Geneva – Sub-zero temperatures and increased snowfall are further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in northwest Syria where more than a quarter of a million people have been displaced in the past four days. Over 830,000 people have been displaced in the region in the last two months and more than 1.2 million since April 2019, according to the United Nations.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is extremely concerned about this rapid and ongoing rise in displacement which continues to rise in the tens of thousands every day, particularly as conflict spreads northward to highly populated urban areas.
“Over 80,000 people forced to flee violence in the last few months are sleeping under trees or in open areas in the snow,” said Joseph Ashmore, IOMs Global Shelter Coordinator.
“Hundreds of thousands of people are suffering and many more may die as extreme winter conditions take hold, provoking one of the most severe shelter crises the humanitarian system has faced in the last decade,” he added.
The majority of the uprooted are staying with host families, in camps or unfinished buildings. As displacement rises, there are less places to house people seeking refuge.
IOM has been assisting partners on the ground to reach nearly 300,000 people with humanitarian aid since mid-December 2019. In the past weeks, IOMs partners have delivered emergency items – including blankets, hygiene kits and other goods – as well as shelter materials to 129,000 people in need.
However, insecurity has impeded access of some partners – compromising the ability for affected populations to receive the most basic services.
Health centres, schools, markets and camps have been targeted by violence with increased civilian casualties reported every day.
The Organization is seeking increased funding from the international community to adequately respond to rapidly rising needs. IOM also reiterates the UN Secretary Generals call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and attacks of civilians and civilian infrastructure.
The Syrian conflict, approaching its tenth year, has displaced more than six million people within the country and provoked more than 5.5 million people to flee to neighbouring countries in the region.
Spains COVID-19 cases surpass Italy as lockdown set for extension
Spains COVID-19 cases surpassed Italy as Europes two main epicenters continue to struggle to curtail..
Spains COVID-19 cases surpassed Italy as Europes two main epicenters continue to struggle to curtail the virus, with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announcing plans to extend the countrys lockdown by two weeks until April 25.
“I understand its difficult to extend the effort and sacrifice two more weeks,” Sanchez said in a televised speech on Saturday. “These are very difficult days for everyone.” A longer lockdown would need the approval of cabinet and congress.
Confirmed cases increased by 7,026 to 124,736 over the past 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data, while deaths rose by 809 to 11,744. Total cases are now higher than Italys 119,827.
A slower pace of fatalities and new cases though is offering hope that Spains outbreak may be edging toward a peak. Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Friday that the goal of slowing the epidemic was “within reach.”
Spains economy is already taking a hit from the virus: The purchasing managers index for Spanish services fell to a record low of 23 in March, while jobless claims in the month had their biggest ever increase.
The government in Madrid has imposed some of the most restrictive lockdown measures in Europe, shuttering most businesses and forcing people to stay in their homes except to buy groceries and seek health care. Containment measures across the continent have cut off border passages and limited air travel, while countries have announced trillions of euros in aid to support businesses and individuals.
Italys ruling parties and the Treasury reached an agreement to free up an additional 200 billion euros ($216 billion) of liquidity for firms, according to daily newspaper La Stampa. It said the moves, part of a new aid decree, will be approved by Monday and will let companies seek bank loans for as much as 25% of their revenue, most of which will be granted by the state.
Meanwhile Polands 100 billion-zloty ($23.6 billion) support mechanism for businesses affected by the outbreak secured European Union antitrust approval, according to a statement from the European Commission in Brussels.
‘Situation of children in Somalia is devastating’ – UN Special Representative
New York, April 1 2020 – Children in Somalia have endured among the highest levels of violence of al..
New York, April 1 2020 – Children in Somalia have endured among the highest levels of violence of all countries on the Children and Armed Conflict agenda, with number of cases of recruitment and use, abduction and sexual violence exceeding those verified in other country situations, highlighted the fifth report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict in Somalia.
A total of 14,856 grave violations against children have been verified during the reporting period, between August 2016 and September 2019.
“The situation of boys and girls in Somalia is devastating,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba. “The correlation between violations is particularly distressing, with abductions of children often leading to their recruitment and use or sexual violence; even once released, their ordeal is not yet over as boys and girls are often detained for their association with armed elements, perpetuating an infernal cycle of violence.”
Recruitment and use of children remained one of the most worrisome violations with Al-Shabaab as the main perpetrator, followed by Government Security Forces, including increasingly the Somali Police Force and the regional forces of federal member states. An alarming number of 4,462 children were abducted, almost all by Al-Shabaab and often for the purpose of recruitment, making the country by far the one on the CAAC agenda with the highest verified numbers of abductions.
The detention of children for their alleged association with armed groups remained highly concerning, with 910 children affected. The Special Representative reminded that children associated with parties to conflict should be treated primarily as victims and detention used only as a last resort and for the shortest period of time. She further called on the authorities of Somalia to fully implement the Standard Operating Procedures for the reception and handover of children associated with armed groups, endorsed in 2014.
The number of children killed or maimed remained high (2,916), which was the result of crossfire, lack of precaution in the conduct of military operations, improvised explosive devices, explosive remnants of war and airstrikes. Access to education and health care was also disrupted because of the conflict; 242 incidents of attacks on schools and hospitals were verified, the majority attributed to Al-Shabaab; 148 incidents of denial of humanitarian access were verified. The Special Representative praised the work of humanitarian colleagues on the ground, often operating in challenging environment.
Despite the high number of verified cases for rape and other forms of sexual violence (958 children), the actual figures are likely to be higher as the violation remains consistently underreported for fear of stigma, reprisal, or lack of services for survivors. Somali security forces were responsible for one-third of the violations; girls were also forcibly married to Al-Shabaab combatants.
Engagement for Children
Despite the dramatic figures, some steps have been taken by the authorities in Somalia. The commitment of the Federal Government to better protect children, as evidenced in the proposed Sexual Offences Bill and Child Rights Bill, among other things, is encouraging and welcomed by the Special Representative. She called on the authorities to pursue their engagement for children by enacting the two pending bills, so they effectively criminalize grave violations against children.
The Special Representative also noted the efforts of the Somali authorities to expedite the implementation of their Action Plans to end and prevent the recruitment and use as well as the killing and maiming of children through the signature of a roadmap during her visit in October 2019. The roadmap also incorporates measures for the prevention of sexual violence and other measures to enhance the cooperation on child protection at the federal member state-level.
3,554 children benefited from reintegration services during the reporting period, an encouraging number and significant increase compared to the previous reporting period. “Each and every child released should have access to comprehensive reintegration programmes. This is not only necessary for their recovery: it benefits the country as a whole. I call on the international community to support politically and financially the long-term and sustainable reintegration of all children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups,” she added.
Furthermore, the Special Representative urged the Federal Government to ensure that all militias and regional forces integrated in the Somali National Army and other Somali security forces are screened to identify and release all children below 18 years old.
The Special Representative also encouraged the Somali authorities to use the opportunity of the 20th anniversary of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC) to ratify it. She reiterated the willingness of her office to support the authorities in their efforts to better protect children from hostilities.
Facts for the reporting period (August 2016 – September 2019)
14,856 grave violations against children throughout the country
Recruitment and use: 6,143 children * 80% by Al-Shabaab
Killing and maiming: 2,916 children * the majority of child casualties could not be attributed
Rape and other forms of sexual violence: 958 children (954 girls and 4 boys)
Abductions: 4,462 children
Attacks on Schools and hospitals: 242 incidents (203 against schools, 39 against hospitals)
Denial of humanitarian access: 148 verified incidents
Reintegration support: 3,554 children benefited from reintegration services
Note to editors:
Parties to conflict in Somalia listed in the 2019 Secretary-General Report on Children and Armed Conflict
List A – parties that have not put in place measures during the reporting period to improve the protection of children
Al-Shabaab (Recruitment and use of children; Killing and maiming of children; Rape and other forms of sexual violence against children; Abduction of children; Attacks against schools or hospitals) Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jamaa (ASWJ) (Recruitment and use of children) List B – parties that have put in place measures during the reporting period aimed at improving the protection of children
Somali National Army (Recruitment and use of children; Killing and maiming of children)
More than 15 million children and their families in Yemen, Syria and Gaza set to face COVID-19
Save the Children calls for an easing of restrictions on aid for hard to reach areas
Fewer than 730..
Save the Children calls for an easing of restrictions on aid for hard to reach areas
Fewer than 730 ventilators and 950 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds are available for more than 15 million children and their families in areas that are hard for aid agencies to reach in Yemen, northern Syria and Gaza – meaning they are critically underequipped to respond to an outbreak of COVID-19, Save the Children is warning.
The Gaza Strip has been under blockade for 13 years, Syria has just entered its tenth year of conflict – with the Northern front currently the most active – and Yemen is in its sixth year of war. Healthcare systems across all three areas have been decimated, in some cases to the point of paralysis, and have minimal do not have nearly enough medical resources to respond to ongoing needs, let alone a global pandemic. As of March 29, Syria had confirmed 9 COVID-19 cases and one death, Gaza 9 cases, and Yemen is yet to declare any.
- In North West Syria, there are a total of 153 ventilators and 148 beds in ICU, while nearly a million recently displaced people are living in overcrowded areas. In North East Syria, there are fewer than 30 ICU beds, only ten adult ventilators and just one paediatric ventilator.
- In Gaza, there are 70 ICU beds and 62 ventilators for 2 million people. It is also one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with a high proportion of the population living in refugee camps with limited access to water and other basic services.
- In Yemen, where only half of the hospitals are still fully functional, there are 700 ICU beds, including 60 for children, and 500 ventilators.
The continued support of humanitarian organisations to people in need is vital to slow the spread of coronavirus in this critical phase, but access to children and their families is often hampered by conflict, movement restrictions and other challenges. Preventive measures such as social distancing and hand washing are difficult if not impossible in overcrowded areas like Gaza and displacement camps in Northern Syria. Water sources are unreliable across all three locations, and shortages can occur daily. In Gaza, 96 percent of the available water is unsuitable for human consumption.
Children in Gaza told Save the Children about their fear. Raafat*, 13, said: What Im most afraid of is that Gaza is highly populated and doesnt have enough resources to face the virus. Jood, 11, said: This pandemic affects us, because we have to stay home and there is no income for the family.
In Yemen, Moneer*, 17, from Taiz said: I have heard about Corona. People in my family said that it was very dangerous and we wouldnt survive it if it came to Yemen. Every day, my mother walks for 15 minutes to the well to fill the container with water and then walks back for another 15 minutes. The water doesnt look clean, but it is the nearest source for us. We use it for cooking, drinking, and washing. We try to use as little as possible so we dont have to go fetch it again.
Jeremy Stoner, Save the Children’s Regional Director, said: In places where medical care is scarcely available, prevention is critical. Yet measures like social distancing are hugely challenging in countries in conflict. If people need to stay two metres apart, for Palestinians living in Gaza to comply with this, the territory would have to be ten times larger than it currently is; for Syrians living in displacement camps, families would need to spread out in numerous tents currently unavailable; and for Yemenis, of whom about 2 million children suffer from acute malnutrition, the priority would be getting food.’
Many children in Gaza, Syria, and Yemen suffer from pre-existing health concerns caused by childhoods consumed with war. They will be malnourished, injured, or will not have been properly vaccinated. The same is true for their parents, many of whom have little or no family support and cannot afford to become ill. It is literally a matter of life and death to support these areas in their efforts to contain a COVID-19 outbreak, he added.
Save the Children is calling on the Government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the de-facto authorities in Gaza to uphold their international responsibilities by ensuring the right to health is fully provided to children in the West Bank including Jerusalem, and Gaza. Restrictions on humanitarian and medical relief items entering Gaza must be lifted, and people in need of medical care must be afforded access to it.
We are also calling on warring parties in Syria to observe a complete ceasefire in the North West to allow for the full and unhindered access to people in need. In Yemen, all warring parties must fully and truly implement the recently announced ceasefire to help the country prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak. As an aid agency, Save the Children is already facing a slowdown in its response because of closure of international borders, grounding of flights, and new limitations to movements in country. Teams on the ground need to be able to reach people in need with existing humanitarian aid, and distribute for example hygiene products, awareness sessions, sim cards, and cash without any impediments.
*Names have been changed for safety reasons
To support Save the Childrens global COVID-19 emergency appeal, click here.
Save the Children launched its Agenda for Action to protect a generation from COVID-19. You can find the full text here.
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