News in Brief 12 December 2017 – Geneva (AM)

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Years of conflict have devastated large parts of Syria including Ghouta, above. Photo: OCHA

$4.4 billion appeal launched for over 5 million Syrian refugees

A more than $4 billion appeal has been launched to support what one top UN official called on Tuesday "a lost generation" of Syrian refugees caught up in the ongoing conflict.

Well over five million Syrians need help, according to the UN Refugee Agency's (UNHCR) Amin Awad, director for the Middle East and North Africa.

He added that nearly four million people in countries neighbouring Syria – including Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq – also need relief after years spent supporting those displaced since fighting began in 2011.

"Syria remains uncontested the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time. Seven million inside plus 5.3 million outside; 12.3 million people. Another 10 million who stayed put in Syria did not leave their homes but they are cut off. They're cut off (from) livelihoods, services in education, health, separated from relatives, friends and they are in need also of humanitarian assistance. The whole nation is in need of humanitarian assistance."

The UNHCR official said that the situation of 1.7 million Syrian refugee children was particularly worrying, as more than four in 10 are out of school.

Supplying the 5.3 million refugees with enough food to eat is also critical, Mr Awad added, given that insufficient funding in 2015 coincided with one million Syrians risking their lives as they went in search of shelter in western Europe.

DRC "humanitarian catastrophe" looms, warns IOM

Another aid appeal now, this time for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where $75 million is needed urgently to avert a looming "humanitarian catastrophe", according to UN migration agency IOM.

The agency called for funds on Tuesday amid what it said was an "alarming" deterioration inside the huge country in the past year.

Violence in the Kasai and Tanganyika provinces and ongoing fighting in North and South Kivu have displaced 4.1 million people – the highest number anywhere on the African continent.

In total, more than 13 million people are in need of help, according to IOM's Chief of Mission in the DRC, Jean-Philippe Chauzy.

He said that the situation had stretched the agency's capacity to "breaking point" and that reaching internally displaced people, known as IDPs, remains difficult amid clashes between armed gangs and government forces.

"Many IDPs and I saw them having no choice but to pitch sticks and bits of tarpaulin in unsafe areas, and IDPs who are being drawn into labour in the host communities to try to earn some money, and also pushing vulnerable IDPs into what we call negative coping mechanisms, not just exploitation and debt, but also transactional sex, and that in a province where gender-based violence is also widespread."

In the huge Kasai region, UN Children's Fund UNICEF also warned on Tuesday that at least 400,000 children under five are severely acutely malnourished and could die if they are not reached urgently.

Violence, mass displacement and missed harvests over the past 18 months are to blame, the agency said, in a call for funding.

Spokesperson Christophe Boulierac told journalists in Geneva that the security situation has stabilized in parts of Kasais where some people had begun to return home.

But more than 750,000 children across the region are acutely malnourished; this in a province where 220 health centres have been destroyed, looted or damaged.

Since January, UNICEF and partners have helped more than 50,000 children with severe acute malnutrition in the Kasais region.

But it has received just 15 per cent of the funding it needs.

Djibouti extends more rights for refugees – UNHCR

Finally, some better news in Djibouti, where refugees are benefiting from new laws that are designed to give them quicker access to essential services.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomed the development, which is designed to encourage easier integration into host communities.

The decrees offer the country's 27,000 refugees better access to social service such as healthcare, education and work.

The newly introduced legislation was signed into law by Djibouti President Islamil Omar Guelleh – making good on pledges made following the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in September 2016.

Before the decrees came into force, refugees' access to services was mainly assured by non-governmental partners.

And job opportunities were also restricted to the informal sector, such as day-labouring or domestic help.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 4’26″

 

 

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