Final Phase of Colombia’s Peace Talks
Source: International Crisis Group
Amid new violence and deflating political support, it is easy to forget what has been achieved. Negotiators have made substantial headway on the conflict’s root causes and main effects.
The peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) enter their toughest stretch both vulnerable and resilient. The former quality was displayed on 22 May, when the collapse of the guerrillas’ five-month old unilateral ceasefire triggered the worst escalation of violence in years. Evidence for the latter came two weeks later, when negotiators ended a year’s drought without major advances by agreeing to establish a truth commission. A separate agreement on reparations also appeared to edge closer. Yet, despite the advances, the talks are on thinner ice than ever. To get them safe to land, the parties must return to an effective de-escalation path, one that moves toward a definitive bilateral ceasefire, once negotiations on the crucial transitional justice issue are sufficiently consolidated. Such gradualism is the best bet to protect the process from unravelling in violence, flagging public support and deep political rifts.
Even if neither side considers abandoning the talks, the broader environment has risks. Ongoing violence causes new humanitarian emergencies, emboldens spoilers and strengthens hardliners. With political patience increasingly thin, it would take only a spark to suspend the process or trigger its break-up. Even anticipating an early reparations agreement, negotiators face highly contentious, interconnected issues, including judicial accountability for serious international crimes committed by both sides, a bilateral ceasefire and final agreement ratification. Sharply-contested local elections in October could further weaken the centre ground upon which a durable peace agreement will need to rest.
Manoeuvring the talks through these perils defies easy fixes. Calls for acceleration or a deadline have grown louder. With business as usual no longer an option, the parties should consider ways to move more vigorously, including by splitting the discussions on victims and transitional justice into smaller, partial agreements, adopting a more compact calendar and involving international partners more closely. But acceleration for its own sake has risks. Hastily hammering out a deal might satisfy political demands, but the resulting accord could easily be impossible to implement and of limited effectiveness. The measured pace reflects real problems, including internal tensions on both sides and an adverse political environment. With the parties already struggling to ratify and start implementing the final agreements before President Santos’ term ends in 2018, a deadline would add little and could throw the process into limbo if missed.
The escalating violence has also intensified calls for an immediate, bilateral ceasefire. This would eliminate the threats ongoing hostilities pose, but the time for it has not yet come. A consensus on what such a ceasefire might look like is still not on the horizon, and, as the breakdown of FARC’s unilateral truce shows, a definitive end of hostilities will not be viable if the mechanisms and protocols to sustain it are not fully accepted by both leaderships. Meanwhile, even if the parties could swiftly agree on these, there are few signs the arrangement could be quickly implemented. Neither the government nor FARC will likely be able to accept the costs of a definitive end of the hostilities while vital concerns are still being negotiated. A bilateral ceasefire will probably only become realistic after there is an agreement on the transitional justice framework.
The first step out of the present difficulty should be more modest. The parties urgently need to halt the escalation of hostilities, starting by showing maximum battlefield restraint, including strict respect for international humanitarian law. This should be accompanied by a new push for bilateral de-escalation, including broadening the demining scheme and exploring the space for discreet, reciprocal hostility reduction. Joint de-escalation would give the negotiators room and foster the mutual trust required to sustain an eventual bilateral ceasefire. Simultaneously, the parties should accelerate technical talks in Havana on the “end of the conflict”, so as to elaborate a proposal for implementing an early bilateral ceasefire after a transitional justice agreement. That ceasefire will need to include both some form of regional concentration of FARC and international monitoring; full cantonment and the “leaving behind of weapons” (disarmament) should follow ratification of the final agreements.
Such an early but not immediate bilateral ceasefire would make it easier to accelerate the process, enabling the parties to save time by starting to implement some agenda issues, while leaving others to the broader political process, including the truth commission. Importantly, it would also help the process put out much deeper political roots. The government has real scope for more consistent, convincing messages, while international community backing will remain vital amid crumbling domestic support. But overcoming widespread disengagement, scepticism and indifference is hard as long as hostilities continue. A ceasefire would create new possibilities to broaden the talks’ political base. At a late stage, this could include moving them, or parts of them, from Cuba to Colombia.
Amid new violence and deflating political support, it is easy to forget what has been achieved. Negotiators have made substantial headway on the conflict’s root causes and main effects. More than three years of confidential and public talks have built a shared sense that the transition is possible. Rather than overhauling what works well, leveraging these gains and strengths is the most promising way forward.
Bogotá /Brussels, 2 July 2015
Les Camerounais frappés par les inondations urbaines
Les pluies tropicales de la mousson et les inondations qui s'en suivent sont de plus en plus fréquentes dans le sud-ouest du Cameroun et dans les autres pays situés sur le golfe de Guinée.
Douala , 3 juillet 2015 (IRIN) - Plus d'une semaine après les inondations causées par les pluies torrentielles qui se sont abattues sur la capitale économique du Cameroun, Douala, la ville reste sinistrée. Au moins quatre personnes ont trouvé la mort et environ 2 000 autres ont été déplacées ; des milliers de logements et de commerces ont été détruits. Plus de 30 000 d'habitants ont été directement affectés.
Les poteaux électriques couchés par terre sont un sombre rappel que la ville est toujours privée d'électricité ; les rues boueuses sont jonchées de carcasses de voitures retournées, de motos, d'ordures et autres débris.
D'après le ministère de l'Habitat et du Développement urbain (MINHDU) et la Délégation de la communauté urbaine de Douala, le montant des dommages s'élève à « plusieurs millions de dollars ».
« Notre vie est brisée », a dit Arlette Mbappe, une infirmière âgée de 39 ans.
« Je n'ai plus de maison. C'est à moi de m'occuper de la réparation des dégâts, mais trouver de la nourriture pour mes enfants est devenu difficile. Je chercherais bien un autre logement, mais c'est devenu très difficile à trouver ».
Les pluies tropicales de la mousson et les inondations qui s'en suivent sont de plus en plus fréquentes dans le sud-ouest du Cameroun et dans les autres pays situés sur le golfe de Guinée. Les pluies torrentielles font de plus en plus de victimes et de dégâts chaque année.
« Les inondations, comme celles qui ont ravagé notre ville, sont de plus en plus courantes à cause du réchauffement climatique et elles sont prises en compte comme d'autres facteurs tels que l'urbanisation et les pratiques agricoles », a dit Philippe Edimo, un ingénieur urbaniste qui travaille à la Direction de la météorologie nationale (DMN) à Douala.
Les précipitations annuelles varient d'une année à l'autre, mais Douala, par exemple, a reçu 3 000 millimètres de pluies en moyenne par an entre 1906 et 1965. Elles ont atteint 3 200 mm en 1989 et 3 8 00 mm en 2010 avant de redescendre à 3 080mm en 2014, d'après la DMN.
Entre 1998 et 2006, 4 200 personnes ont été affectées par les inondations au Cameroun, d'après les informations fournies par la Base de données sur les situations d'urgence (Emergency Events Database, EM-DAT) du Centre de recherche sur l'épidémiologie des catastrophes. En 2007, plus de 10 000 personnes ont été touchées par les inondations, contre 25 000 en 2008 et environ 52 000 en 2012.
Les experts attribuent cette hausse à l'explosion des constructions et à la croissance de la population urbaine dans les régions côtières.
« L'urbanisation rapide et l'insuffisance des politiques de la ville ont contribué à l'aggravation des déséquilibres socio-économiques et environnementaux », a dit IRIN M. Edimo. « Et il est probable que la hausse des températures dans la région va intensifier le cycle hydrologique [pluies] qui se traduira par des inondations plus importantes et plus fréquentes ».
Les résultats des simulations climatiques nationales montrent que les précipitations annuelles moyennes au Cameroun pourraient augmenter de jusqu'à 35 pour cent entre 2010 et 2050, et que les températures pourraient augmenter d'au moins deux degrés.
Malgré les avertissements lancés par les autorités et l'adoption en 2004 d'une loi d'urbanisme qui interdit les constructions sur des sols « impropres à l'habitation », bon nombre de bâtiments de la capitale ont été construits dans des zones inondables.
« Les gens construisent des bâtiments dans des zones à risque en raison de leur emplacement de choix », a dit Christophe Edzimbi, qui travaille au Centre géographique national (CGN) de Yaoundé.
Il a ajouté que la déforestation et le dragage des sédiments dans les régions côtières contribuent aux inondations.
Mesures de prévention
Depuis de longues années, le gouvernement appelle au respect du code de construction ainsi qu'à une amélioration de l'entretien des berges des fleuves et des systèmes de drainage de la ville.
Mais la réglementation est rarement appliquée et l'entretien est irrégulier.
« Compte tenu du changement climatique, il faut interdire les constructions et mieux définir les zones de construction », a dit Joseph Beti Assomo, le gouverneur de la région littorale du Cameroun. « Nous devons également réduire la vulnérabilité des bâtiments existants et réaliser des études hydrauliques et géologiques pour dresser une carte des zones à risque d'inondation ».
Suite aux inondations du mois dernier, le gouvernement a alloué 185 millions de dollars au fonds du Programme d'urgence de réhabilitation et de construction des infrastructures de Douala.
Le gouvernement a également annoncé le lancement d'une campagne de deux mois pour nettoyer les caniveaux d'écoulement et les canaux de drainage de Douala, et pour démolir les bidonvilles construits dans les zones marécageuses, d'après Fritz Ntone, représentant de la délégation de l’État pour la Communauté urbaine de Douala.
Mais bon nombre de personnes pensent que ces actions, si elles sont mises en œuvre, arrivent trop tard.
« A un moment, nous pensions que c'était [l'eau de pluie qui coulait dans les rues] l'océan qui allait submerger la ville », a dit Jean Nouadjeu, 50 ans, qui a perdu son logement et son commerce.
« Ma maison est inhabitable. Je vais devoir la reconstruire… Où est-ce que je vais trouver l'argent pour le faire, étant donné que toutes les marchandises stockées dans mon magasin ont été détruites ? J'ai été obligé de fermer boutique. Je suis ruiné ».
UNRWA seeks route out of financial crisis
Country: occupied Palestinian territory
Financial woes have plagued the agency, which is responsible for the medical care, education and welfare of registered Palestinian refugees, since it was formed in 1950, but this crisis is the worst to date. UNRWA is $101 million in debt and faces a $330 million shortfall in its $680 million annual budget.
By Annie Slemrod and Joe Dyke
JERUSALEM/BEIRUT, 3 July 2015 (IRIN) - Facing what its commissioner-general Pierre Krähenbühl called its “most serious financial crisis ever,” this week the UN agency for Palestinian refugees announced it would let go around 100 foreign employees on short-term contracts, roughly half of all its international employees.
Dealing with emergencies in Syria and Gaza and having lost $25 million to currency exchange fluctuations overnight, UNRWA is $101 million in debt and faces a $330 million shortfall in its $680 million annual budget.
Financial woes have plagued the agency, which is responsible for the medical care, education, and welfare of registered Palestinian refugees, since it was formed in 1950 as a temporary measure, but this crisis is the worst to date.
In part, this is due to a growth in needs. The number of people in Gaza relying on the agency for food aid shot up from 80,000 in 2000 to 860,000 in 2014.
What, if anything, can be done to fix the frequently broke agency?
The most straightforward approach might appear to be to search for additional sources of funding.
UNRWA gets little funding from the main UN pot so relies largely on donations from countries, nongovernmental organizations and some private donors. Historically, the United States and the European Union have provided the bulk.
But faced with conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Nepal and the Ebola crisis in West Africa, traditional donors are cash-strapped.
“We are in a situation of unprecedented crises,” explained a European diplomat in Jerusalem. Other crises “absorb a lot of funding and there are very definite constraints on the part of donors to manage this.”
So might UNRWA turn elsewhere? Gulf countries have upped their support for emergency appeals, but Zizette Darkazally, UNRWA’s spokeswoman in Lebanon, said the agency is looking for more funding for their core budget. “We hope the Arab countries, given their history here, would play a significant role,” she said.
The agency is also leaning on the emerging BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies: Krähenbühl spent much of the last week in Russia, which in 2015 contributed $2 million dollars to the agency. He will also visit China and Brazil.
But, barring a major Gulf splurge, any new funding is unlikely to be sufficient.
UNRWA has already cut back on international consultants, implemented a hiring freeze, and is offering staff what amounts to early retirement packages. Programs like a cash-for-rent scheme for Palestinians from Syria are on hold.
Rex Brynen, professor at McGill University and an expert on Palestinian refugee issues, said that there were really no easy cuts left.
“They have trimmed optional staff positions and [other] programs … it is not as if UNRWA still has a large number of optional programs left [to cut],” he said.
As such, Darkazally said, the next target for cuts is one of the agency’s core services: education.
UNWRA runs more than 700 schools in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon. They are the only option for many Palestinians, but take up 60 percent of UNRWA’s regular budget.
Planned class sizes will be brought up to 50, from 40 to 45, allowing a modest cutback in teaching staff. Darkazally said they were even discussing delaying the start of the school year.
“Everything is being thought of at the moment,” she said.
To avoid such devastating cuts, are there reforms that UNRWA could make or radical solutions it could adopt?
Donor pressure forced UNRWA to make its finances more transparent in the 1990s, and Jalal al-Husseini, associate researcher at French Institute for the Near East in Jordan, said some countries are still pressuring for a faster pace of internal reform.
Major changes in the past ten years include a decentralization that has allowed local offices to act with more autonomy, but UNRWA’s bureaucracy remains notoriously bloated.
UN Audits of UNRWA from the past three years show the organization accurately represents its finances, while, unsurprisingly, pointing out a cash flow problem.
The most recent available audit, from the year 2013, suggested improvements including changing how tenders are processed at the Amman office, and called for an anti-fraud policy document to guide staff in reporting suspected corruption.
Sari Hanafi, a sociologist at the American University of Beirut, called the agency a “huge bureaucratic machine” and proposed a more “participatory approach”.
He suggested a model developed in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. Faced with tough budget decisions and inequality, the region devolved authority over some of its budgets to residents. UNWRA’s role as a Palestinian agency – almost all the 30,000 strong UNRWA staff are refugees themselves – might make a more participatory approach realistic.
“It involves citizens in budgeting decisions, with the idea that they will make the hard decisions when they see what the options are,” he said. “With limited resources, involving people shows them where the money is coming from."
The radical options
There are even more radical solutions, which would likely involve a renegotiation of UNRWA’s mandate.
Among them has been phasing out services to the nearly two million Palestinian refugees who have become citizens of Jordan since 1948. This proposal was floated by James G. Lindsay, UNRWA general counsel from 2002-2007, in his 2009 report for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy - “Fixing UNRWA.”
Already hosting refugees from Iraq and Syria, it would place a heavy burden on Jordananian hospitals and schools. Lindsay, however, proposes this could be balanced with targeted foreign aid.
There are reasons to doubt such a solution is viable. For many Palestinians, the option is politically untenable. Many consider registration and affiliation with UNRWA as symbolic placeholder for the “right to return.” Likewise, while donor countries and Israel may have their disagreements with UNRWA, many see it as a stabilizing force and would probably object to a withdrawal from Jordan. As an important ally of Israel and the west that is facing its own battle with Islamic radicalisation, Jordan’s objections would likely be heard. For his part, Brynen calls the Jordan option “politically impossible.”
Lindsay also proposes a shift to needs testing for services, requiring Palestinians who can to pay for at least some of their education and health care. He writes that, “no justification exists for millions of dollars in humanitarian aid going to those who can afford to pay for UNRWA services.”
UNWRA rejected a draft of the report as a misunderstanding of the agency’s mandate.
But it is increasingly clear that if donors aren’t willing to reach deeper into their pockets each year, the 65-year-old UNRWA needs a profound rethink if it is to continue to serve a population still desperately in need.
UNICEF teams, supplies arrive in areas affected by new Ebola cases in Liberia
Source: UN Children's Fund
UNICEF has begun distributing emergency supplies in the affected communities, including tents for those under quarantine, hygiene kits and chlorine and buckets for handwashing.
MONROVIA/DAKAR/GENEVA, 3 July 2015 – Responding to Liberia’s first confirmed cases of Ebola in more than three months, UNICEF has begun distributing emergency supplies in the affected communities including tents for isolating those under quarantine, hygiene kits and chlorine and buckets for handwashing stations.
In Margibi County, where the body of a child tested positive for the virus on 29 June, UNICEF social mobilization teams are already on the ground conducting door-to-door awareness campaigns on Ebola prevention, to minimize the risk of further infections and to protect and assist those affected.
“There was always a risk that Ebola would return to Liberia. Now we have to put everything we have into getting back to zero cases,” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF’s Representative in Liberia. “The speed of the response to these cases shows that no one has let their guard down.”
In the coming days, the school that the victim attended will be decontaminated, new hygiene stations will be put in place, and soap and chlorine distributed. Handwashing stations provided by UNICEF were positioned at the entrance of all schools in Liberia when they re-opened after a six-month closure in February. UNICEF has worked with local authorities to keep them in place following the declaration on May 9 that the country was free from Ebola transmission.
UNICEF is also working with the government to ensure measures such as the taking of students’ temperatures when they arrive are in place.
“Liberia would not have been declared Ebola free in May without the knowledge and initiative of communities,” said Yett. “Those communities are again at the forefront of reinvigorated efforts to ensure that there are no new cases of this disease here.”
In neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone, new infections continue to be reported, though in much lower numbers than at the peak of the outbreak. In the week ending June 28, 12 new cases of Ebola were recorded in Guinea and eight in Sierra Leone.
Photos and b-roll from Ebola affected countries available at: http://uni.cf/1xZAb39
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Flash floods and deadly landslides leave hundreds of thousands stranded in Bangladesh
Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies
Since 24 June, torrential rains have set off flash floods and landslides in south-eastern districts. The floods drowned hundreds of villages and killed at least 19 people, stranding over 200,000.
By Himadri Ahsan, IFRC
Since 24 June, torrential rains in Bangladesh have set off flash floods and landslides in the low-lying areas in the south-eastern districts of Cox’ Bazar, Bandarban and Chittagong. The floods drowned hundreds of villages and killed at least 19 people, stranding over 200,000 according to the situation report published by the government’s Disaster Management Information Centre on June 28. The affected are facing a shortage of food supply, safe drinking water and are at the risk of being affected by water-borne diseases.
While the overall water level is decreasing in the affected regions, some areas are still experiencing waterlogging either because of a broken embankment or for being lower-lying lands. The affected population are currently in need of more food and safe drinking water, housing repair, tarpaulin for protection in this wet season, personal hygiene items and medical services.
The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society has been on the ground responding across the country since the floods began. The National Society’s branch office staff, youth volunteers and volunteers of the cyclone preparedness programme have reached over 2,000 families (approximately 10,000 people) in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban districts, providing them with search and rescue services, first aid, and dry and cooked food.
The Red Crescent is also collaborating with the World Food Programme to distribute biscuits to 30,000 families in Cox’s Bazar. The Red Crescent officials at these branches are currently seeking more funding to provide support to meet the pressing needs of thousands of flood victims in rural areas.
The International Federation of Red cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Bangladesh delegation is working closely with the Red Crescent to monitor the situation through local branches, weather updates from the Bangladesh Meteorological Department and reports published by the Disaster Management Information Centre.
“As the monsoon season extends up to October, the risk of more heavy rains and flooding also remains. We need to be ready with enough relief supplies locally to meet the humanitarian needs on the ground,” says David Philip John Easson, programme coordinator at the IFRC’s Bangladesh delegation.
Sky-rocketing food prices in South Sudan deepen food insecurity, raise new vulnerabilities
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization
Country: South Sudan
In the first half of 2015, the prices of basic food commodities in South Sudan consistently increased, resulting in a nearly 30 percent rise in the cost of the minimum expenditure food basket.
A major food crisis has enveloped South Sudan and continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate. In the first half of 2015, the prices of basic food commodities consistently increased, resulting in a nearly 30 percent rise in the cost of the minimum expenditure food basket. One worrying result is that now most urban poor people are spending up to 85 percent of their income on food, having an enormous impact on their food security.
FAO is supporting the relevant government institutions to enhance data collection, analysis and reporting on market trends in South Sudan through the programme Agriculture and Food Information Systems for Decision Support (AFIS), which is funded by the European Union and the Government of Australia. The programme’s activities facilitate a constant stream of basic data, such as price fluctuations in staple foods, which is used as the foundation for evidence-based decision-making.
Food prices this year are particularly critical to mitigate worsening food insecurity for millions of South Sudanese, including 4.6 million people in Integrated Food Security Phase Classification “Emergency” and “Crisis” phases. The urban poor – with their overdependence on markets coupled with insecure, inconstant and low-paying jobs – are the hardest hit by the recent economic crisis. An estimated 610 000 people, more than half concentrated in Juba and Wau, have severely undermined livelihoods.
Grace, 35, a mother of four, explains, “my cost of living in Juba has almost doubled. As a security guard I earn SSP 500 (USD 50) a month, and in December 2014 I could sell one of my goats and buy 71 kilos of maize flour, now it is only 38 kilos. Now I am spending all my income on food.”
AFIS’s recent analysis shows that prices have increased because import costs have soared, following significant devaluation of the local currency against the US Dollar. The official exchange rate is fixed at a constant SSP 2.95/USD, while the informal market exchange rate is on the downfall, currently at an all-time record low of SSP 10–17/USD.
South Sudan relies significantly on imported commodities from neighbouring Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. The devaluating local currency deters traders from importing cargo, paralyzing the supply chain network. This is compounded by high insecurity for traders and transporters moving goods along certain routes, which has significantly contributed to the food crisis.
Nearly 150 killed in suspected Boko Haram attacks in NE Nigeria
Source: Agence France-Presse
Suspected Boko Haram militants stormed three remote villages in the flashpoint Borno state on Wednesday evening, slaughtering residents and setting houses ablaze.
Maiduguri, Nigeria | AFP | Thursday 7/2/2015 - 17:49 GMT
by Bukar Hussain and Aminu Abubakar in Kano
Suspected Boko Haram militants killed nearly 150 people in northeastern Nigerian villages, mowing down men and children while they prayed in mosques and shooting women preparing food at home, witnesses said Thursday.
Dozens of militants stormed three remote villages in the flashpoint Borno state on Wednesday evening, slaughtering residents and setting houses ablaze in the bloodiest day of attacks by the extremist group since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in May.
Gunmen killed at least 97 people in Kukawa, the worst-affected village, a local who gave his name as Kolo and who said he had counted the bodies told AFP.
"They wiped out the immediate family of my uncle... They killed his children, about five of them, and set his entire house ablaze," Kolo said.
A fisherman who witnessed the attack corroborated the death toll.
Another witness in Kukawa, Babami Alhaji Kolo, who fled to the state capital Maiduguri, said more than 50 militants had stormed the village.
"The terrorists first descended on Muslim worshippers in various mosques who were observing the Maghrib prayer shortly after breaking their fast," he said.
"They...opened fire on the worshippers who were mostly men and young children.
"They spared nobody. In fact, while some of the terrorists waited and set most of the corpses on fire, others proceeded to houses and shot indiscriminately at women who were preparing food," he said.
In two other villages near the town of Monguno, meanwhile, gunmen killed 48 people and injured 11 others, local lawmaker Mohammed Tahir and witnesses told AFP.
"They selected particular male residents from among the crowd of worshippers... and opened fire on them before setting the two villages on fire and razing them to the ground," Tahir said.
Another resident who managed to escape said the militants arrived in vans and on motorcycles.
"They killed 48 people and injured several others but many of us managed to escape amid volleys of bullets," said the resident who asked not to be named for safety reasons.
Kukawa is around 50 kilometres away from the two villages near Monguno.
All three are located near Lake Chad, which straddles Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon and has been a focal point of the unrest.
Boko Haram has intensified its campaign of violence since Buhari came to power on May 29 vowing to crush the jihadists' bloody uprising that has claimed at least 15,000 lives.
Since then, some 400 people have been killed in attacks blamed on the extremists, who have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group, according to an AFP tally.
Boko Haram had captured scores of towns and villages in the northeast last year, but has since been pushed back by a four-nation military offensive that kicked off in February.
Despite their territorial losses, the insurgents have kept up their deadly raids, explosions and suicide attacks on "soft" targets such as markets and mosques.
A new regional fighting force comprising 8,700 troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin is due to deploy at the end of the month to try definitively end the insurgency.
But they will face huge challenges in countering the guerrilla tactics to which Boko Haram has increasingly resorted.
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse
Malian refugees in Mauritania at risk of increased malnutrition following cancelled food distributions
Source: Médecins Sans Frontières
Country: Mali, Mauritania
The cancellation of monthly food rations in July for 49,500 Malian refugees in Mbera Camp is likely to cause a rise in global acute malnutrition levels, warns Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
Bassikounou/Nouakchott - The cancellation of monthly food rations in July for 49,500 Malian refugees in Mbera Camp is likely to cause a rise in global acute malnutrition levels, warns Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which provides medical care and malnutrition support in the camp. MSF calls on the international donor community to ensure that refugees in Mbera camp have reliable sources of food.
The World Food Programme (WFP), faced with financial shortfalls, has been unable to secure financing for the general food distribution in July. Also UNHCR, which is responsible for the management of the refugee camp, insist they lack the funds to propose an alternative solution to the inevitable consequence of increased malnutrition.
This follows an already precarious situation where rice rations were cut from 12 kg per person to 5.4 kg in June, and the general food distribution was cancelled entirely in March, which then caused a surge in admissions of sick children to MSF therapeutic feeding programs from 30 in the month before the cancellation to 79 in the month following it.
“Global acute malnutrition in the camp was around twenty percent in 2012 when we first started its activities here,” said Dr. Mahama Gbané, MSF Medical Coordinator in Mauritania. “We’ve worked together with agencies like WFP to bring this down to an estimated nine percent. It would be tragic if we allowed the health of the most vulnerable to slip back to catastrophic levels.”
These refugees fled to Mauritania in 2012 when conflict engulfed northern Mali. Despite recent peace agreements signed by some armed opposition groups in Mali, people still do not feel safe to return home. Since 2012, their survival in the desert, where temperatures reach 50°C and sandstorms are common, has largely depended on humanitarian assistance. A number of the refugees have managed to keep livestock, but successive droughts have drastically depleted the residual pasture for grazing animals across the Sahel. Recent attacks and pillaging of towns and villages in northern Mali has increased fears that it will be a long time before refugees will feel safe enough to return to their homeland.
“People have tried to grow food in community gardens, but the scorching heat, blowing sand, and insects have destroyed most of the crops” said Maya Walet Mohamed, leader of the women’s committee in the camp. “The timing of the gap in food distributions is all the more cruel because people are already fasting during daylight hours for the month of Ramadan, and now they have little food to break their fast at sunset”.
Three years into their exile, most refugees have sold what little they had left to trade for alternative sources of food, namely meat and milk – the staples of the traditional nomadic diet which are not part of the WFP’s distributions. This back-up source of food is now scarce. “This is critical for us as well as the Mauritanian people, because the animals are dying or worthless because of the droughts,” added Maya.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people in roughly 70 countries that are affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare.
MSF started working in Mauritania in 1994. Today, 370 aid workers support the Mauritanian health ministry by providing free services including primary care, emergency surgery, and sexual and reproductive health care in the country’s south-eastern region including Mbera refugee camp, in Bassikounou and in Fassala.
Thousands forced to evacuate as severe floods hit Rakhine State
Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies
An estimated 13,000 people are affected by the floods, with over 8,500 evacuated so far. The state of Rakhine is the worst-hit, with 11,500 people affected and five deaths reported.
By Ika Koeck
Over the past several days, increasing heavy rains have caused severe flooding in the western state of Rakhine, Myanmar, destroying nearly 200 homes and causing serious damage to another hundred across four townships. During the first few days of the flooding, around 1,500 people were evacuated, and about 300 of the displaced continued to stay at camps for several days as the water receded. To date, the Asean Coordinating Centre For Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre) estimates that 13,000 people were affected by the floods, with over 8,500 evacuated so far. The state of Rakhine is the worst-hit, with 11,500 people affected and five deaths reported.
“The figures are expected to increase in the coming days, as Red Cross assessment teams access remote areas of Rakhine affected by the flooding,” explains U Maung Maung Khin, head of disaster management for the Myanmar Red Cross Society.
Currently the Myanmar Red Cross is working alongside local authorities to assist affected communities. Red Cross volunteers are evacuating families to safety, distributing food and water, and first aid kits in Buthidaung township which include blankets, mosquito nets, basic kitchen utensils and other essential items. Further relief stocks will be distributed in the coming days in the township of Thandwe.
“The floods have triggered landslides in some areas. It impacts access to roads and bridges, so unfortunately it hinders our relief efforts, but we are also used to these challenges,” adds U Maung Maung Khin. “We will continue to do our best to those who are in need of help,” he says.
The Department of Meteorology and Hydrology of Myanmar has forecasted more rains in the coming days, which may prolong flooding in the affected areas.
Huge opportunities for agricultural growth in West Africa
Source: African Development Bank, ECOWAS, Food and Agriculture Organization
Country: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, World
New report by ADB, FAO and ECOWAS sees regional integration as the best way to make the most of changing food patterns and dynamic populations in West Africa.
2 July 2015, Rome - West Africa has unprecedented opportunities for agricultural growth, but making the most of them will require more effective regional integration, says a new report by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
To be competitive with large global actors, West African agriculture needs to capture some of the economies of scale that those countries enjoy in the markets for fertilizers and seeds as well as in agricultural research and technology development, adds the report.
While important progress towards regional integration has been made over the past two decades, effective implementation at national level has remained a challenge, as evidenced by roadblocks and trade bans hindering intraregional trade, along with continued use of disparate national standards for seeds and fertilizers despite regionally agreed-upon common protocols.
The report, "Agricultural Growth in West Africa: Market and Policy Drivers" (AGWA), comes at a time of great dynamism in the patterns of food demand in Africa.
West Africa's population, now 300 million, is expected to grow to 490 million by 2030. The subregion is already the most urbanized part of Sub-Saharan Africa, with nearly half the population living in urban centres, and the urban population is projected to continue to grow at a rate of 3.8 percent per year between 2015 and 2030.
That, along with an expanding middle class, is catalysing greater diversity in consumer food demands, with convenience, nutritional quality, food safety and presentation gaining importance alongside affordability. Serving this growing demand provides great opportunities for value addition, job creation, economic integration and diversification and import substitution, says the report.
Many West African countries have been increasingly relying on food imports to meet their burgeoning urban food markets, reflecting the inability of their domestic food value chains to meet the evolving consumer demand in terms of quality, volumes, prices and consistency of supply.
A growing proportion of the West African population is made up of net food buyers who spend large shares of their incomes on food. The only way to ensure these consumers' access to low-priced food while simultaneously enhancing producers' incomes is through raising productivity and efficiency throughout the agrifood system. Achieving these gains in efficiency and productivity requires a more stable and predictable policy environment, refocussing of public investments on the critical building blocks for sustainable long-term growth, and stepping up implementation capacity.
Adding more value after harvest
The report stresses that while increasing agricultural yields is essential, more attention needs to be placed on the downstream segment of the agrifood system: assembly, storage, processing, wholesaling and retail.
For example, domestic food processing companies often prefer to import raw materials such as fruit juice concentrate, wheat and vegetable oil rather than sourcing them domestically or developing substitutes based on local raw materials because local supply chains are too weak and fragmented to provide them reliably.
Appropriate policies will vary by country and market segment, but broad efforts to upgrade small and medium enterprises in food processing should be a policy priority, along with strengthening the linkages between market-oriented family farms and their organizations with agribusiness of all sizes to enhance access to markets, inputs and support services. Special attention should be placed in supporting women entrepreneurs, who play a key role in the agrifood system from farming through retail, and to youth.
As the post-harvest segments of the agrifood system grow ever-more important, addressing the varied demands on the system will require going beyond the traditional mandates of Ministries of Agriculture to focus on interconnections among issues as diverse as research, transport investments, trade policies, and nutrition education.
The report contains in-depth analysis highlighting these interconnections. For example, transport prices for farm produce in West Africa are much higher than in other developing regions, hampering intraregional trade and harming producers and consumers alike. Addressing this situation requires a combination of measures ranging from investments in road infrastructure through improved road governance to reforming trucking regulations to instill greater competition.
More public goods, fewer subsidies
Based on a detailed analysis of the drivers and trends shaping the development of West Africa's agrifood system and the system's response so far, the study identifies key implications for policies and agricultural investments. These findings will help inform the deliberations on and new orientations of "ECOWAP-10", ECOWAS' forthcoming update to the current West African agriculture policy, ECOWAP/CAADP.
Improving the mix of public investments in agriculture in the region is as important as increasing their level, the report finds. It encourages governments to shift spending towards public goods such as roads, reliable electricity supply, research and schooling rather than towards subsidizing private goods such as fertilizer and tractors.