Wednesday November 21, 2018

Africa Aid Officials Concerned as U.S. government proposes severe cuts in Foreign Aid

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Acutely malnourished child is treated at the Banadir Hospital after her mother fled the drought in southern Somalia and traveled by car to the capital Mogadishu, March 11, 2017. VOA
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US, As the U.S. government proposes severe cuts in foreign aid, Africa and its neighbors are experiencing a massive hunger crisis, with 20 million people facing possible starvation in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen.

Aid officials say the proposed cuts would have a deep and disastrous impact in those countries and others. The United States is the largest single donor to the United Nations’ World Food Program, contributing just over $2 billion last year.

In dire times like these, says WFP East Africa spokeswoman Challiss McDonough, the aid agency needs more help than ever.

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Famine has been declared in parts of South Sudan, and in one remote village of 20,000 people, McDonough says, WFP’s meager food drops — consisting of a bit of sorghum, a handful of split peas and a few spoonfuls of vegetable oil — serve as a lifeline.

Women sit in line on the ground waiting to receive food distributed by the World Food Program (WFP) in Padeah, South Sudan, March 1, 2017. VOA

“Without those airdrops, if we weren’t able to keep those planes flying and to keep the food moving, to keep the helicopters flying, then people would literally have nothing,” she told VOA from Nairobi, Kenya. “The only thing that is standing between them and catastrophe is the food assistance that we can bring to them.”

That word — catastrophe — has come up often in global reactions to the proposed U.S. budget, which seeks a nearly 30 percent reduction in international programs, like the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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In a statement, the president and CEO of aid agency Save the Children, Carolyn Miles, said, “These cuts will be catastrophic for millions of families in developing countries,” adding that U.S. aid has had a massive global impact in the last two decades, reducing childhood deaths by more than 50 percent.

Ben Parker, a London-based editor and analyst with IRIN, a news agency specializing in humanitarian issues, says the international aid community is readying itself for a “shock” over the loss of aid.

“It’s going to hurt,” he said, “and it’s going to have consequences we’re not even sure about at this point when you look at the scale of the cuts, potentially, particularly to the U.N., which the administration has a particular lack of appetite for.” (VOA)

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Rohingya Shot in Rakhine Camp By Myanmar Police Raises United Nation’s Concern

A special U.N. fact-finding mission said the military acted "with genocidal intent" against the Rohingyas.

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Rohingya refugee children shout slogans during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

Reports of shootings, allegedly by Myanmar police, at a camp for Rohingya refugees in Rakhine state have sparked concern by United Nations officials.

Knut Ostby, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, tweeted that he is “deeply concerned about the reports of shooting in Ah Nauk Ye camp in central #Rakhine, #Myanmar which holds IDPs who fled violence in 2012. I call for calm, non-violence and restraint. ”

The Reuters news agency quotes eyewitnesses as saying Myanmar police shot and injured four Rohingyas Sunday, while detaining two men accused of smuggling people out of a camp for displaced people in western Rakhine state.

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A new toilet recently installed in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. VOA

The report said about 20 police descended on Ah Nauk Ye camp, 15 kilometers east of the state’s capital Sittwe, and apprehended the two men who were accused of owning the “rickety vessel,” used in an attempt to smuggle 160 people, including 25 children, out of the camp. The watercraft was stopped south of Yangoon.

An eyewitness told Reuters that when the police came into the camp “people from the camp went out to look and police shot at people.”

The police, however, told the news agency that Rohingyas surrounded them with swords and threw stones at them. “I heard that Bengali from the camp tried to grab the arrested people back from the police and police had to fire warning shots,” police inspector Than Htay from a nearby police station, said.

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Workers build a Rohingya repatriation center in Gunndum near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. VOA

People from Myanmar call the Rohingya Muslims “Bengali,” implying they are from Bangladesh and not from Myanmar.

None of the first Rohingya Muslims on a list to return to Myanmar showed up at their departure points in Bangladesh Thursday, the first day they were scheduled to be sent back under a repatriation agreement between the two nations.

About 150 Rohingya refugees were slated to be transported from the crowded camps in Cox’s Bazar back to northern Rakhine state, the region where they and more than 700,000 others escaped in August 2017 from a scorched earth campaign by Myanmar’s military in response to a series of attacks committed by Rohingya militants. Some of the refugees on the list are believed to have gone into hiding to avoid being sent back.

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A Rohingya refugee woman draws water from a hand pump at a temporary shelter in New Delhi, India.

Meanwhile, about 1,000 angry Rohingyas, including children, demonstrated against the repatriation effort at one of the camps.

Bangladesh Refugee Commissioner Abul Kalam told reporters that the refugees cannot be forced to return to Myanmar under the terms of the agreement.

Human rights groups are calling on Myanmar and Bangladesh to end their plans to send Rohingya Muslims back to Rakhine State, where the United Nations says they are subject to extrajudicial killings and other atrocities carried out by Myanmar’s military.

Amnesty International called the organized return of the Rohingya a “reckless move, which puts lives at risk.”

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A deforested section of the Chakmakul camp for Rohingya refugees clings to a hillside in southern Bangladesh, Feb. 13, 2018. VOA

“These women, men and children would be sent back into the Myanmar military’s grasp with no protection guarantees, to live alongside those who torched their homes and whose bullets they fled,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty’s East and Southeast Asia director.

Also Read: Rohingya Muslims Remain Fearful Due to Forceful Repatriation

Bill Frelick, the refugee rights director for Human Rights Watch, said Dhaka “will be stunned to see how quickly international opinion turns against it if it starts sending unwilling Rohingya refugees back into harm’s way in Myanmar.”

A special U.N. fact-finding mission said the military acted “with genocidal intent” against the Rohingyas, citing numerous atrocities such as extrajudicial killings, gang rapes and the torching of entire villages. (VOA)