Russia extends ‘humanitarian pause’ in Aleppo attack


Russia announced it will broadcast live images of the evacuation of civilians and wounded people from besieged eastern Aleppo during a “humanitarian pause” it has scheduled for Thursday.

The planned pause would also be extended for an additional three hours to run from 0500 to 1600 GMT, General Sergey Rudskoi of the Russian General Staff said in a statement carried by the official Itar-Tass news agency on Wednesday.

The extension is intended to give UN and Red Crescent representatives enough time to evacuate sick and wounded people and civilians from the rebel-held enclave, Rudskoi said.

Activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, have said few civilians made use of humanitarian corridors from eastern Aleppo previously announced by Russia.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said troops had pulled back from two designated humanitarian corridors to facilitate the transport of rebel fighters from eastern Aleppo to areas of their choice, Syrian state news agency SANA reported.

Rebels have said they will not leave eastern Aleppo, the last remaining major urban centre controlled by opposition forces.

The UN has said security fears, the fear of arrest, and the presence of Syrian troops at the corridors designated by Russia have prevented civilians from using them to leave the enclave.

Some 275,000 people are thought to be trapped in eastern Aleppo, with minimal access to food and medical care after hospitals have been repeatedly hit in air strikes, apparently by Russian or Syrian forces.

Youssef al-Youssef, of the rebel group Noureddine al-Zinki described the new Russian announcement as “mere propaganda”.

“This is not a truce. Eight hours to evacuate Aleppo is a request for surrender. This is totally rejected,” said Zakaria Malhafji, a spokesman for the rebel group Fistaqim.

“We will not leave the city. We want a total truce and the entry of aid,” he told dpa news agency.

The Syrian regime and its Russian allies on Wednesday suspended air strikes on rebel areas in the divided city of Aleppo for the second successive day ahead of Thursday’s planned humanitarian pause.

Aleppo has been the target of an intense campaign by the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia since a US-Russian brokered ceasefire in the country fell apart on September 19.

Activists inside eastern Aleppo said government planes had dropped leaflets calling on fighters to leave “because they have no other choice”.

Meanwhile, an unnamed diplomatic source told Reuters news agency that Russian warships were headed to Syria in the largest military deployment since the end of the Cold War.

The fleet passed the Norwegian city of Bergen on Wednesday, the diplomat said, while Russian media has said it will move through the English Channel, past Gibraltar, and into the Mediterranean Sea to the Syrian coast.

“They are deploying all of the northern fleet and much of the Baltic fleet in the largest surface deployment since the end of the Cold War,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

“This is not a friendly port call. In two weeks, we will see a crescendo of air attacks on Aleppo as part of Russia’s strategy to declare victory there,” the diplomat said.

Russia has said the deployment will target Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters in Syria.

But the NATO diplomat said the additional military firepower was designed to drive out or destroy the 8,000 rebels in Aleppo, the only large city still in opposition hands, and allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to start a withdrawal.

“With this assault, it should be enough to allow a Russian exit strategy if Moscow believes Assad is now stable enough to survive,” the diplomat said.

The fleet off Norway includes Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, which is carrying jet fighters, and the Soviet-era nuclear-powered battle cruiser Pyotr Velikiy, or Peter the Great.

Aljazeera

Posted 6 months ago by NDRF sourced from Aljazeera

Iraq: Growing concerns for the people of Mosul


Since February 2016, humanitarian partners have been planning for the potential impact of military operations in Mosul. An estimated 1.2 million to 1.5 million people could be affected. Civilians in Mosul could face multiple threats from cross-fire, sniper attacks, booby traps and explosive remnants of war. Responders fear that tens of thousands of Iraqi girls, boys, women and men may be forcibly expelled, trapped between conflict lines, held under siege or used as human shields.

Yesterday, UN Humanitarian Chief Stephen O’Brien called on all parties to the conflict “to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and ensure they have access to the assistance they are entitled to and deserve.”

On 8 October, OCHA established a Humanitarian Operations Centre (HOC) in Erbil to convene cluster coordinators, civil-military coordinators and other key humanitarian actors to plan jointly for a cohesive response to anticipated displacement. Based on reports of a high state of readiness among forces along the front lines, the HOC has intensified preparations for the humanitarian consequences expected over the coming weeks.

As of 16 October, 27 camps and emergency sites have been confirmed and identified through the joint planning process to accommodate displaced people. A total of 10,014 plots are currently available for 60,084 people. A further 41,744 plots for 250,464 people are planned or under construction. Three camps to the south and south-west of Mosul have been identified as priority sites for the first waves of displacement. More plots are becoming available on a daily basis through coordination efforts, assessments, site visits and construction work. Clusters are working with partners to prepare the delivery of assistance and operate services at camps and emergency sites. The logistics cluster is mobilizing common storage for stocks.

Supplies of food, health items, medicines, shelter kits and WASH assistance are being moved into storage sites and distribution points. Assistance ready to distribute includes 59,800 tents; three-day ready-to-eat food rations for 220,000 families; 42,100 sets of emergency household items; 35,000 winterization kits; 240 tons of medicines; and 42,500 family-hygiene kits. Many more forms of assistance are ready to be dispatched and further stocks are in the pipeline.

The protection cluster has 66 mobile teams ready to provide assistance, including 28 for child protection, 26 for gender-based violence and 12 for general protection. In the first days of the response, the Iraq Displacement Tracking Matrix will provide key information on displacement patterns, and humanitarian partners are preparing to conduct rapid needs assessments at camps and emergency sites.

Key Facts:

Plans are being continuously revised and updated as new information on the parameters of the military operation becomes available.
Clusters have prepared pragmatic strategies and are procuring and pre-positioning supplies based on these.
As of 16 October, space is available to accommodate 60,000 displaced people in seven sites, including camps and emergency locations.
250,000 additional spaces are under construction or planned.
UN News Centre

Posted 6 months ago by NDRF sourced from UN News Centre

In post-Ebola Sierra Leone, more than half the population face food shortages – U.N.


As Sierra Leone recovers from the deadly effects of Ebola, more than half the population face food shortages, and many will not cope if further disasters such as drought or floods strike, U.N. food agencies said on Thursday.

Food shortages in most of the West African are caused by problems that predate the Ebola outbreak, the World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

Some 3.5 million people do not have enough safe and nutritious food to eat, the agencies said in a report published on Thursday.

Of that number, around 600,000 people face severe food shortages and are not prepared for sudden shocks such as food price increases, floods or droughts.

The report said the number of people “severely” affected by a lack of food has increased by 60 percent since 2010.

The Ebola outbreak – now officially over – worsened food shortages in some districts, notably Kailahun and Kenema, but in most of the country the problem is chronic, the report said.

“The results confirm that drivers of food insecurity are low agricultural productivity, poverty and a lack of resilience,” Nyabenyi Tipo, FAO representative in Sierra Leone, said in a statement.

Poor roads, the difficulties farmers face in reaching markets, gender inequality, and a lack of alternative means of generating an income, also play a part, Tipo added.

Most of the population relies on agriculture for their survival, the report said.

Rice production fell by 15 percent over the last five years, and only about four percent of farmers grow enough rice to meet their needs for the whole year, Tipo said.

On average, 99 percent of agricultural workers use manual tools and only ten percent have access to better seed varieties, the report said.

Ebola killed more than 11,300 people and infected some 28,600 as it swept through Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea from 2013 in the world’s worst outbreak of the disease.

During the epidemic, many farmers were unable to grow or sell their crops because of travel restrictions, border closures and quarantines, as well as fear of infection.

Food production in Sierra Leone’s bread basket and epicentre of the epidemic stalled, and weekly markets ceased trading because there was nothing to sell, according to the World Bank.

The World Health Organization declared Sierra Leone free of the deadly haemorrhagic fever on March 17, Guinea on June 1, and Liberia on June 9.

According to Thursday’s report, the Sierra Leonean districts of Kailahun, Kambia, Port Loko, Pujehun, and Tonkolili have the highest levels of food insecurity.

By identifying vulnerable regions, agencies hope to improve food production and people’s access to food, and help communities become more resilient to future crises, the WFP said.

Thomson Reuters Foundation

Posted 5 months ago by NDRF sourced from Thomson Reuters Foundation

Don’t count on technology to save you in a disaster – researchers


Newfound enthusiasm for the latest technologies, such as drones and smartphones, to improve the way aid is provided to people in disasters may be overblown, experts warned on Thursday.

The annual World Risk Report from the United Nations University (UNU) highlights the growing interest in new technologies to improve emergency response – from drones that can survey crisis-hit areas to social media networks that allow survivors to communicate with the wider world.

These can provide important information to the logisticians who organise aid delivery or health workers trying to track deadly diseases like Ebola in no-go areas, the report said.

But Matthias Garschagen, a risk management expert with the UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), said it could not substitute for the basic infrastructure some countries have lacked for decades.

“Too many people see technology as the main panacea for solving all the problems you have after disasters strike,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “A lot of development experts put too much emphasis on technology.”

In Africa, for example, there are just 65 kilometres (40 miles) of paved road per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 832 km in Europe or 552 km in the Americas.

In heavy rain, dirt roads soon become impassable, which hampers the delivery of aid, the report said.

“No smartphones in the world are going to significantly change this state of affairs,” Garschagen said in the report produced with the University of Stuttgart and Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft, an alliance of German aid agencies.

After the Nepal earthquakes last year, aid agencies used drones to find out the extent of damage, but their uncontrolled flying was a headache for the government, which introduced restrictions.

And in many cases, helicopters were not available to bring in aid to meet the needs identified by aerial surveillance.

Drones themselves cannot be expected to carry out aid deliveries any time soon, because they cannot carry big enough loads and their use is subject to so many rules, said Kathrin Mohr, who heads Deutsche Post DHL Group’s “GoHelp” team.

“Some suggest that drones could even carry medicine supplies to remote villages. I think this is complete nonsense,” she said in the report.

“Just realise what one of these drones can carry: Not more than one to three kilogrammes. This really is an extremely limited amount.”

Garschagen said sound infrastructure – from transport to telecoms and power networks – must be built with disaster risks in mind and properly maintained.

An early warning system, installed in Indonesia after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, malfunctioned in October 2010 when a 3-metre (10 ft) wave crashed into the remote Mentawai islands, taking residents by surprise and killing several hundred people.

“Too often we think infrastructure means building a nice road, a nice bridge or a tsunami early warning system,” Garschagen said.

“But we don’t pay sufficient attention to the humans and institutions that need to be trained, educated and built around the technology in order to maintain or run it properly.”

Planners and builders of infrastructure – whether companies, governments or development banks – should also consider the risks from climate change, such as worsening floods, he added.

That is particularly so in Southeast Asia and Africa, where much essential infrastructure is not yet in place, he said.

But pressure from investors in growing cities like Lagos or Ho Chi Minh City can make it difficult to think long term, raising the risk of buildings or transport being located in disaster-prone areas.

An index ranking the risk of disasters for 171 countries, contained in the report, shows the world’s hot-spots lie in the Pacific Ocean, Southeast Asia, Central America and Africa’s southern Sahel region.

Thomson Reuters Foundation

Posted 5 months ago by NDRF sourced from Thomson Reuters Foundation

Preparedness saves thousands of lives as Super Typhoon Haima sweeps across Northern Philippines

Preparedness saves thousands of lives as Super Typhoon Haima sweeps across Northern Philippines
One week after Typhoon Haima left a trail of destruction in Northern Philippines, details of the extensive damage to homes and livelihoods are starting to emerge from provinces that were previously inaccessible due to obstructed roads and flooding.

Assessments conducted by Philippine Red Cross volunteers and staff indicate that shelter and livelihoods recovery remain the most immediate needs for communities in Northern Luzon.

“During the day, all you’ll hear is the sound of chainsaws. In the evening, the sound of generators,” says Robert Guinaban, a 46-year-old Philippine Red Cross volunteer in the province of Kalinga.

While local markets in the city of Tuguegarao and the neighbouring provinces of Kalinga and Apayao have opened their marketplaces and trading centres once more, establishment owners can be seen lining up to buy gasoline-powered generators as transmission and power lines continue to be down.

One day after Super Typhoon Haima made landfall in Northern Philippines, Aileen Torres, the Philippine Red Cross Cagayan chapter administrator, found it difficult to sleep. She was worried about her family and her Red Cross colleagues. After the chapter’s experience with typhoon Megi in 2010, they didn’t want to take any chances.

“We simply couldn’t sleep,” Aileen recalls. “This chapter building is quite old, so I was quite worried it might not survive the ordeal. The winds roared so loud and you could almost feel the building shake.”

The wind and rain started picking up strength at 10:00pm, an hour before the typhoon made landfall over the province.

“I’m thankful because the chapter is sandwiched between taller buildings so the impact of the winds was not as destructive as we had thought it would be,” Aileen adds.

“But what I am most thankful for is that the number of casualties is minimal. I think what happened during Typhoon Haiyan was a big lesson for everyone.”

Earlier in the week, the Red Cross mobilized a humanitarian caravan loaded with emergency relief supplies and other equipment to the provinces of Isabela and Cagayan to aid affected families. To date, the Red Cross chapters in the typhoon-hit provinces have assisted around 8,800 people with various activities including search and rescue, hot meals, the distribution of relief items and psychosocial support.

The government pre-emptively evacuated more than 158,000 people before Haima struck the province, yet it is estimated that over 92,000 people remain in 640 evacuation centres.

In the municipality of Rizal, the main access to the town has been blocked off by a landslide that will take several days to clear. Pre-emptive evacuation the day before the typhoon hit has also saved many lives in the municipality.

“Our municipality has been affected by several typhoons in the past decade, so we knew what to expect,” says Rizal’s Vice-Mayor, Joel Ruma.

Haima is the third typhoon to hit Northern Philippines in just a span of three weeks after typhoon Meranti (Ferdie) and typhoon Sarika (Karen). While the full extent of the damage is still emerging, many residents are struggling to rebuild their lives and to repair their homes.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal for 3 million Swiss francs (3 million US dollars) to support the Philippine Red Cross in delivering assistance to 20,000 people affected by Typhoon Haima over a period of ten months.

ReliefWeb

Posted 5 months ago by NDRF sourced from ReliefWeb

Home

The Non Government Organisation (NGO) Disaster Relief Forum (NDRF) is an open forum for New Zealand-based NGOs that have an interest and involvement in humanitarian response and emergency management issues. Find out more.

Please remember that it is better to donate cash rather than send goods to disaster affected communities.Why? Find out more.

More information on current emergencies can be found here.

Rachel Smalley: Duff talking guff – Aleppo is our problem
You may have read Alan Duff’s column. He penned it for the New Zealand Herald.

He’s frustrated, it seems, with the way the mainstream media covers the Syrian crisis. Duff believes we’re being emotionally manipulated, particularly by television news, because we’re being shown images of dead or distressed children caught in the midst of the conflict.

In essence Duff says Aleppo is not our problem. Leave it to the Middle East to sort out, he says. It’s not our issue.

He points to that emotive image of the Syrian toddler whose body was found washed up on a beach last year and says the media was trying to pull at our heart strings by showing that image in Greece. Although it wasn’t in Greece. It was Turkey. But either or, I guess. It’s the other side of the world. Not our problem, as he says.

But Duff’s flippancy to the killing in Syria is not unusual. I’ve met quite a few Alan Duffs while reporting on the Syrian crisis.

Some attempt to find reasons or justifications not to help. It’s easier that way, isn’t it, then just saying no? It’s tidier. Emotionally tidier. It means our money stays in our pockets and we don’t open ourselves up emotionally to the suffering of others. God forbid. Move on, there’s nothing to see here.

I remember a Facebook comment posted last year on a story I’d written about a young Syrian mother. I’d met her on the Lebanese border and her situation was, well, wretched. She had a toddler and a newborn, and no money. It was winter and her tent was freezing. Her milk was drying up, and she was suffering complications from the birth. Possibly an infection. And she was in the darkest of places.

She’d lost everything in Damascus, her home, her income, her future, and she was trying to manage two children in winter in a tent, with severe post-natal depression. After I posted that story on Facebook, a New Zealand woman commented and she said “I would happily give money to this cause but 99.9% of it goes on salaries, and none of it reaches the refugees.”

I don’t know who she was, but I do remember her profile picture. She was competing in some equestrian competition somewhere, and riding a rather well-bred and expensive looking horse.

Yes, she was ignorant. But it’s more than that. She was also looking for a reason to disengage. She was looking for a reason not to care, just like Duff. It’s just that Duff says the media’s overplaying the situation, and pulling at people’s heart-strings. That’s his reasoning to look the other way. “Aleppo,” he says “is simply not our concern”.

But on that basis, then Rwanda was none of our business, either.

Nor was the Ethiopian famine in the 1980s.

Or the Holocaust.

Let’s overlook the killing of people because of their race or religion because it’s nothing to do with us. Let us enjoy Pure New Zealand and our geographical isolation and our geopolitical ignorance.

Well, I don’t want to live in Duff’s world where we shrug our shoulders at the destruction of a state and the killing of its people.

That’s not the New Zealand that I grew up in.

Aleppo, challenging as it may be, is our problem. It’s the world’s problem.