1. Home
  2. Global

Rafah ruling, Haiti mission delay, and Rohingya ‘genocide’ warning: 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

ICJ orders ‘immediate halt’ to Israel’s Rafah assault

Israel must “immediately halt” its military offensive in Rafah, the southernmost governorate in the Gaza Strip, according to a new order on 24 May by the UN’s top court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The ruling falls short of the full ceasefire South Africa had requested in hearings last week. The ICJ has no way of enforcing its ruling, which Israeli officials have indicated they will ignore. The order comes as part of the case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza. A final ruling will likely take years to reach. In the meantime, the court has the ability to issue provisional measures. Previous orders in January and March called on Israel to prevent civilian casualties, stop and punish incitement to genocide, and enable the urgent provision of humanitarian aid. The ICJ deemed a new order was needed as the situation in Gaza has significantly deteriorated since Israel launched a ground invasion of Rafah on 7 May. More than 800,000 people have since been forcibly displaced from the city, which was previously hosting around 1.5 million Palestinians – about 65% of Gaza’s population. Israel has ordered people to evacuate parts of Rafah, but the ICJ said it hasn’t taken adequate steps to ensure they will be safe or have access to basic services – including water – in the areas they were ordered to go to. Israel’s offensive has also forced the UN’s agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) to halt food distributions in Rafah due to dwindling supplies and insecurity. As part of its provisional measures issued on 24 May, the ICJ also ordered Israel to reopen the Rafah crossing. The two main border crossings used to bring aid and supplies into Gaza are both located in Rafah. The Rafah crossing with Egypt has been closed since Israel seized control of the Palestinian side of the border on 7 May. A limited amount of supplies has been entering through the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel. And it’s not just food that’s needed: Lack of fuel is forcing hospitals to shut down and threatening to grind the humanitarian response to a halt altogether.

Confusion reigns over Haiti stabilisation mission

Just as it appeared imminent, the deployment of a Kenyan-led Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission to help quell gang violence in Haiti is facing new hurdles. Nearly 200 Kenyan police officers had been expected to land around 23 May – timed to coincide with Kenyan President William Ruto's state visit to the White House. The United States has pledged $300 million to support the mission and has been pushing for it to begin soon, flying dozens of military planes into the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, and preparing a base. However, the Miami Herald reported that the initial deployment of what is expected to become a force of more than 1,000 police and security personnel (from Kenya, several Caribbean countries, and others such as Bangladesh, Benin, and Chad) may now be postponed until early June due to logistical issues, including a lack of armoured vehicles and of helicopters for medical evacuations. An advance Kenyan delegation also found that the barracks weren’t ready and that the communications equipment was insufficient. Approved by the UN Security Council in October, the mission has faced strong opposition in both Haiti and Kenya, where a court order blocked the deployment until Ruto bypassed the ruling through a bilateral agreement with a new interim Haitian government. Throwing a spanner in the works at the 11th hour, the Kenyan opposition leader and lawyer who filed the first petition to stop the deployment is now legally challenging Ruto’s decision again, with the High Court expected to hear this new case on 2 June. According to the UN, 2,500 people have been killed due to gang violence since the beginning of the year, 362,000 have been displaced, and half the population faces acute food insecurity. UNICEF's representative, meanwhile, has warned that the country’s health system is on the verge of collapse. For more, read our Haiti coverage.

UN warns of El Niño ‘catastrophe’ in southern Africa

Drought-hit southern Africa is on the brink of “catastrophe” unless aid is urgently ramped up to reach the more than 61 million people affected by an El Niño weather system that has caused the most intense mid-season dry spell in over a century, the UN has warned. With the July lean season approaching, aid agencies are calling on donors to support a $5.5 billion humanitarian appeal by the Southern Africa Development Community. Among the worst-impacted are: Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, southern Malawi, northern Namibia, southeastern Angola, and parts of Madagascar. Meanwhile, climate change-driven storms, flash floods, and landslides in East Africa have killed more than 500 people and displaced over 400,000. The rescue services in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and Tanzania have been stretched thin by the environmental havoc, with homes and businesses inundated, and roads and bridges washed away.

New Rohingya ‘genocide’ warnings in Myanmar

Campaigners fear the situation for Rohingya in Myanmar could now be “worse than in 2017” – the year an alleged genocide was inflicted upon the mainly Muslim minority group, killing at least 10,000 of them and forcibly displacing more than 750,000 more into Bangladesh. As Myanmar’s civil war intensifies, Rohingya have again been “systematically targeted” by similar violence, including mass killings, torture, and arson, displacing around 200,000 people, according to Wai Wai Nu, executive director of the Women’s Peace Network. She said the violence in western Rakhine state isn’t just being inflicted by the Myanmar military, which perpetrated 2017’s alleged genocide, but also by the Arakan Army, which is fighting the military but also accused of increasingly targeting the Rohingya. While reliable information from inside Myanmar is difficult to obtain, Wai Wai Nu said the situation was particularly bad because the Rohingya “are unable to flee [and] Bangladesh does not open the border”. Her comments came in a press briefing on 23 May that raised the alarm on a 17 May attack on Buthidaung town in which Arakan Army troops allegedly attacked Rohingya residents. The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, a watchdog, also warned of the risk of another genocide following the attack. For more, read our Myanmar coverage.

EU caught funding, supporting migrant abuses

The EU and individual EU member states are supporting and financing multiple North African governments to detain and deport tens of thousands of mostly Black African asylum seekers and migrants, according to a year-long investigation by the Washington Post, the investigative newsroom Lighthouse Reports, and other outlets. The investigation found that security forces in Morocco, Mauritania, and Tunisia routinely round up asylum seekers and migrants and deposit them in remote areas of the desert without food or water. European money has been used to train some of the units involved, and the units use vehicles that match the make and model of ones donated by EU countries. EU officials have known about the abuses since at least 2019. But that hasn’t stopped the EU from doubling down on the strategy of partnering with third countries with dubious human rights records to try to control migration. Just in the past several months, the EU has signed a 7.4-billion-euro deal with Egypt and a one-billion-euro deal with Lebanon. An investigation by The New Humanitarian recently found that Egyptian security forces are systematically deporting Sudanese refugees from the country. And xenophobic violence and forced deportations of Syrian refugees are growing in Lebanon as well. The EU and its member states are apparently undeterred by the dismal human rights and humanitarian consequences of these policies: 15 of the EU’s 26 member states recently signed a letter advocating to take these partnerships one step further by sending asylum seekers to third countries – likely in Africa – to have their claims processed. Following in the footsteps of the UK, EU member states are advocating to partner with African countries for this purpose. 

Pandemic treaty deadline hangs over world health summit

The World Health Organization’s annual ministerial meetings kick off on 27 May with the future of a long-debated pandemic treaty in the spotlight. Negotiations for a new accord to strengthen pandemic preparedness after COVID-19’s failures were going down to the wire as the World Health Assembly approached. Among the sticking points is a proposal for WHO to control a portion of the global supply of vaccines and tests – to avoid the hoarding and queue-jumping that marred the COVID-19 response. The treaty is negotiated by member states, but big pharmaceutical countries have weighed in to oppose elements seen to weaken intellectual property rights. Before the WHA, the Health Justice Initiative, a South African civil society group, released documents showing that pharmaceutical companies tried to charge top vaccine prices and pushed for one-sided terms at the height of the pandemic. “Attempts by these companies to extract monopolistic and high prices for lifesaving vaccines are documented, and now clear for all to see,” said Fatima Hassan, the group’s director. “This must have a bearing on current efforts underway in Geneva to [negotiate] a global pandemic accord.”

Get the Cheat Sheet straight to your inbox

In case you missed it

AFGHANISTAN: A week of flooding has caused widespread devastation and hundreds of deaths. The northern provinces of Baghlan and Takhar were hardest hit, with 250 deaths. The central province of Ghor saw 10 districts affected and at least 100 deaths. Flash floods were also reported in Sar-e Pol and Faryab provinces.

BRAZIL: Three weeks after unprecedented floods hit Rio Grande do Sul, the death toll has continued to rise, reaching 163 on 23 May, and more than 600,000 people have been displaced. Authorities also registered the first two deaths from leptospirosis, a post-flood bacterial disease, and expect a surge in new cases.

CLIMATE JUSTICE: Climate disaster victims and NGOs have filed a lawsuit against Total, accusing the French fossil fuel giant of manslaughter and other crimes. According to Bloom, one of the NGOs, the plaintiffs aim to establish the “criminal liability” of the Total leadership’s “contribution to climate change”.

DARIÉN GAP: UNICEF reported that over 30,000 children – 2,000 of them unaccompanied – crossed the dangerous jungle path connecting Colombia to Panama in the first quarter of 2024. That’s 40% more than last year’s record, and aid organisations say the soaring numbers are creating a series of health challenges that they’re not prepared for.

HEALTHCARE ATTACKS: International and national courts should prosecute attacks on the wounded and sick at healthcare facilities as war crimes and crimes against humanity, a group of rights and health NGOs says. A new report from the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition counted more than 2,500 attacks on healthcare in conflict in 2023 – a toll worsened by violence in Gaza, Sudan, Myanmar, Ukraine, and Haiti.

LEBANON: A new report by the World Bank says poverty in Lebanon has more than tripled over the past 10 years, reaching 44% of the population. Lebanon’s wide-ranging economic and financial crisis is now in its fifth year, and the report notes that people are cutting back on how much they eat and spend on healthcare. While the crisis has touched almost everyone, there are clear inequalities, both between Lebanese nationals in different parts of the country, and between nationalities: 9 out of 10 Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in poverty. 

NEW CALEDONIA: Indigenous protesters have taken to the streets of New Caledonia to express their anger at a new law that would give voting rights to French citizens who have lived in the island, a French territory, for more than 10 years. French President Emmanuel Macron called the uprisings, which have led to the deaths of six people, an "unprecedented insurrection movement" during a visit to the capital, ​​Nouméa.

PNG: A massive landslide in Papua New Guinea has led to at least 100 reported deaths. Disaster struck early on 24 May when the side of a mountain collapsed onto six remote villages in the country’s north. Residents say at least 100 homes are buried under the rubble and hundreds of villagers are feared dead.

RUSSIA/UKRAINE: Russian missile attacks on the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv killed at least seven people on 23 May amid a fresh Russian offensive in the northeast of the country that has displaced thousands of people. The Ukrainian military has been struggling to keep Russian forces at bay as Ukraine’s Western-supplied weapons stockpiles have dwindled. The US is reportedly to announce it will provide an additional $275 million in artillery and ammunition to try to help Ukraine resist the Russian offensive. 

TUNISIA: Amnesty International accused the Tunisian government of launching an “unprecedented repressive clampdown against migrants, refugees, and human rights defenders working to protect their rights”. The watchdog group cited the arrests of aid workers and journalists, alongside illegal deportations of refugees and migrants. 

YEMEN: Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed to have downed a US drone over the country. The United States has not commented. If confirmed, it would be the second MQ-9 Reaper taken down by the rebel group in a week. Meanwhile, US military officials have reportedly said they believe the Houthis have the capacity to expand their campaign against shipping – which they say is in solidarity with Gaza – from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean.

Weekend read

Three Mozambican women’s stories of enslavement by jihadist insurgents

‘With the other women, we had unity.’

They are trying to rebuild their lives despite a lack of assistance.

And finally…

Football offers recovery lifeline for Syrian amputees

Over a decade of civil war in Syria left a reported 28% of the population with a disability. And since the country's northwest was devastated by catastrophic earthquakes in 2023, that figure is likely to be even greater today. As part of his ongoing coverage for The New Humanitarian, photojournalist Abd Almajed Alkarh visited a football squad for amputees in rebel-held Idlib and saw how the benefits of being part of a team go way beyond just the physical. Watch his short film below:

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.