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World Food Programme official applauds United Nations
resolution condemning starvation as weapon in war

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- At a press conference at the UN headquarters in New York, Muhannad Hadi, the WFP’s Regional Director for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and East Europe, said he welcomes the resolution and looks forward to celebrating it with the people he serves.

In the past seven to eight years, the people who became food insecure are mainly results from armed conflict in the Middle East, he said.

In Yemen alone, the WFP is reaching more than seven million people in need of food aid, he said, while recalling the shocking scenes he saw during his trip about 10 days ago to the country.

The WFP is addressing the needs of over 4 million Internally Displaced Persons in Syria as well as close to 2 million in its neighboring countries, he added.

Hadi pledged the WFP "has the intention to continue supporting these people until the conflicts are ending," noting women and children are in most need.

Put forward by Cote d’Ivoire, Kuwait, the Netherlands and Sweden, Thursday’s resolution urges states to conduct investigations within their jurisdiction into violations of international humanitarian law related to the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare.

The majority of food insecure people and 75 percent of all stunted children under the age of five are living in countries affected by armed conflict, amounting to 74 million people facing food insecurity or worse conditions, according to the UN.

The WFP said on its website that of the 13 largest food crises in the world today, 10 crises in Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are conflict-related.

In this light, the resolution recalls the link between armed conflict and food insecurity and recognizes the need to break the vicious cycle between them.

Echoing this, the WFP website quoted its executive director David Beasley as saying "the Security Council vote is a huge step forward in the effort to break the cycle of conflict and hunger."

To this end, the resolution calls on all parties to armed conflict to spare civilian objects including those necessary for food production and distribution such as farms, markets, water systems, mills, food processing and storage sites and so on.

It further urges all parties to protect civilian infrastructure critical to the delivery of humanitarian aid and to ensure the proper functioning of food systems and markets in situations of armed conflict.

In addition, the resolution requests UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to continue to provide information on the risk of famine and food insecurity in countries with armed conflict, and to brief the Security Council every 12 months on its implementation.


United Nations Security Council underscores humanitarian
challenges in protecting civilians in armed conflict

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- A United Nations Security Council (UNSC) debate underscored Tuesday humanitarian challenges faced by health workers, peacekeepers and host countries in protecting civilians affected by armed conflict, calling for measures to rectify them.

More than 128 million people around the world need immediate humanitarian aid, mainly driven by conflict, said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, addressing the UNSC open debate.

Last year, the UN recorded the death and injury of more than 26,000 civilians in just six countries: Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen, said Guterres, adding that "Ten thousand of these were in Afghanistan."

Civilians in conflicts are also subject to horrific violations of human rights, including rape and other sexual violence.

The UN documented more than 800 cases of conflict-related sexual violence in the DR Congo alone last year—a 56-percent increase over 2016.

Millions of people have been forced to flee their homes for an uncertain future, and at the end of 2016, 65.6 million people were uprooted by war, violence and persecution, said Guterres.

In particular, the UN chief called attention to the fatalities caused by explosive weapons, saying bombing and shelling of towns and cities kill and injure tens of thousands of civilians every year.

Guterres’ concern was echoed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Director-General Yves Daccord, who further underscored the vulnerabilities of civilians living in population centers, calling on parties to armed conflict to reassess and adapt their choice of weapons in urban warfare.

Participants of the debate highlighted the severe insecurity of health care facilities and personnel in conflict, with many of them referring to an international law on the protection of health care in armed conflict, or UNSC resolution 2286.

However, during the two years since its adoption, from May 2016 to April 2018, the ICRC recorded over 1,200 incidents of violence against health care in 16 countries.

"The gap between words and action is deplorable," said Daccord, urging all states to uphold international commitments and take the protection of health care a national priority.

Olof Skoog, Swedish envoy to the UN, said that last year Syria alone witnessed 112 attacks against medical facilities and workers, and that 645,000 medical items were removed from inter-agency cross-line convoys.

Skoog said the Swedish government, together with the ICRC and the Swedish Red Cross, will launch a project addressing armed forces’ obligation to ensure protection and respect for health care in armed conflict.

Karel J.G. van Oosterom, the Netherlands’ envoy to the UN, stressed the need to "step up our coordinated efforts to ensure accountability for such international crimes (attacks on health care)."

Professional performance by peacekeepers on the protection of civilians was widely called for at Tuesday’s debate.

"UN peace operations should prioritize the protection of civilians," said Galymzhan Koishybayev, deputy foreign minister of Kazakhstan.

Syed Akbaruddin, Indian ambassador to the UN, stressed that resources need to be made available to peacekeepers to fulfill their mandated tasks.

Meanwhile, though "protection of civilians is a system-wide responsibility," host countries bear the primary responsibility for it, said Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistani ambassador to the UN.

Moreover, Guterres called upon all governments to develop national policy frameworks to protect civilians in conflict, adding governments should set out proactive measures that mitigate and respond to civilian harm by national militaries, partner forces and international coalitions.

He also called upon member states to support the UN and others in engaging with non-state armed groups to develop policies, codes of conduct and action plans to protect civilians, as well as to support advocacy of the protection of civilians.

United Nations chief shares grave figures on civilians in armed conflicts

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that more than 128 million around the world need immediate humanitarian aid and this staggering figure is mainly driven by conflict.

In a statement to the security council convened for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, Guterres shared alarming figures on the issue.

"Last year, the United Nations recorded the death and injury of more than 26,000 civilians in just six countries affected by conflict: Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen," he said.

"Ten thousand of these were in Afghanistan."

The UN chief noted civilians in conflict zones are also subject to horrific violations of human rights, including rape and other sexual violence.

He took the Democratic Republic of Congo for example, saying the UN documented more than 800 cases of conflict-related sexual violence last year — a 56 percent increase on 2016.

In regard to refugees and internally displaced persons, Guterres said conflicts continue to force millions of people to flee their homes for an uncertain future, revealing that at the end of 2016, 65.6 million people were uprooted by war, violence and persecution.

The UN chief went on to point out that bombing and shelling of towns and cities killed and injured tens of thousands of civilians every year.

As for Syria, he said, attacks reportedly killed and injured significant numbers of civilians in Aleppo, Dayr al-Zawr, Homs, Idlib, Raqqah and Rif Dimashq, destroying essential infrastructure, schools and hospitals.

On infrastructure destruction, Guterres elaborated on the attacks targeting medical facilities as well as humanitarian and health workers.

"In 2017, the World Health Organization recorded 322 attacks resulting in 242 deaths among medical personnel and patients."

Guterres also lamented the impediment of the accessibility of medical supplies and health care, citing looting of convoys as well as threats and bureaucracy on part of conflict parties.

On conflicts’ impact on global food security, the UN chief noted ten of the 13 major food crises in 2017 were conflict-driven.

He took Yemen for example, saying "nearly 3 million women and children are acutely malnourished and more than 8 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from."

Global meeting on prevention of mass atrocities opens in Uganda

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- Government representatives, civil society and experts on Wednesday started a three day meeting to devise ways of preventing mass atrocities like genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

Over 200 delegates, convening under Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC), a state-led network, are exchanging good practice and lessons learned from ongoing experiences of prevention like early warning systems, prevention of hate speech, role of politicians among others.

Adama Dieng, the Special Adviser of the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide, told reporters that there is a lot of conflict in the world which can or has led to mass atrocities.

"It is extremely worrying, we are seeing intolerance being on the rise, we are seeing far right-wing groups emerging in Europe, we are seeing cynical western politicians using all types of issues like migration to cast blame on people, all this leads to hatred, leading to committing of atrocities," Dieng said.

He said in Africa, the situation on South Sudan is worrying noting that atrocities are being committed in the eastern African country since fighting broke out in December 2013.

UN figures show that over one million South Sudanese have crossed into Uganda fleeing fight back home.

"It is really time that we invested more in prevention.

"The (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres reminded us a couple of months ago that in the last 10 years, the international community spent 233 billion U.S. dollars on humanitarian intervention, peacekeeping and refugees.

"Imagine that even one percent of that amount was is being used on prevention," Dieng said.

Nicholas Opio, a human rights advocate, argued that issues that cause conflict like corruption, poor governance need to be addressed to avoid leading to situations that cause mass atrocities.

One key feature of the meeting will be the presentation of the Africa Working Group Manual on "Best Practices on the Establishment and Management of National Mechanisms for Genocide and Mass Atrocities Prevention."

Dieng said he hopes that manual will be used as a blue print to prevent or stop factors that lead to the committing of mass atrocities around the world.

The last biannual GAAMAC meeting was held in Costa Rica and the Philippines.



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