Aug. 19 is World Humanitarian Day, an annual United Nations tribute that often goes by unnoticed. This year is different: It falls on a week when weâ€™ve been acutely reminded of both the worldâ€™s humanitarian crises, and the danger aid workers face every day.
Yesterday the world was shocked by the photograph and video of Omran Daqneesh, a Syrian boy pulled from the rubble of Aleppo by local rescuers. The chaotic images that turned the boy into an overnight symbol of Syriaâ€™s suffering also show two other children being saved by medical workers in the city â€" just a sample of the enormous task that falls on the shoulders of Syriaâ€™s humanitarian volunteers.
In Aleppo, like elsewhere in the Middle East, humanitarian workers and hospitals are under constant threat of attack. On today, of all days, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders announced it would evacuate all staff from hospitals in northern Yemen after an airstrike earlier this week hit one of its facilities. That was the fourth attack on the groupâ€™s hospitals since the beginning of Yemenâ€™s civil war.
Humanitarians donâ€™t only risk their lives in war zones, they toil in countries across the globe from Australian migrant camps in Nauru to hospitals in Angola fighting the spread of yellow fever. To get a small (and virtual) sense of what humanitarian workers are up against every day, take this quiz to find out â€œwhich world you would rather live in.â€
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY (& WEEKEND)
- Rio Olympics close.
- 24-hour â€œNight Tubeâ€ service on the London Underground set to open today.
- Sunday is World Fashion Day: Why not follow the example of Lady Gaga or Angela Merkel?
BOLT LOCKS DOWN 8TH GOLD
Legendary sprinter Usain Bolt cruised to his second gold medal of the Rio Games, winning the 200 meters last night. All eyes will be on tonightâ€™s 4x100-meter relay to see if the Jamaican team can win, allowing Bolt to complete an unprecedented triple-triple: three gold medals in three straight Olympics.
RYAN LOCHTE LIED ABOUT ROBBERY
Brazilian police are considering charging U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte for lying about being the victim of an armed robbery in Rio. It actually appears that a drunk Lochte and three other athletes trashed a gas station. The U.S. Olympic Committee offered an apology for what it described as a â€œdistracting ordeal.â€
â€" ON THIS DAY
Both Coco Chanel and the Liberation of Paris are in todayâ€™s 57-second shot of History. Oui, oui.
THAILAND IDENTIFIES SUSPECT, ONE WEEK AFTER BOMBINGS
Police forces in Thailand have issued an arrest warrant for Ahama Lengha, the first identified suspect in connection with last weekâ€™s wave of bombings that killed four and injured several people across the country, Reuters reports. The authorities donâ€™t know whether the suspect is still in Thailand. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks.
UN ACKNOWLEDGES ROLE IN HAITI CHOLERA EPIDEMIC
Six years after the outbreak of a cholera epidemic in Haiti that killed up to 10,000 people, the United Nations acknowledged its responsibility in an internal report released yesterday. Several studies showed that Nepalese peacekeepers brought the disease to the Caribbean country after the devastating 2010 earthquake, but a UN spokesman maintained the UNâ€™s legal immunity and did not offer compensation.
Philippinesâ€™ controversial President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a new war of words on a political rival heâ€™s labeled an â€œimmoralâ€ woman. See how she replies on the front page of Philippines Daily Inquirer.
â€œSometimes in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing,â€ an apologetic Donald Trump admitted at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina. â€œAnd believe it or not, I regret it â€" and I do regret it â€" particularly where it may have caused personal pain.â€
As part of our Rue Amelot collection of international essays, read Jaquellineâ€™s story â€" the second in a series of oral histories from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, so close and yet so far away from the Olympic spotlight. â€œI came to Rio by bus. My mom put me on a bus and told me, â€˜one of my sisters lives there and youâ€™re going to go live with her.â€™ I had never met my aunt, but when I arrived in Rio I recognized her face, because she has the same face as my mom. When I got to Maré â€" imagine! That girl from the countryside, that country bumpkin laughs, not knowing anything. For me everything was new, but I adapted in a year. I didnâ€™t end up living with my aunt very long. When I was 17 she expelled me from her house. ... At one point, when all doors closed for me, I lived for a period on the street, and to survive I entered the world of prostitution.â€
Read the full article, The Other Rio â€" Jaquelline: God, If You Exist, Look At Me
â€" MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
Peruvians At Rest â€" Cusco, 1996
ISLAMIC STATE CLAIMS ATTACK IN RUSSIA
The Islamic State claimed responsibility yesterday for an attack two days ago that injured two Russian policemen east of Moscow. Both assailants were killed, on the same day that a counter-terrorism raid in Saint Petersburg left four alleged jihadists dead.
MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH
- Why The Burqa Fits Just Fine In A Modern Democracy â€" Die Welt
- Poland, Five Brave Couples Demand Same-Sex Marriage â€" Newsweek Polska
- Why The Internet Giants Canâ€™t Crack The Chinese Market â€" Caixin
WORST BEST MAN
A 30-year-old Brit was sentenced to 20 months in prison for stealing more than $10,000 from his friends for a bachelor party he never organized, and lying about having terminal cancer. He was also ordered to repay the money he took.
Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?
BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.
The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.
This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.
Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.
"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.
Can you trust environmental officials?
For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.
This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.
It could have sunk because of the rain.
After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.
The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.
"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.
"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.
Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water
A questionable claim
That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.
"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.
He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."
Living in pollution
The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.
"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.
He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.
The mining work should have been stopped long ago
Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.
The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.
In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.
The mine has affected the landscape around the villages
Resisting lignite mining
The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.
The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.
They were dependent on others' land for work.
Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.
In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.
The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.
"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.