Thursday, December 29, 2022

South Sudan Suffering

 Vulnerable people in South Sudan continue to suffer the cumulative and compounding effects of years of social and political instability, food insecurity, and climate-related shocks such as flooding. In 2023, a projected 9.4 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection, compared to 8.9 million in 2022 and an estimated 2.8 million people are expected to face physical violence including, rape, and other forms of gender-based violence and will need protection assistance. Protracted displacement has affected over 2.2 million people unable to return to their homes.

The ongoing conflict, including violence at the sub-national level, has impacted thousands of people in 2022, leading to multiple displacements, loss of lives and livelihoods. This has also exacerbated people’s chronic vulnerabilities and mounting needs for life-saving humanitarian assistance and protection. 

An estimated 30,000 people have been reportedly displaced following recent violent clashes by armed elements in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area in South Sudan.

The violence has led to cattle raiding, destruction of properties, and displacement of thousands of people. Some 5,000 internally displaced people, including women and children, have arrived in Pibor town after fleeing the conflict areas of Gumuruk and Lekuangole.

 “People have suffered enough. Civilians – especially those most vulnerable – women, children, the elderly and the disabled – bear the brunt of this prolonged crisis”, said Ms. Sara Beysolow Nyanti, Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan.   “The violence must stop. The whole humanitarian community calls upon all armed elements to immediately cease hostilities, respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians and humanitarian workers,” said Ms. Nyanti. “Impunity is a perpetuating factor and root cause for conflict and insecurity. There must be accountability,” she stressed.  “Peace is the prerequisite for people to rebuild their lives,” she added.

Ms. Hamida R. Lasseko, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan expressed her grave concern, noting that “the escalation of violence in areas across the country has left some vulnerable people fleeing for safety in various directions in desperate need of support.” 

Violent clashes in South Sudan intensify the humanitarian situation - South Sudan | ReliefWeb

Healthcare Failing in Tanzania

 Government health sector reports show that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes are on the rise and now account for about 40% of Tanzania’s disease burden.

The country has one of the world’s fastest-growing populations, and UN projections suggest it will be one of eight countries responsible for more than half the increase in global population by 2050. People are also living longer – life expectancy is a predicted 66 for men and 71 for women by 2025 – and the UN expects the number of Tanzanians over 60 to more than double over the next three decades. Even at its current population, Tanzania is struggling to meet its health needs. 

Older Tanzanians are disproportionately affected by NCDs, yet nearly 90% of people over 50 do not have health insurance and have little access to medical services. The state health insurance scheme can cost between £70 and £350 a year, and healthcare costs are prohibitive for many. Authorities estimate that more than three-quarters of people don’t visit hospitals until they are severely ill.

Mary Mayige, coordinator of the National Survey for Non-Communicable Diseases, says that conditions that once mainly affected the elderly now affect people in their 30s who are “the production engine of the country”. Healthcare has always been thought about in terms of spending, she says. “It’s high time that countries begin to look at the situation as a threat to the economy and human capital development.”

Tanzania allocates less than 5% of its GDP to health, which is below the international threshold for provision of basic services. Donor funding contributes to about 60% of total public spending, but the health programmes it pays for are heavily skewed towards infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, despite data which suggests that cases of infectious diseases are falling, while NCDs are on the rise and account for nearly half of the country’s deaths.

In the blood: why diabetes is the scourge of entire families in Tanzania | Global development | The Guardian

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Christmas in DRC

 Hundreds of thousands of people have fled M23 rebels, who have captured swathes of territory in recent months.

At least 510,000 people have been displaced in the Rutshuru area of North Kivu province since the outbreak of conflict between the M23 and the Congolese army in March, the United Nations’ humanitarian agency OCHA said. Some 233,000 of those have taken refuge in areas of Nyiragongo north of Goma. Save the Children said on Thursday that it had recorded more than 973 cholera cases in two weeks in Nyiragongo.

Without food and clothes, DRC’s displaced face grim Christmas | News | Al Jazeera

Christmas: Consumerism and Commerce


Religion rests on the acceptance of unprovable ideas: the existence of a supernatural power beyond our comprehension, of a supreme being with total control and of life after death. Religion arose from the problems faced by human society in its attempts to achieve order and control nature. We made god in our own image. Religion preaches humility, submission, self-contempt and obedience. It puts forward the most conservative view of society. Religion cannot be reconciled with a rational view of the universe and society.

Humans made gods in their own image. The rule of immortal gods reflects and serves to justify rule by mortal masters in society. Why else is he called "King"? Indeed. why else is he "he" rather than "she"? Like our real rulers, gods are portrayed as all-powerful yet merciful, presiding over human misery. If gods exist, they are our enemies.

Christmas evolved from an ancient pagan festival and pre-Christian origin. It is supposed to celebrate the birth of "Jesus Christ", a possibly legendary figure claimed as the Messiah and as a demigod. He is the focal point of one the most powerful and widespread, oppressive and stultifying religious movements that have tortured humanity.


Nowadays Christmas is mostly a secular festival when for a few days wage slaves indulge in what festivities they can afford. It is the tradition at Christmas to speak of Peace on Earth and Good Will To All. But think of the tragedy of the want, the wars and the waste that prevails over the world. 

Friday, December 23, 2022

South Africa - Same old problems

 “The people have to lead the leaders.” explained Irvin Jim, the general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA).

He said his country “is sitting on a tinderbox” and that “The situation is brutal and harsh,” Irvin Jim said. “The social illness that people experience each day is terrible. The rate of crime has become very high. The gender-based violence experienced by women is very high. The statistics show us that basically people are fighting for crumbs.”

 In the new South Africa, he said, “Africans can go to the beach. They can take their children to the school of their choice. They can choose where to live. But access to these rights is determined by their economic position in society. If you have no access to economic power, then you have none of these liberties.”

South Africans are fighting for crumbs: A conversation with trade union leader Irvin Jim -

Friday, December 16, 2022

A Blind Eye Turned to DRC Atrocities

Dr Denis Mukwege, the Nobel prize-winning surgeon, said, “We can see very clearly that this politics of double standards is undermining the credibility of the international, multilateral system. I’m sorry to say that this sort of flexible humanism is frustrating young Africans,” said Mukwege, comparing the huge international response to the war in Ukraine with the muted references to the “totally forgotten” DRC.

He warned western diplomatic inertia was already boosting support among many young Africans for the old foe of western imperialism. “At protests now they are flying the Russian flag,” he said. “Now, I do not think that Russia is a solution … but there really is a lack of trust among Africans at the moment in the policies pursued by many European countries.”

Mukwege said colleagues in North Kivu hospitals were seeing the number of patients, including rape victims, “increasing significantly”. He had recently been in a camp for internally displaced people near Goma, where he said teenage girls were living “in a state of constant fear due to the fact that at any moment they risk being destroyed by people who view them as game … to be hunted”.

Ever since M23 took up arms in late 2021, scrutiny of its alleged links with neighbouring Rwanda has returned. In August the UN said it had “solid evidence” that Rwandan troops had been fighting alongside M23.

“The US have got proof … UN experts have got proof,” said Mukwege. “So the question is: what is the west waiting for to sanction Rwanda for the crimes against humanity that are being committed, these serious violations of human rights?” adding: “I believe that recognising that Rwanda is supporting M23, which is a terrorist group that kills, rapes and destroys the population, has to be followed by sanctions.”

Mukwege said he suspected many western countries were reluctant to act for fear of harming their economic interests in DRC, one of the most mineral-rich countries in Africa and the world’s leading supplier of cobalt – crucial for making smartphones and electric vehicles.

“Why can’t we do things differently?” he said. “Create business links that would allow Congolese people to live in peace and mining companies to do their work in a win-win relationship … there is no need to go back to the 19th century, to the time of Leopold II, to have mobile phones or car batteries.”

Nobel prize winner criticises western ‘neglect’ and urges action over DRC violence | Conflict and arms | The Guardian

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

DRC and Climate Change

 The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo is blaming climate change for major floods that have claimed around 100 lives in the capital Kinshasa.

"The DRC is under pressure but unfortunately it's not sufficiently heard or supported," President Felix Tshisekedi told Secretary of State Antony Blinken as they met at a US-Africa summit in Washington. The flooding is an example of "what we have been deploring for some time," he said. "Support must come from countries that pollute and unfortunately trigger the harmful consequences in our countries that lack the means to protect themselves," he said.

Blinken offered condolences for the deaths, saying the flooding was "further evidence of the challenges we are facing with climate and something we need to work on together."

DR Congo leader blames climate change for devastating floods (

Friday, December 09, 2022

Malawi Hospitals - No Money, No Medicines

 Health workers in Malawi claim the government is “ignoring” acute shortages of drugs and equipment that are crippling the country’s hospitals. “Gloves, syringes, giving sets [used to administer fluids], cotton, gauze and other essential supplies are in very short supply. Patients are being told to buy syringes when they go to the health centres. We continue to receive patients from health centres simply because they don’t have some essential supplies,” they said.

Patients have been asked to bring in their own syringes while the theatre and labour ward at the main Bwaila maternity hospital in the capital, Lilongwe – has faced temporary closures because “we don’t have equipment/supplies to work with”

The government has more than halved the drug budget since 2019. In May, health ministry officials admitted they would struggle to source essential drugs as there wasn’t enough money.

Last year how nearly half of Malawi’s district hospitals had closed their theatres because of a lack of anaesthetics.'

The Association of Malawian Midwives and the National Organisation of Nurses accused the government of ignoring a worsening problem and instead “painting a rosy picture”.

“While our nurses and midwives are facing challenges on the ground, we find it very illogical for the authorities at the ministry of health to claim that everything is normal at health facilities,” the unions said in a statement. “They should put measures in place to ensure that no lives are lost due to lack of supplies, fuel for prolonged blackouts. Nurses, midwives and other health professionals are unable to resuscitate patients needing oxygen therapy, put up intravenous infusions that provide a lifeline in acutely sick patients, young and old, due to poor lighting, professionally conduct deliveries in labour wards, suture tears and episiotomies, remove umbilical cords around babies’ necks, do manual removal of placentae, perform vacuum extractions.”

Joel Moyo, president of the Anaesthesia Association of Malawi, said hospitals cannot get drugs or are receiving expired medicines.

“For spinal needles we use on pregnant mothers, we are using local cannulas, which are not recommended. We don’t have some drugs for general surgeries and other supplies like syringes,” Moyo said.

The Ministry of Health blamed the Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST), which buys hospitals’ supplies. The trust said it cannot buy from suppliers because of a foreign exchange shortage.

‘Bring your own syringe’: Malawi’s medical supplies shortage at crisis point | Global health | The Guardian

M23 Massacre in DRC

 A UN investigation has found that at least 131 civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo died in a November attack by the M23 rebel group.

The UN report said the massacre took place in two villages - Kishishe and Bambo - in the Rutsuhuru district of the eastern North Kivu province.

Investigators said the attack appeared to be a reprisal for a current government offensive on the rebels. M23 denied the massacre, blaming "stray bullets" for just eight deaths.

But the UN's Monusco peacekeeping mission in the country said 102 men, 17 women and 12 children were "arbitrarily executed" by the rebel group "as part of reprisals against the civilian population".

At least 22 women and five girls were also raped, the report said.

"This violence was carried out as part of a campaign of murders, rapes, kidnappings and looting against two villages in the Rutshuru territory as reprisals for the clashes between the M23" and other armed groups, including the FDLR, the statement said, adding that the true number of killed could be even higher. Witnesses said the rebel group broke down doors, shot civilians, looted property and burned villagers out of their homes.

DR Congo conflict: M23 rebels executed over 130 civilians - UN - BBC News

Thursday, December 08, 2022

Food insecurity in West and Central Africa

 The number of hungry people in West and Central Africa is projected to reach an all-time high of 48 million people (including 9 million children) next year. 

 Currently, 35 million people (including 6.7 million children) in the region - approximately 8 percent of the assessed population - are presently unable to meet their basic food and nutrition needs.

Across Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Togo, the Cadre Harmonisé analysis reveals a 20 percent increase in food insecurity in the last quarter of 2022, compared to the same period last year. In Nigeria alone, 25 million women, men and children are facing moderate or worse food insecurity, meaning they can easily fall into an emergency food security situation if no immediate response is provided.

In conflict-affected areas of the Lake Chad Basin and the Liptako-Gourma region (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger), where 25,500 people will experience catastrophic hunger (phase 5) during the June-August 2023 lean season. This is the period of the year when food stocks from the previous harvest are exhausted, and families struggle to meet their basic food needs until the next harvest.

 Acute malnutrition in children under 5 is of concern, particularly in Sahel countries and in Nigeria - with rates exceeding the 15 percent emergency threshold in some areas in Sénégal (Louga and Matam), Mauritania (Gorgol and Guidimaka), north-eastern Nigeria (Yobe and Borno states) and Niger (Dogon and Doutchi).

The global acute malnutrition rate also exceeds 10 percent in many areas around the Lake Chad Basin (Niger, Nigeria and Chad) and the border areas between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Conflict, population displacement, limited access to basic social services, including health care, education, water, hygiene, and sanitation, unaffordable nutritious diets are among the underlying causes of acute malnutrition in children under 5, pregnant women and nursing mothers across the region.

“The food and nutrition security outlook for 2023 is extremely worrying and this should be the last wake-up call for governments of the region and their partners,” said Chris Nikoi, WFP’s Regional Director for Western Africa Region.

“The Sahel is teetering on the brink of full-blown catastrophe; we are seeing food availability decline in most countries, and fertilizer prices are on the rise”, said Robert Guei, FAO’s Sub-regional Coordinator for West Africa.

“The latest data indicates continuing unacceptably high levels of severe wasting for children in many countries in West and Central Africa, leaving a devastating impact on the region’s future,’’ said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

FAO, UNICEF and WFP call for urgent and long-lasting action in West and Central Africa as the region faces another year of record hunger with thousands experiencing catastrophic levels of food insecurity - Burkina Faso | ReliefWeb

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Famine in all but name

 One person is dying every 36 seconds.

 Yet British aid to the region is only one-fifth of what Britain provided when the region was struck by famine in 2017. More than 7 million children are acutely malnourished across drought-stricken Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Two former secretaries of state for international development and the heads of 14 of the UK’s leading aid agencies have warned in a joint letter that he UK urgently needs to do more to help more than 28 million people in need.

The letter warns: “East Africa is facing a catastrophic hunger crisis caused by one of the worst droughts in living memory. It is looking increasingly likely that a fifth consecutive rainy season has failed in the region, leaving millions of families in a desperate situation and facing starvation …what we are seeing on the ground is a famine in all but name. Despite the rapidly mounting death toll, the international response is woefully underfunded and the UK has failed to do its bit.”

The UK has confirmed an allocation of just £156m this year across east Africa, less than a fifth (18%) of the £861m provided in 2017-8 during the region’s last major hunger crisis, which helped avert widespread famine. The UK has given Somalia £62m this year, considerably less than the £101m provided in 2021 and the £232m it gave in 2020. Food inflation in Somalia is currently 15%. The decline in spending underlines how much the UK has been forced to scale back its ambitions in Africa due to aid cuts.

Oxfam’s CEO, Danny Sriskandarajah, who recently visited the Somali regions of Sanna and Togdheer, said: “People I met said the situation was the worst in living memory. Communities have run out of ways to cope and families have been stretched to breaking point. It is incomprehensible that with hunger likely claiming a life in the region every 36 seconds, the UK government has failed to respond in any meaningful way. The time to act is now.”

Christine Allen, the director of Cafod, who visited northern Kenya earlier this year, said: “...this drought has been unprecedented, leaving families who otherwise cope finding themselves in desperate situations. People are doing what they can to support each other, but they need aid urgently. The scale of need goes beyond what charities can do. The UK must step up. The government has cut aid to east Africa to well below than in 2017, yet for many the situation is as bad as it has ever been. This cannot go on, without action now millions face losing their lives.”

Former development secretaries urge Sunak to increase east Africa aid amid drought | Aid | The Guardian

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Glencore Corruption

 Mining company, Glencore, has said it will pay $180m (£147m) to the Democratic Republic of Congo to settle corruption claims.

The agreement covers an 11-year period from 2007 to 2018.

It is the latest in a series of corruption cases which has seen Glencore agree to pay out more than $1.6bn in fines this year.

In May it admitted bribing officials in several African nations including DR Congo.

Despite the fines Glencore is expected to make record profits of around $3.2bn this year.

Remarking on the culture that developed at Glencore, Mr Justice Fraser said that "bribery was accepted as part of the West Africa desk's way of doing business".

"Bribery is a highly corrosive offence. It quite literally corrupts people and companies, and spreads like a disease," he added.

DR Congo: Miner Glencore pays $180m in latest corruption case - BBC News

Monday, December 05, 2022

Is the UK stealing energy?

 An £18bn project to connect Britain with a huge wind and solar farm in the Sahara through an undersea cable has been delayed by at least a year.

The energy startup Xlinks hopes to provide 8% of Britain’s energy supplies through a 3,800km (2,360-mile) cable linking Morocco with the UK, powering 7m homes by 2030. The cable transporting power from the site will hug the Moroccan coastline, then pass alongside Portugal, northern Spain and France before looping around the Isles of Scilly to terminate at Alverdiscott in north Devon, where Xlinks has already agreed to 1.8 gigawatt connections

The project had been expected to begin generating power by 2027. However, that target date now appears unlikely.

When the Morocco-UK link is complete, Xlinks expects to generate 20 hours of reliable renewable energy a day using the Sahara’s sunshine and breezy night-time conditions.

The plan is to build almost 12m solar panels and 530 wind-farms over the 960 sq km area of desert. The site, in the Guelmim-Oued Noun region, will also have 20 gigawatt hours of battery storage.

What the Guardian article fails to point out is that part of Guelmim-Oued Noun is in the disputed area of Western Sahara claimed by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

 £18bn project to link UK to huge wind and solar farm in Sahara delayed by a year | Energy industry | The Guardian

Friday, December 02, 2022

South Sudan Continues to Suffer

 More than half the population of South Sudan – 6.6 million people – are severely hungry, including 2.2 million people at risk of starvation. 

Yet the humanitarian response remains woefully underfunded, and without an urgent increase in aid now, 7.7 million people or two-thirds of the population will face severe food shortages next year, Oxfam warned.

 The latest estimates are that 9.4 million people in South Sudan will be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2023, over three quarters of the population and an increase of 500,000 people from 2022.

Despite the scale of the crisis, the UK government has promised just £3m in humanitarian aid to South Sudan this year. In 2017 the UK government provided £162 million in humanitarian and development aid to the country. Despite millions of people facing starvation, the government have continued to cut the overseas aid budget.

The UN humanitarian appeal for South Sudan has half a billion dollar shortfall, with $1.3 billion raised compared with $1.5 billion in 2020 despite the increased number of people in need of help. The outlook for the next lean season from April – July 2023 is bleak as aid declines, and 1.4 million children are projected to be malnourished.

Dr Manenji Mangundu, Oxfam South Sudan Country Director, said: “The world cannot continue to ignore the suffering of millions of people who face a daily struggle to survive. Funding is urgently needed to save lives now and to ensure people can grow enough food and make a living in order to feed their families. The South Sudanese people are paying the price for a climate crisis that rich polluting nations have caused.”

People eating leaves to survive in South Sudan as aid fails to keep pace with spiralling hunger crisis - South Sudan | ReliefWeb

AGRA - Repeating Mistakes

 The Gates Foundation-sponsored Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) announced a new five-year strategy in September after rebranding itself by dropping “Green Revolution” from its name. AGRA offered no explanation for why it dropped “Green Revolution” from its name. 

Ignoring evidence, criticisms and civil society pleas and demands AGRA’s new strategy promises more of the same.

AGRA’s new slogan — “Sustainably Growing Africa’s Food Systems.” Likewise, the new plan claims to “lay the foundation for a sustainable food systems-led inclusive agricultural transformation.” But beyond such lip service, there is little evidence of any meaningful commitment to sustainable agriculture in the $550 million plan for 2023–27. AGRA’s new strategy is built on a series of “business lines,” e.g., the “sustainable farming business line” will coordinate with the “Seed Systems business line” to sell inputs. Private Village Based Advisors are meant to provide training and planting advice in this privatized, commercial reincarnation of the government or quasi-government extension services of an earlier era. 

The new strategy promises “AGRA will promote increased crop diversification at the farm level.” But its advisers cum salespeople have a vested interest in selling their wares, rather than good local seeds which do not require repeat purchases every planting season.

Despite heavy government subsidies, AGRA promotion of commercial seeds and fertilizers for just a few cereal crops failed to significantly increase productivity, incomes or even food security. Despite spending well over a billion dollars, AGRA’s productivity gains have been modest, and only for a few more heavily subsidized crops such as maize and rice. And from 2015 to 2020, cereal yields have not risen at all. Meanwhile, traditional food crop production has declined under AGRA, with millet falling over a fifth. Yields actually also fell for cassava, groundnuts and root crops such as sweet potato. Across a basket of staple crops, yields rose only 18 percent in 12 years. 

Farmer incomes have not risen, especially after increased production costs are taken into account. As for halving hunger, which Gates and AGRA originally promised, the number of “severely undernourished” people in AGRA’s 13 focus countries increased by 31 percent.

But instead of addressing past shortcomings, the new plan still relies heavily on more of the same. It is time to change course, with policies promoting ecological farming by reducing reliance on synthetic fertilizers as appropriate. But despite its new slogan, AGRA’s new strategy intends otherwise. 

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa rejected the strategy and name change as “cosmetic”, “an admission of failure” of the Green Revolution project, and “a cynical distraction” from the urgent need to change course.

donor-commissioned evaluation confirmed many adverse farmer outcomes. It found the minority of farmers who benefited were mainly better-off men, not smallholder women the program was ostensibly meant for.

 Earlier international agricultural research collaboration associated with the first Green Revolution — especially in wheat, maize and rice – seems to have collapsed, surrendering to corporate and philanthropic interests. 

AGRA is not strengthening resilience by promoting agroecology or reducing farmer reliance on costly inputs such as fossil fuel fertilizers and other, often toxic, agrochemicals. Despite many proven African agroecological initiatives, support for them remains modest.

Gates Foundation Myopia on African Agriculture (

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Kenya's Hunger Problem

 Today, 4.4 million Kenyans are on the doorstep of hunger with 1.2 million one step away from a catastrophe because of Kenya’s worst drought in 40 years.

“We lived off milk and meat,” recalls Alice, “but with time, water and pasture started dwindling in the once productive hills and our livestock started to die.” 

“Five consecutive failed rainy seasons have decimated more than 2.5 million livestock, the main source of food and income - meaning that children, mothers and the elderly don’t have milk – a critical source of nutrients for livestock keepers,” says Felix Okech, WFP’s Head of Relief and Refugees Operations in Kenya.

In Northern Kenya, Cash Transfers Help Families Cope Amid the Drought - Kenya | ReliefWeb