Indonesia suffers its third massive natural disaster in six months, Congo’s elections threaten Ebola response, and Kenya lifts a ban on family planning services. This week in development:
Amid reports of fraud and foul play, citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo await the results of a chaotic election day on Dec. 30. In the meantime, the International Rescue Committee is waiting to resume Ebola response operations. The organization was forced to temporarily suspend its Ebola response and other programming in the hardest-hit cities of Beni and Butembo after a delay in elections led to violent protests and attacks on aid workers, IRC stated in a release on election day. The DRC election commission used Ebola as a reason to delay elections and “politicized the outbreak and put a target on the back of Ebola responders working to combat the outbreak,” said Bob Kitchen, vice president of the emergency unit at IRC. The election was meant to demonstrate the country’s first democratic transfer of power by identifying a successor to Joseph Kabila, who is set to step down after 18 years in power.
A tsunami tore through villages and beach resorts along Indonesia's Sunda Strait on the evening of Dec. 22, killing more than 400 people and injuring over 7,000. It’s the latest in a string of extreme weather events to hit the country in the last six months, following a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that devastated the island of Sulawesi in September and multiple destructive earthquakes that shook the island of Lombok throughout August. Search and rescue teams led by the Indonesian army and the Indonesian Red Cross Society have been navigating damaged roads and infrastructure to identify survivors of this latest surprise tsunami, triggered by volcanic activity between the islands of Java and Sumatra. Disaster experts told Reuters the tsunami was challenging to detect due to its nonseismic nature. Still, the event has again called into question the state of Indonesia’s early warning systems, much of which was revealed to be nonfunctioning following the Sulawesi tsunami.
The scheduled unveiling of Ivanka Trump’s women’s economic empowerment initiative has been delayed due to uncertainty surrounding the government shutdown in the United States. The initiative, backed by the U.S. Department of State and the National Security Council, was meant to be presented next week. It will focus on vocational education and skills training and the promotion of women entrepreneurs with the help of the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, a World Bank-administered fund for which Ivanka Trump was previously the figurehead. “I look forward to continuing to work with the interagency and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to advance women’s access to vocational training, fuel female entrepreneurship, and lift legal and social barriers that restrict our full and free economic participation,” Ivanka Trump said in a statement to the Associated Press.
Kenya has lifted its ban on Marie Stopes carrying out abortions in the country after a review found the charity had not actively encouraged women and girls to terminate their pregnancies. In November, Kenyan authorities ordered the family planning organization to halt abortions and postabortion care after accusing it of running radio advertisements that promote abortions. But the ensuing audit conducted by the Kenyan Ministry of Health verified that the charity had complied with existing laws and regulations, and Marie Stopes confirmed it would resume its work to reduce maternal deaths in Kenya, where abortions are illegal unless a woman’s life or health is in danger. The charity operates 23 centers in the East African nation, that offer emergency contraception, crisis pregnancy counseling, pre- and postnatal care, postabortion care, safe delivery, and has helped avert more than 200,000 unsafe abortions in 2017, according to Marie Stopes.