4 countries face famine threat as global food crisis deepens

Somalis displaced by drought arrive at makeshift camps in the Tabelaha area on the outskirts of Mogadishu, on Thursday. (AP)
Updated 01 April 2017
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4 countries face famine threat as global food crisis deepens

LONDON/WASHINGTON: Global food crises worsened significantly in 2016 and conditions look set to deteriorate further this year in some areas with an increasing risk of famine, a report said on Friday.
“There is a high risk of famine in some areas of north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen because of armed conflict, drought and macro-economic collapse,” the Food Security Information Network (FSIN) said.
FSIN, which is co-sponsored by the UN food agency, the World Food Programme and the International Food Policy Research Institute, said the demand for humanitarian assistance was escalating.
FSIN said that 108 million people were reported to be facing crisis-level food insecurity or worse in 2016, a drastic increase from the previous year’s total of almost 80 million.
The network uses a five-phase scale with the third level classified as crisis, fourth as emergency and fifth as famine/catastrophe.
“In 2017, widespread food insecurity is likely to persist in Iraq, Syria (including among refugees in neighboring countries), Malawi and Zimbabwe,” the report said.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has boosted the US military’s authority to step up airstrikes in the fight against insurgents in Somalia, the Defense Department said on Thursday.
According to a Pentagon official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the new leeway accorded to the military will mean they no longer will have to justify a decision to launch airstrikes, potentially leading to more aggressive bombardments on militant hideouts.
This broader authority would allow the US to carry out offensive strikes against Al-Shabab militants even if the militants were not attacking partnered forces, the officials said.
They said rules to avoid civilian casualties would not be loosened.
The expanded powers also will give greater autonomy in decision-making on airstrikes to the head of US forces in Africa, Gen. Thomas Waldhauser.
“The president has approved a Department of Defense proposal to provide additional precision fires in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia and Somali security forces operations,” said Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, in a statement, released on Thursday.
The decision mirrors one the White House made in January this year when it declared parts of three provinces in Yemen an “area of active hostilities,” allowing the military greater flexibility to target Al-Qaeda militants there.
The forces are fighting to defeat Al-Shabab militants who were forced out of the capital in 2011 by African Union (AU) troops but still controls parts of the country.
“The additional support provided by this authority will help deny Al-Shabab safe havens from which it could attack US citizens or US interests in the region,” Davis said.
The decision is in line with the Republican Trump administration’s policy to expand the authority of the military, particularly in authorizing more aggressive airstrikes in certain countries.
The military had accused the previous Democratic administration of President Barack Obama of micromanaging combat operations.
Obama notably kept tight control over armed drone strikes, which his successor is pursuing in Somalia and Yemen.
Last Friday, Gen. Waldhauser said that greater ability to fight the militants would lead to more flexibility and quicker targeting.
In recent months, the US has carried out more than 40 strikes against Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, which lies just across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia.
As many as 12 civilians, some of them women and children, were killed along with a US commando in a January raid in southern Yemen. The US has said that raid gathered valuable intelligence.
Al-Shabab has been able to carry out deadly bombings despite losing most of its territory to AU peacekeepers supporting the Somali government. The group’s insurgency aims to drive out the peacekeepers and topple Somalia’s Western-backed government.
The US has a small presence in Somalia and is allowed to carry out strikes in defense of partnered forces.
Two US defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said parts of Somalia had been declared an “area of active hostilities” for at least 180 days by the White House on Wednesday night. The capital Mogadishu was not included.


Amnesty International strips Myanmar’s Suu Kyi of ‘conscience’ award

Updated 21 min 46 sec ago
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Amnesty International strips Myanmar’s Suu Kyi of ‘conscience’ award

  • Myanmar leader accused of perpetuating human rights abuses by not speaking out about violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority
  • The international human rights group named Suu Kyi as its 2009 Ambassador of Conscience Award recipient when she was still under house arrest

YANGON: Amnesty International has withdrawn its most prestigious human rights prize from Aung San Suu Kyi, accusing the Myanmar leader of perpetuating human rights abuses by not speaking out about violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Once hailed as a champion in the fight for democracy, Suu Kyi has been stripped of a series of international honors over a Rohingya exodus that began in August 2017.
More than 700,000 members of the mostly stateless group fled across Myanmar’s western border into Bangladesh after the Myanmar military launched a crackdown in response to Rohingya insurgent attacks on the security forces.
UN-mandated investigators have accused the military of unleashing a campaign of killings, rape and arson with “genocidal intent.”
Suu Kyi’s administration rejected the findings as one-sided, and said the military action was engaged in a legitimate counterinsurgency operation.
The international human rights group named Suu Kyi as its 2009 Ambassador of Conscience Award recipient when she was still under house arrest for her opposition to Myanmar’s oppressive military junta.
In the eight years since she was released, Suu Kyi led her party to election victory in 2015 and set up a government the following year, but she has to share power with generals and has no oversight over the security forces.
Amnesty International said in a statement on Tuesday she had failed to speak out and had “shielded the security forces from accountability” for the violence against the Rohingya, calling it a “shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for.”
The global advocacy organization’s secretary general, Kumi Naidoo, wrote to Suu Kyi on Sunday saying the group was withdrawing the award because it was “profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defense of human rights.”
Zaw Htay, the Myanmar government’s main spokesman, did not pick up Reuters calls seeking comment on Monday.
In March, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum rescinded its top award from Suu Kyi and she has had other honors withdrawn, including the freedom of the cities of Dublin and Oxford, England, over the Rohingya crisis.
In September, Canada’s parliament voted to strip Suu Kyi of her honorary citizenship.
Critics have called for her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize to be withdrawn but the foundation that oversees the award said it would not do so.
Amnesty International also said Suu Kyi had not condemned military abuses in conflicts between the army and ethnic minority guerrillas in northern Myanmar and her government had imposed restrictions on access by humanitarian groups.
Her government had also failed to stop attacks on freedom of speech, it said.