June 26, 2019  

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

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)



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



CARTOON: Peter Broelman, Australia/BROELMAN.com.au)


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Entries in Baghdad (2)


Sweden, UK, Denmark Sending Iraqis Back to Danger - UN (News Report)

(HM, December 17, 2010) - Iraqi Christians who fled danger at home are being sent back to Iraq on deportation flights that have been condemned by the United Nations.

The world body's refugee agency - the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) - is strongly reiterating its call on countries to refrain from deporting Iraqis who originate from the most perilous parts of the country, including Baghdad.Nearly 70 people died when security forces stormed the church in Baghdad to free dozens of hostages held by militants

UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a media briefing today in Geneva that as recently as Wednesday, Sweden once again forcibly returned a group of some 20 Iraqis to Baghdad. Among this group – sent back on the eve of Ashura – had been five Christians originally from Baghdad. 

UNHCR staff in Baghdad have already interviewed three of the Christians and three Iraqi Muslims among the group - all said that they originated from Baghdad. The deplaning asylum-seekers said they had been accompanied by as many as 60 Swedish policemen - two for every deportee.

One of the Christian men said he had escaped Iraq in 2007 after militiamen directly threatened to kill him. Fearing for his life, he travelled through several countries in the Middle East and Europe before reaching Sweden where he applied for asylum. He said his claim had been rejected three times in 2008 as he was not considered to have been personally targeted. The others UNHCR spoke to said their asylum claims had been rejected on the basis of improved security conditions in Iraq. 

This forced return come at a time when UNHCR's five offices in Iraq are noting a significant increase in Christians fleeing Baghdad and Mosul to the Kurdistan Regional Government Region and Ninewa plains.

Since the Baghdad church attack on October 31 in which almost 70 people were killed - the worst massacre of Iraqi Christians since the war began here in 2003 - and subsequent targeted attacks, the Christian communities in Baghdad and Mosul had started a slow but steady exodus. Some 1,000 families have arrived since the beginning of November in the Kurdistan Regional Government Region. UNHCR says it has heard many accounts of people fleeing their homes after receiving direct threats.

In addition, UNHCR offices in neighbouring Syria, Jordan and Lebanon are reporting a growing number of Iraqi Christians arriving and contacting UNHCR for registration and help. Churches and non-governmental organizations are warning UNHCR to expect more people fleeing in the coming weeks. Many of the new arrivals say they are fleeing in fear as a result of the church attack. One man who had now registered with UNHCR in Jordan narrowly escaped the attack, having left the church minutes before the bombing took place. This refugee had been deported from Europe just days beforehand.

Fleming said that over the past months there have been many deportation flights originating from Europe – from the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden – and UNHCR has spoken out on each occasion.

The countries undertaking the highly-controversial deportations are not necessarily given the list of the people on the flights, but UNHCR staff wait at Baghdad Airport to try and conduct interviews. In this case of the Swedish deportation this week, twenty deportees were on the flight, reportedly accompanied by as many as 60 policemen. 

“Churches and NGOs are warning us to expect more people fleeing in the coming weeks. Many of the new arrivals explain that they left in fear as a result of the church attack on 31 October,” said Ms. Fleming.

Jemini Pandya, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said some groups had been quoted as saying that Christians are legitimate targets for attack in Iraq. While all ethnic minorities are vulnerable, Christians are understandably worried and nervous. 




HUMNEWS’ Michael Bociurkiw has been working on and off as an aid worker for UNICEF since 2001. Here are excerpts from our interview with him on World Humanitarian Day.


Credit: Katie Grusovin

I have worked mostly as a Communication Officer - or spokesperson - both in emergencies and country office settings. Lately I have taken on more work in the donor relations and programmatic areas. I’ve also worked for a brief period as global spokesperson in Geneva. The 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar are the two largest emergencies I’ve worked on. In both cases, the devastation was vast and millions were displaced.

UNICEF’s mission in more than 100 countries is to create a protective environment for women and children. The organization’s ability to respond quickly in major emergencies is well-known and usually focuses on health, water and sanitation, nutrition and child protection.

Previously I was a journalist, working for major media outlets in Canada and Asia. I was led to UNICEF by pure chance immediately after 9-11, when the Afghanistan emergency was taking hold. My only experience before that with UNICEF was carrying the UNICEF Trick-or-Treat box during Halloween as a kid growing up in Canada.

Most of my work has involved informing the media and donors about UNICEF’s interventions - both during emergencies and in our day-to-day work. I love working in emergencies as the needs are great and so is the adrenalin rush. It's not uncommon to work 16-18 hour days for very long periods under very trying conditions. You can feel the difference you are making. In the first few hours and days after an emergencies strikes, it's important to get the crucial details out - as well as photos and videos - to the media and donors as quickly as possible. Transparency and accuracy are paramount in our messages. We dont work alone: we work with other UN agencies, government, NGO’s, donors and others. In emergencies - such as the ongoing floods in Pakistan - we arent able to respond fully unless donations are extended and for this we normally issue an emergency appeal. UNICEF depends entirely on voluntary donations - from ordinary people, governments and corporations. (With one-fifth of Pakistan now under water, I urge donors to respond to the appeal for immediate resources).

My longest posting was in our East Jerusalem office, where I led the communication section. We worked primarily in Gaza and the West Bank and the challenges, to say the least, were daunting. I’ve also worked in Pakistan, Tajikistan, Africa, Southeast Asia - and for the Canadian and US fundraising arms of UNICEF.

It seems that, no matter where you look on the world map, the needs of women and children are great. While there are countries where some of the indices we normally track are worsening (i.e. maternal and infant mortality, HIV AIDS, nutrition, school enrollment), for the most part we are seeing quantifiable improvements. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are due in 2015 - that’s not very far away - and there are many countries that will miss certain targets. What we are also finding is that as human development statistics are improving, there are still large groups of people - the poorest families, people in rural area, girls - that have been left behind. We often find ourselves scratching our heads, trying to find answers to vexing questions: why is it, for example, that despite free primary education, many boys and girls in rural Lesotho don't go to school?

I am often asked how I cope in emergencies - where you see some pretty gruesome scenes or where your life is often at risk. It's the encouragement and support of family and friends that keeps me going. UNICEF has no shortage of competent, well-meaning professionals and being able to work with the best in the business is a privilege.

For those of us in the communications business, I think what helps keep us going is that, as a spokesperson, you get in front of millions of viewers at a time and share with them what you are seeing, what we are doing as aid workers. We explain what people are going through, how many are affected, what the needs are and what UNICEF is doing to alleviate their suffering and keep them alive. It’s an important role to play and, in this 24-hour news cycle, you are often called upon anytime of day and night. Honesty and accuracy are crucial when you are on the air, and I think most people can tell if you are being evasive or are exaggerating. I've worked on many occasions with CNN, BCC, CBC and Al-Jazeera. CNN and CBC have been especially good to us - with air time and informed interviewers. I am glad that aid workers, journalists and technology people are now coming together to think up new, innovative ways to better cover the uncovered parts of the world - what HUM calls the "geographic gap" in news coverage.

Have I ever faced danger? Yes - I have fallen off a helicopter, been in the cross-hairs of snipers, searched at gunpoint on a Jerusalem highway, threatened by a gun-totting farmer in the Gaza Strip and sustained a bloody head injury in the desert in northern Nigeria. But my brains and limbs are still intact - and my heart is still in this!

Thankfully I havent lost any close colleagues, but we feel it deep down when anyone in the UNICEF family - or in the aid business for that matter - dies in the line of duty. I think about my compatriot and colleague,Chris Klein-Beekman died at the age of 32 in the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad. Credit: UNICEFChristopher Klein-Beekman, who at 32-years-old, died in the line of duty in the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad. His parents live near me on Vancouver Island and I really choked up when I met them for the first time. The recent killing of aid workers in northern Afghanistan - an area I am familiar with - was horrific and shocked many of us to the core.

On World Humanitarian Day, I think of people like Chris and his parents. I think of the young Pakistani women near Mansehra, cradling her terrified child after losing everything to the South Asian earthquake. I think of the farmers in the Irrawaddy Delta in Myanmar, their land inundated by salt water brought by an unforgiving Cyclone Nargis. And I think of the teenage girl I met in Kano State in Northern Nigeria, her limbs rendered lifeless because she didn't receive a polio vaccination.

We are often prevented from reaching beneficiaries by washed out roads, bad weather, road blocks, lack of air transport or heavy lift capacity, or violence started by state or non-state actors. It's important for us to be seen as neutral actors and to convince those in positions of power that we are there for one simple reason: to save lives. All kinds of live-saving materials pass through the cargo holds of airplanes we've managed to borrow, through the trucks we've leased and - ultimately through our hands and the hands of our partners: insecticide-treated bed nets, blankets, tents, water purification tablets, water pumps, high energy biscuits, syringes and medicines - you name it.

All-in-all, this career has exceeded my expectations by far. I count myself as extremely lucky and feel I have one of the best jobs in the world. On top of that I get to help people in need, help find solutions to their pressing problems. I am learning new things all the time, see the word and get to work with an awesome and diverse group of professionals!