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Unrest disrupts humanitarian programmes in Haiti

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Country: Haiti

As unrest continues in Haiti, hospitals, civil protection units and other emergency services are functioning with limited capacity due to fuel shortages, lack of safe water and other essentials.

As unrest continues in Haiti, hospitals, orphanages, civil protection units and other emergency services are functioning with limited capacity due to fuel shortages, lack of safe water and other essentials.

Security incidents and roadblocks have disrupted humanitarian programmes of United Nations agencies and NGOs.

Read more on United Nations OCHA


Desert Locusts threaten agricultural production in Ethiopia

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Country: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen

Desert Locust hopper bands have covered 17,370 out of 28,671 hectares surveyed between July and September 2019. So far, hopper bands have been controlled on 6,455 hectares only.

03 October 2019, Addis Ababa – The Federal Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa (DLCO-EA) have called for immediate action to control a new Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria) infestation in the country.

Sani Redi, Agriculture Sector State Minister, Ministry of Agriculture, called on development partners to support the government’s efforts to control the invasion.

“The desert locust invasion is likely to cause incalculable green vegetation loss,” he underscored. “Although we have committed resources, we need substantial support to undertake massive control and preventive measures.”

Migrating from Yemen through Djibouti and Somaliland, Desert Locust swarms entered Ethiopia and settled in the breeding sites in Afar, Amhara, Oromia and Somalia regions. The swarms have produced hopper bands that have covered more than 174 square kilometer (in 56 Woredas and 1 085 kebeles) and are consuming approximately 8 700 metric tons of green vegetation every day. It is estimated that about 30 million hoppers can land on one-kilometer square area.

The moist soils due to the continued rainfall in the breeding sites created a conducive environment for Desert Locusts to multiply. Huge hopper populations are bred and are currently fledging into young adults and making swarms of varying sizes.

“The swarms are likely to invade wider areas and cause significant crop, pasture and forest cover losses in eastern Ethiopia,” warned Zebdewos Salato, Director of Plant Protection in the MoA.

To date, Desert Locust hopper bands have covered 17 370 out of the 28 671 hectares surveyed between July and September 2019.

Although the government is making efforts to contain the potential invasion of areas outside the breeding sites, its capacity to control the desert locust hopper bands in the breeding sites is limited. So far, it has controlled hopper bands on 6 455 hectares only.

The Desert Locust infestation happened this time when Ethiopia is dealing with the impacts of previous and ongoing drought. Currently other insect pests such as the fall armyworm and diseases such as wheat rusts are also serious impediments to agricultural production and food and nutrition security. The latest reports indicate that about 7.8 million people in the country require food assistance. This number is likely to increase if the fledgling Desert Locust swarms continue infesting more areas and causing damage to crops and natural vegetation.

“Urgent control operations are required to manage the situation and protect the livelihood of the population in eastern Ethiopia and possibly the neighboring countries,” said Fatouma Seid, FAO Representative in Ethiopia.

She added that FAO is working with the Ministry of the Agriculture, the DLCOEA and other stakeholders to undertake hopper control measures.

FAO operates a Desert Locust Information Service that receives and analyzes data from locust-prone countries to assess the current locust situation. It also provides forecasts and issues, warnings and alerts to keep the global community informed of locust developments and threats.

Dr Stephen W. Njoka, OGW, Director Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa (DLCO – EA) said the Organization was coordinating regional efforts, including monitoring, providing early warning and undertaking control actions to manage the invasion. He warned that the Desert Locust situation would turn 2019 into a disaster year unless it is curtailed. “We call for concerted efforts of all stakeholders to prevent a disaster from happening,” he said.

In July 2019, FAO warned that Desert Locust summer breeding, amplified by heavy rains, could pose a serious threat to agricultural production in Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea, parts of Ethiopia and northern Somalia. The Organization called on all countries to monitor the field conditions by mounting regular ground surveys and undertaking the necessary control measures whenever infestations were detected.

For more information:

Bayeh Mulatu

Entomologist and IPM Expert

FAO Representation in Ethiopia

Tel. +251 913 204 797

Email. :

Zebdewos Salato

Director of Plant Protection Directorate

Ministry of Agriculture

Tel. +251911922499


Felege Elias

Senior Information and forecasting officer


Tel.: +251911667444


EU Governments Face Crucial Decision on Shared Sea Rescue Responsibility

A man is rescued from the mediteranean sea by a member of Proactiva Open Arms NGO some 20 nautical miles north of Libya on October 3, 2016. 

© 2016 Getty Images

(Brussels) – European Union governments should improve on and then sign up to a plan to ensure timely disembarkation and relocation of people rescued in the Mediterranean Sea, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today, on the sixth anniversary of the Lampedusa shipwreck, in which at least 368 people died. EU interior ministers gathering in Luxembourg on October 8, 2019, are expected to discuss a joint declaration agreed upon by Germany, France, Italy, and Malta on September 23 in Valletta.

The ‘Joint declaration of intent on a controlled emergency procedure – voluntary commitments by member states for a predictable temporary solidarity mechanism’ commits participating states to creating a predictable and efficient system to ensure “dignified disembarkation” in places of safety. Building on this good start, EU ministers need to now agree on the details of a plan to ensure certainty around disembarkation and a fair relocation system. Since June 2018, numerous boats have been left stranded at sea for weeks after rescuing refugees and migrants, until ad hoc agreements were reached.

“If we are to avoid yet another obscene standoff at sea, relevant EU coastal states must make clear plans to allow ships to dock in their ports, while other EU states should commit to take their fair share of responsibility for people disembarked,” said Matteo de Bellis, Migration researcher at Amnesty International. “A strong agreement will help save lives and demonstrate that EU countries are committed to working together to uphold basic values and international obligations.”

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch highlight that the joint declaration includes some problematic statements and call on EU ministers to address these while concluding the plan. In particular, EU ministers should affirm clearly that rescue vessels should not be bound to obey instructions to disembark in Libya, as Libya is not a place of safety, nor should anyone be subject to sanction for legitimately disregarding instructions to disembark people anywhere in Libya. This principle applies even when rescues are carried out inside Libya’s declared search-and-rescue region.

“The EU’s current response to the rescue crisis in the central Mediterranean is fundamentally flawed,” said Judith Sunderland, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Supporting the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept and return people to Libya puts people at risk of arbitrary, abusive detention and makes EU governments complicit in human rights abuses against them in Libya. EU interior ministers have an opportunity to ensure that people rescued by nongovernmental organization boats and other vessels land swiftly and safely in Europe.”

The joint declaration includes the worrisome proposition that state-owned vessels must take the rescued people to their flag state. This requirement could impose unjustifiable delays in disembarkations and discourage active rescue patrols and rescues by EU navies and coast guards.

In addition, the declaration emphasizes the need for an increase in the use of aircraft to identify vessels in trouble but does not refer to a reinstatement of naval vessels. In parallel to an agreement on disembarkation and relocation, EU ministers should pledge to deploy an adequate number of vessels along the main sea routes and to support and enable nongovernmental rescue efforts in this area.

The commitment in the joint declaration to relocate asylum seekers to participating member states within four weeks after they land is a positive step toward sharing responsibility more widely, according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. This process should be both fair, ensuring people are not put at risk of prolonged detention and that certain groups are not discriminated against on the basis of nationality, ethnicity, or other factors, and streamlined, avoiding additional burdens on countries where people disembark.

By suggesting that member states should return some of the people “immediately after disembarkation,” without referring to any relevant process beyond a basic security and medical screening, the joint declaration fails to ensure respect for safeguards against unsafe or abusive returns. EU ministers gathered in Luxembourg should agree to a plan that ensures access to fair and efficient asylum procedures, and the consideration of individual protection needs or claims to remain, as enshrined in international and European law.  

The joint declaration appears primarily designed to address the “disembarkation crisis” in the central Mediterranean. But collective responses are also urgently needed to address the situation in Greece, Spain, and Cyprus, where arrivals are significant, reception is under strain, and the humanitarian consequences need to be addressed.


Bogus Terrorism Charges Against Russian Journalists

Pictured (L) Svetlana Prokopyeva, Pskov, Russia; and (R) Abdulmumin Gadzhiev, Makhachkala, Russia. 

© 2019 Pavel Dmitriyev (L); 2019 Arsen Shabanov (R)

The Russian government’s abuse of the country’s broad, harsh counterterrorism legislation is on shocking display as two journalists now face potential lengthy prison sentences on politically motivated charges.

Last week, the authorities indicted freelance journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva on groundless charges of “justification of terrorism,” which is punished by up to seven years in prison. In an open letter published yesterday by several Russian media outlets, Prokopyeva called the case against her “a fist in the face of every journalist” in Russia. “You can’t know beforehand which exact words or the order in which they’re placed, will offend your average silovik [law enforcement, military, security service personnel]. … They called an opinion a crime… making a criminal out of a person who was simply doing her job.”
The charges stem from a November 2018 radio broadcast about a 17-year-old boy in Arkhangelsk who detonated a bomb inside a building of the local Federal Security Service (FSB). During the program, Prokopyeva argued that growing up in a repressive state, where peaceful activism faces persecution and human rights are trampled upon, could be a significant factor in radicalizing youth.
Prokopyeva said that she learned of the criminal investigation against her in February, when “a dozen armed men… with riot shields” searched her apartment and seized her laptops and other electronic devices. In August, authorities blocked her bank accounts. “All they had to do next was take the only thing I have left – my freedom,” her letter said.
Meanwhile, Abdulmumin Gadzhiev, an editor of a local independent newspaper in Dagestan, Chernovik, has been in pretrial custody since June and could face up to 20 years in prison. The state’s allegations, that Gadzhiev was involved in “financing terrorism,” in particular the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), are based solely on an article about an Islamic charity foundation that he published in 2013.
Gadzhiev, according to numerous journalists and experts, always took a firm stance against ISIS. He and his paper published extensively on Russia’s misuse of terrorism charges against Salafis, who follow a fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni Islam. In fact, the government’s widespread crackdown against Salafis in Dagestan left Chernovik as the only public discussion platform for moderate Salafis. Authorities previously harassed Chernovik’s journalists and subjected them to bogus criminal prosecution.
The prosecutions of Prokopyeva and Gadzhiev are clear attempts by the Russian government to silence its critics in the media. While the cases may be different, they send a chilling and unambiguous message to all journalists in Russia.