Yemen war: A look at a ‘serious humanitarian crisis’

Yemen
A Yemeni man holds a rifle in Aden, Sept. 14, 2006. Credit: Dmitry Chulov/Shutterstock.

– Nearly 24 million people in Yemen are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, according to a Center of Strategic and International Studies report.

Speaking Jan. 9 to diplomats accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis called the current situation in Yemen “one of the most serious humanitarian crises of recent history.”

The Yemeni Civil War between a Saudi Arabian-led coalition and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels has left more than 100,000 dead since 2015, and millions more in need of basic food and medical necessities. Between Saudi air strikes on hospitals and schools and Houthi forces holding aid hostage, both sides of the conflict have violated international humanitarian law.

In his speech to diplomats last month the pope decried the “general indifference on the part of the international community” to the human suffering in Yemen.

The United Nations was $1.2 billion short of meeting its $4.2 billion goal for international donations to address the situation in Yemen in 2019. However, the greater challenge has been getting the existing food and medical aid to the millions of Yemeni people who need it.

Severe movement constraints on humanitarian organizations, aerial bombardments, and restrictions on importation has left 80% of Yemen’s population in need of food, fuel, and medicine, the CSIS Task Force on Humanitarian Access reported.

On Feb. 19, the Associated Press reported that half of the United Nations’ aid delivery programs had been blocked by the Houthi rebels. The rebels had requested that 2% of the entire aid budget be given to them, heightening concerns that the rebels have been diverting humanitarian aid to fund the war.

“To implement a tax on humanitarian assistance are unacceptable and directly contradict international humanitarian principles,” a USAID spokesperson told the AP.

Because the UN and other donors refused to pay the 2% demand, more than 300,000 pregnant and nursing mothers and children under 5 did not receive nutritional supplements for six months, a U.N. official said.

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have attacked Yemeni hospitals, a breach of international humanitarian law. On Feb. 10, the UN reported that two more hospitals north of Marib City had been hit.

More than 19.7 million people in Yemen are in need of basic health care after the conflict severely damaged vital health care facilities.

A cholera outbreak in Yemen has affected tens of thousands of people, but cases of cholera have significantly declined since September 2019 when the World Health Organization reported 86,000 cases. In January 2020, WHO reported 35,000 suspected cholera cases in Yemen.

A UN spokesman reported Feb. 18 that aid staff have not heard reports of “famine-like conditions” in 2020 as they had in 2018. However, 7 million people in Yemen remain malnourished as the country relies on imports for 90% of its grain and other food supplies.

In early months of 2020, the conflict has displaced 26,800 people in northern Yemen, according to the UN.

In January 2020, a representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN spoke during an open debate at the UN Security Council.

Pope Francis is concerned about the continued “silence and indifference” on the situation in Yemen and concerned that the lack of international attention could allow further suffering and loss of life, Vatican diplomat Monsignor Fredrik Hansen told the Security Council.

The pope has often asked for prayers for the Yemeni people in his public audiences in recent years.

“Pray hard, because there are children who are hungry, who are thirsty, who have no medicine, and are in danger of death,” Pope Francis said during an Angelus prayer in February 2019.

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/yemen-war-a-look-at-a-serious-humanitarian-crisis-25491

Bangladesh’s first female Middle East ambassador hopes to help abused women workers

Screenshot_2020-02-26 Bangladesh's first female Middle East ambassador hopes to help abused women workers
ARCHIVE PHOTO: Garment workers listen to speakers during a rally demanding an increase to their minimum wage in Dhaka September 21, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

DHAKA, – Bangladesh’s first woman ambassador in the Middle East is hoping her appointment will help female migrant workers in the region, with a mission to build a shelter at the embassy in Jordan for women labourers facing abuse or exploitation.

Nahida Sobhan, 52, a career foreign service officer who has worked in Rome, Kolkata and Geneva, starts this week as ambassador to Jordan that recruits thousands of Bangladeshi female workers monthly for its garment industry and as maids.

Bangladesh ranks among the top countries sending its citizens to work overseas, with about 700,000 Bangladeshis finding jobs abroad each year but some end up cheated and become victims of abuse after being promised jobs. “There are certain issues that woman migrants do face and I will try my best to solve those,” said Sobhan, adding that she was keen to set up a shelter at the Bangladeshi embassy in Amman for women workers like those set up in Saudi Arabia and Oman.

“When you are serving … it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman … but it is true that if a Bangladeshi woman falls in trouble, she will be more comfortable to open up to a woman,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Jordan is home to more than 100,000 female Bangladeshi workers, mostly poor women from rural areas, and is the second ranking destination for Bangladeshi women workers after Saudi Arabia, according to government data.

But recruitment is largely carried out by unofficial brokers, which opens the door to trafficking and exploitation.

Last year at least 1,500 Bangladeshi women returned home from Saudi Arabia after being abused, an increase from 2018 when about 1,300 returned, according to Bangladeshi charity BRAC.

Neither the government nor charities have recorded the numbers returning from Jordan although activists and government officials said they received far less complaints from Bangladeshi migrants in Jordan compared to Saudi Arabia.

“In 2019 we received about 20 to 25 complaints from Bangladeshi workers in Jordan and they were mostly related to wage issues. They were not paid properly,” said Lily Jahan, chairman of BOMSA, a Bangladeshi migrants rights group.

“Some of them were beaten when they protested. We informed the government about these cases.”

Sobhan described the labour laws in Jordan as “supportive” and said migrants didn’t face “severe difficulties” there but this would be a focus of her work.

“I won’t say that there are severe difficulties, but there still are certain issues and I will try my best to solve these,” she said in an interview at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Dhaka before leaving for Jordan.

Remittances from migrant workers are key for Bangladesh’s economy, making up the second-highest source of foreign currency earnings after clothes manufacturing, government data shows.

Sobhan, whose previous role was as the director general of United Nations wing of foreign office, said the government wanted to promote as many female ambassadors as possible.

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200220105620-ysjrs/

Under attack from climate change, Colombia’s farmers befriend nature

Screenshot_2020-02-22 Under attack from climate change, Colombia's farmers befriend nature
A group of farmers stand near wetlands at the village of El Torno in northern province of Sucre, Colombia. February 11, 2020. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Anastasia Moloney

SUCRE, Colombia, – Forced to leave his small farm a decade ago to escape the worst floods in Colombia’s recent history, Manuel Jimenez knows the destruction torrential rains can inflict only too well.

“The floods left behind a desert, a cemetery of dead trees and poisonous snakes. Everything was destroyed. We lost our home, crops and animals,” said the 43-year-old farmer in Pasifueres, a remote village in the northern province of Sucre.

“We lived through a cruel tragedy,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ten years on, as climate change bites, local farmers are learning to adapt to the impacts of wilder weather by working with nature, from restoring wetlands to planting trees and growing hardy rice varieties, backed by international funding.

The 2010 flooding, triggered by heavy downpours, killed about 300 people and displaced 2.2 million more, causing billions of dollars in damages across 1 million hectares (3,860 square miles).

Hardest-hit were poor farming communities in La Mojana, a region stretching across four northern provinces.

Aid officials warn extreme weather, from torrential rains to drought, will strike again and likely become the new normal.

Some parts of La Mojana are prone to drought, while others are experiencing more intense rains, said Jimena Puyana, who heads work on sustainable development in Colombia for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

But rural communities are fighting back.

With nearly $8 million of U.N. funding since 2013, about 6,000 farming and fishing families in three municipalities of La Mojana have introduced a series of measures to adapt to climate shifts and cope better with extreme weather.

The approach focuses on so-called “nature-based solutions” – which involves improving ecosystems, including forests, wetlands and watersheds – led by village farmer associations, rather than building infrastructure like dikes and levees to contain floods.

One of the main methods is to restore the wetlands and waterways that regulate the local water supply so that they can act as natural drainage systems and buffers against storms.

Prolonged flooding and sediment build-up from illegal gold mining have damaged the wetlands around farming villages, disrupting the water’s natural flow and channels.

“What we are seeking to do is to recover the capacity of the region’s water systems,” said Francisco Charry, head of climate change at Colombia’s environment ministry, which is leading the project in partnership with the UNDP.

Climate change is worsening the conditions faced by vulnerable communities that are prone to flooding, he added.

“(They) need to find a way to adapt to this new reality,” he said.

 

 

 

 

https://news.trust.org/item/20200222082405-lome9/

Female Genital Mutilation: Not just an Emotional and Health Impact on Women but a $1.4 Billion Dollar Cost to Communities

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The World Health Organisation has released a Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) “Cost Calculator” that highlights the massive economic costs societies have to go through as a result of the practice that’s considered a human rights violation by advocates. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

UNITED NATIONS, – When society doesn’t act to prevent Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) it has a massive economic cost — over $1 billion — on communities globally. And while the practice is starting to become less common over time, experts say a large number of women and girls still remain affected.  

“By calculating the costs of FGM to women and society, this study shows that inaction has an economic cost and that investment in prevention will reduce costs in the long-term,” Elizabeth Noble, Information Officer of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Unit of the World Health Organisation (WHO), told IPS.

She was referring to last week’s release of FGM “Cost Calculator” by the WHO, that highlights the massive economic costs societies have to go through as a result of the practice that’s considered a human rights violation by advocates.

The interactive tool, available here, was launched on Feb. 6 to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

  • Currently, the economic burden of treating health complications arising out of FGM practices across 27 countries included in WHO’s dataset, stands at a staggering $1.4 billion annually.
  • Taking into account population growth, the amount can increase by 50 percent in the next 30 years, given that the prevalence of FGM remains as it stands today, explained Noble.
  • However, abandoning the practice would lead to a projected decrease in 60 percent of that cost, she told IPS.

The calculator, she says, “allows the user to visualise the costs of treating the health complications of FGM, by country, over a 30 year period, while also showing the costs averted by preventing FGM”.

An official from Plan International told IPS that there are currently 200 million girls and women alive today who have been affected by FGM.

“It is believed that by mutilating the girl’s genital organs, her sexuality will be controlled and her virginity before marriage will be guaranteed. This has severe consequence for girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights,” Alex Munive, Head of Gender and Inclusion of the Girls 2030 Programmes at Plan International Global Hub, told IPS.

He also detailed the long-term and short-term effects of the practice: infection, haemorrhage, psychological trauma and even death as seen in the immediate aftermath of the practice, and chronic pain, chronic urinary problems, obstetric complications including fistula and sexual problems seen in the long-run.

Munive says the practice, while becoming less common overtime, still has a large number of girls and women affected when taking into account population growth.

Beyond health, it also affects girls in their education.

“FGM is seen as initiation rite preparing girls for marriage,” Munive told IPS. “Once a girl is cut, they are married off quickly and are taken out of school. They are treated like adult women and lose all their child rights.”

Education itself can be means to address the concerns, he says.

“We recognise that education is a powerful tool for preventing FGM,” he said. “Girls who benefit from a quality education are less likely to marry while they are still children.”

It’s also pertinent to take into account that FGM is often done as part of cultural practices, which means advocates have to tread softly when approaching communities to address this issue.

To this, Noble of WHO said “strategies towards abandonment must take into consideration the underlying social and cultural beliefs about the practice.”

“It is therefore important to engage with opinion leaders in practicing communities,” she told IPS. “WHO is also working with nurses and midwives and other health care providers to strengthen their role as opinion leaders in abandonment of the practice.”

 

 

http://www.ipsnews.net/2020/02/female-genital-mutilation-not-just-emotional-health-impact-women-1-4-billion-dollar-cost-communities/

Macron says Mont Blanc glacier melting proves global warming

Screenshot_2020-02-14 Macron says Mont Blanc glacier melting proves global warming
French president Emmanuel Macron looks at the Mer de glace glacier from the Montenvers railway station near Chamonix, at the Mont Blanc mountain range in the French Alps, February 13, 2020. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS

CHAMONIX, France, Feb 13 (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday the melting of Mont Blanc’s main glacier is irrefutable proof of global warming, as he sought to burnish his environmentalist credentials ahead of municipal elections next month.

During a visit to the “Mer de Glace” (sea of ice) – France’s largest glacier which has shrunk dramatically in recent years – Macron met scientists and announced new protective measures for the area, including higher fines for littering.

“What we are seeing with the evolution of the glacier is irrefutable proof of global warming and climate change and the toppling of an entire ecosystem,” Macron said in a speech after going up the glacier.

The Alpine glacier above the mountain town of Chamonix has been a tourist draw since the 19th century, but over the course of the 20th century it lost an average thickness of 50 metres (164 ft). The shrinking has sped up in the past two decades.

“A landscape is being deformed before our eyes and species are disappearing quickly. The fight for biodiversity is a fight for our own survival and is inseparable from the fight against global warming,” Macron said.

Macron launched a new national biodiversity agency and gave an overview of his government’s environmental achievements, including scrapping disputed airport, mining and shopping mall projects. He also listed several international summits in 2020 where he said France would try to convince other nations to join its fight against global warming.

Critics say that following the success of France’s green party at the 2019 European Union election and with municipal elections due in March, the Chamonix visit and other ecology-themed actions are an attempt at courting the green vote.

“We’d prefer that he’d be in his office working on ending subsidies for the fossil fuel industries and tax breaks for trucking rather than doing electoral tourism on the Mont Blanc,” Greenpeace France climate campaigner Clement Senechal said.

French weekly Le Point said the launch of the biodiversity agency is largely symbolic and that the upcoming municipal elections seem to be a bigger priority for Macron than taking action on climate change.

Lawmakers for Macron’s centrist party have said that at a meeting with Macron earlier this week the president had told them that ecology would be a key pillar for his policies in the second half of his five-year mandate, which ends in May 2022.

On Friday, on the sidelines of a visit to Munich, Macron will meet leaders of Germany’s Green party.

 

 

http://news.trust.org/item/20200213165308-nuplw/

Malian architect fights climate change with digital greenhouse

Screenshot_2020-02-14 Malian architect fights climate change with digital greenhouse
Fone Coulibaly ties up tomato plants in one of Amadou Sidibe’s greenhouses in Katibougou, Mali, February 12, 2020. Picture taken February 12, 2020. REUTERS/Annie Risemberg

KATIBOUGOU, Mali, – Climate change has made growing vegetables in Mali today much tougher than it was 40 years ago when Amadou Sidibe used to visit his father’s lush farm outside the capital Bamako.

Hotter temperatures and drought are adding to an already volatile situation in Mali where jihadist groups roam the northern desert reaches. Water reserves are precariously low and arable land is shrinking, causing tensions between communities seeking their share of dwindling resources.

“If nothing is done against climate change, Africa won’t be able to feed her children and that means war,” said Sidibe, an architect turned agricultural developer in southern Mali.

Inspired by his family’s gardening history, and by technology he had come across during business trips in Israel, Sidibe in 2011 began developing Mali’s first automated greenhouse – a hectare-wide metal and plastic structure that looms over the low surrounding scrub, the only vegetation that grows reliably under Mali’s blistering sun.

Inside Sidibe’s greenhouse, fed by a computer-controlled watering system designed by an Israeli company, are hundreds of rows of bushy tomato plants trained on string, their branches thick with unripe fruit.

Each plant gets a designated amount of water and fertilizer, and troublesome insects are kept out by netting that covers the whole greenhouse. Its ribbed roof helps limit the amount of sunlight and heat that penetrates the space. Strawberries grow year round, as do peppers and melons.

It is a sight that occurs naturally less and less across the Sahel, the band of arid land that runs west to east at the Sahara Desert’s southern edge. Temperature increases here are some of the worst in the world and the impact is seen by experts as one of the major root causes of displacement, poverty and violence.

“In the time of our grand fathers it used to rain and the cycles were regular,” said Sidibe. “We no longer control the water. And if we no longer control water, we don’t control agriculture.”

He employs over 30 people in his greenhouse, up from eight when he started out nearly a decade ago. The employees are inspired by the progress.

“Yes of course I want to do the same thing for myself,” said Haby Thera as she tied rows of tomato saplings to some string inside the greenhouse.

“If I had the means I would not hesitate to get involved in greenhouse agriculture. It’s fantastic and you never lose anything.”

Sidibe plans to expand his business inside Mali to 10 hectares and across the whole Sahel. He has clients in Niger, Chad, Cameroon and France and has already sold two greenhouses to businesses in Mali.

 

 

 

http://news.trust.org/item/20200213085457-cs9bd/

Nigeria’s roads: ‘My son died in a car accident – now I control traffic’

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Monica Dongban-Mensem (centre) received training from authorities to qualify as a traffic officer

During her free time, Nigerian Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem controls traffic in the capital, Abuja, eight years after her son was killed in a hit-and-run accident.

On the day I met her she was clad in her blue traffic vest, feet spread apart, sweaty arms slicing the air at a frantic pace, as she directed cars in 38C (100F) heat fuelled by the idling cars.

Around her was the busy chaos of the Berger roundabout in the city’s central area.

The cars that were not moving were hunched on their front axles, horns blaring, impatiently waiting for her to say “go”.

She was clearly in charge.

“Many Nigerians are impatient and it shows in their driving,” Justice Dongban-Mensem told me.

She did not know who was responsible for her son’s death but wanted to tackle some of the poor driving she witnessed.

She started going to bus stations to speak to drivers about road safety in Nigeria.

What she found shocked her.

Most of the drivers had not received proper training and were not familiar with the traffic rules.

Such ignorance might have caused the death of her son and she was determined to change that.

The 62-year-old has set up a non-profit organisation named after her late son – Kwapda’as Road Safety Demand – to educate motorists about safety and she also plans to establish a driving school for potential commercial drivers, where they can receive training free-of-charge.

Not content with that, Justice Dongban-Mensem wanted to play a role in controlling the traffic herself. After weeks of training with the road safety commission she qualified as a traffic warden.

It was not until 2016, five years after the accident, that she felt able to visit the scene of her son’s death in the central Nigerian city of Jos.

“My mission was to find someone who could just tell me or describe to me how my son died.”

But once she got there, she was left terrified, sad and angry by the chaos she saw.

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50728800