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Turkeys Syria offensive could spark another catastrophe, warn humanitarians

Airstrikes and a ground offensive by Turkey in northern Syria against Kurdish forces have left civil..

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Airstrikes and a ground offensive by Turkey in northern Syria against Kurdish forces have left civilians dead and forced tens of thousands to flee, UN agencies said on Friday, amid fears of another “humanitarian catastrophe” in the war-torn country.

Expressing concern about the military campaign launched on Wednesday, the UNs emergency relief chief Mark Lowcock noted that the Turkish Government had “assured me that they attach maximum importance to the protection of civilians and the avoidance of harm to them”.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, Jens Laerke from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that Thursday had seen “intense shelling all along the north-eastern Syrian border with Turkey, from Jarablus, to the west of the Euphrates, to the Iraqi border”.

Highlighting the potential for further suffering for Syrians caught up in more than eight years of war, Christian Cardon de Lichtbuer, from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that “we have there all the ingredients for unfortunately yet another humanitarian crisis in Syria”.

UN human rights office confirms eight civilian deaths

As of Thursday evening, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, reported that seven civilians, including two women and a boy, had been killed in the first two days of the Turkish operation.

A male civilian man was also reported killed in Jarablus on Wednesday, OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville said, adding that a woman and a boy were injured yesterday, during “counter-attacks and ground strikes” by Kurdish non-State armed groups.

In response to the mass displacement of people from the northern border area, mainly to Al-Hasakeh district, the World Food Programme (WFP) has provided ready-to-eat meals to around 11,000 people there, with the help of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC).

WFP supports close to 650,000 people in north-eastern Syria via a field hub in Qamishli; around 580,000 are currently in areas under Kurdish control, it said in a statement.

“Mass population displacement has been reported since the escalation of violence”, said WFP spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel. “Over 70,000 people from Ras al-Ain and Tal Abiad have been displaced so far.”

UN food agency will cover needs of the displaced

Several thousand more have move to Raqqa governorate since the beginning of Operation Peace Spring by the Turkish military on Wednesday, Mr. Verhoosel added, while many other were on their way to shelters in Raqqa city, “where WFP will be covering their food needs”.

Although UN humanitarian staff remain in Qamishli, “their ability to operate and provide relief is severely restricted” by the hostilities, OCHAs Mr. Laerke explained, adding that local authorities were also reportedly “imposing some quite strict security measures at checkpoints”.

Linked to the military campaign, Marixie Mercado from the UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF) said that the Alouk water pumping station reportedly came under attack early on Thursday.

“This is a station that provides safe water to at least 400,000 people in Hassakeh governorate, including displacement camps,” she said

In Tal Abiad, two schools have been reportedly taken over for military use, Ms. Mercado added, while child protection programmes have been suspended in Ras al-Ain, Mabrouka camp, Tal Halaf, Sulok and Tal Abiad.

Health and Nutrition response in Ras al-Ain and Mabourka camp had also been put on hold, while schools in these areas have closed and the water supply has been affected.

Asked whether any Syrian refugees had been seen returning to a so-called safe zone either side of the Turkey-Syria border, Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), said that he had “no information” of any Syrian refugees doing so.

Any such buffer zone would have to set up “with full international humanitarian law safeguards in place, including the consent of the Government and warring parties and the zone being of civilian character, the safety of civilians would be hard to guarantee”, the UNHCR spokesperson added.

So-called safe zone is not managed by UN

Echoing those comments, OCHA highlighted the vulnerability of those displaced by the conflict and the uncertainty surrounding a so-called buffer zone cleared of Kurdish fighters on the border, reportedly proposed by Turkey.

“Its not something thats been set up by humanitarians, it is a zone that has been set up by military planners in Turkey,” said Mr. Laerke. “We do not control it and we have not been involved in the planning of it.”

After more than eight years of war in Syria, needs are “significant and widespread”, Najat Rochdi, Senior Humanitarian Adviser to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, reiterated in Geneva on Thursday.

Over 11 million people require some form of humanitarian assistance, she said, including 4.7 million living in areas of high severity of need.

Amid uncertainty about how the military campaign will develop, the ICRC reiterated concern about the lack of basic services available to those displaced in the coming days and weeks, in towns and cities levelled by bombardment and shelling in a bid to drive out ISIL forces.

“People are moving inside Syria, so we can assume, yes, they will go towards (the) south,” said the international Red Cross committees Mr. de Lichtbuer. “With the complexity and so areas like Deir-Ez-Zor, and Raqqa, which are not necessarily places that can welcome thousands of people, we will see how it evolves in the coming hours, because it is moving very fast.”

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Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša congratulates Donald Trump despite no election result

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša has handed Donald Trump victory in the 2020 United States Presi..

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Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša has handed Donald Trump victory in the 2020 United States Presidential election, despite no official result being declared.

“Its pretty clear that American people have elected ⁦Donald Trump and Mike Pence for four more years,” Janša tweeted on Wednesday.

Donald Trump declared a premature victory at the White House and described the election process as a “major fraud on our nation”.

The campaign for Democrat candidate Joe Biden has described the bid to stop vote counting as “outrageous, unprecedented and incorrect”, and say they are “ready to deploy” legal teams.

The Slovenian Prime Minister’s tweet generated an immediate response from several MEPs, including German Nicola Beer from Renew Europe Group.

“Donald Trump has his deeply undemocratic, unjustified playbook on elections EU Member States should not play along,” tweeted Beer.

“The European Union, with all Member States, has a duty to show respect for every single vote. Period.”

No other EU leader has issued congratulations or themselves announced a result in the US election.

“While we wait for the election result, the EU remains ready to continue building a strong transatlantic partnership, based on our shared values and history,” said EU Vice-President Josep Borrell.

The electoral college votes have not all been counted at time of writing.

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“More delays and facts denying … [the] bigger the final triumph for the President. Congratulations ⁦to the Republican Party for strong results across the US”.

The US election is currently locked in a stalemate, with hundreds of thousands of votes still to be counted, and the outcome still unclear in key states.

The post Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša congratulates Donald Trump despite no election result first appeared on NewswireNow – A Press Release Publishing Service.

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Lessons for Africa from devastating Mauritius oil spill

The shipwreck of the MV Wakashio has caused one of Mauritiuss worst environmental catastrophes and i..

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The shipwreck of the MV Wakashio has caused one of Mauritiuss worst environmental catastrophes and its devastating impact is expected to last for decades. Over 1 000 tonnes of fuel oil leaked into pristine Mauritian waters, covering the nearby shore in toxic sludge and immersing the ecosystem in a desperate struggle for survival.

This environmental crisis couldnt have occurred at a worse time for Mauritius. The spill will seriously impede the recovery of a Mauritian economy highly dependent on coastal tourism and already battered by COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Mauritius and other African states need to promptly review their contingency strategies and response capacities so we can start positing immediate lessons to be learnt.

The national and international response to the MV Wakashio crisis was commendable. France, India, Japan and the International Maritime Organization cooperated to support local Mauritian efforts in a race against time to pump out the fuel from the vessel, which eventually broke apart on 15 August. Meanwhile local volunteers flocked to the shore with improvised booms and barriers.

Mauritius and other African states need to urgently review their contingency strategies

While a full investigation and report is urgently required, it is possible to start piecing together a narrative of what has occurred and how it turned so bad so quickly.

The MV Wakashio left China on 14 July heading for Brazil. On 25 July it ran aground on the reefs located roughly a mile off Pointe dEsny and the Blue Bay Marine Park along the south-eastern shore of Mauritius. No oil leakage was reported at the time, and the Mauritius coast guard swiftly deployed booms and took other preventive actions. The government activated its National Oil Spill Contingency Plan the following day.

By 5 August a minor oil slick was observed surrounding the vessel. It was still assumed that the countrys contingency plan was sufficient and that the risk of oil spill was still low. But then the MV Wakashio flooded and began sinking. Oil started to spill into the sea.

On 7 August Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a national environment emergency. Fisheries Minister Sudheer Maudhoo suggested that this is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem. Mauritius called for international help once the scale of the emergency became apparent and quickly overwhelmed the resources and capacity of the countrys national contingency plan.

The disaster demonstrates how even seemingly small oil leaks and spills can be devastating

Some of these resources were acquired as part of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Highway Development and Coastal and Marine Contamination Prevention project from 2007-2012. The project also called for the establishment of the Regional Marine Pollution Co-ordination Centre (RCC) for Marine Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Western Indian Ocean.

South Africa will host the RCC, and its establishment must now be expedited. The disaster demonstrates how even seemingly small oil leaks and spills can be devastating, especially when they occur in sensitive and critically important environmental areas.

Will other African countries and regional organisations develop sufficient capacity to respond to crises on the scale of the MV Wakashio without depending on international assistance? There is a great risk of oil spills and leaks occurring elsewhere in the African maritime domain in the future, especially spills that occur during bunkering.

The Cape of Good Hope route is a maritime super highway. Some countries, like South Africa, are able to swiftly respond on their own, as demonstrated in May when the potential wreck of the Yuan Hua Hu, also carrying 4 000 tonnes of fuel oil, was narrowly averted.

Theres a great risk of oil spills occurring elsewhere in Africa, especially during bunkering

Many countries such as Mauritius lack at least some of the resources or capacities needed to deal with such a disaster. Governments require up-to-date assessments to plan future responses. Better and more collective resources and skills at a regional or continental level are required.

Improved accountability mechanisms are also important. The Japanese owners of the MV Wakashio have offered, under international obligations, to pay compensation for applicable damages caused by the oil spill. Yet in other cases it might not be as easy to track the owners and determine liability (as can be seen in the investigation into the tragic Beirut port explosion of 4 August).

It is time for African maritime institutions to review their approaches and develop appropriate expertise and response mechanisms. This should ensure fast and effective regional or continental action when the inevitable oil leaks arise.

The results should be reported to key multilateral organisations – ideally to the African Union (AU) – as part of the implementation of 2050 Africas Integrated Maritime Strategy. The AU could, for instance, convene a consultative forum for experience and skills sharing with inputs from all the regional economic communities such as that hosted by the Southern African Development Community in 2018.

Disaster relief is expensive, but is nowhere near as controversial as other maritime issues such as creating security frameworks and determining boundaries. It can also foster collaboration anchored in regional AU institutions that draw on indigenous expertise and capacities.

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More than 100 children killed and injured as violence intensifies in Ituri, DRC – Save the Children

Kinshasa, August 13 – At least 83 children have been killed in the northern province of Ituri in the..

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Kinshasa, August 13 – At least 83 children have been killed in the northern province of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo between April and July. Save the Children is horrified by the recent escalation of extreme violence, in which also at least 17 children were injured and 12 were sexually abused.

In the same period, around sixty schools were attacked, and 17 health facilities – two of which were supported but the charity.

“The situation for children is getting worse by the day, in a conflict they should not have a part in. We need to ensure children can return to school, that they and their families can go to health facilities if they need to, and that they are protected”, said Malik Allaouna, Save the Children country director in DRC.

“We need more resources, and call upon the international community and the Government of DRC to help alleviate the suffering of these children. We are asking all involved parties to grant unhindered access to humanitarian workers, so they can support those who are most in need.”

Since January 2020, the situation in Ituri has deteriorated significantly in the Djugu, Irumu and Mahagi territories. At least 1,315 people were killed, including 165 children. An estimated 300,000 people have been displaced since January, adding pressure to the situation in Ituri, which already hosted over 1.2 million Internal displaced people in 2019.

“Children who had to flee from the violence told us they had to leave everything behind because militias came into the area of Djugu. Suddenly, they found themselves homeless and without any food, having to sleep in schools”, said Dr Macky Manseka, Humanitarian Health and Nutrition Programme Manager at Save the Children.

Save the Children, which has been responding to this crisis for over a year, warns that displaced populations do not have access to enough food. Communities are also lacking health and nutrition services, clean and safe water and hygiene materials, as areas become increasingly cut off by violence and resources are in low supply.

“For example, there were more than 235 new cases of severe acute malnutrition in July 2020”, Dr. Manseka continued. “But because of the violence, we cant follow-up properly on sick or malnourished children. As a consequence, their treatment is disrupted, which might lead to relapses or even deaths.”

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Note to editors:

Save the Children supports 17 health facilities, and runs programmes in support of survivors of sexual and gender based violence. It has a strong presence in the field of nutrition, and water, hygiene and sanitation. The organisation is also running education programmes in Ituri, and working to improve access to education for girls.

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