Millions face conflict-induced famine globally, UN Security Council told

Millions face conflict-induced famine globally, UN Security Council told
More than half the wheat exported under the Ukraine-Russia agreement had gone to Africa. (AP)
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Updated 22 September 2022

Millions face conflict-induced famine globally, UN Security Council told

Millions face conflict-induced famine globally, UN Security Council told
  • 60% of Yemen’s population ‘acutely food insecure’: UN emergency relief coordinator
  • UAE envoy: ‘The Houthis need to end all violations of the current humanitarian truce’

NEW YORK: Millions of people are facing the risk of conflict-induced famine and widespread food insecurity as a result of armed conflict, the UN Security Council was told on Thursday.
The UNSC meeting on the “protection of civilians in armed conflict” was requested by Brazil and Ireland to discuss the “white note” on conflict and hunger.
On May 24, 2018, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs called on the secretary-general to report to the council “swiftly when there was a risk of conflict-induced famine and widespread food insecurity in the context of armed conflict.”
That risk, the report said, was now a reality, with “armed conflict and violence the primary drivers of these risks” in South Sudan, Yemen, northeast Nigeria and Ethiopia.
Martin Griffiths, undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator at the UN, said seven years of armed conflict in Yemen had left some 19 million people — 60 percent of the population — “acutely food insecure.”
In South Sudan, he said, 63 percent of the population, or 7.7 million people, were projected to be in crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity this year.
“Assessments project that 87,000 people, mostly in Jonglei State and Greater Pibor Administrative Area, could face catastrophe,” he added.
In Ethiopia, he said, more than 13 million people need life-saving food assistance across the regions of Afar, Amhara and Tigray.
“In June, 87 percent of people surveyed in Tigray were food insecure, more than half of them severely so,” Griffiths added.
He said hunger was used as a “tactic of war,” something humanitarian organizations were trying to combat by working with local groups who were the first, sometimes only, “responders on the ground. But too often, we face interference, impediments, harassment and attacks on our staff, and looting or diversion of our assets.”
Griffiths added: “This prevents us from reaching people in need, and it makes their suffering worse. Humanitarians will stay and deliver, but the conditions in some contexts are unacceptable.”
South Sudan, he said, was “one of the most dangerous places to be an aid worker last year, with 319 violent incidents targeting humanitarian personnel and assets.”
He said five aid workers were killed in 2021 — five more have died since the beginning of this year.
Griffiths called on member states to commit to peaceful and negotiated resolutions to conflicts and other situations of violence.
He said states and armed groups needed to be “reminded and encouraged to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.”
He added that all parties must protect all objects that are essential for the survival of civilians, “and ensure the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief.”
Griffiths called for the support of an “integrated response to address the underlying drivers of acute food insecurity,” and of “the economies of countries facing severe, large-scale hunger.”
The report called for humanitarian financing to be sustained, saying: “In all these countries, we are well below half of the required funding. Without the resources we need, we cannot operate at the scale we should.”
Maximo Torero, chief economist at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, confirmed that hunger has been increasing significantly in recent years, which he said was exacerbated by several factors, including conflict, climate change, and a rise in inequality that had worsened since COVID-19.
“All these,” he said, “have been exacerbated by a rise in food prices.” Conflict, he added, “has a direct impact” on food insecurity by reducing food production, destroying crops and restricting access to food.
“In the long term, conflict leads to the complete loss of livelihoods, supply chain disruptions, mass displacement, and increased pressure on resources.”
Torero said the global economy was also hit by conflict, pushing up inflation. And he warned that by the end of this year, 205 million people would face acute food insecurity.
“When the council speaks, the world listens. Preventing conflict is the most effective means of preventing famine,” he said.
David Beasly, executive director at the UN World Food Programme, said he had seen first-hand the impact that unrest and conflict could have on entire communities when he visited Central America.
“I saw how conflict thousands of miles away is adding fuel to the flames of what is already a severe hunger crisis on another continent,” he said, adding that soaring prices of grain, fuel and fertilizer had left people “absolutely in despair.”
Beasly said: “These people, they literally have nothing left. They can stay and starve, or they can leave and risk death, for the chance of a better future in the United States.”
In Yemen, he said, the humanitarian situation continued to decline.
Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s permanent representative to the UN, held the Houthis fully responsible for the ongoing suffering of civilians in Taiz.
“On Yemen, we reiterate that the Houthis need to end all violations of the current humanitarian truce and fully implement it to see a way through this,” she said, adding that the ongoing blockades of roads into Taiz were “perpetuating great hardships for the civilian population.”
Responding to the report, Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, blamed Western countries for a failure to deliver Russian grain to countries most in need, which Moscow claims is due to Western-imposed sanctions.
“The idea repeated by the EU and the USA that their sanctions are not impeding the export of food and fertilizer is not in line with reality,” Nebenzya said.
“These restrictions are complicating banking transactions, including banks that are systemically important for Russia’s agriculture sector, where current accounts are simply being closed.”
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s response to Russia was clear: “End the war (in Ukraine).”
UK Ambassador James Kariuki said the millions at risk of starvation in South Sudan and Yemen was a matter of “deep concern,” and there continued to be attacks on humanitarian workers.
“In that regard,” he added, “let me reiterate the importance of continued implementation of the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Deal, which has contributed to a 5.1 percent decrease in global wheat prices.”
He said 23,000 tons of Ukrainian grain were delivered to Djibouti last month, “some of which has already entered Ethiopia.”
Responding to Moscow’s claims of Western food sanctions against Russia, Kariuki said: “I’m sure briefers will respond to some of the wild claims … There were no sanctions on food and fertilizer.”
He added that more than half the wheat exported under the agreement had gone to Africa. He concluded by saying: “As my US colleagues said, none of this would be needed if Russia ended its illegal war.”

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Kyiv summit promotes ‘Grain from Ukraine’ for most vulnerable

Kyiv summit promotes ‘Grain from Ukraine’ for most vulnerable
Updated 8 sec ago

Kyiv summit promotes ‘Grain from Ukraine’ for most vulnerable

Kyiv summit promotes ‘Grain from Ukraine’ for most vulnerable
KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hosted a summit in Kyiv on Saturday to promote its “Grain from Ukraine” initiative to export grain to countries most vulnerable to famine and drought.
The Ukrainian leader said the plan demonstrated that global food security was “not just empty words” for Kyiv. The Kremlin has said that Ukraine’s Black Sea exports during the war have not been reaching the most vulnerable countries.
Zelensky said Kyiv had raised around $150 million from more than 20 countries and the European Union to export grain to countries including Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.
“We plan to send at least 60 vessels from Ukrainian ports to countries that most face the threat of famine and drought,” Zelensky told the gathering.
The summit was attended in-person by the prime ministers of Belgium, Poland and Lithuania and the president of Hungary. Germany and France’s presidents and the head of the European Commission delivered speeches shown by video.
Announced by Kyiv earlier this month, the initiative is in addition to a UN-brokered deal that has allowed some Ukrainian grain shipments through the Black Sea, a vital route for the major wheat producer’s exports that had been blocked.
Flanked by his chief of staff and prime minister on Saturday, Zelensky said the Grain from Ukraine initiative aimed to demonstrate that for Kyiv global food security is “not just empty words.”
“This will be one of the biggest contributions to global stability – a real and very necessary step,” he said.

Huge COVID-19 protests erupt in China’s Xinjiang after deadly fire

Huge COVID-19 protests erupt in China’s Xinjiang after deadly fire
Updated 26 November 2022

Huge COVID-19 protests erupt in China’s Xinjiang after deadly fire

Huge COVID-19 protests erupt in China’s Xinjiang after deadly fire
  • China has put the vast Xinjiang region under some of the country’s longest lockdowns
  • Urumqi protests followed a fire in a high-rise building there that killed 10 on Thursday night

Rare protests broke out in China’s far western Xinjiang region, with crowds shouting at hazmat-suited guards after a deadly fire triggered anger over their prolonged COVID-19 lockdown as nationwide infections set another record.
Crowds chanted “End the lockdown!,” pumping their fists in the air as they walked down a street, according to videos circulated on Chinese social media on Friday night. Reuters verified the footage was published from the Xinjiang capital Urumqi.
Videos showed people in a plaza singing China’s national anthem with its lyric, “Rise up, those who refuse to be slaves!” while others shouted that they wanted to be released from lockdowns.
China has put the vast Xinjiang region under some of the country’s longest lockdowns, with many of Urumqi’s 4 million residents barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days. The city reported about 100 new cases each of the past two days.
Xinjiang is home to 10 million Uyghurs. Rights groups and Western governments have long accused Beijing of abuses against the mainly Muslim ethnic minority, including forced labor in internment camps. China strongly rejects such claims.
The Urumqi protests followed a fire in a high-rise building there that killed 10 on Thursday night.
Authorities have said the building’s residents had been able to go downstairs, but videos of emergency crews’ efforts, shared on Chinese social media, led many Internet users to surmise that residents could not escape in time because the building was partially locked down.
Urumqi officials abruptly held a news conference in the early hours of Saturday, denying that COVID-19 measures had hampered escape and rescue but saying they would investigate further. One said residents could have escaped faster if they had better understood fire safety.
Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, said such a “blame-the-victim” attitude would make people angrier. “Public trust will just sink lower,” he told Reuters.
Users on China’s Weibo platform described the incident as a tragedy that sprang out of China’s insistence on sticking to its zero COVID-19 policy and something that could happen to anyone. Some lamented its similarities to the deadly September crash of a COVID-19 quarantine bus.
“Is there not something we can reflect on to make some changes,” said an essay that went viral on WeChat on Friday, questioning the official narrative on the Urumqi apartment fire.
China defends President Xi Jinping’s signature zero COVID-19 policy as life-saving and necessary to prevent overwhelming the health care system. Officials have vowed to continue with it despite the growing public pushback and its mounting toll on the world’s second-biggest economy.
While the country recently tweaked its measures, shortening quarantines and taking other targeted steps, this coupled with rising cases has caused widespread confusion and uncertainty in big cities, including Beijing, where many residents are locked down at home.
China recorded 34,909 daily local cases, low by global standards but the third record in a row, with infections spreading numerous cities, prompting widespread lockdowns and other curbs on movement and business.
Shanghai, China’s most populous city and financial hub, tightened testing requirements on Saturday for entering cultural venues such as museums and libraries, requiring people to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours, down from 72 hours earlier.
Beijing’s Chaoyang Park, popular with runners and picnickers, shut again after having briefly reopened.


Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan to address first rally since being shot

Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan to address first rally since being shot
Updated 26 November 2022

Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan to address first rally since being shot

Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan to address first rally since being shot
  • Shooting the latest twist in months of political turmoil that began when Iman Khan was ousted
  • Rally takes place on a vast open ground between Islamabad and neighboring Rawalpindi

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan: Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan is expected on Saturday to address thousands of supporters at his first public appearance since being shot earlier this month in an assassination attempt he blamed on his successor.
The shooting was the latest twist in months of political turmoil that began in April when Khan was ousted by a vote of no confidence in parliament.
Saturday’s rally is the climax of a so-called “long march” by Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), to press the government to call a snap election before parliament’s term expires in October next year.
“My life is in danger, and despite being injured I am going to Rawalpindi for the nation,” PTI quoted Khan as saying in a morning tweet.
“My nation will come to Rawalpindi for me.”
On Saturday, a video was circulating of aides posing with a now-removed blue cast that Khan wore on his right leg after the shooting.
The rally will take place on a vast open ground between the capital, Islamabad, and neighboring Rawalpindi — the garrison city that is home to the headquarters of the country’s powerful military.
Authorities have thrown a ring of steel around Islamabad to prevent Khan’s supporters from marching on government buildings, with thousands of security personnel deployed and roads blocked by shipping containers.
Khan-led protests in May spiraled into 24 hours of chaos, with the capital blockaded and running clashes across Pakistan between police and protesters.
Police said any attempt by PTI supporters to enter Islamabad this time would be firmly dealt with.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah — who Khan says was involved in the assassination plot — issued a “red alert” Friday warning of security threats to the rally.
“PTI still has the time (to cancel),” he said, listing Pakistan’s Taliban and Al Qaeda among the extremist groups that could harm Khan.
The government says the assassination attempt was the work of a lone wolf now in custody, with police leaking a “confession” video by the junk-shop owner saying he acted because Khan was against Islam.
But Khan, a former international cricket star with a playboy reputation before he married, said he has long warned the government would blame a religious fanatic for any attempt to kill him.
Saturday’s rally takes place two days after the government named a former spymaster as the next military chief.
General Syed Asim Munir’s appointment ended months of speculation over a position long considered the real power in the nuclear-armed Islamic nation of 220 million people.
Munir served as chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency under Khan, but his stint ended after just eight months following a reported falling out.
Pakistan’s military, the world’s sixth-largest, is hugely influential in the country and has staged at least three coups since independence in 1947, ruling for more than three decades.
Since being ousted, Khan has staged a series of mass rallies across the country, drawing huge crowds.
Saturday’s gathering is expected to be one of the biggest yet.
Convoys of PTI supporters were streaming in from around Pakistan, with buses, trucks and cars bearing party flags.

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Taliban’s treatment of women may be crime against humanity: UN experts

Taliban’s treatment of women may be crime against humanity: UN experts
Updated 26 November 2022

Taliban’s treatment of women may be crime against humanity: UN experts

Taliban’s treatment of women may be crime against humanity: UN experts
  • Treatment of women and girls may amount to ‘gender persecution’ under the Rome Statute to which Afghanistan is a party

GENEVA: The Taliban’s treatment of Afghan women and girls, including their exclusion from parks and gyms as well as schools and universities, may amount to a crime against humanity, a group of UN experts said on Friday.
The assessment by the UN Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan Richard Bennett and nine other UN experts says the treatment of women and girls may amount to “gender persecution” under the Rome Statute to which Afghanistan is a party.
Responding to the assessment, Taliban Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Abdul Qahar Balkhi said: “The current collective punishment of innocent Afghans by the UN sanctions regime all in the name of women rights and equality amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
The UN experts said in a statement that women’s confinement to their homes was “tantamount to imprisonment,” adding that it was likely to lead to increased levels of domestic violence and mental health problems. The experts cited the arrest this month of female activist Zarifa Yaqobi and four male colleagues.
They remain in detention, the experts said.
The Taliban took over from a Western-backed government in August 2021. They say they respect women’s rights in accordance with their interpretation of Islamic law.
Western governments have said the Taliban needs to reverse its course on women’s rights, including their U-turn on signals they would open girls’ high schools, for any path toward formal recognition of the Taliban government.
Separately, a spokesperson for the UN human rights office called for the Taliban authorities to immediately halt the use of public floggings in Afghanistan.
Ravina Shamdasani said the office had documented numerous such incidents this month, including a woman and a man lashed 39 times each for spending time alone together outside of marriage. Balkhi said the Taliban administration considered the statement by the United Nations and others by Western officials were “an insult toward Islam and violation of international principals.”


Pakistan envoy helps UK charity raise $1.2m for flood victims

Pakistan envoy helps UK charity raise $1.2m for flood victims
Updated 26 November 2022

Pakistan envoy helps UK charity raise $1.2m for flood victims

Pakistan envoy helps UK charity raise $1.2m for flood victims

LONDON: The Consul General of Pakistan has been working with the UK-based humanitarian charity Penny Appeal to raise “life-changing funds” for communities hit by devastating floods across Pakistan.

“The Consul General of Pakistan, Mr. Ibrar Hussain Khan, honored the charity’s efforts to support the people of Pakistan by attending their fundraising dinners as the chief guest of honor, and making a special guest appearance on the charity’s live appeals which were aired on British Muslim TV,” Penny Appeal said in a statement.

“Khan has played a crucial role in driving the compassion and generosity of the public to secure more funds and extend Penny Appeal’s provisions across Pakistan,” it added.

Devastating floods since June have killed more than 1,700 people, displaced 7.9 million, and inflicted billions of dollars of damage. Pakistani authorities estimate property damage could be as high as $40 billion.

The £1 million ($1.2 million) cheque was presented to the consul general at the Pakistani consulate in Bradford by Penny Appeal’s founder, Adeem Younis.

“With the support of the Pakistani authorities on the ground, Penny Appeal have been working tirelessly across 16 flood-affected districts to deliver life-changing aid, in the form of hot food, safe drinking water, medical aid, shelter, and cash grants to those most in need,” Penny Appeal said.

So far, the charity has delivered over half a million liters of drinking water, distributed over 200,000 cooked meals, and continues to provide food, medical aid and hygiene kits daily.

The charity is now in phase two of its response and is working with the government to provide newly built homes, with 100 homes already being built to accommodate up to 1,000 people.

“Khan has been an incredible asset to the appeal and his passion for helping those in need knows no bounds,” Younis said.

“Thanks to people like him, we are making a real and lasting difference to some of the most vulnerable people in the world, and I am particularly proud of the way we have united in our efforts both here in the UK and across Pakistan to help our brothers and sisters get through this calamity.’’

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