U.N Agencies Prepare for Looming Humanitarian Crisis
Major U.N. agencies, including the U.N. High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP), announced plans Monday to undertake one of the largest humanitarian aid operations in the history of the United Nations. Officials estimate that as many as 1-1.5 million Afghans are expected to cross the Afghan border in coming days and weeks, as they flee their homeland and seek safe harbor in Pakistan and Iran. They would join another 4-5 million Afghan refugees already seeking asylum in those countries.
To deal with the potentially crushing flow of expected refugees, the U.N. will open some 20 new camps, and a team of UNHCR officials have been dispatched to Pakistan to coordinate the efforts. However, the Taliban has locked up U.N communications equipment in Afghanistan and issued a death decree to any aid workers who tried to use communications equipment, such as satellite phones, to communicate with other aid workers inside or outside the country. The WFPís humanitarian efforts are being further exacerbated by the Talibanís theft over the weekend of U.N. food supplies from their offices in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. Fortunately, reports received this morning from the World Food Programme indicate the agency, in conjunction with other NGOís still operating in Afghanistan, will resume limited operation in the northern and western portions of Afghanistan where the agency estimates that without additional food aid, almost 1.6 million Afghans in the northern Afghan regions will run out of food by December.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .