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Friday:  August 15, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Dadaab (2)

Monday
Oct032011

Africa's Famine: Seeing is Believing (REPORT) 

By Peter Greste in Africa

Dadaab Refugee Camp, KENYA - As with most natural disasters, numbers swirl around the drought on the Horn of Africa like so many dust particles. 

They float up from the tyres of aid agency Land Cruisers in great billowing clouds; they blow in from donor conferences like a sandstorm sweeping in from the east; they get in your eyes, and cloud the air making it almost impossible to see through the statistics and understand what is really going on.

Consider a few of the big ones: in Somalia alone, four million people are still starving nationwide; three million of those live in the South. Of these, 750,000 people risk death in the next four months if they do not get aid immediately. 

According to the United Nations agency responsible for monitoring food supplies in Somalia, almost half a million children are suffering from "severe acute malnutrition". About 75 per cent of those are also in the south. 

More than 900,000 Somalis are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries - 90 per cent of them in Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia and Djibouti. The Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya - already the biggest in the world - has 450,000 of them, and will almost certainly reach half a million by the end of the year. In Ethiopia, the camp in Dolo Ado has taken in 83,000 refugees in the last nine months. 

UN-estimated mortality rates among children under five are alarmingly high, with an average of 15.43 deaths per 10,000 individuals daily, well above the famine threshold of two deaths per 10,000 people per day.

The numbers are of course vital in describing the vast scale of this crisis. Without them, the logisticians trying to deal with it would never be able to get a handle on their jobs. 

But once you get on the ground and start seeing those towering numbers in terms of real people with tragic stories, the fog starts to clear a little, and you begin to get a sense of what it means in human terms.

'Tragedy and loss'

Think a bit more about those last set of figures. If you were in southern Somalia, and your five-year-old child was in a school of a thousand other children, malnutrition would be killing one or two of their classmates every single day. It would probably be only a matter of days before a friend of your child's would be among the dead. 

In just two months, 90 would have died, and at that rate there is a one-in-ten chance that your own child would have been among them. And that is just amongst the under-fives. When you consider the impact of this famine on the old and the frail; on illnesses attacking those with immune systems already weak with hunger; on the consequences of exhausting treks through the desert, death comes to almost every family in one way or another; often many times over.

This is not hypothetical. It is true of almost every one of the thousand people who walk into Dadaab every single day. 

Each has a name and a face and a chilling story of tragedy and loss.

Consider 70-year-old Rahma Ali Hussein and her sister Fatuma Mursal, who thinks she is 90. They lived with their extended family in Dinsor in the Bay region of southern Somalia. Like farmers everywhere, they hung on to the land, hoping they would be able to survive until the drought broke. 

But the al-Shabab fighters, who still govern over much of southern Somalia, kept out most donors and kept in civilians who wanted to flee. One by one, Rahma's and Fatuma's relatives died, until all that remained were the two resilient old sisters, their granddaughter, her child, and a couple of goats.

'Colossal' price

That was when they decided they had no choice but to risk al-Shabab's checkpoints and walk with the goats to Dadaab in neighbouring Kenya. Neither knew how far it was, but it would be two and a half months on foot before they would reach the refugee camp.

Once they arrived, they joined a queue, registered their presence, received a package of food and added their names to the refugee statistics.

I met them as another group of local refugees who had formed their own aid agency, replaced the tattered rags they arrived in with a new set of clothes and a few shreds of dignity. They told their story matter-of-factly, with flat unemotional voices as though it was not unusual; and in a way they were right. 

Their tale - or variations of it - has been repeated hundreds of thousands of times across the region, and so because of that, outsiders tend to see each one as nothing remarkable.

That seems to miss the point completely; the extraordinary thing is just how many of those tales are piled one on top of the other in a heap so big that it becomes impossible to see the detail. In the end, our eyes glaze over, we lose sight of what it all means and wind up looking only at colossal numbers again.

Of course, sometimes the numbers do reveal something important, and here is one set we ought to consider. In the summary of the same UN report that detailed the statistics I began with, there is a graph that compares the amount of money the UN reckons it needs for a particular part of the crisis, with the amount actually donated.

The numbers show that international donors have promised 119 per cent of the amount they need for food assistance - a lot more than is actually needed.

Almost all of the emergency food goes to distribution points in centres like Mogadishu and Daddab - places that draw people away from their homes and their fields, into huge camps where they are easy to reach. But food aid is high profile; it looks good on television news programmes at home, and often the money gets spent in the donors' own country buying food from farmers with their own powerful domestic lobbies.

But for less visible things like assistance for agriculture or education in Somalia that would actually encourage people to stay in their homes and so recover once the crisis has passed, the UN has received 29 per cent and 18 per cent respectively. 

For once, the numbers appear to speak for themselves.

Originally published by Al Jazeera under Creative Commons Licensing  

Friday
Aug052011

Famine in Somalia: Children Pay the Greatest Price (NEWS BRIEF) 

(HN, August 5, 2011) The International Red Cross is asking for $86 million in donations to help feed the people of Somalia.

Many Somalis, starving and searching for safety, are risking their lives to get to camps which are now spreading all over the capital of Mogadishu. Others continue to cross into Kenya and taking up residence in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp which is currently home to 420,000 people. It’s official capacity is 90,000.

Children are paying the greatest price in this crisis. The United Nations says 640,000 children are acutely malnourished and calculates that, in the worst hit areas, ten percent of children under the age of 5 could perish in the coming weeks.

The U.S. estimates the drought and famine in Somalis have killed more than 29,000 children under the age of 5 in the last 90 days in southern Somalia alone.

World Food Program Executive Director, Josette Sheeren, warned in a article published on the WFP site on July 24th that “In the Horn (of Africa), we could lose a generation. Those that survive could be affected deeply” she said. It is particularly critical for young children to get the nutrition they need as their brains develop.  

To make matters worse access to aid is a huge problem in Somalia. David Orr, of the WFP told Al Jazeera that the largest problem continues to be access – “the worst of the famine, which is in the south is very difficult area to access”.

The access to aid is primarily impeded by the hardline Islamic militant group al-Shabaab, whose control of much of southern Somalia and ties to al-Qaeda discourages Western aid.

The U.N. refugee agency reported on Friday that al-Shabaab is boosting its ranks in the region by giving people money at a time of rising food prices and as other options dwindle for Somali families who cannot find handouts or afford to pay for food themselves.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State  Hillary Clinton called on the militant organization al-Shabaab, which controls much of the southern section of Somalia, to offer Western aid workers “unfettered access” to more than three million famine victims.

On Friday Hillary Clinton said Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, will visit Kenya this weekend to lead a U.S. fact-finding mission to East Africa to see what more America can do help victims of the famine sweeping the region.

The foreign minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoglu, called for an urgent meeting of Muslim nations to discuss the famine in Africa. He said the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation could meet in Istanbul or in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, to discuss the crisis.  

 -      To help and learn more about aid needed in Somalia and the Horn of Africa click here and here

 -      HUMNews Staff