Calling for immediate humanitarian action amid rising malnutrition, thirst and disease, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned today that millions of lives are at risk in four countries stretching from Africa to the Middle East.
The welcome announcement of an end to famine conditions in South Sudan earlier this week should not distract from the severe food insecurity that continues to put the lives of millions of children at risk in north-east Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, said UNICEF.
“The crisis is far from over and we must continue to scale up our response and insist on unconditional humanitarian access, otherwise the progress made could be rapidly undone,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director for Emergency Programmes, in a press statement.
“There is no room for complacency,” he continued. “While famine has been reversed in South Sudan, the lives of millions of children are still hanging by a thread.”
In north-east Nigeria, Boko Haram violence continues to contribute to large-scale population displacement, limit market activity and restrict normal livelihoods. Around 5.2 million people remain severely food insecure, with 450,000 children expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year. With deteriorating road conditions and flooding making populations harder to reach, the rainy season will further complicate the humanitarian response and raise the risk of water-borne diseases.
The fragile Somali population, battered by conflict, is facing further exposure to prolonged drought. An estimated 275,000 children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition in 2017, making them nine times more likely to die of diseases such as cholera, acute watery diarrhoea and measles, which are spreading through the country.
After a scaled-up humanitarian response, famine in South Sudan has eased, according to new analysis released this week. However, the situation remains dire across a country where some six million people struggle to find enough food each day – the highest level of food insecurity ever experienced there. This year, an estimated 276,000 South Sudanese children will be severely malnourished.
In Yemen, an estimated 400,000 children are severely malnourished as an unprecedented cholera outbreak – with over 175,000 suspected cases and more than 1,000 deaths to date –has complicated the ongoing humanitarian response. Some of the children who have become ill or died from cholera were already suffering from malnutrition, which had weakened their immune systems.
Moreover, Yemen’s healthcare system is on the brink of collapse, with hospitals and treatment centres struggling to cope amid dwindling medicines and medical supplies. As the conflict continues, famine is a possible worst-case scenario.
Beyond these four countries, food, water and health crises are endangering hundreds of thousands of children across the Greater Horn of Africa, the Lake Chad Basin and the Sahel.
This year, UNICEF is working with partners to provide therapeutic and life-saving food treatment to severely malnourished children in Nigeria (314,000), South Sudan (200,000), Somalia (200,000) and Yemen (320,000).
UNICEF is also restoring and equipping health facilities, developing medical and nutritional supply pipelines and providing clean and safe water to vulnerable children and families.
Diplomatic leaks: UAE dissatisfied with Saudi policies
AL JAZEERA — Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) is working on breaking up Saudi Arabia, leaked documents obtained by Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar revealed.
Al Akhbar said that the leaked documents contained secret diplomatic briefings sent by UAE and Jordanian ambassadors in Beirut to their respective governments.
One of the documents, issued on September 20, 2017, disclosed the outcome of a meeting between Jordan’s ambassador to Lebanon Nabil Masarwa and his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdel-Al al-Qenaie.
“The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is working on breaking up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Jordanian envoy quoted the Kuwait ambassador as saying.
A second document, issued on September 28, 2017, reveals meeting minutes between the Jordanian ambassador and his UAE counterpart Hamad bin Saeed al-Shamsi.
The document said the Jordanian ambassador informed his government that UAE believes that “Saudi policies are failing both domestically and abroad, especially in Lebanon”.
“The UAE is dissatisfied with Saudi policies,” the Jordanian envoy said.
The Qatar vote
According to the leaks, UAE ambassador claims that Lebanon voted for Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari in his bid to become head of UNESCO in October 2017.
“[Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri knew Lebanon was voting for Qatar,” the UAE ambassador said in a cable sent to his government on October 18, 2017.
In November last year, Hariri announced his shock resignation from the Saudi capital Riyadh.
He later deferred his decision, blaming Iran and its Lebanese ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, for his initial resignation. He also said he feared an assassination attempt.
Officials in Lebanon alleged that Hariri was held hostage by Saudi authorities, an allegation Hariri denied in his first public statement following his resignation speech.
Somalia’s Puntland region asks UAE to stay as Gulf split deepens
BOSASO, Somalia (Reuters) – Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region urged the United Arab Emirates not to close its security operations in the country after a dispute with the central government, saying the Gulf power was a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants.
The dispute goes to the heart of an increasingly troubled relationship between Gulf states – divided by their own disputes – and fractured Somalia, whose coastline sits close to key shipping routes and across the water from Yemen.
Analysts have said the complex standoff risks exacerbating an already explosive security situation on both sides of the Gulf of Aden, where militant groups launch regular attacks.
The central Somali government said on Wednesday it was taking over a military training program run by the UAE.
Days later the UAE announced it was pulling out, accusing Mogadishu of seizing millions of dollars from a plane, money it said was meant to pay soldiers.
“We ask our UAE friends, not only to stay, but to redouble their efforts in helping Somalia stand on its feet,” said the office of the president of Puntland, a territory that sits on the tip of the Horn of Africa looking out over the Gulf of Aden.
Ending UAE support, “will only help our enemy, particularly Al Shabaab and ISIS (Islamic State),” it added late on Monday.
Watch this presser. pic.twitter.com/wEH19WsG7t
— Abdisalam Aato (@AbdisalamAato) April 16, 2018
The UAE is one of a number of Gulf powers that have opened bases along the coast of the Horn of Africa and promised investment and donations as they compete for influence in the insecure but strategically important region.
That competition has been exacerbated by a diplomatic rift between Qatar and a bloc including the UAE. In turn, those splits have worsened divisions in Somalia.
Puntland, which has said it wants independence, has sought to woo the UAE which runs an anti-piracy training center there and is developing the main port. The central government in Mogadishu last year criticized Puntland for taking sides in the Gulf dispute. Qatar’s ally Turkey is one of Somalia’s biggest investors.
One Somali government official said last week Mogadishu had decided to take over the UAE operation because the Gulf state’s contract to run it had expired. Another official said the government was investigating the money taken from the plane.
The competition among Gulf states in Somalia has fueled accusations of foreign interference and resentment in many corners of Somali society.
The loss of the UAE program could have a destabilizing effect, said one security analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The value of the UAE trained forces was two-fold – they were relatively well trained but, most importantly, they were paid on time,” unlike other parts of the security forces, the analyst told Reuters.
Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991.