Militant violence putting ‘generation at risk’ in Africa’s Sahel-WFP

In this photograph taken Wednesday Nov. 13, 2019 and released by the World Food Program (WFP), Zore Yusef, 61, right, and his family, join other refugees in the Pissila camp, north of the capital Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. (AP)
Updated 20 November 2019

Militant violence putting ‘generation at risk’ in Africa’s Sahel-WFP

  • Groups with links to Al-Qaeda and Daesh have in recent years spread across the arid scrublands of the Sahel

GENEVA: Extremist violence in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso has forced nearly 1 million people to flee their homes, destroyed fragile agricultural economies and hobbled humanitarian aid efforts, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday.
Groups with links to Al-Qaeda and Daesh, once confined to lawless areas of northern Mali, have in recent years spread across the arid scrublands of the Sahel, to the south of the Sahara, into Burkina Faso and Niger, stoking local ethnic conflicts and attacking security forces wherever they go.
“The world does not yet fully grasp the extent of the mounting humanitarian crisis in the central Sahel region,” said WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel. “If we do not act now to tackle hunger in the Sahel, a whole generation are at risk.”
In all, 860,000 people have been displaced across the three countries and 2.4 million are in need of urgent food assistance, the WFP said. But a lack of security stops most of the aid reaching those in need.
Despite the presence of growing ranks of international troops, the violence continues to spread.
On Monday, unidentified gunmen killed 24 Malian soldiers and wounded 29 in an ambush that bore the hallmarks of a extremist attack. It was the third major attack against the army in less than two months that together have killed over 100 soldiers.
Those attacks mark a step-up in violence, according to records from Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, an NGO. In 2019, about 95 members of the Malian security forces, including soldiers, policemen, gendarmes and other officials, were killed. So far in 2019, about 249 have died.
Peace has been shattered in Burkina Faso, where in the first half of 2019 civilian deaths were four times what they were for the whole of 2018. One third of the country is now in a conflict zone, the WFP said. There were 480,000 people displaced at the end of 2018, which is expected to rise to 650,000 by the end of 2019.


Delhi’s air quality turns ‘severe’ as toxic haze lingers

Updated 6 min 24 sec ago

Delhi’s air quality turns ‘severe’ as toxic haze lingers

  • During the last two months, the capital’s 20 million residents have breathed “moderate” to “satisfactory” air only for four days
  • The air quality index was “very poor” on most days this month

NEW DELHI: India’s capital New Delhi was shrouded in a toxic haze for the second straight day on Thursday, and visibility dropped due to cooler temperatures and lower wind speeds that let deadly pollutants hang in the air.
The air quality index crossed 400 on a scale of 500, indicative of “severe” conditions that pose a risk for healthy people and can seriously impact those with existing diseases.
The index measures the concentration of deadly pollutant PM2.5 — tiny particles that can enter the bloodstream. Chronic exposure to such pollutants can contribute to the risk of developing diseases such as lung cancer, according to the World Health Organization.
Federal pollution control officials were tracking the air quality status, Prashant Gargava, member secretary at the Central Pollution Control Board, told Reuters.
The board falls under the federal environment ministry.
Under an emergency action plan, authorities shut down brick kilns and halted all construction activity during the day.
During the last two months, the capital’s 20 million residents have breathed “moderate” to “satisfactory” air only for four days, according to a record of official data compiled by Reuters.
The air quality index was “very poor” on most days this month.
Air quality levels have crossed 400 for a second time this month despite farm fires from Delhi’s neighboring states — blamed by authorities as the primary cause for poor air quality in recent weeks — coming to an end with the onset of winter.
“Now fire counts are almost stopped except in a few routine incidences and hence no contribution to Delhi’s air quality is expected now onwards for the season,” government-run monitor SAFAR said.
The relentless focus on stamping out farm fires every year tends to deflect scrutiny from authorities that are falling behind on cleaning up industry or improving public transport, critics say.
Vehicular exhausts, along with emissions from industry, contribute more than 50% of Delhi’s air pollution on most days through the year, according to official estimates.
SAFAR forecast rain later on Thursday, but added that Delhi’s air quality was likely to deteriorate next week due to foggy conditions.