Afghan sieges, 3D faces, and aid workers in the crosshairs: The Cheat Sheet

Every Friday, IRIN’s team of specialist editors offers a curation of humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

 

On our radar:

 

#NotATarget

 

Sunday the 19th of August is World Humanitarian Day, which annually recognises aid workers and supports calls for their protection. The stats are awful. Last year, 139 aid workers were killed, 102 were wounded, and 72 were kidnapped. Deaths were 30 percent higher than in 2016. Consulting group Humanitarian Outcomes tracked incidents affecting 313 aid workers in 22 countries in its Aid Worker Security Database. The most dangerous countries were South Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, and Central African Republic. The annual figures also saw a “steep rise” in incidents involving local NGO staff. This reflects, HO reported, international reliance on local staff and organisations to “take on the riskiest of operational roles in the most insecure areas”. Security watchdog INSO said Central African Republic was particularly bad in 2018 due to “criminality, impunity and a lack of regard for humanitarian actors”. This year, the Aid Worker Security Database has already recorded 76 deaths. However, figures are imperfect and definitions blurred: another monitor, Aid In Danger, reports that 111 aid workers were killed from January to June. The United Nations has set up an online visual “petition” on aid worker safety, which turns your selfie into a 3D image - the effect is... well, you decide.

 

Ebola ‘cure’ tested in Congo

 

One of the most worrying aspects of the Ebola virus, together with the high rate of mortality of the disease it causes in humans (and the gruesomeness of these deaths), is that health workers have only been able to help infected patients with generic supportive therapies. That could be about to change as an experimental molecule, mAB114, is being tested in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a new Ebola outbreak is thought to have killed 43 people since the beginning of this month. The molecule, developed from a survivor of a 1995 Ebola outbreak, has been tested on monkeys infected with the virus. All of them survived. We’ll have more on this, and other experimental treatments, soon.

 

Ethiopian PM urged to tackle ethnic violence

 

Some 2.8 million Ethiopians are now internally displaced, up from 1.6 million at the start of the year, according to UN figures. The dramatic rise is largely due to violence that broke out in September along the border between the Somali and Oromia regions. Last weekend, paramilitary forces were blamed for the deaths of 40 people in Oromia. The killings followed widespread looting in Jijiga, the capital of the Somali region. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has won international praise for his sweeping domestic reforms and fence-mending with neighbouring Eritrea since coming to power. But rights activist Oban Metho says it’s now imperative that he addresses the sectarian unrest. “His failure to speak out against such violence significantly hinders his efforts for reconciliation, inclusion, national unity and healing,” Metho told the Ethiopian Observer. Human Rights Watch also called for more to be done to quell the unrest, especially with regard to investigations and criminal justice.

Aid ramifications after Taliban siege of Afghan city

 

Humanitarian aid made its way into the besieged Afghan city of Ghazni this week after days of intense fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces. The aid included fuel, medicine, drinking water, and 250 coffins – evidence of the scale of the violence that reportedly killed at least 150 civilians and sent others scattering as far as Kabul, 175 kilometres northeast. The Afghan government declared it had retaken the city, yet the Taliban’s ability to lay siege to Ghazni and surrounding districts has important humanitarian implications in a country where many districts are already off limits to aid groups. Fighting outside the city blocked the main highway from Kabul to Kandahar in Afghanistan’s south, according to the World Food Programme, which raised fears the Taliban could cut off key supply lines. It’s unclear how the siege will impact attempted peace talks with the Taliban, particularly after a short ceasefire in June spurred cautious optimism. The uncertainty comes as the country lurches forward to planned parliamentary elections in October, which analysts predict could be a catalyst for further instability.

In case you missed it, 13-17 August

 

INDIA: More than 60,000 people have been evacuated and dozens are dead after widespread floods submerged much of the southern Indian state of Kerala. The state is in the middle of what’s been described as the worst monsoon season since 1924. Rains are expected to continue until at least mid-September. Damages to crops have been significant, which means that people dependent on the land could need longer term help with their livelihoods even after the waters have subsided.

LIBYA: One of Libya’s many militias violently evicted 1,900 displaced people from the informal camp where they were living in Tripoli on 10 August, shooting in the air and beating civilians in the middle of the night. Those displaced are members of a minority group with the same name as Tawergha, the town they have been unable to return to since the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: The UN’s agency for Palestine refugees announced Thursday that it would be opening the schools it runs for 526,000 students across the Middle East. This is never a given: in late July UNRWA announced it was cutting 250 jobs, the result of funding cuts by US President Donald Trump’s administration. But the news is not all good: the agency says there’s no guarantee it will be able to keep schools open, even through the end of 2018.

 

 

Our weekend read:

 

US puts new limits on foreign aid funded through the UN

 

Have you been looking into the PIO grant from USAID situation, which could affect US contributions to the UN? Ok, too many acronyms. But they didn't scare off regular IRIN contributor Samuel Oakford, and what he found is pretty alarming-- depending how much you believe the Trump administration is bent on cutting back on foreign aid. Oakford clearly needs to get a life, but mining into the arcane details of USAID’s funding for Public International Organizations, which  include UN agencies like UNICEF as well as the World Bank and the African Union, he discovered a rule change that means any grant over $5 million now  must be signed off by USAID Administrator Mark Green. Typically, this threshold would be at $40 million, and critics fear the move represents an attempt by the Trump administration to curtail spending to UN orgs while preferring to channel financing towards Christian and other causes. Take a peek when you can. One to watch, for sure.

(TOP PHOTO: A volunteer of the South Sudan Red Cross Society in Eastern Equatoria. CREDIT: Mari Aftret Mortvedt/ICRC)

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