While a RussiaTurkey deal to hold off a Syrian government offensive in the rebelheld northwest is technically still in place, there's been an uptick in bombing in and around Idlib province, and civilians are dying. A UN spokesman said Thursday that at least nine people were reported to have been killed in Idlib and Hama in the past 48 hours, and more than 300 civilians are believed to have met the same fate in the past three months in the northwest. A group of doctors that works in Syria said Wednesday that four medical facilities in the region had been hit in the past 72 hours; the World Health Organisation put the number at three. Civilians are fleeing in the hundreds of thousands an estimated 323,000 people have been displaced in the northwest since last September. If the violence continues, they may have no place safe to go.
Refugee backlash after Sri Lanka attacks
Refugees and asylum seekers taking shelter in Sri Lanka have been threatened and attacked in the aftermath of the 21 April suicide blasts that killed more than 250 people, rights groups say. Landlords have evicted several hundred refugees and asylum seekers since the Easter Sunday attacks, which authorities blame on a littleknown Islamist extremist group. The mainly Pakistani and Afghan asylum seekers include Christians and Ahmadi Muslims who fled persecution in their own countries. It's not the first time antiMuslim sentiment has reached asylum seekers in Sri Lanka Buddhist hardliners have previously threatened Rohingya refugees. Rights groups are urging the government to ensure safety for all communities in multicultural Sri Lanka as the attacks' political and societal fallout unfolds. This week, President Maithripala Sirisena announced a ban on covering one's face.
World Press Freedom Day? No one told Museveni
When it comes to repression, like good comedy, it's all about timing. On the eve of World Press Freedom Day, Uganda's communications commission announced it had ordered 13 radio and TV stations to suspend their news editors, producers, and heads of programming for misrepresenting information. More than 30 journalists are believed to be affected. The punishment was for the live coverage of the dramatic arrest yet again of Bobi Wine, opposition politician and major thorn in the side of President Yoweri Museveni. Wine's arrest (he's now out on bail) follows his protest over a social media tax introduced last year seen as a government attack on free speech. In an ongoing media crackdown, three radio stations were also switched off last month for hosting opposition leader Kizza Besigye. Just as a reminder, the theme for this year's press freedom day is Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation.
Legal headaches at Start Network 'birthday'
Regulatory, governance, and financial details have made setting up a UKbased humanitarian alliance a difficult journey, according to its director. On 1 May, the Start Network announced itsindependence, spinning off from its previous status under Save the Children UK. Director Sean Lowrie said the lengthy process required elaborate and sophisticated procedures to manage risk and satisfy regulators. The alliance of about 40 NGOs has distributed over Pound 50 million since 2014 though its flagship quickresponse Start Fund. Among the issues that surrounded its separate legal status were counterterrorism rules who's to blame if aid inadvertently reaches terrorist groups has become difficult. The Norwegian Refugee Council has been negotiating the issue with the network and so far declined to sign up. NRC Geneva Director James Munn said the new Start Network funding agreement contains a counterterrorism clause that allows for vague interpretation and reflects an increasingly worrying environment where donors transfer as much risk as possible "downstream" to NGO grantees. Lowrie said he understood, but found the decision "regrettable" and stressed that the network was complying with demands from its donors, including the UK.
Weighing earthquake risks in Nepal
Thousands were killed when two major earthquakes struck near Nepal's Kathmandu valley in April and May 2015. People are still rebuilding their homes four years later. Postdisaster riskreduction efforts have often focused on making the Kathmandu area better prepared. But new researchsuggests that concentrating on the capital overlooks greater earthquake risks elsewhere. The study, published in the journal PNAS, used new earthquake modelling techniques to map out vulnerability. It found the most atrisk districts, home to some 9.5 million people, are mainly in western Nepal not Kathmandu. Researchers believe the findings can be used to help Nepal better target its limited disaster preparedness funds. The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction says the findings have raised alarm bells about risk in western Nepal, which has reportedly not seen a major earthquake in the last 500 years.
Source: The New Humantarian