UNHCR: Food shortages await thousands fleeing Mali conflict

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Almost 7,500 refugees have fled into neighbouring countries since French and Malian forces launched a counter-offensive against Islamic militants almost two weeks ago and the exodus is continuing.

In Mauritania, 4,208 Malian refugees have arrived since the latest fighting began on January 11. After being registered at the Fassala transit centre, they are being transported further inland to the Mbera refugee camp, which was already hosting some 55,000 people from earlier displacements.

In Niger there are now 1,300 new refugees, mainly from the Menaka and Anderamboukane areas. During the same period, Burkina Faso has received 1,829 new refugees. These are mainly ethnic Tuaregs and Songhai from the regions of Gossi, Timbuktu, Gao and Bambara Maoude.

“To help receive people we have erected two hangars in Inabao, at the border with Mali, which is currently the main entry point for new refugees. Our partner, Plan Burkina, has also rehabilitated a water pump and has constructed emergency latrines,” a UNHCR spokesman, Adrian Edwards, said. “In part, this is aimed too at easing any possible tensions with the local population,” he added.

New arrivals continue to tell UNHCR that they left their homes because of French air strikes and fighting, as well as fears over the application of Islamic law, or Sharia. They also speak of increasing shortages of food and fuel, with traditional markets unable to operate. A lack of cereal is pushing breeders to either kill some of their animals as they have nothing else to eat, or to try to sell them.

Some refugees are travelling by private car or by truck, while others have arrived from Mali on foot or by donkey. Many newly arrived refugees are expecting additional members of their families to join them in the next days from Mali.

UNHCR and partners continue to assist those refugees who are in camps in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania by providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene structures, food, adequate shelter, health care and education.

In Burkina Faso, vehicles are going back and forth at the border to collect those who are unable to walk. “We are also continuing to relocate refugees from the border to safer sites inland,” spokesman Edwards noted.

On Saturday, a convoy with 568 refugees left the Ferrerio and Gandafabou refugee sites, in Burkina Faso’s northern Sahel region to be relocated to Goudebou camp near the town of Dori. Ferrerio will now only be used as a transit centre for the new arrivals before they are transported to Goudebou. In total, Burkina Faso is hosting 38,776 Malian refugees.

Including those displaced this month, almost 150,000 Malians have found refuge in neighbouring countries since the Mali crisis started in January 2012. Inside Mali, 229,000 people are displaced – mainly from the Kidal, Timbuktu and Gao areas.

For the internally displaced as well as for refugees, the immediate needs are for water, food, shelter and medical care. Living conditions are particularly precarious for the internally displaced and UNHCR is supporting income-generation activities in the Mali capital of Bamako for IDPs.

But humanitarian access to other areas of Mali is severely restricted by the security situation. Abdullah, 41, was staying in a small room at his father’s house in the capital after fleeing with his family from the southern town of Diabaly, which was captured by the Islamists on January 14 and briefly held.

Abdullah worked as a driver for a private company in Diabaly and told UNHCR he was picking up his boss at his home on January 14 “when we were attacked by six men. They were threatening us with their guns and Kalashnikovs and asked for the car keys before taking away the vehicle.” He returned home and stayed there with his family as the sounds of gunfire and explosions echoed around the town.

He decided to leave the next morning on foot with his wife and four children, heading south towards the capital. “We joined many other people who were leaving Diabaly. I was carrying my younger son on my shoulders. We went straight to Bamako,” Abdullah said.

In their small temporary home, his wife and four children sleep on the bed, while Abdullah bunks down on the floor. “It is normally a room used for storage,” he said, adding: “I just want to return to Diabaly and go back to work so that I can take care of my family.”

By Hélène Caux in Bamako, Mali

UNHCR

 

Gallery: Azawad Interim Council President Inauguration

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Supporters of an independent Azawad gathered in Mali on Friday, 15 June 2012 for the official inauguration of an interim president, MNLA Secretary-General, Bilal Ag Acherif.

Ag Cherif reiterated [fr] the aims of the council as listed in the Azawadi Declaration of Independence and announced initiatives to establish state institutions, and to develop a charter that defines the fundamental principles of a new constitution for Azawad. He again called on the international community to recognise the 28-member Transitional Council of the State of Azawad (Conseil de Transition de l’Etat de l’Azawad, CTEA).

A concerted lobbying effort for military intervention by members of ECOWAS and the African Union is still in progress, notably with the United Nations Security Council. Old enmities between key north African countries impact discussions, and force interested parties to perform an elaborate diplomatic dance of meetings followed by visits to share developments with estranged ones. A little like friends and family trying to maintain relationships with both sides of an acrimonious divorce, it all slows and complicates the process, while creating a breeding ground for intrigue. Countries that under normal circumstances might be expected to have a say – Libya, Egypt, Yemen – are to be excused, as they have enough on their respective domestic plates. Beyond Africa, France (its Foreign Minister more specifically) is still bullish, while the US is relying on “media diplomacy” for now. I’ve not noticed any official statements from Gulf states. Perhaps Iran will weigh in with an opinion on Azawad, and then the rhetoric can really begin to fly.

One thing all sides agree on is the worrying humanitarian situation of tens of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people as the “lean period” approaches. There is ample space at the borders with Algeria and Mauritania to create humanitarian corridors under an agreement not to resume hostilities. I am interested to see if anyone raises this idea, and whether this possibility also exists at the borders with Niger, Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast. I assume this would conflict with the agenda of the rebel groups, as they now enjoy relatively unrestricted access to and from neighbouring countries, and the pro-invasion crowd aren’t canvassing for suggestions. Therefore I don’t hold out much hope for a logical solution.

How the Arab World Uses Facebook and Twitter

TwitterArabCountries
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Social media has been often touted for the role it played in the popular uprisings that have spread across the Arab world since December 2010. Despite the buzz, you may be surprised that only 0.26% of the Egyptian population, 0.1% of the Tunisian population and 0.04% of the Syrian population are active on Twitter.

Of all the countries in North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter is most popular in Kuwait, where 8.6% of the population is active users, defined as those who tweet at least once per month. Facebook’s more popular throughout the region. In its most popular country, the U.A.E., some 36.18% of the population is on Facebook.

Khaled ElAhmad (who goes by the Internet alias Shusmo) created these two infographics, exploring Facebook and Twitter trends in the Arab world, using Visual.ly. His data comes from a Dubai School of Government report on Arab Social Media.

Take a look through the two infographics, which also show growth of the social networks by country and overall membership stats. Did you expect more people to be active social media users? How do you think your country’s habits compare? You can also check out infographics on how China and India do social networking.

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via How the Arab World Uses Facebook and Twitter [INFOGRAPHICS].

News and Comments 7 Feb 2012

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Syria crisis: Gulf Arab states expel Syrian ambassadors

Gulf Arab states say they are expelling Syrian ambassadors in their countries and recalling their envoys from Syria.

The Gulf Cooperation Council said Syria had rejected Arab attempts to solve the crisis and end 11 months of bloodshed.

The US closed its embassy in Syria on Monday, and several European countries have recalled their ambassadors.

The moves came as Syrian government forces continued their fierce assault on the restive city of Homs, and Russian officials visited Damascus.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for a solution to the crisis based on Arab League initiatives, days after Russia and China vetoed a UN resolution on Syria.

After meeting Mr Lavrov, Syrian media quoted President Bashar al-Assad as saying he was willing to co-operate with “any efforts towards stability”.

Separately Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, denied reports that he had threatened Qatar’s prime minister during talks at the UN last week. Someone was trying to drive a wedge between Russia and the Arab world, he said.
The GCC said it would urge all other Arab states to adopt “decisive measures” when the Arab League meets next week. The UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy have also recalled their ambassadors

Ambassadors recalled from Syria

  • United States (embassy closed)
  • Europe

  • France
  • UK
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • Gulf Arab states

  • Saudi Arabia
  • Qatar
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Bahrain
  • Oman
  • Kuwait

via BBC

Prop. 8: Gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, court rules – latimes.com

Court strikes down gay marriage ban in LA County

A federal appeals court Tuesday struck down California’s ban on same-sex marriage, clearing the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on gay marriage as early as next year.

The 2-1 decision by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that limited marriage to one man and one woman, violated the U.S. Constitution. The architects of Prop. 8 have vowed to appeal.

The ruling was narrow and likely to be limited to California.

via latimes.com.


Another President Quits – Mohamed Nasheed Steps Down after Maldives Protests

President Nasheed of the Maldives briefs repor...

Mohamed Nasheed

Rather sad that the former human rights and environmental activist didn’t last the course. He was replaced by his vice president after the police and army clashed in the streets of the island nation amid protests after Nasheed ordered the military to arrest Abdulla Mohamed, the chief judge of the Criminal Court. The judge had ordered the release of a government critic he said had been illegally detained.

The crisis came to a head today when hundreds of police demonstrated in the capital, Male, after officials ordered them to withdraw protection for government and opposition supporters protesting close to each other. The withdrawal resulted in a clash that injured at least three people.

Later, troops fired rubber bullets and clashed with the police. When Nasheed visited the police and urged them to end the protest, they refused and instead chanted for his resignation. Mohamed was released after Hassan took power.

Nasheed resigned on TV this morning, and Mohammed Waheed Hassan, who previously worked as a top UNICEF official, was sworn in as the new Maldivian president this afternoon. Soon after, the judge was released.


New Bruce Lee Film


‘I Am Bruce Lee’ tells the amazing story of one of the most iconic human beings ever to enter the public consciousness. Voted as one of the most important people of the 20th century in Time Magazine’s Time 100, as well as one of the Greatest Pop Culture Icons by People Magazine, Bruce Lee continues to be honoured and remembered for his enduring legacy.

In Hong Kong, teams visited the memorial statu...

Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend

~ Bruce Lee


Scotland Yard has recovered over 300,000,000 emails News of the World said were deleted

They doubled resources on the team and are analysing and are identifying hundreds, perhaps thousands, of possible victims going back over 30 years. Daily Record


Violence in northern Mali forces over 20,000 into exile

UNHCR report on Mali upheaval:

Malian Refugees in Mauritania

Malian Refugees in Mauritania

UNHCR has deployed emergency teams to countries surrounding Mali to help meet the needs of some 20,000 people who have been forced to flee fighting in northern Mali. Most of the displaced are in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

Fighting between rebel Tuareg groups and governmental forces in the Azawad region of northern Mali began in mid-January.

In the past three weeks, at least 10,000 people are reported to have crossed to Niger, 9,000 have found refuge in Mauritania and 3,000 in Burkina Faso.

Local communities along the border, affected by the food crisis themselves in the Sahel, are sharing their resources with the new arrivals. The authorities have also distributed food. Four additional UNHCR staff are already in Niger and more are on their way. We plan to send aid for 10,000 people from our stockpiles in the region.

Our office in Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso also reported the arrival of some 3,000 Malian Tuaregs following attacks on their homes and businesses in the Malian capital Bamako and in the nearby town of Kati last week. Many of the new arrivals are staying with host families in Ouagadougou and Bobo Dioulasso, 320 kilometres south-west of the capital. Other new arrivals have been reported in the north west of the country, especially near Djibo, in Soum province. An inter-agency mission, including UNHCR, is scheduled to go there by the end of the week to assess the needs of the people.

Meanwhile in Mauritania UNHCR has sent several missions to the village of Fassala, in the region of Hodh el Chargi 3km from the border with Mali, where over 9,000 people have arrived since 25th January. The mainly ethnic Tuareg Malian refugees come from the region of Léré on the other side of the border. They told UNHCR that they fled fighting between Government forces and rebel Tuareg fighters, fearing retaliation by army troops.


Human Rights Watch Warns of Lead Poisoning Crisis in Nigeria

Thousands of children in northern Nigeria need immediate medical treatment and dozens of villages remain contaminated two years into the worst lead poisoning epidemic in modern history, Human Rights Watch said today while releasing a video on the issue. Four hundred children have died, according to official estimates, yet environmental cleanup efforts have not even begun in numerous affected villages.

Artisanal gold mines are found throughout Zamfara State in northwestern Nigeria, and high levels of lead in the earth and the use of rudimentary mining methods have resulted in an epidemic of lead poisoning among children, Human Rights Watch said. Research by Human Rights Watch in Zamfara in late 2011 found that children are exposed to this lead dust when they process ore in the mines, when their mine worker relatives return home covered with lead dust, and when the lead-filled ore is manually or mechanically crushed at home. Children can also be exposed to toxic lead in contaminated water and food. Healthcare workers in Zamfara State told Human Rights Watch that there have also been high rates of infertility and miscarriage among affected adults.


Politics, Religion, Media – an Unholy Trinity

You might enjoy reading this exclusive article in the Daily Beast about the head of the Washington Times and his roles as unofficial envoy to North Korea for former US President and war criminal at large, George W. Bush. I think it’s great when journalists research and publish this information. But I find myself asking constantly why no action ever ensues. It’s as though ‘publish and be damned’ turned into ‘print and be done’.


Behind The News: Yemen Times

Good, informative story from SourceFabric about the trials, tribulations and revival of Yemen Times, an essential and important source of news from this remarkable country, still dealing with the aftermath of former president’ Saleh’s barbaric regime.