The Humanitarian Times

March 3, 1999


- MSF ISSUES CRITIQUE OF SUDAN FAMINE RELIEF EFFORT, in a report last week, arguing that too much UN-coordinated food aid is siphoned by the armed Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) which controls many of the emergency-affected areas in southern Sudan.

- NEW EPIDEMICS HIT SUDAN AND AFGHANISTAN in the same month. Two unknown diseases killed over 600 in southern Sudan and 190 in northeast Afghanistan. A WHO team believes that the Afghanistan infection is a strain of influenza, killing via pneumonia. The Sudan disease, which has a high mortality rate, has similarities to a similar disease that swept refugee camps in the Sudan in 1986, with high case fatality rates and death occurring within 48 hours. At the same time, over 1,000 cases of meningitis have recently occurred in Sudan.

- OFDA REVISION OF F.O.G. NOW AVAILABLE, VERSION 3. The Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance's expanded Field Operations Guide can be downloaded:

- GUATEMALA TRUTH COMMISSION FINDS OVER 200,000 DEATHS and at least 626 massacres during the 1960-1996 crisis that repressed indigenous Mayan groups, displaced hundreds of thousands, and demolished hundreds of Mayan villages. The Historical Clarification Commission, which grew out of the 1996 peace treaty, upped the estimate of deaths (previously thought to be 150,000) and found that over 9/10s of deaths were the fault of the govt and its paramilitary allies. The report, which received intl. publicity and was submitted to the UN Sec. Gen., attributed the conflict to pressures by economically powerful groups, both Guatemalan and foreign.

- COMPOSITE VACCINE MAY PROTECT AGAINST MALARIA. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is hopeful in tests of new combination proteins to stimulate a varied antibody response against all phases of the plasmodium falciparum life cycle. 400m cases of malaria occur each year worldwide.

- BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION DURING & AFTER COMPLEX EMERGENCIES in Africa is the subject of a current review by the Biodiversity Support Program (a consortium of World Wildlife Fund, World Resources Inst. and Nature Conservancy, funded by USAID). A workshop was held February 9 with some US based relief and environment organizations working in Africa. NGO experiences are sought, plus suggestions for future field-based case study work. Contact Rebecca Ham:

- INTL. LANDMINE TREATY BECAME EFFECTIVE MARCH 1, obligating nations to begin destroy stockpiles, prohibit production and trade, and improve services for victims. The (Ottawa) Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction, ratified by 68 countries. Pope John Paul II called on all nations to sign the treaty.

- UN FORCE IN MACEDONIA TO LEAVE AFTER 7 YEARS OF SUCCESS preventing conflict, after China vetoed extension in UN Sec. Council vote, reacting to Macedonia's recognition of Taiwan.

- ICG RECOMMENDS AGGRESSIVE NATO DEPLOYMENT IN KOSOVO, in recent reports. The International Crisis Group suggests: "Within any NATO force there should be a significant number of military police and gendarmerie troops trained for civil disturbances and low-intensity operations within a civilian environment."

- SPONTANEOUS REPATRIATION TO GALI, ABKHAZIA, FROM GEORGIA of hundreds of persons displaced from fighting, with support from Abkhaz govt, but against recommendations of Georgia's govt.

- NIGERIA ELECTIONS PEACEFUL, BUT VOTER TURNOUT WAS LOW in last week's elections. The People's Democratic Party dominated legislative elections. Olusegun Obasanjo who previously took power in 1976 and stepped down after the 1979 elections, won the Presidential election on Sunday. The Transition Monitoring Group found electoral fraud in some areas, but peace holds. Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar says he will step down on 29 May, marking the return of civilian rule.

- APRIL 11-14: DISASTERS, PUBLIC HEALTH, AND COMMUNITY PREVENTION will be subject of Conference at Univ. Calif of Los Angeles. Contact UCLA's Loc Nguyen:

Recent Book: WORLDWATCH INST. "STATE OF THE WORLD 1999" (London: WW Norton) assesses global trends in economics, resource depletion, ocean use, energy availability, urban stress and industrialization. One chapter examines the long-term growth in military capabilities and steps needed to end violent conflict. John Tuxill writes that plant species are suffering unprecedented loses, and diverse plant genotypes are indispensable for long-term food security. "Invasive species that crowd out native flora and fauna are one of the biggest headaches for managing biodiversity in disturbed landscapes." (see also / voir aussi)

Recent Book: THE ENVIRONMENTAL ROUTES OF COMPLEX EMERGENCIES are explored in two recent books by Thomas (Tad) Homer-Dixon: "Environment, Scarcity and Violence" (1999, Princeton Univ Press) and "Ecoviolence: Links Among Environment, Population and Security" (1998, Oxford UK: Rowman & Littlefield Pub). The former summarizes nine years of Homer-Dixon's comparing models of resource capture and ecological marginalization. "Although environmental scarcity has often spurred violence in the past, in coming decades the incidence of such violence will probably increase as scarcities of cropland, freshwater and forests worsen." However, "there are few modern examples of interstate war over renewables such as cropland, forests, fresh water and fish." The latter book collects case studies (Rwanda, South Africa, Pakistan, Gaza, Chiapas) conducted under the Univ. Toronto Project on Environment, Population and Security. Findings: "Environmental scarcity can strengthen group identities based on ethnic, class or religious differences. If social and economic adaptation is unsuccessful, environmental scarcity constrains economic development and contributes to migrations. Migrations, ethnic tensions, economic disparities and weak institutions in turn often appear to be the main causes of violence."

Recent Book: "ECO-TOURISM AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT," by Martha Honey (1999, WashDC: Island Press) looks at increasing efforts in countries from Tanzania to Costa Rica to market themselves for the growing revenue from tourism to nature preserves. Although the author documents numerous innovative ecoprojects that benefit both conservation and local communities, she finds, overall that commercial industry cannot provide adequate oversight and regulation of itself. In South Africa, she finds that ecotourism has helped reintegrate the country into the world economy while also redistributing wealth to the rural poor. She sites World Bank and USAID-supported "megatourism" ventures that were destructive to habitats and human settlements.

Apropos to this book, last night came news about eight western tourists killed with machetes after about 150 armed Hutu rebels attacked their camps in the Bwindi National Park in Uganda.