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Conflict-driven hunger is getting worse
by WFP, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Conflict-driven hunger is getting worse, according to a snapshot of the eight places in the world with the highest number of people in need of emergency food support, and the link between them is “all too persistent and deadly” according to a new report delivered to the UN Security Council.
The new report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) follows on from a landmark Council resolution on preventing hunger in conflict zones, adopted in May.
The situation in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Yemen worsened in the latter part of 2018 largely because of conflict, although Somalia, Syria and the Lake Chad Basin, saw some improvements in line with improved security. In total, at least 56 million people are in need of urgent food and livelihood assistance across the eight theatres of war.
"This report clearly demonstrates the impact of armed violence on the lives and livelihoods of millions of men, women, boys and girls caught up in conflict," wrote FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva states in the report’s foreword.
"I would strongly encourage you to keep in mind that behind these seemingly dry statistics are real people experiencing rates of hunger that are simply unacceptable in the 21st century," he continued.
Violence against humanitarian workers is also on the rise, sometimes forcing organizations to suspend their life-saving operations, leaving those at risk, even more vulnerable. Every single country covered in the report, saw attacks carried out on aid workers and facilities last year.
"This report shows again the tragic link between conflict and hunger and how it still pervades far too much of the world. We need better and quicker access in all conflict zones, so we can get to more of the civilians who need our help. But what the world needs most of all is an end to the wars," wrote WFP chief David Beasley.
The Security Council''s Resolution 2417 condemns unequivocally, starvation as a tool of war. It calls on all parties to armed conflict to comply with their obligations under International Humanitarian Law to minimize the impact of military actions on civilians, including on food production and distribution, and to allow humanitarian access in a safe and timely manner to civilians needing lifesaving food, nutritional and medical assistance.
"The millions of men, women and children going hungry as a result of armed conflict will not be reduced unless and until these fundamental principles are followed", states the joint UN agency report.
Here''s the outlook for some of the countries in the spotlight:
* Yemen''s three-year war is a stark demonstration of the urgent need for a cessation of hostilities to address the world''s largest food security emergency. In its country analysis, the report states that conflicting parties disregarded the protected status of humanitarian facilities and personnel.
* The Democratic Republic of the Congo had the second highest number (13 million) of acutely food insecure people, driven by a rise in armed conflict, during the second half of 2018.
* In South Sudan, after more than five years of war, the lean season is expected to start earlier than normal, according to the report, pushing those in need of urgent support up to more than 5 million between January and March, 2019.
* In the Lake Chad basin including north-eastern Nigeria, Chad''s Lac region and Niger''s Diffa, where extremist groups are highly active, a major deterioration in food security is projected during this year''s lean season beginning in June, and three million people are expected to face acute food insecurity.
* In Afghanistan, the percentage of rural Afghans facing acute food deficits is projected to reach 47 percent (or 10.6 million people) by March if urgent life-saving assistance is not provided.
* In the Central African Republic, armed conflict remained the main driver of hunger in 2018, with 1.9 million people experiencing a severe lack of food.
* Access the report via the link below.
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South Sudan: Brutal sexual violence persists in northern Unity region – UN report
by UN Human Rights Office, agencies
14 Feb. 2019
A UN report released this week highlights persistently high levels of sexual violence in South Sudan’s northern Unity region, with at least 134 women and girls raped, and 41 having suffered other forms of sexual and physical violence just between September and December 2018.
Among the survivors, some were as young as eight. The actual level of sexual violence is likely to be considerably higher than the number of cases recorded.
The report by the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) warns that although attacks against civilians have decreased significantly since the peace agreement was signed on 12 September 2018, endemic conflict-related sexual violence continues in northern Unity.
The sexual violence was committed in a context of “pervasive impunity, which contributed to the normalization of violence against women and girls,” the report notes.
Almost 90 percent of the women and girls were raped by more than one perpetrator and often over several hours. Pregnant women and nursing mothers were also victims of sexual violence. In one incident alone on 17 December, in the village of Lang in Koch county, five women were gang-raped, four of whom were pregnant, including one who was nearly nine months pregnant.
Survivors of sexual violence described being brutally beaten by perpetrators with rifle butts, sticks, small firearms and cable wires, if they attempted to resist their assailants or after they were raped.
The ruthlessness of the attackers appears to be a consistent feature of the sexual violence documented, the report states. The report also indicates that the perpetrators had a certain level of premeditation. One survivor told how she and her friends were raped on three separate occasions. With each attack, the number of assailants increased significantly.
Most of the attacks are reported to have been carried out by youth militia groups and elements of the pro-Taban Deng Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO (TD)) as well as South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF). In a few cases, attacks were perpetrated by members of pro-Riek Machar Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO (RM).
The investigation found that multiple factors had contributed to the upsurge in sexual violence in the area, including large numbers of fighters on “standby” mode, awaiting implementation of security arrangements under the peace deal; the presence of many armed youth militia; and a lack of accountability for past sexual violence at the individual and command level.
Given the destruction of livelihoods, forced displacement and food insecurity after years of civil war, many women and girls have to travel long distances through high-risk areas in search of food, water and firewood, the report states. The report notes a feeling of resignation amongst survivors, and a sense of normalization surrounding the risk of being subjected to sexual violence.
“We women do not have a choice,” one 30-year-old survivor from Koch County said. “There is no alternative for us. If we go by the main road, we are raped. If we go by the bush, we are raped. I was raped among others in the same area repeatedly on three different occasions. We avoided the road because we heard horrible stories that women and girls are grabbed while passing through and are raped, but the same happened to us. There is no escape – we are all raped.”
“The volatility of the situation in South Sudan combined with the lack of accountability for violations and abuses committed throughout Unity, likely leads armed actors to believe that they can get away with rape and other horrific forms of sexual violence,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
“Sadly, we have continued to receive reports of rape and gang rape in northern Unity since the beginning of this year.”
“I urge the Government of South Sudan to take adequate measures – including those laid out in the peace agreement – to protect women and girls, to promptly and thoroughly investigate all allegations of sexual violence and to hold the perpetrators accountable through fair trials,” Bachelet added.
The High Commissioner also called on the authorities to ensure that humanitarian organizations can conduct their work without fear of reprisals and with unobstructed access to victims.
Upon receiving initial reports of the increase in reported cases of sexual violence, UNMISS immediately engaged with political leaders and security services. The Mission also increased peacekeeping patrols and cleared foliage from roads to make it more difficult for attackers to conceal their presence. UNMISS has been operating a mobile court in hotspots, such as Bentiu and Malakal, to help address the issue of impunity, and intends to work with local judicial authorities to support such mobile courts in prosecuting crimes more widely across the country. http://bit.ly/2STFbtG
14 Dec. 2018
UN human rights experts say South Sudan leaders should seize the opportunity of the revitalized peace process to ensure accountability and help victims of the conflict rebuild their lives.
South Sudan’s leaders must seize the unique opportunity the recent peace deal provides and work to stop the violence completely, ensure accountability, restore peace and assist the countless victims of this damaging conflict to rebuild their lives, says the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan at the conclusion of the first leg of their official visit to the region.
“Everybody we spoke with during our visit expressed hope that the agreement will lead to durable and sustainable peace”, commented Commission Chairperson Yasmin Sooka. “Most South Sudanese are desperate to return to normal life and put the conflict behind them once and for all, yet they want to ensure that the conditions are right so they can live free of fear and want”, she added.
The visit of the Human Rights Council-mandated Commission, their sixth to the region since the Commission was first established in March 2016, comes less than three months after the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement for Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan in Addis Ababa on 12 September, and the subsequent peace celebrations held in Juba on 31 October.
The Commission, supported by a team of investigators and researchers based in Juba, is also gauging how this new phase could lead to return for the more than four million South Sudanese displaced by the four and a half year conflict and reparations for all its victims.
Their visit included refugee camps in East Darfur where some 100,000 South Sudanese are settled. In accordance with their mandate, the Commission is also collecting and preserving evidence with a view to combatting impunity, and in that regard is assisting the work of a future Hybrid Court, as laid out in Chapter Five of the Peace Agreement.
“Many of those we spoke with stressed that establishing the Hybrid Court, together with the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing, and the Compensation and Reparation Authority, could help contribute to stabilizing the country. This would certainly send a strong signal to those who have suffered violations in connection with the conflict", stated Commissioner Andrew Clapham.
The Commission arrived in South Sudan, shortly after reports began emerging of attacks in the northern town of Bentiu, close to the Sudanese border, where over 150 women and girls were reportedly sexually assaulted and raped over the course of several days in late November.
Accountability for conflict related sexual violence has been a core element of the Commission’s work given how widespread and systematic the use of sexual violence has been by the warring parties in South Sudan and the endemic impunity for such crimes. More than 65 per cent of women and girls in the country reportedly have experienced sexual violence at least once in their lives. http://bit.ly/2UNkoG2
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