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.”


Iran rapper arrested over protests risks death penalty: family

Iran rapper arrested over protests risks death penalty: family
Updated 57 min 19 sec ago

Iran rapper arrested over protests risks death penalty: family

Iran rapper arrested over protests risks death penalty: family
  • Toomaj Salehi, well known on Iran's rap scene, was arrested late last month after denouncing the regime and showing support for the protests
  • Dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi had the first day of his so-called 'trial' today in Tehran without a lawyer of his choice," the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said

PARIS: The family of an Iranian rapper detained for supporting protests over Mahsa Amini’s death said his life was at risk after he went on trial behind closed doors on Saturday.
Iran has intensified a crackdown on the protests sparked by the September 16 death of Amini after her arrest in Tehran for allegedly breaching the country’s strict dress code for women.
Toomaj Salehi, well known on Iran’s rap scene, was arrested late last month after denouncing the regime and showing support for the protests, human rights groups said.
“Dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi had the first day of his so-called ‘trial’ today in Tehran without a lawyer of his choice,” the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said on Twitter.
His family tweeted that his “life is at serious risk right now” as he faced charges of “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth” — sharia-related charges that are capital crimes in the Islamic republic.
Salehi had disappeared at the end of October before appearing in a video published on November 2 by Iran’s state-run media.
The video claimed to show the first images of Salehi after his arrest.
It depicted a tattooed man in a sleeveless black T-shirt sitting on the ground, wearing a blindfold and looking bloodied and bruised.
The man says: “I am Toomaj Salehi. I said I made a mistake. I said... that you should run. I didn’t mean you.”
Activists condemned the recording as a forced confession extracted under duress.
Salehi is one of a number of prominent figures to be arrested in a mass crackdown that has seen dozens of journalists, lawyers, civil society and cultural figures arrested.
His detention came shortly after he gave an interview highly critical of the regime to the Canadian Broadcasting Cooperation.
“You are dealing with a mafia that is ready to kill the entire nation... in order to keep its power, money and weapons,” Salehi said in the interview.
Iranian state media claim Salehi was arrested while trying to cross one of the country’s western borders, but his family have denied this saying he was in the southwestern province of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari at the time.


UN rights council to hold urgent session on Iran

UN rights council to hold urgent session on Iran
Updated 26 November 2022

UN rights council to hold urgent session on Iran

UN rights council to hold urgent session on Iran
  • Decision comes after the German and Icelandic ambassadors to the UN in Geneva submitted a request for such a meeting late on Friday
  • So far, 44 countries, including 17 Council members, have backed the call
GENEVA: The UN Human Rights Council announced on Monday it would hold an urgent session this month on Iran, where a brutal crackdown on mass protests has left hundreds dead.
The United Nations’ highest rights body said a special session on “the deteriorating human rights situation” in Iran would be held on November 24.
The decision comes after the German and Icelandic ambassadors to the UN in Geneva submitted a request for such a meeting late on Friday.
The support of 16 of the Human Rights Council’s 47 members — more than a third — is required to convene a special session outside the three regular ones held each year.
So far, 44 countries, including 17 Council members, have backed the call, the body said.
The request follows eight weeks of protests in Iran, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, after she was arrested for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress rules for women based on Islamic sharia law.
At least 326 people have been killed in the crackdown on the protests, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR), as the demonstrations have grown into a broad movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since the 1979 fall of the shah.
Thousands of peaceful protesters have also been arrested, according to UN rights experts, including many women, children, lawyers, activists and journalists.

Syrian Kurds stop operations against Daesh

Syrian Kurds stop operations against Daesh
Updated 26 November 2022

Syrian Kurds stop operations against Daesh

Syrian Kurds stop operations against Daesh
  • Over the past week, Turkey launched a wave of airstrikes on suspected Kurdish rebels hiding in neighboring Syria and Iraq
BEIRUT: The commander of the main US-backed Kurdish-led force in Syria said Saturday they have halted operations against the Daesh group due to Turkish attacks on northern Syria over the past week.
Mazloum Abdi of the Syrian Democratic Forces told reporters that after nearly a week of Turkish airstrikes on northern Syria, Ankara is now preparing for a ground offensive. He said Turkey-backed opposition fighters are getting ready to take part in the operations.
Abdi added that Turkish strikes over the past week have caused severe damage to the region’s infrastructure.
Abdi said Turkey is taking advantage of the deadly Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul that Ankara blames on Kurdish groups. Kurdish organizations have denied any involvement in the Istanbul attack that killed six and wounded dozens.
Over the past week, Turkey launched a wave of airstrikes on suspected Kurdish rebels hiding in neighboring Syria and Iraq in retaliation for the Istanbul attack.
“The forces that work symbolically with the international coalition in the fight against IS are now targets for the Turkish state and therefore (military) operations have stopped,” Abdi said, using an Arabic acronym of the Daesh group. “Anti-Daesh operations have stopped.”
His comments came hours after the US military said two rockets targeted US-led coalition forces at bases in the northeastern Syrian town of Shaddadeh resulting in no “injuries or damage to the base or coalition property.”
The US military statement said SDF fighters visited the site of the rocket's origin and found a third unfired rocket.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, blamed Daesh sleeper cells for the Friday night attack on the US base.
“Attacks of this kind place coalition forces and the civilian populace at risk and undermine the hard-earned stability and security of Syria and the region,” said Col. Joe Buccino, CENTCOM spokesman.
The SDF said in a statement before midnight Friday that as Turkish drones flew over the al-Hol camp that is home to tens of thousands of mostly wives, widows and children of IS fighters, some IS family members attacked security forces and managed to escape from the sprawling facility. The SDF did not say how many escaped but that they were later detained.
Kurdish authorities operate more than two dozen detention facilities scattered across northeastern Syria holding about 10,000 Daesh fighters. Among the detainees are some 2,000 foreigners whose home countries have refused to repatriate them, including about 800 Europeans.

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV
Updated 26 November 2022

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

DUBAI: Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that Basij militia forces sacrificed their lives in “riots” sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman in September.
The Basij force, affiliated with the country’s Revolutionary Guards, has been at the forefront of the state crackdown on protests that have spread across the country. “They have sacrificed their lives to protect people from rioters,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.


Kuwait detects cholera in citizen arriving from neighboring country

Kuwait detects cholera in citizen arriving from neighboring country
Updated 26 November 2022

Kuwait detects cholera in citizen arriving from neighboring country

Kuwait detects cholera in citizen arriving from neighboring country

LONDON: Kuwait detected cholera in a citizen arriving from a neighboring country where there is an outbreak, the health ministry said in a statement on Friday.
According to the World Health Organization, Lebanon is in the latest phase of a outbreak that began in Afghanistan in June before spreading to Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
“The Ministry of Health announced Friday a national who had returned recently from a neighboring country which suffers from cholera outbreak and showed symptoms of cholera infection,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the “infected citizen had been isolated and received the treatment at a ministry hospital until his recovery.”
It also said that the ministry dealt with those who came into contact with the infected citizen according to the relevant protocols.
The ministry ruled out the possibility of a cholera outbreak in the country, but advised nationals and residents to be cautious and avoid unsafe water and food sources when visiting countries which have reported cholera outbreaks.
It encouraged those who show suspected symptoms, such as fever and diarrhea, within seven days of their arrival from one of the countries where the disease is prevalent to go to the nearest health center to receive the necessary advice and treatment.