with floods hitting almost every year, leaving a trail of destruction despite having early warning systems. Now experts say it is time for the delta nation to think more seriously about how to deal with the recurring onslaughts of floods more effectively by strengthening its flood defence.

The recent severe floods in the country have killed over 140 people and displaced nearly 8 million and damaged some 100,000 houses. It also caused colossal damages to crops, forcing the government to go for the import of huge rice. Many flood-affected families in temporary shelters in the country’s northwest are still hesitating to return to their homes as hunger looms large.

On August 28 last, the Food Minister Quamrul Islam informed the country’s cabinet that 2 million tonnes of rice and wheat need to be imported to keep the market stable until January next year as the same amount of rice has been damaged by the floods in haor areas, creating an ‘unusual situation’ in the rice market.

The government has already started importing rice. Over 600,000 metric tonnes (mts) of rice have been imported from India under private arrangement, 250,000 mts from Vietnam. Besides, a process is underway to import 250,000 mts from Cambodia.

More than 5.7 million people in 27 districts have been affected while crops on 468,000 hectares damaged in the floods, according to government data.

The United Nations has said long-term food supplies are at risk in Bangladesh with so much farmland now ruined by floods.

Now experts say Bangladesh must take the flood issue more seriously as it is affected by climate change.

While talking to IPS, AKM Saiful Islam, a professor of the Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM) at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said, “As a flood vulnerable country, Bangladesh should take this issue much more seriously than the past. Due to global warming and climate change, flood peak magnitude will be much higher in the future (at the end of the century) with respect the historic peak floods.”

These humble homes, located on a ‘char’ in northern Bangladesh, were half-submerged by severe floods in August that left many river island-dwellers homeless. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS


He says human interventions in natural river systems, and the changes in the land-use pattern of their catchments make the hill slope steeper, and Bangladesh rivers are now carrying large amounts of sediments than ever before, causing frequent and destructive floods. “Urbanisation generates more runoff while encroachment of wetlands and embankment confine flood water inside the river channel which raises the flood peak. Moreover, excess sediments raise the bed level and further exacerbate the flood conditions,” Saiful added.

Citing a recent study of Buet conducted under a collaborative research project entitled ‘High-End Climate Impact and Extremes (HELIX)’ funded by the European Union under the Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013, he says the floods in the Brahmaputra river basin of having 100-year return periods will carry more than 10%, 17%, and 24% more discharge during the 2020s (2011-2040), 2050s (2041-2070) and 2080s (2071-2100) than the pre-industrial periods (1851-1880).

“We’ve already observed that the 2017 floods broke the historic record crossing the danger levels in several stations of many tributaries of the Brahmaputra-Jamuna river systems such as Bahdurabad in Jamuna, Mohadevepur in Atrai, Badarganj in Jamuneswari, Kurigram in Dharala and Dalia in the Teesta. Due to sea level rise, the flood conditions might be prolonged in the future. As the water holding capacity of the atmosphere will be increasing with the rise of temperature, it is expected that more intense rainfall and flooding will be observed in the South Asia in the future under the changing climate,” he said.

Bangladesh has its own flood forecasting system. At present, Flood Forecasting and Warning Center (FFWC) of Bangladesh Water Development Board providing five days’ deterministic flood forecast and early warnings. Early warning messages were delivered by FFWC through email, SMS, website, fax to the concerned Ministries and government organizations like the Department of Disaster Management (DDM), Deputy Commissioners offices and Department of Agricultural Extensions. DDM has a role to disseminate flood warnings to the district, upazila (sub-district) and union levels through the heads of respective disaster management committees.

The current forecasting system is helpful in some ways, said Prof Saiful. He, however, stated that there is scope to improve this system and make the early warning user-friendly to the flood vulnerable communities.

The flood forecasting and early warning, he said, can be improved in a number of ways:
Establishing a High Computing National Centers like National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the USA composed of both meteorologist and hydrologist as an Independent Entity of the government; the signing of hydro-met data sharing protocol during flood season with neighboring countries; developing basin-wise flood forecast modeling including China, India, Nepal, and Bhutan; and developing a community-based early warning system in which warnings will be provided in a language which local people can understand.

Echoing Prof Islam, Mohammad Harun Ar Rashid, Deputy Secretary, Management and Information Monitoring (MIM) said, “Bangladesh has to think seriously about the long-term strategy regarding floods. Its flood control programme has been so far dominated by the embankment approach. According to this approach, it’s necessary to cordon off areas in order to protect them from flooding. Therefore, under this approach, the goal of flood control gets transmitted into that of flood-prevention.”

A classic example of this approach, he said, the Dhaka, Narayanganj, and Demra project, popularly known as DND project. Under this project, a tract of flood plain with Dhaka, Narayanganj, and Demra has been cordoned off from the adjoining Buriganga and Shitalkhya rivers by constructing embankments.

Aiming to deal with the worsening situation, the government in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has chalked out a six-year Climate Resilient Community Development (CRCD) project in the country’s northwest region with a greater focus on building flood defences for rural communities.

The potential range of interventions of the project include early warning about floods; strengthening community preparedness about floods and climate change by providing information; temporary floods shelter for people and livestock during severe floods, improving productivity and diversity of crops within the limits of quality of soil.

The project also looks for the construction of pre-fabricated modular houses so that they can easily be disassembled and transported; other public structure such as schools and markets can be built in similar fashion, construction of climate resilient rural roads both all-weather and submersible depending on specific locations; developing planned markets, providing irrigation services; promoting public-private investment when issues of natural disasters and connectivity issues are resolved.

With 230 rivers flowing over the country into the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh is a delta of about 144,000 sq. km. of area and most part of which is low-lying plain land made up of alluvial soil with hills in the southeastern and northeastern parts. Its main rivers are the Padma, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna.

As a world leader in adapting to living with floods, it is time for Bangladesh also explore some newer technologies developed in other parts of the world to shore up their flood defences. “There is a need to think about a long-term solution to it for building a more resilient Bangladesh,” says Prof Saiful.

The post Bangladesh Needs to Shore up Its Flood Defence appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/bangladesh-needs-shore-flood-defence/feed/ 0
An Almost Happy Countryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/almost-happy-country/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=almost-happy-country http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/almost-happy-country/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 08:13:56 +0000 Rafia Zakaria http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152185 The World Happiness Report operates from the premise that happiness can be measured, counted up via surveys, tabulated in statistics and then ranked by country. This year’s report ranks 155 countries in a master ranking of happiness. It also proves statistically what all of us have known tacitly: rich people are happier than poor people, […]

The post An Almost Happy Country appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
By Rafia Zakaria
Sep 20 2017 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The World Happiness Report operates from the premise that happiness can be measured, counted up via surveys, tabulated in statistics and then ranked by country. This year’s report ranks 155 countries in a master ranking of happiness. It also proves statistically what all of us have known tacitly: rich people are happier than poor people, more likely to describe themselves as “happy” and consequently rich countries, made up as they are of rich people, are happier than poor countries.

Rafia Zakaria

Rafia Zakaria

Of all the lucky and happy countries, the happiest and consequently the luckiest is Norway, ranked number one among the 155. Its other Scandinavian neighbours, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden, are not far behind, all of them appearing in the top 10 happiest places in the world. With little threat of war, free healthcare and state support for unemployment or disability, Norwegians need not fret over the concerns that trouble the rest of us.

According to the report’s authors, however, Norwegians are happy not because of their country’s wealth but in spite of it; ever frugal, they drill their oil reserves sparingly and slowly invest the profits rather than frittering them all away. As a consequence, Norway’s economy is cushioned from sudden downturns and its people from common worries that are everybody else’s affliction. Those who save are rarely sorry and the case of Norway, the happiest country in the world, proves just that.

How you estimate Pakistan’s position depends on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist.

At number 80, Pakistan falls in the middle of the pack of countries ranked by the happiness index, not anywhere in the league of Denmark and Norway but beating both India and Bangladesh. At number 122, India fell four places in the happiness index between last year and this year’s rankings. One Indian publication blamed unemployment, malnutrition and poverty as possible causes, another threw the blame at the lack of vacation time, citing a study that ranked India as the fourth most vacation-deprived country in the world.

At number 79, China ranks higher than India but (rather surprisingly) sharp improvements in the standard of living of the Chinese over the past 25 years have not produced equivalent advances in levels of reported happiness. If the World Happiness Report is to be believed, the Chinese are absolutely no happier than they were in 1990 when per capita income was significantly lower than it is today. A possible cause for Chinese unhappiness could be the perceived lack of personal and political freedom, an indicator on which the world’s happiest countries rank very highly. More money, it seems, cannot entirely eliminate the misery produced by the constrictions and constraints of a repressive society.

The import of a World Happiness Report lies in the insights it can provide about the human experience as a whole — and there are some interesting ones in this year’s edition. Across all 155 countries, unemployment produces a huge drop in an individual’s estimation of their own happiness. Similarly, regardless of whether a country is rich or poor, the misery of mental illness is the single factor having the largest impact on happiness. It makes sense then that countries that have few resources to deal with mental illness and in which mental illness is stigmatised do not rank as highly on the happiness index as those where the mentally ill can be properly treated and are not subject to social exclusion and ostracism.

For all its insights, however, the World Happiness Report is yet another ranking according to whose parameters rich countries rank higher, seem better and hence establish a dominance of sorts over lesser nations. The happiness ranking, comprehensive and exhaustive as it may seem, does not reveal that the countries at the bottom of the list — the Central African Republic, Yemen and Syria amongst them — have all been the subject of troublesome meddling by richer, more powerful (and happier) Western nations. Invasion or intervention of this sort is not measured or interrogated by the authors of the happiness index, nor is it considered a possible cause for a lower happiness ranking.

The underlying premise of the World Happiness Report is that ‘happiness’ measured subjectively via a number of variables is the most coveted state of being in the world. Happiness, it is assumed, is the object of all human action and the consequently ultimate metric of well-being, more thorough and accurate than earlier tabulations that ranked the world’s nations on the basis of other measurements — the sum of their gross domestic product or the level of their economic growth. And yet even this metric of ‘happiness’ and its measurement using (at least in part) surveys of individuals may be unduly reliant on individualistic notions of self.

In societies where group identities are dominant, survey questions that demand subjective and individual estimations of happiness would be unusual, with survey respondents unaccustomed to considering their relative happiness or unhappiness independent of the consensus of family or clan or tribe. Similarly, some societies may prioritise piety or unity over individual happiness, making the latter a less than ideal measure of their well-being in relation to others.

At almost exactly halfway down the happiness index, how you estimate Pakistan’s position depends on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, inclined to see the glass half full or half empty. In either case, improvement is always possible: the Central American country of Nicaragua, beset with just as many challenges as Pakistan, came in at number 43, making it the most improved country in the entire set of rankings. What’s possible for Nicaragua may be possible for Pakistan, a climb from the bottom half into the upper half, a transformation from an almost happy country to a truly happy one.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.
rafia.zakaria@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

The post An Almost Happy Country appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/almost-happy-country/feed/ 0
Guarding Against a Communal Narrativehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/guarding-communal-narrative/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=guarding-communal-narrative http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/guarding-communal-narrative/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 08:06:47 +0000 Moyukh Mahtab http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152183 The outpouring of help for Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh has been heart-warming. For a country itself plagued by scarcity, people from all walks have come forward to help them in whatever capacity they have. Buddhists in this country have set up camps to donate blood to Rohingyas who need it and Muslims […]

The post Guarding Against a Communal Narrative appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

A large plume of smoke is seen on the Myanmar side of the border from Teknaf, September 15, 2017. Photo: REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

By Moyukh Mahtab
Sep 20 2017 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The outpouring of help for Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh has been heart-warming. For a country itself plagued by scarcity, people from all walks have come forward to help them in whatever capacity they have. Buddhists in this country have set up camps to donate blood to Rohingyas who need it and Muslims here have come out to help both Muslims and Hindu refugees from Rakhaine. Now, Sikh volunteers from India have arrived in Teknaf to set up a community kitchen for the refugees. And, as befits a nation that constitutionally guarantees the rights of every citizen, irrespective of race and religion, some Muslim alems have come out saying that now, it is the duty of Islamic leaders here to ensure that no one harasses minorities in this country through misappropriation of the plight of the Rohingyas.

This is timely. There have already been reports of a few isolated incidents. Last week, a woman studying in university, was forced out of a bus she was travelling in as she was a Buddhist from the Chakma community, and by some twisted logic to some people, responsible for the atrocities in Myanmar. Prothom Alo reported on September 14 how a Buddhist monk who had just arrived in Bangladesh was picked up by three youths from a shop when he went there to buy water, and threatened. On September 15, Sammilito Bouddho Somaj held a press conference, denouncing the atrocities on the Rohingya in Myanmar, but also pointed out how a certain group was engaged in inciting communal hatred within Bangladesh. As precaution—and the state deserves praise for this—to ensure security of Buddhists here, police has increased vigilance around monasteries in Chittagong.

We have seen before how simplistic narratives of persecution of minorities can give rise to further communal tensions.

A little history of Myanmar, and how communalism works in general, is relevant. The religious nationalism that fuels the ethnic cleansing that is happening today in the Rakhine State is not something that suddenly flared up. Communalism is the use of a supposed religious identity as the basis of a political and social ideology. It seeks to categorise human beings as distinct communities along religious lines. It’s the expression of political and economic power through the use of religion. As Saskia Sassen recently highlighted in her article, the persecution of Rohingyas “might be partly generated by military-economic interests”—land grabbing and the greed for natural resources in Rakhine. (Is Rohingya persecution caused by business interests rather than religion?, Guardian, 2017) As for politics, the use of religion to consolidate support against some “other” is not new to this subcontinent. In this context, how we explain and generate public and international opinion on the Rohingya issue matters. The Rohingya issue cannot be described as an either/or: it is an entangled mess of religion, race, ultra-nationalism and business interests—to name only a few dimensions."Hearing of the horrors the Rohingya faced from those who survived, it is easy to fall prey to that same sentiment. Worse still, are those who intentionally use the horrors against the Rohingya to strengthen their brand of hate. The Buddhists of Bangladesh are not complicit to the crimes of Myanmar, as all Muslims should not be targeted for the crimes of those who intentionally misrepresent Islam.

Myanmar is home to at least six distinct groups of Muslims including the Indian-descended Muslim community of Rangoon, the Panthay who are Burmese Chinese Muslims and Zerbadi Muslims, descended from inter-ethnic marriages between Muslim men and Burmese women. Rohingyas are one such, although they are not recognised by the Myanmarese government. The official country puts the total Muslim population at around 4.3 percent, but as a 2006 US State Department report pointed out, the census may have underestimated the country’s Muslim population. The Rohingya population, which is not enumerated, consists of about half of the total Muslim population of Myanmar. Myanmar on the other hand claims that the Rohingyas are ethinically Bangalees, who crossed over and so not deserving of citizenship.

To say that religion is not a factor is wrong. As it is wrong to claim that religion solely drives the hate. There is a recent historical basis for Muslim–Buddhist conflict in Myanmar, but the case of the Rohingyas is distinct. And their plight is worse, because unlike other Muslim communities, they are not officially “citizens” of the country. Ethnicity is a crucial factor which drive the Myanmarese narrative—that of refusing to acknowledge Rohingyas as an ethnic group and claiming they are Bangalee immigrants.

Muslims have lived in what is Myanmar today for centuries now—and at times, the Buddhists, the majority, have coexisted peacefully with the minority population of Muslims who had started settling Myanmar from at least the ninth century. There are confirmed reports of Muslim colonies—which grew up over time from the Muslim sailors who settled in Myanmar, children of Muslim men who married Burmese women, mercenaries and migration—between the 13th to the 16th century. (Moshe Yegar, The Muslims of Burma)

At times Indian Muslims were very important to the administrative apparatus of Myanmar and held key positions in the ports and the court. Of course, there was tension at times, but there was harmony and coexistence for longer. Just take two examples which Moshe Yegar writes of in his book. Firstly, that of King Mindon who built a hostel in “Mecca for the comfort of Burmese Muslim pilgrims and at his own expense sent Burmese Muslims with money to erect the building …” in the second-half of the 19th century. In 1937, we find the Muslim Free Hospital and Medical Relief Society. A significant portion of its financing came from Zakat contributions for specific care of Muslims patients. In order to cater to all religions, the hospital started levying a fee, “a symbolic sum, upon the Muslim patients for the treatment they receive, for a Lillah (to God) Fund earmarked for the treatment of non-Muslim patients.” When it comes to the history of Myanmar, Moshe Yegar notes that Muslim persecution during the rule of one king in the 18th century was an aberration in the “background of tolerance.”

Of course, by the time Myanmar gained independence in 1948, the usual suspects of colonialism’s divide and rule policy had set in. Historically, tensions existed between those who lived in Rakhine, which was once independent from Myanmar, and the Burmese, but not along religious lines. World War II added to the discord when the two made different alliances. After Ne Win’s military take-over of the country in 1962, this hardened further. The pre-coup government of U Nu had recognised the ethnic identity of the Rohingyas, but since 1962, their claim to citizenship has been systematically denied. If one looks beyond the official Myanmarese narrative, one finds that in 1974, the government used the issues of “race and religion to consolidate its declining support.” (Imtiaz Ahmed, The Rohingyas: From Stateless to Refugee) Imtiaz Ahmed further writes, “Although in the entire matter, the government was selectively targeting the Arakanese Muslims or Rohingyas, it was not long before that the Arakanese as a whole (both Buddhists and Muslims) realised that such activities were intended to create a wedge between the majority Arakanese Buddhists … and the minority Rohingyas.”

The infamous Operation Naga Min of 1978¬–79 is reported to have been directed against both the Muslims and Buddhists of Rakhine. The Rohingya sought refuge in Bangladesh, hoping for shelter from their co-religionists. Between 1978-1983, military atrocities like those of today resulted in the deaths of 1,725 and the rapes of 2,715 Rakhine Buddhists. During the time 437 Rohingyas were killed and 1681 Rohgingya women were raped.

In 1990, the military government refused to hand over power to a democratically elected government, and had killed a few monks who were protesting. As Imtiaz Ahmed puts it: “The targeting of the Rohingyas in November 1991, therefore, fulfilled the double-task of consolidating the Buddhist majority and, at the same time, wrecking the unity of the Arakanese.” This time, pandering to populist sentiments, the main targets were the Rohingya Muslims, who were made targets for being of a different religion and ethnicity. Like right-wing populist leaders we see today, demonising an “other”, the military government wanted the support of Buddhists throughout Myanmar. Placating of hard-line monks meant increased tension between Buddhists and Muslims. The spectre of an “Islamisation” of the country and constant state propaganda created a narrative of the Myanmarese community as distinct groups. Tun Khin, a human rights activist and president of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, summarised to Newsweek recently: “Rohingyas are a different ethnic group, they have a different appearance and religion.” They were easy targets.

The point of this short and incomplete summary is to show how communalism appropriates religion. The state-military promoted this until the doctrine of hate against “outsiders” had become normalised.

Hearing of the horrors the Rohingya faced from those who survived, it is easy to fall prey to that same sentiment. Worse still, are those who intentionally use the horrors against the Rohingya to strengthen their brand of hate. The Buddhists of Bangladesh are not complicit to the crimes of Myanmar, as all Muslims should not be targeted for the crimes of those who intentionally misrepresent Islam. After all, the same Buddhists from Bangladesh have decided to refrain from their Prabarna Purnima festivities this year protesting the atrocities in Myanmar and have decided to distribute the money for the refugees.

The background to the ethno-religious violence against the Rohingyas and the combined effort of all communities in helping the refugees should be an antidote to the hate Myanmar preaches. We must remember that what we are doing to help the Rohingyas and speak up for them stems from a shared humanity, it rises above the communal politics of Myanmar.

Moyukh Mahtab is a member of the editorial team, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

The post Guarding Against a Communal Narrative appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/guarding-communal-narrative/feed/ 0
Aung San Suu Kyi: A Leader in Denial?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/aung-san-suu-kyi-leader-denial/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aung-san-suu-kyi-leader-denial http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/aung-san-suu-kyi-leader-denial/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 06:23:09 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152150 After finally breaking silence with a much anticipated address on the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State, Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has disappointed the world as she refuses to acknowledge the plight of her country’s Rohingya community. In a 30-minute televised address, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said that her […]

The post Aung San Suu Kyi: A Leader in Denial? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

After finally breaking silence with a much anticipated address on the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State, Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has disappointed the world as she refuses to acknowledge the plight of her country’s Rohingya community.

Aung San Suu Kyi

In a 30-minute televised address, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said that her government does not fear “international scrutiny” over its management of the crisis in Rakhine.

Suu Kyi, who decided not to attend the ongoing UN General Assembly in New York, said she nevertheless wanted the international community to know what her government was doing.

“We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence,” she said in her first public address since violence reignited after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked security posts on 25 August.

“We feel deeply for the suffering of all the people caught up in the conflict.”

However, her speech was filled with claims considered dubious by many worldwide as she refused to address the reality on the ground in Rakhine including the military’s alleged campaign of killing and burning villages.

“Her speech was disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst,” founder of Fortify Rights Matthew Smith told IPS, adding that some of her claims were “grotesquely untrue.”

A Denial of Atrocities

Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize Suu Kyi said that security forces are exercising “all due restraint” and that there have not been any “clearance operations” since 5 September.

However, Human Rights Watch released new satellite imagery showing that at least 62 villages in northern Rakhine were burned between August 25 and September 14, some of which can even be seen hundreds of kilometers away at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

Numerous global figures have reiterated the urgent scale of the crisis, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein who called it a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Suu Kyi that she has a “last chance” to reverse the army’s offensive and if she doesn’t, the crisis will be “absolutely horrible” and may not be reversible in the future.

The spike in refugees fleeing the conflict since 5 September indicate ongoing violence, which Suu Kyi also denied, stating that most Muslims have stayed in Rakhine and that the crisis is not as severe as the international community thinks.

“It’s incredulous,” said head of Amnesty International’s UN Office Sherine Tadros to IPS about Suu Kyi’s statement.

Rakhine State has a population of approximately three million, one million of whom are Rohingya Muslims.

The UN has estimated that over 400,000 Rohingya have already fled to Bangladesh in just three weeks. They have warned that up to one million—representing the entire Muslim population of Rakhine State—could flee to the neighboring nation by the end of the year.

“She has the responsibility to speak out, and at the very least we would expect for her to acknowledge what is going on in the ground in her own country,” Tadros said.

Balancing a Political Tightrope

Though it is unclear why she continues to support a military that placed her under house arrest for 15 years and has prevented her from becoming the President, some say Suu Kyi is walking a tightrope in protecting her own political interests.

This includes keeping the Myanmar’s powerful military, known as the Tatmadaw, happy.

After winning the 2015 elections, Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, entered a power-sharing agreement with the Tatmadaw which includes control over a quarter of all seats in parliament.

The military also retains control over its own budget and key ministries including home affairs, defense, and borders, making it the real power in northern Rakhine.

And the head of Tatmadaw General Min Aung Hlaing has explicitly and consistently spoken out against the Rohingya community, claiming that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar cannot “accept and recognize” them.

“Rakhine ethnics [Buddhists] are our indigenous people who had long been living there since the time of their forefathers,” he said in a Facebook post.

Myanmar’s Buddhist-majority population have also had little sympathy for the Rohingya since 2012, when deadly violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims left at least 200 dead and displaced 90,000.

It seems that Suu Kyi may be between a rock and a hard place. However, many believe that she does not only have the responsibility, but also the power to advance human rights in the country.

“As the moral leader of the country and as the senior most political leader, she is certainly in a position to shape the way that people in the country think about human rights, the way they think about the situation in Rakhine state,” Smith told IPS.

Tadros echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “Even if you don’t have much power over the military, you don’t have to be an apologist for them.”

“She has political concerns and that is a normal thing for any leader, but the fact that the political concerns are taking precedence over the killing and injuring of thousands of people…it’s just beyond words,” she continued.

Suu Kyi also reminded the international community in her speech that Myanmar is a newly democratic country that is still learning its way, stating: “After half a century or more of authoritarian rule, now we are in the process of nurturing our nation.”

“We are a young and fragile country facing many problems, but we have to cope with them all… we cannot just concentrate on the few,” she continued.

Tadros said that excuse is not good enough and that she can show leadership without the state collapsing.

“Myanmar has had decades to deal with the issue and has never done it in an effective way and the Suu Kyi administration is no different,” Smith said.

A History of Violence

Though Suu Kyi claimed that her government has made efforts in recent years to improve living conditions for Muslims living in Rakhine without discrimination, Myanmar’s government has long disputed the Rohingya people’s status as citizens.

Since 1982 when they adopted the biased citizenship law, the country has enacted a series of discriminatory policies including restrictions on movement and exclusion from healthcare, rendering the majority of the group stateless and impoverished.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) previously described the Rohingya community as one of the most “excluded, persecuted, and vulnerable communities in the world.”

However, Suu Kyi has consistently remained silent on the plight of the Rohingya and has instead perpetuated their discrimination and exclusion.

In her address, Suu Kyi refused to use the “Rohingya” by name, only referencing it when she spoke of ARSA which she said are responsible for “acts of terrorism.”

When asked if this continues to perpetuate the narrative that Rohingyas are terrorists, Smith said yes.

“She is in a position now to actually save lives, she is in a position now to stop atrocities. Not only is she failing to do that, but she is making matters worse,” he told IPS.

He added that she is contributing to a narrative that may push more civilians to attack Muslim populations in the country.

Suu Kyi said all those who have fled to Bangladesh will be able to return after a process of verification, and added that she wants to find out what the “real problems” are in Rakhine.

“We want to find out why this exodus is happening. We’d like to talk to those who have fled, as well as those who have stayed,” she said.

Though there is no end in sight to the country’s crisis, Smith expressed concern that her promised actions may coerce the population to disavow their ethnic identity.

“That is not a [verification] process to allow the population to self identify as Rohingya, it’s a process to try to systematize and document this population as Bengali and it’s not a pathway to full citizenship.”

Tadros questioned the fate of Rohingya that do return, stating: “The people who have fled have the right to return. But return to what? Return to what sort of conditions? Return to a country where they have no rights and for this cycle of violence to happen again?”

“This isn’t about being able to physically cross the border to go back to your house anymore, this is about using this moment to actually get the Rohingya the rights that they deserve,” she added.

She urged for Suu Kyi and the international community to do everything in their power to stop the violence, while Smith called on the Security Council to declare the crisis as a threat to international peace and security.

“What is needed right now is action. The Security Council needs to start preparing itself to act towards international justice,” he concluded.

The post Aung San Suu Kyi: A Leader in Denial? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/aung-san-suu-kyi-leader-denial/feed/ 0
President Trump at the UN: a Reactionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/president-trump-un-reaction/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=president-trump-un-reaction http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/president-trump-un-reaction/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 05:40:37 +0000 Jessica Stern http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152147 Jessica Stern is Executive Director of OutRight Action International

The post President Trump at the UN: a Reaction appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Jessica Stern is Executive Director of OutRight Action International

By Jessica Stern
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

On September 18 and 19, US President Donald Trump addressed world leaders at the opening of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly in New York.

Jessica Stern

Time and time again, President Trump has threatened to curtail the United States’ obligations to the international human rights system and to the United Nations itself. In his remarks, the word he said most often – “sovereignty” – underscored that his political agenda promotes political isolationism and undermines the global cooperation that protects vulnerable people from natural disasters, corrupt governments, and civil war.

As an organization that serves as a watchdog on the UN, we know that sovereignty is a term loaded with negative meaning. Sovereignty is often an excuse for States to ignore their obligation to protect the human rights of individuals, especially those that are most marginalized and vulnerable.

Reform in President Trump’s words is code for stripping the human rights system of much-needed resources. We believe the only reform that is truly needed puts LGBTIQ people and all vulnerable groups at the center of UN governance, human rights, and programs. The reform and resources we need would elevate the rights of the world’s most marginalized, open space for meaningful civil society participation, and invest in climate justice.

OutRight addressed the kinds of reform that would advance human rights and strengthen the UN today.

Reallocation of resources

The world’s most vulnerable and marginalized people shoulder the burden of poverty and discrimination, yet the UN currently fails to adequately address the needs of these populations. For example, UN Women, the lead agency addressing gender-based violence and gender justice, has one of the smallest budgets of all UN agencies. The UNDP proposed LGBTI Inclusion Index would aggregate global data about LGBTI people aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, but it remains woefully underfunded.

Increased investment in UN programs that work with marginalized and vulnerable populations is essential if the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women, girls and LGBTI people are to be protected. Adequate funding is required to protect and promote the human rights of all women and girls, people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics, indigenous, migrant, rural, and elderly people, as well as people with disabilities, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Access for civil society

Civil society access across the UN system is shrinking. In the last year alone, arbitrary and onerous restrictions on human rights defenders and organizations trying to utilize the UN have increased exponentially. Under these circumstances, civil society is unable to raise vital issues and act as a watchdog on States and UN officials, and the result is that transparency and accountability have been undermined. The very voices and people the United National claims to protect and serve are increasingly excluded from participating.

The reform needed would enable civil society to participate meaningfully in decision-making and for human rights defenders working at the international level to be protected from reprisals.

Greater investment in human rights and climate justice

Investment in security alone is not sufficient to protect human lives. Peace and security are achieved through the protection and promotion of human rights and climate justice. Every day, people’s fundamental rights are egregiously and persistently violated in ways that shock the conscience. Often the only recourse and access to justice for individuals’ whose rights are being undermined and disregarded at the country level are international rights structures. Global migration and food scarcity will only be exacerbated if the world does not put issues of climate change front and center in policymaking.

We call on UN Member States to increase commitment to the Office of Human Rights, the Human Rights Council, treaty bodies and special mechanisms. We call on Member States to fully ratify the Paris Agreement, uphold the “Call to Action” of the Oceans Conference, and support the Kyoto Protocols.

The post President Trump at the UN: a Reaction appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/president-trump-un-reaction/feed/ 0
Small Farmers in Brazil’s Amazon Region Seek Sustainabilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/small-farmers-brazils-amazon-region-seek-sustainability/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=small-farmers-brazils-amazon-region-seek-sustainability http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/small-farmers-brazils-amazon-region-seek-sustainability/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 23:00:28 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152139 The deforestation caused by the expansion of livestock farming and soy monoculture appears unstoppable in the Amazon rainforest in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. But small-scale farmers are trying to reverse that trend. Alison Oliveira is a product of the invasion by a wave of farmers from the south, lured by vast, cheap […]

The post Small Farmers in Brazil’s Amazon Region Seek Sustainability appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
After living in the city for 10 years, Oliveira and Marcely Federicci da Silva, a young married couple, decided to return to work on their farm with a sustainable agriculture project, nearby Alta Floresta, in the so-called Portal of the Amazon, in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

After living in the city for 10 years, Oliveira and Marcely Federicci da Silva, a young married couple, decided to return to work on their farm with a sustainable agriculture project, nearby Alta Floresta, in the so-called Portal of the Amazon, in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ALTA FLORESTA, Brazil, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

The deforestation caused by the expansion of livestock farming and soy monoculture appears unstoppable in the Amazon rainforest in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. But small-scale farmers are trying to reverse that trend.

Alison Oliveira is a product of the invasion by a wave of farmers from the south, lured by vast, cheap land in the Amazon region when the 1964-1985 military dictatorship aggressively promoted the occupation of the rainforest.

“I was born here in 1984, but my grandfather came from Paraná (a southern state) and bought about 16 hectares here, which are currently divided between three families: my father’s, my brother’s and mine,” Oliveira told IPS while milking his cows in a barn that is small but mechanised.

“Milk is our main source of income; today we have 14 cows, 10 of which are giving milk,” he explained. “I also make cheese the way my grandfather taught me, and I sell it to hotels and restaurants, for twice the price of the milk.”

But what distinguishes his farm, 17 km from Alta Floresta, a city of about 50,000 people in northern Mato Grosso, is its mode of production, which involves an agroforestry system that combines crops and trees, irrigated pastureland, an organic garden and free-range egg-laying chickens.

Because of its sustainable agriculture system, the farm is used as a model in an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) programme, and is visited by students and other interested people.

“We want more: a biodigester, solar power and rural tourism, when we have the money to make the investments,” said Oliveira’s wife, 34-year-old Marcely Federicci da Silva.

The couple discovered their vocation for sustainable farming after living for 10 years in Sinop, which with its 135,000 people is the most populated city in northern Mato Grosso, and which owes its prosperity to soy crops for export.

“Raising two small children in the city is harder,” she said, also attributing their return to the countryside to Olhos de Agua, a project promoted by the municipal government of Alta Floresta to reforest and restore the headwaters of rivers on small rural properties.

 Alison Oliveira, surrounded by the organic crops that he and his wife grow on their small-scale farm outside the city of Alta Floresta, on the southern edge of Brazil’s Amazon region. Sustainable family farming, supported by several organisations, acts as a barrier against deforestation and soy monoculture. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS


Alison Oliveira, surrounded by the organic crops that he and his wife grow on their small-scale farm outside the city of Alta Floresta, on the southern edge of Brazil’s Amazon region. Sustainable family farming, supported by several organisations, acts as a barrier against deforestation and soy monoculture. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The financial viability of the farm owes a great deal to the support received from the non-governmental Ouro Verde Institute (IOV), which in addition to providing technical assistance, created a mechanism for on-line sales, creating links between farmers and consumers, Oliveira pointed out.

The Solidarity-Based Marketing System (Siscos), launched in 2008, is“an on-line market that allows direct interaction between 30 farmers and over 500 registered customers, zootechnician Cirio Custodio da Silva, marketing consultant for the IOV, explained to IPS.

Customers place weekly orders, the system chooses suppliers and picks up the products to be delivered to the buyers in a shop on Wednesdays.

Besides, Siscos supports sales in street markets, and the school feeding programme, which by law in Brazil buys at least 30 per cent of its food products from family farmers, and the women textile workers’ network, who make handcrafted textiles.

The IOV, founded in 1999 in Alta Floresta to drive social participation in sustainable development, especially in agriculture, has promoted since 2010 a network of native seeds, to encourage reforestation and crop diversification.

Alison Oliveira milks one of his cows, which feed on a pasture with nocturnal irrigation, which cuts power costs by 60 per cent. Together with an organic garden and an agroforestry system, it makes their farm an example of sustainability which attracts many visitors. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Alison Oliveira milks one of his cows, which feed on a pasture with nocturnal irrigation, which cuts power costs by 60 per cent. Together with an organic garden and an agroforestry system, it makes their farm an example of sustainability which attracts many visitors. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Seed collectors organised in a 115-member cooperative, with 12 seed banks, 200 selected tree species, and mainly oilseeds for agriculture, represent an activity that is also a source of income, said agronomist Anderson Lopes, head of that area at the IOV.

Initially, the interest of the farmers was limited to having access to agricultural seeds, but later it also extended to
seeds of native tree species, for the restoration of forests, springs and headwaters, and degraded land, he said.

Silva and Lopes have similar backgrounds. Their farming families, from the south, ventured to the so-called Portal of the Amazon, a region that covers 16 municipalities in northern Mato Grosso, where the rainforest begins.

It is a territory with a rural economy, where one-third of the 258,000 inhabitants still live in the countryside, according to the 2010 national census.

It is a transition zone between the area with the largest soybean and maize production in Brazil, in north-central Mato Grosso, and the Amazon region with its dense, sparsely populated jungle.

This is reflected in 14 indigenous territories established in the area and in the number of family farmers – over 20,000 – in contrast with the prevalence of large soybean plantations that are advancing from the south.

The road that connects Sinop – a kind of capital of the empire of soy – with Alta Floresta, 320 km to the north, runs through land that gradually becomes less flat and favourable for mechanised monoculture, with more and more forests and fewer vast agricultural fields.

Pedro Kingfuku, owner of four supermarkets, stands among fruit and vegetables that come from Paraná, 2,000 km south of Paranaita, a municipality with a population of 11,000 people. Local family farming has a great capacity for expansion to cater to the large market in the north of the state of Mato Grosso, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Pedro Kingfuku, owner of four supermarkets, stands among fruit and vegetables that come from Paraná, 2,000 km south of Paranaita, a municipality with a population of 11,000 people. Local family farming has a great capacity for expansion to cater to the large market in the north of the state of Mato Grosso, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

That tendency is accentuated towards Paranaita, a municipality with a population of 11,000 people, 54 km west of Alta Floresta, which announces the last frontier of livestock farming and soy monoculture, at least through that south-north highway across Mato Grosso, the national leader in the production of soy.

Movements in favour of sustainability, such as the one supported by IOV, and the important presence of family farmers, are joining forces to help curb the invasion of the Amazon region by soy monoculture which dominated north-central Mato Grosso, creating a post-harvest desert-like landscape.

Another non-governmental organisation, the Center of Life Institute (ICV), also active in Alta Floresta and surrounding areas, has a Sustainable Livestock Initiative, with reforestation and restoration of degraded pastures.

The “colonisation” process of the Portal of the Amazon was similar to that of the rest of Mato Grosso. People from the south came with dreams of working in agriculture, after previous waves of loggers and “garimpeiros” – informal miners of gold and precious stones – activities that still continue but have become less prevalent.

“Many of those who obtained land harvested the timber and then returned south,” because planting crops was torture, without roads, marketing or financial support, recalled Daniel Schlindewein, another migrant from Paraná who settled in Sinop in 1997.

Agriculture failed with coffee, rice and other traditional crops that were initially tried, until soy monoculture spread among the small farms, rented from the large producers.

But family farming has survived in the Portal of the Amazon.

“If the town of São Pedro didn’t exist, I would have to close the store in Paranaíta,“ Pedro Kingfuku, the owner of a chain of four supermarkets in the area, told IPS. He opened the stores in 2013 betting that the construction of the Teles Pires Hydropower Plant nearby would generate 5,000 new customers.

“But not even a tenth of what was expected came,“ he lamented.

The 785 farming families who settled in São Pedro, near Paranaíta, saved the local supermarket because they mainly buy there, said Kingfuku, the son of Japanese immigrants who also came from Paraná.

“Among the settlers, the ones who earn the most are the dairy farmers, like my father who has 16 hectares of land,” said Mauricio Dionisio, a young man who works in the supermarket.

The post Small Farmers in Brazil’s Amazon Region Seek Sustainability appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/small-farmers-brazils-amazon-region-seek-sustainability/feed/ 0
Cox’s Bazar Health Facilities Struggle to Cope as New Arrivals Pass 415,000: IOM Scales Up Mobile Teams, Support to Government Clinicshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/coxs-bazar-health-facilities-struggle-cope-new-arrivals-pass-415000-iom-scales-mobile-teams-support-government-clinics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coxs-bazar-health-facilities-struggle-cope-new-arrivals-pass-415000-iom-scales-mobile-teams-support-government-clinics http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/coxs-bazar-health-facilities-struggle-cope-new-arrivals-pass-415000-iom-scales-mobile-teams-support-government-clinics/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 21:15:27 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152136 IOM, the UN Migration Agency is working with Government and aid agency partners to rapidly ramp up fixed and mobile health services in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district to help some 415,000 people who have fled violence in Myanmar’s North Rakhine State over the past three weeks. Many of the new arrivals, who have walked for […]

The post Cox’s Bazar Health Facilities Struggle to Cope as New Arrivals Pass 415,000: IOM Scales Up Mobile Teams, Support to Government Clinics appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
People line up outside an IOM mobile clinic in Unchiprang spontaneous settlement. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

People line up outside an IOM mobile clinic in Unchiprang spontaneous settlement. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

By International Organization for Migration
Cox’s Bazar, Sep 19 2017 (IOM)

IOM, the UN Migration Agency is working with Government and aid agency partners to rapidly ramp up fixed and mobile health services in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district to help some 415,000 people who have fled violence in Myanmar’s North Rakhine State over the past three weeks.

Many of the new arrivals, who have walked for days through jungle in intense heat and monsoon rains, are already sick and malnourished by the time they reach the teeming settlements of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Camping in the open with little or no shelter on muddy hillsides with no access to clean water or latrines, the very young and the old are at greatest risk from water borne and contagious diseases.

“Newly arrived children are at high risk of vaccine preventable diseases. Bangladesh is already free of polio and almost free of measles and rubella. So, the Government, the World Health Organization and humanitarian partners launched an urgent immunization programme on Saturday to vaccinate 150,000 newly arrived children. Nutrition support and management of malnutrition, especially severe acute malnutrition, is also urgently needed for these children,” said Dr. Samir Kumar Howlader, IOM National Health Programme Officer.

“Lack of safe drinking water, personal hygiene and sanitation facilities has already resulted in acute watery diarrhea and other water borne diseases. So, disease surveillance and early warning systems also need to be strengthened significantly,” he added.

Others have arrived in Bangladesh with injuries inflicted in Myanmar. “I was living with a gunshot wound for five days. I would have lost my leg if I didn’t get treatment,” said Anayet Ullah, 18, who was in a critical condition when he was treated by an IOM medical team at Ukhiya government health complex. The doctors referred him to Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital, where he recovered.

The Ukhiya doctors and nurses are one of 12 IOM teams operating from government health facilities in the two Cox’s Bazar sub-districts of Ukhiya and Teknaf, where the Rohingya population outside the two UNHCR-run refugee camps now totals an estimated 600,000 people, two thirds of whom have arrived since August 25th. Three IOM mobile medical teams have also started providing basic and primary healthcare services in three spontaneous settlements in the area.

In addition to primary health care and referrals, the teams focus on sexual and reproductive health, and maternal and child health. They also provide mental health and psychosocial services to about 120 people each day. They say that all of these services will need to be massively expanded to cope with the influx of new arrivals.

An estimated 14,000 pregnant women are in need of maternal and child health care, with an estimated 50% of them considered to have complicated pregnancies
Over the past three weeks, IOM teams have provided emergency and primary healthcare services to around 15,000 new arrivals and 9,500 others from the Rohingya and host populations. They assisted 64 child deliveries and provided referral services to another 226 patients.

Agencies working in the health sector have told the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) in Cox’s Bazar that they have already provided treatment to some 52,000 of the new arrivals. But existing facilities are reporting a 150-200 per cent increase in patients, overwhelming current capacity and resources.

They say that an estimated 171,800 newly arrived people are not yet covered by any primary health care services. Primary health care coverage also needs to be expanded as soon as possible to cover all newly arrived populations in both spontaneous and existing makeshift settlements, they note.

The agencies also say that an estimated 14,000 pregnant women are in need of maternal and child health care. An estimated 50 per cent of them are considered to have complicated pregnancies and may need emergency obstetric and neonatal care.

In addition to the immunization campaign, the Ministry of Health, which is leading the health sector response with the support of IOM, says that 16 mobile medical teams and satellite clinics have been mobilized in existing and new settlements, covering an estimated 217,206 new arrivals. They include mobile reproductive health clinics. Three more mobile teams are also providing daily services in no man’s land on the border and eight ambulances are operating. The MoH has also established a Control Room at the Civil Surgeon’s Office in Cox’s Bazar to support coordination of the response.

Last week, IOM has appealed for USD 26.1 million to meet the immediate needs of the 400,000 newly arrived people now sheltering in Cox’s Bazar. The Flash Appeal, covering the next three months, includes USD 3 million for healthcare. The IOM appeal is part of a broader appeal (ISCG Preliminary Response Plan) by all ISCG agencies operating in Cox’s Bazar for USD 77.1 million through year end.

For more information, please contact:
Peppi Siddiq in IOM Dhaka, Tel: +8801755568894, Email: pksiddiq@iom.int
Chris Lom in Cox’s Bazar, Tel. +8801733335221, Email: clom@iom.int

The post Cox’s Bazar Health Facilities Struggle to Cope as New Arrivals Pass 415,000: IOM Scales Up Mobile Teams, Support to Government Clinics appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/coxs-bazar-health-facilities-struggle-cope-new-arrivals-pass-415000-iom-scales-mobile-teams-support-government-clinics/feed/ 0
“We are a World in Pieces”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/we-are-a-world-in-pieces/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=we-are-a-world-in-pieces http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/we-are-a-world-in-pieces/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 18:38:30 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152134 António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his address to the General Assembly

The post “We are a World in Pieces” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his address to the General Assembly

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

I am here in a spirit of gratitude and humility for the trust you have placed in me to serve the world’s peoples. “We the peoples”, and our United Nations, face grave challenges. Our world is in trouble. People are hurting and angry. They see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing.

The global economy is increasingly integrated, but our sense of global community may be disintegrating. Societies are fragmented. Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace. And I strongly believe that, together, we can build peace. We can restore trust and create a better world for all. I will focus today on seven threats and tests that stand in our way. For each, the dangers are all too clear. Yet for each, if we act as truly United Nations, we can find answers.

First, the nuclear peril.
The use of nuclear weapons should be unthinkable. Even the threat of their use can never be condoned. But today global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War.

The fear is not abstract. Millions of people live under a shadow of dread cast by the provocative nuclear and missile tests of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Within the DPRK itself, such tests do nothing to ease the plight of those who are suffering hunger and severe violations of their human rights.

I condemn those tests unequivocally. I call on the DPRK and all Member States to comply fully with Security Council resolutions. Last week’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2375 tightens sanctions and sends a clear message regarding the country’s international obligations.

I appeal to the Council to maintain its unity.

Only that unity can lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and — as the resolution recognizes — create an opportunity for diplomatic engagement to resolve the crisis.

When tensions rise, so does the chance of miscalculation. Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings.

The solution must be political. This is a time for statesmanship. We must not sleepwalk our way into war. More broadly, all countries must show greater commitment to the universal goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The nuclear-weapon states have a special responsibility to lead.

Today proliferation is creating unimaginable danger, and disarmament is paralyzed.

There is an urgent need to prevent proliferation and promote disarmament. These goals are linked. Progress on one will generate progress on the other.

Second, let me turn to the global threat of terrorism.
Nothing justifies terrorism — no cause, no grievance. Terrorism continues to take a rising toll of death and devastation. It is destroying societies, destabilizing regions and diverting energy from more productive pursuits. National and multilateral counter-terrorism efforts have disrupted networks, reclaimed territory, prevented attacks and saved lives.

We need to intensify this work. Stronger international cooperation remains crucial. I am grateful to the General Assembly for approving one of my first reform initiatives: the establishment of the UN Office on Counter-Terrorism. Next year, I intend to convene the first-ever gathering of heads of counter-terrorism agencies of Member States to forge a new International Counter-Terrorism Partnership.

But it is not enough to fight terrorists on the battlefield or to deny them funds. We must do more to address the roots of radicalization, including real and perceived injustices and high levels of unemployment and grievance among young people. Political, religious and community leaders have a duty to stand up against hatred and serve as models of tolerance and moderation.

Together, we need to make full use of UN instruments, and expand our efforts to support survivors.

Experience has also shown that harsh crackdowns and heavy-handed approaches are counterproductive. As soon as we believe that violations of human rights and democratic freedoms are necessary to win the fight, we have lost the war.

Third, unresolved conflicts and systematic violations of international humanitarian law.
We are all shocked by the dramatic escalation of sectarian tensions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. A vicious cycle of persecution, discrimination, radicalization and violent repression has led more than 400,000 desperate people to flee, putting regional stability at risk.

The authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations, and allow unhindered humanitarian access. They must also address the grievances of the Rohingya, whose status has been left unresolved for far too long.

No one is winning today’s wars. From Syria to Yemen, from South Sudan to the Sahel, Afghanistan and elsewhere, only political solutions can bring peace. We should have no illusions. We will not be able to eradicate terrorism if we do not resolve the conflicts that are creating the disorder within which violent extremists flourish.

Last week I announced the creation of a High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation. Those eminent individuals will allow us to be more effective in brokering peace around the world. The United Nations is forging closer partnerships with key regional organizations such as the African Union, the European Union, the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

We continue to strengthen and modernize peacekeeping – protecting civilians and saving lives around the world. And since taking office, I have sought to bring together the parties to conflict, as well as those that have influence on them.

As a meaningful example, I am particularly hopeful about tomorrow’s meeting on Libya.

Last month, I visited Israel and Palestine. We must not let today’s stagnation in the peace process lead to tomorrow’s escalation. We must restore the hopes of the people. The two-state solution remains the only way forward. It must be pursued urgently.

But I must be frank: in too many cases, the warring parties believe war is the answer.

They may speak of a willingness to compromise. But their actions too often betray a thirst for outright military victory, at any cost. Violations of international humanitarian law are rampant, and impunity prevails. Civilians are paying the highest price, with women and girls facing systematic violence and oppression.

I have seen in my country, and in my years at the United Nations, that it is possible to move from war to peace, and from dictatorship to democracy. Let us push ahead with a surge in diplomacy today and a leap in conflict prevention for tomorrow.

Fourth, climate change puts our hopes in jeopardy.
Last year was the hottest ever. The past decade has been the hottest on record.

Average global temperature keeps climbing, glaciers are receding and permafrost is declining.

Millions of people and trillions of assets are at risk from rising seas and other climate disruptions.

The number of natural disasters has quadrupled since 1970. The United States, followed by China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia, have experienced the most disasters since 1995 – more than 1600, or once every five days. I stand in solidarity with the people of the Caribbean and the United States who have just suffered through Hurricane Irma, the longest-lasting Category 5 storm ever recorded.

We should not link any single weather event with climate change. But scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict will be the new normal of a warming world.

We have had to update our language to describe what is happening: we now talk of mega-hurricanes, superstorms and rain bombs.

It is high time to get off the path of suicidal emissions. We know enough today to act. The science is unassailable. I urge Governments to implement the historic Paris Agreement with ever greater ambition. I commend those cities that are setting bold targets.

I welcome the initiatives of the thousands of private enterprises — including major oil and gas companies — that are betting on a clean, green future. Energy markets are telling us that green business is good business. The falling cost of renewables is one of the most encouraging stories on the planet today. So is the growing evidence that economies can grow as emissions go down.

New markets, more jobs, opportunities to generate trillions in economic output. The facts are clear. Solutions are staring us in the face. Leadership needs to catch up.

Fifth, rising inequality is undermining the foundations of society and the social compact.
The integration of the world’s economies, expanding trade and stunning advances in technology have brought remarkable benefits. More people have risen out of extreme poverty than ever before. The global middle class is also bigger than ever. More people are living longer, healthier lives.

But the gains have not been equal. We see gaping disparities in income, opportunity and access to the fruits of research and innovation. Eight men hold the same wealth as half of humanity.

Whole regions, countries and communities remain far removed from the waves of progress and growth, left behind in the Rust Belts of our world. This exclusion has a price: frustration, alienation, instability. But we have a blueprint to change course — to achieve fair globalization. That plan is the 2030 Agenda.

Half our world is female. Half our world is under 25 years of age. We cannot meet the Sustainable Development Goals without drawing on the power of women and the enormous energy of young people. We know how fast transformation can take place in our day and age. We know that with global assets and wealth worth trillions, we are not suffering from a lack of funds.

Let us find the wisdom to use the tools, plans and resources already in our hands to achieve inclusive and sustainable development — a goal in its own right but also our best form of conflict prevention. The dark side of innovation is the sixth threat we must confront — and it has moved from the frontier to the front door.

Technology will continue to be at the heart of shared progress. But innovation, as essential as it is for humankind, can bring unintended consequences. Cybersecurity threats are escalating. Cyber war is becoming less and less a hidden reality — and more and more able to disrupt relations among States and destroy some of the structures and systems of modern life.

Advances in cyberspace can empower people, but the dark web shows that some use this capacity to degrade and enslave. Artificial intelligence is a game changer that can boost development and transform lives in spectacular fashion. But it may also have a dramatic impact on labour markets and, indeed, on global security and the very fabric of societies.

Genetic engineering has gone from the pages of science fiction to the marketplace – but it has generated new and unresolved ethical dilemmas. Unless these breakthroughs are handled responsibly, they could cause incalculable damage. Governments and international organizations are simply not prepared for these developments.

Traditional forms of regulation simply do not apply. It is clear that such trends and capacities demand a new generation of strategic thinking, ethical reflection and regulation. The United Nations stands ready as a forum where Member States, civil society, businesses and the academic community can come together and discuss the way forward, for the benefit of all.

Finally, I want to talk about human mobility, which I do not perceive as a threat even if some do. I see it as a challenge that, if properly managed, can help bring the world together.

Let us be clear: we do not only face a refugee crisis; we also face a crisis of solidarity.
Every country has the right to control its own borders. But that must be done in a way that protects the rights of people on the move.

Instead of closed doors and open hostility, we need to reestablish the integrity of the refugee protection regime and the simple decency of human compassion. With a truly global sharing of responsibility, the numbers we face can be managed. But too many states have not risen to the moment.

I commend those countries that have shown admirable hospitality to millions of forcibly displaced people. We need to do more to support them. We also need to do more to face the challenges of migration. The truth is that the majority of migrants move in a well-ordered fashion, making positive contributions to their host countries and homelands. It is when migrants move in unregulated ways that the risks become clear – for states but most especially for migrants themselves exposed to perilous journeys.

Migration has always been with us. Climate change, demographics, instability, growing inequalities, and aspirations for a better life, as well as unmet needs in labour markets, mean it is here to stay.

The answer is effective international cooperation in managing migration to ensure that its benefits are most widely distributed, and the human rights of all concerned properly protected. But from ample experience, I can assure you that most people prefer to realize their aspirations at home.

We must work together to make sure that they can do so. Migration should be an option, not a necessity. We also need a much stronger commitment of the international community to crack down on human traffickers, and to protect their victims.

But we will not end the tragedies on the Mediterranean, the Andaman Sea and elsewhere without creating more opportunities for regular migration. This will benefit migrants and countries alike.

I myself am a migrant, as are many of you. But no one expected me to risk my life on a leaky boat or cross a desert in the back of a truck to find employment outside my country of birth.

Safe migration cannot be limited to the global elite. Refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants are not the problem; the problem lies in conflict, persecution and hopeless poverty.
I have been pained to see the way refugees and migrants have been stereotyped and scapegoated – and to see political figures stoke resentment in search of electoral gain.

In today’s world, all societies are becoming multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious.
This diversity must be seen as a richness, not a threat. But to make diversity a success, we need to invest in social cohesion, so that all people feel that their identities are respected and they have a stake in the community as a whole.

We need to reform our world, and I am committed to reforming our United Nations. Together, we have embarked on a comprehensive reform effort:
— to build a UN development system to support States in bettering peoples’ lives;
— to reinforce our ability to safeguard people’s peace, security and human rights;
— and to embrace management practices that advance those goals instead of hindering them.
We have launched a new victims-centred approach to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.
We have a roadmap to achieve gender parity at the United Nations – and we are already on our way.

We are here to serve: to relieve the suffering of “we the peoples”; and to help fulfil their dreams.
We come from different corners of the world. Our cultures, religions, traditions vary widely — and wonderfully. At times, there are competing interests among us. At others, there is even open conflict. That is exactly why we need the United Nations. That is why multilateralism is more important than ever.

We call ourselves the international community. We must act as one. Only together, as United Nations, can we fulfil the promise of the Charter and advance human dignity for all.

The post “We are a World in Pieces” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/we-are-a-world-in-pieces/feed/ 0
Out of Africa: Understanding Economic Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-understanding-economic-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-understanding-economic-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-understanding-economic-refugees/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 15:19:45 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152132 Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

The post Out of Africa: Understanding Economic Refugees appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Young African migrants seek opportunities abroad as the World Bank projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

Not a single month has passed without dreadful disasters triggering desperate migrants to seek refuge in Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 2,247 people have died or are missing after trying to enter Europe via Spain, Italy or Greece in the first half of this year. Last year, 5,096 deaths were recorded.

The majority – including ‘economic migrants’, victims of ‘people smugglers’, and so on – were young Africans aged between 17 and 25. The former head of the British mission in Benghazi (Libya) claimed in April that as many as a million more were already on their way to Libya, and then Europe, from across Africa.

Why flee Africa?
Why are so many young Africans trying to leave the continent of their birth? Why are they risking their lives to flee Africa?

Part of the answer lies in the failure of earlier economic policies of liberalization and privatization, typically introduced as part of the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) that many countries in Africa were subjected to from the 1980s and onwards. The World Bank, the African Development Bank and most Western donors supported the SAPs, despite United Nations’ warnings about their adverse social consequences.

SAP advocates promised that private investment and exports would soon follow, bringing growth and prosperity. Now, a few representatives from the Washington-based Bretton Woods institutions admit that ‘neoliberalism’ was ‘oversold’, condemning the 1980s and 1990s to become ‘lost decades’.

While SAPs were officially abandoned in the late 1990s, their replacements were little better. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) of the World Bank and IMF promised to reduce poverty with some modified policy conditionalities and prescriptions.

Meanwhile, the G8 countries reneged on their 2005 Gleneagles pledge to provide an extra US$25 billion a year for Africa as part of a US$50 billion increase in financial assistance to “make poverty history”.

Poor Africa

Thanks to the SAPs, PRSPs and complementary policies, Africa became the only continent to see a massive increase in poverty by the end of the 20th century and during the 15 years of the Millennium Development Goals. Nearly half the continent’s population now lives in poverty.

According to the World Bank’s Poverty in Rising Africa, the number of Africans in extreme poverty increased by more than 100 million between 1990 and 2012 to about 330 million. It projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”.

The continent has also been experiencing rising economic inequality, with higher inequality than in the rest of the developing world, even overtaking Latin America. National Gini coefficients – the most common measure of inequality – average around 0.45 for the continent, rising above 0.60 in some countries, and increasing in recent years.

While the continent is experiencing a ‘youth bulge’, with more young people (aged 15-24) in its population, it has failed to generate sufficient decent jobs. South Africa, the most developed economy in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), has a youth unemployment rate of 54%.

The real situation could be even worse. Discouraged youth, unable to find decent jobs, drop out of the labour force, and consequently, are simply not counted.

Surviving in Africa
Most poor people simply cannot afford to remain unemployed in the absence of a decent social protection system. To survive, they have to accept whatever is available. Hence, Africa’s ‘working poor’ and underemployment ratios are much higher. In Ghana, for example, the official unemployment rate is 5.2%, while the underemployment rate is 47.0%!

Annual growth rates have often exceeded 5% in many African countries in the new century. SAP and PRSP advocates were quick to claim credit for the end of Africa’s ‘lost quarter century’, arguing that their harsh policy prescriptions were finally bearing fruit. After the commodity price collapse since 2014, the proponents have gone quiet.

With trade liberalization and consequently, greater specialization, many African countries are now even more dependent on fewer export commodities. The top five exports of SSA are all non-renewable natural resources, accounting for 60% of exports in 2013.

The linkages of extractive activities with the rest of national economies are now lower than ever. Thus, despite impressive economic growth rates, the nature of structural change in many African economies have made them more vulnerable to external shocks.

False start again?
Africa possesses about half the uncultivated arable land in the world. Sixty percent of SSA’s population work in jobs related to agriculture. However, agricultural productivity has mostly remained stagnant since 1980.

With agriculture stagnant, people moved from rural to urban areas, only to find life little improved. Thus, Africa has been experiencing rapid urbanization and slum growth. According to UN Habitat, 60% of SSA’s urban population live in slums, with poor access to basic services, let alone new technologies.

Powerful outside interests, including the BWIs and donors, have been advocating large farm production, claiming it to be the only way to boost productivity. Several governments have already leased out land to international agribusiness, often displacing settled local communities.

Meanwhile, Africa’s share of global manufacturing has fallen from about 3% in 1970 to less than 2% in 2013. Manufacturing’s share of total African GDP has decreased from 16% in 1974 to around 13% in 2013. At around a tenth, manufacturing’s share of SSA’s output in 2013 is much lower than in other developing regions. Unsurprisingly, Africa has deindustrialized over the past four decades!

One cannot help but doubt how the G20’s new ‘compact with Africa’, showcased at Hamburg, can combat poverty and climate change effects, in addition to deterring the exodus out of Africa, without fundamental policy changes.

The post Out of Africa: Understanding Economic Refugees appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-understanding-economic-refugees/feed/ 0
Ending Modern Slaveryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/ending-modern-slavery/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-modern-slavery http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/ending-modern-slavery/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 14:29:33 +0000 William Lacy Swing http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152128 William Lacy Swing is Director General of the United Nations Migration Agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM)

The post Ending Modern Slavery appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
One in four victims of modern slavery were children. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

One in four victims of modern slavery were children. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By William Lacy Swing
NEW YORK, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

Two centuries ago, right here in this city soon to emerge as the world’s center of commerce, a coalition of clergy, government officials, business leaders and rescued victims rose to fight the scourge of human slavery.

Their cause was Abolitionism and it became the world’s first transnational human rights movement.

Thanks to Abolitionism, businesses that depended on human bondage would no longer be tolerated. Soon they would be illegal. Slavery, which had endured since antiquity, was driven first from the English-speaking world and, eventually, everywhere else.

William Lacy Swing

William Lacy Swing

Or was it? We are here this week to examine a problem that’s risen in today’s increasingly globalised economy. To put it in blunt terms, the “chains” of historic slavery have in some cases been replaced with invisible ones: deception, debt bondage, unethical recruitment. It may be an infection buried within the supply chains of sophisticated global industries—like fishing, logging or textile manufacturing.

Or it can be hidden in plain sight—on any street corner where sex is sold for money.

Its victims number in the tens of millions. At any moment in 2016 forced labor—and its twin scourge, forced marriage—enslaved an estimated 40.3 million men, women and children worldwide, this according to research being released here this week during the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.

While many consider slavery a phenomenon of the past, it is a plague that is still very much with us. Criminals worldwide continue to find new ways to exploit vulnerable adults and children, undermine their human rights and extract their labor by force. Whether this takes the form of the sexual enslavement of women or the recruitment and trafficking of men forced to labor, no continent, and no country, is free today of this threat to human rights and human dignity.

At any moment in 2016 forced labor—and its twin scourge, forced marriage—enslaved an estimated 40.3 million men, women and children worldwide
On 19 September, Alliance 8.7, the global partnership to end forced labor, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labor, will bring together key partners representing governments, United Nations (UN) organizations, the private sector, workers’ organizations and civil society to launch new global estimates of modern slavery and child labor.

The global estimate of modern slavery was developed by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with my organization, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is also the United Nations global migration agency.

Accurate and reliable data are vital tools in tackling complex social challenges like modern slavery. The estimates prepared by Alliance 8.7 will not only raise international awareness about such violations, but will also provide a sound basis for policymakers around the world to make strategic decisions and enable development partners to address funding gaps.

Drawing on in-depth responses from thousands of face-to-face interviews conducted in 48 countries, combined with comprehensive data sets about the experiences of victims of human trafficking from the IOM, the global estimates of modern slavery will provide valuable insight into the numbers behind modern slavery with specific information regarding region, group and gender.

Among the findings to be presented here this week:

  • Debt bondage affected half of all victims of forced labor.
  • Women and girls accounted for 71 per cent of total modern slavery victims.
  • One in four victims of modern slavery were children.

Such data, sadly, reveal only one facet of this ongoing tragedy: its global scale. The hard work of rescuing victims reveals how deeply modern slavery affects whole families.

Recently, IOM’s Global Assistance Fund for victims of trafficking and other migrants in vulnerable situations contributed to assisting 600 men from foreign fishing boats enslaved in Indonesian waters. Some had not been on dry land for years. One victim told IOM he had been separated from his family, without any contact, for 22 years.

There should be no mystery as to why this has become such a concern of IOM. We call for migration that is safe, legal and secure for all. Safe and legal migration means mobility managed transparently by the world’s governments, instead of hidden in a labyrinth of criminal netherworlds.

Migration that is secure for all means just that: for all. Governments need not wonder who is sneaking tonight across some unguarded border. Employers need not worry their new hire is, unknown to them, a debt-slave bound to a “recruiter” who is pocketing their pay—even as he or she increases the debt burden on the victim. Families need not dread what has become of a son, or daughter, who leaves home for a distant opportunity—and then is never heard from again.

So please join me in this fight against global slavery. The struggle may be centuries old but, in some ways, it’s just beginning.

The post Ending Modern Slavery appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/ending-modern-slavery/feed/ 0
Rohingya: A Trail of Misfortunehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/rohingya-trail-misfortune/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-trail-misfortune http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/rohingya-trail-misfortune/#respond Mon, 18 Sep 2017 12:29:28 +0000 Farid Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152121 Forsaken and driven out by their home country Myanmar, tens of thousands of Rohingyas are struggling to survive in Bangladesh’s border districts amid scarcities of food, clean water and medical care, mostly for children and elderly people. In a desperate flight to escape brutal military persecution, men, women and children in the thousands have walked […]

The post Rohingya: A Trail of Misfortune appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Rohingya people alight from a boat as they arrive at Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

By Farid Ahmed
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Sep 18 2017 (IPS)

Forsaken and driven out by their home country Myanmar, tens of thousands of Rohingyas are struggling to survive in Bangladesh’s border districts amid scarcities of food, clean water and medical care, mostly for children and elderly people.

In a desperate flight to escape brutal military persecution, men, women and children in the thousands have walked for miles, travelled on rickety fishing boats or waded through the Naf — the river that divides Bangladesh and Myanmar.“It was a nightmare…the crackle of bullets and burning flames still haunt me.” -- Rebeka Begum

“I saw my houses being burned down and left behind all our belongings… my father was killed in front of us,” 12-year-old Nurul Islam told IPS as he reached Teknaf border in Bangladesh on Sep. 13. “In a bid to escape along with my mother and a younger brother, we walked almost a week to reach Bangladesh following a trail of people streaming out of Rakhine villages for cover.”

Islam is one of over 400,000 Rohingyas who have made the defiant and arduous journey to neighbouring Bangladesh in the past three weeks. Many of them were shot dead, drowned in the river or blown up in landmines placed in their path of escape.

Yet every hour, the number of new arrivals is rising. There seems no end to the steady flow of Rohingyas carrying sacks of belongings – whatever they could save from burning – or children on their shoulders or laps, or carrying weaker elderly people on their back or bamboo yokes. As they arrived, they were devastated, but happy to find themselves still alive – at least for the time being.

Rohingya children wait after arriving to Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

But aid groups, both local and international, warn that this already overpopulated, impoverished South Asian nation is now overwhelmed by the sudden influx of refugees.

They said lack of food and medical aid are leading to a humanitarian catastrophe as starving or half-fed people arrive already suffering from malnutrition, and an inadequate safe water supply and poor sanitation facilities could cause breakouts of waterborne diseases.

“We’ve already detected many cases of skin or diarrhoeal diseases,” Ibrahim Molla, a physician from Dhaka Community Hospital now aiding refugees in Cox’s Bazar, told IPS.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR and International Organization for Migration (IOM) held a joint press conference in Dhaka on Thursday where officials estimated the number of fleeing Rohingyas might reach one million as their influx continued.

The latest round of Rohingya crisis unfolded as Myanmar’s army conducted a brutal crackdown on “Rohingya militants” who attacked a security outpost killing solders in the last week of August. Though not independently verified, according to eyewitness accounts of fleeing Rohingyas, the Myanmar army torched village after village, the homes of ethnic Rohingya Muslims, in reprisal, killing hundreds.

Myanmar authorities denied the allegations, but satellite images released by a number of international rights groups corroborated the claim made by the Rohingya refugees.

In addition to arson, the Myanmar soldiers were also accused of raping Rohingya women.

Local people in Teknaf also said they saw huge fires and black smoke billowing across the Naf River from the Myanmar side several times.

The UN refugee chief called the situation a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” in Rakhine state in Myanmar.

It was not the first time the Rohingyas, mostly Muslims, have been targeted and faced discrimination in their hometowns of Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they lived for centuries. In the past few decades, they have been stripped of citizenship, denied basic rights and made stateless, leading the UN to describe them as “the most persecuted people on earth”.

As the Rohingyas crossed finally the border after their death-defying trudge to Bangladesh’s southeast districts of Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban, many had no safe shelter, food or drinking water in a country of 160 million people, though Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised to accommodate all on humanitarian grounds.

Though many countries started sending aid and others made promises, many Rohingya refugees were still starving or passing days half-fed. Those who were strong enough to jostle fared the best as local volunteers distributed limited amounts of food and water.

In many places when trucks carrying aid were spotted, starving people blocked them and desperately tried to grab food. The distribution process turned risky as the inexperienced volunteers threw food to the crowd of refugees from the trucks.

As they scuffled for food and water, many people were injured in stampedes or caned by the people given responsibility to discipline the refugees crowding for aid.

Thousands of Rohingyas, mostly women and children, took refuge on the sides of roads or other empty spaces under open sky. Some of those who were lucky could manage a sheet of polythene to save them from heavy monsoon rains that flooded a third of Bangladesh in August.

The Bangladesh government has already demarcated an area in Cox’s Bazar to build new refugee camps and started mandatory registration of Rohingyas before giving them official status as refugees.

Rebeka Begum, who had just alighted from a boat, was searching fruitlessly for food for her child. “We’re now paupers as we’ve left behind everything in Myanmar to save ourselves from the wrath of military,” she said, horror still sounding in her voice.

A Rohingya woman Rebeka Begum with her child poses for a photo at Shahparir Dip, Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

“It was a nightmare…the crackle of bullets and burning flames still haunt me,” Rebeka Begum said.

Amena Begum was collecting filthy water from a canal for her children to drink as she found no other options. “I urgently need water for my children… what can I do now?” she asked.

Local people said that since there were not enough toilets for so many people, thousands of refugees were defecating on the roadsides or on the banks of canals, from which they were also collecting water for drinking and other purposes.

UNICEF said over 200,000 Rohingya children were at risk and hundreds of unaccompanied Rohingya children, separated from both parents and relatives in the ongoing violence in Rakhine, were in Cox’s Bazar and looking for family members. Many of these children are traumatised by terrifying memories of murders and arson in homes and their experience on path while fleeing.

Save the Children in Bangladesh said in a statement on Sept 17 that a shortage of food, shelter, water and basic hygiene support might cause another catastrophe.

“Apart from diarrhoea and skin diseases, different types of communicable diseases might spread fast here,” warned Dr. Ibrahim Molla, adding that the shortage of space the refugees had for living and poor hygiene support was to blame.

Molla said the group was running a medical camp in Teknaf, and had obtained government permission to open a makeshift hospital for the refugees.

All local hospitals in Cox’s Bazar and the port city of Chittagong were teeming with Rohingya patients – many with bullet wounds and some with injuries from landmines.

Mohammad Alam was looking for medical support for his feverish son as he arrived on a boat crossing the Naf. He was advised by local people to walk a few kilometres more to find a hospital.

Alam, a farmer by profession, started off again in search of the hospital and a refugee camp.

“I’m lucky, as I’ve survived along with all my family members,” Amam said. But his pale and weary face denoted a grim and uncertain future, like his fellow Rohingyas who had no idea when or if they would ever be able to return home despite the global pressure on Myanmar to bring an end to Rohingyas’ persecution.

The post Rohingya: A Trail of Misfortune appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/rohingya-trail-misfortune/feed/ 0