Wider Image: The Indian children who need to take a train to get to water

By Rajendra Jadhav

MUKUNDWADI, India (Reuters) – As their classmates set off to play after school each day, nine-year-old Sakshi Garud and her neighbor Siddharth Dhage, 10, are among a small group of children who take a 14-km (9-mile) return train journey from their village in India to fetch water.

Their families are some of the poorest in the hamlet of Mukundwadi, in the western state of Maharashtra, a village that has suffered back-to-back droughts.

India’s monsoons have brought abundant rain and even floods in many parts of the country, but rainfall in the region around Mukundwadi has been 14% below average this year and aquifers and borewells are dry.

“I don’t like to spend time bringing water, but I don’t have a choice,” Dhage said.

“This is my daily routine,” said Garud. Their cramped shanty homes are just 200 meters (220 yards) from the train station. “After coming from school, I don’t get time to play. I need to get water first.”

They are not alone. Millions of Indians do not have secure water supplies, according to the UK-based charity, WaterAid. It says 12% of Indians, or about 163 million people, do not have access to clean water near their homes – the biggest proportion of any country.

For an interactive graphic on India’s depleting water resources, please click https://tmsnrt.rs/2mgof1L

Recognizing the issue, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to spend more than 3.5 trillion rupees ($49 billion) to bring piped water to every Indian household by 2024.

More than 100 families in Garud and Dhage’s neighborhood do not have access to piped water and many depend on private water suppliers, who charge up to 3,000 rupees ($42) for a 5,000-litre tanker during summer months.

But private water supply is something Garud and Dhage’s parents say they can not afford.

“Nowadays, I don’t get enough money to buy groceries. I can’t buy water from private suppliers,” said Dhage’s father, Rahul, a construction worker. “I am not getting work every day.”


The children take the train daily to fetch water from the nearby city of Aurangabad.

The train is often overcrowded, so a group of small children jostling to get on board with pitchers to fill with water is not always welcome.

“Some people help me, sometimes they complain to railway officials for putting pitchers near the door. If we don’t put them near the door, we can not take them out quickly when the train stops,” Dhage said.

Garud’s grandmother Sitabai Kamble and an elderly neighbor help occasionally by pushing them on board in the face of irritable passengers.

“Sometimes they kick the pitchers away, they grumble,” Kamble said.

When the train pulls into Aurangabad thirty minutes later, they scramble to fill the pitchers at nearby water pipes. Garud can’t reach the tap, so she relies on her taller sister, Aaysha, 14, and grandmother.

Others, like Anjali Gaikwad, 14, and her sisters, also board the train every few days to collect water and wash clothes.

Their neighbor Prakash Nagre often tags along with soap and shampoo. “There’s no water to bathe at home,” he says.

When the train returns them to Mukundwadi, they have just under a minute to disembark. At times, Dhage’s mother, Jyoti, is waiting at the station to help.

“I’m careful, but sometimes pitchers fall off the door in the melee and our work is wasted,” she said, holding her infant in one arm and a pitcher in the other. “I can’t leave my daughter at home alone so I have to take her along.”

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Additional reporting by Francis Mascarenhas; Writing by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Euan Rocha and Neil Fullick)

An economy in ruins leaves Gazans with hard choices

Palestinians stand at their house in the northern Gaza Strip February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) – The man who makes crisps, chocolate and vanilla snacks for Gaza had just finished explaining how his business was going through the worst economic crisis of his life when the lights went out, shutting down his factory. Again.

Wael Al-Wadiya has been running his food manufacturing business since 1985 – in a Gaza Strip that was very different from the one in which he and two million other Palestinians now live.

Back then Israeli settlers were still in Gaza, the Islamist militant group Hamas did not yet exist, and Palestinians were still two years away from the first of the uprisings against Israeli military occupation that introduced the word ‘Intifada’ to the world.

Sitting in a slowly declining industrial estate near the fortified border with Israel, the 51-year-old confectioner says that Gaza has been brought to a near-standstill by a decade of Israeli-led blockades, and internal Palestinian divisions.

“The situation is very miserable. People’s ability to buy has fallen to a minimum, therefore our businesses and businesses in Gaza are suffering as never before,” said Wadiya.

Palestinians work at Wael Al-Wadiya's snacks and chips factory, east of Gaza City February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Palestinians work at Wael Al-Wadiya’s snacks and chips factory, east of Gaza City February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

He has cut production by 70 percent and wages by 30 percent. Employees who used to work each day now may work one day in three. “Unless a miracle happens, factories and companies will close down and it will be the real death of the economy,” he said.

There has long been poverty in Gaza, but with unemployment now at 43.6 percent, according to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, even once-wealthy merchants are defaulting on debts, causing other businesses to collapse, like dominoes.

Many in Gaza blame Israel for the hardships, accusing it of placing an economic blockade on the enclave that has drastically reduced the movement of people and goods.

But Gazans also fault their own leaders, complaining of a power struggle between Hamas, the armed group that seized military power in Gaza in 2007, and Fatah, the secular party of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Both Hamas and Fatah levy taxes. Both run competing bureaucracies. And even electricity has become a tool of political power – until recently the blackouts that plagued Wadiya’s factory were exacerbated by Abbas cutting money for Israeli current for Gaza.

Fatah says Hamas exploits money it collects from electricity consumers for its own purposes.

Israel, which pulled its settlers and soldiers out of Gaza in 2005, says it has been forced to control access to and from the territory to stop Hamas sending out gunmen and bombers, and from smuggling in weapons or material to make them.

The Israeli military says that it carries out “constant calculated risk management” between allowing humanitarian aid through to Gazans, while contending with Hamas, which “attempts to exploit the aid intended for Gaza’s civilian residents”.



A combination of war, isolation, and internal rivalries has left Gaza in its current state.

Last year Abbas cut the salaries of 60,000 government employees in Gaza by 30 per cent, leaving them with little to spend in shops and markets after paying off bank loans. The sums of bounced checks in Gaza nearly doubled from $37 million to $62 million between 2015 and 2016, and then again to $112 million in 2017, according to the Palestinian Monetary Authority.

This lack of buying power contributed to a drop in imports through the one remaining commercial crossing with Israel, with just 350 truckloads per day compared with 800 in the last quarter of 2017.

Palestinian children play as a girl held by her mother looks out of the window of house in the northern Gaza Strip February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Palestinian children play as a girl held by her mother looks out of the window of house in the northern Gaza Strip February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Some merchants took a religious initiative in December in which they offered to write off customers’ debts using the hashtag ‘Sameh Toajar’ – ‘Forgive, and Be rewarded (by God).’

It was supported by Hamas and other factions, but the scale of the debts was too great for such a small-scale remedy.

“Gaza has gone into clinical death and is in need of root solutions, real and sustainable, and not temporary or short-lived solutions,” said Maher al-Tabba, a Gaza economist.

At the other end of the economic scale from the merchants are Suhaib, Shadi and Ahmed al-Waloud, who scavenge through garbage near their home in northern Gaza searching for plastic to sell to recycling plants.

Their father was one of the Gazans who lost their jobs in Israel more than a decade ago when Israel closed the door to thousands of Palestinian workers following Hamas’s seizure of control.

“I have been used to doing this job since I was a child,” said Suhaib, 19, from Beit Lahiya. But they now earn just enough to “stay alive,” he said, because the price paid for second-hand plastic has fallen by 80 per cent. “Nowadays there is not much work. People are not throwing away a lot of plastic.”

The question that dominates Gaza is whether hard times will make Palestinians more inclined to support attacks on Israel, or less so, because they fear reprisals.


Ali al-Hayek, the chairman of the Palestinian Businessmen Association in Gaza, said that total collapse of the economy would lead to instability that would be in nobody’s interests.

“Gaza is living through a real humanitarian crisis,” he said. “An economic collapse will lead to a security collapse that will cause trouble for the international community and for Israel.”

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi Writing by Stephen Farrell, Editing by William Maclean)

Insurance could cut $29 billion natural disaster bill for poor nations

natural disaster

LONDON (Reuters) – New types of insurance could cut the costs of natural disasters for poorer countries and reduce the amount of humanitarian aid needed, according to a report commissioned by Britain’s international development ministry.

The cost of natural disasters to some of the world’s poorest countries has averaged a total of $29.1 billion a year in the past 15 years, catastrophe modeling firm RMS said.

While aid has covered 8 percent of this, insurance has only paid for 3 percent of the average costs of earthquakes, drought or floods in 77 low and low-middle income countries, or $900 million, but could cover up to $6.8 billion if more insurance structures were used, RMS said in the report prepared for Britain’s Department for International Development.

Britain said at last weekend’s G20 meeting it would set up the London Centre for Global Disaster Protection to help developing countries use insurance to cut disaster costs.

“There is clear potential for insurance to both reduce the shortfall in funding for natural disaster losses in low and low-middle income countries, and to relieve pressure on humanitarian aid budgets,” RMS said.

This includes using so-called “parametric” structures, where insurance payments are triggered by a predetermined factor, such as an increase in water height, at a specified location.

Such models are used in existing insurance facilities such as African Risk Capacity and make payments more effective.

On a disaster loss of $30 billion, every dollar paid out through parametric insurance has the same impact as $3.50 of slower-moving aid payments, RMS said.

“It’s not just about speed, it’s about certainty,” said Daniel Stander, global head of the firm’s public sector group, adding that parametric insurance enables countries to know in advance how much money they will receive in a disaster.

(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Alexander Smith)

California’s high traffic fines unfairly punish the poor: activists

FILE PHOTO: A diesel Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL is taken away by a tow truck for having an expired registration, in Santa Monica, California, U.S. on September 21, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California legislators have raised fines for traffic infractions to some of the highest in the United States to generate revenue, and the poor are bearing an unfair burden, losing cars and jobs because they cannot pay them, civil rights activists said on Friday.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area said in a new report that the $490 fine for a red light ticket in California was three times the national average. The cost was even higher if motorists wanted to attend traffic school in lieu of a conviction or were late paying.

“Our state is raising money off the backs of California families to balance the budget for special projects, and it’s using traffic tickets as a revenue generator instead of to protect safety, instead of to do justice, said Elisa Della-Piana, the group’s legal director.

The report, released on Thursday, comes as lawmakers in some states and local jurisdictions have begun to recognize the implications of high traffic fines on the poor and unemployed, especially in minority communities.

Failure to pay a fine on time can lead to a motorist losing his driver license and car, suffer further financial problems and even wind up in jail.

“Studies show 78 percent of Californians drive to work and a very high percentage have to have a license to have a job,” Della-Piana said. “If you can’t afford to pay $500 this month for a traffic ticket, that’s also saying to many families, you lose your household income.”

California lawmakers have begun to take baby steps to address the problem, Della-Piana said, with Governor Jerry Brown lately vetoing new attempts by state legislators to raise fines or tack on new fees to traffic tickets as they grapple with deep budget deficits brought on in part by mushrooming public employee pension obligations.

Brown, a Democrat, has also said in his latest budget proposal that the state should not be suspending driver licenses for failure to pay a ticket.

State Senator Bob Hertzberg, a Democrat from Los Angeles, has introduced legislation that would reduce fines based on a motorist’s ability to pay.

Della-Piana said California should next stop arresting motorists who cannot afford to pay their tickets. Black people are statistically more likely to be jailed for such offenses, according to the report.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

What is left when Peru’s flood waters recede

A chair stands in mud at the home of Francisco Coca after rivers breached their banks due to torrential rains, causing flooding and widespread destruction in Carapongo Huachipa, Lima, Peru

By Mariana Bazo

CARAPONGO, Peru (Reuters) – On the outskirts of Lima, hundreds of householders salvage scant belongings in what is left of their homes after the Rimac River burst its banks in recent weeks amid Peru’s worst flooding disaster in decades.

Many of the hardest hit are those who can least afford it – poor Peruvians who built their homes on cheap land near the river, which runs from Peru’s central Andes to the Pacific coast.

Simeona Mosquera contemplates her uncertain future, standing in what once was her front room and is now a ruin of mud and debris.

A children's bike leans against a wall covered in mud after rivers breached their banks due to torrential rains, causing flooding and widespread destruction in Carapongo Huachipa, Lima, Peru,

A children’s bike leans against a wall covered in mud after rivers breached their banks due to torrential rains, causing flooding and widespread destruction in Carapongo Huachipa, Lima, Peru, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

The 74-year-old market seller fled in the night after a neighbor told her the waters were rising dangerously, but did not think anything would happen to her house.

“When I returned the next day I saw my sofa to one side, part of the house on another side, everything all over the place, everything destroyed,” she says. “I thought, am I dreaming or is this happening?

“I lost my sofas, my bed, my cupboards, my children’s documents … there is nothing left.”

Furniture that can be recovered is perched precariously on parts of brick walls, among the only remnants of nearby homes.

Across Peru, dozens have been killed and tens of thousands displaced after sudden warming of Pacific waters off the coast unleashed torrential downpours in recent weeks. It is part of a localized El Nino phenomenon that is forecast to stretch into April.

In what’s left of Carlos Rojas’ house a pink sign reading ‘Baby Shower’ hangs on a wall, one of the few things not coated with mud. It was for a party a couple of months ago for his baby daughter, the mechanic says. He brushes down a salvaged mattress. Not much else is left.

“All the things that cost me a lot of effort to earn went in no time at all,” say Rojas. “There’s no choice but to start again.”

(Click on http://reut.rs/2o9h1JB to see a related photo essay)

(Writing by Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

After lifetime with the poor, Mother Teresa speeds to sainthood

Mother Teresa of Calcutta greets journalists after arriving in Rome from New Delhi

By Crispian Balmer

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Affectionately called the “saint of the gutters” during her lifetime, Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be made an official saint of the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday, just 19 years after her death.

A Nobel peace prize winner, Mother Teresa was one of the most influential women in the Church’s 2,000-year history, acclaimed for her work amongst the world’s poorest of the poor in the slums of the Indian city now called Kolkata.

Hundreds of thousands of faithful are expected to attend the canonization service for the tiny nun, which will be led by Pope Francis in front of St. Peter’s basilica.

Although criticized both during her life and following her death, Mother Teresa is revered by Catholics as a model of compassion who brought relief to the sick and dying, opening branches of her Missionaries of Charity (MoC) order around the world.

“Even in popular culture she’s identified with goodness, kindness, charity,” said Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the MoC priest who campaigned for her sainthood.

In novels or movies often characters say, “‘Oh, who do you think I am? Mother Teresa?'” he told Reuters.

Her critics view her differently, arguing she did little to alleviate the pain of the terminally ill and nothing to stamp out the root causes of poverty.

In 1991, the British medical journal the Lancet visited a home she ran in Kolkata for the dying and said untrained carers failed to recognize when some patients could have been cured.

Kolodiejchuk said her detractors missed the point of her mission, arguing that she had created a place to comfort people in their final days rather than establish hospitals.

“We don’t have to prove that saints were perfect, because no one is perfect,” he said.


In her adopted India, a primarily Hindu nation, Mother Teresa has been accused of looking to convert the destitute to Christianity – something her mission has repeatedly denied.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the umbrella right-wing Hindu organization that helped create India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also accuses Mother Teresa of revelling in the misery of others.

“As a resident of Kolkata, I feel insulted to see its poverty being glorified by the MoC. As a Hindu nationalist I also feel that Christianity is not the only way of salvation,” said Jishnu Bose, the RSS spokesman in the city.

But Mother Teresa still has legions of supporters in India, including BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“All her life she worked to serve poorer sections of Indian society. When such a person is conferred with sainthood, it is natural for Indians to feel proud,” Modi said on Sunday in a radio broadcast.

Mother Teresa was born Agnese Gonxha Bojaxhiu of Albanian parents in 1910 in what was then part of the Ottoman Empire and is now Macedonia. She became a nun at 16 and moved to India in 1929, creating her mission in 1950.

The Roman Catholic Church has more than 10,000 saints, many of whom had to wait centuries before their elevation.

But Mother Teresa, one of the most recognizable faces of the 20th century, was put on the fast track to sainthood after dying of a heart attack on Sept. 5, 1997.

The late Pope John Paul II bent Vatican rules to allow the procedure to establish her case for sainthood to be launched two years after her death instead of the usual five, and she was beatified in 2003.

The Church defines saints as those believed to have been holy enough during their lives to now be in Heaven and able to intercede with God to perform miracles. She has been credited with two miracles, both involving the healing of sick people.

The latest involved a Brazilian, Marcilio Andrino, who unexpectedly recovered from a severe brain infection in 2008. He and his wife Fernanda will attend the canonization, which is considered the highlight of Pope Francis’s Holy Year of Mercy.

(Additional reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome and Subrata Nagchoudhury in Kolkata; editing by John Stonestreet)

Egypt builds new homes to replace crumbling slums

A man shows cracks in walls at his home in Al-Assal, one of the oldest slums in the Shubra district of Cairo, Egypt June 1, 2016.

By Mahmoud Mourad

CAIRO (Reuters) – Bayada Mohamed has left her old slum on a crumbling cliffside and moved into a new flat in a Cairo residential complex, making her among the first to benefit from a government plan to rehouse residents of Egypt’s most dangerous slums.

Like other residents of the Doueyka slum where homes have no running water and a rockslide killed about 130 people in 2008, Bayada’s family has been offered a rental flat in the recently-opened Tahiya Misr development in the Moqattam area, as pictured in this photo essay – http://reut.rs/21hyvjc.

“Where was I and where am I now?” exclaimed Bayada, sitting in her new flat surrounded by new furniture.

There are 351 slums deemed unsafe in Egypt, most of them in the sprawling capital where the poorest have built ramshackle homes that lack basic amenities such as mains sewage and water. Some 850,000 people are believed to live in dangerous slums.

Building collapses are common in Cairo, home to some 20 million people, and the shortage of affordable housing is so acute that 1.5 to 2 million are believed to live in tombs in an area known as the City of the Dead.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi promised last month to move all those living in unsafe slums to new flats over the next three years in an ambitious project expected to cost about 14 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.58 billion).

The first two phases of Tahya Misr, which is dedicated to rehousing slumdwellers, were completed in 11 months and comprise 12,000 flats. The third phase opens in 2017, bringing the number of flats to 20,000. The completed complex will house 100,000.

Government efforts to eradicate the worst slums come as Sisi faces growing pressure to revive the economy and avoid the kind of protests that toppled two presidents in the last five years.

But rising prices are eroding living standards in a country where tens of millions rely on state-subsidised food and complicating efforts to rid Egypt of its slums.


Not all slum residents have been as enthusiastic as Bayada about leaving behind their communities and seeing their old homes demolished.

“Most of the residents of these areas wish to be in areas close to where they are actually living now and this for us is a problem,” Sisi said at the recent opening of a low-income housing project in the Madinat Badr area of Cairo.

While it evacuates dangerous areas, the government is upgrading other informal settlements, connecting them to basic services and paving roads.

But many residents are disappointed with the upgrades.

Magdi Mahmoud, a factory worker who lives with his family in the informal settlement of Abu Dahruj in southern Cairo, said the work should have stretched to schools and clinics.

“The improvements are not bad but the important thing is people look after them,” he said.

And on Cairo’s dusty and desolate fringes, the city’s poorest are building more illegal homes on land they do not own.

As the Tahya Misr development nears completion, Ahmed, a vegetable seller, is working with neighbors to complete a new slum near Arab al Barawi, an older informal settlement in southern Cairo, after struggling to afford the rent there.

His new house is built with scavenged materials.

“Thank God, today he blessed us with a bit of wood that was left on the street … to roof my house,” Ahmed said.

(Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Global Wealth inequality is becoming a risk

A general view of the low-income neighborhood known as Boca la Caja next to the business district in Panama City

OXFORD, England (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Growing global wealth inequality is becoming a fundamental risk to democracy and to economies around the world as more people feel government rules “rigged” in favor of the rich leave them with few options, investors and governance experts said Friday.

“It’s very dangerous,” said Ngaire Woods, dean of the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. “If people can’t aspire to succeed within the system, they will aspire … outside the system, in ways that break the system.”

That frustration is feeding into everything from the contentious U.S. presidential race to growing dissatisfaction over the amount of aid money that lands in the hands of rich-nation consultants rather than reaching the poor, experts said at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford.

In the United States, for example, “trickle down” economic policies that support tax cuts for the rich with the aim of boosting economic growth and jobs have led to a $2 trillion annual redistribution of wealth from the bottom 99 percent of earners to the top 1 percent over the last 30 years, said Nick Hanauer, a former venture capitalist and now head of Civic Ventures, which aims to drive social change.

If the trend continues, by 2030, the top 1 percent of Americans will earn 37 to 40 percent of the country’s income, with the bottom 50 percent getting just 6 percent, he said.

“That’s not a capitalist market economy anymore,” he warned. “That’s a feudalist system and it scares … me.”

Globally, half of the world’s wealth is now held by just 1 percent of the world’s population, according to a 2015 report by Credit Suisse, a financial services company.

That trend toward greater inequality – driven in part by tax policies and shifts such as the growing power of corporate lobbyists in the United States – is leading to the increasing belief that political systems can no longer deliver results for many people, said Darren Walker, president of the U.S.-based Ford Foundation.

Many people feel that “the political apparatus of democracy is corrupted” and the result is “dissatisfaction by huge swathes of the population about the potential of democracy to deliver anything of value and meaning to their lives,” he said.


It is also putting the United States in an odd spot when it comes to enforcing anti-corruption rules overseas, including in the aid business, he said.

U.S. aid groups ask, “Can we really trust Africans to spend this money in the way Congress has appropriated?” Walker said. “People say, ‘Poor you, you have to bring a suitcase of money when doing things in Africa.'”

“But we have the same thing in the United States – but you don’t have to bring a suitcase. You bring a check. And you get the same effect. You give it to the officials’ fundraiser and say, ‘By the way, I need you to do this for me,'” he said.

“It’s no different (except) it’s legal,” he added. “We need to (see) our own culpability in this inequality.”

Aid agencies and social enterprises – businesses that strive for social good as well as profits – also are part of the problem when huge sums of money they spend on bringing people out of poverty in poor countries end up in the pockets of rich-world consultants, the experts said.

Donors “make a lot of fuss holding us to account on the money we get,” Woods recalled a frustrated representative of an Indonesian organization saying. “But for every dollar we get, 80 cents stays in the beltway (around Washington DC),” she said.

Many organizations – including USAID – are now trying to improve that percentage, delegates at the Skoll Forum said. But progress in helping aid recipient countries build their own systems to take care of their own problems has been slow.


The goal of giving “capacity building grants”, Walker said, should be to make sure “you don’t need to go back to Africa. So there is a rich, robust civil society there. That’s the vision, and we’re a long way from it.”

Investing more in civil society groups in poor countries, rather than just U.N. organizations, is one way of bringing change, said Degan Ali, the executive director of Adeso, a local charity working in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

Reversing growing inequality will depend largely on revamping government policies and making rules fairer, changes that often need to be driven by public pressure, panelists said.

Those might include everything from ensuring that civil servants don’t change with each election to eliminating private schools to drive funding into improving state-run schools, the panelists and audience members said.

Woods noted that her own university education in New Zealand was funded by taxes. “That opportunity is one we’re all agreed is open to far too few people today. We have to think about why,” she said.

(Reporting by Laurie Goering; editing by Ros Russell:; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)

Yemen Families Uprooted By War

A girl holds her sister outside their family's hut at the Shawqaba camp

By Abduljabbar Zeyad

HAJJAH, Yemen (Reuters) – They live in scruffy tents or mud huts on dry, stony ground. Children play with what they have – a rubber tire will do. Medical treatment is hard to come by for young and old alike.

In northwest Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, families uprooted by the war have been stuck in camps for the past year.

Around 400 of them now reside in the Shawqaba camp in Hajjah province, which borders Saudi Arabia. A visiting Reuters photographer has captured their life in a Wider Image photo essay found at http://reut.rs/226i5tr .

When fighting between Saudi forces and Houthi rebels began in March 2015, these refugees were forced to leave their villages in al-Dhahir and Shada districts in neighboring Saada province as Saudi-led warplanes targeted Houthi positions.

Residents and human rights groups say some of the strikes destroyed homes and damaged farmlands. The coalition has acknowledged mistakes in air operations in Yemen but denies Houthi allegations that its forces strike civilian targets.

A few months later, the place they sought refuge, al-Mazraq camp near the border city of Harad, also in Hajjah, was bombarded.

Families moved further inland to the arid Shawqaba camp that lacks the most basic services. Residents call home poorly build huts that protect them neither from summer heat nor winter cold.

Amal Jabir, 10, standing outside her family’s hut, says there’s only one thing she wishes for.

“I want this war to be over, to return home and finish my studies,” she says.

Many children suffer from a lack of nutrition and health services. Muhammad, 11, is waiting for treatment of his fractured leg.

Elderly people with diabetes and heart conditions complain of a lack of medicine – and the high prices when it is available.

Yemen has been in a civil war for more than a year between supporters of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Iran-allied Houthi group that has sucked in a Saudi-led alliance and caused a major humanitarian crisis.

U.N.-sponsored peace talks are scheduled to start in Kuwait on April 18. The two sides in the conflict have confirmed a truce starting at midnight on April 10.

(Reporting by Khaled Abdullah; Writing by Brian McGee; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

Pope: Devil Is “The Father of Hate”

Pope Francis surprised of a small Roman district by appearing at a shantytown for homeless families and then teaching at a nearby parish.

The Pope stopped at a shantytown called “Campo Arcobaleno” where he visited with the families and prayed with them.  He also met with some of the homeless families at the parish of San Michele Arcangelo where the church cares for the homeless.

“The fact that people do not know your name, and call you ‘homeless’ and you carry this: It is your cross, and your patience,” said Pope Francis. “But there is something in the heart of all of you – of this, please be assured – there is the Holy Spirit.”

The Pope then met with the children of the parish, speaking mostly to the older children in attendance about war and evil in the world.  He had the children make a list of places they know war is taking place such as Iraq, Ukraine and Africa and then he said that wars are easier for people who do not possess God.

The Pope asked the children who was the father of war and smiled when they responded “the devil.”

Pope Francis then said the devil is the “father of hate” and “the father of lies.”

“But God wants unity,” Pope Francis said. “If in your heart you feel jealousy, this is the beginning of war.  Jealousies are not of God.”

“Because the devil takes stupidity and makes a world,” he continued. “Then these enmities continue and multiply for years.  It destroys the family: Parents suffer because their children do not speak to each other, or with the wife of a son…And so this jealousy and envy, it is sowed by the devil.  And the only one who can drive out demons is Jesus.  The only one who can heal these things is Jesus. So to each of your: Have yourself healed by Jesus.”

The concluded the visit with a teaching to the entire congregation about the importance of Jesus in their lives and how vital is it to stay in contact with the Scriptures.

“Have this daily contact with the Gospel,” Pope Francis said.  “Pray with the Gospel.”