Monday - February 5, 2018

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

(Kosovo's Majlinda Kelmendi. © AP)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 food crisis (4)


Asia's Rice Bowl Inundated by Historic Floods (NEWS BRIEF)

Farmer Sai-ngern Inthawong on the Bueng That Luang wetland in Laos during dryer times. CREDIT: Mekong River Commission(HN, October 11, 2011) - Amid a global food crisis that has seen the price of staple items soar in countries as diverse as Somalia, Pakistan and Laos, historic floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains have damaged tens of thousands of hectares of rice paddies in South-east Asia.

Worst hit is Thailand - the world's Number One exporter of rice. However, smaller and poorer countries such as Laos and Cambodia are fearing extensive crop damage.

More rains are forecast in an unusual monsoon season that has already devastated some 1.5 million hectares of prime agricultural land. Vietnam, the world's Number Two rice exporter, has also suffered extensive crop damage.

In Thailand, where flooding has been mostly limited to rural areas, the capital Bangkok is bracing itself for a deluge. More than 230 people have already died in Thailand. 

Laos, among the poorest countries in the world, has been struggling to recover from severe tropical storms that struck in June. The Vientiane Times reports that some 64,000 hectares of rice land has been damaged by flooding this wet season.

More than 429,900 people in 1,790 villages of 96 districts across 12 provinces have been affected by floods and landslides triggered by tropical storms Haima and Nock-Ten, the newspaper reported.

"The whole region will now suffer from rising food prices as potential harvests have now been devastated," said Margareta Wahlstrom, the United Nations chief of disaster reduction. "The damage is very serious this year and it will be some time before people can resume normal lives."

The Mekong River, which cuts through all the countries, is rising in some parts. According to the Bangkok-based Mekong River Commission "all stations along the Mekong River mainstream were recording levels that are above the long-term average for this time of year."

- HUMNEWS staff, UN, agencies


Bono Horn of Africa Campaign: "Famine is the Obscenity" (NEWS BRIEF/VIDEO)


(HN, October 6, 2011) - The Irish singer, musician and humanitarian, Bono, has launched a new, high energy campaign to bring renewed attention to the Horn of Africa famine, which is now impacting more than 13 million people in several countries.

Through his One International organization, and a video called  “The F Word: Famine is the Real Obscenity”, Bono has recruited several high profile artists and actors to suggest that famine is an obscene a word as the for-letter expletive starting with the letter 'f.'

Said Bono in a personalized mass email campaign: I’ve been known to drop the occasional expletive, but the most offensive F word to me is not the one that goes f***.  It’s F***** - the famine happening in the Horn of Africa, mainly Somalia.

The video and online campaign is supplemented by a petition to world leaders, timed to appear ahead of next month's Group of 20 Summit in France. It urges them to live up to promises already made to invest in the things proven to work, including: early warning systems, irrigation, drought resistant seeds, and peace and security.

It contends that the famine in Somalia could kill 750,000 in the coming months, and tens of thousands have already died.

Says the petition:

"When you meet at the Group of 20 (G-20) Summit in November, you have the opportunity to break the cycle of famine and ensure people are hungry no more. Lives are in your hands. Please keep the promises you have made to the 2 billion poor people who depend on farming for their livelihoods.

"The reasons for the famine in the Horn of Africa are complex and solutions are difficult, especially in Somalia, but we can’t lose sight of some simple facts:

1. 30,000 children have died in just 3 months.  Thirty thousand.  With over 12 million people at risk.

2. Famine is not a natural catastrophe – drought doesn’t have to lead to famine.  It can be prevented, as we have seen in much of Kenya and Ethiopia.  

"In the 21st century, it’s an obscenity that people are dying because they can’t get enough food to eat.  Every one of those 30,000 children is part of a family – a son, a daughter, sister or brother.  We can’t imagine what it must be like to starve to death, but most of us know what it’s like to lose someone we love."

Bono has a long record going back to the 1980s of intervening in humanitarian disasters, especially in Africa.

His U2 band performed in the Band Aid and Live Aid projects, organised by Bob Geldof. In 1984, Bono sang on the Band Aid single "Do They Know it's Christmas?/Feed the World." Geldof and Bono later collaborated to organise the 2005 Live 8 project, where U2 also performed.

ONE describes itself as a grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising public awareness and pressuring political leaders to support smart and effective policies and programs that are saving lives, helping to put kids in school and improving futures. Cofounded by Bono and other campaigners, including Warren Buffett and African telecommunications tycoon Mo Ibrahim, ONE is nonpartisan and works closely with African activists and policy makers.

- HUMNEWS staff


Early Warning System Inadequate in Horn of Africa Famine (NEWS BRIEF)

Josette Sheeran of WFP Visits Horn Of Africa, CREDIT: WFP(HN, October 3, 2011) - The tardiness of news organization to put the ongoing Horn of Africa crisis on their story agendas is among the reasons cited for the disaster getting out of control.

The observation was made by a panelist at a Red Cross panel discussion over the weekend at the Commonwealth Club in London.

Even though organizations such as the World Food Programme (WFP) - led by the very media savvy chief Josette Sheeran - sounded the alarm early on, it was observed that media organizations were slow to pick up on the rapidly growing crisis - which is shaping up to be on of the worst humanitarian disasters in a generation, impacting more than 13 million people in several countries in East Africa.

Aid agencies too were described as being too slow to mobilize on the Horn. Part of the problem was the complexity of the crisis - brought on by what some have described as a "perfect storm" of lack of rains, spiralling food prices and insecurity in Somalia - ground zero of the crisis.

"The early warning system was very effective, but the drought response was not adequate," said David Peppiatt, head of humanitarian policy at the British Red Cross.

If something positive has emerged from the crisis, it was that more attention has been placed on food insecurity and especially the need to invest in agriculture and particularly small farmers, who produce 90% of Africa's food, Peppiatt said.

Mike Wooldridge, the BBC's veteran world affairs correspondent, who has covered past famines, echoed the need for better management of agriculture in the region. "There has never been a greater time of opportunity for agriculture," 

On the media's handling of the crisis, Woolridge said first-hand reporting was crucial. Indeed, some large US media organizations, such as CNN and the three large networks, sent some of their top talent to the region during its early stages.

Woolridge cited an interview with Valerie Amos, the UN's head of humanitarian affairs, on the BBC programme The World This Weekend on 3 July, for galvanising media interest in the story.

During a question and answer session, a participant criticized the African Union and its member countries for their slow response.

To be sure, the response of donors to the crisis has been woefully inadequate - nearly three months after the first declaration of a famine.

According to data collected by The Guardian newspaper, the crisis faces a $671m shortfall. The UN has estimated that $2.5bn in aid is needed for the humanitarian response.

A big reason for the lack of funding may be scepticism among the general public in the developed world.

According to a poll on how aid mney is spent and released late last month by the British Red Cross, more than 70 percent of Britons say they are not well-informed about how humanitarian aid is managed and spent. And only 4 percent of the British public feel very well-informed and 20 percent quite well-informed. A large majority - 71 percent - say they do not know much about how aid is used.

"This is extremely worrying," Peppiatt said in a statement. "It is essential that those who give so generously understand how money is being spent and that lives are being saved as a result of the work of aid agencies."

- HUMNEWS staff, agencies


Drought, Unrest Pushing Millions Over Brink as World Averts Gaze (REPORT)

The horrifying face of hunger: This infant was brought by her mother to an acute malnutrition centre in West Africa. CREDIT: HUMNEWS(HN, July 8, 2011 - UPDATED 1900GMT) - Emergency camps in Kenya and Ethiopia - themselves suffering from horrific drought conditions - are receiving up to 2,000 Somali migrants-a-day as they flee unrest and dry conditions in their places of origin.

The prediction by the UN refugee agency - UNHCR - that the crisis on the Horn of Africa could become a human catastrophe of unimaginable proportions appears to become more of a reality by the hour.

UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres says three out of every 10,000 refugees die each day - three times the emergency level.

As many as 12 million people have been pushed into a fight for survival, says the aid agency Oxfam.

"Large numbers of lives could soon be lost if nothing is done. It is currently the worst food crisis on the planet," says Oxfam.

The countries most seriously affected are Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Fresh images from Kenya and Ethiopia show exhausted mothers cradling their dying, dehydrated infants after long journeys by foot into overcrowded camps.

This is very much a children's catastrophe. UNICEF estimates that more than two million young children are malnourished and in need of urgent life-saving action. Alarmingly, half-a-million of those children are facing imminent life-threatening conditions.

With arrivals being clocked by the hundreds each hour, aid agencies say they can hardly cope with the rapid influx of migrants.

Typically, severely malnourished infants are difficult to treat on the spot as their ravaged bodies cannot accept food and live-saving treatment needs to be provided in steps.

And as BBC correspondent Ben Brown pointed out, some mothers with dying babies refuse to go to emergency points for fear of leaving their other children behind.

In an ominous admission, the US Government said today that the drought in the region is likely to worsen by the end of the year.

Some of the medications and vitamins used to treat acute malnutrition. CREDIT: HUMNEWS"Our experts...expect the perilous situation in the Horn of Africa to worsen through the end of the year, said Nancy Lindborg, a senior official at the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

"Given limited labour opportunities, the dwindling food stocks, and sky-high cereal prices, many houses cannot put food on the table right now."

UNICEF says global acute malnutrition rates in Northern Kenya are now above 25% but as high as 40% in the Turkana district.

Aid agencies, including UN mainline agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP), are appealing for tens of millions of dollars in emergency funding. However the main UN appeal is less than half funded.

- HUMNews Staff