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Conflict, violence, natural disasters displacing millions of people worldwide
by UN Refugee Agency, NRC, IDMC, agencies
8:35am 23rd Oct, 2019
13 Nov. 2019
Supporting the humanitarian needs of Venezuelan refugees in Latin America - UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and IOM, the International Organization for Migration have launched a US$1.35 billion regional plan appealing for funding support to respond to the increasing humanitarian needs of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean and the communities hosting them.
As of early November 2019, there were approximately 4.6 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela around the world. Nearly 80 per cent are in Latin American and Caribbean countries - with no prospect for return in the short to medium term. If current trends continue, 6.5 million Venezuelans could be outside the country by the end of 2020.
The 2020 Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) is a coordination and a fundraising mechanism established and implemented by 137 organizations. These are working across the region, aiming to reach almost four million people - including Venezuelan refugees and migrants and host communities - in 17 countries.
The Response Plan is the result of a wide-ranging field-driven consultation process involving host governments, civil society and faith-based organizations, local communities and donors, as well as refugees and migrants themselves.
The plan includes actions in nine key sectors: health; education; food security; integration; protection; nutrition; shelter; relief items and humanitarian transport; and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
In addition to the emergency response, the 2020 RMRP puts a strong focus on ensuring the social and economic inclusion of refugees and migrants.
“Only through a coordinated approach will it be possible to effectively address the large-scale needs, which continue to increase and evolve as the current crisis deepens,” said Eduardo Stein, Joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants. “To this end, the appeal is one of the key instruments to mobilize resources for more collective and concerted action.”
“Despite many efforts and other initiatives, the dimension of the problem is greater than the current response capacity, so it is necessary that the international community redouble these efforts and contributions to help the countries and international organizations responding to the crisis,” Stein said. “More support is needed to address immediate humanitarian needs.”
12 Nov. 2019
Urgent support needed for thousands displaced by six months of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri and North Kivu provinces.
In June, armed men attacked Francine’s village in the Congo’s Ituri Province. She fled with her husband, two children and two nephews after her sister was killed. “I fled with my family during the night. We didn’t know where we were going but at least we were able to save our lives,” she says.
Francine arrived in the town of Drodro, finding shelter with 740 other families in an old church, transformed into a large dormitory. It was crowded and families sometimes had to sleep outside.
She was later relocated to a large temporary hall. “I feel safer now as it provides more privacy and some measure of comfort,” says the 24-year-old.
Armed groups have staged six months of killings, rapes and abductions in this part of eastern Congo, forcing over 300,000 people to flee their homes.
Local communities are welcoming, but their hospitals and schools are stretched. In Drodro, some 16,000 internally displaced people have arrived in recent months, mostly women and children.
Like Francine, Denise, 22, also fled her village in June when armed men attacked.
“They came early in the morning, causing everyone to panic and flee in different directions,” she recalls. “Since then, I have no news from my husband or family.”
She prays every day that they are safe. Pregnant before she fled, she gave birth to her baby whom she called ‘Chance’ - luck in English - in a makeshift shelter. Later, she moved to a communal shelter set up by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
UNHCR expressed alarm today over the dire living conditions of the displaced and has stepped up its response to the growing crisis by constructing emergency shelters to help keep people safe. Basic items like blankets, laundry soap and jerry cans have also been distributed, while women and girls also receive sanitary items for their personal hygiene.
UNHCR needs US$ 150 million to respond to refugees and displaced people’s needs in Congo this year, but so far only 57 per cent has been received. Funding shortages are severely affecting the displaced people’s ability to meet their own basic needs and efforts to be self-reliant.
Liz Ahua, UNHCR’s Representative in the country, said the number of displaced people is rising. “Thousands of displaced people want to return home but have to wait until the situation is safer,” she said.
11 Oct. 2019
Conflict, violence in Burkina Faso displaces nearly half a million people.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is joining its partners to warn about the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Burkina Faso’s central and northern regions where each day the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilian are being disrupted by insecurity and violence. Some 486,000 have been forced to flee within the country, 267,000 of whom in the past 3 months alone. A further 16,000 are refugees in neighbouring countries.
The escalating armed violence is causing an unprecedented humanitarian emergency in the Sahel. While visiting Kaya, northeast of Ouagadougou, and Barsalogho, in the central Sanmatenga Province, we witnessed firsthand the dramatic impact of these tragic events on the affected population.
Thousands of people are on the move, exhausted and trying to find safety among host families or at transit and official travel sites. Many have been repeatedly displaced. The prospects for their immediate return to where they come from are poor.
As a result, their needs and those of host families, already vulnerable by food and nutrition crises in the region, are growing. Women and adolescent girls face particular threats given that health and other essential services are lacking.
People we met had endured horrifying and traumatic events, with reports of more than 500 being killed in 472 attacks and counter-military operations since last year. We heard reports that basic services such as health care and education, as well as freedom of movement, have been severely affected by the attacks and by generalized insecurity.
Currently, all of Burkina Faso’s 13 regions host people fleeing violence. The Centre-Nord region hosts the largest number of displaced people - more than 196,000 in Sanmatenga province alone - followed by the Sahel region - 133,000 in Soum province.
Some 1.5 million people are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in the country. We also remain extremely worried about 31,000 Malian refugees also affected by the ongoing conflict.
One thing was absolutely clear. Humanitarian needs are rising fast as conflict and insecurity continues to devastate hundreds of thousands of lives. Hosting communities are already impoverished, living on margins themselves.
Food, water, shelter, and healthcare has to be arranged and reinforced immediately if we want to avoid another tragedy within this tragedy. Malnutrition and starvation are a real threat.
We need urgent resources to launch a coordinated humanitarian response – an immediate necessity to save lives.
Armed groups have also intensified attacks in Burkina Faso neighbouring countries of Mali and Niger. Regions around the three countries’ borders are new hotspots of violence. Operating in sparsely populated, impoverished regions with little Government presence, armed groups are roving across borders and expanding areas of influence.
Attacks have already spilled over into Benin in 2019. Overall, 5.4 million people in the affected regions need urgent assistance, including 3.2 million in Mali, and 700,000 people in western Niger.
Oct. 2019
Refugee returns to Burundi must be voluntary and not under pressure
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is repeating its call to ensure that refugee returns from Tanzania to Burundi remain voluntary and not under pressure, following a bilateral agreement between the two governments in August this year to increase return rates.
Recently, we have noted mounting pressure on Burundian refugees and asylum-seekers to return home - despite assurances from the authorities that all returns will be voluntary and free from intimidation, and no refugee will be forcibly returned.
We continue to call upon both governments to uphold refugees’ freedom of choice with regard to return, and to ensure that returns are made in safety and dignity, with UNHCR having access on both sides of the border to carry out its protection mandate, including monitoring returnees in Burundi.
UNHCR reiterates that the principle of voluntary return requires that repatriation should be based on a freely-exercised choice, devoid of coercion or pressure, and that UNHCR has full access to refugees in order to establish the voluntary nature of any returns.
UNHCR remains firmly committed to supporting durable solutions for refugees in Tanzania, including voluntary return to Burundi for those who want to go back. Others will need continued protection and support in Tanzania.
UNHCR is working with local officials to ensure refugee returns are voluntary and only taking place under the existing three-party agreement between the Tanzanian and Burundian governments and the UN Refugee Agency. Some 79,000 refugees have made the choice to return to Burundi under this arrangement since 2017.
UNHCR looks forward to the upcoming meeting of the Tripartite Commission, scheduled for late November – the best forum to discuss concerns and seek solutions, to ensure that refugees who have made the informed, free and voluntary decision to return can do so in safety and in dignity.
Tanzania currently hosts 206,000 Burundian refugees, the majority living in three refugee camps in western parts of the country.
Oct. 2019
Waking up to the millions of people displaced within their own countries, by Alexandra Bilak from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
12 million people have been displaced since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011. Roughly half have found refuge in neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and a very small number have gone further afield to Europe. But no less than 6 million have stayed behind and are currently displaced inside their own country.
The numbers have now swelled again in the wake of the Turkish attack on the Kurdish-held northern border area of the country. Nearly 180,000 people are estimated to have been displaced since 9 October from the districts of Al Hasakeh, Al Malikeyyeh, Quamishli and Ras al Ain. They join the 800,000 more who were displaced in Syria in the first six months of 2019.
The world over, it is the same story. We estimated that by 1 January 2019, over 41 million people worldwide were uprooted within their own countries as a result of conflict. This is almost twice the global number of refugees, and it does not even include the millions more displaced by disasters: 7 million worldwide in the first half of this year alone.
But as the numbers of internally displaced people have been rising, the attention they are given has not.
For a start, the true scale of the problem remains elusive. Data on internal displacement is still inconsistent, mostly due to difficult access, lack of capacity and consistency in reporting, and political sensitivities. Stories of internally displaced people generally feature far less in the world news than those of refugees or migrants.
While there are a set of soft law principles at the global level and a legally binding convention for Africa, no single UN agency has the mandate to respond to internal displacement, which straddles humanitarian and development agendas. National approaches to the issue have varied from context to context, and been dependent on political will and local capacity.
Sovereignty has often been invoked as the main barrier to progress. Some governments have not wanted others meddling in their internal affairs, not least when they themselves have been responsible for causing the displacement in the first place.
Too many have invoked ‘sovereignty as immunity’ as an excuse to ignore internal displacement, a situation not helped by it being seen predominantly as a humanitarian issue, or as a violation of human rights.
The result is that the international policy debate has been driven by a handful of committed ''champion states'', and not by those with large numbers of internally displaced people.
But there may just be a wind of change now as the world re-evaluates the issue, and states step up to the realisation that it is in their national interest to take the lead in finding solutions to address the immediate humanitarian needs, as well as the longer-term and deeper-rooted development challenges that internal displacement poses.
This is why countries with large numbers of internally displaced people are increasingly coming together, sharing both their commonality and their particularity. They are squaring up to the numbers, realities and solutions for their citizens uprooted within their own borders, and making them part of their national development plans and strategies.
At the second global internal displacement conference in Geneva earlier this month, there was a new and palpable sense of government responsibility, emboldened by the sharing of best practice and of existing, workable solutions from all over the world.
Iraq told a story of collective compassion as to how 6 million people living in internal displacement in 2014 became nearer to 2 million today.
Georgia shared the experience of its Ministry for Internally Displaced Persons, coordinating a nationwide approach to the displaced who make up over 7% of its population, one of the highest proportions in the world.
Fiji spoke of its inclusive approaches to relocation, and of involving women and children in planning how communities will be forced to move as water levels rise.
Further inspiration came from new and robust national laws in countries like Niger and Colombia, and in stories from as far afield as Kibera in Kenya, Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, and Mariupol in Ukraine.
Every success story bore witness to national strategies informed by a local definition of needs, and by the involvement of those displaced and by host communities themselves.
At long last a tide is turning, as the world wakes up to the scale and the risks, but also the opportunities, posed by what has now become one of the biggest challenges of our times.
It can awaken further as we quantify the social and economic cost of internal displacement, and acknowledge that, if left unaddressed, it can put a serious brake on countries'' longer-term stability and development.
We continue to help countries collect better data so that they can assess the risk of and prepare for future displacement.
Countries are impatient. In particular, those facing the existential threat posed by climate change – in the Pacific Islands and elsewhere – are likely to face millions more internally displaced in the future. Responses will remain State-led, so States are increasingly seeking guidance on how to do all this.
Meanwhile the UN Secretary General has responded to the call of 57 countries – many of them with substantial internally displaced populations – to set up a High Level Panel which can equip countries, and bring the issue to its rightful place on the global agenda. The shared goal should be ‘sovereignty as opportunity’, and the overarching principle that of listening and respectful dialogue.
There are at least 41 million urgent reasons to rejoice in the fact that the internal displacement challenge is finally coming out of the shadows. Ignoring it would only prolong the agonies of those who, as in Syria right now, are desperately seeking safety and a brighter future. The solutions to displacement, and the brighter future ahead, will only ever come from within.

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