Doctors Without Borders warn of food crisis in southern Ethiopia

Displaced Gedeo women in West Guji. Violence between Ethiopia’s largest minority, the Oromo, and the Gedeo people has plagued the southern Gedeo and West Guji zones since April 2018. (AFP)
Updated 18 April 2019
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Doctors Without Borders warn of food crisis in southern Ethiopia

  • MSF has treated more than 200 children in the past two weeks for serious malnutrition in Gedeo
  • MSF field coordinator Markus Boening said some parents were arriving at their clinics with children just clinging to life

ADDIS ABABA: Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned Thursday that severe malnutrition was gripping parts of southern Ethiopia where ethnic violence has driven nearly a million people from their homes into squalid camps.
MSF has treated more than 200 children in the past two weeks for serious malnutrition in Gedeo, where fresh violence in recent weeks between ethnic minorites has forced families to flee.
MSF field coordinator Markus Boening said some parents were arriving at their clinics with children just clinging to life, suffering from the worst form of malnutrition.
“Many of them arrive much, much too late... we lost some children because of that,” he told AFP, without providing an overall figure for those who have died.
Violence between Ethiopia’s largest minority, the Oromo, and the Gedeo people has plagued the southern Gedeo and West Guji zones since April 2018, shortly after the inauguration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
The fighting died down by the end of the year and some of the close to one million people displaced by the conflict began returning to their homes in Gedeo and West Guji, key coffee growing areas.
But an outbreak of fresh violence in March saw families again on the march, many leaving behind their only source of income as they crowded into fetid displacement camps.
“The situation in the camps is pretty dire, from my point of view, in terms of shelter, in terms of water and sanitation,” Boening said.
“It can become quite catastrophic.”
Elected by Ethiopia’s ruling party after more than two years of anti-government unrest, Abiy has announced popular reforms such as ending hostilities with neighboring Eritrea and welcoming banned groups back into the country.
But his first year in office was marred by violence between the Oromo and the Gedeo — among other ethnicities — as 1.8 million people fled their homes in 2018, the highest displacement rate on the planet.
Boening warned that those eking out survival in camps in Ethiopia’s south would encounter fresh hardship when the rainy season began in coming weeks.
“For the betterment of the situation, there’s definitely more help needed,” he said.


Jailed hardline Buddhist monk granted pardon in Sri Lanka

Updated 6 min ago
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Jailed hardline Buddhist monk granted pardon in Sri Lanka

  • Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero was serving a six-year jail term for contempt of court
  • The pardon comes just a week after anti-Muslim violence erupted in many parts of the country

COLOMBO: Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) secretary-general Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero was released from prison in Colombo on a presidential pardon on Thursday.

The firebrand monk, notorious for his hardline views, was serving a six-year jail term for contempt of court.

The monk, who has been accused of inciting violence against the Muslim community in the country, was also convicted and given a six-month jail term over intimidating Sandya Ekneligoda, the wife of missing journalist Pradeep Ekneligoda.

The hardline Buddhist group had called on its supporters to gather outside Welikada Prison, where Gnanasara Thero was serving his jail term.

While a massive crowd was waiting at the prison’s main gate to welcome the monk, the yellow-robed priest was let out of the backdoor for security reasons.

BBS chief executive officer Dilantha Withanage told Arab News that all Sri Lankans are happy that the BBS leader has been released and the society is grateful to President Maithripala Sirisena for granting him a pardon.

“We feel that justice was received even at this juncture,” Withanage said.

The pardon comes just a week after anti-Muslim violence erupted in many parts of the country, resulting in serious damage to Muslim-owned homes, mosques and commercial establishments. One person was killed during the violence, which lasted two days before it was brought under control.

President Sirisena, who visited the Welikada Prison last week to pardon 762 prisoners on Vesak Day, held discussions with the monk for more than 45 minutes.

Islamic Solidarity Front Chairman Reyaaz Salih told Arab News that forgiveness is an important aspect of Islam.

“He has been pardoned by the president of the country and we all hope that his presence will help the nation to have a peaceful co-existence with all communities,” he said, adding that Thero will be able to bridge the gap between the Muslims and the Sinhalese communities, opened up by the anti-Muslim violence, by virtue of his effective communication skills.

Western Province Gov. Azath Salley, who visited the jail on Wednesday, said that he would continue to work for better communal understanding with the monk.

However, in his twitter account leading constitutional lawyer J. C. Weliamuna said: “Pardoning Ven. Gnanasara is a slap on the independence of judiciary: He was convicted of interfering with court and of contempt of court. No civilized nation will lightly pardon such a convict."

International Crisis Group Sri Lanka Project Director Alan Keenan tweeted saying that that the move will send out the wrong signals following the Easter Sunday attacks.

“A big blow to SriLanka’s already battered rule of law, sending precisely the wrong message after Easter attacks. A peaceful Lanka requires all communities to feel safe and equal.”

A majority of the Muslim community felt Gnanasara Thero responsible for inciting violence against Muslims, linking him to the Aluthgama anti-Muslim violence in 2014.