A UNHCR staff member at the Jordan border hands out juice and biscuits to newly arrived Syrian refugees. Aid workers often work in dangerous areas to help the needy.
UNHCR / J. Kohler / January 2014

“A kilogram of rice now costs around $250 there”

The plight of the people of Madaya has caught international attention. Sieges of cities that  to induce hunger and starvation have been an all too common weapon of war in Syria. “The United Nations says the Syrian government has agreed to allow aid delivery to the besieged town of Madaya, where residents have said they are starving to death under a blockade by troops loyal to Bashar al-Assad…It remains unclear how much aid will be allowed into Madaya, situated a few miles from Damascus, where people have been reduced to scouring grass from minefields and eating tree leaves and boiling water flavoured with spices. A kilogram of rice now costs around $250 (£170) there. The last aid delivery to the town was in October, and there are now shortages of everything from baby milk to basic medicine. Residents and UN officials say people have died of starvation.” (Guardian http://bit.ly/1kQdv3w)

China shuts stock market after another major tumble…The global implications are already felt and may be far-reaching and long term. “China halted stock trading Thursday, its second daylong trading suspension this week, after prices plunged in the latest spasm of investor panic on its volatile markets. A similar price plunge Monday triggered a sell-off on Wall Street and other global markets. Financial analysts have warned Chinese markets are likely to see extreme volatility for a few more months as they seek a stable level following last year’s rout.” (AP http://yhoo.it/1mFa0Pi)

We’d Read This Report… “William J. Burns, Michèle Flournoy and Nancy Lindborg announced the launch of an independent and non-partisan Study Group on Fragility. The Study Group’s aim is to identify principles and recommendations for a strategic and effective U.S. foreign policy response to the interrelated security, humanitarian and development challenges posed by fragile states. Burns, a former deputy secretary of state; Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy, and Lindborg, a former assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development, are the leaders of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for a New American Security, and the U.S. Institute of Peace, respectively.” (USIP http://bit.ly/1kQgTv6)

South-South humanitarian cooperation…Brazil is shipping corn to South Africa, a traditional maize exporter suffering from an El Niño-related drought, as it seeks new markets for its growing corn production. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1MVQFxR)

Meanwhile: Hottest. Day. Ever…South Africa’s financial hub Johannesburg hit a record temperature of 38 degrees Celsius on Thursday, the South African Weather Service said, as a drought persisted in Africa’s largest producer of maize. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1mFfyt8)


At least one person was killed and several dozen wounded Thursday as hundreds of armed Cameroonian youths attacked police stations in Mokolo, one of Yaounde’s largest markets. (VOA http://bit.ly/1OPg1VC)

Rwandan Hutu rebels killed 14 civilians from a rival ethnic group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo early on Thursday morning and wounded nine, the army said, in a sign of the ethnic tensions that persist in the conflict-torn region. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1OPg8Az)

The U.S. government is giving Nigeria 24 mine-resistant, armor-protected vehicles to assist the country in its fight against Boko Haram militants. (VOA http://bit.ly/1MVPvm1)

Poverty, political instability and weak institutions allowed South American cocaine cartels in to Guinea-Bissau, but with US and UN help the country is trying to fight back. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1OPg9ED)

Burkina Faso’s president named economist Paul Kaba Thieba as prime minister on Thursday, a week after being sworn in as the first new leader in almost three decades following his election in November. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1MVPyOM)

Uganda’s main opposition said police violence against the opposition is part of a plan to subvert February’s national election and help President Yoweri Museveni’s remain in power. (VOA http://bit.ly/1MVPwXf)

Somalia’s government says it has cut ties with Iran, accusing it of trying to destabilize security and unity of the Horn of Africa nation. (AP http://yhoo.it/1mFe020)

Haiti’s presidential runoff vote will take place on January 24, along with the second round of legislative elections, according to a presidential decree published. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1MVQF0W)

Almost all of the 30 candidates running for president of Central African Republic now support the election despite calls this week by 20 of them for the vote count to be stopped, the U.N. peacekeeping mission said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1mFfCsI)

New UK international development minister Nick Hurd wants to boost off-grid solar power in Africa, the only region where those without access to modern energy is set to rise. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1JZHKvl)



At least 40 people were killed when a truck bomb hit a police training center in the Libyan town of Zliten on Thursday, the town’s mayor said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1RvmLGZ)

Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces air dropped cluster bombs on residential neighborhoods in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. (HRW http://bit.ly/1THAhql)


Eleven workers trapped underground in a coal mine collapse have died, authorities in central China said Thursday, the latest in a series of mining disasters. (AP http://yhoo.it/1JZHP26)

A Bangladeshi diplomat will leave the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Thursday, officials said, amid a deepening row between the two countries that has also seen a Pakistani diplomat in Dhaka expelled after being accused of spying. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1JZHXyT)

A prominent charity in India’s beach resort state of Goa called on the government on Thursday to do more to rescue thousands of women and children who are trafficked to the popular tourism spot every year for sexual exploitation and forced labor. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1kPncPL)

Police on the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru are investigating an alleged assault on a child refugee by another refugee, the government said on Thursday. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1MVQEtW)

Norway’s foreign minister visited Sri Lanka on Thursday in a sign of reviving relations since a peace deal brokered by the Nordic country failed to end a civil war. (AP http://yhoo.it/1RvmHag)

The Americas

Guatemala detained 14 ex-military officials, including the brother of a former president, for forced disappearances and crimes against humanity during the bloodiest period of its 36-year civil war. (VOA http://bit.ly/1mFa5T6)

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro is doubling down on his existing economic policies as the country heads for a confrontation between the ruling socialist party and newly-powerful opposition. (AP http://yhoo.it/1OPfXVY)

Authorities in Guyana say the U.S. government is helping the South American country crack down on a massive international gold smuggling operation. (AP http://yhoo.it/1OPg0RA)

…and the rest

The European Union said Thursday it is far from satisfied with Turkey’s cooperation in stemming the flow of migrants to Europe after a landmark deal clinched late last year. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1JZHVXv)

German politicians waged a heated debate Thursday over whether to make it easier to expel convicted asylum seekers, after a series of sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve blamed on men of foreign origin. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1kPnfLc)

Hungary supports some of Britain’s reform proposals that aim to boost economic competitiveness in the European Union but would not want to see an erosion in the free movement of labor, its foreign minister said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1RvmRhP)

British Prime Minister David Cameron sought to push forward his campaign for changes to the European Union during a visit to Germany on Thursday, arguing that his proposals would benefit the bloc as well as the U.K. (AP http://yhoo.it/1MVPy18)

The new U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, urges governments not to succumb to the growing dangers of xenophobia, but to offer protection to people fleeing war and persecution as set down in the 1951 Refugee Convention. The new refugee chief assumes his post at a time of unprecedented global displacement. (VOA http://bit.ly/1OPg5oh)


Inside the “Bulgarian Primary” in the race to replace Ban Ki Moon and bits of diplomatic intrigue into the selection of the next UN Secretary General. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1mIA1MV )

How 150,000 people were saved in the Mediterranean (IRIN http://bit.ly/1JZFvrT)

Uganda’s 2016 elections: same same but different? (African Arguments http://bit.ly/1mFa69y)

The aid pie is growing, but the poorest countries get a smaller slice (Guardian http://bit.ly/1OPbHG2)

Taming North Korea: A losing struggle? (AFP http://yhoo.it/1kPkutm)

Analysts: North Korea’s ‘H-Bomb’ Gamble Could Backfire (VOA http://bit.ly/1VMIH0Q)

Why can’t Myanmar clear its landmines? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1OPf8MY)

Debate Over Bird Flu Research Moratorium Flares Up Again (Shots http://n.pr/1RvmIuY)

Are Non-Profits Getting in the Way of Social Change? (Policy Innovations http://bit.ly/1MVUEKS)
Do These Jeans Make Me Look Unethical? (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1OPqpNa)