3.5 million children affected by Pakistan flooding

(UNITED NATIONS) Aug. 21, 2010 – With the situation in flood-stricken Pakistan still unfolding, United Nations agencies said today they are redoubling their efforts to provide assistance to the millions of people affected by the disaster.

“The international community is mobilizing to provide aid to help the victims of the floods,” Elisabeth Byrs of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told a news conference in Geneva.

“The situation is still unfolding… in some areas the flood waters are receding to reveal the utter destruction left behind, while in other areas the flood waters continue to rise, destroying homes, villages and crops.”

She added that the $460 million emergency response plan launched last week is now 55 percent funded, with an additional $42 million in pledges.

Jesuit Refugee Service does not have a presence in Pakistan. Therefore we are recommending that donations be made to Catholic Relief Services, which has a long-standing presence in Pakistan and is assisting those displaced by the flooding.

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Pakistan in urgent need as floods displace millions of people

(UNITED NATIONS) The response from donors to a request to assist millions of people affected by floods in Pakistan is encouraging, with nearly half of the $460 million required having been received, but the contributions are far from sufficient given the magnitude of the disaster, the United Nations reported yesterday.

Some $227.8 million or 49.6 per cent of the total amount requested by UN agencies and NGO partners in the Pakistan Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan (PIFERP) has so far been received, while another $42 million has been pledged, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

“We thank donors for their generosity, and ask them to keep up this accelerated pace of donations. The road ahead remains long. We should all also be ready for any increase in requirements,” said John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

“Watching this disaster unfold, the world increasingly understands its immense magnitude,” said Mr. Holmes. “I am glad that we now see a more positive response to the calls of the Secretary-General and the humanitarian community for increased and faster funding,” he added, referring to the visit by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Pakistan on Sunday.

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New York Times editorial: Secure Communities program not working

The New York Times says

Secure Communities, an immigration enforcement program created under President George W. Bush and now being greatly expanded by President Obama, is billed as an effort to catch and deport “the worst of the worst,” the violent criminals, drug and gun smugglers, gang members and other dangerous aliens. That would be excellent, if true. It doesn’t seem to be.

Read it all here.

Peace through Education in Southern Sudan

In January, Southern Sudan will hold a referendum to choose independence from or unity with the north. The conduct, result, and aftermath of the vote will determine the direction of Southern Sudan’s future and the prospects for sustained peace in the region. During this uncertain period, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) continues to accompany the people of Southern Sudan with programs that make schools the heart of new and restored communities, as focal points for hope for a better future and centers for peace building activities.

After a generation of civil war, the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement on January 9, 2005, ended armed hostilities between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the Government of Sudan. Read the rest of this entry »

UNHCR praises Canadian response to Sri Lanka refugees

(United Nations) – The United Nations refugee agency said yesterday it is encouraged by the way Canadian authorities have handled the situation involving 490 Sri Lankan nationals of Tamil origin who arrived by boat to the country last week and have claimed asylum.

The group, which includes men, women and children, were passengers of the cargo ship MV Sun Sea that docked at Vancouver Island in the province of British Columbia on Friday.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted that the reception site for the arrivals was well designed, and that needs in terms of information gathering, food and water have been well anticipated.

“Based on what we have seen thus far, we commend the exemplary work of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) in coordinating the arrival and reception of the MV Sun Sea passengers,” UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva. Read the rest of this entry »

Colombian court strikes down U.S. defense agreement

Just the Facts reports that late Tuesday,

Colombia’s Constitutional Court, part of its Supreme Court, decided by a 6-3 vote to strike down a defense cooperation agreement that Colombia’s government had signed with the United States in October 2009.

This accord, which gave U.S. military personnel the right to use seven Colombian bases for the next ten years, is suspended until Colombia’s Congress votes to approve it. Article 173 of Colombia’s Constitution requires that the country’s Senate be empowered to “permit the transit of foreign troops through the territory of the Republic.”

Politically, the court’s decision is a blow to both governments because it gives the impression – deserved or no – that the Obama and Uribe administrations sought to do something that violated Colombia’s Constitution. Operationally, however, the defense accord’s suspension will not affect the U.S. presence in Colombia. Not a single U.S. soldier or contractor will have to leave Colombia or alter what he is doing as a result of the Constitutional Court’s decision.

Read the full story here.

Nicole Kidman visits Haiti, advocates greater protection for women and girls

Actress Nicole Kidman, wrapping up a visit to Haiti Saturday in her role as United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, stressed the need to tackle gender-based violence and support initiatives that advance women’s livelihoods as the country rebuilds after the January earthquake.

Accompanied by Inés Alberdi, Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Ms. Kidman visited with people affected by the disaster, which killed more than 200,000 people and caused severe destruction and damage in large swathes of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other areas.

They met survivors of violence living in a temporary camp, Haitian and UN officials, and with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to support women’s needs as part of the recovery efforts.

“During this trip I saw first-hand how this humanitarian disaster is impacting women and girls. The lack of shelter and security makes them more vulnerable to violence, in particular sexual violence,” said Ms. Kidman.

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