Middle Eastern nations wake up to damage from climate change

Middle Eastern nations wake up to damage from climate change
The Middle East is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change — and already the effects are being seen. (File/AP)
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Updated 25 July 2022

Middle Eastern nations wake up to damage from climate change

Middle Eastern nations wake up to damage from climate change
  • In Iraq, intensified sandstorms have repeatedly smothered cities this year
  • Rising soil salinity in Egypt’s Nile Delta is eating away at crucial farmland

CAIRO — Temperatures in the Middle East have risen far faster than the world’s average in the past three decades. Precipitation has been decreasing, and experts predict droughts will come with greater frequency and severity.
The Middle East is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change — and already the effects are being seen.
In Iraq, intensified sandstorms have repeatedly smothered cities this year, shutting down commerce and sending thousands to hospitals. Rising soil salinity in Egypt’s Nile Delta is eating away at crucial farmland. In Afghanistan, drought has helped fuel the migration of young people from their villages, searching for jobs. In recent weeks, temperatures in some parts of the region have topped 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).
This year’s annual UN climate change conference, known as COP27, is being held in Egypt in November, throwing a spotlight on the region. Governments across the Middle East have awakened to the dangers of climate change, particularly to the damage it is already inflicting on their economies.
“We’re literally seeing the effects right in front of us. ... These impacts are not something that will hit us nine or 10 years down the line,” said Lama El Hatow, an environmental climate change consultant who has worked with the World Bank and specializes on the Middle East and North Africa.
“More and more states are starting to understand that it’s necessary” to act, she said.
Egypt, Morocco and other countries in the region have been stepping up initiatives for clean energy. But a top priority for them at COP-27 is to push for more international funding to help them deal with the dangers they are already facing from climate change.
One reason for the Middle East’s vulnerability is that there is simply no margin to cushion the blow on millions of people as the rise in temperatures accelerates: The region already has high temperatures and limited water resources even in normal circumstances.
Middle East governments also have a limited ability to adapt, the International Monetary Fund noted in a report earlier this year. Economies and infrastructure are weak, and regulations are often unenforced. Poverty is widespread, making job creation a priority over climate protection. Autocratic governments like Egypt’s severely restrict civil society, hampering an important tool in engaging the public on environmental and climate issues.
At the same time, developing nations are pressuring countries in the Mideast and elsewhere to make emissions cuts, even as they themselves backslide on promises.
The threats are dire.
As the region grows hotter and drier, the United Nations has warned that the Mideast’s crop production could drop 30 percent by 2025. The region is expected to lose 6 percent-14 percent of its GDP by 2050 because of water scarcity, according to the World Bank.
In Egypt, precipitation has fallen 22 percent in the past 30 years, according to the World Bank.
Droughts are expected to become more frequent and severe. The Eastern Mediterranean recently saw its worst drought in 900 years, according to NASA, a heavy blow to countries like Syria and Lebanon where agriculture relies on rainfall. Demand for water in Jordan and the Arabian Gulf countries is putting unsustainable pressure on underground water aquifers. In Iraq, the increased aridity has caused an increase in sandstorms.
At the same time, warming waters and air make extreme and often destructive weather events more frequent, like deadly floods that have repeatedly hit Sudan and Afghanistan.
The climate damage has potentially dangerous social repercussions.
Many of those who lose the livelihoods they once made in agriculture or tourism will move to the cities in search of jobs, said Karim Elgendy, an associate fellow at Chatham House. That will likely increase urban unemployment, strain social services and could raise social tensions and affect security, said Elgendy, who is also a non-resident scholar with the Middle East Institute.
Adapting infrastructure and economies to weather the damage will be enormously expensive: the equivalent of 3.3 percent of the region’s GDP every year for the next 10 years, the IMF estimates. The spending needs to go toward everything from creating more efficient water use systems and new agricultural methods to building coastal protections, beefing up social safety nets and improving awareness campaigns.
So one of top priorities for Mideast and other developing nations at this year’s COP is to press the United States, Europe and other wealthier nations to follow through on long-time promises to provide them with billions in climate financing.
So far, developed nations have fallen short on those promises. Also, most of the money they have provided has gone to helping poorer countries pay for reducing greenhouse gas emissions — for “mitigation,” in UN terminology, as opposed to “adaptation.”
For this year’s COP, the top theme repeated by UN officials, the Egyptian hosts and climate activists is the implementation of commitments. The gathering aims to push countries to spell out how they will reach promised emission reduction targets — and to come up with even deeper cuts, since experts say the targets as they are now will still lead to disastrous levels of warming.
Developing nations will also want richer countries to show how they will carry out a promise from the last COP to provide $500 billion in climate financing over the next five years — and to ensure at least half that funding is for adaptation, not mitigation.
World events, however, threaten to undercut the momentum from COP26. On emissions cuts, the spike in world energy prices and the war in Ukraine have prompted some European countries to turn back to coal for power generation — though they insist it’s only a temporary step. The Middle East also has several countries whose economies rely on their fossil fuel resources — Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Gulf most obviously, but also Egypt, with its increasing natural gas production.
Persistent inflation and the possibility of recession could make top nations hesitant on making climate financing commitments.
With international officials often emphasizing emission reduction, El Hatow said it should be remembered the countries of Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere in the developing world have not contributed substantially to climate change, yet are bearing the brunt of it.
“We need to talk about financing for adaptation,” she said, “to adapt to a problem they did not cause.”


Egyptians in online bid to save child with rare illness

Egyptians in online bid to save child with rare illness
Updated 11 sec ago

Egyptians in online bid to save child with rare illness

Egyptians in online bid to save child with rare illness
  • Twitter hashtag #Save_Celine is trending in the country, with calls to raise $2 million
  • “We have resorted to opening the door for donations in coordination with the Ministry of Social Solidarity,” Celine’s father told Arab News

CAIRO: Egyptians have come together to raise funds online for a baby girl suffering from a rare life-threatening disease.
Celine, who is 15 months old, was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy four months ago.
The genetic condition makes the muscles weaker, and causes increasing problems with movement and breathing.
The Twitter hashtag #Save_Celine is trending in the country, with calls to raise 40 million Egyptian pounds ($2 million) to pay for expensive gene therapy medication via a Zolgensma injection.
The hashtag has been used over 100,000 times as people call for contributions to support the girl.
Similar campaigns were organized in the past for other children suffering from the same disease.
“We have resorted to opening the door for donations in coordination with the Ministry of Social Solidarity. So far, we have collected about EGP12 million for the injection,” Celine’s father told Arab News.
Ramy Elhamy, who takes part in campaigns to help sick children, told Arab News: “The injection that Celine needs is the first gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy caused by genetic changes, and gained the approval of the US Food and Drug Administration in 2019.
“It is the most expensive injection in the world, which helps treat respiratory functions and gradually puts the child on the path of normal growth. It is followed by physiotherapy and pulmonary rehabilitation.
“We launched the campaign to save Celine after the success of such campaigns for other children who had the same rare disease. We knocked on all doors to save the child, and many responded to our calls.”
Egyptian actor Mohamed Henedy shared a photo of the child with the caption: “This honey is called Celine. She suffers from a very rare disease and her condition is starting to worsen. The coming days can save Celine’s life. If you don’t know how to donate, share the hashtag, and retweet and write about Celine on your account.”
He added: “This is the simplest thing that you can offer because others can donate. All Egyptians have gathered and saved the life of Ruqayya and the life of the twins Alia and Farida, and now it is our turn, with pleasure, that we are helping Celine.”
Another actor, Ahmed Safwat, joined the donation campaign to highlight the significance of social solidarity and the ability of Egyptians to achieve this goal, as they previously did with other children.
Media personality Esaad Younis hosted Celine’s mother, Radwa Hamdi, on her program to appeal for donations.
Earlier, Hamdi had asked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for help, saying: “I am pleading with you. I know that the injection is expensive, but surely the life of my daughter and your daughter is more expensive. We are asking the state to help Celine take the Zolgensma injection, even if in turn it will take all our salaries. She is all I have.”


Israeli troops kill Palestinian after alleged car-ramming

Israeli troops kill Palestinian after alleged car-ramming
Updated 24 September 2022

Israeli troops kill Palestinian after alleged car-ramming

Israeli troops kill Palestinian after alleged car-ramming
  • The military said the soldiers opened fire when the motorist tried to run them over
  • Israeli media said the driver was killed

JERUSALEM : Israeli troops on Saturday shot and killed a Palestinian motorist who allegedly tried to ram his car into a group of soldiers patrolling in the occupied West Bank, according to Israeli soldiers and media.
The incident took place near the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank — the focal point of the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian violence in the occupied territory since 2016.
In a brief statement, the military said the soldiers opened fire when the motorist tried to run them over. Israeli media said the driver was killed. There was no way to immediately verify the account.
Palestinian assailants have carried out dozens of attempted stabbings and car rammings in recent years. But Palestinians and human rights groups say that Israeli troops often use excessive force, and in some cases, have shot people who did not pose a threat.
Israeli troops have been carrying out stepped-up activity in the northern West Bank since a series of deadly Palestinian attacks inside Israel last spring. Several attackers came from the area.
Some 90 Palestinians have been killed in the crackdown. Israel says many were militants or local youths who hurled stones and firebombs at troops, though several civilians have also died.
Early this week, Palestinian security forces, which coordinate activity with Israel, clashed with Palestinian youths in Nablus. The incident cast a spotlight on the growing ranks of Palestinian youths who see no end in sight to Israel’s 55-year military occupation and view the Palestinian Authority as a vehicle of corruption and collaboration with Israel.
Israeli officials say they are on heightened alert for violence ahead of the Jewish new year, which begins Sunday night.


Kurdish protesters rally in Irbil over Mahsa Amini’s death

Kurdish protesters rally in Irbil over Mahsa Amini’s death
Updated 24 September 2022

Kurdish protesters rally in Irbil over Mahsa Amini’s death

Kurdish protesters rally in Irbil over Mahsa Amini’s death
  • Protestors carrying placards with Amini's photograph gathered outside the UN compound in Erbil chanting "Death to the dictator"
  • "Women, Life, Freedom" chanted others

IRBIL, Iraq: Dozens of Iraqi and Iranian Kurds rallied in Iraq’s northern city of Irbil on Saturday over the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who died in the custody of Iranian police.
Protesters carrying placards with Amini’s photograph gathered outside the United Nations compound in Irbil chanting “Death to the dictator” — a reference to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“Women, Life, Freedom” chanted others, many of whom were Iranian Kurds living in self-imposed exile in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Protests broke out in northwestern Iran a week ago at the funeral of Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died after falling into a coma following her detention by morality police enforcing hijab rules on women’s dress.
“They killed (Amini) because of a piece of hair coming out from her hijab. The youth is asking for freedom. They are asking for rights for all the people because everyone has the right to have dignity and freedom,” said protester Namam Ismaili, an Iranian Kurd from Sardasht, a Kurdish town in Iran’s northwest.
Amini’s death has reignited anger over issues including restrictions on personal freedoms in Iran, the strict dress codes for women and an economy reeling from sanctions.
“We are not against religion, and we are not against Islam, we are secularists, and we want religion to be separate from politics,” said protester Maysoon Majidi, who is a Kurdish Iranian actor and director living in Irbil.


Iran regrets Ukraine’s downgrading of ties over drones

Iran regrets Ukraine’s downgrading of ties over drones
Updated 24 September 2022

Iran regrets Ukraine’s downgrading of ties over drones

Iran regrets Ukraine’s downgrading of ties over drones
  • Ukraine said on Friday that it would downgrade diplomatic ties with Iran over Tehran’s decision to supply Russian forces with drones

Iran regrets Ukraine’s decision to downgrade ties over the reported supply of Iranian drones to Russia, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson said on Saturday.
Nasser Kanaani said Ukraine should “refrain from being influenced by third parties who seek to destroy relations between the two countries,” a ministry statement said.
Ukraine said on Friday that it would downgrade diplomatic ties with Iran over Tehran’s decision to supply Russian forces with drones, a move President Volodymyr Zelensky called “a collaboration with evil.”
Kanaani said Ukraine’s decision was “based on unconfirmed reports and resulted from a media hype by foreign parties.”
Military authorities in southern Ukraine said on Saturday they had shot down at least seven Iranian drones, including six Shahed-136 “kamikaze” craft over the sea near the ports of Odesa and Pivdennyi on Friday.
These included — for the first time in Ukraine — a MoHajjer-6, a larger Iranian drone, the southern military command said.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in an English language tweet on Saturday that Iran was supporting Russia “by giving modern drones to (a) backward country for the murders of Ukrainians.”


Over 700 protesters arrested in Iran, including 60 women

Over 700 protesters arrested in Iran, including 60 women
Updated 24 September 2022

Over 700 protesters arrested in Iran, including 60 women

Over 700 protesters arrested in Iran, including 60 women
  • Thirty-five people have been killed in the demonstrations, which are spreading across Iran
  • Women have played a prominent role in the protests, waving and burning their veils

DUBAI/TEHRAN: Iranian police in just one province have arrested over 700 people during more than a week of protests following the death of a young woman in custody, Tasnim news agency reported Saturday.

General Azizollah Maleki, police chief of Guilan province, announced “the arrest of 739 rioters including 60 women,” the Iranian media outlet said.

Iran must deal decisively with protests which have swept the country after the death in custody of a woman detained by the Islamic Republic’s morality police, President Ebrahim Raisi said on Saturday.

Thirty-five people have been killed in the weeklong demonstrations, according to Iran’s state television, with protest spreading to most of the country’s 31 provinces.

On Friday, state-organized rallies took place in several Iranian cities to counter the anti-government protests, and the army promised to confront “the enemies” behind the unrest.

State media quoted Raisi on Saturday as saying Iran must “deal decisively with those who oppose the country’s security and tranquility.”

Raisi was speaking by telephone to the family of a member of the Basij volunteer force killed while taking part in the crackdown on unrest in the northeastern city of Mashhad.

The president “stressed the necessity to distinguish between protest and disturbing public order and security, and called the events ... a riot,” state media reported.

The protests broke out in northwestern Iran a week ago at the funeral of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died after falling into a coma following her detention by morality police enforcing hijab rules on women’s dress.

Her death has reignited anger over issues including restrictions on personal freedoms in Iran, the strict dress codes for women and an economy reeling from sanctions.

Women have played a prominent role in the protests, waving and burning their veils. Some have publicly cut their hair as furious crowds called for the fall of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The protests are the largest to sweep the country since demonstrations over fuel prices in 2019, when Reuters reported 1,500 people were killed in a crackdown on protesters. It was the bloodiest confrontation in the Islamic Republic’s history.

Iranian news agencies reported on Saturday that 739 protesters had been arrested in the northern province of Gilan, on the Caspian Sea.

The activist Twitter account 1500tasvir, which has 125,000 followers, said communication channels with the northwestern town of Oshnavieh had been cut off, and landlines were down.