Tom Murphy


Tom Murphy is a Boston-based reporter for Humanosphere. Tom is a prolific writer-blogger and editor of the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy(at)

Author Archives: Tom Murphy

Rights Groups: no amnesty for Central African Republic atrocities | 

from the PK5 area in Bangui, Central African Republic under the protection of French troops and members of the Multinational Force of Central Africa. (Feb 2014)
from the PK5 area in Bangui, Central African Republic under the protection of French troops and members of the Multinational Force of Central Africa. (Feb 2014)
Rex Features via AP Images

Discussions are currently underway to bring to an end the year-long strife and fighting that has beset the Central African Republic. The hopes is that a peace settlement will be agreed upon and the country will be able to regain stability. So far, things have not gotten off to a good start. The talks were canceled today after the ex-rebel Seleka group was a no show. Moving forward on suspending fighting and disarming fighters are now on hold.

One concern going into the talks is over whether the people who committed some of the most heinous crimes will be given a pass as a part of the deal. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights watch say that such an amnesty should not be available to persons that committed serious crimes.

“Mediators and participants at the Brazzaville forum need to keep the thousands of victims in the Central African Republic and their desire for justice at the top of the agenda,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, in a public statement. “Amnesty for those most responsible for crimes against humanity and other heinous crimes is simply not an option.”

A day later, Amnesty International released its own statement calling for no amnesties for war crimes.

“The Brazzaville peace talks must ensure that accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes under international law are at the heart of any discussion to bring peace in CAR. Individuals suspected of these crimes must not be allowed to use these peace talked to secure positions in the government that they may use to enjoy impunity,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Director, Research and Advocacy.

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News in the Humansosphere: New peace talks kick off for Gaza and CAR | 

Secretary of State John Kerry visit to Israel May 23-24, 2013.
Secretary of State John Kerry visit to Israel May 23-24, 2013.
U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv

Ban Ki Moon, John Kerry in Cairo for Gaza Talks. ”[Kerry] will urge the militant Palestinian group to accept a cease-fire agreement offered by Egypt that would halt two weeks of fighting that has descended into war and killed at least 500 Palestinians and more than two-dozen Israelis. Kerry headed almost immediately into a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, where he announced the U.S. will send $47 million in humanitarian aid for tens of thousands of Palestinians who have fled their homes in Gaza to escape the violence.” (Houston Chronicle)

Over 150 delegates from all sides of the fighting in Central African Republic are represented at peace talks in Brazzaville Congo that started on Monday. Appeals for a ceasefire, however, were clearly not respected on the ground. There is not high hopes that these talks will succeed. “Central African Republic’s interim president appealed on Monday to Muslim Seleka rebels and ‘anti-balaka’ Christian militia to agree on a ceasefire at the start of talks in the neighbouring Congo Republic.The three-day forum in Brazzaville, mediated by Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso, aims to reach terms for a halt to hostilities and disarmament but will not address negotiations for a longer-term peace deal in the former French colony. (Reuters)


Religious leaders in Sierra Leone criticized the government’s handling of an Ebola outbreak that has killed 194 people in the West African country, saying a lack of information was prompting rural communities to shun medical help. (Reuters)

Mozambique is discussing with its foreign coal mining partners ways to help them ride out depressed markets but will not be offering special tax breaks to ease the pain, its mineral resources minister said. (Reuters)

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Echoes of 2011 Somali famine cause for concern, say aid groups | 

A woman holding her young malnourished baby queues for food at the Badbado camp for Internally Displaced Persons, July 2011.
A woman holding her young malnourished baby queues for food at the Badbado camp for Internally Displaced Persons, July 2011.

Prolonged conflict, drought and rising food prices are conspiring to put people in Somalia at risk of hunger, warn a coalition of aid groups. The nearly 20 groups issued a statement yesterday to rally support before things get worse and the issue potentially becomes a more serious problem, like the 2011 famine in Somalia.

“Though the number of afflicted has declined, Somali men, women and children still need more donor commitment to funding humanitarian assistance long term. Principles of International Humanitarian law need to be upheld by all parties to the conflict, ensuring unhindered humanitarian access to populations in need to avert this imminent humanitarian crisis,” said Degan Ali, executive director of Adeso, in the release.

An update from the Famine Early Warning System Network last week said that food prices are increasing in parts of southern Somalia due to trade disruptions caused by conflict in the region. Somalia has struggled with stability for more than two decades due to recurrent sectarian violence and a campaign carried out by the al-Qaeda affiliated militant Islamist group, Al Shabaab. Disruptions in food trade mean that there are places in Somalia where food supplies are increasingly becoming limited, thus leading to rising food prices. The price of red sorghum increased by 68% from March to June in Xudur. The price of other staple crops, such as maize, have increased over the same period of time.

The warning states that conflict-affected area are seeing increases more acutely than other parts of the country. This is further complicated by the 22,400 people who were fled their homes during May and June, due to fighting. Those displaced are not only away from home, but they have to pay more money to buy food than they did before. It adds up to a worrying food security situation for the region.

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News in the Humanosphere: International AIDS Conference Kicks Off in Melbourne | 


The mood was somber with news that at least 6 conference goers were killed in downed Malaysian Airlines, including a former president of the International AIDS Society. Previous reports of over 100 delegate-goers killed were incorrect. The conference will go-on. On Wednesday, Bill Clinton will give an address on Wednesday.“Other key events include, the plenary session on Monday 21 July with an address on the “Future of Science in the HIV Response” by Tony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, will speak on investment in the HIV response; Helen Clark, Administrator of United Nations Development Programme, will present the future of the HIV response in the post-2015 landscape; and Sean Strub, Writer, Activist, and Director of The Sero Project will moderate a debate on how new prevention technologies affect disclosure, prevention and stigma.” (

A Deadly Day in Gaza for Both Sides; Allegation of a Massacre…More than 400 people have been killed since the conflict began, including over 100 children. “More than 60 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed as Israel shelled a Gaza neighborhood and battled militants on Sunday in the bloodiest fighting in a near two-week-old offensive. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out a massacre in Shejaia in the eastern suburbs of the city of Gaza and declared three days of mourning. Israel’s army said it was targeting militants from Gaza’s dominant Hamas group whom it alleged had fired rockets from Shejaia and built tunnels and command centers there. The army said it had warned locals two days earlier to leave.” ( Reuters)


Ebola virus in Sierra Leone is killing dozens by the week. Medical workers have responded by expanding a field hospital, taking extraordinary measures to contain infection. (NPR)

Three years after famine in Somalia killed a quarter of a million people in six months, aid agencies warned Sunday a new catastrophe is looming unless urgent aid arrives. (Yahoo)

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When disaster strikes, the private sector plays a role too | 

A Syrian refugee woman completing her shopping in Amman, Jordan, using food vouchers provided by WFP.
A Syrian refugee woman completing her shopping in Amman, Jordan, using food vouchers provided by WFP.

The international organizations that are the first to act when disaster strikes were called out last week by the UK branch of Doctors Without Borders. One group spared the criticism is the private sector. That is because, until recently, they were not really thought of as an important player.

That is changing. Companies like Ikea, Coca-Cola and Google are now a contributing to relief efforts following a crisis, and making a profit while at it. They are not only working with the relief groups on the ground, but on their own and with small businesses in different countries.

The involvement of business in humanitarian assistance is not all that new. Local businesses will sell food, water and other supplies in the wake of a disaster. However, nobody really knows how much the private sector is contributing. There is no comprehensive accounting in what happens, just case studies and anecdotes.

The growing involvement and the gap information warrants some attention, say Steven Zyck and Randolph Kent of the UK-based think tank the Overseas Development Institute.

“The private sector’s technical expertise and resources offer great opportunities to innovate and improve services, while humanitarian agencies continue to have leading insight into what types of aid are needed and how to reach people in remote communities,” said Zyck, based on a research he conducted with Kent.

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News in the Humanosphere: 100 AIDS Researchers and Activists among 298 Killed in MH17 Downing | 

Simon Boddy

This is absolutely tragic news for the entire global health community, in light of the deeply tragic news of the downing of MH17. “About 100 of the 298 people killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash were heading to Melbourne for a major AIDS conference, conference attendees have been told. Delegates at a pre-conference in Sydney were told on Friday morning that around 100 medical researchers, health workers and activists were on the plane that went down near the Russia-Ukraine border, including former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange…Organisers of the International AIDS Conference, due to begin in Melbourne on Sunday, have not released numbers, but did confirm expected attendees were among the dead.” (SMH)

Israel Launches Ground Invasion of Gaza…Meanwhile, four more children were killed in air strikes and journalists were told to evacuate a popular hotel. Earlier yesterday, Hamas ended a six hour humanitarian pause in the fighting. “Israel began a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip on Thursday night, saying it would target tunnels that infiltrate its territory after cease-fire talks failed to de-escalate the air war that has raged for 10 days. The military released a statement at 10:39 p.m. saying the goal of the operation was to “establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continuous indiscriminate terror.” (NYT )


The Health Sector estimates that about 206,000 people in Darfur are unable to access health services due to the suspension of Red Cross activities and withdrawal of support to health facilities by NGOs. (OCHA)

The UN Security Council warned it is ready to consider “appropriate measures” against warring parties in South Sudan if they do not stop the violence in the world’s youngest nation and negotiate a transitional government. (Reuters)

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As DC fights over immigration, a documentary shows reality from the front lines | 

Latin American migrants ride on a train through Mexico towards the US border.
Latin American migrants ride on a train through Mexico towards the US border.
Marc Silver

The debate over immigration is once again taking off in the United States. The sudden influx of more than 57,000 children having illegally entered the US sparked calls for immediate action by all sides. President Obama, for his part, went to Congress with an appeal for $3.7 billion in emergency funding that will provide support for the children and speed up the deportation process.

While all sides try to find common ground for agreement, a new documentary enters the conversation at an important time. Who is Dayani Cristal? depicts the consequences of an increased US border presence and wall building to stem the flow of illegal immigration. Rather than give up, people are turning to Arizona’s vast desert to seek a better life for themselves and their families.

The erection of walls and provision of border patrol has not deterred people from continuing to find a way to get into the US. It is estimated that 11 million people entered the US unauthorized in 2013. Nearly half of the adult immigrants are parents of young children. Some 2,000 bodies have been found in the Arizona desert over the past decade.

Roughly 700 of those have yet to be identified. Bodies are found in poor condition and often times with out any official identification. This is done for the sake of protection, but makes it hard to know who the person was.

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News in the Humanosphere: New AIDS Data Brings Some Positive News | 

Sign posted near the Simonga school, in Zambia.
Sign posted near the Simonga school, in Zambia.
John Rawlinson

Ahead of next week’s big International AIDS Conference in Australia, UNAIDS released a report demonstrating that new HIV infections and deaths were decreasing, putting in prospect the an end to the epidemic in by 2030. Key data from the report:

  • New HIV infections have fallen by 38% since 2001.
  • Worldwide, 2.1 million people became newly infected with HIV in 2013, down from -3.4 million in 2001
  • New HIV infections among children have declined by 58% since 2001.
  • Worldwide, 240,000 children became newly infected with HIV in 2013, down from 580,000 in 2001.
  • AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 35% since the peak in 2005.
  • 19 million of the 35 million people living with HIV globally do not know their HIV-positive status.
  • 90% of sub-Saharan Africans who learn they are HIV positive seek treatment.

A humanitarian pause for Gaza? Israel has agreed to a UN-brokered six hour ceasefire from 10-3pm today to allow humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza. As of press time it was unclear where or not Hamas would agree. In the meantime, Israeli officials strongly signaled that a ground invasion was likely. (NYT)

A new global index takes an outward turn by comparing how much good countries create in the world. Surprisingly, Ireland comes out on top. (Humanosphere )


West Africa: Since the Ebola outbreak began last March, more than 600 people have died. This mounting death toll is presenting families and health authorities with a grim new problem: What do you do with the bodies? (NPR)

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