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Wednesday: April 2, 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 Somalia (26)

Wednesday
May232012

Malaria spread feared as WHO releases action plan to tackle global spread of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes (REPORT) 

(Video World Malaria Day, 2012/WHO)

By Amy Maxmen

The war to bring malaria to heel has made slow but steady progress during the past decade, with the overall mortality rate dropping by more than 25% since 2000. A key factor in this progress has been improved control of mosquitoes, which transmit the Plasmodium parasite — a potent killer that claimed an estimated 655,000 lives in 2010 alone. But health officials fear that the spread of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes could bring about a resurgence of the disease. To help combat this threat, on May 15, the World Health Organization (WHO), based in Geneva, Switzerland, issued a strategic plan to curb the spread of resistance.

“We don’t want to wait for failures to happen,” says David Brandling-Bennett, the senior adviser for infectious diseases at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington, who advised on the document.

Such failures could reverse the recent drop in malaria mortality credited to insecticide spraying in the home and coating of bed nets, which save about 220,000 children’s lives each year, according to the WHO. Insecticide resistance could also result in as many as 26 million further cases a year, the organization predicts, costing an extra US $30 million to $60 million annually for tests and medicines.

The WHO report says that insecticide-resistant mosquitoes already inhabit 64 malaria-ridden countries (see map).

The problem is particularly acute in sub-Saharan African countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia and Uganda, where mosquitoes are frequently resistant to compounds known as pyrethroids and even to the organochloride DDT, venerable tools of mosquito control. Because they are extremely safe for children, effective against mosquitoes and affordable, pyrethroids are the only insecticides used to treat bed nets, as well as the first choice for household spraying.

Health authorities in Somalia, Sudan and Turkey have also reported sporadic resistance to the two other classes of insecticides recommended by the WHO for safe and effective household spraying: carbamates and organophosphates. Resistance has probably evolved several times independently, and is now spreading as extensive use of pyrethroids and other insecticides favors resistant mosquitoes. “In 2004, there were pockets of resistance in Africa, and now there are pockets of susceptibility,” says Janet Hemingway, chief executive of the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC), a product-development partnership based in the United Kingdom.

(MAP: Global malaria map, 2012/WHO) Among other things, the WHO recommends rotating the classes of pesticides used to spray houses, and developing safe and effective non-pyrethroid insecticides that can be used to treat bed nets. To implement all of the WHO’s suggestions would cost $200 million - on top of the $6 billion that the WHO requested last year to fund existing malaria-control programs. Rob Newman, director of the Global Malaria Program at the WHO, hopes that the report will draw more funds to the table as donors grasp the situation. “If we can stop pyrethroid resistance from spreading, it will be cheaper in the long run,” Newman says.

“In 2004, there were pockets of resistance in Africa, and now there are pockets of susceptibility.”

But the two largest players in malaria aid - the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) - have not yet pledged additional money to fight resistance. Their spending on mosquito control is already high - in 2009, 39% of the Global Fund’s malaria expenditures went towards insecticide-treated bed nets and household spraying, as did 59% of the PMI’s in 2010.  

For now, pyrethroids are the only class of insecticides approved by the WHO for bed nets, and where spraying is concerned they are less costly than the alternatives. Vestergaard Frandsen, a company based in Lausanne, Switzerland, says that it has in the pipeline a bed net coated with a non-pyrethroid insecticide - one that does not belong to any of the four WHO-approved classes - and that the company expects to bring this to market within the next five years. It is also one of several companies partnering with the IVCC to create innovative mosquito-control products.

(PHOTO: Malaria `home test'/NoProphalactics)In the meantime, health officials may be able to keep malaria at bay by swapping insecticides. The report notes that in Colombia, for instance, mosquitoes regained susceptibility to pyrethroids after five years of treatment with an organophosphate. But some African countries lack the surveillance needed to spur such an approach. To address that deficiency, the report urges that a global database be set up to track the spread of resistance, and that entomologists be trained and hired at surveillance stations. That could prove the most challenging goal of all.

“Nobody wants to fund capacity building,” says Newman. “Donors would rather say they purchased $10,000 in bed nets than pay a salary.”

African ministers of health realize the need to manage resistance but can’t do much without outside funds, explains Maureen Coetzee, a medical entomologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. “In some countries, malaria control means one person sitting in one room, and he’s lucky if he’s got a chair,” she says.

- This report originally appeared by Amy Maxmen at Nature.

Thursday
Apr052012

The Dangers of Journalism (REPORT) 

(Video 25 years of Reporters Without Borders)

(HN, 4/5/12) - Yesterday's suicide bombing at the newly opened National Theater of Somalia is now believed to have killed four people, including the nation's Olympics chief and FIFA head among them; just as a ceremony began in celebration of the Somali National Television's one-year anniversary.

It was meant  to be a moment of lightness in the much darkness Somalia has experienced in 25-plus years of unrest, famine, and chaos.

It also - again - highlighted the dangerous situations global journalists contend with - even at an afternoon cultural event - to tell the story.

(PHOTO: Advocates in Sri Lanka/JNEWS) Journalism, on any stage, is never safe.

Various reports say that at least 10 journalists - four of them women - were seriously injured when the blast ripped through the  theater 5 minutes into a speech by the Somali Prime Minister, Abdiwelli Mohamed.

Witnesses said they believed the bomber had been a female who mingled with the crowd before detonating. The explosion killed 4 people.  The nation's Olympics chief and FIFA head among them.

The Al-Shabaab militant group has taken responsibility.

The hurt reporters are named as (SEE PHOTOS HERE):  Said Shire Warsame of Shabelle TV, Ahmed Ali Kahiye of Radio Kulmiye; Ayaan Abdi (female) of S24 TV/Somalie 24  and Hamdi Mohamed Hassan Hiis (female) of Somali Channel TV; Deeqa Mohamed (female) of the state-run Radio Mogadishu/ Radio Mogadiscio; Mohamed Noor and Mohamed Sharif of Radio Bar-kulan; Somali National Television staffers and Abdulkadir Mohamed Hassan, and freelance journalists Suleiman Sheikh Ismail and Mulki Hassan Haile (female) of Royal TV.

Reporters Without Borders in Paris said, “We condemn this despicable attack in the strongest possible terms and our thoughts are with the many victims,”

By all accounts, being `on assignment' can sometimes mean life or death for a journalist - and not always glamorous. 

DEATH AND IMPRISONMENT

In its annual "Attacks on the Press" report, the New York-based Committee  to Protect Journalists (CPJ) detailed intimidation and deaths to journalists. 

Imprisonments of reporters worldwide shot up more than 20% to its highest level since the mid-1990s in 2011, according to the annual survey - an increase driven largely by widespread jailings across the Middle East and North Africa;  finding, 179 writers, editors, and photojournalists behind bars on December 1.  More than 34 higher than in 2010.

Additionally Iran was the world’s worst jailer, with 42 journalists behind bars. Eritrea, China, Burma, Vietnam, Syria, and Turkey also ranked among the world’s worst.

Losing their lives in 2011 were 46 journalists who were killed in the line of work around the world - undertaking dangerous assignments such as covering street protests and civil strife which reached a record level last year (2 more than 2010) as political unrest swept the Arab world. 

Reporters Without Borders puts that number at 66; and a tally by Switzerland Press Emblem Campaign says the total is as high as 106.

Photographers and camera operators made up about 40% of the overall death toll and noted an increase in the deaths of Internet journalists - who rarely have appeared in the totals before - with nine killed last year.

(Video of the moment of blast in Somalia yesterday, captured - via The Guardian)

BY  GEOGRAPHY 

Country-by-country, in 2011, Pakistan had the most deaths with seven, while Libya and Iraq followed with five each, and Mexico had three.

So far in 2012, the most hazardous duty ranks are:  Syria- 7, Somalia-3, India-2, Nigeria-2, Thailand-1, Pakistan-1, Brazil-2, Bangladesh-2, Afghanistan-1, Philippines-1

By all accounts approximately 22 journalists have died this year alone.  

They are:

Ali Ahmed Abdi, Radio Galkayo, Puntlandi - 3/4/12 in Galkayo, Somalia

Rajesh Mishra, Media Raj - 3/4/12 in Rewa, India

Abukar Hassan Mohamoud, Somaliweyn Radio - 2/28/12 in Mogadishu, Somalia

Anas al-Tarsha, Freelance - 2/24/12 in Homs, Syria

Rémi Ochlik, Freelance - 2/22/12 in Homs, Syria

Marie Colvin, Sunday Times - 2/22/12 in Homs, Syria

Rami al-Sayed, Freelance - 2/21/12 in Homs, Syria

Mario Randolfo Lopes, Vassouras na Net - 2/9/12 in Barra do Piraí, Brazil

Mazhar Tayyara, Freelance - 2/4/12 in Homs, Syria

Hassan Osman Abdi, Shabelle Media Network - 1/28/12 in Mogadishu, Somalia

Enenche Akogwu, Channels TV - 1/20/12 in Kano, Nigeria

Mukarram Khan Aatif, Freelance - 1/17/12 in Shabqadar, Pakistan

Wisut "Ae" Tangwittayaporn, Inside Phuket - 1/12/12 in Phuket, Thailand

Gilles Jacquier, France 2  - 1/11/12 in Homs, Syria

Samid Khan Bahadarzai, Melma Radio - 2/21/12  in Orgun, Afghanistan

Chandrika Rai, Navbharat, The Hitavada - 2/18/12 in Umaria, India

Paulo Roberto Rodrigues, Jornal Da Praça, Mercosul - 2/12/12 in Ponta Porá, Brazil

Meherun Runi, ATN Bangla Television - 2/1112 in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Golam Mustofa Sarowar, Maasranga Television - 2/11/12 in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Nansok Sallah, Highland FM - 1/18/12 in Jos, Nigeria

Christopher Guarin, Radyo Mo Nationwide/Tatak - 1/5/12 in General Santos City, Philippines

Shukri Abu al-Burghul, Al-Thawra/Radio Damascus - 1/3/12 in Damascus, Syria

-- HUMNEWS

Friday
Mar022012

UN-Leashing the Power of Women (REPORT) 

(PHOTO: Kate Holt, IRIN) (HN, March 2, 2012) -- This week, the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women opened on Monday at United Nations Headquarters in New York. It's special focus? The development of `Rural Women'. 

For the next two weeks, leaders - men and women alike - are meeting  to focus on women's visibility, contributions, and empowerment, in poverty and hunger eradication, development, climate change adaptation, conflict resolution, gender inequality, technology and energy access, and ending female genital mutilation and sex slavery.

The session, led by Chile's former President and UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, is also preparing the agenda for the UN Rio+20 Conference that Brazil will host in June. The Commission was established by ECOSOC resolution 11, June 21, 1946; just a year after the signing of the UN Charter in San Francisco in 1945. Of the 160 signatories, only 4 were women - Minerva Bernardino (Dominican Republic), Virginia Gildersleeve (United States), Bertha Lutz (Brazil) and Wu Yi-Fang (China).

(PHOTO: Minerva Bernardino/Archive) The Commission's mandate was expanded in 1987 to include the functions of promoting the objectives of equality, development and peace at the national, sub regional, regional and global levels. Following the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, the General Assembly mandated the Commission to integrate into its program a follow-up process to the Conference, regularly reviewing the critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action and to develop its catalytic role in mainstreaming a gender perspective in United Nations activities.

45 member states of the UN serve as members of the Commission at any one time. The Commission consists of one representative from each country elected by the Council on the basis of equitable geographical distribution: 13 members from Africa; 11 from Asia; 9 from Latin America and Caribbean; 8 from Western Europe and other States and 4 from Eastern Europe. Members are elected for a period of 4 years(SEE BELOW FOR FULL LIST)

In her opening speech to delegates, UN Deputy Secretary General Aisha-Rose Migiro welcomed attendees from around the world which included government officials, rural women, representatives of the UN and civil society; the media and the private sector to review progress, share experiences, good practices, analyze gaps and agree on actions to empower rural women.

(PHOTO: Opening session of the 56th UN Women's Conference/UN News Centre) Migiro, called for `systematic and comprehensive strategies' to empower women and girls in rural areas as `key agents of change' by maximizing their `potential to combat extreme poverty and hunger for themselves'.   "If rural women had equal access to productive resources", she said, "Agricultural yields would rise and hunger would decline".

Further, "They are leaders, producers, entrepreneurs and service providers, and their contributions are vital to the well-being of families, communities and economies, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals".

World population demographics put the number of women and men in the world as roughly equal (with men just slightly ahead by a few hundred million). The idea is that women are becoming the most effective catalysts of sustainable development, and they must be supported.  

Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), said empowering women, "Requires a transformation in the way governments devise budgets and make and enforce laws, policies and land rights; including trade and agricultural policies, and how businesses invest and operate.  Private sector partnerships are crucial”, she said.

"Let us be clear. This is not just hurting the women.  It is hurting all of us”, said Bachelet.  "It's a matter of human rights, equality and justice on behalf of women.  

According to a UN Women's report released last week, rural women and girls comprise 1 in 4 people worldwide and they constitute a large share of the agricultural workforce.

(PHOTO: UN Multimedia) The gathering squarely noted that not only do women face gender inequality - despite progress; they also face blowback from Mother Nature too. How to bring women online while also creating sustainable solutions is a major focus of the conference.   

Some 86% of the global rural population of both genders derives a livelihood from agriculture,  with an estimated 1.3 billion people engaged in small scale farming or working as `landless laborers'.  Increasingly, almost 70% of agriculture laborers are women, producing the majority of global food grown; while playing key roles in rural economic activities, such as planting crops, saving seeds and selling their produce. Not to mention, performing virtually 100% of household labor.

In South Sudan, women farmers are working with a host of civil society groups like the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Norwegian People's Aid, Catholic Relief Services and Concern Worldwide, organizing themselves to engage in climate-resilient crop production and sustainable pursuits like goat rearing and bee keeping.  The women grow food drought-tolerant crops such as cereals, legumes, sorghum, bulrush or pearl millet and vegetables in order to improve their children’s overall nutrition and bring in a small, market-based income.

In Mexico, rural women have organized themselves to struggle against financial and environmental crises. In many cases, local NGOs have assisted in this process by building formal structures and developing capacities.  39% of Mexican households are rural.

(GRAPH: Poverty in the world, darker is worse/PRB.ORG)But still, generally worldwide, women continue to face lower mobility, less access to training, market information, and financial resources.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, rural women can tap just 5% of the services and facilities  including bank credits, public services, welfare, employment and the market; a mere 3% of the $7.5bn in official allocations for rural advancement and agriculture between 2008-2009 were assigned to gender equity.  Additionally, rural women constitute one-fourth of the world’s population and while women have equal property ownership rights in 115 countries and have equal inheritance rights in 93, gender disparities in land holdings persist worldwide."

The conference platform posits that if rural women had equal access to productive tools such as seeds, tools, and fertilizer; and laws were loosened -  agricultural yields would rise by up to 4% and there would be 100 million to 150 million fewer hungry people worldwide.  

Mobile is Key

Mobile phones are changing lives and strengthening economic enterprises, providing information about credit, markets, weather updates, transportation or health services - changing the way rural women and men obtain services and conduct business. 

In a recent global survey, 93% of women reported feeling safer because of their mobile phone, 85% reported feeling more independent, and 41% reported having increased income and professional opportunities.

(PHOTO: UNH WC Superhero/UNH) Sisters Doing it For Themselves

Women on the ground in the global South aren't waiting. They are already busy deploying a combination of indigenous techniques and adaptive agricultural methods to stave off the impacts of climate change, and in June on the eve of the Rio+20 Summit, UN Women will join the Government of Brazil in convening a high-level meeting on women and sustainable development.

It All Starts With Education

"Women make up more than two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people," the UN said and, "Just 39% of rural girls attend secondary school". Far fewer than rural boys (45%), urban girls (59%) and urban boys (60%).  A lack of a high school education can mean poverty and even earlier death, and even a lack of local schools is a reason fewer girls attend high school. 

"Data from 68 countries indicates that a woman’s education is a key factor in determining a child’s survival," according to UN statistics. "Every additional year of primary school increases girls’ eventual wages by 10–20 percent. It also encourages them to marry later and have fewer children, and leaves them less vulnerable to violence."

(GRAPH: Girls, Women global education levels/PRB.ORG) If Women Ruled The World There Would Be No War

In a study of 24 major peace processes since 1992, UN Women  found that women composed only 2.5% of peace signatories, 3.2% of mediators, 5.5% of witnesses and 7.6% of negotiators.  

War is always most devastating to women and children who are often the victims of rape, abuse, and sexual slavery during and after conflict.   But when women's interests are not represented at the negotiation tables, in the post-resolution restructuring process, or in the governance bodies established after the war, the interests of children and families are almost always omitted from discussions.  The UN recognized this 12 years ago when it voted to "ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels; urging governments to `adopt a `gender perspective'".

For instance, in Egypt, rural women are receiving identity cards so they can obtain social services, and are able to vote and can have a say in shaping the future of their country.  In India, more than a million women are now members of local village councils.  This has changed their lives for the better, and also the lives around them.

(PHOTO: Martine Perret)From Costa Rica to Rwanda, where quotas have been used, more women are in positions of decision-making. They are using their voices to secure land rights, to understand political processes, to engage with governance and policy issues, to tackle domestic violence, to improve healthcare and employment, and to demand accountability.  

But in other parts of the world, a recent study which covered 17 countries in Asia and the Pacific showed that the proportion of elected representatives in rural councils who are women ranged only from 0.6 percent to 37%.

In her speech UN Women's Bachelet pointed the finger at her own organization, the UN too, saying, "Here in the United Nations, we must lead by example. From 2007 through 2010, the UN experienced an unprecedented increase in women at the most senior levels - from 17% to 29% at the Under-Secretary-General level, and from 20% to 25% at the Secretariat at the Assistant Secretary General level".

Last December the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling on Member States to take concrete steps to increase the political participation and leadership of women, including the follow through on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the International Labor Organization conventions,  the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Beijing Platform for Action, and the report on the Social Protection Floor, that UN Women launched last year.

(PHOTO: FAO) Still, despite all the progress of the global women's empowerment movement, many conference speakers have lamented the need to `reality-check' the situation by reminding delegates that currently in the world: "925 million people were chronically hungry, of whom 60 percent were women.  Moreover, 884 million people in the world lack access to potable drinking water; 2.6 billion people do not have access to sufficient sanitation facilities; and 1 billion people do not have adequate access to roads and transportation systems."

What future will we leave our children?

The African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) is a bold political initiative that aims to put women at the centre of development on the continent. Launched in Nairobi, Kenya, in October 2010, with roots traceable to the UN First World Conference on Women, held in Mexico City in 1975. However, the disheartening reality is that very few women in Africa actually know about the Women’s Decade and the policies set out to be implemented during this decade.   

What's clear from this 56th Conference on Women is that women worldwide want change, they want to have their voice be heard, and they are impatient for equality and solutions to their own problems.  Out of sheer survival, many women are taking circumstance into their own hands and making progress despite the world.

Because these life situations, cannot stand:  In Afghanistan - 87% of women are illiterate; in  Pakistan 90% of women face domestic violence and more than 1,000 women and girls are victims of honor killings every year according to the Human Rights Commission.  In the DRC  420,000 women are raped every year; while in India, 100 million people, mostly woman and girls are victims of traffickers.

Before they go though from UN Headquarters next week, the commission will agree on urgent actions needed to make a real difference in the lives of millions of rural women by making recommendations for other policy forums, such as the Rio+20 and, they will celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th.  A celebration indeed.  

Full List of Current UN Women's Commission Members:

Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Central African Republic, China, Colombia, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Guinea, Haiti, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Liberia, Libya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Philippines, South Korea, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Thailand, US, Uruguay, Zimbabwe.

---- HUMNEWS (c) 2012

Wednesday
Feb292012

UK Takes the Lead in Somalia (PERSPECTIVE) 

By Francis Njubi Nesbitt

British Prime Minister David Cameron (R) takes part in a round table discussion at 10 Downing Street in London, as he meets members of the London Somali community. 

The much-ballyhooed conference on Somalia hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron on February 23 was long on grandstanding but short on new substance. The meeting was clearly more about crowning a new leader (Britain) and celebrating the limited military successes against Islamist militants than about building a foundation for peace.

Conference attendees included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Presidents Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, and other dignitaries from 40 countries. Also represented were regional organizations such as the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the European Union. Notable newcomers to the Somalia scene included Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

According to Cameron, the purpose of the conference was to build on the momentum gained by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which has retaken most of Mogadishu from the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab militants on behalf of the Transitional Federal Government. Britain has recently taken the lead in the international campaign to stabilize Somalia. On February 1, Britain announced that it had appointed the first envoy to Somalia in 21 years. Foreign Secretary William Hague said on a visit to Somalia on February 2 that dozens of British citizens were attending al-Shabaab terrorist training camps in Somalia. Hague said it was only a matter of time before the militants strike in Britain.  He said that the objective of the London conference was to “strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation to make it easier for countries in the region to disrupt terrorist networks” and restrict their movements and financing.

Peace enforcement

The most important outcome actually came the day before the conference when the UN Security Council expanded the mandate of the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM). UNSC Resolution 2036, which the UK proposed, raised AMISOM’s troop strength to 17, 731 and authorized its troops to pursue rebels outside the capital city of Mogadishu. The resolution authorized AMISOM to “take all necessary means to reduce the threat posed by Shabaab and other armed opposition groups in order to establish conditions for effective and legitimate governance across Somalia.” It also doubled AMISOM’s budget from $250 million to $550 million. The UN funds the mission with most of the support coming from the EU.

(PHOTO: Horn of Africa/NASA)This expanded mandate means that AMISOM has essentially moved from peacekeeping to peace enforcement. Its initial peacekeeping mandate limited AMISOM to self-defense and the defense of the Transition Federal Government’s offices in a small part of the capital, Mogadishu. This meant that its troops were not allowed to take offensive action unless directly attacked. The limited mandate and lack of troops and resources limited its effectiveness. Its designation as a peacekeeping mission was also problematic in the sense that there was no peace to keep. The current mandate, therefore, makes more sense. The question is, however, whether the expansion will include enablers such as attack helicopters that would extend the reach of AMISOM outside the capital city.

Most of the additional troops come from the re-hatting of Kenyan troops who invaded southern Somalia in October after a rash of kidnappings of tourists at coastal resorts near the Kenya-Somalia border. The goal was to create a buffer zone along the border to stop frequent cross-border incursions by Somali militants. The problem, however, was that Kenya lacks the resources to fund an extended occupation. The re-hatting, therefore, lifted a heavy burden. Henceforth, AMISOM’s funders at the UN and the EU will pay for the costs of the occupation, including the Kenyan troops’ salaries.

Piracy

Cameron also highlighted the issue of piracy. He called on the international community to maintain pressure on Somali pirates by stepping up maritime security patrols and prosecuting suspects. He praised Tanzania, Seychelles, and Mauritius for agreeing to imprison pirates arrested by western militaries in the Indian Ocean. Cameron noted that the United Arab Emirates has provided $15 million to strengthen the Seychelles Coast Guard. The UK and The Netherlands are also establishing a center for coordinating intelligence.

Although the conference reaffirmed the international community’s determination to fight piracy on the Indian Ocean, no new ideas or policies were presented. The discussion centered instead around strengthening the awesome global armada that has been parked off Somalia since 2008. The problem with this approach is that the shock-and-awe tactics have failed to significantly reduce acts of piracy. The UN estimates, for instance, that the pirates in Somalia are still holding over 170 hostages. In 2011, pirates captured over 20 ships and attacked over 200. Incidents of piracy attributed to Somalis increased from 219 in 2010 to 237 in 2011, but the number of successful hijackings decreased from 49 to 28. Meanwhile a report by the One Earth Foundation estimated that Somali piracy cost the world between $6.6 and $6.9 billion in 2011 alone. 

Predictably, there was no mention of the other pirates: western trawlers who loot fish stocks and dump toxic waste in Somalia’s waters. A recent report by the Global Policy Forum shows, for instance, that the looting of fish stocks and dumping of toxic waste are major threats to the environment. The report argues that the well-armed foreign fishing vessels earn millions of dollars a year through sales of looted fish stocks “at the expense of local, small-scale Somali fishermen who find far fewer fish in their waters.” These foreign vessels are also accused of attacking Somali fishermen and destroying their nets and equipment. Meanwhile, reports indicate that European and Asian companies continue to dump toxic waste such as “electronic products, medical wastes, nuclear and chemical wasters and other toxic substances” in Somalia waters.

Despite the overwhelming evidence presented to the UN Security Council and available to conference attendees, these serious violations of the rights of ordinary Somalis went unmentioned. These western and Asian pirates are operating criminal enterprises under the noses of the international anti-piracy armada. The crimes committed by these companies are as serious as those committed by the Somali pirates.  They are impacting the lives of coastal populations by restricting access to critical sources of protein and income besides destroying the environment. This is true not only for Somalia but also for neighboring countries like Kenya, Yemen, Tanzania, and Seychelles.

Political Front

On the political front, conference attendees insisted that the Transitional Federal Government’s tenure would not be extended beyond August 2012. The problem is that the current transitional arrangement will be replaced by another transitional arrangement with the same mandate. The TFG was created in 2004 with a mandate to produce a new constitution and organize elections. The mandate was extended several times but the weak and fractured administration could not get its act together. Reports of clan feuds, corruption, fistfights in an overstaffed cabinet, and staggering incompetence did little to inspire confidence. In the eight years of its existence, the TFG barely managed to control two blocks of Mogadishu even with the support of thousands of African Union troops. This was a “government” in name only.

According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “the international community has been clear that we do not support another extension. It is time to move forward to a more stable and unified era for the Somali people.” This, however, is easier said than done. It seems the West is still tied to the concept of a unified Somalia with a strong centralized state based Mogadishu. This notion, however, is a pipe dream. The Somali people have a long history of decentralized administration based on the traditional clan structure run by councils of elders and Islam. The idea that a centralized government based on the Western model can be transplanted to Somalia is unrealistic at best. 

Contrary to the popular discourse about chaos in Somalia, the fact of the matter is that large parts of the north are quite stable. The breakaway province of Somaliland, for instance, has developed a stable system based its unified clan structure. At the London conference on February 23, Somaliland’s President Ahmed Silanyo said that peace “will not be achieved by the top-down imposition of a re-created centralized state.” Somaliland seceded from Somalia soon after the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991. Since then, the breakaway province has created state institutions, a security force and a monetary system. It has held several elections and also worked to reestablish schools, colleges and universities with the help of returning residents from the Diaspora. Somaliland has done all this despite the fact that the international community does not recognize it as an independent state and thus it receives no aid or development support from donors.

The neighboring semi-autonomous province of Puntland is also charting an independent path. Though not as successful as Somaliland, Puntland is also using local traditions and clan structures to stabilize its territory. A workable solution, therefore, does not require a unitary or centralized state structure. The emerging buffer zones on the Kenya and Ethiopia borders are also moving in the same direction. Thus the evolving trend is clearly toward decentralization. The only realistic solution is for the international community to accept that a centralized state structure cannot be reconstituted within the borders of what used to be Somalia.

Foreign Policy in Focus contributor Francis Njubi Nesbitt is a professor of Africana Studies at San Diego State University. He is the author of Race for Sanctions and has published numerous book chapters and articles in academic journals.  Originally published by  Institute for Policy Studies licensed under  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

Tuesday
Feb212012

Signs of Progress Amid the Chaos of Mogadishu

By Nazanine Moshiri in Africa 

Somali families fled from al-Shabaab held towns after the group was reported to have joined ranks with al Qaeda (AlJazeera)

We are on the maiden flight of Jetlink Express - from Nairobi to Mogadishu. Along for the ride, a few hardened journalists, and mainly diaspora Somalis, returning home, some for the first time in almost 10 years.

Somalia's Transitional Federal Government has a message for the World, Mogadishu is safe and, crucially, open for business.

It is as important point to get across. Somalis living abroad send around a billion dollars home every year.

If they actually start heading home, and staying, well, then that investment could double.

Driving around the capital Mogadishu, there is plenty of activity.

Freshly painted luxury villas are popping up everywhere; one close to airport has a price tag of half a million dollars.

But most are lying empty, landlords have invested in the hope that the Turks with their good intentions, or eventually the United Nations will take their building over.

But there is one entity that stands in the way of all this planned order and peace. The Islamist group al-Shabab is promising to step up its bombing campaign in the run up to the London Somalia conference on February 23rd.

They have warned  "all Muslims of Somalia to stay away from the enemy bases in order to avoid being unintentional victims of this new campaign".

On Friday February 17, Shabab managed to sneak a car laden with explosives into Mogadishu's Central Intelligence building.

According to authorities, two of the group's members stole mobile phones as a ruse to get themselves arrested, and get their vehicle inside. The explosives were then detonated by remote control injuring several soldiers.

Attacks thwarted

Since I arrived here last week, several car bombs have been discovered, just in time, before they could wreak any major damage.

Deputy Commander Colonel Omar Mohamed, is worried. He believes "al Shabab are hiding themselves among people returning" from the Afgoye corridor just outside Mogadishu.

It isn't difficult for them to do, thousands of people have been fleeing the region, concerned about an imminent attack by the African Union.

The security situation has overshadowed any political progress that may have been made in Garowe, the capital of Puntland - a region of north-east Somalia, which declared itself an autonomous state in August 1998.

For three days Somali leaders gathered there to discuss what will replace the current transitional government, whose mandate comes to an end in August.

It concluded Somalia would become a federal state, with Mogadishu as the federal capital. The meeting comes days before a London conference, where heads of states and Somali representatives will gather to discuss the future of the country.

The British Foreign Minister calls the London conference, a "moment of opportunity", but for Somalis who have lived through twenty years of civil war, there is a sense of deja vu.

There have been so many conferences, and so many agreements that have come to nothing.

Every time I come back to Somalia - what never ceases to surprise me is that amid all this uncertainty and violence - life goes on.

"Welcome to Mogadishu", someone shouts out, as I walk around the city. I can't tell who, as the sun is so bright it almost blinds me.

- Originally published by AlJazeera under Creative Commons License 

Monday
Feb062012

Sound the Horn: Opinion on the Horn of Africa `Famine’ 

(PHOTO: Dadaab Refugee camp, Kenya/WFP)By Lily H. Ostrer

On Friday, February 2, the United Nations declared an end to the famine in the Horn of Africa that killed tens of thousands of people in the last nine months. With an unstable political situation and 2.3 million people still in need of food, there is a high likelihood that famine conditions will return to the region within the next 100 days. While natural occurrences such as drought may have initiated the famine, its severity and persistence can be attributed to people and politics. Indeed, the situation in the Horn of Africa is a perfect storm of environmental, local, and international dynamics, topped off by the presence of a militant Islamist group blockading aid efforts.

For this very reason, it is imperative that we consider multi-dimensional solutions to the crisis in the Horn of Africa. The need will not end with the UN’s declaration last Friday, nor will the political situation change overnight. Activists have called on the media and on donors to continue to pay attention and give money to maintain a response to the humanitarian needs, and we agree. But as members of the Harvard community, we should all seek to encourage further academic engagement to derive holistic, multi-disciplinary solutions.

The UN reserves the label of “famine” for only the most severe emergencies—at least two deaths per 10,000 people per day, at least 30 percent of children with acute malnutrition, and at least 20 percent of the population unable to reach its food need. When the UN declared famine last July, the region, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti, had faced nearly two successive years of almost no rainfall and over 12 million individuals needed food aid. Somalia fared the worst, as years of political instability and war have left millions displaced and al-Shabaab, the group with de facto control over the country, has blocked food aid and shut down refugee camps.

(MAP: WFP) Indeed, al-Shabaab is the most obvious reason why simple humanitarian solutions cannot end the famine in Somalia. Al-Shabaab has denied access to aid organizations, evicted refugee camps, and prompted widespread violence throughout the region, taking credit for bombings in Somalia and neighboring countries. Because of this, al-Shabaab is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, which puts Somalia on the map in the U.S. war on terror. The African Union has had a force in Somalia since 2007, and Kenya invaded in 2011, introducing regional complexity to the humanitarian crisis. But U.S. policy towards the region is additionally sensitive due to the Black Hawk Down tragedy in 1993, when 18 U.S. soldiers died on a mission in Mogadishu. For these reasons, no matter what develops in Somalia, the U.S. is unlikely to ever put troops on the ground, leaving Kenyans and other African nations to deal with al-Shabaab. However, as Davidson College Professor Kenneth J. Menkhaus points out, while responding to al-Shabaab is necessary, responding to the immediate humanitarian crisis will draw attention to Shabaab’s inhumane acts, weakening its stronghold in the country. Sensitivity to the historical and political situation in Somalia is key to effective intervention, but it should not detract from the importance of fighting acute malnutrition and food shortages.

Much work has been done to study food security in the developing world and many of the manmade causes of this famine are known. Soaring food prices have played a large role. Last August, the prices of maize and sorghum, two important staples, were 84 percent and 240 percent higher than a year before. In addition to poor local harvests, U.S. production of ethanol and the diversion of crops for the production of biofuels have exacerbated price increases. A systemic underinvestment in agriculture in East and Central Africa has led to decreased agricultural capacity in recent years. While up to 60 percent of the populations of many of these nations depend on agriculture for their livelihood, many governments devote only five percent of national expenditure to agriculture. At the same time, investment in infrastructure is vitally important for the transportation of crops and fertilizer. Robert L. Paarlberg, a professor at Wellesley College and an Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard, has been mapping the impact of the under-usage of biotechnology in Africa. Scientific advances in developing seeds resistant to drought and insects would greatly improve the region’s food production, where farmers are now less productive on a per-capita basis than they were in 1970. Paarlberg posits that the spread of such technology has been held up by the richer countries in which they were developed. The usage of newly developed surveillance techniques, a focus of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, could allow for improved early warning systems.

(PHOTO: Kenya/WFP)We now know many of the causes of famine, but coordinating the response in a tense political climate remains challenging for humanitarian organizations. Consequently, donors who want to support the cause are left unsure about which organizations can reach people in need, who can bring about immediate relief, and how we can transition to long-term change. As a university, our mandate must be to reach greater understanding of the crisis by bringing together experts from many disciplines. Harvard has responded in important ways to humanitarian crises in the past, from fundraising to utilizing its academic expertise, and we commend the important strides it has made in responding to this crisis. I hope the university continues to leverage its academic capital to bring about an end to one of the most complex recurring crises to face humanity.

---Lily H. Ostrer ’14 is a social studies concentrator in Kirkland House, Harvard University, and her piece was originally published in the Harvard Crimson HERE)

Thursday
Jan262012

Somalia: Returning to my Homeland (EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW)

Michael Bociurkiw interviews UK-based Somali, Samira Hashi upon her return from her homeland and talks to her about leaving, why she went back, the dire situation in refugee camps and bringing about change.

Michael Bociurkiw: You fled Somalia as an baby at the beginning of the civil war, where did you and your family go? - how did you end up in the UK? 

Samira Hashi: I was born in 1990 in the city of Mogadishu, once known as the 'Jewel of Africa'. Ten days into my livelihood the civil war broke out in Somalia. 

My mother had two choices, to hang about and wait till things got worse of flee for a better life and future for herself and her children. My mother, one of the many educated people in Somalia, fled as early as possible. 

The nearest location for safety, at the time was Kenya, which hadn't even opened a refugee camp yet. Whilst they (refugee camps) were being established my family and I stayed in camps in Mombassa, later moving to another similar refugee camp in Otanga. For two years my family struggled to survive, barely being able to feed ourselves let alone put a roof over our heads. Luckily organizations such as the Red Cross were there to offer support and aid as well as relief from the trauma of the on-going war. 

I come from a very large family that are all spread around the world, they couldn't bare to see me and my family suffer and they did all they could to support us in such a difficult time as well as getting us out of that grueling situation. I moved to the UK at a very young age, we settled quickly and began out new lives here. I would say that was one of the best and most admirable decisions my mother made and I give her my greatest gratitude towards her. 

MB: What has life been like for you growing up in the UK? 

SH: Coming from a country with little solidarity, security and governing system, that is now recognized as a 'failed state', my mother put great pressure in teaching us the value of liberty and independence. 

Education was always her priority and she ensured me and my sisters obtained qualifications that would one day help us stand on our own two feet. As soon as we came into the UK me and my sisters began nursery and have been working consistently up the academic ladder. As a result of a strong, persistent mother all of my 4 older sisters have successfully passed higher education and have achieved a university degree, some now on advance levels working towards procuring their masters.

Currently I am studying International Business and Law at Kingston University, not only to demonstrate my intellectual ability but also to achieve my goal in establishing my own business. Education is an essential part of my life as one day I wish to enlighten and empower girls and young women all over the world using my knowledge and skills in life. 

MB: You are model and have grown in that field, how did you start and what are you looking to do now? 

SH: At a very young age I was aware that I was different from all of my other sisters. They are very reserved and shy and found that they sat well with the education system. I have always had this suspicion that although knowledge is power theirs more to life than just an exam paper and textbooks. I was desperate to explore the world, learn and experience things that a printed document written by a man twenty years ago couldn't teach me. My mother wasn't always fond of my new aspirations, she always believed I would get lost in this cruel, harsh, beautiful world. Despite all her pleading and appeal for me to stick with my sisters, I became to anxious and set out on a journey in finding myself and my purpose of living. 

Throughout my journey I came across a modelling agency at the age of 17 who seemed very intrigued in working with me. I signed the contract and later realised that this is something I entirely enjoy. It was more than taking a photo with a camera man that captured me, its the warmth feeling I felt when connecting with people I was working with. The ability to portray a strong emotion or expression without speaking, the idea of manipulating an image to create something that could be compared with art, it excited me. I grew a passion for modelling, I was determined to succeed and knew nothing could stop me other than myself. I learnt the ropes of the industry and gained further confidence.

Soon I felt restricted and believed I could achieve great things from my modelling career but felt I wasn't given the opportunities to deliver. This lead me to leaving my old agency and advertising and promoting myself to gain recognition from modelling agencies that were on a higher level. For one year I crafted and worked extremely hard, I was dismissed and rejected by a number of agencies still I refused to loose hope and give up on my dreams and ambitions. I learnt to brand myself, believe that I had the ability to be the best and make use of any opportunity that passed my way. I discovered my purpose in modelling when I got signed to one the biggest modelling agencies in the world 'Elite London'. It verified the belief I had in myself now knowing that individuals that have the ability to transform my modelling career are convinced that I can achieve great things.

Through my modelling career I understand that I could put myself in a position where I am recognised for the work that I do. I have never wanted to make a fortune or become famous. My aim in modelling is to become a role model, to get to a point in my career where I can bring about change and make a difference to the world. Where I have the ability and power to educate and inspire girls and young women and give a voice to those that are not heard.

I wish to motivate young people to take no notice of what their forced to believe and to create and carve their own pathways for themselves. Like myself to find their own destiny and work towards becoming a unique, successful, independent individual. 

MB: What motivated you to go back to Somalia now? 

SH: Somalia has always played a huge role in my life. My mother enlightened me and my sisters with the Somali culture from the clothes she wore, to the food we ate, the weddings we went to, the music she would sometimes blast from the stereo or laptop. My mother refused to let go of her culture and everything she knew just because she came into the UK. She wanted to teach us about our heritage and roots.

Other than the war my mother always embraced the good memories she held of our country and never failed to stop telling us stories. Somalia was always in my heart but I never felt any connection as I was to young to remember. The only recollection I had was what I saw on the news and many times that wasn't something positive.

I always knew I had some responsibilities towards my country as a young Somali growing up in London but I never thought of the extent or necessity that our help was needed. What motivated me to return was the desire to gain a deeper understanding of my country, to feel assured and content with my roots and myself, and to see what aid I can offer or facilitate in helping a country that most desperately needs it.  

As Somalia is my country of birth and previous home to my large family I felt obliged to return and participate in the process of development. At many of times prior to going back home and even when I was actually in Somalia I was scared for my safety and constantly prayed that God would protect me. Despite that, I defeated that anxiety for the purpose of a better future not only for myself and my family but for the whole of my country and its people. 

MB: Tell us about the documentary you worked on... 

SH: I recently contributed on a 60 minute documentary for BBC 3 which enabled me to return to Somalia and highlight issues such as; the war, famine and drought and bring them into the surface of the media.

As a young Somali who fled in 1990 my age and the war in Somalia are in correlation; we both turned 21 last year. The idea of the documentary was to reach out to a young audience that may not have any concept of current affairs and issues occurring on the other side of the world. The documentary was mind-blowing as it fulfilled all my desires in gaining a connection with Somalia and grasping a broader concept of its current state.

Working on this documentary not only altered my views on my country, it also changed me as a person. My experiences in Somalia has made me more humble than I ever thought by appreciating the simplest things that we take for granted, such as clean water that runs continuously from our taps. The programme that was once only supposed to be a personal journey, I am now seeing as a platform to bring about change.

MB: What are the conditions like for the people you met .... is there one particular person or memory that touched you? 

SH: The conditions in Somalia were not as vibrant and radiant as the stories my mother used to always share with us. The powerless state has little effect in protecting and preventing the on-going war that's now long over due.

Somali's have been fleeing since 1990 and continue to still leave hastily in their thousands. Current invasion of Al'Shabaab militants have left the country in turmoil and people in fear, restrictions on aid and external intervention has left the Somali people to perish due to the famine and drought. Hope for a better further and better lives melt away day by day. Even when they think the suffering is all over, Somali's overcome many more barriers and hurdles.

The refugee camp at times cannot accommodate the thousands of displaced people so they have to sit and wait for days sometimes months for just a piece of sheet of plastic to shelter themselves and their families. Food is always scarce and with such harsh conditions of heat and lack of water, Somali's are bound to deteriorate.

A special memory that I refuse to neglect is the protection and safety of Somali refugees in one of the camps in particular area situated in Ethiopia called 'Halloweyn'. The security and preservation in some these refugee camps is extremely poor. One of the issues raised and covered in the documentary is the number of rape victims that actually occur so often in the camps and the diminutive action taken to prevent this as well the level of awareness which is more less being concealed.

I interviewed two young women who had been subjected to rape by the locals due to travelling far into the woods to collect wood fire to cook and feed their families. I then discovered that this happens so often that the Somali refugee's had protested outside the UNHCR compound in Dollo Ado, for their voices to be heard and someone to do something about it.

It is embarrassing to say that this issue has not once been raised in the UK media or in fact anywhere else. I am currently in the process of establishing my own charity that helps protect vulnerable women all over the world and I feel compelled to begin with Somali women. I am going to develop this charity by initially gaining support from the large Somali Diaspora located all over the world. I want to raise a petition that helps support my concerns and votes against the defective security and protection system that is currently in place in this particular refugee camp. I plan to transmit these problems to my local MP who I hope could then highlight them within the House of Parliament.  My objective this year is to help establish a beneficial system where Somali women within the 'Halloweyn' refugee camp our guarded from rape and gender based violence.

Simple almost effortless arrangements could be put in place for example; a security guard that safeguards the women and observes whilst they collect the wood fire, women proceeding into the outskirts only in large numbers, only men collecting the wood fire or even a half way meeting point. This will ensure and shield the well-fare of not only the mental mind state of Somali women but also their health and future refuge. 

MB: What more can the rest of the world do... what is your message? 

SH: The outside world can:

  • Raise more awareness about Somalia
  • Deal with issues that are could easily be dealt with but are overlooked by the war and famine such as; the number of rapes that occur within the refugee camps
  • Urge the Somali Diaspora (especially the young) to do more for their country as hope lies within them. We are the future of Somalia
  • Highlight areas such as; Somali-land that has maintained a safe and working system for the Somali people - Showing that not everything within the Somali community is negative.
  • Please get involved and sign up for my petition and help protect our girls, young and old women  

My message: This is not the end for Somalia, we have a very bright future and only us the people of the country can bring about those changes. Don't give up on such a beautiful place and don't loose hope. Believe and we will all achieve a better and safer environment for ourselves and our children. 

You can contact me if you wish to help or discuss any of the issues that I have raised further

 samirahashi5@hotmail.co.uk 

Friday
Dec022011

Landmine Treaty Progress as Somalia and Finland Join (REPORT)

(HN, December 2, 2011) – The international treaty banning antipersonnel landmines is making strong progress toward its objective of a mine-free world, with Finland and Somalia agreeing to join in the next few months.Cambodian deminers, with tools used for landmine detection and clearance, during a field visit in Phnom Penh. CREDIT: Mary Wareham/Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch praised the progress as a major meeting on landmines wrapped up in Phnom Penh. However, the United States’ review of its policy has regrettably entered its third year without conclusion, Human Rights Watch said.

“We’ve largely succeeded in stigmatizing this coward’s weapon, but antipersonnel mines continue to claim too many lives and limbs in Cambodia and elsewhere years after they were laid,” said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch. “It is very encouraging that more and more countries continue to embrace the movement to ban landmines, and that impressive progress is being made in landmine clearance and stockpile destruction.”

The Mine Ban Treaty comprehensively prohibits antipersonnel mines and requires their clearance and assistance to victims. A total of 158 nations are party to the treaty, which entered into force on March 1, 1999, and another two states have signed, but not yet ratified.

A total of 97 countries participated in the Mine Ban Treaty’s Eleventh Meeting of States Parties, held in Phnom Penh from November 27 to December 2, 2011 – 82 states parties to the Mine Ban Treaty and 15 countries that have not yet joined. Observer delegations participated from China, India, Burma, Singapore, the US, and Vietnam.

The meeting reviewed progress and challenges in implementation and universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty. Major developments included the following:

  • Finland’s minister of international development, Heidi Hautala, announced that her government will join the treaty in the coming weeks;
  • Somalia declared that it would join in the next few months, if not sooner;
  • The two newest treaty members – South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, and Tuvalu – actively participated in the meeting;
  • Turkey announced it has completed the destruction of its stockpile of 2.9 million antipersonnel landmines, a very significant achievement since it had missed its treaty-mandated deadline of March 1, 2008;
  • Belarus, which also missed its stockpile destruction deadline of March 1, 2008, said it would complete the job in May 2013;
  • Burundi and Nigeria declared the completion of their mine clearance obligations, bringing the total of mine-free states parties to 18.


Cambodia is one of the most heavily-mined countries in the world. Credit: UNICEF“The United States needs to stop sitting in the back row as an observer in Mine Ban Treaty talks,” Goose said. “The US needs to conclude its landmine policy review, join the rest of the international community that has rejected this weapon, and play a positive leadership role.”

In late 2009, the US began a comprehensive landmine policy review “initiated at the direction of President Obama.” The Clinton administration, in 1998, set the objective of joining the Mine Ban Treaty in 2006, but the Bush administration reversed course in February 2004, and announced that it did not intend to join.

The US and nearly all of the 38 other states that remain outside the ban treaty are in de facto compliance with most of the treaty’s provisions. Every NATO member has foresworn the use of antipersonnel mines except for the US, as have other key allies, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

The United States has not used antipersonnel mines since 1991, in the first Gulf War, has not exported them since 1992, has not produced them since 1997, and is the biggest donor to mine clearance programs around the world. But it still stockpiles millions of antipersonnel mines for potential use.

Cambodia, the host of the meeting, is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world. According to Landmine Monitor, Cambodia has approximately 44,000 survivors of landmines and explosive remnants of war.

An extensive mine action program established in 1992 has resulted in a dramatic decline in the number of new mine victims, but lives continue to be lost. There were at least 286 Cambodian casualties in 2010 from mines, explosive remnants of war, and cluster munitions.

Landmines and explosive remnants also place thousands of hectares of agricultural land off-limits in affected countries such as Laos and Cambodia.

- Human Rights Watch, HUMNEWS staff

Tuesday
Nov152011

Mogadishu: Five Years On (REPORT) 

By Nazanine Moshiri in Africa 

There is a reason why Al Jazeera English chose Mogadishu as one of the cities from which to launch its new channel. The conflict in Somalia is one of the longest running in Africa, and one of the most under reported. The Somali people have lived without a central government for 20 years. War and famine have claimed perhaps a million lives.

When my colleague Mohammed Adow reported from the streets of Mogadishu on November 15, 2006, the Islamic Courts Union was in control of the city and much of Southern Somalia. 

At the time, Adow painted this picture in his report:

Before the Islamic Courts took control of Mogadishu, it would be too dangerous to venture out. The chaotic streets were ruled by dangerous militia men. Today one of the world’s most dangerous cities has been tamed.”

Having spoken to vendors in Mogadishu’s Bakara market on November 15, 2011, they agreed.

Yes, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) implemented strict Sharia law. It was against dancing, television and music. That would have scared most moderate Muslims, but Somalis were willing to put up with it because the ICU ended the rule of Somalia’s dreaded warlords, who would kill, torture and rape.

As long as people were not being killed and they had the opportunity to go about their businesses peacefully, most were ready to comply.

Tony Burns, the operations director for SAACID, Somalia’s oldest NGO, reflects: “Under the Islamic Courts Union, Mogadishu was peaceful and secure. There was a sense of law and order.  For the first time in decades the diaspora was returning to Mogadishu.”

Just a few months later, Ethiopia – backed by Washington – invaded. There was concern that Somalia would become a hotbed for extremists around the world. 

It was a self-fulfilling prophesy. The ICU was replaced by al-Shabab, which has become a far greater threat. Its fighters are loyal to al-Qaeda and their battle for control of Somalia has raged on for the last five years, killing tens of thousands of people.

Al-Shabab, once seen as a defender of Somalia against Ethiopian aggression, has lost much of its popularity because of its reluctance to allow aid to reach the victims of the country's famine. In August, it decided to withdraw from Mogadishu, which meant losing its economic and strategic strongholds, like Bakara market and Mogadishu's stadium. 

Al-Shabab is much weaker now, but the atmosphere on the streets of Mogadishu is still one of apprehension.

In Bakara market, no one dared talk to us on camera. One trader selling shoes told me that if he is seen speaking to a foreigner journalist in the morning, by the afternoon al-Shabab would send someone to pick him up and he would be executed.

As a foreign journalist in Mogadishu, you either travel in an African Union armored personnel carrier or with private security – that means on average 10 to 15 armed guys.

The Somali people don’t have that luxury. Every day they face the threat of suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices (IED), grenade attacks and shootings.

Everyone you speak to in Mogadishu will tell you that peace and security are what they want. Only then can they begin to rebuild what was once one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Originally published by Al Jazeera under Creative Commons Licensing

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  

Saturday
Sep102011

Horn of Africa Drought Case Load Jumps to Over 13 Million People (NEWS BRIEF)

Somali refugee children at the registration centre in Dolo Ado, southern Ethiopia. CREDIT: WFP/Natasha Scripture(HN, September 10, 2011) - As the drought in the Horn of Africa spreads, the number of people affected has jumped to 13.3 million people, including more than 840,000 refugees.

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance was previously pegged by the UN at 12.4 million in four countries, Elisabeth Byrs of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told a media briefing in Geneva monitored by HUMNEWS.

She said that boosting the numbers is the conflict in the Blue Nile State of eastern Sudan, which has displaced close to 20,000 Sudanese refugees into Ethiopia in early September. Humanitarian agencies are currently allocating some of their resources and personnel to this new emergency.

In Djibouti, increasing food prices are having an increasingly serious impact on the country, Byrs said. The country imports 95 per cent of its food, and about 146,000 people are in need of food assistance in the north-western regions of the country.

To be sure, the drought and food crisis has caused massive displacement in the worst-hit country - Somalia. UNHCR estimates that more than 917,000 Somalis now live as refugees in the four neighbouring countries: Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen. Approximately one in every three was forced to flee this year alone. Altogether, more than 1.4 million Somalis were displaced within the country. This makes a third of Somalia's estimated 7.5 million people displaced.

Analysts blame the convergence of civil unrest, climate chance and rising food prices as the cause of the ongoing crisis.

Despite heavy media coverage of the crisis, the UN's Horn of Africa Appeal is still in need of substantial funding. Byrs said it is 63 per cent funded with $1.56 billion received out of the $2.5 billion requested. 

Christiane Berthiaume of the World Food Programme said since the beginning of July, the UN agency has assisted some 7.4 million people and that it is ramping up to reach more than 9.6 million people over the coming weeks. In Somalia, WFP is focusing its efforts over the next months on providing badly needed food assistance to 1.9 million people in areas to which WFP had access. So far the organization had assisted close to 1 million people. 

WFP has received $385 million in announced contributions, its budget shortfall for the Horn of Africa appeal for the next six months is US$215 million.

- UN, HUMNEWS staff

Friday
Aug122011

Women's Exclusion Worsens Somali Crises (OPINION)

Khadija O. Ali (photo credit: GMU)On July 22, 2011 the newly appointed Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, a Harvard-trained professor of economics, announced his 49-member cabinet. There are only two women in it: one minister and one vice minister. Yet, Somali women and children are the primary victims of ongoing conflict and deepening drought and famine in Somalia. According to UNICEF, a child dies every six minutes in the areas hard hit by drought in the Horn of Africa. In addition, all international studies show that women and children are the most vulnerable groups in societies under stress.

But with continued, systemic UN and Western support, the Somali Transitional Federal Government continues to exclude women from all decision-making arenas. Apart from the formality of mentioning women and children as footnotes in UN and government speeches, Somalia is pursuing business as usual.

The political sidelining of women in Somalia goes against both national and international conventions. Resolution 1325 adopted in 2000, for instance, calls on all UN agencies and all UN member states to support and promote the full and effective participations of women at all stages of peace processes and for ending gender-based violence against women and girls living in armed conflict zones. Over a decade after adopting resolution 1325, and after 20 years of civil war, Somalia does not accede to the basic tenants of this UN convention.

At a national level, meanwhile, Article 29 of the Somali transitional charter guarantees a 12 percent quota for women in parliament. But of the current 550 transitional federal parliamentarians only 38 are women. In addition, there is only one female permanent secretary out of the current 18 government ministries.

The newly appointed prime minister and his government should create genuine mechanisms to ensure the full participation of Somali women as citizens, as guaranteed by the Transitional Charter. The UN, regional powers, and Western governments, which all profess concern for Somalia, must get serious about their obligations and begin representing all Somalis, not just their narrow national and institutional interests.

Whatever the virtues of the prevailing 4.5 clan-based formula for selection of clan representatives and power-sharing (designed to balance power among four principle clans and five minorities), it applies only to Somali men. Whether religious, secular, or educated, the male-dominated Somali political leadership continues to deny women participation in the political process. In practice, the 4.5 clan-based formula has not created any serious space for Somali women. Both indigenously and internationally, Somali women simply do not matter. 

Without the full participation of Somali women, and their contribution and commitment to building sustainable and durable peace platforms, no effective peace will ever be generated or preserved in Somalia. Including women in all stages of the decision-making process will improve security because women suffer more when there is insecurity and therefore are more committed to the establishment and maintenance of security. Women are not warlords or gun traffickers and do not stand to gain power, money, or prestige from continued instability and violence. The inclusion of women will also improve the reconciliation process because women are important actors who have contributed to resolving conflicts in their communities in Somalia. Because of their marital and clan relationships, women can reach out to various stakeholders and often act as go-betweens with the parties in conflict. Women are key economic actors in Somalia and are involved in small business in order to provide for their families, so their participation is vital to the country’s economic development.

Finally, Somali women lead more than 50 percent of the local NGOs delivering humanitarian assistance. So, having women in important political positions will lead to transparency and accountability in the delivery of humanitarian aid to the vulnerable population. Therefore, women must be appointed as advisors, strategists, actors, planners, and managers of humanitarian assistance.

More than 20 years of the same game has left Somalia in a mess. The systemic absence of Somali women in the Somali peace and nation-building process has hampered progress within Somalia. Participation in the peace-building process is a right to which Somali women are entitled, not a favor that is bestowed on them. 

Khadija O. Ali is a former member of the Somali Transitional National Parliament and a minister of state at the Transitional National Government from 2000 to 2002. A contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus, she is also a Ph.D.candidate at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University.

- This article was originally published by Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Wednesday
Aug102011

Access to Drought-Stricken Somalia May be Easing (NEWS BRIEF)

Famine-affected families in Somalia. CREDIT: United Nations(HN, August 10, 2011 - UPDATED 2350GMT) After years of enduring violence and blockages to vulnerable women and children in Somalia, aid agencies may be on the brink of fresh access to parts of Somalia - including the capital, Mogadishu - for the first time in years.

According to published reports, the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab (حركة الشباب المجاهدين‎), which controls many parts of the capital and rural areas, has been retreating from some neighborhoods that they have controlled for years.

The withdrawal is seen as the most significant gain for the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government, however some analysts suggest the Al-Shabaab retreat may be temporary and perhaps even a dangerous provocation.

In an indication of improved access into Somalia, the UN said Tuesday that they were able to dispatch more aid to the country.

In a UN news briefing in Geneva monitored by HUMNEWS, Elisabeth Byrs, of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that 2,000 tons of humanitarian assistance has been dispatched to Somalia in July by air, boat or road. The humanitarian programmes are currently being stepped up to avoid further victims but security conditions and access persisted as major challenges for most humanitarian partners.

That was also a sentiment echoed by a spokesperson for the UN's Food and Agriculture Orginization (FAO).

A Somali woman holds her severely malnourished baby outside a medical clinic established by the African Union Mission in Somalia's peace keeping operation. CREDIT: FAOLuca Alinovi of FAO Somalia and Kenya, said that the situation was is yet stabilized, and that there is a very real possibility of a worsening in South Central Somalia because the level of support in the country is extremely low in the context of a severe drought and a complex emergency. The situation has been particularly worsening in the last two seasons and has grown more serious due to internal factors, such as the conflict, and external factors, such as increasing food prices.

Aid agencies say about 600,000 children are on the brink of starvation.

"The reason it's hitting its children hardest is because they're the weakest when they go without food or water. They simply cannot go for all of those weeks," said WFP chief Josette Sheeran.

International super model Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid ( يمان محمد عبد المجيد‎)), who was born in Somalia, said Tuesday that the international community, including wealthy Arab countries, need to step up to the plate and donate more funds. Speaking on CNN's AC360, she voiced fears that an entire generation could be wiped out.

"This will be remembered as a catastrophe that has destroyed a generation of children..I want people to understand that this is a catastrophe that was preventable but that it is salvageable," said Iman.

Another prominent celebrity of Somali decent, Keinan Abdi Warsame (also known as K'naan), said he feared his home country's tarnished reputation as a haven for Islamist rebels, piracy and black hole of hopelessness does not turn people off from helping. "People have created a psychological fence where around their hearts where Somalia is concerned..we have to find a way to get past that and look at the humanity of what is happening."

Also on AC360, the Irish singer, musician and humanitarian Bono voiced disbelief that a catastrophe impacting as many as 12 million people in four countries wasn't receiving more prominence. "It is shocking, it is disgusting..it's hard to believe that this is the 21st century. We mustn't let the complexity of the situation absolve us from responsibility to act."

Bono articulated what many heads of UN agencies and relief agencies fear: that with competing headlines at the moment - including the tumbling stock market - the famine may not garner the prominence that it deserves. "I think about our own sense of values tumbling...This will define who we are, this is a defining moment for us, and there's lots to distract us.

"This is outrageous, it can't be happening and it must be stopped."

Indeed, despite high profile coverage of the humanitarian disaster, including the presence of prominent western journalists in the region and the involvement in celebrities, funding is still a problem.

Byrs said the $2.4 billion general appeal for the Horn of Africa is now only 46 per cent funded, with $ 1.1 billion received and $ 1.3 billion still needed. With regards to Somalia, food operations are funded to 57 per cent, water and sanitation to 35 per cent, nutrition to 45 per cent, health to 26 per cent and livelihoods to 18 per cent.

Some agencies are severely under-funded for this high-profile emergency, which impacts as many as 12 million people in several countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on donors for $29 million to respond to the health aspects of the situation in the Horn of Africa. So far, only $ 6 million has been received, said Tarek Jasarevic of WHO.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is said to be set to run out of funds for the Horn of Africa emergency within weeks if more resources are not received soon.

FAO says it will host a high-level operational meeting on August 18 in Rome to agree on urgent measures in response to the worsening crisis in the Horn of Africa. It come on the heels of an Emergency Ministerial-level Meeting on the Horn of Africa held in Rome on July 25 and sets the scene for a pledging conference called by the African Union in Addis Ababa on August 25.

Tuesday
Aug092011

U.N. Agencies Bring Much Needed Aid to Somalia and Ask International Community for Help (NEWS BRIEF) 

(HN, August 9, 2011) The World Food Program (WFP) is sending 800 metric tons of high energy biscuits to East Africa to help fight the famine in Somalia.

On Tuesday, the U.N. food agency said that the series of nine airlifts will be enough to feed 1.6 million people for a day. The biscuits are being delivered to Kenya for onward delivery throughout the Horn of Africa.

More than 12 million people are suffering from the effects of drought in East Africa.

The first United Nations relief shipment in five years arrived in Mogadishu Monday, August 8, 2011, less than a week after the U.N. declared three new famine areas in South Somalia. The shipment, which also contained 31 tons of shelter materials, is expected to provide aid to approximately 470,000 people in Mogadishu affected by famine.

The U.N. estimates that there are more than 3.2 million people now in immediate need of assistance and is calling on donor countries to assist with funding. 

"We need the funding support to continue to enable us to replenish our emergency stocks inside Somalia as they are being rapidly depleted as we deliver much-needed aid across southern Somalia", Bruno Geddo, the U.N. refugee Agency's (UNHCR) representative to Somalia said yesterday. 

For more information about how you can help with food and medical aid  in the Horn of Africa click here, and here

-HUMNEWS Staff 

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