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Abs, Yemen The doctors and nurses at the malnutrition ward in Abs Hospital are used to scrambling — there is rarely enough time in the day to see the number of emaciated children that come in. But things have never been quite this bad.

In the past few months, the power has dropped out daily and high fuel prices mean they can’t always keep their generators going. When that happens, their monitors and ventilators switch off. Children who could have been saved, die. 

“Those who aren’t killed by the airstrikes or this war? They will die from shortages in medical supplies,” Dr. Ali Al Ashwal tells CNN at the hospital in Hajjah, northwest of the capital, Sanaa.

In March, the Trump administration and the US’ key regional allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, slashed their funding to the United Nations’ appeal for Yemen. The funding cuts mean reduced health care services for Yemeni civilians, with some forced to close. They have also forced aid agencies to stretch food assistance thin.

This state of affairs is evident at Abs Hospital. In the first half of the year, it received nearly 700 patients suffering from malnutrition. In August, the case load was double the average monthly total, according to hospital staff. 

“Our clinic usually takes between 100 and 150 cases in a month, and in one month we have received approximately double the amount. While at the same time, medical supplies have decreased,” Dr. Al Ashwal said.

“The hardest part is when we lose a child when there could have been a chance for them to survive — if the situation was different.” 

In 2019, the US contributed almost $1 billion to the UN appeal, but this year, it has donated less than half that so far, giving $411 million, UN data shows.

Those cuts have largely impacted areas in the north controlled by the Iran-backed Ansarullah — known as Houthi rebels — whom the US and several other donor nations accuse of interfering in humanitarian operations.

Despite the US’ sizeable cut in funding, it is still the biggest donor to the UN’s Yemen appeal.

A spokesperson for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) told CNN that the country would resume all operations in the Houthi-controlled north “when we are confident that our partners can deliver aid without undue Houthi interference and account for US assistance.”

The spokesperson pointed to unmet commitments from “other donors” as the reason for the funding shortfall among UN agencies in Yemen, saying “the United States encourages all donors, including those in the Gulf region, to contribute additional funding, to fulfill their 2020 pledges in a timely manner, and for all assistance to be provided according to humanitarian principles.”

Support pledged to the UN by Saudi Arabia for Yemen more than halved this year. In 2019, it delivered more than $1 billion, and this year it has pledged $500 million. The UN says that just $23 million of that money has come through its appeal.

A spokesperson for Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center told CNN the country had been ready to hand over the rest of the money in July but was now waiting to finalize agreements with the agencies “to ensure that the pledged amount is not diverted to other purposes outside of fulfilling the humanitarian needs.” Like the US, it cited concerns of appropriation of aid by the Houthi rebels.

“We expect that these agreements will be signed soon, and that the total remaining pledged amount will then be released immediately to the UN agencies and other international organizations,” the spokesperson said. 

In the UAE’s case, it hasn’t given anything to the UN appeal for Yemen this year so far, UN data shows. Last year it donated $420 million. A spokesperson for the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not confirm nor deny it had given nothing to the appeal this year. 

The spokesperson also mentioned concerns about Houthi rebels obstructing and diverting aid. “As such, the UAE regularly evaluates the efficacy of its aid programs in Yemen and adjusts its approach accordingly. The UAE’s commitment to the Yemeni people is unwavering — the UAE will continue to be one of the largest donors to Yemen for as long as support is required,” they said.

All three countries have donated tens of millions of dollars and other aid to Yemen through other channels outside of the appeal.

The UN’s humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told CNN on Monday that while the Houthis’ obstruction is an issue, the funding crisis is having a far greater impact on the lives of Yemenis.

“What’s bringing people to the brink of starvation is the fact that we have no money. And I do think it’s particularly reprehensible for countries which were contributing last year, said they were contributing again this year and then not pay, because the effect of that is to give people the hope that maybe the help is coming and then when you don’t pay, you dash their hopes,” he told CNN’s Becky Anderson on Connect the World.

The US, Saudi Arabia and UAE are key actors in the Yemen conflict, and in 2018 and 2019 they were the biggest donors to the UN response in Yemen.

On Tuesday, the 75th UN General Assembly opens with several sessions on Yemen scheduled to take place. Multiple sources from UN humanitarian response teams told CNN they hoped countries would pledge more funds at the assembly to fill the deficit left by the three countries’ cuts this year.

The Houthis have placed harsh restrictions on UN agencies trying to access parts of the country it controls in the north. Tensions have been high since the World Food Program, along with the US and its allies, accused the Houthis of stealing food aid from other parts of Yemen.
The Houthi rebels overthrew the internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi in 2015. A Saudi-led coalition, in which the UAE is a key partner, has waged a campaign against the Houthis for the past five years, destroying much of the Houthi-controlled areas with the US’ backing. Previous CNN investigations have shown that the US government profited from the war, by selling Saudi Arabia and the UAE American-made bombs and armaments.

A land, sea and air blockade was instated by Saudi vessels at the very start of the war to halt any support that they said could be sent to the Houthis by Iran. That has pushed up the price of staples and fuel, making it difficult for essential services, including ambulances, to keep running.   

Document shows a system collapsing

In Yemen, 80% of the population is dependent on aid. UN figures show that agencies have received only 30% of the roughly $3.4 billion they need to keep the country afloat. It’s the worst situation there since the war began — and is a huge slide from last year, when the humanitarian response was 87% funded.

Yemenis like Mushiraya Farah are feeling the impact. On the outskirts of Abs, Farah pushes her young son, Asim, along the street in a wheelchair. He is so malnourished, he can no longer walk.

He was seen by doctors at a nearby hospital which has since been bombed and destroyed. With fuel too expensive and a lack of ambulances, Farah has nowhere to take him for treatment. Money has been scarce since Asim’s father died in a road accident.

“Asim used to go out and study, like other little boys. It was a surprise when he started falling while walking. The doctors carried out tests and told me there’s nothing wrong with him,” she said, showing CNN her home, a small wooden frame with rags for a roof. The rags have started to tear and offer no protection from the elements.

After Asim became unable to walk, the doctors told Farah that malnutrition had stunted his development.

She used to receive food aid, but not any longer. She does odd jobs and buys just enough food to keep herself and her son alive. All she has, she says, is prayer. 

“I pray for health. I pray for dignity. That’s what I pray for — health and dignity,” she says. “It is in God’s hands.” 

As a result of funding cuts, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) — which coordinates the international response in the country — told CNN that UN agencies have already been forced to either close or reduce more than 75% if its programs this year alone, affecting more than 8 million people. Among the most significant are cuts to the World Food Program and the World Health Organization. In July, the Trump administration formally withdrew the US from the WHO. The withdrawal goes into effect in July 2021.

In a confidential internal UN briefing document obtained by CNN, the full, devastating impact of that drawback is revealed in a rainbow of colors marking where aid programs have been closed and which are at imminent threat of shutdown if more funding isn’t received. There is a lot of red, indicating what programs have already been closed or reduced, and very little green, where programs are well-funded.

UN agencies confirmed to CNN the details of the document and almost all said they have had their funding seriously impacted.

Among the agencies most affected is the World Food Program, which is only 44% funded. The WFP estimates that more than 66% of people in Yemen are considered “food insecure,” and that more than 14 million of them could die if their food assistance stops.

WFP usually delivers food supplies — like flour, pulses, sugar and salt — to 13 million people a month in the country. Now 8.5 million of those people received rations only every other month, essentially limiting their supply to half. If more funding isn’t received, the other 4.5 million will be in the same boat. Two-thirds of these supplies go to Houthi-controlled areas, most of which are more densely populated than other parts of the country. 

“Being forced to essentially halve the amount of food we distribute is very worrying. Yemen is at risk of sliding into famine if there are prolonged disruptions to food supply,” the WFP’s Yemen spokeswoman Annabel Symington told CNN. 

UNICEF has warned that more than 2 million children under the age of five are suffering from malnutrition, and that with reduced funding for specialist medical units, 260,000 of these children could be forced to go without essential nutritional treatment.

‘We’ve stopped counting the dead’

Getting a grasp on the big picture in Houthi-controlled Yemen is difficult. CNN spent weeks reaching out to the Health Ministry in Sanaa, local councils, aid organizations and doctors on the ground in northern Yemen for recent figures to show how many deaths here may have been caused by food shortages, or malnutrition. No one had any data on death numbers.

UN sources told CNN they have similarly been struggling to conduct assessment surveys in the north. A UN map showing the current level of food insecurity around the country doesn’t include these Houthi-controlled areas in the north. 

And with an apparent excess in deaths, assumed to be from undetected Covid-19 cases, it’s been difficult to even keep count of the dead. No one really knows if the deceased succumbed to coronavirus, malnutrition, or both.

In the southwestern city of Taiz, a local gravedigger tells CNN that he and his fellow diggers are struggling to keep up with burials. They stopped counting the dead some time ago. 

“When coronavirus arrived in Yemen, it came around the end of the month of Ramadan … since then, we’ve kept on digging and digging. We can’t keep up,” Tamim Yousef says as he digs under the sweltering summer heat. 

“You feel the worst pain with the children, when you have to bury a child. You feel sorrow, sadness. My thoughts go out to the parents.”

It’s a sentiment shared at Abs Hospital, where Dr. Al Ashwal laments that they have no way of knowing how many children might be dying at home, unable to reach treatment.

Medical staff all over the country are wondering how much longer they can hold on for. 

In northern Yemen’s Aslam, one of the hardest-hit districts, a specialist malnutrition unit has had all its funding suspended. It usually receives the majority of its financial support from the World Health Organization, but the UN says it doesn’t have enough money to keep programs like this going.

Qais Ahmed, a nurse at the clinic, says the patients still come and the staff just can’t turn them away. He says the biggest challenge is the power outages and general lack of resources.

“We have no monitors, and the oxygen equipment when the power stops…” he pauses, finding it hard to go on. “Sometimes, if it stops, children can suffocate. This is the worst part and there is nothing you can do to save them.”

Journalists from Tell Your Tale Productions reported from various locations in Yemen and Yousef Mawry reported from Dearborn, Michigan. CNN’s Nima Elbagir, Angela Dewan, Nada Bashir and Barbara Arvanitidis reported from London, Sarah Sirgany and Nada Altaher reported from Abu Dhabi, and Jennifer Hansler reported from Washington, DC.

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Poisoned Navalny plots his return, but Russia’s opposition activists wonder who might be next

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It’s not just Navalny who has been under attack.

Just one day after he emerged from his medically-induced coma, at least three volunteers linked to his team were targeted at their office in Novosibirsk, Siberia.

Two masked men were recorded by security cameras, bursting in to the office of “Coalition Novosibirsk 2020,” which is also headquarters of Navalny’s local team.

One of them threw a bottle containing an unknown yellow liquid — described to CNN as a “pungent chemical”, “unbearable” by witnesses — at volunteers who were there for a lecture about the upcoming local elections, before running off.

The Kremlin has denied having anything to do with the attacks, but analysts are skeptical.

“Russia has a track record of sudden deaths among the Kremlin’s critics: Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko and Boris Nemtsov, to name but a few,” says longtime Russia analyst Valeriy Akimenko from the Conflict Studies Research Centre, an independent research group. “If this wasn’t a murder plot or assassination attempt, it was an act of intimidation.”

Which raises an important question: How much immediate danger is Navalny in, if and when he does return to Russia?

“I don’t think the words safety or security apply to anyone who is opposition in Russia,” says Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian opposition politician and chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom, who has been poisoned twice in the past five years.

“I can have as much protection as I like, but I have to touch doorknobs and breathe air,” he says. “The only real precautionary measure I’ve been able to take is to get my family out of the country.”

The Kremlin has denied any involvement in either of the attacks on Kara-Murza, though his wife has directly accused the Russian government of bearing responsibility.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle has also denied any involvement in Navalny’s poisoning, but Akimenko points out that the language coming from the Kremlin in the weeks since has hardly been reassuring, given the near-death of a prominent politician.

“Just look at what’s been coming out of Russia,” he says. “Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying no need for Putin to meet Navalny; Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying no legal grounds for a criminal inquiry; Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin talking instead about an investigation into possible foreign provocation; and on state TV, ceaseless attempts to muddy the waters by blaming anyone but the Russian state.”

As if being an outspoken opponent of the government wasn’t enough of a risk for Navalny, other Putin critics believe that what is being seen as a failed assassination attempt, in order to scare opponents, might have backfired.

“Now that Alexey Navalny has survived, this may prove to be a spectacular miscalculation that only empowers the opposition and Navalny,” says Bill Browder, a prominent financier who became a thorn in the side of Putin after leading the push for a US sanctions act named after Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who died under suspicious circumstances in a Russian prison.

Kara-Murza points out that in the very area of Siberia where the campaign office attack took place, Navalny’s allies made gains against Putin’s ruling United Russia in elections this past weekend.

“When Russians have a real choice, they are very happy to demonstrate how sick they are of Putin’s one-man rule,” he told CNN.

Whenever he does return to Russia, the risk both to him and his supporters is likely to remain very high; has this affected the opposition’s morale?

“Putin rules by symbolism,” says Browder. “To take the most popular opposition politician and poison him with a deadly nerve agent is intended to scare the less popular ones into submission.”

So, will it work?

Kara-Murza says the Putin critic Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated near the Kremlin in February 2015, just days before he was due to take part in an anti-government protest in Moscow, used to tell his allies: “We must do what we must and come what may. Of course, we understand the dangers, but we are determined, not scared.”

And while Akimenko says: “If Russia’s opposition leaders aren’t worried, they should be,” he adds that: “They have been fearless in the face of both personal physical attacks against Navalny and persecution disguised as prosecution.”

The Navalny episode revealed the dangers of political opposition in Russia to the world.

But for those actively involved in that fight, it has merely underscored the threat they already knew existed, says Kara-Murza

“I was poisoned twice,” he said. “Both times I was in [a] coma. Both times doctors told my wife I had 5% chance of living. Boris Nemtsov had 0% when he was shot in the back. But it’s not about safety; it’s about doing the right thing for our country. It would be too much of a gift to the Kremlin if those of us who stand in opposition gave up and ran.”

CNN’s Mary Ilyushina contributed to this report from Moscow

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Engel subpoenas head of government’s foreign broadcast media agencies

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Pack has previously insisted his personnel changes were a routine part of new leadership at a large organization.

A spokesperson for U.S. Agency for Global Media on Friday said Pack couldn’t attend due to a conflict with the original hearing date.

“Michael Pack is disappointed that the Committee has decided to escalate the situation,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Pack is eager to testify before the Committee to talk about the critical work of USAGM and to answer Members’ questions.”

Engel recently subpoenaed the State Department for documents connected to GOP Sen. Ron Johnson’s investigation of Joe Biden’s relationships in Ukraine, a probe that Democrats say is politically motivated and potentially tainted by Russian disinformation.

Engel is also probing Trump’s decision earlier this year to fire State Department inspector general Steve Linick.

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Every Local Authority Subject To New Restrictions Across Great Britain

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Some areas of the UK are currently subject to stricter coronavirus restrictions (PA)


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Coronavirus hotspots across the UK have been subjected to localised lockdown restrictions in a bid to slow the spread of the virus—use PoliticsHome’s interactive map to find out what restrictions apply where.

 

Each of the UK’s four nations sets its own public health policies, meaning restrictions differ between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland

Selected postcodes in Northern Ireland are subject to localised restrictions as of 10 September. Visit nidirect.gov.uk to view the affected areas

Postcode areas may be added and removed from the local restrictions as the patterns of infection change, and further interventions and restrictions could be added as necessary.

Face coverings are compulsory on public transport, in shops and supermarkets, and in selected other indoor settings. They are also advised wherever social distancing is not possible. 

Individuals are advised to stay one metre apart from each other as of 29 June. Up to 15 people from different households can meet outdoors, and up to six people from two different households indoors.

Indoor settings such as non-essential retail, hairdressers, libraries, places of worship, and museums and galleries have been allowed to reopen.

There are no restrictions on domestic travel, except in some areas experiencing localised lockdowns. Those arriving from selected international destinations are required to self-isolate for 14 days. 

England

Face coverings are compulsory on public transport, in shops and supermarkets, and in selected other indoor settings such as museums, cinemas, galleries and places of worship. They are also advised wherever social distancing is not possible. 

Individuals are advised to stay two metres apart from each other but, where this is not possible, one metre is advised. 

Gatherings of more than six people are illegal both indoors and outdoors as of 14 September. Weddings and funerals can still go ahead with a limit of 30 people if conducted in a Covid-secure way.

Indoor settings such as non-essential retail, hairdressers, libraries, places of worship, and museums and galleries have been allowed to reopen. Nightclubs have not been allowed to reopen.

People are no longer encouraged to work from home as of 1 August, but workplaces must follow Covid-secure guidelines if they plan to reopen.

There are no restrictions on domestic travel, except in some areas experiencing localised lockdowns. Those arriving from selected international destinations are required to self-isolate for 14 days. 

Scotland

Face coverings are compulsory on public transport, in shops and supermarkets, and in selected other indoor settings. They are also advised wherever social distancing is not possible. 

Individuals are advised to stay two metres apart from each other. Gatherings of more than six people are illegal both indoors and outdoors as of 14 September, except for children under 11.

Indoor settings such as non-essential retail, hairdressers, libraries, places of worship, and museums and galleries have been allowed to reopen.

There are no restrictions on domestic travel, except in some areas experiencing localised lockdowns. Those arriving from selected international destinations are required to self-isolate for 14 days. 

Wales

Face coverings are compulsory on public transport, in shops and supermarkets, and in selected other indoor settings. They are also advised wherever social distancing is not possible. 

Individuals are advised to stay two metres apart from each other. People can only gather in groups of up to six indoors and must all belong to the same extended household group. Up to four households are able to join together to form an extended household. Children under 11 are exempt.

Indoor settings such as non-essential retail, hairdressers, libraries, places of worship, and museums and galleries have been allowed to reopen.

There are no restrictions on domestic travel, except in some areas experiencing localised lockdowns. Those arriving from selected international destinations are required to self-isolate for 14 days. 

 

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