Attacks on Syrian health facilities condemned

A Syrian boy, riding with his family in the back of a truck loaded with furniture and clothes, flashes the V sign as they flee from shelling on Hama and Idlib provinces on April 30, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 30 April 2019

Attacks on Syrian health facilities condemned

  • The UN is deeply disturbed by three separate reported attacks on hospitals and health facilities in northwestern Syria
  • The escalation has killed more than 200 civilians since February, the UN said last week

HBEIT: Shelling of areas in northwestern Syria in the past three days has damaged a medical center and put two hospitals out of service, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

“The UN is deeply disturbed by three separate reported attacks on hospitals and health facilities in northwestern Syria, depriving thousands of people of their basic right of health,” said David Swanson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“Such violence is completely unacceptable,” he told AFP.

The UN did not specify who was behind the attacks but the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights blamed the Syrian regime and its ally Russia.

On Tuesday, a medical center in the town of Hbeit in the south of opposition-held Idlib province was “severely damaged” in artillery shelling, Swanson said.

Regime shelling blew a crater into the walls of the center, said an AFP correspondent who visited the facility. Its interior was littered with rubble, he said.

Earlier on Monday, an airstrike hit a hospital in the town of Latamna in neighboring Hama province, putting it out of service, Swanson said.

The hospital used to carry out 1,300 outpatient consultations and more than 300 operations a month before it was attacked, he said. A third facility — The Madiq Castle hospital in Hama — was also put out of service when it was hit by an air strike two days ago, causing heavy damage to its outpatient clinic, pharmacy and laboratory, Swanson said.

The hospital had served about 8,000 people a month, he added.

“All three incidents further limit civilians’ access to basic health care in northwest Syria,” he said.

“The UN continues to call on all the parties to the conflict to end the destruction of hospitals and other civilian infrastructure that is essential for the civilian population.”

Russia and Turkey in September inked a buffer zone deal to prevent a massive regime offensive on the Idlib region, near the Turkish border. But the region of some 3 million people has come under increasing bombardment since former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham took full control of it in January.

The escalation has killed more than 200 civilians since February, the UN said last week.

The Observatory said two civilians were killed in Tuesday’s shelling on Idlib and neighboring Hama.


Locust invasion in Yemen stokes food insecurity fears

A Yemeni tries to catch locusts on the rooftop of his house as they swarm several parts of the country bringing in devastations and destruction of major seasonal crops. (AFP)
Updated 13 July 2020

Locust invasion in Yemen stokes food insecurity fears

  • Billions of locusts invaded farms, cities and villages, devouring seasonal crops

AL-MUKALLA: Locust swarms have swept over farms in central, southern and eastern parts of Yemen, ravaging crops and stoking fears of food insecurity.

Residents and farmers in the provinces of Marib, Hadramout, Mahra and Abyan said that billions of locusts had invaded farms, cities and villages, devouring important seasonal crops such as dates and causing heavy losses.
“This is like a storm that razes anything it encounters,” Hussein Ben Al-Sheikh Abu Baker, an agricultural official from Hadramout’s Sah district, told Arab News on Sunday.
Images and videos posted on social media showed layers of creeping locusts laying waste to lemon farms in Marb, dates and alfalfa farms in Hadramout and flying swarms plunging cities into darkness. “The locusts have eaten all kinds of green trees, including the sesban tree. The losses are huge,” Abu Baker added.
Heavy rains and flash floods have hit several Yemeni provinces over the last couple of months, creating fruitful conditions for locusts to reproduce. Farmers complained that locusts had wiped out entire seasonal crops that are grown after rains.
Abu Baker said that he visited several affected farms in Hadramout, where farmers told him that if the government would not compensate them for the damage that it should at least get ready for a second potential locust wave that might occur in 10 days.
“The current swarms laid eggs that are expected to hatch in 10 days. We are bracing for the second wave of the locusts.”  
Last year, the UN said that the war in Yemen had disrupted vital monitoring and control efforts and several waves of locusts to hit neighboring countries had originated from Yemen.

This is like a storm that razes anything it encounters.

Hussein Ben Al-Sheikh Abu Baker, a Yemeni agricultural official

Yemeni government officials, responsible for battling the spread of locusts, have complained that fighting and a lack of funding have obstructed vital operations for combating the insects.
Ashor Al-Zubairi, the director of the Locust Control Unit at the Ministry of Agriculture in Hadramout’s Seiyun city, said that the ministry was carrying out a combat operation funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization in Hadramout and Mahra, but complained that the operation might fall short of its target due to a lack of funding and equipment.
“The spraying campaign will end in a week which is not enough to cover the entire plagued areas,” Al-Zubairi told Arab News. “We suggested increasing the number of spraying equipment or extending the campaign.”
He said that a large number of villagers had lost their source of income after the locusts ate crops and sheep food, predicting that the outbreak would likely last for at least two weeks if urgent control operations were not intensified and fighting continued. “Combating teams could not cross into some areas in Marib due to fighting.”
The widespread locust invasion comes as the World Food Programme (WFP) on July 10 sent an appeal for urgent funds for its programs in Yemen, warning that people would face starvation otherwise.
“There are 10 million people who are facing (an) acute food shortage, and we are ringing the alarm bell for these people, because their situation is deteriorating because of escalation and because of the lockdowns, the constraints and the social-economic impact of the coronavirus,” WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva.