Inter Press ServiceHumanitarian Emergencies – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 14 Dec 2017 22:08:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.4 SLIDESHOW: Tales of the 21st Century – Rohingyas Without a Statehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/153539/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=153539 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/153539/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:42:36 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153539 IPS journalists have been reporting from the camp areas within Bangladesh. They have met and spoken to many Rohingya families and learned first-hand what happened to them - the women, children and men - and what their hopes are for the future. Our journalists captured images from far and wide that reflect the agony and fears of the Rohingya who are living in dismal conditions.

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Two Rohingya children carries firewood crossing Tamru canal that has divided Bangladesh and Myanmar along Bangladesh's Naikhong chhari border in Bandarban district. Several thousand Rohingya people are still staying i no man's land along Naikhongchhari border. Credit for all photos: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Two Rohingya children carries firewood crossing Tamru canal that has divided Bangladesh and Myanmar along Bangladesh's Naikhong chhari border in Bandarban district. Several thousand Rohingya people are still staying i no man's land along Naikhongchhari border. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By IPS World Desk
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

The world has witnessed innumerable images of the long walk to ‘freedom’ of Rohingya women, children and men. Some trudged for endless hours and days, many carrying elderly parents and babies in baskets, with the women suffering the unimaginable trauma having been victims of rape, torture and harassment.

The world has witnessed innumerable images of the long walk to ‘freedom’ of Rohingya women, children and men.

Some trudged for endless hours and days, many carrying elderly parents and babies in baskets, with the women suffering the unimaginable trauma having been victims of rape, torture and harassment.

Some of them took boats and drowned, others floated their children in oil drums, not knowing how to swim. They fled their burning homes in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine, crossing over to Bangladesh, stateless, homeless and hopeless.

These images, which spoke a thousand words, shocked the world. The United Nations described the tragedy as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. Over 600,000 Rohingya are now in living in camps Bangladesh, cared for by local and international NGOs, United Nations organizations such as IOM and government entities.

What lies at the root of this humanitarian crisis? Why have so many people been forced to flee their homeland? The exodus began in August after Myanmar’s security forces responded to Rohingya militant activities with brutality.

The Rohingya tragedy has been unfolding for decades, going back to 1948, when Myanmar gained independence. As the Rohingya felt insecure and feared genocide, amid growing international concern, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was appointed by the Myanmar government led by Aung San Suu Kyi to find ways to heal simmering divisions between the Rohingya and Buddhists.

In its final report, the commission urged Myanmar to lift restrictions on movement and to provide citizenship rights for the Rohingya in order to avoid fuelling ‘extremism’ in Rakhine state.

So, what must be done? While there are no simple solutions, Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed a deal for the possible repatriation of Rohingya Muslims. The question now is can they safely return to their lands and homes – many of which were burned to the ground – and live as free people with the same rights accorded to Myanmar’s Buddhist majority?

 

A partial top view of Balukhali and Kutupalong camps in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

A partial top view of Balukhali and Kutupalong camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

 

A group of Rohingya children emerge from a nearby religious school in Kutupalong camp. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A group of Rohingya children emerge from a nearby religious school in Kutupalong camp. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

 

Rohingya women at Kutupalong camp. There are now over a million refugees in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Rohingya women at Kutupalong camp. There are now over a million refugees in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

 

A Rohingya woman at Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A Rohingya woman at Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

 

A Rohingya woman and child at Kutupalong camp, about 35 km from Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A Rohingya woman and child at Kutupalong camp, about 35 km from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

 

A dysfunctional tubewell in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

A dysfunctional tubewell in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

 

Rohingya women line up for aid. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

Rohingya women line up for aid. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

 

Rohingya women line up for food rations at Leda camp in Cox's Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Rohingya women line up for food rations at Leda camp in Cox’s Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

 

 

Cotton used for menstruation dried on roofs of shacks in Kutupalong Camp. Credit: Umer AIman Khan/IPS

Cotton used for menstruation dried on roofs of shacks in Kutupalong Camp. Credit: Umer AIman Khan/IPS

 

Rohingya women of Balukhali camp embarking on the trek to the toilets. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

Rohingya women of Balukhali camp embarking on the trek to the toilets. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

 

 

Girls taking religious education lessons at a Madrasah in the camps. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

Girls taking religious education lessons at a Madrasah in the camps. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

 

Newborn children in the Rohingya refugee camps. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

Newborn children in the Rohingya refugee camps. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

 

A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

 

Two Rohingya children carries firewood crossing Tamru canal that has divided Bangladesh and Myanmar along Bangladesh's Naikhong chhari border in Bandarban district. Several thousand Rohingya people are still staying i no man's land along Naikhongchhari border. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Two Rohingya children carry firewood crossing Tamru canal that has divided Bangladesh and Myanmar along Bangladesh’s Naikhong chhari border in Bandarban district. Several thousand Rohingya people are still staying i no man’s land along Naikhongchhari border.
Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

 

A Rohingya boy shows his Myanmar currency at Shahparir Dwip in Cox's Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed / IPS

A Rohingya boy shows his Myanmar currency at Shahparir Dwip in Cox’s Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed / IPS

 

Rubina (extreme left) along with her friend at the Islamic School at Kutupalong camp, home to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Rubina (far left) along with her friend at the Islamic School at Kutupalong camp, home to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

 

A Rohingya couple, Mohammad Faisal and his wife Hajera, pose for a photo with their child at their camp at Teknaf Nature's Park, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

A Rohingya couple, Mohammad Faisal and his wife Hajera, pose for a photo with their child at their camp at Teknaf Nature’s Park, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

 

The series of reports from the border areas of Myanmar and Bangladesh is supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC)

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Rohingya Refugees Endure Lingering Traumahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingya-refugees-endure-lingering-trauma/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-refugees-endure-lingering-trauma http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingya-refugees-endure-lingering-trauma/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 14:24:19 +0000 Farid Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153560 In this special series of reports, IPS journalists travel to the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar to speak with Rohingya refugees, humanitarian workers and officials about the still-unfolding human rights and health crises facing this long-marginalized and persecuted community.

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Rubina (extreme left) along with her friend at the Islamic School at Kutupalong camp, home to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Rubina (far left) along with her friend at the Islamic School at Kutupalong camp, home to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Farid Ahmed
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

Twelve-year-old Rubina still struggles with the horrors she witnessed in her homeland in Myanmar before fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh three months ago.

Despite reaching the relative safety of a refugee camp at Kutupalong in Bangladesh’s southeast town of Cox’s Bazar – now home to nearly a million ethnic Rohingya people, mostly women and children, who fled military persecution in Myanmar – Rubina suffers from post-traumatic stress caused by the harrowing experiences back in her country.

Conservative estimates by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) state at least 6,700 of Rohingya deaths have been caused by violence, including at least 730 children under the age of five
“Barely a night passes without nightmares,” she told IPS at an Islamic school in the camp where she comes every day to learn the Quran.

“I’m fine as long as I’m with my friends, but sometimes I feel alone even amidst a crowd… I can’t forget anything that I have seen.”

Rubina was orphaned in the latest spate of violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. She fled to Bangladesh along with her grandparents and three siblings after her parents were hacked to death by local Buddhist people in the presence of the army.

Rubina is among thousands of others who endured similar ordeals.

Different NGOs and aid groups are now working in more than a dozen camps stretching from Teknaf to Ukhia in Cox’s Bazar. A 45-kilometre drive reveals settlement after settlement, with thousands of bamboo and tarpaulin shanties lining both sides of the hilly road.

Nur Mohammad, 12, witnessed soldiers killing his father. “My father, a fisherman, tried to escape by running away, but the military chased him and shot him to death,” said Mohammad, who was staying at his maternal grandparents’ house in Shahporir Dwip. Mohammad’s father was a Myanmar national and his mother was Bangladeshi.

“As soldiers chased my father, my mother and I ran for cover through a jungle… we ran and walked for several days until we reached Bangladesh,” he said. “Sometimes I wake up at night and I feel like soldiers are knocking on the door… In that moment, I forget I’m in Bangladesh.”

Twelve-year-old Rohingya boy Nur Mohammad holds up Myanmar currency in Shah Porir Dwip. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Twelve-year-old Rohingya boy Nur Mohammad holds up Myanmar currency in Shah Porir Dwip. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

The latest figures by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicate that 647,000 Rohingyas have arrived in Bangladesh since the latest spate of violence in Rakhine that began in August. The Bangladesh government estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Rohingyas were already here before the current influx.

A Rohingya community leader, Dil Mohammad, now lives in a camp in the no-man’s-land between Bangladesh and Myanmar at Tambru of Naikhongchhari in Bangladesh’s Bandarban district. He told IPS that women and children were the worst victims of violence.

Dil Mohammad, who has a degree in psychology from Yangon University (1994), worries about the future of those children, and especially young women, who will carry emotional scars from their experiences.

Though the Myanmar military denies it, many rights groups and UN officials have confirmed deliberate and planned atrocities, including murders, gang rapes and arsons against the Rohingyas.

“In most cases, children saw the brutality and the wrath of military against the Rohingyas, but many women were also showing the signs of brutality as they were raped and abused by the military and others,” said a Rohingya man, Mohammad Faisal, at a settlement at Teknaf Nature Park and Wildlife Sanctuary.

Faisal’s teenage wife Hajera, who was expecting her second baby, said they were lucky to have escaped with other family members, and everybody was safe and alive.

“I saw a soldier killing a baby – just throwing it onto the ground. I can’t forget the scene. I have a one-year-old baby girl,” Hajera said. “It could be my daughter… I tried to erase it from my mind, but I can’t. When I close my eyes I see the military man killing the baby and hear the baby crying.”

In most cases, women were unable to share their experiences with others, she said. “They can’t tell people how they have been abused, so they will bear their trauma [in silence],” Hajera said.

A Rohingya couple, Mohammad Faisal and his wife Hajera, pose for a photo with their child at their camp at Teknaf Nature's Park, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

A Rohingya couple, Mohammad Faisal and his wife Hajera, pose for a photo with their child at their camp at Teknaf Nature’s Park, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

An aid worker at a centre of Save the Children, who asked not to be named, told IPS about the children she worked with. “They come here and spend the whole day making new friends and playing with them, but they need time to recover fully,” she said.

Professor Tasmeem Siddiqui of Dhaka University, the founder and chair of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit in Dhaka, said, “Those who are coordinating there must build up leadership from the community, especially women’s leadership.”

“Trauma management is a big challenge after any genocide. People can’t easily forget what they have seen. It should be handled very carefully with the people who have expertise in those fields,” she told IPS, adding, “I don’t think there is a very systematic co-ordination among the groups working in the Rohingya settlements.”

As women and children were the primary victims, women and children from their community should be engaged, along with the experts, so that the victims can speak up without inhibition, she said.

For women, trauma and sexual assaults are not the only issues to be addressed. In this vast stretch of unprotected settlements, they face other risks, from hygiene, and sanitation to trafficking.

Rohingya people interviewed for this story didn’t fear the type of attacks they faced in Myanmar, but said there were still opportunists who would try to exploit the helplessness of the Rohingya women and children who were struggling to survive.

“Besides systematic aid work by groups with expertise, community participation is essential for the protection of women and children,” Professor Siddiqui stressed.

Bangladesh and Myanmar recently signed a deal regarding repatriation of Rohingya. Many see the step as a ray of hope, but others who have suffered from decades of poverty, underdevelopment and sectarian violence at home were more cynical.

Even 10-year-old Mohammad Arafat expressed doubts. “They killed my father in front of me. My mother and I escaped,” he said. “If we go back there, they will kill us.”

The series of reports from the border areas of Myanmar and Bangladesh is supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC)

 

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Bangladesh Aims at Middle-Income Status by 2021http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/bangladesh-aims-middle-income-status-2021/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bangladesh-aims-middle-income-status-2021 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/bangladesh-aims-middle-income-status-2021/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 16:14:03 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153526 The environmental challenges facing Bangladesh, described by the United Nations as one of the world’s “least developed countries” (LDCs), are monumental, including recurrent cyclones, perennial floods, widespread riverbank erosion and a potential sea level rise predicted to put about 27 million people at risk over the next two decades. But the first National Country Investment […]

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Bangladesh. Credit: FAO

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 13 2017 (IPS)

The environmental challenges facing Bangladesh, described by the United Nations as one of the world’s “least developed countries” (LDCs), are monumental, including recurrent cyclones, perennial floods, widespread riverbank erosion and a potential sea level rise predicted to put about 27 million people at risk over the next two decades.

But the first National Country Investment Plan for Environment, Forestry and Climate Change (CIP-EFCC), released December 13, provides a detailed road map for sustainable development that encompasses reduction in poverty, improving environmental and human health benefits and increasing resilience to climate change, among others.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, herself with strong environmental credentials, has endorsed the plan ratified at the highest levels of the National Environmental Council, pointing the way for other developing countries to emulate and follow in the footsteps on Bangladesh.

Described as a “strategic tool,” the plan is anchored to, and aligned with, the vision of transforming Bangladesh from a LDC to a middle income country by 2021, nine years ahead of the UN’s targeted date of 2030 to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The plan, which will enable Bangladesh to monitor and assess the state of the environment, as well as investments in the context of climate change, also provides an avenue for multi sector policy dialogue and coordination for investment in CIP-EFCC – where state agencies, private sector, and civil society are able to advance areas of common interest, including in the forestry and timber sector.

Marco Boscolo, Forestry Officer at the Food and Agriculture Organzation of the United Nations, and former Chief Technical Advisor of the project, told IPS that it was hard to underestimate the size of environmental challenges of Bangladesh.

“Every year, only due to riverbank erosion, tens of thousands of people lose their land and livelihoods, spurring a lot of internal migration, mostly towards cities. Landslides, cyclones and floods make headlines every year during the monsoon season,” he said.

The reasons are complex. Flooding is not a new phenomenon in Bangladesh. Because the country is a flat delta, the monsoon season has always brought some level of flooding. However, climate change (more severe storms and cyclones) and trans-boundary water issues have exacerbated the problem, said Boscolo.

“The pressure on the land is huge. To get a sense of the level of population pressure in Bangladesh one can imagine that, if the whole population of the earth (about 7.6 billion) would be put all in the USA, the population density would be less than what is now in Bangladesh,” he declared.

Asked what Bangladesh needs to implement the SDGs, and also battle natural disasters, Boscolo said that with the adoption of SDGs, countries have sanctioned that most development challenges are cross-sectoral in nature.

Addressing the threat of climate change, tackling poverty and food security, addressing environmental degradation are not and cannot be the exclusive mandate of individual ministries and agencies, he pointed out.

“Unfortunately, in Bangladesh (as in many other countries), there is still a strong sectoral divide in terms of both structure, planning and budgeting which deters coordination and learning. Cross sectoral investment frameworks are essential to implement the SDGs.”

He said the Country Investment Plan (CIP) on the environment, forestry and climate change includes about 30 SDG indicators in its results framework.

Meanwhile, facts and figures on the state of the country’s environment are staggering: about 15 million people in Bangladesh alone could be on the move by 2050 because of climate change induced sea level increases and increases in areas under standing flood water.

With the highest population density of any non-city state globally, Bangladesh will have limited ability to absorb the internal movement of people, which will then lead to the external movement of Bangladeshis.

At the same time, saline intrusion (up to 8 km by 2030) resulting from sea level rise will create a significant reduction in agriculture productivity. https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/83337/CSA_Profile_Bangladesh.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

Temperature increases are already having a negative effect on yield of rice and other vegetable crops. By 2050 pulse yields under climate change are 8.8% lower than the projected value if climate change did not occur.

“This is followed by wheat and oilseed-rapeseed with 6.4% and 6.3%, respectively, as the greatest reductions in yield. By 2050 rice, yields of vegetables (as a group), and other crop11 (including jute) are 5.3%, 5.7%, and 3.3% less than the NoCC value in 2050, respectively.”

Additionally, extreme weather conditions (floods and cyclones) are expected to increase in frequency and intensity in Bangladesh. Losses related to the 2007 and 2009 cyclones were estimated at around two million metric tons of rice, enough to feed 10 million people.

The south, southwest, and southeast coastal regions of Bangladesh are increasingly susceptible to severe tropical cyclones and associated saltwater intrusion. https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/83337/CSA_Profile_Bangladesh.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

Pollution can account for as many as one in four deaths. Extremely poor air quality, polluted food and water systems and industrial toxins all contribute to this scenario. http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/environment/2017/10/20/pollution-can-account-one-four-deaths-bangladesh/

Asked about the importance of the CIP, Boscolo told IPS the five year CIP, which took two years to develop, responds to a growing need for an investment framework that allows for resources to be more targeted for environmental improvements, better coordination among agencies, and regular monitoring of the impacts of these investments.

He said the CIP had been designed to help the Government realize its policy objectives by guiding investment choices in their Annual Development Programs.

The plan has identified at least 46 agencies that implement 170 projects directly related to the environment, forestry and climate change. While those projects are worth some $5.0 billion, an additional $7.0 billion are needed by 2021 to meet development targets, such as those set in the Government’s seventh Five Year Plan.

Areas such as environmental governance, pollution control, and the management of natural resources were found to be particularly underfinanced, he noted.

“These additional investments are needed to ensure that the country’s economic development, which has progressed at a rate of over six percent per year, will continue and to ensure the health and well-being of the general public while safeguarding the environment,” Boscolo added. http://www.bd.undp.org/content/bangladesh/en/home/library/crisis_prevention_and_recovery/climate-protection-and-development-budget-report-2017-18–.html

Asked what is urgently needed to help implement the SDGs, Boscolo said improved targeting of climate change (CC) and environmental funds to activities that will have the greatest effect in mitigating the effects of CC and improving the environment.

Additionally, there has to be improved coordination and synchronization of CC and environment funding; increases in internal and external CC funds, such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) etc; increased knowledge of the effect of CC and environmental pollution and the potential impact that targeted investments could have and improved governance structures to lead better CC and environmental investment in Bangladesh.

In particular, he said, there is a need for capacity enhancement within relevant organizations (e.g., General Economics Division, Planning Commission, Prime Minister’s Office’s relevant directorate and ministries like agriculture, disaster management, water resources etc.) which might be helpful.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Libya: Up to One Million Enslaved Migrants, Victims of ‘Europe’s Complicity’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity/#comments Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:37:53 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153523 “European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya,” Amnesty International charged in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya. In its new report, ‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’, Amnesty International […]

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In Libya, dozens of migrants sleep alongside one another in a cramped cell in Tripoli's Tariq al-Sikka detention facility. Credit: UNHCR/Iason Foounten

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 13 2017 (IPS)

“European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya,” Amnesty International charged in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya.

In its new report, ‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’, Amnesty International (AI) details how European governments are actively supporting a sophisticated system of abuse and exploitation of refugees and migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, detention authorities and smugglers in order to prevent people from crossing the Mediterranean.

The Geneva-based UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that the number of migrants trapped in Libya could amount to up to one million, and it is now rushing to rescue the first 15,000 victims through a massive repatriation emergency plan. A major airlift is underway as IOM starts flying 15,000 more migrants from Libya before year end.“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses... they are complicit in them” -- John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International

“Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain. Tens of thousands are kept indefinitely in overcrowded detention centres where they are subjected to systematic abuse,” said John Dalhuisen, AI’s Europe Director, on Dec 12.

“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these abuses,” Dalhuisen affirmed.

“By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya, without requiring the Libyan authorities to tackle the endemic abuse of refugees and migrants or to even recognise that refugees exist, said Dalhuisen, European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused.

Another EU ‘Shame’ Pact

AI’s revelation of such collusion between the European Union and Libya comes amidst a worldwide wave of denunciations against the measure adopted in 2016 by the EU member states –particularly Italy—aiming at closing off the migratory route through Libya and across the central Mediterranean.

These measures have been implemented with little care for the consequences for those trapped within Libya’s lawless borders, AI said, adding that Europe’s cooperation with Libyan actors has taken the following three-pronged approach:

Firstly, they have committed to providing technical support and assistance to the Libyan Department for Combatting Illegal Migration, which runs the detention centres where refugees and migrants are arbitrarily and indefinitely held and routinely exposed to serious human rights violations including torture.

Secondly, they have enabled the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people at sea, by providing them with training, equipment, including boats, and technical and other assistance.

Thirdly, they have struck deals with Libyan local authorities and the leaders of tribes and armed groups – to encourage them to stop the smuggling of people and to increase border controls in the south of the country.

UNHCR teams in Libya have been responding to the urgent humanitarian needs in and around Sabratha, a city located some 80 kilometres west of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Credit: UNHCR

“Auctioned as Merchandise”

Meanwhile, after shocking images showing an auction of people were captured on video, UN human rights experts have urged the government of Libya to take immediate action to end the country’s trade in enslaved people.

“We were extremely disturbed to see the images which show migrants being auctioned as merchandise, and the evidence of markets in enslaved Africans which has since been gathered,” the UN human rights experts said in a joint statement.

It is now clear that slavery is an “outrageous reality” in Libya, they affirmed, adding that the auctions are reminiscent of “one of the darkest chapters in human history, when millions of Africans were uprooted, enslaved, trafficked and auctioned to the highest bidder.”

Slavery, Trafficking, Extortion, Rape, Torture…

The UN human rights experts also warned that migrants in Libya are “at high risk of multiple grave violations of their human rights, such as slavery, forced labour, trafficking, arbitrary and indefinite detention, exploitation and extortion, rape, torture and even being killed.”

“The enslavement of migrants derives from the situation of extreme vulnerability in which they find themselves. It is paramount that the government of Libya acts now to stop the human rights situation deteriorating further, and to bring about urgent improvements in the protection of migrants.”

The UN member states must “stop ignoring the unimaginable horrors endured by migrants in Libya, must urge countries to suspend any measures,” they urged.

AI, a global movement of more than 7 million people in over 150 countries campaigning to end human rights abuses, has also warned that the criminalisation of irregular entry under Libyan law, coupled with the absence of any legislation or practical infrastructure for the protection of asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, has resulted in “mass, arbitrary and indefinite detention becoming the primary migration management system in the country.”

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) provides lifesaving equipment to Libyan authorities as part of a wider intervention to strengthen the Government’s humanitarian capacity. Credit: UN Migration Agency

“Horrific Treatment”

Refugees and migrants intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard are sent to detention centres where they endure “horrific treatment,” AI warned.

Up to 20,000 people currently remain contained in these overcrowded, unsanitary detention centres. Migrants and refugees interviewed by Amnesty International described abuse they had been subjected to or they had witnessed, including arbitrary detention, torture, forced labour, extortion, and unlawful killings, at the hands of the authorities, traffickers, armed groups and militias alike.

Dozens of migrants and refugees interviewed described the “soul-destroying cycle of exploitation” to which collusion between guards, smugglers and the Libyan Coast Guard consigns them. Guards at the detention centres torture them to extort money, AI informs.

“If they are able to pay they are released. They can also be passed onto smugglers who can secure their departure from Libya in cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard. Agreements between the Libyan Coast Guard and smugglers are signalled by markings on boats that allow the boats to pass through Libyan waters without interception, and the Coast Guard has also been known to escort boats out to international waters.”

Libyan Coast Guard officials are known to operate in collusion with smuggling networks and have used threats and violence against refugees and migrants on board boats in distress, AI has denounced.

IOM Moves to Relieve Plight of Migrants

Backing an African Union-European Union plan, adopted in the two blocs’ summit (29-30 November 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire), IOM’s director general William Lacy Swing committed his organisation to fully support this initiative to alleviate the plight of thousands of migrants trapped in Libya.

In the wake of “shocking reports about rampant migrant abuse and squalid and overcrowded conditions across multiple detention centers” in Libya, talks at the AU-EU Summit led to a major stepping up of measures to tackle smuggling and mistreatment of migrants on the central Mediterranean migration route, which claimed 2,803 migrant lives to drowning this year alone, IOM on 1 December informed.

IOM is now rapidly scaling up its voluntary humanitarian return programme, which has brought more than 14,007 migrants back to their home countries so far in 2017.

A large-scale airlift is already underway in which IOM expects to take a further 15,000 migrants home from detention in Libya by end of the year. The establishment of a planned joint task force with all concerned parties is aimed at ensuring that the migration crisis in Libya is dealt with in a coordinated way.

“Scaling up our return programme may not serve to fully address the plight of migrants in Libya, but it is our duty to take migrants out of detention centers as a matter of absolute priority,” IOM director general Swing said.

He added that IOM intends to work with all UN partners and ensure proper coordination and prompt referral of any persons for whom return may not be suitable. These initiatives come following the IOM director general’s discussions with African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, as well as with EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini and UN Secretary General.


Addressing the UN Security Council, Secretary-General António Guterres highlights the need for global solidarity to tackle the security challenges in the Mediterranean.

Up to One Million Migrants Trapped in Libya

To date IOM has registered more than 400,000 migrants in Libya, and it estimates their number to be more than 700,000 to 1 million. The scaling up of the assistance will also include migrants wishing to go back home but who are not in detention centers.

“Large numbers of migrants are held in overcrowded detention centers, in conditions that fall far short of basic and humane standards. A large number of those migrants have expressed a wish to return to their countries of origin and IOM is now scaling up its air operations out of Libya to assist those men, women and children who may wish to return home.”

IOM’s initial effort will focus on 15,000 migrants, which it aims to help return and reintegrate in countries of origin before the end of the year. “This is a choice people make voluntarily, hoping for a new start at home,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM’s chief of Mission in Libya.

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VIDEO: The Rohingyas ‘Long March to Freedom’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingyas-long-march-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingyas-long-march-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingyas-long-march-freedom/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 10:14:30 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153518 Over 800 000 of the 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims from the Rakhine state in Myanmar have been on the run for years, fleeing by foot, walking for days at end to seek a safe place for their women and children. Described as ‘wretched of the earth’ they are unwanted in Myanmar and across the border […]

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The Rohingyas ‘long march to freedom’

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Dec 13 2017 (IPS)

Over 800 000 of the 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims from the Rakhine state in Myanmar have been on the run for years, fleeing by foot, walking for days at end to seek a safe place for their women and children.

Described as ‘wretched of the earth’ they are unwanted in Myanmar and across the border in Bangladesh where they have have taken shelter.

Although their origins trace back to the Eighth century Arakan, where their ancestors were British subjects over the past seven decades they have lived lives of lesser human beings in the Rakhine state. Rohingyas are stateless today. Driven out of their homes, their ‘long march to freedom’ leaves them in a state of hopelessness.

 

 

As the Rohingyas fled their burning homes, images of violence against them showed how one-day old twins were being transported to safety in a coir basket while in another image a rickety son carried in baskets hanging at two ends of a bamboo pole his too-frail-to-walk parents. He had fear in his eyes but he did not abandon his parents only to protect only himself; he is a hero.

The speed and scale of the influx has made the Rohingya crisis the world’s gravest refugee crisis and a major humanitarian emergency, the largest and fastest flow of destitute people across a border since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

With each passing day, the numbers are increasing and the government of Bangladesh, local charities and volunteers, the United Nations and NGOs are working in overdrive to provide assistance and hope.

Is there an end in sight ? The origin of the crisis and thus the solution to this crisis lies with the authorities in Myanmar. Can world leaders, Nobel laureates and citizens around the world bring about an end to the human rights violations against the Rohingyas?

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Civil Society Summit Calls for International Action on Climate Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/civil-society-summit-calls-international-action-climate-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-summit-calls-international-action-climate-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/civil-society-summit-calls-international-action-climate-migration/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 14:37:46 +0000 Megan Darby http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153489 Campaign groups meeting in Suva, Fiji, urged recognition of climate change in the global compact for migration due to be negotiated in 2018

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The riverfront in Suva, Fiji. Credit: Flickr/Michael Coghlan

By Megan Darby
SUVA, Fiji, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

Civil society leaders from more than 100 countries called for action on climate-induced displacement at a summit in Suva, Fiji last week.

Their declaration urges the international community to uphold the human rights of people compelled to move as a result of global warming impacts.

Climate change should be recognised as a driver of migration in the global compact due to be negotiated by countries in 2018, say the campaign groups, which include Oxfam Pacific, 350.org and Act Alliance.

Danny Sriskandarajah, head of Civicus, the network convening the meeting, talked to Climate Home News by Skype from Suva. Climate-related displacement is “marginal both to the climate change negotiations and to the human rights negotiations,” he said.

“We think there is a real gap here. We know already there are people being displaced as a result of climate change and it is only going to get worse.”

The declaration follows the Trump administration’s decision to pull the US out of the developing global compact on migration. Sriskandarajah described that as a “hugely disappointing” development, adding that he hoped it would not discourage other countries.

In the Pacific, sea level rise is already making some island communities unviable. In 2014, Vunidogoloa in Fiji moved 2 kilometres inland, the first of 30 villages earmarked for relocation. Around 1,000 residents of Taro, in the Solomon Islands, are preparing to move.

Brianna Fruean, climate campaigner from Samoa, told Climate Home News even moving short distances was a wrench for islanders. “In the western world, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing – you are moving from one neighbourhood to another – but in a Pacific context it can be heartbreaking, because we are very tied to our land, to where our ancestors are buried,” she said.

That is partly why island campaigners have pushed strongly for a global warming limit of 1.5C: beyond that, low-lying coral atolls are set to be swallowed by rising seas.

Despite the adoption of 1.5C as an aspirational target in the Paris climate agreement, islanders are reluctantly preparing for the possibility of leaving their countries altogether.

“Climate change has been working faster than our talking,” said Fruean. “It is the sad reality.”

In other parts of the world, desertification, flooding and intensifying tropical storms can be triggers for people to leave their homes either temporarily or permanently. On the whole, they do not identify as “climate refugees” or “climate migrants” and may have multiple reasons for moving.

While international law has established rules about giving asylum to victims of political persecution, there is no special status for people displaced by climate change.

New Zealand, which has longstanding relationships with a number of Pacific island states, is planning to create the world’s first humanitarian visas geared towards climate-displaced people.

Sriskandarajah welcomed the initiative, but added: “We cannot rely on ad hoc responses by certain governments; we need multilateral action that is based on rights and responsibilities.”

The “global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration” was conceived in September 2016 in a New York declaration that mentions climate change five times. The end result is expected to establish voluntary guidelines for a more humane treatment of migrants.

Dina Ionesco heads a team at the International Organization for Migration focused on the links between environmental change and migration.

While she is optimistic the global pact will acknowledge the issue, Ionesco does not see much appetite among nations to create a system for designating people as “climate migrants”. “This is extremely sensitive,” she told Climate Home News.

As in the climate negotiations, some vulnerable countries are keen to discuss the subject but most have other priorities – in this context, border management, labour and human rights.

“We are focusing on supporting states so that they can have the necessary evidence and arguments to advocate for the recognition of climatic and environmental factors as drivers of migration,” said Ionesco.


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific and small island states who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world met in Suva, Fiji from 4-8 December for International Civil Society Week.

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The Protracted Refugee and Migrant Crisis: A Challenge to Multilateralismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/protracted-refugee-migrant-crisis-challenge-multilateralism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protracted-refugee-migrant-crisis-challenge-multilateralism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/protracted-refugee-migrant-crisis-challenge-multilateralism/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 10:52:47 +0000 Idriss Jazairy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153482 Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, is Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, is Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Idriss Jazairy
GENEVA, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

It is an incontrovertible fact that more people are on the move owing to globalization. Fifteen percent of the world’s population are on the move worldwide. In other words, of the world population of 7 billion, one billion are on the move. Seven hundred and forty million people are referred to as internal or as domestic migrants within their countries of origin. The number of internally displaced persons reaches about 60 million. On top of this, the world has more than 244 million international migrants who cross borders often into the unknown. Lastly, there are 22.5 million refugees – encompassing the 5.3 million Palestinian refugees – registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees who have been forced to flee their home societies as a result of violence and armed conflict. The first two decades of the 21st century will go down in history as the era in which the world has witnessed the most complex and massive movement of people since the end of the Second World War.

Idriss Jazairy

Although we can conclude that global human mobility is an integral part of the Earth’s DNA, the unprecedented cohorts of people on the move has resulted in the emergence of new challenges that call for urgent attention and action. The inflow of displaced people to Europe has been exploited by a populist tidal-wave to fuel xenophobia and in particular Islamophobia. Walls and fences are being built in the North in flawed attempts to prevent displaced people from reaching their destination countries and to criminalize migrants and refugees. Although the arrival of displaced people to Europe only add up to 0.2% of Europe’s population, human solidarity and justice are being frayed by the fear of the Other.

On the eastern and southern side of the Mediterranean Sea, millions of people have sought refuge and protection. They have found shelter in countries of the Arab region as the right to free movement further to the North has been “postponed” and denied to displaced people. Lebanon – a country of approximately 4 million people – is providing protection and refuge to approximately 1 million displaced people. Jordan – neighbouring both Iraq and Syria – has accommodated around 1.2 million refugees. Although Iraq and Egypt face internal turmoil, Bagdad and Cairo are hosting about 240,000 and 120,000 people respectively. Turkey has likewise given refuge to roughly 3 million refugees, primarily Syrians. In summary, the majority of the burden in hosting and in providing assistance and protection to, displaced people is being taken up by countries in the less developed parts of the world despite the fact that they often lack adequate resources to respond to the influx of displaced people.

While rich countries in the North bicker about burden-sharing between them of inflows of migrants representing 0.2% of their global population, MENA countries provide access without blinking to inflows that may add up to 25% of their own nationals!

How can the world move forward to respond in unison to address the resulting rise of populism and the lack of social justice that prevails in our modern societies in relation to human mobility?

“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land,” said the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire in response to the growing number of people who perish on a daily basis in their perilous and hazardous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea. According to IOM, the 2017 migrant death tolls in the Mediterranean has exceeded 2,950 casualties. Despite that, migrants risk their lives to seek protection. Populist and right wing extremist forces continue – in a flawed and misleading attempt to promote policies of exclusion – to depict migrants and refugees as the source of instability, although the adverse impact of globalization is mainly to blame. The campaign of fear waged against migrants and refugees is bringing back the spectre of nationalism and chauvinism that threatens international cooperation and peace over the long run.

How can this threat be overcome? We need to return to a climate in which diversity is embraced and celebrated. I often refer to the example of the United States as a shining example of a country that became one of the world’s most successful owing to the fact that it embraced and celebrated diversity in earlier times, if not currently. If contemporary nations want to repeat the successes of the United States and of other countries with strong traditions in upholding and harnessing the power of diversity, they must resort to the promotion of equal and inclusive citizenship rights for all peoples regardless of religious, cultural, ethnic, and/or national backgrounds. Societies that demonstrate respect for human dignity are the ones most likely to be winners in the long run.

Governments in the Middle East and in the West should address jointly the protracted refugee and migrant crisis in a multicultural context. The UN Global Compact for Refugees to be convened in 2018 will offer an opportunity to proceed along these lines. Enhancing international cooperation among countries in Europe and in the Arab region is indeed key to identifying a more equitable burden – and responsibility-sharing system in response to the current situation in which displaced people are restricted in the exercise of their right to seek refuge and protection.

This goal can be achieved through inter alia the allocation of resources, development aid as well as through internationally funded capacity-building programmes to raise the preparedness level for hosting large numbers of displaced people. In the words of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration Mr. Peter Sutherland – in his 2015 report:

“States must agree on how to address large crisis-related movements, not only to save people on the move from death or suffering, but also to avoid the corrosive effect that ad hoc responses have on our political institutions and the public’s trust in them.”

Identifying new approaches to promote equitable burden – and responsibility-sharing mechanisms would enable countries in Europe and in the Arab region to speak with one voice and to build coalitions on a variety of issues related to the safe and orderly movement of people in accordance with international law. The international community needs to commit to sharing responsibility for hosting displaced people more fairly and proportionately, being guided by the principles of international solidarity and justice. This is an occasion for all to recommit themselves to the lofty aims of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Global problems require global solutions. Attempts to regionalize such issues – as witnessed in many societies – are doomed to failure.

Over the long term the international community must act to eradicate the underlying causes leading to an excessive flow of destitute migrants. That means phasing out foreign military interventions, respecting sovereignty, supporting democracy and human rights through peaceful means only and joining forces to address impoverishment of the Global South as a result of climate change.

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A Responsibility to Prevent Genocidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/responsibility-prevent-genocide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=responsibility-prevent-genocide http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/responsibility-prevent-genocide/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 07:43:12 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153474 Almost 70 years since the Genocide Convention was adopted, the international community still faces a continued and growing risk of genocide. On the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide, the UN launched an appeal for member states to ratify the 1948 convention by the end of 2018. […]

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Thousands of new Rohingya refugee arrivals cross the border near Anzuman Para village, Palong Khali, Bangladesh. Credit: UNHCR/Roger Arnold

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

Almost 70 years since the Genocide Convention was adopted, the international community still faces a continued and growing risk of genocide.

On the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide, the UN launched an appeal for member states to ratify the 1948 convention by the end of 2018.

“Genocide does not happen by accident; it is deliberate, with warning signs and precursors,” said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“Often it is the culmination of years of exclusion, denial of human rights and other wrongs. Since genocide can take place in times of war and in times of peace, we must be ever-vigilant,” he continued.

The Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng echoed similar sentiments, stating: “It is our inaction, our ineffectiveness in addressing the warning signs, that allows it to become a reality. A reality where people are dehumanized and persecuted for who they are, or who they represent. A reality of great suffering, cruelty, and of inhumane acts that have at the basis unacceptable motivations.”

The Convention defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.” This includes not only killing members of the group, but also causing serious bodily or mental harm and imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

Despite the comprehensive definition of genocide in the Convention, genocide has recurred multiple times, Guterres said.

“We are still reacting rather than preventing, and acting only when it is often too late. We must do more to respond early and keep violence from escalating,” he said.

One such case may be Myanmar.

After a year of investigation, the organization Fortify Rights and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum said that there is “mounting” evidence that points to a genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar with Burmese Army soldiers, police, and civilians as the major perpetrators.

“The Rohingya have suffered attacks and systematic violations for decades, and the international community must not fail them now when their very existence in Myanmar is threatened,” said Cameron Hudson from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“Without urgent action, there’s a high risk of more mass atrocities,” he continued.

More than half of Myanmar’s one million Rohingya have fled the country since violence reignited in August.

“They tried to kill us all,” 25-year-old Mohammed Rafiq from Maungdaw Township told researchers when recalling how soldiers gathered villagers and opened fire on them on 30 August. It has been the largest and fastest flow of destitute people across a border since the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

“There was nothing left. People were shot in the chest, stomach, legs, face, head, everywhere.”

Eyewitness testimony revealed that Rohingya civilians were burned alive, women and girls raped, and men and boys arrested en masse.

“These crimes thrive on impunity and inaction…condemnations aren’t enough,” said Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights Matthew Smith.

On the other side of the border, refugees find themselves living in overcrowded camps with limited access to food, water, and shelter. They are in need of treatment for not only their physical injuries, but also the mental and emotional scars from their traumatic experiences.

IOM spoke to some of the survivor who made the treacherous journey by boat to Bangladesh including 8-year-old Arafat. His entire family including his parents, two brothers, and a sister drowned when the fishing boat carrying them capsized in stormy weather.

“Where will I go now,” he cried, transfixed with shock.

The government’s strict restrictions on Rohingya’s daily lives also point to signs of genocide.

In 2013, authorities placed a two-child limit on Rohingya couples in two predominantly Muslim townships in Rakhine State.

Others have come forward to claim that the crisis in Myanmar may constitute genocide such as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein and the British parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Considering Rohingyas’ self-identify as a distinct ethnic group with their own language and culture – and [that they] are also deemed by the perpetrators themselves as belonging to a different ethnic, national, racial or religious group – given all of this, can anyone rule out that elements of genocide may be present?” al-Hussein asked.

Though the UN Human Rights Council recently condemned the systematic and gross violations of human rights in Myanmar, the Security Council has failed to act on the crisis.

As the UN appeals for the remaining 45 member states to ratify the Genocide Convention, what about nations like Myanmar who are already party to the document?

The Convention requires all states to take action to prevent and punish genocide. Not only Myanmar, but the entire international community has failed to protect Rohingya civilians from mass atrocities.

“The world has reacted with horror to the images of their flight, and the stories of murder, rape and arson brought from their still smoldering villages in North Rakhine State. But this horror will have to be matched by action on the part of the international community, if we are to avert a humanitarian disaster on both sides of the border,” said IOM’s Director-General William Lacy Swing.

Perhaps the international community may need to consider additional mechanisms to address and prevent genocide, making sure ‘never again’ really means never again.

To date, a total of 149 member states have ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.

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Are Value Chains a Pathway to Nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/value-chains-pathway-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=value-chains-pathway-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/value-chains-pathway-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 08:56:51 +0000 Raghav Gaiha and Shantanu Mathur http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153436 Raghav Gaiha is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Shantanu Mathur is Lead Advisor, Programme Management Department, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome, Italy. The views are personal.

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Raghav Gaiha is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Shantanu Mathur is Lead Advisor, Programme Management Department, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome, Italy. The views are personal.

By Raghav Gaiha and Shantanu Mathur
NEW DELHI, Dec 11 2017 (IPS)

Although difficult to ascertain whether it is a trend reversal, two recent FAO reports (2017a, b) show a rise in hunger globally as well as in Africa. The number of undernourished (NoU) in the world suffering from chronic food deprivation began to rise in 2014 –from 775 million people to 777 million in 2015 – and is now estimated to have increased further, to 815 million in 2016. The stagnation of the global average of the proportion of undernourished (PoU) from 2013 to 2015 is the result of two offsetting changes at the regional level: in Sub-Saharan Africa, the share of undernourished people increased, while there was a continued decline in Asia in the same period. However, in 2016, the PoU increased in most regions except Northern Africa, Southern Asia, Eastern Asia, Central America and the Caribbean. The deterioration was most severe in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-Eastern Asia (FAO 2017a,b).

Raghav Gaiha

In 2016, weak commodity prices were partly responsible for a slowdown in economic growth across Sub-Saharan Africa to 1.4 %, its most sluggish pace in more than two decades. With the population growing by about 3 % a year, people on average got poorer last year, and, by implication, more undernourished. The greater frequency and intensity of conflicts and crises further aggravated undernourishment.

Food systems are changing rapidly. Globalization, trade liberalization, and rapid urbanization have led to major shifts in the availability, affordability, and acceptability of different types of food, which has driven a nutrition transition in many countries in the developing world. Food production has become more capital-intensive and supply chains have grown longer as basic ingredients undergo multiple transformations. Expansion of fast food outlets and supermarkets has resulted in dietary shifts. The consumption of low nutritional quality, energy-dense, ultra-processed food and drinks, and fried snacks and sweets has risen dramatically in the past decade.

The concomitant shift to the more market-oriented nature of agricultural policies means that agricultural technology and markets play a more important role in determining food prices and rural incomes, and more food is consumed from the marketplace rather than from own production. The greater market orientation of food production and consumption has increased the bidirectional links between agriculture and nutrition: agriculture still affects nutrition, but food and nutritional demands increasingly affect agriculture. Increasing demands for energy-intensive products exacerbate environmental impacts of food value chains: for example, excessive use of agricultural chemicals to extract more dietary energy from every hectare while contaminating the very food it produces, along with groundwater and the soil; and the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock industries to feed the ever-increasing demand for meat and dairy products (Carletto, 2015).

Shantanu Mathur

Value chain concepts are useful in designing strategies to achieve nutrition goals. Central to this approach is identifying opportunities where chain actors benefit from the marketing of agricultural products with higher nutritional value. However, value chain development focuses on efficiency and economic returns among value chain transactions, and the nutritional content of commodities is often overlooked.

A food value chain involves a series of processes and actors that take a food from its production to consumption and disposal as waste. In a value chain, the emphasis is on the value (usually economic) accrued (and lost) for chain actors at different steps in the chain, and the value produced through the functioning of the whole chain as an interactive unit. A value chain is commodity specific, and thus involves only one particular food that is relevant within a diet.

As value chains are crucial in determining food availability, affordability, quality, and acceptability, they have potential to improve nutrition. What is required is to identify opportunities where value chain actors benefit from supplying the market with agricultural products of higher nutritional value. Value chain development, however, has rarely focused attention on consumers—consumers are simply considered as purchasers driving the ultimate source of demand. In this light, the value chain strategy is likely to be enriched by a stronger consumer focus, and, in particular, a focus on consumer nutrition and health. The empirical evidence on the role of value chains in improving nutrition is, however, scanty and mixed.

Basically, nutrition results from the quality of the overall diet, not just from the nutrient content of an individual food. In value chains, the focus is generally commodity specific, rather than on how to integrate multiple chains to contribute to an enhanced quality of diet. There may be offsetting impacts such that, if one value chain works better and consumption of the associated food increases, consumption of other foods may decline.

On the demand side, the central issue is how to promote consumption of nutritious foods by target populations that may not be able to afford a healthy diet. Similarly, on the supply side, an important concern is the feasibility of targeting the poorest smallholders and informal enterprises along the value chain, particularly, involving women.

An example from Nigeria elucidates the potential of value chains for enhancement of nutritional value and the constraints that must be addressed. Chronic undernutrition is pervasive in Nigeria, with rates of stunting and underweight alarmingly high and little progress over the last decade. There are major disparities in nutrition outcomes between the wealthy and poor, between the north and south, and between urban and rural areas. Micronutrient deficiencies are widespread across social groups. Vitamin A deficiency, for example, is associated with 25% of child and maternal deaths. Together with direct nutrition interventions, it is necessary to improve the functioning of food value chains and provide access to nutrient-dense foods to the urban and rural poor.

Cowpeas make a substantial contribution to the nutrition of poor populations in Nigeria. Cowpea grains contain an average of 24% protein and 62% soluble carbohydrates. They are rich in thiamine, folates and iron, and also contain zinc, potassium, magnesium, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and calcium, as well as the amino acids lysine and tryptophan. Markets for cowpea products are mainly informal, and the majority of products are produced by small-scale businesses and sold locally. Few formal sector businesses have invested in cowpea products, and there is limited innovation in value-added products. A merit of cowpea foods is that they are readily acceptable to diverse populations, widely available across the country and can be distinguished from less nutritious alternatives. However, affordability and availability of cowpeas is constrained by major supply-side problems. Cowpea prices fluctuate between seasons, due to the susceptibility of grains to degradation and low use of improved storage technologies. Although simple, safe and low-cost technologies are available in the form of improved storage bags, these are not prominent in wholesale and transport stages of the value chain. Besides, existing preservation techniques make use of pesticides that create risks of toxic contamination. Improving use of storage technologies along the value chain, including on-farm facilities, transportation and storage facilities in markets would help alleviate this constraint-especially for smallholders.

So the challenges are creating incentives for businesses to focus better on nutritional foods and conditions enabling smallholders to integrate better into these chains.

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No One Country Can Do It Alone — Towards a Migration Compacthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/no-one-country-can-alone-towards-migration-compact/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-one-country-can-alone-towards-migration-compact http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/no-one-country-can-alone-towards-migration-compact/#respond Fri, 08 Dec 2017 16:27:08 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153418 International commitment and cooperation is critical to reap the benefits and overcome the challenges of migration, stressed a leading official at the conclusion of a UN meeting. Over 400 delegates from 136 countries convened in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to review data and recommendations for the creation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular […]

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Credit: UNICEF

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 8 2017 (IPS)

International commitment and cooperation is critical to reap the benefits and overcome the challenges of migration, stressed a leading official at the conclusion of a UN meeting.

Over 400 delegates from 136 countries convened in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to review data and recommendations for the creation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration.

“We stand today tasked with the mandate to weave these challenges and opportunities into a global effort to enhance State cooperation in the management of migration,” said UN Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour at the end of the three-day meeting.

Arbour reminded delegates of the “tragedy of large mixed flows of people on the move and how to deal with those who are ineligible for international refugee protection yet for whom humanitarian assistance and longer-term solutions are no less urgent.”

In an effort to respond to the unprecedented numbers of people fleeing conflict and poverty, member states adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in 2016 which included an agreement to develop two global compacts for migration and refugees.

The preparatory meeting in Mexico kickstarts the formal process to create these compacts.

“It’s a historic opportunity to have such a compact,” UNICEF’s Associate Director for Gender, Rights & Civic Engagement Susana Sottoli told IPS.

The compact can help trigger political action towards the development of a longer-term global migration response, she added.

Though disappointed in the watered-down declaration which failed to include more concrete commitments, Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner for Refugee and Migrant Rights Denise Bell told IPS that the compact is still “an important set of principles.”

Sottoli urged for a heightened and continued focus on migrant and displaced children for the compact.

Nearly half of the world’s refugees are children, while another 22 million children have been uprooted from their homes due to poverty and other factors.

Over 300,000 have been documented traveling unaccompanied around the world in recent years, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

“We have seen evidence that tell us about terrible situations of children and adolescents in detention centers…in conditions that none of us would ever imagine is acceptable for our own children,” Sottoli told IPS.

In Libya, the main entry point to the Mediterranean Sea and thus Europe, militias hold migrants in detention centers in order to ask their families for ransom money. Women and children have been found living in cramped spaces in militia-run detention centers with little basic services or even access to the outdoors.

In one of the centers, UNICEF spoke to 16-year-old Patti who fled war and poverty in Nigeria.

“The journey was hard. Very hard…we walked for two weeks to reach Libya, sometimes walking and going without water for two days,” she said.

Patti was captured at sea, brought back, and arrested in Libya.

“When I was in the sea, I was so scared. I was just comforted by my dreams of going to Europe and making a good life for myself and my siblings,” she said.

Footage revealing migrants being sold at an auction has also garnered international outrage, prompting the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to evacuate and help hundreds of West African migrants including children return home.

“We are trying to bring these people back into the daylight of our time where they are known and they are assisted and protected,” IOM’s Director-General William Lacey Swing told the UN.

The United States has seen a surge in child migrants fleeing violence in Central America in recent years. In 2014, border agents apprehended almost 70,000 minors, a 77 percent increase from the year before.

The unaccompanied children are often held in detention centers in unsanitary and cramped living conditions and for an indefinite period of time.

UNHCR is now considering providing help to unaccompanied minors crossing the border in light of new policies preventing them from seeking safe refuge.

The new administration has ended a program that allowed children fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to apply for refugee status before leaving home and making the dangerous trip to the border.

The government has also reduced the refugee cap to 45,000, the lowest level since 1980.

Most recently, just hours before the preparatory meeting in Mexico, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced that the country was withdrawing from the non-binding global compact, claiming that it would restrict U.S. sovereignty on migration policy.

“The U.S. pulling out of this is a further abdication our global leadership on the refugee crisis…pulling out of this sends a terrible message to refugee host countries and resettlement countries about their need to keep up their commitments,” Bell told IPS.

“The world’s most vulnerable are being punished again and again—first through the slashing of refugee admission numbers to this withdrawal from the Compact,” she added.

A group of U.S. civil society organizations that took part in the meeting also issued a statement calling the move “deeply disappointing” and for the North American nation to recommit to the multilateral process.

“Migration is a global phenomenon which requires a global response. The United States is not immune from the global forces of conflict, economic coercion, and climate change that drive human migration,” they stated.

Sottoli echoed similar sentiments, saying that no one country on its own can protect children as they move across borders.

“We are hopeful that the challenges of tacking this complex agenda will be addressed and that many countries will continue collaborating and look forward to shape a new compact,” she told IPS.

In their ‘Beyond Borders’ report, UNICEF calls to protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, to end the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating, and to keep families together as the best way to protect children.

The report provides case studies of effective methods to protect child refugees and migrants, including that of Greece which established the National Centre for Social Solidarity (EKKA) to help track and monitor unaccompanied children in detention and ensure they are placed in safe accommodation and care.

“Policy decisions need to be made on the basis of acts, experiences, and proven solutions. This is the moment to take stock of what is out there and what is working…solutions are out there,” Sottoli said.

Bell called on the international community to not only protect the rights of refugees and migrants, but also redouble their commitments to resettlement.

“We have to come back to a story of migrants that is historically accurate…migration has always been a positive story,” Swing said.

The next step in the process towards creating the Global Compacts is the Secretary-General’s report on migration, expected to be released in January followed by intergovernmental negotiations. The Global Compacts will be presented for adoption at a conference in Morocco in December 2018.

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Despite Progress, Gay & Abortion Rights Face Threats in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/despite-progress-gay-abortion-rights-face-threats-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=despite-progress-gay-abortion-rights-face-threats-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/despite-progress-gay-abortion-rights-face-threats-latin-america/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 23:20:33 +0000 Gillian Kane http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153396 Gillian Kane is a senior policy advisor for Ipas, an international women's reproductive health and rights organisation.

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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) pride march. Credit: OHCHR/Joseph Smida

By Gillian Kane
SUVA, Fiji, Dec 7 2017 (IPS)

Cancun, Mexico, of white sand beaches and spring break-style nightlife, was, this past June, the unusual backdrop for a regional gathering on human rights and democracy.

Tour buses accustomed to ferrying sandal-shod tourists to Mayan ruins, instead, transported well-heeled activists and government representatives from their hotels to the Centro de Convenciones.

Parked a few kilometers away, one bus, neon orange and passenger-less, stood out. The so-called “Freedom Bus” was emblazoned with massive letters; “Leave our children alone!” #dontmesswithourchildren.

It was, according to its organizers, designed to get the attention of delegates attending the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS). They wanted attendees to know they were putting themselves on the line to resist all attempts by permissive governments to indoctrinate their children in the immoral principles of “gender ideology.” They were, they insisted, defending their religious and freedom of speech rights.

Never mind that there is no “gender ideology,” much less governments that are forcing children to learn inappropriate material. This bus is just one of many recent direct-action attempts by right-wing organizations to pedal a falsehood that governments, aided by well-endowed liberal foundations, are out to get your children.

The bus provides the arresting visual, but it’s what takes place inside the conference center that should raise our hackles. The concern for the wellbeing of children is a cover; what these organizations want to do is disable efforts to advance protections and rights for girls, women and LGBTI people.

The movement, which defines itself as in opposition to “gender ideology,” is a response to progress made in the last decade advancing human rights for vulnerable populations.

Meanwhile, the decade has also seen an increase in the organizing power and political influence of conservative evangelical churches, especially in Central America, Mexico, and Brazil.

Latin America is the locus for much of the progress on LGBTI and abortion rights, both at the country and regional level. Same-sex marriages are legal in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay.

And significant advances have been made to increase access to legal abortion in Argentina, Chile, Mexico City, Colombia, Bolivia and Uruguay. At the regional level, the OAS has been a champion for LGBTI rights as early as 2008, when it adopted its first resolution condemning violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

By 2011, the OAS had created a dedicated LGBTI Unit at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The progress did not go unchallenged.

Opponents of sexual and reproductive rights and LGBTI rights in Latin America responded to victories directly, through both legislation and litigation. They also responded in more insidious ways.

Last year, in Brazil, ministries promoting equal rights for women and black communities were downgraded when they were folded into the Ministry of Justice, effectively neutralizing the ability of its leadership to negotiate or move forward any progressive policies.

The deliberate dismantling of government infrastructures that protect human rights is not endemic to Brazil. Indeed, it is a dedicated strategy of anti-rights organizations who are working to both coopt and fragment these spaces.

The OAS experienced this most fiercely at its 2013 General Assembly in Guatemala. For the first time this forum, which is historically a leader in advancing human rights, witnessed a coordinated movement forcefully agitating against reproductive and LGBTI rights.

Not coincidentally, it was also the year the OAS approved a convention against all forms of intolerance, racism and racial discrimination, which included protections for LGBTI people.

The following year, at the 2014 General Assembly in Paraguay, these same groups weren’t just oppositional to proposed human rights resolutions. They attempted to create new policies they claimed were rights-based, but were in fact camouflage to take away rights.

A proposed “family policy” included protection of life from conception, a well-used strategy to prevent access to abortion. Each subsequent assembly has been marked not just by the higher profile and activism of anti-rights groups, but also by a decrease in civility.

By the time of the 2016 General Assembly in the Dominican Republic, their ire was directed at transwomen. They felt sufficiently empowered to harass and intimidate transwomen who attended the Assembly as they entered women’s restrooms. Still, it’s clearly not sufficient to menace people inside the halls of diplomacy, but one must take the show on the road.

Cancun was not the first stop for the “Freedom Bus,” which had already made the rounds in Latin America, the United States, and Europe. The organized opposition to human rights plays out differently in each country context, but shared patterns of work are evident.

After identifying an opportunity to dismantle human rights mechanisms they see as favorable to women and LGBTI communities (women’s ministries, the OAS, etc.) they abandon facts and misrepresent the truth to advance an agenda that creates moral panic, and ultimately, that will motivate civil society and policy makers to support their regressive agenda.

These strong-arm tactics are shrinking the shared space for public discourse, and this is cause for alarm. They may have succeeded in raising their profile at the OAS, and enlisting conservative governments to support their agenda.

But they have not yet succeeded in shutting down the voices of progressives committed to human rights. The OAS continues to provide human rights activists and progressive governments the infrastructure to advance, and this must be preserved at all costs.


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world are currently meeting in Suva, Fiji, through 8 December for International Civil Society Week.

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Population Emergencyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/population-emergency/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=population-emergency http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/population-emergency/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 16:45:14 +0000 Roshaneh Zafar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153443 There is no doubt that conducting a population census is an important planning and development tool for a country’s policymakers. It is similar to when young parents plan for the future of their newborn child by taking frequent measurements of the baby’s height and weight to benchmark its physical and mental development. How¬ever, for a […]

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By Roshaneh Zafar
Dec 7 2017 (Dawn, Pakistan)

There is no doubt that conducting a population census is an important planning and development tool for a country’s policymakers. It is similar to when young parents plan for the future of their newborn child by taking frequent measurements of the baby’s height and weight to benchmark its physical and mental development. How¬ever, for a child born in Pakistan today the census highlights some crucial aspects: geography to a large extent will determine future opportunities, while gender will determine the access to resources.

Roshaneh Zafar

In terms of geography, by and large the country continues to be agrarian with over 64 per cent of the population residing in the rural areas, with one major anomaly and that is Sindh where 52pc of the population is urbanised. It is important to juxtapose this figure with the growth in the agricultural sector, which has shown an erratic pattern ranging from 0.5pc in the previous year to 3.5pc in the current year, while the norm over the past decade has been for the agricultural growth rate to hover around 2.5pc, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. This has several implications, first in terms of food security and second in terms of distribution of income.

60pc of the population in Pakistan is younger than 30.

It appears on both counts that Pakistan’s performance hasn’t been that great, as wheat production has shown lacklustre growth over the past few years, while rice production has actually declined. According to the World Food Programme, two-thirds of Pakistanis cannot afford a balanced diet. Interestingly enough, Sindh which is the most urbanised province in Pakistan, also has the highest incidence of malnourished and underdeveloped children, making it the most food-insecure region in terms of distribution and access to staple foods.

Overall, 44pc of children in Pakistan are stunted according to the National Nutrition Survey 2011. In other words, these children will be more susceptible to disease, will do poorly in school and will most likely earn less as adults than their better nourished peers. All of these are major non-starters and signify immense lost opportunities for a child born in a rural household in Pakistan today.

In Amartya Sen’s analysis of the gender ratio in India, he posited that India had lost 100 million women due to extreme neglect of the girl child and lack of investment in women. Science tells us that when females are given the same care as males, females tend to have better survival rates than males across all age cohorts.

The recent census places the gender ratio in the population at 105, which implies there are 95 women for 100 males in the population. In a country with a gender equitable environment, this ratio would be close to 101, implying that in Pakistan consistent underinvestment in women and girls has resulted in high mortality rates for females at all levels.

There can be no doubt that there is strong correlation between low literacy rates for women, their overall lack of empowerment, high fertility rates with low birth spacing, poor access to healthcare facilities and ultimately child and maternal health.

The above results highlight that an absence of a census can only lead to poor management along with ineffective short- and long-term policies. If the government is not aware of the actual population growth rate, it cannot run the state for the welfare of the common person. Unfortunately, for the Pakistani government, all the development planning for the last 19 years has been done without knowledge about the actual growth or size of the population.

A delayed census only highlights the inherent flaws in our planning process. The marginal value of public investments in a resource-hungry environment cannot be calculated, and often short-term projects gain primacy over long-term priorities.

Millions in Pakistan will continue to be deprived of proper education, adequate medical facilities, water and sanitation systems, and remain without gainful employment, thus exposing many to become cannon fodder for criminal networks or radical groups. Moreover, 60pc of the population in Pakistan is younger than 30 and unemployment and under-employment is on the rise. If stringent family planning measures are not taken in order to curb the birth rate, the country’s future is in jeopardy.

The only path towards progress and improving Pakistan’s dire socioeconomic conditions is through declaring population control a national emergency, while ensuring that the welfare of women is kept at the centre of any population planning strategy. Similarly, based on reliable census data, Pakistan needs to devise well-knit, objective policies to adequately plan growth and solve the country’s apparently insurmountable socioeconomic problems. It is hoped that the government realises its priorities and responsibilities.

The writer is founder and managing director of Kashf Foundation.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Trump-Mideast: Much More than a ‘Kiss of Death’ to Palestinianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/trump-mideast-much-kiss-death-palestinians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-mideast-much-kiss-death-palestinians http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/trump-mideast-much-kiss-death-palestinians/#comments Thu, 07 Dec 2017 15:59:56 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153387 US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not represent only a ‘kiss of death’ to the two-State solution, but also a strong blow in the face of 57 Muslim countries, let alone igniting fire in this easily inflammable region, providing more false arguments to criminal terrorist groups to escalate their […]

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Southern aerial view of the Temple Mount, Al-Aqsa in the Old City of Jerusalem. Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. Credit: Godot13. Attribution: Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 7 2017 (IPS)

US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not represent only a ‘kiss of death’ to the two-State solution, but also a strong blow in the face of 57 Muslim countries, let alone igniting fire in this easily inflammable region, providing more false arguments to criminal terrorist groups to escalate their brutal attacks, in addition to taking a step further in Washington’s new conflict with Iran and the ‘restructuring’ of the Middle East.

These are the main conclusions both Middle East analysts and international policy experts reached as soon as Trump announced on 6 December 2017 his decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus recognising as capital of Israel this Holy City, home to essential shrines of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The ‘Old City’ of Jerusalem has been steadily considered by Palestinians to become the capital of their future State, should all international agreements –including the United Nations General Assembly—implement their commitment for the two-State solution, one Israeli and one Palestinian.

Israeli captured Arab East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war and since then has gradually annexed against all international protests and non-recognition. The ‘Old City’ in Jerusalem hosts Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.

Palestinian leaders have already warned that Trump’s move could have dangerous consequences, calling for massive popular mobilisations that are feared to lead to new bloodshed in the occupied West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

“This is much more than a kiss of death to the longstanding international consensus to establish two-States as the sole feasible solution,” a former Egyptian high-ranking military official told IPS under condition of anonymity.

“[Trump’s] decision will add more dangerous fuel to the current rekindled flame over hegemony dispute between Shias lead by Iran and Sunnis lead by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, which fire President Trump has now contributed to strongly blow on.”

Donald Trump. Photo: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

According to the retired high military official who participated in secret regional negotiations over the Middle East conflict, “The US has visibly shown its strategy to support the Sunni States in the Arab Gulf… Just see president Trump’s new weapons sale deal –worth 100 billion dollars—with the Saudi regime, and its tacit support –and even physical involvement—in the ongoing genocidal war against Yemen.”

Gulf Sunni Arab countries are home to a high percentage of Shias who have been systematically ruled by Sunni regimes. In some of them, like Bahrain, it is estimated that the Shias represent up to 60 per cent of the total population in spite of which they are considered minorities.

Oil, that “Black Gold”

The Egyptian analyst would not exclude a new armed conflict between the Gulf Arab Sunni states and Shia Iran. Such an armed conflict would break the already fragile stability in the region, leading to a strong rise in oil prices.

“This eventually would clearly benefit the US fossil energy sector, would weaken the oil-dependent European economies, let alone striking a strong blow to the also foreign oil-dependent China.”

Hatred, Terrorism

Another immediate, dangerous consequence of President Trump’s decision is a feared new wave of terrorist attacks against US, Israel and Western interests worldwide.

In fact, the Palestinian radical movement Hamas, which rules Gaza, has already urged Arabs and Muslims worldwide to “undermine U.S. interests in the region” and to “shun Israel.”

On this, Lebanese Muslim Shia cleric A. Khalil, expressed to IPS his “deep fear that the [Trump’s] decision will help criminal terrorist groups, falsely acting in the name of Islam, to exploit the furious anger of lay people against the US-led aggression against Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen… to commit more and more brutal, inhumane attacks.”

This will tragically and dangerously unleash a new wave of hatred and Islamophobia that will only add fuel to popular anger, to the benefit of terrorist groups, added the cleric.

For his part, Ahmed El-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar – which is considered the world’s highest institution of Sunni Islamic learning– announced on 5 December 2017 that Al-Azhar rejects Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“The US president’s decision denies the rights of Palestinians and Arabs to their holy city; it ignores the feelings of one-and-a-half-billion Muslims as well as millions of Arab Christians who have a connection to Jerusalem’s churches and monasteries,” he said in a statement issued following Trump’s announcement.

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church and Al-Azhar issued statements warning of the “serious potential consequences” of Trump’s plan to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate the US embassy there.

“Politically Correct” Words

Meanwhile, politicians have reacted to president Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel. Here some examples:

Mahmoud Abbas, president of Palestinian Authority, alerted of its “dangerous consequences,” while Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas chief, talked about “igniting the sparks of rage.”

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed his country’s firm stance on preserving the legal status of Jerusalem within the framework of international references and relevant UN resolutions, stressing the need to ensure that the situation in the region is not complicated by measures that undermine the chances of peace in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia expressed “grave and deep concern,” while King Abdullah II of Jordan warned of “dangerous repercussions.”

Haider al-Abadi, Iraqi prime minister expressed “utmost concern,” and Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, secretary general of the Arab League, which groups all 22 Arab countries, characterised Trump’s decision as a “dangerous measure.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Jerusalem is a “red line for Muslims,” threatening cutting relations with Israel.

And Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general, opposed Trump’s “unilateral action,” while Frederica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy representative, called for resolving Jerusalem’s status through negotiations.

Will words and “politically correct” statements reverse this new situation? Most likely they will not, at least if you judge by what’s happened over the last 98 years, i.e. since the then British Empire released its 1919 Balfour Declaration granting Israel a national home in Palestine.

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Rohingya Refugees: The Woes of Women – Part Onehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingya-refugees-woes-women-part-one/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-refugees-woes-women-part-one http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingya-refugees-woes-women-part-one/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 13:58:48 +0000 Sohara Mehroze Shachi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153380 In this special series of reports, IPS journalists travel to the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar to speak with Rohingya refugees, humanitarian workers and officials about the still-unfolding human rights and health crises facing this long-marginalized and persecuted community.

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Rohingya women of Balukhali camp embarking on the trek to the toilets. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

Rohingya women of Balukhali camp embarking on the trek to the toilets. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

By Sohara Mehroze Shachi
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Dec 7 2017 (IPS)

Afia* lines up her bucket every morning in the refugee camp for water delivery from humanitarian relief workers. On one particularly sweltering day, she kept four water pitchers in a row with gaps between them, hoping to insert another empty container in the space when the water arrived.

When another refugee saw this, she kicked away Afia’s pitchers, and a raging quarrel broke out. That night, the woman’s local boyfriend attacked Afia in her house, kicking her in the belly and hitting her mercilessly with a chair. Afia kept mum about the incident as her assailant threatened to kidnap and rape her in the jungle if she sought arbitration.

Afia is not one of the half a million Rohingyas who came into Bangladesh since this August from Myanmar. She is one of the thousands who have been living in the camps for years, and the water crisis has been exacerbated by the latest influx of refugees.

In the camps, men usually collect relief and water, with women going only when there are no males available. Since her husband left for Malaysia three years ago in search of work, she has not received any news from him and lives on her own in the camp, where scarcity of water is a heated issue and results in frequent altercations between the resident refugees.

While tubewells exist in the camps, many of them are dysfunctional as they are either too shallow and can no longer pump water, or have broken handles so no one can use them.

A dysfunctional tubewell in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

A dysfunctional tubewell in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

Toilets

Women’s tribulations in the refugee camps do not end with water. Access to toilets is also a major problem. And the speed and scale of the recent influx – 624,000 arrivals since August and counting – have put basic services that were available in the camps prior to the influx are under severe strain. Spontaneous settlements have also sprung up to accommodate the new arrivals and these lack many basic amenities.

“There are no separate latrines for the women; the ones that exist do not have any lighting, are not close to their shelters and there’s absolutely no privacy,” said Shouvik Das, External Relations Officer of The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR in Bangladesh. “When we go to distribute food, sometimes the female refugees don’t want to take it because they then will need to go to the toilets and they dread that,” he added.

While many foreign and local NGOs and relief workers had set up tube wells and latrines for the refugees living in the camps, a safe distance was often not maintained between the latrines and the tubewells.

“Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that over 60 per cent of water sources tested in the settlements were contaminated with E.coli. Much of the contamination is a result of shallow wells located less than 30 feet away from latrines,” said Olivia Headon, Information Officer for Emergencies with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is providing vital WASH services to both the Rohingya and the communities hosting them.

“While IOM supports private WASH and sanitation areas to provide privacy and safety to women in the Bangladeshi community, similar areas are under development in the Rohingya settlements but are hindered by the lack of space,” she explained.

Cotton used for menstruation dried on roofs of shacks in Kutupalong Camp. Credit: Umer AIman Khan/IPS

Cotton used for menstruation dried on roofs of shacks in Kutupalong Camp. Credit: Umer AIman Khan/IPS

Risks of disease outbreak

Labeled as the world’s most persecuted minority by the UN, the Rohingya lacked access to many basic rights in Myanmar, including healthcare. A large number of the new surge of refugees had been suffering from various diseases before their arrival, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Polio, and are now staying in cramped camps.

Their squalid living conditions, combined with scarcity of safe water and sanitation facilities, have triggered fears among health experts of disease outbreaks. And women, with their limited mobility and resources, are particularly at risk.

“Women will have to bear a disproportionate risk of the public health burden, and will be at the receiving end of all the negative environmental fallouts,” says Sudipto Mukerjee, Country Director of United Nations Development Program, Bangladesh.

The female refugees suffer the worst during their menstrual cycles, with most of them reusing unsanitary rags or cotton for months. This is not only increasing their risks of infection and skin diseases, but also affecting their mobility. As a recently published report by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR reads, “Women and girls are limiting their movement because of not only the fear of being harassed, kidnapped or trafficked but also because of their lack of appropriate clothing and sanitary napkins.”

However, while development organizations have been supplying sanitary products to the refugee women, many of them do not know how to use them because they have never had access to them.

“Some of them put the sanitary pads as masks on their faces because they simply didn’t know what to do with them,” said Dr. Lailufar Yasmin, Professor of Gender Studies at BRAC University who has been working with the refugees in the camps.

“If the people who you are working with do not know what to do with the help you are providing, it will not be effective,” she added, “You will only be wasting money.”

*Names have been changed to protect the refugees’ identities.

The series of reports from the border areas of Myanmar and Bangladesh is supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC)

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“Migrants Deserve Dignity” says CIVICUS While Trump Pulls out of Proposed Migrant Compacthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/migrants-deserve-dignity-says-civicus-trump-pulls-proposed-migrant-compact/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrants-deserve-dignity-says-civicus-trump-pulls-proposed-migrant-compact http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/migrants-deserve-dignity-says-civicus-trump-pulls-proposed-migrant-compact/#respond Wed, 06 Dec 2017 16:34:50 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153356 Continuing his “America First” approach, President Donald Trump has pulled the U.S. out of a proposed United Nations global compact seeking an agreement to protect the safety and rights of migrants and refugees. CIVICUS, the alliance for citizen participation, reacted strongly against the American disengagement, while proposing a Declaration of its own: Climate Induced Displacement. […]

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Hundreds of refugees and migrants aboard a fishing boat moments before being rescued by the Italian Navy as part of their Mare Nostrum operation in June 2014. Credit: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini

By Pascal Laureyn
SUVA Fiji, Dec 6 2017 (IPS)

Continuing his “America First” approach, President Donald Trump has pulled the U.S. out of a proposed United Nations global compact seeking an agreement to protect the safety and rights of migrants and refugees.

CIVICUS, the alliance for citizen participation, reacted strongly against the American disengagement, while proposing a Declaration of its own: Climate Induced Displacement. (CID)

The declaration was proposed at the International Civil Society Week (ICSW) in Suva, Fiji’s capital
at a global conference, with more than 700 participants from 109 countries, discussing topics ranging from human rights to global warming. The weeklong conference is scheduled to conclude December 8.

“Whole communities and countries are already being displaced because of changing weather patterns, rising sea levels and more frequent and catastrophic events. But the response at the moment is very ad hoc,” declared Danny Sriskandarajah, CEO of CIVICUS and organiser of the event in Suva.

“Our declaration is saying that we need a principle-based response to climate induced displacement. The key principle is that we have to treat with dignity and respect people who are being displaced through no fault of their own.”

The United Nations has an ambitious plan to create a more humane global strategy on migration. But the Trump administration has pulled out, saying involvement in the process interferes with American sovereignty and runs counter to US immigration policies. President Trump viewed the proposed pact as a threat to national security.

Trump’s decision was disclosed last Saturday by Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. “Our decisions on immigration policies must always be made by Americans and Americans alone. We will decide how best to control our borders and who will be allowed to enter our country,” Haley said in a statement.

Sriskandarajah, who is baffled by Trump’s withdrawal, said: “The entire western world believes somehow that you can manage global mobility through short term restrictions. The fact that Donald Trump has pulled out the US of the global compact process is yet another sign that countries are looking for short term, regressive, insular measures on migration.”

“The fact that the US is pulling out is really worrying. Human mobility has happened throughout history. It is going to increase. So we need sensible collaborative ways of managing that mobility,” the CEO of CIVICUS said at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, where ICSW meetings are taking place.

“For those people that already have been displaced by climate change, they are going to be left to the mercy of other countries. That leads to more uncertainty.”

Under Trump, the U.S. has taken a hard line on immigration. The president wants to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, arrest illegal immigrants and slow down legal immigration. The U.S. has also withdrawn from many global commitments, including the Paris Climate Change agreement.

The ‘Global Compact on safe, orderly and regular migration’ is expected to go before the UN General Assembly for approval in September 2018. And ICSW wanted to highlight the importance of this issue. Instead, many activists at ICSW now express their concerns about its potential demise.

Meanwhile, conservative websites that support president Trump reported the news with triumphant headlines. “U.S. Withdraws From Obama-Negotiated U.N. Agreement on Mass Migration,” claimed Redstate.com boldly.

Asked about the US withdrawal, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters at a news briefing on December 4: “Obviously, it’s a decision that we regret, but I think there’s still plenty of time for US engagement on this issue. But the decision should not disrupt what we see as a clear, unanimous outcome of the New York Declaration for such a Global Compact, which, I should remind you, will be non legally binding and grounded in international cooperation and respectful of national interests”.

“From where we stand, the positive story of migration is clear. It needs to be better told,” Dujarric noted. Equally, he pointed out, the challenges it faces need to be tackled with more determination and greater international cooperation.

“We obviously look forward to the outcome of the discussions of… in Mexico and the start of the more formal discussions in February,” he added.

Asked whether the UN was forewarned, Dujarric said; “ I’m not aware that it’s one we had any warning about.”

Meanwhile, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the Preparatory Meeting for the Global Compact on Migration got underway.

At the opening of the Conference, the Special Representative for International Migration, Louise Arbour, stressed that migration demands a global response.

“The movement of people across borders is, by definition, an international reality,” she said. “There is nothing in that to contradict a state’s sovereign right — subject to international and domestic law — to manage who enters and stays within its borders.”

She added that the success of the global compact will rest on maximum countries’ political and moral buy in and willingness to enhance cooperation at the regional and international levels.


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world are currently meeting in Suva, Fiji, through 8 December for International Civil Society Week.

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Resistance to Antibiotics: The Good, the Bad and the Uglyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/resistance-antibiotics-good-bad-ugly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=resistance-antibiotics-good-bad-ugly http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/resistance-antibiotics-good-bad-ugly/#respond Wed, 06 Dec 2017 16:08:18 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153352 The growing resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobials due to their overuse and misuse both in humans and animals has become an alarming global threat to public health, food safety and security, causing the deaths of 700,000 people each year. This is a fact. The good news is that now more and more countries have […]

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Antimicrobial drugs play a critical role in the treatment of diseases, their use is essential to protect both human and animal health. However, antimicrobials are often misused for treatment and prevention of diseases in livestock sector, aquaculture as well as crop production. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 6 2017 (IPS)

The growing resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobials due to their overuse and misuse both in humans and animals has become an alarming global threat to public health, food safety and security, causing the deaths of 700,000 people each year. This is a fact.

The good news is that now more and more countries have adopted measures to prevent the excessive and wrong use of antimicrobials. The bad ones are that these drugs continue to be intensively utilised to accelerate the growth of animals, often for the sake of obtaining greater commercial benefits.

According to the first annual survey conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and a global intergovernmental body on animal health—the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), more than 6.5 billion people – over 90 per cent of the world’s population – now live in country that has in place, or is developing, a national action plan on antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

“Nearly all of these plans cover both human and animal health in line with the recommended ‘one health‘ multi-sectoral approach,” FAO said on 17 November.

The survey’s release came at the end of the World Antibiotic Awareness Week, which kicked off on 13 November, announcing that more countries have unveiled plans to tackle AMR.

So far so good.

Ferocious Superbugs

The bad news is that careless disposal of antibiotics could produce ‘ferocious superbugs,’ warns the United Nations.

In fact, growing antimicrobial resistance linked to the discharge of drugs and some chemicals into the environment is one of the most worrying health threats today, according to new research from the United Nations that highlights emerging challenges and solutions in environment.

“The warning here is truly frightening: we could be spurring the development of ferocious superbugs through ignorance and carelessness,” on 5 December said Erik Solheim, chief of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Frontiers Report, launched on the second day of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), running through 6 December in Nairobi, looks at the environmental dimension of antimicrobial resistance in nanomaterials; marine protected areas; sand and dust storms; off-grid solar solutions; and environmental displacement – finding the role of the environment in the emergence and spread of resistance to antimicrobials particularly concerning.

The other bad news is that while antimicrobial medicines – antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals or antiparasitics – are widely used in livestock, poultry and aquaculture operations to treat or prevent diseases, the survey alerts that their over-use and misuse –such as for “promoting growth”– is leading to the emergence of microbes resistant to these drugs, making the diseases they cause difficult or in cases, impossible, to treat.

Epic Proportions

“Humans exposed to these antimicrobial resistant pathogens are also affected in the same way.”

And here comes the recurrent alert: despite progress, the global push to address this problem – which is taking on “epic proportions” – is still in its early stages.

There are weak points that still need to be shored up – particularly in the food and agriculture sectors of low- and middle-income countries, key battlegrounds against ‘superbugs’ resistant to conventional medicines, FAO cautions.

“In particular, there are major gaps in data regarding where, how and to what extent antimicrobials are being used in agriculture; also systems and facilities for tracking the occurrence of AMR in food systems and the surrounding environment need to be strengthened.”

“The goal is to help them develop the tools and capacity to implement best practices in animal and crop production, reduce the need for antimicrobials in food systems, develop surveillance capacity to assess the scale of AMR and efforts to control it, and strengthen regulatory frameworks to minimise the misuse of antibiotics while simultaneously ensuring access to drugs for treating sick animals,” said Ren Wang, FAO Assistant Director-General for Agriculture and Consumer Protection.

What Is the Problem?

The UN food and agriculture specialised agency provides the following sound explanation:
Since the introduction of penicillin in the middle of the 20th century, antimicrobial treatments have been used not only in human medicine but in veterinary care as well.

At first, they were utilized to treat sick animals and to introduce new surgical techniques, making it possible, for example, to perform caesarean sections in cattle on farms. With the intensification of farming, however, the use of antimicrobials was expanded to include disease prevention and use as growth promoters.

The use of antimicrobials in healthy animals to prevent diseases has now become common in husbandry systems where large numbers are housed under moderate to poor hygienic conditions without appropriate biosafety measures in place. Similarly, when a few members of a flock have a disease, sometimes all animals are treated to prevent its spread.

Besides such uses for treatment (therapeutic) and prevention (prophylactic uses), antimicrobials have been added — in low dosages– to animal feed to promote faster growth, FAO warns, adding that “although more and more countries prohibit the use of antimicrobials as growth promoters, it remains common in many parts of the world.”

A row of cattle waiting to be fed at the National Livestock Development Board Farm in Mahaberiyathenna, Sri Lanka. Credit: FAO

Although the UN agency does not say explicitly why this happens, it could be easily deduced that it is due to the voracious appetite for greater profits.

FAO goes on to warns that in the coming decades, the use of antimicrobials in animal production and health will likely rise as a result of economic expansion, a growing global population, and higher demand for animal-sourced foods. Indeed, their use in livestock is expected to double within 20 years.

“It is likely that the excessive use of antimicrobials in livestock (and aquaculture) will contaminate the environment and contribute to a rise of resistant microorganisms. This poses a threat not only to human health, but also to animal health, animal welfare, and sustainable livestock production — and this has implications for food security and people’s livelihoods.”

And the more antimicrobials are misused, the less effective they are as medicines in both veterinary and human healthcare, as the misuse drives AMR to evolve and emerge in disease-causing microorganisms, t adds.

Another major specialised UN agency, WHO, explains that antimicrobial resistance describes a natural phenomenon where microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi lose sensitivity to the effects of antimicrobial medicines, like antibiotics, that were previously effective in treating infections.

“Any use of antimicrobials can result in the development of AMR. The more antimicrobials are used, the more likely microorganisms will develop resistance, and the misuse and excessive use of antimicrobials speeds up this process.”

Examples of misuse include using an incorrect dose or administering an antimicrobial at the wrong frequency or for an insufficient or excessive duration, according to WHO.

The Dangers

AMR causes a reduction in the effectiveness of medicines, making infections and diseases difficult or impossible to treat, the UN health agency warns, adding that “AMR is associated with increased mortality, prolonged illnesses in people and animals, production losses in agriculture, livestock and aquaculture.

“This threatens global health, livelihoods and food security. AMR also increases the cost of treatments and care.”

Should all this not be enough, the WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, says, “Antibiotic resistance is a global crisis that we cannot ignore… If we don’t tackle this threat with strong, coordinated action, antimicrobial resistance will take us back to a time when people feared common infections and risked their lives from minor surgery.”

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Rohingya Exodus Is a “Major Global Humanitarian Emergency”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingya-exodus-major-global-humanitarian-emergency/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-exodus-major-global-humanitarian-emergency http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingya-exodus-major-global-humanitarian-emergency/#comments Tue, 05 Dec 2017 23:33:33 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153339 IPS Correspondent Naimul Haq interviews WILLIAM LACY SWING, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM)

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IOM Director General William Lacy Swing (right) visits Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. Photo courtesy of IOM

IOM Director General William Lacy Swing (right) visits Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. Photo courtesy of IOM

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Dec 5 2017 (IPS)

In less than four months, over 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled brutal persecution in Myanmar to seek safety across the border in Bangladesh. They are now crowded into camps across a stretch of 30 kms in Cox’s Bazar, a southeastern coastal region of the small South Asian nation.

The UN migration agency, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), has appealed to the international community for urgent funds. Over 344 million dollars was pledged recently at an international meeting to ramp up the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance. IOM stressed that the international community must work together to help to bring about a political resolution to the Rohingya crisis.We all need to work to create the conditions that will allow the refugees to eventually return voluntarily to Myanmar in safety and dignity.

IOM, at the request of the government of Bangladesh, has been leading the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), which is coordinating the humanitarian response to the influx of Rohingya refugees.

This appeal outlines IOM’s funding requirement from September 2017 to February 2018 as a part of the wider UN Humanitarian Response Plan.

William Lacy Swing, IOM’s Director General, told IPS Correspondent Naimul Haq that any durable solution must be a political one agreed between Bangladesh and Myanmar and supported by the international community.

Swing said that all stakeholders need to work to create the conditions that will allow the Rohingya refugees to eventually return voluntarily to Myanmar in safety and dignity.

He praised the Bangladesh government’s mobilization of its own resources, as well as the local community’s support to help the refugees. Swing went on a four-day visit in mid- October to several camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Following are the excerpts from the interview.

Q. During your visit to various camps, you witnessed the horror, heard the victims and saw the difficult situation prevailing in the camps. How do you compare the Rohingya exodus with the recent similar refugee crisis like in Syria?

A. The Rohingya refugee crisis, although much smaller than the exodus of five million people from Syria since 2011, is equally severe in many ways. It has unfolded at extraordinary speed with over 600,000 people arriving in a single, relatively small district – Cox’s Bazar – since August 25th. By contrast the Syrian civil war has resulted in Syria’s neighbors, notably Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq, all hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees. But the speed, scale and complexity of what is now happening in Cox’s Bazar has created a major global humanitarian emergency. The needs on the ground for shelter, food, clean water, sanitation and healthcare are enormous. When this happened, none of us – neither humanitarian agencies nor the government of Bangladesh – were fully prepared to cope with an influx of this magnitude in such a short space of time.

Q. In a joint statement about relief for the Rohingyas, you said, “Much more is urgently needed. The efforts must be scaled up and expanded to receive and protect refugees and ensure they are provided with basic shelter and acceptable living conditions. They [Rohingyas] are fully dependent on humanitarian assistance for food, water, health and other essential needs. Basic services are under severe strain. In some sites, there is no access to potable water and sanitation facilities, raising health risks for both the refugees and the communities hosting them.” How do you plan to expand the distribution and what is the estimated cost of the additional relief?

A. IOM has been providing assistance to Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, in partnership with the government, UN agencies, international and local NGOs, since September 2013. Now more international and local agencies are coming in to work with us in a well-coordinated effort to help an estimated 1.2 million people – including nearly 900,000 refugees and 300,000 people living in host communities already living since 1992.

But there are still gaps in the response and more resources are needed to ensure adequate, lifesaving assistance for everyone who needs it. Even now, three months after the start of the crisis, hundreds more people are still coming across the border from Myanmar every day. The Joint Response Plan, launched by the UN and partners in September, appealed for USD 434 million to support 1.2 million people through February 2018. Only USD 149.1 million has been received so far, of which IOM has received USD 52 million.

Q. The need [relief] assessment is taking place almost on a daily basis as the influx continues with more Rohingyas arriving in the camps for safety. It appears that the refugees would need to stay in Bangladesh for quite a while before a diplomatic solution is reached for their safe return. Having said this, a sustainable approach is needed on the ground. How do you or the international community, including the UN, plan to pursue both the governments [Bangladesh & Myanmar] to come to terms and find a peaceful return and settlement?

A. Any durable solution must be a political one agreed between Bangladesh and Myanmar and supported by the international community. We all need to work to create the conditions that will allow the refugees to eventually return voluntarily to Myanmar in safety and dignity. The agreement on return signed by the two countries last week is an important first step. But this is going to take time. As the UN Secretary-General has highlighted, UN agencies need to first resume their humanitarian work in Rakhine State, to promote reconciliation between the communities, and to help the government of Myanmar to implement the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission – the agreed roadmap to peaceful co-existence.

Q. During your visit you met with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina who was quoted as saying, “They [Rohingya] have to go back to their homeland, create international pressure on Myanmar so that they take steps to bring their citizens back.” We just had the UN General Assembly expressing concern for the Rohingya refugees while many heads of government have already sent messages to Myanmar to take back their citizens. The Bangladesh PM and the world leaders are expressing concerns in the same tone. What could be the role of IOM in finding a lasting solution and how?

A. The Prime Minister is correct in saying that there has to be a political solution supported by the international community. Much of this solution lies with Myanmar. IOM, as the UN Migration Agency, is a humanitarian agency and as such does not have the political weight of the UN Secretary General or the UN Security Council. But we can support the Secretary-General in advocating for dialogue between the parties in the hope that it will eventually allow the Rohingya to leave the terrible conditions in which they are living in Cox’s Bazar and return home safely to resume their lives.

Q. Do you have plans to visit Myanmar and meet the leaders there? If yes, what are you hoping to discuss and also see on the ground in Rakhine state where the Rohingyas are coming from?

A. I have no plans to visit Myanmar this year, but I look forward to returning next year to reaffirm IOM’s commitment to promoting peace and stability in Rakhine State, and, of course, to review the many other excellent projects that we implement in the rest of the country.

Q. A Critical Pledging Conference was held in Geneva on October 23, 2017 organized by OCHA, IOM and UNHCR and co-hosted by the European Union and Kuwait. Apart from pledges for international funds, what was the main message at the conference to the Rohingya crisis?

A. The conference was organized to provide governments from around the world an opportunity to show their solidarity and share the financial burden and responsibility for the Rohingya refugees. Over USD 344 million was pledged to urgently ramp up the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance. But countries represented at the conference also stressed that the international community must work together to help to bring about a political resolution of the Rohingya issue.

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Rohingya Refugees Face Fresh Ordeal in Crowded Campshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingya-refugees-face-fresh-ordeal-crowded-camps/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-refugees-face-fresh-ordeal-crowded-camps http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingya-refugees-face-fresh-ordeal-crowded-camps/#respond Tue, 05 Dec 2017 12:09:45 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153322 In this special series of reports, IPS journalists travel to the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar to speak with Rohingya refugees, humanitarian workers and officials about the still-unfolding human rights and health crises facing this long-marginalized and persecuted community.

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A group of Rohingya children emerge from a nearby religious school in Kutupalong camp. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A group of Rohingya children emerge from a nearby religious school in Kutupalong camp. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Dec 5 2017 (IPS)

Mariam Akhtar, 23, is desperately searching for her young daughter two weeks after arriving from Myanmar in Cox’s Bazar, a southeastern coastal district in Bangladesh.

Already traumatized by the extreme violence she and her family suffered in Buthidaung district in Myanmar, Mariam now faces fresh agony."There are agents looking for opportunities around the clock to lure and smuggle out the children." --Sarwar Chowdhury, Ukhia upazila chairman

“With God’s blessings I was able to reach this camp in Kutupalong alive. But where is my safety here when I have a child lost?” asks the mother of three small children.

Faria Islam Jeba*, a mother of four, also expressed fears when this correspondent approached a group of women in Kutupalong camp. It is the biggest of more than 30 refugee camps scattered across a 35 km stretch of land between Teknaf and Ukhia, two of the small towns in southern Cox’s Bazar where Rohingya refugees are still pouring in every day by the thousands from neighbouring Myanmar.

Jeba experienced rapes and beatings in Myanmar. She says her brothers were shot by Burmese security forces. But Bangladesh isn’t the safe haven she’d hoped for.

“I feel so scared, especially at night when it is dark all around. The hilly terrain and the meandering, muddy roads here make it hard to keep watch on my children when they go out.”

Mariam and Jeba are among many young single mothers who say they lost children inside the camps. The disappearances have been documented by the government and the aid agencies working in the crowded camps.

Over 1,000 children, mostly young girls under aged less than 18 years, have gone missing since the influx of refugees reached its height in late August. Many are believed to have been smuggled out to other parts of the country by human traffickers. Others might have been taken abroad.

Ali Hossain, Cox’s Bazar district commissioner who is supervising all activities in the camps under his command, told IPS, “In last three months we have punished 550 such alleged criminals who were caught red-handed while attempting to traffic children from the camps.”

“It is difficult policing [criminal activity] considering the sheer vastness of the camps. Many of the traffickers enter the camps in the guise of volunteer relief workers [and] they get easy access this way.”

To prevent fake relief workers from getting in, the administration recently introduced registration of all humanitarian organizations.

Still, the unaccompanied Rohingya children badly require protection in an organized manner. Only a fraction of the estimated 500,000 children attend religious schools (madrasas) instead of formal schools. Most are very vulnerable to trafficking as they have no guardians.

“What they [children] need is a ‘safe’ shelter, not just a physical bamboo shed shelter to live in. There are agents looking for opportunities around the clock to lure and smuggle out the children. So, basically they need caretakers and a mechanism to monitor their presence,” said Sarwar Chowdhury, Ukhia upazila chairman.

A Rohingya woman at Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A Rohingya woman at Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Rohingya refugees are very poor and have had no formal education. “I don’t know who to talk to about the pain in my abdomen,” says a woman named Rina in a soft, broken voice. She came from a village in Buthidaung.

The most common problems women cited were lack of security, privacy and leadership for the refugees. The overwhelming majority are women who have no organized voice in the camps.

Nilima Begum from Maundaw district in Myanmar says, “While in Myanmar we never had any healthcare. We don’t even know what is a hospital or school, as we were highly restricted from moving around even within our own community.”

Amran Mahzan, Executive Director of MERCY Malaysia, an international aid agency working in the camps since a long time, told IPS, “The most common complaint we get from the traumatized women is malnourishment, followed by pregnancy-related complications.”

“The number of pregnant women is very high, and they have poor knowledge of nutrition or pre or post-natal care. Our doctors are continuously providing advice to women on maternity care and safe delivery, but with language and cultural differences being barriers, the level is compliance remains to be seen.”

There are 18,000 pregnant women waiting to deliver and thousands more who may not yet have been identified and registered for healthcare.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is now at the forefront of addressing some of the challenges of emergency reproductive healthcare.

Dr Sathyanarayanan Doraiswamy, Chief of Health at UNFPA, Bangladesh, told IPS, “Our priority response has been to offer access to emergency obstetric and newborn care services, clinical response services for survivors of sexual violence, provide a basic package of prevention for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, safe blood transfusion and practice of universal precautions in health facilities.”

Megan Denise Smith, gender-based violence (GBV) Operations Officer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Cox’s Bazar, told IPS, “Community outreach teams share essential information with women and girls regarding available services, whether this be medical, psychosocial or recreational activities to facilitate empowerment.”

She adds, “Mapping out specific areas where women and adolescent girls feel unsafe in talking to them directly will allow the community to then target these areas more effectively and establish a protective presence to prevent further risks.”

Mahmuda, Mental Health Programme Associate of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told IPS, “The biggest challenge in dealing with the women is the need for stress management which I think should be the priority. It is now a question of survival and psycho-social counseling already given to over 3000 women in the past three months shows the positive impact.”

Mahmuda, a psychiatrist leading a small team in Kutupalong camp, says, “The women are emotionally numb. Atrocities for Rohingy refugees are nothing new, even the recent ones. They have been exposed to such violence for years and so they continue to suffer from such psychological distress.”

The camps are gradually setting up Child-Safe Spaces for children to play and learn, as well as dedicated services for women. Privacy is an issue in the cramped and overcrowded camps.

Separate examining rooms and private consultation spaces where women can relate their health problems to doctors are also in place, though more are needed.

Dignity and safety are key as many of the women are pregnant as a result of rape and cannot speak up for fear of being stigmatized by others. Many international agencies working in the camps are considering recruiting more female health care professionals.

The challenge is colossal, with over million refugees from Myanmar’s Rakhine State, dubbed the ‘fastest growing humanitarian refugee crisis in the world’.

So far, only 34 percent of the 434 million dollars pledged has been disbursed. One in four children is malnourished, and vaccination against communicable diseases and safe water are urgently needed.

*Names have been changed to protect the victims’ identities.

The series of reports from the border areas of Myanmar and Bangladesh are supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC)

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Build Back Better: The Tiny Island of Dominica Faces New Climate Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/build-back-better-tiny-island-dominica-faces-new-climate-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=build-back-better-tiny-island-dominica-faces-new-climate-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/build-back-better-tiny-island-dominica-faces-new-climate-reality/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 19:33:13 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153318 McCarthy Marie has been living in the Fond Cani community, a few kilometres east of the Dominica capital Roseau, for 38 years. The 68-year-old economist moved to the area in 1979 following the decimation of the island by Hurricane David. But even though David was such a destructive hurricane, Marie told IPS that when Hurricane […]

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The island nation of Dominica, once know as a modern-day Garden of Eden, was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

The island nation of Dominica, once know as a modern-day Garden of Eden, was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
ROSEAU, Dominica, Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

McCarthy Marie has been living in the Fond Cani community, a few kilometres east of the Dominica capital Roseau, for 38 years. The 68-year-old economist moved to the area in 1979 following the decimation of the island by Hurricane David.

But even though David was such a destructive hurricane, Marie told IPS that when Hurricane Maria hit the island in September, islanders witnessed something they had never seen before.“How many of the countries that continue to pollute the planet had to suffer a loss of 224 percent of their GDP this year?” --Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

“The entire city of Roseau was completely flooded,” Marie told IPS. “There is a major river flowing through the centre of the city. The river rose pretty quickly and that was compounded by the fact that we have five bridges crossing the river and a couple of those bridges, especially those we built more recently, were definitely built too low so they presented a barrier to the river and prevented the water from flowing into the sea as it would otherwise have done.”

Hurricane Maria, a category five storm with sustained winds reaching 180 miles an hour, battered the Caribbean nation for several hours between Sep. 18-19. It left 27 people dead and as many missing, and nearly 90 percent of the structures on the island damaged or destroyed.

Marie said Dominicans have been talking a lot about climate change for quite some time, but the island was not fully prepared for its impacts.

And while Dominicans in general have not been building with monster hurricanes like Maria in mind, Marie said he took an extraordinary step following his experience with Hurricane David.

“I prepared for hurricanes by building my hurricane bunker in 1989 when I built my house. When the storm [Maria] started to get serious, we went into the bunker and we stayed there for the duration of the storm,” he said.

“I have been seeing more and more buildings going up that have concrete roofs but it’s not the standard by far. The usual standard is a house made of concrete and steel with a timber roof. So, most of the houses, the damage they suffered was that the timber roof got taken off and then water got inside the house and damaged all their stuff.

“We need to build houses that can withstand the wind, but the wind is not so much of a big problem. Our big problem is dealing with the amount of water and flooding that we are going to have,” Marie explained.

Like Marie, Bernard Wiltshire, who is a former attorney general here, believes Dominica is big on talk about climate change but the rhetoric does not translate into tangible action on building resilience.

He cited the level of devastation in several countries in the Caribbean over the last hurricane season.

“We certainly did not act fast enough in Dominica, we know that. And from looking at what happened in Puerto Rico and in Antigua and Barbuda, I didn’t see any evidence that we have really come to grips with what is required to make us more resilient in the face of those conditions that are going to confront us,” Wiltshire said.

“It brings us to the question how do we make ourselves more resilient, what do we do? I would say we have to look not just to the question of making buildings stronger and more rigid, but we also have to look at ways in which the community is made more resilient; our pattern of production and consumption, we’ve got really to reorient our society to eliminate the causes that prevent those communities from being able to withstand the effects of these disasters.”

Dominica acts as a microcosm of the climate change threat to the world, and the island’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, has called for millions of dollars of assistance so the country can build the world’s first climate-resilient nation.

“How many of the countries that continue to pollute the planet had to suffer a loss of 224 percent of their GDP this year?” asked Skerrit.

“We have been put on the front line by others. We were the guardians of nature, 60 percent of Dominica is covered by protected rain forests and has been so long before climate change,” he said.

The island’s Gross Domestic Product has been decimated, wiped out due to severe damage to the agriculture, tourism and housing sectors.

It is the second consecutive year that all 72,000 people living on Dominica have been affected by disasters.

Skerrit is convinced that the only way to reduce the number of people affected by future severe weather is to build back better to a standard that can withstand the rainfall, wind intensity and degree of storm surge which they can now expect from tropical storms in the age of climate change.

As Dominica seeks to become the world’s first climate-resilient nation, Skerrit said they cannot do this alone and need international cooperation.

But Wiltshire said Caribbean countries must shoulder some of the blame for climate change.

“I don’t want us in the Caribbean simply to point fingers at the bigger countries and completely ignore our own role. There is a problem I think, in our islands, if not causing climate change, in contributing to the degree of damage that is actually done, the severity of these disasters,” Wiltshire said.

“In Dominica for example, one of the most obvious things was the deluge of debris from the hillsides, from the interior of the country, carried by the rivers down to the coast. It is up there where we have unplanned use of the land, building of roads, the construction of houses without a proper planning regime. So, we ourselves have a role to play in this where for example we are giving away our wetlands and draining them for hotel construction,” he added.

Head of the Caribbean Climate Group Professor Michael Taylor said climate change is happening now and Caribbean residents no longer have the luxury to see it as an isolated event or a future threat.

“I think the first thing that we have to think about is how in the Caribbean are we really perceiving climate change and not necessarily only at the government level but at the individual level, at the community level,” he said.

“Do we perceive climate change as something that is an event or are we beginning to recognise that climate change for us in the Caribbean is a developmental issue? We have to begin to see that climate change is interwoven into every aspect of our lives and it impacts us daily. It’s where you get your water from, the quality of your roads. Until we begin to realise that climate change is interwoven into life then we will always be almost with our foot on the backburner, always trying to catch up.

“We do have resource constraints within the region, we do have other pressing issues which sometimes tend to cloud over both at the community level going right up to the government level, but I think climate has put itself on the forefront of the agenda and that said, we need now to mainstream climate into the very short-term planning and at all levels of community going right up through government and even regional entities,” Taylor added. 

This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific and small island states who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world will meet in Suva, Fiji from 4-8 December for International Civil Society Week.

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UN Makes Record Appeal for Humanitarian Aid in 2018http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/un-makes-record-appeal-humanitarian-aid-2018/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-makes-record-appeal-humanitarian-aid-2018 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/un-makes-record-appeal-humanitarian-aid-2018/#respond Sat, 02 Dec 2017 15:57:49 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153290 The UN has made its largest appeal to work towards reaching the more than 135 million people across the world in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. Upon comprehensively assessing world humanitarian needs, the UN found that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased by more than 5 percent. As a […]

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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, Dec 2 2017 (IPS)

The UN has made its largest appeal to work towards reaching the more than 135 million people across the world in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.

Upon comprehensively assessing world humanitarian needs, the UN found that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased by more than 5 percent.

As a result, the institution has launched its strategic humanitarian response plans which aim to reach 91 million of the most vulnerable with food, shelter, health care, and education in 2018.

The ambitious plan will require a record 22.5 billion dollars, slightly higher than the 22.2 billion appeal made in 2017.

“Investing in coordinated response plans is a sound choice. It delivers tangible and measurable results, and has a proven track record of success,” said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock.

In 2017, donors provided a record level of funding of 13 billion dollars to help humanitarian agencies reach and save tens of millions of people, including those who experienced unprecedented famines in four different countries.

However, 46 percent of the 22.2-billion-dollar appeal remains unfunded.

“Humanitarians can only respond to the growing needs with the generous support of our donors,” said Lowcock during a press conference.

CEO of Save the Children Helle Thorning-Schmidt echoed similar sentiments, noting the need for NGOs to use funding more effectively, as well as donor governments to invest in long-term development.

“[We] need governments and institutions to take a longer term approach by tackling the cause of these crises as well as the symptoms. By brokering peace agreements, investing in education, helping communities build resilience to climate shocks, and speaking up when people are persecuted. Without this, we will continue to see a record level of suffering,” she said.

“There are very few humanitarian crises that can be solved by humanitarian interventions alone,” Lowcock reiterated.

The crisis in Yemen continues to be the most urgent and will require a scaled up response in 2018.

Over 22 million Yemenis, representing over 70 percent of the population, require humanitarian assistance. This includes the 7 million who are on the brink of famine, which has only exacerbated since the Saudi-led coalition imposed a blockade.

Though the blockade has been partially lifted, Lowcock urged for a complete reversal in order to avoid an even bigger catastrophe.

Humanitarian needs will also continue to be high in Syria in 2018 unless a political solution is reached.

As hostilities are ongoing, access to those with the most need still remains constrained, particularly to the over 900,000 in UN-declared besieged areas and almost 3 million living in hard-to-reach areas.

The proportion of the population living in extreme poverty in the Middle Eastern nation has doubled from almost 34 percent before the conflict to almost 70 percent today. Limited access to income and livelihood opportunities has doubled the number of people at risk of food insecurity.

Lowcock pointed to the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo as among the most neglected, with only 40 percent of its appeal funded.

The increase in violence, which is expected to worsen, forced almost 2 million people to flee their homes in 2017, bringing to the total number of internally displaced persons to over 4 million—the highest number of any country on the African continent.

As the majority of the world’s humanitarian crises are driven by conflict, Thorning-Schmidt urged for action to help protect the most vulnerable, including children.

“If we don’t do anything extraordinary, we will end up stealing these children’s futures twice,” she said. “We have to put even more pressure on the global community and on warring parties to make peace.”

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