The Humanitarian Times

July 30, 1999

 

- BALKANS STABILITY PACT LAUNCHED TODAY IN SARAJEVO to promote democracy & regional security, in meeting among leaders from 40 nations. Donors pledged over $2.1 billion for of near-term reconstruction aid in Kosovo as well as for Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania & Bulgaria, with the EU & the US each pledging $500m aid for humanitarian & rebuilding purposes, earlier this week in Belgium donation summit. Montenegro has signaled its intent to begin secession from Yugoslavia, also, unless its autonomy status is revised.

-5-12,000 UN-EXPLODED CLUSTER BOMBS DROPPED BY NATO REMAIN IN KOSOVO & Serb Yugoslavia (estimates M Dobbs of the Wash Post). Security remains the primary problem in Kosovo as several mine & unexploded ordnance casualties occur each day, & as retribution killings occur in the major towns daily. Under the OSCE's auspices, an intl force of 3,100 police will be deployed, & some of them will be heavily armed, but demining has been slow.

- KASHMIR FIGHTING QUELLED AS TROOPS WITHDRAW & REMAINING INDEP. REBELS were pushed back across Pakistan border this week by India. Many civilians remain displaced however. Fighting ebbed two weeks ago as Pakistan's govt recalled its troops; though this may lead to political instability in Pakistan whose govt has lost face.

- SIERRA LEONE PEACE TREATY (JULY 7 IN TOGO) HOLDS. DONORS PLEDGE to reinforce the peace agreement, the govt. gave amnesty to imprisoned rebels, which Human Rights Watch strongly protested because this absolves many who committed war crime atrocities against civilians.

Action contre la Faim (a Paris based NGO) finds 30+% malnutrition in S Leone's north region & claims there is large food aid need. Today an Intl donor Contact Group on Sierra Leone meets in London to promote support to the peace process, including training of a new army. Nigeria announced that its W. African ECOMOG peacekeeping force would stay on in Sierra Leone as long as needed. Nigerian troops also extended their stay in Liberia to ensure disarmament in support of the peace agreement there. Last week, Liberian factions burned & destroyed several tons of weapons.

- ETHIOPIA INVADES SOMALIA, BEATS BACK AIDID'S TROOPS TO CAPTURE BAIDOA, the major city of central Somalia, this past week. Ethiopia was responding to threats developing in the larger Eritrea/Ethiopia war.

- CONTROVERSIAL LOAN TO CHINA FOR RESETTLEMENT INTO GREATER TIBET of 58,000 Chinese was approved by the World Bank governing Board before the end-of-June deadline, but held up final funding until a more thorough review of the project, bowing to extensive criticisms by human rights, environmental groups and the US Congress. On June 30 China graduated out of IDA (low-interest) loan eligibility from the World Bank.

- FINAL GUATEMALAN REFUGEES RETURN HOME FROM MEXICO AFTER SIXTEEN YEAR exile (living until now in refugee camps in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula & Chiapas) under orderly return organized by UNHCR this week. Similarly, UNHCR, Thailand & Laos this week agreed to the final return of 1,300 Lao refugees still in Thailand.

- THAI POLICY TO FORCE REPATRIATION OF 250,000 REFUGEES BACK TO BURMA working with UNHCR over the next 3 years, said Thai National Security Council chief Kajadpai Burutpai this month. Also this month the International Labor Organization expelled Burma from ILO participation until it reforms its practice of forced labor.

- CHILD LABOR PROHIBITED UNDER NEW INTL LABOR ORGANIZATION TREATY signed in June by 174 ILO country delegates, specifically prohibiting forced recruitment of children in armed conflict.

- US IMPOSED FINANCIAL SANCTIONS AGAINST AFGHANISTAN's TALEBAN MILITARY late June, while Saudi & Persian businesses contributed $50 million to terrorist Osama Bin Laden, living in Afghanistan.

- MACARTHUR FOUNDATION GENIUS AWARDS GIVEN TO GENOCIDE EXPERTS: Alison Des Forges, of Human Rights Watch, who tried to prevent the '94 Rwandan genocide, & UCLA Holocaust historian Saul Friedlander. Des Forges book on Rwanda was reviewed in the May 4 issue of HT.

- FRED CUNY REMAINS PURPORTEDLY OFFERED FOR RANSOM by Chechen rebel group that has provided evidence that it can end the search for his body (NY Times). Cuny's family firmly refuses to pay any ransom. In 1995 Cuny too had been awarded the MacArthur Genius award but did not live to collect it. (See last issue of HT)

- PSYCHOSOCIAL CONSEQUENCES OF EMERGENCIES REPORT FROM SYMPOSIUM available: download http://cpmcnet.columbia.edu/dept/sph/popfam/refugee/

- NEW WEBSITE ON INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS BY BROOKINGS PROJECT http://www.brook.edu/fp/projects/idp/idp.htm, is now up and running, though it was not yet at the time that the Humanitarian Times first reported on it 2 months ago. It contains information in support of the mandate of the UN Rep on Internally Displaced Persons.

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RECENT BOOKS

 

- ACTION CONTRE LA FAIM BOOK, "THE GEOPOLITICS OF HUNGER" "Using Hunger As a Weapon" (1999, Paris, http://www.puf-lib.com ; or email aahataah-usa.org), reviews 11 country cases where hunger & death result from long-term armed conflict, trade sanctions & political standoffs. The international NGO, Action Against Hunger draws together staff analyses on the social, political & historical dynamics of food crises in program areas including Sierra Leone, Iraq, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Somalia, N. Korea, Afghanistan & Burma. ACF pinpoints the varying roadblocks to humanitarian aid. For example, in Burundi, the govt authorities limit expatriate movement, civilian access to food & the maintenance of 24-hour nutrition rehabilitation centers. In Sudan, ACF was forced to leave by the rebel faction (SPLA) for researching the protracted malnutrition among the population who were taxed & forcibly recruited by the rebels; ACF also notes the disorganization of food aid in Sudan: "aid is misused for political purposes. "a significant proportion of aid & medicine goes straight to the soldiers." In N Korea, as well, food resources are channeled to the govt and the military. In what ACF calls "extortion diplomacy" food aid donors bail out the financially bankrupt N Korean government. "As long as charitable organizations do not adopt a common line of conduct by refusing to play the regime's game, the regime will play off rivalries, rivalries between NGOs and donors alike, so as to continue to receive aid, despite the often obscure use of food & medicine from the international community."

- GLOBAL FOOD INSECURITY & "THE DOUBLY GREEN REVOLUTION" "Food for All for the 20th Century" by Gordon Conway (1998, Ithaca NY: Cornell Univ Press ) offers the one of the best, comprehensive & balanced explanations of food security trends worldwide, with a focus on food access by the poor. An excellent text for graduate courses in agriculture, rural development, & intl nutrition. Based on crop genetic research supported by Rockefeller Foundation (of which Conway is now President) & the Ford Foundation, rice, wheat & maize crop yields have trended upwards in much of Asia and L America. "The impact of the Green Revolution on hunger has been uneven. Among the urban poor the incidence & severity of under-nutrition have declined, particularly in China, and also among the rural poor who live in Green Revolution lands of East & South Asia, West Asia, North Africa & Latin America. In Sub-Saharan Africa both the proportion & numbers of undernourished has risen." Blending text & graphs, Conway shows the growth of irrigated agriculture, threats to land quality (e.g. salting), the control of pests, the flow of nutrients in the farm system, & compares production &trade trends of different food groups.

In a later chapter he explains the how humanitarian thinking about the dynamics of famine has evolved in recent decades: "the emphasis on access to food, rather than food production produced a sea change in thinking about food security. Research in famine situations has revealed the complex ways in which people respond to adversity." Conway argues that lack of local credit constrains most farmers & advocates local, self-managed credit groups. Conway concludes in calling for support for the Intl Agricultural Research Centers, & in the Consultative Group on Intl Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

- PRACTICAL STEPS TO SAVE LIVES OF THE MALNOURISHED are summarized, culling decades of field research, in the World Health Organization manual "Management of Severe Malnutrition: a Manual for Physicians & Other Sr Health Workers" (1999 Geneva: WHO), largely based on the work of Dr. Michael Golden of Aberdeen Scotland. The manual provides critical information that many clinicians trained in previous decades do not understand, including the fluid & electrolyte needs in severe malnutrition specifies modified oral rehydration solution to give to severely malnourished children, who are deficient in potassium and have abnormally high levels of sodium. It emphasizes the importance of frequent feeding & warmth throughout the night to mitigate against hypoglycemia & hypothermia. It explains the transition from initial feeding with frequent (every 2 hours) 75 kilocalorie per kilogram (child weight) per day mix to less frequent (4 hourly) 100 kcal/kg mix. In early treatment, children respond to higher than previously-thought intake of minerals & electrolytes, whereas high protein intake is harmful. Guidance is also given on use of vitamin A, antibiotics, naso-gastric feeding & on management in refugee settings. The full text is available (in adobe format, for download) from: http://www.who.int/nut/Manageme.pdf.

- Of similar interest, also see the World Health Organization's "Field-Guide for Rapid Nutritional Assessment in Emergencies" published by WHO's Eastern Mediterranean office.

- "FEEDING THE TEN BILLION: PLANTS & POPULATION GROWTH" (LT Evans 1998 Cambridge Univ Press) takes a most unique looks at the population/food race, by charting it over the millennia, for example when the human population was only a few million persons 8,000 years ago, and into the recent past, as the human population surpassed first three billion, then four, then five, & how the world's overall food production has kept pace. The author asks essential questions that have to do with whether or not the world will be able to continue to expand food production. Noting that over 90% of increases in food output during the last thirty years are accounted for by constant increase in yield (output per land under cultivation), the author suggests that there is still room for greater yield improvements in developing countries. Also, "as the key to higher yields & greater cropping intensity in developing countries, the further extension of irrigation is essential, but likely to be limited."