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Friday, October 25, 2013

Madagascar Holds First Post-Coup Election

Voters in Madagascar hope that this election will end the political and economic turmoil that have plagued the country for the past five years after President Andry Rajoelina took power in a military coup. After the coup, the country lost much of the foreign aid it relied on, and was suspended from both the African Union and the Southern African Development Community. Turnout was high even though most people chose to work through the government-declared voting holiday because, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

There are 33 presidential candidates, but none of the country’s former leaders are among them. Trying to assuage fears of a repeat of 2009, Rajoelina has repeatedly said he will step down and that the election results must be accepted for the good of the country. Voting was generally peaceful; people cheered as the ballots began to be counted.

An estimated 92% of Malagasy live on less than $2 a day and half of the nation’s children under five are severely malnourished.  This year, swarms of locusts have destroyed crops and rats have spread the bubonic plague.

Hardships Mount for Internally-Displaced Syrians

About 5 million Syrians are displaced within their own country, and an estimated 2.5 million have received no humanitarian aid in almost a year. Refugees live hand-to-mouth in vacant buildings, others are trapped in neighborhoods isolated behind military blockades and beyond the reach of aid groups. About one fifth of Syrian families go without food one week per month.  Overcrowded, unsanitary conditions have caused cases of measles, typhoid and hepatitis A to soar. At least 22 people are believed to have contracted polio, in a country where 95% of children had been vaccinated in 2011.

UN aid chief Valerie Amos has demanded stronger action, but the Security Council’s recent plea for increased humanitarian access has made almost no difference. Furthermore, humanitarian aid is a short-term stop-gap measure; it does not even begin to address the collapse of Syria’s health, education and economic infrastructure.

Eastern Libyans Declare Autonomous Government

Months after declaring the eastern half of Libya an autonomous state, named Barqa, leaders of the movement for self-rule in the oil-rich region have declared the formation of a shadow government.  The announcement is backed by some militias and local tribes; the central government has rejected the declaration. Advocates of self-rule have long complained about discrimination from the central government in Tripoli, while opponents fear this declaration of autonomy could be the first step towards dividing the country outright.

Poaching on the Rise in Africa

Poachers have killed more than 100 rhinos in South Africa in the past month alone, pushing this year’s toll to 790; in all of 2007, only 13 rhinos were killed. Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, the fourth man in as many weeks was convicted of poisoning elephants with cyanide and sentenced to 15 years in prison. The Wildlife Conservation Society and the Clinton Global Initiative have teamed up to launch a campaign to stop the illegal trade of ivory – currently at its highest point since 1989. Many of the profits of the illegal ivory trade, moreover, go to terrorist groups like Somalia’s Al Shabab.

35,000 elephants are killed on average each year. There are only 420,000 African elephants living in the world.

Weekend Reads:

Help wanted in Fukushima: Low pay, high risks and gangsters.

Tetsuya Hayashi went to Fukushima to take a job at ground zero of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. He lasted less than two weeks. Via Reuters.

Hidden City

New York has more homeless than it has in decades. What should the next mayor do? Via The New Yorker.

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