1. Home
  2. Global

Gaza mass graves, Burkina Faso executions, and soaring global hunger: The Cheat Sheet

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

Cheat Sheet Louise O'brien/TNH


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

On our radar

Gaza: Mass graves, UNRWA funding, and the looming Rafah invasion

Palestinian civil defence workers in Gaza have uncovered a mass grave containing the bodies of nearly 400 Palestinians – including children – in the Nasser Hospital complex in the city of Khan Younis. In February and March, the Israeli military laid siege to Nasser Hospital and raided the compound multiple times, allegedly looking for the bodies of hostages taken during Hamas’ 7 October attack on Israel. A mass grave was also discovered at the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, which was subject to a two-week raid by the Israeli military at the beginning of March that left the complex in ruins. In both locations, some bodies have allegedly been found with their hands tied behind their backs, stripped of their clothing, and showing signs of torture. The Israeli military said claims it was responsible for the mass grave at Nasser Hospital were false. The UN has called for an investigation. Meanwhile, protests against the war in Gaza have spread across university campuses in the US and Europe, with university administrations and police cracking down in the US, leading to more than 500 arrests. Germany has also become the latest country to restore funding to the UN’s agency for Palestine refugees following the publication of an independent review that found Israel has yet to provide any evidence to support allegations made in January that UNRWA employees had ties to Palestinian militant groups. The allegations caused numerous major donor countries to pause their support. Finally, the Israeli military was intensively bombarding the eastern part of Rafah in southern Gaza on 26 April as troop movements suggested a ground invasion may be imminent. Around 1.5 million Palestinians – 65% of Gaza’s population – are living in dire conditions in the city after being forcibly displaced from other parts of the enclave. We spoke to five recently about their daily lives and what lies ahead: ‘If we survive’: Palestinians in Rafah on fears of an imminent Israeli invasion

At least 223 civilians executed in Burkina Faso atrocity, report finds

Security forces in junta-led Burkina Faso summarily executed more than 223 civilians, including at least 56 children, in the northern villages of Nondin and Soro in February, according to a Human Rights Watch report. The report says the massacres are among the worst atrocities carried out during the country’s nearly 10-year jihadist conflict, and may amount to crimes against humanity. Survivors said they were accused by the military of being complicit with jihadists, which is a common and unfair charge that soldiers make against civilians living in areas where militants operate. Abuses like this have increased significantly under the current junta (see this AP report for more), though they also occurred under previous regimes. The humanitarian situation, meanwhile, remains bleak, with more than two million people displaced, and millions more going hungry because of punishing jihadist sieges. See our latest for more.

How to break the cycle of rising global hunger?

More countries facing crises; more people going hungry: Some 281 million people were locked in high levels of acute hunger last year, according to the latest Global Report on Food Crises – a benchmark analysis of food insecurity by a network that includes UN agencies, donors, and famine analysts. The figure is 24 million higher than the previous year – a rise driven in part by Sudan’s civil war and Israel’s destruction of Gaza. Global hunger numbers have spiked since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to rise. A mix of conflict, extreme weather, El Niño, inflation, and volatile food prices suggest there won’t be a reprieve by the time 2024’s numbers are tallied. How do you break the cycle in the face of such dire numbers? Doubling down on reforming food systems, and building “peace and prevention” into the mix is crucial, aid groups say. But systemic reforms are easier said than done, as our reporting shows.

Growing disaster, climate risks in Asia and Latin America

The World Meteorological Organization’s annual report has found that Asia continues to be the most disaster-prone region due to weather, climate, and water-related hazards. Floods and storms caused the greatest casualties and financial damage across the continent. “The report's conclusions are sobering. Many countries in the region experienced their hottest year on record in 2023,” WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo said. Last year saw 79 hydro-meteorological hazard events across the Asian continent, with 80% related to flooding and storms that led to more than 2,000 fatalities and nine million people directly affected. Meanwhile, The Lancet published a report showing that all countries in Latin America have experienced a warming trend over the last two decades. In the 2013-2022 period, Latin American countries saw an average 140% increase in heat-related deaths compared to 2000-2009, with the biggest rises in Ecuador (+339%) and El Salvador (+230%). Economic losses in 2022 were nearly eight times the $2 billion in 2021, mainly because of floods and landslides in Brazil. The report also found that the transmission potential for dengue soared by 54% from 1951-1960 to 2013-2022.

El Niño wreaks deadly havoc across East Africa

But it’s not just in Asia and Latin America that people are dying from the drastic effects of the climate crisis. At least 200 people have been killed and many more injured and left homeless as the El Niño weather phenomenon continues to fuel torrential rains, leading to floods and landslides in towns and cities across East Africa. In Tanzania, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa told parliament the deluge had impacted 200,000 people, with 155 dead, 236 injured, and 10,000 homes damaged. A similar number have been impacted in Burundi since September, and with nearly 100,000 displaced, the country has appealed for international help. Kenya, meanwhile, has deployed its military to rescue victims as rising waters claimed 45 lives and forced 40,000 from their homes. The current El Niño event developed rapidly mid-last year and, although some experts say it is technically over, its knock-on effects on Africa’s rainy seasons are expected to last till the end of June. Its equally destructive twin, La Niña, which is associated with droughts across the Horn of Africa, is expected to develop by August. For more on how El Niño and La Niña will drive humanitarian needs in 2024, see here.

Board to hammer out nitty-gritty of new loss and damage fund

Approved in December 2023, the loss and damage fund was the big success story of COP28 in Dubai. But how the higher-income countries responsible for the lion’s share of emissions will help pay for the worst effects of the climate crisis in lower-income and less-polluting nations still needs ironing out. Board members tasked with developing the policies and rules that will govern the fund are set to huddle from 30 April to 2 May in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for the first in a series of planned meetings. Their agenda is substantial, with a raft of sensitive issues still to be agreed. Chief among them is the exact role of the World Bank, which is set to house the fund. There are also worries about how to get more money into the fund, which currently sits at $661 million – a fraction of the trillions experts say will be needed to achieve any real climate justice. Whether money will be disbursed through loans or grants will be debated, as will the issue of sending it directly to affected governments or to communities through development banks and UN agencies. Concerns also linger over restrictions imposed on civil society organisations that are keen to participate in the meeting.

Get the Cheat Sheet straight to your inbox

In case you missed it

DJIBOUTI: A boat carrying 77 migrants capsized off Djibouti's coast, killing 24 with 20 people still missing – the second fatal accident in as many weeks along the Eastern Migration Route. The UN’s migration agency, IOM, also noted an increase in returns from Yemen to the Horn of Africa, with 1,350 deaths recorded on the route since 2014.

ECUADOR: Ecuadorians have overwhelmingly voted in favour of a set of hardline security measures that will expand police and military power to tackle organised crime – part of President Daniel Noboa’s efforts to rein in spiralling gang violence. For more on the humanitarian impact of rising violence in Ecuador read here.

HAITI: Acting prime minister Ariel Henry officially resigned, as a new transitional council was sworn in after months of political uncertainty and growing lawlessness, especially in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Meanwhile, immigrant groups condemned the US for resuming deportation flights despite widespread gang violence. Last month, over 480 human rights organisations demanded a moratorium on deportations, and in November 2022, the UN’s refugee agency warned that forced returns to Haiti may amount to “refoulement” that is prohibited by international law. For more, read out Haiti coverage.

IRAQ/IRAN/US: An Iran-linked militia appears to have fired rockets and drones towards a US military base in Iraq, prompting retaliatory fire from the US – the first such exchange after a months-long break in regular tit-for-tit fire.

ITALY: Following a seven-year legal ordeal, the crew of the Iuventa, an NGO boat involved in rescuing asylum seekers and migrants in the Mediterranean, was acquitted of charges of allegedly aiding illegal migration. The case is one of several that became emblematic of attempts by EU governments to crack down on NGOs and volunteers providing support to asylum seekers and migrants at Europe’s borders.

LEBANON: Human Rights Watch says Lebanese authorities have “arbitrarily detained, tortured, and forcibly returned Syrians to Syria in recent months.” The watchdog group also noted the recent reported violence and new restrictions on Syrians following the killing of a Lebanese politician. For more on the atmosphere of fear Syrian refugees have faced, read this.

THAILAND: Five UN experts and two human rights working groups have accused the Thai government of arbitrarily detaining 48 Uyghur asylum seekers for the last 10 years, as well as forcibly returning 109 Uyghur asylum seekers to China in 2015 without assessing the risk to their human rights. Five Uyghurs, including two children, have died in Thai immigration detention, while the survivors remain incommunicado in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions.

UK/RWANDA: The British parliament passed a controversial bill allowing the government to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. The bill was championed by the past three Conservative governments as a deterrent to irregular migration. UNHCR and rights groups have condemned the bill as a blow to international protections for refugees.

US: A long-stalled $95 billion foreign aid bill providing military assistance to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan passed a vote in the US Senate on 23 April and was signed into law by President Joe Biden. It includes over $60 billion in aid for Ukraine, $15 billion in military assistance for Israel, $9 billion in global humanitarian assistance, including for civilians in Gaza, and $8.1 billion for Taiwan and other US allies in the Pacific. The bill does not put any conditions on military aid to Israel, and bars funding from going to UNRWA, which is the largest aid organisation in Gaza.

VENEZUELA: President Nicolás Maduro announced he will allow the UN Human Rights agency´s staff he expelled last February to return. The move from Maduro, who has intensified his crackdown on opponents and NGOs ahead of the July presidential election, came as the International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor visited to investigate possible human rights violations during 2017 protests.

The UN envoy, the controversial aid plan, and Myanmar’s fast-changing war

‘I think at least the UN agencies should sit down and listen to what it is.’

Given the current dynamics, is it time to look again at proposals that aimed to make humanitarian assistance more available across Myanmar?

And finally…

Film: Kenya’s Ogiek dilemma

Evictions of the Indigenous people who inhabit the Mau Forest in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, known as the Ogiek, have been happening ever since British colonialists first forced many of them into reserves in the 1920s. But this new film from The New Humanitarian’s Namukabo Werungah warns of the new threat they face: environmentalism. Human rights activists accuse the Kenyan government of illegally driving the hunter-gatherers off their land to pursue profits from carbon offsetting schemes.

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.