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Geopolitics

ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing

A R A B I C A ارابيكا

By Kristen Gillespie


The popular unrest spreading through the Arab world has met its most deadly crackdown so far in Libya. Estimates are that some 300 people have been killed in recent days as Libyan security forces attempt to put down the growing protests, with the outside world largely relying on eyewitness accounts to piece together events in the country largely shut off from foreign media. Muammar Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, 38, gave a televised speech late Sunday night warning that Libya was at a crossroads, and that "rivers of blood" would flow if the government and protesters failed to agree on reforms.

TWITTERING

*The Arab twittersphere largely reacted with contempt for the speech, with Jordanian blogger @NatashaTynes saying, "Enough, man – we're fed up." @hindsabanekh asked: "A question for the great Saif al-Islam: Where's daddy?"

*Egypt's opposition icon Wael Ghonim had a direct message for Gaddafi fils, who said in his speech that the situation in Libya is different Egypt or Tunisia: "Saif al-Islam Gaddafi: ‘Libya is not like Tunisia or Egypt." There are many dictatorships, but the repression is the same."

NEW MEDIA

*An opinion piece published on Elaph.com, the popular, London-based pan-Arabic news website, urges Arabs to support Libyans: "The use of live bullets, killing and intimidation is in fact what one would expect of Colonel Gaddafi and his regime… but the Libyan people are breaking down an impenetrable wall. In my opinion, what is crystal clear is that the Libyan revolution needs us to stand up for it."

PHOTO DU JOUR

*Here's a picture from Pearl Square in Bahrain at dawn. Hundreds of people camped in the square calling for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family despite offers of dialogue.

*A few dozen female teachers from the Duraz Intermediate Girls' School in Bahrain went on strike. In an interview, one of them explained why: "We want political rights and an official inquiry into the blood that was spilled. We want to know why it happened because that blood was shed by all of us."

MEANWHILE…

*Jordan's King Abdullah gave a speech Sunday to senior officials stressing that his commitment to reform is unwavering, a statement he has made both at home and abroad for years even as the process long ago ground to a halt. Islamist-led opposition members of Parliament launched aggressive questioning into how protesters were attacked at a demonstration last Friday, with security forces reportedly standing on the sidelines as thugs, pictured on facebook, attacked protesters. The caption under the picture indicates that the picture was taken by an unidentified journalist during "the events of Friday, February 18th" which led to at least 8 protesters being wounded. Government spokesman Taher al-Masri warned, "There is a dangerous blurring of the line between freedom of expression and breaking the law."

Feb. 21, 2011

photo credit: illustir

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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