Nigeria’s military lifts suspension of UNICEF activities

UNICEF has been openly critical of Boko Haram’s use of dozens of children as “human bombs” in its decade-old insurgency. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 December 2018

Nigeria’s military lifts suspension of UNICEF activities

  • UNICEF focuses on aid to children trapped in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises
  • Nigerian military spokesman had accused UNICEF of harming counterterror efforts via “spurious and unconfirmed allegations” of human rights abuses by the military

ABUJA, Nigeria: Nigeria’s military has lifted a suspension of UNICEF’s work in the extremist-threatened northeast just hours after it accused the UN agency of training people for “clandestine activities.”
The new military statement issued overnight said the reversal came after an emergency meeting with UNICEF representatives. The military says it “admonished” UNICEF against activities that could undermine its efforts against extremist groups like Boko Haram.
Military spokesman Onyema Nwachukwu on Friday accused UNICEF of harming counterterror efforts via “spurious and unconfirmed allegations” of human rights abuses by the military. The spokesman said the alleged training was carried out in the past week in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital and birthplace of Boko Haram.
UNICEF, which focuses on aid to children trapped in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, has not commented publicly.
Nigeria’s military is highly sensitive to repeated allegations of rights abuses raised by multiple organizations over the years. In a statement overnight, Amnesty International Nigeria called the military’s charges “absurd” and described the UNICEF suspension as part of a wider effort to intimidate international aid groups.
Friction between Nigerian officials and UNICEF and other arms of the UN has surfaced before.
In January 2017, the Borno state governor accused UNICEF and other aid groups of profiting from funds meant to help those fleeing Boko Haram’s Islamic uprising and said they should leave the country. After UN officials flew in to discuss his comments, Gov. Kashim Shettima apologized.
His criticism followed charges by President Muhammadu Buhari that the UN and private agencies were exaggerating a massive humanitarian crisis in the northeast to boost funding.
In August 2017, Nigeria’s army raided a UN compound in Maiduguri, saying it was searching for Boko Haram members.
UN officials earlier this year called the humanitarian crisis in northeastern Nigeria one of the worst in the world, with more than 7 million people in need of assistance.
UNICEF, in addition to work such as enrolling hundreds of thousands of affected children in school, has been openly critical of Boko Haram’s use of dozens of children as “human bombs” in its decade-old insurgency.
More than 20,000 people have been killed over the years, with thousands abducted. UNICEF this week shared the story of a former abductee, one of scores of children it said it has helped to support.


US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

Updated 31 October 2020

US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

  • On Friday the US set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours
  • More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began

WASHINGTON: The United States passed nine million reported coronavirus cases on Friday and broke its own record for daily new infections for the second day in a row, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, as Covid-19 surges days before the country chooses its next president.
The US, which has seen a resurgence of its outbreak since mid-October, has now notched up 9,034,295 cases, according to a real-time count by the Baltimore-based school.
On Friday the country set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours, breaking the record of 91,000 it had set just one day earlier.
With the virus spreading most rampantly in the Midwest and the South, hospitals are also filling up again, stretching the health care system just as the nation heads in to flu season.
"We are not ready for this wave," Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University school of public health, warned on ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday.

COVID-19 tally by the John Hopkins University of Medicine as of October 30, 2020.

Authorities in El Paso, Texas, imposed a curfew this week to protect "overwhelmed" health care workers and began setting up field hospitals.
But a judge's attempt to shut down non-essential businesses in the city has been challenged by the mayor and the state's attorney general, the Washington Post reported.
Midwestern state Wisconsin has also set up a field hospital in recent weeks, and hospital workers in Missouri were sounding warning bells as cases rise.
Hospitals in the western state of Utah were preparing to ration care by as early as next week as patients flood their ICUs, according to local media.
The pattern of the pandemic so far shows that hospitalizations usually begin to rise several weeks after infections, and deaths a few weeks after that.
More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began, the Hopkins tally showed as of Friday, with the daily number of deaths creeping steadily upwards in recent weeks also -- though at present it remains below peak levels.
For months public health officials have been warning of a surge in cases as cooler fall weather settles over the US, driving more people indoors.
As the weather changes, New York and other parts of the northeast, which were the epicenter of the US outbreak in the spring but largely controlled the virus over the summer, were reporting a worrying rise.
Some epidemiologists believe that Covid-19 spreads more easily in drier, cool air.
Rural areas, which in the spring appeared to be getting off lightly compared to crowded cities, were also facing spikes with states like North Dakota charting one of the steepest rises in recent weeks.
The state is so overwhelmed that earlier this month it told residents they have to do their own contact tracing, local media reported.
With four days to go until the election, Donald Trump was battling to hold on to the White House against challenger Joe Biden, who has slammed the president's virus response.
"It is as severe an indictment of a president's record as one can possibly imagine, and it is utterly disqualifying," Biden said Friday as the toll passed nine million.
Trump downplays the virus even as the toll has been accelerating once more, holding a slew of rallies with little social distancing or mask use.
He has repeatedly told supporters that the country is "rounding the curve" on Covid infections.
But Americans, wary of crowded polling booths on Election Day as the virus spreads, are voting early in record numbers.