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The Crushing Economic Toll of Ebola

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At this point most airlines have suspended flights to ebola affected countries, despite the WHO’s insistence that such measures are unnecessary and counter-productive. Many economic development projects are now on hold. “Ebola is causing enormous damage to West African economies, draining budgetary resources and slashing economic growth by up to 4 percent as foreign businessmen leave and projects are cancelled, the African Development Bank president said. As transport companies suspend services, cutting off the region, governments and economists have warned that the worst outbreak of the hemorrhagic Ebola fever on record could crush the fragile economic gains made in Sierra Leone and Liberia following a decade of civil war in the 1990s.” (Reuters http://bit.ly/1q5vAdB)

Nearly 2,000 people fleeing Africa and the Middle East have drowned in the Mediterranean this year…”Libya’s worsening security situation “has fostered the growth of people-smuggling operations, but also prompted refugees and migrants living there to decide to risk the sea rather than stay in a conflict zone,” the UNHCR said. The UNHCR death toll includes more than 300 people who died in three separate incidents since Aug. 22 when boats capsized off the Libyan coast.A total of 124,380 boat people – largely fleeing war, violence and persecution, the agency says – have landed in Europe since January, many after being rescued by an Italian navy and coast guard operation dubbed “Mare Nostrum”, or “Our Sea”. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vSsIBJ)

Ebola

A third top doctor has died from Ebola in Sierra Leone, a government official said Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1mTuMni)

A young man on camera names the person who’s challenged him to dump the contents of a bucket over his head. But in a twist on the ice bucket challenge, this man is soon drenched in frothy, soapy water — part of a campaign to raise awareness about Ebola prevention in West Africa. (AP http://yhoo.it/1opAOvz)

The French government on Wednesday recommended its nationals avoid Sierra Leone and Liberia due to the risk associated with the Ebola virus and asked Air France-KLM to suspend flights to the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1q5vO4k)

An employee of the WHO who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone will be flown to the German city of Hamburg for treatment, a spokesman for the city said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vSszy0)

Ebola has a nasty reputation for damaging the body, especially its blood vessels. But when you look at the nitty-gritty details of what happens after a person is infected, a surprising fact surfaces. (NPR http://n.pr/1lfB4lJ

The United Nations on Wednesday allocated $1.5 million to help the Democratic Republic of Congo fight Ebola, just days after the country confirmed its first cases this year.http://yhoo.it/1mTvzok

Africa

A young woman was shot dead in Namibia on Wednesday in clashes between police and the children of fallen independence fighters, a rare incidence of political violence in the country. http://yhoo.it/1lfHjWX

Police killed three people trying to steal a truck near a United Nations complex and the nearby U.S. embassy in Nairobi on Wednesday, police said, but staff at both sites said they were continuing with normal business. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vSsev9)

Budget cuts and bureaucracy have been blamed for blood shortages which have claimed several lives in Burundi and led to calls for an overhaul of the transfusion system. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1q5xknj)

Uganda’s president recently signed the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act into law, criminalizing the transmission of HIV and enforcing mandatory testing.  Such provisions have upset activists who want to de-stigmatize Uganda’s HIV-positive community. (VOA http://bit.ly/1lfCIUG)

 Kenyans living with HIV or AIDS in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum, are finding support groups essential to coping with the health, economic and social challenges they face. (VOA http://bit.ly/1lfD1P3)

The UN Security Council on Wednesday asked African countries of the troubled Sahel region to set up regional patrols to better protect their borders from organized crime and terror groups. http://yhoo.it/1mTwiG8

MENA

For the first time since 2007, a humanitarian convoy of the UN World Food Programme successfully crossed from Egypt into the Gaza Strip today, carrying enough food to feed around 150,000 people for five days. http://bit.ly/1q5yNd7

WFP said that a convoy of supplies had reached 2,000 desperate families, crammed into the Iraqi city of Karbala after fleeing jihadist attacks. http://yhoo.it/1mTwqFF

A comeback by Libya’s oil industry may be short-lived as a confrontation between armed groups risks splitting the country three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1q5vmmW)

Only a few months ago, the threat from MERS in large parts of the Gulf region appeared to be growing. Dozens of new cases were being reported every month and a key panel set up by the WHO advised that the “situation had increased in terms of its seriousness and urgency.” (IRIN http://bit.ly/1opB5yv)

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution tightening the Libya arms embargo, and calling for an end to the violence in that country. (VOA http://bit.ly/1opBbpS)

 Asia

Relief workers and aid agencies in Nepal are worried about the security, protection and psychological health of women and children in post-disaster settings. (IPS http://bit.ly/1q5wZB4)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will promise on Thursday to provide a bank account for every Indian household when he launches a major initiative that could save billions of dollars in welfare spending and help mend strained state finances. (VOA http://bit.ly/1mToSCF)

India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising – more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. (VOA http://bit.ly/1mTky6A)

Flooding over the past two weeks in Bangladesh has affected more than 800,000 people. http://bit.ly/1lfANPW

The Americas

More than 56 million people were lifted out of poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean between 2000 and 2012, according to a UN report. (BBC http://bbc.in/1lfCsVD)

A new survey about preferences and trends in Mexico concludes that one out of every three Mexicans would migrate to the United States if given the opportunity. (CNN http://cnn.it/1opB4ut)

In Guatemala, behind barred and locked doors, thousands of drug addicts are offered treatment by Protestant churches. Christianity offers salvation for some but many are held against their will, and some are swept off the street by “hunting” parties. (BBC http://bbc.in/1opBeSB)

Opinion/Blogs

 Why I’m not doing the #icebucketchallenge or donating for ALS (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1opzjxm)

How commercial airlines are undermining the fight against Ebola

A great country doesn’t deport vulnerable minors (CNN http://cnn.it/1mTnxvV)

IGAD’s Missed Opportunity for Action on South Sudan (Think Africa Press http://bit.ly/1mTBB8C)

Why saying ‘seven out of ten fastest growing economies are in Africa’ carries no real meaning – (African Arguments http://bit.ly/VNVre6)

Which development studies books should students read? (Guardian http://bit.ly/1lfCay2)

Pope Francis has done little to improve womens lives (Guardian http://bit.ly/1q5yz5Q)

Towards a Global Governance Information Clearing House (IPS http://bit.ly/1q5waIr)

Is There Any Way to Break the Doha Round Impasse in Agriculture Negotiations? (The Trade Beat http://bit.ly/1q5yG1l)

Building a Sustainable Future: The Compact Between Business and Society (IPS http://bit.ly/1q5x6wi)

12 Principles for Payment by Results (PbR) in the Real World (CGD http://bit.ly/1mTnNuD)

Research/Reports

New report outlines potential use of drones in humanitarian response (OCHA http://bit.ly/1lfAmF5)

New roads long enough to girdle the Earth 600 times are expected to be built by 2050 and better planning is needed to protect the environment while also raising food production, a study showed. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1mTvKQH)

Civil society groups from several continents are stepping up a campaign urging the World Bank to strengthen a series of changes currently being made to a major annual report on countries’ business-friendliness. (IPS http://bit.ly/1opywg7)

Iran and the P5+1: Getting to “Yes” (Crisis Group http://bit.ly/YXOlFO)

Rampant trash-burning is throwing more pollution and toxic particles into the air than governments are reporting, according to a scientific study estimating more than 40 percent of the world’s garbage is burned. (AP http://yhoo.it/1mTpx7g)

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an airfrance plane via wikipedia

How Commercial Airlines Are Undermining the Fight Against Ebola

Ebola is not an airborne disease like Tuberculosis or Influenza. It is  spread through contact with bodily fluids of someone who is symptomatic. Because of the low likelihood of transmission from the recirculated air on commercial airlines, the WHO and International Civil Aviation Organization have not recommended any travel restrictions. They do, however, recommend that authorities screen passengers exiting ebola-affected countries for signs of illness. But, they say, even in the exceedingly unlikely event that an airline passenger has ebola the likelihood of him spreading to to other passengers is low. 

On the small chance that someone on the plane is sick with Ebola, the likelihood of other passengers and crew having contact with their body fluids is even smaller. Usually when someone is sick with Ebola, they are so unwell that they cannot travel. WHO is therefore advising against travel bans to and from affected countries.

“Because the risk of Ebola transmission on airplanes is so low, WHO does not consider air transport hubs at high risk for further spread of Ebola,” says Dr Nuttall.

Alas, most commercial airlines have succumbed to fear of Ebola.

Today, Air France announced it was suspending flights to Sierra Leone.  This was on the recommendation of the French government. British Airways has already suspended its flight from Monrovia and Conakry, Guinea. Other smaller regional airlines are also canceling flights left and right. (Korea Airlines has even suspended all routes to Kenya, which is thousands of miles from the ebola outbreak.)

As of today, there is precisely one international airline serving Freetown Sierra Leone: Royal Moroccan Airlines.

This is making life worse for people in ebola affected countries. Worse, it is undermining the international fight to contain this disease. Cutting off access to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone means that moving the personnel and equipment required to contain the outbreak is much more logistically complicated and expensive.

The man in charge of coordinating the UN system’s response to the crisis, Dr. David Nabarro, blasted airlines for canceling routes.  “By isolating the country, it makes it difficult for the UN to do its work,” Nabarro told reporters in Freetown. In an earlier interview with the UN News Center, he said “I want to be clear, very clear, that there is no justification for stopping people from traveling to countries that are currently affected by the Ebola disease outbreak. The issue here is that you want to stop people from coming into close contact with people with Ebola virus disease, specifically from touching them. That means identifying the people who have the disease and helping them to avoid contact with other people. But it doesn’t mean that you have some kind of overall prevention of travel to the affected countries”

Still, flights are being cancelled left and right and these cancellations are starting to have a deleterious effect on international efforts to stop the spread of ebola. On Monday, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control — arguably one of the most important human beings on the planet in the fight against ebola had his flight to Freetown via Brussels Airlines cancelled, delaying a critical visit to the region. One can only imagine the hurdles that international NGOs and relief agencies are going through to move assets to the region.

The fight against ebola was always going to be difficult. But by cutting off access to affected countries, commercial airlines are arguably making it more difficult to contain this epidemic.

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A displaced Pakistani woman holds her grandson. She was displaced by fighting in North Pakistan. This photo is via UNHCR. Noor/A.Fazzina

The Impossible Suffering of Pakistani Women Displaced by War

Fouzia Bibi, mother of three from Waziristan, Pakistan lost her husband to the Taliban in the beginning of 2014. Six months later she lost her home too.

In June, the government and the military began an operation against the Taliban in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) and one of the air strikes took her home away.

Bibi is among the one million Pakistanis who have been displaced from Waziristan in northwestern Pakistan due to the government and military action against the Taliban. Around 74 percent of the internally displaced are women and children, according to the United Nations. Among them are 36,000 pregnant women.

“We will be displaced for life now, I know that. This temporary tent is my home forever. Who will build a home for us?” Bibi told me in a phone interview from her small temporary camp in Bannu, where most of the refugees from Waziristan are staying.

I am a physician from Pakistan, now living in Dallas, and I spoke with more than 20 of the women in the camps by phone this summer.

These displaced women are facing a tragically complex situation. Getting food and aid is exceptionally challenging for them as most lack local identification cards and are forbidden by tribal elders from going to distribution centers. Most do not have ID cards to begin with as being photographed is not acceptable in their society. Others live in areas so remote that they have no access to government offices that could provide them with ID cards.

In their conservative culture, these women also are barred from performing chores outside of their homes.

Many suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There was extreme despair and anxiety displayed in every conversation. All universally have a common sense of impending doom and worthlessness.

“We are like uninvited relatives. Nobody wants us or needs us around,” Bibi told me. “Most people sympathize with us. For some we are a burden and for others, an opportunity for God’s mercy, but really for us, everything has changed, forever and we’ll never leave these tents or these camps. Even if we go back, where do we go back…?”

These women, most of who have lost their spouses or fathers or brothers in the war-torn region are at the mercy of their local Jirga, or all-male village council, which also have influence in the camps.

“They call us their ‘honor,’ but to them that is all that matters,” Bibi said. “Whether we starve does not matter to the Jirga, who will not let us get food from the food lines because leaving our homes compromises our ‘honor.’ What good is this ‘honor’ if we starve to death.”

The national government and international community can–and should–help these women. Here’s how:

-The NGO’s providing local and foreign aid need to focus on the education that would enable these women to get the help that they need. Food lines and tents are not enough when they are not accessible by the population needing them.

- The Jirgas also need to be educated to allow these women access to the help they need. Psychiatric and psychological care needs to be provided to these people who have lost their lives and loved ones to the Taliban and the resultant military action.

-This is also the time for foreign organizations and governments to help these women and children. They need drinking water, food, homes and mental health assistance.

-The world needs to offer humanitarian assistance to these unsung heroes against the war on terrorism who have given up everything to support the government and the military. The government should provide them with housing, support system and counseling, before the so-called charity organizations, who have a soft support for the Taliban and ties with several militant groups, offer help to the displaced masses.

We cannot betray these brave souls and ignore their sacrifice.

Dr. Mona Kazim Shah hosts a radio show “Politics Today” about Pakistan on FunAsia Radio and is a public voices fellow with The OpEd Project at Texas Woman’s University. She is a doctor from Pakistan and now lives in Dallas.

 

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Fossil fuel fired power plant, credit wikipedia

Jarring News in Leaked UN Climate Report

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An early edition of the next big Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was leaked. The topic was emissions. The conclusion is unsettling to say the least. “Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” over the coming decades, according to a draft of a major new United Nations report. Global warming is already cutting grain production by several percentage points, the report found, and that could grow much worse if emissions continue unchecked. Higher seas, devastating heat waves, torrential rain and other climate extremes are also being felt around the world as a result of human-produced emissions, the draft report said, and those problems are likely to intensify unless the gases are brought under control.”  (NYT http://nyti.ms/1qsrYlN)

This Gaza Ceasefire Agreement Looks Like it Will Hold…”Thousands of Palestinians are celebrating in Gaza after Israel and Palestinian groups agreed an open-ended ceasefire to end seven weeks of fighting in Gaza…Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Gaza, said that the deal agreed an immediate easing of Israel’s blockade of crossings into Gaza, and a gradual lifting of restrictions on fishing off the coast of the strip. “The embargo will be lifted and the five border posts will see considerable changes, with the Rafah border crossing opening,” he said in reference to the crossing between Egypt and Gaza. Discussions on the creation of a seaport and airport will take place in a month, when indirect talks betwen Israel and Palestinians are scheduled to resume.” (Al Jazeera http://aje.me/1qssSig)

Ebola

The World Health Organization has withdrawn staff from a laboratory testing for Ebola at Kailahun in eastern Sierra Leone after one of its medical workers there was infected. (VOA http://bit.ly/1sw54s9)

The Ebola virus may have the “upper hand” in an outbreak that has killed more than 1,400 people in West Africa but experts can stop the virus’ spread, CDC Chief Thomas Frieden said at the start of his visit to the hardest-hit countries. (AP http://yhoo.it/1wxou6A)

MSF said it could provide only limited support to tackle a new outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo as it was already overstretched by the worst ever epidemic. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1swfwAa)

 The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in west Africa is unprecedented in many ways, including the high proportion of doctors, nurses, and other health care workers who have been infected. To date, more than 240 health care workers have developed the disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, and more than 120 have died. (WHO http://bit.ly/1wxvZKJ)

Africa

The UN confirmed three people were killed when a Mi-8 cargo helicopter was shot down, apparently by rebels, in Benitu state South Sudan. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1tSzF4h)

With a population of over six million, Sierra Leone has refocused its health initiatives, working tirelessly to strengthen the capacity and training of skilled midwives — an exceptional tool in reducing maternal and infant mortality. (IPS http://bit.ly/1sw2LWj)

 Despite progress in five East African countries and Congo in ratifying the United Nations Convention against Torture, human rights abuse is still prevalent as governments are reluctant to draft and implement local laws, human rights experts said. (AP http://yhoo.it/1swbgAC)

 Public health services in Uganda have long been poor because of limited government funding, and many qualified but poorly paid health workers have sought opportunities in Europe and the United States. Although private hospitals are springing up, most people cannot afford their services in a country where many live on less than $1 a day. (AP http://yhoo.it/1swcRGz)

Malawian President Peter Mutharika has shot down a proposal to hike cabinet ministers’ pay to almost triple his own salary, a spokesman said Tuesday, amid austerity measures following foreign aid flight. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1swd24N)

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday called for the “swift neutralization” of Rwandan rebels in Democratic Republic of the Congo as essential to bringing stability to the conflict-torn eastern regions of the country. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1swf84G)

MENA

Family members and US officials say the Islamic State militant group has been holding a young female American aid worker hostage in Syria since last year. (AP http://yhoo.it/1swkRHx)

Between government efforts to wipe out insurgents from Pakistan’s northern, mountainous regions, and the Taliban’s own campaign to exercise power over the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the real victims of this conflict are often invisible. (IPS http://bit.ly/1ARnJ6W)

Asia

Thailand’s military-led government is planning to hold talks with separatist groups in Southern Thailand to try to end a decade of violence that has claimed more than 6,000 lives. Analysts remain cautious about potential progress after previous talks stalled. (VOA http://bit.ly/1sw5M8U)

Heavy flooding across Bangladesh has forced thousands of people from their homes and caused severe damage to crops, with officials on Tuesday warning the situation could worsen as floodwaters poured into the capital, Dhaka. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1sw9K1l)

Doctors in India have removed the skeleton of a foetus that had been inside a woman for 36 years in what is believed to be the world’s longest ectopic pregnancy, a doctor has said. http://yhoo.it/1sw7KpX

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar a malaria research and treatment center is increasing efforts to kill, or eliminate, a drug-resistant form of the parasite before it spreads abroad. (VOA http://bit.ly/1swhqAK)

An international conference on small island developing states, scheduled to take place in Samoa next week, will bypass a politically sensitive issue: a proposal to create a new category of “environmental refugees” fleeing tiny island nations threatened by rising seas. (IPS http://bit.ly/XPJ2bd)

As Bhutan – a nation best known for valuing “gross national happiness” above GDP – accelerates its development, its government and people have engaged in a new fight to preserve its culture and keep its unique identity alive. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1ARoFrU)

The Americas

Salvadoran police have detained two Nicaraguan men who authorities say were transporting nine Nepalese and three Bangladeshi migrants who were bound for the United States. (AP http://yhoo.it/1wxlBTa)

Mexico’s president spoke of the need for US immigration reform on a two-day visit to immigrant-friendly California, saying those who reject diversity and inclusion will ultimately be proven wrong. (AP http://yhoo.it/1wxpl74)

Young Colombians are taking part in a special squad of undercover agents trying to clamp down on sexual harassment on Bogota’s public bus network. (BBC http://bbc.in/XPJpCL)

Opinion/Blogs

 Why have women been excluded from peace-building in Sudan? (Guardian http://bit.ly/1sw4OcX)

Under-prepared aid agencies fail to disburse polio vaccines in Syria (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1q37zUz)

International Day of the Girl: Map shows the U.N. Development Program’s gender inequality index. (Slate http://slate.me/1q37UGT)

“Ebola is the Kardashian of diseases” (Chris Blattman http://bit.ly/1q37BMf)

Will the real humanitarians please stand up? (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1vNOYfM)

A risky humanitarian relief gambit pays off (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1vNQGOq)

Good economics and the right thing to do: how to eliminate hunger and malnutrition (DevPolicy http://bit.ly/1q3800Z

Do ‘girl ads’ detract from girls’ empowerment? (The XX Factor http://bit.ly/1q384Ol)

Essential reading on foreign aid (Chris Blattman http://bit.ly/1q38p3x)

Ethiopia: Assessing the Impact of Abortion Law Change (Development Diaries http://bit.ly/1q38uo2)

Research/Reports

This August UNICEF shipped 1,000 metric tonnes of life-saving supplies for children caught in the world’s most urgent crises — the largest emergency supply operation in the organization’s history in a single month. The amount delivered would fill 19 cargo jumbo jets. http://bit.ly/1wxiNp6

Following months of lobbying by poor island states and NGOs, action on climate change is to be a stand-alone goal among the 17 newly agreed Sustainable Development Goals. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1sw3TZR)

Governments should ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, the World Health Organization said Tuesday, warning that they pose a “serious threat” to foetuses and young people. http://yhoo.it/1wxnPBX

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A chart showing war on the decline

The Good News About War

Since the end of the Cold War, the average number of people killed by war each year has gone down significantly. Worldwide, deaths caused by war-related violence averaged about 180,000 per year during the Cold War, 100,000 per year in the 1990s, and 55,000 per year in the 2000s, according to the Peace Research Institute Oslo.

 

 

image 1

Source: Peace Research Institute Oslo

Despite the carnage in Syria, there’s no reason to think that the long-term trend is reversing.

The UN Human Rights Office announced on Friday that the Syrian conflict had killed 191,369 people over the past three years. According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program’s latest dataset, in all countries besides Syria, there were 21,358 battle deaths in 2013, 22,936 battle deaths in 2012, and 21,789 battle deaths in 2011. Put all the numbers together and you get around 85,000 worldwide battle deaths per year over the past three years.  That’s 85,000 too many, of course, but the violence still isn’t nearly at the level of the Cold War.

The decline in the number of war deaths is particularly astonishing considering that world population has tripled since 1950. When looking at death rates instead of absolute numbers, the post-Cold War calm is even more apparent.

A chart showing war on the decline

So why doesn’t it feel as if war is declining? There is a vast disconnect between the findings of those who study conflict and the public perception of war. In the mainstream conflict research community, it is uncontroversial that international wars have decreased since the 1950s and civil wars have decreased since the end of the Cold War. But public perception is sometimes different.

One reason for the widespread pessimism is that the rise of television and the internet has allowed gruesome images of the casualties of war to be disseminated around the world. Images of journalist James Foley’s horrific execution spread like wildfire through Twitter. Every reporter or blogger knows that videos of explosions and dead civilians will attract more viewers than any positive news, especially when that positive news is about a long-term trend rather than a particular event. Since consumers of media can so easily bring to mind the horrors they’ve just seen on TV or the internet, they overestimate the amount of violence taking place today compared to the past. Psychologists call such a bias the availability heuristic.

While the majority of peace researchers agree that violence is trending downward, it is more controversial to theorize why exactly this is happening. The Human Security Report 2013 offers a few explanations, including the end of great power conflict and colonialism, increased economic and financial interdependence, and the gradual spread of stable democracies. International institutions have undoubtedly played a role as well. Once free of Cold War-inspired vetoes, the UN Security Council was able to beef up its peacekeeping operations and help mitigate multiple civil wars, even if it couldn’t be successful in every single case. Meanwhile, international conventions have banned non-discriminatory weapons such as landmines, cluster munitions, and chemical weapons.

Whatever the reason, we live in a relatively peaceful world today. In Winning the War on War, Joshua Goldstein writes:

“In the first half of the twentieth century, world wars killed tens of millions and left whole continents in ruins. In the second half of that century, during the Cold War, proxy wars killed millions, and the world feared a nuclear war that could have wiped out our species. Now, in the early twenty-first century, the worst wars, such as Iraq, kill hundreds of thousands. We fear terrorist attacks that could destroy a city, but not life on the planet. The fatalities still represent a large number and the impacts of wars are still catastrophic for those caught in them, but overall, war has diminished dramatically.”

Some might criticize conflict researchers for declaring a premature victory over war when so many lives are still torn apart by violence. However, these researchers aren’t trying to say that war is no longer a problem; they are just trying to understand it. A proper grasp of historical trends is essential to making the right decisions for the future. And it’s heartening to know that even though the international community has a long way to go in eradicating the scourge of war, we are making progress.

 

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World Food Program delivers aid in Syria in 2002 credit: WFP/Abeer Etefa

A Risky Humanitarian Relief Gambit Pays Off

Last month, the Security Council authorized the cross border delivery of aid to Syria through four border points, even if the Syrian government did not consent to the delivery of aid. This was a potentially risky move.

The delivery of humanitarian assistance is generally premised on the fact that the aid is being distributed with the cooperation, or at least consent, of the government on whose territory the aid is being delivered. You run into big problems when convoys of trucks purporting to delivery humanitarian assistance mass at a border and enter a war zone. (See: Ukraine.) So, the consent of the host country is generally considered a pre-requisite to the delivery of aid.

The Security Council resolution permitting the delivery of aid regardless of whether or not the Syrian government authorizes it was radical — and risky — because it undermined this basic premise of the humanitarian system. At first it looked like the Syrians would attack the aid convoys.  The Syrian Ambassador to the UN blatantly threatened to attack aid convoys that crossed into Syrian territory without official permission from the government.

It would seem that those threats were just bluster. As of last week, eight relief and aid shipments have crossed into Syria from four border crossings without incident. Aid was able to reach tens of thousands of stranded Syrians who had previously been beyond the reach of international aid.

This is promising start to a risky aid operation. It is also important to put this in context: there are nearly 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria, over half of whom live in areas not under the control of the government. Meanwhile, the number of people who need humanitarian assistance has increased for every month that the conflict has dragged on.  With the war showing no signs of abating anytime soon, we can expect that humanitarians will take on even greater risks to reach people in need.

 

 

 

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