Water crisis batters war-torn Sudan as temperatures soar

Even before the war, a quarter of Sudan’s population had to walk more than 50 minutes to fetch water, according to the United Nations. (AFP)
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Updated 17 June 2024
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Water crisis batters war-torn Sudan as temperatures soar

  • The country at large, despite its many water sources including the mighty Nile River, is no stranger to water scarcity
  • This summer, the mercury is expected to continue rising until the rainy season hits in August

PORT SUDAN, Sudan: War, climate change and man-made shortages have brought Sudan — a nation already facing a litany of horrors — to the shores of a water crisis.
“Since the war began, two of my children have walked 14 kilometers (nine miles) every day to get water for the family,” Issa, a father of seven, said from North Darfur state.
In the blistering sun, as temperatures climb past 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), Issa’s family — along with 65,000 other residents of the Sortoni displacement camp — suffer the weight of the war between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
When the first shots rang out more than a year ago, most foreign aid groups — including the one operating Sortoni’s local water station — could no longer operate. Residents were left to fend for themselves.
The country at large, despite its many water sources including the mighty Nile River, is no stranger to water scarcity.

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Even before the war, a quarter of the population had to walk more than 50 minutes to fetch water, according to the United Nations.
Now, from the western deserts of Darfur, through the fertile Nile Valley and all the way to the Red Sea coast, a water crisis has hit 48 million war-weary Sudanese who the US ambassador to the United Nations on Friday said are already facing “the largest humanitarian crisis on the face of the planet.”
Around 110 kilometers east of Sortoni, deadly clashes in North Darfur’s capital of El-Fasher, besieged by RSF, threaten water access for more than 800,000 civilians.
Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Friday said fighting in El-Fasher had killed at least 226.
Just outside the city, fighting over the Golo water reservoir “risks cutting off safe and adequate water for about 270,000 people,” the UN children’s agency UNICEF has warned.
Access to water and other scarce resources has long been a source of conflict in Sudan.
The UN Security Council on Thursday demanded that the siege of El-Fasher end.
If it goes on, hundreds of thousands more people who rely on the area’s groundwater will go without.
“The water is there, but it’s more than 60 meters (66 yards) deep, deeper than a hand-pump can go,” according to a European diplomat with years of experience in Sudan’s water sector.
“If the RSF doesn’t allow fuel to go in, the water stations will stop working,” he said, requesting anonymity because the diplomat was not authorized to speak to media.
“For a large part of the population, there will simply be no water.”
Already in the nearby village of Shaqra, where 40,000 people have sought shelter, “people stand in lines 300 meters long to get drinking water,” said Adam Rijal, spokesperson for the civilian-led General Coordination for Displaced Persons and Refugees in Darfur.
In photos he sent to AFP, some women and children can be seen huddled under the shade of lonely acacia trees, while most swelter in the blazing sun, waiting their turn.
Sudan is hard-hit by climate change, and “you see it most clearly in the increase in temperature and rainfall intensity,” the diplomat said.
This summer, the mercury is expected to continue rising until the rainy season hits in August, bringing with it torrential floods that kill dozens every year.
The capital Khartoum sits at the legendary meeting point of the Blue Nile and White Nile rivers — yet its people are parched.
The Soba water station, which supplies water to much of the capital, “has been out of service since the war began,” said a volunteer from the local resistance committee, one of hundreds of grassroots groups coordinating wartime aid.
People have since been buying untreated “water off of animal-drawn carts, which they can hardly afford and exposes them to diseases,” he said, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Entire neighborhoods of Khartoum North “have gone without drinking water for a year,” another local volunteer said, requesting to be identified only by his first name, Salah.
“People wanted to stay in their homes, even through the fighting, but they couldn’t last without water,” Salah said.
Hundreds of thousands have fled the fighting eastward, many to the de facto capital of Port Sudan on the Red Sea — itself facing a “huge water issue” that will only get “worse in the summer months,” resident Al-Sadek Hussein worries.
The city depends on only one inadequate reservoir for its water supply.
Here, too, citizens rely on horse- and donkey-drawn carts to deliver water, using “tools that need to be monitored and controlled to prevent contamination,” public health expert Taha Taher said.
“But with all the displacement, of course this doesn’t happen,” he said.
Between April 2023 and March 2024, the health ministry recorded nearly 11,000 cases of cholera — a disease endemic to Sudan, “but not like this” when it has become “year-round,” the European diplomat said.
The outbreak comes with the majority of Sudan’s hospitals shut down and the United States warning on Friday that a famine of historic global proportions could unfold without urgent action.
“Health care has collapsed, people are drinking dirty water, they are hungry and will get hungrier, which will kill many, many more,” the diplomat said.


Emirati market opens in Qingdao to celebrate 40 years of UAE-China relations

Updated 6 sec ago
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Emirati market opens in Qingdao to celebrate 40 years of UAE-China relations

  • Market includes pavilions selling dates, traditional handicrafts, and popular Emirati cuisine

DUBAI: The UAE opened an Emirati market in Qingdao on Saturday as part of the UAE-China Friendship Festival, which ends Sunday.

The festival marks 40 years of diplomatic relations between the two nations, showcasing a diverse array of Emirati products and arts to the Chinese public, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

The market includes pavilions selling dates, traditional handicrafts, and popular Emirati cuisine. There is also an exhibition chronicling the development of relations between the UAE and China.

The festival also features a “comprehensive cultural program” that includes performances of traditional arts “celebrating the UAE's national identity,” as well as workshops.

This event is part of a broader series of activities in both countries aimed at “enhancing mutual understanding and fostering new opportunities for cooperation across various sectors,” according to WAM.
 


UAE, GCC welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestine

Updated 20 July 2024
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UAE, GCC welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestine

  • ICJ had reinforced the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights under international law, Albudaiwi says

DUBAI: The UAE and the Gulf Cooperation Council have welcomed a ruling by the UN’s top court that Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory break international law.

The International Court of Justice issued the judgment, which is non-binding, on Friday.

The court ruled that “the transfer by Israel of settlers to the West Bank and Jerusalem as well as Israel’s maintenance of their presence, is contrary to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the country rejected all measures aimed at altering the historical and legal status of occupied Palestine.

The ministry condemned practices that contravene international resolutions, warning that such actions “threaten further escalation and instability in the region, and hinder efforts to achieve peace and stability.” It also emphasized the importance of supporting initiatives to advance the peace process in the Middle East as well as bringing an end to “Israel’s illegal practices that undermine an independent Palestinian state.”

GCC Secretary-General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi said that the ICJ had reinforced the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights under international law and UN resolutions to reclaim territories occupied by Israel. He asserted that the settlement activities and geographic changes imposed by Israeli forces are “illegitimate and lack regional or international recognition.”

Albudaiwi reiterated that the Occupied Territories remain “the inherent right of the Palestinian people” and reaffirmed the GCC’s steadfast support for the Palestinian cause, advocating for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The ICJ’s ruling comes against the backdrop of Israel’s devastating bombardment on Gaza, following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israeli settlements adjacent to the Palestinian enclave.

Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem in 1967, but Palestinians consider those areas to be an integral part of any future independent state.

The ruling was also welcomed by Saudi Arabia and the Muslim World League.


 


Moroccan ex-minister hit with five-year jail sentence

Updated 20 July 2024
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Moroccan ex-minister hit with five-year jail sentence

  • The charges relate to funds the Moroccan Liberal Party (PML) received in a 2015 electoral campaign
  • Ziane, who was human rights minister between 1995 and 1996, has been in detention since November 2022

RABAT: Moroccan opposition figure and former minister Mohamed Ziane has been sentenced to five years in prison while serving a three-year term in another case, his lawyer said on Saturday.
The former Rabat bar association president was convicted on charges of “embezzlement and squandering of public funds,” the lawyer Ali Reda Ziane, who is also his son, told AFP.
The charges relate to funds the Moroccan Liberal Party (PML) — of which Mohamed Ziane was founder and chief — received in a 2015 electoral campaign.
“This is a form of life sentence for an 81-year-old man while legally nothing has been proven,” said the lawyer, who plans to appeal the ruling.
Ziane, who was human rights minister between 1995 and 1996, has been in detention since November 2022, after being sentenced the three years on appeal.
The opposition figure had become known in recent years for statements criticizing the authorities in Morocco, particularly the intelligence services.
He said he was being judged “because of his opinions.”
The proceedings follow an interior ministry complaint on seven counts, among them contempt of public officials and justice, insults against a constituted body, defamation, adultery and sexual harassment.
In the same case, the financial crimes chamber of the Rabat appeals court sentenced the PML treasurer and a party administrative employee to five years in prison and one year in prison plus a one-year suspended sentence, respectively.


Gaza hospital says newborn saved from dead mother’s womb

Updated 20 July 2024
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Gaza hospital says newborn saved from dead mother’s womb

  • Doctors were unable to save the mother, but performed an ultrasound that detected the baby’s heartbeat
  • They quickly staged an emergency cesarean section “and extracted the fetus”

GAZA: A Gaza hospital said Saturday it saved a baby boy from his mother’s womb after she died from wounds sustained in an Israeli strike.
Ola Adnan Harb Al-Kurd, who was nine months pregnant, barely survived a punishing night of missile strikes that rescue services across the Hamas-run territory said killed more than 24 people, including six members of the same family.
But by the time Kurd reached Al-Awda Hospital, she was “almost dead,” according to surgeon Akram Hussein.
Doctors were unable to save the mother, but performed an ultrasound that detected the baby’s heartbeat.
They quickly staged an emergency cesarean section “and extracted the fetus,” the surgeon told AFP.
The newborn was initially in critical condition, but after receiving oxygen and medical attention was stabilized, said Raed Al-Saudi, head of the hospital’s obstetrics and gynaecology department.
He was placed in an incubator and transferred to Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir el-Balah.
Kurd was among three women and a child killed by an Israeli missile fired on the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, according to a medical official at Al-Awda Hospital. Her husband was also wounded in the strike on the family home.
Israel has not confirmed individual strikes, but a military statement said troops were “conducting targeted raids on terrorist infrastructure sites” in central Gaza.
Israel has stepped up its offensive in several parts of the territory in line with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s order to increase pressure on Hamas following the Palestinian militants’ attacks on southern Israel on October 7.
One man was killed in a drone hit while riding a bicycle on a street near the southern city of Khan Yunis, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
Air strikes on two homes in Gaza City in the north each left six dead, according to the civil defense agency and paramedics.
Israel’s military statement said “troops eliminated a number of terrorists in several different encounters” and had launched an operation on the Tal Al-Sultan refugee camp near the southern city of Rafah.
The war in Gaza has made childbirth increasingly perilous, with pregnant women facing not only near-daily strikes that hamper access to health facilities, but also widespread food insecurity, degrading sanitary conditions and water scarcity.
The few hospitals that are still working have been stretched to breaking point, according to humanitarian groups.
Pre-term deliveries and maternal complications, including eclampsia, haemorrhage and sepsis, have been rising, Doctors Without Borders said this week.


Australia calls for ‘concrete steps’ on Israeli settler violence after ICJ apartheid ruling

Updated 20 July 2024
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Australia calls for ‘concrete steps’ on Israeli settler violence after ICJ apartheid ruling

  • FM Penny Wong says visas will be denied to settlers, reiterates need for two-state solution
  • International Court of Justice calls for end to occupation, reparations for ‘internationally wrongful acts’

 

LONDON: Australia has called on Israel to do more to stop violence by settlers in the Occupied Territories after the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel is responsible for overseeing an apartheid system.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Israel needs to take “concrete steps” to end “extremist settler activity,” adding in a statement published on X that Canberra considers the occupation a “significant obstacle” to peace in the region.

“We respect the independence of the court and its critical role in upholding international law and the rules-based order,” Wong’s statement read.

“We are carefully considering the detail of the ICJ opinion to fully understand the conclusions reached.”

She said Australia will deny travel visas into the country to anyone identified as a settler. “A just and enduring peace will require the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to self-determination to be realised,” she added.

“We want to see concrete steps taken by Israel to cease the expansion of settlements and to respond to extremist settler activity.”

In its non-bonding advisory opinion, the ICJ said Israel should end the occupation “as rapidly as possible” and take steps to fund reparations for “internationally wrongful acts.”

Its publication follows a request in 2022 by the UN General Assembly to assess legal consequences of Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories.

Tirana Hassan, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement: “In a historic ruling the International Court of Justice has found multiple and serious international law violations by Israel towards Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including, for the first time, finding Israel responsible for apartheid. 

“The court has placed responsibility with all states and the United Nations to end these violations of international law.

“The ruling should be yet another wake up call for the United States to end its egregious policy of defending Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and prompt a thorough reassessment in other countries as well.”