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Food insecurity in West Africa could leave 43 million at risk as coronavirus hits

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Well over 40 million people across West Africa face desperate food shortages in coming months, with COVID-19 restrictions a new factor adding to people’s vulnerability, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday.

Appealing for continued support from the international community for the agency’s global aid effort, WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs, warned that the new coronavirus risked exposing populations that had fled armed conflict and endured climate change emergencies.

“We must sustain our assistance across the region”, Ms. Byrs said. “Especially in places such as Central Sahel, Central African Republic, Nigeria and Cameroon.”

An estimated 12 million children under five years old could be acutely malnourished in the lean season from June to August, up from 8.2 million in the same period last year.

The alert follows a similar warning from the UN agency about a potentially massive spike in global food insecurity in East Africa, as a direct result of the pandemic.

During the lean season in June and August, more than 21 million people across West Africa “will struggle to feed themselves”, she explained, adding Gambia and Benin to the list of countries in need.

“An additional 20 million people could struggle to feed themselves due to the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in the next six months, doubling the number of food-insecure to 43 million in this region”, the WFP official added.

Highest forced displacement in Africa

Highlighting people’s vulnerabilities, Babar Baloch from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), described West and central Africa as “one of largest displacement situations in Africa…we are talking about 5.6 million internally displaced people, more than 1.3 million refugees and 1.6 million stateless.”

The UN refugee agency has repeatedly called for greater support for increasing numbers of people forced to flee for their lives amid renewed conflict in West Africa’s turbulent Sahel and Lake Chad region.

Burkina Faso has also witnessed massive displacement – of more than 838,000 people since January 2019 – a figure which keeps climbing with each passing day.

In recent weeks, the agency said that armed groups had targeted thousands of Malian refugees sheltering in camps near the border of Burkina Faso and Mali.

On Monday, the agency condemned attacks on 2 May on Malian refugees in Burkina Faso – “reportedly by the country’s security forces”, in Mentao refugee camp in which at least 32 people were injured.

The camp is located in Burkina Faso’s volatile Sahel region close to the border with Mali and hosts some 6,500 refugees, UNHCR said in a statement.

For WFP the priority continues to be the most vulnerable individuals.

Hand-to-mouth existence

They include “the urban poor – who live hand-to-mouth – (who) are most at risk”, Ms. Byrs said, highlighting how COVID-19 travel restrictions had compromised the transport of supplies and the functioning of open-air markets that serve most people, resulting in price increases in some countries.

Movement restrictions could also affect farmers as the planting season approaches, WFP said in a statement, warning that “an inadequate response” to current needs “would put the future well-being of millions of people in the region at stake, particularly women and young children”.

It could also lead to civil unrest in parts of a region already challenged by insecurity and violent extremism, the agency said, before adding that it was seeking to overcome challenges in partnership with the authorities.

A significant problem is the halt in school meal distribution, which has affected 18 million pupils supported through Government-led programmes and 2.2 million schoolchildren in WFP-supported schools.

“When Governments have had to close schools and stop (serving) school meals, we have worked with them,” said Ms. Byrs. “We are working with them, to organize distribution points for the most vulnerable families who can take food rations so that they aren’t penalized, as schools have been forced to shut, in line with confinement measures.”

She added: “We have put in place monitoring and evaluation systems to help us to target the most at-risk populations, and we do that with partners, with Governments of course, and the international humanitarian community, in the largest sense of the term.”

WFP urgently requires an additional $574 million to provide crucial assistance for the next six months in West Africa. These requirements are likely to increase in the coming weeks as the impact of COVID-19 is fully analysed.

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Scholz and Macron threaten trade retaliation against Biden

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After publicly falling out, Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel Macron have found something they agree on: mounting alarm over unfair competition from the U.S. and the potential need for Europe to hit back, – writes POLITICO.

The German chancellor and the French president discussed their joint concerns during nearly three-and-a-half hours of talks over a lunch of fish, wine and Champagne in Paris.

They agreed that recent American state subsidy plans represent market-distorting measures that aim to convince companies to shift their production to the U.S., according to people familiar with their discussions. And that is a problem they want the European Union to address.

Both leaders agreed that the EU cannot remain idle if Washington pushes ahead with its Inflation Reduction Act, which offers tax cuts and energy benefits for companies investing on U.S. soil, in its current form. Specifically, the recently signed U.S. legislation encourages consumers to “Buy American” when it comes to choosing an electric vehicle — a move particularly galling for major car industries in the likes of France and Germany.

The message from the Paris lunch is: ‘If the U.S. doesn’t scale back, then the EU will have to strike back. That move would risk plunging transatlantic relations into a new trade war.’

Crucially, Berlin — which has traditionally been more reluctant when it comes to confronting the U.S. in trade disputes — is indeed backing the French push. Scholz agrees that the EU will need to roll out countermeasures similar to the U.S. scheme if Washington refuses to address key concerns voiced by Berlin and Paris, according to people familiar with the chancellor’s thinking.

Before bringing out the big guns, though, Scholz and Macron want to try to reach a negotiated solution with Washington. This should be done via a new “EU-U.S. Taskforce on the Inflation Reduction Act” that was established during a meeting between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Mike Pyle.

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Uzbekistan’s Artel joins UN’s ‘Orange The World’ campaign against gender-based violence

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Artel Electronics LLC (Artel), Central Asia’s largest home appliance and electronics manufacturer, has teamed up with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) on a public information campaign against gender-based violence.

The campaign is in line with the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which utilizes the color orange to symbolize a brighter future. Artel’s green branding turned orange for several days in advertising material throughout Uzbek capital Tashkent, and public figures made statements to raise awareness.

Artel joins an international movement that kicked off on 25th November and lasts for 16 days. Since 1991, it has been used by individuals and organizations to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

This is the second year the company has ‘gone orange’. Artel Electronics HR Director, Lazizbek Mamatov, also took part in a panel discussion about Gender Equality in the Workplace hosted by the UNFPA at Westminster International University in Tashkent in line with the campaign.

Shohruh Ruzikulov, CEO of Artel, said “It is a privilege to once more work with the UN in raising awareness about the issue of Gender Based Violence. In Uzbekistan, this conversation is at a relatively young stage. We are proud to stand against domestic violence and continue Artel’s work in all areas to contribute to a better society.”

Mr. Yu Yu, Country Representative of the United Nations Population Fund, said “We are delighted to partner with a company like Artel on such an important issue. The public reach of the private sector is vital in ensuring our message to stand against domestic violence can be heard across all segments of society. We are grateful to Artel for taking leadership on this important issue in Uzbekistan. Together, we can make the change.”

The true rate of domestic violence in Uzbekistan is not known. However, the government alongside diplomatic partners and aid organizations are prioritizing the issue. In recent years the Presidential Administration has issued decrees targeted at domestic violence prevention, the government has adopted laws guaranteeing equal rights for women, and funding has been provided for information campaigns and rehabilitation centers.

Support for this campaign is just one of Artel’s initiatives to support women’s empowerment. Internally, the company has introduced whistle-blowing mechanisms, and is implementing an internal legal clinic to improve the legal literacy of employees. Over the last year, the proportion of women in the company’s 10,000 employees has risen by 5%, to 35%. The global average for the manufacturing industry is thought to be around 30%.

In 2021, Artel became a full participant of the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the world’s largest business community focused on sustainable development. In doing so, the company committed to promoting ten principles covering human rights, labor rights and environmental protection.

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Douglas Macgregor: ‘Russia will establish Victory on its own terms’

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The Biden administration repeatedly commits the unpardonable sin in a democratic society of refusing to tell the American people the truth: contrary to the Western media’s popular “Ukrainian victory” narrative, which blocks any information that contradicts it, Ukraine is not winning and will not win this war, notes in his new article Douglas Macgregor, Col. (ret.), who was the former advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration.

Months of heavy Ukrainian casualties, resulting from an endless series of pointless attacks against Russian defenses in Southern Ukraine, have dangerously weakened Ukrainian forces.

Predictably, NATO’s European members, which bear the brunt of the war’s impact on their societies and economies, are growing more disenchanted with Washington’s Ukrainian proxy war.

European populations are openly questioning the veracity of claims in the press about the Russian state and American aims in Europe.

The influx of millions of refugees from Ukraine, along with a combination of trade disputes, profiteering from U.S. arms sales, and high energy prices risks turning European public opinion against both Washington’s war and NATO.

After concluding that the underpinning assumptions regarding Washington’s readiness to negotiate and compromise were invalid, Putin directed the STAVKA to develop new operational plans with new goals:

– first, to crush the Ukrainian enemy;

– second, to remove any doubt in Washington and European capitаls that Russia will establish Victory on its own terms;

– and, third, to create a new territorial Status Quo commensurate with Russia’s national security needs.

It is now possible to project that the new Russian armed forces that will evolve from the crucible of war in Ukraine will be designed to execute strategically decisive operations.

The new military establishment will consist of much larger forces-in-being that can conduct decisive operations on relatively short notice with minimal reinforcement and preparation.

Put differently, by the time the conflict ends, it appears Washington will have prompted the Russian State to build up its military power, the very opposite of the fatal weakening that Washington intended when it embarked on its course of military confrontation with Moscow.

Biden’s “take no prisoners” conduct of U.S. foreign policy means the outcome of the next phase of the Ukrainian War will not only destroy the Ukrainian state. It will also demolish the last vestiges of the postwar liberal order and produce a dramatic shift in power and influence across Europe, especially in Berlin, away from Washington to Moscow and, to a limited extent, to Beijing, writes Douglas Macgregor.

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