Charities concerned by Somalia clinic closures following UK aid cuts

Charities concerned by Somalia clinic closures following UK aid cuts
Internally displaced Somali mothers and children wait for medicine at a Save the Children UK clinic at their camp in the Hodan district of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, Nov. 21, 2012. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 March 2021

Charities concerned by Somalia clinic closures following UK aid cuts

Charities concerned by Somalia clinic closures following UK aid cuts
  • ‘We’re facing an impossible scenario of deciding which children lose access to potentially lifesaving services,’ charity tells Arab News
  • Clinics supported by British govt funding serve up to 2,000 women, children per month

LONDON: Charities have expressed great concern over reports that health clinics in Somalia may have to close following warnings that they face cuts of up to 40 percent in their UK funding.

“We’re extremely concerned about what the scale of the cuts might be for Somalia. The UK is Somalia’s second-largest aid donor, so many of our clinics treating malnourished children are reliant on UK aid,” Hajir Maalim, regional director of Action Against Hunger, told Arab News.

“We’ve already begun to scale back operations in preparation for the cuts, but there’s no longer any fat left on the bone. Cuts will mean we have to close clinics, and we’re facing an impossible scenario of deciding which children lose access to potentially lifesaving services,” he added.

“For a country still battling the pandemic, high levels of malnutrition and growing food insecurity, cuts couldn’t be coming at a worse time.”

The UK gave £147 million ($205 million) in aid to Somalia in 2019-20. The clinics supported by the British government’s funding serve as many as 2,000 women and children per month.

The government this week announced that its aid program in Yemen is being cut by over 50 percent, despite warnings of an imminent famine from the UN and charities. 

Conservative opponents of the aid cuts and shadow ministers are concerned that the government will delay a vote as long as possible to give itself time to impose the cuts.

Former Cabinet ministers David Davis, Damian Green and Andrew Mitchell have tried to push the government to hold an early parliamentary vote on the cuts, saying it is legally required to do so since moving to end Britain’s commitment to spend at least 0.7 percent of gross national income on aid.

The government wants to reduce its commitment to aid spending to 0.5 percent, freeing space for additional budget cuts amid the pandemic recession.

Green told Parliament that the government is permitted to miss the 0.7 percent target during a crisis such as the pandemic, “but not to plan to miss it for an indefinite number of years ahead.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told MPs on Nov. 26 that legal advice meant that “if we cannot see a path back to 0.7 percent in the foreseeable, immediate future, and we cannot plan for that, then the legislation would require us to change it. We would almost certainly face legal challenges if we do not very carefully follow it.” 

Senior Labour MPs have accused ministers of trying to avoid a vote because they expect defeat.

“They want to impose the cuts, currently being discussed in embassies, and leave MPs in the dark,” one shadow minister told The Guardian newspaper.

The UK has cut aid spending from £15 billion two years ago to £10 billion. In July, the government agreed to £2.9 billion in aid cuts due to the pandemic’s effect on economic growth.

Aid cuts to Yemen were disclosed relatively early due to the UN’s international donor conference on Monday, but UK spending allocations for each country currently receiving assistance will be released in the autumn.


Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants

Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants
Updated 11 May 2021

Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants

Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants
  • Italy’s PM favors EU offering financial assistance to all African countries involved in migration to Europe, an official told Reuters
  • Some 13,000 migrants have landed on Italy's coast this year

ROME: Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office denied a media report on Tuesday that Italy was proposing that the European Union should pay Libya to stop migrants leaving its shores for Europe.
Draghi favors the EU offering financial assistance to all African countries involved in migration to Europe, an official in Draghi’s office told Reuters.
But the official denied a report by La Repubblica newspaper that Draghi wanted to propose at a May 24 summit that the EU make a deal similar to one reached with Ankara in 2016, under which Turkey is entitled to financial aid in exchange for hosting refugees who try to reach Europe via the Balkans.
“At the moment there is no initiative regarding creating a similar deal to what was done with Turkey,” the official said.
“The government’s position is that the EU must pay more attention to the situation in the southern Mediterranean and be ready to offer financial help to all African countries involved in migrant flows.”
Some 13,000 migrants have landed on Italy’s coast this year, about three times as many as in the same period last year, according to interior ministry data.
More than 2,000 have since Sunday reached the island of Lampedusa, the initial arrival point for many people trying to get to Europe from Africa.
The migrants, arriving on small and perilous boats run by people-traffickers, are being transferred elsewhere in Italy.
The vast majority of African migrants heading for Europe by sea depart from Libya.
In 2019, Rome agreed a plan with other European states to redistribute migrants after they arrived, but the scheme was voluntary and has not provided a stable solution.
On Tuesday, the executive European Commission said it had received no offers from member states to accept migrants from Italy.
The migration issue has fueled the rise of anti-immigration parties across Europe. In Italy, the right-wing League is part of Draghi’s national unity government and wants action.


Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid
Updated 11 May 2021

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid
  • Most of the crowd on Tuesday in Madrid waved Palestinian flags and shouted “Israel, assassin of the Palestinian people”
  • Protestors wore face masks as stipulated by Spanish health laws to fight pandemic

MADRID: A few dozen people have gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in the Spanish capital to protest Israel’s use of force against the Palestinians.
Most of the crowd on Tuesday in Madrid waved Palestinian flags. They shouted “Israel, assassin of the Palestinian people” and “it’s Palestine, not Israel” in Spanish.
Some held up photos of Palestinians being arrested by Israeli forces. All wore face masks as stipulated by Spanish health laws to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The escalation in the conflict was sparked by weeks of tensions in contested Jerusalem.


Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program
Updated 11 May 2021

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program
  • Priority for age groups and medical vulnerability waived in favour of permanent residents of nearly 100 islands
  • Islanders make up around 1.5 million of Greece’s population of 10.7 million

NAXOS, Greece: A vaccination program for Greek islands is being accelerated to cover all local residents by the end of June, the government announced Tuesday ahead of the launch of the tourism season.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said a nationwide priority system for age groups and medical vulnerability was being waived for permanent residents of nearly 100 islands.
“This initiative is aimed at supporting local island communities and their economy and it also aspires to send a positive overall message for our tourism,” Mitsotakis said.
Greece is fighting to revive its key tourism sector that was battered by the pandemic in 2020 but its vaccination rates remain below the European Union average and the country has only recently stabilized a surge in cases.
Islanders make up around 1.5 million of Greece’s population of 10.7 million. Many holiday islands have a year-round population of under 10,000, while Crete has the largest with more than 600,000 residents, followed by Evia, Rhodes, Corfu, Lesbos, and Chios. The tourism season will officially start Friday.


Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday
Updated 11 May 2021

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday
  • Sweden of 10 million inhabitants registered 44 new deaths, taking the total to 14,217
  • The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks

STOCKHOLM: Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, has registered 13,812 new coronavirus cases since Friday, health agency statistics showed on Tuesday.
The figure compared with 14,950 cases during the corresponding period last week.
The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 44 new deaths, taking the total to 14,217.
The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks.
Sweden’s death rate per capita is many times higher than that of its Nordic neighbors’ but lower than in most European countries that opted for lockdowns.


At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting
Updated 11 May 2021

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting
  • RIA Novosti news agency reported that a teenager was detained
  • Local officials said some children were evacuated from the school but others still remained in the building

MOSCOW: A school shooting erupted Tuesday in the Russian city of Kazan, leaving eight students and one teacher dead, Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing local emergency services.
According to the Interfax news agency, two gunmen opened fire in the school, and one of them — a 17-year-old — has already been apprehended.

“According to preliminary information, the second attacker in the school in Kazan who remained in the building was killed,” the TASS state news agency reported, citing a law enforcement source.
Local officials said some children were evacuated from the school but others still remained in the building. Authorities said additional security measures have been put into place in all schools in Kazan, the capital of Russia’s Tatarstan region, roughly 700 kilometers (430 miles) east of Moscow.
While school shootings are relatively rare in Russia, there have been several violent attacks on schools in recent years, mostly carried out by students.