UN, NGO and General News Round-Up

The top United Nations relief official has called for the immediate and unconditional release of an aid worker kidnapped Nov. 3 in Kabul and deplored the killing of an Afghan citizen shot while trying to prevent the incident. Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes strongly condemned the abduction of the aid worker, who serves as a consultant for Amitie Franco-Afghane (AFRANE), a NGO active in education and development in Afghanistan. The incident is the latest in a series of attacks against civilians in the strife-torn nation.

About 100 million more people will be living in hunger in a year if unfair global agriculture practices are not changed, the head of UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Jacques Diouf, warned Nov. 4. “We are faced with a situation where the number of people going hungry in the world has reached 923 million this year,” 75 million more than in 2007, he told a conference on EU farm policy at the European Parliament, as cited by AFP. “According to our forecasts, if this situation continues, in a year this will increase by 100 million,” he said, criticizing the policies of rich farming nations and the way agriculture is organized world-wide.

UN agencies are continuing to help victims of recent severe floods in Yemen, with the Arabian peninsula nation’s Government estimating that the number of people needing assistance now numbers up to 25,000. Authorities have reported that at least 180 people lost their lives after the torrential rains last month in eastern Yemen, while over 3,000 houses have been destroyed or badly damaged. The UNHCR, working closely with the Government, has airlifted and trucked supplies – including 700 tents, 3,500 mattresses and 1,500 mosquito nets – for some 500 families, or 3,500 people, from Dubai. (UN News Service)

The UN Foundation says that heavier use and manufacturing of biomass fuels in West Africa could help to cut poverty and boost economic development. The organization argues that biomass - fuel derived from plant material, wood, agricultural and municipal waste - could aid these countries to avoid high food and oil prices and open up new economic opportunities, the Financial Times reported.

The UN World Food Program (WFP) began distributing food Nov. 5 to over 135,000 people displaced by fighting in the eastern part of the DRC Congo, which has forced an estimated 250,000 people to flee their homes in recent months. The distributions are aimed at internally displaced persons (IDPs) in six camps around Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, which has been the scene of deadly fighting between Government forces (FARDC) and the rebel National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), led by renegade general Laurent Nkunda.

Four European aid workers and two Kenyan pilots have been kidnapped at gunpoint from an airstrip in central Somalia, near the Ethiopian border. The six members of the French aid group Action Against Hunger were taken from the town of Dhusa-Mareb. Somalia has been wracked by conflict since 1991 and is now facing an Islamist and nationalist insurgency. Ethiopia helped dislodge Islamists from power in 2006. Aid workers have been increasingly targeted.

Rio Tinto Group will probably maintain investment in African mining exploration in anticipation of a recovery in global economies after increasing spending in the first half, a senior manager in the region told Bloomberg news. Rio Tinto is active in 10 African countries and continues to search for deposits in a further nine including Mozambique, the DRC (Congo), Tanzania, Mauritania and Guinea. Rio boosted expenditure on African exploration by 31 percent to USD 101 million in the first half from a year earlier, Beswick said at the company’s Palabora copper mine in South Africa.

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