Starving to Death in Papua New Guinea

El Nino strikes again.People are dying of malnourishment and disease in remote, drought-stricken communities in Papua New Guinea, which will need food aid for the next few months to prevent more deaths…The latest data suggests that as many as 700,000 people in PNG are in critical need of food assistance, according to the World Food Programme. Regional WFP spokesman Damian Kean told IRIN that gathering information about food security is difficult because it is hard to access many communities. Kean said that staples like sweet potatoes were destroyed by low rainfall throughout 2015 and then by frosts from July through October, while insects destroyed many crops planted after that. He said WFP has a team in PNG gathering data about where the biggest needs are and the organisation is prepared to help relief efforts if asked. (IRIN


Syria Peace Talks Delayed…”The Syrian opposition said it will not attend peace talks due to begin in Geneva on Friday, derailing the first attempt in two years to hold negotiations aimed at ending the five-year-long war.An opposition council convening in Riyadh said its delegation would “certainly” not be in Geneva on Friday, saying it had not received convincing answers to its demands for goodwill steps including an end to air strikes and blockades. The failure to get talks off the ground on time reflects the challenges facing peace-making as the conflict rages unabated on the ground.” (Reuters


Ignoble Scandinavian Quote of the Day… “The first step is to ensure voluntary returns. But if we don’t succeed, we need to have returns by coercion.” — Swedish Interior Minister Anders Ygeman (WaPo




WHO to hold emergency session on Monday to decide whether or not to declare the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.” (UN Dispatch


WHO modeling suggests that as many as 4 million people could contract the virus in the Americas in the next 12 months. (NYT


Could Zika compel Latin American countries to reduce abortion restrictions? (Wired




A pair of women suicide bombers killed four people and left a trail of injury in north Cameroon Thursday, the second such attacks this week in a region targeted by Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists. (AFP


The drought relief effort in Ethiopia needs about $500 million to fund programs beyond the end of April to support 10.2 million people facing critical food shortages this year, the U.N. World Food Programme said on Thursday. (Reuters


Zanzibar’s main opposition party said Thursday it would not take part in a planned rerun of last year’s elections in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous islands which were scrapped after alleged irregularities. (AFP


Burundi’s main opposition grouping on Thursday urged the international community and the African Union to approve plans to send an AU peacekeeping force to the strife-torn country despite President Pierre Nkurunziza’s objections. (AFP


The groundbreaking war crimes trial in The Hague on Thursday of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo has rekindled a bitter row across Africa over the international justice system. (AFP


Southern Africa is moving towards greater acceptance of sexual and gender minorities though there is still a long way to go, the United States’ first special envoy for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people said. (Reuters


Luanda has for years been a chaotic urban mess. It figures among the world’s most expensive cities and the overwhelming majority of residents live in squalid shantytowns with no sanitation or electricity. (AFP


Tourism, transport and agriculture are all being championed as a way for Botswana to survive when its diamond mines are eventually emptied. (Guardian




A bomb-packed car driven by a suicide attacker exploded at a checkpoint near the presidential palace in the southern city of Aden on Thursday, and security officials said at least eight people were killed. (NYT )


Al-Jazeera said on Thursday that a three-man news crew for the Qatar-based channel has been freed more than 10 days after being kidnapped in the flashpoint Yemeni city of Taez. (AFP


A Syrian opposition figure said Thursday that indirect peace talks between the government and opposition are unlikely to begin on Friday for “technical reasons,” adding that his group has named a second opposition list to be part of the talks. (AP


The United States is urging all parties invited to this week’s Syrian peace talks in Geneva to show up without preconditions. (VOA


More than half of the total population of Yemen — some 14.4 million people –  are food insecure, as ongoing conflict and import restrictions have reduced the availability of essential foods and sent prices soaring. (FAO


As Libya’s year long peace talks aimed at establishing a unity government stall again, WHO and health partners require a total of US$ 50 million in 2016 to meet the urgent lifesaving needs of nearly 2 million people. (WHO




President Thein Sein hailed the “triumph” of Myanmar’s transition of power Thursday, in a last address to a military-dominated parliament before it makes way for a historic new legislature led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy party. (AFP


Vietnam’s re-elected leader, a 71-year-old Communist Party ideologue, made it clear that one-party rule was here to stay, insisting that the collective leadership he heads is a far better alternative to what he called authoritarianism disguised as democracy. (AP


The Americas


The release of new figures apparently finding fewer cases of microcephaly in Brazil than first feared is adding force to calls for more research into the link between the rare birth defect and the spreading Zika virus. (AP


Peru’s electoral committee said on Wednesday it might bar a leading presidential candidate from the race if a university in Spain verifies plagiarism allegations against him. (Reuters


…and the rest


The bodies of 24 migrants, including 10 children, were discovered off the Greek island of Samos Thursday after their boat capsized, the Greek coastguard said. (AFP


A Facebook post about the death of a Syrian refugee in Germany sparked a storm of reaction this week, only for the author to admit making it up, highlighting a rash of online rumours fuelled by a record asylum seeker influx. (AFP




Can the International Community Prevent the Coming Zika Crisis?


I long for the day when Syria’s starving children run for fun, not from rockets (Guardian


Is It Realistic To Recommend Delaying Pregnancy During Zika Outbreak? (Goats and Soda


Why Buhari Should Not Move Against Jonathan (Daily Trust


Is Australia a humanitarian scrooge? (DevPolicy


Why taxing global companies is hard (Owen abroad


Why Kagame’s Bid to Serve a Third Term Makes Sense (The Conversation


Is Malaria-Free Africa in Sight? (The Point


Can solar let poor people “leapfrog” the grid? (Cherokee Gothic


China’s economic transformation: Is the glass half full? (The Interpreter


What Are the Welfare Impacts of Fat Taxes and Thin Subsidies? (Marc F Bellemare


Couples Who Use Contraception Have More Sex (Goats and Soda