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3.7 million in South Sudan face severe hunger crisis | 

Woman sits with food aid, in the north of South Sudan.
Woman sits with food aid, in the north of South Sudan.
ECHO

Hunger looms over South Sudan. World leaders have spent the past few weeks trying to raise the alarm to garner enough public attention and funding to prevent a hunger crisis.

Some 7 million people are at risk of food insecurity. The UN launched a $230 million appeal in early April to respond to the problem. Then there are the 3.7 million people, nearly one out of every three people in South Sudan, that are at severe risk of hunger.

Fighting in South Sudan since December is responsible for displacing more than 1 million people from their homes. The upcoming rainy season is a vital time for food security because it is when crops are usually planted. It is also the period when food stocks from the previous harvest season begin to run out.

The ongoing fighting and instability has disrupted the country, meaning that some will miss the planting season due to a lack of resources or other factors. A missed or poor planting season would put people already struggling at greater risk, especially young children.

UNICEF warned that as many as 50,000 children could die if the international response in South Sudan does not gain the necessary support. A total of $1.27 billion is necessary to respond to the totality of the crisis in South Sudan, says the UN. Only 36% of the funding has been raised so far. The pleas to act now to prevent hunger hope to revive funding for the response.

The US, EU and UN rushed to sign a call to action for the country in Washington over the weekend. Representatives from the three groups gathered to pledge $80 million for South Sudan. That is in addition to the $100 million that was pledged in the prior week. The money will be used to reach the nearly 5 million people who need assistance because of the ongoing crisis in South Sudan.

“We know that if we work together we can deal with this challenge,” said UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, at the signing. “But we also know that without improved and significant resourcing now, we face a situation next year where South Sudan is in an even worse situation than it is right now.”

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Why did Congolese soldiers kill a surrendered militia leader? | 

Congolese military (FARDC) members.
Congolese military (FARDC) members.
Radio Okapi

The death of a Congolese militia leader who surrendered to the military is raising serious questions.

A brutal militia leader known as Morgan surrendered to the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Saturday. He was joined by somewhere around 40 of his militia members.

He was killed during a firefight while being transported to be taken in by the UN peacekeeping force in the Congo. According to the government, Morgan and some of his men tried to escape from the soldiers providing escort.

“He caused a shootout which resulted in the deaths of two army soldiers and two of his own men. He tried to flee but suffered a serious injury,” said government spokesman Lambert Mende to Reuters on Monday.

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World needs to get its shit together on climate change | 

The effects of drought on maize on an experimental plot at the the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute's Kiboko Research Station.
The effects of drought on maize on an experimental plot at the the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute’s Kiboko Research Station.
Anne Wangalachi/CIMMYT

Another week. Another meeting. Another paper. Another warning that climate change is a big deal.

It’s the annoying broken record playing in the background so quietly that most people don’t hear it. The few that do hear the repeated calls for immediate action to slow down the progress of climate change are trying to make the world’s leaders pay attention and actually do something.

The latest warning comes in the form of a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In far more technical terms, the hundreds of scientists who participated in the report agree that we are all screwed if greenhouse gas emissions are not cut. This will have an impact in every part of the world, falling hardest on the world’s poor who are already vulnerable to shocks like erratic rains, droughts and natural disasters.

It is careful to say that climate change alone is not going to doom the world. There are other factors that are already making things hard for some people, from lack of economic opportunity to inadequate healthcare access. These are the kind of areas where worldwide progress has been made, but are at risk if climate change is not reigned in.

For his part, Columbia University’s Steven Cohen is a glass half-full kind of guy when it comes to climate change. The Executive Director of the Earth Institute blogged about his optimism in the Huffington Post following the post-IPCC report hysteria. In it, Cohen said he believes solutions will be found to the problem that go well beyond simply reducing the amount of carbon we toss up into the air.

“The issue we face is not our survival, but our willingness to accept the final triumph of technology at the expense of the planet we are biologically and emotionally connected to. Currently, we do not have the technology to supplant nature. For that reason, and possibly others, the IPCC’s projections do not consider the possibility that natural systems could be replaced by artificial ones,” he wrote.

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Genocide anniversary reignites French-Rwandan political tensions | 

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center-left, light a memorial flame at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center-left, light a memorial flame at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
AP Photo/Ben Curtis

“The genocide we remember today –  and the world’s failure to respond more quickly – reminds us that we always have a choice,” said US President Obama in a statement marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, today.

“The horrific events of those 100 days – when friend turned against friend, and neighbor against neighbor – compel us to resist our worst instincts, just as the courage of those who risked their lives to save others reminds us of our obligations to our fellow man.”

Rwandan President Paul Kagame lit a flame at the ceremony that will burn for the next 100 days, in what was reportedly an emotional commemoration. It represents the period of time when an estimated 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis, were killed by Hutu soldiers.

Notably absent from the day’s events was France. France canceled its participation in today’s genocide commemorations in Rwanda after the nation’s leader accused the country of being directly involved in the genocide.

The Kagame-led government has remained critical of France for its role in the genocide. Accusations include helping the Hutu soldiers who carried out the atrocities in 1994 escape. There have been further allusions made regarding the fact that France helped to train the Rwandan military prior to the genocide.

“The Western powers would like the Rwanda is an ordinary country, as if nothing had happened, which have the advantage to forget their own responsibilities, but it is impossible. Take the case of France. Twenty years after, the only eligible reproach in his eyes is that of not having done enough to save lives during the genocide,” said Rwandan President Paul Kagame in an interview with Jeune Afrique, conducted in French.

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Attacks on hospitals hamper South Sudan humanitarian response | 

South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.
South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.
ECHO

The ongoing fighting in South Sudan continues to put the people living in the country at risk, as well as the people trying to provide humanitarian assistance. Its impact has extended beyond the young country’s borders and into neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

Hospitals run by the medical NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have experienced attacks and evidence of patients murdered in their hospital beds. The challenge to provide medical aid coupled with insecurity and poor living conditions in camp are making for a worrying combination says the group.

“This lack of respect for medical care has deprived people lifesaving care at a time they need it most,” said Chris Lockyear, MSF’s operations manager for South Sudan, in a press call last week.

Equally concerning is what MSF sees as a lack of respect for humanitarian actors and medical facilities. On February 22, the MSF team working at the Malakal teaching hospital discovered fourteen dead bodies. The evidence suggested that they were shot dead in their hospital beds, said Lockyear. A similar report from Bor in December cited patients killed in their beds.

In another incident earlier this year, a team working in Unity State were forced to evacuate when fighting began to affect the hospital, leaving thousands of people with no access to medical care. MSF staff are back working at the hospital, but the situation remains tenuous.

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Failing grade on education worldwide | 

For some reason, the critical role of education as a means to ‘sustainably’ reduce poverty and increase opportunity worldwide seldom gets the same attention as fighting diseases of poverty, technological innovation or efforts aimed at fostering healthier markets.

Maybe that explains the depressing – mostly ignored – findings in a report issued this week by UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Or maybe it’s because the report was so damn long and buried all the fun graphics. Seriously, a 300-page report in this day and age (with more than 100 pages of footnotes and appendices)?

So here’s an illustration from page 87 that shows, perhaps surprisingly, that India and China lead the world in illiteracy:

Illiteracy Continue reading

Rights Groups Pressure Myanmar to Investigate Killing of 40 Rohingya Muslims | 

The UN and Human Rights Watch want the government in Myanmar to investigate reported killings in the northern Rakhine State. It is alleged that more than 40 Rohingya Muslims were killed in the village of Du Chee Yar Tan, between January 9 and 13. Further information indicates that 10 Rohingya men were detained during the same period and are experiencing harsh treatment while held.

“By responding to these incidents quickly and decisively, the Government has an opportunity to show transparency and accountability, which will strengthen democracy and the rule of law in Myanmar,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, yesterday. “I also encourage the Government to provide humanitarian actors with access to the village to provide any assistance needed to the local population.”

Rohingya IDP camp
Rohingya IDP camp
EU

Violence against Rohingya Muslims has continued with little sign of stopping. As a result, some 140,000 people are current displaced within Rakhine State. Attempts to seek refuge in neighboring Bangladesh have largely failed due to a lack of willingness by the Bangladeshi government to accept people fleeing. It is further complicated by the fact that 800,000 people in the state do not have citizenship. Continue reading

$2.4 billion raised for Syria crisis does not allay concerns | 

Mideast Lebanon Syria Refugee Students
A Syrian teacher, left, teaches on the first day of classes at a private school built for Syrian refugees in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon.
AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari

International donors and charities pledged a total of $2.4 billion in aid for the Syrian crisis. It is only a fraction of the $6.5 billion needed to respond to the largest UN appeal ever.

A two-day conference in Kuwait brought together charities, donors and other global actors to rally support for the humanitarian crisis in and around Syria. The first day saw charities and NGOs pledge $400 million in aid. Kuwait led the way on Wednesday by pledging $500 million.

Roughly 70% of the $1.5 billion pledged in a similar conference last year has materialized to date. There is little reason to be confident that all of the money promised this week will be disbursed.

The three year old crisis has displaced an estimated 9 million people. An international response to the humanitarian problems caused by the fighting in Syria has struggled to meet increasing needs. Neighboring countries who are hosting the more than 4 million refugees are struggling to support all the incoming people.

“No country, no people should face hardship or calamity for helping Syrians in need. It is vital for this region and our world that the burden is shared. Let us reward the compassion of Syria’s neighbors with generosity and solidarity,” said UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon.

The situation is getting harder.
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