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2020 Doomsday Clock: It is 100 seconds to midnight
by Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
Jan. 2020
To Leaders and citizens of the world;
Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change—that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond. The international security situation is dire, not just because these threats exist, but because world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.
In the nuclear realm, national leaders have ended or undermined several major arms control treaties and negotiations during the last year, creating an environment conducive to a renewed nuclear arms race, to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and to lowered barriers to nuclear war.
Political conflicts regarding nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea remain unresolved and are, if anything, worsening. US-Russia cooperation on arms control and disarmament is all but nonexistent.
Public awareness of the climate crisis grew over the course of 2019, largely because of mass protests by young people around the world. Just the same, governmental action on climate change still falls far short of meeting the challenge at hand.
At UN climate meetings last year, national delegates made fine speeches but put forward few concrete plans to further limit the carbon dioxide emissions that are disrupting Earth’s climate.
This limited political response came during a year when the effects of manmade climate change were manifested by one of the warmest years on record, extensive wildfires, and quicker-than-expected melting of glacial ice.
Continued corruption of the information ecosphere on which democracy and public decision making depend has heightened the nuclear and climate threats. In the last year, many governments used cyber-enabled disinformation campaigns to sow distrust in institutions and among nations, undermining domestic and international efforts to foster peace and protect the planet.
This situation—two major threats to human civilization, amplified by sophisticated, technology-propelled propaganda—would be serious enough if leaders around the world were focused on managing the danger and reducing the risk of catastrophe.
Instead, over the last two years, we have seen influential leaders denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats—international agreements with strong verification regimes—in favor of their own narrow interests and domestic political gain.
By undermining cooperative, science- and law-based approaches to managing the most urgent threats to humanity, these leaders have helped to create a situation that will, if unaddressed, lead to catastrophe, sooner rather than later.
Faced with this daunting threat landscape and a new willingness of political leaders to reject the negotiations and institutions that can protect civilization over the long term, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board today moves the Doomsday Clock 20 seconds closer to midnight—closer to apocalypse than ever.
In so doing, board members are explicitly warning leaders and citizens around the world that the international security situation is now more dangerous than it has ever been, even at the height of the Cold War.
Civilization-ending nuclear war—whether started by design, blunder, or simple miscommunication—is a genuine possibility. Climate change that could devastate the planet is undeniably happening. And for a variety of reasons that include a corrupted and manipulated media environment, democratic governments and other institutions that should be working to address these threats have failed to rise to the challenge.
The Bulletin believes that human beings can manage the dangers posed by the technology that humans create. Indeed, in the 1990s leaders in the United States and the Soviet Union took bold actions that made nuclear war markedly less likely—and as a result the Bulletin moved the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock the farthest it has been from midnight.
But given the inaction—and in too many cases counterproductive actions—of international leaders, the members of the Science and Security Board are compelled to declare a state of emergency that requires the immediate, focused, and unrelenting attention of the entire world. It is 100 seconds to midnight. The Clock continues to tick. Immediate action is required.
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Millions of Congolese struggle to access aid as ongoing conflicts rob hope for peace
by UNHRC, NRC, OCHA, Unicef, agencies
Dec. 2019
As violence rises in DRC, UNHCR concerned for trapped civilians
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and its humanitarian partners remain extremely concerned for the safety and security of hundreds of thousands of civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern Beni Territory, after deadly violence and mass protests have cut off humanitarian access to the troubled region.
Tensions in this part of DRC’s North Kivu province have been rising since the launch of a government-led security operation against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) on October 30. Armed groups have been targeting civilians and displaced populations in the region, killing scores of people.
Growing estimates are that at least 100 people were reported to have been killed in violent attacks in the Beni region since November 2, with thousands displaced, the vast majority of them women and children. Additional mass displacements have been reported from Mbau and Oicha localities, north of Beni. People are taking refuge in the Beni town, in an attempt to flee attacks, and the ongoing fighting between the army of the DRC and ADF.
Information is difficult to verify, as the movement of humanitarian workers is restricted due to insecurity around the city and in the territory of Beni, as a result of violence. Alarming reports from the region suggest people being trapped and under threat from the armed groups, with daily reports of loss of life. Abductions and attacks on schools, health centres and indigenous communities are also on the rise.
UNHCR and its partners are calling for an urgent need to restore security to allow humanitarian agencies immediate access to support the affected population. Hundreds of households are currently sleeping in churches and schools.
Children are in need of immediate support, many of whom have lost their parents or have arrived unaccompanied. Forced recruitment by armed groups is a real threat to the safety of children. Women also face widespread sexual violence, abuse and risk of exploitation. We fear many more lives could be lost if humanitarian access as well as law and order is not immediately restored in the areas.
UNHCR works in and around Beni in the sectors of protection, shelter and coordination. We have been building emergency shelters for displaced populations, promoting peaceful co-existence between displaced people and host communities, and working with local authorities on gathering information about displaced persons’ profiles and vulnerabilities, in order to better respond to their protection and assistance needs.
According to official estimates, the city of Beni is home to almost half-a-million people. There are some 275,000 displaced people in the territory. With ongoing insecurity, many have been left stranded at the mercy of the armed groups.
The current insecurity adds to an already-complex displacement situation in North Kivu, with an existing 1.5 million internally displaced persons by the conflict and ongoing efforts to fight the deadly Ebola virus.
27 Nov. 2019
Civilians demand protection as deadly attacks by ADF armed group continue in eastern Congo, reports the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.
Since the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) launched an offensive against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) on 30 October, the armed group has carried out a series of retaliatory attacks against civilians. According to the Kivu Security Tracker, at least 94 civilians have been killed in the Beni region since 4 November. The ADF has also kidnapped a number of civilians.
Increasing civilian casualties have prompted protests in Beni by locals demanding greater protection from the FARDC and the UN’s peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO. Following news of an attack that killed at least eight people on Monday, 25 November, the demonstrations turned violent, with protesters burning the Beni town hall and damaging buildings within a MONUSCO base.
Later that day, President Felix Tshisekedi chaired an emergency National Security Council meeting attended by the head of MONUSCO, Leila Zerrougui, during which the government authorized joint operations between the FARDC and MONUSCO.
The ADF, which has operated along DRC’s border with Uganda for more than 20 years, has a history of attacking civilians and perpetrating atrocities in retaliation for government offensives.
Since August 2018 the ADF has also been implicated in frequent attacks on medical facilities involved in treating a deadly Ebola outbreak in North Kivu Province.
As they battle the ADF, the FARDC and MONUSCO must ensure that the protection of civilians is prioritized. All attacks on civilians should be thoroughly investigated and any captured ADF leaders should be held accountable for atrocities perpetrated against the local population. The UN Security Council must also critically assess the growing threat facing vulnerable populations throughout the eastern DRC when it considers MONUSCO’s mandate renewal next month.
Oct. 2019
Hundreds of thousands who have fled violence in DR Congo, in desperate need, 11 aid agencies warn. (Reliefweb)
Hundreds of thousands of people who have fled their homes in the Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of Congo are in desperate need of food, water, shelter and medicines, 11 aid agencies warned today.
Five months on from a resurgence of horrendous violence people are dying every day from preventable diseases because of the appalling conditions they are living in, a statement from the agencies including the Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam and Tearfund said. The situation is deteriorating as the approach of lean season has already doubled some food prices forcing more people to go hungry.
The majority of people who have been displaced are living with vulnerable host families, stretching already poor communities, with little or no resources, to breaking point. Others are living in cramped conditions in public places, such as churches and schools or barely surviving in overcrowded makeshift camps.
The agencies said that in some instances, up to 500 people are having to share one toilet, while others are having to drink dirty water that infects them with potentially deadly water-borne diseases. Many are sleeping on bare floors in flimsy shelters that offer very little protection from heavy rains. The conditions also increase the risk of sexual violence for women and girls.
Since May this year, hundreds of people have been killed during frenzied attacks by armed men in the Djugu and Mahagi territories with over 360,000 forced to flee for their lives leaving their entire villages destroyed. The aid agencies are calling for the protection of all civilians and an end to the violence. Almost all of the displaced people they spoke to had witnessed atrocities.
One woman, Marie, faced the unimaginable horror of losing her mother, two teenage daughters and infant sons - age three and two - who were all brutally beheaded by an armed group.
Marie said: “All my children have been beheaded. My mother too. The men came at 10 in the morning. Some were shooting in the air, while others cut off people’s heads with machetes and knives. They surrounded the village and burned all the houses. They murdered everyone who tried to flee and hunted down anyone hiding in the forest. It is a miracle I escaped.”
Another woman, Rachel, tragically lost her four children and husband, when they were attacked. She is trying to survive by working in the fields, but says she fears for her life every day.
Rachel said: “I came here (to the host community) a few months ago to escape the violence in my village. It was the second time I had to flee. I lost my four children and my husband because they were of a different ethnicity. Here, to live, I go to do daily work in the fields, but it’s not safe.”
The increased violence, which has multiple complex causes, has re-ignited tensions between different communities, with devastating consequences.
People are no longer able to travel to the market, for fear of being attacked. Many were about to harvest but have been forced to abandon their fields and crops. They have now lost a fourth agricultural season in a row, which, in a largely rural economy means no food or income.
The arrival of the lean season will put even more stress on what little food is available; in some places the price of beans and other staple food has already more than doubled. Nearly half of the population in the affected area is facing crisis levels of hunger.
Corinne N’Daw, Oxfam’s Country Director in DR Congo, said: “The situation is dire and many children are suffering from malnutrition. Most people have lost everything they own and have witnessed horrendous atrocities, now they face a deadly dilemma, do they go without food or risk their lives to go back to their fields.”
Since people are scattered across vast distances in remote areas, the 11 agencies said it is extremely challenging to reach all of those in need.
The majority of humanitarian need in DR Congo is not being met in Ituri and other conflict-stricken areas across the country, leaving many to die from illness, hunger or exhaustion. Lessons have not been learned from a previous crisis in 2018 when lack of funding and insecurity meant agencies were not able to reach all of those in need.
Ten months into 2019, DR Congo has only received 35 percent of funding needed, in a country where 15.6 million people are severely food insecure. The situation in Ituri is one of several humanitarian crises in DR Congo, including the Ebola outbreak, which was declared an international emergency three months ago.
Benjamin Vienot, Country Director for Action Against Hunger in DR Congo, said: “Aid agencies weren’t able to reach everyone who needed help during the last crisis in 2018 because of lack of funding and insecurity, which made access extremely challenging. We are now facing a similarly bleak picture.”
July 2019
The World Food Programme (WFP) has described the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as the world’s second largest hunger crisis in the world, after Yemen.
In addition to worsening hunger, communities in north-east DRC face a deadly Ebola outbreak and inter-ethnic clashes that claimed at least 117 lives between 10 and 13 June, according to a recent report by the UN human rights office, OHCHR.
WFP spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel warned that “people are dying of hunger, or, malnutrition is such that they are dying”. He added that although there is no accurate data on the total number of deaths from hunger in the Ituri province of the DRC, 13 million people are food insecure nationally, including five million acutely malnourished children.
The situation has worsened because of an increase in clashes between Hema herders and Lendu farmers that have driven people from their homes, along with rising food prices; a lack of income and access to a varied diet; and disease epidemics.
Addressing the rising violence, Mr. Verhoosel said: “This senseless cruelty comes right at harvest time, where the newly displaced have had to flee their homes in rural villages with very little or nothing”. He added that “many victims of this increase in violence are malnourished and have been forced to move numerous times…they are seeking security in urban centres and in the bush.”
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, inter-ethnic violence has led to the mass displacement of 300,000 people since June.
Together with North Kivu province, people in Ituri are also living through the DRC’s worst recorded Ebola virus outbreak.
In its latest Ebola update, the UN and authorities reported that since the outbreak began on 1 August 2018, 2,338 people have been infected with Ebola. A total of 1,571 people have died and 653 have recovered from the illness.
To help 5.2 million people across DRC for the next six months, the UN food agency said that it needs $155 million, including $35 million to respond directly to Ebola.
Multiple humanitarian crises are unfolding in Ituri province, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and hundreds of thousands of people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, according to international medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
The recent upsurge in violence across the regions of Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu have forced thousands to flee their homes. Despite MSF’s repeated calls on international aid organisations to scale up humanitarian aid, the majority of the displaced still haven’t received even the most basic assistance.
“This is not the first time there are urgent humanitarian needs in the area,” says Dr Moussa Ousman, MSF Head of Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “But this time we are seeing not only mass displacement due to violence, but also a rapidly spreading measles outbreak and an Ebola epidemic, all at the same time. This is unprecedented.”
Intercommunal violence has been increasing in Ituri since December 2017, and the large majority of people displaced as a result have been in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, some for more than a year. Since October 2018, MSF has conducted three mortality surveys in the locations of Drodro, Nizzi and Angumu. All showed that the mortality rates in these communities were far above emergency levels.
Mar. 2019
With the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) facing one of the largest and most complex humanitarian crises in the world, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock have called for urgent and sustained funding to meet the needs of children, families and vulnerable communities.
"The relatively peaceful political transition taking place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is an opportunity that we must seize on. We can beat back the massive and protracted humanitarian crisis. But we urgently need donors to provide further generous funding as needs continue to outpace resources," said Mr. Lowcock, adding that DRC needs sustained international engagement to create the conditions for peace, security and long-term development.
While DRC has made progress in recent years in some areas, including a drop in the number of children dying before age 5 and larger numbers being enrolled into school, the overall humanitarian situation remains alarming. The number of people facing hunger jumped from 7.7 million in 2017 to 13 million last year. At least 4 million children are malnourished. Cholera, measles and Ebola continue to blight many lives.
"Severe acute malnutrition is expected to hit 1.4 million children under the age of five this year and put them at imminent risk of death," said Ms. Fore. "In conflict-affected areas of the country, children and young people have been recruited as fighters, sexually assaulted and denied education, health and protection services. Together, the international community and the new government can - and should - do better for children."
The acute humanitarian crisis in the country is made worse by sporadic conflict involving dozens of armed groups in parts of the huge country.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 12.8 million people are now food insecure in DRC, including 4.3 million malnourished children, of whom 1.3 million face severe malnutrition this year.
A number of armed groups continue to hamper access for aid teams, which are also tackling endemic cholera – which threatens two million people - combined with a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease in North Kivu and Ituri.
Dec. 2018
Millions of Congolese languish without aid - as the country heads towards elections. (Norwegian Refugee Council)
As the world turns its attention to the elections in Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Norwegian Refugee Council cautions not to lose sight of the millions of Congolese men, women and children whose humanitarian needs have yet to be met. "Regardless of the outcome of the election Sunday, the country and its leaders will have a challenging job ahead to be able to tackle the daunting humanitarian needs, and will depend on substantial support from the international community to avoid unnecessary loss of lives," said Pauline Ballaman, Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
This year alone, 1.4 million people have been forced to flee violence in DR Congo. At the end of 2017, there were already a total of 4.5 million people displaced in several parts of the country. The waves of displacement are mainly due to the re-emergence and escalation of violence around Congo''s eastern frontier, in Ituri and the Kivus. More than 13 million people depend on humanitarian assistance.
"Our teams on the ground see horrific violence daily and we are often struggling to keep up with the humanitarian needs. The scale of the crisis and the lack of sufficient support leave many people in need without necessary assistance."
Although there has been a security improvement for some pockets of the country such as the Greater Kasai Region and Tanganyika province where at least 1.5 million people have returned to their places of origin, security incidents have increased by 33 per cent between 2017 and 2018, according to the International NGO Security Organization (INSO).
Additionally, there have been over 530 security incidents targeting NGOs since the beginning of the year, translating into two incidents against humanitarian organizations per day.
The needs in DR Congo are daunting. Over 13 million people across the country are living on one meal or less a day. A fertile country, of which 70 per cent of the population live on agriculture, is struggling to produce food because farmers are constantly on the run and cannot access their fields for fear of being attacked, kidnapped or killed by armed groups.
As a result, local markets have suffered from food shortages while prices are skyrocketing, and 4.3 million children are malnourished.
Dec. 2018
OCHA: Global Humanitarian Overview 2019.
The humanitarian crisis in DRC is projected to remain acute, due to socioeconomic challenges and persistent conflict in parts of the country. Major humanitarian challenges remain. Due to declining agricultural activity, some 12.8 million people will face food insecurity, including 4.3 million malnourished children, of whom at least 1.3 million will be suffering from severe malnutrition.
The risk of epidemics will remain significant as well in the first quarter of 2019, with the persistence of cholera and the Ebola outbreak that was declared in August 2018 in North Kivu and Ituri. At least 8.5 million people are at risk of epidemics, including 2 million from cholera.
As a result of security improvement in parts of the country, some 2.9 million people should return to their areas of origin, exceeding the new displacements which are expected to be about 1.3 million. This massive return will create significant needs, especially in protection, health, agricultural production and livelihoods. However, insecurity will remain high in several parts of the country, and some 5.7 million people will also need protection, while 9.8 million vulnerable people will need multisectoral assistance related to the loss of access to essential services and goods.
This year’s humanitarian response plan will aim to assist 9 million of the most vulnerable people in DRC, significantly fewer than the total people in need. This gap is the result of factors such as access, funding constraints and operational capacities.
Spiralling violence puts millions at risk in Ebola-hit eastern DRC, reports UNHCR
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is alarmed by the latest escalation of violence in already volatile and Ebola-hit North Kivu province in east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The cumulative effect of conflict and the outbreak of the deadly disease is threatening millions of Congolese.
The fighting involving a number of armed groups operating in the area has intensified in all six territories in North Kivu, a province bordering Rwanda and Uganda. Thousands of civilians have fled their burned out villages, bringing reports of brutal attacks. The already dire humanitarian situation has been further aggravated by an outbreak of Ebola virus in parts of the province.
Forced displacement in this part of the country remains massive. It is estimated that more than a million people are displaced in North Kivu. This is the highest concentration of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the DRC. An estimated half a million people have been forced from their homes this year alone.
UNHCR is particularly worried about the deteriorating situation in the Ebola-hit northern territory of Beni. The area is home to some 1.3 million people. Spiralling conflict has left the population living there virtually in a state of siege since October 2017. Reports of increased human rights violations and restrictions of humanitarian access are frequent. Estimates are that more than 100 armed groups are active in the province, continually terrorizing the population.
Despite a large-scale military offensive of the Congolese Army against one of the main rebel groups, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) since January, there has been no let-up in the violence.
Despite security challenges, a UNHCR team accessed the area north of Beni earlier this month and conducted humanitarian assessments in Oicha and Eringeti districts. Residents told our staff about brutal attacks against the civilians carried out with machetes. Stories of massacres, extortion, forced displacement and other human rights violations are frequent.
Sexual and gender-based violence is rampant across the Beni territory. Many children are being recruited as child soldiers. The violence is particularly rampant in the so-called “triangle of death,” between the towns of Eringeti, Mbau and Kamango, on the Uganda-DRC border, as well as in the towns of Beni, Oicha and Mavivi.
UNHCR teams witnessed empty villages, countless torched and abandoned houses, as well as burnt cars. Those who fled found shelter mostly in Beni and Oicha, where both host and displaced communities fall prey to brutal and unpredictable attacks. Beni town hosts more than 32,000 displaced people, with the majority forced to live with host families or in schools or churches. More than two thirds have been forced to flee in the last three months.
UNHCR teams found the vulnerable displaced indigenous communities to be in some of the most critical situations. Forced out of their areas of origin in the forests, their living conditions in makeshift sites are abysmal. Families are sleeping rough, barely protected from the elements by their flimsy shelters.
They have few or no means of survival as they can no longer hunt in the forests, now under the control of armed groups. There’s a genuine risk of these people losing their culture and way of life.
UNHCR is scaling up its capacity in North Kivu to respond to the growing humanitarian needs. We are arranging additional emergency shelters and other humanitarian assistance to meet the needs of the displaced in Beni. While UNHCR’s humanitarian response is continuing despite the outbreak of Ebola, the prevailing security situation and drastic funding shortfall severely hamper our efforts. UNHCR’s DRC 2018 appeal totalling USD 201 million is only 17 per cent funded.


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