Gaza ‘Catastrophic’ Health Situation Almost Impossible to Improve, Warns WHO

Palestinians carry bags of foodstuff in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 10, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas. (AFP)
Palestinians carry bags of foodstuff in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 10, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas. (AFP)
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Gaza ‘Catastrophic’ Health Situation Almost Impossible to Improve, Warns WHO

Palestinians carry bags of foodstuff in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 10, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas. (AFP)
Palestinians carry bags of foodstuff in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 10, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas. (AFP)

The World Health Organization chief said on Sunday it will be all but impossible to improve the "catastrophic" health situation in Gaza even as the board passed an emergency WHO motion by consensus to secure more medical access.

The emergency action, proposed by Afghanistan, Qatar, Yemen and Morocco, seeks passage into Gaza for medical personnel and supplies, requires the WHO to document violence against healthcare workers and patients and to secure funding to rebuild hospitals.

"I must be frank with you: these tasks are almost impossible in the current circumstances," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Tedros told the 34-member board in Geneva that medical needs in Gaza had surged and the risk of disease had grown, yet the health system had been reduced to a third of its pre-conflict capacity.

Gaza hospitals have come under bombardment and some have been besieged or raided as part of Israel's response to Hamas' deadly Oct. 7 attacks. Those that remain open are overwhelmed by the numbers of dead and wounded arriving and sometimes procedures are carried out without anesthetics.

A WHO database shows there have been 449 attacks on healthcare facilities in Palestinian territories since Oct. 7, without assigning blame.

Tedros said that it would be hard to meet the board's requests given the security situation on the ground and said he deeply regretted that the United Nations Security Council could not agree on a ceasefire following a US veto.

"Resupplying health facilities has become extremely difficult and is deeply compromised by the security situation on the ground and inadequate resupply from outside Gaza," he said.

Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila deplored the critical shortages of medicines. "The urgency of the situation cannot be overstated," she told the WHO meeting by video link.

WHO board member the United States signaled in the meeting that it would not oppose the text of the motion which was adopted without a vote later on Sunday.

The motion was criticized by Israel, which has said it puts disproportionate focus on Israel and does not address what it describes as Hamas' use of civilians as human shields, by placing command centers and weapons inside hospitals.

"If this session serves any purpose at all, it will only encourage Hamas' actions," Israeli ambassador Meirav Eilon Shahar told the meeting. Israel is not a WHO board member.

WHO emergency sessions are rare and have occurred during health crises including during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and during West Africa's Ebola epidemic in 2015. Qatar, which has mediated in the Israel-Hamas conflict, chaired the session.



Washington Eyes Expanding Iraq Relationship ‘360 Degrees’

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani meets with US Vice President Kamala Harris in Munich, Germany (Reuters)
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani meets with US Vice President Kamala Harris in Munich, Germany (Reuters)
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Washington Eyes Expanding Iraq Relationship ‘360 Degrees’

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani meets with US Vice President Kamala Harris in Munich, Germany (Reuters)
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani meets with US Vice President Kamala Harris in Munich, Germany (Reuters)

The security and defense relationship between the US and Iraq will be an important part of talks when Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani visits Washington next week but is not the primary focus of the visit, according to a senior State Department official.

The official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said the defense and security relationship will be part of the discussions during Sudani’s visit, when he will meet both with President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as well as Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Sudani will lead a sizable delegation comprising ministers of oil, finance, trade, and electricity with the aim of discussing a wide array of issues, including enhancing energy security and independence, banking reforms, and bolstering democracy and the rule of law in Iraq.

The senior State Department official affirmed that Sudani’s visit presents a significant opportunity to discuss the future trajectory of the US-Iraqi bilateral relationship and build upon the comprehensive partnership the two countries share under the US-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement of 2008.

The official also clarified that discussions will encompass educational exchange opportunities, in addition to focus on energy, water, and commercial investment for US companies in Iraq.

Additionally, discussions will address private sector and banking reforms, the development of business and investment opportunities, efforts to enhance commercial and financial transparency, and initiatives aimed at improving services for the Iraqi people.

The official called for expanding the US-Iraqi relationship to a comprehensive “360 degrees.”

Moreover, they highlighted Washington’s interest in “preserving cultural heritage, mitigating climate change issues, and undertaking water projects.” The goal is to help Iraqis become more self-reliant in energy and overall development.

Asked about the future of US troops in Iraq, the official said it’s still up for discussion, hinting at more talks on security cooperation later this year.

The official stressed the economic aspect of Sudani’s visit, including boosting private sector investments in Iraq.


Lebanese Money Changer Surour Victim of Ambush by Mossad-linked Woman

Mohammad Surour’s funeral procession in Lebanon (NNA)
Mohammad Surour’s funeral procession in Lebanon (NNA)
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Lebanese Money Changer Surour Victim of Ambush by Mossad-linked Woman

Mohammad Surour’s funeral procession in Lebanon (NNA)
Mohammad Surour’s funeral procession in Lebanon (NNA)

Lebanese security sources confirm that the killing of money changer Mohammad Surour is seen as a politically motivated crime, suggesting Israeli involvement.

The investigation, led by Lebanon’s security forces, points towards organized criminal activity rather than a simple robbery.

Surour’s body was found with $6,000 untouched, placed on top, alongside weapons with no fingerprints.

The search for Surour began after his family reported his disappearance on April 4, contradicting his earlier plans to join them for iftar, the dinner that Muslims have to break their fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

As soon as Maj. Gen. Khaled Hammoud heard about Surour’s disappearance, he instructed his team to analyze Surour’s phone records to track his last location before his phone went dead.

The analysis pointed to Beit Merry as the place Surour was last seen.

Lebanese authorities then searched Beit Merry and its surroundings using surveillance cameras. They found Surour’s body in a villa, shot multiple times. It's unclear if he was tortured.

Investigators are also looking into whether his phone was shut off during interrogation about his financial transactions.

Surour apparently used his motorcycle to reach the villa, which was leased online for $50,000.

The person who rented the villa gave a full name, claiming to be Lebanese from a well-known family. But doubts remain about their true identity. The leasing company is still unidentified.

According to sources, his nephew revealed that Surour accompanied him to the villa after being asked by a Lebanese woman, identified later as Z.H., to transfer $14,000 from Iraq.

Surour withdrew the money but was surprised when the woman received it from behind a window.

Days later, she asked for another $4,000, and Surour went alone for the second transaction.

Upon entering the villa, he fell into a trap set by the woman and her accomplices, who interrogated him about his overseas financial transactions before fatally shooting him.

They left the crime weapons underwater in the bathroom to erase fingerprints.

A security source who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat suggests the crime was meticulously organized, intended to send a political message through Surour’s killing, possibly aimed at individuals handling financial affairs for Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The source asserts that the involvement of the Israeli Mossad is clear, speculating that the logistical team responsible for the crime may have been removed from the country, as often occurs in similar cases.

Surour, according to political sources, was not affiliated with Hezbollah, although he was involved in its political circle.


Tunisian Man Dead After Self-immolating in Protest Against Police

Tunisian police - File Photo/AFP
Tunisian police - File Photo/AFP
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Tunisian Man Dead After Self-immolating in Protest Against Police

Tunisian police - File Photo/AFP
Tunisian police - File Photo/AFP

A young Tunisian man died after self-immolating in an act of protest against the police in the central region of Kairouan, his family said Friday.

Yassine Selmi, a 22-year-old construction worker, died in a hospital in Tunis, two days after setting himself on fire in front of a police station, his father Mansour Selmi told AFP.

He was attempting to "resolve a fight between two people and police officers near a police station" when the officers threatened to arrest him in Bou Hajla, a small town in Kairouan, said his father.

The young man later came back to the police station with a gasoline container and "set himself on fire in protest" over the police's threats, the father added.

He said he would seek justice for his son's death.

Tunisia has seen large numbers of people set themselves alight since the death of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation in late 2010 sparked the Arab Spring and led to the ousting of former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Many of the cases have been concentrated in non-coastal areas that are the hardest hit by Tunisia's economic crisis.

The North African country's debt currently hovers around 80 percent of its GDP, with a yearly inflation averaging up to 10 percent and an unemployment rate of 40 percent among its youth.

The latest incident came just days after another street vendor in the coastal city of Sfax set herself on fire after a dispute with the police.

Local media said the woman, who was originally from Kairouan, was taken to a hospital with severe burns.


US, EU Impose New Sanctions on Hamas

A 12 April 2024 view of the remains of the Gaza municipality park in the Remal neighborhood after it was blown up by the Israeli army in October 2023, on 07 October 2023.  EPA/MOHAMED HAJJAR
A 12 April 2024 view of the remains of the Gaza municipality park in the Remal neighborhood after it was blown up by the Israeli army in October 2023, on 07 October 2023. EPA/MOHAMED HAJJAR
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US, EU Impose New Sanctions on Hamas

A 12 April 2024 view of the remains of the Gaza municipality park in the Remal neighborhood after it was blown up by the Israeli army in October 2023, on 07 October 2023.  EPA/MOHAMED HAJJAR
A 12 April 2024 view of the remains of the Gaza municipality park in the Remal neighborhood after it was blown up by the Israeli army in October 2023, on 07 October 2023. EPA/MOHAMED HAJJAR

The US Treasury Department said on Friday it imposed sanctions on four Hamas members based in Gaza, including Abu Ubaida, the spokesman for the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (al-Qassam Brigades).

The Department said the action, taken by its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), disrupted Hamas’ ability to conduct further attacks, including through cyber warfare and the production of UAVs.

The European Union (EU) is simultaneously imposing sanctions targeting Hamas, the department said in a statement.

“Treasury, in coordination with our allies and partners, will continue to target Hamas’ facilitation networks wherever they operate, including in the cyber domain,” Brian Nelson, Treasury under secretary for terrorism and Financial intelligence said, referring to unmanned aerial vehicles.

The US sanctions targeted Hudhayfa Samir ‘Abdallah al-Kahlut (al-Kahlut) also known as “Abu Ubaida” who has been the spokesman for al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas in Gaza, since at least 2007, the department said.

The sanctions also targeted William Abu Shanab (Abu Shanab), commander of the Lebanon-based al-Shimali unit, Baraa Hasan Farhat (Farhat) assistant to Abu Shanab, the commander of the al-Shimali unit, and Khalil Muhammad Azzam (Azzam), an intelligence official.

Meanwhile in Brussels, the EU on Friday imposed sanctions on the armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad for “widespread” sexual violence during the October 7 attacks on Israel, according to AFP.

The bloc said fighters from the two Palestinian groups -- already on the EU's terrorism blacklist – “committed widespread sexual and gender-based violence in a systematic manner, using it as a weapon of war.”

The decision to impose the sanctions was part of an agreement among EU states that will now see the bloc blacklist violent Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Hamas's unprecedented attack against Israel on October 7 resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures, and unleashed the war in Gaza.

The EU said that the abuses by Hamas fighters included "the rape and subsequent murder of female minors, mutilation of corpses as well as genital mutilation.”

It also accused the assailants of the “targeted abduction of women and girls.”


Kidnappings, Murder Gangs Surge in Lebanon, Syria

Lebanese caretaker Interior Minister Basam Mawlawi (NNA)
Lebanese caretaker Interior Minister Basam Mawlawi (NNA)
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Kidnappings, Murder Gangs Surge in Lebanon, Syria

Lebanese caretaker Interior Minister Basam Mawlawi (NNA)
Lebanese caretaker Interior Minister Basam Mawlawi (NNA)

Lebanese authorities investigating the killing of Pascal Sleiman, a coordinator for the Lebanese Forces Party in Jbeil, have arrested Syrian nationals suspected of involvement.

This sheds light on organized crime between Lebanon and Syria, including kidnappings for ransom and cross-border abductions.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, gangs are likely operating on both sides of the Lebanese- Syrian border with the cover of security elements.

The Lebanese Army’s Intelligence Directorate has captured most of the Syrian gang members responsible for Sleiman’s abduction, a security source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Currently, six individuals are detained, with two still at large in Syria.

Those detained confessed to killing Sleiman during a car theft in Jbeil and moving his body to Syria.

Lebanon’s acting Interior Minister, Basam Mawlawi, stated that investigations into Sleiman’s murder are ongoing with the army.

In statements to Asharq Al-Awsat, Mawlawi emphasized that only the final investigation results can answer questions about whether the incident was a simple theft or more.

The minister added that they are currently tracking the stolen car used in the kidnapping to see if the perpetrators attempted other crimes before Sleiman’s abduction.

He highlighted the involvement of criminal gangs on the Syrian border not only in kidnappings but also in smuggling drugs and people into Lebanon through illegal routes.

“The criminal gangs operating on the Syrian border are not only involved in kidnappings but also in smuggling Captagon and Syrians into Lebanon through illicit crossings,” said Mawlawi.

Mawlawi stated that Syria needs to take responsibility for pursuing these gangs.

“The Syrian government has a responsibility and role in pursuing these gangs, which it currently does not fulfill,” he noted.

The minister also mentioned the Lebanese authorities refusing a request from Damascus to remove surveillance towers on the border.

“We rejected a Syrian request to remove surveillance towers on the border. Instead, we insist on their activation to combat these operations,” said Mawlawi.

Jawad Adra, the head of the regional research and consultancy firm “Information International,” highlighted a significant increase in kidnapping and murder cases in 2024.

He noted that ransom kidnappings have spiked to 8 incidents in the first three months of the year, up from 3 during the same period last year. Adra also mentioned a rise in casualties, from 34 to 83.

Mohammed Shamseddine, a researcher at the institute, suggested that the actual number of kidnappings might be higher due to unreported cases where families pay ransoms directly.

He mentioned organized gangs involved in monitoring, executing, and negotiating in these operations.

Shamseddine added that while criminal murders increased from 29 to 42 during the first three months of the year, car thefts decreased from 328 incidents last year to 185 this year.


IRC: Sudan On Course to Become World’s Largest Hunger Crisis

A camp for Sudanese refugees in Adre, Chad (AFP)
A camp for Sudanese refugees in Adre, Chad (AFP)
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IRC: Sudan On Course to Become World’s Largest Hunger Crisis

A camp for Sudanese refugees in Adre, Chad (AFP)
A camp for Sudanese refugees in Adre, Chad (AFP)

Sudan is on course to become the world’s largest hunger crises, warned the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in a report released on Friday.

“This crisis and the humanitarian situation in the country will continue to deteriorate until parties to the conflict agree to stop the fighting, protect civilians and ensure they have unrestricted access to lifesaving humanitarian aid,” the report said.

IRC said that one year since fighting broke out between the Sudanese

Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the conflict has had a catastrophic impact on almost every aspect of day-to-day life in the country.

“We stand at a critical juncture in Sudan's history, where the choices we make today will shape the future of generations to come,” Eatizaz Yousif, IRC Country Director for Sudan said.

She added that the past year has been marked by immense challenges and hardships for the people of Sudan.

“The conflict has resulted in significant loss of life, displacement, and economic strain. Beyond the figures, our new report aims to show the very real, multifaceted, human impact of the crisis on the people that have become displaced due to an entire year of this conflict,” she said.

The ongoing fighting has resulted in significant loss of life, with over 14,700 people killed and almost 30,000 injured.

More than 8.2 million people have fled their homes since the conflict started on April 15, 2023, making the conflict in Sudan the world’s largest displacement crisis.

Also, close to 25 million people (around half of the population) are in immediate need of assistance, including 18 million people facing acute food insecurity.

“With almost two million people already displaced into neighboring countries like Chad, Uganda and South Sudan which were already struggling with meeting humanitarian needs themselves, it is critical that the low-income fragile countries who have opened their doors to refugees are better supported by the international community, especially by fully funding their humanitarian and refugee response plans,” the IRC report said.

It added that while the European Union is readying an $9 billion aid package for Egypt amid fears that the conflicts in Gaza and Sudan will raise immigration pressure on Europe, the UN’s $2.7 billion humanitarian appeal for Sudan is only 6% funded.

The report showed that as the fighting continues in Sudan, humanitarian agencies like IRC are facing impediments that prevent them from reaching and providing aid to those in need.

“The IRC's efforts to provide water, health care, and protection services to those who have fled the conflict are vital and must continue,” it said.

According to IRC, the Sudan crisis will not abate until the fighting comes to a stop, which requires a reinvigoration of diplomatic efforts to bring parties to the table to agree to a cessation of hostilities and bring forward a long-term resolution to the conflict.

In the meantime, it is critical that both parties respect their commitments to protect civilians and remove all obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and morally incumbent that donors urgently increase the funding needed to support an expansion of operations.

The IRC said it adapted and scaled up its programming in Sudan to address increased humanitarian needs.

It is supporting people who have been displaced internally through economic empowerment services, health and nutrition, and water, sanitation, and hygiene programs.

The IRC also provided protection and empowerment services for women and children, including gender-based violence survivors in Blue Nile, Gedaref, White Nile and Khartoum states and has have established offices in new regions, including Port Sudan, and launched an emergency response in River Nile state to deliver cash assistance, safe water, and sanitation and hygiene services to vulnerable communities.

IRC is also working to establish a presence in new locations, such as Darfur, to address gaps in humanitarian coverage and expand its programming in response to the enduring humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva on Friday that time was running out to avoid a catastrophe in Sudan.

“Without a stop to the fighting and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian aid, Sudan’s crisis will dramatically worsen in the months to come and could impact the whole region” in terms of more refugees, the spread of disease and food insecurity.

“We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” he added.

Lindmeier warned that 70 to 80 percent of Sudanese hospitals and clinics were not functioning due to the conflict.


US Urges Sudanese Warring Parties to Return to Negotiating Table

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield (The AP)
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield (The AP)
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US Urges Sudanese Warring Parties to Return to Negotiating Table

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield (The AP)
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield (The AP)

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged the warring parties in Sudan to stop the fighting and get back to the negotiating table in Jeddah and find a way out of the fighting that broke out on April 15, 2023.

Thomas then called on the Sudanese Armed Forces, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, to immediately ensure lifesaving aid is delivered and distributed, or the Security Council will intervene including, if necessary, through a cross-border mechanism.

The Ambassador then accused the Rapid Support Forces, led by Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, nicknamed “Hemedti,” of committing mass killings and atrocities, amid fears of widespread famine and disease.

At a US Department press briefing in Washington marking one year of civil war in Sudan, Thomas mentioned the trip of Special Envoy Tom Perriello to Chad last week and his visit to Adré Refugee Camp right along the border of Sudan.

The US Ambassador, who had visited that same refugee camp in September, said hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees had fled for this camp in the months prior – 90 percent of them women and children.

She said April 11th should be a historic occasion as we mark the five-year anniversary of the revolution that toppled the Omar al-Bashir’s regime.

“Five years ago, you could practically taste the spirit of freedom, peace, and democracy in the air as women and young people took to the streets demanding change,” Thomas said.

She revealed that nearly 25 million Sudanese people live in dire need of humanitarian assistance and protection; three-quarters of them face acute food insecurity and about 8 million have had to flee their homes in what has become the world’s largest internal displacement crisis.

Thomas mentioned reports of gang rape, mass murder at the hands of the Rapid Support Forces militia, of girls sold into sexual slavery, boys being made into child soldiers, of urban areas destroyed by arial weapons, and entire villages burned to the ground.

And yet, she said, as communities barrel toward famine, as cholera and measles spread, as violence continues to claim countless lives, the world has largely remained silent.

“And that must change and it has to change now. The international community must give more, it must do more, and it has to care more,” the Ambassador warned.

She revealed that just 5 percent of the UN’s humanitarian appeal for Sudan has been met.

“Already, the World Food Program has had to cut assistance to over 7 million people in Chad and South Sudan, and that includes 1.2 million refugees like the ones I met in Adré, people who were already struggling to feed themselves and their families,” she said.

Thomas also referred to experts warnings that the coming weeks and months, over 200,000 more children could die of starvation, and affirmed that in addition to lacking aid, humanitarian workers have been systematically obstructed from delivering aid to those in need.

From the beginning, brave people have been on the ground, often putting their lives at risk, to save people in Sudan, she said.

But at every turn, the ambassador added, combatants on both sides of the war have undermined their work. That includes the SAF, which has impeded the major humanitarian aid crossings from Chad into Darfur.

“Should the SAF not reverse course immediately, the Security Council must intervene to ensure lifesaving aid is delivered and distributed, including, if necessary, through a cross-border mechanism,” she warned.

 

 


UN Refugee Chief Says Sudanese Refugees May Head to Europe If Aid Not Provided

Sudanese refugees wait for their turns to fetch water from wells made available by the NGO Doctors Without B (MSF) at the Farchana refugee camp near the East Chad Sudan border, 07 April 2024.(Issued 09 April 2024). (EPA)
Sudanese refugees wait for their turns to fetch water from wells made available by the NGO Doctors Without B (MSF) at the Farchana refugee camp near the East Chad Sudan border, 07 April 2024.(Issued 09 April 2024). (EPA)
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UN Refugee Chief Says Sudanese Refugees May Head to Europe If Aid Not Provided

Sudanese refugees wait for their turns to fetch water from wells made available by the NGO Doctors Without B (MSF) at the Farchana refugee camp near the East Chad Sudan border, 07 April 2024.(Issued 09 April 2024). (EPA)
Sudanese refugees wait for their turns to fetch water from wells made available by the NGO Doctors Without B (MSF) at the Farchana refugee camp near the East Chad Sudan border, 07 April 2024.(Issued 09 April 2024). (EPA)

The United Nations refugee chief said on Friday that Sudanese refugees could be making their way to Europe if humanitarian aid was not adequately provided to the people of the war-torn country.

War erupted in Sudan on April 15, 2023, between the Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), devastating the country's infrastructure, prompting warnings of famine and displacing millions of people inside and outside the country.

Thousands of civilians have been killed, although death toll estimates are highly uncertain, and both sides have been accused of committing war crimes.

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the humanitarian crisis in Sudan could prompt desperate Sudanese to flee beyond neighboring countries, where nearly two million people have already sought shelter.

"We know very well that this region is full of criminals that want to take advantage of the misery of refugees and displaced and help them move on at a cost towards North Africa, towards Europe," Grandi told Reuters at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

"I'm making the case for more support to be given to those that are displaced inside Sudan or immediately in the neighboring countries, because otherwise they will become refugees along those routes."

Arrivals of refugees and other migrants, particularly those who reach countries by irregular means, is a significant and divisive political issue in a number of European nations.

Statistics published by UNHCR show increased movements of Sudanese refugees to Europe, with 6,000 arriving in Italy from Tunisia and Libya since the beginning of 2023.

That figure represents an almost sixfold increase compared to the previous year, although Sudanese people still represent a small percentage of arrivals in Italy.

"Is humanitarian aid going to stop everybody from moving? Of course not," said Grandi, who will take part in a donor conference on Sudan in Paris on Monday.

"But certainly, it is a stabilizing factor that reduces the incentives for people to be trafficked and smuggled on."

In separate comments on Friday, the World Health Organization said the crisis in Sudan will worsen in the months to come if the fighting does not stop and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian aid is not secured.

"We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, and the situation could be much more dire," WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said, stressing that 15 million people were in need of urgent health assistance and that diseases such as cholera, malaria and dengue were spreading.

Lindmeier said medical supplies in the country were estimated at about 25% of the needs, and 70 to 80% of Sudanese health facilities were not functioning due to the conflict.


Somalia Says It Will Never Accept Ethiopian Naval Base in Somaliland

 The port of Berbera in Somaliland offers Ethiopia access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal further north. (AFP)
The port of Berbera in Somaliland offers Ethiopia access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal further north. (AFP)
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Somalia Says It Will Never Accept Ethiopian Naval Base in Somaliland

 The port of Berbera in Somaliland offers Ethiopia access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal further north. (AFP)
The port of Berbera in Somaliland offers Ethiopia access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal further north. (AFP)

Somalia will never accept Ethiopia's plan to build a naval base in its breakaway region of Somaliland, but it would consider granting Ethiopia commercial port access if discussed bilaterally, Somalia's state minister for foreign affairs said on Friday.

Landlocked Ethiopia sparked a diplomatic row with Mogadishu in January by signing a deal with Somaliland to lease 20 km (12 miles) of its coastline in return for recognizing the region as an independent state.

Somalia called the deal illegal as it considers Somaliland as part of its territory even though it has had effective autonomy since 1991.

"Somalia will never accept (a) naval base ... Somalia is ready for commercial access in accordance with the international law of the sea," Somalia's state minister for foreign affairs Ali Omar told Reuters.

He added that Somalia was willing to discuss proposals so long as they meet the country's interests which are to "safeguard (our) sovereignty, political independence and unity".


UN Says Waterborne Illnesses Spread in Gaza Due to Heat, Unsafe Water

Palestinians families flee during an Israeli military operation in the Al-Nusseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Palestinians families flee during an Israeli military operation in the Al-Nusseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
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UN Says Waterborne Illnesses Spread in Gaza Due to Heat, Unsafe Water

Palestinians families flee during an Israeli military operation in the Al-Nusseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Palestinians families flee during an Israeli military operation in the Al-Nusseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 12 April 2024. (EPA)

Waterborne diseases are spreading in Gaza due to a lack of clean water and rising temperatures, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Gaza said on Friday.

"It is becoming very hot there," Jamie McGoldrick told reporters via video link from Jerusalem. "People are getting much less water than they need, and as a result, there have been waterborne diseases due to lack of safe and clean water and the disruption of the sanitation systems."

"We have to find a way in the months ahead of how we can have a better supply of water into the areas where people are currently crowded at the moment," he said, after making his final visit to Gaza at the end of his three-month assignment.

Contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery and hepatitis A, according to the World Health Organization.

Since mid-October, following the assault on Gaza in response to deadly attacks in southern Israel by Hamas, WHO has recorded more than 345,000 cases of diarrhea, including more than 105,000 in children under 5.

Israel has committed to facilitate the ability of humanitarian organizations to scale up aid in Gaza, and has approved the resumption of the operation of the water pipeline in northern Gaza.

The Gaza Strip's only natural source of water is the Coastal Aquifer Basin, which runs along the eastern Mediterranean coast from the northern Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, through Gaza and into Israel.

Its quality over the years has deteriorated rapidly, largely because it had been pumped out to meet the demands of Gaza's population more rapidly than it could be replaced by rainwater.