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Kenya’s finance minister, top officials arrested for corruption

7F53A2FB-2375-496E-949D-49B63F12A11EHenry Rotich and his co-accused face eight charges, ranging from conspiring to defraud and financial misconduct [File:Baz Ratner/Reuters]

Kenya’s Finance Minister Henry Rotich and other treasury officials have been arrested on corruption and fraud charges related to a multimillion-dollar project to build two massive dams, police said.

Rotich, his principal secretary and the chief executive of Kenya’s environmental authority handed themselves in to the police on Monday, hours after the country’s chief prosecutor ordered the arrest and prosecution of Rotich and 27 other top officials.

“They are in custody now awaiting to be taken to court,” police chief George Kinoti told AFP news agency.

“We are looking for [the] others and they will all go to court.”

Rotich’s arrest marks the first time a sitting Kenyan minister has been arrested on corruption charges, in a country where graft is widespread. The charges against him stem from a police investigation into the misuse of funds in a dam project overseen by the Italian construction company CMC Di Ravenna.

Rotich denied any wrongdoing in a large newspaper advertisement in March. The company has also denied any wrongdoing.

Noordin Haji, Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions, said the finance minister and the co-accused would face eight charges, ranging from conspiring to defraud and financial misconduct.

“They broke the law on public finance management under the guise of carrying out legitimate commercial transactions, colossal amounts were unjustifiably and illegally paid out through a well-choreographed scheme by government officers in collusion with private individuals and institutions,” Haji told a news conference earlier on Monday.

‘Nothing to worry about’

According to the contract, the project was to cost a total of $450m, but the treasury had increased this amount by $164m “without regard to performance or works”, he said.

Some $180m has already been paid out, with little construction to show for it.

Another $6m was paid out for the resettlement of people living in areas that would be affected by the project, but there is no evidence of land being acquired for this, he said.

“I am satisfied that economic crimes were committed and I have therefore approved their arrests and prosecutions,” said Haji.

Rotich’s arrest will send shockwaves through the political elite, who are accustomed to corruption scandals resulting in little official action.

Earlier this year, the finance minister’s questioning by police provoked an angry reaction among politicians from his powerful Kalenjin ethnic group.

Rotich’s arrest may also be seen as further evidence of growing distance between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. Ruto had requested Rotich’s appointment.

On Monday, Ruto’s allies played down the charges.

“There is nothing to worry about. Relax,” Kipchumba Murkomen, the senate majority leader and a Ruto ally, told reporters.

Many charged, few convicted

Critics have accused Kenyatta, who was re-elected for a second term last year, of failing to deal with corruption despite his promises to do so.

“We’ve seen the president coming out very strongly over the years saying he wants to make this issue a priority, he wants to leave behind a corrupt-free country, but a lot of Kenyans are disappointed,” Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi said, reporting from Samburu County in Kenya.

“Over the years we’ve seen major scandals involving public money, millions of dollars, involving public figures as well … arrests have been made. But then people are saying that beyond that nothing happens, they have not seen any convictions,  those who are found culpable haven’t seen their assets frozen, or their money returned to taxpayers,” she said.

“Thirty percent of government expenditure is lost to corruption and mismanagement .. a lot of Kenyans are saying that they need the president to do more if this fight against corruption is to be won.”

Rotich’s arrest was a “significant” step on a very long road, said Samuel Kimeu, the head of Kenya’s chapter of Transparency International.

But he added: “I would not be celebrating arrests. We need to see people in jail and we need to see what has been stolen recovered.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/kenya-finance-minister-top-officials-arrested-corruption-190722103920663.html

 

Priests and sisters arrested with protestors at immigration demonstration on Capitol Hill

35C71CE3-098D-4E22-A9BE-167B8FF968D7Demonstrators during a “Catholic Day of Action” gather in the Russell Senate building on Capitol Hill, July 18, 2019. Credit: CNA

.- A group of Catholics were arrested at the Russell Senate Building on Capitol Hill on Thursday during a peaceful protest organized as a “Catholic Day of Action.” The group, including priests, religious sisters, and lay people, sought to draw attention to the situation at the southern border of the United States and the detention of children in particular.

“We felt like it was time for something more significant, and needing to take more of a risk to raise the consciousness of Catholics across the country,” demonstrator Maggie Conley told CNA during the demonstration, held July 18.

Conley, who works with the justice team of the Sisters of Mercy explained that she would like to see immigration reform presented as a pro-life issue, and expressed hope that Catholic members of Congress and the Trump administration will offer a more public witness on Catholic teaching and immigration.

“It’s challenging when we don’t hear [a call for action] coming from the pulpit as often as we want, and as integrated as some of the rituals of our faith,” said Conley.

Religious orders present included the Sisters of Mercy, the Bon Secours Sisters, the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Jesuits, and Franciscan friars. There were also several men at the protest wearing clerical collars, who did not appear to be part of any order.

Members of the group who intended to provoke arrest wore yellow bracelets, and many wore signs with pictures of migrant children who had passed away in U.S. custody and the date of their deaths. Five people laid in the center of the Russell Senate Building rotunda, forming the shape of a cross.

Among those arrested included Sr. Pat Murphy, age 90, a member of the Sisters of Mercy. Sr. Pat has worked in immigration and migrant advocacy in the past, and has held a weekly prayer vigil outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Chicago for over a decade.

Sr. Judith Frikker, a member of the Sisters of Mercy, was not one of the people who got arrested, but was still present at the protest “to stand in solidarity with my sisters, and more importantly, with immigrants.” This was not Sr. Judith’s first time participating in demonstrations of this kind, and she told CNA that she believes that “immigrants, detainees, their families–especially children–are being treated in a way that violates their human rights.”

Sr. Judith told CNA that she believes the crisis at the southern border is not about immigration itself but about how immigrants are received into the country as they try to enter.

“The crisis isn’t the people coming in, the crisis is what is happening to the people when they try to enter,” she said. “They’re seeking to live with dignity. Many people are seeking asylum and their rights are being denied. We have to act against that.”

Frikker said that she advocates for policy options to address immigration, asylum processing, and detention at the border which do not require changes to infrastructure.

“Instead of building a wall, I would increase our judicial system [in a way] that would allow the processing of immigrants and their asylum cases so they could enter here,” she said.

Katie Murphy, a local resident and Catholic, said she was attending the event out of “concern for the children, and also for the character of our nation, the soul of our nation.”

“I feel that the way we treat the most vulnerable is who we are, is like our character. I am deeply saddened and distraught over what our nation is doing. We have a crisis on the border, and we need to address that crisis in a way that dignifies the values that we stand for.”

The demonstration occurred just days after the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference publicly denounced action by the Trump administration to tighten rules on asylum seeking at the southern border, and to enforce court-ordered removals against thousands of people who had exhausted their legal appeals to remain in the country.

On Tuesday, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo issued a statement condemning a newly-announced rule which requires that those seeking asylum along the U.S. southern border first apply for asylum in any country they may pass through along the way.

“The rule adds further barriers to asylum-seekers’ ability to access life-saving protection, shirks our moral duty, and will prevent the United States from taking its usual leading role in the international community as a provider of asylum protection,” DiNardo said.

The cardinal also spoke out against a recent series carried out by ICE in cities across the United States.

“Enforcement actions like those anticipated this week by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency separate families, cause the unacceptable suffering of thousands of children and their parents, and create widespread panic in our communities,” said DiNardo.

“I condemn such an approach, which has created a climate of fear in our parishes and communities across the country. I recently wrote the President asking him to reconsider this action.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/protestors-gather-for-catholic-day-of-action-on-capitol-hill-32449

 

The brave women fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria

womanPeople gather at the scene of a suicide car bomb blast in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria [Jossy Ola/AP]

Maiduguri, Nigeria – Boko Haram killed the two most important people in Komi Kaje’s life within two days.

In November 2015, Komi Akaji, her 46-year-old brother, was shot dead by Boko Haram fighters.

“There were seven students killed. When I got there, I saw he was shot twice in the head,” Kaje said.

The days of mourning followed according to tradition. Kaje was broken but Peter Adam, her 35-year-old boyfriend, provided some relief. On a Saturday afternoon, Adam observed mourning rites with Kaje’s family and shared lunch with her.

But Boko Haram attacked again, turning a visit of solace into sorrow.

“They shot him in his chest and head and he fell inside a ditch. The bullet touched his brain,” said Kaje, her eyes in tears.

Kaje has tried hard to forget the killings but military sirens, the sound of gunfire, and constant exposure to the areas where her loved ones were shot dead were enough to provoke new trauma.

If she moved to a new city, her parents thought, it might help her heal. Kaje relocated to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, to spend some recovery time.

But Kaje realised the solution wasn’t to run, “because Boko Haram was everywhere”.

Maybe, Kaje thought, if she could play a role in defeating the fighters some healing would come. At the time, the armed group held many towns and villages captive as part of a so-called “Islamic caliphate”.

Boko Haram since 2009 has killed more than 27,000 people and forced another two million out of their homes.

Fighting Boko Haram

When Kaje introduced the idea of joining the fight against the rebellion to her friends and family, it was received with mockery and indifference. “How can a woman fight Boko Haram?” she was told.

However, other women aside from Kaje, such as 45-year-old Idris Fati, shared her ambition to flush the fighters out of Maiduguri.

Kaje and Fati joined the Civilian Joint Taskforce (C-JTF) – a civilian militia drawn from communities affected by Boko Haram – that partners with and supports the military in its operations.

C-JTF had been an all-male force but there were tasks best-suited for women.

For one, Boko Haram favoured using girls and women in the group’s operations, especially as suicide bombers attacking markets, hospitals, mosques, churches and other public places.

“Boko Haram were using many women and girls to fight the war. Women were needed to counter that strategy,” Kaje told Al Jazeera.

Between 2011-17, Boko Haram used female suicide bombers in at least 244 of its 338 attacks, according to the United States-based Combating Terrorism Center. In 2018, 38 out of 48 children used by Boko Haram as suicide assailants were girls.

Nigerian soldiers, for religious and cultural reasons, are restricted from searching women and girls in most cases – an opening exploited by Boko Haram to blow up its targets.

Since then the women, from dawn to twilight, search other females at security checkpoints leading to Maiduguri’s markets, hospitals, schools, and other public sites vulnerable to attacks.

Many suicide bombers have been exposed and arrested and their murderous assaults foiled.

In some cases, the military involves the women in intelligence-gathering on the armed group’s activities. This has helped reveal operations by the armed group, earning them the nickname “Gossipers of Boko Haram”.

When the military receives intelligence that Boko Haram will target a particular location, it deploys the women to detect and expose female suicide bombers who might mingle in the crowd.

In rare, but far more dangerous cases, the Gossipers are involved in military operations targeting notorious female Boko Haram members.

Death threats

But not everyone is happy with what the Nigerian women are doing.

“My neighbours are always insulting me. They say that one day Boko Haram will kill me. But whenever I am involved in saving people’s lives, the joy of it is above all insults,” said Fati.

Boko Haram sends warning messages through emissaries, threatening to kill those working security.

“Boko Haram has threatened me so many times,” Fati said. “They warn me to quit the job or risk being killed. They say our work hurts and exposes their operations. But I won’t stop because I am fighting not just for my life, but for the future of my children.”

During the peak of Boko Haram’s violence, the military was accused of arresting, jailing, and killing innocent citizens on suspicion of being collaborators.

Discerning who was involved with Boko Haram was difficult for the military because of a lack of information about the communities.

About 20,000 people, including boys as young as nine, were detained without due process, according to rights group Amnesty International. About 1,200 men were reportedly killed.

‘Many have died’

Some locals knew those linked to Boko Haram, but to speak out was to risk death as the fighters retaliated against the families of those who exposed them to the military.

Women helped break the barrier by taking vital information to the military about members of Boko Haram living in their communities.

“Many women have died doing this job,” said Umar Habiba, 38, who coordinates the gatekeepers in Monday Market in Maiduguri.

She said there are more than 100 women currently working in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state – the hotbed of the rebellion. Others have resigned as a result of threats, marriage and pressure from society.

Danger is always present in their work as suicide bombers detonate explosives and kill themselves, along with those attempting to search them.

“If I die doing this work, I know my parents would be proud of me because I died for my state,” said Kaje, who earns $60 a month from the state government – a huge sum for a job she previously did voluntarily.

“Many women, unable to cope with the pressure, have resigned.”

Ebola outbreak in DRC an international health emergency, WHO declares

474C092B-EDD4-44B3-B5F9-90D97F07EB73A man receives an Ebola vaccine in Goma, DCR on July 15, 2019. Credit: Pamela Tulizo / AFP / Getty Images

.- The nearly year-long Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has reached the level of an international health emergency, the World Health Organization declared yesterday.

The declaration, which critics say is long overdue, could bring greater resources to the region, where violence and skepticism of international medical personnel have hampered treatment and prevention efforts.

Officials made the international health emergency designation – for only the fifth time in history – after a priest died from Ebola in Goma, a city of some 2 million residents, which serves as a major crossroads on the border with Rwanda.

Risk of the virus being transmitted to neighboring countries is “very high,” WHO officials said, although outside of the immediate region, risk remains low.

For months, public health experts have feared that the deadly virus in DRC could spread to surrounding countries. Two Ebola fatalities were confirmed in Uganda last month, after the victims returned from a funeral in DRC. Kenya and Rwanda have also been on high alert for signs that the virus may have entered the country.

The Ebola outbreak began in the DRC in August 2018. Since then, it has infected more than 2,500 people in the country and killed more than 1,600, making it the second largest outbreak in history.

Dr. Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, voiced hope that the emergency declaration would prompt a unified international response.

”The reality check is that a year into the epidemic, it’s still not under control, and we are not where we should be,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results.”

The Associated Press reported that internal WHO documents showed a reluctance to make the emergency declaration over concerns about whether it might prompt border closures that could negatively affect economic and health care efforts, and deter countries from reporting outbreaks in the future.

The DRC health department displayed skepticism over the emergency declaration, suggesting that it may have been made as a fundraising move, while some residents of eastern Congo voiced fear that neighboring countries would close their borders, which provide trade routes that are vital to DRC’s economy, the Associated Press reported.

The WHO will reassess the situation in three months to determine whether an international health emergency still exists. Such an emergency is defined as “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.”

Efforts to contain the disease have been hampered by misinformation and distrust on the part of local communities, who in some cases have retaliated against health teams by attacking them. Nearly 200 attacks on medical centers and staff have been reported this year, according to the BBC. This has limited many of the health services that non-governmental organizations are able to provide.

Catholic Relief Services has been supporting local Caritas partners in responding through education campaigns to help residents know how to prevent and respond to the virus.

More than 160,000 people have received the Ebola vaccine, which is 99% effective, according to the BBC, but many more are fearful of it and refuse to receive it. In addition, violence in the eastern part of the DRC has made it difficult to reach some areas of the country, and difficult to monitor the virus as it spreads.

Ebola is a deadly virus that is primarily spread through contact with bodily fluids. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pains and occasional bleeding. The disease is fatal in up to 90 percent of cases.

Several outbreaks have taken place in Africa in recent decades. An outbreak in 2014-2016 in West Africa killed more than 11,000 people and spread briefly to Spain, the United States and the UK.

During that outbreak, Catholic Relief Services and Caritas worked to treat those who were infected, support Ebola orphans, provide food support and educate people on hygiene practices to help avoid the spread of the virus, such as hand washing and avoiding contact with dead bodies.

Suzanne Van Hulle, a Catholic Relief Services team member who worked on the agency’s response to the West Africa outbreak, stressed the importance of education in fighting Ebola.

“During an Ebola outbreak, information and understanding people’s perception about the virus is just as important as medicine or a vaccine,” she said in a statement last month.

“Local community leaders play a critical role in educating people around Ebola and how to prevent both acquiring the virus and ongoing transmission.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/ebola-outbreak-in-drc-an-international-health-emergency-who-declares-26141

 

 

The plight of South Sudanese sexual assault survivors

DCC513A6-570F-4FED-93F2-4E02727C114FAccording to the UN, girls as young as eight were among 175 cases of rape recorded between September and December 2018 [Lamek Orina/Al Jazeera]

Dadaab, Kenya – Teresa* (not her real name) gathers her three children outside her shanty, which was provided by aid agencies in Dadaab, a sprawling refugee camp in Kenya where she has lived for six years.

The 33-year-old mother of three pulls out a plastic chair to sit on from a makeshift kitchen adjacent to her home. 

She picks up her youngest, a baby, and puts him on her lap.

Eight years ago, she had been living in Juba when South Sudan gained independence on July 9, 2011, from Sudan.

“My family was still in a celebratory mood. We had gained independence … and every dream we had was shattered before my eyes,” she said.

Together with her husband, she was struggling to raise a young family until December 2013, when South Sudanese President Salva Kiir fell out with Riek Machar, then vice president.

This led to a conflict between the country’s two main ethnic groups, which displaced about four million people, including Teresa and her children.

During her last days in Juba, the South Sudanese capital, she was sexually assaulted.

“We were hiding for days when the war broke out. It was December 17, 2013, when seven armed men in uniform forced their way into our house. Inside, they found my husband and his two brothers. They took them outside and shot them,” she said, tears balancing on her eyes.

“I tried to run out for safety with my children but they captured me and started raping me repeatedly. They took away my two children and I have never seen those kids since then.”

Teresa is among an escalating number of South Sudanese sexual violence survivors.

Organisations and aid agencies in the world’s youngest nation have documented some of the cases. 

In February, the United Nations published a report saying girls as young as eight were among 175 cases of rape recorded between September and December 2018. 

Its investigation was carried out after September 2018, when the last South Sudanese peace deal was signed.

“It is not the whole picture, but they found 175 women and girls who had been either raped, gang-raped or sexually assaulted or physically harmed in other ways.

“And 49 of those girls who were raped, were children,” said Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

In November 2018, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported that “125 women and girls … were raped, beaten and brutalised in Rubkona county, northern South Sudan, in the 10 days between November 19 and 29, 2018”.

The organisation said this was high compared with the 104 cases reported in the previous 10 months.

However, the government was quick to deny these figures. 

Awut Deng Acguil, the gender, child and social welfare minister, described the numbers as “unfounded and baseless”, adding that, “there are no facts found to verify the rape cases”. 

But many survivors choose to remain silent. 

It took two years for Teresa to report what she went through. 

“I never wanted to report it because I was mentally tormented after that incident. Every time I see a group of men, I get re-traumatised. Images of the raid in our Juba home flashes in my mind. I don’t think I will ever move on from this,” she said.

Weak justice and stigma

In addition to the physical and mental trauma, survivors often risk being ostracised from their families and communities, said Wangechi Wachira, executive director of the Nairobi-based Centre for Rights Education and Awareness, an organisation that advocates for the rights of girls and women.

“Rape takes away someone’s dignity and causes a lot of anger and depression. Sometimes women blame themselves for what happened because of how societies frames this issue. This leads to high number of victims going silent,” said Wachira.

And there is usually little justice for survivors.

“I feel like justice cannot be done in my case. The seven men who sexually assaulted me were soldiers whom I did not know. They came from the government that was supposed to protect me. They raped me and killed my family members,” Teresa said.

According to Fatuma Ali, an associate professor of international relations at the United States International University-Africa, armed actors in South Sudan have systematically deployed sexual violence against civilians as a weapon.

“The devastating role of sexual and gender-based violence as a strategic weapon of war has positioned women and girls as a battlefield between the warring groups. This has led to the dichotomy between the protectors versus the protected hence ethnicising and feminising the war.

“This clearly shows that South Sudan has no capacity to stop these atrocities, leave alone give justice to its victims,” Ali told Al Jazeera. 

Back in Dadaab, Teresa starts to feed her children; she depends on food rations to survive. 

After the rape, she got pregnant. She gave birth in Kenya eight months later. 

“I will never go back to South Sudan. I hope the free education my children get here will help their futures. I have told the UN and other aid agencies to never take me back to South Sudan.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/plight-south-sudanese-sexual-assault-survivors-190709102343053.html

Alan Kurdi rescue ship saves 44 stranded people in Mediterranean

save from seaLast week, the Alan Kurdi rescued 65 shipwrecked migrants attempting the perilous journey from North Africa [File: Darrin Zammit Lupi/AP]

At least 44 people, including infants, have been picked up from their stricken vessel off Libya’s coast in the Mediterranean Sea, according to a German charity operating the ship that rescued them.

Malta agreed to take in those rescued by the Alan Kurdi ship and was sending a vessel to pick them up, the Sea-Eye charity said late on Monday. There was no immediate confirmation by Maltese authorities.

Sea-Eye said it was alerted to the plight of the people in need of rescue by Tunisian fishermen and the Colibri civilian search plane.

“Forty-four people, including four women and three children,” were brought on board the Alan Kurdi, Sea-Eye said. The children are aged 15 months, three years, and five years.

The rescued people, who come from Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Guinea, said they had left Zuwara in Libya early on Saturday in a wooden boat, according to AFP news agency.

The Alan Kurdi last week rescued 65 shipwrecked people attempting the perilous journey to reach Europe, and handing them over to Malta on Sunday after Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini closed his country’s ports to the vessel.

They have already been sent on to other European Union countries, but it is not clear what would happen to those most recently rescued.

An Italian customs vessel, run by the NGO Mediterranea, on Tuesday brought 47 rescued people into Sicily’s Pozzallo port, Italian media reported. They had been headed to the Italian island of Lampedusa, between Sicily and Libya, but there was no space for them there as hundreds of refugees and migrants continue to arrive by their own means or are rescued by authorities.

Salvini has vowed to close Italian ports to charity rescue ships, which he accuses of helping people smugglers. Interior Ministry figures showed that 395 people have arrived in Italy since the end of June.

Italian media reported on Tuesday that this year barely one in 10 migrants and asylum seekers has been brought into Italy by charity vessels, the vast majority arriving by other means.

Sea-Watch docking

Italy last month issued a decree that imposes fines of up to 50,000 euros ($57,000) for the captain, owner and operator of a vessel “entering Italian territorial waters without authorisation”.

Authorities on Lampedusa in late June seized a rescue ship belonging to German aid group Sea-Watch, which had forced its way into port with dozens of rescued people on board, and arrested its captain, Carola Rackete.

An Italian judge subsequently ordered her freed, saying she had been acting to save lives.

Libya, which has been wracked by chaos since a 2011 uprising against the rule of late leader Muammar Gaddafi, has long been a major transit route for people, especially from sub-Saharan Africa, desperate to reach Europe.

Last week, 53 refugees and migrants were killed in an air raid on a detention centre in a Tripoli suburb held by forces loyal to Tripoli’s United Nations-recognised government.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/alan-kurdi-rescue-ship-saves-44-stranded-people-mediterranean-190709100458532.html

 

 

Scores killed, millions displaced as monsoon batters South Asia

DE3D858D-E046-4624-AECA-3A889492CC7ERescuers look for survivors after a building collapsed in monsoon rains near the town of Solan in India [The Associated Press]

More than 100 people have been killed and two million forced from their homes across Nepal, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as rain-triggered floods and landslides left a trail of destruction in parts of South Asia.

The death toll was the highest in Nepal, where torrential rains unleashed mudslides and caused rivers to overflow, killing at least 67 people, officials said on Monday.

The annual deluge, which hit the country on Thursday, has so far displaced at least 10,000 people there.

The downpours have eased but authorities still fear the death toll could rise, according to police spokesman Bishwaraj Pokharel, who gave the latest number of dead and missing from floods and landslides.

“There are the challenges of resettlement of the displaced as many houses … have been swept away. We are also cautious about the risk of epidemics due to polluted water,” Pokharel told AFP news agency.

Building collapse in India

The June to September monsoon causes widespread death and destruction across South Asia each year.

In the latest monsoon-related tragedy in India, a four-storey building on a hillside in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh collapsed due to heavy downpours, trapping those who had gathered for a party inside.

At least 14 people were killed, including 13 soldiers, according to a statement from the chief minister’s office.

Rescue workers used heavy machinery to remove heaps of mangled steel and wires from the muddied debris, pulling 28 survivors from the rubble.

Floods have also devastated much of the northeastern state of Assam, where at least 1.5 million people have been forced from their homes. Four people died on Sunday after being swept away by sudden torrents.

The state’s Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO-recognised reserve and home to two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhinos, has also been seriously affected by the weather.

In the eastern state of Bihar, five rivers were flowing over the danger levels with more rain forecast for the next few days. Pratata Amrit, an Indian government official, said about 200,000 people have left their flooded village homes in Bihar, with 50,000 of them taking shelter in 152 state-run relief camps.

In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, officials said at least 18 people were killed after heavy rain triggered flash floods and damaged more than 50 houses.

‘Miserable’

Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 160 million people with more than 130 rivers, is prone to monsoon floods because of overflowing rivers and the heavy onrush of water from upstream India.

At least 29 people have died in the last week, including two Rohingya refugees, 18 people who were hit by lightning in different parts of the country and seven who drowned after their boat capsized in choppy waters in the Bay of Bengal.

Another 500,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Bangladesh’s southern Chittagong district after the flooding of some 200 villages.

In the overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district – home to nearly one million Rohingya who have fled a military crackdown in Myanmar – nearly 5,000 tarpaulin and bamboo homes were destroyed after heavy rains triggered mudslides on the hill slopes, according to a spokeswoman for the International Organisation for Migration.

Nearly 6,000 Rohingya have been left without shelter because of heavy rains.

Displaced refugees said they were suffering as rain disrupted logistics and daily activity in the camps.

“It’s tough to go to food distribution centres by wading through a swamp of mud,” Nurun Jan, a Rohingya refugee, told AFP news agency. “Rains and gusty wind have made our life miserable.”

Refugees also described a shortage of drinking water and a looming health crisis due to flooded toilets, which foster disease outbreaks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/scores-killed-millions-displaced-monsoon-batters-south-asia-190715112857902.html