The Humanitarian Times

June 15, 2000

 

- SOUTH & NORTH KOREA CONFLICT EASED BY ACCORDS REACHED YESTERDAY when the Pres. of the 2 countries agreed to work toward peaceful reunification, beginning with family reunifications.

- WORLDWIDE, 35M PEOPLE DISPLACED FROM HOMES, 7M IN LAST YEAR ALONE, writes the US Committee for Refugees in their annual report released this week: World Refugee Survey 2000.

- RAIN FLOODS CHILE'S CAPITAL, SANTIAGO, SLOWS WORK.

-SLAVE LABOR PRACTICES OF BURMA MILITARY JUNTA INVOKE INTL. SANCTIONS: Based on findings from research in Burma last month, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has called on all govts, aid agencies & the World Bank & IMF to cease business & aid to Burma because of its entrenched practice of forced labor, including 800,000 workers in construction, agriculture & transport. Intl. govts agreed this week to move forward on sanctions, at the ILO conference.

- INDOCHINESE REFUGEES INTEGRATED IN HONG KONG; RESETTLED FROM THAILAND: In Hong Kong last week, the last refugee camps (home for many years to Vietnamese refugees, allowed to work in Hong Kong) were closed, though 136 protested loss of free rent. In Thailand, the US agreed to resettle most remaining Indo-chinese refugees.

- MUSLIM RETURNEES TO BOSNIA WERE ATTACKED BY SERBS last week in their efforts to begin preparing to move back to their homes in Kotorsko (north of Sarajevo).

- DROUGHT HALTS REPATRIATIONS OF REFUGEES TO AFGHANISTAN: long-term rainfall failure has created food insecurity for 400,000 recently returned refugees & 200,000 IDPs in Afghanistan, in particular in southern provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Farah, Nimroz. The UN this week appealed for $67 from govts, mostly for food aid. Crops also have failed in N Afghanistan. WFP rep M Sackett urges food aid in order to forestall migration out of affected areas "if the rural population starts migrating, it will be another disaster for them."

- WEST TIMOR PRESSES FOR REPATRIATION OF 120,000 EAST TIMOR REFUGEES as E Timor authorities ask militia to demonstrate impartial intent by allowing refugees to return.

- FIJI CRISIS OVER RIGHTS OF MIGRANTS TO ASSIMILATE AFTER 100 YEARS: S Rushdie writes in the NY Times: "After 100 years, Fiji's Indians have every right to think of themselves as being, & to be treated as Fijian as are ethnic Fijians. Preventing Indians from owning land was is a great injustice. Indians built the sugar industry that is the country's main resource. The (recent) Chaudry govt was a genuine cultural mixture." Ethnic Fijian factions are seeking a new govt.

- CHINA & WORLD BANK TO RE-NEGOTIATE CONTROVERSIAL TIBET PROJECT in which poor Chinese farmers would be resettled in Tibet, at the expense of Tibet's cultural integrity.

- EUROPEAN UNION HALTED AID TO LIBERIA FOR ARMING SIERRE LEONE REBELS

- BELGIAN HOST OF AFRICAN RADIO SENTENCED TO 12 YEARS FOR GENOCIDE crimes by Intl. War Crimes Tribunal for his repeated inciting of Hutus to kill Tutsis prior to 1994 massacres in Rwanda. Georges Ruggiu, the only non-Rwandan charged with genocide crimes, also advised Hutus where to find Tutsis seeking asylum.

- "PRISON LEGAL NEWS" EDITOR - PAUL WRIGHT - PUT IN HIGH SECURITY in Washington State penitentiary, charged with the crime of sending too many letters. In the US, people in prison have constitutional rights - including freedom of press - circumscribed. The May edition of Prison Legal News (10 years old, national circulation) was banned for carrying an article on racism among prison guards. http://www.prisonlegalnews.org/

- JONATHAN MANN AWARD FOR HEALTH & HUMAN RIGHTS GIVEN TO 2 KOSOVAR physicians: Dr. Vyovsa Dobruna & Dr. Flora Brovina, for setting up clinics for women & victims of violence & providing assistance to Albanians. Last year's award winner was Dr. Cynthia Maung whose clinic was over-run by Burma's authoritarian army 3 months ago.

The Mann award is jointly given by the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center of Harvard, MDM (Doctors of the World) & the Global Health Council.

It was given yesterday at the Global Health Council annual conference.

Dr. Per Pinstrup-Anderson was honored for his career in nutrition & food security by giving the Martin Forman Memorial lecture.

- TRAINING: "MANAGERS ON HEALTH, DISASTERS & DEVELOPMENT" by Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) will discuss project management, security, resource mobilization, etc. The August 25-September 15 course in Quito, Ecuador will be given in Spanish.see: www.paho.org/spanish/ped/pedhome.htm

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1.7M EXCESS DEATHS IN CONGO

More civilians died in emergency conditions (excess deaths, above what would be a normal level) in 5 eastern provinces of the Democratic Rep. of Congo (formerly Zaire) during the past 22 months, than all the emergency deaths of the rest of the world combined during the same time period, finds a report released this past week by the Intl. Rescue Committee (IRC), a New York-based non-profit that has been active in providing life-saving aid in refugee camps in nearby areas for 20 years. Extrapolating from retrospective surveys of 1,000 families in Orientale, N Kivu, S Kivu, Maniema & Katanga provinces, the IRC team arrived at the conservative conclusion that 2.3 million deaths occurred during the recall period (22 months), of which 600,000 deaths would be statistically normal for the population of 19 million thus, 1.7 million excess deaths are calculated to have occurred, a number far greater than estimated excess deaths in other recent crises - Kosovo, Sierra Leone, E Timor, Sudan, etc.

In order to make extrapolations to regions, the IRC inquiry is based on random sampling of families, using unique spatial sampling methods across large remote areas, areas which have been largely ignored by intl. agencies & which receive little or no intl. aid.

The report, "Mortality in Eastern DRC - Results from 5 Mortality Surveys" by Les Roberts, was presented this week to UN members by the Sec. Gen., reported in dozens of major newspapers worldwide, & is available for download at:  www.theIRC.org/mortality.htm.

As in similar high-mortality emergencies, most of the deaths resulted from common health conditions such as diarrhea, measles, malnutrition, malaria, anemia & meningitis which are preventable at low cost with simple interventions. But Dr. Roberts found that most of these common health problems were linked, ultimately, to armed violence, banditry, rape & forcible displacements of Congolese families, as a result of the back & forth movement of armies across the regions. In general, civilian mortality seems to result in roughly equal proportions from Hutu-led (Interhamwe) & from Tutsi-led (RCD) troops, each at war with one another. The report says: "In Eastern DRC, war means disease...

Violence & infectious disease deaths are inseparably linked...Many of the Kalonge displaced & Moba residents reported that their family members died of malaria or diarrhea while hiding in the forest after their village was attacked. ...they had no food in the forest." The report finds evidence of measles, cholera, polio & meningitis epidemics which have until now escaped intl. surveillance efforts.

IRC's findings suggest that the intl. community has over-looked the humanitarian impact of conflict on a large emergency-affected population. In contrast to large amounts of aid that was provided to Rwanda & to refugee camps of Rwandans & Burundians, hardly any aid has been provided to the Congolese civilians during the more recent conflict.Aid agencies estimate 20,000 recently displaced persons from Kisangani (MSF estimates 1,100 war wounded), & 60,000+ in the southern Katanga province. Overall, the UN estimates some 1.3M people are displaced in DRC. 10,000s of refugees are fleeing Congo now into Malawi (on top of refugee caseload in Tanzania).

This week UN Sec. Gen. Annan said he wants the UN to force foreign armies (Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe) out of DRC. UN peacekeeping troops remain on stand-by to enter Congo, with Nigeria & S. Africa agreeing this week to contribute troops. Uganda & Rwanda agreed last week on a ceasefire over northern city of Kisangani, after which Rwanda drove off Uganda forces.

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RECENT LITERATURE

 

-"MANAGING DISPLACEMENT: REFUGEES & THE POLITICS OF HUMANITARIANISM" by Jennifer Hyndman (2000 Minneapolis: Univ of Minnesota Press, ISBN 0-8166-3354-1) who critiques the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) pattern of refugee camp management as out-dated, observing how camp design shapes gender relations, imposes risks & burdens on working women, & sacrifices opportunities to empower refugees in regard to political pressures. Refugee protection & humanitarian assistance are not separate from ethnic tension, regional conflict or state posturing." Drawing on her field research among Somalis, in Somalia & Kenya, the author poses difficult questions of how to respond to problems like female genital mutilation globally, coherently, with justice but without cultural imperialism. She critiques the naivety of UNHCR's 'people- oriented-planning,'& observes that the layout of camps - location of clinics & services can exacerbate the workload of refugee women.

She also describes the household economy of refugees in NE Kenya: 'the sale of refugee labor & of donated commodities provide the basis for trade in the camps. Based on the collection of water & wood & the selling of food aid, ad hoc markets carrying a range of provisions - cigarettes, spices, tea, candies & camel's milk among them… the nomadic practices of many Somalis, including their reliance on meat & milk, are not incorporated into the organization of camps."

- "THE FUTURE OF UN HUMAN RIGHTS TREATY MONITORING" (2000) An anthology edited by P Alston & J Crawford (Cambridge Univ Press, UK, 563 pp ISBN 0-521-64574-3) includes 23 chapters on mechanisms that monitor rights treaties in regions (Europe, Japan, US, Hong Kong) & spheres (racial discrimination, children, environment). The focus is on how conventions are implemented & measured, e.g. via specialist oversight bodies or reporting by states. A chapter explores how the Bosnia conflict moved Human Rights Committees to more frequent, timely reporting, but then found that human rights reports bore little weight in the resolution of the civil war. A Clapham, who represents Amnesty Intl, writes that there is growing scope for NGOs to achieve positive results through involvement in treaty bodies, even though they tend to be overly-diplomatic & ritualistic.

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June 15, 2000                  The Humanitarian Times

 

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