Drought-hit Somalia : People are dying. The world must act

The UN chief has urged international support to alleviate Somalia’s worsening hunger crisis during an emergency visit to the country. Antonio Guterres issued the appeal on Tuesday after witnessing the suffering of malnourished Somalis and cholera victims during his first field trip since becoming the UN chief. He said the hunger crisis requires a massive response as six million people, or almost half of the population of the Horn of Africa country, need assistance. “Every single person we have seen is a personal story of tremendous suffering. There is no way to describe it,” Guterres said after seeing skeletal men, women and children in a cholera ward in Baidoa, 243km northwest of the capital, Mogadishu.

 

Fighting to survive hunger in Somalia

 A week after his inauguration, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo declared a state of disaster in his drought-stricken country of Somalia, where the lives of 6.2 million people are now at risk. Even as the ongoing war against al-Shabab continues and African Union forces (AMISOM) fight to assist the fragile government, the looming famine has become a priority. The drought will be a trial for all those involved in Somalia’s struggles. It will test the international community’s response, the government’s ability to assist, and the strength of security provided by the African Union forces.
In the far north of Somalia, three years with little rain has had increasingly disastrous effects for a population reliant on the land. The parched earth has failed to produce food for the camels and goats that the people depend on for their income, meat, and milk for their children. Local leaders in Puntland estimate the pastoralists have already lost 65 percent of their animals. While the men accompany the remaining livestock in the hunt for grazing land, the women and children are migrating towards towns on main roads in search of alternative sources of food. Displaced people have been setting up tents along the roads in hope of receiving aid from passing vehicles. It’s there the women, children, and elderly wait for assistance in the heat and dust. In the coming months, if the word famine is used to describe the crisis in Somalia, it will mean that help never came.

Mobs in South Africa, attack immigrants

More than 300 suspects have been arrested in South Africa in connection with deadly attacks on foreigners that have forced thousands to flee, the government said Sunday. “We once again unequivocally condemn the maiming and killing of our brothers and sisters from other parts of the continent,” the government said. “No amount of frustration or anger can justify these attacks and looting of shops.” Thousands sought refuge in temporary shelters after mobs with machetes attacked immigrants in Durban. The attacks in Durban killed two immigrants and three South Africans, including a 14-year-old boy, authorities said. Heavily armed police have scrambled to stop clashes after local residents accused immigrants from other African nations of taking their jobs. The government praised law enforcement agencies for stopping further bloodshed in Durban. “We believe that their commitment to duty has prevented injuries and even deaths that could have happened if they security forces had not acted,” it said.

Drought in Somalia : Time is Running Out

Four-year-old Safia Adan lies in Baidoa Regional Hospital in southern Somalia with a tube through her nose. She is suffering from severe malnutrition and dehydration. At her side her worried grandmother looks up to explain that Safia first became sick after drinking water from the local well. “The water had changed colour but we still drank it,” says her grandmother. “We stopped after Safia became sick. We brought her to the city because we knew you get could get good treatment here.” They were lucky – seven people from their village are now confirmed dead and the hospital has seen a surge in children suffering from water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea. They are the latest victims of the on-going drought ravaging Somalia that has left more than six million people, half the country’s population, facing food shortages and has seen water supplies become infected with bacteria rendering them undrinkable. 
Last week the United Nations warned that a severe famine in Somalia was a distinct possibility and noted that if the rains failed again and urgent international action was not taken the country could see a repeat of the famine of 2011, which killed more than a quarter of a million people. “In the worst affected areas inadequate rainfall and lack of water has wiped out crops and killed livestock,” the UN said in a statement released last week. “Communities are being forced to sell their assets and borrow food and money to survive.” Aid agencies are particularly concerned that the drought is exacerbating the country’s on-going humanitarian crisis – 365,000 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished and 71,000 of those children are in need of urgent life-saving assistance. “This time last year we had far fewer cases but due to the drought people will use any kind of water,” says Dr Abdullah Yusuf, medical coordinator for the Baidoa Regional Hospital.

 Karel Prinsloo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drought stokes rivalry between Kenyan cattle herders

Cattle rustling and competition for grazing have long troubled northern Kenya, but severe drought and political rivalries ahead of the elections have exacerbated the situation between ethnic tribes.  

Student protests in South Africa

 
Hundreds of students demanding free education have clashed with police in renewed violence at South Africa’s top university in Johannesburg after it attempted to reopen following recent unrest. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades and water cannon to disperse stone-throwing protesters at Witwatersrand University, also known as Wits. Blade Nzimande, the country’s education minister, appealed for dialogue and condemned the violence, saying the university’s efforts to run its academic programme were being “held to ransom by irresponsible and disrespectful striking students”. Two arrests were made and minor injuries reported, according to a statement by the university. “The students started throwing sizeable rocks that could have maimed or killed people,” Wits said in a statement after trying to reopen on Monday.
Chaos started with protesters moving through science and mathematics buildings, seeking to disrupt classes. Libraries and a large laboratory were empty. Later, there were tense exchanges. As police helicopters circled, some protesters spilled into city streets. A bus was set on fire, and thick smoke billowed into the air. Thato Mokoena, one of the student leaders, called on the university management to stop “militarisation” of the campus. “The university needs to start realising that every day we have security and police, every day we have violence. Every other day when they are not here, everything is OK. So I think there should be a de-militarisation of our campuses,” he said. Police and student protesters also fought on a campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, the African News Agency reported. Unrest was reported at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein as well.  

Insecurity and violence in South Sudan

On the fifth anniversary of its independence from Khartoum, South Sudan finds itself plunged into an ever-deepening cycle of violence. Despite a peace agreement in August and the formation of a transitional government of national unity in Juba in April, fighting has escalated across the country in recent weeks. On June 24, more than 100,000 civilians were forced from their homes in the town of Wau in the northwest when a force of government soldiers and irregular Dinka militia entered the town.
The men, armed with guns, pangas and spears, went from house to house in the south and west of the town, attacking civilians and looting their property, sources in Wau told Al Jazeera. Those targeted were mainly from a group of tribes collectively known as Fertit. Dozens were killed and many more injured. According to figures from the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, almost 50,000 were displaced in Wau within the first week, and the numbers have since continued to grow. The International Committee of the Red Cross told that by June 30 it had given aid to 73,000 people displaced outside the town. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spain seeks to jointly govern Gibraltar

Spain seeks to jointly govern Gibraltar after the British territory voted in favor of remaining in the EU.
 Spain will seek to jointly govern Gibraltar with Britain following the British vote to leave the European Union, acting foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said on Friday. The peninsula on Spain’s south coast, a British territory since 1713 known to its 30,000 residents as “the Rock”, is a major point of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations. Spain has long claimed sovereignty over the enclave.
“It’s a complete change of outlook that opens up new possibilities on Gibraltar not seen for a very long time. I hope the formula of co-sovereignty – to be clear, the Spanish flag on the Rock – is much closer than before,” Garcia-Margallo said. Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo told the territory’s parliament there would be no talks on such a deal. Co-sovereignty with Spain was rejected by around 99 percent of Gibraltarians in a referendum in 2002.
“Let others make irrelevant noises about flying flags over our Rock if they want to waste their breath. Such ideas will never prosper,” he said. The majority of people living in Gibraltar – designated as a British Overseas Territory – are British citizens with British passports, although thousands of Spaniards cross from mainland Spain every day for work. Gibraltarians voted overwhelmingly in favor of Britain remaining in the European Union but were outnumbered in Thursday’s referendum and now face the consequences.
Garcia-Margallo said Spain would push to keep Gibraltar out of any general Brexit negotiations between Britain and the European Union and will aim for bilateral talks to seek co-sovereignty and eventually Spanish control of the peninsula. Britain rejects any notion of Spanish sovereignty against the wishes of the people of Gibraltar, one of the most prosperous regions in Europe with a thriving economy based on financial services, tourism and Internet gambling. The mood was subdued in Gibraltar on Friday, with people apprehensive and confused about what the result may mean for the movement of labor and capital over the border with Spain.
  

Venezuela economic crisis means fewer meals, more starch

Venezuela is a powder keg. Once a rich country held together by strong leadership and heavy social spending, it is now in economic disaster and could slide into widespread social disorder, triggering instability throughout Latin America. Drastic shortages of food, medicine, electricity and other necessities are causing small riots. Organized crime and extrajudicial police killings have given Venezuela a frighteningly high rate of murder and violence, with narco-traffickers allegedly in cahoots with corrupt allies in the government and security forces. Runaway inflation means that from March 2015 to 2016 a basket of basic goods for a family of five became 524 percent more expensive. According to a local NGO, Venezuela faced 170 lootings or attempted lootings from January to April 2016.
The highly unpopular socialist government of Nicolas Maduro announced electricity rationing and drastic cutbacks to the state work schedule, in part because of a drought and in part because world oil prices have collapsed, cutting government revenues dramatically. Meanwhile, the National Assembly, which is controlled by Maduro’s opposition, declared the country’s health sector a national emergency. As if this weren’t enough, the government is taking steps toward authoritarian control over its opposition.
Maduro is the handpicked successor of former president Hugo Chávez (1999-2013) and leader of the chavista political movement’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Maduro’s PSUV controls the Supreme Court and all national institutions. The lone exception was the National Assembly, where a heterogeneous coalition of opposition parties had a three-fifths majority. Maduro recently declared a 60-day state of emergency, after alleging that his opposition was conspiring to launch a coup. Now Maduro is threatening to effectively close the assembly down.
The emergency decree already grants the president super powers by invalidating congressional authority to review key budgetary issues budget or issue motions of censure against his cabinet. Even more ominously, the decree expands the military’s role in the maintenance of public order. Sectors of the opposition have termed the decree an “auto-golpe” — self-coup — and a “tipping point” in the country’s crisis.