The worsening humanitarian situation in Idlib, Syria
by OCHA, Mercycorps, NRC, OHCHR, Unicef, agencies
24 July 2019
More children killed in Idlib in last four weeks than all of 2018 reports Save the Children
The number of children killed in Idlib in the last four weeks has exceeded the total for 2018, Save the Children and its partner organization Hurras Network have found, as the latest escalation of fighting claimed the lives of eight children on Monday.
The escalation in violence which started at the end of April has now resulted in the deaths of at least 400 people, including 90 children, and displaced 440,000 people. Save the Children and Hurras Network can confirm that at least 33 children have been killed since June 24th, compared to 31 children killed during all of 2018.
This week has been the deadliest since fighting escalated in northwest Syria – which is home to 3 million people. Multiple airstrikes and shelling have left more than 66 people dead and hundreds injured. Bodies, some torn into pieces or burnt beyond recognition, are still being recovered from the rubble.
Many of the victims are women and children, some of them suffering the most horrific injuries, according to the UN and field reports.
“The current situation in Idlib is a nightmare. The injuries we are seeing are horrific. It’s clear that once again children have been killed and injured in indiscriminate attacks,” Sonia Khush, Save the Children Syria Response Director, said.
“The bombardment is relentless. It seems as though the different sides have stopped fighting each other and are fighting us, civilians, now. It’s just senseless brutality. I saw dozens of people killed in the marketplace, torn to pieces, including many young children who were playing on the street. They should have been safe,” Ahmad*, an eyewitness, told Save the Children.
Humanitarian agencies are already struggling to respond to the displacement across northwest Syria. Civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, continue to be damaged or destroyed.
In the last two weeks, at least four medical facilities have been impacted by the violence, as well as a water station serving more than 80,000 people, and several schools, settlements for displaced civilians, markets and bakeries, according to the UN. At least eight water facilities that provided drinking water for around 250,000 people in southern Idlib have been attacked in the last two months alone, as summer temperatures soar and civilians are at increased threat of diseases.
“The children of northwest Syria have been caught in violent conflict for 80 days with no lull. They have been denied education, food, healthcare and forced to sleep under the trees in open fields for months now,” Khush added.
Across Syria, 2.1 million children are out of school and 1.3 million are at risk of dropping out. In the northwest, at least 44 schools have been damaged or destroyed recently, as attacks on educational facilities and personnel have increased. Save the Children is calling on all parties to the conflict to respect International Humanitarian Law and human rights law, and to place the protection of civilians first. Schools, hospitals and other vital civilian infrastructure must be protected from attacks.
Another deadly week in Idlib. (Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect)
At least 39 civilians were killed at a vegetable market in the city of Maarat al-Numan on Monday, 22 July. The market was allegedly hit by Russian airstrikes, although the Russian government denies this. According to the UN, at least 20 civilians were also killed by airstrikes in other parts of Idlib Governorate, marking one of the deadliest days since government and Russian forces escalated their offensive on the region on 29 April. The UN claims that more than 330,000 people have been displaced and 400 killed since the end of April, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that more than 700 civilians have been killed.
The Idlib offensive has been characterized by the deliberate targeting of civilian-populated areas, including the use of illegal cluster munitions, barrel bombs and incendiary weapons. The armed extremist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which controls most of Idlib, also continues to indiscriminately fire rockets towards government-held areas of nearby Aleppo and Hama.
Urging the UN Security Council to take action, on 18 July the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, said that “Since 1 July at least six health facilities, five schools, three water stations, two bakeries, and one ambulance have been damaged or destroyed… The carnage must stop.” Deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including medical facilities, violate International Humanitarian Law and may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The international community must act now to protect the lives of the millions of civilians living in Idlib governorate. Syrian government forces and their Russian allies, as well as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and all other armed groups, should all commit to an immediate ceasefire and the full implementation of the September 2018 demilitarized zone agreement.
Briefing to the UN Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Idlib by Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
''I briefed this Council one month ago on the worsening humanitarian situation in Idlib. Ten days later, my deputy alerted you to further violence and destruction. Violence, involving Syrian Government forces and their allies, armed opposition forces, and the Security Council-listed terrorist organization Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, continued throughout the holy Eid al-Fitr period.
It has still not stopped despite the announcement of a truce on 12 June.
Over the last six weeks, the conduct of hostilities has resulted in more than 230 civilian deaths, including 69 women and 81 children. Hundreds more have been injured.
Since 1 May, an estimated 330,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, moving northwards towards the border with Turkey. That''s almost double Mr. President the number of newly displaced people since my last briefing to you.
A recent rapid assessment found that many of them have moved multiple times since the start of the conflict, some of them have moved as often as ten times. This is a particular feature of the Idlib area. People fled initially from other parts of Syria, then people moved again and again and again, constantly searching for safety.
Camps for the displaced people are overcrowded, with many people forced to stay in the open. Those who remain in towns and villages close to the fighting live in constant fear of the next attack. Many are crowding into basements, seeking refuge from air strikes, volleys of shells and mortar rounds, from fighting which continue to threaten what is left of their homes.
Hospitals, schools and markets have been hit. Power stations have been affected. Crops have been burned. Children are forced out of school.
We have had reports this morning of another 19 people killed yesterday by airstrikes and artillery shelling. And this past weekend, civilians were killed by mortar and rocket attacks in the Al-Wadehy area to the south of Aleppo city.
In short, we are facing a humanitarian disaster unfolding before our eyes. There is no denying the facts.
The UN and its partners have been responding with emergency food assistance through ready-to-eat rations, reaching more than 190,000 people in May. In addition, the UN and its partners have been reaching nearly 800,000 people with general food assistance.
Water, health and sanitation supplies have been distributed to some 180,000 displaced people, and water trucking has been made available to people in some 342 camps and informal settlements.
None of this, incidentally, would have been possible if this Council had not renewed resolution 2165. Cross-border assistance remains the only means of reaching people in and around Idlib.
The UN and the brave humanitarian workers on the ground are doing all they can. They are risking their lives to help others.
But the response is stretched and a further increase in need brought on by additional fighting would risk seeing it overwhelmed.
To this day, we continue to receive reports of attacks impacting civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals. Since April, according to reports, 37 schools have been affected.
More than 250,000 children are out of school. Some 400,000 students have had their exams cancelled. And 94 schools are currently being used as shelters. As UNICEF said last week, no parent should fear sending their child to a school that may be bombed later that day.
I need to remind you again Mr. President of the incidents affecting health facilities. 26 incidents affecting healthcare facilities in northwestern Syria have been confirmed by the World Health Organization since late April. Eight more than when I last briefed you. Two of those facilities were located in an area controlled by the Government of Syria.
Many other hospitals have closed out of fear of being attacked. These attacks don''t just claim innocent lives. They also deprive thousands of civilians of basic health services, even as fighting intensifies around them.
As you know, some of these hospitals had been deconflicted through the UN''s de-confliction mechanism. All parties have specific obligations to refrain from attacking protected sites under international humanitarian law, regardless of whether they have been de-conflicted or not. It is appalling that these sites were hit in the first place. But hitting a facility whose coordinates were shared as part of the UN''s de-confliction system is simply intolerable.
A number of partners now feel that supplying geographical coordinates to be given to the warring parties effectively paints a target on their backs. Some have drawn the conclusion that hospital bombings are a deliberate tactic aimed at terrorizing people. This whole episode raises deep questions about the de-confliction system. We are discussing this internally, and I will tell you what our conclusions are at the regular monthly humanitarian briefing that we are due to give you next week.
UN Security Council-listed terrorist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has a significant presence in Idlib and is responsible for its own share of the suffering there. Countering HTS is plainly a major challenge.
But counter-terrorism efforts cannot in any way absolve States of their obligations to uphold international humanitarian law. And that is the bottom line, Mr President, just as the Secretary-General said earlier, international humanitarian law must be upheld and attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure need to stop and they need to stop immediately''.
http://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/under-secretary-general-humanitarian-affairs-and-emergency-relief-91 http://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/statement-mark-cutts-deputy-regional-humanitarian-coordinator-syria-0 http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(19)31564-8/fulltext
44 Syrian and International NGOs Call for Immediate End to Attacks on Civilians and Hospitals in Idlib, Syria
Three million civilians in northwest Syria are scared and many are homeless. With no concrete actions taken beyond political statements and promises, Syria and the world may soon be witnessing the “worst humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century”. Rescue and medical workers on the ground are warning that they have not seen such ferocious attacks in eight years in Idlib. If the conflict continues to escalate, as many as 700,000 people could be displaced from their homes in Syria’s last opposition stronghold.
According to the United Nations, over 200,000 people were forced to flee the continuous bombing and shelling of towns in southern Idlib and northern Hama and have few options to seek safety. Up to 80,000 of those who have fled are sleeping rough with no shelter, and many others are crammed into overcrowded homes.
Since the beginning of the escalation at the end of April, the United Nations confirmed at least 105 have been killed, 3 IDP sites were impacted, and 17 schools have been damaged or destroyed. The United Nations has counted 23 attacks on 20 health facilities, some of them hit twice. 49 have had to suspend their operations due to attacks or insecurity.
Some of the health facilities that were attacked were on the de-conflicted list provided to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
“Attacks on community hospitals, including specialized maternity centers left thousands without medical care in Aleppo and East Ghouta,” said Dr. Ahmad Tarakji, SAMS President.
“Last year, our medical staff on the ground agreed to share hospital coordinates as part of the UN de-confliction mechanism: The United Nations has a responsibility to protect these hospitals and present a tangible plan to deter such attacks. The people of Syria have the right to know who is attacking and destroying their hospitals.”
Half of the three million people living in Idlib are internally displaced already and have experienced this violence time and again over the course of this conflict. The memory of Aleppo, East Ghouta, and Daraa, is still fresh in their minds, as they fear the latest offensive is only an indicator to the full-scale assault to come.
“Half of Syria’s population has already been displaced by eight years of war, yet the worst may still come,” said Arnaud Quemin, Mercy Corps’ Syria Country Director. “While entire communities were forced to flee and sought shelter in Idlib, three million people there, half of whom are internally displaced already, now fear they will have nowhere to go if war comes again to their doorsteps.”
There is no justification for ongoing attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure. Parties to the conflict have a legal obligation to protect civilians and spare them from the worst effects of the fighting and to avoid attacking schools, hospitals and homes. Clearly these rules are being violated in northwest Syria today.
In response to the recent alarming chapters of military escalation, we, the undersigned Syrian and international human rights, humanitarian and solidarity organizations, urge all parties to act quickly to ensure the protection of civilians in northwest Syria and compliance with international humanitarian law:
The United Nations Security Council members have a mandate to ensure the protection of civilians and maintain international peace and security. They cannot keep hiding behind divisions in the Council to allow the worst to happen in Idlib, and should exercise all the pressure they can on warring parties to end the hostilities, stop the systematic attacks on civilian infrastructure, and ensure that cross-border and cross-line humanitarian access is facilitated to allow aid agencies to reach all communities in need, in compliance with UNSC resolution 2393.
We also call on UNSC members to work with Turkey and Russia to honor their commitments to the so-called demilitarized zone agreement signed by both parties in September 2018 and implement an immediate ceasefire over the entirety of northwest Syria.
Members of the Security Council should support the Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen to engage parties and broker a peaceful resolution of the security situation in Idlib to avert further bloodshed and urge all parties to return to the table to negotiate a political settlement to the conflict.
May 2019 (OCHA, agencies)
Since 28 April, ongoing conflict in northwest Syria between Government of Syria (GoS) forces and its allies and nonstate armed groups (NSAGs) has continued to escalate. On the morning of 8 May, GoS forces began ground operations against NSAGs, impacting on civilian populations, infrastructure and service provision in northern Hama and southern Idleb governorates. There are reports of people being killed and injured as a result of the recent escalation. While information is difficult to verify, unconfirmed reports indicate that more than 120 civilians, including women and children, have been killed, while many others have been injured.
Between 29 April and 9 May, approximately 180,000 individuals fled the fighting, some 164,000 people fled to northern and eastern Idleb Governorate and around 16,000 people to northern and western Aleppo. Of note, there are reports of many communities that have been abandoned as their populations have fled. However, some people have stayed behind, many of whom are vulnerable. Many are dependent on humanitarian services for their daily needs.
There are an estimated 3 million people in the de-escalation zone in Idleb, of these 1.3 million are internally displaced people (IDPs). In the area impacted to date, there are an estimated 2.1 million people (Humanitarian Needs Overview, August 2018).
Many of the population affected have been displaced in the past, for some this has been multiple displacements. As such, their ability to cope is reduced or compromised. The areas that recently displaced people are moving towards are already densely populated – often to areas with camps at full or excess capacity, putting additional strain on services. Reports indicate that rents have increased fivefold - where housing is available - since 1 May.
Impact on civilians and civilian infrastructure
Since the escalation of conflict on 28 April, many civilian structures have been impacted by airstrikes and/or shelling. On 7 May, two primary health care centres in Kafr Nabutha and Algab, both in Madiq Castle Sub-district in Hama Governorate were damaged. On 8 May, the Kafr Zeita Primary Health Centre in Hama Governorate was also damaged, bringing the total number of health facilities reported to be damaged or destroyed to 15 in this period.
Suspension of humanitarian activities
The impact of the recent increase in conflict on the civilian population, civilian infrastructure and the provision of basic service is deeply worrying. Many humanitarian responders have been forced to suspend their activities in the conflict area. Some organizations suspended activities as their premises were damaged, destroyed or rendered unsafe by the violence.
Others have suspended activities in order to keep their staff and beneficiaries safe, or because the beneficiary population has left. As of 8 May, at least 16 humanitarian partners have suspended their operations in areas impacted by conflict.
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Syria: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights alarmed by upsurge in attacks and civilian casualties in Idlib.
The intensified ground-based bombardment of Idlib and surrounding areas by government forces and their allies in recent weeks, coupled with a series of attacks by non-State actors, has led to numerous civilian casualties and left some one million people, including hundreds of thousands of displaced people, in an extremely vulnerable situation, the UN Human Rights Chief said on Tuesday.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on all parties involved, as well as external governments with influence, to ensure that the protection of civilians is held paramount in the planning and execution of all military operations in accordance with international law.
The bombardment of the "demilitarized buffer zone" that includes Idlib and areas of northern Hama and western Aleppo Governorates started to escalate in December 2018 and has further intensified in recent days. At the same time, there has been an increase of infighting amongst non-State actors and in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in areas they control, including by the extremist group, Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS).
"Large numbers of civilians, including hundreds of thousands of displaced people, in Idlib and northern Aleppo are living an intolerable existence," said Bachelet. "They are trapped between the escalation of hostilities and bombardment on the one hand, and, on the other, are forced to live under the extremist rule of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and other extremist fighters who regularly carry out targeted killings, abductions and arbitrary detention."
"I urge all the parties involved to, first and foremost, ensure that civilians themselves, and civilian infrastructure, are protected as required by international humanitarian and international human rights law," the High Commissioner said. "The principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution must be fully respected, and military objects must not be placed in the vicinity of civilians." http://bit.ly/2ICJcin
Nov. 2018 (UN News)
A fragile ceasefire between Government forces and opposition fighters has held in Idlib for 10 weeks, guaranteed by Russia, Turkey and Iran, who re-committed to the deal at talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, this week said Jan Egeland, co-chair of the International Syria Support Group''s Humanitarian Access Task Force and Senior Advisor of the UN Special Envoy for Syria.
Mr. Egeland, who welcomed the original deal, warned at the time that the alternative – clashes between opposition and Government forces – would cause massive bloodshed and destruction similar to that inflicted on other major cities, including Homs, Aleppo, and Raqqa.
In his last press encounter as co-chair of the humanitarian task force before stepping down, Mr. Egeland offered insight into the difficulties of achieving the mechanism’s two main aims since it was established in early 2016: securing aid access and protecting civilians.
Among its challenges were the fact that towns and villages had been besieged, hundreds of thousands of people had died and 12 million had been driven from their homes during the more than seven-year war, he noted.
Turning to the 23 countries that attended task force meetings in Geneva, Mr. Egeland insisted that “too few acted courageously” to hold back the warring parties’ worst excesses against civilians.
“All hell was let loose on them and no one was willing and able to shield and protect them,” he said, adding nonetheless that “what happened here in Geneva helped cause some of the few really achievements, also in the protection of civilians”.
The task force’s successes included securing aid deliveries to the majority of people in besieged areas in 2016, Mr. Egeland said, compared with only two per cent a year earlier, and organizing the first high-altitude air-drops of aid to besieged people in Deir Ez-Zor in eastern Syria.
In a joint statement released from Astana – where regular meetings have been held since January 2017 – Iran, Russia and Turkey reiterated their support for the UN-backed launch of a Constitutional Committee for Syria in Geneva “that would enjoy support of the Syrian parties…at the soonest possible time”.
Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, who has been leading efforts to form a Constitutional Committee, noted on Thursday that the Astana meeting had achieved “no tangible progress” in resolving a 10-month stalemate on its composition, as had been outlined in Sochi in January this year.
Aid groups fear for civilians in Idlib as ceasefire deal deadline looms - Report from CARE, Mercy Corps, International Rescue Committee, Save the Children
Four international aid agencies working in Syria’s north-west region of Idlib have warned of dire consequences for millions of civilians if the Russia-Turkey deal, due to be implemented by October 15, doesn’t result in a sustained reduction of violence in this overcrowded province.
Local organizations that partner with CARE International, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Mercy Corps and Save the Children, as well as civilians receiving aid have expressed fears that violence could spiral out of control in the next few days if either the deal collapses or fighting escalates in areas not covered by it. Almost 3 million people live in Idlib, and it is estimated that even a limited military offensive would displace hundreds of thousands of people.
“Idlib residents, and aid workers hold their breath as the deadline for a political deal looms. While the terms of the agreement are known, we don’t know what the plan is if parties on the ground fail to implement it. Will it be all out war? Over and over again, similar deals have simply ended in a bloodbath. Civilians caught in this stand-off must be spared at all costs,” said Wouter Schaap, Syria country director for CARE International.
“The people of Idlib need a deal that offers long-term protection to civilians and allows aid to reach all those in need. Aid efforts are already stretched to the maximum in Idlib, where the population has doubled in recent years as people relocated there from areas retaken by the government of Syria. Aid organizations are at full capacity responding to the current needs of both displaced people and local communities. Though we are prepared to respond to any emergency, if this deal falls short and military operations start, many hundreds of thousands will struggle to get the help they will so badly need,” said Lorraine Bramwell, IRC Syria Country Director.
In September, Russia and Turkey agreed to create a demilitarized area in Idlib, which armed groups must leave by a provisional deadline of October 15. Provided it is implemented in line with International Humanitarian Law and does not result in an increase in violence in areas outside the demilitarized zone, the agreement could offer a potential lifeline to the people of Idlib. Civilians have already lived through years of war, during which many families have been forced to flee their homes multiple times.
Now, reports that different parties to the conflict are refusing to engage with the terms of the deal and commit to it long-term threaten to undermine the hope of a reduction in violence in Idlib.
“We already see the impact of this nerve-wracking situation on children, who tell us they are terrified at the prospect of more violence. The school year has barely started, but the facilities we support are making contingency plans to suspend classes and training young children on how to evacuate in the event of an attack. Many children in Idlib have been forced to flee their homes up to a dozen times, forcing them to miss years of school and causing stress and upset. Renewed conflict would compound the suffering of more than a million children in Idlib,” said Sonia Khush, Syria Response Director at Save the Children.
“Some people we help have stocked up on food, expecting to be stuck at home for days on end if fighting resumes. Others have packed their bags and are ready to move at the first airstrike. In both cases, our aid workers might not be able to reach those people if the security situation doesn’t allow them to move. And everyone fears losing their life if bombs start raining from the sky. What we need is a deal that not only holds but is also extended to other parts of Idlib and guarantees full humanitarian access to people in need,” said Arnaud Quemin, Syria Country Director for Mercy Corps.
http://bit.ly/2yCvRy6 http://bit.ly/2Olxs6g http://bit.ly/2CkQ8xj http://www.icrc.org/en/document/syria-hostilities-idlib-should-not-produce-massive-civilian-suffering http://bit.ly/2OF7ZAa http://bbc.in/2Bgqucu http://www.unicef.org/emergencies/syria/ http://www.unocha.org/syria http://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/whole-of-syria http://reliefweb.int/country/syr http://news.un.org/en/tags/syria
* Children and armed conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic. Of Syria’s 6.2 Million displaced people, 2.6 million are children, roughly 42 percent: http://undocs.org/s/2018/969
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Millions of Congolese without aid as ongoing conflicts rob hope for peace
by OCHA, UNHRC, NRC, Unicef, agencies
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
2 July 2019
Food aid is being tripled for troubled Ituri province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to respond to what the World Food Programme (WFP) has described as the world’s second largest hunger crisis in the world, after Yemen.
In addition to worsening hunger, communities in north-east DRC face a deadly Ebola outbreak and inter-ethnic clashes that claimed at least 117 lives between 10 and 13 June, according to a recent report by the UN human rights office, OHCHR.
Announcing the aid scale-up operation on Tuesday, WFP spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel warned that “people are dying of hunger, or, malnutrition is such that they are dying”.
He added that although there is no accurate data on the total number of deaths from hunger in Ituri, 13 million people are food insecure nationally, including five million acutely malnourished children.
The situation has worsened because of an increase in clashes between Hema herders and Lendu farmers that have driven people from their homes, along with rising food prices; a lack of income and access to a varied diet; and crop damage due to insects; and disease epidemics.
Addressing the rising violence, Mr. Verhoosel said: “This senseless cruelty comes right at harvest time, where the newly displaced have had to flee their homes in rural villages with very little or nothing”. He added that “many victims of this increase in violence are malnourished and have been forced to move numerous times…they are seeking security in urban centres and in the bush.”
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, inter-ethnic violence has led to the mass displacement of 300,000 people since June, while some 7,500 people have crossed into neighbouring Uganda from DRC, across Lake Albert.
Together with North Kivu province, people in Ituri are also living through the DRC’s worst recorded Ebola virus outbreak, which WFP is helping to contain by providing assistance to people infected by the often fatal disease and their families and friends, in a bid to prevent at-risk populations from making unnecessary journeys.
In its latest Ebola update, the UN and authorities reported that since the outbreak began on 1 August 2018, 2,338 people have been infected with Ebola, including 2,244 confirmed and 94 probable cases.
A total of 1,571 people have died (1,477 confirmed and 94 probable) and 653 have recovered from the illness.
To help 5.2 million people across DRC for the next six months, the UN food agency said that it needs $155 million, including $35 million to respond directly to Ebola.
Multiple humanitarian crises are unfolding in Ituri province, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and hundreds of thousands of people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, according to international medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
The recent upsurge in violence across the regions of Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu have forced thousands to flee their homes. Despite MSF’s repeated calls on international aid organisations to scale up humanitarian aid, the majority of the displaced still haven’t received even the most basic assistance.
“This is not the first time there are urgent humanitarian needs in the area,” says Dr Moussa Ousman, MSF Head of Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “But this time we are seeing not only mass displacement due to violence, but also a rapidly spreading measles outbreak and an Ebola epidemic that shows no signs of slowing down, all at the same time. This is unprecedented.”
Intercommunal violence has been increasing in Ituri since December 2017, and the large majority of people displaced as a result have been in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, some for more than a year. Since October 2018, MSF has conducted three mortality surveys in the locations of Drodro, Nizzi and Angumu. All showed that the mortality rates in these communities were far above emergency levels.
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With the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) facing one of the largest and most complex humanitarian crises in the world, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock have called for urgent and sustained funding for the Government-led response to meet the needs of children, families and vulnerable communities including people with disabilities.
"The relatively peaceful political transition taking place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is an opportunity that we must seize on. We can beat back the massive and protracted humanitarian crisis. But we urgently need donors to provide further generous funding as needs continue to outpace resources," said Mr. Lowcock, adding that DRC needs sustained international engagement to create the conditions for peace, security and long-term development.
While DRC has made progress in recent years in some areas, including a drop in the number of children dying before age 5 and larger numbers being enrolled into school, the overall humanitarian situation remains alarming. The number of people facing hunger jumped from 7.7 million in 2017 to 13 million last year. At least 4 million children are malnourished. Cholera, measles and Ebola continue to blight many lives.
"Severe acute malnutrition is expected to hit 1.4 million children under the age of five this year and put them at imminent risk of death," said Ms. Fore. "In conflict-affected areas of the country, children and young people have been recruited as fighters, sexually assaulted and denied education, health and protection services. Together, the international community and the new government can - and should - do better for children."
The acute humanitarian crisis in the country is made worse by sporadic conflict involving dozens of armed groups in parts of the huge country.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 12.8 million people are now food insecure in DRC, including 4.3 million malnourished children, of whom 1.3 million face severe malnutrition this year.
A number of armed groups continue to hamper access for aid teams, which are also tackling endemic cholera – which threatens two million people - combined with a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease in North Kivu and Ituri.
Millions of Congolese languish without aid - as the country heads towards elections. (Norwegian Refugee Council)
As the world turns its attention to the elections in Democratic Republic of the Congo this Sunday, the Norwegian Refugee Council cautions not to lose sight of the millions of Congolese men, women and children whose humanitarian needs have yet to be met. "Regardless of the outcome of the election Sunday, the country and its leaders will have a challenging job ahead to be able to tackle the daunting humanitarian needs, and will depend on substantial support from the international community to avoid unnecessary loss of lives," said Pauline Ballaman, Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
This year alone, 1.4 million people have been forced to flee violence in DR Congo. At the end of 2017, there were already a total of 4.5 million people displaced in several parts of the country. The waves of displacement are mainly due to the re-emergence and escalation of violence around Congo''s eastern frontier, in Ituri and the Kivus. More than 13 million people depend on humanitarian assistance.
"We must be careful that we don''t paint a rosy picture here in Congo," explained Ballaman. "Our teams on the ground see horrific violence daily and we are often struggling to keep up with the humanitarian needs. The scale of the crisis and the lack of sufficient support leave many people in need without necessary assistance."
Compounding the complex crescendo of conflict and humanitarian needs is the second largest Ebola outbreak in world history, which threatens to spread further into eastern Congo if not contained. The outbreak has already cost the lives of hundreds of men, women and children.
Although there has been a security improvement for some pockets of the country such as the Greater Kasai Region and Tanganyika province where at least 1.5 million people have returned to their places of origin, security incidents have increased by 33 per cent between 2017 and 2018, according to the International NGO Security Organization (INSO).
Additionally, there have been over 530 security incidents targeting NGOs since the beginning of the year, translating into two incidents against humanitarian organizations per day.
The needs in DR Congo are daunting. Over 13 million people across the country are living on one meal or less a day. A fertile country, of which 70 per cent of the population live on agriculture, is struggling to produce food because farmers are constantly on the run and cannot access their fields for fear of being attacked, kidnapped or killed by armed groups.
As a result, local markets have suffered from food shortages while prices are skyrocketing, and 4.3 million children are malnourished. To cope women and girls are turning to sex work, while men and boys are joining armed groups for a steady meal. http://bit.ly/2SbfJfv
OCHA: Global Humanitarian Overview 2019.
The humanitarian crisis in DRC is projected to remain acute, due to socioeconomic challenges and persistent conflict in parts of the country. Major humanitarian challenges remain. Due to declining agricultural activity, some 12.8 million people will face food insecurity, including 4.3 million malnourished children, of whom at least 1.3 million will be suffering from severe malnutrition.
The risk of epidemics will remain significant as well in the first quarter of 2019, with the persistence of cholera and the Ebola outbreak that was declared in August 2018 in North Kivu and Ituri. At least 8.5 million people are at risk of epidemics, including 2 million from cholera.
As a result of security improvement in parts of the country, some 2.9 million people should return to their areas of origin, exceeding the new displacements which are expected to be about 1.3 million. This massive return will create significant needs, especially in protection, health, agricultural production and livelihoods. However, insecurity will remain high in several parts of the country, and some 5.7 million people will also need protection, while 9.8 million vulnerable people will need multisectoral assistance related to the loss of access to essential services and goods.
This year’s humanitarian response plan will aim to assist 9 million of the most vulnerable people in DRC, significantly fewer than the total people in need. This gap is the result of factors such as access, funding constraints and operational capacities.
http://www.irinnews.org/analysis/2018/12/20/four-humanitarian-challenges-congo-s-next-leader http://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/north-kivu-drc-msf-scales-patient-care-activities-amid-growing http://reliefweb.int/country/cod http://www.unocha.org/drc http://bit.ly/2MdfCkC
Spiralling violence puts millions at risk in Ebola-hit eastern DRC, reports UNHCR
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is alarmed by the latest escalation of violence in already volatile and Ebola-hit North Kivu province in east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The cumulative effect of conflict and the outbreak of the deadly disease is threatening millions of Congolese.
The fighting involving a number of armed groups operating in the area has intensified in all six territories in North Kivu, a province bordering Rwanda and Uganda. Thousands of civilians have fled their burned out villages, bringing reports of brutal attacks. The already dire humanitarian situation has been further aggravated by an outbreak of Ebola virus in parts of the province. The disease has killed more than 60 people and infected dozens more in recent weeks.
Forced displacement in this part of the country remains massive. It is estimated that more than a million people are displaced in North Kivu. This is the highest concentration of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the DRC. An estimated half a million people have been forced from their homes this year alone.
UNHCR is particularly worried about the deteriorating situation in the Ebola-hit northern territory of Beni. The area is home to some 1.3 million people. Spiralling conflict has left the population living there virtually in a state of siege since October 2017. Reports of increased human rights violations and restrictions of humanitarian access are frequent. Estimates are that more than 100 armed groups are active in the province, continually terrorizing the population.
Despite a large-scale military offensive of the Congolese Army against one of the main rebel groups, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) since January, there has been no let-up in the violence.
Despite security challenges, a UNHCR team accessed the area north of Beni earlier this month and conducted humanitarian assessments in Oicha and Eringeti districts. Residents told our staff about brutal attacks against the civilians carried out with machetes. Stories of massacres, extortion, forced displacement and other human rights violations are frequent.
Sexual and gender-based violence is rampant across the Beni territory. Many children are being recruited as child soldiers. The violence is particularly rampant in the so-called “triangle of death,” between the towns of Eringeti, Mbau and Kamango, on the Uganda-DRC border, as well as in the towns of Beni, Oicha and Mavivi.
UNHCR teams witnessed empty villages, countless torched and abandoned houses, as well as burnt cars. Those who fled found shelter mostly in Beni and Oicha, where both host and displaced communities fall prey to brutal and unpredictable attacks. Beni town hosts more than 32,000 displaced people, with the majority forced to live with host families or in schools or churches. More than two thirds have been forced to flee in the last three months.
UNHCR teams found the vulnerable displaced indigenous communities to be in some of the most critical situations. Forced out of their areas of origin in the forests, their living conditions in makeshift sites are abysmal. Families are sleeping rough, barely protected from the elements by their flimsy shelters.
They have few or no means of survival as they can no longer hunt in the forests, now under the control of armed groups. There’s a genuine risk of these people losing their culture and way of life.
UNHCR is scaling up its capacity in North Kivu to respond to the growing humanitarian needs. We are arranging additional emergency shelters and other humanitarian assistance to meet the needs of the displaced in Beni. While UNHCR’s humanitarian response is continuing despite the outbreak of Ebola, the prevailing security situation and drastic funding shortfall severely hamper our efforts. UNHCR’s DRC 2018 appeal totalling USD 201 million is only 17 per cent funded.
http://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/massive-displacement-reported-north-eastern-drc-amid-new-violence http://tmsnrt.rs/2KAPjUc http://reliefweb.int/country/cod
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