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A humanitarian ceasefire in eastern Ghouta has broken down nearly as soon as it started. The UN is urging warring parties to allow aid into devastated areas. Syrian regime warplanes and artillery bombed eastern Ghouta on Tuesday, despite a Russian-brokered ceasefire in the rebel-held enclave. Damascus and Moscow said rebels shelled an evacuation route opened to allow civilians to leave eastern Ghouta. The UN said the fighting made it impossible to remove civilians or provide aid. "We have reports this morning there is continuous fighting in eastern Ghouta," U.N. humanitarian spokesman Jens Laerke said. "Clearly the situation on the ground is not such that convoys can go in or medical evacuations can go out." Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a daily five-hour "humanitarian pause" to airstrikes in eastern Ghouta. Moscow said it would only go into effect if rebels ceased attacks. The renewed fighting comes amid calls from the international community to implement a nationwide cessation of hostilities as the humanitarian situation worsens on the ground. Read more: Which rebel groups are fighting in Syria's eastern Ghouta? What the ceasefire entails: The five-hour cessation of hostilities was planned for 9 a.m to 2 p.m. local time (1200 UTC). The ceasefire is aimed at establishing a "humanitarian corridor" to allow civilians to exit from eastern Ghouta, considered one of Syria's last rebel strongholds. In agreement with the Syrian regime, the Russian Defense Ministry said it will help evacuate the sick and injured Read more: What foreign powers want from the Syrian war Massive casualties: Over the past week, more than 500 civilians have been killed by the Syrian government's latest offensive in eastern Ghouta. Russian warplanes formed an integral part of the offensive, according to independent monitors, rights groups and US authorities. Why now: As the conflict winds down, Damascus is attempting to consolidate territory across the country with the help of Russia to secure its interests during peace talks. Given that eastern Ghouta is one of the last remaining rebel strongholds, the Syrian regime is seeking to strike a fatal blow to the opposition movement before peace talks gain ground. Calls for ceasefire: With a growing civilian death toll, the international community has urged all warring parties to enact a nationwide ceasefire. On Saturday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favor of a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire. Better than nothing: Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres, responded to the announcement, saying: "Five hours is better than no hours, but we would like to see any cessation of hostilities be extended." Russia "can end" the violence: US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert urged Russia to use its "influence" to end the fighting. "The United States calls for an immediate end to offensive operations and urgent access for humanitarian workers to treat the wounded and deliver badly needed humanitarian aid," Nauert tweeted late Monday. "Russia has the influence to stop these operations if it chooses to live up to its obligations under the #UNSC ceasefire." Seven-year war: More than 300,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in 2011 following a government crackdown on protesters calling for the release of political prisoners and for President Bashar Assad to step down. Since then, the conflict has evolved into a multifaceted war, drawing in global superpowers, neighboring countries and non-state actors. Read more: The search for dead Russian mercenaries in Syria

A humanitarian ceasefire in eastern Ghouta has broken down nearly as soon as it started. The UN is urging warring parties to allow aid into devastated areas. Syrian regime warplanes and artillery bombed eastern Ghouta on Tuesday, despite a Russian-brokered ceasefire in the rebel-held enclave. Damascus and Moscow said rebels shelled an evacuation route opened to allow civilians to leave ... Read More »

Humanitarian situation worsens in DRC

The Kasai crisis has led to the largest population of internally displaced people in the whole of Africa as aid workers struggle to respond amid increasing violence and political instability. A dramatic increase in violence between security forces and the Kamwina Nsapu militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has led to the internal displacement of a record 3.7 million people. Clashes initially began in August 2016 in the Kasai-Central province but have since spread to four other provinces. The conflict was initially sparked after the militia attacked local police and called for an insurrection of the central government. Over the past month thousands of people in affected regions have begun fleeing to neighboring Angola, stretching resources in villages along the border. On 25 April the United Nations (UN) launched a fresh $64.5 million USD (59.3 million euros) emergency response appeal in order to provide life-saving assistance to 731,000 people over the next six months. Humanitarian crisis Prior to the current Kasai crisis, the DRC already faced acute humanitarian problems, with more than 4 million people suffering from hunger and 3.5 million children under five facing malnutrition. Rein Paulsen is the head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the DRC and will be visiting a number of key European capital cities this week in order to draw attention to the conflict. He told DW from Berlin that a rapid response by the UN and other aid organizations is key in order to prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian situation. "We are talking about funding life-saving interventions. This is to respond to the needs of people that have had to flee at short notice, are sleeping under the open stars, are exposed to violence, and a series of other urgent needs," he said. "Even with the initial funding, clearly the needs outstrip what we have, which is why we've launched the flash appeal and we've increased the overall amount required," Paulsen added Prior to the current emergency appeal, the UN launched a Humanitarian Response Plan for 2017 which was intended to reach approximately 6.7 million people in all parts of the country which were identified as vulnerable. However less than 20% of the original budget has been spent so far. "It really is a very very concerning situation and we need to mobilize resources in order to respond to these very urgent humanitarian needs. It requires our best staff and our best capabilities and it requires the kind of flexible and responsive strategy that we've put in place." Aid organizations struggle to respond However aid workers are finding it increasingly difficult to address the deteriorating situation in DRC. Many face the risk of attacks and are unable to access areas in most need of humanitarian assistance. Since the beginning of 2017, almost 3,000 incidents involving violence or direct threats against aid and development workers have been reported. On 28 March the bodies of two UN security experts alongside their interpreter were found in the Kasai Central province. They were in the region to assess a sanctions regime imposed on DRC by the UN Security Council when they disappeared on March 12. Paulsen said the UN places a high priority on the safety of its workers in the region. "We continue to place the highest possible premium on operating as securely as possible, because at the end of the day if we're not able to continue our operations, it is the Congolese who have been displaced who are going to suffer if programs are shut down." The huge geographic area of the conflict and the lack of front lines also complicates the response strategy. "We know that the situation is fluid, we have a series of activities that we can implement quickly in areas where access is easier, where the situation is a little bit more calm, places where people have come precisely to flee from the violence," Paulsen said. "[We also] allow rapid interventions in locations where access is more of a challenge." Political instability remains rife The Kasai crisis continues to unfold in the wake of a wave of violence across the DRC following President Joseph Kabila's failure to step down the end of his constitutional mandate in December 2016. A new expanded government was revealed on Tuesday, as part of a power-sharing deal with the opposition in an attempt to ease tensions over the president's intent to remain in power. Opposition leader Bruno Tshibala was named Prime Minister following the resignation of Samy Badibanga Although the new government has again reiterated an election will take place by 2018, the reality of this occurring is unlikely, as political analyst BenoƮt Kamili told DW. "The Congolese people needed this government, but from what we have seen and heard. I have to say that there's no difference between Tshibala and Badibanga," he said. "I don't think that Tshibala will organize the elections." Kablia has held office since 2001 and was widely accused of serious electoral fraud in 2011, which has plunged the DRC into a long-term political crisis.

The Kasai crisis has led to the largest population of internally displaced people in the whole of Africa as aid workers struggle to respond amid increasing violence and political instability. A dramatic increase in violence between security forces and the Kamwina Nsapu militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has led to the internal displacement of a record 3.7 ... Read More »

Humanitarian crisis now catastrophic in Lebanon and Syria

With Syrian refugees still pouring into Lebanon, the humanitarian crisis is now catastrophic, says Fabrizio Carboni, head of the country's Red Cross delegation. But disasters elsewhere are dividing donor's attentions. DW: How is the situation for refugees in Lebanon? Fabrizio Carboni: The situation is very difficult. In the last three or four years Lebanon has received something like 1.2 million refugees, as registered by the UNHCR. Even before the arrival of these refugees, health, water, energy - the whole list of public services - were all in bad shape. Now the situation is unbearable. One sees that donors are not following anymore because there are so many crises in the world. This year we had, in addition to Syria and Iraq, Yemen, Nepal and ebola. This year, there is not enough money to meet the needs. The UN agencies have started cutting food assistance, which is dramatic. What does that mean? They give food vouchers to the refugees. It was US$34 per person per month before, now it is US$17, which is just unmanageable. Add to this the situation with shelters. In the beginning the refugees that arrived in Lebanon had some savings, now these savings are gone. You see people moving from apartments to informal settlements to shelters, which are just unfinished buildings. How does that affect Lebanese society? Society is affected in different ways. First of all you see 1.2 million refugees arriving in a country of 4 million people - that changes everything. You walk in the street and the street is different because you see different people - even in the two years since I have been in Lebanon. You see kids begging in the streets - so demographics, public services, health have all changed. Health services in Lebanon are privatized - people just cannot afford to pay for health services. The list is so long. You have 400,000 children in Lebanon and 300,000 children don't go to school. Only 100,000 children have access to some kind of education, but not all is certified education. These figures can not really present the human misery they represent. Most refugees are not allowed to work so they are just waiting for assistance. If the assistance doesn't come, they go to negative coping mechanisms (like) prostitution, taking kids from school and putting them to work. They are abused because their rights are not respected. So you see the spiral downward and you don't know where it stops. What kind of work does the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) do in Lebanon at the moment? No organization can face and manage such an overwhelming situation alone. We focus on areas where we feel we have some legitimacy and expertise or where we can do things in a cheaper way. For instance, we visit all places of detention and prisons. Prisons obviously are affected by overcrowding. We work inside the prisons with the authorities to find ways to make overcrowding bearable. That means encouraging them to find strategies to reduce the number of people in prison. Prisons are also very old so we work on renovating the prisons. We also work in clinics on the ventilation and sanitation system and with water. The other field is health. In Lebanon, we run a service for wounded Syrians and Lebanese. The service goes from fresh-wound treatment but we also go into reconstructive surgery, physiotherapy and, if needed, we help them with prostheses. We provide psychological support, too. In addition, we also want to transfer knowledge to our colleagues in Lebanon with the hope of creating a center of expertise. Is it difficult to do this kind of work because, as you were mentioning, there are not enough donations and donors? We try to focus, and health is priority number one. Why is it a priority? Because it is the only place in the region where the ICRC is allowed to operate. In Lebanon, because of our long history and presence, they allow us to operate with our own facilities. So we want to take advantage of this privileged position and invest in this. We want to have an impact and we can do this in health. Would you describe the situation in Lebanon as dramatic? I can't put it on a scale. Today, I see no solution for this massive human misery. The majority of people crossing by boat from Libya or Syria to Europe, all around the Mediterranean. These people are all Syrians. They know that they are risking their lives and the lives of their kids - nevertheless they take these risks. Its because the situation for them, if they have to go back to Syria, is just unbearable. Often refugees will tell you: 'I prefer a brutal and quick death rather than agony in Syria.' I believe the whole region has reached such levels of violence and the scale of humanitarian need is overwhelming. Do you see and end in this? You know as a humanitarian institution we just buy time but it's is up to politicians to propose solutions. I assume we will be in this situation for another four to five years, even if a peace agreement is signed today, because the destruction is such that it will take years to recover. Fabrizio Carboni has been supervising the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Lebanon for the last two years. The interview was conducted in Geneva, Switzerland, at ICRC headquarters by Manuela Kasper-Claridge. The interview was condensed and edited for clarity.

With Syrian refugees still pouring into Lebanon, the humanitarian crisis is now catastrophic, says Fabrizio Carboni, head of the country’s Red Cross delegation. But disasters elsewhere are dividing donor’s attentions. DW: How is the situation for refugees in Lebanon? Fabrizio Carboni: The situation is very difficult. In the last three or four years Lebanon has received something like 1.2 million ... Read More »

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