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

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.

NZ leader Ardern vows to deny accused gunman notoriety he seeks

Updated 18 min 32 sec ago

NZ leader Ardern vows to deny accused gunman notoriety he seeks

  • ‘You will never hear me mention his name. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal.’
  • “He will face the full force of the law in New Zealand,” Ardern promised grieving Kiwis

CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed Tuesday never to utter the name of the twin-mosque gunman as she opened a somber session of Parliament with an evocative “as salaam alaikum” message of peace to Muslims.

“He will face the full force of the law in New Zealand,” Ardern promised grieving Kiwis, while promising that she would deprive the man who slaughtered 50 people in Christchurch of the publicity he craved.

“He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety,” she told assembled lawmakers of the 28-year-old Australian accused of the slaughter.

“That is why you will never hear me mention his name. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless.”

“I implore you: Speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them.”

Dressed in black, the 38-year-old leader opened her remarks in Parliament with the symbolism of the greeting uttered across the Islamic world.

“Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh” she said — ‘May the peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be with you too.’

She closed her address by noting that “on Friday, it will be a week since the attack, members of the Muslim community will gather for worship on that day. Let us acknowledge their grief as they do.”

Her comments came as dozens of relatives of the deceased began arriving from around the world ahead of expected funerals which have already been delayed far beyond the 24 hours after death usually observed under Islamic custom.

The slow process of identification and forensic documentation has so far made burials impossible, augmenting families’ grief.

Javed Dadabhai, who traveled from Auckland to help bury his cousin, said families and volunteers were told: “It is going to be a very slow process, a very thorough process.”

“Some families have been invited to have a look at their family members... the ones that are easiest to recognize, but we are talking about three or four.”

“The majority of people still have not had the opportunity to see their family members,” he told AFP.

In the wake of the mass shooting, Ardern has promised to reform New Zealand gun laws that allowed the gunman to legally purchase the weapons he used in the attack on two Christchurch mosques, including semi-automatic rifles.

New Zealanders have already begun answering government appeals to hand in their weapons, including John Hart, a farmer in the North Island district of Masterton.

Hart said it was an easy decision for him to hand in his semi-automatic and tweeted that “on the farm they are a useful tool in some circumstances, but my convenience doesn’t outweigh the risk of misuse. We don’t need these in our country.”

The tweet drew a barrage of derogatory messages to his Facebook account —  most apparently from the US, where the pro-gun lobby is powerful and vociferous.

Hart deleted the messages but posted online: “A warm kia ora to all my new American Facebook friends.”

“I’m not familiar with your local customs, but I assume ‘Cuck’ is a traditional greeting,” he said of the insult, short for “cuckold” frequently used by far-right pundits.

Police said they did not have data available on the number of weapons handed in since Friday.