News in Brief 03 November 2017 – Geneva (AM)

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Esther Cajou, 17, walks in the alleys in Batey Alemán in San Pedro de Macoris, in Dominican Republic.(2015) Tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent were deprived of their Dominican nationality following a 2013 ruling by the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic. © UNHCR/Markel Redondo

Statelessness affects millions of people and three in four belong to minority groups

At least 10 million people are stateless worldwide, and it's a problem that affects individuals and society as a whole.

That's according to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, which cautions that the problem is largely undocumented.

In a new report, it notes that more than three in four of the world's stateless people belong to minority groups.

People who do not have a nationality include refugees and nomadic populations in all regions of the world.

Countries with notably large stateless populations include Myanmar, Kuwait, Côte d'Ivoire, Thailand, Iraq, and the Dominican Republic.

Significant populations also live in countries which do not allow mothers to confer their nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers, the UN report notes.

The study falls within UNHCR's UN General Assembly mandate to identify and protect stateless people and to prevent and reduce statelessness.

The UN agency notes that international treaties exist to outlaw Member States from denying people citizenship or having their nationality taken away.

Using the (hashtag) #IBelong Campaign, UNHCR has called to End Statelessness by 2024.

Australia, Papua New Guinea urged to resolve Manus island refugee alert

Australia has been urged to help refugees who are "too frightened to leave" one of its detention centres on Manus island in Papua New Guinea.

On Friday, OHCHR, the UN human rights office, called the situation an "unfolding humanitarian emergency".

Manus island, which is located to the north of Papua New Guinea, has been used by Australia to hold potential asylum-seekers trying to reach its shores.

Australia closed the centre last month.

But hundreds people remain in the facility, OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville said in Geneva:

"We share the concerns of other UN agencies, including UNHCR, about what is an unfolding humanitarian emergency in the centre. We have serious concerns about the welfare, safety and well-being of the roughly 600 men who remain in the accommodation compound, who are too frightened to leave. We call on the Australian Government, as the Party who interned the men in the first place, to immediately provide protection, food, water and other basic services which have been cut off since authorities shuttered the facility on 31 October."

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, also called for Australia and Papua New Guinea to "de-escalate the situation" as "tension" was "high" in the surrounding community.

A spokesperson said that there were also increasing concerns for the health of residents, who last received food on Sunday.

Severe acute malnutrition doubles among Myanmar child refugees in Bangladesh

Severe acute malnutrition has doubled among Myanmar children sheltering in Bangladesh since the beginning of the refugee crisis there, the UN said on Friday.

UN Children's Fund UNICEF issued the warning amid an ongoing exodus of people from Myanmar's Rakhine State, following a government security operation.

Up to 4,000 people arrived in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar region in the last 48 hours, according to the UN migration agency, IOM.

The total number of refugees from Myanmar is now well over 800,000.

UNICEF is treating more than 2,000 children suffering from malnutrition in 15 centres in various camps and settlements.

Another six centres are planned.

But water and food are urgently needed for the new arrivals, some of whom are "on the brink of death", spokesperson Christophe Boulierac told journalists in Geneva.

"I mean it's very worrying, it's very worrying to see the condition of children who keep arriving…and that's really the first real nutrition assessment that allows us to clearly indicate that severe acute malnutrition is rising, the prevalence rate…But again just an opportunity to remind that the level of suffering, particularly among these people who are just at the border because they have walked, they are exhausted, they have not eaten anything and they need immediate assistance."

The development follows an official visit to Myanmar by UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Assistant High Commissioner Volker Türk earlier this week.

The UNHCR official reiterated calls for access to all communities in need in Rakhine State.

Mr Türk also stressed the refugees' right of return and appealed for their safe, voluntary and sustainable return home.

On Friday, UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch said that the agency had "no idea" when returns might start happening.

WHO downplays Madagascar plague spike

New plague infections in Madagascar have fallen along with the number of people hospitalized with suspected symptoms, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

Since August, there have been more than 1,800 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of plague – including 127 deaths – in the Indian Ocean island.

The outbreak has affected major cities and other areas where the disease is not usually reported, even though it is endemic in Madagascar.

New infections have been declining since the second week of October, according to WHO, which said that the overall increase in cases was owing in part to a processing backlog.

In a statement it noted that further cases of plague are expected in Madagascar until the plague season ends next April.

At present, WHO estimates that the risk of potential further spread of plague at a national level is "high".

But the UN health agency said that the risk of international spread of plague is "very low".

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 5’24″

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