#UN; ;#UNHCR; #IDPS; #Exploitation; #CriminalGangs; #CoronavirusLockdowns
Geneva, May 16 (Canadian-Media): Chronic violence, insecurity and now COVID-related restrictions have put tens of thousands of Central Americans at risk of increased hardship and even death, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.
Seventeen-year-old mother leaves Honduras with her one-year old son, hoping to get a visa for the United States. Image credit: ©UNICEF/Tanya Bindra
By the end of last year, violence in the region forced some 720,000 people to flee their homes, almost half of whom currently remain displaced within their own country, according the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
And with COVID-related lockdowns in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, community leaders and some internally displaced people (IDPs) are reporting that organized criminal groups have been exploiting the confinement, to strengthen their control over local communities.
“This includes the stepping up of extortion, drug trafficking and sexual and gender-based violence, and using forced disappearances, murders, and death threats against those that do not comply”, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters at a regular press briefing in Geneva.
Movement restrictions make it harder for those that need help and protection to obtain it, while those that need to flee for their lives, face increased hurdles in seeking safety.
In addition, strict lockdowns have resulted in many displaced and vulnerable people losing their livelihoods.
“As businesses are ordered to close and informal jobs vanish, people living in these vulnerable communities are losing their only sources of income”, the UNHCR spokesperson flagged.
Moreover, many in the region have limited access to basic services, like healthcare and running water.
Faced with these dire circumstances, people are increasingly resorting to negative coping mechanisms, including sex work, that put them at further risk both in terms of health and gang exploitation.
The nature of internal displacement in northern Central America, which often involves one person or family at a time – forced to leave to safeguard children or facing direct threats to their lives - can make new movements difficult to detect.
UNHCR regularly relies on a network of community leaders in high risk areas to raise the alarm: “They have told UNHCR that they expect a rapid increase in forced displacement as soon as the lockdown measures are lifted”, Mr. Mahecic said.
UNHCR there to help
In the meantime, the UNHCR is working across the north of the region, where millions over the years have attempted to migrate north into the United States, concentrating on the most critical humanitarian interventions that movement restrictions allow.
To protect people under threat and violence, UNHCR coordinates with partners to ensure that state authorities respond to imminent risks a timely manner.
“We also provide remote counselling, and work with shelters for especially high-risk cases, coordinating movements with the authorities”, the UNHCR spokesperson said.
To help mitigate the impact of income loss of at-risk communities, UNHCR has scaled-up its cash assistance programmes to help IDPs meet basic needs, such as food, medicines and housing.
“We are also working with partner organizations, and local authorities to distribute food baskets and cleaning items”, he added.
Mr. Mahecic said that the impact of the pandemic risked setting back the progress being made towards “creating livelihoods and job opportunities for IDPs; and in building the capacity of state authorities to address their needs, including through the creation and implementation of laws and policies that seek to advance their rights”.
He concluded by reiterating UNHCR’s support to state authorities in continuing to assist internally displaced and at-risk communities.
Hounded by gangs, one family among hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Hondurans on the move told UNHCR how they reluctantly started a new life across the country.
Forty-two-year old Mariana [pseudonym] explained how on three different occasions she stood up to violent gangs that took over her hometown.
“The first time, they laughed with scorn,” she said. “The second time, they threatened to kill me … and the third, it almost cost us our lives”.
According to government statistics, some 247,000 Hondurans are estimated to have been internally displaced since 2004 – the vast majority fleeing extorsion, coercion and targeted threats by gangs and other criminal organizations.
They fled after the gang leader tried to kidnap Mariana’s 16-year-old daughter and later shot her 14-year-old son in the leg.
As soon as the house was empty, the gang took over, transforming the family home into a so-called “crazy house”, where victims were taken to be tortured and killed.
According to UNHCR, around one-third of those displaced report having had their property seized by their persecutors, and many eventually flee to another country.
#UN; #UNHCR; #Brazil; #Coronavirus; #Refugees; #DisplacedPersons; #mentalHealth
Brazil (United States), May 15 (Canadian-Media): The consequences of coronavirus are taking a huge toll on the mental health of refugees, displaced and stateless people, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is warning today, UNHCR reports said.
Feelings of isolation contribute to poor mental health and refugees are particularly vulnerable. A Venezuelan refugee sits alone on a bench at a shelter in Brazil, March 28, 2019. Image credit: © UNHCR/Vincent Tremeau
“COVID-19 is not just a physical health crisis but it is now also triggering a mental health crisis. While many refugees and internally displaced people are remarkably resilient and are able to move forward despite having experienced violence or persecution first-hand, their capacities to cope are now being stretched to the limit,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
“We are now receiving reports of increasing mental health issues and needs among those displaced. Fear of infection, confinement and isolation measures, stigma, discrimination, loss of livelihoods and uncertainty about the future are all contributing factors”.
Given the widespread socio-economic damage inflicted by the pandemic, UNHCR is particularly worried that for many refugees, the loss of daily wages and livelihoods is resulting in psychosocial hardship. Extremely concerning is that some are now reporting self-harm owing to these pressures.
For refugees who had also sought psychosocial support through community interaction, social gatherings or the observance of religious rituals, physical distancing measures and mobility restrictions also affect their ability to cope with emotional distress.
While the consequences of the pandemic are inducing or aggravating pre-existing mental health conditions, measures to curb the spread of the virus are also impacting the availability of assistance. Providing mental health support and care becomes more difficult during lock-down and restricted travel, staffing levels may be reduced, refugees are often unable to travel to reach care and many face-to-face group-based activities have been cancelled.
“The overwhelming majority, 84 per cent, of the world’s refugees are hosted in developing regions and their access to quality mental health care was already very limited even before the pandemic. Now at this devastating juncture, with coronavirus causing great physical and mental affliction, the need to invest in continued health services, including mental health, and ensuring their accessibility to all is as evident and critical as ever,” said Grandi.
To try and ensure the continuity of mental health and psychosocial support services for refugees and displaced people, UNHCR is stepping up efforts and adapting modalities wherever possible.
Some mental health services are now being provided remotely, including through multi-lingual telephone hotlines or over the internet through online sessions. For those with severe and complex mental health conditions, care is being ensured through remote or direct support delivered in safe ways, including through home visits. Provisions are also made to ensure that people who need medication can continue treatment during lockdown.
UNHCR is also working where possible to scale up the mental health support capacity of its pre-existing community-based protection networks and training primary healthcare workers, camp management personnel, community outreach volunteers and telephone hotline staff in Psychological First Aid.
In some locations, community volunteers already mobilized in COVID-19 prevention and response efforts are also conducting outreach to refugees and internally displaced people on mental health awareness and on coping with distress.
Echoing the UN-wide call for action, UNHCR continues to appeal for urgent support to ensure the availability and continuation of mental health and psychosocial services for refugees and those displaced. These services must be considered “essential” services and form part of national responses to COVID-19.
#UNHCR: #Venezuela; #Covid19ThreaOnImmigrants; #GlobalHumanitarianResponsePlan
Venezuela, May 14 (Canadian-Media): With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening the safety and future of millions of refugees and migrants from Venezuela and their host communities, more than 150 organizations working across 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are appealing to the international community for an urgent increase in support, UNHCR reports said.
Young Venezuelan girls wait at a care centre for refugees and migrants in La Paz, Bolivia. Image credit: © UNHCR/ UNHCR/Javier Di Benedictis
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Venezuelan refugees and migrants are now faced with a myriad of challenges, including the loss of livelihoods, evictions as well as increasing stigmatization. Many are often unable to access basic health and hygiene facilities and to comply with physical distancing measures. Those living in an irregular situation and without documentation also risk being left out of national health and social welfare programmes.
“Coronavirus is pressuring our societies in ways we could have never imagined. For Venezuelan refugees and migrants, the pandemic exposes them to even greater hardship as many are now struggling to survive, away from home,” said Eduardo Stein, Joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for refugees and migrants from Venezuela.
“Venezuelans across the region are now faced with hunger, a lack of access to medical care, the prospects of homelessness and xenophobia.”
Increasingly vulnerable, many are also at risk of exposure to gender-based violence, stigmatization, exploitation and abuse.
In response, humanitarian organizations revised the Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP), launched in November 2019. This US$1.35 billion regional plan prioritized activities to address the most pressing protection, lifesaving and integration needs of refugees and migrants from Venezuela. The updated requirements of the RMRP now amount to US$1.41 billion, around one third of which are for COVID-19-specific activities.
The main increases will support refugees and migrants in extremely precarious situations, especially those in urgent need of food, shelter and health services. It will also cover the provision of personal protective equipment and activities aimed at providing vital information on the pandemic and available services.
The Response Plan complements the tremendous efforts governments in the region have put in place to alleviate the needs of host communities. The inclusion of refugees and migrants in national responses and programmes – ranging from the delivery of basic goods and food packages, social welfare efforts, and the efforts aimed at halting evictions – has been and continues to be vital.
Given the quarantine measures in place across the region, the delivery of many activities in the Response Plan have been adjusted to provide assistance through remote modalities, including through enhanced cash-based assistance.
Other prioritized activities include the establishment of mobile health facilities for the testing and referral of COVID-19 cases and the upgrading of shelters with adequate physical spacing and improved sanitary conditions.
This is in addition to the provision of technical support to national authorities to complement their efforts in the COVID-19 response and the establishment of early warning systems and rapid response mechanisms to contain the spread of the pandemic among refugees and migrants. Crucially, refugees and migrants, irrespective of their status, need to be included in national health responses.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic has yet to reach its peak in Latin America, overstretched public health services will continue to be challenged over the coming months. We urge the international community to generously provide support through this revised response plan,” Stein said.
The regional response plan for Venezuelans remains dangerously underfunded. To date, only four per cent of the required funds have been met. To support the largely underfunded work of the 151 organizations who are part of the Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform (R4V) response, a virtual Pledging Conference will be convened towards the end of the month.
The coordination of the humanitarian, protection and integration response for refugees and migrants from Venezuela is conducted through the R4V. Within this framework and in a coordinated effort, the RMRP forms part of the updated COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan, issued by the UN Secretary-General earlier this month.
UNHCR urges sustained support to protect world’s forcibly displaced from “devastating” impact of coronavirus
#UNHCR; #Covid19; #UNGlobalHumanitarianResponsePlan; #IDPSettlements
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is seeking US$745 million as it races to prepare for and prevent outbreaks of COVID-19 among refugees and other displaced populations around the globe, UNHCR reports said.
A Syrian girl washes her hands at Za’atari refugee camp, in line with WHO guidelines on preventing the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. © UNHCR/Mohamad al-Taher
This is UNHCR’s portion of the revised UN Global Humanitarian Response Plan appealing for US$6.7 billion, launched last Thursday. Based on the latest assessments of global needs to curb the impact of the pandemic among forcibly displaced, it is an upward revision of the initial US$255 million sought in the earlier appeal for UNHCR on 25 March.
With coronavirus now present in every country, including those that host large refugee and displaced populations, the world’s 71 million refugees and forcibly displaced people are among the most exposed and vulnerable to the threat of the virus.
While no outbreaks have so far been reported in large refugee and IDP settlements, UNHCR is rapidly responding in 134 refugee-hosting countries that are reporting local transmission.
“The pandemic is inflicting deep wounds across the world, particularly for women and the elderly. For people who fled wars and persecution, the impact on their mostly hand-to-mouth existence and on their hosts has been devastating,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “Together with our NGO partners, the UN is determined to stay the course and deliver for people forced to flee and their hosts, to ensure their inclusion in public health responses and access to social safety nets.”
As of today, the coronavirus has infected more than four million people globally, and claimed nearly 280,000 lives. As the disease is not expected to peak in the world’s poorest countries for another three to six months, UNHCR teams around the world are preparing fast – and bracing for the worst.
The evidence of deep and hard-hitting economic impact of the crisis on refugees is overwhelming. Across the Middle East and Africa, hundreds of thousands of refugees have asked for urgent financial assistance to cover their daily essential needs since lockdowns and other public health measures came into force in many countries in March. In Lebanon, which was facing an economic downturn even before the pandemic, over half of the refugees surveyed by UNHCR in late April reported having lost livelihoods such as daily labour. Among the refugees consulted, 70 per cent reported that they had to skip meals. The impact on refugee women is profound, with almost all who were working saying they had seen their income source disrupted.
UNHCR is worried that the loss of daily wages and livelihoods can result in psycho-social hardship. In Jordan, partners report a significant rise in mental health and psycho-social consultations since March.
Groups at a particular risk of poverty and exploitation include female heads of households, unaccompanied and separated children, older people and LGBTI people. Their situation can be improved through emergency assistance, notably through emergency cash grants.
Thanks to prompt and generous contributions from government and private supporters, UNHCR quickly ramped up its coronavirus response. In a matter of weeks, UNHCR procured and delivered to field operations more than 6.4 million face masks, 850,000 gowns, 3,600 oxygen concentrators, 640 ventilators, over 1,600 housing units and 50 hospital tents. In addition, six tonnes of personal protection equipment (PPE) and medical supplies have been airlifted and US$30 million COVID-19 related cash assistance has been distributed in 65 countries.
The funds will help UNHCR further strengthen national health and sanitation systems through increased provision of personal protective equipment, medicine, soap and other hygiene supplies. UNHCR is also working to: ramp up cash assistance for the most vulnerable refugee families experiencing economic shocks; improve shelters in crowded settlements to prevent human-to-human transmission; and provide multiple months’ supplies of aid and sanitation items during distributions that maintain physical distancing recommendations.
Funds will also ensure UNHCR can scale up its protection and assistance, including child protection and sexual and gender-based violence services. UNHCR is urgently adapting life-saving protection programmes for survivors of violence and advocating to ensure that health, psycho-social support and safety services are designated as essential and remain accessible to refugees and the forcibly displaced.
Over eighty per cent of the world’s refugees and nearly all of the world’s internally displaced people are hosted in low- to middle-income countries, some of them hit hard by conflict, hunger, poverty and disease. Many of the forcibly displaced are in camps or densely populated urban areas, often living in inadequate conditions with limited, fragile public health, sanitation facilities and social protection systems.
Consequently, UNHCR is prioritizing preparedness and prevention measures to curb the threat of the pandemic. These are critical measures for avoiding a higher fatality rate among refugees and displaced populations due to often overcrowded living conditions and limited health and water and sanitation infrastructure.
The funds requested within UNHCR’s revised COVID-19 appeal are to cover UNHCR’s budgetary needs to respond to coronavirus until the end of the year. UNHCR is grateful to those donors who have already contributed vital funding. Early support from the United States of America, Germany, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, Denmark, Canada, Ireland, Sony Corporation, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Australia, as well as from individual private donors from across the world, allowed us to scale up activities globally.
#UNHCR; #Covid19Response; #AccessibilityOfHealthServices
Geneva, May 11 (Canadian-Media): UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is urging Governments worldwide to pay urgent attention to the plight of millions of stateless people and to follow a set of recommendations the organization has issued today to ensure their coverage in the COVID-19 response, UNHCR reports said.
Zablon Namwate, pictured in October 2019, travelled from Rwanda to Kenya decades ago to work on a tea plantation. Without identity documents, he is among millions of people around the world who are stateless. © UNHCR/Sebastian Rich
“Millions of people around the world are denied a nationality and the legal rights endowed with it. They do not exist on paper and most often live on the fringes of society. Our worry is that at such a critical time, in the middle of a global pandemic, they now are at great risk of being left behind in the response,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Without citizenship, stateless people often do not have access to essential services, including health care, and now may also be precluded from or face obstacles in accessing coronavirus testing and treatment. Others may refrain from accessing services for fear that their legal status can put them at risk of detention or deportation.
“We must repeat that exclusion does not benefit anyone, least of all the global effort to contain the virus. The pandemic can only be beaten if everyone, regardless of their legal status, is included in the response. Nobody can be protected unless everybody is included, and that means including often invisible, stateless populations,” said Grandi.
Some 3.9 million stateless people appear in the reporting of 78 countries but the true number is likely to be far greater. Without legal rights and access to services, statelessness leaves many politically and economically marginalized, discriminated against and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
In many countries across the world, stateless people live in sub-standard and inadequate sanitary conditions which can compound the risk of outbreaks. Limited by their legal status, many work in informal sectors, which can also hamper adherence to public health protocols such as self-isolation and physical distancing.
Considerable numbers of stateless people are also being held in prolonged pre-removal detention on the basis that they are not considered as legal residents and there is no country to deport them to. In addition to the violation of their right to liberty, they now face the prospect of increased risk of infection, as doctors and medical associations around the world have raised concerns about the potential of COVID-19 to spread within these centers.
UNHCR is also concerned about the potential for mitigation and response measures to fuel xenophobia and discrimination for those perceived to be at risk of contagion, given a majority of the world’s known stateless population belong to minority groups and are particularly vulnerable to discrimination.
“This virus is exposing both the devastating consequences of statelessness and the urgency of the need to resolve it. The right to a nationality is a fundamental human right and in this time of crisis it can mean the difference between life or death,” said Grandi.
To ensure the protection and inclusion of stateless people in the public health response, UNHCR has issued guidance on policy and good practices. Some of these recommendations include:
Conflict and heavy floods force tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in Somalia, amidst COVID-19 threat
#Somali; #IDPs; #HeavyFlooding; #CrippledEconomy; #UNHCR; #Covid19
Somali (Africa), May 8 (Canadian-Media): Heavy flooding, conflict, a crippled economy, impending desert locust swarms and the exponential spread of COVID-19 are threatening the safety and welfare of Somalia’s 2.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs), UNHCR reports said.
A Somali girl walks past a makeshift shelter at a settlement for internally displaced people in Mogadishu, Somalia, April 1, 2020. Image credit: © REUTERS/Feisal Omar
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, fears these multiple, compounding emergencies will lead to devastating consequences unless there is a strong and coordinated response from the international community, national and local Somali authorities and humanitarian actors to meet the massive humanitarian needs.
Since the start of this year, more than 220,000 Somalis have become internally displaced, including 137,000 due to conflict. Natural and climate-related disasters including drought and resulting lack of livelihoods and floods are additional complex and interlinked drivers of displacement.
In South and Central Somalia, flash floods and the beginnings of riverine flooding caused by the seasonal Gurains have already displaced an estimated 90,000 with additional displacement expected, worsening significant pre-existing humanitarian needs faced by IDPs and host communities. If current trends continue, this year’s rains give every indication that they could pose the same catastrophic threat as the Deyr rains of 2019, which led to more than 400,000 people being forced to flee their homes. Swarms of desert locusts, the most destructive migratory insect in the world, threaten to decimate crop yields and cause widespread food shortages post the Gu rains.
Earlier this week, UNHCR and the Government of Somalia airlifted emergency assistance, including jerry cans, soap, blankets, sleeping mats, kitchen sets and plastic sheets, to help over 8,000 people in Baidoa, Bardheere and Qardho. A second airlift delivering aid in Qardho, Bardheere, Beletweyn, and Berdale is set to take place as early as today, with UNHCR’s assistance expected to reach a total 37,000 individuals.
In March and April, armed operations against Al Shabab resumed in Lower Shabelle, resulting in more than 50,000 people being forced to flee their homes. Communities were directly exposed to crossfire and mortar attacks in their villages, and roadside explosions while in flight. Recruitment of children, gender-based violence including rape, and arbitrary arrest where also reported. In Gedo, Jubaland State, fighting between various parties to the conflict in the region also forced an estimated 40,000 people to flee their homes in Belet Xawoo in early March.
UNHCR believes the humanitarian situation will worsen as COVID-19 further spreads. Most of the 2.6 million IDPs in Somalia live in overcrowded settlements and many, especially those newly displaced, live in makeshift shelters made of plastic bags, cardboards and sticks. Physical and social distancing is close to impossible, and there is scarcely enough clean water for drinking, let alone hand-washing. Conditions are ripe for widespread viral transmission.
The Government of Somalia has initiated COVID-19 testing across the country. However, decades of conflict, together with a global shortage of testing kits, has left the country’s health infrastructure in a precarious position to respond should the virus spread rapidly. Despite Somalia having 928 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the general population, there has been only one confirmed case amongst the IDP population so far.
Many Somali IDPs have seen their incomes plummet as COVID-19 prevention measures have led to job losses or reductions in working hours, particularly for daily wage workers and people working in markets. UNHCR has observed that refugees are amongst the first to lose their jobs. At the same time, food prices are rising while remittances, a lifeline for millions of Somalis, are in stark decline.
UNHCR urges the international community to come forward with further funding for humanitarian agencies and the Government of Somalia in this time of crisis. Yesterday, as part of the wider UN appeal, UNHCR urged States, the private sector and individual donors to provide US$745 million for our COVID-19 appeal to protect and assist displaced populations around the world.
UN issues US$6.7 billion appeal to protect millions of lives and stem the spread of coronavirus in fragile countries
#Kenya; #UNHCR; #UNHumanitarian; #Covid19Pandemic; #WFP
Kenya, May 8 (Canadian-Media): The UN’s Humanitarian Chief, Mark Lowcock, has called for swift and determined action to avoid the most destabilizing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as he releases a US$6.7 billion appeal and an updated global plan to fight coronavirus in fragile countries, UNHCR reports said.
Refugees at Kalobeyei Settlement in Kenya receive two-month rations of soap, jerrycans and firewood. Image credit: © UNHCR/Samuel Otieno
COVID-19 has now reached every country, with nearly 3,596,000 confirmed cases and over 247,650 deaths worldwide. The peak of the disease in the world’s poorest countries is not expected until some point over the next three to six months. However, there is already evidence of incomes plummeting and jobs disappearing, food supplies falling and prices soaring, and children missing vaccinations and meals.
The humanitarian system is taking action to avert a sharp rise in conflict, hunger, poverty and disease as a result of the pandemic and the associated global recession. Today’s updated Global Humanitarian Response Plan has been expanded in response. It includes nine additional vulnerable countries: Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe, and programmes to respond to the growth in food insecurity.
Today’s new appeal and updated humanitarian response plan were released at a virtual event hosted by Mark Lowcock, alongside the Executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, Mike Ryan; the President and CEO of Oxfam America, Abby Maxman; the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi; and the Executive Director of WFP, David Beasley. The plan was first launched by the UN Secretary-General in March.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic is hurting us all. But the most devastating and destabilizing effects will be felt in the world’s poorest countries. In the poorest countries we can already see economies contracting as export earnings, remittances and tourism disappear. Unless we take action now, we should be prepared for a significant rise in conflict, hunger and poverty. The spectre of multiple famines looms.
“If we do not support the poorest people – especially women and girls and other vulnerable groups – as they battle the pandemic and impacts of the global recession, we will all be dealing with the spillover effects for many years to come. That would prove even more painful, and much more expensive, for everyone.
“This pandemic is unlike anything we have dealt with in our lifetime. Business as usual will not do. Extraordinary measures are needed. As we come together to combat this virus, I urge donors to act in both solidarity and in self-interest and make their response proportionate to the scale of the problem we face.”
The COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan is the international community’s primary fundraising vehicle to respond to the humanitarian impacts of the virus in low- and middle- income countries and support their efforts to fight it. The plan brings together appeals from WHO and other UN humanitarian agencies. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and NGO consortiums have been instrumental in helping shape the plan. They are key partners in delivering it and can access funding through it.
The plan provides help and protection that prioritize the most vulnerable. This includes older people, people with disabilities, and women and girls, given pandemics heighten existing levels of discrimination, inequality and gender-based violence. The plan includes programmes that respond to the growth in food insecurity.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said:
“The caseload in most countries in the Global Humanitarian Response Plan may seem small, but we know that the surveillance, laboratory testing and health systems’ capacity in these countries are weak. It is therefore likely that there is undetected community transmission happening. At the same time, confinement and other measures are having a major impact on essential health services. It’s extremely important to maintain these services, from vaccination to sexual and reproductive health, WASH and mental health.”
Abby Maxman, President & CEO of Oxfam America, said:
“NGOs, especially at the local level, are on the front lines of this crisis every day, and we are seeing that the most vulnerable among us are being hit the hardest. We are ramping up and adapting our response around the globe to provide life-saving aid such as clean water and sanitation, food, cash and other support. To make our response most effective, we now need to ensure our colleagues and partners have safe access to the most vulnerable communities and to see the rapid delivery of flexible funding. We owe it to our heroic colleagues and the communities they work with to keep their voices and needs at the centre of this response and to get this right.”
Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said:
“The pandemic is inflicting deep wounds across our world. For people who fled wars and persecution, the impact on their mostly hand-to-mouth existence and on their hosts has been devastating. Together with our NGO partners, the UN is determined to stay the course and deliver for refugees, internally displaced, stateless people, and their hosts, and ensure their inclusion in public health responses and social safety nets. The needs are vast, but not insurmountable, and only collective action to curb the threat of the coronavirus can save lives. Timely, generous and flexible response from all our supporters is critical.”
David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, said:
“On any given day, WFP offers a lifeline to nearly 100 million people. Unless we can keep those essential operations going, the health pandemic will soon be followed by a hunger pandemic. It is critical that the global community delivers a global humanitarian response – built around a strong logistics backbone – that will protect the world’s most vulnerable citizens from humanitarian catastrophe.”
Since the plan was first launched on 25 March, US$1 billion in generous donor funding has been raised. This includes US$166 million from OCHA’s pooled funds to support efforts across 37 countries, with US$95 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund and US$71 million from 12 Country-based Pooled Funds.
This has enabled:
Analysis by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs shows that the cost of protecting the most vulnerable 10 per cent of people in the world from the worst impacts is approximately US$90 billion. This is equivalent to 1 per cent of the current global stimulus package put in place by OECD and G20 countries.
It calculates that two thirds of those costs could be met by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund if they are supported to change the terms on which they help the most vulnerable countries. The remainder will need to come from increased official development assistance over the next 12 months.
#UNHCR; #IOM; #UN; #UNODC; #ProtectionAtSea
UNHCR, May 8 (Canadian-Media): Five years on from the 2015 ‘boat crisis’ in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, in which thousands of refugees and migrants in distress at sea were denied life-saving care and support, we are alarmed that a similar tragedy may be unfolding once more, UNHCR reports said.
Stranded Rohingya boat people sit on the deck of an abandoned smugglers’ boat drifting in the Andaman Sea, May 2015. © UNHCR/Christophe Archambault
We are deeply concerned by reports that boats full of vulnerable women, men and children are again adrift in the same waters, unable to come ashore, and without access to urgently needed food, water and medical assistance.
There is no easy solution to the irregular maritime movements of refugees and migrants. Deterring movements of people by endangering life is not only ineffective; it violates basic human rights, the law of the sea and the principles of customary international law by which all States are equally bound.
We call on States in the region to uphold the commitments of the 2016 Bali Declaration as well as ASEAN pledges to protect the most vulnerable and to leave no one behind. Not doing so may jeopardize thousands of lives of smuggled or trafficked persons, including the hundreds of Rohingya currently at sea.
As we have seen time and time again, in desperate situations – whether in search of safety and protection or basic survival – people will move, whatever obstacles are put in their way.
Saving lives must be the first priority. We recognize that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, States have erected border management measures to manage risks to public health. These measures, however, should not result in the closure of avenues to asylum, or in forcing people to either return to situations of danger or seek to land clandestinely, without health screening or quarantine. States can – and should – ensure that our common concerns relating to public health and security are matched with a re-affirmation of solidarity and compassion.
Faced again with the need to find a regional solution to a regional problem, as was the case during the 2015 crisis, it is important to build on the solid cooperation and planning that has already been undertaken by ASEAN and the Bali Process to address irregular maritime movements.
We call on States to continue and expand search and rescue efforts, and to ensure that landing procedures and reception conditions are safe and humane. Some States in the region have already demonstrated that health screening and quarantine arrangements can be implemented so that people can disembark in a safe, orderly and dignified manner. Search and rescue must be combined with arrangements for prompt disembarkation to a place of safety.
Now is the time for governments in the region to recall the commitments made in the Bali Declaration. We urge the Bali Process Co-Chairs to activate the Consultative Mechanism to convene affected countries and facilitate a timely and regional resolution of the crisis in the Andaman Sea.
We also call on States in the region that are not directly impacted to offer support to those States that do proceed with rescue and disembarkation.
IOM, UNHCR and UNODC reaffirm our support to States across the region to provide immediate assistance to asylum-seekers, refugees and vulnerable migrants, as well as to strengthen the broader response capacity to respond to irregular movements. UNHCR, IOM and UNODC have dedicated capacities that can be mobilized to assist States and local authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including support for initial health assistance, information dissemination, and where appropriate to ensure that quarantine procedures are followed.
In the longer term, a sustainable and comprehensive response to the movement of refugees and migrants cannot be achieved without concerted international cooperation. We encourage States to draw upon the Global Compact for Migration and Global Compact for Refugees to promote a sustainable and comprehensive response to the movement of refugees and migrants.
This includes establishing effective, predictable and equitable disembarkation arrangements anchored in a broader strategy with safe and legal migration options, including for family reunification.
In line with the United Nations Transnational Organized Crime Convention and its Protocols, signed by all States of the region, traffickers and smugglers should be investigated and prosecuted for their crimes in full accordance with international standards for human rights, while fully respecting the rights of victims. States should underscore the existing political commitment to zero tolerance towards the criminal elements facilitating movements and taking advantage of the vulnerable.
Equally, international action and solidarity are essential to tackle the drivers of refugee and irregular migrant movements, including statelessness, discrimination, deprivation, persecution, and other violations of human rights.
Without collective efforts to address these interlocking issues, this human tragedy will continue to unfold over and over again. We call on States to break this cycle now.
#UNHCR; #UNRefugeeAgency; #Violence; #MalianRefugees; #MentaoRefugee
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, condemns violence against Malian refugees, reportedly by the country’s security forces on May 2, housed in the Mentao refugee camp during which at least 32 people were injured, some seriously, UNHCR reports said.
An elderly Malian refugee and his family at Mentao camp in the Sahel region shortly after arriving in May, 2018. Image credit: © UNHCR/Moussa Bougma
The camp is located in Burkina Faso’s volatile Sahel region close to the border with Mali and hosts some 6,500 refugees.
According to refugee accounts, security forces burst into the camp in search of armed elements involved in an attack on soldiers earlier that day on nearby Djibo-Ouagadougou road. The incident had left one security personnel dead and another missing.
Security forces undertook house-to-house searches in the camp and allegedly forced refugee men and boys out of their homes, beating them with sticks, belts and ropes.
Refugees were accused of complicity with the unidentified gunmen and given an ultimatum to leave the camp within the next 72 hours or face death.
“The actions of the security forces as reported to us are totally unacceptable,” said Millicent Mutuli, UNHCR’s Director for the Regional Bureau for West and Central Africa. “Refugees living in Mentao camp should be protected,” she added.
UNHCR has called for an urgent investigation into the incident in a letter addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, while expressing grave concern for the safety of refugees.
All injured refugees are currently receiving treatment in the Djibo health centre, among them four with fractured limbs.
UNHCR reiterates its call on the Government of Burkina Faso to allow moving refugees from the camp to a safer location and has offered support to the authorities.
Violence had forced UNHCR to relocate its staff out of the camp in November 2019. Since then, access is sporadic to refugees, mostly women and children, living in dire conditions with schools, health centre and security post been forced to close.