#HumanitarianAid; #UN; #OCHA; #HumanitarianHub; #Nigeria; #BurnedInAttack
Nigeria, Jan 20 (Canadian-Media): The top UN aid official in Nigeria has condemned a weekend attack against a major humanitarian facility in the north-east of the country, UN reports said.
Pictured is some of the damage caused to the humanitarian hub in Ngala town, Borno State, Nigeria. Image credit: United Nations
Non-State armed groups targeted the humanitarian hub in Ngala, Borno state, on Saturday evening, burning an entire section of the facility as well as a vehicle used in aid deliveries.
Five UN staff were staying there at the time but escaped unharmed due to security measures in place.
Edward Kallon, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, expressed outrage over the incident.
“I am shocked by the violence and intensity of this attack, which is the latest of too many incidents directly targeting humanitarian actors and the assistance we provide,” he said on Monday.
“I am relieved all staff is now safe and secure. Aid workers, humanitarian facilities and assets cannot be a target and must be protected and respected at all times.”
Northern Nigeria has been in the grip of a Boko Haram insurgency for about a decade, which has led to widespread displacement.
Last year, more than 10,000 people arrived in Ngala, searching for security and basic services, the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, reported.
‘Disastrous effect’ on vulnerable
Mr. Kallon said attacks against humanitarians have a “disastrous effect” on the vulnerable people they support.
“Many of them had already fled violence in their area of origin and were hoping to find safety and assistance in Ngala. This also jeopardizes the ability for aid workers to stay and deliver assistance to the people most in need in remote areas in Borno State,” he said.
Overall, the UN and partners are bringing vital assistance to more than seven million people in three states affected by the crisis. Besides Borno, they also are operational in neighbouring Adamawa and Yobe states.
OCHA said aid workers in Nigeria are increasingly being targeted in attacks. Twelve were killed last year, which is double the number killed in 2018.
Meanwhile, the UN and its humanitarian partners continue to call for the safe release of two aid workers who remain in the hands of non-State armed groups after being abducted in separate incidents in Borno state.
Grace Taku, a staff member with Action Against Hunger, was abducted alongside five male colleagues near Damasak in July 2019. The men were all killed, according to media reports.
The other aid worker, Alice Loksha, a nurse and mother, was kidnapped during an attack in Rann in March 2018.
#UN; #HumanitarianAid; #AidToVulnerableIraquis; #UNAMI; #ShortageOfFood; #Morethan2460HumanitarianMissionsCancelled
United Nations, Jan 18 (Canadian-Media): Aid to vulnerable people in Iraq risks being completely blocked within weeks, warned the UN’s humanitarian chief in Iraq, Marta Ruedas, on Tuesday, as a result of the suspension of government documents allowing humanitarians to carry out critical missions, UN reports said.
Humanitarian partners distribute emergency assistance in Ibrahim Khalil village in Iraq. Image credit: OCHA/Themba Linden
In a statement released on Thursday by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Ms. Ruedas declared that “our operations are at risk. Without predictable, continual access authorization, humanitarian aid is in danger of rotting in warehouses, putting lives in jeopardy and wasting badly-needed donor funds”.
Prior to November 2019, humanitarian organizations based in Iraq, including the UN and its NGO partners, were granted monthly letters, allowing them to pass through checkpoints unhindered. As of January 2020, almost all of these letters had expired and, with no alternative measures in place, the flow of aid deliveries in Iraq had slowed considerably.
A survey of NGO partners showed that more than 2,460 humanitarian missions have been cancelled or prevented from reaching their destinations. Some 2.4 million people are believed to be affected as a result.
More than 100 NGOs were active in Iraq in 2019, working under a coordinated, $700 million plan to assist some 1.75 million internally displaced persons, those returning home, and host communities. It is estimated that around $520 million is needed to continue vital humanitarian work through this year.
UNAMI says that, unless partners are allowed to immediately resume full, unimpeded movement of their personnel and supplies, humanitarian operations in Iraq “may come to a complete halt within a matter of weeks”, leading to the possibility of hundreds of thousands of people in conflict-affected areas going without food, medicine and materials to get them through the coldest months of the year.
“We request that the Government of Iraq provide clarity on the procedures for granting access authorizations for humanitarian organizations”, said Ms. Ruedas, “and allow us to resume delivering aid effectively and efficiently for the people of Iraq”.
#UN; #HumanitarianAid; #UNCrossBorderAid
United Nations, Jan 11 (Canadian-Media): The Security Council on Friday evening renewed a UN operation delivering humanitarian aid across the Syrian border to millions of civilians, but some of the body’s members expressed disappointment that the “watered down” measure cut in half the number of crossing points and duration of the authorization, UN reports said.
The UN has been delivering aid across the Syrian border to millions of civilians for six years. Credit: OCHA/David Swanson
Failing last month to extend the cross-border authorization after permanent member Russia vetoed one draft resolution and failed to gain enough support for its own rival measure, the Council faced a midnight deadline Friday for the expiration of its six-year-long mandate along with the possibility of yet another “no” vote from Russia.
With 11 votes in favor, 0 against, and with four of its permanent members abstaining – China, Russia, United States, and United Kingdom – the Council re-authorized only two of the four existing border crossings (Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa in Turkey) for a period of six months (instead of 12), while dropping re-authorization for use of crossings in al-Ramtha (Jordan) and Al Yarubiyah (Iraq).
Negotiating cross-border humanitarian aid
An upsurge in hostilities in north-west Syria, has displaced some 300,000 people since 12 December.
Meanwhile, against the backdrop of new Council members joining the peace and security body in the New Year, negotiations had been ongoing with permament members the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France meeting four times since last week, without reaching a compromise.
The main point of contention, according to news reports, revolved around the Al Yarubiyah crossing.
Resolution sponsors Germany, Belgium and Kuwait pushed for the continued delivery of aid through two crossing points in Turkey and one in Iraq.
But the competing resolution from Russia, Syria’s closest ally on the Council, advocated the closure of the Al Yarubiyah crossing in Iraq.
The UN cross-border aid delivery mechanism was first established in 2014 through resolution 2165. Its mandate was most recently renewed in resolution 2449 of 2018.
During the heated exchanges this evening, several Council members said they were disappointed that a scaled-down text had been adopted and that a better compromise was not reached.
Germany’s representative lamented that the decision had come “at a heavy price” for 1.4 million people in north-eastern Syria who would “wake in the morning up not knowing if they would be able to get the medical aid they needed.”
US Ambassador Kelly Craft described the resolution as “watered down” and said that it ignored the needs of millions of Syrians. While the text was a “body blow” to the Council’s credibility, the crisis it would create was “solely of Russia’s making.”
But Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the situation on the ground had changed dramatically and that any resolution adopted by the Council should specify that providing humanitarian assistance must be provided with the consent of the recipient and host governments.
UK Ambassador Karen Pierce accused Russia of “playing dice” with the lives of Syrian people in the north-east. The Council had been left with no choice but to approve a resolution that did not meet the needs of all Syrian people. “Aid is not a political tool to be bargained with,” she declared.
‘An immediate end of aid’
Last Friday, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, and Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Council in closed consultations on developments in Idlib.
Without the cross-border operation, we would see an immediate end of aid supporting millions of civilians -- UN Humanitarian Coordinator
During the meeting, several members cited the province’s deteriorating humanitarian situation to illustrate the urgent need to renew the cross-border aid mechanism before it expires.
And in November, Mr. Lowcock had told the Chamber that four million people across northern Syria were supported by UN cross-border humanitarian assistance.
“Without the cross-border operation, we would see an immediate end of aid supporting millions of civilians”, he had said.
Unacceptable status quo
Prior to the meeting, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia expressed his hope that a solution could be found, saying “we are close, but not there yet”.
“I must tell you that all these cries about the imminent catastrophe, disaster which North-East faces if we close one cross-border point are totally irrelevant because humanitarian assistance to that region is coming from within Syria – for a long time, by the way. And it will continue to come”, he stated.
He maintained that as the situation on the ground has changed dramatically, “the status quo is inacceptable”.
“We have to close those cross-border points that are not relevant anymore”, upheld Mr. Nebenzia.
#AustraliaBushfireCrisis; #FireCrisis, #UNICEF; #HumanitarianAid; #ClimateChange;
Australia, Jan 6 (Canadian-Media): Raging bushfires wreaking havoc across Australia have prompted the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, to offer its support to the Australian Government and its partners which are battling the “unprecedented disaster”, UN reports said.
Two firefighters in Queensland, Australia, where the worst wildfires seen in decades are devastating large swathes of the country. Courtesy: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services
While acknowledging “the selflessness, professionalism and dedication” of first responders and all organizations working on the ground, UNICEF issued a statement on Monday extending its condolences to the children and families affected by the fires that continue to devastate the country.
Flagging its experience in providing crucial long-term support to children across the world through the three stages of relief, recovery and rehabilitation, UNICEF expressed it “very real desire” to assist Australia.
“UNICEF has significant expertise and experience globally in responding to emergencies, including natural disasters”, the statement said. “From decades of work with millions of people around the world, we know that children are always among the most vulnerable in circumstances such as these”.
In many situations, UNICEF added that climate change is making scenarios “worse and more enduring”.
Looking out for children“Our recent experience in working with children and young people affected by the drought in New South Wales brings this current bushfire crisis into sharp focus and that is why UNICEF Australia is currently prioritizing internal resources, speaking with partners and other agencies to ensure that we can continue to be a back-up to first-responders and committing support where possible to the immediate and long term needs of children”, the statement spelled out.
UNICEF upheld the vital importance that children who have lived through disasters “return to normal life as quickly as possible”, which is best done by resuming their education.
“In the longer term it is also vital that the views of children are taken into consideration when decisions are being made”, which is why UNICEF Australia has been in discussion with the Fund’s international offices, and other local organizations and government agencies “to plan the provision of our support and expertise into the future”.
Firefighters in Queensland, Australia, tackle a blaze which is threatening local communities. Credit: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services
As the situation continues to unfold, needs are yet to be fully determined. While a needs assessment is pending, key initiatives are likely to include assisting relief partners, said UNICEF, so that affected children may to return to school, provide them with psychosocial support and convene forums to ensure children’s voices shape future responses.
Pointing out that in addition to those children who have been directly affected, the agency is also highly concerned for those children witnessing traumatic events relating to the bushfires through media and social media.
We encourage all parents to consider talking to their children about what is happening and to take steps to make their children feel safe – UNICEF
“We encourage all parents to consider talking to their children about what is happening and to take steps to make their children feel safe”, UNICEF stated.
On top of the toll taken on human lives and the destruction of thousands of homes, the months-long blazes have also killed millions of animals.
Acknowledging that it may be a difficult time for some of its regular supporters directly affected or living in or near bushfire-affected areas, UNICEF Australia encouraged them to suspend donations to ensure they have the means to provide for their families.
“The recovery process from such an unprecedented disaster will take a long time and UNICEF Australia calls for more child-centred responses and for the needs of children to continue to be prioritized”, the statement continued.
As disaster response and planning should include children’s views and experiences, UNICEF Australia “intends to ensure that children who have been affected by this disaster are consulted as a consequence, and their views and opinions taken to decision makers”.
#UN; #HumanitarianAid; #WorldFoodProgramme; #SubSaharanAfrica; #EscalatingHunger
Africa, Jan 1 (Canadian-Media): At the dawn of the next decade, a new World Food Programme (WFP) forecast of global hunger hotspots has revealed that escalating hunger will challenge sub-Saharan Africa in the first half of 2020.
UN reports said.
In Mali, recurrent floods and droughts have made life difficult for farmers.
Image credit: WFP/Simon Pierre Diouf
According to the WFP 2020 Global Hotspots Report, millions of people in Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central Sahel region will require life-saving food assistance in the coming months – the sheer scale and complexity of which will stretch the UN food relief agency’s capacity to the limit and require generous donor support for a ramped-up humanitarian response.
WFP is fighting big and complex humanitarian battles on several fronts at the start of 2020 – WFP chief
WFP Executive Director David Beasley spelled out: “WFP is fighting big and complex humanitarian battles on several fronts at the start of 2020”.
“In some countries, we are seeing conflict and instability combine with climate extremes to force people from their homes, farms and places of work”, he elaborated. “In others, climate shocks are occurring alongside economic collapse and leaving millions on the brink of destitution and hunger.”
Against the backdrop of an imploding economy and when Zimbabwe is entering the peak of its lean season and food is at its most scarce, WFP observed that the country has more hungry people now than it has had over the past decade.
And as concerns grow over the impact of a regional drought that could drag even more countries down in the first months of the year, WFP is planning assistance for some four million people in Zimbabwe.
“Last year, WFP was called upon to bring urgent large-scale relief to Yemen, Mozambique after Cyclone Idai, Burkina Faso and many other crises to avert famine,” said Margot Van Der Velden, WFP Director of Emergencies. “But the world is an unforgiving place and as we turn the page into 2020, WFP is confronting new, monumental humanitarian challenges that we need to address with real urgency.”
In El Salvador, farmers have received training in soil conservation in order to improve crop yields. Credit Photo: WFP/Rein Skullerud
Turning to the Americas, Haiti is undergoing a rapidly evolving crisis with escalating unrest paralyzing the economy and driving food prices out of many people’s reach.
And in Asia, insecurity and drought in Afghanistan is leaving over one-third of the population, or more than 11 million people, severely food insecure.
In the Middle East, WFP has had success in Yemen where it scaled up food assistance by 50 per cent and supported eight million people a month at the beginning of 2018 to 12 million by the end of the year.
Looking towards 2020, WFP remains alert to growing food needs in Iraq and Lebanon, where civil unrest and macro-economic crisis are leading to an increase in food insecurity.
WFP estimates it will require more than $10 billion to fully fund all its operations in more than 80 countries around the world in the coming year.
“Every year at WFP we plan ahead for the next 12 months and ask for support from the generous governments, private sector institutions and members of the public who help us reach our humanitarian and development goals,” said Mr. Beasley.
“As an agency that depends entirely on voluntary donations, we have a responsibility to show WFP can continue to be the most efficient and effective global organization delivering the kind of food assistance that saves lives and changes lives across the world”, concluded the UN food relief agency chief.
#UN; #HumanitarianAid; #UNRelief; #YemenCrisis
New York, Dec 23 (Canadian-Media): The top UN humanitarian official has called for a thorough investigation into weekend attacks against the premises of three international aid organizations in Yemen that wounded one person, in addition to damaging property.
The UN Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock in a camp for displaced people in Sana’a, Yemen on 29 November 2018. OCHA/Ammar Al-Hajj
Mark Lowcock issued a statement on Monday condemning the attacks, which occurred in Al Dhale’e, located in the south-west of the country.
They were carried out by unknown individuals using rocket-propelled grenades.
“These events represent an alarming escalation in the risks faced by humanitarian workers in Yemen. Twelve organizations have now been forced to suspend aid programmes in Al Dhale'e, which will affect 217,000 local residents. Several organizations are working with local staff to ensure the most essential activities can continue,” he said.
Mr. Lowcock also expressed his continued grave concern over media campaigns in parts of Yemen that spread rumours and incitement against aid operations.
Humanitarians reach more than 12 million people across the country each month, he said, adding that they rely on the authorities to ensure they can operate in safe conditions.
Yemen remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Nearly five years of fighting between Government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, and rebels means that around 24 million citizens—or roughly 80 per cent of the population—rely on aid relief.
Lesotho: Tens of thousands ‘one step away from famine’ as drought impacts harvests and UN launches flash appeal
#UN; #HumanitarianAid; #Famine; #Drought; OCHA
Geneva, Dec 20 (Canadian-Media): Devastating drought in the southern African nation of Lesotho has left more than half a million people facing severe food shortages and tens of thousands “one step away from famine”, UN humanitarians said on Friday, in an appeal for funds, UN reports said.
A farmer uses conservation agriculture to grow maize in Lesotho (file photo). Credit: FAO/Rodger Bosch
The $34 million flash appeal will support more than 260,000 people “with lifesaving interventions” until April next year, Jens Laerke from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told journalists in Geneva.
“Most of the food insecure people are in rural areas and we estimate that at the peak of the lean season, which runs from January to March, some 71,000 people will face emergency conditions in rural districts. That is IPC phase 4 – one step away from famine,” the spokesperson added.
Ten districts in the small landlocked southern African nation are already “severely food insecure”, according to OCHA, with rural smallholders worst-hit.
Increasingly, women and girls “have reportedly left their rural homes to urban areas or South Africa in search of work, mostly as domestic workers trading sex for money or food” it warned.
One worry linked to this migration is that Lesotho has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world, at more than one in four people.
“It makes particularly women and children, girls in particular, very vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse,” Mr. Laerke said.
Citing the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification food security assessments, often referred to by the acronym IPC, the spokesperson explained that the 2018/2019 planting season had been badly affected by late rains and scorching temperatures.
And with forecasts indicating that Lesotho will receive below-average rainfall during the current 2019/2020 season – October to March - communities now face three back-to-back failed harvests.
The most vulnerable are in Leribe and Maseru districts.
More than 25% of the country severely food insecure
Today, “a total of half a million people – that’s more than a quarter of the population of Lesotho…are facing severe food insecurity because of severe drought which has gripped the country at the same time as people are approaching the peak of the lean season”, Mr. Laerke said.
According to OCHA, food insecurity levels are 64 per cent higher than last year, when the number of food insecure people was around 309,000 (257,283 in rural areas, 51,683 in urban zones).
Highlighting the catastrophic impact of the extreme weather on harvests, Mr. Laerke said that overall cereal production had decreased by more than 60 per cent compared to 2018.
Individual crops have suffered even greater losses, such as maize and sorghum, which respectively saw reductions of 78 and 93 per cent.
“The Government of Lesotho on 30 October declared a national disaster and issued a drought response and resilience plan,” he said. “Our flash appeal will support that plan.”
The UN appeal aims to conduct awareness-raising sessions and distribute life-saving information materials about risks of irregular migration, gender-based violence, violence against children, child marriage, trafficking in persons and how to report abuse.
Lesotho’s $83 million Drought Response and Resilience Plan aims to help more than 508,000 people, including 68,250 children.
#UN; #HumanitarianAid; #UNHumanitarianAid; #UNICEF
United Nations, Dec 17 (Canadian-Media): An average of nine children have been killed or maimed every day in Afghanistan so far this year, according to a new report from the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, which describes the country as “the world’s most lethal warzone”, UN reports said.
A 12-year-old girl holds her baby sister outside a nutrition centre in a camp for internally displaced people near the western city of Herat. The two girls came here with their family to escape fighting in their home province of Badghis. Credits: © UNICEF/Husseini
The report, entitled “Preserving Hope in Afghanistan: Protecting children in the world’s most lethal conflict”, accuses the parties to the fighting, which has dragged on for some 40 years, of failing in their duty to shield children from its consequences.
The dire predicament of the country as currently the world’s worst killing field, is an acknowledgement of the nearly 6,500 child fatalities and almost 15,000 others injured between 2009 and 2018.
The rate of child casualties has increased by some 11 per cent since 2018, which the study puts down to factors such as a surge in suicide bomb attacks and ground engagements between pro and anti-government forces.
2019 'particularly deadly for children'“Even by Afghanistan’s grim standards, 2019 has been particularly deadly for children”, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in a statement. “Children, their families and communities suffer the horrific consequences of conflict each and every day. Those same children are desperate to grow up, go to school, learn skills, and build a future for themselves. We can, and must, do so much more to reinforce their extraordinary courage and resilience.”
In the statement, UNICEF reminded all parties to the conflict to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, which require them to protect children, end the targeting of schools and health centres and allow access to humanitarian assistance.
Beyond avoiding conflict-related violence, children growing up in Afghanistan are confronted with a host of other challenges. These include severe malnutrition, which affects some 600,000 youngsters; child marriage, with one in three girls marrying before the age of 18; and a lack of access to formal education, which affects some 3.7 million school-aged children.
Significant underfunding for UNICEF programmes
UNICEF has programmes in place to address many of these issues. For example, the agency works with the authorities and local communities to protect girls from the risk of honour killings, domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Working through partners, UNICEF works to alleviate severe malnutrition by providing treatment to 277,000 affected children and, in an effort to provide water for some of the 2.8 million Afghans affected by a severe drought in 2018, is increasingly using sustainable gravity-fed and solar-powered water systems.
However, these programmes need to be drastically scaled up, if more children are to be reached: UNICEF wants to be able to treat another 300,000 severely malnourished children, and 36 per cent of the Afghan population does not have access to drinking water that is protected from outside contamination.
If UNICEF is to continue its vital humanitarian work in 2020, a significant funding gap needs to be overcome: $323 million is needed for the agencies Afghanistan operations but, to date, three-quarters of the programmes remain unfunded.
#UN; #HumanitarianAid; #SamoaMeasles
Geneva, Dec 11 (Canadian-Media): Seventy people have now died from Samoa’s measles outbreak, UN humanitarians confirmed on Tuesday, as the organization released emergency funding to help the authorities step up efforts to eradicate the preventable disease.
The Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital at Motootua, provides the people of Samoa with numerous health services and facilities. Image credit: © UNICEF/Sa'o Mulivai
The development – announced by UN emergency relief chief Mark Lowcock - means that $2.6 million will be made available for the small Pacific island, where health providers have been reportedly overwhelmed.
87 new cases in past 24 hours
“As of this morning, 4,819 measles cases have been reported to the Disease Surveillance Team since the outbreak started, according to the Ministry of Health in Samoa”, Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said. “There were 87 cases recorded over the past 24 hours.”
The OCHA official added that the funds would be used to provide emergency vaccinations, obstetric and neonatal care for mothers and newborns infected with measles.
Funding to overcome outbreak trauma
In addition, the funding will help to deliver mental health and psychosocial support and provide clean water and sanitation, along with public health information.
To date, a reported 120 medical teams from the World Health Organization (WHO) have also deployed throughout the country to assist with the vaccination drive.
The UN has also backed another national campaign, with workers going door-to-door to promote awareness about the importance of getting inoculations.
Such moves are seen as vital to rebuilding community confidence and trust following the deaths last year of two babies during routine vaccination, amid strong anti-vaccination sentiment.
“Obviously this is a tragedy that you can have 61 child(ren) and nine other people being basically killed by a virus that is completely preventable,” said Tarik Jasarevic, WHO spokesperson.
After the outbreak was officially declared in October, Samoan authorities announced a state of emergency in November, in response to the growing number of infections.
90 per cent of vaccination target reached“So far, about 90 per cent of the 143,000 people it targeted have been reached, Mr. Laerke said, noting that the island nation was not alone in suffering a measles outbreak, linked to low immunisation coverage.
“By the end of November 2019, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and American Samoa have all reported measles outbreaks,” he said. “Prior to the ongoing outbreaks, measles vaccine coverage varied in Pacific island countries and areas, ranging from 31 per cent in Samoa to 99 per cent in the Cook Islands and Nauru.”
Mr. Jasarevic added that measles outbreaks had also been reported in Australia, Cambodia, China, including Hong Kong and Macao, Japan, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea and Viet Nam.
To contain the public health threat, the Government of Samoa has launched a national appeal for nearly $11 million, as it works to vaccinate its population and treat those who have already been affected.
Its youngest citizens are most at risk, OCHA said in a statement, along with pregnant women and new mothers.
#DRCongo; #EbolaOutbreak; #MbutiIndigenousCommunity
Attacks on communities in an Ebola outbreak hotspot in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have sparked a humanitarian crisis and threatened aid distribution, the UN said on Friday, amid reports of serious civil unrest.
Members of the Mbuti indigenous community stand beside their shelters at a makeshift site for internally displaced persons in Beni territory, North Kivu.
Image credit: UNHCR/Natalia Micevic
Tensions in eastern Beni territory in DRC’s North Kivu province have been rising since the launch of a Government-led security operation against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) on 30 October, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Charlie Yaxley told journalists in Geneva.
Armed groups have been targeting civilians and displaced populations in the region, killing scores of people and leaving others “caught in the crossfire”, he added.
Aid teams’ security ‘can’t be guaranteed any more’
In a statement on Friday, Hervé Verhoosel, spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said that the agency had temporarily suspended aid distribution “because both our staff – and more importantly the staff of the partners who are working with us on the ground – the security was not guaranteed anymore, and the access was very difficult”.
"We are doing everything possible to bring the injured and front-line workers in the impacted areas to safety.
We will continue to work with the #DRC Government, partners & @MONUSCO to ensure the security of our staff & other health workers"-@DrTedros #Ebola
As a result, “thousands of people will not receive food assistance in the coming days,” he added.
According to UNHCR, Beni town is home to around 500,000 people. “We understand there’s at least 275,000 people in the surrounding areas who’ve already been displaced, and conditions are quite dire and deteriorating,” Mr. Yaxley said.
Armed groups preying on children
Children need immediate support, he continued, as many “have lost their parents or have arrived unaccompanied. Forced recruitment by armed groups is a real threat to the safety of children and women also face widespread sexual violence, abuse and risk of exploitation.”
The development comes as people in eastern DRC continue to be targeted by a multitude of armed groups, with at least 100 people reportedly killed in violent attacks in the Beni region and thousands displaced since 2 November, UNHCR said.
Highlighting the impact of the insecurity in Beni and Oicha on frontline health workers tasked with tracing anyone who has come into contact with people infected with Ebola, Christian Lindmeier, spokesperson for the UN World Health Organization (WHO), said that surveillance levels had dropped from 86 to 59 per cent at the start of the week.
According to WHO, around one-third of WHO’s Ebola response personnel in Beni have been temporarily relocated to Goma.
Drop in frontline access ‘sure’ to hamper Ebola prevention “These are essential functions of the response that are well known to reduce the risk of spread of the virus and the fluctuations in performance following insecurity may enable – well, we’re actually pretty sure it will enable - new chains of transmission,” he explained.
As of 26 November, a total of 3,304 cases of Ebola have been reported, of which 2,199 people have died since the outbreak was declared on 1 August 2018, WHO reported.
In an appeal for an end to the violence in and around Beni, UNCHR’s Mr. Yaxley warned that humanitarian agencies needed “immediate access to support the affected population. Hundreds of households are currently sleeping in churches and schools.”
Some groups of people were “trapped”, he said, noting that they were surrounded by armed forces and facing “ongoing attacks against schools (and) health centres. Even where people are known to be sheltering, they’re being displaced again because of these attacks by armed groups. At times, people are getting caught in the crossfire.”
In its latest update on the outbreak, the country’s Ministry of Health noted the “disruption of activities in the sectors of Beni and Butembo, following popular demonstrations at the killing of civilians”.
“Widespread violence” had erupted in the town of Beni nine days ago, the WFP official told journalists, precipitating the decision to temporarily move “non-essential staff” to Goma in the south of the country.
‘Constant’ attacks must stop: WHO The development also follows attacks by armed groups on Wednesday at a camp in Biakato Mines and an Ebola response coordination office that claimed the lives of three responders and a police officer, injuring six others.
Condemning the violence, the WHO appealed for the “constant” attacks to stop, the development risks reversing significant progress made against the epidemic, with infections falling to just a handful in recent weeks.
Earlier this month in the town of Lwemba, Ituri province, attackers killed an Ebola response community health worker and left his wife critically injured before burning down their home. The victim was also a reporter for a community radio station, helping to raise Ebola awareness.