Child malnutrition at ‘emergency levels’ in Sudan: UN

Child malnutrition at ‘emergency levels’ in Sudan: UN
Three UN agencies warned Thursday of a “significant deterioration” in the nutrition situation of children and mothers in war-torn Sudan, calling for “urgent action.” (AP/File)
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Updated 30 May 2024
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Child malnutrition at ‘emergency levels’ in Sudan: UN

Child malnutrition at ‘emergency levels’ in Sudan: UN
  • “The lives of Sudan’s children are at stake and urgent action is needed to protect an entire generation from malnutrition, disease and death,” the UNICEF, WHO and WFP said
  • “The ongoing hostilities are worsening the drivers of child malnutrition“

ROME: Three UN agencies warned Thursday of a “significant deterioration” in the nutrition situation of children and mothers in war-torn Sudan, calling for “urgent action.”
“The lives of Sudan’s children are at stake and urgent action is needed to protect an entire generation from malnutrition, disease and death,” the United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Food Program (WFP) said in a statement.
Sudan has been in the throes of conflict for over a year between the regular army led by de facto ruler Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the RSF led by his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, including up to 15,000 in a single West Darfur town, according to UN experts.
Nearly nine million people have been forced from their homes.
“The ongoing hostilities are worsening the drivers of child malnutrition,” the agencies said.
“These include a lack of access to nutritious food, safe drinking water and sanitation, and increased risk of disease,” they added.
“Sudan is facing an ever-increasing risk of conflict-induced famine that will have catastrophic consequences including the loss of life, especially among young children.”
The agencies said the conflict “is also severely impacting the delivery of humanitarian supplies, leaving countless women and children without access to vital food and nutritional support... (while) growing violence and bureaucratic procedures impede access to conflict affected areas.”
Child malnutrition in Sudan is “at emergency levels,” the statement said.
In Central Darfur, acute malnutrition is estimated to be at 15.6 percent among children under five, while at the Zamzam camp for displaced people in North Darfur state it is close to 30 percent.
“We need immediate and safe access to deliver the humanitarian assistance that they so desperately need,” said WFP head Cindy McCain.
“Millions of lives are at stake and the international community must act now or we risk losing an entire generation of children,” she said.
The agencies warned: “The window to avert the worst is rapidly closing.”


Foreign diplomats tour Beirut airport after weapons claims

Foreign diplomats tour Beirut airport after weapons claims
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Foreign diplomats tour Beirut airport after weapons claims

Foreign diplomats tour Beirut airport after weapons claims
BEIRUT: Senior Lebanese officials on Monday defended procedures at Beirut airport during a tour for journalists and diplomats, a day after a British daily alleged Hezbollah was storing weapons at the facility.
The accusations came during escalating exchanges of fire and bellicose rhetoric between Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and Israeli forces, which have engaged in near-daily fire since war in Gaza began.
Hezbollah has been acting in support of its Palestinian ally Hamas since the militant group’s October 7 attack on Israel that sparked the Gaza war.
On Sunday, British daily The Telegraph reported that Hezbollah was storing missiles and rockets at Beirut airport, where “whistleblowers” had reported the arrival of “unusually big boxes” from Iran.
Hezbollah has not made any official comment.
“The airport adheres to international standards,” said Transport Minister Ali Hamieh, who led the visit together with Lebanon’s ministers for foreign affairs, tourism and information.
Representatives from foreign missions including Egypt, Germany and the European Union delegation joined the tour of the airport’s warehouse facilities.
Hamieh on Sunday held a press conference to reject The Telegraph report as false and “to say that there are no weapons entering or leaving Beirut.” He invited ambassadors and reporters for the tour.
At the airport, Hamieh described The Telegraph report as part of “psychological war” on Lebanon and said it was a “distortion of the reputation” of Lebanon’s only international airport.
The tour “included an import and export center... that accounts for 20 percent of the import traffic and is concerned with services for Iranian planes which were the subject of The Telegraph report,” Hamieh said.
Another warehouse accounted for the remaining 80 percent of imports and exports, he told a press conference.
Israel has for years accused Hezbollah of keeping weapons in installations throughout Lebanon, including near Beirut airport, an accusation Hezbollah has denied.
Israel bombed Beirut airport when it last went to war with Hezbollah in 2006.
Beirut airport manager Fadi El-Hassan said all aircraft arriving at the facility, including Iranian planes, “are subject to the same customs procedures.”
Egyptian ambassador Alaa Moussa said that while diplomats were not responsible for inspecting the airport for prohibited items, “our presence (at the tour) is a message of support” to Lebanon and “a message to all parties that what is needed... is calm.”
More than eight months of exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israeli forces have left at least 481 people dead in Lebanon, mostly fighters, but also including 94 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country’s north.

Medics aim to screen thousands of Gaza children for malnutrition

A malnourished Palestinian boy receives treatment at the International Medical Corps field hospital in Deir Al-Balah.
A malnourished Palestinian boy receives treatment at the International Medical Corps field hospital in Deir Al-Balah.
Updated 24 June 2024
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Medics aim to screen thousands of Gaza children for malnutrition

A malnourished Palestinian boy receives treatment at the International Medical Corps field hospital in Deir Al-Balah.
  • IMC and partners are planning to reach more than 200,000 children under 5 years old as part of a ‘Find and Treat’ campaign

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip: Medics in Gaza said on Monday they were working to step up screening of young children for severe malnutrition amid fears that hunger is spreading as people flee to new areas.
Aid group International Medical Corps (IMC) and partners are planning to reach more than 200,000 children under 5 years old as part of a ‘Find and Treat’ campaign, one of its doctors, Mumawwar Said, told Reuters by phone.
“With the displacement, communities are settling in new locations that do not have access to clean water, or there is not adequate access to food,” he said. “We fear there are more cases being missed.”
Over the weekend, families were already coming into an IMC clinic in the central city of Deir Al-Balah, opened after the agency said it had to shut down two centers in the southern city of Rafah due to insecurity.
Five-year-old Jana Ayad had weighed just 9 kilograms when she arrived, suffering from diarrhea and vomiting, Nutrition Officer Raghda Ibrahim Qeshta told Reuters as she carefully held the child.
“My daughter was dying in front of me,” said Nasma Ayad as she sat next to the bed. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Jana had started putting on some weight after treatment, medics said, but she was still painfully thin with her ribs showing as she lay listlessly in her bunny pyjamas.
Staff can gauge nutrition levels by measuring the circumference of children’s arms. During a Reuters cameraman’s short visit at least two of the measurements were in the yellow band, indicating a risk of malnutrition.
A group of UN-led aid agencies estimates that around 7 percent of Gazan children may be acutely malnourished, compared with 0.8 percent before the Israel-Hamas conflict began on Oct. 7.
Until now the worst of severe hunger has been in the north, with a UN-backed report warning of imminent famine in March.
But aid workers worry it could spread to central and southern areas due to the upheaval around Rafah that has displaced more than 1 million people and constrained supply flows through southern corridors.
Israel launched its military operation in Gaza after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage, according to Israeli tallies.
It says it has expanded efforts to facilitate aid flows into Gaza and blames international aid agencies for distribution problems inside the enclave.


UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency

UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency
Updated 24 June 2024
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UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency

UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency
  • UNRWA’s Philippe Lazzarini: ‘If we do not push back, other UN entities and international organizations will be next, further undermining our multilateral system’
  • Several countries halted their funding to UNRWA following accusations by Israel that some of the agency’s staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack

GENEVA: The head of the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) on Monday called on partners to fight back against efforts by Israel to have the organization disbanded as it provides humanitarian assistance to Gaza and across the region.
“Israel has long been critical of the agency’s mandate. But it now seeks to end UNRWA’s operations, dismissing the agency’s status as a United Nations entity supported by an overwhelming majority of member states,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said at a meeting of the agency’s advisory commission in Geneva.
“If we do not push back, other UN entities and international organizations will be next, further undermining our multilateral system.”
The Israeli diplomatic mission in Geneva had no immediate comment.
Lazzarini said the agency, which has provided essential aid to Gazans throughout Israel’s offensive, was “staggering under the weight of relentless attacks.”
“In Gaza, the agency has paid a terrible price: 193 UNRWA personnel have been killed,” he said.
“More than 180 installations have been damaged or destroyed, killing at least 500 people seeking United Nations protection...Our premises have been used for military purposes by Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.”
Lazzarini said the agency was being subjected to a “concerted effort” to dismantle it, including through legislative initiatives threatening to evict the agency from its compound and labelling UNRWA as a terrorist organization.
Several countries halted their funding to UNRWA following accusations by Israel that some of the agency’s staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war. Most donors have since resumed their funding.
Lazzarini said that UNRWA still lacked the necessary resources to fulfil its mandate.
“The agency’s ability to operate beyond August will depend on member states disbursing planned funds and providing new contributions to the core budget,” he said.
Established in 1949 following the first Arab-Israeli war, UNRWA provides services including schooling, primary health care and humanitarian aid in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.


Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say

Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say
Updated 24 June 2024
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Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say

Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say
  • Fatah and Hamas officials had previously said the meeting would take place in mid-June.

CAIRO: Reconciliation talks between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah due to be held in China this month have been delayed and no new date has been set, Hamas and Fatah officials told Reuters on Monday.
After hosting a meeting of Palestinian factions in April, China said Fatah — which is led by President Mahmoud Abbas — and Hamas had expressed the will to seek reconciliation through unity talks in Beijing. Fatah and Hamas officials had previously said the meeting would take place in mid-June.


Iran sanctions take center stage in presidential campaign

Iran sanctions take center stage in presidential campaign
Updated 24 June 2024
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Iran sanctions take center stage in presidential campaign

Iran sanctions take center stage in presidential campaign
  • Sanctions have sharply reduced Iran’s oil revenues, heavily restricted trade and contributed to soaring inflation, high unemployment

Tehran: Iranians broadly deplore Western sanctions that have battered the economy, but the country’s six presidential candidates offer differing solutions — assuming the winner gets a say on foreign policy.
Punishing US sanctions, reimposed following Washington’s withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, have brought years of economic hardships, fueling political malaise and wide popular discontent.
With the June 28 snap election fast approaching, debates between the candidates vying for Iran’s second-highest office have featured a key question: should Tehran mend ties with the West?
Under the late president Ebrahim Raisi, who died last month in a helicopter crash, Western governments have expanded sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program as well as its support for militant groups across the Middle East and for Russia in its war in Ukraine.
The sanctions have sharply reduced Iran’s oil revenues, heavily restricted trade and contributed to soaring inflation, high unemployment and a record low for the Iranian rial against the US dollar.
At Tehran’s bustling Grand Bazaar, shopkeeper Hamid Habibi, 54, said years of sanctions “have hit people very hard.”
“Sanctions should be removed and ties mended with the US and European countries,” he said.
In two televised debates focused on the economy ahead of the presidential polls, “almost all the candidates explained that the sanctions have had devastating effects,” said Fayyaz Zahed, a professor of international relations at the University of Tehran.
“It is crucial to resolve this issue to alleviate the people’s suffering,” he said.
While the six contenders — five conservatives and a sole reformist — have all vowed to tackle the economic hardships, they offered varying views on Iran’s relations with the West.
“If we could lift the sanctions, Iranians could live comfortably,” said reformist candidate Massoud Pezeshkian, considered one of three frontrunners.
Pezeshkian, who is backed by key reformist groups in Iran, called for “constructive relations” with Washington and European capitals in order to “get Iran out of its isolation.”
On the campaign trail, he had the support of Mohammad Javad Zarif, a former foreign minister who helped secure the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and insists it had positive impact on the Iranian economy.
Since the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018, Iran has gradually reduced its commitment to its terms, meant to curb nuclear activity which Tehran has maintained was for peaceful purposes.
Diplomatic efforts to revive the deal have long stalled as tensions between Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency repeatedly flared.
Former president Hassan Rouhani, whose government negotiated the deal, said the sanctions cost Iranians “$100 billion a year, directly or indirectly, from the sale of oil and petrochemicals and the discounts they give” — in reference to preferential trade with China, a signatory to the 2015 agreement.
Ultraconservative presidential candidate Saeed Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator, has called for Tehran to press ahead with its long-running anti-Western policy.
“The international community is not made up of just two or three Western countries,” Jalili has repeatedly said in debates and campaign rallies.
He said Iran should bolster its ties with China and Russia, and forge stronger relations with Arab countries, particularly regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia.
Conservative candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the incumbent parliament speaker, has offered a more pragmatic approach, saying Iran should negotiate with Western countries only if it stands to gain an “economic advantage.”
Ghalibaf called for increasing Tehran’s nuclear capabilities, a strategy he said was already “forcing the West to negotiate with Iran.”
Zahed, the international relations professor, said Jalili has positioned himself as “the most inflexible candidate on the diplomatic level.”
In any case, the expert added, the next president will have limited say over strategic issues in the Islamic republic where supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 85, wields ultimate authority.
On Saturday, Khamenei urged the candidates to avoid making any remarks that would “please the enemy” — in reference to the West, mainly the United States.
The president “could only influence foreign policy” if he “earned the trust” of Khamenei and Iran’s most influential government institutions, Zahed said.