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    MUKALLA, The Emirates Red Crescent today delivered emergency humanitarian aid to the hundreds of underprivileged families in al-Riyan district in Yemen’s southern coastal province of Hadramaut, as part of efforts to improve the living conditions in the…

  • North Korea flare-up, Syria red line, and the pursuit of peace in South Sudan: The cheat sheet

    Every week, IRIN’s team of editors reveals what’s on our humanitarian radar and curates a selection of the best reports, opinion, and journalism you may have missed:

    Tensions rise fast on the Korean peninsula

    The administration of US President Donald Trump has been talking tough on North Korea almost from the day he took office. On Thursday, Trump told Reuters there is a possibility of major, major conflict. And it’s not just talk: The United States has been conducting military manoeuvres with North Korea’s arch-enemy and neighbour, South Korea, which included testing of new weapons. It has also sent a naval strike group led by an aircraft carrier to the Sea of Japan, and a submarine armed with cruise missiles to the South Korean city of Busan. The show of force is intended to convince North Korea to refrain from carrying out further nuclear tests, but Pyongyang has, so far, remained defiant. North Korea’s state news agency warned this week that US pressure is “a risky act little short of lighting the fuse of a total war”. Such hot rhetoric is unlikely to cool down any time soon. As IRIN reported recently, North Korea holds a series of nationalist holidays from April to September that are almost always accompanied by bellicose statements.

    South Sudan � not a good time to talk peace?

    The situation in South Sudan only gets grimmer. In the northwest, a government offensive has in the last few days displaced close to 25,000 people around the town of Kodok. The UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, is reporting that people are fleeing to Aburoc, where the total number in need could rise to 50,000. But aid organisations have been forced to suspend their work because of the fighting between the army and Agwelek Shilluk militia, allied to the opposition SPLA-IO. There are few safe options for the displaced. Many will have little alternative but to head to camps in Sudan. Those who decide to go face an arduous journey on foot, lasting many days with little food and water, warns MSF.

    Talks to end the violence seem a must, but the opposition is deeply fragmented. There are third, fourth and fifth groups that have little affinity for SPLA-IO, notes analyst Aly Verjee. The command structure of the SPLA may even have broken down, adding to the confusion. How can progress begin on a ceasefire when the conflict is now so local? President Salva Kiir (perhaps disingenuously) has called for talks. But the international community and regional government seem paralysed to help push the process along, says the International Crisis Group. Work needs to be done to create the conditions for local dialogue or Kiir’s offer will be a hollow one.

    Keep your eyes peeled for IRIN’s upcoming in-depth report on the devastating impact of the war in the Equatoria region.

    Adapting the UN for the networked age

    If the UN did not exist, we would need to invent it. But now we need to reinvent it. So writes Tom Fletcher, former British Ambassador to Lebanon and the author of a draft report that examines whether technology can save the UN from its slow slide into irrelevance and bring it into the 21st century. Fletcher is optimistic it can, but believes it will take a shift in culture and mindset as much as the adopting of new technologies and new ways of working. This 60-page report offers 20 recommendations to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres: from appointing a Deputy Secretary General for the Future, to creating a Geneva Convention for Cyber Security, to providing online access to UN spending figures. Fletcher aims to stimulate debate and generate more suggestions, the best of which will be compiled into a final report that will go to Guterres in September.

    EVENT: Anti-terror laws and aid delivery

    Humanitarian agencies have for years had to navigate strict anti-terrorism legislation when delivering aid in hot zones such as Somalia, Mali, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Gaza. As IRIN wrote back in 2011, such laws and regulations, predominantly those adopted in the US in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, tend to add to [agencies’] costs, slow down their transactions, and sow distrust between them and their local partners. The restrictions have, in particular, long affected Somalia, where much of the country, including some of the areas worst-hit by drought and severe food insecurity, are under the control of al-Shabab. Even now, as Somalia teeters on the brink of famine, US and UK laws are having a chilling effect on aid delivery, according to a recent report in the Guardian. One problem facing aid workers is the sheer complexity of the relevant legislation. Jessica Burniske and Naz Modirzadeh, both of the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict, will unpick the key issues on May 12 in an online presentation of their recent pilot study on the subject.

    OPENING: Migration Museum in London

    Immigration continues to dominate the political agenda in Britain. It was the subtext to last year’s EU referendum and is bound to be a talking point for politicians again in the run-up to the snap general election Prime Minister Theresa May has called for June. And yet, there’s widespread misunderstanding and misinformation about the levels of immigration to the UK and the role of migrants in British society, not just today but across the ages. A visit to the new Migration Museum, which opened in London this week, gives an insight into the degree to which migration has shaped the country. Exhibits like Call me by my name: stories from Calais and beyond are also an attempt to focus on individuals rather than the faceless hordes of migrants said to be massing in places like Libya and Calais. The museum provides a permanent venue for the Migration Museum Project, which has been staging exhibitions and educational workshops since 2013.

    Did you miss it?

    Syria: Return of the red line

    With much of the media focus suddenly on North Korea and the over-simplified and perhaps overblown scenario that Kim Jong-un and Trump are unpredictable actors locked in a dangerous game of nuclear brinksmanship, it would be easy to forget that the United States recently launched its first direct military strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a key Russian ally. After years of signalling he was ok with al-Assad remaining in power, the chemical weapons attack on Idlib seems to have prompted a Trump rethink. But has it actually changed US policy towards Syria, and if there is a new red line where exactly has it been drawn? Such vital questions underpin this sobering analysis by Syria specialist Aron Lund, who deftly sifts out the real change from the ramped-up rhetoric. When the bombast over North Korea finally dies down, it is in Syria that Trump’s mettle is most likely to be tested. He has already complained that being president is harder than his old life. It’s only going to get tougher from here.

    Source: IRIN


    ADEN, Yemen, Saudi backed Yemeni President, Abdu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, issued a number of decrees and fired a cabinet minister, along with the governor of the southern port city of Aden, creating anger among pro-secession southern politicians and support…

  • UN food agencies warn against ignoring famine alarm

    Rome – The leaders of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have called on the international community to urgently step up action to prevent further hunger deaths in four countries stalked by fam…

  • UN food agencies warn against ignoring famine alarm

    Rome – The leaders of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have called on the international community to urgently step up action to prevent further hunger deaths in four countries stalked by fam…


    RIYAHD, The Health Committee of the Kuwait Society for Relief has on Thursday dispatched 20 tons of medicine to the war-traumatized Yemeni people.In a press statement, the rotating president of the Yemeni-Kuwaiti Relief Agency Tawfiq Al-Baabai lauded t…

  • UN Food Agencies Warn Against Ignoring Famine Alarm

    ROME � The leaders of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have called on the international community to urgently step up action to prevent further hunger deaths in four countries stalked by famine: northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

    Many people have already died, FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said at a briefing on the sidelines of FAO’s Council – the executive arm of FAO’s governing body.

    Peace is of course the key to ending these crises. But even in times of conflict, there is much we can do to fight hunger and avoid famine I visited Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria and saw myself how powerful agricultural support can be in a humanitarian crisis, he said.

    A famine has been formally declared in parts of South Sudan, while northeastern Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen are on the brink of famine. Combined, 30 million people are grappling with finding enough food each day.

    We need to reach hungry people to prevent them from dying said WFP’s new Executive Director David Beasley. We have the strength, logistical capacity and technology to get the job done. What we need is access to the people who are on the brink of famine and resources, now not later. Without this support, we will have to make life-challenging decisions over who will receive food and who will not.

    The heads of FAO and WFP stressed that both agencies’ famine response operations are severely underfunded, and there must be an immediate and substantial increase in resources to save lives and livelihoods.

    Conflict is the common thread across the four affected countries. FAO and WFP are working quickly and closely in these emergency zones to prevent famine spreading further.

    For example, in South Sudan, FAO and WFP are part of the inter-agency rapid response that is bringing life-saving food, fishing and vegetable-growing kits and other emergency services to hard-to-reach communities gripped by famine.

    In northeastern Nigeria, the two agencies are collaborating to ensure people facing hunger receive both food assistance to meet their immediate needs and food production assistance to grow their own food. Vegetable-growing kits cost less than $90 but can provide enough food for a large family for six months.

    Rural areas are often the first and hardest hit by famine. Agriculture must be an integral part of the humanitarian response.

    Source: World Food Programme

  • Number of US Visas to Citizens of Trump Travel Ban Nations Drops

    WASHINGTON � The United States issued about 40 percent fewer temporary visas in March to citizens of seven countries covered by President Donald Trump’s temporary travel bans than it did in an average month last year, according to a Reuters analysis of preliminary government data released on Thursday.

    At the same time, the data showed that the total of U.S. non-immigrant visas issued to people from all countries was up by nearly 5 percent in March compared to the 2016 monthly average.

    Citizens of the seven Muslim-majority nations under the bans – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – received about 3,200 non-immigrant visas in March 2017, compared to about 5,700 on average per month during the 2016 fiscal year and more than 6,000 on average per month in 2015 and 2014.

    Trump’s travel bans were later blocked by the courts.

    The State Department released the data to comply with a directive from Trump asking it to publish monthly breakdowns of the number of visas issued around the world.

    The department did not release data on the total number of all types of visa applications, so it is unclear whether the lower number of temporary visas for citizens of the seven countries is because of a higher rate of rejections or other

    factors, such as fewer applicants or slower processing times.

    A State Department official noted that “visa demand is cyclical, not uniform throughout the year, and affected by various factors at the local and international level. Visa issuance numbers tend to increase during peak travel seasons, such as during the summer and the winter holidays.”

    The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    March is neither a busy nor slow time for temporary visa issuances to people from the seven countries, several immigration lawyers said. Therefore, the significant drops are notable, they said.

    The data is preliminary and numbers could be subject to minor revision, the State Department said.

    Previously, such data was only available in aggregate by fiscal year, and the department declined to break out March visa data from previous years.

    Nevertheless, some immigration attorneys said the numbers released on Thursday provide a glimpse into how Trump’s policies are affecting visa decisions.

    “Either there are many fewer people applying because they believe they will be denied, or a much higher rate of denials is already happening even though the executive orders have been blocked,” said William Stock, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

    Executive Orders

    Trump, who has said the travel bans were intended to make Americans safer from attacks by terrorists, signed an executive order on Jan. 27 barring people from the seven countries from entering the United States for 90 days.

    The order was blocked by federal courts and the Trump administration replaced it with a revised, narrower travel ban effective March 16 which dropped Iraq from the list. Courts have also halted parts of the second order.

    The number of non-immigrant visas issued to Iranians dropped to 1,572 in March from 2,450 per month on average in 2016 according to the data. Iraqis received 684 such visas in March, compared to nearly twice that number per month on average in 2016, the data showed.

    Iranians also received fewer immigrant visas, which are granted to family members of U.S. citizens or those with jobs in the United States, than the average in previous years – 393 received immigrant visas in March, compared to 644 on average per month in 2016 and nearly 600 on average per month in 2015 and 2014.

    Although visitor visas were down across the board for the seven targeted countries, two of them saw the number of immigrant visas issued tick up slightly. Forty-one Libyans received immigrant visas in March, compared to 32 per month on average in 2016. Somalians received 171 visas in March compared to 150 on average in 2016.

    Immigration lawyers said that although the travel bans have been halted by courts for now, the administration’s vow to put stricter controls on immigration is likely to have changed how U.S. consulates evaluate visa applicants.

    Stephen Pattison, a former State Department consular official now working as an immigration attorney, said consulates “are going to probably err more on the side of denying some people that they’d be on the fence about.”

    Anecdotally, several U.S.-based lawyers with Iranian clients say their visa applications are taking longer to process and are being rejected more often since Trump took office on Jan. 20.

    They cite shortages of interview appointments for Iranians, interviews cancelled at the last minute and longer “administrative processing” periods than they are accustomed to.

    “If you can’t get an interview, you can’t get a visa,” said Babak Yousefzadeh, a San Francisco-based attorney and member of the board of directors of the Iranian American Bar Association.

    Some Iranians have decided that for now, it is not worth it to risk the expense and time of making U.S. visa applications, said Kiyanoush Razaghi, a Maryland-based immigration attorney.

    In addition to paying a standard $160 visa application fee, Iranians must typically travel to Turkey, Armenia or the United Arab Emirates for their interviews, since there is no U.S. diplomatic presence in Iran.

    “That’s a fundamental change that I am seeing, at least in the community and among the clients that I have,” Razaghi said.

    “They have a general feeling that now is not a good time to apply for a visa.”

    Source: Voice of America

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