June 11, 2021
CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers the escalating violence in Myanmar, new E.U. sanctions targeting Belarus, and multiple rocket attacks in Iraq.
Famine has afflicted at least 350,000 people in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, a starvation crisis more serious than anywhere else in the world currently, according to the United Nations and international aid groups. The organizations had warned for weeks that conflict in the region could lead to a disastrous situation in the most populous country in the Horn of Africa. Mark Lowcock, the top humanitarian emergency official at the United Nations, told a meeting of aid officials and diplomats that the crisis in Ethiopia was the worst in any country since the 2011 famine in Somalia and warned that “this is going to get a lot worse.” At least 160 people were killed in an attack on the village of Solhan in Burkina Faso last week. No group, including Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), has claimed responsibility for the massacre. The violence brings the total number of people killed by armed groups in Burkina Faso since the beginning of 2021 to more than 500. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia upheld a 2017 verdict which convicted Ratko Mladić, a Bosnian Serb and former general of crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. His life sentence in prison was also upheld. Mladić was convicted in 2017 on a wide array of charges which included attacking and murdering civilians during a 43-month siege of Sarajevo and directing the genocidal executions of 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica. The United States is considering carrying out airstrikes to support Afgan security forces if Kabul or another major city is in danger of falling to the Taliban, according to senior officials. U.S. President Joe Biden had previously suggested that American air support would end after U.S. troops left the country, but military officials are actively discussing how they might respond if the American withdrawal produces consequences with serious ramifications for U.S. national security. Officials say a potential fall of Kabul, home to allied embassies and American citizens, is the crisis most likely to lead to military intervention after American troops leave the country.
The Italian government announced this week that it would stop administering the AstraZeneca-produced Covid-19 vaccine to people under the age of 60, claiming that a drop in the country’s level of infections meant the risks of distributing the vaccine to younger people no longer outweighed the risk of rare and severe blood clots that have affected some people who have received the shot. Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, an army general in charge of Italy’s vaccination campaign, said that young people who had already received one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine will get a different shot for their booster dose. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) this week told Johnson & Johnson that about 60 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine produced at a factory in Baltimore, Maryland cannot be used because of potential contamination. The FDA plans to allow about 10 million doses to be distributed in the United States or sent to other countries, but with a warning that regulators cannot guarantee that Emergent BioSolutions, the company which operates the Baltimore plant, followed good manufacturing practices. The loss puts a serious dent in U.S. President Joe Biden’s plan to distribute vaccines to countries which are still battling high rates of infection. The leaders of some of the world’s wealthiest countries are expected to pledge one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to poor and middle-income countries at the G7 Summit as part of a campaign to “vaccinate the world” by the end of 2022. The International Monetary Fund estimates that it will cost about $50 billion to help the developing world bring an end to the pandemic. In Indonesia, several McDonald’s outlets were forced to close after a special “BTS Meal,” named for the popular Korean boy band, drew crowds of delivery drivers which violated coronavirus restrictions, according to police. On Wednesday, the first day the limited edition meal was available, crowds of motorcycle delivery drivers showed up at outlets across the country, overwhelming restaurants unprepared to deal with the turnout. In the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, police said they had temporarily closed 32 McDonald’s restaurants “because they were found to have violated health protocols.
The United Nations Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, warned this week that violence is intensifying across Myanmar and accused the military junta for being “solely responsible” for a “human rights catastrophe.” In a statement published Friday, Bachelet said multiple reports indicated that violence in the country was continuing to escalate, including in Kayah, Chin, and Kachin states. The violence has been particularly intense in areas with significant ethnic and religious minorities. “In just over four months, Myanmar has gone from being a fragile democracy to a human rights catastrophe,” Bachelet said. In its statement, the United Nations human rights office added that more than 108,000 people have fled their homes in Kayah state, in Myanmar’s east, over the past three weeks and have taken shelter in forest areas with little access to food, water, or medical care. The United Nations office also cited credible reports that security forces have shelled civilian homes and churches and blocked access to humanitarian aid. This comes as the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader, is set to begin on Monday. She faces a wide range of allegations, including violating Covid-19 restrictions during last year’s elections, inciting public unrest, breaking a telecommunications law and import law by possessing walkie-talkies, and breaking the official secrets act. This week, further charges against Aung San Suu Kyi were announced on state media, which reported that she has been accused of accepting $600,000 cash and 11.4kg of gold, in bribes, and misusing her authority to rent land. Ahead of her trial, her lawyers have only been permitted to meet with her during three 30-minute sessions. As thousands of civilians flee violence and cross the border into India, Indian officials worry that the region could become a staging ground for pro-democracy activists and contribute to instability in the region. Approximately 16,000 people from Myanmar are sheltering in India’s Mizoram, Manipur, and Nagaland states, with the number expected to rise in coming months. Senior government sources in India also worry that the flow of people from Myanmar to India could provide additional energy to nearly two dozen insurgent groups which operate along the two countries’ borders.