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 | May 23, 2017
PISCATAWAY, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--IEEE, the world's largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for humanity, today announced open registration for the 2017 IEEE Rebooting Computing Week events to be held 6-10 November 2017 in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area. As an annual, weeklong event supporting the IEEE Rebooting Computing Initiative, IEEE Rebooting Computing Week provides a collaborative environment for forward-thinking technologists, innovators, academia, industry experts, and students to explore new methodologies for advancing computing technology, including new materials and physics, devices and circuits, system and network architectures, and algorithms and software. “The IEEE Rebooting Computing Week events demonstrate a common drive and commitment that will take computer performance beyond Moore’s Law and significantly advance technology for the benefit of humanity,” said Arvind Kumar, Chair of the 2017 IEEE International Conference on Rebooting Computing (ICRC). “It’s encouraging to see the level of participation and engagement up to this point, including broad industry and academia support that makes the events invaluable for technology innovators around the world.” IEEE Rebooting Computing Week kicks-off with the International Roadmap for Devices and Systems (IRDS) Meeting scheduled for 6-7 November 2017 (the first day is for IRDS members only and the second day is open to all registrants), followed by the ICRC to be held 8-9 November 2017, and then concludes with the Industry Summit on the Future of Computing on 10 November 2017. All of the IEEE Rebooting Computing Week events will be held at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in McLean, Virginia. Sponsored by the IEEE Rebooting Computing Initiative, in consultation and support from many IEEE operating units and partner organizations, the IRDS works to identify a roadmap for advancing the devices and systems industries. It aims to foster collaboration that ensures alignment and consensus across a range of stakeholders, such as academia, consortia, industry, and national laboratories. “Today’s complex computing ecosystem of devices, components, systems, architecture and software brings new challenges that need to be addressed with a viewpoint that encompasses all stakeholders’ issues and concerns,” said Paolo A. Gargini, IEEE Fellow and Chairman, of IRDS. “By holding the IRDS Meeting as part of the IEEE Rebooting Computing Week, we look forward to even greater input that will enhance our mission to identify a comprehensive roadmap of key trends related to devices, systems, and all related technologies.” The 2017 ICRC plenary speakers and topics featured at the conference include: The IEEE ICRC has issued a call for papers that address all aspects of the computing stack. Abstracts are due 26 May 2017, with final submissions due 9 June 2017. Individuals interested in contributing are encouraged to visit http://icrc.ieee.org/authors-guidelines for submission guidelines. Leading innovators of hardware, software, low energy, and high performance computing headline the Industry Summit on The Future of Computing. The agenda aims to explore ideas, insights, and keys to innovation that will usher in a new era of computing, and features renowned subject matter experts, including: “IEEE Rebooting Computing Week truly offers a vast spectrum of benefits an attendee can derive from registering for all three events,” said IEEE Fellow Elie Track, 2011-2014 President, IEEE Council on Superconductivity; Co-chair of IEEE Rebooting Computing; and CEO of nVizix. “Following the members-only committee work on the first day of the IRDS Meeting, attendees can then join a one-day briefing on conclusions and roadmapping plans for IEEE Rebooting Computing. Then ICRC offers presentations by world leaders in novel ideas and technical approaches, followed by the Industry Summit with executive-level distillations of industry impact and consequences.” Registration and pricing for IEEE 2017 Rebooting Computing Week events can be found online at http://rebootingcomputing.ieee.org/rebooting-computing-week. IEEE Rebooting Computing patronage opportunities can be found at http://rebootingcomputing.ieee.org/rebooting-computing-week/patrons. Among other important 2017 events for the IEEE Rebooting Computing Initiative, the 2017 Low-Power Image Recognition Challenge (LPIRC) offers computing industry professionals a more hands-on approach to both image recognition and energy conservation. Many mobile systems (smartphones, electronic glass, and autonomous robots) can capture images. These systems use batteries, so energy conservation is essential. Groups competing in the LPIRC for prizes will be evaluated based on both high recognition accuracy and low power usage. The LPIRC will be held in Honolulu, Hawaii on 21 July 2017 as part of the Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition. For more information on the challenge, visit http://rebootingcomputing.ieee.org/lpirc. IEEE RC is a program of IEEE Future Directions, designed to develop and share educational tools, events, and content for emerging technologies. IEEE-SA’s IC Program helps incubate new standards and related products and services by facilitating collaboration among organizations and individuals as they hone and refine their thinking on rapidly changing technologies. To learn more about IEEE RC, visit us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, listen to our Podcast, and connect with us on LinkedIn. The IEEE Standards Association, a globally recognized standards-setting body within IEEE, develops consensus standards through an open process that engages industry and brings together a broad stakeholder community. IEEE standards set specifications and best practices based on current scientific and technological knowledge. The IEEE-SA has a portfolio of over 1,100 active standards and more than 500 standards under development. For more information visit the IEEE-SA website. IEEE is the largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. Through its highly cited publications, conferences, technology standards, and professional and educational activities, IEEE is the trusted voice in a wide variety of areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers, and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power, and consumer electronics. Learn more at http://www.ieee.org.
News Article | May 27, 2017
The leader of hundreds of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails, Marwan Barghouti, who has received his first Red Cross visit since the strike began, flashes the victory sign after a court hearing in 2003 (AFP Photo/TAL COHEN) Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on hunger strike since April 17 have ended their mass protest after Israel agreed a deal following weeks of refusing to negotiate, sources on both sides said on Saturday. Some 30 of the more than 800 hunger strikers had been hospitalised in recent days, raising fears of an escalation of clashes with Israeli security forces in the occupied West Bank. Palestinians hailed the deal as a victory for the hunger strikers after Israeli authorities repeatedly vowed not to negotiate with convicted "terrorists". Palestinian Authority prisoners' affair chief Issa Qaraqe said it had come after some 20 hours of talks between Israeli officials and strike leader Marwan Barghouti, a figure revered among Palestinians but reviled by many Israelis. An Israel Prisons Service spokeswoman confirmed the hunger strike was over but said the deal had been reached not with prisoners' representatives but with the Palestinian Authority and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Israeli authorities conceded to one of the prisoners' main demands -- that they should have two family visits a month instead of the one they were entitled to before the strike, the spokeswoman said. Palestinian Prisoners' Club chief Qaddura Fares said there had been a last-minute U-turn by the Israeli authorities who had finally approached Barghouti for talks. "Right up to 8 am on Friday, the Israel Prisons Service insisted that no negotiations were possible," Fares told AFP. "Then two hours later everything changed," he said, adding that Israeli negotiators had began talks with Barghouti. "In his cell in Ashkelon prison, they held more than 20 hours of negotiations, Fares said. "An agreement was finally reached with the prisons service." Qaraqe said full details of the deal would be announced later but news of it prompted celebrations in the West Bank city of Ramallah where supporters have staffed a solidarity tent throughout the hunger strike. Barghouti's wife Fadwa hailed a "victory for resistance and dignity" after the end of the 41-day hunger strike. Amal Abu Dalal, a 50-year-old mother whose 33-year-old son has been in jail for 14 years, said: "The prisoner has defeated the jailer. We're so happy. We won." The ICRC had warned on Thursday that its doctors who have been visiting the prisoners were concerned about "potential irreversible health consequences". ICRC spokesman Jesus Serrano welcomed Saturday's end of the strike and said it would do all it could to facilitate the additional visits. The resolution of the strike coincided with the start of the Muslim dawn-to-dusk fasting month of Ramadan. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas had urged US counterpart Donald Trump to raise the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the region earlier this week. He raised the issue again with Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt in a meeting at his headquarters in Ramallah on Thursday. Demonstrations in support of the prisoners had been held across the West Bank, leading to repeated bloody clashes with Israeli security forces. They come as the 50th anniversary nears of Israel's seizure of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, in the Six-Day War. The hunger strike was led by Barghouti, a prominent figure in his Fatah movement and revered by many Palestinians, in contrast to the increasingly unpopular president. Dubbed the "Palestinian Mandela" by supporters, Barghouti is serving five life sentences on charges of involvement in murders committed during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, that have made him a hate figure for many on the Israeli right. Barghouti had been moved to solitary confinement and received a single reported visit by the ICRC to check on his condition on May 11. On May 7, the Israel's prison authority shared video of what it said was Barghouti eating biscuits in a break from the strike. But his wife Fadwa dismissed the footage as a "fake... intended to break the morale of prisoners" and called on Pope Francis to intervene. Palestinian analysts hailed the deal as a victory for the hunger strikers. "It is very likely that the United States was directly involved in the discussions," said one analyst, Hani al-Masri. Abdel Majid Sweenem welcomed the fact that the Israeli authorities had been forced to negotiate with prisoner representatives after trying to avoid doing so at all costs. "But we still have to see if Israel will respect its commitments," he warned.
News Article | May 23, 2017
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian security forces and firefighters gather at the scene of an explosion, in the central city of Homs, Syria, Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Syrian state TV reported that an explosion in the central city of Homs has killed several people and that government forces "destroyed" a truck bomb near the Damascus airport. (SANA via AP) BEIRUT (AP) — An explosion claimed by the Islamic State group in the central Syrian city of Homs on Tuesday killed at least four people and wounded more than two dozen, Syria's state media and the militant group reported. Meanwhile, government forces foiled another attack, also claimed by IS, near the Damascus airport when they destroyed a truck bomb, Syria TV reported. Homs police commander Lt. Gen. Khaled Hilal told state TV that two suicide attackers detonated their explosives-laden car as they were being surrounded by troops. Along with the four killed, Syrian state TV said 30 people were wounded in the explosion. The blast in Homs came two days after the government took control of the entire city of Homs, for the first time since the conflict began in 2011, following the evacuation of rebels from their last hold-out, the besieged al-Waer neighborhood. More than six years after the conflict began, most major Syrian cities have at this point reverted to government control. Syria's civil war has left about 400,000 people dead and millions displaced from their homes. Hilal said the Homs attack was a "new crime in response to the victories of the Syrian Arab army." State TV aired footage from the area showing charred cars and a street full of debris as paramedics in red uniforms searched for casualties. The city, once known as the capital of the revolution, has been devastated by the war. The mixed city of Muslims and Christians has often come under attack from the Islamic State group, which frequently targets religious minorities to fuel the sectarian nature of the conflict. The TV channel also reported that Syrian forces hit a pickup truck rigged with explosives on the road leading to the Damascus International Airport, killing two militants. The area is close to a prominent Shiite shrine. Aamaq, the IS-linked news agency, said members of the group carried out both of the attacks, naming the neighborhoods in both Homs and Damascus. Also near Damascus, the International Committee of the Red Cross said a convoy of 42 trucks carrying food and medical supplies had entered the eastern, opposition-held suburb of Jairoud. The ICRC said the supplies are for 36,000 people and that the delivery was carried out in coordination with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the United Nations. Tens of thousands of people in Syria still live in areas besieged by rival groups.
News Article | May 23, 2017
Philippines security forces continue to battle the Abu Sayyaf group, which has kidnapped hundreds since the early 1990s to extract ransoms (AFP Photo/STR) Philippine troops and police battled dozens of gunmen protecting one of the world's most wanted Islamic militants in a built-up area of a southern city on Tuesday, authorities said. At least one policeman was killed in the hunt for Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the infamous Abu Sayyaf kidnap gang and Philippine head of the Islamic State group, according to Philippine military chief of staff General Eduardo Ano. The fighting took place in Marawi, a mostly Muslim-populated city of about 200,000 people on the southern island of Mindanao, with the gunmen attacking a hospital during the clashes, Ano told CNN Philippines. "Please advise people to stay inside their houses. We will clear the area," Ano said. He said the fighting began when police and troops raided a house on Tuesday afternoon where Hapilon, the subject of a US State Department bounty of $5 million, was believed to be hiding. This triggered fierce clashes throughout the afternoon and into the evening, with Ano estimating there were about 50 gunmen. Photos posted on social media by Marawi residents showed the gunmen walking through the streets of Basak, a Marawi suburb of about 1,700 people. A woman who asked not to be named told AFP by text that she saw about 10 armed men take up positions at the gate of a government hospital. Police clashed with the gunmen near the hospital, leaving one officer seriously wounded and one of the extremists dead, she added. The military said it could not confirm the militant's death. Ano said eight security personnel had been injured in the clashes. The Abu Sayyaf, based on the most southern islands of Mindanao, has kidnapped hundreds of Filipinos and foreigners since the early 1990s to extract ransoms. The militants beheaded an elderly German early this year and two Canadians last year after ransom demands were not met. It has also been blamed for the country's worst terrorist attacks, including the 2004 bombing of a ferry in Manila Bay that claimed more than 100 lives. The US State Department bounty for Hapilon was offered following alleged terrorist acts against US citizens, including the 2001 kidnapping of three Americans in the western Philippines -- two of whom were later killed. Security analysts say Hapilon has been trying to unite Filipino militant groups that have professed allegiance to IS. These include the Maute group, which is based near Marawi, hundreds of kilometres to the north of the Abu Sayyaf strongholds. The Maute group has engaged in repeated deadly battles with the military over the past year in rural areas around Marawi. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has an office near Marawi and operates in the area, voiced alarm that civilians may get caught up in the fighting. "We are extremely concerned about the impact of the ongoing hostilities in Marawi City on the civilians," the head of the ICRC's Philippine delegation, Pascal Porchet, said in a statement. "We urge all parties to the conflict to spare civilians and respect civilian property, such as hospitals and schools, in fulfullment of their obligations to respect international humanitarian law." The Marawi fighting came six weeks after the military foiled a mass kidnapping attempt by the Abu Sayyaf on the central resort island of Bohol. The US and other Western governments warned this month that terrorists plan to kidnap foreigners in tourist hotspots across the central and western Philippines.
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 | 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.