More than 1,000 children killed, injured in
‘brutal’ Yemen conflict: UN
Months of brutal conflict in Yemen have killed or injured more than
1,000 children, and the number of young people recruited or used as
fighters has soared, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said on
Some 400 children have been killed and more than 600 injured – an
average of eight casualties every day – since fighting escalated at the
end of March, according to UNICEF.
A Saudi-led Arab coalition has been bombarding the Iranian-allied Houthi
rebel movement – Yemen’s dominant force – since late March in a bid to
reinstate exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has fled to
The war has killed more than 4,300 people, many of them civilians, and
spread disease and hunger throughout the country.
More than 1.3 million people have been forced to flee their homes since
March, and nearly 10 million children – 80 percent of the country’s
under-18 population – need urgent humanitarian aid, UNICEF said in a
report released on Wednesday.
“Children are bearing the brunt of a brutal armed conflict which
escalated in March this year and shows no sign of a resolution,” the
U.N. agency said.
“This conflict is a particular tragedy for Yemeni children … (they) are
being killed by bombs or bullets and those that survive face the growing
threat of disease and malnutrition,” UNICEF Yemen representative Julien
The report Yemen: Childhood Under Threat said the number of children
recruited or used in the conflict had more than doubled to 377 so far in
2015 from 156 in 2014.
All warring sides in Yemen are increasingly using teenage boys – who see
fighting as a way to support their families financially – to swell their
ranks, UNICEF said.
A quarter of Yemen’s health facilities – around 900 – have closed since
March, while shortages of medicines and medical supplies have disrupted
those that remain open, according to the U.N. body, which said the
health system was “crumbling”.
More than 2.5 million children under the age of 15 are at risk of
contracting measles, while nearly 2 million are likely to suffer from
malnutrition this year, almost one million more than in 2014, UNICEF
“I would sell everything I have to ensure my children’s wellbeing… what
really disturbs me is how difficult it has become to get proper medical
treatment,” Umm Faisal, mother of an 18-month-old baby in Yemen, told
(Thomson Reuters Foundation)
Violence paralyzes earthquake-torn Nepal
by Donatella Lorch for USA Today
KATHMANDU — For many in Nepal, the earthquake is not finished. More than
three million people are still living in temporary shelters during
torrential monsoon rains. We have daily aftershocks, over 380 of them
above magnitude 4, since the 7.8 magnitude quake hit on April 25th.
But, as if that were not enough to cope with, now Nepal is being torn
apart by violent protests, a country virtually held hostage by rioting
and strikes. Angry protesters are setting buildings, cars and trucks on
fire and attacking police who counter with tear gas, baton charges and
All because Nepal is about to adopt a new constitution.
On Monday, at least eight people were killed in clashes in Kailali in
western Nepal, most of them police, including a senior police officer
who was speared to death and another set on fire as thousands of
demonstrators clashed with security forces. A curfew was imposed, and
the government announced it was deploying the army in the riot-hit
districts, with orders to shoot curfew violators on sight.
Making a constitution here is a very messy process. In the latest draft,
the three biggest political parties have declared that Nepal will be a
federal state divided into seven provinces. Many Nepalis do not agree
with this model. For weeks now, strikes have not only paralyzed the
capital city, Kathmandu, but entire provinces have been gripped by
unrest. The issues are many and not easily resolved. Some protesters
want ethnically based provinces, others undivided regions or special
rights for minorities and women. And then there are those who insist
Nepal, a secular democracy, must become a Hindu state.
“We are now getting to the nitty-gritty of constitution making, which we
have been waiting to solve for eight years,” says Kunda Dixit, a
political commentator and editor of The Nepali Times. “It's about
boundaries. Borders in South Asia are extremely sensitive, even within
countries. There are competing claims and overlapping claims,
indigenous, ethnic, territorial claims, geographical district against
district. Essentially, this draft is a political document with little
vision for how these provinces are going to be viable and function into
The protest techniques are not new to Nepal. They are called bandhs,
literally "shutdowns," and they grew out of the early 1990s pro
democracy movement, which began with non-violent, spontaneous protests.
But by the end of the decade, even democratic parties were burning cars.
During the 10-year civil war that ended in 2006, Maoist guerrillas
mounted roadblocks across the country that terrorized the local
populations. Some of these Maoist groups later became the leaders of
Nepal’s most violent bandhs.
It’s a simple process. All motorized vehicles are banned and shops and
businesses are ordered to close. The enforcers torch buses and taxis
that dare to break the bandh, beat up motorcyclists and trash any store
that dares to open. Over and over, it has successfully immobilized
The daily loss to the economy of a successful bandh is at least $20
million. The emotional toll is incalculable.
In the past few weeks, there have been so many strikes that no one knows
who is organizing which bandh. Buses and trucks are marooned on
highways. Schools, government offices and sometimes even hospitals are
closed. For Nepalis, who have little faith in their government, personal
safety is more of a concern than who may be behind the bandh.
Nepal’s earthquake homeless have taken a back seat to the constitution
making chaos. With only eight out of 75 districts badly affected by the
quake, the government appears to have lost a sense of urgency. Intense
political horse-trading between the most powerful parties meant it took
the government two and a half months to name a head for the National
Reconstruction Authority. Little government reconstruction aid has made
it out into the hardest-hit districts.
As the bandhs paralyze Nepal, tour operators are trying hard to
re-energize one of the country’s biggest money making industries hard
hit by the quake. But tourists are only dribbling in. Many international
carriers have cut down on their flights into Kathmandu.
Most Nepalis are frustrated and depressed at the state of their
“I feel so angry,” says Ananda Sharma, 62, a retired office
administrator. “These politicians are taking our country back and back
and back. Our economy is in ruins. We just want clean drinking water and
electricity. If we could funnel all this bandh energy into rebuilding
earthquake-hit Nepal, we would be on cloud nine.”
Lorch, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is a writer based
Nepal’s Quake May Have Primed the Area for Another Big One
IN APRIL, A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Gorkha, Nepal. In Kathmandu,
the capital, people fled into the streets as buildings buckled and
collapsed. Historic architecture, hundreds of years old, crumbled. More
than 8,000 people died.
Potentially even worse, though: According to a paper published in Nature
Geoscience today, the Nepal earthquake may have made another Nepal quake
even more likely.
That idea contradicts a popular myth in earthquake country—at least in
California, where people sometimes hope that occasional light temblors
release stress on a fault, making a Big One less likely. That’s not
entirely crazy. Earthquakes happen because rock is elastic. Faults,
where tectonic plates collide or slide past each other, stretch or
compress that rock, which stores energy like a stretched rubber band or
a compressed spring. Up to a certain point, friction keeps the rock from
moving, but eventually the the rubber band snaps (or the spring
rebounds). The rock breaks and slips: earthquake.
But small earthquakes can’t release all that energy. “You can’t have
enough small earthquakes to take up all the stress of a major plate
boundary,” says Anne Trehu, a seismologist at Oregon State University.
It would take a million magnitude-3 earthquakes to release the energy in
a single magnitude-7.
Now, it’s true that tectonic plates move all the time without causing
quakes; the plates in Nepal move a little less than an inch a year. This
movement does relieve stress. But GPS measurements of the south side of
the Main Himalayan Thrust fault—where the Gorkha, Nepal earthquake
happened—showed that it was getting wedged tighter and tighter under the
Himalayas. “So the Gorkha earthquake is not a surprise,” says
Jean-Philippe Avouac, a geologist at CalTech and one of the authors of
the new paper.
Unfortunately, even that giant quake in Nepal didn’t stave off another
one. In the new paper, Avouac’s team found that when the north and south
sides of the fault collided, the earthquake rippled eastward at a speed
of almost two miles per second. Avouac says that it’s by chance—even
lucky—that the earthquake chose to go east rather than west. The last
earthquake to the east happened 81 years ago, whereas the western side
hasn’t seen a large earthquake in over 500 years. Since it didn’t happen
in April, that monster earthquake is still lurking somewhere around the
bend. Some scientists think that this area would need to slip at least
thirty feet to relieve the stress built over centuries. The earthquake
magnitude could be greater than 8.5—paleoseismologists say earthquakes
that big have hit the region before.
So when will that Big One hit? No way to know. Scientists would need to
be able to track all the stretches and compressions in the rock in
detail and in real time. But frequent small earthquakes nearby make that
too complicated. Near faults, small tremors shift forces around too
quickly for scientists to track.
Here’s what scientists can do: By mounting GPS devices in bedrock, they
can measure how far rocks slip in any tectonic movement. If scientists
can retrace the steps of the earthquake, they might find clues to how
the next one will start. Avouac’s team used GPS measurements, satellite
data, and historical seismic records to build “a really detailed image
of the rupture process during the earthquake,” Avouac says. “We can use
it to make simulations of earthquakes, and we have a way to investigate
But this kind of mapping isn’t possible in every earthquake hotspot.
Many of the most active faults are partially underwater, making some of
Avouac’s techniques impossible. And the team’s analysis relied on old
data and knowledge, gathered by geologists over many years of research
in the Himalayas. The geology of other regions might not be so
well-understood. Even in Nepal, seismologists—not to mention the people
who live there—can’t do much more than wait.