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Three crises we cannot ignore in 2019 | Poverty & Development





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 families give mixed reviews for online schooling





So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister





Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa





OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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