Category Archives: Human Rights

Nearly Half of Cyclone Idai’s Victims Are Children

GENEVA The U.N. children’s fund reports nearly half of the 1.7 million people affected by Cyclone Idai in southern Africa are children. The official number of deaths across the region has now risen to over 700. But this figure is expected to increase once the waters have receded and the bodies of those who have drowned and gone missing are found.

Conditions in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe remain critical. Thousands of people are still trapped by the flood waters, many huddled on rooftops and in trees waiting to be rescued.

The U.N. children’s fund reports the situation for hundreds of thousands of children caught up in this monumental storm is particularly dire. It says many do not have adequate shelter and are in urgent need of food and safe drinking water.

UNICEF spokesman, Christophe Boulierac says children are particularly susceptible to infectious diseases.

Without safe and effective water, sanitation and hygiene services, children are at high risk of preventable diseases including diarrhea, typhoid and cholera, and also increasingly vulnerable to malnutrition, he said.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reports cases of cholera have been confirmed in the city of Beira in Mozambique, the epicenter of the cyclone. It warns the risk of outbreaks of malaria, water-borne and infectious diseases is high due to the prevailing conditions.

UNICEF reports many schools and hospitals have been destroyed or damaged or are being used as collective shelters. As a consequence, thousands of children are unable to go to school. It says it is crucial for children to go back to the classroom as soon as possible.

Officials explain many children are suffering from physical and emotional distress. They say school provides them with a structure and a sense of normalcy that can help them better deal with their anguish in this time of extreme chaos.

Source: Voice of America

Al-Shabab Attack in Somali Capital Kills at Least 10

Militants stormed Somali government offices in Mogadishu on Saturday after setting off a car bomb, and officials said at least 10 people were killed, including a deputy minister. Authorities of Mogadishu’s only free ambulance service said they had collected nearly 10 other wounded civilians.

According to eyewitnesses, the attack began when the suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden car at the front gate of the compound that houses the Labor and Public Works and Reconstruction ministries.

“A car bomb hit the main gate of one of the compounds and then extremists armed with assault rifles stormed to the buildings, engaging a fierce battle with security forces,” Ahmed Mohamed Iman, director general of Somalia’s Ministry of Public Works and Reconstruction, who was present during the attack, told VOA Somalia.

Iman said some attackers rampaged through the buildings in an attempt to take some workers hostage, but were shot by the security forces.

“A huge blast occurred that forced my car to almost fly. Then I saw at least four gunmen in government uniforms storming into the building. I also saw the dead bodies of four civilians and several others wounded, lying along the road,” said Somali lawmaker Mohamud Abdullahi Ahmed.

He said the Somali security forces evacuated dozens of government staff members from the buildings immediately after the assault, but during the attack the militants shot Saqar Ibrahim Abdalla, the deputy labor minister, who also was a lawmaker in the Somali Parliament.

Al-Shabab militants said in a statement that the group was behind the attacks and had killed number of government officials.

Separately, at least three other, smaller blasts were reported Saturday in different areas in Mogadishu.

Two of those explosions targeted a checkpoint manned by Somali security forces and patroling soldiers, killing four soldiers and wounding 10 civilians.

The latest assault and the blasts came days after dozens of Somali National Army soldiers staged a mutiny and left their front-line bases in the Lower and Middle Shabelle regions, complaining for months about the lack of salaries.

Analysis during the last six months shows the number of militants coming to and hiding in Mogadishu has increased because they are fleeing from U.S. drone attacks and special operations that target them in their bases outside Mogadishu.

Source: Voice of America

Body of Infant Recovered After Deadly Somalia Attack

Somali authorities say the body of a seven month-old boy has been recovered the rubble three days after an al-Shabab attack killed at least 25 people in Mogadishu last Thursday.

The boy identified as Munasar Mohamed, was with his mother who worked at a beauty salon on Maka al-Mukarama road when the militants detonated a powerful car bomb as part of a complex attack involving suicide bombers

The blast brought down multi-story buildings and destroyed structures alongside the busy road.

The owner of the beauty salon, who didn’t want to be named for fear of her safety, said there were 16 people in her salon when the explosion went off just after 8pm on Thursday.

She said they helped the injured before security forces arrived to evacuate them. The boy was the only person in the group who didn’t make out of the building.

After finial searches the boy couldn’t be located. His body was finally discovered on Sunday after rescuers viewed CCTV footage showing the boy’s last movements and location in the building.

The owner said the boy has been in the salon with his mother since he was born. His mom was working at my beauty salon since he was born, she said.

The beauty salon owner said she knows more than 10 people from nearby shops who died in the explosion.

Mogadishu’s ambulances services which evacuated the dead and wounded recorded 25 deaths and 131 people injured. Of the injured, 21 are females.

During the attack al-Shabab constantly claimed that their fighters targeted one of the biggest hotels known as Maka Al-Mukarama but it became clearer that the militants entered a two-story building next to the hotel. Whether that was intentional or the militant missed their target is not clear.

In a statement on Sunday, al-Shabab claimed they killed 45 government officials in the hotel. Al-Shabab also falsely claimed that no civilians were killed.

Security sources say all but two of the victims were civilians. The two were security personnel deployed to participate in the operation to end the militants’ siege.

Information Minister Dahir Mohamud Gelle said al-Shabab has no regard for the safety of any human being regardless of age and field of work.

You are not safe from al-Shabab if you are young, elderly, civilian or soldier, he said. Whether you are walking in the street or in your home, you are not safe from al-Shabab. They have no regard for you whether you are fighting against them or not.

Al-Shabab has conducted similar deadly attacks in the capital for years now, but successive governments have not yet succeeded in finding a strategy to stop the militant group.

Source: Voice of America

WFP Airlifts Food to Thousands in Central African Republic

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND � The World Food Program is airlifting 36 metric tons of life-saving food to 18,000 people in Zemio, Central African Republic. The WFP reports Zemio, a region 1,000 kilometers east of the capital Bangui, is unreachable by road because of insecurity and transport difficulties.

This is the first time in a year that the U.N. World Food Program has launched an airlift of this scale in the Central African Republic. The WFP says the worsening security situation and impossibility of bringing food supplies into Zumio by road has created a food and nutritional crisis in the region.

The operation involves eight airlift rotations. WFP has completed six of them. The remaining food supplies are being airlifted to families in Zemio on Wednesday.

WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said the arrival of food by air is coming at a crucial time for thousands of displaced people who are unable to move around freely because of increased violence. He told VOA that WFP will re-evaluate the situation in Zemio in the coming weeks to see whether airlifts should resume.

“Because of the military and the security situation, most of the people are IDPs, are displaced in IDP camps. They have no access to the markets. They have no access either to the field to cultivate. As a result of that, the malnutrition, including for children is important there. But, also in the country,” he said.

The United Nations reports nearly half of C.A.R.’s population of 4.7 million is short of food. A recent national nutritional survey shows more than seven percent of children aged six to 59 months are suffering from acute malnutrition.

Verhoosel said the WFP will continue to scale up emergency aid for vulnerable people in the country. But he said the agency’s operation is costly, especially when airlifts are factored in. He said far less than half of the agency’s $145 million appeal for this year has been met and that it is critical for this funding gap to be closed.

The C.A.R. has been in conflict since a coup in 2013. The current government in Bangui signed a peace agreement in 2017 with several of the warring militias in the country, but it has proved ineffective and in recent months violence has flared up again.

Source: Voice of America

Senegal Awaits Election Results

DAKAR, SENEGAL � Vote counting has begun in Senegal after a peaceful day of voting in Sunday’s presidential election.

Polls closed at 6 p.m. local time and preliminary results are expected as soon as Monday or Tuesday, according to CENA.

After three weeks of campaigning, long lines of voters formed early Sunday to either support incumbent Macky Sall’s bid for re-election or replace him with one of his four challengers – Idrissa Seck, Ousmane Sonko, Madicke Niang or Issa Sall.

The election process was smooth and there were no major disruptions in the election process, Doudou Ndir, president of Senegal’s electoral commission (CENA) told a press conference.

“Our observations show everything is proceeding in good conditions, peacefully, calmly,” Ndir said.

President Sall, 56, cast his ballot in his hometown of Fatick early Sunday. “I hope that at the end of this day, the Senegalese people will be the sole winner,” he said after voting.

“What we all have in common is our country, and we want a candidate who will work for it, for our Senegal,” Mbene, an 18-year-old student who voted for the first time Sunday, told VOA Afrique after casting her ballot for Sall.

Though some will renew their support for Sall, some young voters are pledging their support to the youngest of the candidates, Ousmane Sanko, 44, who is promising drastic changes from the current system.

“The system has been in place for 60 years with the same men, the same heads, and we need to break from this,” Pape Amadou Diop, a student in Dakar, said after voting for Sonko, whom he calls the “perfect representation of hope in Senegal.”

Approximately 15,000 voting stations were expected to be open Sunday. CENA chief Ndir said that by noon, about 30 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballots.

A candidate must win more than 50 percent of Sunday’s vote to be declared Senegal’s president. If no one wins an outright majority, then the top two contenders will face off in a run-off vote in March.

Source: Voice of America