1. Home
  2. Global

Gaza aid killing double standards, southern Africa drought, and loss of hope in Haiti: The Cheat Sheet

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

Louise O'Brien/TNH

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

On our radar

World Central Kitchen killings highlight Gaza brutality, double standards

An Israeli military investigation found that the killing of seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers in Gaza on 1 April was a “grave mistake”. WCK has called for an independent investigation, saying that the Israeli military “cannot credibly investigate its own failure”. In a press briefing on 4 April, representatives of several aid agencies described the attack as emblematic of the Israeli military’s systematic disregard for the safety of civilians, including aid workers, during six months of war. The killing of the WCK staff – six of whom were internationals – has drawn strong rebuke, including from Israel’s main allies, the UK and the US. The killing of an unprecedented number of Palestinian aid workers (more than 200 as of the latest count) over the past six months, however, has drawn far less attention and outrage. In response to the WCK killings, the US (which signed off on sending additional weapons to Israel on the same day as the attack) said that future US policy will depend on Israel doing more to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza and to protect aid workers. Israel responded by saying it will open another border crossing to allow aid into northern Gaza. This comes after six months of Israeli siege, bombardment, ground offensives, and obstruction of aid efforts that have killed more than 33,000 people in Gaza, displaced almost the entire population of around 2.3 million, and caused at least $18.5 billion in infrastructure damage while pushing the entire population into food insecurity, with 1.1 million people facing ‘imminent’ famine

Israel’s use of AI in Gaza draws scrutiny

The massive death toll of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza could partially be explained by the use of an artificial intelligence (AI) targeting system called Lavender, according to +972 Magazine and Local Call. The software has reportedly been used by IDF analysts to identify tens of thousands of Palestinian targets to be killed, usually by aerial bombardment. Because of pressure to deliver targets at speed, there is little human oversight of Lavender’s selection process after Israeli military tests determined it was 90% accurate. But Lavender’s definition of what is a Hamas target is flexible: “The machine started bringing us all kinds of civil defense personnel, police officers, on whom it would be a shame to waste bombs,” a source told the magazine. Lavender was used with another AI targeting system, also revealed by +972 Magazine last year, called The Gospel. It identifies buildings as targets, which often have many other people inside them in addition to the person designated to be killed. For more, read this op-ed on how AI may affect the future of war: Generative AI may be the next AK-47.

El Niño drought disasters hit southern Africa

Three southern African countries have declared El Niño-linked drought disasters and are appealing for international aid to help feed millions of farming families hit by failed harvests. In Zimbabwe, which rang the alarm this week, the government says it needs $2 billion to meet the needs of 2.7 million rural Zimbabweans – roughly 20% of the population. In Zambia, which declared an emergency in February, Oxfam has warned six million people (30% of the population) are facing food shortages in 84 of the country’s 116 districts. The situation may not improve until the next growing season, which is still 12 months away. In neighbouring Malawi, which has suffered back-to-back climate crises, the government declared a drought disaster last month in 23 of the country’s 28 districts and appealed for $200 million in aid. Across the region, from Angola to Mozambique, rural communities are struggling after the driest spells in some areas in over 40 years.

Taiwan earthquake bring deaths, devastation

Officials in Taiwan are still trying to assess the damage from a 7.4-magnitude earthquake that struck the east of the country on 3 April. The earthquake, which was the largest in 25 years, has led to at least 10 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries. At least 700 people are still stranded. The earthquake devastated the eastern Hualien County and was followed by more than 200 aftershocks, including several that measured at least 6.5 on the Richter scale. These aftershocks have inhibited rescue efforts as hundreds of Taiwanese remain stranded in the mountains, quarries, and a national park. Though Taiwan, which is part of the volcanic and seismically active Ring of Fire, often experiences earthquakes, officials expected this week’s tremors to be relatively weak and failed to warn residents in time. 

Utter loss of hope in Haiti

Cataclysmic” and “apocalyptic”: these are words the UN used this week to describe the situation in Haiti, where gangs continue to terrorise the population and paralyse the country. A new report by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) shows that more than 1,500 people have been killed in the first three months of 2024, compared with 4,451 all of last year. Additionally, more than 53,000 people were displaced from Port-au-Prince between 8 March and 27 March, the UN’s migration agency, IOM, reported. Violence has reached unprecedented levels since gangs started an insurrection on 29 February to oust then acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who has since resigned. A transitional presidential council has been designated to prepare for a foreign intervention and elections, but it hasn’t begun work due to infighting. Meanwhile, gangs have gained terrain and increased their firepower as illegal arms continue to flow into Haiti – mostly from the US. Humanitarians, who face mounting hurdles to providing aid amid shortage of medical supplies, food, and water, have reported encountering rising levels of despair. In a press release, IOM said it was witnessing an increasing number of cases of “suicide tendencies”. For more about the crisis in Haiti, read our in-depth analysis.

Mali’s junta drags its feet

Some of the main political parties and civil society groups in Mali have called on the ruling junta to transition the country back to civilian rule. The junta seized power in 2020, as a jihadist insurgency worsened, and consolidated its rule in a second coup in 2021. It proposed a 24-month democratic transition in March 2022, but that timeline lapsed last month. The delay comes as the junta cracks down on dissenting voices and as the army is accused of increasing abuses against civilians during counter-insurgency operations. Recent polling, however, shows that a lot of Malians actually trust the junta (which is seen as less corrupt and better at managing insecurity than elected politicians), feel that the security situation is improving (though responses vary from place to place), and that they aren’t too concerned about the democratic transition being delayed. See our latest on Mali, reported from Bamako and from the northern town of Gao, for more context.

Get the Cheat Sheet straight to your inbox

In case you missed it

CYPRUS: The president of Cyprus has declared a “crisis” on the island after over 2,000 people arrived irregularly by boat in the first three months of this year, compared to 78 during the same period last year. Many of those arriving are Syrian refugees making the sea journey from Lebanon, which has the highest per capita refugee population in the world and is currently facing multiple crises

DARIÉN GAP: According to a new Human Rights Watch report, Colombian and Panamanian authorities have failed at protecting migrants and asylum seekers crossing the Darién Gap, a perilous corridor linking both countries. In 2023, more than 520,000 people crossed the jungle path, facing robberies and rising sexual violence on a massive scale. Read more about the Darién crisis here.

ECUADOR: Brigitte García, the country’s youngest mayor at 27 years old, was found shot dead in the coastal town of San Vicente on 24 March. Ecuador is under a state of emergency due to rising violence. At least 33 politicians were killed last year, including presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio. For more on gang violence in Ecuador, read this article from last year.

ETHIOPIA: Ethiopia’s army summarily executed dozens of civilians in the Amhara region between January and February while fighting the regional Fano militia, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch. A rebellion erupted in Amhara, which is Ethiopia’s second-biggest region, last year. See our recent report on army drone strikes in Amhara for more.

INDIA: Local officials in India have passed a law that effectively cancels Islamic education in the nation’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, which is governed by India’s ruling, Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The High Court in Uttar Pradesh, which is home to approximately 40 million Muslims, said a law allowing for government support for madrassas went against the nation’s secular values. The BJP has been accused of taking steps to increasingly marginalise India’s large Muslim minority at both the state and national levels.

MYANMAR: Civilian casualties from landmines and unexploded ordnance nearly tripled in 2023 compared to the previous year, according to data released on 3 April by the UN children’s fund UNICEF. Children made up 21% of the 1,052 casualties reported last year. The agency said both the Myanmar military and opposition forces have been using landmines indiscriminately in a conflict that has displaced 2.8 million people.

RUSSIA/AFGHANISTAN: Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has told local media that they may consider removing Afghanistan’s Taliban, who took control of the country in 2021, from a list of terrorist organisations. The Taliban’s Islamic Emirate, as they call their government, has good relations with Russia, even though Moscow still refers to them as a “movement” and not a government. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Islamic Emirate, said the news “sends a positive message to other countries” who continue to see the Taliban as a terrorist group. 

TUVALU/AUSTRALIA: A climate migration and security pact between the two pacific nations will go ahead after being thrown into doubt by Tuvalu’s new government. Dubbed the ​​Falepili Union, the agreement commits Australia “to assist Tuvalu in responding to a major natural disaster, a health pandemic, or military aggression”, Australian Pacific Minister Pat Conroy told parliament. 

UGANDA: The battle over Uganda’s controversial and draconian anti-homosexuality law could be headed to the country’s supreme court after activists vowed to appeal a ruling by a constitutional court that upheld many of its key provisions. Last month the Court of Appeal upheld a High Court ruling that the government was justified in refusing to register a company bearing the name ‘Sexual Minorities Uganda’ (SMUG). For more on the impact of the anti-homosexuality law, see: ‘Everything is prohibited’: Uganda’s anti-gay law forces community into hiding.

UKRAINE: President Volodymyr Zelensky has signed a bill lowering the draft age in Ukraine from 27 to 25. The move is aimed at replenishing the ranks of the country’s depleted military, which is stuck in a stalemate with Russian forces in the east. In February, Zelensky said that 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed since Russia launched an attempted full-scale invasion a little over two years ago. 

Weekend read

How DR Congo’s M23 conflict is impacting Goma

‘We are pleading for the return of peace. When we have peace, we will live well.’

Renewed fighting between the M23 armed group and pro-government forces in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has pushed thousands more people into Goma, the largest city in the east and a humanitarian aid hub that is now encircled by the Rwanda-backed rebels.

And finally…

The latest push for ‘no logo’ aid

The “arms race” to slap logos on everything from tents to toilets is out of hand, the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council says. Will the rest of the humanitarian sector join its bid to rein things in? NRC says it has new rules that will cut the use of logos on supplies and infrastructure. To start, this means no NRC or donor logos on school bags and tents, and ‘discreet labels’ for bigger infrastructure. But going logo-free may be easier said than done. Aid groups and government donors are eager to show who gives aid, leading to parades of stickers, signs, and logos. UNICEF can ship 1.3 million of its light blue school bags in a year (“an iconic symbol of hope,” the agency calls them). Donor ‘visibility’ is even written into project contracts. Critics say unchecked branding is demeaning, that it reinforces the colonial nature of international aid, and that it undermines host governments. “I’ve seen organisation names on the smallest toilet, you know, with the organisation and the donor,” NRC boss Jan Egeland told The New Humanitarian last year. “Let them go to the toilet in peace, really.”

Share this article

Get the day’s top headlines in your inbox every morning

Starting at just $5 a month, you can become a member of The New Humanitarian and receive our premium newsletter, DAWNS Digest.

DAWNS Digest has been the trusted essential morning read for global aid and foreign policy professionals for more than 10 years.

Government, media, global governance organisations, NGOs, academics, and more subscribe to DAWNS to receive the day’s top global headlines of news and analysis in their inboxes every weekday morning.

It’s the perfect way to start your day.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian today and you’ll automatically be subscribed to DAWNS Digest – free of charge.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.