Aid to Yemen prevented starvation but more is needed, says UN humanitarian chief

Aid to Yemen prevented starvation but more is needed, says UN humanitarian chief
Nearly $14 billion of aid donated to Yemen has helped to prevent starvation and stabilized morbidity and mortality rates in the country, the UN’s humanitarian chief said. (File/AFP)
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Updated 15 March 2022

Aid to Yemen prevented starvation but more is needed, says UN humanitarian chief

Aid to Yemen prevented starvation but more is needed, says UN humanitarian chief
  • A day before the latest pledging event, Griffiths said that without the response so far “many more people in Yemen would have fallen sick and died”
  • UN’s special envoy to Yemen called on member states to rally behind his efforts to bring hope and relief to Yemenis ahead of Ramadan

NEW YORK: Nearly $14 billion of international aid donated to Yemen in the past seven years has made an “enormous difference” to the people of the country, according to the UN’s humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths.

It has helped to prevent mass starvation and stabilized morbidity and mortality rates in the war-ravaged country, he said.

However, he told the Security Council on Tuesday that 75 percent of that “exceptional, extraordinary and generous” sum came from only six donors: the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK, Germany and the EU. He thanked all donors and stressed the importance of taking stock of the contributions and the humanitarian benefits in Yemen they have helped to achieve.

“First and foremost … there has been no mass starvation in Yemen, as we were so often reminded might be coming,” Griffiths said as he called for continued efforts to prevent starvation and famine amid rising food insecurity.

“The country has started down that dark road several times, including early last year, only to be pulled back by timely, well-funded humanitarian action. That is an important success.”

He also stated that the aid effort has helped keep morbidity and mortality rates steady during the conflict.

“In other words, without the level of the response, many more people in Yemen would have fallen sick and many, died,” he said. “That is another critical result. These and other achievements are the result of collective action, not the action of one.”

He was speaking during a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the situation in Yemen ahead of a high-level pledging event for the country on Wednesday that will be co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland. Aid agencies are seeking almost $4.3 billion of funding so that they can continue to help more than 17 million Yemenis across the country.

“Tomorrow’s event is not just about the money, though that is hugely important,” said Griffiths. “It is also an opportunity for the international community to show we are not giving up on Yemen, even after all these years and with new crises emerging — and that is a very important message.”

He said that the situation in Yemen continues to represent a “chronic emergency,” as hunger, disease and “other miseries” rise faster than aid agencies are able to ease them.

“23.4 million people now need some form of assistance,” Griffiths said. “That is three of every four and that is the astonishing figure which is so deeply troubling.

“Among them, 19 million will go hungry and that is an increase of almost 20 per cent since last year. And we believe — and I use these words carefully — that more than 160,000 of these people will face famine-like conditions.”

Despite many international calls for a ceasefire and peace talks to resolve the conflict in Yemen, hostilities persist along nearly 50 front lines, Griffiths said, includes Marib, where a Houthi offensive has continued for two years.

“Last year, hostilities killed or injured more than 2,500 civilians and forced nearly 300,000 people to flee their homes,” he said, adding that 4.3 million people have been displaced in Yemen since 2015.

Yemen imports a third of its wheat supply from Ukraine. The war raging in the latter country after the Russian invasion last month might restrict imports and push up the cost of food, which has already almost doubled in Yemen in the past year, Griffiths said. Fuel shortages are also contributing to rising food prices, he added.

Hans Grundberg, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s special envoy for Yemen, told the Security Council that the people of the country have been denied the chance to live in peace for too many years and a concerted joint effort by the international community is needed to break “this never-ending cycle of violence and lay the foundation for a sustainable peace.”

Briefing council members on the latest developments in the security situation, Grundberg said that hostilities continue unabated on many fronts. Among other examples, he highlighted the continuing Houthi offensive in Marib which “has caused enormous harm to civilians” for two years.

“The violence also continues to spill into the region,” he said. “On Feb. 21, shrapnel from a drone intercepted over Jazan city’s King Abdullah Airport wounded 16 civilians.”

The fact remains that there can be no sustainable military solution to the conflict, the envoy said, and “as always, we see civilians paying an unacceptable price for choices they have no influence over.”

UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, reported this month that at least 47 children were killed or maimed in Yemen during the first two months of this year alone. More than 10,200 children have been confirmed killed or injured in the past seven years, but the actual number is probably much higher, the organization said.

Grundberg also warned that the economic crisis continues to escalate and is likely to get worse. The value of the Yemeni currency has fallen by 20 percent against the dollar in Aden and the surrounding governorates, raising concerns of another sharp decline in the exchange rate, rising prices and a deepening of divisions in the national economy. He called for tangible measures to help stabilize the currency.

Fuel shortages are particularly acute in Houthi-controlled areas, Grundberg said. These shortages, in combination with currency depreciation, will affect civilians even more as households prepare for Ramadan. Yemenis also continue to live with severe restrictions on freedom of movement, he added.

“The closure of Sanaa airport prevents many Yemenis in the north from traveling abroad,” he said. “Ongoing fighting, the proliferation of checkpoints and the closure of access points, especially in Taiz, impede the movement of Yemenis within the country.”

Grundberg said that he aims to explore with various factions the options for immediate deescalation measures that could reduce violence, ease the fuel crisis and improve freedom of movement.

“With Ramadan approaching, I hope the parties will engage swiftly and constructively with my proposals to bring the people of Yemen some much needed hope and relief,” he added.

“In this regard I am looking forward to the opportunity to engage with the leadership of Ansar Allah (the official name for the Houthi movement) in Sanaa on this issue and on how we can move the political process forward.”


Palestinian President Abbas skirts apology for Munich attack

Palestinian President Abbas skirts apology for Munich attack
Updated 17 August 2022

Palestinian President Abbas skirts apology for Munich attack

Palestinian President Abbas skirts apology for Munich attack
  • Germany has long argued the term should only be used to describe the Nazis’ singular crime of killing six million Jews before and during World War II

BERLIN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed no regret Tuesday for the deadly attack by Palestinian militants on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics a half century ago, countering that Israel had committed “50 Holocausts” against Palestinians over the years.
Eleven Israeli athletes and a German police officer died after members of the Palestinian militant group Black September took hostages at the Olympic Village on Sept. 5, 1972. At the time of the attack, the group was linked to Abbas’ Fatah party.
Asked whether as Palestinian leader he planned to apologize to Israel and Germany for the attack ahead of the 50th anniversary next month, Abbas responded instead by citing allegations of atrocities committed by Israel since 1947.
“If we want to go over the past, go ahead,” Abbas told reporters after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin. “I have 50 slaughters that Israel committed.”
Standing next to Scholz, Abbas explicitly used the word “Holocausts” in his reply, drawing a grimace from the German chancellor. Germany has long argued the term should only be used to describe the Nazis’ singular crime of killing six million Jews before and during World War II.
While Scholz had earlier rejected the Palestinian leader’s description of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as “apartheid,” he did not immediately rebuke Abbas for using the term “Holocaust.”
In a statement to German daily Bild, Scholz later criticized Abbas’s choice of words, saying any downplaying of the horrors of the Holocaust was “unacceptable.”
Conservative German lawmaker Armin Laschet likewise expressed outrage at Abbas’ comments.
“The (Palestinian) leader would have gained sympathy if he had apologized for the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics 1972,” he wrote on Twitter. “Accusing Israel of ‘50 Holocausts’ instead is the most disgusting speech ever heard in the German Chancellery,” he said.
In his response, the Palestinian president also said he was committed to building trust and achieving a peaceful solution to the conflict with Israel.
“Please come to peace,” he said. “Please come to security, let’s build trust between us and you. This is better than other kinds of talking.”
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Abbas’ remarks about “50 Holocausts,” made on German soil, were “not only a moral disgrace, but a monstrous lie.”
“Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, including one and a half million Jewish children,” Lapid tweeted. “History will never forgive him.”
Weeks before a planned somber commemoration marking the 50th anniversary of the Munich attack, Germany has also found itself embroiled in controversy in its dealings with the relatives of the Israelis who were killed.
Victims’ families announced last week that they planned to boycott the ceremony after failing to reach agreement on bigger compensation from the German government.
Relatives of the athletes have long accused Germany of failing to secure the Olympic Village, refusing Israeli help and botching a rescue operation in which five of the attackers also died.

 


Tunisia intercepts nearly 100 Europe-bound migrants

Tunisia intercepts nearly 100 Europe-bound migrants
Updated 16 August 2022

Tunisia intercepts nearly 100 Europe-bound migrants

Tunisia intercepts nearly 100 Europe-bound migrants
  • Tunisia and Libya are the main points of departure for migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa

TUNIS: Tunisia said Tuesday it had foiled several attempts by almost 100 migrants to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea since the previous day.

Tunisia and Libya are the main points of departure for migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa. Sea crossing attempts tend to increase during spring and summer.

Tunisia’s National Guard said it had prevented five maritime crossings and rescued 80 people, mostly Tunisians and including 35 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

It said “preventive operations” were also carried out near Menzel Temime in the north, Mahdia and Kerkennah on the central coast and Zarzis in the south, leading to 11 arrests.

The National Guard said it had seized “a sum of money” without specifying the amount, and an inflatable boat in these operations.

On Monday, maritime and military authorities said 657 people were rescued or prevented from trying to cross in 46 separate incidents between Friday and Monday.

The Defense Ministry said that 42 Egyptians who had set sail from Libya were rescued Sunday off Kerkennah, after their boat sank and they took refuge on an oil platform.

Tunisia is in the throes of political and economic crises, and Libya has been gripped by lawlessness since 2011 that has seen militias turn to people trafficking.

The two countries are also the gateway for sub-Saharan Africans hoping for a better life by escaping impoverished and strife-torn countries such as Sudan.

The EU’s Frontex border agency says the central Mediterranean route was used by more than 42,500 migrants between January and July, up 44 percent compared with the first seven months of 2021.


25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria

25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria
Updated 17 August 2022

25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria

25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria
  • Turkish attacks target Assad forces and Kurdish fighters in border town

JEDDAH: At least 25 people were killed in northern Syria on Tuesday after Turkey launched airstrikes and an artillery bombardment targeting Assad regime forces and Kurdish fighters near the border town of Kobane.

The Turkish shelling began overnight, when artillery salvoes hit the town and around its edges. It continued throughout the day, and at least one child was killed.
Kurdish YPG militia fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces responded with a mortar attack on a Turkish military border post in Sanliurfa province that killed one soldier and injured four.
After the mortar attack, Turkish forces conducted retaliatory fire against targets in the Kobane area. “According to initial information in the region, 13 terrorists were neutralized. Operations in the region are continuing,” the Defense Ministry in Ankara said.

FASTFACT

Kurdish YPG militia fighters responded with a mortar attack on a Turkish military border post in Sanliurfa province that killed one soldier and injured four.

Dilvin, a shopkeeper in Kobane, said chaos broke out in the town when the shelling intensified on Tuesday. “People started running everywhere, cars everywhere, people asking about their friends and their family. Then the sounds started to build, the sounds were everywhere,” she said.
“There was so much screaming. So much fear. Now everyone is locked up at home.”
Later on Tuesday, 11 people died in Turkish airstrikes on a Syria border post run by Assad regime forces. It was not clear if the dead were Syrian government troops or Kurdish fighters.
Syrian regime forces have deployed in areas controlled by the SDF near the border with Turkey as part of agreements intended to stem cross-border offensives by Ankara targeting Kurdish forces it views as terrorists.
Turkey has launched a series of attacks since 2016 targeting Kurdish forces and Daesh, but they have rarely resulted in the deaths of Syrian regime fighters.
If regime forces are confirmed to be among those killed on Tuesday, the attack would be one of the largest escalations since Ankara and Damascus traded attacks in 2020 following a Syrian regime strike that killed 33 Turkish soldiers in the northwestern province of Idlib.
Turkey has stepped up its attacks in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria since July, when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to obtain a green light from regional allies Iran and Russia for a fresh offensive into northern Syria.
Turkey has been hostile to Syrian leader Bashar Assad, and backed rebels calling for his removal. But last week Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu enraged the Syrian opposition by calling for reconciliation between the regime and the rebels.


66 people killed as Sudan floods continue to tear up homes

66 people killed as Sudan floods continue to tear up homes
Updated 16 August 2022

66 people killed as Sudan floods continue to tear up homes

66 people killed as Sudan floods continue to tear up homes
  • Some 24,000 homes and two dozen government buildings have been badly damaged or completely destroyed

CAIRO: Flash floods triggered by heavy rains continued to tear up homes across Sudan, an official said Tuesday, with the death toll rising to 66 since the start of the rainy season.

Earlier this week, authorities had said that at least 50 people were killed since the rains started in June. Brig. Gen. Abdul-Jalil Abdul-Rahim, spokesman for Sudan’s National Council for Civil Defense, said Tuesday that at least 28 people were reported injured during the same period.

Some 24,000 homes and two dozen government buildings have been badly damaged or completely destroyed, he said.

Sudan has been without a functioning government since an October military coup derailed its short-lived democratic transition following the 2019 removal of former ruler Omar Bashir in a popular uprising.

Overall, around 136,000 people have been impacted by heavy rainfall and floods in 12 of Sudan’s 18 provinces, according to the government-run Humanitarian Aid Commission.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the floods also inundated 238 health facilities. The western Darfur region and the provinces of Nile River, White Nile, West Kordofan and South Kordofan were among the hardest hit, it said.

Footage circulated online over the past weeks showing flood waters sweeping through streets and people struggling to save their belongings.

Sudan’s rainy season usually starts in June and lasts until the end of September, with floods peaking in August and September. More than 80 people were killed last year in flood-related incidents during the rainy season.

In 2020, authorities declared Sudan a natural disaster area and imposed a three-month state of emergency across the country after flooding and heavy rains killed around 100 people and inundated over 100,000 houses.


Palestinians outraged as Israeli archaeologists dig up village

Palestinians outraged as Israeli archaeologists dig up village
Updated 16 August 2022

Palestinians outraged as Israeli archaeologists dig up village

Palestinians outraged as Israeli archaeologists dig up village
  • Teams from Bar Ilan University are working at multiple sites in Nabi Saleh
  • Villager says digs are ‘just an excuse to take control of our land later’

RAMALLAH: Palestinians have expressed outrage after teams from an Israeli university launched a series of archaeological excavations in a village north of Ramallah.

Residents of Nabi Saleh said the excavations were taking place on their property, although representatives from both Bar Ilan University and the Israeli Civil Administration said the site was classified as “state land” under Israeli control.

According to the university’s website, the archaeological site was inhabited during the Bronze Age and formed part of the city of Timnat Herres, which is described in the Talmud as the place where Joshua bin Nun lived and died. It is therefore evidence of the settlement of Jews in the area.

Pottery and coins found in the area date back to the second century, it said.

Village resident Basim Al-Tamimi, who owns 1,800 square meters of land in one of the areas being excavated, told Arab News he feared the Israeli authorities were trying to take control of his and his uncle’s property.

“Digging in the ground under the pretext of searching for antiquities is just an excuse and a reason to take control of our land later,” he said.

Al-Tamimi led a prominent non-violent resistance in Nabi Saleh from 2009-16 against settlers and the Israeli army after they seized a local water spring. Six Palestinians were killed during the conflict and hundreds more were injured.

Naji Al-Tamimi, the head of the Nabi Saleh village council, told Arab News that the Israeli excavations were concentrated in three places and that each excavation site covered about 100 square meters.

While Israeli archaeologists said the excavation program was set to run from July 25 to Aug. 19 but there are no signs of the digging coming to an end.

“Bar Ilan University is known to be a stronghold of the Israeli right, whose goals are more political than archaeological,” Naji Al-Tamimi said.

“They will claim they have a historical relationship with the region through the presence of the tomb of Joshua bin Nun, and then seize it under that pretext.”

He added that the nearby Halamish settlement had been built on a plot that had earlier been seized from Nabi Saleh and feared the latest dig would lead to more of the village’s land being taken.

As evidence of the land belonging to the state, Bar Ilan University said there had been a Jordanian military base on it in the past, while aerial photographs suggested it had not been worked since 1967.

According to Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayieh condemned the excavations and declared the university’s actions as unacceptable and an attempt to “falsify the facts regarding the history of the Palestinian land.”

At his weekly Cabinet meeting, Shtayieh called for Israeli universities to stop digging and excavating antiquities in Palestinian territories.

Meanwhile, Ghassan Al-Khatib, vice president of Birzeit University, told Arab News that international scientific journals had refused to publish archaeological reports on excavations by Israeli teams working in occupied lands in line with international law and the Second Protocol to the Hague Charter.