People's Stories Peace


Humanitarian Aid, Civilian Protection vital in conflict affected States
by UN News, OCHA, UNICEF, agencies
 
June 2024
 
Child malnutrition in Sudan is at emergency levels. (UNICEF, WFP, WHO)
 
Three United Nations agencies today issued a stark warning that all indications point to a significant deterioration of the nutrition situation for children and mothers in war-torn Sudan. The lives of Sudan’s children are at stake and urgent action is needed to protect an entire generation from malnutrition, disease and death.
 
A recent analysis conducted by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) highlights that the ongoing hostilities are worsening the drivers of child malnutrition. These include a lack of access to nutritious food, safe drinking water and sanitation, and increased risk of disease. The situation is compounded by massive population displacement, as large numbers of people flee the conflict. Sudan is facing an ever-increasing risk of conflict-induced famine that will have catastrophic consequences including the loss of life, especially among young children.
 
The year-long war is also severely impacting the delivery of humanitarian supplies, leaving countless women and children without access to vital food and nutritional support. The agencies have been struggling to deliver nutrition products as growing violence and bureaucratic procedures impede access to conflict affected areas.
 
Child malnutrition in Sudan is at emergency levels. In Central Darfur, acute malnutrition is estimated to be at 15.6 percent among children under 5, while in ZamZam camp it’s close to 30%. The situation has deteriorated over recent months, with no sign of abating due to continued conflict and severely hindered humanitarian access. Acute malnutrition is life-threatening, with malnourished children up to 11 times more likely to die than a well-nourished child. Malnutrition and disease reinforce each other, with sick children becoming more easily malnourished and malnourished children becoming sick more easily, and suffering worse outcomes. Even when children recover, malnutrition can have lifelong effects on physical and cognitive development. Sudan risks a lost generation, with grave implications for the country’s future.
 
Levels of malnutrition are particularly worrying among pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. For example, screening carried out last month by Medecins Sans Frontieres in ZamZam camp, North Darfur, found over 33 percent of pregnant and breastfeeding women are malnourished, indicating that they are likely sacrificing their own needs to feed their children. This situation poses an incredible risk not only for the health of mothers, but also for the next generation of Sudan’s children. As much as 30 percent of child malnutrition begins in utero, so children born to malnourished mothers are likely to be already malnourished themselves.
 
“Children in Sudan are experiencing horrific violence, displacement and trauma – and now they are confronted with potential famine,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “When children suffer from serious forms of malnutrition, it harms their physical and cognitive development and can leave life-long damage. Parties to the conflict must urgently allow humanitarian access so children can receive food, water, medical care and shelter. But most of all, children need peace.”
 
“Mothers and children across Sudan are wasting away from malnutrition. The ongoing war has stripped them of everything they need to survive – food, medical support and shelter. We need immediate and safe access to deliver the humanitarian assistance that they so desperately need. Without it, this crisis risks becoming the world’s largest hunger emergency”, said WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain. “Millions of lives are at stake and the international community must act now or we risk losing an entire generation of children.”
 
“Malnutrition is not a one-time crisis. Malnourished children face a lifetime of developmental challenges and ill-health and are also more likely to die from infectious diseases”, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The clock is ticking, edging Sudan’s mothers and children closer to famine. WHO and partners are on the ground working to prevent and treat acute malnutrition to save precious lives but we need sustained humanitarian access and full financial backing to be able to do this.”
 
The agencies call for immediate, unimpeded and consistent access to communities who are suffering the worst effects of the brutal and lengthy conflict, through all possible crossline and cross-border routes with neighbouring countries, as well as a de-escalation of the situation in El Fasher and a nationwide ceasefire. We also count on a renewed and significant scaled up support from donors. The window to avert the worst is rapidly closing.
 
http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/sudans-children-trapped-critical-malnutrition-crisis-warn-un-agencies http://www.unicef.org/press-releases/sudans-children-trapped-critical-malnutrition-crisis-warn-un-agencies http://www.unocha.org/news/ocha-urges-security-council-act-sudan-humanitarian-crisis http://news.un.org/en/story/2024/06/1151151 http://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/sudan-ingo-forum-calls-end-bloodshed-el-fasher http://interagencystandingcommittee.org/inter-agency-standing-committee/statement-principals-inter-agency-standing-committee-no-time-lose-famine-stalks-millions-sudan-amid http://www.theguardian.com/world/article/2024/jun/17/we-need-the-world-to-wake-up-sudan-facing-worlds-deadliest-famine-in-40-years
 
15 May 2024
 
At least 5 million people in Sudan are on the brink of starvation. (WFP)
 
The UN World Food Programme warns that the window to save lives is closing as famine looms in Sudan’s war-torn regions with civilians trapped by intensified fighting in northern Darfur; the rainy season set to start in the coming month making critical transport routes inaccessible; and as the lean season - when food stocks run out and hunger peaks – hits.
 
“The situation is desperate and quickly deteriorating. WFP has the capacity to scale up and expand our assistance, but for that we need all parties to facilitate access – both across the warring front lines, as well as cross-border from Chad and South Sudan,” said WFP’s Deputy Executive Director, Carl Skau following a mission to Sudan this week.
 
“Only a few weeks remain to stock up food supplies in parts of Darfur and Kordofan before the rainy season starts and many roads become impassible. Farmers also need to safely reach their farmlands to plant ahead of the rains,” he added.
 
At least 5 million people in Sudan are on the brink of starvation (IPC4). WFP experts warn that number may have significantly increased since the last Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) assessment in December 2023. A preliminary WFP analysis has identified 41 hunger hotspots that are high-risk of slipping into famine (IPC5) in the coming month, most of them in access constrained areas where conflict is raging including in the Darfur and Kordofan region and Khartoum.
 
Escalating fighting in North Darfur’s capital El Fasher in recent days has resulted in large numbers of civilian deaths and injuries, damaged the only operational hospital in the state, and hampered humanitarian access to the city and beyond.
 
“I urge the warring parties to uphold their obligations under international law to protect civilians and to stop the fighting,” he added.
 
WFP has repeatedly been warning that Sudan could become the world’s worst hunger crisis as the conflict enters its second year. The window to prevent famine is rapidly closing without immediate action.
 
“The situation in Sudan has not been given the attention it deserves. That must change now. Concerted diplomatic efforts and more resources are urgently needed to protect civilians and to strengthen the humanitarian response. WFP is committed and ready to do its part,” WFP Deputy Executive Director said.
 
http://www.wfp.org/news/small-window-remains-avert-disaster-sudans-war-torn-regions-warns-wfp-deputy-executive http://news.un.org/en/story/2024/05/1149786 http://www.ohchr.org/en/press-briefing-notes/2024/05/sudan-un-human-rights-chief-horrified-escalating-violence-el-fasher
 
May 2024
 
Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell on situation in Darfur, Sudan:
 
“The increase of fighting in Sudan’s North Darfur state has taken a deadly toll on children in recent weeks. But the threat of an imminent military attack on El Fasher, a city sheltering at least 500,000 people displaced by violence elsewhere in the country, risks a catastrophic escalation, endangering the lives and wellbeing of 750,000 children in El Fasher, and potentially millions more. We call on parties to the conflict to urgently step back from such a dangerous confrontation.
 
“At least 43 people, including children and women, have been killed since the escalation of fighting in and around El Fasher a little over two weeks ago. Continued attacks, including the use of explosive weapons in residential neighbourhoods, are particularly dangerous for children, and will only result in more children displaced, injured, and killed.
 
“Recent attacks on more than a dozen villages in western El-Fasher have resulted in horrific reports of violence, including sexual violence, children injured and killed, homes set on fire, and destruction of critical civilian supplies and infrastructure. Families, including those who had previously been displaced by the conflict, have once again been forced to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs. There are deeply concerning reports of children being separated from their families or reportedly going missing.
 
“The fighting and growing fear of ethnically motivated violence has driven many families to overcrowded displacement camps such as Zamzam camp and informal gathering sites in and around El Fasher city. Many of the displacement sites lack adequate access to food, safe water and shelter, putting children at additional risk.
 
“The encircling of El Fasher by armed groups and restrictions on movement on key roads out of the city are limiting families from leaving. At the same time, a severe lack of humanitarian access and an inability to deliver commercial goods due to the insecurity have led to scarcity of essential services and rocketing costs for water, food, and fuel. More than 330,000 people are reportedly facing acute food insecurity in El Fasher.
 
“All of these deeply worrying developments are happening at a time when the continuing brutal violence across Sudan is pushing the country toward a conflict-induced famine and a further catastrophic loss of life, especially among children. “Parties to the conflict must make every effort to de-escalate the situation, allow the safe movement of civilians, including the sick and wounded, who want to move to safer areas, and ensure the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure.
 
The parties to the conflict must also ensure rapid, sustained, and unimpeded humanitarian access – both across conflict lines within Sudan and across borders with neighbouring countries.
 
“Children in Sudan continue to suffer unconscionable violence, while their parents and grandparents still bear the scars of previous cycles of violence. We cannot allow it to continue to happen.”
 
11 May 2024
 
Statement by the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Clementine Nkweta-Salami, on the attack in Al Fasher:
 
"I am gravely concerned by the eruption of clashes in Al Fasher despite repeated calls to parties to the conflict to refrain from attacking the city. I reiterate - the violence threatens the lives of over 800,000 civilians who reside in Al Fasher.
 
I am equally disturbed by reports of the use of heavy weaponry and attacks in highly populated areas in the city center and the outskirts of Al Fasher, resulting in multiple casualties.
 
Wounded civilians are being rushed to Al Fasher Hospital. Civilians trying to flee are trapped in fierce fighting.
 
Already months of escalating violence around the city has hampered the sustained flow of aid and basic commodities, pushing people to the brink of famine. The capacity of health facilities is severely depleted.
 
It is heartbreaking to see this nightmare unfolding – conflict continuing to spread engulfing large parts of the country.
 
And again, civilians – men, women and children, paying the highest prices – their lives. This must stop. My plea to all parties engaged in the fighting is to uphold their international law obligations to protect civilians and stop the fighting. The world is watching as this tragedy unfolds".
 
Reports have been coming in that a hospital in Sudan’s North Darfur has been damaged in a heavy uptick of hostilities, leaving youngsters dead and fanning renewed famine fears, UN aid teams have said.
 
According to UN emergency relief chief Martin Griffiths, a “strike” damaged the roof of the intensive care unit at Southern Hospital in El Fasher Town – the only working hospital in North Darfur state – where medical supplies are running dangerously low.
 
Some 800,000 people live in and around El Fasher Town where “countless lives are at stake. Sudan is at a tipping point,” Mr. Griffiths said.
 
In an update on the hostilities, the UN aid coordination office (OCHA) reported that dozens of civilians had been killed in renewed heavy fighting last Friday between the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Force (RSF) soldiers in and around the city – the last one in North Darfur not yet under RSF control, it has been reported.
 
“The clashes, including airstrikes and the use of heavy weapons, started mid-morning in the eastern part of El Fasher Town and continued until 6.30pm,” said OCHA. “The clashes extended into the centre of the town, the outskirts of the main market and into neighbourhoods, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries.”
 
Before the latest bloodshed, humanitarians warned that months of escalating violence around El Fasher Town had been behind “persistent” aid access obstructions that had hampered the sustained flow of aid and basic commodities, “pushing people to the brink of famine”.
 
UN Secretary-General António Guterres is gravely concerned by the outbreak of fighting in El Fasher. Mr. Guterres recalled that civilians in the area are already facing a looming famine and the consequences of over a year of war. He reminded the parties of their obligation to protect civilians, urging them to allow people to move to safer areas.
 
"He also requests that all parties facilitate safe, rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access to all civilians in need in El Fasher, across Darfur and the Sudan," the statement said.
 
"Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population and willfully impeding humanitarian relief for civilians in need may constitute war crimes."
 
The Secretary-General appealed to the parties to immediately stop fighting and resume ceasefire negotiations without further delay.
 
17.7 million people – more than one-third of the Sudan’s population – face acute food insecurity (IPC3) or worse, with level three indicating “Crisis”. Of these, 4.9 million people “are on the brink of famine”, experts at the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification initiative warned. “Nearly nine out of 10 people in IPC4 are in conflict-affected areas in Darfur, Kordofan, Khartoum and Jazirah.
 
http://www.unocha.org/news/sudans-humanitarian-coordinator-calls-immediate-ceasefire-al-fasher-safeguard-civilians http://news.un.org/en/story/2024/05/1149641
 
3 May 2024
 
WFP warns time is running out to prevent starvation in Darfur as violence in El Fasher escalates
 
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warns that time is running out to prevent starvation in Darfur as intensifying clashes in North Darfur’s capital El Fasher hinder efforts to deliver vital food assistance into the region.
 
Civilians in El Fasher and the wider Darfur region are already facing devastating levels of hunger, yet deliveries of food assistance have been intermittent due to fighting and endless bureaucratic hurdles. The latest escalation of violence around El Fasher has halted aid convoys coming from Chad’s Tine border crossing – a recently opened humanitarian corridor that passes through North Darfur’s capital.
 
Meanwhile, restrictions from the authorities in Port Sudan are preventing WFP from transporting assistance via Adre, the only other viable cross-border corridor from Chad. The route can serve West Darfur and other locations in Central, South and East Darfur. These access constraints are jeopardizing WFP's plans to provide vital assistance to over 700,000 people ahead of the rainy season when many roads across Darfur become impassable.
 
“Our calls for humanitarian access to conflict hotspots in Sudan have never been more critical: WFP urgently requires unrestricted access and security guarantees to deliver assistance to the families struggling for survival amid devastating levels of violence. We must be able to use the Adre border crossing and move assistance across frontlines from Port Sudan so we can reach people throughout the Darfur region,” said Michael Dunford, WFP’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa.
 
The recent surge in violence in El Fasher is exacerbating critical humanitarian needs in Darfur, where at least 1.7 million people are already experiencing emergency levels of hunger (IPC4). El Fasher had been a relative safe-haven for families, hosting many IDP camps that pre-date the current conflict. Yet conditions were already critical with reports of children dying of malnutrition.
 
Now many are being forced to flee El Fasher and surrounding areas – some for the second or third time – and are becoming increasingly vulnerable. On top of the impact of the escalating violence, WFP is concerned that hunger will increase dramatically as the lean season between harvests sets in and people run out of food.
 
“The situation is dire. People are resorting to consuming grass and peanut shells. If assistance doesn't reach them soon, we risk witnessing widespread starvation and death in Darfur and across other conflict-affected areas in Sudan," said Dunford.
 
One year of conflict in Sudan has created an unprecedented hunger catastrophe and threatens to ignite the world’s largest hunger crisis. With almost 28 million people facing acute food insecurity across Sudan, South Sudan, and Chad, the conflict is spilling over and exacerbating the challenges already faced by its neighbours. The window to avert the worst is rapidly closing. A concerted diplomatic effort by the international community is needed to push the warring parties to provide access and safety guarantees and adhere to their obligations under International Humanitarian Law.
 
http://www.unicef.org/press-releases/attack-el-fasher-would-endanger-hundreds-thousands-children-warns-unicef http://news.un.org/en/story/2024/05/1149281 http://www.msf.org/sudan-msf-warns-catastrophic-malnutrition-crisis-zamzam-camp-amidst-escalating-violence-north
 
30 May 2024
 
Gaza: WFP calls for all aid access points to be opened as Rafah fighting fuels hunger crisis.
 
With no let up in reported street battles and Israeli bombardment across Gaza, UN humanitarians warned that the flow of vital lifesaving aid into the enclave has fallen by more than two thirds since the Israeli military stepped up its campaign in Rafah and seized the key aid conduit.
 
“Humanitarian facilities in Rafah are forced to close one after another… The flow of humanitarian aid supplies into Gaza, already insufficient to meet the soaring needs, has dropped by 67 per cent since 7 May,” reported the UN aid coordination office, OCHA, amid reports that kitchens, clinics and hospitals are shutting down.
 
Until Israeli troops seized and closed the Rafah border crossing in the very south of the Strip, it had been the key entry point for food, water, fuel and medicine into Gaza as well as the route for sick and wounded people to leave for treatment.
 
Echoing those concerns, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned that there was little the agency "can currently do in Rafah, with stocks very low and mobility severely restricted”.
 
According to WFP, the West Erez crossing in northern Gaza “is functional, but not reliable”. Gate 96 further south and the Erez crossing are also “inaccessible” and access is so “constrained” to southern parts of Gaza that it risks causing the same catastrophic levels of hunger witnessed in the north.
 
After nearly eight months of war, the entire population of Gaza of 2.2 million people is almost exclusively dependent on humanitarian assistance, including food.
 
Although desperately needed supplies have been delivered on the Palestinian side of the Kerem Abu Salem, or Kerem Shalom, crossing located close to Rafah, UN humanitarians have repeatedly stressed that it is not safe to fetch them amid ongoing hostilities, impassable roads, unexploded weapons, fuel shortages and delays at checkpoints.
 
“Adults and children are beyond exhausted from constant displacement, hunger, and fear,” WFP said in its latest situation update. “They are desperate for the war to end, as are humanitarian workers on the ground, who are largely displaced and dispersed along with the people they are meant to serve."
 
Aid officials have frequently reiterated the responsibility of Israel as the occupying power to ensure that aid reaches those who need it, in line with international humanitarian law.
 
We need all border crossings and crossing points within Gaza to be open, WFP said.
 
To date, at least 36,171 Palestinians have been killed and 81,420 injured in Gaza, OCHA said, citing Gazan health authorities, since Hamas-led terror attacks in southern Israel on 7 October prompted intense Israeli bombardment across the enclave.
 
http://www.wfp.org/stories/gaza-updates-wfp-calls-all-access-points-be-opened-rafah-exodus-fuels-hunger http://news.un.org/en/story/2024/05/1150411 http://www.ochaopt.org/content/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-flash-update-172
 
21 May 2024
 
UN halts all food distribution in Rafah after running out of supplies. (AP, agencies)
 
The United Nations suspended food distribution in the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Tuesday due to a lack of supplies and an untenable security situation caused by Israel’s expanding military operation. The U.N. warned that humanitarian operations across the territory were nearing total collapse.
 
The U.N.’s World Food Program said it was running out of food for central Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of people have sought shelter after fleeing Rafah, setting up new tent camps or crowding into areas already devastated by previous Israeli offensives.
 
“Humanitarian operations in Gaza are near collapse,” said Abeer Etefa, a WFP spokesperson. If food and other supplies don’t resume entering Gaza “in massive quantities, famine-like conditions will spread,” she said.
 
The U.N says some 1.1 million people in Gaza — nearly half the population — face catastrophic levels of hunger and that the territory is on the brink of famine.
 
The humanitarian crisis deepened after Israeli forces pushed into Rafah on May 6, vowing to root out Hamas fighters. Tanks and troops seized the Rafah crossing into Egypt, closing it ever since. After May 10, only about three dozen trucks made it into Gaza via the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel because fighting makes it dangerous for aid workers to reach it, the U.N. says.
 
“The responsibility of ensuring aid reaches those in need does not end at the crossings and other points of entry into Gaza — it extends throughout Gaza itself,” Abeer Etefa said.
 
For months, the U.N. has warned that an Israeli assault on Rafah could wreck the effort to get food, medicine and other supplies to Palestinians across Gaza.
 
Etefa said the WFP had stopped distribution in Rafah after exhausting its stocks. It is still passing out “limited distributions” of reduced food packages in central Gaza, but “food parcel stocks will run out within days,” she said.
 
The main agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, announced the suspension of distribution in Rafah, citing the lack of supplies. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UNRWA distribution center and the WFP’s warehouses in Rafah were “inaccessible due to ongoing military operations.” Asked about the ramifications of suspending aid, Dujarric said simply: “People don’t eat.”
 
UNRWA said in a statement that only seven of its 24 health centres were operational and that it had not received any medical supplies in the past 10 days due to “closures/disruptions” at the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings into Gaza.
 
World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on Israel to lift restrictions on aid into Gaza. “At a time when the people of Gaza are facing starvation, we urge Israel to lift the blockade and let aid through. Without more aid flowing into Gaza we cannot sustain our lifesaving support of hospitals.”
 
Senior UN aid official Edem Wosornu told the UN Security Council on Monday that there were insufficient supplies and fuel to provide any meaningful level of support to the people of Gaza.
 
“We are running out of words to describe what is happening in Gaza. We have described it as a catastrophe, a nightmare, as hell on earth. It is all of these, and worse,” she said.
 
She said that the closure of the Rafah crossing from Egypt had stopped the delivery of at least 82,000 tonnes of supplies, while access at Karem Abu Salem crossing from Israel was limited due to “hostilities, challenging logistical conditions, and complex coordination procedures”.
 
In northern Gaza, where the UN warns a famine is imminent, Wosornu said the Beit Hanoon (Erez) crossing had been closed since May 9 and the newly opened Erez West crossing “is now being used for limited quantities of aid, but now areas in the vicinity of this crossing are also under evacuation orders” by Israel.
 
http://www.unocha.org/news/ocha-appeals-security-council-end-humanitarian-catastrophe-gaza
 
16 May 2024
 
Gaza: 600,000 displaced from Rafah. (UN News)
 
Amid some of the fiercest reported fighting in Gaza yet, UN humanitarians on Wednesday repeated warnings that famine is still an imminent threat because of aid restrictions and a lack of safe access.
 
To date, Rafah has emptied of at least 600,000 people in just the last week, and another 100,000 have been uprooted from the north of the enclave, amid fresh evacuation orders by the Israeli military.
 
“Families keep fleeing where they can, including to rubble and sand dunes, in search of safety, but there’s no such thing in Gaza,” UNRWA said.
 
The UN aid coordination office, OCHA, said relief teams were continuing to try to deliver lifesaving assistance “wherever and whenever possible”, although the main border crossing in Rafah remains closed, and there is “no safe access” at the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing, which is “not logistically viable”.
 
According to the World Food Programme, malnutrition among children is proceeding “at record pace”, with one in three children below the age of two now acutely malnourished or suffering wasting.
 
The UN and its partners have the means to scale up aid to all 2.2 million people in Gaza, but only if a humanitarian ceasefire happens, the agency insisted.
 
10 May 2024
 
UNICEF Senior Emergency Coordinator in the Gaza Strip, Hamish Young press briefing:
 
"For 5 days, no fuel and virtually no humanitarian aid entered the Gaza Strip and we are scraping the bottom of the barrel. This is already a huge issue for the population and for all humanitarian actors but in a matter of days, if not corrected, the lack of fuel could grind humanitarian operations to a halt.
 
"Without fuel, the maternity wards in Emirati hospital cannot function, while approximately 80 babies are born there every day. Pregnant women are left without options for safe delivery of their newborns. As we have seen in other parts of Gaza over the last seven months, when hospitals run out of fuel, lifesaving equipment such as ventilators and incubators stop working.
 
"Without fuel, the water desalination plants and the water wells cannot function, the sewage system cannot operate. And our trucks cannot bring the critical, lifesaving humanitarian aid to the people in need.
 
"Food stock to support the people in the south is expected to run out tomorrow and the last functioning bakery in the south is about to run out of fuel.
 
"At a time when people are being forced to pick up and move again, the lifesaving supplies that sustain and support them have been entirely cut off. Let’s be very clear – this will result in children dying. Deaths that can be prevented.
 
"And then there are the families that cannot leave Rafah or choose to stay. Hundreds of thousands of children are injured, sick, malnourished or have a preexisting disability.
 
“Over 15,000 children have reportedly been killed already - a ground offensive in Rafah will undoubtedly result in this number increasing dramatically.
 
"I've spent a lot of time in Gaza’s remaining hospitals and the injuries I have witnessed are excruciating. It is really hard to describe the impact of modern weaponry on a four-year-old. What it does to a young body is just beyond comprehension. I've seen firsthand many, many children who have lost limbs, who have suffered horrific burns. And of course, the impact on the mental health of all children in the Gaza Strip is terrible.
 
"Those of us working here are doing everything we can to keep the humanitarian response alive. We remain hopeful our calls for a ceasefire will be heard and acted on, but we are also braced for this senseless conflict to continue to shock even the most seasoned of us.
 
"We need fuel immediately. Aid must flow. Hostages must be freed. Rafah must not be invaded. And children must be protected, not killed."
 
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Martin Griffiths, says civilians in Gaza are starving and the humanitarian community is prevented from helping them.
 
Griffiths said nothing and no one has been allowed in or out of Gaza for days. He warned that the closure of the crossings means no fuel, trucks, generators, water or electricity – and no movement of people or goods. “It means no aid,” the Under-Secretary-General said. “Our supplies are stuck. Our teams are stuck.”
 
OCHA says ground incursions and heavy fighting continue to be reported in eastern Rafah, including around the Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossings. UNRWA reports that people displaced from Rafah are facing dire shortages of food, water and shelter.
 
Humanitarian partners working on the health response in Gaza warn that with fuel supplies dwindling – five hospitals, five field hospitals, 17 primary health care centres, nearly two dozen medical points and 28 ambulances will only be able to sustain their operations for less than 48 hours.
 
UN World Food Programme Palestine Country Director Matthew Hollingworth: "Supplies of food and fuel in Gaza will only last one to three days. Without them, our operations will go into standstill.”
 
http://www.unicef.org/press-releases/rafah-needs-rise-humanitarian-response-forced-scrape-bottom-barrel http://www.unocha.org/news/todays-top-news-occupied-palestinian-territory-haiti-chad-zimbabwe-kuwait-syria http://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2024/05/comment-un-human-rights-chief-volker-turk-gaza-crossings http://news.un.org/en/story/2024/05/1149591 http://news.un.org/en/interview/2024/05/1149946
 
* On January 26, the International Court of Justic (ICJ) ordered Israel to “take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian aid.” In light of the “spread of famine and starvation,” the court imposed additional measures on March 28, ordering Israel to ensure the unhindered provision of humanitarian assistance, in full cooperation with the UN, including by opening new land crossing points.
 
9/5/24: News agencies report (AP): "The Israeli military said that it has reopened its Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza after days of closure, but the U.N. said no humanitarian aid has yet entered and there is no one to receive it on the Palestinian side after workers fled during Israel’s military incursion in the area".
 
07 May 2024
 
OCHA: Civilians in Gaza must have their basic needs met.
 
Aid agencies are warning that stopping the flow of aid will have a catastrophic impact on an already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, following the closure of the Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossings into Gaza.
 
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokesman Jens Laerke says he is very worried about how the development would impact Palestinians.
 
"That is catastrophic for people who are in there and for the humanitarian operation going forward," he said. "It means a family, probably displaced anywhere inside entire Gaza, will not have access to the food they need. They will not have access to clean water.
 
Both the Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossings into Gaza are closed. This means the UN cannot bring in critical humanitarian assistance. Aid organizations cannot access the nutrition supplies needed to treat children with acute malnutrition. And the humanitarian community is unable to access the fuel needed to power response efforts.
 
Humanitarian operations cannot run without fuel. Without fuel, all humanitarian activities in Gaza will cease within days.
 
"If we cannot use those two border crossings, there is very little possibility of getting aid into the Strip," Mr Laerke said. "So it doesn't only affect the people in Rafah, in the south, but the entire strip is currently kind of choked off from aid. "It's a life-threatening situation that has become very, very acute."
 
UN agencies have predicted there is one day of fuel stockpiles left across the Palestinian enclave. Mr. Laerke further warned that existing humanitarian stocks in Gaza could be expected to last no more than about a day.
 
Without fuel, 16 bakeries supported by humanitarian partners in Gaza will have to cease operations in the coming days. Without fuel, the main source of clean water in northern Gaza and Gaza city will have to suspend operations, leaving nearly half a million people with very limited access to safe supplies. Water production in southern Gaza and the Middle Area will also cease without additional fuel.
 
The head of the United Nations World Food Program Cindy McCain in an interview with the American news agency NBC on May 5th said northern Gaza has entered “full-blown famine”, and that "famine was now moving south in Gaza".
 
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) calls on all parties to the conflict to respect their legal obligations as stipulated by international humanitarian law to protect and preserve civilian life and civilian objects.
 
http://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/uncertainty-gaza-amplified-closure-key-border-crossings-enar http://www.unocha.org/news/todays-top-news-occupied-palestinian-territory-haiti-syria http://www.icrc.org/en/document/gaza-icrc-calls-protection-civilians-while-hoping-for-an-agreement
 
06 May 2024
 
There is ‘nowhere safe to go’ for the 600,000 children of Rafah, warns UNICEF
 
With the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip continuing to deteriorate, UNICEF is warning that a military besiegement and ground incursion in Rafah would pose catastrophic risks to the 600,000 children currently taking shelter in the enclave.
 
Following October evacuation orders to move to the south, it is estimated that there are now about 1.2 million people sheltering in Rafah, once home to about 250,000 people. About half the population are children, many of whom have been displaced multiple times and are sheltering in tents or informal and unstable housing.
 
“More than 200 days of war have taken an unimaginable toll on the lives of children,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director. “Rafah is now a city of children, who have nowhere safe to go in Gaza. If large scale military operations start, not only will children be at risk from the violence, but also from chaos and panic, and at a time where their physical and mental states are already weakened.”
 
Compared to adults, children are especially vulnerable to the devastating impacts of the war in the Gaza Strip. They are being disproportionately killed and injured, and suffering more acutely from disruptions to healthcare and education and a lack of access to sufficient food and water.
 
Already, more than 15,000 children have been reportedly killed in this current conflict, according to the latest estimate by the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
 
“Hundreds of thousands of children who are now cramped into Rafah are injured, sick, malnourished, traumatized, or living with disabilities,” said Russell. “Many have been displaced multiple times, and have lost homes, parents and loved ones. They need to be protected along with the remaining services that they rely on, including medical facilities and shelter.”
 
UNICEF reiterates the call of the Interagency Standing Committee for Israel ‘to fulfil its legal obligation, under international humanitarian and human rights law, to provide food and medical supplies and facilitate aid operations, and on the world’s leaders to prevent an even worse catastrophe from happening.’
 
Underscoring the special vulnerabilities of children, UNICEF is also calling for:
 
An immediate and long-lasting humanitarian ceasefire. The immediate release of hostages, and an end to any grave violations against all children. The protection of civilians and the infrastructure that supports their basic needs, such as hospitals and shelters, from attack and military use.
 
Continued protection of children and their families if they are unable or unwilling to move following an evacuation order - people should be allowed to move freely to safer areas, but they should never be forced to do so.
 
The provision of safe and consistent access for humanitarian organisations and personnel to reach children and their families with life-saving aid, wherever they are in the Gaza Strip.
 
http://www.unicef.org/press-releases/there-nowhere-safe-go-600000-children-rafah-warns-unicef http://www.unicef.org/press-releases/when-nightmare-becomes-reality http://www.unicef.org/emergencies/children-gaza-need-lifesaving-support http://www.who.int/news/item/03-05-2024-rafah-incursion-would-substantially-increase-mortality-and-morbidity-and-further-weaken-an-already-broken-health-system http://www.unocha.org/news/un-relief-chief-ground-operation-rafah-will-be-nothing-short-tragedy-beyond-words http://www.globalprotectioncluster.org/index.php/publications/1854/communication-materials/speech-statement/opt-protection-cluster-global-protection
 
15 May 2024
 
Ukraine: The Safety of Civilians must be Ensured. They are not a Target. (OCHA)
 
UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine, Denise brown, condemns attacks in Kherson City and the Kharkiv Region:
 
Today, additional devastating news, this time in Kherson City, where dozens of civilians, including children, suffered injuries from strikes. Homes and an education facility were hit yet again in this war-ravaged city.
 
This comes a day after I came back from Kharkiv, where I saw the appalling consequences of the intensified attacks by the Russian Federation's Armed Forces on thousands of people who had to flee for their lives, leaving everything they own behind. Many are older people who fear they will never be able to go back.
 
The humanitarian community is working to support people amid this human tragedy. International humanitarian law must be respected. The safety of civilians, homes, schools and hospitals must be ensured. They are not a target.
 
The humanitarian situation in Kharkivska Oblast, where active hostilities – in particular in the northern border and frontline hromadas where basic services are decimated – has driven thousands of people from their homes.
 
On 16 May, fierce fighting in the north of Kharkivska Oblast led to more civilian deaths and injuries and damage to civilian infrastructure. Attacks with humanitarian impact have been reported in Kharkiv City and other parts of the oblast.
 
The security situation has increased the risks and challenges for first responders, local authorities, and aid workers helping evacuate civilians. Local authorities reported that medical facilities and personnel were impacted by strikes in the last two days in a row, including injuring medical workers.
 
(ICRC) – Thousands of civilians living along the Ukraine-Russia border in the Kharkiv region in eastern Ukraine have had to flee their homes the last few days due to the escalation of fighting.
 
The current influx of displaced people in Kharkiv is one of the largest we have witnessed in Ukraine this year, Juerg Eglin, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Ukraine, said as he was visiting Kharkiv this week.
 
“While thousands of people were able to find a safer place to go, it is important to remember that others remain behind, either due to their limited mobility or because they chose not to leave their home. It is of utmost importance that all precautions are taken to ensure that their life, property, and civilian infrastructure they rely on are protected at all times.”
 
The international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine has inflicted heavy losses and deep suffering for civilians as well as damage and destruction to critical civilian infrastructure. The ICRC reminds parties that it is the obligation of states to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law.
 
http://reliefweb.int/country/ukr http://www.ohchr.org/en/press-briefing-notes/2024/05/ukraine-concern-plight-civilians-and-intensified-russian-attacks
 
May 2024
 
DRC: UN and partners warn escalating conflict is fuelling unprecedented civilian suffering. (Inter-Agency Standing Committee)
 
Escalating conflict is driving record levels of gender-based violence, displacement and hunger in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), threatening to push the country to the brink of catastrophe without urgent international action.
 
Decades of conflict and the resulting humanitarian emergency have already exhausted and traumatized millions of civilians. In the last few months alone, more than 700,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, bringing the total number of displaced people to an all-time high of 7.2 million.
 
Ensuring that sufficient aid reaches civilians in need swiftly and without impediment is critical. But this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan is woefully underfunded, with just 16 per cent of the US$2.6 billion needed having been received. The gap between rapidly rising needs and sufficient resources means millions of people are left without the lifesaving support they need.
 
This lack of resources is compounding the crisis by forcing humanitarian organizations to curb their assistance, with women and girls paying a devastatingly high price. Minimal protection and security in crowded displacement camps means many are forced to exchange sex for survival and support for their families. When they venture outside to collect firewood, water or for work, they are also exposed to appalling levels of sexual violence.
 
Gender-based violence has surged to unprecedented levels, with recorded cases surging between 2022 and 2023. Stigma and the fear of retaliation prevent many survivors from coming forward. In addition to sexual violence, children are also at risk of other threats, including abduction, killing, maiming and recruitment by armed groups.
 
Perpetrators of human rights violations must be held accountable for their crimes. Under international humanitarian law, civilians must be protected.
 
More than 25 million people – a quarter of the population – continue to face crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity in the DRC, a country facing one of the world's largest food crises.
 
Cholera and measles are also spreading rapidly as the health sector continues to deteriorate. Climate extremes worsened by El Niño are yet another threat for already struggling families.
 
Bringing an end to the escalating humanitarian crisis in the DRC requires addressing its root causes: conflict, the exploitation of natural resources, illicit financial flows, prevailing gender inequality and development deficits.
 
We must step up our support to the Congolese people, including to women and girls who are bearing the brunt of this conflict, as they work to rebuild their lives and livelihoods and return to their homes. The international community must mobilize additional resources for the humanitarian response and support for civil society organizations – as well as the political will to end the violence once and for all.
 
http://interagencystandingcommittee.org/inter-agency-standing-committee/statement-principals-inter-agency-standing-committee-democratic-republic-congo-crushing-levels http://www.nrc.no/news/2024/may/joint-statement-ingos-in-dr-congo-call-for-a-cessation-of-hostilities-and-the-respect-for-international-humanitarian-law/ http://www.msf.org/drc-civilians-caught-crossfire-north-and-south-kivu http://www.wfp.org/news/drcs-hunger-crisis-deepens-families-once-again-flee-fighting http://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing-notes/unhcr-urges-immediate-action-amid-heightened-risks-displaced-eastern-dr-congo http://www.wfp.org/news/unicef-and-wfp-demand-action-protect-children-and-unfettered-humanitarian-access-eastern-drc http://www.unicef.org/press-releases/unicef-deputy-executive-director-ted-chaiban-concludes-visit-eastern-dr-congo http://www.nrc.no/perspectives/2024/hundreds-of-thousands-face-desperate-conditions-as-fighting-surges-in-eastern-dr-congo/
 
http://www.unhcr.org/africa/news/press-releases/unhcr-urges-protection-civilians-and-aid-access-amid-surging-violence-eastern http://www.icrc.org/en/document/dr-congo-civilians-firing-line-use-heavy-weapons-signals-alarming-new-phase-armed-conflict http://www.icrc.org/en/document/democratic-republic-congo-forgotten-people-north-kivu http://www.wfp.org/stories/eastern-drc-women-and-girls-pay-high-price-ongoing-conflict http://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/conflict-drc-over-hundred-thousand-people-without-clean-water-live-disastrous
 
May 2024
 
Haiti: UN, humanitarian partners call for greater protection and assistance for people living in violence prone-areas. (OCHA)
 
Three months into a resurgence of violence in Haiti, particularly in Port-au-Prince, the top humanitarian official in the country is expressing deep concerns over the havoc wrought on many Haitians’ lives, leaving them in extreme vulnerability.
 
“Hundreds of thousands of people, including many women and children, are caught in violence, which shows little sign of abating,” said, Ulrika Richardson, the Humanitarian Coordinator in the country.
 
Since 25 April 2024, coordinated attacks have been launched in the communes of Delmas and Gressier, displacing nearly 10,000 people who are currently living either with host communities or in spontaneous sites. Many Haitians living in violence prone areas have also been displaced, sometimes multiple times.
 
As of mid-March, more than 360,000 people were internally displaced, a 15 percent increase since December 2023. More than half of all internally displaced persons are women, and children account for over a third of the displaced people.
 
Armed groups have also targeted hospitals and schools in Port-au-Prince and beyond, and hunger is rising by the day, with almost half of the people of Haiti struggling to feed themselves. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable in this context.
 
A recent report by the Government and humanitarian partners found that the number of gender-based violence survivors was five times higher in March than it was in January and February combined, with nearly three quarters of the cases reportedly attributable to the perpetrators of violent attacks.
 
UN and humanitarian actors are continuously mobilizing relief items to try to support people in localities affected by the rising violence and other areas of the country. Yet, insecurity continues to impede aid groups’ operations in certain areas.
 
The humanitarian community calls on violence to end. “It is simply unacceptable that people who simply are going about their daily lives, children playing outside and going to school are targeted, that schools and hospitals are looted and destroyed. It is essential on everyone to uphold humanitarian norms as a matter of urgency,” said Ms. Richardson. She also stressed the need for urgent international solidarity to ensure humanitarian organizations are able to continue their critical work. This year’s Humanitarian Needs and Response Plan, calling for $674 million, is only 17 per cent funded.
 
http://reliefweb.int/report/haiti/haiti-un-partners-call-greater-protection-and-assistance-people-living-violence-prone-areas http://reliefweb.int/report/haiti/haiti-emergency-situation-report-no-21-3-may-2024 http://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2024/05/women-and-girls-bear-brunt-crisis-ravaging-haiti-say-un-experts http://www.unfpa.org/press/world-must-not-abandon-women-and-girls-haiti http://reliefweb.int/report/haiti/haiti-ipc-acute-food-insecurity-snapshot-march-june-2024 http://www.savethechildren.net/news/more-one-million-children-trapped-gang-violence-rages-haiti http://www.unicef.org/press-releases/statement-unicef-executive-director-catherine-russell-situation-haiti http://www.unicef.org/emergencies/crisis-haiti http://www.msf.org/new-survey-reveals-extreme-levels-violence-haiti http://www.iom.int/news/waves-violence-storm-port-au-prince-haiti-further-displacing-thousands http://www.ipcinfo.org/ipcinfo-website/alerts-archive/issue-98/en/ http://unocha.exposure.co/breaking-point-in-haiti-the-struggle-for-survival


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The use of explosive weapons in populated areas poses an immense threat to civilians worldwide
by UNICEF, ICRC, INEW, agencies
 
22 Apr. 2024
 
Statement by ICRC president Mirjana Splojaric to the first international follow-up conference to review implementation of the Political Declaration on explosive weapons in populated areas - 23 April 2024, Oslo Norway:
 
"Today, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Gaza, Sudan, Ukraine and Yemen, we are witnessing a global and collective failure to protect civilians in armed conflicts.
 
The human toll of these wars, exacerbated by the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas, is unacceptable.
 
Heavy explosive weapons put at risk everyone – children, women and men – and everything – homes, schools and hospitals – within their wide impact areas often extending well beyond their target.
 
In urban environments where military objectives, civilians and civilian objects are commingled, the results are devastating. The ICRC teams on the ground have seen scores of civilians killed or injured, often left with permanent disabilities or serious mental trauma.
 
Cities are reduced to rubble, with homes, infrastructures, schools and cultural sites destroyed. People's means of earning a living are wiped out.
 
Services essential for human survival collapse, leaving entire populations without access to water, sanitation, electricity or health care – causing more death and disease, triggering displacement and setting development back decades.
 
Importantly, it raises serious questions about how states and non-state armed groups using such weapons are interpreting and applying the rules of international humanitarian law (IHL) that govern the conduct of hostilities.
 
These IHL rules are all about protecting civilians from the deadly dangers of hostilities. They stem from the cardinal principle of distinction that requires all parties to a conflict to distinguish at all times between the civilian population and combatants, and between civilian objects and military objectives. Attacks must not be directed against civilians or civilian objects, and indiscriminate attacks are prohibited.
 
Furthermore, the principles of proportionality and precaution afford protection to civilians and civilian objects against the danger of being incidentally harmed by attacks against military objectives.
 
In the conduct of military operations, constant care must be taken to spare the civilian population and civilian objects. Attacks are prohibited when they may be expected to cause incidental harm to civilians and civilian objects that would be excessive or could be avoided or minimized.
 
And yet, we see exceptions to IHL being made that strip entire categories of people of their protection. We see transactional and reciprocal arguments invoked in an attempt to justify unacceptable interpretations of proportionality, feasible precautions not being taken and other non-compliant behaviors.
 
We see military necessity being increasingly emphasized to the detriment of sparing civilian lives, with far too little regard being paid to the protective purpose of IHL. As parties to armed conflicts interpret these tenets of international humanitarian law with increased elasticity, they set a dangerous precedent with tragic consequences for all.
 
In this respect, we commend the Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas for stressing the importance of full compliance with IHL as a means to protect civilians and civilian objects and to avoid, and in any event minimize, civilian harm.
 
While there is no general prohibition under IHL against using heavy explosive weapons in populated areas, their use in these areas is very likely to have indiscriminate effects, and, depending on the circumstances, IHL rules may well prohibit such use.
 
This underpins the long-standing call by the ICRC and the broader International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to all states and non-state armed groups that are parties to armed conflicts to avoid the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas.
 
These weapons should not be used in populated areas unless sufficient mitigation measures can be taken to limit their wide area effects and the consequent risk of civilian harm.
 
The declaration recognizes that, beyond compliance with the law, effectively protecting civilians requires states and parties to armed conflicts to review and improve national policy and practice with regard to the protection of civilians during armed conflict involving the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
 
The ICRC welcomes this political commitment. The daily reminders from around the world of the devastation caused by urban warfare highlight the declaration's relevance and urgency. However, in the reality of armed conflicts, we must soberly acknowledge that the declaration's life-saving potential will only materialize if:
 
All endorsing states implement the declaration – in letter and spirit. All parties to armed conflict, including non-state armed groups, fully adhere to its commitments, and all warring parties interpret IHL, including its rules on the conduct of hostilities, in good faith, as the protective body of law it is meant to be.
 
Words matter. Political pledges matter. Yet they offer scant consolation to civilians worldwide enduring the horrors of bombardment. What is urgently needed is tangible, on-the-ground change. We call on you all to take concrete steps, here in Oslo and when back in your capitals, to make this change.
 
http://www.icrc.org/en/document/global-and-collective-failure-to-protect-civilians-in-armed-conflict http://blogs.icrc.org/law-and-policy/2024/04/22/protecting-civilians-in-conflict-the-urgency-of-implementing-the-political-declaration-on-explosive-weapons-in-populated-areas/
 
Apr. 2024
 
Meaningful action to prevent the use of explosive weapons in populated areas could almost halve number of child casualties in conflicts. (UNICEF)
 
Between 2018 and 2022, explosive weapons were responsible for nearly half - 49.8 per cent - of the more than 47,500 instances of children killed and maimed that were verified by the United Nations, in more than 24 conflict zones globally. The vast majority of these instances occurred in populated areas.
 
The use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas (EWIPA) poses an immense threat to children worldwide. As urban warfare increases, the use of weapons designed for open battlefields is now a common reality in cities, towns, villages, and other populated areas, with devastating effects on young populations. In the five years up to 2022, explosive weapons killed or seriously injured almost twice as many children as were killed or injured by gunshots and other firearms.
 
“The evidence is irrefutable—when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, children suffer profoundly, not just physically but in every aspect of their lives,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ted Chaiban.
 
“That the use of explosive weapons accounts for half of all child casualties is not only a reminder of the catastrophic impact and dire consequences for children, but also illustrates the progress that could be made with meaningful action to prevent their use in populated areas.”
 
As countries meet this week in Oslo, Norway, at the first international follow-up conference to the Political Declaration on the use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, which was adopted in Dublin in November 2022, this provides a crucial opportunity to better protect children, their families, and communities from armed conflict.
 
Endorsed by more than 85 countries, the Declaration commits states to take steps to avoid civilian harm when conducting military operations in populated areas.
 
“Thousands of young lives are abruptly ended or forever altered each year,” said Chaiban. “Beyond children’s physical injuries and scars lie additional - often less visible - psychological, educational, and social impacts, that can persist throughout their lifetimes, creating cycles of hardship and suffering.”
 
In addition to direct injuries, the use of explosive weapons leads to broader social, economic and environmental degradation, severely affecting children’s access to essential services like healthcare, education, and clean water. The destruction of infrastructure necessary for survival and well-being results in long-term consequences for children’s development and the health of the community at large.
 
UNICEF is actively working on the ground in conflict zones to mitigate these impacts, delivering critical aid and support to the children most at risk. However, this can only achieve so much, and prevention is a critical aspect of ensuring all children are protected, requiring a robust and sustained international response.
 
UNICEF is calling for:
 
All parties to conflict and those with influence over them, to protect and ensure respect for children’s rights including by ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
 
All Member States to sign the EWIPA Declaration and call on to Member States that are already signatories, to identify and adopt military measures, policies, and practices that reduce harm to children, and share them with other countries.
 
Member States who are signatories to speak out about the devastating impact of EWIPA on children and promote the Political Declaration including by urging warring parties around the world to cease the use of EWIPA.
 
Member States to provide sustained, financial support for programmes and interventions that will protect children from EWIPA including through injury surveillance, conflict preparedness and protection (CPP), explosive ordnance risk education (EORE), clearance, and victim assistance.
 
Member States to refrain from transferring explosive weapons to warring parties that are likely to use them against civilians and civilian objects in line with the Arms Trade Treaty.
 
Member States, international organizations and civil society to gather and share evidence and data, including casualty tracking and mental health, on the direct and indirect impact of explosive weapons on children to support the case for child protection.
 
“The ongoing commitment of global leaders and the implementation of the EWIPA Declaration are critical to turning the tide against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas,” said Chaiban. “As the international community continues to witness the unspeakable harm these weapons cause, we must take decisive action to protect our future generations. The cost of inaction is too high—a price paid by our children.”
 
http://www.unicef.org/press-releases/meaningful-action-prevent-use-explosive-weapons-populated-areas-could-almost-halve http://www.inew.org/news/
 
19 Nov. 2022 (INEW, ICRC)
 
Today in Dublin, Ireland 82 countries officially endorsed the Political Declaration on the Protection of Civilians from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, which had been finalised on 17 June 2022 in Geneva.
 
The declaration is the culmination of a decade-long advocacy effort led by the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the United Nations and almost three years of diplomatic negotiations led by Ireland.
 
The civilian harm arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is extensive and well-documented. On average, 90 percent of the people who are killed or injured when explosive weapons are used in populated areas are civilians.
 
Damage to or destruction of buildings, homes, infrastructure, and other civilian objects further exacerbates civilian suffering by disrupting access to services critical for the civilian population, including education and health care, and driving displacement.
 
These direct and indirect effects of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas have affected countless civilians in recent and ongoing armed conflicts across many countries.
 
The use of explosive weapons in populated areas is the leading cause of civilian casualties in armed conflict, and the declaration is the first formal international recognition that this must be addressed urgently and directly.
 
The declaration promotes stronger standards to protect civilians and commits states which endorse it, to take action to implement it by making changes to their national policy and practice, including military policies and operational rules of engagement.
 
The 82 endorsing countries came from all regions of the world and include major producers of explosive weapons, past users of explosive weapons in populated areas, and countries affected by armed conflict.
 
Statement by ICRC President Mirjana Spoljaric, Dublin, November 2022.
 
"It gives me great pleasure to join you here today to mark the adoption of a milestone declaration which emanates from our common goal to improve the protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
 
This Political Declaration is a collective achievement with the potential to change the fate of many hundreds of thousands of persons affected by armed conflict around the world. It is a major step towards strengthening the protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law where it matters the most.
 
The use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas is one of the major causes of civilian harm in today's armed conflicts. When fighting takes place in cities, men, women, and children are exposed to unacceptably high risks.
 
Whether in the Middle East, in Africa, Asia, Latin America and now also again in Europe, we continue to witness the devastating pattern of suffering and destruction they cause.
 
Countless lives are shattered, countless victims disabled and traumatized because they happened to be in these weapons' large impact area. Many more suffer, fall ill or even die when a bomb, missile or mortar damages critical infrastructure, cutting off vital services such as water, electricity, sanitation and health care.
 
Entire populations flee to escape bombing and shelling or because life in the ruins becomes unbearable. Many remain displaced for months or even years. Large regions are contaminated by unexploded ordnance long after hostilities have ended. Ultimately, whole generations are scarred, and development indexes are set back by decades.
 
When bombs fall in cities, pain multiplies. Lost lives. Lost limbs. Crumbled homes. Crushed dreams. That's why today's declaration is so important. It brings hope that the immense suffering of civilians will no longer be accepted as an inevitable by-product of warfare.
 
For the first time in an instrument of this kind, States acknowledge the gravity of the problem and commit to taking concrete actions to address it, including by restricting or refraining from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, where such use may be expected to cause civilian harm.
 
The ICRC welcomes this and the other important commitments in the Declaration. Since 2011, we have been calling on all States and parties to armed conflict to avoid the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area in populated areas, as a matter of policy, due to the significant likelihood of indiscriminate effects.
 
This is why the ICRC finds this Declaration so important. It sends a powerful signal that belligerents cannot continue fighting in populated areas the way they have until now. This change in mindset and perspective is crucial. Yet, we are only at the beginning of a long process.
 
We must now work together to broaden support for the Declaration and to effectively implement it, turning ambitious commitments into meaningful measures, policies and good practices that will help alleviate human suffering during armed conflicts and in their aftermath.
 
All States have a stake in this effort. We commend the many Governments which have already endorsed the document and strongly encourage all others to do so without delay.
 
For one, as the urbanization of warfare is a global phenomenon, also its consequences are also global. From people displaced by armed conflict to the ripple effects of essential service disruption on food security, the effects of the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas transcend borders.
 
Second, the Declaration aims to strengthen compliance with international humanitarian law, which is today direly needed. All States have not only an interest in doing so, but also a legal duty.
 
And third, the Declaration creates an international standard of behaviour. The more States endorse the Declaration, the stronger this standard will become. Let us not forget that, today, no one fights alone. Partnered military operations and other support relationships shape the course of armed conflicts around the world.
 
As more and more States agree to restrict or refrain from using explosive weapons in populated areas, partners and supported parties will eventually be held to the same standard.
 
So today we mark the achievement, but tomorrow we must work harder to put these important commitments into action. We owe this to the innumerable victims of urban warfare, and to our common humanity".
 
Nov. 2022
 
States adopt first ever international agreement to protect civilians from explosive weapons in populated areas. Action on Armed Violence (AOAV)
 
States met at Dublin Castle on 18 November, 2022 to sign the “Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas”. 
 
The landmark agreement addresses the widespread civilian suffering and devastation resulting from the bombing and shelling of cities, towns, and other populated areas.
 
The International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) welcomes the declaration and calls on all states to sign and implement it.
 
“This declaration sends a clear message that using explosive weapons in populated areas causes unacceptable civilian suffering and devastation and must stop. It is time for all states to endorse and implement the Declaration to help civilians and their communities during and after conflict”, said Laura Boillot, Coordinator for the International Network in Explosive Weapons (INEW).
 
The Declaration requires states to impose limits on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, which is the leading cause of harm to civilians in conflicts today.
 
“When explosive weapons are used in populated areas, over a decade of data from AOAV has shown that civilians will be, by far, the most impacted. Around nine out of ten people harmed from such explosive weapon use in towns and cities have been civilians – a consistent finding seen throughout all conflicts in recent years,” said Iain Overton, Executive Director of Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), which runs a global annual monitor.
 
It also requires states to assist victims and affected communities both during and after conflict and to address the long-term suffering that stems from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Civilians suffer physical and psychological injury. Damage to and destruction of critical civilian infrastructure interferes with heath care, education, and other services. People are forced to flee the towns and cities in which they live and work.
 
“Nobody thinks about people like me, with no place to hide. This leads to psychological trauma. I was 12, in a wheelchair and terrified, but there was nothing anyone could do. When civilians are bombed it’s not only lives, cities and homes that are lost but also their future. I hope that signing the declaration will not be just a piece of paper – but the beginning of a real change. People suffering in wars around the world need it”, said Nujeen Mustafa, who fled from Aleppo, Syria to Germany.
 
“There is a widespread pattern of harm: when towns and cities are bombed, it is civilians that suffer the most”, said Alma Taslidzan Al-Osta from Humanity and Inclusion. Ethiopia, Iraq, Palestine (Gaza), Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen are recent examples of affected counties.
 
“Children disproportionately suffer the consequences of today’s armed conflicts as city centres are turned into battlefields. This could be a significant step forward to stop the war on children, but the declaration will mean nothing without robust, urgent implementation”, said James Denselow, Head of Conflict at Save the Children, UK.
 
Explosive weapons were designed for use in open battlefields, and are often deadly choices when used in towns, cities and other areas in which civilians are concentrated.
 
“Heavy explosive weapons, which are inaccurate, have a wide blast or fragmentation radius, or are delivered in groups, are a deadly choice for civilians”, said Steve Goose from Human Rights Watch. “Use of explosive weapons with such wide area effects should always be avoided in populated areas.”
 
States that sign the declaration must move quickly to begin the process of implementation. This includes developing policies and practices which limit the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and ensure that the protection of civilians is prioritized in the planning and conduct of military operations.
 
The use of explosive weapons in populated areas is the leading cause of civilian casualties in contemporary armed conflicts, and the Declaration is the first formal international recognition that this must be addressed urgently and directly.
 
http://www.icrc.org/en/document/un-icrc-urge-stepped-up-support-to-protect-civilians-from-explosive-weapons-populated-areas http://www.inew.org/dublin-conference-to-adopt-the-political-declaration-on-explosive-weapons/ http://aoav.org.uk/2022/states-set-to-adopt-first-ever-international-agreement-to-protect-civilians-from-explosive-weapons-in-populated-areas/ http://civiliansinconflict.org/press-releases/civic-urges-immediate-implementation-of-political-declaration-on-explosive-weapons/ http://www.justsecurity.org/84240/80-countries-committed-to-curb-use-of-explosive-weapons/ http://www.hrw.org/news/2022/10/26/safeguarding-civilians
 
http://www.icrc.org/en/what-we-do/war-in-cities http://www.icrc.org/en/document/civilians-protected-against-explosive-weapons http://www.icrc.org/en/explosive-weapons-populated-areas http://www.icrc.org/en/document/addressing-indirect-effects-explosive-weapons http://www.icrc.org/en/publication/i-saw-my-city-die-voices-front-lines-urban-conflict-iraq-syria-and-yemen http://international-review.icrc.org/reviews/irrc-no-901-war-cities http://www.icrc.org/en/war-and-law/protected-persons/civilians http://hi.org/en/a-political-declaration-against-the-use-of-explosive-weapons-in-populated-areas http://civiliansinconflict.org/press-releases/ewipa-2022-statement/ http://civiliansinconflict.org/blog/ewipa-consultations/ http://www.inew.org/press-release-use-of-heavy-explosive-weapons-killing-civilians-in-towns-and-cities-must-be-prevented/ http://reliefweb.int/report/world/political-declaration-strengthening-protection-civilians-humanitarian-consequences-arising-use-explosive-weapons-populated-areas-final-rev-enarruzh


 

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