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Italy contributes €500,000 (US$ 610,000) to help relieve drought-affected people from hunger

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LUSAKA – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a €500,000 (US$ 610,000) contribution from the Italian Government to provide food to people affected by the drought in Zambia.

Drought and prolonged dry spells have left 2.3 million people severely food insecure and in need of humanitarian food assistance.

“In the context of the current crisis, the Italian emergency contribution confirmed in December 2019 is crucial to WFP. The funds will enable WFP to procure around 340 MT of pulses to cover the food needs of about 99,000 people for an entire month, helping WFP ensure that the people residing in the areas most affected by the drought can receive the immediate assistance they need,” said Jennifer Bitonde, WFP Country Representative in Zambia.

“At the same time, WFP will continue to work to strengthening communities resilience to future climatic shocks under its five-year Country Strategic Plan (2019-2024),” she added.

As part of the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, WFP is currently supporting the Governments response by providing logistics support by delivering Government-supplied maize meal, as well as by procuring and delivering pulses to ensure a nutrition-sensitive food basket. WFP is also working closely with partners to monitor food distributions and guarantee that resources reach those most in need.

About 1.1 million people are expected to receive WFPs support, while the remaining 1.2 million will be assisted by the Government and other partners, with whom WFP is working and closely coordinating.

Contact

For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):
Paola Di Tommaso, WFP/Lusaka Mob.+260971020341

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The United Nations World Food Programme – saving lives in emergencies and changing lives for millions through sustainable development. WFP works in more than 80 countries around the world, feeding people caught in conflict and disasters, and laying the foundations for a better future.

UNHCR to suspend operations at GDF in Tripoli amid safety concerns

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UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, announced today, Thursday, 30 January, that it is suspending its operational work at the Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF), fearing for the safety and protection of people at the facility, its staff and partners amid worsening conflict in Tripoli, Libya.

“Unfortunately UNHCR was left with no choice but to suspend work at the Gathering and Departure Facility in Tripoli after learning that training exercises, involving police and military personnel, are taking place just a few meters away from units housing asylum seekers and refugees,” said Jean-Paul Cavalieri, UNHCRs Chief of Mission in Libya.

“We fear that the entire area could become a military target, further endangering the lives of refugees, asylum seekers, and other civilians,” he added.

UNHCR has started moving dozens of highly vulnerable refugees, who have already been identified for resettlement or evacuation to third countries, from the facility to safer locations.

UNHCR will also facilitate the evacuation of hundreds of other people to urban areas. This includes around 400 asylum seekers who had left the Tajoura detention centre after it was hit by air strikes last July as well as some 300 asylum-seekers from the Abu Salim detention centre who entered the GDF last November after being spontaneously released from detention by the authorities. All will be provided with cash assistance, relief items and medical assistance at UNHCRs Community Day Centre in Tripoli.

“Other important aspects of our work in Libya continue at full pace and we hope to be able to resume our work at the GDF once safe to do so,” Cavalieri said.

On 2 January, UNHCR expressed serious concerns after three mortar shells fell close to the GDF and fragments landed near a warehouse inside the complex.

The GDF, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior, was established as a transit site to host refugees who had been identified for a solution outside of Libya, pending their evacuation. Since December 2018, nearly 1,700 formerly detained refugees have been evacuated out of Libya to safety, through the GDF. With close to 900 individuals entering the GDF spontaneously since July, it became severely overcrowded and is no longer functioning as a transit centre.

UNHCR continues to urge all sides to the conflict in Libya to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.

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DRC: inter-ethnic violence in Ituri may constitute “crimes against humanity” – UN report

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KINSHASA/GENEVA (10 January 2020) — Killings, rapes and other forms of violence targeting the Hema community in the Democratic Republic of Congo province of Ituri may amount to crimes against humanity, a UN report released on Friday said.

An investigation conducted by the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO)* in the DRC established that at least 701 people have been killed and 168 injured during inter-ethnic tensions between the Hema and Lendu communities, in the territories of Djugu and Mahagi, from December 2017 to September 2019. In addition, at least 142 people have been subjected to acts of sexual violence, the report said. Most of the victims are members of the Hema community.

Since September 2018, Lendu armed groups have increasingly become more organized in carrying out attacks against the Hema and members of other ethnic groups such as the Alur, the investigators said. Among their objectives is to take control of the land of the Hema communities and their associated resources, they added.

The report documents numerous cases of women being raped, of children — some in school uniforms — being killed, and of looting and burning of villages. On 10 June 2019, in the district of Torges, a Hema man who was trying to prevent armed assailants from raping his wife witnessed his 8-year-old son being beheaded.

“The barbarity that characterizes these attacks — including the beheading of women and children with machetes, the dismemberment and removal of body parts of the victims as trophies of war — reflects the desire of the attackers to inflict lasting trauma to the Hema communities and to force them to flee and not return to their villages,” the report said.

“The violence documented… could contain some elements of crimes against humanity through murder, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillage and persecution.”

Schools and health clinics have been attacked and destroyed. The report said most attacks occurred in June around the harvest period, and in December during the sowing season. “This makes it more difficult for the Hema to cultivate their fields and exacerbates their lack of food,” the report said.

Since February 2018, almost 57,000 people have taken refuge in Uganda and more than 556,000 have fled to neighbouring regions, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. Several camps and villages where the Hema have taken refuge have been stormed, burned and destroyed by Lendu armed groups, the report said.

UN investigators also documented, between December 2017 and May 2018, acts of reprisal by some members of the Hema communities, including the burning of villages and isolated attacks targeting the Lendu.

Army and police forces deployed since February 2018 have failed to stop the violence, the report stated, adding that the security forces themselves had committed abuses such as extrajudicial executions, sexual violence, arbitrary arrests and detention. Two police officers and two soldiers have been convicted by Congolese courts.

UNHCR welcomes new law in El Salvador to help people internally displaced by violence

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This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Liz Throssell – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomes El Salvadors passage of legislation to protect, aid and offer durable solutions to people internally displaced in the Central American nation due to violence from organized crime and criminal gangs, as well as those who may be at risk of displacement.

The legislation, passed by a resounding majority in El Salvadors National Assembly on January 9, opens the door for tens of thousands of victims of forced displacement in the country to gain access to life-saving humanitarian assistance, and to have their basic rights restored, including effective access to justice. The law further provides for the establishment, for the first time, of a comprehensive national system that brings together a wide variety of State institutions to collaborate in responding to and preventing forced displacement.

Once signed by President Nayib Bukele, the law can have a lasting positive impact on the lives of the 71,500 Salvadorans estimated to have been forcibly displaced between 2006 and 2016 within their countrys borders, as well as tens of thousands more who are at risk of being forced to flee their homes.

The text of the legislation on internal displacement, drafted with technical support from UNHCR, aligns with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and with other international standards that describe the rights of internally displaced persons, including the right to request and receive humanitarian assistance, protection of family unity, an adequate standard of living and durable solutions. It also establishes mechanisms to allow those affected by internal displacement to protect and reclaim property they may have been forced to abandon in their flight.

The law reflects the growing momentum In Central America and beyond to recognize and respond to the phenomenon of internal displacement. In Honduras, where an estimated 247,000 people have been displaced by violence within their own country, the National Congress is considering legislation similar to the law passed in El Salvador. Mexico also recognizes the serious impact of internal displacement and has expressed its commitment to pass legislation on the issue at the federal level.

UNHCR reiterates its readiness to continue offering technical and operational assistance to the governments of Central America and Mexico to help them mitigate the causes and consequences of forced displacement, in line with their commitments as part of a regional alliance to provide comprehensive protection and solutions to the issue called the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework, known by its Spanish-language acronym, MIRPS.

In October, the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, established a High-level Panel on Internal Displacement to increase global attention and advance solutions for this issue which affects more than 40 million people worldwide due to conflict and violence.

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Nearly 1,000 migrants returned to Libya in the first two weeks of 2020: IOM

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Geneva – At least 953 migrants, among them 136 women and 85 children, have been returned to Libyan shores in the first two weeks of 2020. Most were disembarked in Tripoli and all were taken to detention centres. NGO search and rescue vessels reported having rescued 237 others. These returned migrants are among the more than 1,000 who have left Libya by sea since 1 January, driven in part by the heaviest clashes Tripoli has seen since hostilities began nine months ago.

Migrants who spoke to International Organization for Migration (IOM) staff at disembarkation points in Libya said that the escalation in hostilities in and around the capital, and the deteriorating humanitarian situation are the main reasons behind this increase in departures.

During the same period last year, 23 bodies were recovered by the coast guard and no migrants were returned to Libya. The current sudden increase in departures is especially alarming given the very limited search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean.

IOM has consistently called for the dismantling of the detention system, and the orderly release of migrants. Alternative solutions that safeguard lives must be found to alleviate the suffering of thousands of men, women, and children who are held in inhumane conditions.

While IOM teams are present at disembarkation points to provide emergency assistance to migrants, including basic health assistance and screenings, the Organization reiterates that measures to protect lives and guarantee the safety of these people are not in place.

Over 1,000 other migrants who have registered for IOMs Voluntary Humanitarian Return programme are still trapped in Libya due to the security situation. The challenging and unsafe environment in the countrys capital has disrupted aviation activities thus hindering an important lifeline for stranded migrants.

“While our operations and programmes continue across the country, they have been largely affected, especially with regards to the safe movement of migrants to transit points and airports. A minimum degree of security is needed for us to be able to safely assist 500 people scheduled to return home in the coming days,” says IOM Libya Chief of Mission Federico Soda.

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UN report details scale of rights violations suffered by children in Syrian war

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UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria Publishes Report on Childrens Rights over the course of the Syrian War

GENEVA, 16 January 2020 – Children in the Syrian Arab Republic have been robbed of their childhood as they are forced to participate in a brutal war and endure numerous violations of their rights by all parties to the conflict while remaining acutely vulnerable to violence and abuse, the Commission of Inquiry for Syria noted today in its latest report.

In a 25-page report released today, entitled “They have erased the dreams of my children,” the three-person Commission outlines the multiple rights violations children have been subjected to – including over five million children displaced internally and abroad – and how boys and girls have been robbed of their childhood over the course of the brutal eight and a half-year war.

“I am appalled by the flagrant disregard for the laws of war and the Convention on the Rights of the Child by all parties involved in the conflict”, said Commission of Inquiry Chair Paulo Pinheiro. “While the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic has the primary responsibility for the protection of boys and girls in the country, all of the actors in this conflict must do more to protect children and preserve the countrys future generation,” he noted.

Children have been killed and maimed, and subjected to myriad violations by warring parties, states the report, which covers the period between September 2011 to the end of October 2019. On multiple occasions, pro-Government forces used cluster munitions, thermobaric bombs and chemical weapons causing scores of child casualties. Rape and sexual violence have been used repeatedly against men, women, boys and girls as a tool to punish, humiliate and instil fear among communities. Government forces have detained boys as young as 12, subjecting them to severe beatings and torture.

The devastating situation of education in Syria is particularly highlighted as an area of concern. Since the start of the conflict thousands of schools have been destroyed or used for military purposes and more than 2.1 million boys and girls are not regularly attending classes of any form. “Urgent efforts are required by the Syrian Government to support as many children as possible to return to education,” noted Commissioner Karen AbuZayd. “Armed groups holding territory also need to act with haste to facilitate access to education,” she added.

Armed groups targeted schools and used educational facilities for military purposes. Children were detained and used as bargaining chips for prisoner swaps or to extract ransom. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorists recruited and used boys to fight on the frontlines. At its peak, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) subjected girls as young as nine to rape and sexual slavery. Boys, meanwhile, were given military training and routinely exposed to extreme violence, including witnessing public executions or forced into the role of executor.

The impact of the conflict on the long-term physical and mental health of boys and girls has been severe. Today, large numbers of children suffer from disabilities as well as devastating psychological and development issues. The report also outlines how over five million children have been displaced by conflict and have become increasingly vulnerable to violations.

The Commission urges States to ensure the protection of displaced children, particularly with regard to the obligations upon all States to repatriate children with familial links to ISIL fighters. “States have well defined obligations to protect children, including from statelessness. Failing to abide by such fundamental principles would be a clear derogation of duty,” noted Commissioner Hanny Megally.

Among the recommendations to the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and other key actors aimed to improve the protection of children in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Commission urges parties to respect the special protection children are entitled to under international humanitarian and human rights law and to ensure accountability for violations that have occurred. The Commission also makes a series of recommendations aimed at increasing the support for children who have suffered abuses.

Nearly 1,000 migrants returned to Libya in the first two weeks of 2020

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Geneva – At least 953 migrants, among them 136 women and 85 children, have been returned to Libyan shores in the first two weeks of 2020. Most were disembarked in Tripoli and all were taken to detention centres. NGO search and rescue vessels reported having rescued 237 others. These returned migrants are among the more than 1,000 who have left Libya by sea since 1 January, driven in part by the heaviest clashes Tripoli has seen since hostilities began nine months ago.

Migrants who spoke to International Organization for Migration (IOM) staff at disembarkation points in Libya said that the escalation in hostilities in and around the capital, and the deteriorating humanitarian situation are the main reasons behind this increase in departures.

During the same period last year, 23 bodies were recovered by the coast guard and no migrants were returned to Libya. The current sudden increase in departures is especially alarming given the very limited search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean.

IOM has consistently called for the dismantling of the detention system, and the orderly release of migrants. Alternative solutions that safeguard lives must be found to alleviate the suffering of thousands of men, women, and children who are held in inhumane conditions.

While IOM teams are present at disembarkation points to provide emergency assistance to migrants, including basic health assistance and screenings, the Organization reiterates that measures to protect lives and guarantee the safety of these people are not in place.

Over 1,000 other migrants who have registered for IOMs Voluntary Humanitarian Return programme are still trapped in Libya due to the security situation. The challenging and unsafe environment in the countrys capital has disrupted aviation activities thus hindering an important lifeline for stranded migrants.

“While our operations and programmes continue across the country, they have been largely affected, especially with regards to the safe movement of migrants to transit points and airports. A minimum degree of security is needed for us to be able to safely assist 500 people scheduled to return home in the coming days,” says IOM Libya Chief of Mission Federico Soda.

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IRC warns 650,000 civilians may be forced to flee if escalation in north-west Syria continues

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New York, NY, January 16, 2020 — The humanitarian situation in northwest Syria is reaching catastrophic levels, and with the attacks yesterday on a marketplace and an industrial zone that reportedly killed at least 15 people, and warnings to civilians in central Idlib and Western Aleppo to evacuate the area, 650,000 people could be impacted and at risk of displacement.

International Rescue Committee Middle East Policy Director, Misty Buswell, said, “The situation in northwest Syria was already at breaking point, and the events of the last few days mark a dangerous and deadly turning point in the conflict. An additional 650,000 people, the majority of them women and children, could be forced to flee their homes if the violence continues. This is on top of nearly 350,000 in Idlib who have been displaced since December, bringing the total number who have fled in the last 9 months to nearly three-quarters of a million.

Many of the displaced people are living in tents in the open in freezing winter conditions and urgently need shelter and food, with the ongoing risk of flooding further compounding the misery. Ahmad, a displaced person in Idlib, told the IRC that he lost his home to an airstrike and he and his family have been forced to flee three times in the past six months. The conflict has taken a psychological toll on his children, the youngest of whom was only 4 meters from the house when it was hit. An IRC assessment in Idlib last year found that half of parents reported their children showing signs of severe emotional distress, and the current violence will add to the psychological terror they are experiencing.

Hospitals and health facilities in Idlib were already full, and medical supplies stretched, even before this wave of violence. Doctors have told the IRC that they are seeing a worrying increase in malnutrition cases, particularly among babies, due to displacement, poor food security and increased poverty as a result of the conflict. Increasing insecurity has forced the suspension of three IRC supported health facilities in central Idlib since December, further limiting the lifesaving response, and an IRC partner in Western Aleppo had to stop its protection programs for women and girls yesterday, leaving the most vulnerable without essential protection services. Since the end of April, 1,460 civilians, including 417 children, have been killed as a result of the military escalation, according to the UN.

Yet again, it is innocent women and children who are bearing the brunt of the conflict, and who will suffer the most if this violence escalates further. All parties to the conflict need to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and spare civilians from the worst effects of the fighting. It is critical for the ceasefire that was agreed in northwest Syria to be implemented fully and without further delay. And it is time, once and for all, for the parties to the conflict to come back to the negotiating table and find a peaceful resolution. The very lives of 3 million civilians in northwest Syria depend on it.”

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Libya: Tens of thousands of children at risk amidst violence and chaos of unrelenting conflict

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NEW YORK, 17 January 2020 – “Children in Libya, including refugee and migrant children, continue to suffer grievously amidst the violence and chaos unleashed by the countrys longstanding civil war.

“Since April last year when hostilities broke out in Tripoli and western Libya, conditions for thousands of children and the civilians have deteriorated further. Indiscriminate attacks in populated areas have caused hundreds of deaths, and UNICEF has received reports of children being maimed or killed. Children are also being recruited to the fighting. Meanwhile, more than 150,000 people, 90,000 of whom are children, have been forced to flee their homes and are now internally displaced.

“Infrastructure on which children depend for their wellbeing and survival has also come under attack. Nearly 30 health facilities have been damaged in the fighting, forcing 13 to close. Attacks against schools and the threat of violence have led to closures and left almost 200,000 children out of the classroom. Water systems have been attacked and the waste management system has virtually collapsed, greatly increasing the risk of waterborne diseases including cholera.

“The 60,000 refugee and migrant children currently in urban areas are also terribly vulnerable, especially the 15,000 who are unaccompanied and those being held in detention centres. These children already had limited access to protection and essential services, so the intensifying conflict has only amplified the risks that they face.

“UNICEF and our partners are on the ground providing affected children and families with support in accessing healthcare and nutrition, protection, education, water and sanitation. We are also reaching refugee and migrant children with assistance, including those held in detention centres. Sadly, attacks against the civilian population and infrastructure, as well as against humanitarian and healthcare personnel are seeking to undermine humanitarian efforts.

“Today, children in Libya are in a dire and untenable situation that the rest of the world should find unacceptable. We urgently call on all parties to the conflict and those who have influence over them to protect children, end the recruitment and use of children, cease attacks against civilian infrastructure, and allow for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to children and people in need. We also call on Libyan authorities to end the detention of migrant and refugee children and to actively pursue safe and dignified alternatives to detention.

“Ahead of a planned peace summit in Berlin, Germany this Sunday, we call on parties to the conflict and those who have influence over them to urgently reach a comprehensive and durable peace agreement for the sake of each and every child in Libya.”

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Guatemala’s children bear brunt of prolonged drought and rising heat

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by Anastasia Moloney | @anastasiabogota | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 21 January 2020 17:14 GMT Image Caption and Rights Information

By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA, Jan 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Rising numbers of children in Guatemala are going hungry as drought linked to climate change reduces food harvests, fueling child malnutrition rates in the Central American nation, the United Nations and charities said.

Guatemala, which has one of the world’s high rates of child malnutrition, recorded more than 15,300 cases of acute malnutrition in children under 5 last year, up nearly 24% from 2018, according to government figures.

The number of children acutely malnourished was the highest since 2015, when a severe drought hit Central America.

Guatemala’s farmers are reeling from a series of prolonged droughts in recent years and from a lengthy heat wave last year as climate change brings drier conditions and erratic rainfall, U.N. officials said.

Children living in poor highland farming communities and along the “Dry Corridor” – running through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua – are bearing the brunt, they said.

“There is an increase in cases of acute malnutrition that are related to climate change and the long periods of drought from June to October (last year),” said Maria Claudia Santizo, a nutrition specialist at the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF.

Drought is also adding to the area of Guatemala suffering problems, she said.

“With climate change, the dry corridor has expanded,” Santizo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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