IRIN

Gaza humanitarian response: 'convenient illusion'

In a message delivered Feb. 22 to the UN Security Council, the head of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Christopher Lockyear, said that the "illusion" of a humanitarian response in Gaza "perpetuates a narrative that this war is being waged in line with international laws." The already low volume of aid being delivered to Gaza has collapsed in recent weeks, despite Israel having been ordered by the International Court of Justice to enable the provision of humanitarian assistance. The World Food Program announced Feb. 20 that it had suspended aid deliveries to northern Gaza—where the humanitarian suffering is most extreme—because of the dissolution of public order and the absense of conditions that allow for safe distributions. A new report from the Gaza Health Impact Projections Working Group estimates that, even in the best-case scenario of an immediate permanent ceasefire, there will be more than 6,500 excess deaths in Gaza over the next six months due to the catastrophic food, shelter, sanitation, and healthcare situation in the enclave. If the status quo of ongoing bombardment continues, the projections rise to between 58,200 and more than 74,000 deaths. Reports are beginning to emerge of children dying of hunger.

Conflict lingers in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado

Mozambique's military said last year that more than 90% of Cabo Delgado province had been secured from jihadist insurgents known locally as al-Shabab, yet attacks this year indicate that the conflict is far from over. After seizing a strategic village last month, fighters killed more than 20 soldiers in an attack on Feb. 9. Cases of beheadings, kidnappings, and ambushes are still being reported by conflict monitors, even as the jihadists (who launched their insurgency in 2017) reportedly try to win civilians' hearts and minds.

DRC: M23 advancing on Goma —again

The M23 insurgency in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo is intensifying once again. Some 150,000 people have been displaced over the past days, adding to the 1.5 million already uprooted by the fighting, which began in late 2021. The latest clashes are taking place close to Goma, a city of 2 million people and a hub for humanitarian aid operations in the east. The M23 says it is not planning on seizing the city (as it last did in 2012), but its forces fired a rocket on Feb. 7 that landed near a Goma university. Soldiers from a recently deployed Southern African Development Community (SADC) intervention force appear to have entered the battlefield on the side of the Congolese army, which is also supported by local militia. Regional mediation efforts have so far failed—though a protest by the Congolese national football team (targeting violence across eastern DRC) at the Africa Cup of Nations did make global headlines.

Netanyahu orders 'evacuation' of southern Gaza

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Israeli military on Feb. 9 to draw up plans for the "evacuation" of Palestinians from Rafah in southern Gaza as it prepares to launch a full-scale assault on the area. Where people would be evacuated to—and how—remains unclear. Over one million Palestinians forcibly displaced by Israel's military campaign—now entering its fifth month—have been pushed into Rafah. Aid groups warn that there is nowhere left for people to flee to. People in Rafah are already experiencing disease and starvation, with aid operations struggling to meet even basic needs. A ground invasion would "exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said.

Ethiopian regions battle starvation

Nearly 400 people have died of starvation in Ethiopia's Tigray and Amhara regions in recent months, according to the national ombudsman. It's a rare admission of hunger-related deaths by a federal body—the government normally dismisses famine warnings as "politicking." Despite the lifting in November of a nationwide food aid freeze imposed by USAID and the World Food Program over large-scale government-run food thefts, just 14% of 3.2 million people targeted for food relief in Tigray received rations last month. There have reportedly been technical problems over fitting GPS trackers to food trucks and putting QR codes on ration cards. A lack of money is also an issue: the UN called on donors last month to urgently ramp up funding to avoid a catastrophe in the coming few months in Tigray, Amhara, Afar, Oromia, and southern Ethiopia, where around 4 million people need immediate food aid.

Who's arming who in Sudan?

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has denied arming the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces fighting Sudan's army, despite a leaked UN document alleging "credible" evidence. The UN report said arms and ammunition shipments are unloaded each week from cargo planes at an airport in Chad, and handed to the RSF at the Sudanese border. The UAE has also been accused of funnelling weapons through Uganda and the Central African Republic, part of a regional supply network that has allowed the RSF to "punch above its weight" in the nine-month conflict. But the Gulf State—with business and political interests across Africa—said it has taken no side in the war.

What UNRWA funding suspensions mean for Gaza

UNRWA, the UN's agency for Palestine refugees, was plunged into crisis on Jan. 26 when Israel accused 12 of its Gaza employees of involvement in Hamas' deadly Oct. 7 attack into Israel, which touched off a devastating, now nearly four-month-long war.

Urgent action needed to prevent starvation in Gaza

After more than 100 days of war and Israeli siege, every single person in Gaza is hungry, and a quarter of the population—or around 500,000 people—is starving, UN experts warned on Jan. 16. The aid response is falling short of what is needed to prevent a deadly combination of hunger, malnutrition, and disease, four UN agencies said, calling for a "fundamental step change in the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza." Without it, deaths from starvation and disease could soon surpass the already staggering toll from bombardment and combat, which has reached nearly 25,000 people, according to health authorities in Gaza.

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