UN approves $9 mln in aid for crisis-stricken Venezuela

It is the first UN emergency funding for the government of President Nicolas Maduro. (File photo / Reuters)
Updated 27 November 2018
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UN approves $9 mln in aid for crisis-stricken Venezuela

GENEVA/CARACAS: The United Nations on Monday announced $9.2 million in health and nutritional aid for crisis-stricken Venezuela, where hunger and preventable disease are soaring amid the collapse of the country’s socialist economic system.
It is the first UN emergency funding for the government of President Nicolas Maduro, which blames the country’s economic problems on US financial sanctions and an “economic war” led by political adversaries.
Government critics celebrated the move as a recognition by Venezuelan authorities that the country faces a humanitarian crisis — something Maduro has denied in the past — and a step toward treating a population starved of basic services.
But some worry the funds could fuel the corruption of the ruling Socialist Party, which was put on display last week when a former Venezuelan treasurer told US prosecutors he took $1 billion in bribes.
The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) will support projects to provide nutritional support to children under five years old, pregnant women and lactating mothers at risk, and emergency health care for the vulnerable, CERF’s website said.
“CERF allocations are made to ensure a rapid response to sudden-onset emergencies or to rapidly deteriorating conditions in an existing emergency,” according to CERF’s website.
CERF mainly funds projects in countries at war or experiencing other crises like natural disasters, a UN official told Reuters, adding that other UN agencies may have provided funding to Venezuela through separate programs.
Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Aid for Venezuela’s crisis has until now been focused on South American nations that have received most of the 3 million Venezuelans who have left the country amid a mass exodus since 2015. CERF’s website shows it has provided $6.2 million for “Venezuela’s Regional Refugee and Migration Crisis.”
Many governments have been wary of providing direct aid to Venezuela, where officials face sanctions from the United States and Europe for alleged wrongdoing including corruption, human rights abuses and drug trafficking.
“I celebrate them finally accepting aid,” exiled opposition legislator Jose Manuel Olivares, a doctor and activist on health issues, said in a telephone interview, but added:
“This is a government of profoundly corrupt institutions, and (the funds) could end up in a public official’s bank account in a tax haven.”


Blasts heard in Maiduguri, northeast of Nigeria, before polls open

Updated 23 February 2019
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Blasts heard in Maiduguri, northeast of Nigeria, before polls open

  • The city is the birthplace of Boko Haram Islamists
  • Boko Haram has warned it will disrupt the elections

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria: A series of explosions was heard in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri on Saturday, shortly before the opening of polls in presidential and parliamentary elections.

Multiple blasts were heard at about 6A.M. (0500 GMT), locals said. There was no immediate indication of the cause.

But the city is the birthplace of Boko Haram Islamists and has been repeatedly attacked during their nearly 10-year insurgency that has devastated the remote region.

Polls open at 0700 GMT, with President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army general who has vowed to defeat the jihadists, seeking a second term.

Boko Haram has warned it will disrupt the elections.

One resident in the Gomari neighborhood of Maiduguri said: “I heard several explosions coming from the Bulumkutu area this morning but it’s unclear what is happening.

“There have been suspicions that it was an attack by Boko Haram but we don’t know yet.”

He added: “Late yesterday (Friday), some gunmen went into the house of a man in Gomari and shot him dead. We still don’t know the motive.”

Two other residents gave a similar account.

The early morning explosions in Maiduguri come after a Boko Haram attack late on Friday on Zabarmari village, some 10 kilometers outside Maiduguri.

The attack forced residents to flee into the city.