Nearly 400 Ethiopians have died of starvation recently. Millions more need food aid

Nearly 400 Ethiopians have died of starvation recently. Millions more need food aid
Displaced Tigrayans queue to receive food donated by local residents at a reception center for the internally displaced in Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. (AP/File)
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Updated 31 January 2024
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Nearly 400 Ethiopians have died of starvation recently. Millions more need food aid

Nearly 400 Ethiopians have died of starvation recently. Millions more need food aid
  • The UN and the US lifted the pause in December after introducing reforms to curb theft, but Tigray authorities say food is not reaching those who need it

KAMPALA, Uganda: Nearly 400 people have died of starvation in Ethiopia’s Tigray and Amhara regions in recent months, the national ombudsman said Tuesday, a rare admission of hunger-related deaths by a federal body.
Local officials have previously reported starvation deaths in their districts, but Ethiopia’s federal government has insisted these reports are “completely wrong”.
Ethiopia’s ombudsman office sent experts to the regions, which are gripped by drought and still reeling from a devastating civil war that officially ended 14 months ago. They concluded that 351 people have died of hunger in Tigray in the past six months, with 44 more deaths in Amhara.
Only a small fraction of needy people in Tigray are receiving food aid, according to an aid memo seen by The Associated Press, more than one month after aid agencies resumed deliveries of grain following a lengthy pause over theft.
Just 14 percent of 3.2 million people targeted for food aid by humanitarian agencies in Tigray this month had received it by Jan. 21, according to the memo by the Tigray Food Cluster, a group of aid agencies co-chaired by the UN’s World Food Program and Ethiopian officials.
The memo urges humanitarian groups to “immediately scale up” their operations, warning that “failure to take swift action now will result in severe food insecurity and malnutrition during the lean season, with possible loss of the most vulnerable children and women in the region.”
The UN and the US paused food aid to Tigray in mid-March last year after discovering a “large-scale” scheme to steal humanitarian grain. The suspension was rolled out to the rest of Ethiopia in June. US officials believe the theft may be the biggest diversion of grain ever. Donors have blamed Ethiopian government officials and the military for the fraud.
The UN and the US lifted the pause in December after introducing reforms to curb theft, but Tigray authorities say food is not reaching those who need it.
Two aid workers told the AP that the new system — which includes fitting GPS trackers to food trucks and putting QR codes on ration cards — has been hampered by technical issues. Aid agencies are also struggling with a lack of funds.
A third aid worker said the food aid pause and the slow resumption meant some people in Tigray have not received food aid for over a year. “They went through multiple rounds of registration and verification, but no actual distributions yet,” the aid worker said.
The aid workers spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
Around 20.1 million people across Ethiopia need humanitarian food due to drought, conflict and a tanking economy. The aid pause pushed up hunger levels even further.
The US-funded Famine Early Warning System has warned that crisis levels of hunger or worse “are expected in northern, southern and southeastern Ethiopia throughout at least early 2024.” A former head of the WFP has described these levels of hunger as “marching toward starvation.”
In Amhara, which shares a border with Tigray, a rebellion that erupted in August is impeding humanitarians’ movements and making distributions difficult, while several regions of Ethiopia have been devastated by a multi-year drought.
Malnutrition rates among children in parts of Ethiopia’s Afar, Amhara and Oromia regions range between 15.9 percent and 47 percent, according to a presentation by the Ethiopia Nutrition Cluster and reviewed by the AP. Among displaced children in Tigray, the rate is 26.5 percent. The Ethiopia Nutrition Cluster is co-chaired by the UN Children’s Fund and the federal government.
Tigray, home to 5.5 million people, was the center of a devastating two-year civil war that killed hundreds of thousands and spilled into the neighboring regions. A UN panel accused Ethiopia’s government of using “starvation as a method of warfare” by restricting food aid to Tigray during the conflict, which ended in November 2022 with a peace deal.
Persistent insecurity meant only 49 percent of Tigray’s farmland was planted during the main planting season last year, according to an assessment by UN agencies, NGOs and the regional authorities, and seen by the AP.
Crop production in these areas was only 37 percent of the expected total because of drought. In some areas the proportion was as low as 2 percent.
The poor harvest prompted Tigray’s authorities to warn of an “unfolding famine” that could match the disaster of 1984-5, which killed hundreds of thousands of people across northern Ethiopia, unless the aid response is immediately scaled up.
But Ethiopia’s federal government denies there is a large hunger crisis. When Tigray’s leader, Getachew Reda, raised the alarm over looming mass starvation deaths last month, a federal government spokesperson dismissed the reports as “inaccurate” and accused him of “politicizing the crisis.”


China’s premier hails ‘new beginning’ with US-allied South Korea, Japan

China’s premier hails ‘new beginning’ with US-allied South Korea, Japan
Updated 19 sec ago
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China’s premier hails ‘new beginning’ with US-allied South Korea, Japan

China’s premier hails ‘new beginning’ with US-allied South Korea, Japan
  • Li Qiang met South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in three-way talks
  • The three nations are trying to manage rising distrust amid the rivalry between Beijing and Washington and tensions over Taiwan

SEOUL, South Korea: Chinese Premier Li Qiang praised what he called a restart in relations with Japan and South Korea as he met their leaders for the first three-way talks in four years on Monday in Seoul, striving to revive trade and security dialogues hampered by global tensions.

Li, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will adopt a joint statement on six areas including the economy and trade, science and technology, people-to-people exchanges and health and the aging population, Seoul officials said.
They may also agree to resume three-party free trade agreement negotiations, which have been stalled since 2019, according to Japanese media reports.
At the summit, Li called for the comprehensive resumption of trilateral cooperation with an open attitude and transparent measures, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.
He said relations between the three nations had not changed despite profound global transformations.
“Our meeting today, first in more than four years, is both a restart and a new beginning,” Li said, according to a post on X by China’s foreign ministry.
China and US-allied South Korea and Japan are trying to manage rising distrust amid the rivalry between Beijing and Washington and tensions over democratically ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own.
Yoon and Kishida have charted a closer course with each other and to Washington, embarking on unprecedented three-way cooperation with the United States on military and other measures.
Monday’s summit comes a day after the leaders met separately for bilateral talks with each other.
In those meetings, Li and Yoon agreed to a diplomatic and security dialogue and resume free trade talks, while Kishida and the Chinese premier discussed Taiwan and agreed to hold a new round of bilateral high-level economic dialogue.
Yoon also asked China to play a constructive role with its partners in North Korea, which is expanding its nuclear weapons and missile arsenal in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
North Korea has notified Japan of its plan to launch a rocket carrying a space satellite between May 27 and June 4, the Japan Coast Guard said on Monday.
Officials from the United States, Japan, and South Korea held phone talks in response to the notice and demanded that North Korea cancel the launch because it would use ballistic missile technology in violation of the UN resolutions, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said.

Trade relations
The trade relationship between China, South Korea and Japan has evolved over the past decade to become increasingly competitive.
Those ties have been further tested by US calls for its allies to shift their supply chains for key products, such as semiconductors, away from China.
Officials and diplomats from South Korea and Japan have set a low bar for the summit, saying it is uncertain whether there will be major announcements but that just gathering will help the three countries revive and reinvigorate their strained relations.
The three leaders are also due to attend a forum with top business executives.
South Korea, Japan and China held 16 rounds of official negotiations over a three-way FTA after they first kicked off in 2012.
At their last negotiation in November 2019, the three countries agreed on liberalization at a level higher than the Regional Comprehensive Economic partnership (RCEP), of which they are all members, encompassing areas from trade of goods and services to investment, customs, competition and e-commerce.


At least 15 dead after severe weather carves path of ruin across multiple states in the US South

At least 15 dead after severe weather carves path of ruin across multiple states in the US South
Updated 15 min 30 sec ago
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At least 15 dead after severe weather carves path of ruin across multiple states in the US South

At least 15 dead after severe weather carves path of ruin across multiple states in the US South
  • Half of the deaths and nearly 100 injuries were reported in north Texas, where a powerful tornado struck communities on Saturday night
  • Video footage showed wide swaths of homes in shambles, with vehicles smashed and trees uprooted or stripped of limbs and foliage

VALLEY VIEW, Texas (AP) — Powerful storms killed at least 15 people, injured hundreds and left a wide trail of destruction Sunday across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after obliterating homes and destroying a truck stop where dozens sought shelter in a restroom during the latest deadly weather to strike the central U.S.

The storms inflicted their worst damage in a region spanning from north of Dallas to the northwest corner of Arkansas, and the system threatened to bring more violent weather to other parts of the Midwest later in the day. By Monday, forecasters said, the greatest risk would shift to the east, covering a broad swath of the country from Alabama to near New York City.

Seven deaths were reported in Cooke County, Texas, near the Oklahoma border, where a tornado Saturday night plowed through a rural area near a mobile home park, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said at a news conference Sunday. The dead included two children, ages 2 and 5. Three family members were found dead in one home, according to the county sheriff.

Storms also killed two people and destroyed houses in Oklahoma, where the injured included guests at an outdoor wedding, five people in Arkansas and one person in Kentucky. Tens of thousands of residents were without power across the region.

In Texas, about 100 people were injured and more than 200 homes and structures destroyed, said Abbott, sitting in front of a ravaged truck stop near the small agricultural community of Valley View. The area was among the hardest-hit, with winds reaching an estimated 135 mph (217 kph), officials said.

“The hopes and dreams of Texas families and small businesses have literally been crushed by storm after storm,” said Abbott, whose state has seen successive bouts of severe weather, including storms that killed eight people in Houston.

Hugo Parra, who lives in Farmers Branch, north of Dallas, said he rode out the storm with 40 to 50 people in the bathroom of the truck stop. The storm sheared the roof and walls off the building, mangling metal beams and leaving battered cars in the parking lot.

“A firefighter came to check on us and he said, ‘You’re very lucky,’” Parra said. “The best way to describe this is the wind tried to rip us out of the bathrooms.”

Multiple people were transported to hospitals by ambulance and helicopter in Denton County, also north of Dallas.

No more deaths are expected and nobody was reported missing in Texas, said Abbott, though responders were doing one more round of searches just in case.

At least five people were killed in Arkansas. One was a 26-year-old woman who was found dead outside a destroyed home in Olvey, a small community in Boone County, according to Daniel Bolen of the county’s emergency management office. One person died in Benton County, and two more bodies were found in Marion County, officials said.

In Oklahoma, two people died in Mayes County, east of Tulsa, officials said.

In Kentucky, a man was killed Sunday in Louisville when a tree fell on him, police said. Louisville Mayor Craig Greenburg confirmed it was a storm-related death on social media.

Vehicles in a body shop are seen amid debris the morning after a tornado rolled through Valley View, Texas, on May 26, 2024. (AP Photo)

The destruction continued a grim month of deadly severe weather in the nation’s midsection.

Tornadoes in Iowa last week left at least five people dead and dozens injured. The deadly twisters have spawned during a historically bad season for tornadoes, at a time when climate change contributes to the severity of storms around the world. April had the second-highest number of tornadoes on record in the country.

Meteorologists and authorities issued urgent warnings to seek cover as the storms marched across the region late Saturday and into Sunday. “If you are in the path of this storm take cover now!” the National Weather Service office in Norman, Oklahoma, posted on X.

Harold Brooks, a senior scientist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, said a persistent pattern of warm, moist air is to blame for the string of tornadoes over the past two months.

Brooks recommended that travelers passing through threatened areas over the Memorial Day weekend have a plan for a weather emergency.

Travelers who have already chosen where to get food and other essentials “probably ought to be thinking about what could I do if there’s a dangerous situation to save my life,” Brooks said.


Twelve Moldovan parties clinch pro-Europe pact, but not all back president

Twelve Moldovan parties clinch pro-Europe pact, but not all back president
Updated 27 May 2024
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Twelve Moldovan parties clinch pro-Europe pact, but not all back president

Twelve Moldovan parties clinch pro-Europe pact, but not all back president
  • Sunday’s accord was signed by Sandu’s Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS), which holds a majority in parliament in one of Europe’s poorest countries, lying between Ukraine and Romania

CHISINAU: Twelve parties in Moldova clinched a pact on Sunday committing them to act in favor of European Union membership for the ex-Soviet state as the campaign for an October referendum on European integration heats up.
But not all the parties support pro-European President Maia Sandu, who is running for re-election in a poll taking place alongside the referendum. Some of them intend to put up a joint candidate to run against her.
The Oct. 20 referendum pits Sandu and pro-European forces against a group of disparate pro-Russian parties which are already holding rallies with the slogan “No to the EU.”
Sunday’s accord was signed by Sandu’s Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS), which holds a majority in parliament in one of Europe’s poorest countries, lying between Ukraine and Romania.
But the pact’s initiators, four parties jointly dubbed “Together,” accuse Sandu of “privatizing” European integration by relying solely on her PAS party.
The group, which polls show could secure enough votes to win seats in parliament, call on Sandu to dismiss her government and bring other pro-European parties into the administration.
With pro-Russian parties running an organized “no” drive in the referendum campaign, analysts say the key is to muster support for EU integration in the plebiscite without devoting too much attention to Sandu’s chances of re-election.
“Voters must remember that on October 20, defeat in the referendum will mean defeat for Moldova, casting it into the past,” Vitalii Andrievschii, Director of the Institute for Effective Policy, told Reuters.
“The referendum on EU membership and the presidential election are different things. Maia Sandu should not be viewed in association with the referendum.”
Sandu says Russia and corruption are the biggest threats to Moldova and she places EU membership at the center of her policies.
Openly opposed to a “yes” vote is the pro-Russian “Victory” bloc headed by fugitive business magnate Ilan Shor, sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison in connection with the 2014 disappearance of $1 billion from the Moldovan banking system.
The opposition Socialists and Communists, also friendly to Moscow, say they support European integration but oppose the referendum as a means to secure the president’s re-election. But they show no inclination to cooperate with the “Victory” bloc.

 


 


Putin arrives in Uzbekistan on his 3rd foreign trip since re-election

Putin arrives in Uzbekistan on his 3rd foreign trip since re-election
Updated 25 min 37 sec ago
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Putin arrives in Uzbekistan on his 3rd foreign trip since re-election

Putin arrives in Uzbekistan on his 3rd foreign trip since re-election
  • The Kremlin leader has traveled abroad only infrequently since the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived Sunday in the capital of Uzbekistan where he is to hold talks with President Shavkay Mirziyoyev that are expected to focus on deepening the countries’ relations.

Putin laid a wreath at a momument to Uzbekistan’s independence in Tashkent and held what the Kremlin said were informal talks with Mirziyoyev. The formal meeting of the presidents is to take place Monday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, quoted by news agencies, told Russian television that Russia was open to broader cooperation on gas supplies with Uzbekistan, saying “the possibilities here are very extensive.”

The visit is Putin’s third foreign trip since being inaugurated for a fifth term in May. He first went to China, where he expressed appreciation for China’s proposals for talks to end the Ukraine conflict, and later to Belarus where Russia has deployed tactical nuclear weapons.

Ahead of the Uzbekistan trip, Putin and Mirziyoyev discussed an array of bilateral cooperation issues, including trade and economic relations, the Kremlin said.

The Kremlin leader has traveled abroad only infrequently since the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest last March on suspicion of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine. The Kremlin denies those allegations.

 

 


Armenians throng center of the capital to demand the prime minister’s resignation

Armenians throng center of the capital to demand the prime minister’s resignation
Updated 27 May 2024
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Armenians throng center of the capital to demand the prime minister’s resignation

Armenians throng center of the capital to demand the prime minister’s resignation
  • Movement leaders told the rally Sunday that they support Galstanyan becoming the next prime minister

YEREVAN, Armenia: Tens of thousands of demonstrators held a protest Sunday in the center of the capital of Armenia, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan after Armenia agreed to hand over control of several border villages to Azerbaijan.
The demonstration was the latest in a weekslong series of gatherings led by a high-ranking cleric in the Armenian Apostolic Church, Bagrat Galstanyan, archbishop of the Tavush diocese in Armenia’s northeast.
He spearheaded the formation of a movement called Tavush For The Homeland after Armenia in April agreed to cede control of four villages in the region to Azerbaijan. Although the villages were the movement’s core issue, it has expanded to express a wide array of complaints about Pashinyan and his government.
Movement leaders told the rally Sunday that they support Galstanyan becoming the next prime minister.
The decision to turn over the villages in Tavush followed the lightning military campaign in September in which Azerbaijan’s military forced ethnic Armenian separatist authorities in the Karabakh region to capitulate.
After Azerbaijan took full control of Karabakh, about 120,000 people fled the region, almost all of its ethnic Armenian population.
Ethnic Armenian fighters backed by Armenian forces had taken control of Karabakh in 1994 at the end of a six-year war. Azerbaijan regained some of the territory in fighting in 2020 that ended in an armistice that brought in a Russian peacekeeper force, which began withdrawing this year.
Pashinyan has said Armenia needs to quickly define the border with Azerbaijan to avoid a new round of hostilities.