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Pakistan: Polio this week as of 22 March 2017

23 March 2017 - 8:54am
Source: Global Polio Eradication Initiative Country: Afghanistan, Guinea, Lao People's Democratic Republic (the), Nigeria, Pakistan

Polio this week as of 22 March 2017

From 25 to 28 March, synchronised polio campaigns will take place across 13 counties in west and central Africa including Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Guinea, Mali and Niger. Over 190 000 vaccinators will immunize more than 116 million children over the course of the campaigns. Summary of newly-reported viruses this week: No new WPV or cVDPV positives were reported this week.

Pakistan: Social Accountability in Pakistan: Participatory governance in urban WASH

23 March 2017 - 4:06am
Source: Oxfam Country: Pakistan

The urban context in Pakistan is complex and posses major risks for the most vulnerable groups. Following the results of a participatory analysis, Oxfam developed a strategy for improving urban WASH governance and accountability in Pakistan. The model is centred on citizens, with strong elements for influencing and networking. The inclusion of social accountability mechanisms is already showing results in terms of the accountability of local administrations and improved service delivery, particularly to women and vulnerable groups.

Afghanistan: More than 1,100 Afghan children a day expected to drop out of school in 2017, putting them at risk of exploitation, Save The Children warns

23 March 2017 - 3:10am
Source: Save the Children Country: Afghanistan, Pakistan

Dire humanitarian situation to deteriorate as up to one million more Afghans are set to return from Pakistan this year

Broll as well as photos and case studies are available

More than 400,000 children in Afghanistan – over 1,100 per day – are expected to drop out of school this year due to growing instability and a spike in forced returns from Pakistan, Save the Children analysis has shown.

The stark projection comes on the first day of the new school year in Afghanistan, when almost a third of all children across the country – 3.7 million – are unable to go to school, leaving them at increased risk of child labour, recruitment by armed groups, trafficking, early marriage and other forms of exploitation.

The crisis is made worse by a tightening of regulations by authorities in Pakistan, which forced more than 610,000 Afghans to return from Pakistan in 2016. This year up to one million more will return, threatening to overwhelm already swamped health and education services.

Over half of all returnee children are currently out of school, often working on the streets because their parents haven’t been able to find a job since arriving back in Afghanistan.

On the start of Afghanistan’s school year, Save the Children Country Director in Afghanistan, Ana Locsin, said:

“Today should be a happy day in Afghanistan as children go back to class for the first time after a long winter. Instead it is a day cloaked in tragedy for the millions who can’t access education and are struggling to survive.

“We know that children who aren’t going to school are at increased risk of early marriage, entering the workforce where they can be exploited, or even recruitment into armed groups or being trafficked. And the longer they are out of the education system, the less likely they’ll ever go back.”

Jawid, 14, was born in Pakistan but was forced to return to Afghanistan with his family last year. He hasn’t gone to school since leaving Pakistan because his family is so poor that he needs to work collecting and selling rubbish.

“When I am collecting rubbish I feel really sad and wonder why I’m working at this age when I should be going to school. It is my time to get an education not to work,” Jawid said.

Last year also saw major flare ups in fighting across the country, killing 923 children and making 2016 the deadliest year on record for Afghan children. This year, the UN predicts that 450,000 Afghans will be displaced due to fighting, while more than 9.3 million people across the country will need urgent humanitarian assistance, including over 1 million children suffering acute malnutrition.

Even as need spirals, however, the UN’s US$550 million humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan is only 15 percent funded.

“Afghanistan is in a precarious situation right now with growing humanitarian needs and we’re seeing more attacks by armed groups, more people fleeing their homes and a lack of support from the international community as other crises take precedence,” Locsin said.

“Something has to give soon, which is why we are urgently calling for greater investment in aid and education so that the progress made in Afghanistan over the past 10 to 15 years, particularly in girls’ schooling, does not come undone.”

For media inquiries contact Mariam Atahi on +93 729 904 461 or Evan Schuurman on +93 794 628 829 or +66 989 725 908 evan.schuurman@savethechildren.org in Afghanistan.

For more information contact Simona Sikimic in London simona.sikimic@savethechildren.org +447760221890

Photos and case studies: https://storycentral.savethechildren.org.uk/?c=45417&k=26a05c6803

Broll: https://storycentral.savethechildren.org.uk/?c=45743&k=0637a5af2a

Notes to editors

1.Save the Children has been working in Afghanistan since 1976, running health, education and child protection programs. It is one of the main aid agencies supporting Afghan returnees, providing food, hygiene kits, warm clothes and blankets for winter, as well as supporting returnee children to go to school. In 2016, Save the Children and its local partners reached more than 7 million people in Afghanistan.

2.Save the Children projects that 320,705 school-aged returnee and 81,188 school-aged IDP children are expected to fall out of the education system in 2017. The numbers, totalling 401,893, are calculated by using existing data from 2016 and applying these ratios to the UN’s projections for 2017. The UN estimates that 941,700 Afghans will return from Pakistan in 2017, and 450,000 more Afghans will become displaced in 2017.

Pakistan: Child sexual abuse increased by 10pc in last year, says NGO

23 March 2017 - 2:23am
Source: DAWN Group of Newspapers Country: Pakistan

AITZAZ HASAN

The number of reported child sexual abuse cases in Pakistan has risen by 10 per cent in the last year, with roughly 11 children abused every day, according to a report released on Wednesday by non-government organisation (NGO) Sahil.

Sahil said in the report that a total of 4,139 cases were registered in 2016, an increase from 3,768 in 2015.

The report added that 2,410 girls and 1,729 boys were victims of sexual exploitation last year.

Some 45pc of the victims were between the ages of six and 15.

Ejaz Ahmed Qureshi, the National Commissioner for Children, said at the report’s launch that the government’s own research shows that at least 40 million children in Pakistan living below the poverty line were in dire need of protection.

Sohail Ahmed, programme officer at Sahil, proposed separate desks for reporting child abuse cases at police stations, child friendly courts and special training for all staff dealing with children including teachers, doctors, and policemen.

In 2015 Pakistan took a step towards punishing those guilty of abusing young girls with life imprisonment or even death after a parliamentary committee voted to amend current laws.

But the amendment only appears to address the sexual abuse of girls aged under 14 and not boys.

In 2015, at least 280 children were filmed being sexually abused by a gang of 25 men who used the hundreds of videos they produced to blackmail the youngsters' parents.

Most of the victims who are from Husain Khanwala village near Kasur were less than 14-years-old.

Their families had also been blackmailed by the gang since 2009.

The abusers allegedly tried to extort money from parents of victims, selling clips of the videos locally for 40 rupees each if they did not pay up.

A property dispute allegedly brought the issue to the surface.

Pakistan: On World Water Day, resolve to stop wasting water in Pakistan

23 March 2017 - 2:20am
Source: DAWN Group of Newspapers Country: Pakistan

RINA SAEED KHAN

The theme for this year’s World Water Day, which is celebrated on March 22, is ‘Why Waste Water?’

It could not be more relevant for an agricultural country like Pakistan.

In this part of the world, we either have too much water in the form of floods, or too little water in the form of droughts. On top of that, climate change and a rapidly expanding population are only making our water problems much worse.

Water is a major issue in Pakistan — per capita water availability has fallen from approximately 5,000 cubic meters per year to around 1,000 cubic meters per year. According to the World Bank, we are heading towards water availability of less than 1,000 cubic meters per year per person by 2035.

“We are now a part of the group of countries where there will be a scarcity of water. In Balochistan, the kaarez have gone dry and even in Lahore the groundwater is going down — you have to pump down to 700 to 800 feet to get water,” explains Hammad Naqi Khan, the director general of WWF-Pakistan.

Our population is completely dependent on the Indus river system for its freshwater needs. A little more than 50pc of that water comes from melting snow and glaciers. Around 90pc of this water is used in agriculture, while 4-5pc is for domestic use, and the rest for industry.

Water wastage is greatest in the agricultural sector. “The way we use water is so inefficient — we use more water per crop than most other places. We need to enforce cropping zones and focus on drought-resistant varieties and efficient agronomic practices," says Khan.

The talk in Pakistan, when it comes to addressing the water crisis, is all about hard infrastructure solutions like the Kalabagh Dam. Howeever, “There are also soft solutions — [for example] we need to plant more low-delta crops," says Khan.

High-delta crops like sugar cane and rice use up a lot of precious water for a country that is already facing water shortages.

“Why are we allowing sugar factories in cotton growing areas, and rice paddy fields in water-stressed areas?” Khan asks.

Even now, the sugar industry is placing ads in national dailies seeking to increase their sugar production to one million tonnes. No one dares to ask these sugar barons where the water is going to come from.

The same pattern of wastage can be seen in the 10% of water used domestically and in industry.

Most industries in Pakistan use sweet groundwater for their production processes — very little of it is recycled. Further, due to industrial waste and agricultural runoff, our drinking water supplies have been contaminated.

A recent study by the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) on the provision of safe drinking water found that about 84pc of the 200-million-strong population in Pakistan (estimated; current census is underway) does not have access to safe drinking water.

The Minister for Science and Technology, Rana Tanvir Hussain, recently informed Senate that only 72pc of the water supply schemes were found to be functional across the country, and 84pc of those had supplied water that was not fit for consumption.

In households across the country (except maybe Karachi, where residents actually have to pay the tanker mafia for their water needs and hence value it more), water is considered free and is wasted each day.

There are no metered supplies for water, so homeowners feel they can wash their cars every day.

“There is no carrot or stick to make people conserve water. In other countries, when you consume more water, you pay more,” explains Khan.

According to Khan, the way we are managing water resources is just not sustainable.

WWF-Pakistan is currently working with more than 95,000 cotton farmers to train them and build their capacity in order to enable them to produce sustainable cotton.

During 2014-2015, after training with WWF-Pakistan, cotton farmers made demonstrably better crop management decisions, which resulted in a 12pc reduction in irrigation water utilization, 22pc in pesticide use and 16.33pc in synthetic fertilizers without affecting overall yields.

These farmers are today producing a major chunk of cotton supplied to the international market which has been grown with less water and pesticides. The Better Cotton Initiative is supported by a collective of organisations including Adidas, Gap Inc., IKEA, Organic Exchange, Oxfam and WWF.

The government of Pakistan needs to scale up these kinds of projects.

In the years to come, Pakistan will need more water to grow more food for its growing population, and the country will need to increase crop yields.

These are difficult prospects, given the uncertainties in rainfall due to climate change, the impact of melting glaciers on river flows and the fact that higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will be detrimental to overall crop yields.

In fact, teaching farmers to adapt is the first thing the government should be doing.

Afghanistan: Afghanistan: Returnee Crisis Situation Report No. 8 (as of 22 March 2017)

22 March 2017 - 12:17pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Afghanistan, Pakistan

Highlights

  • So far in 2017, the total number of undocumented returnees who have arrived from Pakistan has now reached 9,928 exceeding – by 3% – the total figure (9,335) which returned in the first quarter of 2016. In the past month, numbers of undocumented returns slowed significantly following the closure of the Spin Boldak and Torkham borders between 16 February and 19 March owing to security concerns; the borders reopened on 20 March. Only 23 deported Afghans arrived in the country from 12 to 18 March.

  • From 1 April, UNHCR’s voluntary repatriation programme will resume from the winter pause which took effect in mid-December last year. In preparation, UNHCR Encashment Center (JMEC) is equipped with health, drug awareness and overnight accommodation facilities to ensure adequate response capacity. Following consultations with donors and stakeholders, UNHCR will reduce the one off cash grant from US$400 to US$200 per registered refugee from 1 April. The cash grant is provided to Afghan refugees from Pakistan, as well as to refugees repatriating from other countries through the programme.

  • According to the REACH Informal Settlement Food Security assessment – completed in late January – many returnees are food insecure in Kabul (46% severely and 30% moderately) as well as in Nangarhar (30% severely and 26% moderately), while 60% of returnee households in Nangarhar and 90% in Kabul have poor/borderline food consumption. Returnees in Nangarhar use a high number of coping strategies (50%) while those in Kabul use 31%. Some of the key priority needs for returnee households included food (89%) and employment (63%).

  • A joint mission to the Kabul formal (PD21) and informal settlements (Hussain Khil) took place on 13 March led by Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Education in Emergencies Working Group (EiEWG), UNHCR and UNICEF. Initial findings indicate that 4,000 returnee children of school going age do not have access to education – most of whom were enrolled in schools in Pakistan prior to returning to Afghanistan. These findings were linked to long distances to schools (up to 6km on average), lack of school tents, learning supplies, text books, incentive for teachers and education documentation. Despite the waiver of Tazkera and other education documents as a requirement for enrollment of returnee children, 80% of school aged children have been barred from schools due to lack of documentation.

Financial Update

The Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) has received a total of US$ 84.8 million (15.4% of the total requirement) since it was launched at the beginning of this year; US$ 26.9 million are paid contributions while US$ 57.9 million are commitments, leaving a gap of US$ 465 million against the overall requirement of US$ 550 million. According to the latest official data on the Financial Tracking Service (FTS)1, of the US$ 84.8 million registered, US$ 20 million has been earmarked for Food Security and Agriculture while the rest – US$ 64.8 million – is still in the process of verification with donor organisations and recipient agencies to identify the appropriate clusters. The Refugee and Returnee Chapter requirements in 2017 total US$240 million.

Pakistan: Trainings on de-escalation of violence at healthcare facilities

22 March 2017 - 10:34am
Source: International Committee of the Red Cross Country: Pakistan

The ICRC along with its partners conducted a detailed research study on the patterns of violence against healthcare in Karachi. The report can be accessed here.

One of the findings of the report was that the hospital staff lack proper training on dealing with situations becoming violent or having the potential to get violent. Following the recommendations of the study, a number of initiatives have been taken in Karachi under Healthcare in Danger Project including the training of medical staff on de-escalation of violence at healthcare facilities and caring for the victims of such violence.

Special training manuals and case studies have been developed in both Urdu and English languages. In 2016, the manuals were tested by organizing 32 trainings in which 456 health professionals including doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers & other paramedical staff from various hospitals of Karachi participated. In 2017, these trainings are being conducted on regular basis in Karachi. The training material also include a curriculum on prevention and management of violence in healthcare settings for medical college students.

The teaching materials, including teachers' manual, students' handbook, videos and presentations were tested on two groups of house job officers at Karachi's Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre.

We seek to promote the training material widely in order to encourage hospitals, medical colleges and other health related organizations to conduct such trainings for medical staff and students at a more localized but on a larger scale across Pakistan.

The training material can be accessed and downloaded for free from this link: De-escalation of violence at healthcare facilities.

World: Middle East Mixed Migration Monthly Summary, January 2017

22 March 2017 - 9:33am
Source: Mixed Migration Platform Country: Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Greece, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Serbia, Somalia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, World, Yemen

Throughout January cold temperatures and winter conditions put thousands of refugees and other migrants in the Middle East and Europe at risk.

At least five fatalities at Europe’s borders with Turkey were reported due to temperatures as low as -14 degrees Celsius, and snowstorms throughout the region.

Only 413 Syrians arrived by sea in Greece in January, a significant decrease from the more than 30,000 who arrived in January 2016. Notably, 41.4% of sea arrivals to Greece in January were recorded as non-specified, ‘other’ nationalities, a trend consistent with recent months. Additionally, a reported 131 Iraqis arrived by sea in Italy in January, more than the number who arrived in Greece.

In Jordan, at least 500 Syrians reportedly ‘spontaneously returned’ to Syria or left for third countries, while in Iraq, ongoing fighting in and around Mosul resulted in more than 160,000 Iraqis being displaced from their homes by the end of January.

Despite ongoing displacement, in January the number of IDPs in Iraq dropped below three million for the first time since April 2015.

The following sections of this report describe monthly developments related to mixed migration by country, including reported arrivals, departures, internal displacement relevant to cross-border movement, and discussion of relevant policy changes.

Greece: Situation Update: Unaccompanied Children (UAC) in Greece (as of 17 March 2017) [EN/EL]

22 March 2017 - 8:20am
Source: Government of Greece, UN Children's Fund Country: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Greece, Iraq, Pakistan, Syrian Arab Republic, World

Key Facts
- 2,000 Estimated number of UAC currently in Greece based on analysis from referrals to EKKA (as of 17 March 2017)
- 1,352 Total number of places available in UAC shelters (filled, pending assigned cases as of 17 March, including 90 vacant places in the process to be filled)
- 891 Total number of UAC on waiting list for shelter (as of 17 March) including:
- 130 in Reception and Identification Centers
- 18 in protective custody

Pakistan: Sindh demands management of Mangla, Tarbela dams for ‘fair water distribution’

22 March 2017 - 12:55am
Source: DAWN Group of Newspapers Country: Pakistan

HABIB KHAN GHORI

**KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Tuesday demanded of the federal government that the management of water distribution from the Mangla and Tarbela dams be given to Sindh and Balochistan on a rotational basis since the Water and Power Development Authority was not reliable as far as fair distribution of irrigation water was concerned.""

Speaking at a press conference, the CM said that the shortage of water would hit the province badly since early sowing took place in Sindh because of the weather conditions.

He was also critical of the ‘unfair attitude’ of the federal water and power ministry for creating hurdles in installing power plants and transmission and distribution system.

Accompanied by provincial ministers, the chief minister said that the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) conveyed to Sindh that there would be an up to 50 per cent water shortage due to alarming depletion in water level of the Mangla and Tarbela dams.

He said that the Sindh government highlighted to the federal authorities concerned the need for storing water but they did not act in a timely manner to fill the dams and instead kept on operating link canals to get more water against their fair share.

Recalling an earlier water shortage, he said that in 2015 the dams had 61 million acre feet of water, but this year, even though they had additional water, the authorities had failed to fill the dams despite Sindh’s warning to the federal government about the expected shortage in the Kharif season.

“We can no longer trust the Wapda officials in distribution of water, power and gas as they are not even under the control of their federal minister,” he said, referring to the assurances given by the federal minister.

He said that he had held a meeting with irrigation experts last week to evolve a strategy to cope with the situation. “There would also be a shortage of drinking water but we are trying to manage the situation,” he said.

He deplored that the link canals were being constructed without taking other provinces into confidence. “This is a very undemocratic attitude and would create serious differences among the provinces and the federation.”

He demanded that Sindh and Balochistan be taken into confidence in the decision-making process in the water, power and energy sectors.

He hoped that the grievances of smaller provinces regarding their due water share would be resolved within the framework of the Constitution as there would be no need for any of the provincial governments to take an extraordinary step, including approaching the apex court, to get these issues resolved.

The CM said that his government would continue to raise the issues whenever it was felt that legitimate interests of the people of Sindh were being compromised.

He said that he would send a letter to the federal authorities reminding them of their obligations for the just distribution of water among the provinces in accordance with the 1991 Water Accord.

He said he had also asked the provincial irrigation authorities to prepare a comprehensive case regarding Sindh’s due water rights so that the province could take up the issue at the forthcoming session of the Council of Common Interests.

He hoped that the federal government would listen to and understand the issues of Sindh regarding its water needs and would also take the required steps for fair distribution of irrigation water among smaller provinces.

He announced that the Sindh government would establish wind- and solar-powered district power plants and then develop a provincial distribution system to provide electricity in local areas. “This is the only way to control power shortage, otherwise the approach of the federal government to produce energy is not based on sincere intentions. Particularly, there are some unscrupulous elements creating problems and causing unnecessary delays,” he said.

He also criticised the Hyderabad and Sukkur electric companies for prolonged load-shedding, overbilling and playing ‘games’ to delay power projects in Sindh.

To another question about Sharjeel Memon, the chief minister said that the whole episode was a proof of high-handedness of the National Accountability Bureau. Mr Memon was granted protective bail by the Islamabad High Court but even then he was manhandled. “He is an elected member of the provincial assembly of Sindh and has come to face the cases but was harassed,” he said.

He also added that those who were facing serious cases in the Supreme Court were enjoying senior and important positions in the federal government, but NAB was harassing those who voluntarily returned to face the cases.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2017

World: Asia’s Water Politics Near the Boiling Point

21 March 2017 - 9:05pm
Source: Inter Press Service Country: Bangladesh, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, World

By Manipadma Jena

This story is part of IPS coverage of World Water Day, observed on March 22.

NEW DELHI, Mar 21 2017 (IPS) - In Asia, it likely will not be straightforward water wars.

Prolonged water scarcity might lead to security situations that are more nuanced, giving rise to a complex set of cascading but unpredictable consequences, with communities and nations reacting in ways that we have not seen in the past because climate change will alter the reliability of current water management systems and infrastructure, say experts.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2016 said a water crisis is the most impactful risk over the next 10 years. The effects of rising populations in developing regions like Asia, alongside growing prosperity, place unsustainable pressure on resources and are starting to manifest themselves in new, sometimes unexpected ways – harming people, institutions and economies, and making water security an urgent political matter.

While the focus is currently on the potential for climate change to exacerbate water crises, with impacts including conflicts and a much greater flow of forced migration that is already on our doorsteps, a 2016 study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) warns Asia not to underestimate impact of industrial and population growth, including spiraling urban growth, on serious water shortages across a broad swath of Asia by 2050.

Asia’s water challenges escalate

To support a global population of 9.7 billion by 2050, food production needs to increase by 60 percent and water demand is projected to go up by 55 percent. But the horizon is challenging for developing regions, especially Asia, whose 3.4 billion population will need 100 percent more food – using the diminishing, non-substitute resource in a warming world said the Asian Water Development Outlook (AWDO) 2016, the latest regional water report card from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

More than 1.4 billion people – or 42 percent of world’s total active workforce – are heavily water dependent, especially in agriculture-dominant Asia, according to the UN World Water Development Report 2016.

With erratic monsoons on which more than half of all agriculture in Asia is dependent, resorting to groundwater for irrigation, whose extraction is largely unmonitored, is already rampant. A staggering 70 percent of the world’s groundwater extraction is in Asia, with India, China and Pakistan the biggest consumers, estimates UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

By 2050, with a 30 percent increase in extraction, 86 percent of groundwater extracted in Asia will be by these three countries, finds the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Together India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal use 23 million pumps with an annual energy bill of 3.78 billion dollars for lifting water – an indicator of the critical demand for water, and to an extent of misgovernance and lack of water-saving technologies (AWDO 2016).

AWDO sounds alarm bells warning that we are on the verge of a water crisis, with limited knowledge on when we will tip the balance.

Analysts from the Leadership Group on Water Security in Asia say the start of future transboundary water conflicts will have less to do with the absolute scarcity of water and more to do with the rate of change in water availability.

'Resource nationalism’ already strong in water-stressed Asian neighbours

With just 30 days of buffer fresh water stock, Pakistan’s renewable internal freshwater resources per capita in 2014 measured a perilous 297 cubic metres, Bangladesh’s 660m3 India’s 1116m3 and China’s 2062m3. When annual water access falls below 1700m3 per person, an area is considered water-stressed and when 1000m3 is breached, it faces water scarcity.

ADB describes Asia as “the global hotspot for water insecurity."

By 2050 according to AWDO, 3.4 billion people – or the projected combined population of India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2050 – making up 40 percent of the world population, could be living in water-stressed areas. In other words, the bulk of the population increase will be in countries already experiencing water shortages.

Underlying geo-political standpoints are slowly but perceptibly hardening in Himalayan Asia nations over shared river basins, even if not intensifying as yet, seen in the latest instances last year. They are, as water conflict analysts predict, spurts of bilateral tension that might or might not suddenly escalate to conflict, the scale of which cannot be predicted. The following, a latest instance, is a pointer to future scenarios of geographical interdependencies that riparian nations can either reduce by sensible hydro-politics or escalate differences by contestations.

There was alarm in Pakistan when Indian Prime Minister took a stand in September last year to review the 57-year-old Indus Water Treaty between the two South Asian neighbours. India was retaliating against a purportedly Pakistan terrorist attack on an Indian army base at Uri in Kashmir that killed 18 soldiers.

By co-incidence or design (several Indian analysts think it is the latter), at the very same time China blocked a tributary of the Yarlung Tsangpo River which is the upper course of the Brahmaputra in India, as part of the construction of its 740-million-dollar Lalho hydro project in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The Yarlung Tsangpo River originates in the Himalayan ranges, and is called the Brahmaputra as it flows down into India’s Arunachal Pradesh state bordering Tibet and further into Bangladesh.

China’s action caused India alarm on two counts. Some analysts believed Beijing was trying to encourage Dhaka to take up a defensive stand against India over sharing of Brahmaputra waters, thereby destabilizing India-Bangladesh’s cordial ally status in the region.

The second possibility analysts proffered is an alarming and fairly new military risk. River water, when dammed, can be intentionally used as a weapon of destruction during war.

Pakistan had earlier raised the same security concern, that India may exercise a strategic advantage during war by regulating the two major dams on rivers that flow through Kashmir into Pakistan. Indian experts say China is more likely than India to take this recourse and will use the river water as a bargaining chip in diplomatic negotiations.

South Asia as a region is prone to conflict between nations, between non-state actors and the state. Its history of territorial issues, religious and ethnic differences makes it more volatile than most other regions. Historically China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have had territorial wars between them. The wary and increasingly competitive outlook of their relationships makes technology-grounded and objective discussions over the erupting water disputes difficult.

China already plays an increasingly dominant role in South Asia’s water politics because it administers the Tibetian Autonomous Region with the Tibetan Plateau, around which the Himalayan mountain range contains the largest amount of snow and ice after Antartica and the Arctic. The glacier-fed rivers that emanate from this ‘water tower’ are shared across borders by 40 percent of world population, guaranteeing food, water and energy security to millions of people and nurturing biodiverse ecosystems downstream.

The largest three trans-boundary basins in the region – in terms of area, population, water resources, irrigation and hydropower potential – are the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra.

Both India and China have embarked on massive hydropower energy generation, China for industrialization and India to provide for its population, which will be the world’s largest by 2022.

With growing food and energy needs, broad estimates suggest that more than half of the world’s large rivers are dammed. Dams have enormous benefits, but without comprehensive water-sharing treaties, lower riparian states are disadvantaged and this could turn critical in future.

While there are river-water sharing treaties between India and Pakistan, and with Bangladesh, there is none with China except a hydrological data sharing collaboration.

Security threats emerge when it becomes difficult to solve competition over scarce natural resources by cooperation. Failure may result in violent conflicts. A ‘zero-sum’ situation is reached, when violence is seen as the only option to secure use of the resource, says a 2016 report by the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change.

When drivers in Asia, like population growth, the need for economic growth, poverty reduction, energy needs, the impact of high rate of urbanization and changing lifestyles, confront resource scarcity, it could bring a zero-sum situation sooner than anticipated.

Pakistan: International Organization for Migration Country Office for Pakistan: Quarterly Newsletter, March 2017

21 March 2017 - 10:23am
Source: International Organization for Migration Country: Afghanistan, Pakistan

Situation Overview

During 2017, the government has taken key policy decisions regarding registering the undocumented Afghans and institutionalizing measures to support Afghan refugees, IOM Pakistan is supporting the government through participation in the Provincial Taskforce on Documenting the Unregistered Afghan Nationals.

The volume of returning Afghan refugees and undocumented migrants remained steady until the Torkham and Chaman border points were closed for security reasons in mid-February 2017. According to the IOM Weekly Flow Monitoring Snapshot 11th Feb to 16th Feb, a total of 5,619 refugees and undocumented Afghans returned or were deported to Afghanistan since January 2017. As per current estimates, approximately 0.7 million undocumented Afghans continue to reside in Pakistan. In coordination with IOM Afghanistan, IOM Pakistan is supporting information collection, dissemination and inkind assistance to returnees.

At the time of writing, 7,531 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) have returned to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in 2017 and the 66,472 currently displaced are set to return in the next year with facilitation from governmental and humanitarian stakeholders. IOM continues to provide critical and multi-sectoral life-saving information to IDP populations through a combination of formal and informal communication channels.

Afghanistan: Return of Undocumented Afghans - Weekly Situation Report - 12 - 18 March 2017

21 March 2017 - 8:39am
Source: International Organization for Migration Country: Afghanistan, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Pakistan

Highlights

23 undocumented Afghans returned from Pakistan

3,591 undocumented Afghans returned from Iran

9,928 total returns from Pakistan since 1 January 2017

57,173 total returns from Iran since 1 January 2017

65% of returnees from Pakistan (15 individuals) assisted

12% of returnees from Iran (440 individuals) assisted

Situation Overview

IOM is responding to a substantial increase in the return of undocumented Afghans from Pakistan and Iran. Since 1 January 2016, over 759,000 undocumented Afghans have returned due to diverse push factors, including deteriorating protection space in Pakistan. Many of those returning have lived outside of Afghanistan for decades, and will need support from the government and humanitarian actors both on arrival and as they seek to reintegrate into a country already struggling with widespread conflict and displacement.

While returns have declined in line with seasonal trends during winter, previous surges in returns have been unpredictable and an estimated 1 million undocumented Afghans still remain in Pakistan. IOM is prepared to respond to increased needs and is appealing for additional funding to continue its emergency response programming.

Serbia: UNHCR Serbia Update, 13 - 19 March 2017

21 March 2017 - 6:40am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Iraq, Pakistan, Serbia, Syrian Arab Republic, World

HIGHLIGHTS AND STATISTICS

  • Over 7,860 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants were counted in Serbia. 87% (6,768) of them were sheltered in 17 heated government facilities (below chart refers). The rest stayed rough in Belgrade city centre or the North.

  • Unfortunately, the accident on 02 February in Sid, when four men were critically injured after accidentally triggering an explosion on a train transporting fuel, had a tragic ending, as the life of one victim, despite immediate hospitalization and intensive care, could not be saved. The three other men applied for assisted voluntary return home to Algeria.

  • UNHCR and partners encountered and referred over 30 Afghan boys, who newly arrived from Bulgaria, to Centres for Social Work. Currently up to 900 Unaccompanied and Separated refugee Children (UASC) are in Serbia, with 718 accommodated in government centres, including 120 in Presevo, 33 in Bujanovac, 337 in Obrenovac and 228 in all other governmental centres.

  • UNHCR donated 80 blankets, 110 bedlinen sets, 60 hygiene kits, 1,000 diapers, 240 disinfectant gels, 48 baby powder packs, 60 baby bottles, 10 baby sleeping bags and 120 socks to the Institute for Mother and Child in Belgrade as well as 100 Refugee Housing Units and 2,030 bedlinen sets to the Reception Centre in Presevo.

  • Hungarian authorities admitted 43 asylum seekers, mostly families from Afghanistan and Iraq, one family from Syria and three UASCs, into procedures at the Hungarian “transit zones” near Kelebija and Horgos border crossings. Fewer reports of collective expulsions from Hungary were received this week, with some asylum seekers alleging mistreatment by Hungarian authorities. At the same time, the number of encountered collective expulsions from Croatia rose from 32 last week to 57 this week.

  • Between 01 and 19 March, the Border Guard’s Asylum Office registered 380 intents to seek asylum in Serbia.

Greece: Greece data snapshot (19 Mar 2017)

21 March 2017 - 6:30am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Afghanistan, Algeria, Greece, Iraq, Pakistan, Syrian Arab Republic, World

Pakistan: Pakistan: Community Restoration (CoRe) Cluster - Monthly Dashboard, February 2017, FATA - Complex Emergency 2017

21 March 2017 - 5:42am
Source: Government of Pakistan, UN Development Programme Country: Pakistan

Pakistan: Pakistan: Community Restoration (CoRe) Cluster - Monthly Dashboard, January 2017, FATA - Complex Emergency 2017

21 March 2017 - 5:40am
Source: Government of Pakistan, UN Development Programme Country: Pakistan

Pakistan: KP hopeful of eradicating polio this year

21 March 2017 - 4:47am
Source: DAWN Group of Newspapers Country: Pakistan

Ashfaq Yusufzai

PESHAWAR: The health department is hoping to eradicate poliomyelitis this year and divert the resources and manpower to strengthening routine immunisation for 10 diseases including polio, according to sources.

They said that polio vaccination had been the most politicised and costly intervention, which ate up resources and kept the technicians busy for more than 15 days a month.

“The province has been facing an uphill task to eliminate polio and focus on general immunisation. We are close to eradication as there has been no case this year,” said sources.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is spending Rs24 billion under a five-year immunisation programme of which Rs18 billion or three-forth will be spent on purchase of vaccines.

“Eradication of polio virus will save the amount being spent on purchase of oral polio vaccine (OPV) and injectable polio vaccines. Both are costly and not available readily. The province purchases all vaccines through federal government from foreign-based manufacturers,” said sources.

The provincial government is administering OPV to 5.6 million children in every campaign. Per dose cost of OPV is Rs20. Additionally, Rs120 million is being spent on every polio campaign that involves 45,000 persons.

Shortage of vaccine in global market has also prompted the health department to reschedule the campaigns because many known companies have stopped manufacturing it due to eradication of the crippling disease.

Experts say that poliomyelitis is only one of the vaccine-preventable childhood ailments, which can be eradicated completely though immunisation. The other childhood diseases cannot be eradicated completely.

The health department is aware of the harm caused to routine immunisation by polio vaccination. Officials said that they had employed 1,588 vaccinators during the past one year and total strength of vaccinators reached 2,888 but the province still required more staff to strengthen routine immunisation.

They said that 1,500 more vaccinators would be employed to cope with the situation. They claimed that immunisation had showed improvement during the past three years.

“We are immunising 73 per cent children compared 53 per cent in 2013 but still people die of measles and diphtheria etc which is a matter of concern,” said officials. They said that eradication of polio was sight that year in the province, however, children would continue to receive OPV as usual because virus was in circulation.

The expanded programme on immunisation (EPI) of the health department inoculates children against preventable sicknesses for which vaccines are the only way of prevention.

The vaccines for pneumonia and measles are the most expensive, however, these are available in the market but polio immunisation is facing shortage of vaccines because the large manufacturers have stopped it due to eradication of the diseases in the entire world except Pakistan and Afghanistan, the only endemic countries.

Officials said that of the total amount for immunisation programme, Rs18 billion would be provided by donor countries and the province would pay Rs6 billion. “This huge amount can be diverted to other public health problems,” they added.

Given the decreasing number of polio cases in the province, there is a hope that the crippling disease will disappear and the amount spent on it would be channelised towards strengthening routine immunisation.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2017

Pakistan: Pakistan Market Price Bulletin, March 2017

21 March 2017 - 4:13am
Source: World Food Programme Country: Pakistan

H i g h l i g h t s

  • In February 2017, the average retail price of wheat and wheat flour negligibly increased by 0.7% and 0.1%, respectively;

  • Headline inflation based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) negligibly increased by 0.3% from the previous month (January 2017), whereas it has increased by 4.2% for the same month last year (February 2016);

  • There were slight to significant fluctuations in the prices of non‐cereal food commodities compared to the previous month; the price of eggs decreased significantly by 13% and the price of live chicken increased by 8.3%;

  • In February 2017, the average ToT decreased negligibly from the previous month;

  • In March 2017, the total global wheat production for 2016‐2017 is projected at 751.1 million MT, showing an increase of 2.8 million MT compared to the projection made last month.

Pakistan: Pakistan: Don’t Reinstate Secret Military Courts

20 March 2017 - 7:29pm
Source: Human Rights Watch Country: Pakistan

Fight Militancy by Reforming Justice System, Upholding Rule of Law

(New York, March 20, 2017) – The Pakistani government should withdraw its proposal to restore military courts empowered to try civilians, Human Rights Watch said today. The government is introducing a bill to amend the Constitution of Pakistan and the Army Act, 1952 to reinstate and expand the jurisdiction of military courts to try civilians for terrorism-related offenses.

Following the attack by the Pakistani Taliban on the Army Public School in Peshawar that killed 148 people, nearly all children, the Pakistani government created military courts on January 7, 2015, for a two-year period, as part of its 20-point National Action Plan against terrorism. United Nations bodies, human rights organizations, and the political opposition raised serious concerns about trying civilians before military courts, the secrecy of military court trials, and other fair trial issues.

“The Pakistani government has a responsibility to prosecute those committing violent attacks, but secret, rights-violating military courts raise serious questions as to whether justice is being done,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Generating confidence in Pakistan’s criminal justice system and abiding by the rule of law means bringing those responsible for militant attacks before independence and impartial civilian courts.

Pakistan’s military courts are empowered to try individuals who have committed offenses including abduction for ransom, waging war against the state, causing any person injury or death, creating terror or insecurity, and various other offenses. The draft law seeks to expand the jurisdiction of the military courts to individuals who commit, “grave and violent acts against the State.”

In January 2015, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government promised to reform the civilian criminal justice system and presented the military courts as a temporary solution. Since then, the government has not taken any significant measures to reform the judiciary. From January 7, 2015 to January 6, 2017, military courts convicted 274 individuals and handed down 161 death sentences. At least 17 people have been executed after being convicted by a military court.

By claiming that the military courts serve as an “effective deterrent,” the government will continue to deny citizens the right to a fair trial and undermine the role of the civilian courts, Human Rights Watch said. The government has not made public any criteria for the selection of case for the military courts, the location and the times of trials, and the details of the charges against the accused. No independent monitoring of military trials has been allowed. There is no right to appeal military court decisions. Defendants have often been denied the copies of a judgment with the evidence and reasoning.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has reported that defendants facing military tribunals have been allegedly subjected to enforced disappearance, torture, and other ill-treatment. These allegations have not been adequately investigated, giving rise to concerns about convictions based on unlawfully obtained confessions. In at least two cases, suspects claiming to be under age 18 at the time of arrest were convicted without the military court providing any special protections due children.

Reinstating military courts would violate Pakistan’s international human rights obligations, Human Rights Watch said. Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Pakistan ratified in 2010, guarantees everyone the right to timely trial by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal. The Human Rights Committee, the international expert body authorized to monitor compliance with the covenant, has stated that civilians should be tried by military courts only under exceptional circumstances and only under conditions that genuinely afford full due process.

According to a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, “using military or emergency courts to try civilians in the name of national security, a state of emergency or counter-terrorism … runs counter to all international and regional standards and established case law.”

“Denying citizens a fair trial is not the silver bullet to solve Pakistan’s complex security challenges,” Adams said. “Strengthening the civilian courts and upholding the rule of law is the message the Pakistani government should send as an effective and powerful response to militant atrocities.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Pakistan, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/asia/pakistan