Top of the Morning: Gulf of Guinea Pirates Strike Again; Deadly Prison Fire in Honduras; 10 Million Struggling to Eat in the Sahel

Top stories from the Development and Aid World News Service–DAWNS Digest.

Gulf of Guinea Pirates Strike Again

As we’ve noted a few times since we started DAWNS Digest last fall, Somali’s don’t have the market cornered on Piracy. Piracy off the west African coast — particularly the Gulf of Guinea — is becoming a greater and greater concern. “Despite pledges by nations to patrol the waters of the Gulf of Guinea, pirates killed a captain and a chief engineer on board a heavy cargo ship Monday morning about 126 miles from the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. While shootings and stabbings have happened before in the region, Monday’s assault was one of the deadliest attacks in waters now considered to be as dangerous as those near Somalia. And such attacks are likely to continue. ‘It’s quite uncommon that you have people killed this way,’ said Thomas Horn Hansen, an analyst with Risk Intelligence based in London. ‘It might be a matter of luck that hasn’t happened before.’” (USA Today

Prison Fire in Honduras Kills Nearly 300

A massive fire swept through a prison in Honduras, killing at least 272 people–including prisoners trapped in their cells. “The fire broke out Tuesday night at a prison in Comayagua, a town 90 miles (140 kilometers) north of the Central American country’s capital, Tegucigalpa. The prison holds about 800 inmates. Lucy Marder, chief of forensic medicine for the prosecutors’ office, gave the death count to reporters in a news conference. Comayagua fire department spokesman Josue Garcia said he saw ‘horrific’ scenes while trying to put out the fire, saying inmates rioted in attempts to escape. He said ‘some 100 prisoners were burned to death or suffocated in their cells.’”  (NYT

UN: 10 Million People “Struggling to Eat” in the Sahel

The dire warnings of a looming humanitarian crisis in the Sahel are becoming more and more pronounced. This is a statement from the UN’s Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Catherine Bragg. “People in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Chad, as well as northern Cameroon and northern Nigeria are all likely to be affected over the coming months. For many, the crisis has already begun. We already know that an estimated ten million people or more are struggling to get enough to eat, including 5.4 million in Niger alone. In the region, more than a million children under the age of five risk severe acute malnutrition – that is up from 300,000 last year…Households, who had barely recovered from the previous crisis of 2010, were dealing with a poor and uneven rainy season last year, increasingly high food prices, falling cereal production, and the loss of remittances due to the return of some 420,000 migrants from Libya and Cote d’Ivoire. Since then, armed conflict in northern Mali has caused the displacement of tens of thousands of people in Mali and in neighbouring Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso. These people now need urgent assistance too…we now estimate that at least ten million people in the region are struggling to get enough to eat. As well as the 5.4 million people in Niger, this includes three million in Mali; 1.7 million in Burkina Faso; and 700,000 people in Mauritania. We are expecting detailed figures on the situation in Chad, northern Cameroon, northern Nigeria and northern Senegal soon. Together the total estimated figures could easily exceed 12 million. Forecasts point to a poor and early lean season which could start as early as March or April, instead of May, in previous years.” (OCHA