Inter Press Service » Humanitarian Emergencies http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:34:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 Can the UN Security Council Stop Hospitals Being Targets in War?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/can-the-un-security-council-stop-hospitals-being-targets-in-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-the-un-security-council-stop-hospitals-being-targets-in-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/can-the-un-security-council-stop-hospitals-being-targets-in-war/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:41:36 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144901 The Agency Headquarters Hospital (AHH) in Bajaur Agency, shortly after a Taliban suicide bomb attack in 2013. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

The Agency Headquarters Hospital (AHH) in Bajaur Agency, shortly after a Taliban suicide bomb attack in 2013. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

By Lyndal Rowlands
Apr 29 2016 (IPS)

Hospitals, health care workers and patients in war zones are supposed to be protected under international humanitarian law yet recent attacks from Syria to Afghanistan suggest that they have become targets.

The seeming lack of respect for the sanctity of health care in war zones has prompted UN Security Council members in New York to consider a new resolution designed to find new ways to halt these attacks.

The Security Council is expected to vote on the resolution on May 3, just days after Al Quds Hospital in Aleppo, Syria was bombed. Twenty seven staff and patients were killed in the airstrike on the hospital on Wednesday night, Dr Hatem, the director of the Children’s Hospital in Aleppo told The Syria Campaign.

Among the victims was Dr Muhammad Waseem Maaz, who Dr Hatem described as “the city’s most qualified paediatrician.”

Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria told journalists in Geneva Wednesday that Dr Maaz was the last paediatric doctor left in Aleppo, although IPS understands there is another paediatrician in the Aleppo countryside.

Dr Hatem said that Dr Maaz used to work at the children’s hospital during the day and attend to emergencies at the Al Quds hospital at night time.

“Dr Maaz stayed in Aleppo, the most dangerous city in the world, because of his devotion to his patients,” said Dr Hatem.

Dr Hatem said that “hospitals are often targeted by government and Russian air forces.”

“When the bombing intensifies, the medical staff run down to the ground floor of the hospital carrying the babies’ incubators in order to protect them,” he said.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia will be expected to vote on the proposed new resolution reinforcing the protection of hospitals, doctors and patients in war zones.

“When the bombing intensifies, the medical staff run down to the ground floor of the hospital carrying the babies’ incubators in order to protect them.” -- Dr Hatem, director of the Children’s Hospital in Aleppo.

Another Security Council Member accused of bombing a hospital, the United States, is expected to release its report Friday of its own investigation into the attack on the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on Oct. 3 2015.

MSF say that 42 people we killed in the sustained bombing of the hospital, including 24 patients and 18 staff.

Roman Oyarzun Marchesi, permanent representative of Spain to the UN said that the “the wake up call (for the Security Council resolution) came from organisations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres who are forced to stay out of certain areas or countries due to the lack of protection on the ground.”

“Attacks against the provision of health care are becoming so frequent that humanitarian actors face serious limitations to do their jobs,” said Marchesi at an event held to discuss the proposed resolution at the International Peace Institute earlier this month.

The event brought together representatives from the medical community with the five Security Council members drafting the resolution, Egypt, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, and Uruguay.

Speaking on behalf of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), whose hospitals have come under frequent attacks in recent months and years, Jason Cone, Executive Director of MSF America called for greater accountability.

“As of today suspected perpetrators get away with self-investigating and there’s no independent follow-up of attacks,” said Cone.

“It is a critical moment for member states to reaffirm the sanctity of the medical act in armed conflict,” he said.

The current situation does not reflect the respect given to health care in war from the earliest stages of the Geneva conventions, Stéphane Ojeda, Deputy Permanent Observer to the United Nations, International Committee of the Red Cross told the meeting.

“The protection of the wounded and sick has been at the heart of International Humanitarian Law since the start,” said Ojeda.

“Indeed the wounded and sick and the medical personnel taking care of them were the first categories of protected persons under international humanitarian law because in the 1864 first Geneva Convention,” he said.

The principle that health care personnel should not be punished for caring for the wounded and sick also needs to be respected, said Ojeda.

“If you start questioning this that’s a whole pillar of humanity starting to collapse,” he said.

Cone also added to Ojeda’s calls for the duties of doctors in caring for the wounded and sick to be respected.

“We can not accept any criminalisation of the medical act, any resolution should reinforce and strengthen protection for medical ethics,” he said.

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Pakistani Deporteeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/pakistani-deportees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistani-deportees http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/pakistani-deportees/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:34:01 +0000 Arif Azad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144882 By Arif Azad
Apr 28 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

In March 2016, the EU signed a far-reaching deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants into their union, which has spiked since September 2015. The hastily crafted deal, criticised by the UN for its disregard for human rights safeguards, requires Turkey to accept all migrants currently stranded in Greece, in return for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the EU, and a hefty sum of six billion euros.

Earlier, the EU had expanded its monetary and expert support to Greece to ease its burden of hosting migrants. As part of this new deal, Greece has begun expelling migrants to Turkey, which in turn has begun housing refugees on its soil, and is preparing to expel most non-Syrian refugees. As a consequence of this policy, Pakistani migrants in Greece are at the front of the expulsion queue.

On April 4, Greece shipped around 200 migrants to Turkey, including 111 Pakistanis.

Ninety-seven deportees (mostly Pakistanis) were also expelled via land route, according to Greek police. Given the Turkish parliament`s position on the status of Pakistani migrants, our government must be prepared to receive and repatriate a new wave of migrants returning to their (apparent) home country.

This issue has been brewing for years and has been on the policy radar of EU officials who have quietly intimated the Pakistani government of the possibility of impending deportations from their territory. Last December, our government returned over 30 out of 50 deportees who arrived in Pakistan due to lack of proper documentation, the interior ministry claiming that the EU is dumping non-Pakistani deportees on our soil. The EU`s migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, visited to resolve the issue. Yet the crisis has worsened.

The issue of Pakistani migrants in Greece, mostly without papers according to Greek authorities, has been in the spotlight since the Greek financial crisis. Greece has attracted Pakistan migrants since the 1970s; in one study by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, Pakistani migrants number 40,000-50,000, although of ficial figures put the number at 15,478. The estimated 40,000-50,000 include migrants without residency documents.

Irrespective of their status, the Pakistani migrant community constitutes the largest Asian community in Greece; they have suffered the worst racist abuse and attacks in recent years, as documented in reports by various human rights groups.

The atmosphere of hostility has resulted in a huge spike in administrative expulsions by the Greek government, which peaked at 5,135 in 2012, according to Greek police.This is a huge jump from 2011, where the figure stood at 1,293 administrative expulsions.

Another category of voluntary returns includes another 6,445 migrants, according to combined figures of the International Organisation of Migration and the Greek police. Again, this represents a massive spike from 715 in 2011. Worryingly, before the deportation itself, most of these Pakistani migrants are detained in detention centres in degrading conditions. In some of these, the migrants have taken to hunger strikes to protest their conditions.

Yet this huge number of forced and voluntary repatriation has barely raised any policy ripples in Pakistan. With the new draconian EU-Turkey deal being hastily put into effect with little regard for human rights safeguards, the number of Pakistani deportees is set to rise exponentially especially given Pakistan`s agreement with Turkey to take back all the deportees and repatriate them. Yet this is not the only stream of depor-tees coming Pakistan`s way; the EU, too, is oiling up its deportation machinery.

Given growing hostility to newly arriving migrants in Europe, EU immigration policies are stiffening. One of the policy responses to the migrant issue involves voluntary or forced repatriation of failed applicants, to ease domestic opposition to growing migrant populations.

That means the rate ofasylum refusal is set to grow across the EU, resulting in a greater drive towards deportation and repatriation. With an acceptance rate of 10-50pc for Pakistani applicants, the refused applicants will be put on a fast-track deportation schedule. This will swell the already growing concourse of Pakistan deportees, bringing with it its own set of rehabilitation challenges.

Yet it seems that the Pakistani government is not fully tuned into the scale of the crisis which is slowly brewing in foreign lands but heading for its borders. The response requires energetic planning to address a range of rehabilitation, policy and human rights challenges. Not much is forthcoming on this front. The sooner this multifaceted challenge is faced head-on, the better it is for the desperate and exhausted deportees.

The writer is a development consultant and policy analyst.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Ecosystem Conservation Gives Hope to a Vulnerable Communityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 05:55:24 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144803 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community/feed/ 0 Climate: Africa’s Human Existence Is at Severe Riskhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-africas-human-existence-is-at-severe-risk/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-africas-human-existence-is-at-severe-risk http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-africas-human-existence-is-at-severe-risk/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 14:53:52 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144755 Education vital for healthy, productive ecosystems. One of UNEP’s goals within an integrated ecosystem management framework is to foster the capacity of professionals and develop human capacity across all social strata and genders.  Credit: UNEP

Education vital for healthy, productive ecosystems. One of UNEP’s goals within an integrated ecosystem management framework is to foster the capacity of professionals and develop human capacity across all social strata and genders. Credit: UNEP

By Baher Kamal
CAIRO, Apr 21 2016 (IPS)

“Africa’s human existence and development is under threat from the adverse impacts of climate change – its population, ecosystems and unique biodiversity will all be the major victims of global climate change.”

This is how clear the Nairobi-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is when it comes to assessing the negative impact of climate change on this continent of 54 countries with a combined population of over 1,200 billion inhabitants. “No continent will be struck as severely by the impacts of climate change as Africa.”

Other international organisations are similarly trenchant. For instance, the World Bank, basing on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, confirms that Africa is becoming the most exposed region in the world to the impacts of climate change.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, extreme weather will cause dry areas to become drier and wet areas wetter; agriculture yields will suffer from crop failures; and diseases will spread to new altitudes, say the World Bank experts, while alerting that by 2030 it is expected that 90 million more people in Africa will be exposed to malaria, “already the biggest killer in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

These and other dramatic conclusions are not new to the World Bank specialists. In fact, they alerted five years ago that the African continent has warmed about half a degree over the last century and the average annual temperature is likely to rise an average of 1.5-4°C by 2099, according to the most recent estimates from the IPCC.

Meanwhile, UNEP’s experts explain that, given its geographical position, the continent will be particularly vulnerable due to the “considerably limited adaptive capacity, exacerbated by widespread poverty and the existing low levels of development.”

What Is at Stake?

The facts are striking as mentioned in UNEP’ summary of the projected impacts of climate change in Africa. See UNEP’s fact sheet “Climate Change in Africa – What Is at Sake?”, which is based on excerpts from IPCC reports:

— By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people in Africa are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change.

— By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%.

— Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised. This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition.

— Towards the end of the 21st century, projected sea level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas with large populations.

— By 2080, an increase of 5 to 8 per cent of arid and semi-arid land in Africa is projected under a range of climate scenarios,

— The cost of adaptation could amount to at least 5 to 10% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Furthermore, the African chapter of IPCC Report on Regional Climate Projections provide some key factors:

Temperatures: By 2050, average temperatures in Africa are predicted to increase by 1.5 to 3°C, and will continue further upwards beyond this time. Warming is very likely to be larger than the global annual mean warming throughout the continent and in all seasons, with drier subtropical regions warming more than the moister tropics.

Ecosystems: It is estimated that, by the 2080s, the proportion of arid and semi-arid lands in Africa is likely to increase by 5-8 per cent. Ecosystems are critical in Africa, contributing significantly to biodiversity and human well-being.

Mozambique: Investing in Environment Pays off for the Poorest. Communities look to protect ecosystems for livelihoods, following a disease that devastated their coconut plantations. Credit: UNEP

Mozambique: Investing in Environment Pays off for the Poorest. Communities look to protect ecosystems for livelihoods, following a disease that devastated their coconut plantations. Credit: UNEP

Between 25 and 40 per cent of mammal species in national parks in sub-Saharan Africa will become endangered. There is evidence that climate is modifying natural mountain ecosystems via complex interactions and feedbacks.

Rainfall: There will also be major changes in rainfall in terms of annual and seasonal trends, and extreme events of flood and drought.

Annual rainfall is likely to decrease in much of Mediterranean Africa and the northern Sahara, with a greater likelihood of decreasing rainfall as the Mediterranean coast is approached.

Droughts: By 2080, an increase of 5 to 8 per cent of arid and semi-arid land in Africa is projected under a range of climate scenarios. Droughts have become more common, especially in the tropics and subtropics, since the 1970s.

Human health, already compromised by a range of factors, could be further negatively impacted by climate change and climate variability, e.g., malaria in southern Africa and the East African highlands.

Water: By 2020, a population of between 75 and 250 million and 350-600 million by 2050, are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change. Climate change and variability are likely to impose additional pressures on water availability, water accessibility and water demand in Africa.

In Ethiopia, owners bring their livestock to sell for destocking purposes. El Niño impacts have made it necessary to reduce herd sizes. Credit: FAO

In Ethiopia, owners bring their livestock to sell for destocking purposes. El Niño impacts have made it necessary to reduce herd sizes. Credit: FAO

Agriculture: By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 per cent.

Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised. Projected reductions in yield in some countries could be as much as 50 per cent by 2020, and crop net revenues could fall by as much as 90 per cent by 2100, with small-scale farmers being the most affected.

Sea-level rise: Africa has close to 320 coastal cities –with more than 10,000 people– and an estimated population of 56 million people (2005 estimate) living in low elevation (10-m) coastal zones. Toward the end of the 21st century, projected sea level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas with large populations.

Energy: Access to energy is severely constrained in sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated 51 per cent of urban populations and only about 8 per cent of rural populations having access to electricity. Extreme poverty and the lack of access to other fuels mean that 80 per cent of the overall African population relies primarily on biomass to meet its residential needs, with this fuel source supplying more than 80 per cent of the energy consumed in sub-Saharan Africa.

Further challenges from urbanisation, rising energy demands and volatile oil prices further compound energy issues in Africa.

Agriculture Pays the Price

Another concerned United Nations body–the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) focuses on the threat climate changes poses to agriculture. “Climate change is emerging as a major challenge to agriculture development in Africa,” FAO reports.

A Zimbabwean subsistence farmer holds a stunted maize cob in his field outside Harare. Credit: FAO

A Zimbabwean subsistence farmer holds a stunted maize cob in his field outside Harare. Credit: FAO

It explains that the increasingly unpredictable and erratic nature of weather systems on the continent have placed an extra burden on food security and rural livelihoods.

“Agriculture is expected to pay a significant cost of the damage caused by climate change.”

The agriculture sector is also likely to experience periods of prolonged droughts and /or floods during El- Nino events. And fisheries will be particularly affected due to changes in sea temperatures that could decrease trends in productivity by 50-60 per cent.

(End)

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Climate Change and the Middle East (II) No Water in the Kingdom of the Two Seas—Nor Elsewherehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-change-and-the-middle-east-ii-no-water-in-the-kingdom-of-the-two-seas-nor-elsewhere/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-and-the-middle-east-ii-no-water-in-the-kingdom-of-the-two-seas-nor-elsewhere http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-change-and-the-middle-east-ii-no-water-in-the-kingdom-of-the-two-seas-nor-elsewhere/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 16:24:23 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144674 This is part II of a two-part series of reports focusing on the impact of climate change on the Middle East & North of Africa region, ahead of the signing ceremony of the Paris climate agreement, on 22 April 2016 in New York. Part I: Will the Middle East Become ‘Uninhabitable’?]]> In Somaliland and Puntland, close to two million people are affected by the drought amid the El Niño phenomenon. Somalia is a member of the League of Arab States. Photo credit: WFP/Petterik Wiggers

In Somaliland and Puntland, close to two million people are affected by the drought amid the El Niño phenomenon. Somalia is a member of the League of Arab States. Photo credit: WFP/Petterik Wiggers

By Baher Kamal
CAIRO, Apr 18 2016 (IPS)

There is an oil producing country situated in the Gulf region, made of a cluster of islands. It is small, surface and population wise. But it holds the dubious privilege of ranking top of the list out of the 33 countries most likely to be water-stressed in the year 2040.

This country is the “Mamlakat Al Bahrain” (the Kingdom of the Two Seas) or simply Bahrain.

Distant only 200 kilometres from Iran, Bahrain’s largest island is linked to Saudi Arabia by the 25 km-long King Fahd Causeway. The Kingdom extends over just 765 km2, and is home to 1,4 million people.

Considered as the “white gold” –as opposed to the “black gold”—oil, water scarcity has become one of the major concerns of Bahrain in spite of the fact that it has a high Human Development Index and was recognised by the World Bank as a high-income economy.

It’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita amounts to 29,140 US Dollars. And it is home to the headquarters for the United States Naval Forces Central Command/United States Fifth Fleet.

All the above does not suffice to make Bahrainis happy. In fact, their country leads the list of 14 out of the 33 countries most likely to be water-stressed in 2040 –all of them situated in the Middle East– including nine considered extremely highly stressed according to the World Resources Institute (WRI).

After Bahrain comes Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Other Middle East Arab countries more or less share with Bahrain this front line position of water-stressed states. These are Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. All of them hold a very close second position in the region’ s water-stress ranking.

The total represents two thirds of the 22 Arab countries. Not that the remaining Arab states are water-safe. Not at all: Mauritania, in the far Maghreb West, and Egypt, at the opposite end, are already under heavy threat as well.

The whole region, already arguably the least water-secure in the world, draws heavily on groundwater and desalinated sea water, and faces exceptional water-related challenges for the foreseeable future, says the WRI’s report: Ranking the World’s Most Water-Stressed Countries in 2040.

Water scarcity is one of the most urgent food security issues facing Near East and North Africa countries: fresh water availability in the region is expected to drop by 50% by year 2050. Photo credit: FAO / Marco Longari

Water scarcity is one of the most urgent food security issues facing Near East and North Africa countries: fresh water availability in the region is expected to drop by 50% by year 2050. Photo credit: FAO / Marco Longari

The report’s authors Andrew Maddocks, Robert Samuel Young and Paul Reig foresee that world’s demand for water, including of course the Middle East, is likely to surge in the next few decades.

“Rapidly growing populations will drive increased consumption by people, farms and companies. More people will move to cities, further straining supplies. An emerging middle class could clamor for more water-intensive food production and electricity generation.”

But it’s not clear where all that water will come from, they say. “Climate change is expected to make some areas drier and others wetter. As precipitation extremes increase in some regions, affected communities face greater threats from droughts and floods.”

While changing water supply and demand is inevitable, exactly what that change will look like around the world is far from certain. A first-of-its-kind analysis by WRI sheds new light on the issue.

Using an ensemble of climate models and socioeconomic scenarios, WRI scored and ranked future water stress—a measure of competition and depletion of surface water—in 167 countries by 2020, 2030, and 2040.

“We found that 33 countries face extremely high water stress in 2040 (see the full list). We also found that Chile, Estonia, Namibia, and Botswana could face an especially significant increase in water stress by 2040. This means that businesses, farms, and communities in these countries in particular may be more vulnerable to scarcity than they are today,” say the authors.

Specialised studies coincide that water consumption in the Arab region has doubled five times in the past fifty years, with an estimated annual consumption of about 230 billion cubic meters, of which 43 billion cubic meters used for drinking and the industry, and 187 billion cubic meters for agriculture.

Poverty of the Arab region with regard to water resources is reflected in water insecurity for human beings and agriculture. While water consumption per capit is estimated in at least one 1,000 cubic meters a year according to the global rate, the average Arab citizen’s share comes down to nearly 500 cubic meters per year, this placing Arab countries below the water poverty line.

This comes at a time when the Arab region has not taken advantage of its water resources of about 340 billion cubic meters, using only 50 per cent. The rest is lost and wasted.

Regarding the North of Africa, the Egyptian Ministry for Environment has recently admitted that large extensions of the country’s Northern area of the Nile Delta, which represents the most important and extensive agricultural region in Egypt, is already heavily exposed to two dangerous effects: salinasation and flooding. This is due to the rise of the Mediterranean Sea water levels and the land depression.

The impact of global warming and growing heat waves is particularly worrying the Egyptian authorities as it might reduce the flow of the Nile water in up to 80 per cent according to latest estimates. All this adds to the loss of massive investments made to promote domestic and foreign tourism.

Meanwhile, Syria, Jordan and Iraq would be sentenced to a similar fate.

In some Middle East countries, water scarcity will increase conflictivity among Bedouin population who survive thanks to pasturage.

Dr. Moslem Shatout, the Cairo-based professor of Sun and Space Research and Deputy Chairman of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences, considers that the Arab North African countries are among the most affected, by large, by the climate change impact.

Satellites monitoring, in particular those carried out by the US-French satellite, have detected between 1991 and 2005, a global rise in the sea levels of 3 millimetres per year, “but given that the Mediterranean is a semi-closed sea this rise reaches 8 millimetres per year.”

In Morocco, the effect of global warming and water scarcity have already forced farmers to cultivate only one third of the lands they used to farm.

A similar situation is being witnessed in Algeria, with a much worse situation in Mauritania.

In the case of Morocco and Algeria, while expected rainfalls should be of at least 400 millimetres/year, the last five years this amount went down to just 200 millimetres, that’s half of the minimum needed.

Last but not least: while Morocco and Algeria have high rocky coasts, this protecting them from sea floods, Arab countries situated at the East of the Mediterranean sea, such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, are exposed to floods.

(End)

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Climate Change (I)Will the Middle East Become ‘Uninhabitable’?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-middle-east-become-uninhabitable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-the-middle-east-become-uninhabitable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-middle-east-become-uninhabitable/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 11:43:50 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144663 This is the first of a two-part series of reports focusing on the impact of climate change on the Middle East & North of Africa region, ahead of the signing ceremony of the Paris climate agreement, on 22 April 2016 in New York. Part II will address the dramatic issue of water scarcity in the region.]]> Middle East map of Köppen climate classification | 20 February 2016 | Derived from World Koppen Classification.svg.| Enhanced, modified, and vectorized by Ali Zifan.| Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.| en.wikipedia

Middle East map of Köppen climate classification | 20 February 2016 | Derived from World Koppen Classification.svg.| Enhanced, modified, and vectorized by Ali Zifan.| Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.| en.wikipedia

By Baher Kamal
CAIRO, Apr 18 2016 (IPS)

This is not about any alarming header—it is the dramatic conclusion of several scientific studies about the on-going climate change impact on the Middle East region, particularly in the Gulf area. The examples are stark.

“Within this century, parts of the Persian Gulf region could be hit with unprecedented events of deadly heat as a result of climate change, according to a study of high-resolution climate models,” a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research warned.

The research–titled “Persian Gulf could experience deadly heat”, reveals details of a business-as-usual scenario for greenhouse gas emissions, but also shows that curbing emissions could forestall these “deadly temperature extremes.”

The study, which was published in detail ahead of the Paris climate summit in the journal Nature Climate Change, was conducted by Elfatih Eltahir, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT, and Jeremy Pal PhD ’01 at Loyola Marymount University.

The authors conclude that conditions in the Persian Gulf region, including its shallow water and intense sun, make it “a specific regional hotspot where climate change, in absence of significant mitigation, is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future.”

Running high-resolution versions of standard climate models, Eltahir and Pal found that many major cities in the region could exceed a tipping point for human survival, even in shaded and well-ventilated spaces. Eltahir says this threshold “has, as far as we know … never been reported for any location on Earth.”

MIT, which was founded in 1861 with the stated mission to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century, alerts that “detailed climate simulation shows a threshold of survivability could be crossed without mitigation measures.”

The research, which was supported by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science, reveals that the tipping point involves a measurement called the “wet-bulb temperature” that combines temperature and humidity, reflecting conditions the human body could maintain without artificial cooling, the say.

That threshold for survival for more than six unprotected hours is 35 degrees Celsius, or about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the recently published research.

The severe danger to human health and life occurs when such temperatures are sustained for several hours, Eltahir says — which the models show would occur several times in a 30-year period toward the end of the century under the business-as-usual scenario used as a benchmark by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

An Even Hotter and Drier Middle East

For its part, the IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change latest assessment warns that the climate is predicted to become even hotter and drier in most of the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) region.

Higher temperatures and reduced precipitation will increase the occurrence of droughts, an effect that is already materializing in the Maghreb,” says the World Bank while citing the IPCC assessment.

A scene in the high desert right outside of Marrakech, Morocco. A shepherd is guiding his sheep through the landscape in search of vegetation. | Credit: Johntarantino1 | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

A scene in the high desert right outside of Marrakech, Morocco. A shepherd is guiding his sheep through the landscape in search of vegetation. | Credit: Johntarantino1 | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

“It is further estimated that an additional 80–100 million people will be exposed by 2025 to water stress, which is likely to result in increased pressure on groundwater resources, which are currently being extracted in most areas beyond the aquifers’ recharge potential.”

In addition, agriculture yields, especially in rain fed areas, are expected to fluctuate more widely, ultimately falling to a significantly lower long-term average.

“In urban areas in North Africa, a temperature increase of 1-3 degrees could expose 6–25 million people to coastal flooding. In addition, heat waves, an increased “heat island effect,” water scarcity, decreasing water quality, worsening air quality, and ground ozone formation are likely to affect public health, and more generally lead to challenging living conditions.”

The World Bank report “Adaptation to Climate Change in the Middle East and North Africa Region” warns that the Middle East and North Africa region is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

“It is one of the world’s most water-scarce and dry regions; with a high dependency on climate-sensitive agriculture and a large share of its population and economic activity in flood-prone urban coastal zones.”

On the other hand, the report adds, societies of this region have been under pressure to adapt to water scarcity and heat for thousands of years, and have developed various technical solutions and institutional mechanisms to deal with these environmental constraints.

While global models predict sea levels rising from about 0.1 to 0.3 meters by the year 2050, and from about 0.1 to 0.9 meters by 2100, the World Bank says, for MENA, the social, economic, and ecological impacts are expected to be relatively higher compared to the rest of the world. Low-lying coastal areas in Tunisia, Qatar, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and specially Egypt are at particular risk.

Climate change also poses many challenges to the region’s cities, which represent hubs for economic, social, cultural and political activities. Rising sea level could affect 43 port cities—24 in the Middle East and 19 in North Africa, according to the World Bank study.

“In the case of Alexandria, Egypt, a 0.5 meter rise would leave more than 2 million people displaced, with 35 billion dollars in losses in land, property, and infrastructure, as well as incalculable losses of historic and cultural assets.” (TO BE CONTINUED)

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The Unknown Fate of Thousands of Abducted Women and Girls in Nigeriahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/the-unknown-fate-of-thousands-of-abducted-women-and-girls-in-nigeria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-unknown-fate-of-thousands-of-abducted-women-and-girls-in-nigeria http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/the-unknown-fate-of-thousands-of-abducted-women-and-girls-in-nigeria/#comments Fri, 15 Apr 2016 16:16:23 +0000 IPS Africa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144635 This 15 year-old Nigerian refugee at the Minawao refugee camp in northern Cameroon, was abducted by Boko Haram and spent four months in captivity. Photo credit: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

This 15 year-old Nigerian refugee at the Minawao refugee camp in northern Cameroon, was abducted by Boko Haram and spent four months in captivity. Photo credit: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

By IPS Africa Desk
Apr 15 2016 (IPS)

The plight of 219 Chibok schoolgirls abducted two years ago is all too common in Nigeria’s conflict-affected north-eastern communities, and up to 7,000 women and girls might be living in abduction and sex slavery, senior United Nations officials on 14 April 2016 warned.

“Humanitarian agencies are concerned that two years have passed, and still the fate of the Chibok girls and the many, many other abductees is unknown,” said Fatma Samoura, Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria.

At the hands of their captors, they have suffered forced recruitment, forced marriage, sexual slavery and rape, and have been used to carry bombs. “Between 2,000 and 7,000 women and girls are living in abduction and sex slavery,” said Jean Gough, Country Representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Women and girls who have escaped Boko Haram have reported undergoing a systematic training programme to train them as bombers, according to UNICEF. And 85 per cent of the suicide attacks by women globally in 2014 were in Nigeria.

In May 2015, it was reported that children had been used to perpetrate three-quarters of all suicide attacks in Nigeria since 2014. Many of the bombers had been brainwashed or coerced.

As the Nigerian military recaptures territory from Boko Haram, abducted women and girls are being recovered. Over and above the horrific trauma of sexual violence these girls experienced during their captivity, many are now facing rejection by their families and communities, because of their association with Boko Haram.

“You are a Boko Haram wife, don’t come near us!” one girl reported being told. Effective rehabilitation for these women and girls is vital, as they rebuild their lives.

Chibok Abduction Not Isolated Incident

Children have suffered disproportionately as a result of the conflict. The Chibok abduction was not an isolated incident, the UN reports. In November 2014, 300 children were abducted from a school in Damasak, Borno, and are still missing.

A UNICEF report, released earlier this week, states that 1.3 million children have been displaced by the conflict across the Lake Chad Basin, almost a million of whom are in Nigeria. Similarly, Human Rights Watch have reported that 1 million children have lost access to education.

Thousands of people, mainly women and children, are scattered across the arid land of Nguigimi, Niger, after fleeing Boko Haram violence in Nigeria. Photo credit: WFP Niger/Vigno Hounkanli.

Thousands of people, mainly women and children, are scattered across the arid land of Nguigimi, Niger, after fleeing Boko Haram violence in Nigeria. Photo credit: WFP Niger/Vigno Hounkanli.


“The abducted Chibok girls have become a symbol for every girl that has gone missing at the hands of Boko Haram, and every girl who insists on practicing her right to education,” said Munir Safieldin, Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria.

More needs to be done by the Nigerian Government and the international community to keep them safe from the horrors other women and girls have endured. Safe schools are a good start, but safe roads and safe homes are also needed.

“We Cannot Forget the Girls from Chibok”

Marking two years since Boko Haram abducted 276 girls in Nigeria, a United Nations child rights envoy on 13 April reiterated a call to bring them back, stressing that the international community must “be their voice” and help give children of Nigeria and the region the peaceful, stable lives they deserve.

“It is up to us to be their voice and give them back the life they deserve,” said Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, in a message on the anniversary.

Two years ago, in the middle of the night, 276 girls were abducted by Boko Haram from their school dormitory in Chibok, in Nigeria’s northeast. Fifty-seven escaped hours later but what happened to the remaining 219 girls has been unknown.

In the past two years, the conflict has continued to grow and Boko Haram’s activities have spilled over into the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. More children have been abducted. Hundreds of boys and girls have been killed, maimed and recruited by Boko Haram.

Children Used as Suicide Bombers

In what has become one of the armed group’s most gruesome tactics, women and children, girls in particular, have been forced to serve as suicide bombers in crowded markets and public places, killing many civilians, according to Leila Zerrougui.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui (centre), meets displaced children and their families in northeastern Nigeria, in January 2015. Credit: UN

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui (centre), meets displaced children and their families in northeastern Nigeria, in January 2015. Credit: UN


“It is no surprise that in the midst of such violence, families decided to flee to safer areas in Nigeria, and to neighbouring countries. With over two million people displaced, including more than one million children, often separated from their families, the UN has described these massive displacements as one of the fastest growing crises in Africa.”

In the past year, as the Government of Nigeria has retaken control of some territory in the country’s northeast, Boko Haram captives were liberated or have been able to escape, including many children.

“Girls and boys told distressing stories about their captivity, including how entire villages were burned to the ground, and recounted stories of rape and sexual violence, recruitment and use of children by the group, as well as other violations,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

“These children yearn for the safety of their families, but going back to their communities can mean persecution and mistrust,” she said. “Girls who come back as young mothers face even greater challenges. These traumatised children require assistance and our support to fight stigma and rejection.”

Missing Out on Education

The conflict’s impact on education has been no less profound. Over 1,500 schools in North Eastern Nigeria have been destroyed and the teachers are gone. Hundreds of thousands of children are missing out on their education. The international community’s efforts to support initiatives to bring children back to school are essential and must be maintained.

Much has been done to help children reintegrate back into their communities and return to school, but the need far exceeds the resources available.

“It is our collective responsibility to keep shining a spotlight on these children in need and ensure they have a future in which they can overcome these challenges,” she said.

The abduction of the Chibok girls catalysed international action, including in the Security Council. In June 2015, Council members adopted resolution 2225 that made the act of abduction by an armed group or force a trigger to list them in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict, she noted.

This means future acts of abduction, like in Chibok, can translate into a listing for those perpetrators and increase pressure on them by the international community.

“We cannot tolerate the abduction of children. We cannot forget the girls from Chibok,” she said.

(End)

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Can an Animal Heist Fable Help Solve the Middle East Crisis?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/can-an-animal-heist-fable-help-solve-the-middle-east-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-an-animal-heist-fable-help-solve-the-middle-east-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/can-an-animal-heist-fable-help-solve-the-middle-east-crisis/#comments Fri, 15 Apr 2016 15:37:20 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144639 A scene from the film, Giraffada, directed by Rani Massalha and produced by Pyramide Films. The film was screened at the UN on 7 April 2016. Photo: Courtesy of Pyramide Films | Source: UN News Centre

A scene from the film, Giraffada, directed by Rani Massalha and produced by Pyramide Films. The film was screened at the UN on 7 April 2016. Photo: Courtesy of Pyramide Films | Source: UN News Centre

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 15 2016 (IPS)

Make no mistake-the Middle East is the longest and perhaps the most complex crisis in recent History, this explaining the innumerable, successive –and frustrating- attempts to solve it.

Now, while expecting the US president Barack Obama to follow the “tradition” of his predecessors of calling for a big summit in Washington to talk about this crisis as one of his last official acts, an animal heist fable has just appeared as a new try to serve as poignant metaphor for Middle East relations.

See what is this all about: A 4.5 meter giraffe is one of the main characters in Giraffada, a film shown on April 13 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, depicting the struggles of living in a Palestinian town as seen through the eyes of a young boy who has a close connection with the animal.

The award-winning production’s title is a cross between “giraffe” and “intifada” or Palestinian “uprising,” the director Rani Massalha told the UN News Centre in an interview ahead of the screening.

“The film is set during the second Intifada,” Massalha said, referring to a period of intensified Israeli-Palestinian violence from September 2000 to February 2005.

The film focuses on a widowed Palestinian veterinarian, Yacine, and his 10-year-old son, Ziad, who are trying to keep a giraffe named Rita from dying of loneliness after her partner is killed in an Israeli air raid. The only viable solution is for Rita to be placed in a zoo in Tel Aviv, Israel, or so it seems.

Created as a fable, the film shows “what it is to be a kid in West Bank today living in war, living with a wall surrounding you, with checkpoints, colonies, it’s a very different childhood from people in the West,” the director said.

In one of the most emotional scenes in the film, a giraffe meanders through Palestinian streets, temporarily stopping day activities, such as shopping and praying, as people watch in jaw-dropping disbelief.

“The giraffe is the tallest animal in nature so it sees man from above looking down,” Massalha said, a reference to the height giving the animal perspective to see the situation in the Middle East as it is, not politicized.

The director also used giraffes as a metaphor for how the relationship between the Israelis and Palestinians could be, with two giraffes coming together from both sides of the West Bank barrier, known simply as the wall.

In this interview clip, Massalha discusses how he came up with the idea of having the world’s tallest land animal star in the film, and the connection with hope for peace in the Middle East.

The screening was organised under the auspices of the UN Working Group of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

Deputy Permanent Representative of Malta to the United Nations and Chairperson of the Working Group, Natasha Meli-Daudey, said the film was chosen because of its portrayal of “the reality of the conflict and the impact of the Israeli occupation on the daily life of Palestinian adults and children.”

“We thought the film was well suited to inform a UN and broader New York audience about such topics,” she continued, adding that more than 500 people, including children, attended the screening.

The film’s human characters include different portrayals of Israeli and Palestinian personalities, often with fluid stereotypes. The characters include an Israeli veterinarian, who is actually played by an Arab actor of Moroccan descent, and whose help is integral to the plot’s success.

In contrast, there is an angry confrontation between the characters and a gun-wielding Israeli settler.

Despite it being a film with animals, shown through a child’s eyes, there are scenes that touch on the brutality of living in a war zone. Rather than give away the film’s ending, the UN News Centre asked Massalha to explain one of the scenes from the film

The ‘Two-State Solution Is in Danger’

All this is fine. The point is that only one day after the film screening, a new UN report warned that the viability of a two-state solution –which envisages peaceful co-existence of both Israel and Palestine– is in danger due to the negative trends on the ground, including recent violence, on-going settlement activity, demolitions, incitement, and the absence of Palestinian unity.

The report, issued on April 14 by the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), highlights an increase in settlement activities by Israel and a further consolidation of Israeli control over the West Bank.

It underscores that the demolition of Palestinian homes and livelihood structures more than doubled in the reporting period as compared with the previous six months, noting that the total demolitions by mid-April already exceeded last year’s total. The report also expresses concern over Palestinian access to land and natural resources in ‘Area C’ of the West Bank, among other development factors.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has condemned the April 6 large scale home demolitions by Israeli authorities in the Bedouin refugee community of Um al Khayr in the South Hebron Hills.

A boy in the Bedouin refugee community of Um al Khayr in the South Hebron Hills where large scale home demolitions by Israeli authorities took place. Credit: UNRWA

A boy in the Bedouin refugee community of Um al Khayr in the South Hebron Hills where large scale home demolitions by Israeli authorities took place. Credit: UNRWA


As a result, according to UNRWA, 31 Palestine refugees, including 16 children, were made homeless in a community that has endured several rounds of demolitions and often faced harassment from the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Karmel.

Already this year, over 700 Palestinians have been displaced by Israeli demolitions in the West Bank. This figure is approaching the total number of displaced for all of 2015, said Lance Bartholomeusz, Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, who stated that he was “appalled” by the “unjustifiable” demolitions, which are in violation of international law.

“As the UN has said repeatedly, these demolitions must stop,” said UNRWA.

Regarding the Palestinian side, the new UNSCO report notes that despite continuing reconciliation discussions held in February and March between Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Qatar, no consensus has been reached on achieving genuine Palestinian unity.

“The formation of a national unity government and the holding of elections are vital to laying the foundations of a future Palestinian state,” the report adds.

Degenerated Human Rights Situation

Citing a protracted humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory, the report says that “some 1.1 million people in the West Bank and some 1.3 million in Gaza, over 900,000 of them refugees, need some form of humanitarian assistance in 2016.”

The report stresses that the human rights situation degenerated with the dramatic rise in clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli Security Forces in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, increased instances of punitive measures against families of alleged perpetrators of attacks, and administrative detentions.

The new UN report will be presented to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) at its bi-annual meeting in Brussels on 19 April. The Committee, chaired by Norway and co-sponsored by the European Union and the United States, serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Merely three weeks ago, the UN envoy for the peace process in the Middle East warned the Security Council that the prospects for an independent Palestinian state are disappearing, and questioned the political will of the Israeli and Palestinian actors to address the main challenges blocking peace efforts.

“The time has come to ring the alarm bells that the two-state solution is slipping from our fingers,” on 24 March said Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, pointing to ongoing Israeli settlement activities and confiscation of Palestinian land, as well as the continued lack of genuine Palestinian unity.

(End)

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OPINION: Wake Up! We Need Statesman and Values but We Get Selfish Politicians and Cynicism…http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-wake-up-we-need-statesman-and-values-but-we-get-selfish-politicians-and-cynicsm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-wake-up-we-need-statesman-and-values-but-we-get-selfish-politicians-and-cynicsm http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-wake-up-we-need-statesman-and-values-but-we-get-selfish-politicians-and-cynicsm/#comments Fri, 15 Apr 2016 14:14:01 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144631 Roberto Savio, IPS news agency founder and president emeritus and publisher of Other News]]>

Roberto Savio, IPS news agency founder and president emeritus and publisher of Other News

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Apr 15 2016 (IPS)

A total indifference has accompanied the number of refugees injured by Macedonian police in Idomeni, where more than 12 000 people, including 4 000 children have been trapped, since Austria asked Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, to prevent the continuing passage of refugees. Austria has now informed the Italian government that it will send several hundred troops to its border with Italy.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

The illegal agreement with Turkey, that Angela Merkel pushed to defuse her growing unpopularity in Germany, is conducted in a way that has obliged both the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Doctors without Borders, to refuse to participate in a brutal operation that effectively violates the UN Charter and the European Treaty by bribing the Turkish government.

The use of tear gas and rubber bullets against refugees in Idomeni is deplorable and plays into the hands of growing support among Europe’s right wing parties and even ISIS, which supposedly calls for the dignity and freedom of the Arab world and supports the creation of a war of religions.

What many seem to have forgotten is that the Austrian police actually carried out a survey of refugees and discovered that they were better educated than the Austrians.

Now the group of experts and academicians who monitors migration has published a study entitled Unpacking a Rapidly Changing Scenario, which proves the obvious. The million people , who risked their lives to come to Europe in 2015, are in large measure middle class, uprooted due to conflicts. Two-thirds of the refugees have college or university level education, and those with a university degree are one-third of all refugees. Two-thirds had a stable job before leaving their country.

Merkel originally accepted the refugees because Germany is in a dire need of workers. She had not however anticipated that the right wing parties would so effectively use the present climate of uncertainty and frustration. Now in Germany there are 2 000 racial incidents a month, and Alternative for Germany (AFD), the new right wing party, looks poised to become the third German party.

Unfortunately, no statesman is currently in the offing. That is someone who would risk votes, to educate electors to unpopular truths, like the simple fact that Europe is not viable without a large immigration. The statistics are clear. This vast tide of refugees, the largest since World War two, are on average 23 years old – half the European average – 82 percent are younger than 34, and two-thirds have a high level of education.

The European Commission, in 2015, projected that Europe would need to support an increasingly elderly population. There will be an uninterrupted decline in jobs between 2010 and 2060. The population at working age (20-64) has been declining steadily since 2010, and in 2060 will have fallen by 50 million from 310 million in 2010, to 260 million in 2060, likely to result in a probable bankruptcy of the pension system. The total number of those in the employable age bracket of 20 to 64 will shrink from 210 million in 2010, to 200 million in 2060. The issue is,who is going to replace the missing 10 million people needed to keep Europe at its present stage of global competitiveness. Who is going to pay the contributions of those who have gone into retirement?

The lack of jobs and the probable bankruptcy of the pensions systems will occur in a considerably older population. While we need 2.1 children per couple, to keep the population stable, present projections indicate that it will fall to 1.22 children per couple.

The average age of maternity, currently 31.7 years, will increase to 33 years in 2064, and the number of woman of childbearing age (between 15 and 49 years) will fall by 4.3 million.
Finally, life expectancy, currently 80 years of age for men and 85.7 for woman, will reach 91 by 2064 for men and 94.3 years for woman. It is estimated that those aged over 100 years will represent about 10% of the population.

In other words, the world we know today, will no longer exist. We are debating whether the retirement age should be 65 years. Children born today have a life expectancy of 82 years, and according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), those who are now between 18 and 25 years will go into retirement with an average pension of around Euro 630 per month, because many will be precariously employed, will not be able to meet their pension contributions, and even fewer will be able to buy property.

The ILO also found that while today parents and grandparents provide a safety social net that alleviates the pain of unemployment, the current generation that can look forward to a relatively decent pension will have disappeared in three decades, and those who will be parents will not able to help their children in the same way that their parents were able to help them. It means that we will live in a world of old people, where young people will face a much harsher destiny.

And yet today, few talk about that future. On the contrary, we listen to the xenophobes and right wing parties, which in every European country keep growing in every election, riding on the tide of frustration and fear. What they do is to call for a return to a better yesterday, for a pure Europe, where others will be deported thus leaving jobs free for Europeans. At the same time, the politicians play their game, instead of discussing a serious immigration policy.

The difference between past European statesmen, the likes of Konrad Adenauer, Alcide De Gasperi and Robert Schuman, with a clear vision and ability to communicate to their citizens (like abandoning nationalism for a European dream), are dramatically absent today. The Dutch referendum against Ukraine (an unexpected gift for Putin, who beside being a smart player is also a lucky one), will hasten the decay of Europe.

The scandals associated with the massive participation of political leaders in the Panama Funds will also hasten the decline of legitimacy of the political class, and therefore of democracy. The
American elections are also proceeding in this direction. That Ted Cruz, who is a modern incarnation of the Great Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada, an ISIS dream, has become the solution to Donald Trump. And in a campaign that will cost over $4 billion, few contributors will cover the costs. The Koch brothers, the king of coal, have announced an investment of 900 million dollars.

If a republican wins, we can forget any real attempt to control climate change, which is already forgotten, in spite of the alarming evidence of future disaster. In a normal world, a statesman would attempt to motivate young people, to consider their future. He would create new alliances, transcend traditional politics, which look to the past, and attempt to shape a debate about the future.

The tragedy of Idomeni is not only a crime against humankind and the values of justice and solidarity: it is a crime of stupidity and cynicism, a crime committed against young Europeans, who are not aware of their future world. And Federico Mayor is right, when he says that the European Central Bank has no problem adding $20 billion a month to the $60 billion already going to the financial system, indicating clearly where priorities lie. The generational betrayal is going ahead, amidst generalized indifference.

Only history will speak of the Angela Merkels, the François Hollandes, the David Camerons, the Mariano Rajoys, the Matteo Renzis, and the Mark Ruttes, as those who looked to politics as a crutch for their survival instead of a tool for a better world, but it will be too late.

(End)

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Desert Locust Invading Yemen, More Arab Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/desert-locust-invading-yemen-more-arab-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=desert-locust-invading-yemen-more-arab-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/desert-locust-invading-yemen-more-arab-states/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2016 16:32:31 +0000 Kareem Ezzat http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144603 Juvenile desert locust hoppers. Photo: FAO/G.Tortoli

Juvenile desert locust hoppers. Photo: FAO/G.Tortoli

By Kareem Ezzat
CAIRO, Apr 13 2016 (IPS)

Now that Yemenis begin to hope that their year-long armed conflict may come to an end as a result of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United Nations sponsored round of talks between the parties in dispute, scheduled on 18 April in Kuwait, a new threat to their already desperate humanitarian crisis has just appeared in the form of a much feared massive desert locust invasion.

“The presence of recently discovered Desert Locust infestations in Yemen, where conflict is severely hampering control operations, poses a potential threat to crops in the region,” the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has warned.

On 12 April the FAO also urged neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iran, to mobilise survey and control teams and to take all necessary measures to prevent the destructive insects from reaching breeding areas situated in their respective territories.

The desert locust threat poses high risks not only to the Southern region of the Gulf, but also to North of Africa, FAO said and warned that strict vigilance is also required in Morocco and Algeria, especially in areas south of the Atlas Mountains, which could become possible breeding grounds for Desert Locust that have gathered in parts of the Western Sahara, Morocco and Mauritania.

Climate change appears among the major causes of the destructive plague, as groups of juvenile wingless hoppers and adults as well as hopper bands and at least one swarm formed on the southern coast of Yemen in March where heavy rains associated with tropical cyclones Chapala and Megh fell in November 2015.

“The extent of current Desert Locust breeding in Yemen is not fully known since survey teams are unable to access most areas. However, as vegetation dries out along the coast, more groups, bands and small swarms are likely to form,” said Keith Cressman, FAO Senior Locust Forecasting Officer.

Cressman noted that a moderate risk exists that Desert Locusts will move into the interior of southern Yemen, perhaps reaching spring breeding areas in the interior of central Saudi Arabia and northern Oman.

There is a possibility that this movement could continue to the United Arab Emirates where a few small swarms may appear and transit through the country before arriving in areas of recent rainfall in southeast Iran.

For its part, the Cairo-based FAO Regional office for the Middle East and North of Africa reported that the organisation is currently assisting technical teams from Yemen’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation in conducting field survey and control operations in infested coastal areas.

As for the North of Africa, the UN agency has also warned that in the North Western region, small groups and perhaps a few small swarms could find suitable breeding areas in Morocco, Mauritania, and Algeria. In addition, some small-scale Desert Locust breeding is likely to occur in South Western Libya, but numbers should remain low.

Elsewhere, the situation remains calm with only low numbers of adults present in northern Mali and Niger, South West Libya, southeast Egypt and North East Oman.

A Force of Nature?

Desert Locust hoppers can form vast ground-based bands. These can eventually turn into adult locust swarms, which, numbering in the tens of millions can fly up to 150 km a day with the wind.

Female locusts can lay 300 eggs within their lifetime while an adult insect can consume roughly its own weight in fresh food per day — about two grams every day.

A very small swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people and the devastating impact locusts can have on crops poses a major threat to food security, especially in already vulnerable areas.

Locusts can devastate crops and pastures. Photo: FAO/Giampiero Diana

Locusts can devastate crops and pastures. Photo: FAO/Giampiero Diana


Locust monitoring, early warning and preventive control measures are believed to have played an important role in the decline in the frequency and duration of plagues since the 1960s; however, today climate change is leading to more frequent, unpredictable and extreme weather and poses fresh challenges on how to monitor and respond to locust activity.

FAO operates a Desert Locust Information Service that receives data from locust-affected countries. This information is regularly analysed together with weather and habitat data and satellite imagery in order to assess the current locust situation, provide forecasts up to six weeks in advance and if required issue warnings and alerts.

It also undertakes field assessment missions and coordinates survey and control operations as well as assistance during locust emergencies. Its three regional locust commissions provide regular training and strengthen national capacities in survey, control and planning.

A Disastrous Year

2015 was a disastrous year for Yemen, which is home to around 27 million people living over an area of more than 528,000 km2. Already the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country, the rise of the Houthi insurgency and Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes intended to oust them from power led to a full-blown humanitarian disaster. And then in November, coastal regions were hit by the most powerful storm in decades, causing displacement and flooding.

Services are the largest economic sector in Yemen (61.4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product-GDP), followed by the industrial sector (30.9 per cent), and agriculture (7.7 per cent). Of these, petroleum production represents around 25 per cent of GDP and 63 per cent of the State revenue.

In recent decade, agriculture represented between 18–27% of the GDP, but this percentage has been shrinking due to emigration of rural labour, among others. Main agricultural commodities produced in Yemen include grain, vegetables, fruits, pulses, gat, coffee, cotton, dairy products, fish, livestock (sheep, goats, cattle, camels), and poultry.

Nevertheless, most Yemenis are employed in agriculture. Sorghum is the most common crop. Cotton and many fruit trees are also grown, with `mangoes being the most valuable.

Regarding the on-going humanitarian crisis, one year on into the conflict in Yemen, tens of thousands of Yemenis have been killed or injured, one in 10 are displaced and nearly the entire population is in urgent need of aid, the top UN humanitarian official in the country stated on 22 March 2016.

Credit: Almigdad Mojalli / IRIN

Credit: Almigdad Mojalli / IRIN


“It has been a terrible year for Yemen, during which a war peppered with airstrikes, shelling and violence had raged on in the already impoverished country,” added Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen.

Shelling of ports and airports, resulting in blockades and congestion, is one of the drivers of the humanitarian crisis, McGoldrick said, noting that health workers cannot reach patients and some 90 per cent of the food has to be imported.

“The country had extremely high levels of poverty before the war, and currently, the war has escalated, in an already fragile environment,” said the aid official.

Some 6,400 people have been killed in the past year, half of them civilians, and more than 30,000 are injured, with 2.5 million people displaced, according to figures from the UN World Health Organization (WHO). And more than 20 million people, or 80 per cent of the population, require some form of aid – about 14 million people in need of food and even more in need of water or sanitation.

The UN has appealed for 1.8 billion dollars for food, water, health care and shelter and protection issues, but only 12 per cent has been funded so far.

Bettina Luescher, senior communications officer for the World Food Programme (WFP) recently said in Geneva that shortages have forced the agency to cut rations to 75 per cent of a full ratio so that enough people could eat. “Yemen should not be forgotten, with all the attention focused on the Syria crisis,” she said.

(End)

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Baby Steps on Long Road to Justice for Atrocities in Syriahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/baby-steps-on-long-road-to-justice-for-atrocities-in-syria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=baby-steps-on-long-road-to-justice-for-atrocities-in-syria http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/baby-steps-on-long-road-to-justice-for-atrocities-in-syria/#comments Mon, 11 Apr 2016 22:08:57 +0000 Neil Sammonds http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144573 Neil Sammonds is Amnesty International’s Syria, Lebanon and Jordan Researcher. ]]>

Neil Sammonds is Amnesty International’s Syria, Lebanon and Jordan Researcher.

By Neil Sammonds
GENEVA, Apr 11 2016 (IPS)

The negotiations on April 11, 2016 in Geneva and the recent reduction of hostilities in Syria may represent important steps towards a peaceful solution to more than five years of turmoil. Few would not welcome the guns falling silent once and for all and for an end to the suffering of civilians.

With war crimes, crimes against humanity and other abuses being committed with impunity in Syria it is essential that justice, truth and reparation form a key part of any agreement. Those who ordered, carried out or allowed such crimes to happen must be brought to justice. Yet this crucial pillar is not on the agenda in Geneva and risks being sacrificed in the interests of political expediency.

The absence of a tribunal in Syria capable of tackling the justice deficit is patently clear. The judicial system in Syria is mostly subservient to the political authorities and the security and intelligence agencies. Over the last five years, tens of thousands of civilians have been detained without trial, often forcibly disappeared. Thousands have died in custody.

The gravity and scale of abuse and impunity in Syria became evident within the first few months of the crisis. Yet the UN Security Council has abjectly failed to refer the situation in Syria for investigation by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), despite repeated calls by international organizations, at least 65 states and the UN’s own Secretary General. An ICC investigation would have sent a powerful warning to commanders ordering war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Security Council could also have established an ad hoc international criminal tribunal, as it did with the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia; at the moment this remains a remote possibility. Another option would be to establish an internationalised criminal court for Syria, as occurred for Sierra Leone and Cambodia. It is hard to imagine that such a court could be established and be effective without the consent of the Syrian government—which is currently inconceivable.

Alternatively, a neighbouring country might consent to a tribunal being set up on its own territory, but this too remains an elusive prospect particularly as many of Syria’s neighbours have themselves been directly involved in the conflict.

These obstacles mean that the only realistic avenue to address impunity at this time is for national authorities of other countries to exercise universal or other extraterritorial jurisdiction over crimes under international law—including crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The flow of people out of Syria presents fresh opportunities to gather evidence of abuses from victims and witnesses and to investigate and prosecute suspected perpetrators. These include people seeking refuge or participating in business or negotiations. Amnesty International firmly holds that anyone who has sought refuge from the conflict in Syria should be granted sanctuary.

Countries have both the right and the obligation to carry out investigations into allegations that individuals under their jurisdiction may have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity or other serious human rights abuses.

In the event of such suspects having diplomatic or other privileged status, checks should be carried out into whether such status may grant immunity and under what, if any, circumstances that status may be removed and by whom. Civil society organizations and others should be vigilant and well-informed as to which legal organizations and individuals may be best able to advise and potentially file criminal complaints.

Opportunities for international justice may come at short notice and require preparedness to act promptly and decisively.

At least, 166 countries are able to exercise universal jurisdiction over at least one crime under international law—usually war crimes—regardless of the nationality of the suspect or of the victim. In recent months countries including Germany, Sweden and France, have opened such investigations into suspected international crimes in Syria. In January 2016 there were reports that a Syrian man was arrested in Germany on suspicion of war crimes relating to the kidnapping in Syria of a UN observer.

In Sweden, a Syrian asylum-seeker appeared in court accused of war crimes committed in Syria. In France, a Syrian asylum-seeker is being investigated for his alleged involvement in torture and killing of government opponents. Just last month a Syrian asylum-seeker in Sweden had criminal charges filed against him regarding his suspected involvement in the killing of captured government soldiers.

States whose nationals have travelled to Syria to fight should also investigate any allegations of crimes under international law and, where sufficient admissible evidence exists and laws provide, seek to prosecute them before their national courts.

States that have ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance have an express obligation to exercise jurisdiction over those crimes allegedly committed by their nationals abroad.
Sweden and Germany are also actively investigating returnees from the conflict in Syria and in December 2015, Sweden sentenced two of its nationals to life imprisonment for their role in killings by the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS).

These moves by the international community are small but deeply significant steps in the right direction. The crimes they relate to and the individuals affected are greatly eclipsed, however, by the colossal scale of the violations and impunity in Syria.

There are some misgivings that suspected perpetrators on the government side, whose forces are responsible for the overwhelming majority of serious violations in Syria, are less likely to travel outside the country.
But that may well change. And states with the capacity and commitment to undertake investigations and trials should make sure that they are prepared to act quickly.

As it stands, the enormity of the injustice and impunity reigning in Syria dictates that the road to justice, truth and reparation has to start somewhere and as such, any opportunities that arise must be seized and built upon.

(End)

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Focusing on Future of Food: What’s Next for Global Agricultural Research?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/focusing-on-future-of-food-whats-next-for-global-agricultural-research/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=focusing-on-future-of-food-whats-next-for-global-agricultural-research http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/focusing-on-future-of-food-whats-next-for-global-agricultural-research/#comments Mon, 11 Apr 2016 17:27:53 +0000 Kwesi Atta-Krah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144562 Kwesi Atta-Krah is the Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (Humidtropics) – a program led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).]]>

Kwesi Atta-Krah is the Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (Humidtropics) – a program led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

By Kwesi Atta-Krah
JOHANNESBURG, Apr 11 2016 (IPS)

Food security scientists from around the globe gathered in Johannesburg last week with one objective: to work towards the transformation of agriculture as engine for growth in developing regions of the world. The gathering was also an opportunity to examine what farmers need to prosper in the face of social and environmental challenges.

Kwesi Atta-Krah

Kwesi Atta-Krah

The Third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3) was the culmination of a two-year consultation process with national and regional stakeholders, and a chance to set a new agenda for today’s agricultural research, to ensure it meets the challenges of development for tomorrow.

A major theme running throughout the conference has been ensuring that “no one is left behind” in the unfolding agricultural revolution, and that research remains “future-focused”. We know that sudden shocks such as natural disasters and pest outbreaks can cripple agricultural production – just look at the impact El Niño-induced drought is having on farmers across southern Africa.

We therefore need to be investing in forward-thinking programs that will help communities prepare for such events. However this should not be just a case of researchers thinking for communities, but also of supporting communities to engage in the process of designing desired futures taking into account climate change and other scenarios.

In Africa alone, CGIAR’s global network of research centers is already working on a number of programs to make this happen. For example, a project is under way in Nigeria to map flooding patterns to guide decision-making on future flood response. It will also identify flood capture and storage solutions for flood-recession agriculture and dry-season farming.

Improving access to climate information is also going to be critical, to help farmers maintain their yields in the face of erratic weather patterns. In collaboration with AGRHYMET and the National Meteorological Services of several countries (such as Madagascar, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania), CGIAR is channelling climate information directly into farmers’ hands across Africa.

By combining traditional and scientific knowledge, locally specific forecasts are tailored to meet farmers’ needs and delivered via mobile phone and radio broadcasts. Farmers benefit from tailored information about what to plant, when to plant, when to fertilise and when to harvest, and are trained in how to interpret and apply the forecasts to their day-to-day farming.

Another overwhelmingly supported take away from the conference was the need to change our mindsets and recognise the yet untapped potential of youth for realising agricultural development, and also providing employment to themselves and others. Two dynamic young speakers (from the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) and Makolobane Farmers Enterprises) urged the audience to stop referring to youth as “leaders of tomorrow” and recognise their role as “leaders of today”.

When one stops to consider that Africa has some 200 million youth in need of employment, and Africa’s food and beverage markets have the potential to be worth US$1 trillion by 2030 – it is an obvious action point to equip young people with the skills they need to participate in this growing market.

Significant investment in training and equipment is required, to make local production, processing and marketing of these foods an attractive choice for young entrepreneurs. In her speech, the young Managing Director of Makolobane Farmers Enterprises, Dimakatso Sekhoto, highlighted the need for more young people to be able to access finance to support their businesses.

Building capacities of the youth in the area of business skills, entrepreneurship, leadership and personal development came across from a number of young people attending GCARD3 as essential support factors. For example, training to write business plans, so that young people are able to go to banks and ask for loans, backed up with the appropriate paperwork and planning, will be a critical step towards this.

It is encouraging that several initiatives are springing up aimed at supporting the “Youth in Agriculture” mission. Examples are the YPARD initiative being implemented by the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), in various countries around the world. In 2012, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria, also launched the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) initiative.

The program is aimed at exposing young people to the opportunities inherent in agriculture for job creation and employment, and encouraging them to explore the various channels that are open to business in agriculture. These include areas such as the specialization and production of quality seeds; value addition through processing; fisheries and brood stock production; marketing and use of ICT in agribusiness.

At IITA, we are investing heavily in this kind of preparation for young “agripreneurs” to enter the market. The IYA initiative has now been replicated in five other countries: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia. Many more countries are on the horizon.

In DRC, for example, the IITA-Kalambo Youth Agripreneurs (IKYA), a group of young and enterprising graduates engaged in agribusiness, aim to build agribusiness enterprises for themselves and serve as a model to other youth. Formally launched in April 2014 as an offshoot of IYA, the group has a current membership of 32 young “Business Builders”, aged between 25-32 years old from different backgrounds.

The activities of the group cut across the value chains of different crops including cassava, maize, beans and soybeans. The group has engaged in different profitable agriculture business enterprises, including production and sales of agricultural commodities and vegetables, such as agro-processing of cassava and maize, production of high-quality maize flour and cassava flour and starch, as well as fisheries.

Aiming to increase their incomes, the young and enterprising members of IKYA have also increased their business opportunities by going into value-addition activities through the development and marketing of nutritious cassava-soybean agro-foods products, aimed at improving the nutritional diversity of household diets.

In addition to this type of program, several CGIAR centers now have business incubation platforms that develop efficient manufacturing methods that can be replicated by the private sector. One new business incubation hub in Uganda – Afri Banana Products Ltd – has nurtured 39 entrepreneurs; commercialized six technologies and helped generate employment for over 420 people.

New technologies are being tested, that reduce the drudgery of agro-processing and improve efficiency, such as a mechanical sheller that can shell 18 times more groundnuts in one hour than hand shelling, and processors that can turn cassava peels into high quality animal feed. The Business Incubation Platform (BIP) of IITA in Nigeria has set up mini plants for the production of key agricultural inputs, as models for private sector engagement.

A key product from the IITA BIP is aflasafeTM for addressing the problem of aflatoxin contamination in grain and other crops. The aflasafeTM plant produces up to 40 tons of aflasafeTM a day and the BIP’s main goal is to get interested parties to invest in plant construction and laboratories all over Africa.

The GCARD process is designed to make sure that the scientists working on solutions to feed the world are listening to the needs of farmers, and other stakeholders on the ground. The national consultations have given CGIAR research centers around the world a refreshed plan of action for the countries in which they work.

Priorities such as preparing for future risks and consciously leveraging the potential of youth to catalyse agribusiness are going to be two important steps paving the way through the next decade of agricultural research. We are excited to move forward with this new era, towards a world were healthy, sustainable diets are provided for all.

(End)

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Turning to Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/need-to-encourage-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-to-encourage-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/need-to-encourage-agriculture/#comments Fri, 08 Apr 2016 05:45:44 +0000 Moyiga Nduru http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144529 A woman weeds a sesame crop field in South Sudan's Eastern Equatoria state. Credit: Charlton Doki/IPS

A woman weeds a sesame crop field in South Sudan's Eastern Equatoria state. Credit: Charlton Doki/IPS

By Moyiga Nduru
JUBA, South Sudan, Apr 8 2016 (IPS)

Facing an unprecedented economic crisis, South Sudan — the newest nation of the world — has urged its 12 million inhabitants to turn to agriculture instead of depending on declining oil revenues.

Before the fall of oil prices below $30 a barrel in the international market, oil-rich South Sudan used to import virtually all of its basic requirements from overseas.

Chicken came from Brazil. Tomatoes, onions, maize flour, cooking oil, dairy products and beans are still being imported from neighbouring Uganda. China and Dubai export a variety of goods such as soft drinks, smart phones as well as construction materials.

All of this is unsustainable and worries the government. South Sudan has ignored agriculture since it achieved its independence in July 2011. Up to 75 per cent of the country’s land area is suitable for farming.

“South Sudan has virgin land. Yet we import most of our food from neighbouring countries,” finance minister, David Deng Athorbei, complained during a meeting organised in the national capital Juba recently to address the deteriorating economic situation in the country.

Every year, South Sudan spends between US$200-300 million on food imports, according to estimates for 2013 provided by the Abidjan-based African Development Bank (AFDB).

“South Sudan currently imports as much as 50 per cent of its needs, including 40 per cent of its cereals from neighbouring countries, particularly Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia”, according to AFDB.

During the first two years of independence, the country was producing nearly 245,000 barrels of crude oil per day, raking in billions of dollars in revenue annually. As a result, the elite saw no value in labour-intensive activity like farming.

That is now changing. A drop in the oil output, a decline in global oil prices and the devastating conflict in South Sudan, as well as an acute scarcity of hard currency have triggered shortages of goods in the market.

South Sudan, which currently produces 165,000 barrel of crude oil per day, depends on oil revenue for nearly 98 per cent of the total government budget.

“We must diversify. We should not depend on one commodity — oil. We have gold in Kapoeta (on the border with Kenya). We have cattle,” said Gabriel Alak, a senior official of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) on a popular programme, Face the Nation, on the state-owned South Sudan Television recently.

Campaigners are now focusing on food production to mitigate the impact of a devastating conflict that erupted in Juba in December 2013. The violence spread quickly to oil-producing states of Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile.

The fighting has left hundreds of thousands of people in need of humanitarian assistance.

At the height of the oil boom, South Sudanese businesspeople had directed their energy toward trade, ignoring agriculture.

“The business of trade is over. We now need to embark on the business of production. We have to change our ways of doing business. Let’s start with agriculture,” Athorbei advised.

In April 2015, President Salva Kiir donated 1,000 tractors to farmers around the country. He also set up the country’s first food security council headed by himself.

“I am determined to end hunger and malnutrition in the Republic of South Sudan,” Kiir said during the launch of the tractors in Juba.

“We have vast fertile lands, abundant water and climate suitable for production of wide variety of food and cash crops but the country still faces enormous challenges which prevent it from realising its full potential,” he said.

“Experts estimate that up to 300,000 metric tonnes of fish could be harvested on a sustainable basis from its share at the River Nile swamps and tributaries,” Kiir disclosed.

South Sudan produces some food crops, but the food is rotting in the bush due to poor road network to transport the commodities to the market.

Athorbei said he would set aside some money in the financial year 2015/2016 to boost agriculture. He did not say how much he would allocate.

With South Sudan joining the East African Community (EAC) on 2 March 2016, Juba hopes to invite farmers across the region to till the country’s vast lands. “This will cut transport costs and reduce food prices,” vice-president James Wani Igga told a parliamentary caucus of the ruling SPLM in Juba on March 10, 2016.

EAC comprises Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and now South Sudan, with a combined population of more than 157 million.

As South Sudan works out plan to fix agriculture, prices have continued to spiral beyond the reach of the poor. The crisis has prompted parliament to urge government to reduce inflation to mitigate the sufferings of ordinary persons.

“There is urgent need to mobilise up to US $20 million for the importation of food commodities and medicines within a period of one month. The food commodities shall be sold through established consumer cooperative network,” the chairperson for the committee for economy, development and finance in parliament, Goc Makuach Mayol, said in a 14-page report on March 7, 2016.

The parliament has also called for a probe into a US$70 million, which was disbursed by an agency known as “financial auction” to commercial banks and forex bureaux with instructions by the central bank to allocate 50 per cent for importing food commodities, 30 per cent for industrial inputs and 20 per cent for school fees and medical treatment overseas.

The parliament did not indicate when the money was disbursed. But it has demanded for a record showing how the money was spent.

(End)

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War Zones Littered with More than Just Land Mineshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/warzones-littered-with-much-more-than-just-landmines/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=warzones-littered-with-much-more-than-just-landmines http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/warzones-littered-with-much-more-than-just-landmines/#comments Mon, 04 Apr 2016 19:40:03 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144465 By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 4 2016 (IPS)

Land mines are not the only type of explosive devices that families returning home after conflicts risk stumbling across, representatives from the UN’s Mine Action Service (UNMAS) told journalists here Monday.

“There is a lot of stigma about using mines now – the real issue is just the explosive detritus of conflict,” said Paul Heslop, UNMAS chief of program planning on the International Day for Mine Awareness. This detritus, said Heslop, includes unexploded hand grenades, rockets, bombs, shells, cluster munitions, and improvised explosive devices.

This is why UNMAS does not discriminate when removing unexploded ordinances in conflict and post-conflict zones, said Agnes Marcaillou, director of the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS). For UNMAS, it doesn’t matter if the explosive device is a land mine or an improvised explosive device inside a soda can, she said.

Marcaillou described how in Iraq people are returning home to find their homes deliberately booby-trapped. “In Iraq if you decide to return to your home after Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL) has left your village you are likely to find your doors, your windows, everything will be booby trapped,” she said.

Syrian families who return home are faced with “a land littered with unexploded bombs and cluster munitions that might kill (them) or (their) children today, or perhaps tomorrow,” she said.

While some of these devices are sometimes described as improvised or homemade, they are actually sophisticated systems designed to make sure that people are not safe to return home even after the fighting has ended, said Marcaillou.

Marcaillou told journalists that it is essential that mine action is incorporated into the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit to be held in Istanbul in May. If not, it will be impossible to meet the cost of clearing mines and other unexploded devices from Iraq and Syria, which, she said, could exceed 100 million dollars. However Marcaillou said that the cost of removing the unexploded weapons was small in comparison to the amount spent on purchasing bombs and fighter jets. “There is money to clean up what money paid to do,” she said.

And while progress has been made on mine clearance, including in some of the worst affected countries such as Afghanistan and Cambodia, the international community should not yet see the problem as solved, said Heslop.

For example, in Afghanistan, he said, the number of deaths from mines has dropped from hundreds per month down to five or six, yet other types of unexploded ordinances still cause about 70 deaths per month.

And despite decades of clearing land mines from Cambodia, Heslop said that making Cambodia mine free could still take another decade, with cluster munitions posing a new challenge as people move to areas which haven’t yet been cleared.

In a statement issued to mark the International Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that he was “particularly concerned about the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.”

However Ban also noted that even in extremely challenging contexts such as Syria progress is being made on removing mines. Since August 2015, some 14 tonnes of unexploded ordnance have been destroyed in Syria, he said.

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Heavy Rains Once Again Scatter the Poor in Asunciónhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/heavy-rains-once-again-scatter-the-poor-in-asuncion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=heavy-rains-once-again-scatter-the-poor-in-asuncion http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/heavy-rains-once-again-scatter-the-poor-in-asuncion/#comments Fri, 01 Apr 2016 02:00:58 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144433 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/heavy-rains-once-again-scatter-the-poor-in-asuncion/feed/ 0 International Community Falls Short on Syrian Resettlementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/international-community-falls-short-on-syrian-resettlement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-community-falls-short-on-syrian-resettlement http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/international-community-falls-short-on-syrian-resettlement/#comments Thu, 31 Mar 2016 15:57:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144425 Syrian refugee children learn to survive at a camp in north Lebanon. Credit: Zak Brophy/IPS

Syrian refugee children learn to survive at a camp in north Lebanon. Credit: Zak Brophy/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 31 2016 (IPS)

“We cannot respond to refugee crises by closing doors and building fences,” said UN High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi in his opening address to a high-level event in Geneva.

By the end of the meeting, however, the international community remained reluctant to welcome refugees.

The conference, which brought together representatives from 92 countries, along with governmental and nongovernmental organizations on 30 March, was convened by UNHCR to explore pathways for refugees and asylum-seekers to help relieve the pressure on Syria’s neighbouring countries.

While highlighting the need to globally share responsibility, Grandi said it cannot be “business as usual,” leaving the burden to a handful of states.

“Offering alternative avenues for the admission of Syrian refugees must become part of the solution, together with investing in helping the countries in the region,” Grandi added.

The five-year conflict in the Middle Eastern nation has forced over 4.8 million civilians to flee while displacing another 6.5 million within its borders.

Though many seek refuge in Europe, the majority of refugees have stayed in the region.

Turkey currently hosts over 2.5 million Syrians, making it the largest refugee-hosting country. In Lebanon, a country of just four million hosting more than 1 million refugees, one in five people are Syrian.

Unable to cope with the unprecedented numbers, neighboring countries have found their economic resources exhausted.

According to a UN and World Bank study, 90 percent of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon live under the national poverty line.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also pressed for action, noting that the world must “step up” with concrete actions, including the fulfillment of governments’ resettlement promises. Countries have so far pledged 179,000 resettlement places for Syrians.

However, according to an Oxfam report, wealthy nations, which have made the majority of resettlement pledges, have only resettled 1.39 percent of all Syrian refugees.

Only three countries, including Germany, Norway, and Canada, have made resettlement pledges that have surpassed their “fair share,” calculated according to the size of their economy.

Canada, while working with UNHCR, was able to resettle over 26,000 Syrian refugees in less than four months.

The Secretary-General and High Commissioner also urged countries to also allow other pathways for admission, including family reunification, labor mobility schemes, and student visas and scholarships.

“Today, they are refugees. Tomorrow, they can be students and professors, scientists and researchers, workers and caregivers,” Ban said in his address.

In a recent report, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) said that though these channels already exist, they are often “blocked by practical, technical and political obstacles.”

While speaking to delegates, Razan Ibraheem, a Syrian journalist who reached Ireland with a student visa, said she had met a woman who had taken a boat to Greece with her sister’s four children and her own five children because a family unification application had failed.

“Had her application been processed, those children would have been saved the horrors of crossing the Mediterranean,” she stated. She stressed that countries must expand resettlement programmes and speed up other channels including family reunion.

UNHCR has called for resettling or providing other avenues of admission for 10 percent of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, or 480,000, over the next three years.

Other organizations have followed suit, but have called for the resettlement of 10 percent by the end of 2016.

Despite appeals, the conference ended with doors remaining closed on Syrian refugees.

Grandi announced that countries have pledged just an additional 6,000 resettlement spaces, falling short of the refugee agency’s request.

International organizations including Oxfam and Save the Children expressed their disappointment in a joint statement, saying that governments have shown a “shocking lack of political and moral leadership.”

“Almost all states attending have failed to show the level of generosity required,” they continued.

(End)

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HUMANISTANBUL: World Humanitarian Summithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/humanistanbul-world-humanitarian-summit-3/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanistanbul-world-humanitarian-summit-3 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/humanistanbul-world-humanitarian-summit-3/#comments Tue, 29 Mar 2016 15:44:02 +0000 Mevlut Cavusoglu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144401 By Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu
Mar 29 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Despite worldwide shock and indignation, it looks like little Aylan Kurdi’s tragic death last summer changed little. This is a sad – but brutal – comment on our collective humanity, if such a thing still exists.

The power of images and social media, so effective for celebrity purposes, seems to have fallen flat on its face in mobilising assistance to those less fortunate. Indeed, since Aylan’s death six months ago, countless more innocents – men, women and children – have died completely preventable deaths.

It is true that we are now faced with major humanitarian crises, unlike anything since the last World War. But, there can be no excuse for the global indifference on display.

While major natural disasters continue to be a significant cause of death and displacement, what is most alarming today is that a great majority of humanitarian crises are conflict-related and of a recurrent or protracted nature. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Syria, where a mass murderer has, with outside help, targeted his own people indiscriminately and with impunity.

Beyond Syria, whether in the Middle East, Asia, Africa or elsewhere, humanitarian crises are transcending borders. Today, 125 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance around the globe. The number of displaced persons, 60 million, has almost doubled in just a decade. These numbers stand as testament to the human suffering caused by the growing complexity of humanitarian crises, our inability and unwillingness to tackle them, and the widening financial gap between increasing needs and limited resources.

Something has to be done and Turkey is leading the way, not only in terms of setting an example, but also in working to galvanise the international community towards action.

Today, while a major humanitarian donor, Turkey also hosts the largest refugee population – 2.7 million and counting – in the world. This is largely due to the war in Syria. Providing shelter and vital services such as free health care, schooling and vocational training for these refugees is a major financial burden that Turkey has had to assume largely on its own.

But our humanitarian diplomacy is not limited to our immediate region. Having received vulnerable persons, irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity as far back as in the late 15th century, Turkey today is responding to all manner of humanitarian crises from Haiti to Nepal, Guinea to Somalia and the Sahel to Indonesia. Our humanitarian efforts seek, not only to relieve symptoms but also to treat the disease. This holistic approach covers humanitarian and development assistance, but also seeks to address the root causes and push factors of humanitarian crises. This approach is demand-driven and can best be seen in the countries of the Sahel or in Somalia, where Turkey has pursued an integrated policy conducted with a multi-stake holder approach. It has combined official aid with the active involvement of the business sector and civil society, and has managed to dramatically improve countless lives.

While individual efforts like these of Turkey are crucial, the international humanitarian system is being deprived of available funds and the clock is ticking for those affected by the many crises we are witnessing globally. There are simply too many lives at stake, and inaction is not an option.

At this critical juncture, Istanbul will host the first ever UN World Humanitarian Summit on May 23-24, 2016. The choice of Turkey as host was hardly coincidental. It constitutes a timely recognition of the successful humanitarian diplomacy that we have been conducting.

The World Humanitarian Summit will provide a vital platform to address the challenges burdening the humanitarian system. In addition to such issues as responding to recurrent/protracted crises and waves of displacement, other pressing issues such as ensuring sustainable, reliable and predictable humanitarian financing will be examined. Other questions such as, what innovative methods could be used, or how to promote localised humanitarian responses through more tailor-made and user-friendly approaches, as well as the question of dignity and safety in humanitarian action, will be addressed at the Summit.

The World Humanitarian Summit will be an occasion for all the nations of the world and their leaders to take action while millions stand on the brink of life and death. As I remember first seeing Aylan’s image, I recall the overwhelming grief that came over me, thinking about how alone and without protection he was as an innocent toddler. I would like to believe that we learnt something from that image and that we do not need more images like this to compel us into action.

We are all responsible for what happens next to those vulnerable persons looking to us for help. Istanbul is an opportunity to step up and shoulder that responsibility. I am calling on all leaders of the world to come to Istanbul for the UN Humanitarian Summit and to work with us to find solutions for those who desperately need humanitarian assistance.

The writer is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Challenges of Polio Vaccinationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/challenges-of-polio-vaccination/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=challenges-of-polio-vaccination http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/challenges-of-polio-vaccination/#comments Tue, 29 Mar 2016 04:41:42 +0000 Ashfaq Yusufzai http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144398 Noted religious scholar Maulana Samiul Haq administers oral polio vaccine to children. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

Noted religious scholar Maulana Samiul Haq administers oral polio vaccine to children. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

By Ashfaq Yusufzai
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Mar 29 2016 (IPS)

Pakistan and Afghanistan, the two remaining polio-endemic countries, have joined forces to eradicate poliomyelitis by vaccinating their children in synchronised campaigns.

The two neighbouring countries — sharing a 2,400 kms long and porous border — have been bracketed as the stumbling block in the way of the global polio eradication drive. These militancy-riddled countries have been tackling Taliban’s opposition to the administration of oral polio vaccine (OPV) to children.

Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), one of Pakistan’s four provinces along with the adjacent Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and the adjoining Nangarhar province of Afghanistan has been declared a polio-endemic geographical block by the World Health Organisation.

Since January 2016, “we have started synchronised immunisation campaigns in KP, Fata and Afghanistan with a view to ensure vaccination of all children on both sides of the border”, KP’s health minister Shahram Tarakai told IPS.

“There are about 100,000 children who refuse vaccination on both sides of the border. They pose a threat to the polio eradication campaign. Each child should get vaccinated,” he said.

The government has enlisted support of religious scholars to do away with refusals against OPV, KP’s top polio officer Dr Ayub Roz told IPS.

Taliban have been campaigning against OPV because they consider it a ploy by the US to render recipients impotent, infertile and reduce the population of Muslims.

Ayub Roz says that top religious scholars have been involved in the vaccination campaigns to dispel the impression being created that OPV was against Islam and that it affected the capacity of people to produce children.

Maulana Samiul Haq, chief of famous Darul Uloom Haqqani, who has been tasked to counter Taliban’s anti-vaccine campaign told IPS that the religious scholars have been engaged to accompany the health workers and urge the parents that OPV was important for their kids to safeguard them against disabilities.

“It is the responsibility of the parents to protect their children against diseases and provide them with safe and healthy environments. We have convinced 10,000 parents since January on vaccination of their children,” he said.

Muhammad Rizwan, a resident of Nowshera, one of the 26 districts of KP, says that he had not been vaccinating his children so far under the misconception that it wasn’t allowed in Islam. “As a result, my eldest son, aged four years was diagnosed positive for polio. Now, upon the persuasion of religious leaders, I have been vaccinating my two other sons to let them grow healthy,” Rizwan, a farmer, said.

According to him, Taliban have been warning the people against polio vaccination in the areas but the local clerics have started to woo parents on vaccination. “Parents are responding to religious leaders and are bringing their children for immunisation in droves,” he says.

KP police chief Nasir Khan Durrani says they have been deploying more than 10,000 policemen for the security of health workers.

“Militants have killed 70 health workers during polio campaign from 2012 to 2015 but there were no such incidents in 2016,” he says. Taliban militants want vaccinators to stay away from polio vaccination but we have given them foolproof security, Durrani says.

A new case reported from Afghanistan in February from Kunar province bordering Fata and KP Pakistan has triggered alarm bells, prompting both countries to speed up the immunisation drive in border areas.

More than 60 polio cases reported in 2015 belonged to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Peshawar, capital of KP, registered 10 polio cases of KP’s total 18 in 2015 mainly because of free and unchecked movements of children from Afghanistan as well as Fata where quality vaccination was needed. Two of these polio cases had proven linkages to the virus in Afghanistan.

Dr Ikhtiar Ali, Fata polio officer told IPS that synchronised campaigns stared in Pakistan and Afghanistan from January has paid off.

“The number cases in Pakistan were six and one in Afghanistan as of March 16 2016 because 14 vaccination points on the border has improved vaccination,” he says. Special focus is being laid on strengthening border vaccination.

The quality of vaccination at Torkham, the main border point crossed by hundreds of children per day, wasn’t up to the desired level last year due to which infected children transported the virus across the border, they said.

Ahmed Barakzai, a polio officer in Afghanistan’s Nangrahar province near the border, says the situation with regard to vaccination has shown signs of improvement due to the advocacy campaigns launched with support of community elders and religious leaders.

We have brought down refusals against OPV from 60,000 in 2015 to only 22,000 in 2016, he says. The only way to cope with the poliomyelitis is the quality vaccination of children, he says.

Like KP and Fata, we have also engaged police and religious scholars in the campaign. “In some areas, we have been facing security problems because the vaccinators were sacred of militants but we are using religious leaders to cope with the situation,” he says.

Saira Afzal Tarar says the synchronised campaigns have proved fruitful. “We are going to further strengthen vaccination in border areas,” she said.

Pakistan is home to at least 6 million Afghan refugees … In the past, Afghan children transported virus to Pakistan because of lack of vaccination back home, she says.

Now, every child is getting OPV at the border points due to which the chances of infection to local children have decreased, she says.

(End)

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Yemen’s Health Crisis is “Critical,” Says WHOhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/yemens-health-crisis-is-critical-says-who/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemens-health-crisis-is-critical-says-who http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/yemens-health-crisis-is-critical-says-who/#comments Mon, 28 Mar 2016 20:55:52 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144396 By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 28 2016 (IPS)

The health situation in Yemen has severely deteriorated and is critical, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported.

The conflict, which is now entering its second year, has devastated the country’s health system. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien has called the crisis a “human catastrophe.”

Since March 2015, more than 6,200 people have been killed and 30,000 injured.

WHO has expressed alarm over the rise in the number of causalities amid hospital damages as well as shortages in trained staff and medicine. Approximately 25 percent of all health facilities have already shut down in the country.

However, health needs remain vast, said WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Ala Alwan.

“Operating in a conflict context is never an easy task,” Alwan added.

According to WHO, more than 21 million people—82 percent of the total population—are in dire need of humanitarian aid.

Though the provision of health services was already weak prior to the conflict, the escalation of violence has left millions of Yemenis without access to essential health services.

As a result of air strikes and rockets, water infrastructure has been and continues to be severely damaged. In February, a water reservoir serving over 40,000 people was destroyed in the capital of Sana’a following an airstrike.

Almost 19 million people currently lack access to clean water and sanitation, increasing the risk of epidemics such as dengue fever, malaria and cholera.

More than 14 million Yemenis also require urgent health services, including over 2 million acutely malnourished children and pregnant and lactating women. WHO found that 16 percent of children under the age of 5 are acutely malnourished, with the rate in some areas reaching more than 30 percent.

Alwan noted the numerous challenges in providing health services, including lack of access to hard-to-reach areas.

Permission to move and distribute humanitarian foods and personnel has been inconsistent by al-Houthi forces and allied groups such as Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners.

In a statement to the Security Council, O’Brien found that bureaucratic requirements have delayed and impeded the delivery of humanitarian assistance and even restricted movement of aid workers.

In one week alone in February, the Ministry of Interior in Sana’a rejected travel permission to three separate UN missions.

More than one third of Yemenis in need of assistance live in inaccessible areas.

Alwan highlighted the need for all parties to provide humanitarian access to all areas of Yemen and to respect the safety of health workers and health facilities which operate “under extremely challenging conditions.”

He also expressed concern over the limited funding for the health sector, which has only received 6 percent of its 2016 requirements. In February, the UN also appealed for $1.8 billion for the 2016 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan. So far, 12 percent has been funded.

“Despite our efforts so far, much more needs to be done to respond to the health needs of people in Yemen,” he urged.

Last week, UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced that the country’s warring parties have agreed to cease hostilities starting on April 10 and to continue peace talks in Kuwait on April 18.

Under-Secretary-General O’Brien welcomed the move and urged for continued action to support and provide assistance to civilians in the country.

(End)

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Quake Fear Stalks Kathmanduhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/quake-fear-stalks-kathmandu/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=quake-fear-stalks-kathmandu http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/quake-fear-stalks-kathmandu/#comments Thu, 24 Mar 2016 07:13:50 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144332 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/quake-fear-stalks-kathmandu/feed/ 0