ReliefWeb - Headlines
ReliefWeb - Headlines
Hunger levels soar in Horn of Africa as region faces driest summer in over 35 years
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 23:01:00 +0000
Save the Children warned of a major emergency in the Horn of Africa, as nearly 13 million people face critical levels of hunger following a succession of failed rains. Half of the affected people, an estimated 6.5 million, are children. The region is now experiencing the lowest cumulative rainfall totals since 1981.
Despite efforts by aid agencies and the governments of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, the hunger situation in the Horn of Africa is rapidly deteriorating, with fears families might soon face an even worse situation than the food crisis of 2017. Although the number of food insecure people across the Horn of Africa is currently lower than at the height of the 2016 -17 drought, the situation looks set to deteriorate with drought anticipated in the coming months. Somalia has already seen an increase of 36% of food insecure people compared to late 2018.
Save the Children's teams on the ground are seeing communities struggling to regenerate pastures, replenish water supplies and restore livestock herds, fuelling displacement and forcing families to seek out new livelihoods.
Between January and May 2019 alone, an estimated 59,000 people were displaced in Somalia as a result of drought. In June 2019, across the Horn of Africa the total number was an estimated 1.8 million people that fled drought. These families are among the 11.6 million people that had to leave their homes in the East and Horn of Africa as the result of drought, floods, and conflict.
Children are suffering disproportionally, with the agency gravely concerned of the risk of spiking malnutrition. Malnutrition as a result of food insecurity is one of the biggest risks for children under five, with severely wasted children 11 times more likely to die than those with a healthy weight. Undernourished children also catch infections more easily and have a harder time recovering because or weakened immune systems.
In Kenya, an estimated 2.6 million people face acute food insecurity and are in need of humanitarian assistance. Another 6.8 million are one step away from reaching crisis levels of food insecurity. Across the country, over 600,000 children already require treatment for malnutrition.
In Somalia, 2.1 million people face critical food shortages and require humanitarian support to meet their basic food needs, and an additional 4.2 million people are on the verge of critical shortages. More than one million children under the age of five are at risk of acute malnutrition. The current food crisis in has led to acute levels in most parts of the country. At least 178,400 children are facing severe malnourishment.
In Ethiopia, 8.1 million people are in need of food assistance and there are growing fears that these numbers will continue to grow with the upcoming post-rains assessment due to take place in December. Save the Children, through its household economic analysis project, has been closely working with the Government of Ethiopia to assess the level of needs at the household level and will continue to do so.
Save the Children's Regional Director in East and Southern Africa, Ian Vale, said the international community must step up now to avert mass displacement and loss of life.
"Over the past year we have repeatedly called for a dramatic increase in funding, and to date this has largely fallen on deaf ears. As a result, children are facing hunger now. Across the Horn of Africa, Save the Children needs an additional 100 million dollars to meet people's daily nutritional requirements, lifesaving health provision as well as bolster systems to support them to adapt to their climate-affected world.
"The current funding gap and the failure of the international community to step up have created the conditions for this region-wide emergency. While national governments are working hard to respond to the needs, we fear the situation will only get worse in coming months, with the upcoming El Nino weather event likely resulting in another massive spike in the number of malnourished children.
"The impact of climate change on the lives of Ethiopians, Kenyans and Somalis is becoming more intense every year. We cannot expect children and their families in this poverty-stricken region to bear the impact of the climate crisis. This is a global issue, and we have a global responsibility to support the most vulnerable."
Across the Horn of Africa, Save the Children is implementing resilience programs to address the longer-term impacts of climate change. In Somalia, Save the Children is supporting the establishment and training of community-based disaster management committees who can develop their own plans and strategies to adapt to disasters according to their local needs and contexts.
In Ethiopia, Save the Children supports unemployed young 'pastoralist drop-outs' who were forced by the circumstances to give up the cattle farmer trade. Save the Children works to get them a training that suits their interests and skills, and that will give them sustainable incomes in the future. In Kenya, we are supporting women-led loans and savings groups, so families can start small scale businesses, run sustainable kitchen gardens, and raise livestock appropriate for drought-conditions.
 [Including Uganda] UNOCHA Horn of Africa Drought Snapshot [June 2019]
 As of June 2019, the East and Horn of Africa region recorded 8.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 3.5 million refugees and asylum-seekers. IOM Mid-Year Mobility Snapshot January to June 2019
 Post Gu FSNAU FEWS-NET Technical Release [1 September 2019];
European states urged to do more to protect and support child refugees and migrants
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 22:55:46 +0000
European States urged to do more to protect and support child refugees and migrants
European States must step up their efforts to protect child refugees and migrants who have endured not only difficult and dangerous journeys but continue to face risks and hardship once in Europe, including unsafe accommodation, being incorrectly registered as adults, and a lack of appropriate care, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has urged.
UNHCR’s latest Desperate Journeys report, published today, notes that from January to September 2019, some 80,800 people arrived in Europe via Mediterranean routes – down from 102,700 in the same period of 2018. Of those who arrived, more than a quarter were children, many travelling without their parents.
“These children may have fled conflict, lost family members, been away from home for months, even years, with some enduring horrific abuses during their journeys, but their suffering doesn’t stop at the border,” said Pascale Moreau, Director of UNHCR’s Europe Bureau. “Across Europe, unaccompanied children in particular are frequently housed in large centres with minimal oversight, exposing them to further abuse, violence and psychological distress and increasing the risk that they will move on or disappear.”
Greece has received the majority of arrivals across the Mediterranean region this year – more than Spain, Italy, Malta, and Cyprus combined. So far, more than 12,900 children have arrived in Greece by sea, including almost 2,100 unaccompanied or separated children, many of them from Afghanistan, Syria and other countries characterized by conflict and violence. Conditions in overcrowded and unsanitary reception centres on the Greek Aegean islands are hugely concerning.
The Greek authorities have announced measures to alleviate overcrowding and there are positive examples of best practice models being implemented, including community-based foster care. However, as of the end of September, most unaccompanied children in Greece were still in unsuitable accommodation. Given the extremely risky conditions they face, UNHCR appeals to European States to open up places for their relocation as a gesture of solidarity and speed up transfers for children eligible to join family members.
While there have been many positive steps across Europe towards improving protection, the report notes that more needs to be done to address some of the challenges children continue to face. Among its recommendations, the report calls on European States to urgently end the use of immigration detention for children, appoint trained guardians or social workers and ensure that refugee and migrant children can receive an education. Across Europe, children may also struggle to be recognised as a child and the report calls for holistic and multi-disciplinary methods to be used when assessing a child’s age.
By taking the steps outlined in this report, States will be able to increase the protection given to children on the move and be better equipped to determine how their best interests can be met, which may include solutions outside Europe.
Link to the report https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/71703
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How language barriers reduce access to humanitarian services for Rohingya communities
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 02:31:44 +0000
Part I: Cross-border trends, September 2019
The Rohingya are marginalized in Myanmar society, as reflected in their lack of legal status and recognition as citizens. Across the border in Bangladesh, they are also unable to fully participate in society due to their lack of legal status and recognition as refugees.
One consequence of this is to reduce their opportunities to learn other languages such as Myanmar or Bangla. This locks in their exclusion through language.
Monolingual Rohingya in both countries are unable to access information, voice their needs and wishes, or engage with decision-makers except through other people. The groups that are most commonly monolingual are also disadvantaged in other ways. This language dependency reinforces their relative lack of power and agency.
Forced displacement increases reliance on others from outside the Rohingya community for support. This makes it even more essential for them to communicate across languages and cultures. The role of intermediaries becomes more important and the risk of exclusion for monolinguals even greater.
Effective two-way communication is a key component of user-centered, equitable service provision and accountable humanitarian action. In the linguistically diverse humanitarian response in both countries, organizations struggle to get that communication right. The result is reduced access to quality services, further exclusion, and missed opportunities to help improve intercommunal relations.
Humanitarian organizations can improve communication effectiveness by increasing staff language capacity, cultural awareness, and knowledge of interpreting principles.
More fundamentally, language and cultural awareness should inform every aspect of program design, resourcing, and implementation. That is how we ensure that under-served Rohingya can understand their options, make their needs and wishes heard, and build better relations with neighboring communities.
This assessment highlights ways in which humanitarian organizations can communicate more effectively with the affected population.
1. Apply plain language principles
Develop information, education and communication materials in plain language, especially those intended for the Rohingya community. Explain concepts using familiar words and clear sentence structure. Avoid or explain technical jargon and words that are not commonly used. Ensure content is field-tested, appropriate for the intended audience, and addresses key community concerns. (For an overview of plain language principles, see https://translatorswithoutborders. org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/ Basic-plain-language-principles-forhumanitarians.pdf.)
2. Invest in formal training for interpreters and field staff in language and cultural skills
Assess Rohingya language skills as part of staff recruitment, and engage Rohingya staff and volunteers to support community engagement. Training and support programs can build interpreters’ and field workers’ capacity, including in complex terminology such as health interpreters may require. This can draw on tools like TWB’s multilingual glossaries of humanitarian terms. Humanitarian organizations can foster cross-cultural communication skills by encouraging collaboration between Rohingya staff and volunteers and those from other backgrounds.
3. Test comprehension of critical messages
Develop and test message banks to see which messages are best understood, convey the intended meaning, and resonate with target groups. Whenever possible, co-design or co-redesign messages with community members. This will also help to track progress and raise awareness of the importance of clear messaging. Ultimately this should increase the effectiveness of humanitarian communication practices over time.
4. Promote and support empathy with service users and understanding of their needs
Train and brief service providers in language and cultural awareness. Enable them to apply that learning by designing programs to allow adequate time for communication. In health clinics, for instance, this means organizations should plan for doctors to spend longer with patients, especially new patients. It is common for interpreting into an unstandardized language to take a few minutes longer. Plan for any interpreted meeting or gathering, such as focus groups, to take at least twice as long. As far as possible, don’t rush interactions with Rohingya community members: it can readily be taken as rude and disrespectful.
5. Design a bridging strategy from Rohingya to the other languages of instruction (Myanmar in Rakhine State, Myanmar and English in Cox’s Bazar)
Expanding the use of the Rohingya language in education will improve children’s learning across the curriculum, including learning additional languages. This is especially important for disadvantaged groups such as girls, children with disabilities, and those who have missed years of schooling. Starting immediately, provide stronger guidance for the use of Rohingya in teaching and learning, teacher training, management, and assessment. Consider developing an approach to teaching Myanmar as a second language and progressively using it as a language of instruction as students become more confident. In the long term, work with the Rohingya community to explore scope for standardizing Rohingya as a language of instruction.
6. Develop social cohesion programming that addresses language-based exclusion and does not perpetuate it
Design social cohesion and peacebuilding programs to be accessible to monolingual Rohingya, as well as to other groups. This should inform everything from activity planning to staff recruitment and training, to communication. Model and promote intercommunal respect by referring to social groups by the names they prefer: call Rohingya, Rohingya. Explore the role of language intermediaries and shared problems like gender-based violence as entry points for promoting intercommunal understanding.
Civilians flee as airstrikes and ground attacks continue in north-eastern Syria
Sat, 12 Oct 2019 22:34:50 +0000
Ongoing airstrikes and ground attacks continue being reported in multiple locations as the offensive towards Tell Abiad and Ras al-Ain cities continues. At the time of reporting, the Turkish Government announced the control of Rasal-Ain city.
Significant further displacements continue being reported from rural areas around Tell Abiad and Ras al-Ain, with current estimates currently surpassing 130,000 people – exact numbers cannot yet be ascertained.
The water situation in Al-Hassakeh city and its surroundings is rapidly deteriorating, and becoming critical, as technical teams are yet to be able to access the site to repair the damage. The United Nations continues to advocate with relevant parties to facilitate access to repair the power line and restore the water supply. Over 400,000 people are affected by the suspension in the provision of water, including some 82,000 camp residents of Al Hol and Areesha, the latter is currently also hosting the majority of IDPs that arrived in the past two days from Mabrouka camp.
The relocation from Mabrouka IDP camp – some 5,033 people – which started at midday on 11 October, was almost completed by midday the following day. At the time of reporting, all Mabrouka residents had arrived at Areesha camp with the exception of 50 families who remain at Mabrouka unable to depart due to ongoing hostilities.
Public and private hospitals in Ras Al Ain and Tell Abiad closed on 11 October, with news that local authorities in Tell Abiad moved all hospital equipment. At the time of reporting, information was received of an attack on a trauma stabilization point south of Ras al-Ain. The point had been temporarily set up to support those injured coming from the frontlines of the conflict.
A growing number of partners are mobilizing response efforts at the estimated 33 collective shelters identified so far in Ar-Raqqa city (1 shelter), Al-Hasakeh city (14 shelters), and AlTamr (18 shelters).
As the military operation continues, prior planning figures with regards to displacement have been surpassed – the United Nations and its humanitarian partners are considering a new planning figure of up to 400,000 civilians that may require assistance and protection in the coming period.
The United Nations and its humanitarian partners are increasingly concerned about the security of their staff present on the ground.
Since the start of the Turkish military operation in the afternoon of 9 October, there have continuing reports of intense shelling and airstrikes along the north-east Syrian border, from the Euphrates to the Turkish/Syrian/Iraqi border.
As of noon of 12 October, airstrikes, heavy artillery shelling and ground incursions reportedly took place in multiple locations as the offensive continued close to 30 kilometers south of the border. On 12 October, Turkish Armed forces reported took control of Ras al-Ain and surrounding suburbs/outskirts of both Tell Abiad and Ras al-Ain cities. Latest reports received at the time of reporting indicate at least 15 villages in rural Tell Abiad, north rural Ar-Raqqa, shifted control as the offensive continues. Also, in the early hours of 12 October, an offensive was reportedly launched in the Mabrouka area, 30 kilometers west of Ras al-Ain.
On 11 October, an explosion occurred in Mounir Habib neighbourhood, Qamishli city, with reports of casualties and injuries. The neighbourhood is some 400 meters west of the UN hub in Qamishli. Another 11 explosions were heard in Qamishli city in the evening of 11 October.
At the time of reporting, information was received of an attack on a trauma stabilization point south of Ras al-Ain. The point had been temporarily set up to support those injured coming from the frontlines of the conflict. Reportedly, two staff were injured in the attack and two ambulances were damaged. The point was evacuated and patients receiving treatment at the time of the attack have been transferred to nearby hospitals.
In turkey there have been media reports of civilians, including children being killed and injured.
UN humanitarian chief's report details impediments to delivery of assistance to vulnerable Somalis
Sat, 12 Oct 2019 19:35:24 +0000
Letter dated 7 October 2019 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia addressed to the President of the Security Council
On behalf of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia, I have the honour to transmit herewith the report of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator pursuant to paragraph 49 of Security Council resolution 2444 (2018) on the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Somalia and any impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Somalia.
I would appreciate it if the present letter and the report were brought to the attention of the members of the Security Council and issued as a document of the Council.
(Signed) Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve
Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia
Letter dated 13 September 2019 from the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator addressed to the Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia
In accordance with paragraph 49 of Security Council resolution 2444 (2018), I have the honour to transmit the requested report on the implementation of paragraphs 48 and 49 and on any impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Somalia.
The humanitarian community working in Somalia wishes to advise that, as with the previous 13 reports, it maintains the definition of “implementing partner” pursuant to paragraph 5 of Security Council resolution 1916 (2010), which is as follows:
“Implementing partner” – a non-governmental organization (NGO) or community-based organization that has undergone due diligence to establish its bona fides by a United Nations agency or another NGO and that reports when requested to the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia on mitigation measures. Implementing partners have the following characteristics:
(a) The organization is part of the humanitarian response plan for Somalia (or the Somalia Humanitarian Fund) process; and/or
(b) The organization is represented in a cluster’s 3W matrix (Who does What and Where).
I remain available should you have any questions about the content of the report or need further clarification on the humanitarian situation in Somalia.
(Signed) Mark Lowcock
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
Report of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2444 (2018), the resolution succeeding resolutions 1916 (2010), 1972 (2011), 2060 (2012), 2111 (2013), 2182 (2014), 2244 (2015), 2317 (2016) and 2385 (2017), in which the Council established the reporting requirement. It is the fourteenth submission pursuant to the above-mentioned resolutions. The Council, in paragraph 49 of its resolution 2444 (2018), requested the Emergency Relief Coordinator to report to the Council by 15 October 2019 on the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Somalia and on any impediments thereto.
2. The present report covers the period from 1 September 2018 to 31 August 2019. It focuses primarily on the delivery of humanitarian assistance to affected people in areas under the control or influence of Al-Shabaab, which was included on the sanctions list pursuant to paragraph 8 of Security Council resolution 1844 (2008), by the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea, on 12 April 2010. As in the previous 13 reports (S/2010/372, S/2010/580, S/2011/125, S/2011/694, S/2012/546, S/2012/856, S/2013/415, S/2014/177, S/2014/655, S/2015/731, S/2016/827, S/2017/860 and S/2018/896), the present report outlines constraints to humanitarian access and operational implications. In addition, it summarizes mitigation measures established to address the risks of politicization, misuse and misappropriation of humanitarian assistance. The report is based on information synthesized in consultation with relevant humanitarian organizations active in Somalia and information from the Risk Management Unit in the Integrated Office of the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General/United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia.
3. The humanitarian situation in Somalia remains fragile owing to the impact of recurrent climate shocks, including the prolonged drought in 2016 and 2017, poor deyr rains in 2018 (October to December), unusually hot and dry conditions during the jilaal season in 2019 and the erratic and abnormal performance of gu rains in 2019 (April to June). Climate shocks, combined with other persistent drivers of need, such as armed conflict and protracted and continued displacement, have left millions of Somalis in need of assistance and protection.
4. According to the 2019 post-gu assessment results, released on 2 September by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, cereal production was up to 70 per cent below average in southern Somalia during the gu 2019 cropping season. The resulting harvest shortfall is linked to abnormally high prices of sorghum throughout the season. The situation is likely to be even worse in conflict-affected areas, where people are displaced from their land or face involuntary and illegal taxation by Al-Shabaab, reducing incentives for agricultural production. The results of the 2019 post-gu assessment indicate that, in the absence of humanitarian assistance, up to 2.1 million people across Somalia will face severe hunger by December 2019, which will bring the total number of Somalis expected to be food insecure to 6.3 million by the year’s end.
5. Huge food and nutrition gaps remain largely among poor agropastoral, marginalized and displaced communities, where many vulnerable people have been pushed into the most severe food and nutrition insecurity phases. Severe acute malnutrition rates among children are increasing, mainly among internally displaced persons, with preliminary assessment results indicating that 10 out of 33 population groups surveyed demonstrate critical levels of acute malnutrition, with a global acute malnutrition rate exceeding 15 per cent. Interventions to address high levels of acute malnutrition, mainly among children, must be scaled up. Without response, from July 2019 to June 2020, an estimated 1 million children will be acutely malnourished, including 180,000 children with severe acute malnutrition. The prevalence and increased risk of acute malnutrition, coupled with a serious lack of access to clean water, is further heightening the risk of waterborne disease outbreaks and is exacerbating existing fragilities.
6. Among the most fragile people in Somalia are 2.6 million internally displaced persons, who continue to face serious risks of marginalization, forced eviction and exclusion across the country. From September to December 2018, there were 188,000 newly displaced persons, and between January and August 2019, an additional 270,000 people were displaced. While the majority of internally displaced persons report armed conflict and drought as the main reasons for displacement, it should be noted that drought-induced displacement has been on the rise. In the fourth quarter of 2018 and from January to August 2019, 29 per cent and 41 per cent of internally displaced persons, respectively, noted drought as the main reason for displacement. Furthermore, more than twice as many people reported drought-induced displacement in July 2019 compared with June 2019.
7. Ongoing armed conflict and insecurity continues to be a driver of displacement, compounding the humanitarian situation and causing high levels of need and protection concerns. With respect to conflict-induced displacement, 60 per cent of internally displaced persons in the fourth quarter of 2018 and 52 per cent of internally displaced persons in 2019 cited conflict as the main reason for displacement. The Shabelle Hoose and Shabelle Dhexe regions are areas of particular concern, as the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali National Army have intensified military offensives against Al-Shabaab. The impact of drought, coupled with the protracted conflict, is worsening protection challenges as families lose their socioeconomic safety nets and capacity to cope with such shocks. Displaced women and children face greater protection challenges, including family separation, exposure to gender-based violence, disruptions to education and the forced recruitment of children by armed groups.
8. Aggressive forced child recruitment campaigns in areas of southern and central Somalia and in parts of the Bari region in Puntland have continued to drive civilians into displacement. For example, from January to July 2019, the country task force on monitoring and reporting mechanism reported that 869 children, including 8 girls, were recruited and used by armed forces and groups in Somalia. Al-Shabaab accounts for an estimated 81 per cent of children recruited in Somalia. Humanitarian partners continue to provide support to children who were subject to forced recruitment by armed groups. In 2018, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners provided reintegration services to 1,466 children in Afgooye, Baidoa, Dhuusamarreeb, Garoowe, Kismaayo and Mogadishu. In addition, from January to July 2019, UNICEF and its partners delivered protection services to 513 children, including 47 girls, who had escaped from Al-Shabaab or had been released by armed forces in various areas of Somalia.
9. Humanitarian partners have continued to provide life-saving assistance alongside livelihood support. From September to December 2018, a monthly average of 2 million beneficiaries were reached with the provision of access to food assistance and safety net support. During the first half of 2019, resource constraints hindered the delivery of aid, resulting in a monthly average of 1.2 million people receiving assistance with improved access to food assistance and safety net support. In addition, between January and July 2019, over 470,000 people were reached with the provision of access to sustainable safe water services, health services were provided to more than 757,000 people, and 155,000 people benefited from shelter and support with non-food items. Over the same period, the Nutrition Cluster treated 141,216 new cases of severe acute malnutrition and provided treatment for moderate acute malnutrition to 212,218 children under 5 years of age and 62,910 pregnant and breastfeeding women. While outbreaks of acute watery diarrhoea have largely remained under control, with the exception of localized cases, there has been a sharp increase in other acute diarrhoeas, with the number of other acute diarrhoea cases in 2019 nearly double those recorded in 2018. Furthermore, there has been a significant rise in malaria cases when compared with the same period in 2018.
10. The deterioration in the humanitarian situation unfolded at a time when the Somalia aid operation continues to be underfunded, forcing aid agencies to limit or reduce relief efforts. For example, the Food Security Cluster is reaching 1.9 million people out of the monthly target of reaching around 2.3 million people with assistance. The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for Somalia, which seeks $1.08 billion to deliver aid and protection to 4.2 million people, was 45 per cent funded ($508 million) as at 28 August 2019. Some clusters, such as protection, water, sanitation and hygiene and health, have been critically underfunded, having received less than 20 per cent of the funding requested. Compared with 2018, when climatic conditions were better, the response in 2019 is notably reduced across most clusters. For example, in May 2019, 1.2 million people were reached with activities aimed at improving access to food and safety nets, compared to 1.9 million people reached in May 2018, representing a 36 per cent reduction in the delivery of such assistance. Similarly, most clusters report that partners have been unable to provide enough assistance and services in areas affected by displacement, where beneficiaries are among the most vulnerable and have acute needs. Only 25 per cent of the target for family tracing and reunification was reached between January and May 2019. Gaps are also significant in water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in health facilities and schools, with only eight institutions reached with a full water, sanitation and hygiene package to date out of 150 institutions targeted in 2019.
11. Working closely with the Federal Government of Somalia and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, aid agencies launched a drought impact response plan in which $686 million is requested to boost the response in the last seven months of 2019 and to provide critical life-saving assistance to 4.5 million Somalis. Since the end of May, some $253 million in additional resources has been received for the Somalia response. Among other things, the additional resources have enabled aid agencies to reach more than 1.8 million people with food assistance since June 2019. As a result of such response efforts, humanitarian partners were able to prevent 1 million people from sliding into emergency and crisis levels of food insecurity.
12. Aid agencies are ready to scale up the response, drawing on recent positive lessons learned, to ensure that response efforts prevent a major humanitarian catastrophe that could jeopardize gains made in recent years. Mechanisms are in place for rapid scale-up and sustained response. Such mechanisms include significant cash programming, expanded partnerships with already-vetted local implementing partners and improved engagement with authorities and affected populations. As part of the famine prevention efforts of 2017, humanitarian partners established Drought Operations Coordination Centres to improve multisectoral coordination and information-sharing and facilitate joint planning. In 2018, because of the positive impact that the Centres had on famine prevention efforts and in recognition that such coordination platforms could facilitate the response to all forms of disaster, the Centres were reconceptualized as Disaster Operations Coordination Centres. The re-establishment of the Centres will enable the initial increase in response close to the areas of origin in the hardest hit regions.
13. While aid agencies continue to do all they can to alleviate suffering and save lives, it is critical that everyone, including the Federal Government of Somalia, federal member states, the international donor community and humanitarian partners, rally behind the scaling up of the response in the worst-affected areas. Coordination on resource mobilization, prioritization of needs and response is critical for the effective delivery of life-saving assistance, including efforts to expand access to areas outside urban centres and to address bureaucratic challenges that slow down and significantly increase the costs associated with humanitarian efforts.
Turkey’s Syria offensive could spark another catastrophe, warn humanitarians
Fri, 11 Oct 2019 20:44:34 +0000
Airstrikes and a ground offensive by Turkey in northern Syria against Kurdish forces have left civilians dead and forced tens of thousands to flee, UN agencies said on Friday, amid fears of another “humanitarian catastrophe” in the war-torn country.
Expressing concern about the military campaign launched on Wednesday, the UN’s emergency relief chief Mark Lowcock noted that the Turkish Government had “assured me that they attach maximum importance to the protection of civilians and the avoidance of harm to them”.
Speaking to journalists in Geneva, Jens Laerke from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that Thursday had seen “intense shelling all along the north-eastern Syrian border with Turkey, from Jarablus, to the west of the Euphrates, to the Iraqi border”.
Highlighting the potential for further suffering for Syrians caught up in more than eight years of war, Christian Cardon de Lichtbuer, from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that “we have there all the ingredients for unfortunately yet another humanitarian crisis in Syria”.
UN human rights office confirms eight civilian deaths
As of Thursday evening, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, reported that seven civilians, including two women and a boy, had been killed in the first two days of the Turkish operation.
A male civilian man was also reported killed in Jarablus on Wednesday, OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville said, adding that a woman and a boy were injured yesterday, during “counter-attacks and ground strikes” by Kurdish non-State armed groups.
In response to the mass displacement of people from the northern border area, mainly to Al-Hasakeh district, the World Food Programme (WFP) has provided ready-to-eat meals to around 11,000 people there, with the help of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC).
WFP supports close to 650,000 people in north-eastern Syria via a field hub in Qamishli; around 580,000 are currently in areas under Kurdish control, it said in a statement.
“Mass population displacement has been reported since the escalation of violence”, said WFP spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel. “Over 70,000 people from Ras al-Ain and Tal Abiad have been displaced so far.”
UN food agency ‘will cover’ needs of the displaced
Several thousand more have move to Raqqa governorate since the beginning of Operation Peace Spring by the Turkish military on Wednesday, Mr. Verhoosel added, while many other were on their way to shelters in Raqqa city, “where WFP will be covering their food needs”.
Although UN humanitarian staff remain in Qamishli, “their ability to operate and provide relief is severely restricted” by the hostilities, OCHA’s Mr. Laerke explained, adding that local authorities were also reportedly “imposing some quite strict security measures at checkpoints”.
Linked to the military campaign, Marixie Mercado from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that the Alouk water pumping station reportedly came under attack early on Thursday.
“This is a station that provides safe water to at least 400,000 people in Hassakeh governorate, including displacement camps,” she said
In Tal Abiad, two schools have been reportedly taken over for military use, Ms. Mercado added, while child protection programmes have been suspended in Ras al-Ain, Mabrouka camp, Tal Halaf, Sulok and Tal Abiad.
Health and Nutrition response in Ras al-Ain and Mabourka camp had also been put on hold, while schools in these areas have closed and the water supply has been affected.
Asked whether any Syrian refugees had been seen returning to a so-called safe zone either side of the Turkey-Syria border, Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), said that he had “no information” of any Syrian refugees doing so.
Any such buffer zone would have to set up “with full international humanitarian law safeguards in place, including the consent of the Government and warring parties and the zone being of civilian character, the safety of civilians would be hard to guarantee”, the UNHCR spokesperson added.
So-called ‘safe zone’ is not managed by UN
Echoing those comments, OCHA highlighted the vulnerability of those displaced by the conflict and the uncertainty surrounding a so-called buffer zone cleared of Kurdish fighters on the border, reportedly proposed by Turkey.
“It’s not something that’s been set up by humanitarians, it is a zone that has been set up by military planners in Turkey,” said Mr. Laerke. “We do not control it and we have not been involved in the planning of it.”
After more than eight years of war in Syria, needs are “significant and widespread”, Najat Rochdi, Senior Humanitarian Adviser to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, reiterated in Geneva on Thursday.
Over 11 million people require some form of humanitarian assistance, she said, including 4.7 million living in areas of high severity of need.
Amid uncertainty about how the military campaign will develop, the ICRC reiterated concern about the lack of basic services available to those displaced in the coming days and weeks, in towns and cities levelled by bombardment and shelling in a bid to drive out ISIL forces.
“People are moving inside Syria, so we can assume, yes, they will go towards (the) south,” said the international Red Cross committee’s Mr. de Lichtbuer. “With the complexity and so areas like Deir-Ez-Zor, and Raqqa, which are not necessarily places that can welcome thousands of people, we will see how it evolves in the coming hours, because it is moving very fast.”
How to build back better after Mozambique cyclones
Fri, 11 Oct 2019 13:25:28 +0000
By Denis McClean
BEIRA, 10 October 2019 - Reconstruction of housing has yet to get underway in Mozambique six months after Cyclone Idai made landfall in March and followed a month later by Cyclone Kenneth which made came ashore further north.
Some 300,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and the road to recovery is beset with challenges including putting in place the necessary finance, training masons and reaching agreement on construction standards to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
Housing alone requires $600 million and the rehabilitation of roads and public utilities requires an additional $700 million, according to the Executive Director of the government’s Reconstruction Authority, Mr. Franciso Pereira.
“We have to take care about the resilience measures and building to last. This is the main objective of the programme of reconstruction,” said Mr. Pereira who is working out the modalities for accessing finance from donors and supporting efforts to produce strong guidelines for reconstruction.
A textbook example of what happens when you fail to build in a risk-informed manner, is cited by the head of UNDP’s sub-office in Beira, Sofala province, Ghulam Sherani.
A regular visitor to Buzi, the town in Manica province at the epicenter of the cyclone Idai disaster, Mr. Sherani says: “There is a place there in Buzi called Community 2000 because everything there, the schools, the clinics, the houses were rebuilt after the cyclone and floods of that year. Now everything is destroyed again, and the government is relocating the people.”
Hence the urgency felt by UN-Habitat, UNDP and the National Reconstruction Authority to have agreement on resilient construction guidelines which will be applied and adhered to by all stakeholders as funds become available from the World Bank, the European Union and others, to support the reconstruction effort.
They are all working together to ensure that the homes which will be built adhere to resilient construction guidelines which will be neither too complicated nor too lax.
The guidelines which will be presented to government are designed to be easily understood by masons who will be upskilled in safe building techniques. Currently, 100 masons are undergoing training and they will build 20 model two-bedroom houses which will become templates for the overall reconstruction programme.
In Beira itself, Jose Manuel Moisés, city councilor for institutional affairs, says they are moving ahead with a project to build 25,000 homes which will be sold to low, medium and high income families on an elevated location free from the risk of flooding.
At the same time the city which was devastated by the cyclone is clamping down on unauthorized construction. It has resettled 110 families away from the exposed beachfront area.
“We can’t talk about resilience without talking about climate change,” Mr. Moisés said.
The city takes pride in the fact that a World Bank funded programme to upgrade the city’s canal network played a significant role in reducing floodwaters during Cyclone Idai by channeling much of the heavy rain out to sea.
The local government also plans extensive coastal protection measures including a system of sand dunes to augment what remains of the city’s mangrove forest. “We’re only really getting started now on rehabilitation after the cyclone. It will take time but we want to build back stronger for the future,” said Mr. Moisés.
More than 85 governments, civil society and international groups vow to tackle statelessness
Fri, 11 Oct 2019 12:15:15 +0000
In a historic moment in the global fight against statelessness, more than 85 governments, civil society and international and regional organizations have this week pledged hundreds of new commitments to end statelessness, a major cause of human rights deprivations for millions of people worldwide.
More than 300 pledges were received at a meeting in Geneva hosted by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. The meeting, known as the High-Level Segment on Statelessness, was part of UNHCR’s annual gathering of its governing Executive Committee.
The sheer number of pledges is unprecedented for a single occasion. Among them over 220 were commitments by more than 55 states to accede to or ratify the UN statelessness conventions, facilitate naturalization of stateless people, prevent statelessness by ending gender discrimination in nationality laws, ensure universal birth registration, provide protection to stateless people and enhance or initiate data collection on stateless populations.
“We are reaching a critical mass in the global effort to stamp out statelessness. This week has shown that there is an unprecedented level of political will and commitment to resolve this issue and prevent it from arising in the first place,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
“It is crucial that these commitments are now turned into action. We will be stepping up our own efforts to help States work towards the goal of eradicating statelessness completely – a goal that is within our reach, as long as this momentum is sustained.”
UNHCR convened the High Level Segment on Statelessness during the midway mark of its ten year #IBelong campaign, which was launched in 2014 to eradicate statelessness by 2024.
During the Segment, more than 20 pledges were made by States specifically to accede to or ratify one or both of the UN statelessness conventions, the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. This would see the 1954 Convention pass the symbolically important threshold of 100 state parties, representing more than half of all UN Member States.
On Monday, Angola and Colombia became the two latest countries to join the Conventions, formally lodging instruments of accession and ratification to the treaties during the event itself.
Other countries committed to reform nationality laws that prevent women from passing citizenship to their children. This week, UNHCR welcomed the Islamic Republic of Iran’s amendment to a nationality law which allows children born to Iranian women and non-Iranian fathers a path towards acquisition of Iranian nationality.
Among other commitments, over 35 pledges related to stepped-up efforts to ensure universal birth registration, more than 30 pledges concerned the establishment of procedures to identify statelessness persons so as to provide them with protection and facilitate their naturalization and over 15 pledges represented commitments by States to introduce safeguards in their nationality laws to prevent childhood statelessness.
Globally, there are at least 3.9 million known stateless people but the true global figure is estimated to be significantly higher, and not least as statistics on statelessness are reported for only a third of states globally. In an effort to better identify and assist stateless people, more than 25 states pledged to take steps to improve data on statelessness, including in some countries through national censuses.
Statelessness blights the lives of millions of people globally, depriving them of legal rights or basic services and leaving them politically and economically marginalized, discriminated against and particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Almost half a million people displaced by conflict in Burkina Faso
Fri, 11 Oct 2019 10:36:13 +0000
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrew Mbogori – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is joining its partners to warn about the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Burkina Faso’s central and northern regions where each day the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilian are being disrupted by insecurity and violence. Some 486,000 have been forced to flee within the country, 267,000 of whom in the past 3 months alone. A further 16,000 are refugees in neighbouring countries.
The escalating armed violence is causing an unprecedented humanitarian emergency in the Sahel. While visiting Kaya, northeast of Ouagadougou, and Barsalogho, in the central Sanmatenga Province, we witnessed firsthand the dramatic impact of these tragic events on the affected population.
Thousands of people are on the move, exhausted and trying to find safety among host families or at transit and official travel sites. Many have been repeatedly displaced. The prospects for their immediate return to where they come from are poor. As a result, their needs and those of host families, already vulnerable by food and nutrition crises in the region, are growing. Women and adolescent girls face particular threats given that health and other essential services are lacking.
People we met had endured horrifying and traumatic events, with reports of more than 500 being killed in 472 attacks and counter-military operations since last year. We heard reports that basic services such as health care and education, as well as freedom of movement, have been severely affected by the attacks and by generalized insecurity.
Currently, all of Burkina Faso’s 13 regions host people fleeing violence. The Centre-Nord region hosts the largest number of displaced people - more than 196,000 in Sanmatenga province alone - followed by the Sahel region - 133,000 in Soum province. Some 1.5 million people are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in the country. We also remain extremely worried about 31,000 Malian refugees also affected by the ongoing conflict.
One thing was absolutely clear. Humanitarian needs are rising fast as conflict and insecurity continues to devastate hundreds of thousands of lives. Hosting communities are already impoverished, living on margins themselves. Food, water, shelter, and healthcare has to be arranged and reinforced immediately if we want to avoid another tragedy within this tragedy. Malnutrition and starvation are a real threat.
We need urgent resources to launch a coordinated humanitarian response – an immediate necessity to save lives.
Armed groups have also intensified attacks in Burkina Faso neighbouring countries of Mali and Niger. Regions around the three countries’ borders are new hotspots of violence. Operating in sparsely populated, impoverished regions with little Government presence, armed groups are roving across borders and expanding areas of influence. Attacks have already spilled over into Benin in 2019. Overall, 5.4 million people in the affected regions need urgent assistance, including 3.2 million in Mali, and 700,000 people in western Niger.
On the sidelines of our annual Executive Committee meeting this week, the High Commissioner witnessed Government representatives from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania reaffirm their commitment to work together to address displacement issues, ensuring people fleeing violence are able to seek unhindered safety in their own country and across the borders. Such commitments were drawn from the conclusions of the Protection Dialogues on the Sahel, organized in Bamako last month by UNHCR and the Government of Mali.
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Second life-saving evacuation of vulnerable refugees from Libya lands in Rwanda
Fri, 11 Oct 2019 10:17:15 +0000
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
At around 11:20pm last night, a group of some 123 vulnerable refugees arrived at Kigali International Airport, the second evacuation flight to Rwanda from Libya. They have been taken to a transit facility in Gashora, where UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is providing them with life-saving assistance, including food, water, medical care, psycho-social support, and accommodation.
They have been given asylum-seeker status while their cases are assessed and further solutions are pursued, including resettlement, voluntary return to countries of previous asylum, voluntary return to countries of origin where safe to do so and integration with local Rwandan communities.
The group was comprised mainly of Eritreans, as well as smaller numbers from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan.
Around half of the group (59), were under 18 years old, the vast majority of whom had been separated from their parents and wider family. One of the children had previously been held in detention for more than two and half years. The youngest evacuee is just eight months old.
Most of the group were evacuated via the Gathering and Departure Facility after UNHCR had previously secured their release from detention. Others were evacuated directly from detention centres, while two had been living in urban areas. Amongst the evacuees included survivors of the 2 July airstrike on Tajoura detention centre.
Individuals were identified based on assessments of vulnerability. The number of available evacuation and resettlement places is not enough to meet the needs, so efforts are made to prioritise those most in need, often including unaccompanied children, survivors of torture and other abuses, people in need of medical treatment, amongst others.
UNHCR is grateful to the support received from Rwanda and Niger, and the African Union, through the Emergency Transit Mechanism in the two countries, as well as other States who have helped us move vulnerable refugees out of harm’s way in Libya.
Following this evacuation, UNHCR has assisted 1,663 vulnerable refugees out of Libya in 2019. However, increased places and faster, more flexible processes are needed to move more refugees away from danger.
However, it is clear that the number of available resettlement and evacuation places will continue to be outstripped by the needs. For those we are unable to move out of Libya, alternatives to detention must be found, and UNHCR reiterates our call for all detention centres to be closed and the detainees released.
Some 3,740 refugees continue to be held in detention centres, including people newly-detained after being recently rescued or intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard. Together with other vulnerable refugees living in urban areas, they remain at risk of being caught up in the continued clashes, or being subjected to horrific forms of harm in the hands of smugglers and traffickers in Libya.
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In Nairobi (regional), Dana Hughes, email@example.com, +254 733 440 536
In Tripoli, Tarik Argaz, firstname.lastname@example.org, +216 29 9612 95
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Turkish military operations result in displacement and hospital closure in Syria
Thu, 10 Oct 2019 23:29:33 +0000
NEW YORK/AMSTERDAM/NORTHEASTERN SYRIA, October 10, 2019—Since Turkey launched military operations in northeastern Syria yesterday, towns and villages along the border have been hit by heavy shelling and people are fleeing for their lives, in need of medical and humanitarian aid, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.
"This escalation can only exacerbate the trauma that the people of Syria have already endured through years of war," said Robert Onus, MSF emergency manager for Syria. "Displacement and injuries caused by fighting are likely to put additional pressure on the already limited resources in hospitals."
In the border town Tal Abyad, in Raqqa governorate, shelling has forced the vast majority of people to flee. Tal Abyad hospital, which was supported by MSF, is completely closed after most of the medical staff left with their families. MSF teams have relocated to address needs in other parts of the region. As the only public hospital in the area, Tal Abyad hospital was critical to meeting the health needs of the town and surrounding areas.
"Our staff in Tal Abyad witnessed the town, which was once filled with life, become deserted," said Onus. "After eight years of war, the Syrian people have once again been forced to leave their homes and belongings to seek safety."
In Tal Tamer, a small town in western al-Hasakah governorate, MSF's teams have witnessed almost 2,000 people displaced from Ras Al Ain. MSF teams in Tal Tamer are distributing relief items to people taking refuge in schools, office buildings, shops, and the homes of relatives and residents.
Many thousands of women and children living in camps such as Al Hol and Ain Issa are also now particularly vulnerable, as humanitarian organizations have been forced to suspend or limit operations. This could leave thousands of people without access to critical aid, with no resolution in sight.
MSF will continue to provide medical and other assistance where possible, in response to the growing need for humanitarian assistance. MSF teams remain across northeastern Syria in Ain Al Arab (Kobane), Ain Issa, Al-Malikiyah (Derek), Tal Tamer, Tal Kosher, Al Hol, and Raqqa.
MSF calls on all warring parties in northeastern Syria to ensure the protection of civilians, including health workers and patients. Warring parties must allow the unhindered delivery of lifesaving humanitarian aid, including impartial medical care everywhere in the region.
Colombia’s peace process developments a ‘precious opportunity’ to end violence for good
Thu, 10 Oct 2019 19:57:13 +0000
Foreign Minister Cites ‘Transformative’ Land Reforms amid Efforts to Curb Competition over Drug Trafficking, Illegal Mining
The international community should maintain firm support for those working hard and successfully to consolidate peace in Colombia, in light of the announced plans by some former combatants to take up arms again, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country told the Security Council today.
“It is now more important than ever to support the women and men who remain resolutely committed to peace and to transforming their lives and those of their families and communities,” said Carlos Ruiz Massieu. Presenting the latest 90-day report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia (document S/2019/780), he said that, two years after former guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) laid down their arms, the vast majority of ex-combatants remain committed to the Agreement to End Conflict and Build Peace, with many engaged in reintegration projects.
He went on to emphasize the “swift and categorical rejection” of the recent rearming announcement by some former FARC-EP commanders, while highlighting important achievements by the Government of President Iván Duque in consolidating peace, particularly in reintegration activities and planning for local elections due in three weeks. He urged the Government to release adequate funding for reintegration and to ensure Government programmes reach all former fighters and their communities.
Attacks against former FARC-EP combatants continue, however, and more must be done to ensure their security, as well as that of vulnerable civil society leaders, he reported, stressing also the need for action against criminal networks. He welcomed the joint declarations signed by 12 political parties in rejection of violence ahead of the elections and encouraged all parties to continue to work together to that end.
Welcoming the appearance of 10 former FARC-EP commanders before the Special Jurisdiction to seek forgiveness for kidnappings, he stressed the importance of the Peace Agreement’s truth and reconciliation provisions. Comprehensive implementation of the final accord is vital to ending recurring violence, including in the areas of rural development and political participation, he said. That can only be achieved if all stakeholders work together, he added.
Alongside the combined efforts of the Government, the FARC political party and Colombian society, support from international partners and a unified Security Council are instrumental to consolidating peace, he stressed, adding that the Verification Mission and the United Nations country team pledge to continue doing their part.
Council members then took the floor to welcome Colombia’s efforts towards full implementation of the Peace Agreement, while calling for increased efforts by the Government to reach all eligible ex-combatants and to strengthen security for them and for civil society leaders in rural communities. Delegates condemned recent killings, as well as the announced intention to rearm by some former FARC‑EP commanders, while reaffirming overall progress towards consolidating peace in the country.
France’s representative said the response to the rearming announcement demonstrated the resilience of the peace process, as did the signing of the National Pact for Political Culture and Non-Violence by political parties.
Delegates also expressed strong support for the role of the United Nations Verification Mission, while underlining the importance of Colombian ownership of the entire peace process in the successes achieved thus far.
Equatorial Guinea’s representative hailed Colombia as an example of what a determined people can do to overcome violence and help Council carry out its mandate.
The Russian Federation’s representative stressed the importance of maintaining national leadership of, and responsibility for, the peace process.
Others, including the representative of the United States, hailed the hospitality Colombia extended to migrants from Venezuela, while still others expressed support for the country’s coca-eradication and crop-substitutions programme.
Carlos Holmes Trujillo, Colombia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, affirmed the report’s view of his country’s progress, its strong commitment to the peace process and the challenges it faces. Describing land and territorial reforms as transformative, he said many other Government efforts are exceeding the requirements of the Peace Agreement, calling attention to plans for the protection of human rights defenders and social leaders, as well as special security protections ahead of the upcoming elections.
Condemning all attacks and killings, he said the Government is working to address what the main drivers of such violence — intensified competition for control of drug trafficking, illegal mining and other illicit activities. As for the rearming announcement, he described it as a flagrant violation of the Peace Agreement, concurring that it revealed strong support for the accord among more than 90 per cent of former combatants. They stand committed to reintegration and reconciliation with the Colombian people. Vowing to “bring down the full weight of the law” on spoilers, he declared: “Colombia will not flag in its determination to build peace.”
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Peru, Dominican Republic, Germany, China, Belgium, Côte d’Ivoire, Poland, Indonesia, Kuwait and South Africa.
The meeting began at 10 a.m. and ended at 11:43 a.m.
CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, said the peace process continues to move forward although the last 90 days have been challenging period. Two years after former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) guerrillas laid down their arms, the vast majority of them remain engaged and committed to the Agreement to End Conflict and Build Peace, with thousands pursuing studies, training, working in cooperatives or employed in activities related to the accord, he noted. More than 3,500 former combatants are involved in projects ranging from agricultural ventures to clothing manufacturing to ecotourism.
He went on to emphasize the importance of their commitment to the peace process, while noting the regrettable and unjustified actions of a few former FARC-EP commanders who recently announced that they had taken up arms again. He commended the “swift and categorical rejection” of their actions by all sectors across Colombia – including the FARC political party, which expelled them — and by President Iván Duque. The Special Jurisdiction for Peace declares that all those who announced their rearmament will be excluded from its jurisdiction and any related benefits, he pointed out. “It is now more important than ever to support the women and men who remain resolutely committed to peace and to transforming their lives and those of their families and communities.” While noting the important achievements of the Reintegration Council, he called for further efforts, saying that Government funding for its projects covers only 14.7 per cent of accredited former combatants. The disbursement of that funding must be accelerated and access to land guaranteed, he said, stressing that projects must become self-sustaining so that the former combatants and surrounding communities see the results of their hard work.
Unfortunately, attacks against former FARC-EP combatants continue, he said, noting that 20 were killed during the reporting period and 151 since the signing of the Peace Agreement. There has been some progress in strengthening security guarantees and investigations, but more must be done to provide adequate funding for the entities involved, he emphasized, adding that civil society leaders in vulnerable communities that he visited last week reported that they also need assurances of greater security. Action against criminal networks is also of critical importance, he said. Pointing out that local elections are three weeks away, he welcomed the joint declarations signed by 12 political parties rejecting violence and encouraged the Government of Colombia and FARC-EP to continue to work together, including through joint regional visits to ensure the peaceful nature of the elections and to ensure progress on reforms.
Recounting the appearance before the Special Jurisdiction of 10 former FARC‑EP commanders seeking forgiveness for kidnappings, he praised the willingness of the victims to embrace forgiveness, underlining the importance of the Peace Agreement’s truth and reconciliation provisions. “Victims must continue to be at the centre of the peace process,” he said. In order to end the dynamic of recurrent violence, comprehensive implementation of the final Peace Agreement is vital. Advancing rural development and political participation is as important as reintegrating former combatants, he continued, reiterating that full implementation of the Peace Agreement can only be achieved if all stakeholders work together.
He declared: “The hopes of Colombians for a peaceful and prosperous future can be realized if all of us — the Government, FARC, Colombian society has a whole and the international community — work together to ensure that the letter and spirit of the Peace Agreement become concrete deeds and actions to improve the lives of those who have most suffered from the conflict.” He also underlined the need for unified support from the Security Council, describing it as instrumental. The United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia and the country team pledge to continue doing their part in that effort, he added.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said that, despite the progress achieved in the nearly three years since the Peace Agreement’s adoption, its implementation has not been without challenges, including the decision by some former FARC-EP commanders to take up arms again. However, the vast majority of former combatants remain committed to peace, she noted. She went on to call for adequate resources to bolster rural development, emphasizing also that a greater State presence in areas formerly under the control of armed groups is crucial. Noting that Colombians are set to vote in elections later in October — “a milestone on the road to peace” — she cited worrying reports of threats and intimidation against candidates, urging all parties to adhere to the recently agreed National Pact for Political Culture and Non-Violence.
LUIS UGARELLI (Peru) reiterated his delegation’s commitment to supporting the people and Government of Colombia, including their quest to strengthen State authority, put legal and security guarantees in place, reintegrate former combatants and institute crop-replacement programmes. Calling for the linking of productive projects with access to land and reintegration programmes, he said more attention should be paid to the nearly two thirds of former combatants living outside the territorial areas set aside for training, reintegration, as well as women and minority groups. He went on to welcome the adoption of the National Pact for Political Culture and Non-Violence, while rejecting the “petty decision” by some former FARC-EP commanders to take up arms again. They will have to answer to both justice and history, he said. The Colombia peace process must continue to serve as an example for the rest of the world, he said, emphasizing that, in order to do so, it requires the support of the Council and the entire international community.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) welcomed the Government’s territorial focus and called for efforts to institute sustainable land-oriented reintegration projects. Social reintegration is another pillar of the peace process, requiring special attention to the more than 8,000 former combatants living outside the areas for training and reintegration. He went on to join other delegates in condemning the decision to rearm on the part of some former combatants as a flagrant violation of the Peace Agreement. Turning to the elections, he urged additional Government measures to ensure stability and protect candidates, while underlining the importance of engaging women and young people in the peace process.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said the Peace Agreement remains an inspiration and pledged continued support for Government efforts and for the United Nations Verification Mission. Hailing President Duque’s efforts to expand the State’s presence over the entire national territory while pursuing the suppression of coca cultivation, he expressed concern, however, about ex‑combatants in areas outside the reach of peace mechanisms and violence against former fighters and civil society leaders. In that context, he applauded the signing of the National Pact for Political Culture and Non-Violence, urging all parties to honour its principles. A visible path to dignity for all Colombians should be a priority, he stressed. Praising Colombia’s hospitality to Venezuelan refugees, he noted that his country provided more than $200 million to help in that effort and pledged continued partnership with Colombia as the Peace Agreement’s progress continues.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) affirmed his delegation’s support for the United Nations Verification Mission, while emphasizing that Colombia itself bears the main responsibility for the peace process. Noting that the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Verification Mission (document S/2019/780) conveys concern about the implementation of that process, he warned that peace is not irreversible. Citing incidents of electoral violence, he emphasized the urgent need to bolster the presence of State institutions outside Bogota, the capital, to clear mines, finance crop-substitution programmes, and ensure the reintegration of former combatants. He condemned recent attacks and stressed the need to hold talks with those responsible. Comprehensive and full compliance with the Peace Agreement must be the Government’s priority and all disputes must be resolved through existing legal mechanisms, he said, underlining that Colombians themselves must move the peace process forward and continue to own it.
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany) described the Colombian people’s determination to overcome decades of violence as a source of inspiration for those working to settle conflicts around the world. “This is still a success story, albeit not without setbacks,” he said, strongly condemning the recent decision by FARC-EP commanders to take up arms again. Welcoming the immediate rejection of that announcement by the FARC party, as well as President Duque’s continued commitment to reintegrate most former combatants, he called for redoubled efforts to accelerate the peace accord’s implementation. “Colombians can succeed in consolidating the peace they have begun to build, especially if they are able to bridge distrust,” he said. Noting the expiration of the legal status of the territorial areas for training and reintegration, he called for greater focus on the more than 8,000 former combatants residing outside those areas. He also underlined the crucial role being played by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and other institutions, calling for their adequate funding and warning against a loss of trust in the consolidation of the peace process. He expressed concern about the high numbers of attacks against social leaders, human rights defenders and others, which might lead to further tensions in the context of upcoming local and regional elections.
WU HAITAO (China) said the peace process is crucial to ensuring security and development across the wider region. Commending the progress made to date, he noted, however, that the security situation nevertheless remains fragile. Implementation of the Peace Agreement is a long-term, multidimensional process facing many challenges, he emphasized, urging the parties to “stay the course”, conduct an inclusive political dialogue, speed up social reconstruction and promote peace through development. Meanwhile, the Verification Mission should work to enhance synergies and push for more results, while fully respecting Colombia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he stressed.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) strongly rejected the decision by a small number of former FARC-EP members to rearm, emphasizing: “History will show how misguided this decision is.” He went on to call for the extension of State authority into conflict-affected areas, the enhancement of access to public services and the implementation of rural land reforms. He underlined the importance of ensuring the independence of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, saying all institutions tasked with implementing the Peace Agreement must receive adequate funding. He expressed concern about a recent uptick in the recruitment of children, and called for special protections for human rights defenders, former FARC-EP members, political candidates and other vulnerable groups in light of the upcoming elections.
GBOLIÉ DESIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) welcomed the signing of the National Pact for Political Culture and Non-Violence, saying it demonstrates Colombia’s commitment to eschewing violence and ensuring peace and stability during the upcoming elections. Noting the progress achieved by various State institutions tasked with implementing the Peace Agreement, he noted that major challenges persist in that regard, leading to a climate of insecurity. He expressed particular concern about insufficient funding and scant social measures to ensure the reintegration of former combatants, while calling for the dismantling of criminal networks and thorough investigation of assassinations. He also voiced regret over the decision of some former FARC-EP commanders to take up arms again, characterizing the move as “an unfortunate message” just weeks ahead of elections. He called upon them to recommit themselves to the Peace Agreement and urged all parties to “give peace a chance”.
PAWEL RADOMSKI (Poland) said the implementation of Colombia’s complex and multifaceted Peace Agreement is a demanding task that may sometimes generate disaffection and mistrust. The recent decision by some former FARC-EP combatants to take up arms again and fight outside the provisions of the law is nevertheless unacceptable, he emphasized, praising other former guerrilla fighters who still overwhelmingly support the peace process. Much has been done to protect human rights defenders and social leaders across the country, but a significant gap remains in that regard, he said, adding that comprehensive security measures are needed without delay in areas historically affected by conflict. The full political, legal and socioeconomic reintegration of former FARC-EP members is crucial to establishing trust and confidence in the peace process, he said, stressing that, whereas urban reintegration is steadily gaining relevance, it remains critical to ensure that former combatants have access to housing, health care and education. Expectations are high for the elections, scheduled for 27 October, and security protections should be stepped up, he said.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) called for follow-through on commitments to rural areas and former combatants. Expressing concern over rearming by some former FARC-EP members, he said optimism has been maintained due to the evident commitment of most former combatants to the peace process. All stakeholders must continue to support Colombia’s further progress towards full implementation of the Peace Agreement, he emphasized, pledging that Indonesia stands ready to help, including by sharing best reintegration practices. “Let Colombia continue to be a success story for the Council,” he urged.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÉRE (France) affirmed the importance of the Council’s firm support for Colombia’s efforts to implement the Peace Agreement in full. The response to the announcement of a faction’s intention to rearm demonstrates the resilience of the peace process, as does the signing of the National Pact for Political Culture and Non-Violence. Condemning recent violence, he called for full implementation of the Peace Agreement in order to build stability over the long term, emphasizing the importance of tapping into follow-up mechanisms, and of making justice mechanisms fully operational. Praising Colombia’s embrace of Venezuelan migrants, he said France will continue to provide support.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) hailed Colombia as an example of what a determined people can do to overcome violence and help the Council carry out its mandate. He encouraged all stakeholders to work together in pursuit of an inclusive consensus on moving forward. Condemning any attempts to reverse gains, he urged the international community to continue to exert pressure on those who decided to take up arms again. Expressing concern over attacks on political leaders, he urged all stakeholders to work together to prevent further violence, and to support the Government’s laudable efforts in pursuit of peace with legality.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) called upon all stakeholders in Colombia to safeguard their successes and make further headway. There is need to accelerate the reintegration process by providing full funding for projects involving ex‑combatants and further efforts by all parties to ensure peaceful and credible local elections, he said. Expressing concern over the murders of former fighters and community leaders, as well as the announcement of a faction’s intention to rearm, he called upon all stakeholders to do their part in continuing to shore up the peace process in a cooperative manner, with the welcome support of the Verification Mission and other international partners. He hailed the Mission’s projects to encourage participation by young people, as well as dialogue within communities.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), Council President for October, spoke in his national capacity, welcoming the Government of Colombia’s continued efforts to reintegrate former combatants and the implementation of a “Peace and Legality” strategy for that purpose. Efforts to address the political, social and economic concerns of former FARC members are important and relate directly to rural reforms, the development of territories, transitional justice and victims’ rights. Welcoming the work of the Truth Commission and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, he said South Africa’s own experience with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission was crucial for achieving national unity. Echoing expressions of concern about the recent decision by some former FARC-EP commanders to take up arms again, he called on all political parties to fully respect and remain committed to the peace accord and to continue to refrain from any actions that could undermine its implementation. He went on to voice concern about the security of all stakeholders — especially social leaders, human rights defenders, former FARC combatants and others — and underlined the need to remain cognizant of the specific threats facing female candidates in this month’s elections.
CARLOS HOLMES TRUJILLO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, welcomed the Council’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2487 (2019) by which it renewed the mandate of the United Nations Verification Mission for another year. Noting that the Secretary-General’s report presents a balanced vision of Colombia’s progress, strong commitment to the peace process, as well as the challenges it faces, he outlined the “positive evolution” that has occurred since the election of President Duque. Describing the implementation of transformative land and territorial reforms as ambitious, he noted that many of the Government projects currently under way actually exceed the scope of the Peace Agreement. He went on to cite the expanded number of reintegration programme beneficiaries and the recent extension of monthly subsidies to former combatants, as long as they continue to adhere to the Peace Agreement. Meanwhile, the Government has identified several options for the expansion of land access reforms, he said.
The report spotlights the need for greater access to health-care services for ex-combatants, he continued, saying the issue “requires more nuance”. Indeed, many former fighters are already registered in the national health system, and many are covered by health services at the local level. The Peace Agreement cannot be fully implemented overnight, he cautioned, saying it will instead require at least 15 years. Turning to the issue of security measures for former combatants, he said protecting them is a major challenge. The Government is working to reduce threats and crimes, including homicide, and is advancing related investigations through its Special Prosecutor’s Office, he reported.
Rejecting all attacks and killings — including the murder of former combatants — he noted that intensified competition for control over illicit activities like drug trafficking and illegal mining are major drivers of such violence. The Government is working to address such matters, he said. Spotlighting the Government’s rapid condemnation of the decision by some former FARC-EP commanders to take up arms again, he pointed out that it was echoed by the FARC party. The move was a flagrant violation of the peace accord, he said, adding that it also revealed strong support for the Peace Agreement from more than 90 per cent of former combatants. They stand committed to reintegration and reconciliation with the Colombian people, he said, vowing to “bring down the full weight of the law” on spoilers. “Colombia will not flag in its determination to build peace.”
For information media. Not an official record.
Global Fund donors pledge US$14 billion in fight to end epidemics
Thu, 10 Oct 2019 16:11:03 +0000
LYON, France – In an unprecedented show of global solidarity, donors at the Global Fund's Sixth Replenishment Conference pledged US$14.02 billion for the next three years – the largest amount ever raised for a multilateral health organization, and the largest amount by the Global Fund. The funds will help save 16 million lives and end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by 2030.
President Emmanuel Macron of France electrified the conference with a stirring appeal to deliver the next generation a better and healthier world, fighting inequality and strengthening social justice. President Macron called on all partners to increase their commitments by at least 15% in order to reach the target of at least US$14 billion, and during the pledging session that followed, donors answered that urgent call to step up the fight – many making last-minute increases on top of their original pledges.
In a stunning final push to reach the US$14 billion target, President Macron joined Bill Gates to make increased commitments for the coming three-year period, announcing that they would each pledge an additional US$60 million on top of pledges announced earlier in the day. With just US$80 million to go, President Macron, Mr. Gates and Bono – pointing to the imperative of ending the epidemics by 2030 – committed to raise at least a further US$100 million during the replenishment period to achieve a total of over US$14 billion.
“Everyone in the room today felt the power of a global community coming together to say in one voice: ‘We will end these epidemics’,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “We are tremendously grateful to President Macron for his incredible leadership over the past year. With the incredible support of partners and donors around the world, we succeeded in reaching over US$14 billion t0 help save 16 million lives.”
Many donors significantly increased their pledges, citing the urgency to take decisive action. The United States Congress signaled outstanding support with US$1.56 billion a year, maintaining a 33% portion of all contributions. France itself increased its contribution by 20% to €1.296 billion including the additional US$60 million announced by President Macron.
Other major donors all stepped up the fight: The United Kingdom pledged £1.4 billion for the coming three-year period, a 16% increase; Germany pledged €1 billion, a 17.6% increase; Canada pledged CAD930 million, a 16% increase, the European Union pledged €550 million, a 16% increase; Japan contributed US$840 million and other longstanding donors contributed as well. Further expanding its donor base, the Global Fund also welcomed 20 new and returning public donors.
Private donors pledged more than US$1 billion for the first time ever, an extraordinary achievement led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s pledge of US$760 million, and (RED)’s pledge of US$150 million, alongside longstanding supporters such as Sri Dato Dr Tahir, Comic Relief and Takeda. Six new private donors also joined, including Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, and 11 partners committed other resources to expand innovation and impact.
The full list of donors and pledges will be posted on the Global Fund website.
The promise to save 16 million lives in the next three years and ultimately end the epidemics by 2030 will only be achieved by leadership and increased investment in health from the countries implementing programs. An unprecedented number of implementing countries from Africa – 23 – made pledges to the Global Fund. During the conference, several heads of state committed to increase domestic resources for health and work towards universal health coverage.
In a spirit of global solidarity, the conference brought together leaders from countries all over the world, including numerous heads of state and government ministers, several Nobel Peace Prize Laureates; CEOs and leaders of private foundations; Senegalese singer and malaria activist Youssou N’Dour; civil society leaders and people affected by the diseases.
Maurine Murenga, who was diagnosed with HIV in the early 2000s, and who serves on the Global Fund Board, thanked all partners for recognizing the need to focus investments in programs that specifically address the disproportionate effects of HIV on women and girls.
“Those of us who survived HIV are here thanks to the Global Fund, but millions are still dying unnecessarily because they cannot access these life-saving programs,” said Maurenga. “Young women and girls have to be at the center of the response to HIV in Africa. It is unacceptable that young women and girls are still twice as vulnerable to HIV in sub-Saharan Africa and six times more vulnerable in the worst hit countries. We know change is possible and we have to act now.”
Addressing the conference, several heads of state and governments of African countries praised donors and partners for their global solidarity, and stressed the importance of domestic financing to develop long-term sustainability of health programs.
The Global Fund partnership is a proven mechanism for maximizing impact. Health programs supported by the Global Fund have saved more than 32 million lives since its inception in 2002, and provided prevention, treatment and care services to hundreds of millions of people.
“Today’s Global Fund replenishment result is an incredible achievement,” said Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “This is a big day in the history of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria – and one that no one expected two decades ago when the diseases were at their peak. Thank you to all the donors who increased their contributions. We hope others are inspired to follow their lead and support the Global Fund to continue its life-saving work.”
In a special message delivered on behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed explained how vital investments by the Global Fund are to meet the health-related SDGs, as well as to address poverty and inequality. The Global Fund invests US$1 billion yearly to help build resilient and sustainable systems for health, a critical component for universal health coverage.
Peter Sands declared in concluding remarks: “This year, we promised the seven-year-olds of the world that we would end AIDS, TB and malaria by 2030 – the time they become adults – so they don’t have to. Today’s remarkable demonstration of global solidarity shows that the world is committed to keep that promise, by working stronger, faster and together. Ending AIDS, TB and malaria is the fight that unites, and thank you to all our many partners for stepping up the fight.”
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Save the Children scales up Syrian operations, warns of mass displacement of children
Thu, 10 Oct 2019 12:00:42 +0000
Save the Children warned today against an impending humanitarian disaster in North East Syria, where families and children have already started fleeing hostilities. The agency confirmed it was preparing to scale up its relief operations which have been continuous since 2014.
Save the Children said: “We are deeply concerned about the safety of thousands of children and their families who have been on the move overnight. Our priority is to ensure that the best interests of children are met, and that essential support is provided to them. Our teams are still present in the area and delivering our programmes, and we are preparing to scale up to meet the increased needs.”
Our teams in North East Syria reported hearing explosions throughout the night.
“While the hostilities were largely localised to border areas, I saw families moving from major towns heading towards the outskirts further outside the border areas. People are afraid and cannot predict the extent of the military operations,” Jiwan, a Save the Children staff in the North East said.
“The cities and towns where we are are quiet this morning, but there is an air of anticipation in the community as people are unsure about what will happen next. We are hoping, for ourselves and the children, that the conflict will not extend to other major towns,” he added.
“The reports of civilian deaths, including those of two children, and several more injured are devastating. North East Syria is home to people who are all too familiar with the horrors of war. Many have been displaced more than once already. How many times have we seen those scenes of women and children with their belongings bundled on their backs moving in search of safety? With winter around the corner, they will face additional challenges as they search for shelter. Families who are worried about their lives. They cannot think of anything else but getting their children to safety,” added Save the Children.
In addition to the Syrian civilians in the North East, there are thousands of women and children living in camps across the area. Three of the camps are home to Syrian, Iraqi families and more than 9,000 foreign children with perceived links to ISIS of more than 40 nationalities, who rely exclusively on humanitarian aid. So far, camps continue to operate. But any disruption to aid services is placing the lives of nearly 90,000 residents across the three camps at risk.
Save the Children had called on Monday on all parties to ensure that all children and their families across North East Syria are protected.
EU channels further €10 million in humanitarian aid to Mozambique
Thu, 10 Oct 2019 11:53:26 +0000
The European Commission is mobilising an additional €10 million in humanitarian assistance for the many still dealing with the consequences of the two unprecedented tropical cyclones that hit Mozambique in 2019.
“Tropical cyclones Idai and Kenneth left a trail of destruction that is still being felt by the most vulnerable in Mozambique. The EU is reinforcing humanitarian support to deliver emergency food aid and health care. We will also step up support for communities to be better prepared for future natural disasters. We are committed to support Mozambique for as long as it takes,” said Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.
The new humanitarian aid package announced today will increase funding for:
- Emergency food aid and nutritional support.
- Health care: EU funds will help the functioning of referral and emergency services in health centres that are serving cyclone-hit areas.
- Disaster preparedness: stockpiling emergency kits at strategic locations throughout the country, so they are immediately available if another natural disaster strikes.
The EU had already allocated €11 million in 2019 in previous aid packages for disaster relief in the immediate aftermath of the tropical cyclones as well as for preparedness measures. In addition, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated with EU Member States sending some 60,000 relief items, search and rescue teams, communications support, medical services and water treatment, and a coordination support team of EU experts. The European Union financed 75% of the transport costs of these teams and equipment, amounting to more than €4 million.
The EU will also provide longer term support for reconstruction. At the International Donors Pledging Conference held in Beira, Mozambique, on 30 May and 01 June 2019, the European Union pledged €200 million in recovery support for Mozambique after cyclones Idai and Kenneth, and to help the country strengthen its resilience and preparedness for natural disasters. From this amount, €100 million will come from the European Development Fund, while the remaining €100 million will be available in loans through the European Investment Bank.
For more information
EU response to Cyclone Kenneth: April 2019
Mozambique International Donors Pledging Conference: June 2019
Disaster Preparedness in Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean: July 2019
Carlos MARTIN RUIZ DE GORDEJUELA (+32 2 296 53 22)
Daniel PUGLISI (+32 2 296 91 40)
General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email
Central American and Mexican asylum seekers’ medical evaluations corroborate violence
Wed, 09 Oct 2019 16:30:22 +0000
The Scars Match the Stories: Asylum Seekers’ Medical Evaluations Corroborate Violence and Persecution
New Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) investigation finds highly consistent accounts and medical evidence of targeted violence in Mexico and Central America; U.S. policies compound asylum seekers’ trauma.
October 9, 2019 Asylum, Mexico
“I had bruises on my shoulders where they held me down.”
“I’m so anguished that I cannot concentrate on anything…. I faint, my head hurts.”
“If I step on Honduran soil, they will kill us. And they will not care that I have a child.”
TIJUANA, MEXICO – Tens of thousands of asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America wait at the U.S.-Mexico border, many with harrowing testimonies of escaping pervasive violence such as beatings, killings, forcible gang recruitment, threats and extortion, and widespread sexual and domestic violence.
In a new report that adds medical evidence to the asylum debate, doctors with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) conducted clinical evaluations of adults and children waiting in Tijuana, Mexico to seek protection in the United States. These medical experts documented the physical and psychological evidence of this violence, which consistently corroborated the asylum seekers’ narratives of persecution. The report also details how recent punitive U.S. asylum policies – such as “metering,” the Migrant Protection Protocols, and the Third-Country Asylum Rule – egregiously obstruct the right to seek asylum and expose asylum seekers to further trauma.
While not meant to be a representative sample, these findings provide a unique snapshot of asylum seekers’ lives, why they undertook treacherous journeys to seek protection, and the physical and mental health impacts of the trauma they experienced. The report provides detailed examinations of the cases of 18 asylum seekers (15 adults and three children) from El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua who fled severe violence in their home countries, including:
- Threats, coercion, beatings, kidnappings, and killings, reported by every young male interviewed as recruitment tactics to join gangs;
- Domestic and sexual violence against women by gang members and police forces alike;
- Targeted violence based on sexual identity, political beliefs, and occupation;
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), identified among 12 of the 15 adults and two out of the three children interviewed;
- Rampant impunity and a lack of support services, leaving many with no option but to flee.
“We’ve documented severe physical and psychological scars from the targeted violence experienced by these asylum seekers,” said Tamaryn Nelson, senior researcher at PHR and co-author of the report. “This new medical evidence underscores the profound need for a safe, fair, and humane U.S. asylum application process.”
“These cases offer insights into the many types of violence that force families to flee their home countries and seek refuge in the United States,” said Nelson. “Our findings indicate that these asylum seekers have strong grounds to seek asylum in the United States, and that they could likely face further persecution if forced to return to their countries of origin. This medical evidence directly refutes President Trump’s many baseless and harmful claims about asylum seekers.”
For more than 30 years, Physicians for Human Rights experts have provided forensic evaluations for asylum seekers fleeing persecution and seeking protection in the United States, relying on the international standard to document torture and ill-treatment known as the Istanbul Protocol. For this research, PHR utilized a three-part clinical evaluation tool: a semi-structured interview documenting the events that drove the person to seek asylum; a physical exam of reported injuries and medical records; and independently-validated psychological screening tools for PTSD and depression. Clinical evaluations were conducted by six PHR-trained medical experts (_for more on PHR’s methodology, see page three of the report.
“As a doctor, I’m alarmed by the public health and human rights crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Adam Richards, MD, PhD, MPH, DTM&H, assistant professor, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Division of General Internal Medicine & Health Services Research, one of the doctors who conducted clinical evaluations for the report. “The adverse physical and mental health impacts of extreme violence in Mexico and Central America are clear. Fourteen of the 18 asylum seekers we interviewed screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder, and a majority suffered from symptoms of depression and anxiety.”
The report also finds that restrictive U.S. asylum policies have stranded asylum seekers in Mexico, possibly exposing them to further trauma. For example, the practice of “metering” – severely restricting the number of migrants who can be processed at a U.S. port of entry on a given day – is creating bottlenecks and blocking timely access to asylum applications. The Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” force asylum seekers to await the processing of their claims in Mexico, leaving them vulnerable to violence and without access to legal support. Finally, the Third-Country Asylum Rule requires asylum seekers to apply unsuccessfully for protection in the countries they transit through before applying in the United States, which effectively bans asylum almost entirely for nationals of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and other countries who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border.
These punitive policies defy both international and U.S. law by obstructing the right to seek asylum. They place asylum seekers who are in extremely vulnerable situations – like everyone profiled in this report – at great risk of further violence and traumatization.
“The Trump administration’s asylum policies are compounding trauma for an already traumatized people,” said Mary Cheffers, MD, clinical faculty at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Keck School of Medicine. “Returning or forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico endangers their lives and is a catastrophic stressor to their physical and mental health.”
Alongside the report, PHR has published a trio of multimedia galleries that showcase the harrowing stories of asylums seekers fleeing violence in Central America and Mexico. The three digital galleries, grouped thematically, focus on individuals and families who are survivors of gang violence and forced recruitment, rape and sexual violence, and witness killings and intimidation.
PHR’s report makes a number of detailed policy recommendations to the U.S. government, U.S. Congress, United Nations member states, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the governments of El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Specifically, Physicians for Human Rights calls on the United States to:
- Ensure that the right to seek asylum is safeguarded and that the asylum process in the United States is safe, predictable, and transparent;
- End all practices that bar asylum seekers from protection inside the United States, such as the practice of “metering,” the Migrant Protection Protocols, and the Third-Country Asylum Rule;
- End any programs that allow border patrol agents to conduct “credible fear interviews” of asylum seekers and ensure that only well-resourced and well-trained asylum officers screen asylum seekers’ claims;
- Stop the use of tariffs, trade sanctions, foreign aid, or other measures to pressure countries to enter into “third country” agreements, especially if these countries are unable to provide safety or effective legal protection to asylum seekers; and
- Cooperate with regional and international human rights monitoring mechanisms through the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Additional quotes from asylum seekers profiled in the “_If I went back, I would not survive”_ report:
- “He would always tell me that he would kill me if I did not go with him. He would not let me be with anyone else… He told me that he would kill me and bury me.” – Adriana,* a 16-year-old girl from El Salvador (case 1), who escaped an abusive relationship with a gang member who physically assaulted her while pregnant, causing her to lose the pregnancy.
- “I am afraid. I think something would happen to me. I think they would kill me and my parents.” – Antonio,* an eight-year-old boy from Honduras (case 17), who was attacked by two men with a machete and reported symptoms of PTSD and anxiety as well as somatization, whereby psychological distress manifests as physical ailments and attention problems.
- “Most young men are returned [to their families] dead in black bags. And even those are lucky because they often kill the family, too. If I went back to El Salvador, I would not survive.” – Benjamín,* an 18-year-old man from El Salvador (case 3), who was kidnapped and beaten by police, leaving him with injuries assessed by PHR as being consistent with his testimony.
- “They burn people alive. They put a lot of clothes on them, tie them up, and then drench them in gasoline…. I did not let them catch me. They would have burned me alive.” – Jorge,* a 60-year-old-man from Honduras (case 9), whose family members were conscripted into a gang and who received death threats after reporting gang violence to government officials.
- “_I had bruises on my shoulders where they held me down. I had pain in my abdomen for three days and in my stomach throughout the pregnancy… If I had told anyone, the gang members would have found out and killed me.” – _ Jimena,* a 21-year-old woman from Honduras (case 8), who was raped by gang members after her husband refused to join a gang.
Full descriptions and clinical evaluations for all cases are available in the report (page 30).
*Names changed to protect asylum seekers from reprisals.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.
Media Relations Managermedia@phr.org1.917.679.0110
UNICEF boosts medical aid in DR Congo as measles deaths top 4,000
Wed, 09 Oct 2019 16:09:31 +0000
KINSHASA/DAKAR/GENEVA/NEW YORK, 9 October 2019 - UNICEF is vaccinating thousands more children against measles and rushing life-saving medicines to health centers across the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as deaths from the world’s largest measles outbreak top 4,000.
Since January, 203,179 cases of measles have been reported in all 26 provinces of the country, and 4,096 have died. Children under the age of five represent 74 per cent of infections and nearly 90 per cent of deaths. The number of measles cases in DRC this year is more than triple the number recorded for all of 2018. The measles outbreak in DRC has become far deadlier than Ebola, which to date, has taken 2,143 lives.
“We’re fighting the measles epidemic on two fronts - preventing infections and preventing deaths,” said UNICEF Representative in the DRC, Edouard Beigbeder. “Along with the government and key partners, UNICEF has been racing to vaccinate children against measles, and at the same time, supplying clinics with medicines that treat symptoms and improve the chance of survival for those already infected.”
This week and next, an additional 1,111 medical kits are being delivered to health centers in measles hot-spots. The kits contain antibiotics, rehydration salts, Vitamin A, pain relievers, antipyretics and other supplies to care for over 111,000 people infected with the highly contagious and potentially deadly viral disease.
Over the past year, UNICEF supplied more than 8.6 million doses of the measles vaccine for emergency outbreak responses rolled out by multiple organizations. UNICEF has led outbreak responses in eight hard-hit provinces—vaccinating more than 1.4 million children. The most recent concluded last month in Kasai Central, where over 210,000 children were vaccinated.
“We’re facing this alarming situation because millions of Congolese children miss out on routine immunization and lack access to health care when they fall sick,” said Beigbeder. “On top of that, a weak health system, insecurity, community mistrust of vaccines and vaccinators and logistical challenges all contribute to a huge number of unvaccinated children at risk of contracting the disease.”
Two doses of the measles vaccine are recommended and roughly 95 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated to ensure immunity and prevent outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization. In DRC, measles immunization coverage was only 57 per cent in 2018.
“If we’re to avoid massive measles outbreaks like this one in the future, there must be significant investment in strengthening DRC’s national vaccination programme and addressing the serious gaps in coverage,” said Beigbeder.
DRC’s government is preparing to launch its next national follow-up vaccination campaign on 22 October, which aims to immunize children 6 months to five years old against measles in every province. The campaign is supported by many partners, including UNICEF, which is providing technical assistance at the national, provincial and local level, procuring vaccines and helping promote the campaign.
Media ContactsJean Jacques Simon
Tel: +243 826 541 004
UNICEF New York
Tel: +1 917 893 0692
Fuel shortages deepen crisis in Yemen, says Save the Children
Wed, 09 Oct 2019 08:22:14 +0000
Intensified fuel shortages in the north of Yemen will affect hundreds of thousands of children and their families already stricken by a five-year long humanitarian crisis.
There is a mounting risk of a spike in cholera and other waterborne diseases, as water filtering systems are unable to operate and trucks carrying safe water wait for fuel. The fuel shortage is causing increased food prices and a deepening health crisis, as deliveries of food and medical supplies take longer and hospitals need diesel to run their generators.
This will increase the suffering of children and their families in what is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The spike in transport fares will mean parents are unable to afford to take their children to hospitals.
Save the Children Director, Tamer Kirolos, said:
The fuel crisis is already impacting Save the Children’s humanitarian operations as we heavily rely on fuel availability to transport aid to the facilities we support. Between August and September, there was a 60% decrease in the amount of fuel coming through Hodeidah port – this is because of a decree by the Government of Yemen requiring customs duties to be paid in Aden before allowing ships to discharge in Hodeidah, of course this means double customs duty. The price of fuel has increased by 100 per cent over the past 40 days, which made the transport of life saving goods to communities in need 30% more expensive. Transportation which previously took one day is now taking three days as trucks have to wait for fuel, resulting in huge delays in getting food and medicines to communities.
“We ask the international community to work with the Government of Yemen to waiver this decree immediately so that this unfolding crisis can be averted. It is vital that there is free, unhindered access for humanitarian and commercial goods, including fuel, into and across the country as this is a life-line for many families.”
Clean water and adequate sanitation are key to preventing outbreaks of diseases like cholera and reducing the risks of severe and acute malnutrition. Yemen is already facing an ongoing outbreak of cholera with over 620,348 suspected cases identified this year, with 25% of these cases being of children aged under five.
Other public services including waste-water treatment plants will be affected creating potential for significant public health risks, such as sewage overflow. With the country already undergoing severe food insecurity owing to the violence and the existing economic crisis, an increase of the food prices will only make it worse, possibly increasing the malnutrition rates even further and families needing to make difficult choices in enabling children’s access to basic services including education and health.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya condemns increasing attacks on civilians
Tue, 08 Oct 2019 19:49:37 +0000
Tripoli, 08 October 2019 - The Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Yacoub El Hillo, strongly condemns all attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Libya.
Newly arrived El Hillo is reminded of the hundreds of thousands of civilians affected by the armed conflict. The air strikes two days ago that injured several children at the Equestrian Club in the Janzour neighborhood of Tripoli marks one of the lowest points in this conflict. The following day, a field hospital in the Gaser Ben Gasher neighborhood of Tripoli was hit resulting in the death of one doctor and injury of two paramedics.
Equally disturbing are attacks against medical facilities and health workers which are a growing phenomenon in the Libyan conflict that goes to the heart of violations of international humanitarian law. There have been 57 attacks on healthcare facilities in 2019 which resulted in the death of 13 healthcare workers and injury of 47 others in Libya.
Humanitarian Coordinator El Hillo stresses that attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure violate international humanitarian law. He urges international parties with influence in Libya to ensure respect for international humanitarian law and to do everything possible to protect civilians, especially children. The people of Libya deserve to live in peace and have a better future. Respecting international humanitarian law would be a start.
For more information, please contact:Kasper Engborg, Deputy Head of OCHA Office, email@example.com
Decongestion of Greek Islands continues as 700 refugees move to mainland
Tue, 08 Oct 2019 11:30:07 +0000
Athens – Another 700 vulnerable refugees and migrants were safely transported from the Greek islands to the mainland on Monday (07/10) morning as part of Greece’s ongoing effort to decongest the overcrowded North-Eastern Aegean islands.
The group arrived in Piraeus, the largest port in Greece, where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) then transported them to designated accommodation sites that have been set up on the Greek mainland. The majority were families with children from Afghanistan and came from the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos.
“I was in Moria [on Lesvos] for the last 10 months. The situation was very difficult there for me and my family. This is a new day for us and we can now see the future from a different scope,” said Zeina, a 24-year-old woman from Afghanistan.
The latest arrivals bring to 3,887, the number of people that IOM has transferred from the ports to new and existing mainland accommodation facilities, where new places have been created.
“IOM is ensuring smooth and effective operations at all accommodation facilities on the mainland of Greece and providing comprehensive services to the vulnerable groups,” said Gianluca Rocco, IOM Chief of Mission for Greece.
“Among other services, we are providing interpreters, psychologists, social workers, legal counsellors and facility coordinators with a special focus on psychosocial expertise, legal support and child protection,” he added.
The recent tragedy at the Moria camp where migrants lost their lives further shows that the conditions are untenable for people there, the staff and the local community. With the recent increase in arrivals to Greece, the Moria reception and identification center (RIC) of Lesvos is now hosting over 13,000 refugees and migrants, more than four times its capacity.
A similar situation exists on the island of Samos, where the local reception and identification center (RIC) is hosting 5,800 migrants, with a capacity of 648. The facilities on the islands of Chios, Kos and Leros are also facing mounting overpopulation pressure.
Given the poor conditions on the overcrowded facilities of the islands, IOM is supporting the Greek authorities with the decongestion effort and the movement of vulnerable people arriving from the islands to open accommodation facilities on the mainland. The Organization, with EU funding, is complementing the effort with the expansion of existing accommodation and creation of new places on the mainland to host the most vulnerable populations coming from the islands.
IOM, in collaboration with partners, Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Arbeiter Samariter Bund (ASB) and UNICEF, provides site management support services at 29 open accommodation facilities currently hosting some 19,000 refugees and migrants. IOM also operates in 33 temporary facilities all over Greece, currently providing accommodation to some 4,200 vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers, with the support of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME).
For more information please contact Christine Nikolaidou at IOM Greece. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel:+30 210 – 9919040 ext. 248