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wars and rumours of wars… for all these things must come to pass. Nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom… famines and pestilences and earthquakes in unusual placesMatt. 24:6-7

INSIDE THIS WEEK’S EDITION: Floods take many lives in Nigeria; A call for an end to air strike in Yemen; Civilians continue to die in record numbers in Afghanistan; Jesus the only way to salvation?  When we think it is peace; Fight to end hunger faces challenges;   Nothing can stop the return of Jesus Christ; What is the Lord’s Day?

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Week of October 14 – October 21,  2018

Nigeria floods: Guterres ‘deeply saddened’ by loss of life and rising need

Nigeria’s two main rivers, the Niger and the Benue, burst their banks after heavy rains began in August, and the country has been experiencing large-scale floods ever since. A state of national disaster has been declared in the four most-affected states of Kogi, Niger, Anambra and Delta.

More than 561,000 people are internally displaced as a result and  over 350,000 need immediate help – especially temporary shelter, food, safe drinking water, household items and medical care.

Flooded houses in Niger State, following torrential rains which have hit the region since mid-July 2018. Credit: UNDAC/Pierre Trouche.

In addition, more than 150,000 hectares of farmland are entirely inundated which raises serious medium-term food security concerns, as to how farmers will be able to replant vital crops.

Close to 80,000 houses were damaged including 18,000 completely destroyed, and more than 320 roads and bridges are impassable. In the most affected areas, children have not been able to go to school for weeks.

The Secretary-General extended his condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Nigeria and wished the injured a speedy recovery, stressing that the UN stands in solidarity with the country during this difficult time and “ready to support as required”.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), activities conducted so far by the United Nations include: needs assessments; the provision of emergency medical care as well as disease control for cholera and malaria, by the World Health Organization (WHO); and distributions of hygiene or “dignity” kits, for women and girls by the UN sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA).

Saudi Arabia must halt air strikes in Yemen, says UN panel

OCHA/Muath Algabal

A 12-year-old boy carries soap supplied by the UN in the Bani Harith neighbourhood of Sana’a in Yemen. (September 2018)

The conflict in Yemen has been highlighted by a UN human rights committee which on Thursday urged Saudi Arabia to “put an end to the air strikes” against its southern neighbour, amid reports that they have resulted in the deaths of at least 1,248 children since March 2015.

The recommendation was addressed to Saudi Arabia by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which also issued concluding observations on Benin, El Salvador, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mauritania and Niger.

Each country is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has two Optional Protocols: involvement of children in armed conflict and the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Every four years, Member States are expected to provide an update to the UN on their activities and progress relating to these international accords.

In a statement, the 18-member UN panel noted that Saudi Arabia was involved in the Yemen conflict as the leader of an internationally-backed coalition “to restore legitimacy” there.

The country has been split by a devastating war involving the internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in the south, and Houthi opposition fighters, who control the capital, Sana’a to the north, and other key locations.

Saudi representatives said that the coalition had been “accidentally responsible for casualties among children”, the Committee noted in its report, before expressing serious concern that youngsters “continue to be the primary victims of that ongoing conflict” and represented 20 per cent of all civilian casualties caused by air strikes.

Of three aerial attacks in August highlighted in the UN report –  on 9, 22, and 23 August  – it was the initial strike which prompted particular international condemnation, after at least 21 boys died when a bus they were travelling in was hit in Dahyan market in Saada governorate, in the north of the country.

FBchurchvisit2All parties in the conflict had been responsible for attacks on civilians, the UN panel said, underscoring how targets included “homes, medical facilities, schools, farms, wedding functions, markets, vehicles in crowded areas”.

Cluster munitions had been used in some of these attacks, the Committee said, before highlighting how the on-going aerial and naval blockade on Yemen had “dramatic consequences” for “many millions of people, including a high proportion of children”.

Among its other concerns, the UN panel noted “the inefficiency” of the coalition’s investigative mechanism into attacks on “children and facilities and spaces frequented by children” and underscored the “lack of independence of its members”.

Afghanistan: Civilians continue to die in record numbers, new UN report shows

UNAMA/Fraidoon Poya
A woman along with her children runs across a dusty street in Herat, western Afghanistan. Civilians across the country continue to bear the brunt of the conflict.
10 October 2018

The conflict in Afghanistan continues to exact a terrible toll on civilians, with the highest number of fatalities recorded for the first nine months of this year, since 2014, a United Nations report has revealed.

According to the quarterly update on protection of civilians, issued on Wednesday by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), 8,050 civilians died or were wounded between January and September, with use of suicide bombings and other improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by anti-government elements, accounting for almost half the casualties.

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“Every civilian death leaves a family devastated, grieving and struggling to come to terms with the loss, and each civilian injured or maimed causes untold suffering,” Danielle Bell, the head of UNAMA’s human rights office, said in a news release.

Across the country, Nangarhar, Kabul, Helmand, Ghazni and Faryab provinces recorded the highest number civilian casualties, and for the first time, Nangarhar (located on the border with Pakistan) surpassed the capital Kabul in terms of highest number of deaths and injuries.

“The worrying rise in civilian casualties in Nangarhar reflects an unacceptable trend that is indicative of how Afghan civilians continue to bear the brunt of this ongoing conflict,” added Ms. Bell.

The report also found that ground engagements were the second leading cause of civilian casualties, after suicide attacks and IEDs. This was followed by targeted and deliberate killings, aerial operations and explosive remnants of war.

Of grave concern was the increasing direct targeting of civilians, including ethnic and religious minorities, noted the report.

Actions by pro-Government forces resulted in 761 civilian deaths and 992 injures, while 231 civilians perished and 602 were injured in crossfire between opposing fighters.

Source: UNAMA
Civilian deaths and injuries in Afghanistan, January to September 2009-2018

No military solution to fighting

In the news release, the top UN official in Afghanistan reiterated his call for an immediate and peaceful settlement to the conflict to end the suffering of the Afghan people.

“There can be no military solution to the fighting in Afghanistan,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the country and the head of UNAMA.

support2“All parties can and should do their utmost to protect civilians from harm, including by making concrete progress toward peace.”

UNAMA also called on all anti-government elements to “immediately cease” the deliberate targeting of civilians, particularly with the use of illegal and indiscriminate IEDs, and underscored the need on all parties to uphold their obligations under international law, at all times, to protect civilians from harm.

Authorized by the Security Council, the UN Mission works to lessen the impact of the conflict on civilians and issues regular reports on the situation. Since 2012, the civilian causality reports have been prepared jointly with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The findings are based on strict verification regime including in depth investigation into the incidents.

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