August 14th, 2015
Weekly News Round Up (14/08/15) – Update on Flooding in Burma
Heavy monsoon rains since mid-July have caused some of the worst flooding seen in years across almost all of Burma. Last week HART received an urgent request for help from Dr Sasa, our partner in one of the worst-hit areas in eastern Burma, and launched an appeal to raise funds on his behalf. Dr Sasa and his team are supplying life-saving food, medicine and shelter to thousands of people. So far the appeal has raised over £2,000, enough to provide 200 rice bags, each of which will feed a family of four for a month.
You can read Dr Sasa’s appeal and donate here.
Below is a summary of the situation, collated from official figures as of 13th August.
- The official death toll stands at 103, but is expected to continue to rise.
- Over 1 million people have been critically affected.
- Over 1.2 million acres of rice fields have ben flooded, and nearly 700,000 acres of farmland entirely destroyed.
- A cumulative total of 240,000 households have been displaced.
- The UN has pledged $9 million in aid, and the European Commission has promised €1 million, but aid agencies estimate that at least $47 million is needed. This is on top of the $190 million that aid agencies say was already required to address humanitarian needs in Burma.
- Authorities in Chin State have warned that they may need to move the whole of the state capital, Hahka City, as 5 of the 6 city wards remain too vulnerable to landslides following the flooding. At least 4,000 people have been evacuated from the city.
- The Burmese Government response has been positively contrasted with its response to Cyclone Nargis, when it refused international offers of help. However, there has also been criticism of the Government by civil society groups who say that the response was slower than it should have been and that it discriminated against ethnic groups, who received either less aid than other groups or no aid at all.
News From HART
- Research and Campaigns Intern Olivia Rosenström has written a blog on “Restoring the Concept of Equal Value of Human Life”, highlighting the tireless commitment, dedication and hard work of our partner Vardan at the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre in Nagorno-Karabakh. Read Olivia’s blog here.
Burma (other news)
- The UN Human Rights Council special envoy to Burma, Yanghee Lee, says that her visit to the country, meant to assess the human rights situation, was beset with problems as she was barred from meeting Rohingya Muslims. She has said that her mandate was unable to be fulfilled.
- Talks that, it had been hoped, were to result in a nationwide ceasefire have ended in stalemate as Government and ethnic groups’ negotiators were unable to agree on the inclusion of some ethnic armed groups.
- A case against two police officers involved in brutally breaking up the Letpadan student protests in March this year has been rejected by a Burmese court. A lawyer for the students who brought the case said that they were planning to appeal.
- Civilian doctors have opposed the transferral of Army doctors into the national Ministry of Health, fearing that it may entail a militarisation of health services in the country.
- Burmese civil society organisations have accused the Government of once again blocking aid to Kachin State, where existing shortages of food and medicine due to fighting between ethnic rebels and Government troops have been made worse by the flooding.
- The Government has for the first time accepted a case of human trafficking in Rakhine State, having maintained for years that no such crime existed in the region. The Rohingya Muslim minority who live in Rakhine State have been particularly vulnerable to trafficking.
- The Speaker of the Burmese Parliament, U Shwe Mann, a powerful figure in the governing USDP party, has been ousted from his post in a move that many fear is a sign of heavy-handed military involvement. Shwe Mann is hoping to win the presidential election later this year, but apparently became embroiled in a power struggle with the current president, Thein Sein.
- On Tuesday, 11th August, a bomb explosion in Sabon Gari Town, located in Borno state (which has been hit the worst by the Boko Haram insurgency), left at least 50 people dead. The attack happened on a crowded market around lunchtime. According to reports, it was followed by an earlier attack in the same area two days before the bombing, which saw four people killed and five abducted.
- In last week’s News Round Up, Nigeria and its neighbours questioned the faith and whereabouts of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. This Wednesday, BBC reported that Shekau has been replaced by Mahamat Daoud (a man that did not, until now, appear on the security radar). This information comes from Idriss Deby, President of Chad. The replacement of Abubakar Shekau comes of little surprise, as he was not visible in the last two propaganda videos released by Boko Haram, and rumours spread about his death. He was last seen in March, when Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. President Deby furthermore said that Boko Haram’s new leader is open for peace talks with the Nigerian government. Deby stated that “For my part, I would advise not to negotiate with a terrorist”.
- Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the new secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, told BBC on Wednesday that the Christian leadership in northern Nigeria, an area devastated after years of Boko Haram insurgency, is failing to engage in dialogue with the Muslim community in the region, and hence “undermines efforts to combat the threat of Boko Haram”. According to the Archbishop, “more Muslims have been killed than Christians in the north-east of Nigeria”, and he is calling Christian leaders to “listen to the Muslim leadership, because the leadership is not in support of Boko Haram”.
- On Friday, 14th August, UNOCHA confirmed the lifting of an imposed aid blockage into rebel areas in Upper Nile state. The South Sudanese army imposed the blockage in late June, which included shipping traffic on the Nile River into Upper Nile as well as restrictions on air movement into Upper Nile’s capital Malakal. Because of the blockage, life-saving relief support by humanitarian agencies was severely limited, hitting an area that is “already on the brink of famine”. UNOCHA stated on Friday that the agency has taken up the delivery of food, medicines, fuel and water treatment chemicals, which is long overdue after weeks of ‘minimal supplies’.
- A split in the SPLM-in opposition has renewed fears that the IGAD deadline for a ceasefire agreement on the 17th of August will not be met. Peter Gatdet, a former rebel commander, has stated that any deal struck between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar will be rejected by a number of rebel generals, and any transitional government formed will not be recognised. Negotiations were further strained when president Kiir failed to arrive in Addis Ababa yesterday for the continued face-to-face talks with his former deputy Machar.
- Meanwhile, South Sudanese minister Martin Elias Lomoro claims bias on part of mediators from the East African Regional Bloc (IGAD). Lomoro demands the change of location of the upcoming peace talks from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Rwanda, Tanzania or South Africa.
- The UN Protection of Civilian (PoC) site in Malakal is struggling to cope with a surge of new arrivals of displaced either by recent fighting or due to the onset of the rainy season. According to the International Organisation on Migration (IOM), nearly 11,000 people have arrived at the camp since the 1st August, further diminishing the already poor conditions and creating a chaotic situation both in and outside the camp.
- On the 8th of August, South Sudanese soldiers seized supplies from a market in Western Equatoria and opened fire on the civilians present.
- Action Against Hunger has published a report revealing that the number of severely malnourished children under the age of five is increasing drastically in South Sudan.
- The Sudan Armed Forces claim to have recaptured a strategically important area in Blue Nile state. According to a Sudanese military official, the Taroda area, facing the Ingessana Hills, “constitutes an important economic and intelligence centre”.
- Recent tribal clashes in South Darfur have left 7 people dead and 13 injured, according to eyewitness testimonies. This includes the shooting dead of a 14-year-old boy whilst out herding, in violence that was sparked by cattle theft, and blamed on the local authorities’ failure to protect civilians and deter and arrest perpetrators.
- According to a humanitarian bulletin published by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), nutrition levels in Sudan are once again critically low. 2 million children under 5 are suffering from chronic malnutrition. A million of those are suffering from acute malnutrition, half a million of whom are at severe risk of starvation. Due to conflict in Darfur and the Two Areas, over 3 million people are currently displaced inside Sudan, with government forces continuing to attack aid and civilian targets in Blue Nile and the Nuba mountains, and severely restricting humanitarian access. This week, increasing tension in the community east of Roseires was reported as thousands people have been forcibly displaces from Bau, Blue Nile state.
- Sudan’s National Dialogue conference has been scheduled to the 10th of October and will be chaired by President Omar Al Bashir. Opposition parties still refuse to attend.
- To end this week’s news on Sudan on a positive note, take a look at UNDP’s We Are All Sudan, a short video clip that captures the beauty and dignity of people surrounded by conflict and violence.
- This week, Human Rights Watch honoured Nicholas Opiyo, one of Uganda’s leading human rights lawyers and furthermore the founder of Chapter Four Uganda (an organisation dedicated to the protection of civil liberties and the promotion of human rights for all), “for his unfaltering dedication to upholding the human rights of all Ugandans, by challenging discriminatory laws and speaking out for universal human rights principles”. Opiyo comes from Northern Uganda and experienced first hand the violence and destitution of the Lord’s Resistance Army. His sister was abducted but managed to escape years later. His tireless fight against corruption, torture and restriction on freedom of expression led him to establish Chapter Four Uganda, which has been heavily involved in opposing the government’s proposed NGO Bill (the bill has sparked a global outcry and heavy criticism from international and national NGOs for silencing civil society organisations). Congratulations, Nicholas Opiyo!
- Read HART’s blog post on Uganda’s NGO Bill here.
< All News