News Article | May 9, 2017
Palestinians take part in a protest in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, in Gaza City May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa JERUSALEM/GAZA (Reuters) - A hunger strike by more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners over their treatment in Israeli jails has turned into a heated dispute over whether the leader of the protest secretly broke the fast, and whether Israel tempted him to do so. The strike, which began on April 17, followed a call by Marwan Barghouti, the most high-profile Palestinian in Israeli detention, for a protest against poor conditions and an Israeli policy of detention without trial that has applied to thousands of prisoners since the 1980s. Barghouti, a leader of the Fatah movement, has seen his popularity grow among Palestinians since he was convicted of murder over the killing of Israelis during the second intifada and sentenced in 2004 to five life terms. Surveys show many Palestinians want him to be their next president. While hunger strikes are not uncommon among the 6,500 Palestinians in Israeli jails, many of whom were convicted of attacks or planning attacks against Israel, this is one of the largest yet. If sustained it could present a challenge to Israel ahead of a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump on May 22. It is also likely to raise tensions between Israel and the Palestinians as the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem approaches in early June. At the start of the strike, a group of Israeli settlers held a barbecue in the parking lot of one of the prisons, an apparent effort to taunt those inside who were not eating. On Sunday, Israel's public security minister, who says the strike is politically motivated, accused Barghouti of secretly consuming cookies and chocolate bars, and the government released footage from the Israel Prison Service. "He lied to the Palestinian public when he claimed to be striking," said Gilad Erdan. "Israel will not give in to extortion and pressure from terrorists." The footage, two videos shot days apart from a camera mounted on the ceiling of the cell, do not conclusively show that the prisoner is Barghouti, 58, and it is not entirely clear what he is eating or whether he is doing so. On Monday, following questions about how the video came to light, Erdan suggested Israeli prison guards had tempted Barghouti with the food. Since he is held in solitary confinement, he would not have been able to smuggle it in. "You've got to understand, without me going into detail, that in order to lead him to this situation, a great many actions were taken," Erdan told Army Radio. "They got results." Barghouti's wife, Fadwa, has denounced the video, saying it is an effort to discredit her husband, and suggested the footage may well have been taken in 2004. "It was not surprising what the occupation did and the fabrications they have tried to spread," she told Reuters. "Such an act has unveiled the ugly face of the Israeli occupation." Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the health of the strikers was deteriorating and Israel needed to act. "I am afraid some unfortunate things could happen to those prisoners which may complicate things further, therefore, I urge the Israeli government to accept their humanitarian demands," he said during a news conference in Ramallah. Fadwa and other wives and relatives have had no access to the hunger strikers, a situation the International Committee for the Red Cross, the United Nations and other organizations are trying to resolve with Israel. She said ICRC officials told her the Israeli prison authority had prevented them from seeing her husband. Suhair Zakout, a spokeswoman for the ICRC in Gaza, said the group had visited most of the prisoners taking part in the strike to check on their health and ensure Israel does not try to force them to eat. Israel has resorted to force-feeding in the past, even though Israel's Medical Association opposes the policy as a form of torture. It has urged Israeli doctors not to carry it out.
News Article | May 17, 2017
Cyber Week will feature hundreds of the world's most influential cybersecurity leaders, including intelligence directors, military leaders, CEOs, researchers, political advisors, politicians, professors and journalists from 50 countries worldwide. The conference will include 45 events, and is expected to host over 7,000 attendees. There will be various panels, workshops and roundtables on topics such as blockchain, cybercrime, fraud, AI, and aviation, during which time attendees will have the rare opportunity to hear insights directly from the people who have shaped the modern industry of cybersecurity for nation-states, companies, and individuals. Cyber Week is hosted by the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center (ICRC), Yuval Ne'eman Workshop for Science, Technology, and Security, Tel Aviv University, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the National Cyber Directorate at the Prime Minister's Office. Additional esteemed speakers include: "I am excited to speak alongside other leaders who are among the best cybersecurity minds the world has to offer," said former New York City Mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Chair of Greenberg Traurig's Cybersecurity, Privacy and Crisis Management Practice. "Cyber Week provides a unique opportunity to share and explore insights with individuals who are at the forefront of cybersecurity. These are the very people who are ensuring the safety of our citizens, countries, and the technology systems that keep our economies thriving." "As significant cyber intrusions and attacks continue to hit organizations across the globe, it's incredibly important for government and the private sector to increase cooperation and work together on a common set of behavioral norms," said Michael Daniel, president, Cyber Threat Alliance. "I am thrilled to participate in Cyber Week alongside a number of forward thinking industry leaders to push forward the conversation around fighting today's threats as a collective front." "We are honored to host Rudy Giuliani, Michael Daniel, Tom Bossert and so many cybersecurity leaders from the United States," said Prof. Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Isaac Ben-Israel, Director, Blavatnik ICRC. "This year promises to be exceptional by the opportunity to share insights with the current and previous administrations in Washington. Collaboration is essential to the success of cybersecurity and is at the core of Cyber Week." Cyber Week is partnering with a number of distinguished sponsors, including Accenture, IAI, YL Ventures, Check Point, CyberArk, Dell EMC, Deutsche Telekom, GE, hub:raum, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, OPSWAT, RSA, Team8 and ThetaRay, as well as the esteemed contributor Sami Sagol, among others. For more information about Cyber Week 2017 and to register, please visit cyberweek.tau.ac.il.
News Article | May 15, 2017
A Yemeni child, suspected of being infected with cholera, receives treatment at a hospital in Sanaa on May 15, 2017 (AFP Photo/) Sanaa (AFP) - Rebel authorities in Yemen's capital have sounded the alarm over a spreading cholera outbreak that has killed dozens in the war-torn country, calling for urgent international assistance. The International Committee of the Red Cross on Monday said 184 people had died of cholera since April 27, with another 11,000 suspected cases diagnosed across the country. This is the second outbreak of the disease in less than a year in Yemen, where less than half of the country's medical facilities are functional two years into a war between Iranian-backed Huthi rebels and the Saudi-supported government. The Huthi-run health ministry on Sunday warned it was "unable to contain this disaster", in a statement on the rebels' Saba news agency. It launched an appeal for help from international humanitarian organisations to deal with the crisis. Hafid bin Salem Mohammed, the rebel health minister, said the "scale of the disease is beyond the capacity" of his department, in a statement on Huthi-run Al-Masira television. The state of emergency is an "indication of how serious this crisis is", United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick told reporters on Monday. "This rapid outbreak of cholera is just another dire manifestation of the humanitarian catastrophe that faces this country," he said. "These numbers will increase in the weeks and months ahead," McGoldrick warned. Dominik Stillhart, the ICRC director of operations, told AFP: "Hospitals are already overstretched due to the armed conflict and now the high influx of cholera patients is choking the health system country-wide." France said on Monday it was "preoccupied by the rapid spread" of cholera, pledging two million euros ($2.2 million) to support programmes "responding to the extremely urgent needs" in Yemen, mainly in the health sector. "It is more than ever urgent to find a political solution in Yemen, the only way possible to end the suffering of the population," a French foreign ministry statement said. International relief agencies on Sunday warned of a catastrophic humanitarian situation and urged citizens to exercise hygiene precautions. Stillhart said the cholera outbreak was "unprecedented" and was "putting thousands in danger". Doctors Without Borders (MSF) expressed fears that health authorities alone would not be able to deal with the outbreak. It called on international organisations to "scale up their assistance urgently to limit the spread of the outbreak and anticipate potential other ones". At the Sabaeen hospital in Sanaa, deputy director Nabeel al-Najjar said the understaffed medical facility was struggling to cope with the high influx of patients. The hospital, which lacks medicines, is receiving between 150 and 200 patients with cholera symptoms a day, he said. "We are putting four patients in each bed, and have placed extra beds in tents and under the trees in the garden," he told AFP, adding that rain had then complicated the arrangements. Twenty-five districts in 11 governorates have been affected in the past four weeks, McGoldrick said, with more than 50 other districts at risk. "It's very likely that the numbers are very underrepresented because... over 50 percent of the health facilities in this country are no longer functioning," he said. The World Health Organization now classifies Yemen as one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world alongside Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria and Iraq. The United Nations has warned 17 million people -- equivalent to two-thirds of the population -- are at imminent risk of famine in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world. More than 8,000 people have been killed since a Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened to support Yemen's government in March 2015, according to the WHO.
News Article | May 15, 2017
ADEN (Reuters) - A cholera outbreak in Yemen has killed 180 people since April 27, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Monday, hours after the Houthi-controlled health ministry said 115 had died from the disease in the capital Sanaa.
News Article | May 7, 2017
FILE - This Monday, May 12, 2014 file image taken from video by Nigeria's Islamic extremist network, shows the alleged missing girls abducted from the northeastern town of Chibok. An unknown number of girls kidnapped from their Nigerian boarding school by jihadists three years ago have been released, a government official said Saturday, May 6, 2017. Family members said they were awaiting names and other information before celebrating. (AP Photo/File) ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — The Latest on the release of Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped three years ago by Boko Haram extremists in Nigeria (all times local): The departure of Nigeria's president for more medical checkups in London is renewing fears for his health in Africa's most populous country. President Muhammadu Buhari has missed three straight weekly Cabinet meetings in a row and is said to spend most of his time working from home. His office on Sunday night said 74-year-old leader had delayed leaving for London so he could meet with the 82 Chibok schoolgirls released this weekend from Boko Haram captivity. After a six-week medical leave in London earlier this year, Buhari indicated that further checkups might be needed. The exact nature of his illness is still unclear. The office of Nigeria's president says Muhammadu Buhari is now leaving for London for a medical checkup as fears continue over the state of his health. The announcement Sunday night came shortly after Buhari said he had met with the 82 Chibok schoolgirls freed after being kidnapped three years ago by Boko Haram extremists. The 74-year-old president spent a month and a half in London on medical leave earlier this year and returned saying he had never been so sick in his life. The exact nature of his illness is still not clear. The statement says "there is no cause for worry" and says the length of Buhari's stay in London will be determined by his doctors. The vice president will be in charge. A presidential adviser says Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is promising to do all that is needed to reintegrate the 82 freed Chibok schoolgirls back into society. Femi Adesina told reporters Sunday night that Buhari promised the girls he personally would supervise their rehabilitation. He met with the girls at his official residence. Adesina says the freed girls have been handed over to those who will look out for their rehabilitation. He says the president promised they will continue with their education. The girls were part of a mass abduction by Boko Haram extremists three years ago. Nigeria's president says he has met with the 82 Chibok schoolgirls freed after being kidnapped by Boko Haram extremists three years ago. President Muhammadu Buhari says on Twitter that "we've always made it clear that we will do everything in our power to ensure the freedom & safe return of our daughters & of all BH captives." Photos tweeted by the president show dozens of the freed girls at Buhari's official residence. The 82 Chibok schoolgirls freed from three years of captivity with Boko Haram have arrived at State House, the official residence of Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, to meet the leader and the press. The schoolgirls were released by the Islamic extremists in exchange for five Boko Haram commanders. Nigerian journalists gathered at State House, the president's official residence in Abuja, to see President Muhammadu Buhari welcome the 82 Chibok schoolgirls who were released from being held captive by Boko Haram for more than three years. The newly freed young women were flown by helicopters from northeastern Nigeria to Abuja in central Nigeria. The schoolgirls are expected to see their families but be kept in government care for counseling and medical treatment. A Nigerian government official says that five Boko Haram commanders have been released in exchange for the 82 Chibok girls. The confirmation Sunday comes a day after the young women were liberated after more than three years in captivity by the Islamic militants. There was no comment yet from the Nigerian presidency or Boko Haram, an extremist group linked to the Islamic State. The official who confirmed the release spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to reporters on the matter. Authorities say 113 of the 276 girls abducted from their boarding school back in 2014 remain missing. Girls who escaped said some of their classmates had died from illness. Others did not want to come home either because they'd been radicalized by their captors. Amnesty International says the 82 freed Chibok schoolgirls should be quickly released to their families and not be subjected to lengthy government detention. The rights group's Nigeria office also says the girls don't deserve to be put through a "publicity stunt that largely doesn't reckon with their privacy." The newly released schoolgirls were set to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari in the capital later Sunday. Amnesty International is calling for more attention to victims of "less-publicized mass abductions" by Boko Haram extremists. The group had seized thousands of captives in less than a decade. The campaign for the release of the nearly 300 Chibok schoolgirls seized three years ago by Boko Haram says it is glad Nigeria's government is committed to freeing the 113 girls still unaccounted for. A statement by the Bring Back Our Girls group on Sunday says the campaign is still waiting for a list of the names of the 82 girls released. The girls have arrived in the capital, Abuja, and are set to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari. This is the largest release since Boko Haram seized 276 schoolgirls from Chibok three years ago. A special adviser to Nigeria's president says the 82 freed Chibok schoolgirls have arrived in the capital, Abuja, a day after their release. Femi Adesina says the girls have been received at the airport by the president's chief of staff. They are expected to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari later Sunday. This is the largest release since Boko Haram seized 276 schoolgirls from Chibok three years ago. Nigeria's government says the release came in exchange for some suspected Boko Haram members who had been detained by authorities. The International Committee of the Red Cross has tweeted what might be the first public image of the Chibok schoolgirls freed by Boko Haram extremists. The ICRC tweet shows a line of girls wearing shirts with the Red Cross logo walking across a runway to a waiting helicopter. "A happy sight for families missing moved ones," the aid group says. The ICRC acted as a mediator as Nigeria exchanged some detained Boko Haram suspects in return for the girls' release Saturday. This is the largest release since Boko Haram seized 276 schoolgirls from Chibok three years ago. The International Committee of the Red Cross says it acted as a neutral intermediary and transported the 82 freed Chibok schoolgirls into the hands of Nigeria's government. The ICRC along with the Swiss government had mediated months of negotiations between Nigeria and the Boko Haram extremist group to obtain Saturday's release. The release follows the freeing of a first group of 21 Chibok schoolgirls in October. Saturday's release is the largest since Boko Haram seized 276 Chibok girls in a mass abduction three years ago. ICRC deputy regional coordinator Patrick Youssef says the 82 girls soon will meet with their families. Nigeria's presidential spokesman says President Muhammadu Buhari will meet the newly released Chibok schoolgirls at 4 p.m. local time Sunday. Garba Shehu said that Buhari will receive the 82 schoolgirls in Abuja who were freed Saturday after lengthy negotiations with Boko Haram. The girls were released near the town of Banki in Borno state near Cameroon and will be transported to the capital, Abuja. Before Saturday's release, 195 of the girls had been captive. Now 113 of the girls remain unaccounted for. Nigeria's president says he will meet Sunday with 82 Chibok schoolgirls freed this weekend after being kidnapped three years ago by Boko Haram. President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement that he will receive the released schoolgirls in Nigeria's capital, Abuja. The president said the schoolgirls were freed in exchange for detained suspected extremists in the largest negotiated release so far of the nearly 300 girls whose mass abduction in 2014 highlighted the threat of Nigeria's homegrown extremist fighters who are linked to the Islamic State group. Before Saturday's release, 195 of the girls had been captive. Now 113 of the girls remain unaccounted for. As news of the latest release broke, long-suffering family members said they are eagerly awaiting a list of names and their "hopes and expectations are high."
News Article | May 7, 2017
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari (C) sits among the 82 rescued Chibok girls during a reception ceremony at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, on May 7, 2017 (AFP Photo/Sunday Aghaeze) Abuja (AFP) - Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday vowed to help to 82 schoolgirls who have been freed from more than three years of Boko Haram captivity after a prisoner swap. The girls -- who were among more than 200 kidnapped in 2014 from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, northeast Nigeria -- travelled to the capital Abuja a day after their release to meet Buhari. "I cannot express in a few words how happy I am to welcome our dear girls back to freedom," Buhari said in a statement, pledging that the presidency would "personally supervise" authorities charged with ensuring the girls' "health, education, security and general well-being". Presidential aide Bashir Ahmad tweeted a photograph of the girls, most of whom were sitting on the floor of Buhari's official residence, as the president sat in an armchair dressed in white traditional robes. The meeting came shortly before Buhari was whisked out of the country on Sunday evening after weeks of concern over his health, heading to London for "follow-up medical consultation", according to his spokesman Femi Adesina. The teenagers, who had been taken to a medical facility for checks after arriving in Abuja by military helicopter, met with the president for about 45 minutes, said an AFP reporter at the scene. Adesina said they had now been "handed over to those who will supervise their rehabilitation". He did not comment on how many imprisoned members of Boko Haram -- whose fight to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria has left at least 20,000 dead since 2009 -- had been released in the swap. But AFP understands at least three suspected senior commanders, all of them Chadian nationals, were handed over. Information Minister Lai Mohammed said he could not confirm claims that as many five militants were released. The girls arrived from the northeastern town of Banki, on the border with Cameroon, and were met at the airport by Buhari's chief of staff Abba Kyari. "Welcome our girls, welcome our sisters, we are glad to have you back," Kyari told them, describing it as "a very joyous moment". A military source said one of the girls was "carrying a baby with her, a boy of less than two years". The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it "facilitated the safe return" of the girls as a "neutral intermediary" and tweeted photographs of girls boarding a military helicopter. Many of the students wore colourful akara print dresses, visibly tired from their ordeal. The presidency had announced late Saturday that months of talks with the jihadists had "yielded results" some six months after 21 other Chibok girls were freed with the help of the ICRC and the Swiss government. Boko Haram fighters stormed the girls' school on the evening of April 14, 2014, and kidnapped 276 teenaged girls who were preparing to sit high school exams. Fifty-seven managed to escape in the hours that followed but the remaining 219 were held by the group. Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau claimed in a video message that they had converted to Islam. The audacious kidnapping brought the insurgency to world attention, triggering global outrage that galvanised support from the former US first lady Michelle Obama and Hollywood stars. The girls have become a symbol of Nigeria's brutal conflict. Last month, parents and supporters marked the three-year anniversary of the abduction, describing the situation as an unending "nightmare". Enoch Mark, a Christian pastor whose two daughters were among those kidnapped, said of the latest releases: "This is good news to us. We have been waiting for this day. "We hope the remaining girls will soon be released." Accounting for three other girls who have since been found, a total of 113 Chibok girls are now missing, although Shekau claimed last August that some had been killed in military air strikes. Boko Haram has used kidnapping as a weapon of war, seizing thousands of women and children, and forcibly recruiting young men and boys into their ranks. In a less publicised attack in November 2014, some 300 children were among about 500 people kidnapped from the town of Damasak, on the border with Niger, in the far north of Borno state. Most are still missing.
News Article | February 28, 2017
BARCELONA, Spain--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The GSMA today launched the first Humanitarian Connectivity Charter Annual Report, highlighting efforts by mobile network operator (MNO) signatories to support disaster preparedness and response activities around the world during 2016. This annual report maps the progress made under the Humanitarian Connectivity Charter, capturing global efforts to address humanitarian emergencies ranging from the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe to reducing the impact of natural disasters. It highlights the critical role of the mobile industry in supporting resilience and serves as a baseline against which to measure progress in the coming years. The GSMA also announced a new humanitarian supporter of the Charter, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which joins 108 MNO members and six endorsing humanitarian and technical partners, with the potential to reach more than 1.3 billion people. “We launched the Humanitarian Connectivity Charter two years ago and since that time, mobile has played an important role in how the global community responds to crises, facilitating advancements in early warning systems, reuniting loved ones, and connecting affected populations to information and assistance,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA. “The Charter has been an important platform for supporting our industry’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, whether addressing natural disasters or the effects of war and conflict. We thank the many organisations supporting the Charter over the past two years and look forward to expanding its impact in the years to come.” The Charter, launched by the GSMA at Mobile World Congress 2015, leverages mobile connectivity to improve access to communication and information for those affected by crisis, reduce the loss of life, and positively contribute to humanitarian response. The increase in displaced communities and sudden onset of natural disasters, such as earthquakes and floods, continue to impact communities globally. Innovation by Charter signatories demonstrates how mobile can play a role in mitigation, early warning, response and recovery, and the newly published report highlights some of the actions undertaken by signatories: MNOs have worked with the wider ecosystem to provide support to displaced communities. In 2016, Turkcell launched an app called Merhaba Umut (‘Hello Hope’) to help facilitate the integration of Syrian refugees living in Turkey, while Asiacell (Ooredoo Group) worked with Ericsson to implement ‘Connect to Learn’ programmes for children in refugee camps in Iraq, providing ICTs and connectivity to schools to enhance learning. In June 2016, Zain partnered with the MIT Enterprise Forum1 to launch the ‘Innovate for Refugees’ Initiative, a competition intended to promote innovative entrepreneurial businesses, providing tech-driven solutions that cater to the needs of refugees. Following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Ecuador on 16 April 2016, Movistar Ecuador (Telefónica Group) mobilised 190 technicians and sent out 40 vehicles equipped with satellite phones, enabling more than 82,000 people to call relatives and friends. In addition, MNOs Claro, CNT and Movistar Ecuador provided free voice minutes and SMS to customers in affected areas. After the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes in Japan, NTT DOCOMO provided free Wi-Fi service, constructed an emergency IP network and deployed ‘base stations on wheels’ to restore network coverage. During the period of earthquake activity, Japan’s Meteorological Agency issued 19 earthquake early warning alerts and it is estimated that over 1 million customers received these messages from their operator. Customers of Ncell (Axiata Group) living in areas at high risk of floods and landslides in Nepal are now receiving early warning alerts thanks to an innovative partnership between Ncell and the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), implemented in July 2016. SMS alerts are sent when water levels are dangerously high or when severe weather conditions are forecast, enabling citizens to take necessary precautions. In recognition that partnerships are essential to meet the growing humanitarian needs globally, in addition to the MNO signatories, the Humanitarian Connectivity Charter is supported by a number of organisations and agencies. Key supporting organisations include the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), the UN Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Ericsson and Nokia are technical partners of the Charter. A full copy of the report is available at: www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/programme/disaster-response/hcc-annual-report and further detail on the Humanitarian Connectivity Charter is available at: www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/programmes/disaster-response/humanitarian-connectivity-charter. The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with almost 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as Mobile World Congress, Mobile World Congress Shanghai, Mobile World Congress Americas and the Mobile 360 Series of conferences. For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at www.gsma.com. Follow the GSMA on Twitter: @GSMA.
News Article | February 24, 2017
BERN, 24-Feb-2017 — /EuropaWire/ — Switzerland has pledged to take direct action to help populations facing starvation, especially in South Sudan. The decision follows a call issued by the United Nations Secretary-General on 22 February 2017. Swiss Humanitarian Aid, a department of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), is to release CHF 15 million from its fund for humanitarian emergencies for countries hit by famine in the beginning of this year. “Switzerland is calling for the rapid mobilisation of aid. Some 100,000 people are already facing starvation in South Sudan, and famine looms in other countries in the region,” declared Didier Burkhalter, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The funds released by Switzerland are earmarked for humanitarian efforts in South Sudan, where the situation is most critical, and in Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen, which are also on the brink of famine. The funds will be divided among a range of programmes and humanitarian organisations working on the ground in these regions, where the lack of food security could affect more than 20 million people by summer 2017 if nothing is done. South Sudan not only suffered a drought in 2016 but it also has also been in the grip of civil war for the last three years, which has driven 3.5 million people from their homes. The country is now facing a food crisis on an unprecedented scale. Switzerland has been working in this region for several years. “The threat of famine has been looming over this country for quite some time now. Swiss Humanitarian Aid has regularly stepped up its efforts in response to growing needs on the ground,” explains André Huber, head of the Africa Division of Swiss Humanitarian Aid. Work on the ground, which is coordinated by the Swiss Humanitarian Aid office in the capital Juba, aims to offer long-term support and assistance to communities affected by conflict and adverse climate conditions. The CHF 15 million released from the emergency aid fund is on top of the CHF 50 million in humanitarian aid which the SDC already provides in these four countries. The 2017 budget for South Sudan, which totals CHF 20 million, will fund efforts in the water and civilian protection sectors, as well as projects to improve food security and livelihoods. A share will also be allocated to the ICRC and to UN agencies, such as the World Food Programme and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to support their operations on the ground. Swiss Humanitarian Aid itself runs a programme in Aweil, a city in the north of the country, which aims to provide the local population with access to drinking water and sanitation. Switzerland’s contribution will also support NGOs distributing food and providing medical care. The Secretary-General warned that urgent action is needed to prevent more people dying of hunger, adding that the timely delivery of sustained and adequate assistance could improve the situation within a few months and mitigate further suffering.
News Article | March 1, 2017
The Essam and Dalal Obaid Foundation (EDOF) has released its annual achievement report for 2016, which details the philanthropic institution's important progress in the fields of medicine and humanitarian work in the past year. This is the second achievement report published by EDOF since its creation in 2014. EDOF was founded by the sons of Essam and Dalal Obaid to honour them. The foundation's core mission is "to support well established operational organisations achieve their goals by creating a human and sustainable legacy for future generations," according to Dr. Nawaf Obaid, EDOF's CEO. In this vein, EDOF has built several partnerships with globally recognised institutions such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the CNN Freedom Project and the Mayo Clinic. Through its support of the ICRC's Weapon Traumatology and Training Centre (WTTC) in Tripoli, Lebanon, EDOF has helped give life back to victims of the Syrian crisis. The Foundation's commitment to the WTTC has aided over 6,200 people mend from the traumas associated with the war in Syria. In addition, EDOF has also been actively assisting the ICRC's Restoring Family Links Program, which reunites families torn apart by war, armed conflict or displacement. To aid in the fight against human trafficking and modern slave trade, EDOF has partnered with the CNN Freedom Project. The Freedom Project gives voices to the victims of these horrific crimes through powerful and evocative reporting and filmmaking. In 2016 the Project made significant progress: it's documentary, "Canada's Stolen Daughters" was given the 2016 International Media Award; it mobilized students internationally to participate in #MyFreedomDay; it helped put a law into effect in Atlanta, GA forcing convicted traffickers to pay into a fund to aid victims of trafficking. Due to EDOF, the CNN Freedom Project will lend its vast resources to the Italian public school system as part of the Ministry of Education's aim to educate Italian youths on the horrendous nature of human trafficking and slavery. Empathetic to the trauma of bodily disfiguration caused by war and armed conflict, EDOF's founder, Tarek Obaid, made a generous donation to the Mayo Clinic, giving the world-renowned hospital enough resources to open the Essam and Dalal Obaid Center for Reconstructive Transplant Surgery. The Center specializes in two branches of transplantation surgery: face and hand; this year marks the end of their first successful face transplantation. After 56 hours of surgery Andy Sandness was given a second chance at life, having his face completely reconstructed and fully functioning through the use of donated tissue and nerves. "I can't say thanks enough to [the donors], for what they gave me," he said. Tarek Obaid's gift to the Mayo Clinic was made on behalf of his family and their strongly held value that hope provides "the fortitude to persevere" and is "the well from which people draw strength." EDOF has also supported the activities of the National Council on US Arab Relations (NCUSAR), such as its Washington, D.C. Summer Internship Program, which gives university students the opportunity to work closely with Near East and Arab world organisations. In addition, EDOF's contribution to NCUSAR's Model Arab League (MAL) has afforded US students the opportunity to explore Arab world politics through an extraordinary diplomatic simulation and leadership development program. And finally, as benefactor of NCUSAR's Cultural Study Visits Program, EDOF has opened the door for US students and faculty to learn more about Middle Eastern countries as part of a unique travel abroad opportunity. More information about EDOF can be found at https://edof.org
News Article | February 19, 2017
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) flag flies at half-mast at the entrance to a centre in Kabul on February 9, 2017 after suspected Islamic State gunmen killed six Afghan employees (AFP Photo/SHAH MARAI) The Red Cross on Saturday called for the unconditional release of two staff members who were abducted when their convoy was ambushed in northern Afghanistan last week, leaving six other workers dead. The aid workers came under insurgent fire in Jowzjan province on February 8 while they were en route to a remote snowbound area to deliver much-needed relief supplies. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had earlier said the two employees were missing, in what was one of the worst attacks on the international charity in the country for years. "We call on the abductors' sense of humanity and request the immediate, safe and unconditional release of our colleagues and to avoid taking any action that could endanger their lives," Monica Zanarelli, ICRC chief in Afghanistan, said in a statement. "We do not want the agony and heartache of this tragedy to deepen." ICRC did not specify who was behind the abduction. No militant group has so far claimed responsibility for the ambush, but Jowzjan's police chief has blamed local Islamic State jihadists. Six employees were killed on the spot, many of them shot from close range. The killings come after a Spanish employee of the ICRC was abducted on December 19 when workers from the charity were travelling between the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif and the neighbouring volatile Taliban hotbed of Kunduz. The attacks underscore how aid workers in the country have increasingly become casualties of a surge in militancy in recent years. The violence comes at a time when Afghanistan is in dire need of humanitarian assistance, with more than 100 people killed in recent avalanches and tens of thousands displaced by the wrenching conflict. Following the attack, the ICRC, which has been working in Afghanistan for three decades, said it was putting its nationwide operations on hold but added there were no plans for now to withdraw staff. The Taliban, the largest militant group in Afghanistan which promptly distanced itself from the attack, has assured ICRC of security in areas under their control and urged the charity to resume operations.