Others

Mental health – the lasting scars of crisis

Mental scars from conflict and crises may linger for years, holding back the recovery of individuals and whole communities.

The World Health Organisation estimates that about one in five of those who lived in conflict-affected areas developed depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, or post-traumatic stress disorder. A study in The Lancet last month arrived at the new figures from a review of 129 published papers.

Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression can double in a population that has experienced some form of humanitarian crisis.

Those with mental health conditions can struggle to hold down jobs, go to school, or maintain relationships – the day to day activities that make societies function. These traumas can ripple out across generations and communities, affecting even those who have not directly experienced violence, like the children of Rwandan genocide survivors.

But often mental health services are limited at the time of a crisis, and are difficult to sustain after an initial funding surge. Our roundup this week explores what happens when the immediate crisis has passed and how some communities and providers approach care and treatment.

Inside Somalia’s mental health emergency

One in three Somalis are affected by mental illness. Health workers worry that lack of care may contribute to the country’s instability.

In Rohingya camps, traditional healers fill a gap in helping refugees overcome trauma

Aid groups want to understand how Rohingya refugees deal with mental health in an environment where only half of those who need counselling have access to it.

South Sudan: “The whole country is traumatised”

With inadequate public funding for healthcare, aid groups try to step in.

Iraq’s growing mental health problem

For Iraqi civilians who fled so-called Islamic State, there is a lack of trained professionals to treat a plethora of mental health issues.

In Nigeria, healing the scars of war might curtail its spread

Could healing the untold trauma unleashed by Boko Haram hold the key to peacebuilding in northern Nigeria?

Trauma link to malnutrition in Central African Republic

The parents of malnourished children need help themselves, as the trauma they have experienced may impact their ability to care for their children.

 

Women carry the burden of Ugandan war trauma

The extent of trauma in northern Uganda is overwhelming the country’s limited capacity for treating mental health problems.

 

Survival lessons for Congo in the aftershock of West Africa’s Ebola crisis

The lesson from West Africa is that the impact of Ebola on people’s lives does not end when the virus is defeated.

Rwanda, part 1: Born into a legacy of genocide

A younger generations with little or no direct experience of the violence has not escaped the trauma.

(TOP PHOTO: Neighbours in Rwanda deal with lingering trauma.)

Mental health – the lasting scars of crisis
Others

Nigerian militancy, disaster risk podcasts, and a mixed week for Yemen: The Cheat Sheet

Our editors’ weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

 

On our radar

 

One step forward, two steps back in Yemen?

 

This week Houthi rebels began withdrawing from Hodeidah and two other nearby ports in what was supposedly one of the most significant advances towards peace in more than four years of conflict. But this week renewed fighting also broke out in Hodeidah between Saudi-backed pro-government forces and the Houthi rebels. And this week several people were killed and dozens injured in the capital, Sana’a, as Saudi-led coalition warplanes bombed in apparent retaliation for Houthi drone strikes on a key oil pipeline. It’s no wonder the UN’s special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, sounded far from triumphant in his briefing to the Security Council on Wednesday. “Yemen remains very much at the crossroads between war and peace,” he said, cautioning: “Progress can be made, progress can be threatened.” Whether this limited withdrawal in Hodeidah, and the Stockholm Agreement that preceded it, can unlock more significant moves towards peace remains very much an open question.

 

Nigeria failing in the challenge posed by Islamic State

 

The Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), a splinter of Boko Haram, is growing in power and influence, the International Crisis Group says in a new report. “By filling gaps in governance and service delivery, it has cultivated a level of support among local civilians that Boko Haram never enjoyed and has turned neglected communities in the area and islands in Lake Chad into a source of economic support.” It points out that Nigeria and its neighbours not only need to win militarily – which Nigeria is so far largely failing to do – but also politically. ISWAP digs wells, provides some basic healthcare, has a judicial system in place and a tax regime that’s generally accepted – creating an environment where people can do business “and compare its governance favourably to that of the Nigerian state.” We should also add a religious dimension of support from people committed to ISWAP’s ideological message. All in all, displacing ISWAP will not be easy.

 

When disasters and conflict collide

 

In March 2017, heavy rainfall caused rivers near the town of Mocoa in southern Colombia to burst their banks, unleashing a torrent of water and debris through the municipality and killing some 300 people. More than 80 percent of the victims were facing their second crisis: they had fled to Mocoa to seek shelter from armed groups but could only afford to build their homes in disaster-vulnerable areas. New research from UK-based think tank ODI examines the neglected crossroads of disasters and conflict. Researchers says donors, governments, and UN agencies have often resisted tackling disaster risk reduction in conflict zones, even if the majority of disaster-related deaths happen in fragile states. But there are ways forward: the research looks at how disaster risk reduction has evolved in conflict areas around the world, including in Afghanistan, Chad, and Colombia. The ongoing research is piling up here; or if you’d rather hear someone talk about it, check out the first in a related podcast series here.

 

Meanwhile, an annual UN gathering of the disaster risk reduction community wrapped up on Friday in Geneva. A Global UN Assessment, weighing in at 472 pages, warns: “we are fast approaching the point where we may not be able to mitigate or repair impacts from cascading and systemic risk in our global systems.”

 

Tensions and tempers flare in Sudan

 

Sudan’s opposition alliance has decried a three-day suspension of talks by the transitional ruling military council as “regrettable”. Although the generals and opposition had agreed a three-year transition to a civilian administration, the military on Thursday paused further talks on the details until a “suitable atmosphere” can be created, including the removal of roadblocks in Khartoum. Shots were fired on Wednesday as soldiers tried to clear barricades. Protesters said 14 people were wounded. The alliance described protesters as “increasingly angry as a result of the bloodshed and the souls that we lost”. There are also divisions within the alliance over whether to comply with the order to dismantle the barricades, one of the symbols of the protest. For a short and personal take on a Sudan in transition check out this essay in the New Yorker by freelance Sudanese journalist Isma’il Kushkush.

 

Healthcare in the firing line

 

Last year was one of the deadliest for healthcare workers: nearly 1,000 attacks in 23 countries, according to a report by the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition. The report comes as a deadly Ebola outbreak is spreading even faster in the Democratic Republic of Congo, partly because repeated attacks on treatment centres and healthcare workers have interrupted response operations. Other attacks have included hospitals and clinics in East Ghouta, Syria being hit by bombs or shells, and Boko Haram militants killing a doctor for UNICEF and two midwives at a displacement camp in Nigeria. The year before last, there were 701 incidents.

 

In case you missed it

 

MOZAMBIQUE: Facing losses of up to $773 million from just one of the two cyclones that struck this year, Mozambique is also one of seven low-income countries in “debt distress“, according to the IMF. The exposure of corrupt borrowing by state-owned companies has worsened Mozambique’s position. In a new report, British NGO Christian Aid says there is a “new global debt crisis“, fuelled in part by a private sector boom in “irresponsible lending”.

 

MYANMAR: The international community should cut off financial support to Myanmar’s military, a UN-appointed rights probe said this week following a mission to the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. The investigators said Myanmar has done little to resolve its displacement crises, including the exodus of nearly one million Rohingya.

 

PAKISTAN: More than 190 people have died in floods and storms in Pakistan since the beginning of the year, according to the UN. Pakistan is facing disasters on two fronts: severe drought in the south and flooding in other areas.

 

VENEZUELA: Talks began on Friday in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, to seek a mediated solution to the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó confirmed sending a delegation but said it wouldn’t be holding face-to-face talks with representatives of President Nicolás Maduro.

 

Weekend read

 

Briefing: What’s behind South Sudan’s delayed peace deal

 

“I have completely forgiven him (opposition leader Riek Machar) and all I ask from him is to become a peace partner, for he is no longer my opponent”: President Salva Kiir opening parliament on Tuesday. Fine, except the two men struck a deal back in September to usher in a power-sharing government on 12 May. Our weekend read lays out why that didn’t happen and looks at the chances of the deal sticking if Machar does return in November, as is now planned. Meanwhile, fighting is ongoing. Further evidence this week: hundreds of South Sudanese refugees arriving in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, many of them widows and unaccompanied children. For more, check out our photo feature from Old Fangak, a town in the middle of a vast swamp that has grown tenfold as one of the final refuges from a five-and-a-half-year conflict that has claimed more than 400,000 lives.

 

 

Event

A major conference on Ending Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Humanitarian Crises will take place in Oslo, on 23-24 May. Hosted by Norway, together with the governments of Iraq, Somalia, United Arab Emirates, UN bodies, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the event will also include 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Denis Mukwege. It aims to make SGBV a political priority, as well as to generate new funding commitments for efforts to combat sexual and gender-based violence.

 

(TOP PHOTO: Yemenis looking for survivors in damaged houses following reported Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, on 16 May 2019.)

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Nigerian militancy, disaster risk podcasts, and a mixed week for Yemen
Others

Libyan power play, weather worries, and unhealthy eaters: The Cheat Sheet

Our editors’ weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

On our radar

Meanwhile, in Libya …

While North Africa watchers had their eyes on Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s resignation after 20 years in power and weeks of mass protests against his government, a key figure vying for power in neighbouring Libya sent his troops towards the capital city of Tripoli, where the UN-backed government sits. The move this week by Khalifa Haftar, an army general who controls much of the country’s east, overshadowed UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ visit to Tripoli to discuss the UN’s plan for a national conference this month on Libyan elections. A flurry of statements urged a de-escalation of tensions, and rival forces from the western city of Misrata said they were mobilising to defend the capital. All of which somewhat underscores a statement by the UN’s migration agency this week, warning that Libya “cannot be considered a safe port or haven for migrants.” Nonetheless, more than 16,000 people have been returned to the country’s shores since January 2018. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) recently reported that migrants in Tripoli detention centres are subject to “inhumane and dangerous conditions.” Check out our Destination Europe series for more on what it’s like for the many migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers passing through Libya.

Escaping Boko Haram but not the rainy season

Violence continues in Nigeria’s Borno state, and needs of civilians affected by the conflict are expected to grow in the rainy season that starts in May, MSF warns. The NGO said an estimated 30,000 displaced people in Monguno, many of whom fled violence late last year, are in particular need of shelter and other basics. The Boko Haram splinter group affiliated with the so-called Islamic State has mounted a number of attacks recently and issued a video of executing five people. Boko Haram formed in 2002 in the northeastern city of Maiduguri and the conflict and counter-insurgency has evolved over years, as reporter Chika Oduah chronicled in a recent reporter’s diary. Five years ago, the group kidnapped 276 female students in the town of Chibok. Many escaped or were returned, but more than 100 are still in captivity.

Welcome, Journal of Humanitarian Affairs!

The growing humanitarian sector faces “severe ethical and practical challenges”, which need critical reflection, say the founders of a new academic periodical. The Journal of Humanitarian Affairs aims to provide “serious and inter-disciplinary academic and practitioner exchanges on pressing issues of international interest.” The three-times-a-year publication is backed by the NGOs Save the Children and Médecins sans Frontières, with the UK’s University of Manchester. The inaugural issue went online this week, with the theme of “humanitarianism and the end of liberal order.” In an introduction, its editor, Juliano Fiori, wrote that in a changing world “humanitarian norms and practices are increasingly contested.” An opinion piece by Belgian academic Olivia Rutazibwa questions what there is to be sorry about in the end of the liberal order: “…decoloniality questions what we mourn. With humanitarianism itself being redefined, decolonial perspectives can contribute to an understanding of the relevance of the good intentions of humanitarians to the aspirations of their intended ‘beneficiaries’.”

New violence, old story for Afghan civilians

Clashes are escalating on multiple battlefronts in Afghanistan, even after two weeks of US-led peace talks with the insurgent Taliban last month. At least 30 soldiers and police officers were killed Thursday when Taliban fighters stormed a district in western Afghanistan’s Badghis Province, the New York Times reported. On the other side of the country in Kunar Province, meanwhile, the Taliban is on the receiving end of attacks from another group of militants – and civilians are caught in the middle, as usual. In late March, more than 21,000 people – including half the population of a single district, Chapadara – were displaced by ongoing clashes between the Taliban and fighters aligned with so-called Islamic State. Aid groups say they have no access to areas controlled by the IS-aligned fighters; the UN says public health and schooling is “limited or non-existent” in areas the militants have captured. Fighters linked to Islamic State have been behind a growing share of civilian conflict casualties in the east – often through suicide blasts in heavily populated areas.

Eat your greens

Unhealthy eaters, you’re not alone. Every region of the world is eating too much of the wrong things, and too little of the right ones, according to a new study published in The Lancet. Health researchers munched through data and published studies on 195 countries to calculate the connection between diet, illness, and premature death. They found that eight million people a year die early from three causes: too much sodium or too little whole grains and fruit. Among the world’s 20 most populous countries, Japan comes in on the top in healthy eating and Egypt at the bottom. In detailed breakdowns, the report offers country-specific insights, suggesting Bangladesh could use more fruit or that Mexico chugs too many sugary drinks. Poor diet leads to a range of illnesses, such as diabetes and cancer. But chief amongst them is diet-related cardiovascular disease, which affects the regions of Oceania and Central Asia the most. Food for thought perhaps on World Health Day, this Sunday.

In case you missed it

 

Mozambique: Flood waters are receding after Cyclone Idai tore through parts of Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe weeks ago, but not fast enough for farmers to plan for the harvest this month. Some two million people throughout the region are in need of humanitarian assistance, and Zimbabwe is facing critical grain shortages. Thousands are still missing, meanwhile, and more than 1,400 cases of cholera have been reported. Two people have died from the disease. A widespread vaccination campaign is underway in affected areas.

 

Myanmar: More than 95,000 people can’t access aid and basic services in Rakhine State because of excessive government humanitarian restrictions linked to ongoing clashes with the insurgent Arakan Army, a group of 16 NGOs warned this week. The aid groups said this “blanket security approach” was causing hardship even in areas not directly affected by the fighting.

 

Nepal: The strongest windstorm to strike Nepal in a half-century last week killed at least 27 people and triggered “severe destruction” affecting 12,000 people. The Red Cross says there’s an urgent need for food and shelter.

 

Syria: Heavy rainfall last weekend led to flooding and two reported deaths in northwest Syria’s displacement camps. A group of doctors in Syria said that more than 6,500 families, most of them in Idlib’s Atma camp, were impacted as tents and belongings were swept away.

 

Yemen: Médecins Sans Frontières said Thursday it is suspending new admissions to its hospital in Yemen’s southern city of Aden after a patient who was about to undergo surgery was kidnapped from the grounds and later killed. The group said the incident was the latest in a series of threats to hospital security and staff.

 

Weekend read

Western Sahara: “No one even knows if we’re there or not”

Abdullah Mohamed-Salem Tlaimidi is 22, and war is on his mind. It’s on the minds of other young Sahrawis who have spent their lives in refugee camps, too, as journalist Ruairi Casey found recently. Morocco annexed two-thirds of Western Sahara shortly after Spain retreated from its former colony in 1975, sparking a war with the Sahrawi Polisario Front that lasted until 1991 and displaced tens of thousands of indigenous Sahrawi to western Algeria’s Tindouf province. More than 170,000 now live in the camps, according to UNHCR estimates.

 

UN-convened informal talks on the Western Sahara late last month appear to have yielded little in bringing the decades-long conflict to a close – though UN Secretary-General António Guterres reportedly told the Security Council this week that “a solution to the conflict is possible.” Spend some time with our weekend read to understand why a lifetime of failed diplomacy has left Tlaimidi and others of his generation hopeless at what they say is a frozen peace process, a glaring lack of opportunity, and a world that seems to have forgotten they exist.

And finally

Hello, tech support? I’m from Syria, and …

Ready for something a bit different than our usual fare? It’s the weekend, after all. We recommend the latest episode of Reply All, a podcast about the internet. Hosts Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt occasionally open up the phone lines to listeners and attempt to solve their problems, big and small. This week, one of the callers is a young Syrian refugee living in Turkey, who is looking for some tech support as he applies to universities in Canada; the US travel ban has locked him out of options there despite his sky-high SAT scores. The conversation turns to his life in Turkey, what it’s like to be a nerdy refugee who relates to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and his family’s aborted attempt to get to Europe. The language and subject matter of the previous calls might not be safe for work, but on the whole the episode is sweet, quirky, a bit sad, and well worth a listen.

(TOP PHOTO: Migrants protested during a visit by UN officials to the Ain Zara detention centre in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, this week.)

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Libyan power play, weather worries, and unhealthy eaters
Others

Building a market and a future after Boko Haram

In the sweltering midday heat of the IDP Farmers’ Beans Market, Ladi Mattias haggled with a customer before finally agreeing, satisfied, to sell him a 100 kilogram sack of beans for 12,000 naira ($33).

 

The wad of money Mathias made would have been unimaginable five years ago, when she and her family first arrived in the village of Auta Balefi, destitute. They had fled deadly attacks by the jihadist group Boko Haram in the northeastern Nigerian town of Gwoza.

 

To scrape by, the 35-year-old mother of six sold vegetables door-to-door in Auta Balefi, 25 kilometres outside of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. She earned hardly 400 naira ($1.1) a day.

 

“That time, I used to beg people for food,” Mathias recalled. “But look at me now, selling up to 30 bags of beans and having enough money to buy food and pay our children’s school fees.”

 

Behind that change is the determination of a group of men and women desperate to get back on their feet, and a supportive community.

 

“I used to beg people for food. But look at me now, selling up to 30 bags of beans.”

Like thousands of other internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Auta Balefi, Mattias relied heavily on the magnanimity of host communities when she arrived in late 2014. Some families offered her family shelter, food, and clothes, others gave them land to farm for free, or in exchange for a few bags of beans after harvest.

Cut off from the humanitarian hubs in Nigeria’s northeast where Boko Haram’s insurgency is still active, most displaced people now living in Abuja – around 10,000 people – are left to fend for themselves, with occasional support from churches and nonprofits.

 

The insurgency has killed some 35,000 people and displaced up to 1.8 million in Nigeria since 2009 – people who were traders, farmers, teachers, and mechanics, now forced from their homes, their lives turned upside down.

 

Investing for survival

 

Mathias grew up on the land in Gwoza before the war, so when a policeman in Auta Balefi gave her family a single room and a two-hectare plot for free, she and her husband poured their energy into farming beans.

 

But without a market, they struggled. Exploited by middlemen, their returns were marginal at best.

 

Enter Philemon Ayuba, himself an IDP and former bean farmer and dealer from Gwoza.

 

“People were farming beans in large quantities, yet no buyers were coming here to buy them,” Ayuba, 42, said in his makeshift office at the market.

 

In August 2016, he asked all adult IDPs to attend a meeting in order to find a solution. He invited religious leaders as well as the village chief to offer their advice and blessings.

 

Three months later, the IDPs pooled resources to rent a tract of land and build sheds covered with corrugated roofing, naming the complex the IDP Farmers’ Beans Market. Ayuba and a few other traders contacted buyers they had known in the northeast, before the insurgency.

Traders and buyers flocked to the village, and the market boomed. More and more displaced people took to farming to meet the steady demand. A federal lawmaker representing the area in Nigeria’s lower parliament even gave them additional land to farm for free.

 

“We do not want to depend on anybody to survive, that is why we started this market,” said Ayuba, now the chairman of the market. He pointed out that the IDPs are even paying back the wider community, contributing the equivalent of $565 in taxes to the local government council along with the associated business opportunities that have sprung up.

 

Every week, four to five trucks – each carrying between 600 to 800 sacks of beans – leave the market, most headed to the southwestern city of Ibadan, 600 kilometers away. Other buyers come from the towns of Ogbomosho and Ilesha in the southwest and the southeastern economic hub of Onitsha.

 

“We really suffered a lot but God has helped us and changed our lives with this market,” said Mattias.

ladi_mattias_inspects_her_stock_before_they_are_bagged_and_loaded_unto_a_truck_1920.jpg

Linus Unah/TNH

Ladi Mattias inspects her stock before they are bagged and loaded onto a truck.

“This is not what we normally see at IDP camps”

 

When John Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Catholic archbishop of Abuja, heard of the IDPs’ project in Auta Balefi, he convinced Nigeria’s minister of agriculture and rural development, Audu Ogbeh, to visit.

 

“We are proud of you because this is not what we normally see at IDP camps,” Ogbeh said during his visit last December. “Instead of waiting for someone to bring you food, here you are producing food and making money. Here is a group of people who have lost their homes, working so hard and creating an industry, one of the biggest beans markets I have seen in Nigeria.”

 

Aweofeso Adebola, project manager of the nonprofit Young Shapers Club, which provides scholarships for displaced people in Abuja, agrees that the “story of the IDPs in Auta Balefi is unique and the most organised I have ever seen among IDPs who usually prefer to farm individually or work in pairs”.

 

Donor funding shortfalls – Nigeria’s 2019 appeal of $847 million is so far only 6 percent funded – limit the help that aid agencies can offer.

 

Besides providing food and relief items, some humanitarian organisations also offer business training, micro grants, and farming supplies like tractors, high-yielding varieties of seeds and services to displaced people.

 

But a combination of a stagnant economy, inadequate start-up support and the constant challenge of being undercut in the market by more established businesses can strangle progress for new businesses.

 

 

Aiding the local economy

 

That’s not the case in Auta Balefi, and the community happily trumpets their success. Word is spread to townspeople living in camps and among host communities in the northeast, encouraging them to supply what produce they can for traders like Mattias to buy and re-sell.

 

And the area around the market is benefitting, too. At the entrance, locals sell secondhand clothing, shoes, and bags. Motorcycle taxi drivers stand beside their bikes, their eyes straying in search of passengers. A few kiosks and small groups of women selling food on wooden tables are springing up around the market. Young men now work as porters or sew sacks for the produce, and local women get paid to clean the beans.

 

Last year, the 23-person committee the IDPs appointed to manage the market purchased the land it sits on, with money raised largely from fees the buyers and shop owners pay to the market. The group has also been able to help other displaced people; in January it sent clothes and 15 bags of maize flour to Maiduguri.

 

Some IDPs here have been able to purchase land and build apartments and stores. Some now own cars and motorcycles.

 

Mattias has similar goals.

 

“I want to be selling at least 50 bags of beans every week,” she said with a smile. “I know if I am able to save more and get more people to work in my farm I can even buy a house next year.”

(TOP PHOTO: The IDP market provides opportunities for the wider community in Auta Balefi.)

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‘We do not want to depend on anybody to survive’
Building a market and a future after Boko Haram
Others

Nigerian challenges, cash aid headaches, and making mental health matter: The Cheat Sheet

IRIN editors give their weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

On our radar

 

New term, old problems for Nigeria’s Buhari

 

Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, who won a second presidential term this week, faces a variety of security challenges: a decade-long and resurgent Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast; endemic insecurity in the oil-producing Niger Delta south, and – less reported but often the most deadly – spiralling violence between pastoralist Fulani herders and local farmers in the northwest. Despite Buhari’s 2015 claim that Boko Haram was “technically defeated”, jihadists continue gaining ground across Lake Chad and West Africa, where the humanitarian fallout is, if anything, worsening. For a comprehensive look at the causes and the consequences of militancy in the Sahel region, check out this curation of our long-term reporting. And for a personal and graphic account of covering Boko Haram over the course of several years, this reporter’s diary from Chika Oduah is a must-read.

 

Headaches in the ‘cash revolution’?

 

Humanitarian cash aid programmes in Kenya’s drought-prone northeast are plagued with problems, according to this recent article by Kenyan journalist Anthony Langat published by Devex. Beneficiaries describe them as confusing, unreliable, and wide open to corruption. Families report not receiving what they think they’re due and/or not knowing what they ought to get, and they say there’s no effective system to address complaints. Local leaders are accused of manipulating lists of entitled families, and money transfer agents allegedly skim off unauthorised transfer fees. The Kenyan government and the UN’s World Food Programme – who run different cash initiatives in the area – say some problems are simply clerical, such as wrongly registered mobile phone numbers or ID cards. Earlier research from NGO Ground Truth Solutions showed that 62 percent of a sample of Kenyans enrolled in cash aid projects said they were satisfied with the service. However, 88 percent “did not know “how aid agencies decide who gets cash support”.

 

UN peers into a dark Myanmar mirror

 

The UN is launching an inquiry into its actions in Myanmar, where critics accuse it of inaction and “complicity” in the face of widespread rights abuses that led to the violent exodus of more than 700,000 Rohingya. The UN this week confirmed the appointment of Gert Rosenthal, a Guatemalan diplomat, to lead an internal review of UN operations in Myanmar. The news, first reported by The Guardian, follows a Human Rights Council resolution urging a probe into whether the UN did “everything possible to prevent or mitigate the unfolding crises”, including the military’s Rohingya purge and abuses against minorities elsewhere in the country. Critics say the UN mission in Myanmar was “glaringly dysfunctional”, marred by infighting over how to engage with the government. A UN-mandated fact-finding mission has warned that problems continue and said that some UN entities refused to cooperate with its own investigation. In a statement, UN spokesman in Myanmar Stanislav Saling said the review will look at how the UN “works on the ground and possible lessons learned for the future”. It’s unclear whether Rosenthal’s findings will be made public.

 

Growing recognition for mental health

 

In humanitarian terms, psycho-social support is often treated as the poor cousin to aid like food and shelter, with few mental health services available in crisis settings, as we recently reported from South Sudan. But just as the economic cost and importance of mental health is increasingly being recognised in society at large, so the issue is picking up steam in humanitarian contexts too. On the sidelines of this week’s UN pledging conference for Yemen, Dutch Development Cooperation Minister Sigrid Kaag urged humanitarian donors to invest more in mental health (“second line” healthcare, which includes mental health, makes up only $72 million of the $4.2 billion appeal for Yemen). The Netherlands is funding the development of tools to help aid agencies integrate mental health services into their work and will host a conference later this year to mobilise commitments from others. Psychiatrists argue that mental health support is not just a human right; it also strengthens people’s ability to benefit from other aid, such as education or livelihood programmes.  

 

Bond-holders in pandemic finance scheme untouched by Ebola outbreak

 

On Thursday, the World Bank announced it was to provide up to $80 million of new funding to combat Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Of that sum, $20 million is from its Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility, or PEF, set up after the 2013-2016 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. PEF is a leading example of harnessing private capital and donor resources in humanitarian response. Private investors in PEF bonds can lose their investment if a major epidemic happens. Otherwise they get interest (paid by conventional donors) at a rate described last month as “chunky” by the Financial Times. The catch? PEF investors haven’t paid out a penny in Congo. That’s because the outbreak hasn’t spread to a second country, one of the conditions for a payout. IRIN asked a disaster insurance expert about PEF last year; he said it was “quite expensive”.

  

In case you missed it:

 

The Democratic Republic of Congo: Médecins Sans Frontières has suspended work at two Ebola treatment centres after the facilities in Butembo and Katwa were partially destroyed in two separate attacks in the space of four days this week. The caretaker of one patient was reported to have died trying to flee. The motivation of the unidentified assailants remains unclear. The outbreak, which began seven months ago, continues, with 555 deaths and counting.

 

Gaza: A UN commission of inquiry said in a report released Thursday that Israeli soldiers may have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity in shooting unarmed civilians during mass Palestinian protests at the Gaza border last year.

 

Indonesia: The country has recorded its first polio case since 2006. The World Health Organisation says a strain of vaccine-derived polio was confirmed this month in a child in a remote village of Papua province, one of Indonesia’s poorest regions. The WHO says the case is not linked to a polio outbreak in neighbouring Papua New Guinea.

 

Iraq: Human Rights Watch says authorities in Mosul and other parts of the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh are harassing, threatening, and arresting aid workers, sometimes accusing them of ties to so-called Islamic State in an effort to change lists of people eligible for humanitarian assistance.

 

Pakistan: Shortages of nutritional food and safe water could be leading to “alarmingly high” rates of disease and malnutrition in drought-hit Pakistan, especially for women and children, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

 

Somalia: Al-Shabab militants set off two deadly blasts outside a hotel in Mogadishu on Thursday, before seizing a nearby building. Soldiers battled through the night to try to dislodge them. As conflict and insecurity continue across the country, a new report revealed that 320,000 Somalis fled their homes in 2018 – a 58 percent rise on 2017. Some 2.6 million Somalis are now internally displaced.

 

Weekend read

 

UN probes substandard food aid for mothers and children

The difficulty with this story, to steal from Donald Rumsfeld, are the known unknowns. The World Food Programme purchased 50,000 tonnes of porridge mix for mothers and malnourished children, and a proportion of it was lacking key nutrition-enhancing ingredients. It was sent to crisis zones around the world. It likely came from one of two producers who have a duopoly over the market. The deficiencies should have been picked up by third-party inspectors before the food aid was dispatched. But let’s look at what we don’t know – not for a lack of digging by IRIN’s Ben Parker or contributor Lorenzo D’Agostino in Rome. Where exactly did the faulty food aid go? What effect did the lack of protein and fat have on breastfeeding mothers, babies, and children? Which company produced the substandard porridge mix and why? How come the inspectors failed to find fault with the product? Who was told what, and when? Is operational error, negligence, or fraud, or a combination to blame? We await the findings of the investigation with interest.

 

And finally…

NASA

Life resumes on Vanuatu’s volcanic Ambae Island

 

The most explosive volcanic eruption anywhere in the world last year came courtesy of Manaro Voui on Ambae Island, part of the Pacific nation of Vanuatu. The volcano spewed more than 540,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the air, according to NASA. Volcanologists may be fascinated by Manaro Voui’s rumblings, but for 11,000 Ambae residents, the eruptions have been life-changing. They covered parts of the island with volcanic ash, which destroyed crops and homes and polluted drinking water. Residents have repeatedly been forced to evacuate, and at one point the government declared the entire island uninhabitable. For now, the volcano continues to be a in a state of “major unrest”, but some residents are moving back, and the government is preparing to begin a new school term for some returning students.

(TOP PHOTO: Destroyed cars by the side of the road after a suicide bomber detonated their vest in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria, in 2017. CREDIT: Ashley Gilbertson/VII Photo)

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Nigerian challenges, cash aid headaches, and making mental health matter: The Cheat Sheet

IRIN editors give their weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

On our radar

 

New term, old problems for Nigeria’s Buhari

 

Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, who won a second presidential term this week, faces a variety of security challenges: a decade-long and resurgent Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast; endemic insecurity in the oil-producing Niger Delta south, and – less reported but often the most deadly – spiralling violence between pastoralist Fulani herders and local farmers in the northwest. Despite Buhari’s 2015 claim that Boko Haram was “technically defeated”, jihadists continue gaining ground across Lake Chad and West Africa, where the humanitarian fallout is, if anything, worsening. For a comprehensive look at the causes and the consequences of militancy in the Sahel region, check out this curation of our long-term reporting. And for a personal and graphic account of covering Boko Haram over the course of several years, this reporter’s diary from Chika Oduah is a must-read.

 

Headaches in the ‘cash revolution’?

 

Humanitarian cash aid programmes in Kenya’s drought-prone northeast are plagued with problems, according to this recent article by Kenyan journalist Anthony Langat published by Devex. Beneficiaries describe them as confusing, unreliable, and wide open to corruption. Families report not receiving what they think they’re due and/or not knowing what they ought to get, and they say there’s no effective system to address complaints. Local leaders are accused of manipulating lists of entitled families, and money transfer agents allegedly skim off unauthorised transfer fees. The Kenyan government and the UN’s World Food Programme – who run different cash initiatives in the area – say some problems are simply clerical, such as wrongly registered mobile phone numbers or ID cards. Earlier research from NGO Ground Truth Solutions showed that 62 percent of a sample of Kenyans enrolled in cash aid projects said they were satisfied with the service. However, 88 percent “did not know “how aid agencies decide who gets cash support”.

 

UN peers into a dark Myanmar mirror

 

The UN is launching an inquiry into its actions in Myanmar, where critics accuse it of inaction and “complicity” in the face of widespread rights abuses that led to the violent exodus of more than 700,000 Rohingya. The UN this week confirmed the appointment of Gert Rosenthal, a Guatemalan diplomat, to lead an internal review of UN operations in Myanmar. The news, first reported by The Guardian, follows a Human Rights Council resolution urging a probe into whether the UN did “everything possible to prevent or mitigate the unfolding crises”, including the military’s Rohingya purge and abuses against minorities elsewhere in the country. Critics say the UN mission in Myanmar was “glaringly dysfunctional”, marred by infighting over how to engage with the government. A UN-mandated fact-finding mission has warned that problems continue and said that some UN entities refused to cooperate with its own investigation. In a statement, UN spokesman in Myanmar Stanislav Saling said the review will look at how the UN “works on the ground and possible lessons learned for the future”. It’s unclear whether Rosenthal’s findings will be made public.

 

Growing recognition for mental health

 

In humanitarian terms, psycho-social support is often treated as the poor cousin to aid like food and shelter, with few mental health services available in crisis settings, as we recently reported from South Sudan. But just as the economic cost and importance of mental health is increasingly being recognised in society at large, so the issue is picking up steam in humanitarian contexts too. On the sidelines of this week’s UN pledging conference for Yemen, Dutch Development Cooperation Minister Sigrid Kaag urged humanitarian donors to invest more in mental health (“second line” healthcare, which includes mental health, makes up only $72 million of the $4.2 billion appeal for Yemen). The Netherlands is funding the development of tools to help aid agencies integrate mental health services into their work and will host a conference later this year to mobilise commitments from others. Psychiatrists argue that mental health support is not just a human right; it also strengthens people’s ability to benefit from other aid, such as education or livelihood programmes.  

 

Bond-holders in pandemic finance scheme untouched by Ebola outbreak

 

On Thursday, the World Bank announced it was to provide up to $80 million of new funding to combat Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Of that sum, $20 million is from its Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility, or PEF, set up after the 2013-2016 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. PEF is a leading example of harnessing private capital and donor resources in humanitarian response. Private investors in PEF bonds can lose their investment if a major epidemic happens. Otherwise they get interest (paid by conventional donors) at a rate described last month as “chunky” by the Financial Times. The catch? PEF investors haven’t paid out a penny in Congo. That’s because the outbreak hasn’t spread to a second country, one of the conditions for a payout. IRIN asked a disaster insurance expert about PEF last year; he said it was “quite expensive”.

  

In case you missed it:

 

The Democratic Republic of Congo: Médecins Sans Frontières has suspended work at two Ebola treatment centres after the facilities in Butembo and Katwa were partially destroyed in two separate attacks in the space of four days this week. The caretaker of one patient was reported to have died trying to flee. The motivation of the unidentified assailants remains unclear. The outbreak, which began seven months ago, continues, with 555 deaths and counting.

 

Gaza: A UN commission of inquiry said in a report released Thursday that Israeli soldiers may have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity in shooting unarmed civilians during mass Palestinian protests at the Gaza border last year.

 

Indonesia: The country has recorded its first polio case since 2006. The World Health Organisation says a strain of vaccine-derived polio was confirmed this month in a child in a remote village of Papua province, one of Indonesia’s poorest regions. The WHO says the case is not linked to a polio outbreak in neighbouring Papua New Guinea.

 

Iraq: Human Rights Watch says authorities in Mosul and other parts of the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh are harassing, threatening, and arresting aid workers, sometimes accusing them of ties to so-called Islamic State in an effort to change lists of people eligible for humanitarian assistance.

 

Pakistan: Shortages of nutritional food and safe water could be leading to “alarmingly high” rates of disease and malnutrition in drought-hit Pakistan, especially for women and children, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

 

Somalia: Al-Shabab militants set off two deadly blasts outside a hotel in Mogadishu on Thursday, before seizing a nearby building. Soldiers battled through the night to try to dislodge them. As conflict and insecurity continue across the country, a new report revealed that 320,000 Somalis fled their homes in 2018 – a 58 percent rise on 2017. Some 2.6 million Somalis are now internally displaced.

 

Weekend read

 

UN probes substandard food aid for mothers and children

The difficulty with this story, to steal from Donald Rumsfeld, are the known unknowns. The World Food Programme purchased 50,000 tonnes of porridge mix for mothers and malnourished children, and a proportion of it was lacking key nutrition-enhancing ingredients. It was sent to crisis zones around the world. It likely came from one of two producers who have a duopoly over the market. The deficiencies should have been picked up by third-party inspectors before the food aid was dispatched. But let’s look at what we don’t know – not for a lack of digging by IRIN’s Ben Parker or contributor Lorenzo D’Agostino in Rome. Where exactly did the faulty food aid go? What effect did the lack of protein and fat have on breastfeeding mothers, babies, and children? Which company produced the substandard porridge mix and why? How come the inspectors failed to find fault with the product? Who was told what, and when? Is operational error, negligence, or fraud, or a combination to blame? We await the findings of the investigation with interest.

 

And finally…

Life resumes on Vanuatu’s volcanic Ambae Island

 

The most explosive volcanic eruption anywhere in the world last year came courtesy of Manaro Voui on Ambae Island, part of the Pacific nation of Vanuatu. The volcano spewed more than 540,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the air, according to NASA. Volcanologists may be fascinated by Manaro Voui’s rumblings, but for 11,000 Ambae residents, the eruptions have been life-changing. They covered parts of the island with volcanic ash, which destroyed crops and homes and polluted drinking water. Residents have repeatedly been forced to evacuate, and at one point the government declared the entire island uninhabitable. For now, the volcano continues to be a in a state of “major unrest”, but some residents are moving back, and the government is preparing to begin a new school term for some returning students.

(TOP PHOTO: Destroyed cars by the side of the road after a suicide bomber detonated their vest in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria, in 2017. CREDIT: Ashley Gilbertson/VII Photo)

bp-il-as-si-ha/ag

Nigerian challenges, cash aid headaches, and making mental health matter
Others

Reporter’s Diary: Still on the trail of Boko Haram

The city of Kano stands surrounded by 700-year-old mud-baked walls, constructed to deter foreign attackers. Yet the walls, completed in the 14th century to protect the people living in one of West Africa’s oldest commercial hubs – now Nigeria’s sec…