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Archive for the ‘Food Crisis’ Category

We need more food, NOT soldiers

Posted by terres on February 24, 2009

In the north, Afghans fight hunger, not the Taliban

23 Feb 2009

By Jonathon Burch

(Reuters) SANG-I-KHEL, Afghanistan. The United States’ decision to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan will mean little to the people of northern Sang-i-Khel village whose fight is not against Taliban insurgents but against hunger.

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered 17,000 additional U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan to tackle an intensifying insurgency across the south and east of the country.

Yet in the relatively peaceful north, Afghans face a different struggle. Severe drought and soaring food prices have left hundreds of thousands of people facing a daily battle to survive the winter.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says some 280,000 Afghans in the north of the country are suffering from the drought, the worst in a decade, and are unable to meet their basic food needs.

Although not normally part of its mandate, the ICRC has distributed food with the Afghan Red Crescent to some of the worst affected areas, reflecting not only the scale of the crisis but also the lack of aid in this part of the country.

“The ICRC got involved because the need was so great. This is affecting thousands and thousands of people,” said Azim Noorani, an ICRC delegate in northern Afghanistan.

THE “RICH” GET RICHER

While Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, dependent on billions of dollars in foreign aid every year, poverty varies by region. Some areas are much better off than others.

Southern Helmand province, where more than two-thirds of the country’s illicit opium is produced and where the insurgency is strongest, is among the top three richest provinces by most indicators, according to a 2008 report by the United Nations.

Helmand has the highest rate of car ownership in the entire country.

Yet southern provinces such as Helmand get most of the aid despite their relative affluence and their role as the centre of Afghanistan’s estimated $3 billion illicit drugs trade industry.

The U.S. international development agency (USAID) is by far the biggest aid donor in Afghanistan and has pumped millions of dollars into Helmand. If Helmand were a country it would be the fifth largest recipient of USAID funding.

Helmand was pledged $403 per person in aid between 2007-2008 compared to $153 in Balkh, aid agencies said. Neighbouring Sari-i-Pol and Kunduz provinces fared much worse with $53 and $55 per person.

For the people in Sang-i-Khel and surrounding Chemtal district in Balkh province, hundreds of kilometres north of Helmand, life has remained virtually unchanged for hundreds of years. Contact with the outside world is rare and help even rarer.

“We haven’t had any government assistance. They promised us they were going to give us food but they didn’t,” said Mohammad Rafi, 25, at an ICRC food distribution site in Sang-i-Khel.

Although the NATO-led military force has a presence in Balkh, international soldiers are rarely seen in Chemtal, said Rafi, and then only to inquire about security.

Rafi, along with hundreds of other Afghans from the surrounding area, came to Sang-i-Khel last week, some travelling for hours on foot, to collect emergency food rations of rice, beans, oil and tea, donated by the ICRC.

VICIOUS CIRCLE

The ICRC is distributing food to some 30,000 people across three northern provinces where last year’s harvest failed.

“Life is not good. There was nothing last year. No water. No wheat. If there is no water this year, I will have to leave and go to the city. I will become a migrant,” said Habibullah, 45, a farmer in Sang-i-Khel and father of 10.

His face weathered by a lifetime of hardship, Habibullah tells his story while waiting patiently to receive food handouts. Behind him lie fields where the furrows from last year’s ploughing are still visible as nothing grew there.

Afghans have survived drought and famines for centuries. But without long-term development, millions of Afghans are unlikely to break the cycle of poverty and could be susceptible to militant groups that exploit the discontent of poor Afghanis.

The people of Chemtal are locked in a vicious circle. No water means no harvest which means no seeds for planting the following year. Many have left to find work in the city or have either killed or sold what little livestock they had left.

“If we didn’t have this food (handout), I would die,” said Chari, 35, making a cutting gesture across his neck with his finger. (Editing by Megan Goldin). Copyright author or the news agency.

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Posted in Desertification, Food Crisis, opium trade, Severe drought, soaring food prices | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Israeli scorched earth policy

Posted by terres on January 17, 2009

An update on Gaza genocide

The following information is based on reports from member states, the UN Country Team for the occupied Palestinian territory, humanitarian partners, authorities involved in the humanitarian response, and the news media.

Death and injury toll as of December 16, 2009

Palestinian Fatalities: 1,155 including 370  were children (32%) and 85 women (7%)

Palestinians Injured:  5,015 including 1,745 children (35%) and  percent 740 women (15%)

Israel has bombed the UN headquarters and three hospitals as their occupation forces continue to advance into Gaza City.

Up to 700 people were sheltering in the Al-Quds hospital in Gaza city’s southwestern Tal Al-Hawa district when it was bombarded by Israeli jets. White phosphorus shells set the hospital ablaze on Thursday morning.

Two other hospitals east of Gaza City were also hit by Israeli shells as their tanks advanced into the city. The number of casualties is not yet known.

The Israeli tanks also shelled at a UN compound in Gaza City, setting fire to warehouses of desperately-needed food and medical supplies, and injuring. At least 2 civilians and three UN staff.

After heavy shelling and air strikes in Gaza on 15 January, a large number of civilians are now trapped in their homes, while thousands more are seeking refuge with host families and in UNRWA emergency shelters. In response to warnings from the Israeli army to evacuate their homes, many Palestinians are also fleeing to urban centers. Supplies of essential commodities such as food, cooking gas, water and fuel are at critically low levels, while water, sanitation and electrical infrastructure have all sustained further damage during the continued fighting.

UN Casualties in Gaza since 27 December (including UNRWA Staff, UNRWA Contractors, WFP Contractors)

Fatalities:  9
Injured: 13

Humanitarian Installations/Convoys hit in Gaza since 27 December

UN Buildings: 49
UN Compounds:  1
NGO Installations:  1
NGO Compounds:  Several
Convoys:  4

Gaza Crossings

  • On 15 January, the Palestinian Petroleum Corporation reported that its office at Nahal Oz was damaged by Israeli bulldozers, though the fuel depots were not damaged.
  • In December 2005, an average of 631 trucks per day entered Gaza. In May 2007, 475 trucks per day entered. Since 27 December 2008, an average of 73 trucks per day crossed into Gaza at Kerem Shalom.

Food

Despite the incident on 15 January, UNRWA still operated ten food distribution centres and distributed rations to 696 households. WFP did not distribute food on 15 January but was able to distribute 5,600 kgs of bread on 14 January.

WFP launched Operation Lifeline Gaza on 16 January, which is a one-year emergency operation to provide food assistance to 100,000 people, which increases the total food assistance caseload to 365,000 (24 percent of the population of Gaza).

[Note: The population of Gaza Strip is about 1.5 million with an estimated 300,000 households!]

Health

  • The health system continues to deal with mass casualties and the infrastructure was further compromised when three hospitals were hit during the fighting on 15 January. The ICRC noted that the damage caused by shelling of the Al Quds hospital on 15 January was, “completely and utterly unacceptable based on every known standard of international humanitarian law”. According to the Palestinian MoH, since 27 December, 13 medical personnel have been killed and 22 have been injured while on duty. Sixteen ambulances and 16 health facilities have also been damaged through direct or indirect shelling.
  • The Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported that they receive an average of 130 appeals per day to evacuate wounded individuals; however, Israeli authorities have not approved entry into several areas, particularly in northern Gaza, for several days. The ICRC, Médecins Sans Frontières and the Humanitarian Coordinator have publicly expressed their concerns regarding continued constraints to medical teams’ freedom of movement within Gaza, and the lack of respect of health facilities during fighting.
  • According to the UNFPA, an average of 150-170 babies are born every day in the Gaza Strip; since 27 December, an estimated total of 3,150-3,570 babies have been born in Gaza. UNFPA has expressed serious concern over reports of premature labor and delivery caused by shock and trauma related to the ongoing fighting. They expressed further concern regarding the exposure of premature and newborn infants to hypothermia, due to the lack of electricity. There are also concerns about access to medical facilities for those women who must deliver by c-section.
  • WHO reported that 37 of the 56 Palestinian MoH-managed primary health care centers and two NGO-run centers are functioning, however, there are major interruptions to services due to insecurity. WHO reported that there has been an interruption of treatment for approximately 40 percent of chronically ill patients.

Water and Sanitation

The Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) has not been able to assess the impact of damage incurred at the Gaza City Wastewater Treatment Plant during the fighting on 15 January, though there are initial reports that a stream of sewage is flowing from the plant. The CMWU delivered 2,000 litres of fuel to the Beit Lahia Wastewater Treatment Plant which will allow it to function for one week.

Shelter and Non-Food Items

  • No. of people seeking refuge in UNRWA Emergency Shelter [January 14,2009]: Over 45,000 (including 25,300 children)
  • No. of UNRWA Emergency Shelters: 49
  • Increase in number of people since the previous day [13 January]: At least 4,331

UNRWA has opened eight additional emergency shelters each of which is accommodating approximately 1,000 people, which is twice their capacity. However, the majority of displaced people (the total number of which is unknown) are staying with host families.

Infrastructure, Fuel & Electricity

A significant portion of households do not have electricity, in particular those in Gaza City. During the offensive on 15 January, two electrical lines from Israel were destroyed. Israeli forces also destroyed feeder lines from the Gaza Power Plant.

Priority Needs

Ceasefire: Only an immediate ceasefire will be able to address the severe humanitarian and protection crisis that the population of Gaza is faced with.

Protection: Compliance with international humanitarian law is essential to enhance security for civilians within Gaza, allow civilians freedom of movement to reach lifesaving services, and for humanitarian actors to distribute assistance.

Access: A sustained re-opening of all crossings into Gaza is required to meet assistance needs. Improved humanitarian access into Gaza is also required for humanitarian staff, particularly for NGO staff. Increased security and improved access within Gaza is essential for civilians to reach lifesaving services, and for humanitarian actors to
distribute assistance.

Electricity & Fuel: Much of the population of Gaza continues to live without electricity. Hospitals require fuel to run generators on which they rely; water and sanitation facilities require fuel to operate; and households and bakeries require cooking gas.

Wheat grain: Wheat grain is urgently needed for local bakeries and for humanitarian food distributions.

Cash: Cash has still not entered the Gaza Strip and is urgently needed. A system must be established that ensures the regular and predictable monthly transfer of the necessary cash – not only for the international organisations to be able to deliver much needed humanitarian assistance, but also in order to pay the salaries of
Palestinian Authority personnel.

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Posted in Food Crisis, Humanitarian aid, Médecins Sans Frontières, newborn infants, UNRWA | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »