Our editors’ weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.
On our radar
Elections in tough times in Türkiye
Türkiye heads to the polls on 14 May in close-fought elections taking place against the backdrop of the country's worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory. Large parts of the southeast are still reeling from February's earthquakes, which killed more than 50,000 people and destroyed tens of thousands of buildings – as well as crucial infrastructure — leaving some 1.5 million people displaced. However, millions more in the world’s largest refugee-hosting country were living in dire conditions long before the earthquakes struck. For years, rising inflation and a plunging lira have seen soaring food prices, driving up hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. Amid the economic downturn, marginalised groups, including nearly four million Syrian refugees – as well as the Roma and Kurdish communities – have been facing growing antipathy, and at times xenophobic violence. Given the tough reality faced by so many, some are tipping the main challenger, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, to unseat Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has led the country for two decades as prime minister and then president. For more on the humanitarian challenges facing the victor, read Jennifer Hattam’s story.
Dozens of Palestinians killed in latest Gaza flare-up
The Israeli army bombed Gaza for the fourth straight day on 12 May, as the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad sent rockets towards Israel. The worst fighting across the tense border since August began on 9 May when Israel killed three leaders of the group it said were responsible for planning attacks on civilians. Since then, the Ministry of Health in Gaza says the bombings and bullets have killed 33 people — including at least 13 civilians — as one person in Israel was killed by rocket fire. Egyptian efforts to mediate a ceasefire have, at the time of publication, been unsuccessful. Schools are closed in the besieged enclave, which is home to more than two million people, and the UN reports that the two border crossings between Israel and Gaza are closed. Rights groups say this is preventing civilians from accessing urgently needed medical treatment inside Israel, and has stopped the regular entry of trucks carrying food, medical supplies, and fuel.
A deal, but not the one Sudan needs
Following drawn-out talks in Jeddah, Sudan’s warring parties agreed on 12 May to protect civilians and smooth the way for the delivery of humanitarian aid. But the US-Saudi mediated deal did not amount to a ceasefire, and fighting between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces continued after it was signed. US officials said the two sides, which affirmed commitments to international law they should already have been respecting, remain “quite far apart”. The adversaries agreed to hold further talks over a short-term ceasefire, but several previous truce pledges have been violated. Some 730,000 people are now internally displaced in the country, and a further 200,000 have fled abroad. A genuine truce is sorely needed, but many Sudanese fear negotiations will produce an elite pact that legitimises the generals and excludes the grassroots civilian voices that best represent the country. To find out more about how events in Khartoum are spilling over into the long-troubled Darfur region, read our analysis.
Title 42 ends, but chaos and new restrictions at US-Mexico border
Confusion and desperation fuelled a chaotic rush of asylum seekers and migrants across the US-Mexico border in the hours before pandemic-related asylum restrictions ended just before midnight on 11 May. Enacted in March 2020, the public health order known as Title 42 allowed the United States to rapidly expel 2.6 million people entering irregularly back to Mexico over the past three years without letting them apply for asylum. But in addition to opening up a limited number of legal pathways for people to reach the United States, US President Joe Biden has put in place many policies reminiscent of those implemented by his predecessor, Donald Trump – aimed at continuing asylum restrictions and deterring people from entering. Our Migration and Special Coverage Editor, Eric Reidy, recently travelled more than 2,000 kilometres along the US-Mexico border reporting on the humanitarian impacts of US efforts to curb migration as Title 42 ends. For more read: A major US asylum restriction is ending. So why is the humanitarian crisis in northern Mexico getting worse?; and: How the US-Mexico border became an unrelenting humanitarian crisis
Another intervention in eastern DR Congo?
Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi has threatened to terminate the mandate of an East African Community military force that deployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year. The force was set up to contain an insurgency by the Rwanda-back M23 rebel group, which has uprooted nearly a million people in the east. The EAC claims the rebels have pulled back from occupied areas thanks to their intervention, but Congolese officials say the group remains at large and accuse the EAC of inaction. The regional mission was unpopular from the outset among Congolese, who are mindful of the destructive role neighbouring states have played in their country. Yet military interventions remain du jour, with southern African nations announcing new plans to deploy troops. The focus on the M23 is, meanwhile, pulling attention away from DRC’s other armed groups, some of which are intensifying attacks and expanding their territory.
In search of solutions as displacement and hunger soar
Could ensuring people have enough food to eat help cut ever-spiralling levels of displacement? The yearly report tracking people on the move, released 11 May by the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, tries to unpack the link between food insecurity and displacement. Three quarters of countries shouldering crisis-level hunger are home to IDPs, or internally displaced people. There are obvious overlaps: No one wants to flee if they can help it, and stable water and food sources have been shown to stem rural drought displacement in Afghanistan, even amid conflict. The trick to better addressing both, researchers say, may be doubling down on longer-term support that goes beyond the typical short-term outlooks of most humanitarian responses – supporting national social protection schemes, or help for livelihoods so that IDPs can help themselves, for example. In the meantime, the number of people on the move soared in a year that included Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and historic floods in Pakistan. IDMC researchers counted 60 million “forced movements” within borders last year (more than half caused by disasters), and some 71 million IDPs. Both are the highest ever recorded.
In case you missed it
AFGHANISTAN: The UN has ended orders asking all Afghan staff not to report to their offices, adding to concern about what critics have called an “incoherent” response to Taliban restrictions on women working for UN agencies and NGOs.
CHILE/PERU: Hundreds of migrants, most of them Venezuelans, remain stranded in a barren desert area on the Chilean side of the border with Peru, as a diplomatic tussle over their future continues. Xenophobia against Venezuelans has been growing in both countries, stirred by local politicians blaming them – without evidence – for a rise in criminality.
DR CONGO/RWANDA: The death toll from flooding and landslides in DR Congo’s South Kivu province has risen to more than 400. Thousands of people are still missing and large numbers of people are homeless. Severe flooding has also resulted in at least 130 deaths in neighbouring Rwanda.
IRAN: Iran has reportedly hanged two men convicted of blasphemy, part of a surge of executions rights groups say is intended to “spread fear” amongst protesters. UN rights chief Volker Türk said Iran has executed more than ten people on average each week this year.
LIBYA: International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan told the UN Security Council on 11 May that the court has issued four arrest warrants for alleged war crimes or crimes against humanity committed in Libya since 2011, and has applied for two more. The warrants are currently under seal, so neither the identities of the accused nor the details of the alleged crimes have been made public.
LOCUSTS: A potential locust outbreak could be an ”ominous and existential threat” for food security in Afghanistan, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization said in an unusually strongly worded warning. The Moroccan locust has been spotted across several provinces spanning Afghanistan’s agricultural heartland. A full outbreak could wipe out a quarter of the annual harvest in a country where half the population already faces crisis levels of food insecurity, the FAO said.
MALI: Malian troops and foreign military personnel killed at least 500 people during operations last year in the central town of Moura, according to a UN human rights report that followed a months-long investigation. The identity of the “armed white men” is not mentioned, but Mali’s army fights alongside the Russian mercenary Wagner Group. The Moura massacre is the worst atrocity committed in Mali’s 10-year jihadist conflict.
NICARAGUA: President Daniel Ortega has ordered the closure of the local branch of the Red Cross, accusing it of assisting civilians who took part in 2018 protests. Authorities say they will create a new Nicaragua Red Cross managed by the Ministry of Health. Ortega has reportedly shut down 3,000 NGOs during his increasingly authoritarian administration.
NIGERIA: The UK Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit brought by 27,800 Nigerians against Shell over the company’s leakage of around 40,000 barrels of oil in the Niger Delta. The claimants said the spill polluted their farmlands and waterways used for fishing and drinking, but the court upheld rulings by two lower courts that the six-year deadline to take action had already passed. For more, read our recent story on why oil is a humanitarian challenge for the new Nigerian president.
SYRIA: Syria has reportedly been invited to an upcoming Arab League summit, following a recent decision by Arab countries that President Bashar al-Assad’s government can return to the body after a 12-year suspension. Türkiye and Syria also committed to drawing up a “roadmap” to bilateral ties after talks in Moscow that also involved Iran and Russia.
Dwindling aid leaves Rohingya women exposed to rising violence in Bangladesh
Kidnappings, shootings, and the threat of sexual violence are forcing women to live in fear in the world’s largest complex of refugee camps. Women and girls make up 52% of the more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees uprooted by a long and horrific campaign of violence and persecution conducted by Myanmar’s military junta. For Rohingya women and girls in the sprawling Cox Bazar's refugee camps in Bangladesh, fear permeates everyday life. Women have reported being harassed, kidnapped, attacked, or extorted by men they believe are affiliated with Rohingya militant groups. Forced marriage and domestic violence have been widespread. In recent months, the crisis facing Rohingya women has deepened. Gang violence is intensifying in the camps, with arson being used as a weapon, while female Rohingya activists and community leaders who have been educated or outspoken about women's rights face threats to their lives. It comes at the worst possible moment as aid to the camps has begun to shrink, reducing vital services and leaving Rohingya women and girls more vulnerable than ever. Their situation is now even more precarious as a massive storm, Cyclone Mocha, bears down on Cox’s Bazar and officials say schools in the camps are being readied as emergency shelters.
‘I have not seen any humanitarian organisations’: Somalia’s forgotten drought survivors
In October 2022, The New Humanitarian reported on Somalis surviving the worst drought in decades in al-Hidaya camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu. Among those seeking to escape the drought and conflict in south-central Somalia were Amina Mohamed and Amina Ali.
Mogadishu-based journalists Mohamed Gabobe and Abdirhaman Ahmed Aden recently returned to al-Hidaya and tracked down both women, who were still living in the makeshift camp. Here is what they had to say: