The World Bank Approves US$ 200 Million in Financing To Help Ecuador Combat Child Malnutrition

WASHINGTON D.C., May 26, 2022 – The World Bank Board of Directors today approved US$ 200 million in additional financing for the Social Protection Systems project in Ecuador. The new resources will support the implementation of the national strategy Ecuador Crece sin Malnutrición to reduce malnutrition in pregnant women and children under 24 months through the provision of comprehensive service and benefit packages.

The financing expands the Social Protection Systems project approved in April 2019. The project has helped to make programs of the Ministry of the Economy and Social Inclusion (MIES) more equitable by reaching those who need it most through an improved beneficiary selection mechanism implemented by the Social Registry. Additionally, it has provided technical assistance to enhance program effectiveness through monitoring, evaluation and institutional strengthening.

“The government is working to improve the living conditions of Ecuador’s most vulnerable population. To this end, these resources will be used mainly to address one of the country’s most pressing structural problems chronic malnutrition in children,” said the Minister of Economy and Finance, Simón Cueva.

This second loan will finance activities in 728 parishes in the country and will help strengthen a new institutional model – the Continuous Updating Model. This will enable the government to streamline and integrate the social registry with other large national administrative databases. Additionally, it will strengthen the integrated provision of child development programs and basic health care services to pregnant women and children aged 45 days to 24 months. The Ministry of the Economy and Social Inclusion, the Ministry of Public Health and the Social Registry Unit will implement these actions.

“Ecuador’s national Crece sin Malnutrición is a key intervention of the Government of Ecuador to protect the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 recovery phase and to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, said Marianne Fay, World Bank Director for Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. “International evidence demonstrates that early intervention during pregnancy and the first two years of life with a complete package of education for parents and health check-ups is crucial for preventing chronic malnutrition,” she said.

The additional financing is a variable rate, fixed-spread loan, with an 18-year maturity period, including a five-year grace period.


Analysis: Subtle shift in U.S. rhetoric suggests new Iran approach

By Arshad Mohammed and John Irish

Iran’s and U.S.’ flags are seen printed on paper in this illustration taken January 27, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

May 24 (Reuters) – A subtle shift in official U.S. statements suggests Washington believes reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is better than the alternatives despite the advances in Iran’s nuclear program, diplomatic and other sources said.

For months, the Biden administration argued there would soon come a point where the non-proliferation benefits of a revived deal – its ability to limit Iran’s headway toward a nuclear bomb – would be outweighed by the progress of Iran’s atomic program.

“You can’t revive a dead corpse,” Rob Malley, the lead U.S. negotiator, said on Oct. 25. read more

Under the agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and struck by Iran and six major powers, Tehran limited its nuclear program to make it harder for it to get a bomb in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

Tehran has long said its program is for peaceful purposes.

Then-U.S. President Donald Trump reneged on the accord in 2018 and reimposed harsh U.S. sanctions, prompting Iran to begin violating the nuclear limits a year later. U.S. President Joe Biden has tried to revive the pact through indirect talks in Vienna, so far without success.

On Feb. 28, two weeks before the talks unraveled, State Department spokesman Ned Price said: “We will need to have additional clarity in the coming days given that we are at this decisive … moment, knowing that Tehran’s nuclear advancements will soon render the non-proliferation benefits that the JCPOA conveyed essentially meaningless.”

Others have used various analogies to describe the urgency, saying the runway was limited, the clock ticking and the window closing.


However, Price and other U.S. officials have since put less emphasis on time running out and more on their only reviving the deal if it were in the U.S. national security interest.

“We’re going to test the proposition of a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA for as long as doing so remains in our interests,” Price said on April 26. “As long as the non-proliferation benefits that a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA brings is better than what we have now, that will likely be an outcome that’s in our interest.”

The phrase about reviving the deal only if it was in the U.S. national interest has been used before, including by Price on Jan. 4, but its renewed emphasis and the diminished stress on time dwindling is a shift.

“That’s a profound rewriting of the non-proliferation standard,” said one source familiar with the matter.

“What he is basically saying is that it’s not (a question of) whether or not it is providing us benefits equal to the previous JCPOA experience. It’s just saying that it’s better than today. And ‘better than today’ is a looser standard.”

Dennis Ross, a former U.S. diplomat who handled Iran policy for the Obama White House for two years, concurred.

“The formulation is now ‘it’s still in our national security interest to have this’ given the alternatives,” Ross said.

“This is an agreement where the breakout time will not be what it once was, because of the advances in the program, but this is still better than the alternatives available to us,” he said. “That’s the essence of where they are.”

Breakout time is how long it would take Iran to acquire the fissile material for one bomb if it decided to. The accord stretched this to about a year but it is now down to weeks, U.S. officials say.

The State Department has not provided a response addressing Reuters questions.


Despite talk of “Plan B” options to address Iran’s nuclear program if the deal cannot be revived, there are few good ones. read more

Ross said alternatives include intensified economic pressure on Iran as well as U.S. or Israeli military action to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. None appeals to Washington, so it is still trying to revive the deal.

“Plan B is basically what plan A was,” Ross said.

Ross argued Washington now believes restoring some of the deal’s limits, such as its 3.67% cap on the purity to which Iran can enrich uranium and the a 202.8-kg limit on its enriched uranium stock, was better than the alternative.

According to a March 3 International Atomic Energy Agency report, Iran was enriching uranium to 60% purity and its stock of enriched uranium stood at 3.2 tonnes. read more

Talks broke down in March largely because of Tehran’s demand Washington remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from a U.S. terrorism list and the U.S. refusal to do so, arguing that this was outside the scope of reviving the deal.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief on May 13 said he believed EU envoy, Enrique Mora, who coordinates the talks, made enough progress on a visit to Tehran that week to restart discussions. read more

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said the visit was a chance to explore settling the remaining issues. “A good and reliable agreement is within reach if the United States makes a political decision and adheres to its commitments,” he said.

After Mora’s visit a European diplomatic source said neither side had committed to resume talks and finding a compromise on the IRGC remained improbable, if not impossible.

“The Americans were very vocal two months ago saying time is running out and we have to get a deal,” said this source. “But since March … they don’t seem to be in a hurry anymore.”

A Western diplomatic source said whether reviving the deal was worthwhile was ultimately a political decision.

“This is a political judgment,” this source said. “The deal has already lost its core benefits, but you can always argue that there are some things that make it more beneficial than nothing.”


Europe: WHO supporting countries affected by rare monkeypox outbreak

© CDC/Cynthia S. Goldsmith
Monkeypox is a rare but dangerous infection similar to the now eradicated smallpox virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working closely with countries where cases of the rare viral disease monkeypox have been reported, the UN agency said on Friday. The UN agency said in a statement that there were around 80 cases confirmed so far, across 11 countries, with a further 50 cases pending investigation.

Monkeypox occurs primarily in tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa, but outbreaks have emerged in other parts of the world in recent days. Symptoms include fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes.

WHO said it was “working with the affected countries and others to expand disease surveillance to find and support people who may be affected, and to provide guidance on how to manage the disease.”

The UN health agency stressed that monkeypox spreads differently from COVID-19, encouraging all people “to stay informed from reliable sources, such as national health authorities” on the extent of any outbreak in their own communities.

WHO said in an earlier news release at least eight countries are affected in Europe – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

No travel link

Hans Kluge, Europe Regional Director for the UN agency, said the cases are atypical, citing three reasons. 

All but one, are not linked to travel to endemic countries. Many were detected through sexual health services and are among men who have sex with men.  Furthermore, it is suspected that transmission may have been ongoing for some time, as the cases are geographically dispersed across Europe and beyond.

Most of the cases are so far mild, he added.

“monkeypox is usually a self-limiting illness, and most of those infected will recover within a few weeks without treatment,” said Dr. Kluge. “However, the disease can be more severe, especially in young children, pregnant women, and individuals who are immunocompromised.”

Working to limit transmission

WHO is working with the concerned countries, including to determine the likely source of infection, how the virus is spreading, and how to limit further transmission.

Countries are also receiving guidance and support on surveillance, testing, infection prevention and control, clinical management, risk communication and community engagement.

Concern over summer uptick

monkeypox virus is mostly transmitted to humans from wild animals such as rodents and primates.   It is also spread between humans during close contact – through infected skin lesions, exhaled droplets or body fluids, including sexual contact – or through contact with contaminated materials such as bedding.

People suspected of having the disease should be checked and isolated.

“As we enter the summer season in the European Region, with mass gatherings, festivals and parties, I am concerned that transmission could accelerate, as the cases currently being detected are among those engaging in sexual activity, and the symptoms are unfamiliar to many,” said Dr. Kluge.

He added that handwashing, as well as other measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, are also critical to reduce transmission in healthcare settings.

Cases in other regions

Australia, Canada, and the United States are also among non-endemic countries that have reported cases of monkeypox.

The US detected its first case for the year after a man in the northeastern state of Massachusetts tested positive on Tuesday following recent travel to Canada.

Health authorities in New York City, home to UN Headquarters, are also investigating a possible case after a patient at a hospital tested positive on Thursday.

The US recorded two monkeypox cases in 2021, both related to travel from Nigeria.


Ukraine prosecutor seeks life sentence for Russian soldier in war crimes trial

By Max Hunder and Tom Balmforth

Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin, 21, suspected of violations of the laws and norms of war, sits inside a defendants’ cage during a court hearing, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 13, 2022. REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

KYIV, May 19 (Reuters) – A Ukrainian state prosecutor asked a court on Thursday to sentence a Russian soldier to life in prison for killing an unarmed civilian in the first war crimes trial arising from Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.

Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old Russian tank commander, asked widow Kateryna Shelipova to forgive him for the murder of her husband, Oleksandr, in the northeast Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka on Feb. 28.

“I acknowledge my blame … I ask you to forgive me,” he told Shelipova at the hearing on Thursday attended by Reuters.

He pleaded guilty to the murder on Wednesday. read more

Oleksandr Shelipov’s killing was one of what Ukraine and Western nations say is a far wider picture: Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during the invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes. Russia has denied targeting civilians or involvement in war crimes.

At Thursday’s court hearing, Shishimarin cut a forlorn spectacle in a glass booth for defendants – boyish, dressed in a tracksuit and with his shaven head lowered.

The Kremlin has said it has no information about the trial and that the absence of a diplomatic mission in Ukraine limits its ability to provide assistance.

The widow told the court that on the day her husband was killed, she had heard distant shots fired from their yard and that she had called out to her husband.

“I ran over to my husband, he was already dead. Shot in the head. I screamed, I screamed so much,” she said. She looked distraught and her voice trembled with emotion.

Shelipova told the court she would not object if Shishimarin was released to Russia as part of a prisoner swap to get “our boys” out of the port city of Mariupol, a reference to hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers who have given themselves up to Russia. read more

The trial takes place as much of Ukraine is gripped by the fate of its soldiers who it hopes Russia will hand over as part of an exchange. In Russia, some senior lawmakers have called for the Azov Regiment fighters to be put on trial.

Shelipova said her husband had been unarmed and was dressed in civilian clothes. They had a 27-year-old son and two grandchildren together, she added.

Ukrainian state prosecutors have said Shishimarin fired several shots with an assault rifle at a civilian’s head from a car after being ordered to do so. read more

Asked if he had been obliged to follow an order that amounted to a war crime, Shishimarin said “no”.

“I fired a short burst, three or four bullets,” he told the court.

“I am from Irkutsk Oblast (a region in Siberia), I have two brothers and two sisters … I am the eldest,” he said.


Mexico’s 100,000 ‘disappeared’ is a tragedy, says UN rights chief Bachelet

© ICRC/Afilms
Mexico has now officially registered more than 100,000 reported missing person cases since 1964.

The news that more than 100,000 people in Mexico are now officially registered as “disappeared” is a tragedy, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Tuesday, in a call for action to tackle the country’s longstanding problem.

A national database has listed all those who’ve been reported missing in the country since 1964, and the tally continues to climb, amid ongoing drug gang violence and a lack of effective investigations.

To date, only 35 of the disappearances recorded since then have led to the conviction of the perpetrators, a “staggering rate of impunity”, said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Justice for families

In a statement, the UN human rights chief urged the authorities to continue to implement reforms and ensure justice for the victims and their families.

“The crime of enforced disappearances is one of the worst things, for the families,  precisely because they never get closure and rarely sadly are bodies found,” said UN rights office spokesperson Liz Throssell.

“What is really important…is of course the steps that have been taken by the Mexican authorities, but as I have said, the High Commissioner is at pains to stress how important the role of families of the victims have been, to keep this issue at the forefront.” 

According to Mexico’s database on disappeared individuals, about a quarter are women, and around a fifth were under 18 when they went missing.

The vast majority of cases where the date of disappearance is unknown –  some  97 per cent –  happened after December 2006, when Mexico transitioned to a militarized model of public security.

Tribute to the families

Ms. Bachelet also paid tribute to all the family members who have persevered over decades in pursuit of the truth and justice.

These individuals include Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, whose son Jesús Piedra Ibarra was forcibly disappeared in 1975. Mrs. Rosario, who died in April this year, helped to locate some 150 disappeared people alive and return them to their families.

“During my visit to Mexico in 2019, I was able to see first-hand the courage of the victims’ families, who were key actors in organizing and proposing solutions, and achieving legal and institutional progress towards recognizing the magnitude of this issue in Mexico,” the High Commissioner said.

Infamous Ayotzinapa disappearances

Mexico’s efforts to tackle the issue of its disappeared citizens include the adoption of the General Law on Disappearances, the creation of search committees in all states and the Extraordinary Mechanism for Forensic Identification.

A National Centre for Human Identification has also opened, along with committees to examine serious human rights violations that occurred between 1965 and 1990, in addition to the 2014 disappearance of 43 students from a rural teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa.

In 2018, a UN rights office report into the incident said that there were strong grounds to believe that that the investigation was marred by torture and cover-ups.

In addition, there were “solid grounds” to conclude that at least 34 individuals were tortured, based on the judicial files, including medical records of multiple physical injuries, and on interviews with authorities, detainees and witnesses.

A protest rally in Mexico City on the case of Ayoitzinapa rural school attended by the 43 disappeared students.

UN investigation

In 2020, Mexico recognized the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) to examine individual complaints. In June 2021, Mexico’s Supreme Court also recognized the binding nature of the CED’s Urgent Actions, which supports the right of each person affected by a disappearance to justice.

In November 2021, Mexico became the first country to accept an official visit by the Committee on Enforced Disappearances; it went to 13 Mexican states and held more than 150 meetings with authorities, victims’ organizations and NGOs.


John Lee: What Hong Kong can expect from ‘Beijing’s enforcer’


It is a turn of events that, to some, comes as no surprise.

This week, pro-Beijing hardliner John Lee was elected as Hong Kong’s new leader, replacing Carrie Lam.

The 64-year-old former security chief ran uncontested in the chief executive election, and was essentially handpicked for the role by a mostly pro-Beijing election committee.
With China increasingly clamping down on Hong Kong, his appointment is a clear indication of Beijing’s desire to keep the city on a tight leash, say analysts.
Beijing’s ‘enforcer’

“John Lee’s background is that of a policeman, a law enforcer,” says Dr Ian Chong, a political scientist at the National University of Singapore.
He points out that Mr Lee oversaw the crackdown on Hong Kong’s 2019 protests, and the introduction of the controversial national security law which prohibits acts of treason, secession, sedition or subversion against China.

“This suggests that Beijing places its view of law and order at the front and centre of ruling Hong Kong.”

Professor Steve Tsang, Director of the China Institute at SOAS agrees, calling Mr Lee “Beijing’s enforcer”.
His appointment confirms that “Beijing intends to have its man in Hong Kong toe the party line and do what Beijing expects it to do.”

Analysts also say Mr Lee’s lack of popular support leaves little choice for him but to continue relying on Beijing to secure his political position.

“Given he was one of the top officials responsible for transforming the Hong Kong police from a respected local institution into the most hated and despised of government departments, this background does not give him much of a power base,” said Prof Tsang.

“It means he does not have wide support and is beholden to Beijing for his office.”

Mr Lee is not due to take the reins of power until 1 July.

But in the days following his selection, several individuals – including 90-year-old retired bishop Joseph Zen – were arrested for running a fund in 2019 to provide legal assistance to detained protestors, on suspicion that they broke the national security law.

Three of the others were former legislator Margaret Ng, pro-democracy activist Denise Ho, and academic Dr Hui Po Keung.

Freedom in the city

So what will Hong Kong look like under John Lee?

In a 44-page manifesto, Mr Lee pledged to strengthen governance and tackle chronic housing problems.

He has also pledged to enact legislation to bolster the national security law – a move that could potentially see him criminalising other areas not already covered under the Beijing-imposed law.

“It will be another indicator of a further erosion of Hong Kong’s civil liberties,” says Kwong Chung Ching, the campaigns coordinator of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.

In December last year, pro-democracy media organisation Stand News was raided by the police, and its senior staff arrested. Mr Lee had then announced that he supported the move. Numerous other independent news outlets have closed in Hong Kong – once a beacon of press freedom in Asia.

“Anybody who attempts to make use of media work as a tool to pursue their political purpose or other interests [and] contravenes the law, particularly offences that endanger national security, they are the evil elements that damage press freedom,” Mr Lee has said.

Hong Kong is also more likely to become “more integrated into the mainland”, says Prof Tsang. “The old Hong Kong, which existed prior to 2020, will not have a chance of re-emerging.”

A return to former glory?

Mr Lee also faces the daunting task of restoring Hong Kong’s status as a glittering hub for business and finance, something he vowed to do in his manifesto.

The massive, sometimes violent, protests that erupted in 2019 scared away tourists and spooked investors. Stringent Covid restrictions felled the economy further, resulting in a 4% economic contraction in the first quarter of 2022.

According to Eurocham, a net 130,000 people have left Hong Kong since 1 February, with employers reporting difficulties in attracting talent back into the city. Nearly half of all European businesses and 44% of US businesses in Hong Kong are considering relocating in the next year.

With a career in the police force spanning more than four decades, Mr Lee stands in contrast to previous chief executives who had backgrounds in business and the civil service.

Analysts say it remains to be seen whether he will be able to repair Hong Kong’s reputation.

Dr Chong argued that a return to business confidence would require a degree of freedom of information and a restraint on authority.

“Hong Kong used to be able to provide that in ways that the mainland could not,” he said.

Furthermore, Mr Lee’s appointment raises questions as to whether he will be expected to fall in line with China’s zero-Covid policy, as Hong Kong battles one of its worst outbreaks yet.

The city has charted 5,600 deaths in the first quarter of the 2022 alone, compared to just 200 in the first two years of the pandemic, exacerbated by low vaccination rates amongst the city’s elderly.

“As long as [Chinese President] Xi insists on zero-Covid, Mr Lee will be expected to implement it, though he has some latitude to reduce its adverse effects,” says Prof Tsang.

But analysts say achieving zero-Covid – or some approximation of it – is a goal that appears to run contradictory to Mr Lee’s pledges to re-open the country.

Dr Chong says: “Mr Lee has stated an intention to open up – but how to square these two cross-cutting demands and in what timeframe is less clear.”


No mesmo dia do 1° surto de Covid, Coreia do Norte dispara 3 mísseis balísticos

Lançamento é o 16º teste de armas conhecido da Coreia do Norte em 2022; o presidente da Coreia do Sul convocou o conselho de segurança nacional.


A Coreia do Norte disparou três mísseis balísticos em direção ao mar de sua costa leste na última quinta-feira (12), segundo a Coreia do Sul, no mais recente movimento do país isolado visando avançar seus programas de armas. O ato acontece no mesmo dia em que o governo relatou pela primeira vez um surto de Covid-19, anunciando um lockdown.

A guarda costeira do Japão confirmou o lançamento de um míssil balístico pela Coreia do Norte, citando informações de suas forças militares. O projétil pareceu cair fora da zona econômica exclusiva do Japão, disse a emissora pública NHK.

O Estado-Maior Conjunto da Coreia do Sul afirmou que três mísseis balísticos de curto alcance foram disparados da área de Sunan, na capital norte-coreana, Pyongyang, onde está localizado um aeroporto internacional. Nesta região também teria acontecido o disparo, em 24 de março, do que a Coreia do Norte disse ter sido seu maior míssil balístico intercontinental (ICBM), o Hwasong-17.

Este foi o primeiro lançamento após a posse do presidente conservador sul-coreano, Yoon Suk-yeol, nesta semana, que sinalizou uma linha dura contra o desenvolvimento de armas da Coreia do Norte.

O gabinete de Yoon disse que convocou imediatamente uma reunião de seu conselho de segurança nacional.

O disparo, que é o 16º teste de armas conhecido da Coreia do Norte em 2022, também ocorreu horas depois de o país relatar seu primeiro surto de coronavírus, declarando “grave emergência nacional” e ordenando um lockdown nacional.

O líder norte-coreano, Kim Jong Un, prometeu, no mês passado, acelerar a construção do arsenal nuclear do país, em meio a negociações paralisadas de desnuclearização com os Estados Unidos.