Our editors’ weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.
On our radar
Ethiopian PM in Sudan mediation effort
On Friday, Abiy Ahmed began mediation talks in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, aimed at restarting negotiations between Sudan’s military rulers and the opposition. The urgent efforts of Ethiopia’s young reformist prime minister follow the worst violence since the ouster of former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir two months ago. At least 100 people were reported to have been killed on Monday when members of the Rapid Support Forces – linked to the notorious Janjaweed militia – attacked a Khartoum protest. The protestors want immediate civilian-led rule and for militias to hand over their weapons to the army. One man holding the keys to the negotiations is Mohamed Hamdan "Hemeti" Dagolo, an ex-Janjaweed commander and the No. 2 in the ruling military junta. Dagalo, a former al-Bashir ally whose forces are accused of war crimes in Darfur, has been the lead in recent negotiations with Western diplomats.
Bad numbers in Libya
It has been two months since fighting began around Libya’s capital of Tripoli. The numbers speak for themselves: more than 90,000 people have fled their homes, 100,000 civilians are said to still be near conflict zones (41 have been reported killed, with another 116 injured since 4 April). On Monday, almost 100 people were brought out of Zintan, a Tripoli migrant detention centre where UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, described conditions as “dire.” That brings the number of migrants and refugees held in Tripoli down, but not necessarily in the country as a whole. That’s because people are still trying to escape Libya, only to end up right back where they started. UNHCR says it evacuated or resettled 1,000 people out of the country in all of 2019. Last month alone more than 1,200 people were taken to detention centres by the Libyan Coast Guard after they were rescued or intercepted at sea. Given the horrific conditions documented by aid agencies and here at TNH, these numbers are cause for concern.
Cash injection for Horn drought
A UN fund has released $45 million to combat the effects of drought in parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Announcing the decision, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said Somalia would get the bulk of the funds, $30 million, after forecasters predicted a failure of the April to June rainy season. Some 2.2 million Somalis are expected to face severe food problems by September. The new allocation is roughly 10 percent of the Central Emergency Response Fund's annual spending. The CERF is a pooled fund whose biggest donors last year were the UK, Germany, and Sweden. The Somalia NGO Consortium warned last month that the donor reaction to new projections on food security and nutrition had been sluggish, with director Nasra Ismail describing it as "very concerning" not to see "strong commitments". Keep an eye out next week for our Africa drought round-up, looking at southern Africa as well as the Horn.
Mergers and acquisitions
Are there too many NGOs overlapping and competing with each other? The UK manager at Mercy Corps – one of the BINGOs (Big International NGOs) – thinks so. Simon O’Connell points out that there are 115 international NGOs working in South Sudan, most with separate arrangements for accommodation, transport, and security. Adding to that apparent duplication, coordination between so many players is itself an effort, argued O'Connell in a recent commentary. The recipients of aid, and the public who are asked to fill the collection tin, may find this all less than ideal. "There are too many organisations duplicating each other’s work and needlessly competing with each other," O’Connell wrote. To hear more about his proposals to merge NGOs together, tune in to a discussion hosted at the Overseas Development Institute this Tuesday, 11 June.
Until recently, there was no agreed ranking of the severity of humanitarian need – no fair way to know which place is worst off. To address the “apples and oranges” problem, humanitarian analysts have agreed on a pilot index that combines 31 variables across three "dimensions". The Global Crisis Severity Index combines indicators of impact, conditions of affected people, and complexity. That could make for some necessary comparisons: according to this system, Venezuela is more severe than Central African Republic. These measures are a key ingredient in a new service from humanitarian needs analysts ACAPS. Its latest offering adds measures of risk and humanitarian access to the cocktail as part of a new resource called CrisisInSight.
In case you missed it
CAMEROON: Hundreds of opposition members are still being held in Cameroon after a government protest crackdown last week. More than 350 people were arrested, including hundreds from the main opposition party. Protests have been mounting against President Paul Biya and his government over the release of opposition leader Maurice Kamto.
COLOMBIA: One third of the 6,000 FARC fighters who handed in their weapons as part of a 2016 peace accord have taken up arms again and joined dozens of “dissident” groups operating in the coca-producing regions the FARC once controlled, Reuters reports, citing a confidential military intelligence report. For more, read our recent report on dissident groups in Tumaco.
INDIA: Drought in India’s western state of Maharashtra has sent vegetable prices soaring by 50 percent in the last week, according to local media. Farmers also reportedly sowed only one third of their recent crop, while late monsoon rains are raising fears for the upcoming harvest. Several Indian states are facing the worst drought in years, which is having a life-altering impact on land-dependent farmers.
MEXICO-US: Mexico agreed to deploy 6,000 National Guard personnel to its southern border with Guatemala to stem the flow of migrants as it seeks to ward off tariffs on Mexican goods threatened by US President Donald Trump.
SRI LANKA: A Catholic Pakistani family seeking asylum in Sri Lanka is facing imminent deportation. Amnesty International fears the situation is part of an anti-Muslim backlash that has also hit refugees and asylum seekers following April’s Easter Sunday attacks, which killed more than 250 people. This week, all nine Muslim members of parliament resigned, urging the government to protect civilians from hate crimes.
YEMEN: The Yemen Data Project said it recorded 149 civilian casualties from airstrikes by the Saudi Arabia- and UAE-led coalition in May, including 41 deaths and 108 injuries – the highest figures since last October.
It’s not just in Lebanon that governments are increasingly putting pressure on Syrian refugees to return: it’s happening in Turkey, in Jordan, even in European countries. Journalist Laura Gottesdiener spent this Ramadan in one Lebanese neighbourhood where such pressures are beginning to be felt acutely, especially as the government has announced plans to demolish informal camps that house around 5,000 Syrian families elsewhere in the country. What she found will perhaps surprise many. Yes, there were problems – grumbles over government incompetence, corruption, international aid bureaucracy. But Jabel Beddawi, a community of Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians – almost all refugees from war – was thriving despite it all. In turbulent times, particularly for those living far from their homelands, Gottesdiener’s tale is one of hope: “At no other time of the year is the daily resistance – to hatred, austerity, and exile – more evident than over Ramadan: the Muslim holy month that ended this week and during which daily fasting transforms, each night at sunset, into collective feasts.” The illustrations themselves, from Mariam al Kotob, are a feast for the soul. Enjoy.
It’s a question close to our hearts here at TNH. A lot of what we cover falls into the neglected crisis category – whether that’s media neglect or actual neglect from governments or the aid community. Every year, the Norwegian Refugee Council publishes a list of the 10 most neglected displacement crises and this year its top three are Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic. “Large-scale displacement and soaring humanitarian needs in the English-speaking parts of Cameroon have been met with deafening silence,” its report says. We wouldn’t quibble with any of the suggestions on this list, nor with the NRC’s depressing conclusion: “The level of media attention is not necessarily proportional to the size of the crisis. Even when the media does report on a conflict, the situation for civilians may be overshadowed by coverage of war strategies, political alliances and fighting between armed groups.” Click on the countries above for our latest reporting, or here for own list of 10 humanitarian crises and trends to watch in 2019.
(TOP PHOTO: Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, left, meets with the chief of Sudan's ruling military council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Khartoum on 7 June 2019.)