Tuesday, February 07, 2023

CAR in Crisis

 The humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) continues to be exacerbated by violence against civilians and insecurity in locations outside urban centers, forcing more than one in five Central Africans to move in and out of the country.

In CAR, the crisis for which civilians continue to bear the brunt intensified in 2022 with an increase in violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, and an upward trend in reported cases of gender-based violence and increased incidents involving explosive devices. Every two days in 2022, violence and other security incidents affected humanitarian workers, killing one and injuring 24 others.

 Millions of people are experiencing increased vulnerability, eroded livelihoods, and severely limited access to basic services such as health care and water.

 3.4 million people – 56 per cent of the population - need humanitarian assistance and protection, a 10 per cent increase compared to 2022. 

Of these, 2 million people have needs so severe and complex that their well-being depends on humanitarian assistance. 

Central African Republic: US$465 million required to address ever-growing humanitarian needs in 2023 - Central African Republic | ReliefWeb

South Sudan's NGOs Ignored

 South Sudan has 7.7 million people facing acute malnutrition or starvation as it enters its fifth year of severe food insecurity. Floods, droughts and conflicts have fuelled the crisis. 

South Sudan is facing the world’s most severe food insecurity crisis, yet the local groups most effective at delivering aid are not being directly funded, according to a new report.

Only 0.4% of humanitarian funding meant for food is directly channelled towards South Sudanese NGOs, despite them being the most effective at tackling hunger, according to the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (Cafod).

According to Cafod, local organisations have been best placed to serve hard-to-reach populations. They often continue to work in high-risk areas, even after international organisations withdraw, while building more trust with the populations they serve.

“The local organisations, who are on the frontline in responding to crises in areas where no one else can go, are too often ignored. If we are ever going to tackle entrenched humanitarian crises, we need to properly fund those on the frontline,” said Gloria Modong Morris of Titi Foundation in South Sudan. “The UN and international NGOs talk a good game about the best model to responding to a crisis being as local as possible, but the reality couldn’t be more different.”

Local NGOs are usually given only short-term grants, which makes it hard for them to plan projects with lasting impact or invest in staff and systems for delivering support. The report said that while NGOs are often asked for information on conditions, they have only limited involvement in decision-making. This played a part in humanitarian responses failing to create long-term resilience, it concluded.

Howard Mollett, Cafod’s head of humanitarian policy, said that in the 11 years since South Sudan’s independence, international aid groups should have given more say to local NGOs.

“Local organisations work in the most dangerous parts of South Sudan, which international agencies cannot reach. Yet instead of having their back, it feels like local groups’ willingness to take on the risk of getting aid to these areas is being taken advantage of,” said Mollett.

Prof Dennis Dijkzeul, who focuses on humanitarian studies at the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict, said local organisations deliver aid effectively because they often live closer to the people they are supporting, building trust and a better understanding of the conditions.

“Localisation is about working with the people, for the people. Their local expertise, local acceptance or local trust can really help, and that can lead to higher efficiency or quality,” said Dijkzeul. More money and power should be given to local organisations to build their capacities, he said, but this does not happen because of a power imbalance between the richer “global north” and developing countries and a lack of incentive to shift away from relying on international groups. “Most of the money comes from the global north, and those who pay the piper call the tune. So even though there’s a lot of lip service to localisation, it’s hard to change the incentives of the global humanitarian system.”

Humanitarian funding for food in South Sudan has been cut by 38% since 2020, according to the report, with the UK government alone cutting its budget for South Sudan by 59% in 2021.

South Sudan ‘failed’ by international aid system as food crisis intensifies | Food security | The Guardian

Poverty not religion causes terrorism

 In 2021, nearly half of the global deaths attributed to terrorist groups took place in sub-Saharan Africa. Terrorist attacks in sub-Saharan Africa have more than doubled since 2016. But violent extremism has also spread or worsened in other parts of the continent, such as Mozambique.

A new report by the UN Development Programme surveyed thousands of people in eight African countries, including Mali, Nigeria and Somalia. Researchers interviewed more than 1,000 active or recent militants in the pioneering study.

The results suggest the most common factor driving people to join extremist groups in sub-Saharan Africa is not religion, but poverty and the need for work. 

It found that a quarter of voluntary recruits to extremist organisations cited job opportunities as their reason for joining.  Militant groups pay salaries to fighters and almost all ensure the basic needs of their members are met. They also offer status and protection.  Islamic State, long seen as the most extreme of factions active in sub-Saharan Africa, has made efforts to win community support and recruits through provision of basic services such as food distribution, administration of justice and rudimentary healthcare.

Only 17% of respondents said that religion was the reason for joining radical groups, whereas 40% said poverty was their main motivation.

Education is also important, with one extra year of education significantly reducing a person's likelihood of joining an extremist group.

Human rights abuses committed by security forces were also among the most important drivers of recruitment to extremist groups in Africa.

Currently, about 70% of the United Nations counter-terrorism budget is spent helping states build capacity to combat terrorism, often through expanding and equipping security services, compared with just 24% that goes to “addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism”.

Achim Steiner, the UNDP administrator said: “Security-driven counter-terrorism responses are often costly and minimally effective, yet investments in preventive approaches to violent extremism are woefully inadequate..."

Rights abuses often ‘tipping point’ for extremist recruitment, UN study finds | Africa | The Guardian

Friday, February 03, 2023

Germany's Genocide Apology Rejected

 The Herero and Nama people have gone to Namibia’s high court, rejecting an apology made in 2021 after years of talks between Namibia and Germany, which they say falls short of atoning for the 1904 to 1908 genocide. The German empire unleashed a campaign of killing and torture after the tribes rejected colonial rule in 1904. An estimated 80% of all the Herero people and 50% of Nama were killed. They are now politically marginalised minorities in Namibia.

“We were not involved at any stage. The government set the agenda, it discussed what it discussed and never disclosed it until we saw a joint declaration last year,” said Prof Mutjinde Ktjiua, chief of the Herero.

Germany pledged of €1.1bn (£980m) in development projects over 30 years but Ktjiua said the tribes want direct reparations to address the poverty and marginalisation that resulted from the genocide.

“It is critical because we know without any doubt that we have in this country a government that is misappropriating resources. A government that has for all these years denied that Hereros and Namas were [subject to genocide] – now you trust them to manage this?” said Ktjiua.

Gaob Johannes Isaak, chair of the Nama Traditional Leaders Association, said reparations needed to address the loss of 80% of Nama ancestral land – much of it now occupied by farmers of German descent – as well as generational damage to livelihood and identity.

Henning Melber, president of the European Association of Development Institutes, said,  “One of the most scandalous parts of the whole joint declaration for me, it’s not only the money, it’s that it says Germany will apologise to the Namibians and then it continues to say the Namibians accept their apology. Come on. Can it be more colonial as an agreement? They are not even given the opportunity to reject the apology. ” 

Descendants of Namibia’s genocide victims call on Germany to ‘stop hiding’ | Global development | The Guardian

The Hell that is Shell


Shell reported Thursday that its profits more than doubled in 2022 to a record $40 billion.

All the money Shell has made from exploiting the Niger Delta's people and environment since it discovered oil in the area in 1956 "is blood money," Okpabi, the king of Ogale, told The Intercept. "And we are going from courthouse to courthouse."

11,317 residents from Ogale—a rural community in Nigeria home to roughly 40,000 people—and 17 local groups filed individual claims against Shell at the High Court of Justice in London, where the company is headquartered. They joined 2,335 of their fellow citizens from Bille—an island community of around 15,000 people where fish have virtually disappeared—who had already filed individual claims against the oil giant at the High Court in 2015.

Individual claimants are seeking compensation for loss of livelihoods. In addition, class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of Ogale and Bille inhabitants in October 2015 and December 2015, respectively, are seeking compensation for damages to communally owned property, including waterways, farmland, and public infrastructure.

British law firm Leigh Day, which is managing all four cases together, said Thursday in a statement that the communities want Shell to clean up their mess and pay up for destroying local residents' ability to farm and fish, which has left many with no source of income.

Matthew Renshaw, a partner at Leigh Day who represents the Nigerian claimants, lamented that "instead of engaging with these communities, Shell has fought them tirelessly through the courts for the past seven years."

"At a time when Shell is making unprecedented profits, it is high time that it addressed the ongoing pollution caused to these communities by its operations," said Renshaw. "The question must be asked whether Shell simply plans to leave the Niger Delta without addressing the environmental disaster which has unfolded under its watch?"

"This case raises important questions about the responsibilities of oil and gas companies," said Leigh Day partner Daniel Leader. "It appears that Shell is seeking to leave the Niger Delta free of any legal obligation to address the environmental devastation caused by oil spills from its infrastructure over many decades," Leader observed. "At a time when the world is focused on 'the just transition,' this raises profound questions about the responsibility of fossil fuel companies for legacy and ongoing environmental pollution."

'People Are Dying': Nearly 14,000 Nigerians Sue Shell Over Devastating Oil Spills (commondreams.org)

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

The Dire Conditions in DRC

 The DRC is awash with minerals and precious stones, from gold, diamonds and coltan to tin, copper and cobalt. 

Harbouring the Congo River -- the second-largest in Africa after the Nile -- the DRC also has huge hydroelectric potential

It has 80 million hectares (197 million acres) of arable land. 

But little of the country's enormous wealth goes to its 100 million people.  

Two-thirds of the Congolese population survive on under $2.15 a day.

The DRC's mineral-rich eastern provinces are plagued by dozens of armed groups and civilian massacres are common. 

Poverty, but also rumba and resilience: Five things to know about DR Congo (france24.com)

Fact of the Day

 Sudan is the second largest asylum country in Africa, hosting about 1.1 million refugees and asylum-seekers from South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Syria, Yemen and other countries.

 South Sudanese refugees continue to make up the largest group of refugees in the country, with approximately 5,500 arriving in December of 2022 alone, and with up to 800,000 individuals total in Sudan today.

The Pope in the Congo - A “pilgrimage of peace”?

 Pope Francis has described “economic colonialism” in Africa, denouncing the “poison of greed” for mineral resources, condemning “terrible forms of exploitation, unworthy of humanity” in Congo, where vast mineral wealth has fuelled war, displacement and hunger, as he began a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Political exploitation gave way to an economic colonialism that was equally enslaving,” he said. “As a result, this country, massively plundered, has not benefited adequately from its immense resources,” he told an audience of Congolese politicians and other dignitaries. “It is a tragedy that these lands, and more generally the whole African continent, continue to endure various forms of exploitation,” he said. “The poison of greed has smeared its diamonds with blood,” he said, referring to Congo specifically.

The pope criticised rich countries for closing their eyes and ears to the tragedies unfolding in Congo and elsewhere in Africa. “One has the impression that the international community has practically resigned itself to the violence devouring it [Congo]. We cannot grow accustomed to the bloodshed that has marked this country for decades, causing millions of deaths,” 

“Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: it is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered,” he said.

Despite its vast reserves of minerals, timber and freshwater, the DRC remains one of the poorest countries in the world. About two-thirds of the population lives on less than $2.15 a day. An estimated 5.7 million people are internally displaced in Congo and 26 million face severe hunger.

Pope Francis condemns ‘economic colonialism’ in Africa on visit to DRC | Pope Francis | The Guardian

Monday, January 30, 2023

Niger - Irreversible Climate Change

 Niger is facing a complex humanitarian situation marked by insecurity and the impact of climate change. 

In five years, the number of people in need of humanitarian aid has more than doubled, from 1.9 million in 2017 to 4.3 million in the beginning of 2023.

 Humanitarian needs are surging due to endemic poverty, chronic food insecurity and malnutrition, food prices increase due to the Ukraine war and the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every year, around 100.000 hectares of arable land are lost as a result of climate change 

 “The climate change we see today is now irreversible, and addressing the consequences is critical to long-lasting resilience for the people of Niger,” said the UN's Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Joyce Msuya

Niger: UN deputy humanitarian chief reiterates commitment to the most vulnerable people, calls for long-term engagement to build resilience - Niger | ReliefWeb

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Madagascar's Malnutrition and Climate Change

  In southeast Madagascar, malnutrition is on the rise in rural communities. People in the Ikongo district face acute food shortages after harvests were destroyed in last year’s cyclones.

Food insecurity is not new in Madagascar. It is one of the countries at most risk from climate change and faces extreme weather events at regular intervals. The southeast region was hit in early 2022 by two consecutive cyclones, Batsirai, on the 5th of February and Emnati, on the 22nd of February. They left a trail of destruction, uprooting trees and destroying crops, heavily affecting local agriculture. The majority of people in the area live off agriculture, mainly crops such as cloves, coffee, vanilla and bananas. With most of the crops destroyed, people lost both their food stocks and their sources of income. In the Vatovavy-Fitovinany and Atsimo-Atsinanana regions, almost the entire agricultural area has been affected including more than half of the food crop.

 More than a quarter of the population in the Vatovavy-Fitovinany and Atsimo-Atsinanana regions are currently experiencing acute food insecurity. In November 2022, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) found that nearly one in five children screened were suffering from moderate or severe malnutrition at the onset of the lean season. This number is expected to rise over the coming months due to a lack of food combined with the peak malaria season.

“While communities in these areas already have very high rates of chronic malnutrition, the cyclones have tipped them over into an acute situation,” says Brian Willett, MSF Head of Mission in Madagascar. “Repeated climate shocks aggravate hardship for communities who have to build back every time”. Willett explained, “Many households tell us that despite careful rationing, their staple food stocks will be completely empty by February. This is worrying as the crop production from this year’s season is expected to be low due to little rain in the beginning of the season. And if yet another cyclone was to hit this season, it would transform this already dire situation into a catastrophe of significant scale.”

Madagascar: Malnutrition spikes in the wake of climate shocks - Madagascar | ReliefWeb

Friday, January 27, 2023

Ups and Downs in Africa

 Africa is less safe, secure and democratic than a decade ago, with insecurity holding back progress in health, education and economic opportunities, according to an assessment of the continent by the Ibrahim index of African governance

However, better infrastructure and phone and internet connectivity had improved economic opportunities across Africa since 2012. Health services for children and pregnant women, as well as disease control, had improved, as had education. Better resources and greater efforts in getting more children enrolled and completing their schooling was evident, although progress was slowed by Covid 

According to the index, security, rule of law and human rights have deteriorated in more than 30 countries. The report warned that democratic freedoms were being curtailed, citing examples of crackdowns and attacks on protesters calling for an end to police brutality in Nigeria and regime change in SudanProtests that have been met with excessive force from the security services have been steadily rising in number since 2016.

Mauritius, Seychelles and Tunisia were found to have the most effective governments, while South Sudan, Guinea-Bissau and Somalia had the worst. Libya, which has seen the biggest deterioration in governance over the past decade due to years of civil war, had some of the worst health, education and social welfare services on the continent

South Sudan suffered from a lack of economic opportunity, while almost three-quarters of its population faced hunger.

In countries where militias have proliferated, they have filled a vacuum of governance, often left by elites in capital cities who are not accountable to the rural populations. 

Russian Tensions – Page 272 – worldsocialism.org/spgb

Eradicating Disease

 Guinea worm is a painful and debilitating tropical illness. Once a person is infected with guinea worm, or dracunculiasis, there is no known way to stop the disease taking its course. About a year after the guinea worm larvae have entered the body, usually through drinking contaminated water, the affected person will experience severe pain due to the formation of a blister on their skin and the slow emergence of one or more worms measuring up to a metre. The person can be debilitated for weeks or months. In 1986, about 3.5 million human cases were recorded annually in 21 countries in Africa and Asia.

The good news is it will soon become the second human disease in history to be eradicated.

Only 13 cases of guinea worm disease were reported worldwide in 2022, down from 15 the previous year.

 It is the result of more than four decades of global efforts to stamp out the parasitic disease by mobilising communities and improving drinking water quality in transmission hotspots.

Pakistan, India and Uganda are among the countries that have eradicated it. Last year the Democratic Republic of the Congo joined the list.

The remaining endemic countries are Chad, where six of last year’s human cases occurred; South Sudan, which recorded five; Ethiopia, which saw one; and Angola, Mali and Sudan, which recorded no cases. The Central African Republic, a non-endemic country, reported one case, which is under investigation.

 Cases in animals also need to be eliminated and here, too, the numbers are going in the right direction. Infections in animals fell by more than a fifth last year.

Guinea worm disease could be second ever human illness to be eradicated | Global health | The Guardian

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Child Malnutrition in Kenya's Refugee Camps

 Dadaab in northern Kenya is one of the world’s largest refugee camps. In September of last year, it was home to more than 233,000 refugees – more than three times the number it was intended to accommodate. The number of arrivals is projected to increase by more than 100,000 by April. Malnutrition among children as surged over the past year.

Médecins Sans Frontières said its health facility in Dagahaley, part of the Dadaab refugee complex, has treated 33% more patients – mainly children – for malnutrition over the past year, while the rate of malnourishment in the camps grew by 45% in the last six months of 2022. 

“We’ve had to put up an extension ward to accommodate these numbers of children,” said Kelly Khabala, MSF’s deputy medical coordinator. 

The influx of new refugees has strained food and water and sanitation resources. MSF warns that the increase could “tip the crisis beyond the levels humanitarian organisations can manage”.

MSF has also raised concerns over rising cholera cases in the camp and across northern Kenya, including Garissa and Wajir. 

Northern Kenya and Somalia have been hard hit by the worst drought to hit east Africa in 40 years. The region is braced for its sixth consecutive failed rainy season this year. Millions are facing hunger and destitution. Humanitarian agencies say they are concerned over how they can meet people’s needs in the face of dwindling refugee funding.

Children go hungry at Kenya refugee camp as malnutrition numbers soar | Humanitarian response | The Guardian