Home » News » World » Sri Lanka's Crisis, Yemen's 'Hunger' and Taliban Repercussions: Italy Not Alone in Its Political Pasta

Sri Lanka's Crisis, Yemen's 'Hunger' and Taliban Repercussions: Italy Not Alone in Its Political Pasta

By: News Desk


Last Updated: July 22, 2022, 09:04 IST

Delhi, India

Taliban forces, in this 2021 file photo, try to suppress anti-Pakistan protests in Kabul. (Image: Reuters)

Taliban forces, in this 2021 file photo, try to suppress anti-Pakistan protests in Kabul. (Image: Reuters)

In a world that is constantly shifting realities amid an ongoing pandemic, Italy's story is not just its own. There are a number of other countries facing some sort of crisis

Italian Premier Mario Draghi resigned Thursday after key coalition allies boycotted a confidence vote, signalling the likelihood of an early election and a renewed period of uncertainty for Italy and Europe at a critical time.

The political crisis in Draghi’s government of national unity imploded Wednesday after members of his uneasy coalition of right, left and populists rebuffed his appeal to band back together to finish the Italian Parliament’s natural term and ensure implementation of a European Union-funded pandemic recovery program. Instead, the center-right Forza Italia and League parties and the populist 5-Star Movement boycotted a confidence vote in the Senate, a clear sign they were done as partners in the former European Central Bank chief’s 17-month government.

In a world that is constantly shifting realities amid an ongoing pandemic, Italy’s story is not just its own. There are a number of other countries facing some sort of political/ethno/humanitarian crisis. News18 takes a look at some of them:

The Close to Home Crisis: Sri Lanka Boiling

A foreign exchange crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and exacerbated by mismanagement has left Sri Lanka suffering lengthy power blackouts and record-high inflation. The country’s 22 million people have also endured months of food, fuel and medicine shortages.

Public anger boiled over when tens of thousands of protesters stormed the home of then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, forcing him to step down.

Sri Lanka’s six-time prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in Thursday as president of the crisis-hit nation, with plans to form a unity government to manage the turmoil. The 73-year-old veteran politician, who was overwhelmingly elected as head of state in a parliamentary vote Wednesday, took his oath of office with the country’s police chief and top military brass standing behind him.

But Wickremesinghe has been tainted in the eyes of many Sri Lankans by his association with Rajapaksa, whose political party backed the new president’s ascent. “We don’t need Ranil, he is the same as Gota,” said Irfan Hussain, a poultry farmer in the capital Colombo.”I don’t think he is going to make our country better,” he added. “He only thinks about himself, not the people.”

Sudan Starving Following October Coup

The World Bank released $100 million Thursday for the World Food Programme to tackle “deep food insecurity” for two million people in Sudan, where aid was suspended following an October coup. The aid will provide “cash transfers and food” to more than two million people needing aid across 11 of Sudan’s 18 states.

The United Nations estimates that a third of Sudanese needs humanitarian aid, and warns that 18 million people — nearly half the population — will be pushed into extreme hunger by September.

Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries, is mired in an economic crisis that has deepened since last year’s coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. After the coup, the World Bank froze vital aid, and the bank on Thursday said the “pause of disbursements” to the government in Khartoum “remains in effect”.

Inflation is approaching 200 percent, the currency is in free-fall and the price of bread has increased tenfold since the coup. Last month, aid agency Save the Children said two children in the troubled western region of North Darfur had “died from hunger-related causes”, which it said was “an ominous sign of what is to come”.

The UN has also warned this week that its aid response plan “which calls for $1.9 billion, is only 20 percent funded.” Before the coup, international aid totalled some $2 billion, some 40 percent of the state budget.

Taliban & the Casualties in Afghanistan

The Taliban have carried out hundreds of human rights violations in Afghanistan since seizing power last year, the United Nations said Wednesday, including extrajudicial killings and torture. “There’s no denying that the findings of our report are extremely serious,” Markus Potzel, acting head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told a news conference in Kabul.

The Taliban have routinely denied accusations of rights abuses since overthrowing the previous Western-backed government in 2021, but a UNAMA report released Wednesday listed multiple accounts.

It documented 160 allegations of extrajudicial killings, 56 incidents of torture and ill-treatment, and more than 170 arbitrary arrests and detentions against former government officials and national security force members since August. The most common methods of torture included kicking, punching and slapping, beatings with cables and pipes, and the use of electric shock devices. It documented more than 200 instances of cruel, inhumane or degrading punishments — including beating shopkeepers for not attending mosque — and more than 100 cases of excessive use of force.

Since the end of the war, security has vastly improved across the country with a huge drop in civilian casualties.
But the Taliban — notorious for their brutal reign of terror between 1996 and 2001 — have sharply restricted the freedoms of Afghans, particularly women and girls.

UNAMA had 87 reports of violence against women and girls including murder, rape, suicide, forced marriages including child marriage, assault and battery, as well as two cases of honour killings — none of which have been registered with the formal justice system. Among the cases documented were a couple who were publically stoned to death after being accused of having an affair.

Fiona Frazer, head of the UN’s human rights mission in Afghanistan, said “impunity prevails” in Afghanistan, and acknowledged there may be an under-reporting of allegations. She said UNAMA was “particularly concerned” about the involvement of the Taliban’s religious police and intelligence service in abuses. UNAMA said more than 700 civilians have been killed and at least 1,400 wounded in attacks mainly attributed to the local Islamic State branch, as well as unexploded mines.

Russia-Ukraine: The War That Shook Foundations of World

Russia’s February invasion of its neighbour Ukraine comes with global food prices soaring and people in some of the world’s poorest countries facing starvation. The five-month war is being fought across one of Europe’s most fertile regions by two of the world’s biggest grain producers.

Up to 25 million tonnes of wheat and other grain have been blocked in Ukrainian ports by Russian warships and landmines Kyiv has laid to avert a feared amphibious assault.

EU states have also accused Russia of squeezing supplies in retaliation for Western sanctions over the war. German Economy Minister Robert Habeck angrily dismissed Russian claims that it was a guarantor of Europe’s energy supply, saying that Moscow had become a growing “insecurity factor” in the sector. “In fact, Russia is using the great power we gave it to blackmail Europe and Germany,” Habeck of the ecologist Green party told reporters.

Enduring German reliance on Russian gas coupled with alarming signals from Moscow have turned up the pressure on Europe’s top economy. Meanwhile, Russia on Thursday restored critical gas supplies to Europe through Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline after 10 days of maintenance, but suspicion lingered that the Kremlin would trigger an energy crisis on the continent this winter.

Germany, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas, had feared that Moscow would not reopen the pipeline after the scheduled work and accused Moscow of using energy as a “weapon”.

A total shutdown of imports or a sharp reduction in the flow from east to west could have a catastrophic effect, shutting factories and forcing households to turn down the heat. Even the resumption of 40 percent of supplies would be insufficient to ward off energy shortages in Europe this winter, experts warned.

The Tragic Unfoldings of Yemen

A recent truce has brought respite to Yemen after seven years of devastating war, but the blockage of roads remains a “major” humanitarian concern, a UN official has warned. Yemen’s conflict pitting the Saudi-backed government against Iran-backed Huthi rebels has killed hundreds of thousands since 2015 and pushed the country to the brink of famine.

A UN-brokered truce that took effect in early April has provided a rare respite from violence for much of the country and alleviated some of the suffering. “The situation has improved overall,” said Diego Zorrilla, UN deputy humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, citing a drop in casualties, more regular fuel supplies and a resumption of flights.

But “roads are still blocked, so the improvement is not up to people’s expectations”, he told AFP, referring to one of the main parts of the truce yet to be implemented. UN special envoy Hans Grundberg has sought to get the warring factions to agree to reopen roads at talks in Jordan, but so far they have resisted, fearing such a move would benefit the other side.

Travel is arduous between the loyalist areas and the rebel-held north, which accounts for 30 percent of Yemen’s territory but where 70 percent of the population lives. The routes are punctuated by roadblocks and detours can see the cost of transportation quadruple, complicating the delivery of aid and depriving many from access to basic services.

“The situation is particularly serious in Taez,” a city surrounded by mountains, which is home to between 1.5 million and two million people, said Zorrilla. The city, which was once an important cultural, academic and historical centre, is split by a 16-kilometre-long (10-mile-long) front line.

About 80 percent of the population lives in the government-held part of Taez, but the rebels control the higher ground where the city’s water wells are located. The divide has kept 16,000 workers from seeing their families, and most people have to buy water in expensive tanks, Zorrilla said.

Access to hospitals has also been hampered in Taez, which is cut off from the rest of the country. “Instead of travelling 20 minutes for dialysis, patients sometimes have to go all the way to Aden”, he said, referring to the southern port city that takes up to nine hours to reach on dangerous mountain roads.

The reopening of the roads is “a major humanitarian, economic and development issue”, he said, adding that more than two thirds of Yemen’s 30 million people need humanitarian aid. The UN says it has only secured a quarter of the $4.3 billion it needs to help more than 17 million people needing aid in Yemen this year.

The shortfall is mainly due to declining contributions from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which say they are prioritising their own humanitarian causes. The two Gulf states, members of a military coalition supporting Yemen’s government, in April pledged $3 billion in economic aid to the country, but this has yet to be dispersed. “People will die” unless the UN receives the necessary funding, said Zorrilla.

With inputs from AP, AFP

Read all the Latest News, Breaking News, watch Top Videos and Live TV here.

first published:July 22, 2022, 08:45 IST
last updated:July 22, 2022, 09:04 IST