April 17, 2020 Ethiopia, News, UNHCR

A Norwegian supporter of Eritrea, the campaigner Finn Våge, has been in contact with the government of Norway about the situation of the refugees in Hitsat camp, which has been covered regularly in this blog.

Here is his letter, followed by the Norwegian government’s reply.

Eritrean Committee 27. 03 2020

To the Foreign Minister and the Minister of Development

Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed exposes refugees to major coronary danger and will deprive Eritrean refugee status. We ask our government to evaluate this on the basis of annual aid of more than NOK 500 million to Ethiopia.

1) Abiy Ahmed’s government is considering no longer registering newly arrived Eritrean refugees to Ethiopia and has deprived them of the right to apply for refugee status in violation of the Refugee Convention.

2) Hitsat’s refugee camp will be closed and 11,000 refugees – many young people and children without growing up to care for them, will be moved to another camp that lacks infrastructure and is already crowded.
We remember that the Crown Prince couple recently visited the camp and that the Norwegian Refugee Council, with state aid, has invested considerable resources in, among other things. house building in the Hitsats camp. These are wasted Norwegian funds.

3) In a time of great coronary danger, a move to an already crowded camp will expose 18,000 Eritrean refugees to a high risk of being infected by the COVID-19 virus with the most serious consequences.

4) The Eritrean Committee will also remind the government that the reason why Ethiopia and Norway continue to have Eritrean refugees is that the human rights situation in Eritrea is not improved despite the promises of 18 months. military service and peace with Ethiopia.

The Eritreans have been trying for 20 years to have a dignified life – something that the totalitarian dictatorship still will not give them. The Eritreans therefore escape from a culture of fear without hope for the future. The push factors are the Sawa school, modern slavery in the national service indefinitely, imprisonment without judgment etc. So it is NOT the so-called pull factor – stay in the US / Europe, as the cause of the escape as the regime still maintains – unfortunately still with some Norwegian politicians.

We ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Aid to verify these claims and take the necessary measures.
More information about the case is attached below in a letter from Eritrea Focus. Source: Eritrean Hub.com

A copy is sent to the Nobel Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Norwegian Church Aid and the Norwegian press.

Finn Våge ,

Leader Eritreakomiteen

Ministry of Foreign Affairs    Oslo, Norway

Mandag 30. mars 2020 12:28


To Finn Våge,

Subject: Peace Prize Winners attack the rights of refugees and expose them to corona danger.

Thank you for a letter to our two ministers received on March 30 asking you to confirm measures by Ethiopian authorities towards Eritrean refugees.

Ethiopia is an important partner country for Norway, and we have good dialogue with the Ethiopian authorities in the refugee and migration area as well. The Norwegian embassy in Addis Ababa recently visited Shire, near the border with Eritrea, and held meetings with representatives of the UN and the Refugee Council. In addition, the embassy maintains on-going  contact with relevant Ethiopian authorities.

The long-term goal of Ethiopia’s refugee policy is for refugees to be integrated into communities rather than residing in camps. The closure of Hitsat’s refugee camp is in line with this policy. It is crucial that refugees are guaranteed access to basic services, including health services. In today’s situation, where the corona virus is spreading in Ethiopia, the authorities have chosen to postpone the closure of Hitsat for the time being. In our dialogue with the authorities, we have emphasized that the closure of the camp must not lead to increased vulnerability for the refugees residing there. The letter addresses the refugee status of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.

Earlier, Ethiopia has granted “prima facie” refugee status to all asylum seekers who have arrived from Eritrea. The authorities have now decided that an individual assessment of each case should instead be made. This does not mean that Eritreans will not be granted refugee status in Ethiopia, but it does require Ethiopian authorities to establish good procedures for asylum cases, including complaints.

Although peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia is an important step forward, improving the situation for Eritreans will depend on Eritrea’s political and economic development. Norway continues to promote this message in various forums that meet with like Eritrean authorities, diaspora, civil society, multilateral organizations and through the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Vennlig hilsen


Merete Dyrud

Senior Adviser  / Section for Horn of Africa and West Africa / Ministry of Foreign Affairs    Oslo, Norway

April 15, 2020 Ethiopia, News

Source: Swiss Peace

Tigray route to Hitsats Camp (2020). Picture: Andrea Grossenbacher 

Since the coming to power of Abiy Ahmed as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister in April 2018, the country has undergone significant political and economic changes. The promises of a unified and democratic Ethiopia have created high hopes for more peaceful times. At the same time, uncertainty arises as people ask themselves how peace might look like, at what cost it will come and for whom.

The Peace Deal between Eritrea and Ethiopia

One of the achievements of PM Abiy Ahmed’s on-going political reform was to put an end to two decades of ‘frozen war’ between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The signing of the peace agreement in July 2018 won PM Abiy Ahmed international and national recognition and the “2019 Peace Nobel Prize”. In September 2018, following the peace deal, the borders between Ethiopia and Eritrea were opened. Media outlets all around the world documented the joyous moment as families reunified after decades of separation. For many, the images of this historic moment highlighted the personal costs of conflict and the immediate possibilities of peace.

The peace deal with Eritrea had, and continues to have, an impact on the lives of Eritreans and Ethiopians living in the border area in northern Ethiopia. However, the immediate possibilities of peace seem to have faded as the deal has failed to translate into tangible and sustainable improvements for the people. On the contrary, for some, it has created more insecurity and new vulnerabilities. Despite Ethiopia’s history of hosting and maintaining good relationships with Eritrean refugees, a closer look at the current situation of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia suggests a gradual deterioration of their protection and safety following the peace agreement. In order to understand the implications of this situation for overall peace, we must look more closely into how the peace agreement directly or indirectly affects Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.

Refugee Policy in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has a long history of hosting refugees. According to UNHCR, Ethiopia is currently sheltering 748,448  registered refugees and asylum seekers (as of 29 February 2020). The regions Tigray  and Afar host 139,281 registered Eritrean refugees (as of 31 December 2019). The country acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees and has ratified the Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. Moreover, Ethiopia has maintained an open door policy for people seeking asylum in the country, allowing humanitarian access and protection to refugees. In recent years, the country has seen its refugee policy move from basic service provision to a more progressive and rights-based model. The development towards more progressive refugee policies ended in the adoption of a landmark framework on refugees in 2017: the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (This paves the way for the implementation of the nine pledges Ethiopia made at the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in September 2016 in New York and provides a solid political basis and direction for enhanced protection and provision of rights. Ethiopia has also been a key driver of the regional CRRF process. In January 2019, the national refugee proclamation was revised which is expected to enable refugees to become more independent, better protected and have greater access to local solutions, making it one of the most progressive in Africa.

Counter to this trend, policies that were in place to protect Eritrean refugees are currently undergoing changes, most likely because of the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea. There have been shifts in practice to no longer recognize Eritreans as prima facie refugees. Consequently, Eritreans have to undergo individual refugee status determination. Further, there seems to be a faster process in place for Eritrean refugees to make use of the ‘Out of Camp Policy’, which allows Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia to live outside of camps, if finally, this month several Ethiopian newspapers announced the shutdown of the Hitsats camp, one of the four Eritrean refugee camps in northern Ethiopia, leaving about 18’000 Eritrean refugees with an uncertain future. These recent developments have created insecurity and challenges for refugee protection. Yet, given the peace declaration between Eritrea and Ethiopia it does not come as a surprise that some measures, such as the refugee status determination, are being introduced. However, a cause for concern is that measures might be put in place to actively reduce the attractiveness of the Tigray/Afar region for Eritrean refugees, impacting on their ability to get protection.

Peace & Displacement 

The peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia had a direct impact on movement as it resulted in the border opening in 2018, which lasted about two months. During this time, many people benefitted from the freedom of movement across the border, for personal and business purposes. However, not everyone was happy with this situation.

First, the uncontrolled movement across borders increased insecurity among Eritrean refugees in the camps in northern Ethiopia, as the end of the conflict with Ethiopia does not guarantee political change in Eritrea. Therefore, people in the camps who fled because of the Eritrean government feared that an opening of the border would allow Eritrean officials to enter the camps and that they would be forced to return to Eritrea. This insecurity has persisted until now and could have a negative impact on the relationships between and among refugees, national and international refugee protection agencies and the national government of Ethiopia, as it increases mistrust, a sense of helplessness and fear

Second, the opening of the border actually led to a subsequent complete closure of the border from the Eritrean side. Legal border crossing is no longer possible. In addition, today there are fewer entry points for Eritrean refugees to register themselves in Ethiopia than before. This, together with the change in prima facie refugee status recognition, has made it more difficult for Eritreans to seek refuge in Ethiopia.

Finally, the peace agreement has led to a change in approach towards Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, which is counter to the overall trend towards more progressive refugee policies in the country. This has created a lot of frustration among refugees, particularly young Eritreans who are well informed and have high expectations regarding the pledges that Ethiopia made to allocate more rights to refugees. Thus, unmet expectations of refugees regarding implementation of the pledges combined with more restrictive policies for Eritrean refugees that are perceived to be aimed at preventing Eritreans from entering Ethiopia and/or from staying in the border area could potentially increase frustration, mistrust and drive tensions between refugees, refugee agencies and the national government. Moreover, Tigrayans in northern Ethiopia have historically welcomed Eritrean refugees warmly, mainly due to the fact that they share the same ethnicity, culture and language. In many cases, host and refugee communities have developed peaceful and mutually benefitting relationships. Therefore – and keeping in mind the already tense relationship between the region’s main political party, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and both the Eritrean and Ethiopian government – it is worth thinking about the potential impact tensions between Eritrean refugees and the Ethiopian government would have on the relationship between the Tigrayans and the national government.

The negative consequences of the peace deal for some Eritrean refugees in northern Ethiopia, and the potential impact they could have in terms of exacerbating pre-existing tensions or creating new conflict dynamics, shows the importance and relevance of a systematic integration of migration and displacement issues in peace processes and policies. This is a strong argument for an increased engagement on the peace and migration nexus as a means to prevent conflicts and sustain peace.

swisspeaceAndrea Grossenbacher This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.Program Officer

13 April 2020

As the coronavirus spreads to all corners of the African continent, advocacy groups are calling for the release of a particularly vulnerable group: jailed journalists.

In an open letter to 10 African heads of state, the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, and 80 other press freedom and human rights groups called for the media professionals to be freed.

"They are in jails that are overcrowded, where there are underlying health conditions where malaria and TB is a problem," said Angela Quintal, CPJ's Africa program coordinator. "So really, their lives are at risk here and many of them actually haven't even been convicted and have been sitting in detention for years without trial."

In a survey conducted at the end of 2019, CPJ found that at least 73 journalists were in prisons in Africa including 26 in Egypt, 16 in Eritrea and seven in Cameroon. Some of the Eritrean journalists have been imprisoned since 2001.

"When it comes to journalists who are being held there, not because they have committed a crime but are being held because of their journalism, it is necessary to ensure that these journalists are not stuck with what we call a death sentence," Quintal said. "Their freedom is really a matter of life and death."

One person who knows these difficulties is Mimi Mefo Takambou, a print and broadcast journalist from Cameroon. In 2018, she was arrested and charged with reporting false information and undermining state security for a story about an American missionary who was shot and killed in the West African country.

She was imprisoned for four days, and saw firsthand the squalid conditions in which journalists are held in the country and the lack of basic rights.

"The sanitation condition is not a very good one; like I said, the situation of overcrowding in prison. Access to the lawyer sometimes is problematic. We've had colleagues who are behind bars, and they'll have to spend several months even before having access to lawyers," she told VOA.

Takambou says she believes it is wrong for journalists to be held like this, not only on moral grounds, but also because they play a vital role in covering the coronavirus crisis.

"They have a huge role to play at this point in time in informing the population and giving them what they need as far as steps toward curbing the spread of coronavirus is concerned. But if most of these journalists are behind bars, who is going to tell the story?" she asked.

Takambou says she hopes her country and others that continue to imprison journalists will see information and those who report it as part of the solution to the coronavirus, not part of the problem.

"Release them so that they can be able to do their job," she said. "The place of the journalist is not in jail; the place of the journalist is in the field, telling the story, keeping people informed. And, at this point in time now, they are needed more than ever before."

Read the original article on VOA.


11 Apr 2020
Originally published
10 Apr 2020
View original


1. Situation Overview

Global cases: 1,439,516 confirmed. Global deaths: 85,711 confirmed. Countries, areas or territories with cases: 212 (as of 10 April, WHO). WHO published a guidance document on the rational use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in healthcare and home care settings and during the handling of cargo. WHO has listed the first two diagnostic tests for emergency use during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Global Health Cluster, led by WHO, has been supporting 29 countries to implement the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19.The Global Fund is coordinating with the WHO, which is leading the global response. WHO Situation Reports have detailed updates.

2. Global Fund COVID-19 Response

On 9 April, the Global Fund Board approved a new COVID-19 Response Mechanism and operational flexibilities to support countries to respond to COVID-19 and mitigate the impact on programs to fight HIV, TB, malaria and systems for health. The COVID-19 Response Mechanism authorizes funding of US$500 million and comes in addition to up to US$500 million in grant flexibilities that were previously announced by the Global Fund on 4 March. This effectively brings total Global Fund support available to up to US$1 billion. Latest updates:

  • Board Decision 9 April: Additional Support for Country Responses to COVID-19. Download the full Board decision here.

  • Board Decision 9 April: Operational Flexibilities to Ensure Continued Operations during COVID-19. Download the full Board decision here.

  • Funding has been approved for 54 countries and two regional grants (99 individual decisions) for a total of nearly US$70 million. The 54 countries include (new countries are in bold): Afghanistan, Albania, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, El Salvador, Eritrea, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Moldova, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Uganda, Ukraine, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The two regional grants are: ALCO HIV/AIDS prevention project targeting key and vulnerable population along the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor; and Middle East Response - Ensuring continuity of treatment and essential services for people affected by HIV, TB and malaria in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.

  • Most countries have requested less than the 5% permitted. All requests follow WHO guidance on preparedness and early response. Almost all funds approved to date have come from savings from existing grants.

  • The number of requests, and the dollar amount of each request, have increased greatly since March. The amount approved in the first nine days in April is almost equal to the total approvals from all of March. Requests are now coming in from all regions.

Coronavirus, Covid19 – information leaflets in Tigrinya and Arabic

These leaflets have been provided by a range of organisations. They are important in helping people tackle this virus in their own language.

Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 07.31.38

You can find all the leaflets here

Here are  some in Tigrinya (more available here)








Here are some Arabic (more available here)



Arabic stop-the-spread-of-germs poster 3.18.2020 disclaimer



COVIDcasepositiveARABIC (1)


Progressive Alliance Statement on Covid 19 1

(Printed below is a must-read declaration approved by over 100 social democratic, socialist and progressive parties in the Progressive Alliance, in which Eritrea is represented by the EPDP - Eritrean People’s Democratic Party in exile. The statement calls upon democratic and progressive forces to play a leading role in shaping a new World Order in the aftermath of this pandemic. For now, it calls for the creation of an international fund under the UN to support the treatment of coronavirus patients worldwide to tackle its long-term consequences. It underlines the important of give due attention to peoples that cannot expect “financial support nor medical protection from their governments.” The statement adds: “Immediate medical support needed for refugee camps in preparation for the spread of the viral disease. Refugees and displaced persons are most vulnerable and must not be forgotten. International institutions and states must continue and even increase their aid and assistance.” -- Good reading, Harnnet.org).

Borderless challenges require borderless solidarity:

The Covid-19 pandemic has become a scourge for mankind. Hundreds of thousands have already contracted it and many thousands have died and will die of it. The virus causes enormous suffering, creates individual and collective insecurity worldwide by threatening people across borders and destabilizing entire countries and regions.

The fatal consequences of this pandemic particularly affect people who are less fortunate, who are already starving and who cannot expect financial support nor medical protection from their governments and public authorities, those who are suffering of war and expulsion where again women are the most exposed. Covids-19 is an enormous challenge for everyone.

Medical and health care as well as social and economic systems are reaching their stress limits. Progressive answers to these challenges are needed – today and for the time afterwards. Social Democrats, Socialists and Progressives are at the forefront in fighting the health, social and economic effects of this unprecedented crisis.

What we need is social cohesion and solidarity, at national and global level! Over the next few weeks, the foundations of a new world order shall be laid. Progressives need to raise their voices now in order to have a say in its shaping. The shift of control over vital public services to the private market only is the wrong path. We now can see clearly that social security and health care are not costs to be cut, but essential pillars of good functioning societies which need sustainable investments.

The ignorance and arrogance of the nationalists and populists divide societies and endangers us all. Their path is wrong and put human lives at risk - this is now more evident than ever - lacking any ethical or humanist reference and undermining our democracies. Already now, the struggle over who will have to bear the costs of the necessary rescue packages has begun.

Different from the response to the financial crisis of 2008, our democracies, societies, economies and simply the planet cannot afford another decade of austerity or uncontrolled markets.

Solidarity means that the strong use their strength to help the weak. The answer to this crisis is global solidarity. We, the parties and organisations of the Progressive Alliance, defending a multilateral approach therefore demand and promote an immediate and bold global agenda:

We call for acute measures:

  • § A global humanitarian ceasefire as urgently demanded by the UN Secretary General in order to create the necessary space to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, even in war and crisis areas – also an immediate ending of politically motivated embargos in order to allow access to food and medical supply. It is now about saving lives and mitigating the spread of the virus.
  • § Global cooperation and coordination are the prerequisite for a successful fight against the effects caused by Covid-19. We call on governments to apply without delay the recommendation of the WHO. Those who isolate themselves and do not support others with all their possibilities show a lack of solidarity and are responsible for a major catastrophe. Mutual global support is needed by politicians, research institutes and companies to support those states and people in vulnerable areas across borders in their search for political and medical solutions.
  • § Immediate medical support for refugee camps in preparation for the spread of the viral disease. Refugees and displaced persons are most vulnerable and must not be forgotten. International institutions and states must continue and even increase their aid and assistance.

In the medium run we call:

  • § For an international fund to be created by the United Nations to support the treatment of coronavirus patients worldwide and to tackle the long-term consequences. This fund needs not only to enable acute measures, but also future-oriented investments in the general interest. We call for intensified development cooperation as we must shoulder the costs of the pandemic together as the impact and costs of the corona crisis will be enormous and will overtax many states, rush them in severe financial and economic crisis.
  • § The G20 to work closely with the United Nations to coordinate tax and monetary policies, as well as trade resumption and joint aid packages. National crisis policy is necessary and justified, poor and weak countries cannot be let alone to face the situation. The G20 countries and other strong economies are required to step up.

To prevent the risk of a new debt crisis, for tax avoidance to be coordinated and combated effectively in order to create new fiscal space and room for manoeuvre for global financing of global challenges. Targeted debt relief strategies and orderly state insolvency proceedings could take some pressure out of the debt bubble:

  • § To consider investment in health and care services as an essential investment in general interest. Covid19-crisis is not least a social crisis. Health systems at national level and worldwide are reaching their stress limit or are already beyond it. If a proof was necessary the pandemic clearly shows that the neoliberal mantra of maximizing profits at the expense of health, social and public services has also led to this crisis and weakens the states’ ability to respond and leaves people behind without any access to medical help.
  • § To agree in short term on price controls for important medical goods, international cooperation in vaccine research and clinical tests, dismantling of patent protection, helping the most affected countries to stabilise their health systems and securing the supply chains for medical goods.
  • § To review neoliberal reforms of common goods and services which have failed. We need social protection floors in all countries like requested by ILO, we urge for communalisation of public health systems as well as sustainable social investment.
  • § On the governments of the nation states to raise the respective minimum and living wages significantly in the health, care and service sector. Cost pressures were passed down in the last decades, with the result that the workers who ensure our health care and services today are at the end of wages and salaries and are not adequately protected against the virus they fight today.
  • § For an international agreement on sustainable investment programs on social infrastructures. Unlike after the financial crisis, it is important that the new liquidity on the capital markets will flow into socially meaningful real sustainable investments, e.g. social infrastructures, green deal packages etc. in the general interest to promote the socioecological transition alongside the 2030 agenda.
  • § For a redeveloped multilateralism where Progressives are in the lead for alternative policies and promoting the public interest. We call for strengthening multilateralism and giving international institutions more decision-making power. The legal and financial foundations must now be expanded. This virus does not recognise borders. While the list of challenges that we can only tackle globally and collectively is getting longer, multilateralism is on the decline. Many international institutions, such as the United Nations and the WTO, are underfunded and in crisis today, unable to fulfil their intended roles for global governance. In times of crisis more than ever: good and democratically legitimised governance are needed The largely uncontrolled advance of this unprecedent pandemic is currently used by authoritarian and undemocratic regimes to reduce even more democratic and civic space, fundamental rights and democratic institutions. Social democrats, Socialists and Progressives need to coordinate in regional and international institutions to ensure that such attempts shall not remain without consequences. Support to progressive and democratic civil society is needed.
  • · We commit to defend the rule of democratic law, the individual and collective fundamental rights and civil liberties;
  • · We promote strengthening solidarity at national and global level;
  • · We defend and promote transparency and democratic participation in good governance;
  • · We stand against any attempt of stigmatisation of refugees or minorities. Combating the effects of Covid-19 crisis needs democratic control and governance through parliaments, including use of new forms of communication in order to secure space of political debate on choices of policies, programmes and projects. The virus does not know any borders. The response to the virus cannot know any borders either! As social democrats, socialists and progressives we engage for better coordination, common approaches and set a new global progressive paradigm through our global network: the Progressive Alliance.

By RODNEY MUHUMUZA Associated Press

KAMPALA, Uganda — Weeks before the coronavirus spread through much of the world, parts of Africa were already threatened by another kind of plague, the biggest locust outbreak some countries had seen in 70 years.

Now the second wave of the voracious insects, some 20 times the size of the first, is arriving. Billions of the young desert locusts are winging in from breeding grounds in Somalia in search of fresh vegetation springing up with seasonal rains.

Millions of already vulnerable people are at risk. And as they gather to try to combat the locusts, often in vain, they risk spreading the virus — a topic that comes a distant second for many in rural areas.

It is the locusts that “everyone is talking about,” said Yoweri Aboket, a farmer in Uganda. “Once they land in your garden they do total destruction. Some people will even tell you that the locusts are more destructive than the coronavirus. There are even some who don’t believe that the virus will reach here.”

Some farmers in Abokat's village near the Kenyan border bang metal pans, whistle or throw stones to try to drive the locusts away. But mostly they watch in frustration, largely barred by a coronavirus lockdown from gathering outside their homes.

A failed garden of cassava, a local staple, means hunger. Such worries in the village of some 600 people are reflected across a large part of East Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan. The locust swarms also have been sighted in Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania and Congo.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has called the locust outbreak, caused in part by climate change, "an unprecedented threat” to food security and livelihoods. Its officials have called this new wave some 20 times the size of the first.

“The current situation in East Africa remains extremely alarming as ... an increasing number of new swarms are forming in Kenya, southern Ethiopia and Somalia,” a new FAO assessment said.

Favorable breeding conditions through May mean there likely will be another new round of swarms in late June and July, coinciding with the start of the harvest season, the agency said.

The U.N. has raised its aid appeal from $76 million to $153 million, saying immediate action is needed before more rainfall fuels further growth in locust numbers. So far the FAO has collected $111 million in cash or pledges.

The locusts are “invading the Eastern Africa region in exceptionally large swarms like never seen before," the Nairobi-based Climate Prediction and Application Center said.

The new swarms include “young adults,” voracious bugs “that eat more than the adult ones,” said Kenneth Mwangi, a satellite information analyst at the center.

Mwangi and other officials in Kenya cited difficulties in fighting the infestation as coronavirus-related travel restrictions slow cross-border travel and delay the delivery of pesticides.

The verification work of field officers has been curtailed, making it harder for the center to update regional prediction models, Mwangi said.

In rural Laikipia county, among the worst affected in Kenya, some are calling attention to the threat to commercial farms.

“I think, unfortunately, because of other things going on around the world, people are forgetting about the problem with the locusts. But it’s a very, very real problem," farmer George Dodds told the FAO.

Aerial spraying is the only effective way to control the locust outbreak. After the locusts crossed into Uganda for the first time since the 1960s, soldiers resorted to using hand-held spray pumps because of difficulties in obtaining the needed aircraft.

Uganda's agriculture minister said authorities are unable to import enough pesticides from Japan, citing disruptions to international cargo shipments.

The government is yet to meet an additional budget of over $4 million requested for locust control, the minister said.

The sum is substantial in a country where the president has been fundraising from wealthy people to help respond to the virus and its economic disruption. Health workers are threatening to strike over lack of protective gear.

Other countries face similar challenges.

In Ethiopia, where some 6 million people live in areas affected by the locust outbreak, the infestation if unchecked “will cause large-scale crop, pasture and forest-cover loss, worsening food and feed insecurity,” the FAO says.

Bands of immature locusts are forming in areas that include the country’s breadbasket, the Rift Valley region, it said.

Ethiopia’s agriculture minister has said efforts are underway to deploy six helicopters against the infestation that could last until late August.

But ministry spokesman Moges Hailu spoke of an ominous sign: The locust swarms are now appearing in locations where they had not been previously sighted.

Egypt’s Nile monopoly is over

Friday, 10 April 2020 13:33 Written by

April 10, 2020 Eritrea Hub Ethiopia, News

Source: Ethiopia Insight
April 9, 2020, by Moges Zewdu Teshome
Gerd 1
History teaches us that when change arrives, the best way to deal with it is not to resist, but to adapt
The Nile River, the longest river in the world, stretches across eleven countries.
The Blue Nile, its largest tributary, originates from the Ethiopian highlands and flows all the way to Egypt until it enters the Mediterranean Sea.

Herodotus, two and a half thousand years ago, claimed Egypt as ‘‘the gift of the Nile’’ because it depended on its water and the fertile soils washed from the Ethiopian highlands.
For Egyptians, this narrative is as true today as it was thousands of years ago—but Egyptians seemingly forget that the river originates elsewhere. They allow its symbolic value to surpass its economic value. Egypt considers any tampering with the Nile River as a matter of life and death. This explains the combative approach of the Egyptian government towards negotiations over ‘‘fair and equitable utilization’’ of the Nile River.

Upper riparian countries that contribute the entirety of the water that reaches the lower basin countries, Egypt and Sudan, made no effort to tame this trans-boundary river in the past.  It was not until 1999 that the nine-nation Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) was set up, launching a series of negotiations over fair and equitable utilization of the Nile River. This showed good progress and culminated in the Cooperative Framework Agreement (the Entebbe Agreement) signed by six out of ten riparian countries in 2010. Egypt refused to sign the agreement and froze its membership in the NBI, disagreeing with upper riparian states over ‘fair and equitable utilisation’. Playing a zero-sum game, it appeared only concerned about the relative gains of other riparian states.

In a broader context, this contention demonstrates tension between the forces of continuity and of change. The assertiveness of the upper riparian countries signified a formidable force of change; a stubborn Egypt stands as an inflexible defender of continuity. Can the force of continuity hold ground when faced by a burgeoning force of change caused by the fundamentally different circumstances of today?

The force of continuity: Egyptian mythology

In any discussion concerning the use of the Nile, Egypt has always boldly claimed historical rights over ‘its water’, including the right to veto any attempt to utilize the river by upstream countries. This claim results partly from a long-held mythology and partly from its erroneous interpretation of treaties and principles of international law. The myth, simply stated, is predicated on the civil law doctrine of res nullius, something belonging to no one or abandoned. The Nile River was adopted by the ancient Egyptians and now it exclusively belongs to Egypt. The underlying assumption was that it could be appropriated by one nation to the total exclusion of others. This is, of course, totally unfounded, and could in fact equally apply to upstream countries, allowing Ethiopia or others to tame the river, with due consideration of others’ rights.

Egypt dressed up its ‘exclusive rights’ with implausible legal arguments, revolving around claims of the binding nature of treaties on (non-involved) parties and the customary law principle of ‘not causing significant harm’. The first is the 1902 Agreement between Britain and Ethiopia on the delimitation of the frontier between Ethiopia and Sudan, though Britain has no more direct interest over the utilization of the Nile River. There has been a fundamental change of circumstances and the principle of state succession does not apply to decolonization.
Gerd 2
Why the U.S. lost its way on the Nile

The recent debacle reflects an unstable global order overseen by an unpredictable superpower with waning moral and legal authority.

The post-colonial states, in this case Egypt and Sudan, acquired a distinct and new legal personality. Even if an argument could be made that the treaty was still valid, article III only prohibits actions that ‘arrest’ or totally affect the flow of Nile River to downstream states. No upstream state has ever held such a position, which would be against the principle of causing ‘no significant harm’, a principle to which all upstream riparian countries fully subscribe.

In fact, the 1902 agreement has also been repealed by two subsequent treaties (the 1929 Treaty and the 1959 Treaty), between Egypt and Britain. The 1929 treaty gives Egypt the right to veto any future projects to be developed on the Nile River; the 1959 treaty apportions the water of the entire Nile River between Egypt, Sudan, and evaporation. Ethiopia is not a party to either of these treaties and is not bound by any of their stipulations. A treaty is binding only on the parties which signed it.

Egypt also contended that under customary international law, no state should cause significant harm to the interests (existing or future) of other states. Indeed, although it has yet to be properly defined, the ‘no significant harm’ principle has acquired a customary international law status. Equally, a state which claims that significant harm has been caused to its interests by other state(s) must show the actual existence of such harm. The International Court of Justice, for example, stated Nicaragua must prove the existence of trans-boundary harm, in its judgement on the case between Costa Rica vs. Nicaragua, in para.217.
Gerd 3
Grand Nile compromise—a Sisyphean task?
Egypt and Ethiopia are unlikely to strike terms over GERD without agreeing a new legal framework governing the Nile Basin.
Egypt has claimed the ‘no significant harm’ factor is relevant to aspects of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), but this is essentially contrary to the Environmental Impact Assessment conducted by the Ethiopian government and the findings and recommendations of the International Panel of Experts. The project is in line with international standards and recommendations of the Panel of Experts.

The most specific claim of Egypt, and the main reason for the recent impasse in the tripartite discussions between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, concerns the technical issues of prolongation of the filling period and guarantees over periods of drought. Every state has a sovereign right to use the resources within their territory and no form of diktat can affect this. The timing of the filling can only be reached through mutual cooperation, the result of negotiations carried out in good faith. Nothing more, nothing less.

Ethiopia is not constructing the dam for its aesthetic value; it is to bridge the gap between its ever-increasing need for power and the capacity of the state to provide it. Without provision of alternatives or payment of compensation, Egypt has no legal or moral capacity to demand an excessively prolonged period to fill the dam. As for periods of drought, no one can buy insurance policy for an Act of God. Neither Ethiopia nor Egypt has control over drought, but both have reciprocal obligations for sustainable utilization of available resources.

The force of change: #ITSMYDAM!

History teaches us that when real change arrives, the best way to deal with it is not to underestimate it or resist it, but to adapt one’s position through accommodative strategies. The world is full of compromises and excuses, give and take. The situation in Ethiopia has changed and for the better. The late Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, made it clear that Egypt should come to terms the changing circumstances and face the realities of the 21st century. No power can stop Ethiopia from unilaterally utilizing its natural resources. The changes came because the increasing population of Ethiopia, now close to 110 million people, calls for commensurate development to provide it with renewable energy. It is part of the moral and legal obligations incumbent upon the government to meet the needs of its population in the fight against poverty.
The Blue Nile is no more an orphan but a child of Ethiopia, previously neglected but now animating every citizen of Ethiopia. The NBI and the Entebbe Agreement have been the result of Ethiopia’s relentless diplomatic efforts, underlined by the national commitment to claim a fair share of the river, symbolized by the launching of the GERD in 2011. If there is anything that unifies the ruling party, opposition, and critics alike, it is the redeemed sense of justice visible in the GERD project.
Gerd 4
Why Ethiopia rejected the U.S.-drafted GERD deal

Proposed drought-mitigation mechanisms seen as designed to protect Egypt’s contested share of Nile waters. Ethiopia Insight explains the details.

Indeed, the GERD has as much symbolic as economic value. It is being built by the contributions made by all Ethiopians and as its very name underlines it is a national symbol of unity, justice and power, demonstrating Ethiopians welcome of the ‘return of their prodigal son’. The current diplomatic schism between Ethiopia and Egypt, caused by the failed negotiations, has reinvigorated the general public’s determination to support Ethiopia’s rightful claim over the Blue Nile in general and the unstoppability of the GERD project: ‘it is my Dam!’

The force of change is well supported by the international legal instruments as well. Ethiopia is not bound by outdated and irrelevant colonial treaties. Ethiopia is a sovereign state that has the right to put its natural resources to appropriate use. The only limitation under customary international law is the obligation not to cause significant trans-boundary harm—codified in Art. 2 of the Rio Declaration and upheld by international tribunals and courts here and here. Ethiopia, indeed, has firmly adhered to this principle throughout the negotiations.

Reconciling the irreconcilable

The forces of continuity and change are not mutually exclusive. They can be reconciled if the parties negotiate on the basis of their own interests, rather than mythological positions, when heading to the negotiation table. Egypt must recognise that that Ethiopia provides the lion’s share of the water that reaches Egypt, that it is using a tiny percent of its own water, and that the circumstances have fundamentally changed in the upper riparian states. Ethiopia must not deny the reliance of Egypt on the Nile River and pledge to carry out the GERD project in a manner that does not cause any significant harm downstream. This would allow real negotiations on interests and genuine cooperation would be likely.

The problem has been that Egypt has not been negotiating on the basis of interest, but rather on pre-determined positions—a typical zero-sum game. Had Egypt accepted the basic facts, shown good faith, and been ready to give up its mythical claim of exclusive ownership of the Nile River, agreement on the technical matters, who gets what and when, could easily be reached. Egypt has no right to dictate to Ethiopia how to fill the GERD reservoir but it can negotiate an acceptable outcome, offering compensatory mechanisms or incentives where appropriate. Have these been proposed? It is impossible to provide guarantees against natural disasters like drought, but if parties cooperate in good faith, they can easily work on issues to mitigate any ensuring damage. These are questions that need to be answered, if negotiations are to proceed.
Ethiopia does not need Egypt’s permission to start filling GERD

The Blue Nile hydropower dam has been constructed in accordance with international legal principles and Ethiopia has the right to make it operational.
The disruption in the tripartite technical discussions, and Egypt’s refusal to negotiate, have raised concerns about conflict, though no one can afford a devastating war in the 21st century, least of all when the world is being devastated by a global pandemic.

As Thucydides stated, ‘‘it is the rise of Athens and the fear that it instilled in Sparta that made the war inevitable.’’ There is no legal or scientific basis for Egypt’s ‘perceived fear’ of potentially significant harm posed by the GERD. Its claim for exclusive use of the Nile River proves nothing but the fact that ‘‘there is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.’’ Above all, the forces of change cannot be contained or ignored. Egypt must understand that its fears are unjustified, and if it is to continue negotiations in good faith, it must stop running after outside powers or playing with ideology.

The Nile is a water resource located in Africa. The parties in dispute are members of the African Union. The solution should be African, not something dictated by the U.S. or arranged through the Arab League. The world has moved on and the solution must provide for sustainable use of the Nile water, in Egypt as in Ethiopia, a common and agreed response for a common problem.


Source: Reuters

The bank’s Africa’s Pulse report said the region’s economy will contract 2.1% to 5.1% from growth of 2.4% last year, and that the coronavirus will cost sub-Saharan Africa $37 billion to $79 billion in output losses this year due to trade and value chain disruption, among other factors.

Africa has at least 10,956 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, 562 deaths and 1,149 recoveries, according to a Reuters tally based on government statements and WHO data.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is testing the limits of societies and economies across the world, and African countries are likely to be hit particularly hard,” World Bank Vice President for Africa Hafez Ghanem said.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are racing to provide emergency funds to African countries and others to combat the virus and mitigate the impact of sweeping shutdowns aiming at curbing its spread.

The coronavirus has led to suspension of international passenger travel in many countries on the continent, and hit sectors such as tourism.

Various African governments have announced lockdowns or curfews in response to the virus, which was slow to reach many African countries but is now growing exponentially, according to the World Health Organization.

Real gross domestic product growth was projected to fall sharply particularly in the region’s three largest economies – Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa, the World Bank said.

Oil exporting-countries would also be hard-hit; while growth would likely weaken substantially in the West African Economic and Monetary Union, and the East African Community due to weak external demand, disruptions to supply chains and domestic production.

The bank said the spread of the flu-like respiratory disease also had potential to lead to a food security crisis on the continent, with agricultural production forecast to contract 2.6% and up to 7% in the event of trade blockages.

“Food imports would decline substantially (as much as 25% or as little as 13%) due to a combination of higher transaction costs and reduced domestic demand,” the bank said in a statement accompanying the report.

The institutions have also called on China, the United States and other bilateral creditors to temporarily suspend debt payments by the poorest countries so they can use the money to halt the spread of the disease and mitigate its financial impact.[nL1N2BI15A]

“There will be need for some sort of debt relief from bilateral creditors to secure the resources urgently needed to fight COVID-19 and to help manage or maintain macroeconomic stability in the region,” Cesar Calderon, the bank’s lead economist and lead author of the report, said.

The World Bank said African policymakers should focus on saving lives and protecting livelihoods by spending money to strengthen health systems and taking quick actions to minimise disruptions in food supply chains.

It also recommended social protection programmes, including cash transfers, food distribution and fee waivers, to support citizens, especially those working in the informal sector.


(File photo) child marriage, girl, school, rape, abuse
6 April 2020
UN Women (New York)


With 90 countries in lockdown, four billion people are now sheltering at home from the global contagion of COVID-19. It’s a protective measure, but it brings another deadly danger. We see a shadow pandemic growing of violence against women.

As more countries report infection and lockdown, more domestic violence helplines and shelters across the world are reporting rising calls for help. In Argentina, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom(1), and the United States, (2) government authorities, women’s rights activists and civil society partners have flagged increasing reports of domestic violence during the crisis, and heightened demand for emergency shelter (3 ,4 ,5). Helplines in Singapore (6) and Cyprus have registered an increase in calls by more than 30 percent (7). In Australia, 40 per cent of frontline workers in a New South Wales survey reported increased requests for help with violence that was escalating in intensity(8).

Confinement is fostering the tension and strain created by security, health, and money worries. And it is increasing isolation for women with violent partners, separating them from the people and resources that can best help them. It’s a perfect storm for controlling, violent behaviour behind closed doors. And in parallel, as health systems are stretching to breaking point, domestic violence shelters are also reaching capacity, a service deficit made worse when centres are repurposed for additional COVID-response.

Even before COVID-19 existed, domestic violence was already one of the greatest human rights violations. In the previous 12 months, 243 million women and girls (aged 15-49) across the world have been subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, this number is likely to grow with multiple impacts on women’s wellbeing, their sexual and reproductive health, their mental health, and their ability to participate and lead in the recovery of our societies and economy.

Wide under-reporting of domestic and other forms of violence has previously made response and data gathering a challenge, with less than 40 per cent of women who experience violence seeking help of any sort or reporting the crime. Less than 10 per cent of those women seeking help go to the police. The current circumstances make reporting even harder, including limitations on women’s and girls’ access to phones and helplines and disrupted public services like police, justice and social services. These disruptions may also be compromising the care and support that survivors need, like clinical management of rape, and mental health and psycho-social support. They also fuel impunity for the perpetrators. In many countries the law is not on women’s side; 1 in 4 countries have no laws specifically protecting women from domestic violence.

If not dealt with, this shadow pandemic will also add to the economic impact of COVID-19. The global cost of violence against women had previously been estimated at approximately US$1.5 trillion. That figure can only be rising as violence increases now, and continues in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The increase in violence against women must be dealt with urgently with measures embedded in economic support and stimulus packages that meet the gravity and scale of the challenge and reflect the needs of women who face multiple forms of discrimination. The Secretary-General has called for all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19. Shelters and helplines for women must be considered an essential service for every country with specific funding and broad efforts made to increase awareness about their availability.

Grassroots and women’s organizations and communities have played a critical role in preventing and responding to previous crises and need to be supported strongly in their current frontline role including with funding that remains in the longer-term. Helplines, psychosocial support and online counselling should be boosted, using technology-based solutions such as SMS, online tools and networks to expand social support, and to reach women with no access to phones or internet.  Police and justice services must mobilize to ensure that incidents of violence against women and girls are given high priority with no impunity for perpetrators. The private sector also has an important role to play, sharing information, alerting staff to the facts and the dangers of domestic violence and encouraging positive steps like sharing care responsibilities at home.

COVID-19 is already testing us in ways most of us have never previously experienced, providing emotional and economic shocks that we are struggling to rise above. The violence that is emerging now as a dark feature of this pandemic is a mirror and a challenge to our values, our resilience and shared humanity. We must not only survive the coronavirus, but emerge renewed, with women as a powerful force at the centre of recovery.