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Daily Archives: February 21, 2017
Years of war bring ‘man-made’ famine to South Sudan
South Sudan’s government said Monday that more than three years of war have led to famine in parts of the nation, a tragedy aid agencies criticised as “man-made”.
Isaiah Chol Aruai, the chairman of South Sudan National Bureau of Statistics, said some parts of the northern Greater Unity region “are classified in famine, or… risk of famine”.
A joint press statement from aid agencies said 100,000 people were affected by the famine, which threatened another one million people in the coming months.
“A formal famine declaration means people have already started dying of hunger. The situation is the worst hunger catastrophe since fighting erupted more than three years ago,” said the statement signed by the World Food Programme (WFP), UN children’s agency UNICEF and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).
An August 2015 peace deal was left in tatters when fighting broke out in Juba in July last year.
Violence — initially between ethnic Dinka supporters of Kiir and ethnic Nuer supporters of Machar — has since spread to other parts of the country, engulfing other ethnic groups and grievances.
The United Nations has warned of potential genocide and ethnic cleansing, and there is no prospect of peace in sight.
Humanitarians under attack
Unity State, a traditional Nuer homeland and birthplace of Machar, has been one of the flashpoints in the conflict.
“The convergence of evidence shows that the long term effects of the conflict coupled with high food prices, economic crisis, low agricultural production and depleted livelihood options” have resulted in 4.9 million people going hungry, Aruai said.
That figure represents 42 percent of the country’s population.
The famine classification is according to an internationally recognised sliding scale of hunger in which an extreme lack of food has lead to starvation and death.
“The main tragedy of the report that has been launched today… is that the problem is man-made,” said Eugene Owusu, the United Nation’s Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan.
“The underlining drivers have been there for some time and we have all known that we have a major food crisis.”
He said conflict and insecurity for humanitarian workers, who had suffered attacks while carrying out their work, and the looting of “humanitarian assets” had exacerbated the crisis.
“I would like to use this opportunity to call on the government, the warring parties and all actors to support humanitarians to provide the necessary access so we can continue to bring lifesaving services to those in need,” he said.
According to the joint press statement, the number of people facing hunger is expected to rise to 5.5 million at the height of the lean season in July if nothing is done to curb the spread of the food crisis.
“Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive,” said FAO Representative in South Sudan Serge Tissot.
“The people are predominantly farmers and war has disrupted agriculture. They’ve lost their livestock, even their farming tools. For months there has been a total reliance on whatever plants they can find and fish they can catch.”
While the famine in South Sudan is man-made,millions more across the Horn of Africa are going hungry due to a devastating drought following two failed rainy seasons.
Famine early warning system FEWSNET has warned that if 2017 rains were again poor in Somalia — as forecast — “famine would be expected.”
Anti-terror police arrest three over ‘advanced’ plot
French police on Tuesday arrested three men suspected of planning a terror attack in raids in the Paris area, Marseille and the central city of Clermont-Ferrand, legal sources said.
In Clermont-Ferrand, a bomb-disposal operation was called in to sweep the home of a 37-year-old suspect for explosives, a source said.
“The suspects had a plot that was sufficiently advanced for the police to decide to arrest them,” another source said.
The raids were ordered by anti-terrorism prosecutors in Paris, according to a judicial source.
France, which has been rocked by a wave of deadly jihadist attacks from January 2015, remains on high alert.
On February 3, a 29-year-old Egyptian armed with machetes lunged at four soldiers on patrol outside the Louvre museum, crying “Allahu Akbar” (God Is Greatest).
He was shot and seriously injured by one of the soldiers.
A week later, police arrested four people in southern France, including a 16-year-old girl near Montpellier, on suspicion they were planning an “imminent” attack.
During the raid, the officers found ingredients used to make TATP, a highly unstable homemade explosive used in the November 2015 attacks in Paris.
The teenage girl, her partner and an older man described as their mentor were charged with terrorist offences.
I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:
Trump administration widens net for immigrant deportation – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-39042712
Staten Island, the New York borough where Trump is a hero
Chaotic press conferences, questions over Russia and an aborted attempt at an immigration ban: For many observers, President Donald Trump’s first month in office has been a bumpy ride. But many in the New York borough of Staten Island disagree.
In this corner of New York City, Trump‘s nascent presidency has been nothing short of a triumph for many of the Republican billionaire’s loyal supporters.
“We love him and he’s doing a great job!” says Aiman Youssef, a resident of Staten Island.
New York’s least and most sparsely populated borough, Staten Island can seem like a world away from the glitz of Manhattan or the brownstones of gentrified Brooklyn. Largely residential, blue-collar and white, the island has a distinct identity – something that remains true when it comes to politics.
While traditionally Democratic New York City voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in November’s election – with the former secretary of state and first lady winning 79 percent of the vote overall – Staten Island very much bucked the trend, with 57 percent of the borough’s residents backing Trump.
Law and order
Among them was Youssef. As a Syrian-American who moved to the United States in the 1980s seeking better opportunities, he may seem like an unlikely supporter of a president who has attempted to halt immigration, including refugees from Syria like himself.
However, Youssef believes Trump is simply providing the security that the country needs.
“Mr. Trump is imposing law and order. And some people, they just want the wild wild west,” says Youssef. “He’s protecting the country.”
So far, he is more than happy with Trump’s record since taking office in January.
“Everything he said he’d do during his campaign, he’s now doing it.”
In 2012, Youssef lost his home when Hurricane Sandy tore through Staten Island. The experience inspired him to start his own disaster relief charity, Half Table Man, which provides food, clothes and other goods and services to those in need.
But he sees no discrepancy between his own charity work and his support of Trump’s attempted immigrant and refugee ban.
“Let’s cover the needs in this country and then we cover the needs in other countries,” he says, as he delivers donated goods to a Staten Island church from where they will be distributed locally.
Families to feed
There is, however, a group of people on Youssef’s own doorstep who fear Trump’s policies could have a very real and damaging impact on their lives. Although Staten Island is New York’s only borough where non-Hispanic whites are the majority, there is still a sizeable immigrant population here.
Some of them have already felt the wrath of Trump’s presidency. Earlier this month, local media reported that five Mexican residents of Staten Island had been arrested in raids by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Luis, 23, works for an organisation that helps immigrants in Staten Island find work, including those who are in the US illegally.
“Usually, you’d see people waiting here and here,” he says, pointing to empty street corners known for being areas where illegal workers line up, hoping to land a job as a day labourer.
“Maybe it’s just the cold weather, but there haven’t been many since Trump.”
People in Staten Island’s immigrant community are scared for their livelihoods and over whether or not they will be able to stay in the United States.
“The fear is [of] impacts at so many levels – they rely on this. They have families to feed.”
At 4.6 percent, Staten Island’s unemployment rate hit a 10-year low at the tail end of 2016.
Nevertheless, it is fear of the effects of cheap immigrant labour on jobs and the economy that led many in the borough to back Trump at the ballot box last November, says Sal Oliva, 32.
The long-time Staten Island resident works at a hotel not far from Trump Tower in an upscale neighbourhood of Manhattan while making extra money as a painter and decorator.
“It affects me economically because I have to compete [with] cheap labour,” he says. “Illegal immigration is stealing American jobs and driving wages down. A lot of people [in Staten Island] are impacted by illegal immigration.”
Saving the country
Oliva does not shy away from showing his support for a president he believes is going to “save the country”: he even has a tattoo of Trump’s face on his arm.
“I got it done after he signed the executive order to start building the wall with Mexico. I was just so happy that he’d kept that promise,” he says. “The guy who did it was a Mexican; I think he ripped me off on the price.”
As a gay man, Oliva is aware that his support for Trump’s conservative administration might surprise some. But for him there is no dichotomy, particularly when it comes to taking a tough line on immigration from largely Muslim countries.
“I think gay people have a kind of Stockholm syndrome with Islam, always trying to defend it. But these people burn gay people in the streets in their countries,” he says.
Even in Staten Island, being an outspoken Trump supporter can come with a cost.
“I’ve lost friends, I’ve had people stop talking to me who I’ve known for years. It’s been harder to be a Trump supporter than a gay man, can you believe that?”