Our editors’ weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.
On our radar
Twelve killed in Israeli strike on Jenin
Over 48 hours between 3-5 July, Israeli forces hit the Jenin Palestinian refugee camp with airstrikes as ground troops raided homes, setting off gun battles in one of the most intense and deadly military incursions in the occupied West Bank in decades. Palestinian health officials said 12 people were killed, including four children. UNRWA, the UN’s Agency for Palestine Refugees, said thousands of people were forced to flee their homes and take shelter in government buildings, mosques, or wherever they could find safety. The military operation – which Israel said was to stop Jenin from being a “refuge for terrorism”, but a group of UN experts said may amount to a war crime – has left Palestinian residents of the camp without electricity or clean water, and people have returned to find streets full of rubble and homes in ruins. Israel also bombed Gaza, in response to rocket fire from the occupied territory as its troops were leaving Jenin. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Jenin operation would not be a “one-time action”.
Kiir calls South Sudan elections in 2024, but Machar rivalry endures
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir has confirmed that the country’s first presidential elections since independence will be held in December 2024. International actors have been pushing for the polls – which were supposed to take place this year but were delayed – and there is domestic support too. Yet the UN and civil society groups say the structures needed for a transparent, free, and fair vote – from finalising a constitution to passing an electoral bill, and conducting a census – have not been established. There are also major political tensions between Kiir, who has announced he will stand in the polls, and opposition leader Riek Machar, who is also expected to run. The two men fought against each other in a brutal civil war and their differences are yet to be resolved despite a peace process that it was hoped might help unify the divided nation. Kiir has spent much of the transition period weakening Machar and the opposition by courting defections, and rates of violence have remained stubbornly high, as political and military elites have jostled for power.
Support grows for foreign intervention in Haiti
After years of prevarication, a consensus appears to be forming for some kind of international intervention to be deployed in Haiti to rein in rampant gang violence and allow humanitarian aid to reach an increasingly desperate population. Both UN independent expert William O’Neill and UN chief António Guterres visited the country and urged the international community to promptly step in. In a public statement, O’Neill outlined that “access to health, water, food, education, and housing are hampered by the lack of state action”, and that the deployment of a specialised force is “essential” to dismantle the gangs controlling the capital, Port-au-Prince. A few days later, Guterres insisted on the urgent need for a foreign security force to support Haiti’s national police, and for increased financial assistance for the Caribbean nation. Initially opposed to foreign intervention, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) shifted its position, stating they would back a force approved by the UN Security Council and financed by countries such as the United States, Canada, and France. For more, read this recent feature hearing the stories of three women who were raped repeatedly by gang members.
Deadline looms for aid to northwest Syria
The Security Council resolution that allows the UN to deliver aid from Türkiye to rebel-held northwest Syria is set to expire on 10 July. As has been the case for years now, debates and horse-trading have marked the lead-up to the deadline. UN agencies, as well as local and international aid groups say a renewal – ideally for more than six months – is essential for the flow of aid to the more than 4 million people in the region. Others, even those who support the resolution, argue that these regular debates, renewals, and changes, are not a sustainable approach to aid to the region. Read this for the thoughts of Raed al-Saleh, head of the White Helmets; Then read this for a rundown on what’s likely to happen in the run-up to Monday’s deadline.
Taliban shuts down beauty salons for women
On 4 July, the Islamic Emirate ordered the closure of all female beauty salons in Afghanistan – the latest restriction on women’s ability to work since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021. Many women, including salon owners, have pointed out the economic impact the move will have. These salons can employ dozens of women in female-only spaces that are patronised entirely by women, at a time when the Afghan economy continues to struggle due to banking restrictions, sanctions, asset seizures, and aid cutbacks by the outside world. As justification for the closures, the Islamic Emirate’s Ministry of Vice and Virtue put out a statement to the media listing years-long complaints about high prices for wedding parties and religious claims about ablution and the restrictions on beauty procedures. The ministry has given the salons one month to close down. For more, read this story on the UN dropping stay-at-home orders for Afghan staff over the Taliban’s restrictions, this piece on the groups trying to offer Afghan women an economic lifeline, or check out this feature offering rare insights into a senior Taliban figure’s thinking.
In case you missed it
AI: The UN Security Council will hold its first meeting on the potential threats of artificial intelligence (AI) to international peace and security on 18 July. Guterres has also announced plans to appoint an advisory board on AI in September and said he would be open to a new UN regulatory agency on AI similar to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
CLIMATE CRISIS: July 3 and 4 were the hottest days globally on record, according to data analysed by the US National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). The average global air temperature reached new record highs of 17.01 Celsius on Monday and 17.18 Celsius on Tuesday. The previous record of 16.92 Celsius was set in 2016. In the first half of this year, China registered the highest number of high-temperature days since it began keeping records. UN experts expect more temperature records to be broken this year.
COLOMBIA: The National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Colombian government ended hostilities ahead of a full, six-month ceasefire due to begin on 3 August. If the agreement – struck during negotiations in Cuba last month – holds, it would be the longest since Colombia’s largest remaining guerrilla group began operations in 1964. Read this for more on Colombia’s fast-changing conflict dynamics.
INDIA: Two months of civil conflict in the northeastern state of Manipur has claimed more than 100 lives, displaced 40,000 people, and left many more facing a future hunger crisis due to farmers being unable to plant rice due to unprovoked attacks.
IRAQ: Médecins Sans Frontières says it has been forced to pause “essential medical activities” at two health facilities it runs in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul because it is running out of medicine and supplies. In a 5 July statement, the medical aid group said that “lengthy, complicated, and opaque official procedures” had made it difficult to reliably bring supplies through Baghdad airport to Mosul.
MALARIA: Twelve African countries are set to receive 18 million doses of the first-ever malaria vaccine. The rollout, over two years, is seen as a critical step forward in the fight against one of the leading causes of death on the continent. The vaccine will be first introduced in: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Uganda.
PERU: A state of emergency has been declared in the south of the country as the eruption of the Ubinas volcano continues, sending massive ash clouds into nearby districts, exposing thousands to potential health hazards, including breathing difficulties.
SUDAN: The heads of UN agencies issued a joint statement condemning rising sexual violence in Sudan’s conflict. The UN’s human rights office has received reports of 21 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence, though the real number of cases is thought to be far higher. For more on the issue, see our recent interview with a civil servant leading a government unit tasked with combating violence against women.
TUNISIA: Hundreds of Black African migrants were rounded up from the Tunisian city of Sfax and expelled across the country’s border with Libya. The expulsions came after mobs attacked Black Africans in Sfax following the funeral of a Tunisian man who was stabbed to death in an altercation with migrants. Tensions have been rising for months in Tunisia, which has seen a sharp increase in people attempting to cross the Mediterranean from its shores this year.
UKRAINE/US: The United States has reportedly included cluster bombs in its latest package of military aid for Ukraine despite the fact the weapons – which can cause indiscriminate casualties among civilian populations – are banned in more than 100 countries. Human Rights Watch has condemned both Ukraine and Russia for using the munitions in the conflict.
A year-long investigation by The New Humanitarian and VICE News has found that the Nigerian military has employed a scorched earth campaign in its war against jihadist groups in the rural northeast, torching villages, destroying food supplies, and scattering inhabitants. The investigation drew on satellite imagery, photographs, and videos – as well as dozens of testimonies from local and international aid workers, military experts, witnesses, and soldiers – that support allegations of serious international humanitarian law violations by the military. Villagers described army “clearance” operations that routinely failed to distinguish between civilian communities and insurgent strongholds. The testimonies of the survivors poignantly laid bare the precarity of living trapped between both the army and jihadists. Aid workers also noted how military restrictions have compromised humanitarian principles of neutrality.
An apology – but no compensation – for Dutch slavery
“Times have changed…the chains are truly broken.” Dutch King Willem-Alexander has apologised for the country’s role in the slave trade, and for the impact it still has on people today. The King’s apology came on the 160th anniversary of the abolishment of slavery in the country, on 1 July. This day is known as ‘Keti Koti’, a way of saying ‘the chains are broken’ in Suriname – a former Dutch colony – and a day to celebrate freedom. The King asked for forgiveness for “this crime against humanity”. In 2020, he apologised for the country’s excessive violence in former Asian colonies. Neither apology came with any mention of reparations or any other form of compensation. The Dutch were the most profitable slave traders in the world in the 17th century – a time the Dutch still refer to as their “golden era”. The Dutch royal family is said to have made over half a billion dollars from slavery.