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Three crises we cannot ignore in 2019 | Poverty & Development

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The year 2018 is about to end with seemingly little having been achieved to resolve major crises around the world. Syrians continued to try to flee their country as conflict raged on. Over the summer, millions faced a potential offensive on Idlib province, which could have resulted in a major humanitarian catastrophe.

In Africa, South Sudan‘s peace deal sparked a moment of joy for civilians, but its provisions are yet to be implemented. Further east in Bangladesh, close to a million Rohingya refugees were trapped in limbo, too scared of persecution to return to Myanmar.

The year also witnessed large waves of people forced to flee their homes in EthiopiaVenezuela, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

And as we look ahead into 2019, there are at least three major crises that are likely to get a lot worse.

Continuing displacement in Cameroon

For a long time, Cameroon has been providing a safe haven for people fleeing conflicts in neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) and Nigeria, but the country has its own simmering crisis.

Several armed groups have sprung up to fight for independence in English-speaking parts of Cameroon since October 2017, which has resulted in severe security clampdowns in these areas. The situation deteriorated rapidly during the last six months, partly because of the 2018 presidential elections and movement restrictions on civilians. The displacement of more than 400,000 people attracted little international media attention and there was little diplomatic effort to ease the tensions.

A disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration committee has been set up by the Cameroonian government, and a presidential decree has been issued authorising the release of some people detained during the clashes. But the upcoming local elections in 2019 could see the crisis escalate further. It could also spill over to neighbouring Nigeria – a dreadful scenario.

At the same time, given that Cameroon is not identified as a hotspot by the international community, little funding will be committed to addressing the crisis, which would affect not only Cameroonians but also displaced people from CAR and northeast Nigeria.  

Yemen’s looming famine

This year saw the war in Yemen hammer civilians harder than ever, after three years of armed conflict had already decimated infrastructure, public services and uprooted two million people from their homes.

We, the agencies on the ground in Yemen, warn collectively of an impending famine. This mass starvation will not be caused by failed harvests or natural disasters. In Yemen, civilians are being slowly starved to death by a man-made catastrophe. The warfare, access restrictions and sanctions imposed on the civilian population by the warring parties and the nations propping them are solely to blame.

Peace talks in Stockholm earlier this month led to a long overdue ceasefire agreement for the crucial port city of Hodeidah. However, millions of women, men and children in dire need are yet to see the effects of the agreements on the ground in Yemen, where clashes are still ongoing.

The UK, United States, France, Iran and other powers that support parties to the conflict in Yemen’s must use their influence to bring about a permanent end to the violence.

Parties to this conflict already have blood on their hands. Next year, they risk bearing responsibility for a famine that could affect millions, if the agreements made in Stockholm are not put into effect immediately.

The DRC’s forgotten crisis

The Democratic Republic of the Congo saw pockets of insecurity spread like wildfire to entire regions in 2018. Inter-communal violence escalated in the previously peaceful province of Ituri. Countless armed groups continue to fight each other and attack civilians in the east and central parts of this vast country. In the few cases when families were able to return to their homes, they face such destruction that they need aid to survive.

In addition to spiralling violence, hunger levels soared this year. In 2018, DRC saw a 100 percent increase in food insecurity compared with 2017.

Global attention will momentarily shift to the troubled nation on December 30 as the Congolese people head to the polls to elect a new president, but the country will not stay under the media spotlight for long.

The DRC’s mega-crisis is likely to go largely underreported in 2019, as the situation continues to deteriorate. Countless more people will edge towards starvation. Unless violence and displacement end and the humanitarian response is strengthened, many parents will watch their children die from malnutrition and preventable diseases.

Humanitarian aid can somewhat alleviate the suffering of Congolese, Yemeni and Cameroonian people, but only if donor countries step up their funding and warring factions give us access to communities caught up in conflict. That said, only political solutions to these conflicts can really prevent the impending human catastrophes.

It is unthinkable that so many people can starve to death in a world that has the means and the technology to feed everyone. These are all preventable deaths in a world of plenty and it will weigh on our conscience if we don’t prevent them.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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Ottawa transit commission hopes to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines for OC Transpo workers

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Ottawa’s transit commission is pushing local and provincial health officials to recognize the role OC Transpo operators have played in keeping the city running during the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to bump train and bus drivers in the vaccination queue amid a recent surge in coronavirus infections affecting transit workers.

More than 100 OC Transpo staff across the entire organization have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to an update at Wednesday morning’s transit commission meeting.

Of those cases, 26 employees are currently recovering from the disease in self-isolation.

OC Transpo has seen a recent jump in COVID-19 cases, with Ottawa city council receiving reports of eight operators testing positive for the virus over a recent eight-day period.

Transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert attempted to find out how many of the total cases are traced to workplace transmission, but OC Transpo boss John Manconi said he’s been advised by medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches that he can’t share that information for privacy reasons.

Transit operators are listed in the second priority group of essential workers as part of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine sequencing plans, but several commissioners speaking Wednesday wanted to get the city’s bus and train drivers bumped higher in the order.

Councillors Riley Brockington and Glen Gower both put forward motions looking to get front-line OC Transpo employees prioritization in vaccine sequencing, but others pointed out that the much-debated public health topic of who gets the vaccine and when is well beyond the scope of the transit commission.

“We are not in a position in transit commission to be decreeing, or making an edict, about what group of essential workers is more at risk than others and should be prioritized. That should be left up to public health experts,” Wright-Gilbert said.

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, who also chairs the Ottawa Board of Health, reflected on the board’s four-plus-hour meeting on Monday evening, during which vaccine sequencing and prioritizing essential workers dominated the conversation.

“Vaccine sequencing is obviously a very difficult maze to get through,” he said.

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COVID-19: Ottawa police announce end of 24-7 presence at Ontario-Quebec border

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Less than two days after the Ontario government’s latest COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, calling for non-essential traffic to be stopped at the province’s borders with Quebec and Manitoba, the Ottawa Police Service has announced it is stopping its 24-hour checkpoints.

According to a statement issued by the service Tuesday evening, the around-the-clock border checkpoints were set to end as of 8 p.m. on Tuesday in favour of rotating checkpoints across the city throughout the day until Ontario’s temporary regulations end.

“Since the onset of the border operations, the OPS has been working closely with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) along with local stakeholders and interprovincial stakeholders (the City of Ottawa, the City of Gatineau, the Ontario Provincial Police etc.) to assess any local public health, traffic and safety impacts. The assessment resulted in today’s operational changes,” the statement said.

“The operational changes announced today are designed to better ensure the health and safety of all, to minimize delays and/or hazards for travellers and to ensure essential workers can get to their places of employment on time.”

The statement also said the police service, while working to comply with the provincial order, was focused on education and enforcement actions that “support improved public health outcomes and respect the concerns of our most marginalized and racialized communities”

Officers said they will be conducting daily assessments on border crossings and that there could be further changes.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that the border closures are ultimately subject to the discretion of local police enforcing the regulations.

“Local police services are best positioned to determine the operational deployments necessary to ensure the continued safety of their communities,” the spokesperson said, noting that the order’s regulations still apply to individuals entering the province.

The temporary order restricts Quebec residents from entering Ontario. If prompted, individuals must stop when directed by an enforcement officials and provide their reason for entering the province.

The main exemptions to the restrictions include if the person’s main home is in the province, if they work in Ontario, if they’re transporting goods, if they’re exercising Indigenous or treaty rights, if they need health care or if there’s a basis on compassionate grounds.

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COVID-19 vaccines in Ottawa: Nearly half of all residents in their 60s have at least one dose

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Public Health’s latest COVID-19 vaccination update shows that nearly half of all residents 60 to 69 years old have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a figure that has all but doubled in the past week.

OPH’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows 58,000 residents 60 to 69 have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, accounting for 49.3 per cent of that age group’s population in Ottawa. Last Wednesday, OPH reported 30,000 residents 60 to 69 had had at least one dose, which was 25.4 per cent.

As age demographics get younger, the population grows larger and the coverage by percentage may appear to grow more slowly, even if clinics are vaccinating greater numbers of people. For example, the latest figures show that 83 per cent of people aged 70 to 79 have had at least one dose. By raw population that’s 60,000 people, only slightly higher than half of all people in their 60s.

Vaccinations are open through the Ontario portal to anyone 60 and older and, this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for administration at pharmacies and primary care clinics to anyone in Ontario 40 and older.

OPH reported a new shipment this week of 25,740 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. To date, Ottawa has received 305,130 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the provincial government.

The number of eligible residents (i.e. 16 and older) with at least one dose of a vaccine is now up to 28 per cent.

Tuesday was Ottawa’s second-busiest day for vaccinations overall, with the OPH reporting 9,729 shots administered. Last Friday saw 9,887 shots administered in a single day.

QUICK STATS

  • Ottawa residents with at least one dose: 248,668
  • Ottawa residents with two doses: 26,722
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with at least one dose: 28 per cent
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with two doses: 3 per cent
  • Percent of total population with at least one dose: 24 per cent
  • Percent of total population with two doses: 3 per cent

VACCINATION COVERAGE BY AGE FOR OTTAWA RESIDENTS WITH AT LEAST ONE DOSE

  • 10-19: 1.6 per cent (1,804 people)
  • 20-29: 8.3 per cent (13,452 people)
  • 30-39: 9.5 per cent (14,999 people)
  • 40-49: 12.9 per cent (17,350 people)
  • 50-59: 28.8 per cent (40,320 people)
  • 60-69: 49.3 per cent (58,627 people)
  • 70-79: 82.9 per cent (62,808 people)
  • 80-89: 87.5 per cent (29,358 people)
  • 90+: 89.2 per cent (7,893 people)
  • Unknown age: 2,057 people 

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