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Shut off from food and medicine

Fighting and blockades keep aid from hundreds of thousands facing famine in Ethiopia

Associated Press/Photo by Ben Curtis A mother and child in a medical clinic in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia

Shut off from food and medicine

ETHIOPIA: The Tigrayan TPLF forces retook the regional capital Mekele, seven months after Ethiopian and Eritrean forces pushed them out in a civil war that has sparked mass atrocities and famine warnings. Aid groups face continued blockades in the region, with more than 1.7 million people displaced and some estimates of 350,000 people in a famine state.

“We are deeply concerned for the condition of people who are shut off from food and medical care,” said Ken Isaacs, vice president of Samaritan’s Purse. The group is one of about six leading NGOs working to deliver food and medical supplies via Mekele and Shire, a northern town also retaken by the TPLF. The group’s staff in both towns are “hunkered down and safe” with calm after the fighting, Isaacs told me today. But aid workers in Tigray now are cut off from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, and may be forced to evacuate. Last week three MSF aid workers were killed in Tigray.


Uganda: Hospital wards are filling with COVID-19 patients and running out of oxygen, while less than 2 percent of the population has been vaccinated—a “perfect storm for mass fatality.”

A frontline missionary doctor in northwest Uganda appeals to her American friends: Nearly all U.S. COVID-19 deaths are now preventable, and it’s because of vaccines.

South Africa: Afrigen Biologics hopes to produce Africa’s first vaccine, using mRNA research platform, by mid-July.

Mozambique: French oil giant TotalEnergies pulled out of Mozambique in April, declaring force majeure on a $20 billion liquified natural gas project, the largest private investment in Africa. But for those who say ISIS is defeated, the financial cost is nothing compared to the human toll in embattled Cabo Delgado—from 70,000 people displaced in 2020 to 700,000 in 2021, and rising.

Madagascar is in the throes of back-to-back droughts that threaten 400,000 people with starvation. One World Food Program veteran said she had “never seen anything this bad” since South Sudan in 1998.

Zambia: Kenneth Kaunda, the son of a Church of Scotland minister who rose to became Zambia’s first president, and to lead independence movements in southern Africa, has died at 97.


Syria: Stressed relations between Iran and the United States intensified this week as U.S. forces launched airstrikes in Syria against Iran-backed militias. The Pentagon says Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada have launched armed drones from the sites at U.S. personnel in the Syria-Iraq border region. U.S. forces are part of a contingent to stabilize the area following the ISIS defeat in Syria in 2019. The strikes killed 4 militia members and prompted return rocket fire on U.S. troops in Syria but no injuries.

Iraq: Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has quietly come to dominate the apparatus of the Iraqi state, after years of quietly operating at the fringes, faced with U.S. opposition. His Sadrist Movement party is set to win big in nationwide elections scheduled for October (a long read worth your time).

Afghanistan: This detailed analysis shows how the Taliban has leveraged its strengths to convince locals—and Afghan forces—to surrender across 80 districts leading up to completion of the U.S. withdrawal: “Videos of surrendering Afghan soldiers, including the elite Commandos and Special Forces that have been trained by the U.S. military, litter the web.”


Japan: Olympic organizers want to immediately isolate athletes who arrive in Tokyo and test positive for COVID-19 or have come in contact with the virus. Two of nine members of the Uganda delegation tested positive on arrival but the entire team, as well as hosts, came in contact with those infected.


Canada: More than 3 dozen sudden deaths appear to be the result of a heatwave that’s gripped British Columbia.

Also in BC, at least four Catholic churches have burned, with arson suspected and likely in reaction to the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential school sites once housing Indigenous children.

From the 1880s through the 1990s, the Canadian government forcibly removed at least 150,000 ​Indigenous children, sending them to residential schools run by the Catholic church. Last week, Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan said it had found the remains of up to 751 people, likely children, at a school near Regina. In May, tribal authorities discovered the remains of 215 people, also believed to be children, at Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Mexico: Authorities found a two-year-old boy, left alone and standing without a shirt, near a truck carrying about 100 migrants from Central America that was abandoned before it was seized in Veracruz state. Imagine.

Colombia: Home to just 5 percent of the world’s population, South America is accounting (see map) for nearly a quarter of the world’s COVID-19 deaths. Colombia is the latest spike, with 25,000 coronavirus deaths recorded since May 1.

Panama: Who knew the Panama Canal relies on freshwater? Recent drought means ships cannot transit the Panama Canal fully loaded, and authorities are floating (hah!) a $2 billion infrastructure plan to manage its water reserves.


Neighbor dinners are a thing I wrote about last year. Now my neighbor Kathy, our host, is receiving hospice care in the late stages of pancreatic cancer. If you are inclined to pray, would you pray boldly for healing and comfort, for her, her family, and friends?

Summertime means time for Globe Trot to take a break. I will be working on long-range projects, research, and travel. Stay in touch, and we plan to resume Sept. 1.

My special thanks go to Michelle Schlavin, an able researcher in all things global each week. You can catch Michelle at work also on our daily news broadcast for kids, World Watch.

Mindy Belz

Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine’s first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run From ISIS With Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C.



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