News in the Humanosphere: 300 African migrants missing in Mediterranean

The Spanish coastguard intercepts a traditional fishing boat carrying African migrants off the island of Tenerife in the Canaries. / UNHCR / A. Rodriguez / 24 October 2007

The U.N. refugee agency on Wednesday said it was “shocked” at evidence that some 300 migrants and refugees may have died after setting off from the coast of Libya in four dinghies at the weekend. UNHCR had reported yesterday that at least 29 people died on Sunday on one of the boats, which was carrying 105 people and trying to reach Europe. “Reports gathered [since]by UNHCR from the Italian Coastguard and the survivors in Lampedusa now suggest some 300 people are confirmed missing,” the agency said in a statement, adding that they were mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa. (UNHCR

Raj Shah’s Farewell Address
Outgoing USAID chief Raj Shah is set to give his final remarks reflecting on his tenure. What’s remarkable is the venue: the American Enterprise Institute (a neo-conservative hotbed); in an event co-sponsored by the Center for American Progress (a progressive think tank with close ties to the Obama administration). He’s clearly beloved across the aisle. “For the past five years Administrator Shah has led USAID in its mission to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies. During this time Administrator Shah has led key development initiatives, including Feed the Future, Power Africa, the U.S. Global Development Lab, and efforts to end preventable child and maternal deaths. Administrator Shah will discuss his tenure at USAID with John Norris of the Center for American Progress and Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute.” (Live stream at 2 EST:


The United Nations is temporarily pulling support to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s planned military operation to drive out rebels after Kinshasa refused to sack two tainted generals leading the offensive, a U.N. official said. (AFP

Sudanese army troops raped at least 221 women and girls in a Darfur village in a series of organized, house-to-house attacks last year, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Wednesday. (AP

Gunmen in Central African Republic have freed the minister for youth and sport who was kidnapped in January, the minister’s spokesman said on Wednesday. (Reuters

Sierra Leone announced its launch of an infectious diseases prevention agency, saying it would convert its Ebola clinics into treatment and research units for some of the world’s deadliest viruses. (AFP

A trio of world leaders says the devastating Ebola outbreak exposed the “weakness” of international crisis response and is seeking a solution. (AP

Journalists in war-torn South Sudan are facing growing pressure with reporters killed or attacked and newspapers closed or threatened, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday. (AFP

Militants from Islamist group Boko Haram attacked Chadian army positions in Gambaru, a town in northeastern Nigeria, on Wednesday, and were beaten back, Chadian military sources said. (Reuters

Liberia’s president vowed Wednesday that the country would get to zero Ebola cases soon as the U.S. military announced it will be withdrawing most of its troops who have spent the last several months helping to battle the disease. (AP

Nigeria’s military pledged not to get involved in party politics on Wednesday, after concerns grew about its role in pushing for the country’s presidential election to be delayed by six weeks. (Reuters

A cholera epidemic has killed 19 people in northern Mozambique following flooding that devastated the region, the government said Wednesday. (AFP

An outbreak of plague in Madagascar has slowed but 71 people among the 263 known to have caught the disease since last September have died, the WHO said on Wednesday. (Reuters


Foreign fighters are streaming into Syria and Iraq in unprecedented numbers to join the Islamic State or other extremist groups, including at least 3,400 from Western nations among 20,000 from around the world, U.S. intelligence officials say in an updated estimate of a top terrorism concern. (AP

More than 300 migrants are feared drowned after their overcrowded dinghies sank in the Mediterranean, triggering calls for the world to act after the latest boat disaster on the perilous crossing from Africa to Europe (AFP

The United States, Britain and France said they were closing their embassies in Yemen over security fears Wednesday as thousands took to the streets for rival demonstrations over a takeover by a Shiite militia. (AFP

Delegates from Libya’s rival parliaments gathered for the first time Wednesday for talks aimed at ending months of instability in the violence-plagued country, the U.N. mission said. (AFP

The International Monetary Fund offered support to Egypt’s economic policies on Wednesday, after an executive review of its first broad consultations with Cairo authorities since before the country’s 2011 uprising set off years of political instability. (AP

An Egyptian court on Wednesday ordered the retrial of 36 supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood who were sentenced to death in a mass trial last year that included the group’s leader, judicial sources said. (Reuters

Libya’s electricity grid is struggling to keep going as a shortage of power and gas for generation and its break up under two governments hit supply. (Reuters


Clashes erupted in the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Wednesday after authorities blocked pro-independence protesters from marching to a U.N. office to commemorate the anniversary of a separatist leader’s execution 31 years ago. (AP

A prominent Vietnamese blogger who is partially paralyzed and was jailed two months ago for posting articles that oppose the Communist Party said Wednesday he was released from prison on medical parole. (AP

The Philippine police chief, holding back tears, said Wednesday that Muslim rebels shot to death some of his anti-terror commandos as they lay wounded in a fierce gun battle last month that has stalled the government’s peace deal with the insurgents. (AP

East Timor’s president has chosen opposition party member Rui Maria de Araujo as the new prime minister of the half-island nation, his office announced Wednesday. (AP

Thailand has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Southeast Asia, public health officials say, and faces HIV infection rates among its gays comparable to those in Africa’s AIDS hotspots. So, Bangkok city officials are urging young Thais to forgo sex on Valentine’s Day this weekend and visit temples instead, as a far better way to mark the day of love. (VOA

The United States is challenging China at the World Trade Organization, alleging that the Chinese government unfairly subsidizes exports in seven industries. (AP


Myanmar’s president has approved a law allowing a referendum on changes to the constitution, lawmakers said on Wednesday, a move that could eventually lift what amounts to a ban on opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency. (Reuters

Myanmar’s president declared Wednesday that a system of temporary identification cards for people seeking citizenship will become invalid at the end of March, negating an earlier decision that would have allowed card holders to vote in an upcoming constitutional referendum. (AP

Myanmar’s government reached an agreement Wednesday with student protesters who have been marching to Yangon to seek education reforms, but the deal announced by the two sides still needs parliamentary approval. (AP

The Americas

A crowd of about 200 villagers in Guatemala burned to death a woman whom they suspected in the death of her stepdaughter. (AP

Mexican authorities said they had detained the brother of a former governor of Mexico’s restive western state of Guerrero for his role in an alleged scheme to embezzle $19.19 million from public coffers. (Reuters

Venezuelan authorities have arrested a judge less than 24 hours after he issued a sentence in a high-profile drug trafficking case that prosecutors say is too lenient. (AP

Brazilians are hoarding water in their apartments, drilling homemade wells and taking other emergency measures to prepare for forced rationing that appears likely and could leave taps dry for up to five days a week because of a drought. (Reuters


“Meet a 2015er” a new interview series from U.N. Dispatch of the “backbenchers” who are setting the SDG and climate agenda this year. First installment: the U.N. Ambassador from Seychelles (UN Dispatch

Brazil drought: water rationing alone won’t save Sao Paulo (Guardian

HIV prevention trial exposes adherence challenge (Humanosphere

Guess how much of Uncle Sam’s money goes to foreign aid. Guess again! (Goats and Soda

Kayla Mueller’s death underscores risks for aid workers abroad (NPR

Towards gender-just food and nutrition security (Institute of Development Studies

Do I really care about Ebola? Do you? Does Oxfam? (The Spectator

Gates Foundation CEO: Vaccines are the closest thing we have to a miracle (The Daily Beast

The Obama budget: Weak on reproductive health (Truthout

Are these the best Amazon reviews ever? (Anti-vaccination edition) (Chris Blattman

The false dichotomy among sanitation-for-all advocates (World Bank


Almost 200 nations complicated a drive for a U.N. deal to combat climate change in 2015 on Wednesday by more than doubling the length of a draft negotiating text to about 100 pages of radically varying solutions. (Reuters

A new digital mapping system will help aid groups respond more quickly when earthquakes strike, a U.N. official said on Wednesday. (TRF


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited 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]