#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.
#UN; #BurkinaFaso; #Violence&Displacement; #EmergencyLevelsOfMalnutrition; #UNFoodAgency
Burkina Faso, Nov 19 (Canadian-Media): Violent attacks by extremists “almost every day” in the Sahel nations of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have displaced nearly one million people and caused emergency levels of malnutrition, UN humanitarians have said.
A mother and her baby at the IDP Pissila campsite in Burkina Faso.
Image credit: WFP/Marwa Awad
Warning of an impending humanitarian crisis, the World Food Programme (WFP) on Tuesday said that if nothing is done to tackle hunger in the region, a whole generation could be at risk.
A third of Burkina Faso now a conflict zone
Burkina Faso is worst hit, with one-third of the country now a conflict zone.
On Monday, just over the border in eastern Mali, more than 20 soldiers were killed in an attack on their patrol by militants, the latest in a series of deadly attacks linked to extremists who have exploited ethnic tensions and poor infrastructure.
According to Government data, nearly half a million people have been displaced in Burkina Faso in less than a year, but that figure is likely to reach 650,000 before the end of 2019.
“A dramatic human crisis is unfolding in Burkina Faso that has disrupted the lives of millions. Close to half a million people have been forced from their homes and a third of the country is now a conflict zone,” said WFP’s Executive Director, David Beasley. “Our teams on the ground are seeing malnutrition levels pushed well past emergency thresholds – this means young children and new mothers are on the brink. If the world is serious about saving lives, the time to act is now.”
Civilians fleeing, leaving everything behind
David Bulman, WFP Country Director in Burkina Faso, said with extremists moving freely across borders, it was now a “three-country crisis” leading civilians to flee. “And for those populations that don’t particularly notice the border, they just see their safest route away from insecurity and they take it…When they’re displaced it means that they basically leave everything behind, and most of them are doing farming and some animal raising so they are really very dependent.“
While WFP has helped some 2.6 million people with food and nutrition assistance in the three Sahel countries, it has warned that in some areas, severe acute malnutrition is skyrocketing and affecting “thousands” of children, Mr. Bulman said.
Among those displaced in Burkina Faso, levels of severe acute malnutrition are more than three times the emergency threshold of two per cent of the population, at 7.8 per cent, he explained.
For general acute malnutrition, the highest level registered by WFP was 19.7 per cent, exceeding the 15 per cent emergency threshold.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians at risk in Syria amid ongoing violence in northeast and northwest
#UN, #Syria; #SyriaVilence; #LackOfFunds; ##UNICEF; #OHCHR; #HumanitarianAid
Syria, Nov 9 (Canadian-Media): Almost daily violence targeting built-up areas and health facilities in Syria continues to threaten the lives of civilians there, UN rights experts and humanitarians said on Friday.
At least 92 people have been killed in northeastern and northwestern Syria in the weeks following 9 October, when Turkish forces invaded Kurdish-held border areas in the northeast, according to the UN human rights office (OHCHR).
“Civilians continue to pay a very high price in the ongoing hostilities in Syria,” said OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville.
Noting that victims had come under fire from airstrikes and ground-based strikes, he added that people are increasingly being targeted by the “indiscriminate use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in populated areas, including in local markets”.
The development comes as the UN Special Envoy for Syria announced that the Co-Chairs of Syrian-owned talks to decide a foundational text for the people of the war-torn country, had agreed to resume their discussions in Geneva on Monday, 25 November.
“They have started to listen to each other very seriously,” Geir Pedersen told journalists in the Swiss city, at the end of the second week of talks by the Syrian Constitutional Committee. “Of course, these are sometimes very painful discussions and it takes courage to sit and listen to the other side presenting its views on these issues. But I think they have begun to address both difficult and painful issues and I think it is fair to say that the discussions have been very professional.”
100,000 living in limbo
On Thursday, Najat Rochdi, Senior Humanitarian Adviser to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, warned that hundreds of thousands of people in northeast Syria have been left vulnerable following the Turkish military incursion.
“Of the more than 200,000 people who fled the fighting in recent weeks, close to 100,000 people have not yet been able to return home and are dispersed across improvised camps and collective shelters,” she said in a statement.
These recent displacements have compounded an already dire situation in which 710,000 people were already displaced, and approximately 1.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, Ms. Rochdi’s statement explained.
Arbitrary detentions, disappearances
In a related warning, Mr. Colville said that people recently displaced during the military offensive have been “subsequently…subjected to arbitrary detention, in addition to enforced disappearances, after returning to their homes. This is occurring both in areas controlled by Turkish forces and Turkish-affiliated armed groups and in areas controlled by Kurdish armed groups.”
The OHCHR spokesperson added that attacks using improvised explosive devices in the formerly Kurdish-controlled north-east “have noticeably escalated in recent days, mainly in areas under the control of Turkish-affiliated armed groups, which suggests they have most likely been carried out by groups opposing the Turkish military offensive”.
Idlib medics, health facilities, under fireIn Syria’s northwest, meanwhile, medical professionals continue to be at grave risk.
Health facilities “continue to be directly hit or significantly damaged whenever there is a military escalation in Idlib”, OHCHR’s Mr. Colville said.
Just this week, “four separate facilities were damaged”, he noted, taking the total number of health facilities that OHCHR has recorded being hit since 29 April to 61.
“We can’t determine if every single attack is deliberate,” Mr. Colville added, “but the large scale of these attacks – as I say, 61 separate facilities, considerably more actual strikes hitting those facilities, given some of them were hit two, three, four times, and the fact that it’s happening every time there’s a military escalation strongly suggests that Government-affiliated forces are conducting these strikes are at least partly if not always deliberately striking health facilities. But I think we’ll have to…and of course, that would amount to a war crime.”
Death noticesIn a new development related to thousands of Syrians held by the Government, Mr. Colville explained that it was concerning that families have been receiving death notifications from the Government authorities.
“Basically telling them that their relatives, or family members who were detained or forcibly disappeared have died in custody.”
Funding falls short
UN humanitarians meanwhile warned that a serious funding crisis risks leaving hundreds of thousands of Syrians vulnerable to deteriorating weather conditions.
“Of the $295 million we required in 2019, we have received just $138 million,” said Marixie Mercado, spokesperson, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF): “Despite the massive security, access and capacity challenges, this funding shortfall now represents the most serious obstacle we face in reaching children who need help urgently.”
Listing the many urgent interventions that would no longer be possible without that funding, Ms. Mercado explained that it would mean “not providing emergency water, sanitation and hygiene support to over 100,000 people, nor improving poor water supplies to 300,000 more. Not providing 55,000 children with routine immunization, and nearly 140,000 women and children with health and nutrition consultations.”
According to OCHA, the UN humanitarian coordinating office, the overall UN appeal requires nearly $3.3 billion but is only 52 per cent funded.
A little over $1.7 billion has been received; the top donors are the US ($688 million), Germany ($262 million), UK ($148 million), the European Commission ($99 million) and Canada ($80 million).
#UN; #SurvivalInVenezuelaChallenge; #UNEmergencyRelief; #HumanitarianAid
New York, Nov 6 (Canadian-Media): “Ordinary women, men and children face overwhelming challenges” just to survive in Venezuela today, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said on Wednesday in the capital, Caracas.
Mark Lowcock (right), Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, pays a visit to a hospital that serves one million people in a Caracas neighborhood in Venezuela. Image Credit: OCHA/Gema Cortes
“Millions cannot afford the bare minimum of food, water, and health care”, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs continued, adding that “the situation continues to deteriorate”.
Most Venezuelans have been affected by a years-long political and economic crisis in what was formerly Latin America’s wealthiest nation, leading to a major shrinking of the economy, fueled by hyperinflation.
Around 4.5 million have left the country, the vast majority to other nations in the region, marking the largest exodus in South American history, according to UN figures: “Too many people are risking perilous journeys every day, facing sexual exploitation, trafficking and abuse”, said Mr. Lowcock.
“I have seen myself how the health system is on the verge of collapse with many hospitals lacking the most basic water and electricity infrastructure…Hospital patients, many of whom are already critically ill, are at high risk of losing their lives from new infections they are acquiring while they are in hospital, because basic cleaning and disinfection cannot be done”.
And a lack of medicines and medical care workers only exacerbates the situation, added the UN relief chief.
“Preventable diseases, including malaria and diphtheria are back with a vengeance”, he said, citing people with chronic health conditions, pregnant and nursing women, infants and those living with disabilities as being “among the most vulnerable”.
Having visited Jose Gregorio Hernandez hospital, the UN official learned that medicines are scarce; power outages mean that only one-fifth of the hospital has electricity; and water runs only two days a week, often through rusty and broken pipes oozing a “filthy stench that lingers throughout”.
Over the last year, UN-supported aid programmes have made a difference by:
During meetings with senior Government officials and members of the National Assembly, he observed that despite the political divisions, there was “a common will to address the humanitarian situation”, with both endorsing the Humanitarian Response Plan developed this year by the UN and partners to address the most dire needs of Venezuelans.
Underscoring that “only a political solution can end the suffering”, Mr. Lowcock said that in the meantime, the UN “will continue to provide humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable in accordance with our principles of impartiality, independence and neutrality”.
“I have received firm commitments that the implementation of the plan will be supported, to the benefit of vulnerable Venezuelans across the country”, he affirmed. “All parties must respect our principled humanitarian approach and not manipulate the needs-based assistance”.
Stressing that “human suffering is not a political weapon”, he said continued monitoring of assistance delivery would safeguard its transparency “in accordance with independent assessments”.
Mr. Lowcock thanked those who have contributed financial resources for UN-supported humanitarian activities, noting that more than $155 million has been received this year. But he said the $223 million Humanitarian Response Plan “remains under-resourced and the biggest constraint to delivering humanitarian assistance remains funding”.
“Everyone needs to do more”, he maintained, pointing out that next month provisional plans for the UN-supported humanitarian response in Venezuela next year is due to be published. “Substantially more financial resources will be needed, and we will seek additional funding from donors”.
“We will need to find a way to unlock Venezuelan resources to contribute more to humanitarian action” and “place a greater priority on reducing the immediate suffering of the people of this country”, he concluded.
#UN; #ViolenceInCameroon; #HumanitarianEmergency; #humanitarianAid
Geneva, Nov 5 (Canadian-Media): Ongoing violence in Cameroon’s northwest and southwest has created a fast-growing humanitarian emergency now affecting some 1.9 million people, a “15-fold increase since 2017”, UN humanitarians said on Tuesday.
A child sits at her desk at a UNICEF-supported government primary school, in Douala, Cameroon. Image Credit: © UNICEF/Tanya Bindra
In Geneva, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spokesperson, Marixie Mercado, explained that almost a million children were affected in the West African nation, which until a few years ago was among the most settled and peaceful in the region.
Insecurity – and to a lesser degree, extremely poor road access – have left around 65 per cent of both regions out of bounds to aid workers, who’ve face increased attacks and risk being taken hostage.
“What began as a political crisis in the northwest and southwest regions is now a quickly deteriorating humanitarian emergency,” said Ms. Mercado, a reference to separatist clashes that began in late 2017, linked to alleged discrimination against the country’s English-speaking regions.
15-fold increase in needs since 2018
“Around 1.9 million people, about half of whom are children, are estimated to be in need, an increase of 80 per cent compared to 2018, and an almost 15-fold increase since 2017,” she insisted.
With security worsening in rural and urban areas, particularly in the northwest, UN humanitarian coordinating office, OCHA, insisted that human rights violations continue to be committed by both separatists and Government forces.
“Arbitrary arrest, burning of villages and indiscriminate killing of civilians are conducted with impunity,” it said in its latest situation report on Monday.
For a growing number of youngsters, the situation has deprived them of an education, with thousands of schools closed amid threats by separatists seeking leverage for a political solution to the crisis.
“Three years of violence and instability in the northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon have left more than 855,000 children out of school”, said Ms. Mercado.
Children ‘living in fear
’Thousands of youngsters “are living in fear”, she added.
In all, nine in 10 primary schools - more than 4,100 - and nearly eight in 10 secondary schools (744) remain closed, or non-operational, in the troubled northwest and southwest since the start of the school year in September.
“Fear of violence has kept parents from sending their children to school and teachers and staff from reporting to work”, the UNICEF official explained.
In a bid to help children who’ve been prevented from learning, community-run activities have been organized.
UNICEF has also purchased educational books and other learning materials for 37,000 school-aged children, as well as broadcasting literacy and numeracy lessons by radio.
Security fears continue to hamper the work of humanitarians however, with 529 recorded security incidents in the southwest and northwest since the beginning of the year, according to UNICEF.
Since August, this has meant that a growing number of aid organizations have faced hostage-taking and extortion situations, while five of the seven attacks against aid workers took place over the past two months.
“In the southwest region, access has improved slightly and we have been able to conduct more missions during the second quarter of the year compared to the first, and to reach places that haven’t been accessible for a year or more,” Ms. Mercado said.
Pupils face kidnapping on way to school
Condemning all attacks on aid workers and humanitarian supply teams, OCHA spokesperson, Jens Laerke, also highlighted the reported kidnapping of three schoolgirls last month.
“When armed groups like this kidnap students on the way to school that’s absolutely horrific and must be condemned.”
The OCHA spokesperson noted that lack of funding continues to be a major issue in Cameroon, with the $299 million appeal for 2019 only 41 per cent funded.
In May, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet welcomed the Government’s declared openness to work with the UN Human Rights Office, OHCHR, to seek effective solutions to the major human rights and humanitarian crises caused by the serious unrest and violence taking place in Cameroon.