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Thousands fleeing new Congo violence, Uganda refugee facilities dangerously stretched

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic – to whom quoted text may be..

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.

Around 7,500 Congolese refugees have arrived in Uganda since the start of June, placing strain on already badly overstretched facilities.

Renewed clashes between opposing Hema and Lendu groups in north-eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are driving people across the border into Uganda at a rate of 311 a day, more than double the rate of refugee arrivals in to May (145 per day).

Recent arrivals speak of extreme brutality. Armed groups are said to be attacking villages, torching and looting houses, and killing men, women and children. Most people are fleeing to Uganda via Lake Albert from Ituri province, where displacement since early June is now estimated at 300,000.

Some refugees are arriving with significant belongings, fearing they will not be able to return home for some time. Others who have fled imminent danger have little more than the clothes on their backs. Nearly two thirds are children, below 18 years in age.

The refugees are telling us that more people are likely to arrive in Uganda soon. However, some are reportedly being prevented from leaving DRC by armed groups, while others struggle to afford the fee for the boat journey – a sum equivalent to less than $6.00.

In Uganda itself, transit and reception facilities are overwhelmed. People newly arrived are first taken to a transit centre in Sebagoro, a small fishing village on the lakeshore, where they undergo health screening. Refugees are then transported to the Kagoma reception centre a few kilometres away. The centre is currently home to some 4,600 new arrivals, 1,600 more than its maximum intended capacity.

Several hundred refugees have been given land plots close to the Kyangwali refugee settlement. However, the pace of new arrivals means needs far outstrip what humanitarians are able to deliver.

Shelter and basic relief items are the urgent priority. In addition, buses and trucks are needed to transport refugees from border point reception centres to settlement areas. Many refugees need immediate psycho-social care and counselling for trauma.

While screening facilities are in place at the collection points, transit centres and reception centres, health facilities are basic and need upgrading. Clinics are in need of more doctors and more medicines.

Already overcrowded and understaffed schools need significant support to meet the educational needs of the new arrivals.

UNHCR is appealing to the international community to come forward with further funding. As we near the end of June, UNHCR and partners working on the refugee response in Uganda have received US$150 million, 17 per cent of the total US$927 million needed.

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IRC warns 650,000 civilians may be forced to flee if escalation in north-west Syria continues

New York, NY, January 16, 2020 — The humanitarian situation in northwest Syria is reaching catastrop..

New York, NY, January 16, 2020 — The humanitarian situation in northwest Syria is reaching catastrophic levels, and with the attacks yesterday on a marketplace and an industrial zone that reportedly killed at least 15 people, and warnings to civilians in central Idlib and Western Aleppo to evacuate the area, 650,000 people could be impacted and at risk of displacement.

International Rescue Committee Middle East Policy Director, Misty Buswell, said, “The situation in northwest Syria was already at breaking point, and the events of the last few days mark a dangerous and deadly turning point in the conflict. An additional 650,000 people, the majority of them women and children, could be forced to flee their homes if the violence continues. This is on top of nearly 350,000 in Idlib who have been displaced since December, bringing the total number who have fled in the last 9 months to nearly three-quarters of a million.

Many of the displaced people are living in tents in the open in freezing winter conditions and urgently need shelter and food, with the ongoing risk of flooding further compounding the misery. Ahmad, a displaced person in Idlib, told the IRC that he lost his home to an airstrike and he and his family have been forced to flee three times in the past six months. The conflict has taken a psychological toll on his children, the youngest of whom was only 4 meters from the house when it was hit. An IRC assessment in Idlib last year found that half of parents reported their children showing signs of severe emotional distress, and the current violence will add to the psychological terror they are experiencing.

Hospitals and health facilities in Idlib were already full, and medical supplies stretched, even before this wave of violence. Doctors have told the IRC that they are seeing a worrying increase in malnutrition cases, particularly among babies, due to displacement, poor food security and increased poverty as a result of the conflict. Increasing insecurity has forced the suspension of three IRC supported health facilities in central Idlib since December, further limiting the lifesaving response, and an IRC partner in Western Aleppo had to stop its protection programs for women and girls yesterday, leaving the most vulnerable without essential protection services. Since the end of April, 1,460 civilians, including 417 children, have been killed as a result of the military escalation, according to the UN.

Yet again, it is innocent women and children who are bearing the brunt of the conflict, and who will suffer the most if this violence escalates further. All parties to the conflict need to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and spare civilians from the worst effects of the fighting. It is critical for the ceasefire that was agreed in northwest Syria to be implemented fully and without further delay. And it is time, once and for all, for the parties to the conflict to come back to the negotiating table and find a peaceful resolution. The very lives of 3 million civilians in northwest Syria depend on it.”

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Libya: Tens of thousands of children at risk amidst violence and chaos of unrelenting conflict

NEW YORK, 17 January 2020 – “Children in Libya, including refugee and migrant children, continue to ..

NEW YORK, 17 January 2020 – “Children in Libya, including refugee and migrant children, continue to suffer grievously amidst the violence and chaos unleashed by the countrys longstanding civil war.

“Since April last year when hostilities broke out in Tripoli and western Libya, conditions for thousands of children and the civilians have deteriorated further. Indiscriminate attacks in populated areas have caused hundreds of deaths, and UNICEF has received reports of children being maimed or killed. Children are also being recruited to the fighting. Meanwhile, more than 150,000 people, 90,000 of whom are children, have been forced to flee their homes and are now internally displaced.

“Infrastructure on which children depend for their wellbeing and survival has also come under attack. Nearly 30 health facilities have been damaged in the fighting, forcing 13 to close. Attacks against schools and the threat of violence have led to closures and left almost 200,000 children out of the classroom. Water systems have been attacked and the waste management system has virtually collapsed, greatly increasing the risk of waterborne diseases including cholera.

“The 60,000 refugee and migrant children currently in urban areas are also terribly vulnerable, especially the 15,000 who are unaccompanied and those being held in detention centres. These children already had limited access to protection and essential services, so the intensifying conflict has only amplified the risks that they face.

“UNICEF and our partners are on the ground providing affected children and families with support in accessing healthcare and nutrition, protection, education, water and sanitation. We are also reaching refugee and migrant children with assistance, including those held in detention centres. Sadly, attacks against the civilian population and infrastructure, as well as against humanitarian and healthcare personnel are seeking to undermine humanitarian efforts.

“Today, children in Libya are in a dire and untenable situation that the rest of the world should find unacceptable. We urgently call on all parties to the conflict and those who have influence over them to protect children, end the recruitment and use of children, cease attacks against civilian infrastructure, and allow for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to children and people in need. We also call on Libyan authorities to end the detention of migrant and refugee children and to actively pursue safe and dignified alternatives to detention.

“Ahead of a planned peace summit in Berlin, Germany this Sunday, we call on parties to the conflict and those who have influence over them to urgently reach a comprehensive and durable peace agreement for the sake of each and every child in Libya.”

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Nearly 1,000 migrants returned to Libya in the first two weeks of 2020

Geneva – At least 953 migrants, among them 136 women and 85 children, have been returned to Libyan s..

Geneva – At least 953 migrants, among them 136 women and 85 children, have been returned to Libyan shores in the first two weeks of 2020. Most were disembarked in Tripoli and all were taken to detention centres. NGO search and rescue vessels reported having rescued 237 others. These returned migrants are among the more than 1,000 who have left Libya by sea since 1 January, driven in part by the heaviest clashes Tripoli has seen since hostilities began nine months ago.

Migrants who spoke to International Organization for Migration (IOM) staff at disembarkation points in Libya said that the escalation in hostilities in and around the capital, and the deteriorating humanitarian situation are the main reasons behind this increase in departures.

During the same period last year, 23 bodies were recovered by the coast guard and no migrants were returned to Libya. The current sudden increase in departures is especially alarming given the very limited search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean.

IOM has consistently called for the dismantling of the detention system, and the orderly release of migrants. Alternative solutions that safeguard lives must be found to alleviate the suffering of thousands of men, women, and children who are held in inhumane conditions.

While IOM teams are present at disembarkation points to provide emergency assistance to migrants, including basic health assistance and screenings, the Organization reiterates that measures to protect lives and guarantee the safety of these people are not in place.

Over 1,000 other migrants who have registered for IOMs Voluntary Humanitarian Return programme are still trapped in Libya due to the security situation. The challenging and unsafe environment in the countrys capital has disrupted aviation activities thus hindering an important lifeline for stranded migrants.

“While our operations and programmes continue across the country, they have been largely affected, especially with regards to the safe movement of migrants to transit points and airports. A minimum degree of security is needed for us to be able to safely assist 500 people scheduled to return home in the coming days,” says IOM Libya Chief of Mission Federico Soda.

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