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WFP warns food insecurity could more than double in East Africa

Al Jazeera

Food insecurity could more than double in just three months as the spread of coronavirus risks devastating countries across East Africa. Tuesday's warning came from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) which estimates that some 20 million people currently do not have secure provisions of food across nine countries in the region: Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda. The novel virus's outbreak in these countries has been so far relatively contained compared to other parts of the world. However, due to their often weak economies and poor health infrastructure, they are considered highly vulnerable to the impacts of the mounting crisis that has seen more than 212,000 people die. "WFP projections are currently that the number of food-insecure people in the region is likely to increase to 34 or up to 43 million during the next three months due to the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19," spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told journalists in a virtual briefing.


Virus could double food insecurity in nine African countries: U.N.

The Japan Times

Geneva – The spread of COVID-19 risks devastating countries across East Africa, where food insecurity could more than double in just three months, the United Nations warned Tuesday. The U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that some 20 million people currently do not have secure provisions of food across nine countries in the region: Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda. Compared to other parts of the world, these countries have so far registered few confirmed COVID-19 cases, with numbers still counted in the dozens or hundreds. However, due to their often weak economies and poor health infrastructure they are considered highly vulnerable to the impacts of the mounting crisis. "WFP projections are currently that the number of food insecure people in the region is likely to increase to 34 or up to 43 million during the next three months due to the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19," spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told journalists in a virtual briefing.


Mideast anti-virus measures spark worries of setback in liberties

The Japan Times

CAIRO – Armored vehicles in the streets, hundreds arrested, smartphone surveillance -- sweeping measures to fight the coronavirus have raised concerns in the Middle East over the erosion of already threatened human rights. As the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 3 billion people are now living under lockdown and, in some cases, strict surveillance. While there is widespread acceptance that robust measures are needed to slow the infection rate, critics have voiced fears that authoritarian states will overreach and, once the public health threat has passed, keep some of the tough new emergency measures in their toolkits. This concern is amplified in the Middle East and North Africa, where some authoritarian nations have poor human rights records and are already reeling from political turmoil and economic hardship. The sight of military vehicles patrolling otherwise empty roads to enforce curfews or lockdowns in countries such as Morocco and Jordan stands in stark contrast to mass protests that last year brought down leaders in Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon and Sudan.


U.N. appeals for $6.7 billion to fight coronavirus in poor countries

The Japan Times

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations announced Thursday it is increasing its appeal to fight the coronavirus pandemic in fragile and vulnerable countries from $2 billion to $6.7 billion. U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock reiterated that the peak of the pandemic is not expected to hit the world's poorest countries for three to six months. But he said there is already evidence of incomes plummeting and jobs disappearing, food supplies falling and prices soaring, and children missing vaccinations and meals. Since the original appeal on March 25, the United Nations said $1 billion has been raised to support efforts across 37 fragile countries to tackle COVID-19. The updated appeal launched Thursday includes nine additional vulnerable countries: Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe.


Nile mega-dam talks resume to resolve years-long dispute

Al Jazeera

Three key Nile basin countries have resumed their negotiations to resolve a years-long dispute over the operation and filling of a giant hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, officials said. The talks came on Monday, a day after tens of thousands of Ethiopians took to the streets of their capital, Addis Ababa, in a government-backed rally to celebrate the first stage of the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam's 74 billion-cubic-metre reservoir. Ethiopia's announcement sparked fear and confusion downstream in Sudan and Egypt. Both Khartoum and Cairo have repeatedly rejected the filling of the enormous reservoir without reaching a deal among the Nile basin countries. Ethiopia says the dam will provide electricity to millions of its nearly 110 million citizens, help bring them out of poverty and also make the country a significant power exporter.