MERS Cases in Saudi Arabia Surge Before the Hajj

2 million Muslims are expected to travel to the Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage next month. Could be a problematic combination. “Deaths from the MERS coronavirus have surged in Saudi Arabia ahead of the hajj pilgrimage, with 19 fatalities recorded in a week, according to health ministry statistics. A total of 502 people died in the kingdom since the virus first appeared in 2012, according to updated figures posted on the ministry’s website, including 19, all Saudis, since last Thursday. The number of MERS infections has also surged to 1,171 cases, the website said.” (Indian Express

Deadly refugee discovery…As many as 50 refugees were found dead in a parked truck in Austria near the Hungarian border on Thursday, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the discovery had shaken European leaders discussing the migrant crisis at a Balkans summit. (AFP

Deadly Refugee Discovery, Again…”A boat packed with mainly African migrants bound for Italy sank off the Libyan coast on Thursday and officials said up to 200 might have died. A security official in the western town of Zuwara, from where the overcrowded boat had set off, said there had around 400 people on board. Many appeared to have been trapped in the hold when it capsized. By late in the evening, the Libyan coast guard rescued around 201, of which 147 were brought to a detention facility for illegal migrants in Sabratha, west of Tripoli, the official said, asking not to be named.” (AP

500 days too long…Relatives of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants marked, on Thursday, 500 days since the abductions with hope dwindling for their rescue despite a renewed push to end the insurgency. (AFP

Possible Hurricane forming in the Caribbean…Tropical Storm Erika could brush along the southeast coast of Florida near West Palm Beach as a minimal Category 1 hurricane on Monday, but must first survive disruptive wind shear as it moves across Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas, according to the 4 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 27) forecast of the National Hurricane Center.” (NOLA


The number of hungry Ethiopians needing food aid has risen sharply this year to 4.5 million due to poor rains and the El Nino weather phenomenon, the UN has said.  (AFP

Eight people have died in two days of pneumonic plague on the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar which is hit by deadly outbreaks almost every year, a health ministry official said. (AFP

A peace deal aimed at ending 20 months of civil war in South Sudan was given a cautious welcome Thursday, but rebels condemned government reservations that undermine fundamental parts of the accord. (AFP

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday gave South Sudan President Salva Kiir until September 1 to get fully behind a peace deal after he signed the accord with reservations. (AFP

The United Nations’ acting special representative for Central African Republic has said there is zero-tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers, calling on civilian and military personnel to act responsibly. (AFP

U.N. peacekeepers said on Wednesday they would have to cut rations for 6,800 ex-rebels and their families left in limbo in government camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo, blaming a shortage of funds and calling for the state to step in. (Reuters

Measures to counter the trafficking of wildlife in a proposed Pacific trade pact should help to discourage animal poaching in Africa, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday. (Reuters


Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged the Saudi-led coalition battling Iran-backed rebels in Yemen to stop using cluster munitions, saying it had uncovered new evidence of their devastating impact. (AFP

Iraqi President Fuad Masum said Iraq’s constitution should be amended rather than bypassed, in an apparent criticism of the premier’s plan to abolish the constitutionally mandated vice presidency. (AFP

Rejecting the Iran nuclear deal would lead to diplomatic isolation for the United States and significantly undermine Washington’s ability to achieve other foreign policy goals, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations said on Thursday. (Reuters


Malaysia’s government said Thursday it will block access this weekend to websites that disseminate information about a major demonstration that will demand the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak over graft allegations. (AFP

Hong Kong police charged teenage student leader Joshua Wong on Thursday for his role last year in storming government headquarters, which helped trigger 79 days of pro-democracy street occupations that gripped the Asian financial center. (VOA

The Americas

Colombian women’s rights groups urged the government to step up investigations of sexual violence committed by state security forces during a half century of war and ensure such crimes are addressed in any peace accord. (TRF

Brazil’s highest accounting court gave another 15 days for President Dilma Rousseff to respond to accusations she doctored the government accounts last year to hide the deterioration of the country’s finances. (Reuters

The foreign ministers of Colombia and Venezuela promised to jointly combat crime along the border following talks to calm a dispute caused by the closure of a major border crossing and a weeklong crackdown on smuggling forced thousands of migrants from their homes. (AP

Guatemalan President Otto Perez suffered a double setback, after the country’s top prosecutor called for his resignation and his ex-vice president was remanded in custody for tax fraud. (AFP

…and the rest

Water, sanitation and hygiene are part of a new World Health Organisation strategy to fight neglected tropical diseases which afflict more than 1.5 billion people, the WHO said on Thursday. (Reuters

The Europe Union’s asylum system is “completely dysfunctional,” the head of the U.N. refugee agency said, urging the bloc to better coordinate its response to the influx of thousands of refugees fleeing violence in Africa and the Middle East. (AP

A new study shows that redesigning medical services for tuberculosis can dramatically reduce the death rate. (VOA


This gay Syrian refugee risked it all, and lived to tell his story to the UN Security Council in an historic meeting. (Global Dispatches Podcast

Is Jamaica about to become a more friendly place for gays and lesbians? (UN Dispatch

US group helps women in Congo by getting out of the way (Humanosphere

View on Disability: Simple changes will make roads safer (SciDevNet

Conflict abroad or virus outbreak at home? A Liberian aid worker’s dilemma (Guardian

Is South Sudan’s latest peace accord the real deal? (IRIN

Water, Climate, Energy Intertwined with Fight Against Poverty in Central America (Inter Press Service

Refugee, asylum seeker, migrant. What’s the difference? (TRF

Is #globaldev optimism over big data based more on hype than value? (Devex

How We Talk About Microfinance: A Reply to Dean Karlan (CFI Blog

What transformation looks like (Global Dashboard

Is power a zero sum game? Does women’s empowerment lead to increased domestic violence? (From Poverty to Power

A local approach to volunteering (WhyDev