Afghanistan
afghanistan

Afghan pullout: unanswered questions for civilians

Afghanistan now has a clearer timeline for when US and international troops will leave, but the questions surrounding what this means for civilians and aid operations in the country remain the same. US President Joe Biden confirmed plans to withdraw American forcesbefore Sept. 11—the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that led to the Afghanistan invasion. NATO also said 9,500 international soldiers—including 2,500 US troops—would leave, beginning May 1. But the implications of the pullout are as volatile as they were when Biden’s predecessor first inked a peace deal with the Taliban last year. Will the Taliban pursue a decisive military victory or continue with sporadic peace negotiations with the government? How will women and minorities fare? How will this affect local and international aid operations, and the roughly 16 million Afghans—more than 40% of the population—who rely on humanitarian relief? Will there be a future for reconciliation after decades of war? And what about the militias still active in many areas? More than 1,700 civilians were killed or injured in conflict in the first three months of 2021, the UN said the same day as Biden’s announcement. (Photo of displaced persons camp in Herat: Stefanie Glinski/TNH)

Mexico
Juarez

Northern Mexico: aid efforts struggle to keep pace

Humanitarian response networks in northern Mexico are stretched thin between the growing number of people fleeing violence, poverty, and climate disasters in Central America, the continued expulsion of asylum-seekers and migrants who enter the United States irregularly, and the lingering effects of Trump-era migration policies. Nowhere is this pressure being felt more acutely than in Ciudad Juárez, a Mexican city of around 1.5 million bordering El Paso, Texas. Shelters are overwhelmed and underfunded, and more arrive every day—from both the north and south. (Photo: Luís Chaparro/The New Humanitarian)

Africa
Coalition for the Sahel

Outrage over French air-strike in Mali

A French airstrike killed 19 civilians attending a wedding celebration in a remote Malian village, according to an investigation by the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MINUSMA. The report based its findings on hundreds of interviews, satellite images, and evidence gathered from a trip to Bounti, the village hit by the January strike. The French defense ministry rejected the report, maintaining the casualties were Islamist militants. French troops were hailed as heroes by many Malians when they drove out militant groups from the country’s desert north in 2013. But criticism has grown as a 5,000-strong regional counterinsurgency force—called Operation Barkhane—has failed to prevent militants from regrouping and expanding across West Africa’s Sahel. Despite recent battlefield gains, the operation is drawing increasing comparisons to the US war in Afghanistan. (Photo: Wikipedia)

North Africa
Libya girls

New Libyan government: progress for women

Libya’s Government of National Accord officially handed power over to a new interim government in Tripoli. This is the fruit of a long and complicated UN-led process with multi-track negotiations. The new leadership faces multiple challenges, including holding elections and restoring much-needed government services. It also needs to unite a country that has largely been in chaos since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi, helped by NATO’s decision (exactly 10 years ago) to intervene. The new cabinet contains five women, including the ministers of foreign affairs and justice. Together they make up 15% of the leadership—not the 30% delegates to the UN process had promised. But many Libyan women are viewing this as at least a step in the right direction. (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)

Africa
Cafunfo

Pro-autonomy protesters killed in Angola

Angolan security forces killed more than 10 people as they protested over living conditions in the diamond-rich town of Cafunfo, in northeastern Lunda Norte province. The demonstration was organized by the Lunda-Tchokwé Protectorate Movement, part of its push for autonomy for a region whose diamond wealth has long lined the pockets of senior ruling party and military figures. The group denied allegations by the security forces that the protesters were armed secessionists who had attempted to break into the police station. (Image via Twitter)

Africa
Darfur

Hundreds killed in new Darfur violence

Just weeks after the UN Security Council voted unanimously to terminate the mandate of the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) in Darfur, a new outbreak of violence in the region has left hundreds dead and injured. At least 159 people died–including three aid workers–and tens of thousands were displaced following militia attacks on camps for those already displaced in West Darfur’s El Geneina in January. Dozens more lost their lives in South Darfur amid clashes between Arab Rizeigat and Fallata groups. During more than 13 years on the ground, UNAMID has often been criticized for failing to protect people. But many Dafuris protested against its withdrawal and have little faith in the Sudanese government, even with the old regime out the door. (Photo: UNAMID via UN News)

Planet Watch
Cyclone Eloise

Mozambique disaster: climate ‘wake-up call’

More than 270,000 people have been affected by heavy winds and torrential rain since Tropical Cyclone Eloise made landfall in Mozambique. Schools and health centers were flattened and more than 20,000 people were displaced in the region, which is still recovering from the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai almost two years ago. Despite considerable investments in reconstruction and disaster prevention since Idai—one of southern Africa’s worst ever weather-related disasters—Mozambique remains among the world’s most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change. Addressing the aftermath of Eloise, the UN’s resident coordinator in Mozambique, Myrta Kaulard, told reporters: “This is really a very bad wake-up call of how much Mozambique is exposed to climate. This yearly rendezvous with the cyclonic season is just too frequent for recovery to progress.” (Photo: World Meterological Organization via Twitter)

Greater Middle East
tripoli

Anti-lockdown protests rock Lebanon

Frustration over a strict COVID-19 lockdown and a collapsing economy exploded into protests in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli, where a government building was set aflame, and several days of clashes between security forces and demonstrators left one person dead and more than 100 injured. Lebanon is in the midst of a 24-hour curfew, with even supermarkets closed—a measure that authorities defended as necessary given a surge of coronavirus cases that has left the healthcare system struggling to cope. But crippling poverty is on the rise in Lebanon—thanks to an ongoing financial crisis, compounded by the global pandemic and an August explosion at the Beirut port—and some argue that the strict containment rules go too far. Some local aid groups say they have been denied permission to bring help, including much-needed food, to vulnerable families. (Photo via Twitter)

Africa
Central African Republic

CAR: disputed polls spark rebel offensive

At least 100,000 people have fled their homes in Central African Republic as a rebel coalition calling for the resignation of the president launches attacks around the county, throwing into question almost two years of peace efforts. The capital, Bangui, has come under fire and major towns are occupied by the rebel coalition, which formed shortly before December elections won by President Faustin-Archange TouadĂ©ra but contested by the opposition. By capturing the western town of Bouar, the rebels—known as the Coalition of Patriots for Change, or the CPC—have cut off the main trade route linking Cameroon to Bangui in what could be a strategy to “asphyxiate” the city. (Photo: Adrienne Surprenan/TNH)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

US slaps ‘terror’ label on Yemen’s Houthi rebels

The United States has announced it will designate Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization, a move aid groups and diplomats have long warned will make getting assistance to people trapped in the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” even harder. In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was officially notifying the US Congress of his intent to designate Ansar Allah, the official name of the Houthis, a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.” The change is go into force on Jan. 19, and three Houthi leaders will also be blacklisted. NGOs have lobbied heavily against the designation, saying it will seriously hamper efforts to bring aid to the estimated 80% of Yemen’s 30 million people who live in parts of the country controlled by the Houthis. It’s already hard to deliver aid in Yemen, in part because of obstacles put up by the Houthis themselves. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Syria
syria refugees

Hunger ’emergency’ in Syria’s Idlib

Nearly a year after the height of a devastating regime offensive that forced a million people from their homes in Syria’s rebel-held northwest, aid workers warn that the region’s civilians, especially young children, face a new threat: rising hunger. In Idlib province, the situation is worsened by mass displacement and a population already in dire need after years in the crosshairs of conflict—putting an estimated four million people, including 1.5 million in camps, at particular risk of hunger and malnourishment. (Photo: UNICEF via UN News)

North America
travel ban protest

Cameroonian asylum-seekers ‘tortured’ by ICE

A group of Cameroonian asylum-seekers has alleged that officers from US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) tortured them into signing deportation orders. The men say they were choked, beaten, and pepper-sprayed into fingerprinting or signing removal papers in a Mississippi detention center. The migrants had refused to sign, fearing death at the hands of Cameroonian government forces, and because they had asylum hearings pending. Lawyers and activists told The Guardian that efforts to speed up US deportations have “accelerated” in the run-up to the presidential election, which could bring new leadership to ICE and a potential change of policy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)