Despite increased insecurity and limited funding, the UN food relief agency is continuing to supply food for hundreds of thousands of people affected by conflict in northern Mozambique.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is currently assisting up to 400,000 people in Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Niassa provinces, with a monthly family food basket of cereals, oil, dried beans and lentils, according to a statement released on Wednesday.
The baskets provide least 81 per cent of the daily kilocalorie needs of displaced families and contribute to preventing already traumatized and vulnerable families from falling victim to exploitation or employing negative coping mechanisms for survival.
WFP is also providing cash-based assistance for families to shop for basic items in local markets by redeeming vouchers equivalent to about $50 per month.
Survival under threat
Citing resource shortages, the UN agency noted that over the next three months, it may be forced to reduce or halt vital assistance to conflict-affected people, raising concerns over food and health supplies, as well as tensions within host communities.
“Internally displaced persons are especially vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 because they are crowded together in camps, host families’ backyards and outdoors with no or inadequate shelter, health services and access to clean water and sanitation”, said Antonella D’Aprile, WFP Country Representative in Mozambique.
“Thousands of children and adolescents who lost their parents and close family need our protection and care”, she added.
Resources run short
The Government pointed out that thousands in Cabo Delgado alone risk serious hunger and malnutrition.
And as some 565,000 people have fled their homes, humanitarian operations face shortages amounting to $108 million.
WFP currently requires $10.5 million each month to provide food assistance to 500,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) and 250,000 to host communities affected by the conflict in northern Mozambique.
While WFP needs $132.4 million to ensure humanitarian food assistance for the next 12 months, as of late December, only $24.4 million has been secured.
“Without sufficient funding, the food supply will be compromised”, the UN food relief agency spelled out.
Against this backdrop, Ms. D’Aprile said that “it is incredibly timely to join efforts now and protect the food and nutrition security and livelihood of Mozambicans…impacted by armed attacks, Cyclone Kenneth and the COVID-19 pandemic”.
With sufficient resources and access, WFP would be able to deploy humanitarian aid by road, sea and air, to deliver life-saving assistance assist each month to some 750,000 IDPs and people in the host community.
WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian organization and was awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its role in saving lives during emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict and disasters.
UN chief condemns ‘ongoing military coup’ in Sudan
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres on Monday condemned the “ongoing military coup” in Sudan, saying Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and all other officials, “must be released immediately.”
Long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by the military following months of popular protest in April 2019, and a transitional government was set up comprising both military and civilian leadership, after a power-sharing agreement, that was due to lead to full democratic elections in 2023.
Now, according to news agencies, Sudan’s military has dissolved civilian rule, arrested political leaders and declared a state of emergency. Protesters have reportedly taken to the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and there are reports of gunfire.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the Secretary-General said that “there must be full respect for the constitutional charter to protect the hard-won political transition.”
“The UN will continue to stand with the people of Sudan”, Mr. Guterres assured.
Progress in jeopardy
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also condemned the attempted coup.
“These actions threaten the Juba Peace Agreement and jeopardize the important progress made towards democracy and respect for human rights”, Michelle Bachelet said.
She called on military authorities to abide by the constitutional order and international law, withdraw from the streets, and resolve any differences with civilian leaders serving on the Transitional Council through dialogue and negotiation.
“I utterly deplore the reported arrest of the Prime Minister, several Ministers, leaders of the Forces of the Freedom and Change and other civil society representatives, and call for their immediate release”, she continued.
Communication systems down
Ms. Bachelet also pointed out reports that the internet is down in the country and other means of communication are suspended.
“Blanket internet shutdowns contravene international law, and Internet and mobile services must be restored, as they are essential for people to seek and receive information, particularly in these unsettling circumstances”, she explained.
She asked military and security forces to refrain from unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, to respect people’s freedom of expression, as well as the right of peaceful assembly.
According to her, “it would be disastrous if Sudan goes backwards after finally bringing an end to decades of repressive dictatorship.”
“The country needs to move forward to consolidate democracy, a wish expressed countless times by the Sudanese people, including loudly and clearly on the streets last week and today”, she added.
The head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission Sudan (UNITAMS), also released a statement, declaring that the arrests of the Prime Minister, government officials and other politicians are “unacceptable.”
“I call on the security forces to immediately release those who have been unlawfully detained or placed under house arrest”, Volker Perthes said. “It is the responsibility of these forces to ensure the security and wellbeing of people in their custody.”
The UNITAMS chief, who acts as a Special Representative of the Secretary-General, also urged everyone involved to exercise the utmost restraint.
“All parties must immediately return to dialogue and engage in good faith to restore the constitutional order”, Mr. Perthes concluded.
Madagascar: Severe drought could spur world’s first climate change famine
More than one million people in southern Madagascar are struggling to get enough to eat, due to what could become the first famine caused by climate change, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).
The region has been hit hard by successive years of severe drought, forcing families in rural communities to resort to desperate measures just to survive.
Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, has a unique ecosystem which includes animals and plants found nowhere else on the planet. The country experiences a dry season, usually from May to October, and a rainy season that starts in November.
Daily life disrupted
However, climate change has disrupted the cycle, affecting smallholder farmers and their neighbours, said Alice Rahmoun, WFP Communications Officer in the capital, Antananarivo, speaking to UN News on Thursday.
“There is of course less rain, so when there is the first rain, they can maybe have hope and sow some seeds. But one little rain is not a proper rainy season,” she said.
“So, what we can say is that the impacts of climate change are really stronger and stronger….so harvests fail constantly, so people don’t have anything to harvest and anything to renew their food stocks.”
Ms. Rahmoun was recently in southern Madagascar, where WFP and partners are supporting hundreds of thousands of people through short and long-term assistance.
The impact of the drought varies from place to place, she said. While some communities have not had a proper rainy season for three years, the situation might be even worse 100 kilometres away.
She recalled seeing villages surrounded by dried-out fields, and tomato plants which were “completely yellow, or even brown”, from lack of water.
Surviving on locusts
“In some areas they are still able to plant something, but it’s not easy at all, so they are trying to grow sweet potatoes. But in some other areas, absolutely nothing is growing right now, so people are just surviving only eating locusts, eating fruits and cactus leaves,” said Ms. Rahmoun.
“And, just as an example, cactus leaves are usually for cattle; it is not for human consumption.”
The situation is even more dire because, she added, “even the cactus are dying from the drought, from the lack of rain and the lack of water, so it’s really, really worrying”.
Families barely coping
The plight of families is also deeply troubling. “People have already started to develop coping mechanisms to survive,” she said.
“And that means that they are selling cattle, for example, to get money to be able to buy food, when before, they were able to get food and feed themselves from their own field production, so it’s really changing the daily life for people.”
Valuable assets such as fields, or even houses, are also put up for sale. Some families have even pulled their children out of school.
“It’s also a strategy right now to gather the family’s forces on finding income-generating activities involving children, so this has obviously a direct impact on education,” Ms. Rahmoun said.
Providing life-saving aid
WFP is collaborating with humanitarian partners, and the Malagasy Government, to provide two types of response to the crisis. Some 700,000 people are receiving life-saving food aid, including supplementary products to prevent malnutrition.
“The second one is more long-term response to allow local communities to be able to prepare for, respond to and recover from climate shocks better,” said Ms. Rahmoun. “So, this includes resilience projects such as water projects. We’re doing irrigation canals, reforestation and even microinsurance to help smallholder farmers to recover from a lost harvest, for example.”
WFP ultimately aims to support up to one million people between now and April, and is seeking nearly $70 million to fund operations. “But we are also involving more partners to find and fund climate change solutions for the community to adapt to the impacts of climate change in southern Madagascar.”
COP26: Prioritize adaptation
In just over a week, world leaders will gather in Glasgow, Scotland, for the COP26 UN climate change conference, which UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called the last chance to “literally turn the tide” on an ailing planet.
Ms. Rahmoun said WFP wants to use the conference to shift the focus from crisis response, to risk management.
Countries must be prepared for climate shocks, and they must act together to reduce severe impacts on the world’s most vulnerable people, which includes the villagers of southern Madagascar.
“COP26 is also an opportunity for us to ask governments and donors to prioritize funding relating to climate adaptation programmes, to help countries to build a better risk management system, and even in Madagascar, because if nothing is done, hunger will increase exponentially in the coming years because of climate change,” she said, adding: “not only in Madagascar, but in other countries.”
‘Overzealous’ security services undermining South Sudan peace
State security forces in South Sudan have been responsible for imposing new and potentially arbitrary restrictions against the country’s most prominent civil society leaders, issuing “credible” death threats that have undermined peace efforts, UN-appointed independent rights experts said on Wednesday.
In an alert, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan alleged that “overzealous” security forces had prevented dissent so dramatically, that civic space was now eroding “at an accelerating pace”, forcing rights defenders to flee and discouraging others from taking their place.
“The State’s targeting of high-profile human rights defenders will have a chilling effect on civil society and will discourage public participation and corrode confidence in the important processes of transitional justice, constitution making and national elections, which are essential for the success of the transition envisaged by the 2018 Revitalised Peace Agreement,” said Commissioner Andrew Clapham.
The actions of the National Security Services (NSS) have included detentions, raids, a likely internet shutdown and an enhanced security presence on the streets of Juba, the panel said in a statement.
Those targeted by threats, harassment and intimidation have included prominent human rights defenders, journalists and civil society actors. Many have played a key role in the country’s peace and justice processes.
“Jame David Kolok and Michael Wani are among those now sheltering outside the country in fear for their lives,” the UN Commission said, in reference to Mr. Kolok’s membership of the Technical Committee to Conduct Consultative Process on Truth, Reconciliation and Healing – a position reaffirmed in May by the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
Mr. Wani had been a youth representative on the National Constitution Amendment Committee, according to the UN panel, which noted that both men’s bank accounts, “and those of the non-government organisations they lead, are among those recently blocked on government orders, with other civil society actors also affected”.
The 2018 Revitalised Agreement for the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan contains power-sharing arrangements between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader, Riek Machar.
The accord requires the drafting of a permanent Constitution and the establishment of a Commission on Truth, Reconciliation, and Healing.
Although implementation of these and other measures – such as public consultation requirements – have been slow, government leaders have renewed pledges and taken steps toward these in recent months, the UN Commission said.
“These latest restrictions and acts of harassment follow the formation on 30 July of a new civil society coalition whose members planned a public assembly to take place on 30 August,” it explained.
Clampdown in Juba
The UN Commission – which was appointed by the Human Rights Council in March 2016 to investigate crimes linked to civil war that erupted in 2011 – noted that this public assembly could not take place amid “detentions, raiding of premises, an apparent internet shutdown, and an enhanced presence of security forces on the streets of Juba”.
Numerous civil society leaders are still in detention and their wellbeing is unclear, the commissioners said.
“The State’s authorities must respect and protect the rights of human rights defenders; this is an obligation under international law,” said Commissioner Barney Afako. “It would also demonstrate that South Sudan’s commitment to strengthening its systems for the consolidation of human rights is genuine.”
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