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DR Congo leader under pressure amid humanitarian crisis

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Alex Crawford, Special Correspondent

As pressure from the international community grows on Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila to hold elections, a deepening humanitarian crisis and unrest grips the country.

Warning: Some readers may find photos below distressing.

A baby with nothing, not even a name lies in a hospital cot in DRC’s central hospital in Bunia, fighting to live. His tiny skeletal chest heaves up and down as he battles for every breath with under-developed lungs.

His translucent hands are about the same size as the thumb of the doctor examining him. He has no clothes, no home, not even the cot to himself. He’s sharing it with the hospital’s latest arrival – another baby born earlier in the day, who looks equally fragile.

The two of them hover between life and death. It’s too early to say which will be their fate. But should it be life, their futures look decidedly bleak in this, one of the world’s richest countries in terms of natural resources.

The babies are two of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s “internally displaced”, basically a fancy name for refugees in their own country.

The baby is one of the Democratic Republic of Congo's 'internally displaced'
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The baby is one of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s ‘internally displaced’

There are 4.5 million others according to the United Nations, making them the largest number of internally displaced people in the whole of Africa. They’re people who’ve fled violence, left their homes and run trying to find safety anywhere.

Many are severely under-nourished. Some 7.7 million people are classified as severely hungry. They’re all desperately poor, prone to sickness and now living in the direst of conditions in huge squalid camps with little sanitation and where disease festers.

The two newborn babies fighting for their lives
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The two newborn babies fighting for their lives

The statistics are shocking. Some 13.1 million Congolese need humanitarian aid. That’s the same number as in Syria.

Looking at the little baby with no name battling for every gulp of air, struggling to hang on to this thread of a chance he’s been given, I thought of what lay ahead for him, should he win this, the first of a lifetime of challenges.

The dismal numbers scream out his life will be fraught with problems. Firstly, his 26-year-old mother, Lutove has to survive herself. She is also in the central hospital – but laying in a male ward because of lack of beds, weak through hunger and now ill with tuberculosis.

Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila
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There is pressure on Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila to hold elections

When we saw her, she couldn’t haul herself upright and couldn’t walk, she was that weak. The doctor measured her upper arms using a tape meant for babies from three months to three years.

She gave birth three weeks ago after running away from machete-wielding men who attacked her village for the second time. She was 28 weeks pregnant at the time.

The 26-year-old mother is now suffering from tuberculosis
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The 26-year-old mother is now suffering from tuberculosis

The stress and panic triggered the birth of her baby some 14 weeks early. With little food throughout her pregnancy, she was under-weight and under-nourished and her baby son was born weighing less than half a bag of sugar.

Three weeks of hospital care had helped but when we saw him, he was still only 750 grammes with ribs which stuck out so you could count each and every one of them.

The central hospital paediatric wing is filled and overflowing into tents outside with mothers and babies lining the pavement and corridors.

Inside, there are frequently two babies to a bed. All of them are the children of the “internally displaced” – hungry, vulnerable to disease which is easily spread in the poor living conditions they now find themselves.

Lutove fled machete-wielding men who attacked her village
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Lutove fled machete-wielding men who attacked her village

It is a miserable lot – and many believe this is man-made tragedy – caused by decades of ethnic conflict, multiple militias controlling and fighting for territory, rampant corruption and a president whose term expired last year but who’s still clinging to power whilst most of his country cling to life.

DRC should be one of Africa’s rich countries. It’s Africa’s largest copper producer and has more than half of the world’s supply of cobalt laying beneath its soil. But it ranks very low on the UN Human Development Index.

More from Democratic Republic of Congo

President Joseph Kabila is now under pressure from the international community to hold elections as soon as possible as parts of his country descend deeper into chaos.

The baby with no name hardly has the strength to cry – but the cries around his country are growing louder and stronger for a new leader who may give fresh hope to the world’s most complex and longest standing humanitarian crises.

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Afghanistan: Youngsters protest online against order telling girls not to go to school | World News

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Afghan girls and boys have joined a social media protest against a decision by the Taliban to prevent young females going to school.

Putting their own safety at risk, many have created makeshift banners to make their points, opposing an edict by the Taliban government that female middle and high school students should not return to school for the time being, while boys of the same age can resume their studies this weekend.

It comes as the interim mayor of Kabul is telling female city authority employees to stay home, with only those whose jobs cannot be done by men allowed to work.

Banner reads: "What is our crime that we are prevented from education?"
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Banner reads: ‘What is our crime that we are prevented from education?’

The moves are further evidence the Taliban, which overran Kabul last month, is enforcing its harsh interpretation of Islam despite initial promises that it would be tolerant and inclusive.

Among the slogans on the banners displayed by the youngsters are statements like: “What is our crime that we are prevented from education?” and “I won’t go to school without my sister. I support my sister. We are equal.”

Sky News has blurred the faces of some of those protesting, as there are fears they could be at risk in a country that appears to be clamping down on the right of expression.

Banner reads: "You took our holy land, so don't take our education from us"
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Banner reads: ‘You took our holy land, so don’t take our education from us’

On Sunday, just over a dozen women staged a protest outside the new ministry, holding up placards calling for the right of women to participate in public life.

The protest lasted for about 10 minutes before a short verbal confrontation occurred with a man and the women got into cars and left, as members of the Taliban watched from nearby cars.

Kabul’s new interim mayor, Hamdullah Namony, told his first news conference that, pending a further decision, most of the 1,000 or so female city authority employees would be required to stay home.

He said exceptions would only be made for women who could not be replaced by men, including some in the design and engineering departments and the attendants of public toilets for women.

The Taliban flags are seen on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan
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The mayor of Kabul has told many female employees of the city authorities to stay home

Mr Namony added: “There are some areas that men can’t do it, we have to ask our female staff to fulfil their duties, there is no alternative for it.”

During its previous rule between the mid 1990s and 2001, the Taliban had forbidden girls and women from schools, jobs and public life.

In recent days, Taliban officials told female university students that classes would take place in gender-segregated settings, and they must abide by a strict Islamic dress code.

Banner reads: "We won't go to schools, until our sisters are allowed to go to school"
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Banner reads: ‘We won’t go to schools, until our sisters are allowed to go to school’

Under the previous US-backed administration, before it was deposed by the Taliban in August, men and women had sat alongside each other in universities, for the most part.

On Friday, the Taliban shut down the ministry for women’s affairs, replacing it with a government department responsible for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice”, with the job of enforcing Islamic law.

Amid deteriorating conditions for ordinary Afghans, many of whom previously relied on international aid, witnesses said an explosion targeted a Taliban vehicle in the provincial city of Jalalabad, the second such deadly blast in as many days in an area where Islamic State militants are said to dominate.

Banner reads: "I don’t go to school without my sister. I support my sister. #We are equal"
Image:
Banner reads: ‘I don’t go to school without my sister. I support my sister. #We are equal’

The Taliban and IS extremists are enemies and battled each other before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last month.

Initial reports said five people were killed, with a child among the two civilians said to have died. The Taliban were not immediately available for comment.

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Boris Johnson tells world leaders he is growing ‘increasingly frustrated’ at their efforts to tackle climate change | Politics News

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Boris Johnson has criticised other world leaders over their efforts to tackle climate change, telling them he is growing “increasingly frustrated” that their commitments are “nowhere near enough”.

Speaking during a meeting at the United Nations in New York, the prime minister said the gap between what has been promised by industrialised nations and what they have so far delivered remains “vast”.

Co-hosting a discussion on the issue at the UN General Assembly, Mr Johnson urged fellow leaders to renew their efforts to meet a key financing pledge to help developing nations.

The PM wants to get countries to commit to giving $100bn (£73bn) a year in support to developing nations to cut their carbon emissions and shield themselves against climate change.

But he earlier told reporters there was only a “six out of 10” chance of this target being met before the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November – which he then said will be “a turning point for the world” and “the moment when we have to grow up and take our responsibilities”.

He told Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby: “We have been here before, we have all heard lots of positive noises, let’s see where we get to.

“We are not counting our chickens.”

However, Joe Biden’s climate envoy sounded upbeat when questioned by Sky News.

“I think we’re going to get it done by COP and the US will do its part,” John Kerry said.

Asked if the US president will announce more money this week, he replied: “I’m not hoping… I’m telling you to stay tuned into the president’s speech and we’ll see where we are.”

Chairing the climate discussion on Monday, Mr Johnson noted that “everyone nods and we all agree that something must be done”.

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Kerry ‘confident’ of $100bn climate target

“Yet I confess I’m increasingly frustrated that the ‘something’ to which many of you have committed is nowhere near enough,” he continued.

“It is the biggest economies in the world that are causing the problem, while the smallest suffer the worst consequences.

“And while progress is being made all over the world, the gulf between what has been promised, what is actually being delivered, and what needs to happen… it remains vast.

“Too many major economies – some represented here today, some absent – are lagging too far behind.”

And the PM warned countries there would be consequences if the financing target is not met, saying: “If you say that the lives of their children are not worth the hassle of reducing domestic coal consumption, will they vote with you in fora such as this?

“Will they work with you, borrow from you, stand with you if you tell the world that you don’t care whether their land and their people slip below the waves?

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“To be merely a bystander is to be complicit in their fate – yet that is exactly what you will be if you fail to act this year.”

Ahead of the UN meeting, Downing Street said developed countries had “collectively failed” to meet the target.

Figures released last week by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showed that $79.6bn was mobilised in 2019, more than $20bn off the target.

Watch the Daily Climate Show at 6.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.

The show investigates how global warming is changing our landscape and highlights solutions to the crisis.

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Serbians block roads in Kosovo in protest over license plate restrictions | World News

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Protesters have blocked roads in northern Kosovo after authorities stopped cars with Serbian plates from entering the country.

Police in Jarinje, Kosovo are forcing drivers from Serbia to remove or hide license plates and use temporary registration details that are valid for 60 days and cost €5 (£4.30).

Serbia, which lost control of Kosovo in 1999, does not recognise Kosovo and has stopped cars with Kosovo license plates from entering the country.

Kosovo's special force deployed armoured vehicles as hundreds blocked the roads in Jarinje, Kosovo
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Kosovo’s special force deployed armoured vehicles as hundreds blocked the roads in Jarinje, Kosovo

Almost 50,000 Serbs who live in the north of Kosovo and share a border with Serbia, refuse to recognise Pristina’s authorities and as restrictions came into force on Monday, cars and trucks blocked roads in protest.

Police in Kosovo deployed riot gear and armoured vehicles as the blockades built up and Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, said the move was not taken to harm drivers but was a retaliation measure against Belgrade.

“Today there is nothing illegal or discriminatory,” Mr Kurti said in parliament.

“Just as yesterday, today and tomorrow, Serb citizens will move freely and safely.”

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said the situation is very “serious and difficult”.

“When you are dealing with people who are not responsible, it is difficult to find a solution,” Mr Vucic said.

Drivers waved a Serbian flag as they protested against the government ban on entry of vehicles with Serbian license plates
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Drivers waved a Serbian flag as they protested against the government ban on entry of vehicles with Serbian license plates

The two countries began talks in 2013, mediated by the European Union, to resolve the issues, but little progress has been made.

Kosovo is recognised by around 110 countries, including the United States, Britain and most western countries, but Russia, Serbia’s traditional ally, does not recognise it.

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