Trump’s travels, Cote d’Ivoire’s fractious army and the cost of natural disasters: the cheat sheet

Every week, IRIN’s team of editors looks ahead at what’s on our humanitarian radar and curates a selection of the best reports, opinion, and journalism you may have missed:

How can we mitigate damage from disasters, and who will pay for it?

Next week thousands of representatives from different countries and international organisations will gather in Cancun, Mexico, to discuss one of the defining challenges of our time: how to deal with natural disasters, which are only getting worse due to climate change. It’s the first global forum on disaster risk reduction, and it comes two years after the Sendai Framework, the landmark agreement which recognizes that governments hold the primary responsibility for reducing disaster risk in their countries. That non-binding agreement set targets, including lowering death rates and economic losses from disasters. In Cancun, the experts will wrestle with the question of how to pay for those initiatives. And the forum will be an opportunity to check on the progress each country has made in putting in place risk reduction policies, which they’ve agreed to enact by 2020. As the Earth continues to warm, and disasters like droughts and super-storms are more frequent, meeting those targets becomes ever more urgent.

Is drought behind drop in migration from the Horn of Africa?

It’s often assumed that the African migrants who now make up the majority of those taking boats across the Mediterranean to Europe are fleeing grinding poverty back home. But, as this article by the Nairobi-based Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat makes clear, international migration doesn’t come cheap. Journeys from the Horn of Africa to Italy can cost as much as $10,000. In other words, the poorest of the poor cannot afford to migrate. In 2015, Eritreans, Sudanese and Somalis made up a significant proportion of arrivals to Italy via the central Mediterranean. But starting in the summer of 2016, their numbers began to fall dramatically. Arrivals of Ethiopian and Somali migrants and asylum seekers to Yemen have seen a similar decrease over the past six months. Olivia Akumu and Bram Frouws of RMMS suggest that the current drought situation in the Horn could be behind the drop. While the drought has forced many households to move, most only travel a short distance and for a short period. The prolonged drought conditions have depleted the resources they would need to cross borders, let alone make it to Europe. With the drought set to worsen over the coming months and crossings of the Mediterranean usually peaking in the summer months, we should have a better idea by the end of the summer how this trend plays out. 

Cote d’Ivoire’s troublesome army

Strike action can be inconvenient. But when it’s the army on the streets protesting with their weapons, that’s a whole different level of troublesome. Cote d’Ivoire’s fractious and fragmented armed forces won their demands for back pay and bonuses and returned to their barracks this week after five tense days of roadblocks and gunfire.  It’s the second mutiny since January, and African Arguments does us all a favour by trying to unpick what’s going on.

It suggests there are three ways to understand the military’s rebelliousness. The first is as a straight labour dispute, part of a broader economic discontent that has seen (unarmed) teachers and civil servants down tools. Another useful lens reveals a degree of political flexing ahead of presidential elections in 2020, while a third theory looks to the tensions between the various factions within the army. From this perspective delays in addressing key reforms in the security sector since the civil war have been a “crucial factor in the army’s rising disenchantment”. Take your pick of the hypotheses, but all fascinating reading.

Trump hits the road

Donald Trump is to get a break from domestic drama (at least in terms of proximity) as he embarks on his first foreign trip as US president today. But he’s not exactly heading into calm waters: he’s first off to Saudi Arabia, which has been bombing Yemen for the past two years in an attempt to oust Houthi rebels and their ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, from power. While in Riyadh, Trump’s expected to announce new arms deals with the kingdom, now reported to be worth as much as $300bn.  Humanitarians hope that cosying up to Saudi Arabia (and lining up more firmly against regional rival Iran) will not lead the US to further ignore the catastrophe unfolding in Yemen, worsening by the day as a cholera outbreak compounds extreme hunger. As we reported from Sana’a this week, this is zero hour for the epidemic, and fast action – with Saudi cooperation – is the only way to prevent further spread. So don't just watch who Trump glad-hands in Riyadh or Jerusalem (Israel is his next stop). Keep an eye on whether aid workers can get garbage off the streets, bring chlorine tablets to the masses, and keep hospitals operating. And, of course, don’t forget about that critical battle at Hodeida port, which the Saudi-led coalition likely won’t jump into without massive US backing.

South Sudan’s deepening war

In October, we reported on how hundreds of South Sudanese opposition forces, including their leader Riek Machar, fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo after clashes in Juba marked the collapse of a 2015 peace accord and power-sharing plan. That deal never had a chance, according to this report, published today by the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, which describes it “deeply flawed.” And now the “war continues to widen and metastasize into a deepening national crisis of ethnic military fragmentation.” The report blames the spread of violence into Greater Equatoria (watch this space for IRIN’s forthcoming multimedia reportage) on the agreement’s security provisions.  And it exposes how dilly-dallying by the UN – whose peacekeeping mission in DRC rescued Machar and his desperately malnourished troops – allowed weapons to seep back into South Sudan. Now that South Sudan’s war has spilled over into DRC, and with no viable peace deal for regional and international players to work with, there is little hope that this devastating conflict will be resolved any time soon.

Israel’s gets tougher on asylum seekers

Life for the estimated 40,000 African asylum seekers living in Israel was already hard. Although most are fleeing war or dictatorial regimes in Sudan and Eritrea, only a handful have been granted refugee status and a 2013 “anti-infiltration” law means they can be held for up to a year in a remote desert detention facility called Holot. Now, an amendment to the anti-infiltration law that came into effect on 1 May requires employed asylum seekers to lodge 20 percent of their earnings with the authorities, to be repaid only when they leave the country. Their employers are required to deposit a further 16 percent of the salaries into the state fund. Most asylum seekers already work in minimum-wage fields such as construction. Rights groups argue that the docking of their already low wages will result in hunger and homelessness, but a petition to the High Court to prevent the law from coming into force was rejected. The government has made no secret of the fact that it wants to induce as many asylum seekers as possible to leave the country. A “voluntary” deportation scheme offers them one-off grants of $3,500 and one-way tickets to “safe” third countries including Uganda and Rwanda.

(TOP PHOTO: A search and rescue team recovers an earthquake survivor in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2010. UN Photo/Marco Dormino)

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