Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Yemen's food crisis: 'We die either from the bombing or the hunger'...

Conflict has driven Yemen to the brink of famine. Few areas have been hit harder than al-Hudaydah, where many people are now bereft of hope

Ghaleb Mashn holds her 11-month-old son, Radad, in al-Hajb village, Yemen
‘Everything has changed. Our life has become a hell’: Ghaleb Mashn holds her 11-month-old son, Radad, in al-Hajb village, Yemen. Photograph: Abdullkareem Alayashy
Broom-maker Taie al-Nahari is kneeling on the sand, shirtless, outside his thatched hut in al-Qaza village in Yemen’s al-Hudaydah governorate. His bones show through his skin.
Before the conflict began in 2015, the 53-year-old was a fisherman. Now he makes two brooms a day, which earns him a daily income of $1. “The boats that we were working on were bombed [by Saudi jets]. Now my family and I don’t have enough to eat,” he says.
The conflict is the primary driver of a hunger crisis that the UN has warnedcould turn to famine this year if nothing is done.

On Wednesday, the UN launched a $2.1bn (£1.6bn) appeal to prevent famine in the Arab world’s poorest nation, where nearly 3.3 million people – including 2.1 million children – are acutely malnourished. The humanitarian appeal is the largest launched for Yemen and aims to provide life-saving assistance to 12 million people this year.
Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said: “The situation in Yemen is catastrophic and rapidly deteriorating”. At least 10,000 people have lost their lives in the conflict. 
Al-Nahari lives in the area of Yemen worst hit by the crisis. He says even those fishermen whose boats have remained intact do not dare to sail for fear of being bombed by the Saudi jets that frequently bomb targets within the country. The attacks are to counter the advances of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who control the capital, Sana’a, and have spread out across Yemen. “The war killed our only income, which was [me] working as a fisherman, and now we are jobless and hopeless,” he says. 
Al-Nahari did not earn much as a fisherman, but it was enough to buy flour and some basic food. “We are broken, we don’t have enough money, no food, nothing to eat, nothing to work with,” he says.
Fatima takes care of her two grandsons in al-Hudaydah’s al-Mujelis village. Ali is 11 and Mohammed four. They both suffer from thalassemia and their condition has been exacerbated by the lack of rich food. “We have no money to treat my grandsons or to feed ourselves. Since we lost our jobs, we have no income and we have nothing to eat,” she says.

Yemen’s al-Hudaydah governorate and the surrounding area

The children’s family used to worked in a Mango farm before the bombings. “These days, we sell brooms and buy ourselves some flour and then eat it with water,” she says. “Either we die from the bombing or from the hunger. My grandson needs treatment and also on the top of all that he needs to eat a healthy food, my grandson doesn’t know what the milk tastes like.”
She says the world was turning a blind eye to the Saudi bombings, which have prompted criticism of the UK, which exports weapons to Saudi Arabia. “I also blame the whole world for watching us dying and for their silence against [the] Saudi-led coalition,” she says.
Ashwaq Ahmad Moharram, an obstetrician and gynaecologist volunteering in al-Hudaydah, says the humanitarian situation there is believed to be the worst among Yemen’s 22 governorates.

“The situation in al-Hudaydah was bad before and now it has become even worse; if they were poor before, now they are poorer,” she says. 
“When I visit homes here, I have not found even the simplest daily life supports: there is no daily food, most of people eat only fish and sell what is left, but now after fishing boats are targeted by Saudi-led coalition, they have nothing left to make income from.”
Saeeda, a 60-year-old woman living in al-Hajb village in the al-Almansoriah district of al-Hudaydah, is disabled. In the past, she was financially supported by her only son, who worked in a Mango farm. 
“When the war started, he lost his job; my grandson looks for what is left from [our] neighbour’s food. Saudi jets scare me all the time and when I hear their sound in the air, I cannot even run away from my thatched hut [because] I’m disabled,” she says.
“Before the war, we were eating breakfast and lunch, we had $3 a day, the situation was safe, but now we don’t have anything, my son is jobless, our life was difficult but now it’s more difficult than it was, sometimes I wish I was not born in this life.” 
She adds: “Farms have been bombed, fishing boats too and diseases have become widespread; fever kills a lot of children.”

Taie al-Nahari
 ‘The boats we were working on were bombed. Now my family and I don’t have enough to eat’: broom-maker Taie al-Nahari. Photograph: Abdullkareem Alayashy

Ghaleb Mashn’s 11-month-old son Radad is malnourished and has abdominal swelling. The family lives in al-Hajb village. “My son has a congenital disorder, his condition gets worse when he is starved. I don’t have money to treat him. I went to al-Hudaydah for two days and I couldn’t stay longer to continue his treatment,” says Mashn, who makes brooms and hats and makes $2 a day. “My son needs to be treated, his weight was 3.5kg and after one week in a malnutrition centre it increased to 4.5kg. 
“Everything has changed. Our life has become a hell. Saudi Arabia bombards us and kills our neighbours.”
Gummai Esmail Moshasha’s thatched hut in al-Jah, in the Tihama area of al-Hudaydah, was targeted on 12 January. Moshasha, 54, and one of his sons, Ali, 21, were outside waiting for the breakfast call when the bombings began at about 6am. Inside, however, were Ali’s 18-month son, Ahmad, his wife and his mother. They were instantly killed.
“They were preparing the breakfast at our thatched hat, it was a tea and some biscuits,” Ali says. “Suddenly the rocket hit our thatched hat, I ran to the home to see what happened, I was shocked to see my family members killed and cut into pieces, I hugged [what was] remaining of my wife’s body, I also hugged my mother and my son’s body, I was crying.
“My message to the world is, ‘Please stop the war’, but I think my message is useless, they won’t be able to bring back who I have lost.”

Monday, June 12, 2017

Mass Sexual Violence Leaves Rohingya Women Traumatized and Stateless

The United Nations has documented shocking accounts of sexual violence, including gang rape, against Rohingya women and girls at the hands of Myanmar’s military. News Deeply spoke with a U.N. investigator about what she found when she talked to survivors.
MASS SEXUAL VIOLENCE against the Rohinyga minority in northern Myanmar has been documented in a recent United Nations report.
The spate of violence, which includes gang rape and involves survivors as young as 11 years old, was found to have been perpetrated by Myanmar’s security forces,
On October 9, 2016, the Burmese military entered northern Rakhine state – and over the next four months detained and killed men, women and children. Soldiers burned down houses and raped women and young girls. The U.N. report says these actions amount to possible crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
The military insists this “clearance operation” was a justified counterinsurgency operation following an October 9 attack on security forces near the Bangladesh border, which resulted in the deaths of nine policemen. The violence caused more than 69,000 Rohingya to flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh, where they are currently living in eight makeshift camps in Dhaka and Cox Bazar.
Myanmar’s Rohinyga population lives in villages in northern Rakhine state, near the Bangladesh border. They are known as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. Their Muslim faith is viewed as a security threat by Buddhist groups in Myanmar, which means they receive limited access to basic services such as education. They are also prohibited from claiming citizenship and moving freely throughout the country.
The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) sent a four-person team, including human rights officer Ilona Alexander, to Bangladesh in early January of this year to investigate these human rights violations. Their investigation included testimony from 101 Rohingya women who experienced violence at the hands of the military: More than half reported being sexually assaulted.
Women & Girls spoke to Ilona Alexander about the evidence she gathered on the sexual violence inflicted on Rohingya women and girls.

Women & Girls: The military indicated that it was conducting “area clearance operations” in the region – what exactly does this mean?

Ilona Alexander: Based on the interviews we conducted, the “area clearance operations” followed this pattern: Large numbers of armed men (often from both the Myanmar Armed Forces and the police, sometimes accompanied by Rakhine villagers) would arrive in the village. As is confirmed by satellite imagery analysis, they would proceed to destroy many houses, mosques, schools and shops.
They would separate the women from the men. Women would be rounded up, and either told to stay inside a school or other building or outside in the burning sun. Many would be raped or would experience others forms of sexual violence, often during strip searches, either during roundups or in homes.

Women & Girls: How did the victims describe the attacks?

Alexander: The vast majority of those interviewed had experienced multiple violations. Families may have had members killed, beaten, raped or taken away to an unknown location, while at the same time their homes were burned and looted. For most interviewees, separation from their families is a major concern.
Many of the men have been detained or killed. This is one of the saddest things, because these women have experienced tremendous sexual violence – but sometimes they broke down even more when they talked about their missing husbands.
For me, the touching thing was hearing stories from the little boys who feel that now that their fathers are gone, they are responsible for protecting their mothers and sisters. But these boys have had to watch their sisters and mothers being beaten and raped, and now they feel like they have failed to protect their mothers.

Women & Girls: Your investigations found that one girl as young as 11 years old was gang raped by military forces. Can you describe this case?

Alexander: For this girl, she started by describing to me how life was peaceful in her village before … suddenly the military appeared and started killing people [and] abusing women.
She told me how she witnessed a man who was about 40 years old have his throat cut with a cleaver in front of her. After, the military came to her house and badly beat her parents.
After this incident, her father went into hiding from the military and took her two older sisters with him so that they would be safe. He left the girl at home with her mother and two little brothers because he thought the military wouldn’t hurt children.
The military came back to their house twice. The first time, the military came and removed her clothing and kicked her. After the clothing was removed and the girl was beaten, the military suddenly left. The next day they returned with seven soldiers and removed the mother from the house. The soldiers locked themselves in a room with the girl and gang raped her. The girl told me that she doesn’t even know how many of them raped her because she fell unconscious at times and awoke bleeding and injured after.

Women & Girls: Why were some of the women you spoke to targeted for gang rape, while others weren’t?

Alexander: They wanted to terrorize the population, so they took some women into public places like mosques and gang raped them while other women were outside and listening. They wanted the women outside to know what was happening so they were terrorized.
They would have around eight women and 20 men from the military in the mosque, and the men would take a turn with each woman.
I had this one 15-year-old girl tell me that she was only raped by one solider because she was not as beautiful as the girls who were gang raped. When she told me this I thought, “My God, what kind of culture is this where women think they aren’t beautiful enough to be gang raped?”

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Africa Subsidises The Rest Of TheWworld By Over $40 Billion In One Year

Much more wealth is leaving the world’s most impoverished continent than is entering it, according to new research into total financial flows into and out of Africa.  The study finds that African countries receive $161.6 billion in resources such as loans, remittances and aid each year, but lose $203 billion through factors including tax avoidance, debt payments and resource extraction, creating an annual net financial deficit of over $40 billion.

The research shows that according to the most recent figures available in 2015:
  • African countries received around $19 billion in aid but over three times that much ($68 billion) was taken out in capital flight, mainly by multinational companies deliberately misreporting the value of their imports or exports to reduce tax.
  • African governments received $32.8 billion in loans but paid $18 billion in debt interest and principal payments, with the overall level of debt rising rapidly.
  • An estimated $29 billion a year was stolen from Africa in illegal logging, fishing and the trade in wildlife and plants.
Tim Jones, economist from the Jubilee Debt Campaign, said: "The African continent is rich, but the rest of the world profits from its wealth through unjust debt payments, multinational company profits and hiding proceeds from tax avoidance and corruption."

Aisha Dodwell, a campaigner with Global Justice Now said: “There’s such a powerful narrative in Western societies that Africa is poor and that it needs our help. This research shows that what African countries really need is for the rest of the world to stop systematically looting them.  While the form of colonial plunder may have changed over time, its basic nature remains unchanged.”

Martin Drewry, director of Health Poverty Action said:  “To end poverty we need to focus our efforts on preventing the policies and practices that are causing it.  That means we need to stop our tax havens facilitating the theft of billions, clamp down on illegal activities and compensate African countries for the impact of climate change that they did not cause. “

Bernard Adaba, policy analyst with ISODEC in Ghana said: “'Development' is a lost cause in Africa while we are haemorrhaging billions every year to extractive industries, western tax havens and illegal logging and fishing. Some serious structural changes need to be made to promote economic policies that enable African countries to best serve the needs of their people rather than simply being cash cows for Western corporations and governments. The bleeding of Africa must stop!"

The report Honest Accounts 2017: How the world profits from Africa’s wealth, published by a coalition of UK and African organisations, including Global Justice Now, Health Poverty Action and Jubilee Debt Campaign, makes a series of recommendations as to how the system extracting wealth from Africa could be dismantled. These recommendations include promoting economic policies that lead to equitable development, preventing companies with subsidiaries based in tax havens from operating in African countries, and transforming aid into a process that genuinely benefits Africa.

The research covers the 47 countries classified as ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ by the World Bank.
The research was published by Global Justice Now, Health Poverty Action, Jubilee Debt Campaign, Uganda Debt Network, Budget Advocacy Network, Afrika and Friends Networking Open Forum, Integrated Social Development Centre, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development, Groundwork and People’s Health Movement.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Young Rohingya Mothers Flee Persecution...

Sanwara Begum, 20, holds her 25-day-old daughter Aasma. She fled to Bangladesh from Khyeri Prang village in Myanmar, with her husband around two and a half months ago. "No one wants to leave their own home. We have come to Bangladesh only to save our lives. Myanmar is our home, we will move to Myanmar immediately if the situation becomes stable," Sanwara Begum said.
The babies' delicate features present a sharp contrast with the squalid conditions of the makeshift refugee camp, where a skipped meal or food poisoning can mean the difference between survival or death.
The Myanmar army launched its "clearance operation" after Rohingya insurgents attacked border guard posts in northwestern Rakhine state in October.
The United Nations said it had committed mass killings and gang rapes and burned villages in a campaign that may amount to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
"One-and-a-half months ago the military came to our village and kept firing their guns," said Amina, one of the refugees, as she cradled her 16-day-old daughter, Sumaiya.
"You see us alive only because god was so kind," added Amina, 30. "They caught my uncle and my younger brother and we don't know whether they are dead or alive."
Rajuma Begum, 28, holds her one-month-old son Raihan. “I fled to Bangladesh because of fear, because I needed to save my children. I was pregnant and suffering from fever while crossing the border. I also have an 11-month-old boy, so it was very difficult to reach the border from our village Wabek in Myanmar. I had to rest frequently. After six hours of horrible walking finally we reached the border at 2am and crossed the border after paying the broker,” Rajuma Begum said.
The military calls its crackdown on the Muslim minority a lawful counterinsurgency operation to defend the country and has denied the allegations. Myanmar launched several investigations into the alleged abuse, but human rights monitors say they lack credibility and independence.
Amina is one of about 75,000 refugees to have successfully made an often perilous crossing through the fields, eventually fording a river boundary to reach Bangladesh.
Marijaan, 20, holds her 25-day-old daughter Noor Habi as her son stands behind her. “I reached the border at night and crossed by the boat. I paid the boatman to cross the Naf River,” she said.
Some starved for weeks, while others gave everything they had to pay off people smugglers. Many never made it, drowning or getting shot by Myanmar security forces on the journey.
Survivors, who rely on shelters of bamboo sticks and black plastic sheets for protection from a scorching sun, face a major challenge in keeping their newborns alive.
Aarafa Begum, 20, tends to her two-month-old daughter Noor Kayes. “My daughter is suffering from fever since last night but I don’t know where the clinic is," she said.
The camps often lack medical facilities and running water, leading aid agency workers to worry about an outbreak of water-borne diseases such as cholera.
Jamalida, 30, holds her two-month-old daughter Shahida. She came to Bangladesh with her husband from Nasha Phuru village in Myanmar.
"People are living in tough circumstances. Most don’t have access to regular medical services and are not getting enough food," said Azmat Ulla, an official of the International Federation of Red Cross in Bangladesh, launching an emergency appeal for help on Monday.
Noor Kayes, 18, holds her 26-day-old unnamed daughter. Noor Kayes fled to Bangladesh with her parents from Poachong village in Myanmar two months ago after her husband was killed by the military.
Many women struggle for funds, having lost male relations, the sole breadwinners in most families. They rely on handouts from the World Food Program and other agencies.
Clinics run by non-government bodies and the U.N. are overrun, scrambling to treat thousands of patients each month.
Minara Begum, 22, calms her crying one-month-old son, Ayub, as she tells of fleeing from her village of Nasha Phuru with her husband and mother-in-law.
"My child doesn't get enough breast milk as I don't eat enough nutritious food," she said. "I have to buy milk powder, though it's not very good for my son."
Many women said they survived or witnessed acts of gang rape by soldiers.
Ramida Begum, 35, holds her 10-day-old unnamed daughter. “The military caught my husband and burnt our house down a week before I left Myanmar. Since then I don’t know whether my husband is dead or alive,” she said.
An official of a large Western aid agency told Reuters it had distributed more than 660 "dignity kits" for assault victims, besides counselling nearly 200 women who suffered trauma after the killing of a family member, usually male.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said the worker, who declined to be identified because he was not authorised to talk to the media.
Fatema, 25, sits beside her one-day-old daughter Aasma. Fatema fled to Bangladesh from Jambuinna village in Myanmar two months ago after her house was burnt down by the military. She crossed Naf River by boat during the night. “Our situation is better than many other refugees here as my husband Mohammad Alom works here as a day labourer. Many of the new refugees have no work here, so they have to rely on relief,” Fatema said.
The quiet of Cox's Bazar, a beachside resort town, makes for a jarring contrast with the temporary camps amid rice paddies and salt flats just an hour's drive away.
Large groups of desperate women line the roads, begging for money from passing cars, often well after sunset.
A red blanket spread on the earthen floor of her shelter, Rehana Begum, 25, cares for her one-day-old daughter.
"We were in our home and suddenly the military came to our village and started shooting," said Rehana Begum, who fled her village of Jambuinna in Myanmar three months ago.
"When we heard the sound of gun shots we immediately went to our relatives. We walked for four hours without any food and water to reach the border at 1 a.m. We paid $18 to a broker to cross."
The figure is equivalent to 25,000 Myanmar kyat.
Intercepted by Bangladesh border guards, Rehana Begum's family narrowly escaped being sent home.
"They wanted to send us back, but then we heard gunshots from the Myanmar side and the guards released us, saying, 'Stay in Bangladesh and save your lives'," she said.
Noor Begum, 26, sits next to her one-day-old daughter Sumaiya. Noor Begum came to the camp one-and-a-half months ago from Nagpura village with her husband Jahangir Alom.