Roundup #234

January 22, 2021

New Events

Northern Africa (266m)

Sudan: Violence in the Darfur region dims hope of a long-sought peace: an argument in which a man was stabbed to death has spiraled into militia violence with 100s killed or injured. AP, NYT

Mostly teenagers kicked off economic protests–some of which turned violent–in Tunisia, on the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring. More than 1,000 were arrested after 6 days of protests. Post, Middle East Eye

East Africa (520m)

Ethiopia declares victory in the Tigray conflict, but there are “clear signs” that fighting persists. The International Crisis Group says “thousands have died so far, and tens of thousands have been displaced.” Yahoo News

Also, leaked reports show fears off mass starvation: “hundreds of thousands could starve.” 4.5m out of 5+m total population in Tigray are in need of emergency food assistance. BBC, Reuters … Economist: “Ethiopia’s government appears to be wielding hunger as a weapon: a rebel region is being starved into submission.” Economist

Frictions are growing between Ethiopia and Sudan. Right now, it’s mostly hot words. It could bubble into something more. AllAfrica

The tensions swirling around the movement of Ethiopian troops to focus on Tigray, and the various shifting political alliances, threatens a risk of destabilization in Somalia. SomTribune

Uganda’s election was a mess, preceded by some of the worst election violence since the 1980s. The president won a 6th term, but widespread vote-rigging was alleged, and the opposition candidate is under virtual house arrest. The opposition says it will challenge the results. WPost, Reuters

Middle Africa (206m)

Sharp spike in numbers fleeing Central African Republic: up to 60,000 in the past week alone. Al Jazeera

Western Africa (457m)

Nigeria’s “banditry” problem: a long read examination of issues in the north, and especially conflicts between Fulani and Hausa and the armed criminal bandits who prey on both sides. New Humanitarian

Why Nigeria is “the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian”: “like Saudi Arabia and the Vatican rolled into one.” AngelusNews

Western Asia (303m)

“Decades of conflict have triggered a ‘slow tsunami’ across Syria: millions inside the country and millions of refugees outside are grappling with deep trauma, grinding poverty, personal security, and a lack of hope for the future.” UN

The first suicide bombings in several years hit a crowded Baghdad market, killing 28. Link

South & Central Asia (2.0b)

Guns for hire in Afghanistan tribal wars: mercenaries fighting in tribal conflicts. “… paid to take up arms in a drawn out dispute between two Pashtun tribes… his current patron works in Dubai and pays him $400/mo to fight on his behalf.” Link

“There is no safe area”: in Kabul, fear has taken over. Link “Our houses are not safe”: Residents fear Taliban in Afghanistan capital. Link

A rash of assassinations in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, on the border with Afghanistan, are attributed to the ‘Bad Taliban.’ The region has a long history of militant activity in connection with Afghanistan. Link

In the first few days of the Kumbh Mela, over 700,000 arrived to take a dip in the Ganges. Last time, millions came to the 3-month festival. The government has shortened this one to 48 days, and says pandemic guidelines are being followed, but… Link

A deep look at the problem of employment fraud in India: millions are seeking jobs, and “while real openings are hard to find, fake offers await them at every turn.” Link

The farmers are still camped outside Delhi. Link
… but about 70 have died at protest sites. Link

Interesting long read: “Living in the shadow of rebellion: India’s Gond tribe.” Looks at the tribe (14 million, <1% Christian) as well as the Maoist insurgency. Link

India launched the world’s largest inoculation drive, but mistrust of vaccines is slowing it down. Link

India and China are jostling each other in their “vaccine diplomacy” efforts. Reuters-1, Reuters-2

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

Hong Kong: A new immigration law could impose exit bans on HKers, making it harder for them to flee. (I ponder whether this will apply to foreigners.) Link

In Hong Kong, “Covid-19 and racism make an ugly mix”: “backlash for unfairly portraying dark-skinned minorities as more likely to spread the coronavirus.” I think it’s almost inevitable we’ll see this in the future, especially as Covid-19 is wiped out of certain countries and only brought in by visitors from places where Covid hasn’t been wiped out (largely poorer countries with less medical resources). Those who work with or minister to such minority populations will also face challenges. Link

China builds a massive quarantine camp to house 4,000 people. Initially I thought they were tents, but apparently each “prefabricated room measures 18 sq m (=194 sq ft)… has en-suite bathroom and shower, desks, chairs, beds, Wi-Fi, and a television set.” Link

China says a negative Covid test will be required for Spring Festival travel. Millions return home during the Chinese New Year holiday, and there are major concerns about spreading Covid-19. Link

Covid-19 has helped North Korea tighten its grip: there are fewer defectors. Link

Several pieces of analysis I’ve seen online this week project the US-China relationship will continue in a downward spiral, even under the new US administration.

China’s left-behind kids repeat their parent’s tragic choices: “still having to make the heartbreaking decision to live apart from their children so they can work in the cities–even those who were once left behind themselves.” Link

China’s “Red Tourism” trails: 50 million people go on holiday to historic communist sites. Most of the tourists are young people under the age of thirty. Link

“North Korea on brink of famine as secretive state further cuts itself off from the world.” Few humanitarian groups can operate inside, so little is known. But satellites monitoring crops suggest the 2019 crop was smaller than in 1994. Link

Southeastern Asia (700m)

Earthquake + worst flooding in 50 years hits Indonesia: 96 dead, 70,000 displaced. Link

Jakarta hospitals overwhelmed by Covid patients from nearby cities, asks central gov’t for help. Link

Europe / North America / Latin America

“Spectre of unrest, violent repression looming over Haiti” in the context of reserving political tensions. Link

Not entirely sure yet what short-term impact this will have on ministry/mission work in the context of the USA (or headquarters in the USA), but Biden Administration ended ban on travel to USA from Muslim-majority countries. Link

Data

Covid case data

… 1/22: 97.3m cases, 2.08m deaths (2.1% CFR)
… 1/15: 92.6m cases, 1.98m deaths (2.1% CFR)
… 1/05: 88.2m cases, 1.9m deaths (2% CFR)
… 12/18: 73.9m cases, 1.6m deaths (2.1% CFR)
… 11/20: 57.0m cases, 1.3m deaths (2.2%)
Trackers: Johns Hopkins, NYT, CovidTracking

Countries push ahead with Chinese Covid vaccine despite demonstrably low efficacy rate. Link

Africa’s Covid death rate (2.5%) is now higher than the global average (2.2%). Link

10 countries with “biggest loss” in tourism revenue. The names on the list are a little surprising to me: the only non-western names were Thailand, Japan and Hong Kong. Link

17% of Nigerian’s don’t believe Covid is real. Link

Increasing

“covid patients wait on pavements outside [full] hospitals in Beirut” Link … Lebanon extends lockdown until 2/8 “as deaths soar” Link

Travel bubbles

Uzbekistan allows anyone with a negative test result in, without quarantine. Link
Sri Lanka welcomes tourists back, but with restrictions. Link
Tourism reportedly recovering in Bangladesh. Link
Thailand may loosen some curbs as outbreak eases. Link
… Thailand sold itself as a paradise pandemic retreat, but no one came. Link
Korea will vaccinate foreigners for free as well. Link
US apparently will retain barriers to entry from Brazil, UK, Ireland, EU. Link
Netherlands will ban many flights, impose nationwide curfew. Link

New Resources

The annual 2021 Status of Global Mission has been published: 1 page full of useful stats. Link

15 Days of Prayer for the Buddhist World Prayer Guide is available here.

Longer Reads

  1. “Nonstate armed actors and illicit economies” links to several articles on the subject. Militants, militias, and criminal groups are all seeing their power increase, and many of these are active in “least-reached” countries and provinces where movements are working or planning to work. Link … as an example of an illicit economy, consider this piece on timber smugglers in Bhutan. Link

  2. OCHA has a new report out: “West & Central Africa: trends to watch out for in 2021.” Link

  3. CFR’s annual 2021 “Conflicts to Watch” article. Link

Futures & Technology

  1. “The ongoing collapse of the world’s aquifers” could affect 1.6 billion people–many in less-reached areas–by 2040, says a new global study. Link

  2. The Great Firewall is coming to Hong Kong: HK begins Internet restrictions on national security grounds. Link

  3. The fury around WhatsApp’s privacy changes have led it to postpone its implementation until May 15. “We don’t see your messages. We don’t share your location. We don’t share your contacts with Facebook.” Link
    … WhatsApp says the changes were geared toward helping businesses do business on WhatsApp, upping its role as a commerce platform - enabling businesses to store conversations, and the like - but clearly mass confusion and fear were the result. Link

  4. Including the following not for political commentary but to show what even individuals can do, given access to open-source data and a cache of photos: “This site published every face from Parler’s capital riot videos.” Link

  5. And, to show what governments can do: Palantir’s God’s-eye view of Afghanistan. Link

  6. Lots of people, including the tech giants, continue to work on “vaccine passports.” Link

  7. A fairly common-sense checklist - but some things you may not know - for smartphone security. Link

  8. Scientists made a nearly invincible Lithium-Ion battery - you can bend, cut, burn, soak, shoot it, and it will still work. And it won’t explode. Link