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Another Gaza veto, hunger in Haiti, and violence in South Sudan: The Cheat Sheet

A weekly read to keep you in the loop on humanitarian issues.

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Our editors’ weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

On our radar

US ceasefire resolution vetoed as famine ‘imminent’ in Gaza

After vetoing three previous ceasefire resolutions at the UN Security Council, the US introduced its own resolution on 22 March. The text notes the necessity of “an immediate and sustained ceasefire to protect civilians on all sides” and lends support to one as part of a deal for the release of 134 remaining hostages held by Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza. But Russia and China vetoed the resolution, with a Russian diplomat calling it “misleading” and a Chinese diplomat saying it fell “short of the expectations of the international community”. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his intent to launch a ground invasion of Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza, where over one million displaced Palestinians are sheltering in dire conditions. The UN and world leaders have warned that an invasion of Rafah would be a humanitarian disaster “beyond imagination”. Two newly released food insecurity analyses underscored the scale of the crisis that already exists – particularly in the north – predicting “imminent” famine in Gaza due to Israel’s destruction of essential infrastructure, siege, and hampering of aid efforts. “It is too late to avert a humanitarian disaster that is going to kill thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people. That’s the bottom line,” famine expert Alex de Waal told us in this Q&A.

Hunger and disease fallout in crisis-hit Haiti 

The ongoing gang violence and political vacuum in Haiti is having a drastic humanitarian impact. On 22 March, the leading global authority on hunger, known as the IPC, reported that about 5 million people will face acute food insecurity or worse from March to June – an increase of 532,000 people on its last report in August. Meanwhile, only 5% of Haiti’s population of 11.6 million received food assistance August-December. The closure of the port and gang roadblocks are forcing aid organisations to scramble assistance any way they can. On 20 March, the World Food Programme was only able to deliver 11,500 hot meals instead of 14,000 due to security and access difficulties. Violence in Port-au-Prince has reached unprecedented levels since gangs joined forces to oust acting prime minister Ariel Henry on 29 February. At least 18 health centres have been forced to close in the capital, while diseases are spreading in makeshift camps. More than 33,000 people have now left Port-au-Prince in less than two weeks. A plan backed by the US and negotiated with Haitian politicians and civil society actors by the regional CARICOM group is being rolled out to try to restore calm. This involves the setting up of a transitional presidential council that will name a new interim prime minister, hopefully paving the way for elections with the assistance of thousands of foreign police and security forces. But the plan faces some strong opposition in Haiti, notably from some gangs with political ambitions of their own. Dozens of people have been killed in the past few days, as gang violence and vigilante retaliation rages. On 21 March, the UN resident coordinator said 2,500 people were killed, kidnapped, or injured in the violence in the first two months of the year. For more, read our in-depth analysis.

Violence on the rise in South Sudan

Nearly 900 people were killed, abducted, injured, or subjected to conflict-related sexual violence in South Sudan in the last three months of 2023, according to the UN peacekeeping mission in the country. The violence – which represents a 35% increase on the previous quarter – is blamed on community militias, though these groups do often have agendas that echo broader national struggles. South Sudan is supposed to be holding elections this year – its first since independence – but donors and watchdogs warned this week that election bodies are unfunded and that the path forward is unclear. A tense political situation could be worsened by a rupture to the crucial pipeline that carries South Sudan’s oil to Sudan. Engineers in Sudan are unable to fix the problem because of the conflict there, a Sudanese official said last week. Oil money helps the South Sudanese government maintain its patronage networks and buy off rivals. 

Africa wilts under record heat, El Niño-linked drought

Much of Africa has been sweltering in record-breaking temperatures this year. Throughout February, the mercury rose beyond 40 degrees in West Africa – with humidity adding an extra 10 degrees of heat. And global warming has made the region’s scorching weather 10 times more likely, with even worse seasonal spikes expected. In southern Africa, an El Niño has also bumped up average temperatures – and triggered drought across much of the region. A record mid-season dry spell of over 30 days earlier this year wilted crops, killed livestock, and will likely deepen people’s food insecurity. In East Africa, Kenya has also been baking, while in South Sudan, schools have closed ahead of a forecast 45 degree heatwave. Across the continent, the lack of awareness over the deadly effects of heat stress – plus gaps in climate data and research – complicates people’s ability to adapt and respond.

For more on the global effects of El Niño, this time in Central America, watch the latest in our Snapshots series:

Brushing aside rights concerns, EU and Egypt sign migration deal

The EU has inked a new migration cooperation agreement with Egypt that will provide the country with 7.4 billion euros in funding and financial support. The money includes loans, investments, and grants to support Egypt’s stumbling economy as well as 200 million euros specifically for managing migration. Human Rights Watch said the agreement “rewards authoritarianism”, and the EU’s own ombudsman has said the deal lacks human rights safeguards. Since coming to power in 2013, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has presided over a draconian crackdown on political opponents and dissent. The EU recently signed a similar deal with Mauritania, and an agreement with Tunisia last summer is widely looked at as a human rights disaster. Egypt has been both an origin and transit country for asylum seekers and migrants trying to reach Europe, and it is currently hosting around 500,000 Sudanese displaced by the country’s civil war. For more, read: Is the EU doubling down on a deadly, failed migration strategy?

US military kicked out of Niger

Niger’s junta has revoked a security agreement with the American military shortly after a large US delegation visited the country. Junta officials said they were angered by the “condescending attitude” of the American diplomats, who wanted to convince Niger not to deepen ties with Russia and Iran, and to transition the country to civilian rule. The US has some 1,000 troops in Niger and a high-cost drone base on the outskirts of Agadez. It has used the base to surveil jihadist fighters but has not accompanied Nigerien forces on operations targeting militants. There is no public data showing what the base has achieved, and Nigeriens have questioned its efficacy. The junta’s decision is part of a broader pushback against Western militarisation in the Sahel. French troops, for example, were told to leave Niger last year, having previously been booted out of military-ruled Burkina Faso and Mali, which are also facing jihadist insurgencies.

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In case you missed it

AI: The UN General Assembly has adopted its first resolution on regulating artificial intelligence – another step in global attempts to build guardrails around AI. The resolution, adopted without a vote, calls on countries and others to “refrain” from using AI systems that are “impossible to operate in compliance with international human rights law or that pose undue risks”.

CHOLERA/WATER DAY: At least 54 people have died from cholera in Somalia in recent months, with nine deaths in the last week alone, as cases continue to surge globally. Despite the disease claiming more than 4,000 lives worldwide in 2023, a new report timed for today’s UN Water Day shows that two thirds of water and sanitation-related funding appeals were unmet last year. For more on why multilateral institutions need to find a way to stop water being weaponised in conflicts, read this Water Day op-ed.

CUBA: Cubans took to the streets of Santiago de Cuba – the island’s second largest city – and several other towns, in rare protests on 17 March to demand food and electricity. Amid a rapidly worsening economy, marked by a devalued peso and soaring prices, power cuts have been lasting up to 18 hours, with the heat damaging what little food people can find. 

EU/UKRAINE: EU leaders held a summit in Brussels on 21 March, where they discussed new ways of supplying weapons to an increasingly outgunned Ukraine. The bloc is considering a plan to pay for the military aid with profits from seized Russian assets in Europe. Kyiv, meanwhile, was hit by the largest barrage of Russian missiles in months.

NIGERIA KIDNAPPING: At least 87 people were reportedly kidnapped by gunmen in Kajuru village in Kaduna, northwest Nigeria, on 17 March. The incident occurred following another nearby attack during which 16 people were abducted, marking the third mass kidnapping in Kaduna within a two-week period.

PAKISTAN/AFGHANISTAN: Pakistan has been accused of killing eight civilians in Afghanistan in airstrikes Islamabad says were conducted in retaliation for a deadly attack on an army base by a member of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan militant group who was residing in Afghanistan. The Taliban has denied the charges and promised retaliation for the killing of what it says were mostly women and children in the provinces of Khost and Paktika. This marks the latest escalation between the neighbours since Pakistan enacted a policy that has led to the expulsion of more than 500,000 Afghans back to Afghanistan. For more background, read our analysis from March 2023.

POLLUTION: Delhi was the world’s most polluted capital city in 2023, according to a report from a Swiss-based firm. India was home to nine of the 10 most polluted cities, a feat that saw the country rise five spots to become the third most polluted country overall, behind only Bangladesh and Pakistan, which took the top two spots respectively on the 134-nation list

ROHINGYA/INDONESIA: An Indonesian rescue team, along with local fisherfolk, rescued 75 Rohingya refugees from a capsized boat off the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh province on 21 March. The refugees had spent the previous night standing on the hull of their overturned wooden boat. Dozens of others are thought to have drowned.

UN BUDGET: Rights committees, investigations, and fact-finding missions are stretched thin as the UN’s cash crisis hits the Human Rights Council, Geneva Solutions reports. This includes a fact-finding mission on Sudan, which is struggling to get up and running. Member states aren’t paying their fees on time (or at all), forcing cutbacks across the UN Secretariat.

VENEZUELA: Venezuela’s top prosecutor has arrested nine key aides of President Nicolás Maduro’s key opponent María Corina Machado, including her campaign manager; the latest in a series of political arrests widely viewed as intensifying repression ahead of 28 July elections. Despite overwhelmingly winning the primary elections, Machado has been barred from running. 

Weekend read

Behind the numbers: Gaza’s unprecedented aid worker death toll

‘This pattern of attacks is either intentional or indicative of reckless incompetence.’

More humanitarians were killed in Gaza than the deadliest year ever recorded globally. Aid officials fear a new norm that numbs people to the damage. 

And finally….

‘How has the war in Yemen impacted your life?’

That’s the one question The Yemen Listening Project posed. Yemenis across their country and the world answered, sending in personal stories about families torn apart, the isolation of life in exile, and what it feels like to go to school when bombs are falling around you. They sent stories of persistence and hope, too. 

Check out this week’s episode of What’s Unsaid, where we’ve flipped the script with guest host Middle East Editor Annie Slemrod, to talk about what’s unheard: The stories of regular Yemenis living through what has been called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Yemen Listening Project coordinator Nuha al-Junaid generously shares her own story, and discusses why it’s important that we listen to voices like hers.

And as Yemen’s war crosses the nine-year mark next week, stay tuned for the launch of an innovative piece of participatory journalism you should pay attention to.

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