Category Archives: Environment

Nigeria – Shell to start clearing up 2008 oil spill

Reuters

Global Energy News | Fri Mar 24, 2017

LONDON The head of a group helping organise Shell’s (RDSa.L) clean-up efforts in an oil Delta community in Nigeria said on Friday he was hopeful clean-up work after two spills in 2008 could start in April.

Royal Dutch Shell agreed in 2015 on a 55 million pound settlement with the Bodo community after accepting liability for two pipeline leaks due to corrosion that contaminated their land. [reut.rs/2hTxctf]

But progress to clean up the spill has been slow after Shell said members of the community had denied it access in August 2015 when work was set to begin. A community

After months of wrangling, the parties have reached agreement and clean-up work is set to start in April, said the chairman of the Bodo Mediation Initiative (BMI), a programme started in 2013 by the Dutch ambassador to Nigeria.

“Hopefully we should be able to go to site and start the clean-up next month,” BMI Chairman Inemo Samiama told Reuters.

The BMI is mediating between Shell’s Nigeria subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) and the Bodo community. It also includes representatives from the United Nations Environmental Programme, the local government, the Dutch embassy and several non-governmental organisations.

“SPDC remains fully committed to ensuring clean-up takes place and will continue to work with the BMI to implement a remediation plan for Bodo area,” said a spokesman for SPDC.

Samiama said Shell had appointed international contractors to carry out the clean-up work. Once it commences, the first step would be to remove oil from the water surfaces before restoring landscapes that were damaged by the spill, he said.

“We are hoping this time around we are going to start this clean-up once and for all and get this job done,” Samiama said, adding the entire clean-up process will take several years.

(Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by Edmund Blair)

Somaliland drought a nightmare and security threat

Star (Kenya)

Mar. 22, 2017, 6:00 pm
An internally displaced Somali man rests as he flees from drought stricken regions in Lower Shabelle region before entering makeshift camps in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, March 17, 2017. /REUTERS

Prolonged drought in Somaliland has killed between 65 and 80 per cent of the semi-autonomous region’s livestock, creating conditions that are “the worst time in our lives” and could threaten regional security, says the region’s environment minister.

With 70 per cent of Somaliland’s economy built around livestock, “you can imagine the desperation of the people, the desperation of the government,” said Shukri Ismail Bandare, the minister of rural development and environment.

“Pastoralists say this is the worst we have seen, a kind of nightmare,” she said. “They have 400 or 500 goats and then just 20 left. They have lost practically everything. I don’t know how they are still sane.”

Previous droughts have hit one area of Somaliland, but “now it’s five regions of the country. We’ve never seen it before”, she said in a telephone interview from Hargeisa, the capital, with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Across the Horn of Africa, millions have been hit by severe El Nino-related drought. In Somalia, 5.5 million people need assistance to survive over the next six months, UN Secretary General António Guterres said earlier this month.

Somaliland, a northern region of Somalia that operates autonomously after declaring independence, says it faces a particularly difficult time as its political status – it is not recognised as an independent nation – makes accessing aid more difficult.

“We are not getting bilateral or multilateral funds because we are not recognised,” Bandare said. “We are just working with the resources we have. It’s a drop in the ocean.”

Some “low” levels of international assistance are arriving, she said, but worsening drought has led to widespread migration in Somaliland, with herders flocking to the few remaining places with water.

Those villages and cities in turn are now overwhelmed by “thousands and thousands” of migrants, the minister said. “What they have is practically exhausted because of the pressure,” she said.

Read: World has months to stop starvation in Yemen, Somalia – Red Cross

Security risks

Experts fear growing migration and other social and financial stresses in Somaliland could undermine its role in preventing the spread of Islamic militant groups in the Horn of Africa.

“The displacement and dislocation due to the drought is not only a humanitarian disaster but threatens the social fabric of society,” said Michael Higgins of Independent Diplomat, a non-profit advisory group that works with Somaliland’s government to improve its diplomatic efforts.

That “could in turn disrupt security in the entire Horn of Africa region where Somaliland is acting as a buffer and bulwark against Islamic militants such as al Shabaab,” Higgins said.

Bandare said her government had little money to spend on emergency aid.

“Our resources are limited,” the minister said. “We spend a lot of money on peace and security because there are so many dynamics surrounding this country.”

Fortunately, “a lot of people understand the situation we are in, so we are optimistic” about receiving help, she said.

The drought already has forced Somaliland’s government to use money it had allocated for infrastructure and development spend on relief food and water, Bandare said.

“We were in a development stage, doing all kinds of infrastructure and really taking the country forward,” she said. “But now we are in an emergency.”

No water, no grazing

Poor rains since last year have left much of the semi-arid region’s grazing land barren. The country has virtually no irrigation, and no rivers or streams, Bandare said.

“The situation is getting worse by the day. It’s affected thousands and thousands of people,” she said. “And it affects our economy as a nation. The backbone of our economy was livestock.”

She said that climate change means that “drought is now coming every other year or every three years” in the region. “You can imagine the weight it has on our economy,” she said. “There’s no time to recover.”

Deforestation and widespread soil erosion have also contributed to the country’s rainfall problems, she said, noting that rain often now comes either all at once – producing floods – or not at all.

Efforts to harvest and store rainwater in Somaliland, including through a new African Water Facility project, are still in early stages, Bandare said.

Traditionally, spring rains have arrived the last week of March, but in many recent years they have come in late April. With a growing number of families now without access to water or food, delayed rains could mean a surge in loss of life, she said.

“If it doesn’t rain then we are in big, big trouble. Almost two million people are suffering now. Can you imagine if it affects the whole country” of 4.5 million, she asked.

Has the tide turned for South Africa’s rhino poaching crisis?

Talking Humanities

Prof Keith Somerville

Image: White rhino in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

South Africa’s long-awaited statistical report on rhino poaching reveal a 10.3 per cent dip in the numbers illegally killed in 2016 compared to the previous year. However, the picture is far from straightforward, explains Professor Keith Somerville.  

On 27 February the South African Ministry for Environmental Affairs released the long-awaited rhino poaching statistics, which showed that nationally 121 less animals were poached in 2016 (1,054) compared with 2015 (1,175). But the figures also indicated what many feared, that there had been an increase in illegal killing for horn in areas outside Kruger National Park. 

Although the 2016 decline is to be welcomed, it still represents more than 5 per cent of South Africa’s total rhino population of around 20,000. The rise in poaching outside Kruger is a cause for great concern, as it suggests that poaching networks are spreading their operations across the country, and growing in sophistication and flexibility, as demand from Vietnam, China and other countries in East Asia shows no sign of falling.

Rhino poaching in South Africa

One problem is the diffuse nature of the poaching gangs. They include Mozambicans brought into the country and paid to poach – they are often armed with high-powered rifles imported for the Mozambican security forces and wildlife department that have been corruptly diverted to poaching gangs. But much of the poaching in South Africa involves gangs of Afrikaners, which include former vets, wildlife rangers, helicopter pilots, professional hunters and game farm owners.

A very worrying element in this complex web, is the suspected involvement of senior ANC members and even government ministers with known poachers. Recently state security minister David Mahlobo, was found to have close links with a self-confessed rhino horn smuggler, massage parlour owner and businessman, Guan Jiang Guang.  Mahlobo has denied being a friend of the Chinese businessmen even though Guan Jiang Guang claims such a friendship exists and an Al Jazeera documentary on rhino poaching shows the two together.

Save the Rhino and other conservation NGOs have welcomed the overall fall in South Africa, but are opposed to the South African government’s draft legislation which would allow a domestic trade in rhino horn to resume. The trade was suspended by a government-imposed moratorium in 2009, which was successfully challenged in the courts by private rhino owners.

Under the new law, the government’s hacked together response to the court decision, a foreign citizen visiting South Africa could get a permit to export a maximum of two rhinos per year (or their horns), meaning the already overstretched South African wildlife authorities would be required to police both a legal and illegal trade.

This has huge potential for laundering poached horns and for a new form of what was once called pseudo-hunting, when non-hunters from Vietnam and Thailand paid to shoot rhinos and export the ‘legal’ trophy. However, the proposed legislation seems to have few safeguards and many private rhino owners have welcomed the move. But it doesn’t address the many complex problems relating to whether creating a regulated, legal trade in horn from dehorned rhinos, legal stocks and horn from natural mortality would help to stop poaching by opening up a legal, alternative supply.

Rhino owners and some conservationists, like David Cook (formerly director of the Natal Parks Board, and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi senior ranger) and John Hanks (former director of WWF’s Africa programme), favour an internationally regulated, legal trade that would supply demand through the provision of non-lethal horn. Such a system needs strong safeguards and monitoring procedures that are neither in place nor addressed in the rushed draft legislation.

South Africa’s government has a reputation for corruption at the highest levels of the ruling party, ministries and state institutions (including the police), so the hasty creation of a poorly-monitored legal trade does not amount to a regulated, well thought-out means of destroying the monopoly of the smugglers, or of using a regulated trade in non-lethal horn to undercut the illegal trade, reduce poaching significantly and produce income for sustainable conservation. Falling between the two stools of a total ban and a properly-policed legal trade, the new legislation looks like a new rhino disaster waiting to happen.

Professor Keith Somerville is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. He is also research associate at the Marjan Centre for the Study of War and the Non-Human Sphere at King’s College, London and a member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent. His latest publications are Ivory: Power and Poaching in Africa and Africa’s Long Road Since Independence: The Many Histories of a Continent.

Somali – Puntland regional anti-piracy chief says sacked over illegal fishing comments  

Reuters

By Abdiqani Hassan | BOSASSO, Somalia

BOSASSO, Somalia The head of anti-piracy operations in the semi-autonomous Puntland region of Somalia said he had been fired for speaking out about illegal fishing, which he claims could trigger a new outbreak of piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Pirates hijacked an oil tanker off Somalia last week, the first such attack in the region since 2012 after shipping firms hired private security and international warships started patrolling nearby waters.

Abdirizak Mohamed Dirir, director of anti-piracy operations in Puntland, said the province’s president sacked him after he told journalists that permits had been handed to illegal fishing vessels.

“The problem with Puntland is that if you talk about illegal fishing, you are seen as a criminal,” Dirir told Reuters. “But I will not stop talking about illegal fishing because if this is not stopped, piracy will restart again.”

In last week’s hijacking, unlike previous attacks, the ship was freed swiftly and with no ransom paid after the Puntland Maritime Police Force intervened.

Puntland officials blamed local anger over illegal fishing by foreign vessels for the attack. They warned that more hijackings might happen unless the problem was tackled.

President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali fired Dirir in a decree dated Sunday, saying he had taken into account the “need for a change and redoubling efforts to fight Puntland’s piracy”.

Dirir said the president “violated the constitution” as consultations were not made with other officials.

Somali officials say the decline in piracy in recent years has emboldened foreign-flagged illegal fishing vessels to plunder Somalia’s fish stocks closer to shore, bringing them within reach of pirate gangs.

In a report published in October, the U.N. Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group said it was “concerned that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by foreign vessels may re-establish the conflict dynamic with local fishing communities that contributed to the rise of piracy a decade ago”.

The last outbreak of Somali piracy cost the world’s shipping industry billions of dollars as pirates paralysed shipping lanes, kidnapped hundreds of seafarers and seized vessels more than 1,000 miles from Somalia’s coastline.

(Writing by Aaron Maasho and Duncan Miriri; Editing by Nick Macfie)

South Sudan – UN reports slams arms purchases during famine

allAfrica/DW

A proposal for an arms embargo was supported by the United States in December, but the plan was rejected by the UN Security Council. Could the international body be ready to change it position as suffering continues?

A confidential UN report slams the government of South Sudan for spending more than half its budget on weapons and security as 100,000 people are dying of starvation

The human misery is the result of famine caused primarily by ever-increasing government attacks in the area.

Experts say another 1.1 million are near starvation. In addition, the number of people desperately needing food is expected to hit 5.5 million in the “lean season in July … if nothing is done to curb the severity and breadth of the food crisis.”

The report also calls for an arms embargo on South Sudan – a measure supported by the United States but rejected by the UN Security Council during a vote in December.

“Weapons continue to flow into South Sudan from diverse sources, often with the coordination of neighboring countries,” said the report by a panel of experts.

The experts found a “preponderance of evidence (that) shows continued procurement of weapons by the leadership in Juba” for the army, the security services, militias and other “associated forces.”

A petrostate

Rich in oil, South Sudan generates 97 percent of its budget revenue from petroleum sales. From late March to late October 2016, oil revenues totaled about $243 million, according to calculations from the panel.

At least half – “and likely substantially more” – of its budget expenditures are devoted to security issues including arms purchases, the 48-page report said.

President Salva Kiir’s government has continued to make arms deals even as a famine was declared in parts of Unity state, where the famine is most acute.

 South Sudan arms purchases

“The bulk of evidence suggests that the famine in Unity state has resulted from protracted conflict and, in particular, the cumulative toll of repeated military operations undertaken by the government in southern Unity beginning in 2014,” according to the report.

The government is compounding the food crisis by blocking access for humanitarian aid workers. Significant population displacement has helped exacerbate the famine.

Fighting began intensifying last July, devastating food production in areas that have traditionally been stable for farmers, including the Equatorial region, which is considered the country’s breadbasket.

After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan descended into war in December 2013, leaving tens of thousands dead and some 3.5 million people displaced.

bik/sms (AP, AFP)

Kenya – Kenyatta to deploy military in Baringo and Laikipia to quell violence

Daily Nation

Friday March 17 2017

Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia. The president

Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia. The president is counting on them to restore law and order in the North Rift. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP. 

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President Kenyatta has ordered the deployment of the military to troubled North Rift to help police restore law and order.

The Kenya Defence Forces will be sent to parts of Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Pokot and Laikipia counties.

“The deployment will further assist in disarmament and surrender of illegally held arms,” President Kenyatta said during the pass-out for 3,985 fresh officers at the Administration Police Training college in Embakasi, Nairobi.

Mr Kenyatta said he had made the decision following a sitting of the National Security Council, which he chairs, on Friday.

ENEMIES

“Those people with illegal arms have continued to threaten the lives of Kenyans and should know from today they are enemies of State and therefore shall be treated as such,” he said.

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He went on: “We have agreed today that the military will join hands with the police to supplement, in terms of manpower and equipment that police lack.”

The deployment follows blood-letting by bandits who have been slaughtering villagers at will.

DOZENS DEAD

On Tuesday evening, 11 people were killed when suspected Pokot bandits raided Mukutani Village in Tiaty Sub- County.

The attacks have left over dozens people dead since January.

Scores, mainly women and children, are fighting for their lives in hospitals after literally wriggling out of the jaws of death.

The President, during the State of the Nation address on Wednesday, placed the blame on politicians in those areas, for the deaths of dozens of residents, livestock thefts, wanton destruction of property and displacement of residents.

He has followed on his promise to use “all means possible” to end the violence.

INVESTIMENT

In his speech on Friday in Embakasi, the president said the government had invested heavily in providing police with better equipment, better working facilities, more vehicles and helicopters to support efficient operations.

He said forms of the police forces have been initiated to create a true meritocracy where advancement is based on excellence and misdeeds are duly disciplined.

“We have enhanced the quality of training received by police forces and you have been beneficiaries of those improvements,” President Kenyatta told the graduating police officers.

Mr Kenyatta said the government had also invested in training more police officers and brought down the police – citizen ratio to one police for every 380 citizens down from 1:800 in a span of just three years.

EQUIPMENT

He cited the installation of surveillance systems in Nairobi and Mombasa and the improvement of the welfare of officers by expanding police housing units and inaugurating a health insurance scheme for police officers as part of the government’s effort to motivate the officers and ensure efficient service.

President Kenyatta said the increased investment in the security sector and in the police forces is expected to help reduce crime and incidents of corruption within the police force to become relics of the past.

“We expect rapid response to reports of unrest and insecurity. We expect you to dedicate yourselves to your professional development. We expect you to explore and work towards international best practices in the execution of your operations,” the President told the graduating officers.

BANDITRY He added: “We expect to see stronger police-community relations that allow citizens to volunteer support and information to the police forces and act as partners in the maintenance of law and order.”

The Head of State asked police officers to shun bias and reject prejudice in favour of fairness, saying they should cultivate an atmosphere where the citizens they serve will become more trusting and less wary of men in uniform.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery thanked the President for his support to the National Police Service, especially in the provision of modern equipment and improving their terms of service.

Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett and his Deputy in charge of Administration Police Samuel Arachi said the new officers would be posted to rural outposts to deal with among other things cattle rustling, counter-terrorism and other banditry.

Additional reporting by PSCU.

News24

2017-03-17 17:34

President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta

Nairobi – Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered the military to be deployed to the volatile counties of Baringo and Laikipia to calm deadly violence fueled by drought.

Kenyatta announced on Friday that as chairperson of the National Security Council he has authorized the immediate deployment of the Kenya Defense Forces to support police in operations there.

At least 21 people have died in fighting between herders in Baringo county since early February. Thirteen people were killed this week. And in Laikipia county, a British farmer was killed by herders invading ranches in search of pasture and water.

Kenya has declared a national disaster because of the drought that affects about half of the counties in this East African nation.

Kenya’s president deploys military to quell drought violence

2017-03-17 17:34

President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta

Nairobi – Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered the military to be deployed to the volatile counties of Baringo and Laikipia to calm deadly violence fueled by drought.

Kenyatta announced on Friday that as chairperson of the National Security Council he has authorized the immediate deployment of the Kenya Defense Forces to support police in operations there.

At least 21 people have died in fighting between herders in Baringo county since early February. Thirteen people were killed this week. And in Laikipia county, a British farmer was killed by herders invading ranches in search of pasture and water.

Kenya has declared a national disaster because of the drought that affects about half of the counties in this East African nation.

Somalia – Puntland teetering on the edge of famine

Al Jazeera

Ahmed Osman and his son Mohamed, seek medical care for Mohamed in Duho, where a small clinic is serving pastoralist families affected by malnutrition [Ashley Hamer/Al Jazeera]

Puntland, Somalia – Ahmed Osman, 34, gathered his tiny son into his arms and walked for three hours to reach the nearest medical centre in Dhudo village in Puntland, a semi-autonomous region of Somalia.

His three-year-old son, Mohamed, was desperately frail. He had been suffering from fever, vomiting and acute diarrhoea for eight days.

“My wife and three other children are behind in our camp with the surviving goats. I am the only one who could carry the baby all this way,” he told Al Jazeera.

The clinic in Dhudo is a small local government facility supported by aid group Save the Children. Nurse Bahija Abdullahi says she has been receiving two to three children a day since January. They are coming from makeshift pastoralist settlements scattered across the area, she explains.

The diarrhoea and fever has taken a toll on Mohamed’s health. Abdullahi can offer him oral rehydration salts and sachets of high-calorie peanut paste, but she doesn’t have the resources to treat cases of critical malnutrition like his.

Such children can be referred only to three hospitals in all of Puntland – Garowe, Bosaso and Galkayo – each hundreds of kilometres apart.

Osman is a nomadic pastoralist whose family has raised sheep, goats and camel in the arid Nugaal district in southern Puntland for generations.

Erratic rainfall

However, more than two years of protracted drought and erratic rainfall have killed off most of his animals, separated his family and driven him further from his native place than he has ever needed to travel.

Swaths of Somalia are once again on the edge of famine. On Sunday, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire announced the deaths from starvation of 110 people in 48 hours in the country’s south-west.

It is six years since Somalia’s last famine killed some 260,000 people.

Now, nearly 6.2 million people – more than half the population – face acute food and water shortages and almost three million are going hungry.

“In my whole life in Somalia I have never seen so many dead livestock,” says Mowlid Mudan, communications officer for Save the Children, one of the few organisations working in Puntland.

READ MORE: Antonio Guterres raises alarm as hunger crisis worsens

“Sixty percent of our population relies on livestock to live and the rest are somehow connected. These families have lost every single animal. Even their camels. When the camels start to die you know that people will be next.”

Osman is not the only one who has headed for Dhudo. The village is built around the only substantial water source within a 75km radius: currently a diminishing green rivulet which pools in a rocky gully.

Bandar Bayla, the eastern district alongside the Indian Ocean where Dhudo lies, saw fleeting showers in late 2016.

Word spread and pastoralists travelled from as far as neighbouring Ethiopia in search of pasture for their herds.

But there has been no more rain.

Somalia is only fed by two perennial rivers – the Juba and the Shabelle – neither of which enter Puntland.

Carcasses litter the landscape; small heaps of bones, shrivelled skin and fur. Countless sheep and goats huddle together in the sand and die where they lay.

Abdirisak Farah, 40, brought his herd 200km from Nugaal to Bandar Bayla. Of his 500 animals, fewer than 100 survive.

“We had to leave our wives and children behind in villages because they are not strong enough to make this journey on foot,” says Farah.

“I have never had to move so far to find pasture.”

State of disaster

Some 250km further inland, ragged displacement camps are expanding on the fringes of towns as destitute nomads are forced out of the wilderness to seek assistance.

Shaxade, off the main road between the hubs of Garowe and Qardho, is currently home to dozens of women and children whose adult male relatives left for the coast with their herds two months ago.

“We are here because we have lost almost everything. We were feeding cardboard and water to our animals,” says Star Abdullahi, a mother of six.

“We are depending on the host community for food and the clinic nearby for the weakest ones. Our situation is bad but at least we are a group of women protecting each other. In the bush we were scattered and alone. This is safer for us.”

READ MORE: Famine stalks Somalia again

Somalia elected a new president in February following a drawn-out political process.

Ten days into his term, President Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo declared a drought-induced state of disaster across the country, and a national drought response team was established.

Puntland is a territory that identifies as semi-autonomous – unlike breakaway Somaliland in the far north – and wishes to remain part of a federal Somalia.

Access for humanitarian aid across much of South Central Somalia remains impossible because the country is still fighting the armed group al-Shabab.

Puntland, where drought has also ravaged the countryside, however, considers itself more stable. Local leaders say they have been sounding the alarm for more than a year to little effect.

“We are in a pre-famine situation and the time to act is now,” says regional Environment Minister Ali Abdullahi Warsame at his office in Garowe.

“We are already reporting deaths by hunger and because people are drinking contaminated water … The entire economy is collapsing … But 95 percent of Puntland is accessible, unlike the south. Our government has meagre resources but is ready to assist the NGOs, but all eyes are on Mogadishu [Somalia’s capital] and the political transition.”

International support

According to Warsame, Puntland’s government raised more than $1m for drought relief in November, with large contributions from the diaspora and local door-to-door collections.

“We only need very basic food, sanitation and shelter items but we need them urgently in the next three weeks … The bulk of our response has been community-led. The international support is a drop in the ocean. It never comes at the right time,” he said.

At of the start of the year, international NGOs and the UN requested some $825m from donors during the first half of 2017 to prevent famine in Somalia.

IN PICTURES: Drought in Somalia – Time is Running Out

Funds are coming in at a faster rate than in 2011 and humanitarian agencies now have a stronger presence on the ground, according to Julien Navier, spokesperson for the UN’s refugee agency.

Nevertheless, competing catastrophes in South Sudan, Yemen and the Lake Chad basin mean that what is desperately needed to halt an avoidable tragedy may not materialise in time.

Sahara Mohamed has brought her three children to a small clinic in Yaka village, close to the Shaxade displacement site. Her husband took their surviving goats to the coast two months ago.

She cradles her two-year-old, who is barely conscious, while her three-year-old lies limp on the cot beside her. Her oldest son sits shivering on the edge of the cot, an intravenous (IV) tube inserted under the skin of his small hand. Nurses believe he is suffering from pneumonia.

“Children are getting sick because they are weak but they don’t have to be,” says Mudan. “You can see this is preventable if we move fast.”

Source: Al Jazeera News