Our editors’ weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.
On our radar
Ethiopia deal brings hope for an end to the world’s deadliest war
After two years of war and hundreds of thousands of deaths, a ceasefire deal was struck on 2 November between Ethiopia’s federal government and their rivals in the northern Tigray region. Brokered in South Africa by the African Union and supported by international partners, the deal represents a decisive victory for the government, whose forces have been pushing towards the Tigray capital, Mekelle. Under the agreement, Tigrayan rebels must disarm within 30 days and the federal government will take control of the region, ruling through an interim administration. Humanitarian access and the resumption of essential services is agreed – ending a blockade imposed by Addis Ababa. Unaddressed is Eritrea – whose forces were integral to Ethiopia’s final military push. The text does not explicitly call for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops. Neither does it refer to the fate of western Tigray – a region occupied by the pro-federal government forces of neighbouring Amhara. For more, read our full report.
COP27: Searching for a ‘credible pathway’ for climate progress
The COP27 climate summit opens in Egypt on 6 November with alarm bells crashing and vulnerable communities and humanitarians looking for progress on the long-thorny issue of “loss and damage” finance. First, the ominous news: A torrent of new reports underscores how much work remains. Atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases are at record highs. Current pledges to limit emissions could see global temperatures rise by 2.5 degrees Celsius (well above the 1.5 degrees climate experts say is crucial). A UN report warned there was “no credible pathway” to 1.5 degrees under current plans, and a separate assessment found that adaptation costs – the price tag for societies to prepare for and lessen the risks of a warmer world – are up to 10 times more than what’s in the existing finance pipeline. That’s the gloomy starting line for climate negotiators in Egypt. For many, the success of COP27 hinges on whether countries can find a way forward on “loss and damage” funding. Blocs of more-vulnerable countries are armed with clear demands, and wealthy countries that have blocked or stalled discussions in the past seem (marginally) more willing to talk terms. However, “loss and damage” is essentially the tally of climate destruction when all else has failed: It’s crucial for frontline communities, but the global crisis remains. As one UN report notes: “Only an urgent system-wide transformation can avoid climate disaster”.
Should there be an armed Haiti intervention?
As Haiti’s overlapping humanitarian crises deepen, no one seems to agree if sending foreign troops to try to stop the vicious gangs controlling 60% of the capital is a good idea, or – given previous failed interventions and centuries of foreign meddling – a really bad one. But an urgent “Haitian-led solution” has also yet to materialise. The United States and the US-backed government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry have proposed sending foreign troops, though the US has stopped short of volunteering its own forces – perhaps a belated acknowledgement of its own interference during the US occupation of 1915-1934, or even of its more recent role in restoring – and removing – Haiti’s elected leaders. Nearly 100 Haitian civil society groups sent a 31 October letter to US President Joe Biden opposing an armed intervention, arguing that it could trigger more bloodshed and would only stop the gangs temporarily. They also argue that it would be “undemocratic” in that it would only bolster Henry, who has been ruling by decree for more than a year. Canada, meanwhile, is mulling military options after returning from a fact-finding mission. As a solution continues to be debated, Haitians continue to die and to live in fear. Hunger is on the rise, cholera is spreading, with more than 89 deaths since 2 November, and some 96,000 people have been displaced by gang violence.
East African troops deploy against M23 in Congo
Staying with armed interventions, Kenya is set to deploy a battalion of soldiers to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a regional military response to advancing M23 rebels. Kenya will command the new East African force, which will include troops from Burundi, South Sudan, and Uganda. A notable absentee from this intervention will be Rwanda: Congo accuses Kigali of supporting M23, and tensions are soaring. In the past few weeks, M23 has dramatically expanded the territory it controls, forcing UN peacekeepers to abandon a strategic base at Rumangabo, and closing in on the key city of Goma. In a region with a history of foreign meddling – in which more than 120 rebel groups operate – the East African deployment is distrusted. Both Burundi and Uganda already have troops inside Congo pursuing their own security interests. It remains unclear how the new East African force will be funded; how it will coordinate with UN peacekeepers (in which Kenya also has a contingent); and what its exit strategy might be. Some are urgently calling for regional dialogue as the only solution to Congo’s instability, fearing the military option will only make matters worse.
Grain deal worries as Ukrainians eye a dark winter
The future of a deal allowing Ukraine to export globally crucial grain supplies from its Black Sea ports was cast into doubt late last month when Russia withdrew from the agreement. The move followed an attack on Russian warships in the Black Sea that Russia blamed on Ukraine. The good news is that ships carrying grain destined for parts of the world struggling with hunger have continued to depart from Ukraine, and Russia rejoined the agreement on 2 November. But the Kremlin has threatened to withdraw again if Russian warships continue to be attacked. Ukraine is one of the top grain exporters in the world. For months following its February invasion, Russia imposed a blockade on Ukrainian ports, causing food commodity prices to skyrocket around the world and supplies to dry up in vulnerable countries, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. Meanwhile, Russia has continued bombarding Ukraine’s water and electricity infrastructure. About 40% of Ukraine’s energy grid has been destroyed, and cities are rationing electricity as concerns grow about how people will be able to cope without heating and other critical services during the winter.
EU adds Egypt to its list of border management partners
Following an increase in the number of Egyptians arriving in Europe across the central Mediterranean this year, the EU signed an 80 million euro agreement with Egypt on 30 October to bolster the ability of the Egyptian border and coast guards to stop irregular migration. Around 16,000 Egyptians made the crossing between January and the end of September, accounting for about 22% of arrivals to Italy and making them the most numerous nationality. Over the same period last year, Egyptians accounted for 10% of arrivals. Some of the new EU funding will be used to buy search and rescue vessels and surveillance equipment, and the EU says it will work with Egyptian authorities to implement “rights-based, protection oriented and gender sensitive approaches” to migration management. Egyptian security forces, however, are not known for their human rights sensitivity – as has been highlighted in the run up to the COP27 climate conference (see above). The agreement is part of a flurry of EU migration diplomacy in the past month that has seen intensified cooperation with North Macedonia and Morocco, among other countries. For more on the human rights consequences of the EU’s migration agreements, check out our interactive explainer: The European approach to stopping Libya migration.
In case you missed it
AEGEAN SHIPWRECKS: 22 people have died – including 5 children – and at least 34 more are missing following a shipwreck in the Aegean Sea. Deaths in the eastern Mediterranean have nearly tripled to more than 300 already this year. As Greece has curbed arrivals by allegedly pushing thousands of people back from its border, the longer and more dangerous migration route from the Turkish coast to Italy has gained popularity.
CHOLERA IN LEBANON AND SYRIA: Cholera has now spread to all provinces of both Syria and Lebanon, with 81 reported deaths in the former and 17 in the latter. Lebanon received its first batch of cholera vaccines to help fight the epidemic on 31 October, and the World Health Organization said vaccination campaigns are planned in both countries.
DEADLY STORM HITS THE PHILIPPINES: At least 130 people have been killed by tropical storm Nalgae – many in landslides as a result of deforestation. Thousands of homes were damaged and nearly 1 million people were displaced. With climate change raising temperatures and worsening rainfall, the World Bank has warned of significant economic fallout if the country doesn’t do more to counter the effects of global warming.
MYANMAR JUNTA CLAMPS DOWN ON AID GROUPS: New rules being imposed since late last month by Myanmar’s military junta will severely impact the ability of aid groups to help those in need and could lead to the wholesale shutdown of programmes, the Guardian reported. The “registration of associations” law bans any contact between aid groups and groups outlawed by the junta, even through indirect channels.
NETANYAHU’S COMEBACK: Former Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu looks set to return to power after 1 November elections gave his party and ultra-nationalist allies enough seats to form a government. Israel’s longest-serving prime minister is currently on trial for corruption, and his comeback comes as military forces carry out regular raids on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Israeli armed forces have killed more than 125 Palestinians since a series of attacks by Palestinians killed 19 people in Israel earlier this year.
NIGERIA SENDS DISPLACED HOME TO HUNGER: The ongoing closure of displacement camps in the northeast by the Borno State government is having a devastating impact on lives and livelihoods, forcing many back to their conflict-affected home regions to suffer in deeper destitution and hunger, according to a new Human Rights Watch report. Some 140,000 people have already been sent back, with tens of thousands more to follow.
ROHINGYA DROWN TRYING TO ESCAPE MYANMAR: Around 20 people are missing and presumed dead after a boat carrying 80 Rohingya fleeing Myanmar sank near the Ayeyarwady region. According to RFA, nearly 800 Rohingya were arrested between December 2021 and September 2022 while trying to escape the country’s repressive military regime.
REBEL COMMANDER CONVICTED OF LIBERIA ATROCITIES: A French court convicted a former Liberian rebel commander for complicity in crimes against humanity under the principle of “universal jurisdiction”. Kunti Kamara was found guilty of atrocities, including acts of torture, cannibalism. and forced labour. He was given a life sentence.
SOMALIA CAR BOMBINGS: President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has called for urgent international help for the wounded survivors of twin car bombings by al-Shabab that claimed more than 100 lives. The massive blasts on 30 October in Mogadishu, followed by gunfire, wounded at least 300 people. The government has vowed to continue its offensive against the jihadist group.
WHO PROBES SEXUAL ASSAULT CLAIM: The WHO has suspended a senior manager accused of sexual assault, Reuters reported. Last month, a British doctor tweeted that she was sexually assaulted by a WHO staff member while attending the World Health Summit. The WHO told Reuters the staff member is on leave and an investigation has been opened.
More than a million Somalis have fled drought and conflict this year. Hungry and exhausted, they come to makeshift camps like al-Hidaya, on the outskirts of Mogadishu, hoping to find help. The grim reality is little aid is available, and despite the hardships already endured, they will continue to face starvation, disease, and death. In a compelling mix of text and film, Somali journalists Abdalle Mumin and Abdirahman Adan deliver a hard-hitting report into what delays in aid funding really mean for families and individuals. This is what drought and displacement looks like. And unless there’s an urgent international response, it will only get worse.
Climate changes see colonial chickens coming home to roost
The climate crisis is forcing entire communities to consider costly and disruptive moves, but it is also unearthing some ugly colonial realities. Take, for example, the case of the Shoalwater Bay tribe in Washington state. More than a century ago, the US government pushed the tribe onto inhospitable land, which is now dangerously prone to the effects of climate change. The Biden administration hopes to address that with a programme that would allow tribal communities to bid on relocation grants. In a similar scenario in 2016, the US government paid $48 million to move residents from Isle de Jean Charles, a Louisiana village that is sinking into the sea. Such moves are becoming increasingly common and needed from Australia to Fiji. But huge numbers of marginalised communities are also being left out of discussions. In the United States, for example, studies have shown that climate change hurts communities of colour the most. In places like Haiti, which is the most vulnerable country in all of Latin America and the Caribbean to climate change, relocation conversations have barely budged because of competing crises on the ground. For more on related issues, including how poorer countries shouldn’t be expected to foot the bill for the rising costs of climate change, look out for our upcoming coverage of the COP27 summit in Egypt.