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350,000 people in starvation conditions in Ethiopia’s Tigray

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350,000 people in starvation conditions in Ethiopia’s Tigray. Some 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region are facing “catastrophic” food shortages, according to an analysis by the United Nations agencies and aid groups.

“There is starvation now in Tigray,” UN aid chief Mark Lowcock said after the report’s release on Thursday.

“The number of people in starvation conditions … is higher than anywhere in the world, at any moment since a quarter-million Somalis lost their lives in 2011.”

Lowcock said two million more people “were just a step away from those extreme conditions” and lamented the fact that some of the key UN agencies seeking to tackle the crisis have “essentially no money”.

The warning came as the United States and the European Union issued an impassioned request for greater international efforts to tackle the crisis in a region where more than 90 percent of the population need emergency food aid.

“Starvation may already be happening in certain areas, threatening the existences of hundreds of thousands. It’s unconscionable,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the UN, told a roundtable event, decrying the failure of the UN Security Council to hold a public meeting to end the crisis.

The Security Council will discuss the conflict on Tuesday, diplomats said, but the session will be hung on an informal basis because of Ethiopian opposition to the council taking up the matter – a view shared to fluctuating degrees by several members, including Russia, China, Vietnam, India and African countries.

Thomas-Greenfield said the stakes were high, as the UN urgently appealed for more than $200m to increase its response.

“We are witnessing a humanitarian nightmare,” Thomas-Greenfield added. “We cannot let Ethiopia starve. We have to act now” to resolve what she called a “man-made” emergency.

The US has announced $181m of additional funding to “deliver life-saving food, agricultural supplies, safe drinking water, shelter, healthcare and essential services” to those in need in Tigray.

But international aid organizations have complained repeatedly that they are being denied access to the region by Ethiopian forces and troops from neighboring Eritrea.

“To stay away from humanitarian catastrophe, the entire international community must act directly and indirectly, quickly and robustly,” EU crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarcic said.

Fighting in Tigray broke out in November 2020 between government troops and the region’s former governing party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The violence has killed thousands of civilians and forced some two million from their homes in the mountainous region.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis concluded that more than 350,000 people were in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) – the most extreme warning – between May and June 2021.

“This severe crisis results from the cascading effects of conflict, including population displacements, movement restrictions, limited humanitarian access, loss of harvest and business assets, and dysfunctional or non-existent markets,” it said.

On the off chance that the conflict deepens or humanitarian assistance is hampered, most areas of Tigray will be at risk of starvation, the analysis warned. Regardless of whether aid deliveries are stepped up, the situation is expected to worsen through September.

After the report’s release, Taye Atske-Selassie Amde, Ethiopia’s ambassador to the UN, told Al Jazeera the government rejected the IPC analysis, accusing it of not being transparent, describing its methodology as “inefficient and insufficient” and saying that “technical group members that are presumed to be part of this review but they were not able to participate”.

“We heard it clear and loud today what ambassador [Thomas-Greenfield] said. We are not party to the meeting but in everyday what … we heard some are trying to assume the part of God,” he said. “We need support based on dignity and respect.”

Earlier, Mituku Kassa, head of Ethiopia’s National Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Committee, had said a declaration of starvation would be incorrect. He accused the TPLF of attacking aid convoys.

“We don’t have any food shortage,” he told a news conference, adding more than 90 percent of people have been provided with aid by five operators.

“TPLF remnant forces … attack the personnel, they attack the trucks with food,” said Kassa.

Ethiopia’s embassy in London said in a statement on Saturday the government “takes its responsibility to end the current suffering of the people of Tigray very seriously and has so far made concerted efforts to comprehensively respond to the humanitarian needs on the ground, in coordination with local and international partners”.

William Davison of the International Crisis Group said “there is no real surprise” about the deterioration of the humanitarian situation.

“Because of the ongoing conflict, large number of farmers have missed the planting season and that has raised concerns much more,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Moreover, there is absolutely nothing astonishing about the Ethiopian government’s response,” he said, adding that the government has been “fixated” with achieving military objectives since the beginning of the conflict.

“They said the primary period of the operation was toward the beginning of November and they say they are in the period of reconstructing Tigray, rather than fighting and ongoing conflict, let alone battling to prevent a starvation – so there is no surprise they are disputing the figures.”

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With 9,056 fresh infections, Moscow Covid cases soar to pandemic high

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New coronavirus infections hit a pandemic high in Moscow on Monday, tripling in just weeks and forcing Russia’s capital to close its Euro fan zone and extend other curbs.

Some 9,056 new cases were recorded in the megapolis of 12 million in the past 24 hours, up from 3,000 fourteen days ago and another every day record since the Covid-19 pandemic began in mid 2020, according to official statistics.

Faced with the spike, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, who has been rolling out restrictions for almost seven days, said that the city would limit gatherings and close the Euro 2020 fan zone outside of the Luzhniki stadium.

“I didn’t want to do this, but we have to,” Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his website.

“Starting today, we will limit mass events to a maximum of 1,000 people.”

“We are temporarily stopping all mass entertainment events and we’ll also have to close ballrooms and fan zones,” he wrote.

The move came a day after he warned that the city was facing another wave of infections, likely because of new Covid variants.

“It’s tripling, there’s an enormous powerful that we have not seen during the previous waves,” he said, adding that cases jumped from 3,000 to 7,000 in just days and predicting they would pass the 9,000 mark on Friday.

Over the past week, the mayor has introduced a progression of new restrictions in an effort to contain the wave of infections, including declaring a “work-free” week, shutting settings, and ordering mandatory vaccinations of people working in the service industry in the city.

Also on Friday, Sobyanin extended until June 29 a few measures that were announced last weekend, similar to the closure of food corridors in shopping centers, zoos, playgrounds, and the closure of bars and restaurants between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am.

Curbs tightened in Euro host St Pete –

Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg, the country’s worst Covid hotspot after Moscow, is hosting seven Euro 2020 matches – including a quarter-final – and is expected to see thousands of football fans from Europe.

On Monday, Saint Petersburg also announced a tightening of restrictions, including no food deals in its fan zones.

The increase in cases in Russia comes as the country struggles to encourage Russians to get vaccinated, despite the fact that the country launched a mass campaign of free jabs in December and has developed and approved four vaccines – Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona, CoviVac and the one-portion Sputnik Light.

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Chinese, Indian workers among 11 killed in Nepal floods; 25 missing

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Landslides and flash floods triggered by heavy downpour across Nepal this week killed 11 people including one Indian and two Chinese workers at a development project, while 25 people were missing elsewhere, officials said on Friday.

The bodies of the three workers were recovered close to the town of Melamchi in Sindhupalchowk district, northeast of Kathmandu, which was hit by flash floods on Wednesday that also forced many people from their homes, district administrators said in a statement.

“The foreign nationals were working for a Chinese organization that is building a drinking water project,” district official Baburam Khanal told Reuters.

The Home Ministry said late on Thursday that 25 people were missing in floods in Sindhupalchowk, a mountainous district bordering the Tibet region of China, and other parts of the country.

The monsoon downpours, which normally begin in June and last until September, kill hundreds of people in mostly mountainous Nepal every year.

Heavy downpour since Tuesday have damaged roads, destroyed bridges, washed away fish ranches and livestock, and wrecked homes.

Hundreds of people have been forced to move to community shelters, including schools, sheds and tents, authorities said.

Aid agencies said the crisis this year could add to the social and economic troubles of a country hard hit by COVID-19. Nepal has been reporting among the highest coronavirus test positivity rates in the world.

“Those who have lost homes are resting in community centers,” said John Jordan of the U.S.- based charity World Neighbors.

“This forced density raises risks for a community that has been recovering from COVID-19.”

Israel to send 1 million Covid vaccine dosages to Palestinians

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Courts cannot appoint PM, says Nepal PM KP Oli as he defends dissolution of House of Representatives

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Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli on Thursday defended his government’s controversial decision to dissolve the House of Representatives and told the Supreme Court that it isn’t up to the legal executive to appoint a premier as it cannot undertake the legislative and the executive functions of the state, according to a media report.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari, at the recommendation of Prime Minister KP Oli, dissolved the House for the second time in five months on May 22 and announced snap elections on November 12 and November 19.

Prime Minister Oli is heading a minority government after losing a trust vote in the House.

In his written response to the Supreme Court, Oli said that it isn’t up to the legal executive to appoint a Prime Minister as it cannot undertake the legislative and the executive functions of the state.

The Supreme Court on June 9 issued a show-cause notice to the Office of the Prime Minister and the President’s Office to outfit a written response within 15 days.

The Apex Court received Oli’s response by means of the Office of the Attorney General on Thursday, The Himalayan Times reported.

“The Court’s duty is to interpret the Constitution and the existing laws, it cannot assume the part of the legislative or the executive bodies,” Oli said.

“Appointment of a Prime Minister is absolutely a political and an executive process,” the 69-year-old embattled leader underlined.

The Prime Minister also defended the involvement of the President in this entire issue, saying that Article 76 of the Constitution grants the sole right to appoint a Prime Minister to the President only.

“According to Article 76 (5), there is no such provision of a person acquiring or losing a vote of confidence in the House being examined by the legislative or the legal executive,” he said.

Upwards of 30 writ petitions, including by the Opposition partnership, have been filed in the Supreme Court against the dissolution of the House, which they said was “unconstitutional”.

The Supreme Court has started hearing on the case. Regular hearings on the case will resume from June 23.

Nepal plunged into a political crisis on December 20 last year after President Bhandari dissolved the House and announced fresh elections on April 30 and May 10 at the recommendation of Prime Minister Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the decision Nepal Communist Party (NCP).

In February, the pinnacle court reinstated the dissolved House of Representatives, in a setback to embattled Prime Minister Oli who was preparing for snap polls.

Oli repeatedly defended his transition to dissolve the House of Representatives, saying some leaders of his party were attempting to form a “equal government”.

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