Monthly Archives: July 2008

Seven underfunded emergencies receive $30 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund

(New York, 30 July 2008): United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, today announced the allocation of $30 million to support agencies carrying out life-saving aid programmes in seven crisis countries in need of an injection of aid funding – Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Syria.

The largest recipient of funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund’s (CERF) grant allocation to underfunded emergencies is Chad, which will receive $6.8 million. The humanitarian situation in Chad has deteriorated during the first half of 2008 as a result of worsening insecurity and an influx of new refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region and the Central African Republic. An estimated 500,000 people are heavily dependent on humanitarian aid. The allocation is for projects in the 2008 United Nations Consolidated Appeal for Chad, which requested $306 million. Eight months into the year, the Appeal is less than half funded, including crucial sectors such as protection, health and education.

In Syria, a CERF grant of $4 million will benefit up to 1.5 million increasingly impoverished refugees from Iraq. The refugees are in dire need of food, non-food items and health services. Agencies working in Iraq will receive $5 million, while those implementing projects in Sri Lanka will get $4 million. Programmes in Afghanistan will receive $4.6 million, Burundi $3.6 million and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea $2 million.

‘Millions of people affected by some of the less visible crises around the world often have to endure great deprivation,’ said Mr. Holmes. ‘Funds from CERF’s underfunded emergencies window are often the last source of hope for people in such circumstances,’ Mr. Holmes added.

The funds made available today will be granted to United Nations humanitarian agencies and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and through them to partner organizations, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to support humanitarian projects in the affected countries. Countries were selected to receive grants based on an analysis of the funding levels of their aid programmes, the severity of the humanitarian needs, and security and other constraints on aid delivery.

This is the second round of allocations from CERF’s window for underfunded emergencies in 2008. The first round in February allocated $104 million for underfunded emergencies to 14 countries.

CERF is funded by voluntary contributions from Member States, non-governmental organisations, local governments, the private sector and individual donors. This year, the donors pledged nearly $432.2 million in support of the Fund, bringing the total amount contributed to CERF since March 2006 to more than $1.1 billion. As mandated by the General Assembly, CERF commits one-third of all funds each year to redress imbalances in the global aid distribution by supporting neglected crises.

For further information, please call: Dawn Blalock, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 318 8917, John Nyaga, OCHA-New York, + 1 917 367 9262; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570, Susan Christofides, CERF Secretariat +1 917 367 5252. OCHA press releases are available at http://ochaonline.un.org or http://www.reliefweb.int

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Somalia: Leaders decry killing, abduction of aid workers

NAIROBI, 31 July 2008 (IRIN) – Representatives of religious groups in Somalia have condemned the killing and abduction of humanitarian workers, saying the increase of such incidents was worrying.

“We are totally against the killing of aid workers and call upon all Somali people to embrace peace,” Sheikh Abdulkadir Somow, spokesman for Ahlu Suna Waljamaa, the largest religious group in the country, told IRIN on 31 July from Mogadishu, where a meeting of religious groups was being held.

The first phase of the meeting, which started on 28 July, focused on peace and reconciliation as well as on the killing and abduction of aid workers. The meeting is expected to continue into next week, Somow added.

According to humanitarian organisations active in Somalia, at least 20 aid workers have been killed and 13 others abducted since the start of 2008.

In June, four were killed and seven others abducted, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA-Somalia).

“The Somali civil society and media were equally hard hit with killings of a well-known peace activist in Beletweyne and a journalist in Kismayo,” OCHA reported in June. “Unfortunately, July started off on an equally sad note with the killing of a senior UN staff member in Mogadishu on 6 July.”

Somow told IRIN the killings and abductions were against Islamic teachings “and everything must be done to ensure they come to an end”.

Among other resolutions, he said, the religious groups expressed their full support for the Djibouti peace accord, under which the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and an Eritrea-based opposition alliance signed an agreement on 9 June to cease hostilities.

Religious leaders, he added, must take a more active role in the country’s peace process for lasting stability to be achieved. He urged the international community to provide humanitarian aid to Somali people, most of whom were suffering because of drought, conflict, and high food and fuel prices.

On 22 July, officials from five UN agencies and one from CARE International, said a combination of factors – including drought, conflict, the weak Somali shilling and a succession of poor harvests – had increased the number of people needing food and other assistance to 2.6 million – an increase of 40 percent from January.

Mark Bowden, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, told a news conference in Nairobi the situation in Somalia was “fluid”, warning that the country was months away from a major crisis.

The situation was likely to deteriorate further, potentially affecting 3.5 million people, or half the total population, he added.

The critical food and livelihood crisis, combined with price hikes, very poor rains in the southern and central parts of the country, violence and limited or no access to the affected populations, had further exacerbated the situation and severely restricted the ability of humanitarian organisations to deliver assistance.

Earlier on 2 July, the government and civil society groups condemned the attacks against aid workers, with a civil society source saying the incidents seemed to reflect a concerted campaign against aid workers.

Abdi Haji Gobdon, the government spokesman, said suggestions of government involvement in such attacks were “nonsense” and that the government had repeatedly condemned these “criminal activities”.

“The government position is that it does not condone the killing or kidnapping of those who are trying to help the Somali people,” he said.

Somalia has had no effective government for over 15 years.

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Radovan Karadzic extradited to The Hague

BELGRADE, Serbia – Authorities extradited ex-Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to the Netherlands to face genocide charges before the U.N. war crimes tribunal on Wednesday, hours after a violence-tinged protest by thousands of his supporters in downtown Belgrade.

U.N. spokesman Liam McDowall confirmed Karadzic was transferred to the U.N. detention center near The Hague, where he will stand trial.

A jet with Serbian government markings landed at the Rotterdam airport Wednesday morning, AP Television News footage showed. The plane with Serbian government markings taxied into a hangar, out of view of reporters and television cameras before anyone disembarked.

Less than an hour later, a helicopter landed behind the high wall of the detention center while another helicopter hovered overhead. Two black minivans drove through the prison gates moments earlier.

The Serbian government said in a statement issued early Wednesday that its justice ministry had issued a decree that allowed his handover to the U.N. court, despite a violence-tinged protest hours before by thousands of his supporters.

Karadzic is accused by the tribunal of masterminding the 1995 slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian city of Srebrenica, Europe’s worst massacre since World War II. He is also charged with spearheading the three-year siege of Sarajevo that left 10,000 people dead.

Karadzic spent nearly 13 years on the run before being arrested last week in Belgrade, where he lived under the assumed identity of a health guru — sporting a long white beard and hair, and large glasses.

He is expected to be summoned before a judge within a day or two and will be asked to plea to each of the 11 charges he faces, including genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide. He may postpone his plea for up to 30 days.

Karadzic’s lawyer, Svetozar Vujacic, said his client will not enter a plea but will instead ask for the full 30-day period.

Vujacic also acknowledged Wednesday that he has never filed an appeal against Karadzic’s extradition. Vujacic had claimed he sent the appeal by registered mail from Bosnia before a midnight Friday deadline.

The days-long uncertainty over the appeal helped stall Karadzic’s handover, Vujacic said.

Despite the war crimes allegations, Karadjic is still revered by many as a wartime hero for helping to create the Bosnian Serb mini-state.

Hours earlier, a demonstration against Karadzic’s extradition turned violent on its fringes as stone-throwing extremists clashed with police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

While most of the 15,000 demonstrators sang nationalist songs and waved posters of their “Serb Hero,” a few hundred hard-liners broke away from the gathering and threw rocks and burning flares at police in downtown Belgrade.

Later, police fired tear gas at large groups of protesters while pushing them from the square after the rally. Police blocked off several neighborhoods, stopping traffic and the passage of the demonstrators.

Belgrade’s emergency clinic reported 46 people injured, including 25 policemen and 21 civilians. Most were lightly injured, doctors said, adding that only one civilian and one policeman were hospitalized.

Streets looked like battlefields, with smashed shop windows and overturned garbage cans. Ambulance sirens blared through downtown. Police Chief Milorad Veljovic said the area was “under control” by midnight.

Riot police had taken up positions across the capital and heavily armed anti-terrorist troops guarded the U.S. Embassy as busloads of ultranationalists arrived from all over Serbia and Bosnia for the anti-government rally dubbed “Freedom for Serbia.”

Many protesters carried banners and wore badges with Karadzic’s name and picture. Some chanted slogans against President Boris Tadic and called for his death.

“Thank you for showing that Serbia is not dead, although it is being killed by Boris Tadic,” said Aleksandar Vucic, leader of the Serbian Radical Party, which organized the rally. “Thieves and bandits are ruling Serbia.”

“We will fight for Serbia and Serbia will be free,” he added, setting off thunderous applause and chants of “Uprising! Uprising!”

Still, police estimated the turnout at only 15,000 people — far fewer than expected. The last major nationalist rally, in February after Kosovo’s declaration of independence, drew 150,000 people and led to an attack on the U.S. Embassy amid a violent looting spree.

Tuesday’s protest was seen a test for Tadic’s government, which is much more pro-Western than its predecessor. The president warned the right-wing extremists to remain peaceful.

“Everyone has the right to demonstrate, but they should know that law and order will be respected,” Tadic said.

The U.S. Embassy had predicted that up to 100,000 protesters could show up and advised Americans to avoid downtown Belgrade. The embassy was heavily guarded during the rally by special troops armed with machine guns wearing masks.

After February’s mass rally, the U.S. Embassy was partly burned and protesters went on a looting spree, smashing shops and McDonald’s restaurants. McDonald’s was targeted again Tuesday night, and three people were arrested for smashing windows at one of its hamburger shops, police said.

Serbia‘s new, pro-Western government hopes Karadzic’s arrest will strengthen the country’s bid for membership in the European Union. Serbia had been accused of not searching for war crimes fugitives sought by the U.N. tribunal.

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Associated Press

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Transparent relief

Published: July 27 2008 18:17 | Last updated: July 27 2008 18:17

Never in the field of humanitarian relief has so much been given to so many with so little scrutiny. In recent years, the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee has co-ordinated the fund-raising and disbursement of hundreds of millions of pounds in donations to handle the consequences of crises around the world. Accountability at home needs to catch up.

The committee has proved a useful umbrella organisation for more than 40 years, raising money at low cost with support from celebrities and the media and distributing it for spending between its dozen or so members – the UK’s most important relief agencies such as Oxfam, Save the Children and Christian Aid.

How well the agencies deliver can only be judged by rigorous evaluation. Yet the committee has stopped commissioning detailed assessments after each disaster appeal; refused to publish the full, undoctored version of one critical report (on the east Asian tsunami); and has since made others difficult to obtain. It has launched a new approach, flagging briefly in its annual report issues of concern from each appeal for members to address and placing the onus on them to conduct individual evaluations. There is no common standard for how these will be conducted or whether they will be made public. It is unclear how far those charities that disappoint will be penalised.

The committee looks too much like a cosy club, in which the majority of trustees are chief executives of member charities. There is little incentive to change. A concern raised in its latest annual report about Chad is that the nine-month duration of appeals is too short, focusing on short-term relief rather than longer-term rehabilitation. This issue has been raised many times in the old-style evaluations, without any change in policy. But it clashes with rapid fund-raising in crises. More transparency and external scrutiny of the committee’s governance would be no bad thing.

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WHO aid worker seriously wounded by Somali gunmen

MOGADISHU (AFP) – Gunmen in Somalia shot and seriously wounded an humanitarian official working for the World Health Organization on Sunday, witnesses and officials said.

Osmail Moalim Ahmed was shot five times by assailants in the southern Somali town of Dinsor, in the latest attack against aid workers in the war-stricken country that is facing an acute food shortage.

“He was shot five times on the chest and they left him for dead,” a UN official in Dinsor told AFP on condition of anonymity. “He was only giving humanitatian assistance. We don’t know why they targeted him.”

Local resident Ali Hussein Abdi said: “They stopped him before opening fire on him. They also took his car.”

Nineteen aid workers have been killed in Somalia so far this year and 13 others have been abducted, the United Nations has said.

At least 2.6 million Somalis face hunger due to acute food shortfalls spurred by prolonged drought, insecurity and high inflation. UN famine monitors warn the figure could hit 3.5 million by the end of the year.

Aid groups have scaled down operations in Somalia owing to growing insecurity largely blamed on Islamist militants who have waged a guerrilla war since they were ousted by joint Somali-Ethiopian forces in early 2007.

DUNIA KEMANUSIAAN  condemned the attack on Mr. Osmail Moalim Ahmed and demand stern action should be taken to those involved in the attack.

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Relief Worker Attacks in Afghanistan, Somalia Prompt Aid Cuts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Chris Dolmetsch

July 29 (Bloomberg) — Attacks on aid workers are forcing humanitarian groups to curtail operations in Afghanistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka and other war-torn countries, and relief agencies say they may have to make wider cuts.

Killings, kidnappings and violence against aid workers have more than doubled in the past five years, according to a draft of a report to be published by London-based Overseas Development Institute in the next three months. The average annual number of incidents rose to 76 from 2003 through 2007, compared with 35 in the previous five-year period.

For the first time, humanitarian workers are being specifically targeted, said Nan Dale, the U.S. executive director for Paris-based Action Against Hunger/Action Contre la Faim, which had two French workers kidnapped in Afghanistan on July 18.

“It’s a terrible period in our history,” Dale said in an interview in New York. “We’re hardly the only agency.”

Doctors Without Borders withdrew its 97 international staff members from Somalia after three workers were killed by a roadside bomb in January and eight were kidnapped this month. The charity, the main health-care provider in central and southern Somalia, has been there since 1981. Atlanta-based CARE suspended operations last month in the Galadud region of Somalia following the abduction of two staff members, who are still missing.

Action Against Hunger stopped operations in countries including Burundi, where a staff member was killed in December, and Sri Lanka, where 17 workers were killed in 2006, Dale said. The group may halt more operations if threats against its members increase, she said.

`Seeing a Spike’

Global attacks fell last year to 82, with 55 killed, from a 10-year high of 95 incidents with 85 killed in 2006, according to the institute’s report. In the first half of this year, though, the violence appears to have increased, aid groups said.

“We definitely are seeing a spike this year in countries which are already dangerous, and it’s getting more difficult for us to move around,” said Patrick McCormick, a spokesman for UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s charity, in New York.

Humanitarian groups are taking security measures to prevent attacks, with some going undercover by removing identification from vehicles and staff and others using armed guards to protect workers, said Abby Stoddard, a non-resident fellow at the Center for International Cooperation at New York University, and the lead author of the institute’s report.

`Soft Target’

“Aid workers are a soft target, and in places like Somalia, they are the only international targets, so if someone wants attention and wants to sow fear and chaos, that’s who they attack,” she said.

The number of attacks on Action Against Hunger workers is “unprecedented” for the 29-year-old group, which has about 6,000 members around the world, Dale said. The organization suspended its operations in Afghanistan after the kidnappings, set up crisis units in Kabul and Paris to secure their release and revised its security procedures, she said.

“I see it happening with other aid organizations, including the big ones, UNICEF, CARE and Save the Children,” Dale said. “I think we’re all daily taking the temperature of the situation and doing what we have to do, which includes unfortunately sometimes having to close programs.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York at cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net.

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‘Humanitarian crisis brewing at Greek migrant camp’

ATHENS, July 28: Greece is locking hundreds of migrants in an overcrowded centre on the Mediterranean island of Lesbos without proper sanitation and medical care in what French charity Medicins Sans Frontiers branded a “humanitarian crisis”.

The migrants, most of them from Afghanistan, are kept in rooms clogged with stagnant water and only allowed outside for half an hour every couple of days, said Yiorgos Karayiannis, head of MSF Greece’s migrant assistance programme.

With some migrants suffering from tuberculosis and skin diseases, there is a risk of contagion and only one doctor was working at the camp, without a translator, MSF said, adding its staff was not being permitted regular access to provide healthcare.

“The situation is horrible from a medical point of view,” Karayiannis told Reuters on Monday. “This is an urgent humanitarian crisis.”

The Greek officials was not immediately available to comment.

The number of the people at the camp has risen from 150 in early June to around 800 at present, Karayiannis said, as calm seas encouraged a deluge of would-be migrants to set off in boats from the nearby coast of Turkey or North Africa.

Greece is on the frontline of the European Union’s fight against illegal migration. Its 14,900km of poorly patrolled Mediterranean coastline offers a tempting target for migrants from Iraq and Palestine, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Despite the rising numbers at Lesbos, Greece’s conservative New Democracy government has not improved facilities, aid workers say.

MSF has been working at the Lesbos camp for two months, providing some medical attention and constructing toilets and shower facilities.

Most of the migrants are young men but there are also some women and children, Karayiannis said.

An estimated 800,000 Albanians have also emigrated to Greece in search of better-paid work.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has called for more EU cooperation in fighting immigration.

A French plan to boost immigration patrols and expel more migrants from the 27-nation bloc, while promoting legal migration and a common asylum policy, is expected to be approved by mid-October.

“European policy is mainly to guarantee high standards of preventing immigration, but people arriving need to have better facilities available to them and a better future,” Karayiannis said—Reuters

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