Security in Central African Republic improves, but situation remains fragile – UN envoy

5 August 2015 – Political progress combined with the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers in nearly 40 localities have contributed to the improvement of the overall security situation in Central African Republic (CAR), which nonetheless remains precarious, the top UN envoy in the country told the Security Council today.

“The current improvement of the situation on the ground has allowed internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return and the economic activity to recover,” said Babacar Gaye, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSCA.

Mr. Gaye noted that many parts of CAR are still targeted by armed groups. “MINUSCA often reports harassment, racketeering, arbitrary detention and serious violations of human rights such as inhuman treatments in cases of witchcraft accusations,” he stated.

In the western part of the country, a recent increase of violent incidents on the main road between the capital, Bangui, and Cameroon has been of concern, said Mr. Gaye, noting that since May, three peacekeepers were injured in the area, and on 18 July, gunmen opened fire on a World Food Programme vehicle escorted by MINUSCA, killing a driver.

In the centre of the country, clashes between the former Séléka and anti-Balaka groups continue to pose threats for the local populations, while in eastern CAR, the ex-Séléka continue to have a significant military presence. In addition, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continues to operate in the south-eastern part of the country.

“MINUSCA is establishing three temporary operating bases in this area to further limit the LRA’s ability to operate,” the Special Representative said.

“Security is gradually improving in Bangui, where signs of normal life lend a sense of confidence and gradual returns from the airport IDP camp to other areas of the city indicate a positive, but fragile, trend,” he went on.

Despite the Mission’s efforts, the humanitarian situation remains a significant concern, he acknowledged, with more than 2.7 million people in need of assistance, some 450,000 refugees, and close to 400,000 displaced persons inside the country.

“However, only 30 per cent of the humanitarian appeal has been funded. Against this background, I urge Member States to sustain the positive developments in the country by responding to the humanitarian appeal.”

At the political level, the envoy continued, the main success of the recently held Bangui Forum is the “spirit of dialogue, inclusivity, and the sense that the good of the country eventually prevail.” He welcomed the UN Peacebuilding Fund’s support of $10 million that will be allocated to priorities identified by the Forum.

Against this backdrop, the recent vote of the National Transition Council to deprive the refugees from their right to vote represents an alarming step back and a reminder that more effort should be focused on reconciliation, he emphasized.

After the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) decided to consider positively an extension of the CAR political transition until the end of 2015, the CAR authorities announced the following electoral calendar: a constitutional referendum on 4 October, the first round of presidential and legislative elections on 18 October, and a second round on 22 November.

In the meantime, 330,000 voters have registered, primarily in Bangui, and the process is getting underway in the rest of the country. Restoration of State authority and the electoral process are being supported by MINUSCA through the provision of transport, training and administrative kits.

Noting a remaining $11 million funding gap to close the electoral budget, Mr. Gaye called on international donors to make additional commitments to this “critical element” of the peace process. He made a similar appeal to support the Special Criminal Court that was established by the transitional authorities to investigate serious crimes committed since 1 January 2003.

Despite progress towards voluntary disarmament of the ex-Séléka in Bangui, MINUSCA has yet to disarm the combatants throughout the country. “Indeed, most of the signatories would like to respect their commitment as per the agreement, but recent political developments have raised doubts, in particular among the ex-Séléka,” he warned.

In the meantime, MINUSCA is working closely with the transitional authorities to move the process forward in order to establish a situation conducive to “calm and transparent elections,” the envoy stated.

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WHO Warns of a Coming Meningitis Outbreak in West Africa

UNICEF, MSF, WHO and the IFRC are urging vaccine manufacturers to ramp up production of the meningitis vaccine. “‘In just the first six months of 2015, there have been 12,000 cases of meningitis C in Niger and Nigeria, and 800 deaths. At the same time, there has been a critical shortage of vaccine,’” said Dr Myriam Henkens, International Medical Coordinator, MSF. ‘The campaigns consequently were limited to the critically affected age groups and areas, and even so, had to be delayed until vaccine supply became available and we believe next year will be worse. We need vaccine manufacturers to plan production of multivalent vaccine now to allow sufficient lead time and capacity to meet this demand.’” (WHO http://bit.ly/1Ipqgqp )

Here’s How Many Yemeni’s The UN Can Reach With Humanitarian Aid If Only There Were A Pause in Fighting…The latest attempt at a humanitarian pause in Yemen “has not been respected by any party to the conflict,” the U.N. humanitarian chief said Tuesday, adding that a plan to reach 3 million Yemenis with aid is ready to go if only the fighting would stop. Stephen O’Brien briefed the Security Council and repeated the call for an “unconditional freeze” in the months-long fighting between a Saudi-led coalition and Shiite Houthi rebels in the Arab world’s poorest country. A five-day humanitarian pause announced by the Saudi-led coalition quickly fell apart early Monday. An earlier pause announced this month by the U.N. also failed.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/1fFcPf4)

Quote of the Day: Obama, at the AU… “I have to say Africa’s democratic progress is also at risk from leaders who refuse to step aside when their terms end,” Obama told delegates from across the continent.

“Let me be honest with you – I just don’t understand this. I am in my second term … I love my work but under our constitution, I cannot run again. I actually think I’m a pretty good president: I think if I ran I could win, but I can’t.” (Guardian http://bit.ly/1fFcXet)

Obama in Africa

During his visit to Ethiopia, U.S. President Barack Obama took the time Tuesday to meet with Ethiopians who have benefited from U.S. development initiatives. (VOA http://bit.ly/1D9lC3N)

On Burundi: “When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife, as we’ve seen in Burundi,” said Obama during his remarks to the African Union. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Mt6OPC)

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that Ethiopia “cannot unleash the full potential of its people” if it jails journalists and restricts legitimate opposition groups. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1ON4iD9)

Africa

Cameroon will send around 2,000 extra troops to the north of the country to fight Boko Haram, the Nigerian jihadist movement behind bloody cross-border raids and suicide bombings, state television said Tuesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1h3o81F)

A high court in the Ghanaian capital Accra sentenced a man to a 10-year prison term Tuesday after he confessed to having planned to kill President John Dramani Mahama. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ON68nm)

War-torn Somalia will not be able to hold full elections due next year, lawmakers said Tuesday, although it remained unclear whether some kind of voting process would still be held. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ON60Ek)

In between the run-down buildings in a seemingly inauspicious part of Lagos, a city of around 21 million, tech start-ups are taking root and creating a buzz that is drawing international venture capitalists and more established digital firms. (VOA http://bit.ly/1D9lvVI)

Mozambique’s president travelled to the country’s northwest where fighting between government troops and opposition fighters has forced hundreds to flee to neighboring Malawi, state-run radio reported on Tuesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Mt8yZ2)

Kenya will be getting new support to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS among adolescent girls. President Obama announced Sunday that Kenya would be included in the DREAMS project. It’s funded by the U.S., the Nike Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (VOA http://bit.ly/1ON452z)

Corruption is pervasive throughout the asylum process in South Africa, according to a report published this month. (VOA http://bit.ly/1D9lAZC)

Thousands of small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe fear they will be going hungry this winter after abandoning traditional staples like maize, sorghum and groundnuts for tobacco, a cash crop known locally in this southern African nation as “green gold.” (VOA http://bit.ly/1D9lxNm)

Proposed laws to allow the seizure of land and property to redress the imbalance of ownership between black and white South Africans, could be unconstitutional and subject to the whims of ministers, rights groups told parliament on Tuesday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1ON4oKK)

Former Tanzanian prime minister Edward Lowassa on Tuesday defected from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, accusing it of “oppressive leadership”, less than three months ahead of a general election scheduled for October 25. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1JsNml2)

MENA

The United Nations human rights office is “deeply disturbed” by death sentences handed down in a trial of former officials who served under Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, it said on Tuesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1h3oa9K)

Since March, nearly 25,000 people a day have slipped into hunger in Yemen, and every second person – or nearly 13 million people – is now struggling to find enough to eat, according to Oxfam. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1ScMerq)

Human Rights Watch condemned as an “apparent war crime” on Tuesday a Saudi-led air raid in Yemen last week that it said killed at least 65 civilians in residential compounds. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1SLmGwC)

Insurgents have launched a major offensive on government-held areas in northwestern Syria in a bid to advance towards a coastal region vital to President Bashar al-Assad’s control of the west, a monitoring group and activists said on Tuesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Mt6TTc)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said the formation of a safe zone inside war-torn Syria, free from the Islamic State group, would help the return of 1.7 million refugees. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Mt6U9G)

A dissident Moroccan journalist on Tuesday ended a monthlong hunger strike protesting his treatment by the government after an official said he could get a new passport in three days, a member of his support committee said. (AP http://yhoo.it/1ON63Qw)

Asia

Thailand has hit back after being blacklisted in a US report for the second consecutive year for not combatting modern-day slavery, arguing it has made serious steps to tackle human trafficking. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1GZ1tZb)

British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday his government would make available loans of up to 1 billion pounds to Indonesia to help finance infrastructure projects. (VOA http://bit.ly/1ON4278)

South Korea on Tuesday declared the effective end to a deadly outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome that killed 36 people, triggered widespread panic and stymied growth in Asia’s fourth-largest economy. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ON4n9O)

The nationwide death toll from this month’s flash floods in various parts of Pakistan rose to 81 on Tuesday as floodwater inundated hundreds of villages, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless, authorities said. (AP http://yhoo.it/1ON4mTe)

The Americas

Forensic experts in Colombia have begun a search for dozens of bodies at a landfill site believed to be one of the largest urban mass graves in the world. (BBC http://bbc.in/1D9l51M)

UN experts have called on the government of the Dominican Republic to stop the “arbitrary deportations” of Dominicans of Haitian descent, warning that its actions risk violating international laws as well as the country’s own constitution. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1ON46n8)

Brazil’s penitentiaries are notorious for rampant overcrowding and violence endured by all inmates. But advocates say few prisoners are as vulnerable as transvestites and transgender people, who are often singled out for taunting and physical and sexual abuse. (AP http://yhoo.it/1ON4mCI)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Monday called for citizens to break the pacts of silence that have covered up human rights violations during the 1973-1990 military dictatorship, praising a former soldier who helped the investigation into the burning death of a U.S. resident. (VOA http://bit.ly/1D9lwsP)

…and the rest

Rescuers found 13 dead migrants on a boat off the coast of Libya with more than 500 others aboard, an Italian coast guard spokesman said on Tuesday, giving no details about how they had died. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Mt6RLk)

A prominent Russian human rights group said on Tuesday it is closing down its operations this week because of a repressive law, but has come up with a plan to continue its work. (AP http://yhoo.it/1h3o9T9)

Opinion/Blogs

Did Obama Avoid the Difficult Questions in Kenya? (OZY http://bit.ly/1gjtaqP)

Obama just pulled off two important firsts for a sitting US president (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1D95wH8)

Justin Forsyth: ‘If NGOs stay politically correct, we won’t have an impact’ (Guardian http://bit.ly/1DMktdb)

On corruption and mass atrocities (Reinventing Peace http://bit.ly/1MtbHYI)

Did You Hear About the Great Ebola Land Grab? Expect a Wave of Mystery Plagues (East African http://bit.ly/1Mt4A2I)

This Nicaraguan native community endured Spanish conquest. Will it survive modern times? (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1SLcnZi)

Drones: a force for good when flying in the face of disaster (Guardian http://bit.ly/1gjFI1d)

4 Ways Your Phone May Be Fueling Instability Around the World (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1MtbTr8)

The things we do: The connection between sleep and poverty (People, Spaces, Deliberation http://bit.ly/1MtbTYd)

Where should money go to manage global health’s ‘silent epidemic’? (Devex http://bit.ly/1DMS72G)

Look Out Pelley, Muir And Holt. Rapping Reporters Could Give You A Jolt (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1ON957v)

Learning by un-doing: the magic of immersion (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/1DMRYfr)
Feeding West Africa: An Agenda for Regional Trade (Africa Can End Poverty http://bit.ly/1gk94fO)

Discussion

comments…

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Aid Agencies Warn of New Burundi Refugee Flow

Humanitarian agencies in the region are already stretched thin. “Tanzanian refugee camps and relief workers, struggling to help tens of thousands of Burundian refugees, fear a new wave may pour across the border because of the violence that hit Burundi’s presidential election on Tuesday, aid agencies said. A policeman and an opposition official died in violence marring the start of the election, in a nation already hit by opposition boycotts and protests over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term…Some 80,000 Burundian refugees have entered Tanzania since Nkurunziza announced in April he would seek a third term, the International Rescue Committee and Save the Children said.” (TRF http://bit.ly/1COeQAx)

An HIV Breakthrough…A girl infected with HIV at birth has been in remission for 12 years after stopping her treatment. “Now a young woman of eighteen and a half, she was infected at birth by mother-to-child transmission and is now in virological remission, despite not having taken any antiretroviral therapy for the last twelve years. Monitored in the French ANRS pediatric cohort, this young woman seems to have benefited from the treatment that was initiated shortly after her birth and was continued for almost six years before being stopped. Her case suggests that long-term remission after early treatment may be achieved in children infected with HIV at birth, as demonstrated in 20 adults in the ANRS VISCONTI study.” (Institute Pasteur http://bit.ly/1TORU8t)

Another Horrid Example of Violence Against Women in India…More than 100 women have fallen victim to this kind of witch hunt in Assam. “A 63-year-old woman in India was beheaded Monday after a mob of more than 200 people accused her of witchcraft. The incident took place at a village in the eastern state of Assam, Indian broadcaster NDTV reported. Seven people have been arrested for the lynching, which occurred after the woman was dragged out of her house and attacked.” (Time http://ti.me/1TORZZD )

Quote of the day: “It is a bit of a crisis of the postwar settlement for multilateralism to adapt … it’s not so easy to invent an alternative to the UN. The UN has to be made to work,” said former UNDP head Helen Clark about the changing world around the UN. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1GA1Usx)

Africa

A policeman and an opposition official died in violence marring the start of Burundi’s presidential election, already hit by opposition boycotts and protests over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1OvgRTp)

Traditional rite-of-passage ceremonies in South Africa left 32 boys dead and more than 150 hospitalised, local authorities said Tuesday, as the annual initiation season drew to a close. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HHja3l)

The U.N. refugee agency reports increasing numbers of Nigerian refugees in Cameroon are moving away from the volatile border area to a UNHCR camp in a more secure region farther inland. (VOA http://bit.ly/1COqMCn)

Zimbabwe’s government said it has approved $971 million in foreign investments in the first half of the year versus $555 million a year ago, but a law handing majority control of businesses to locals was putting off investors. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1OvgRmh)

Nigeria’s presidency said on Tuesday that the World Bank had pledged to spend up to $2.1 billion to rebuild the northeast of the country that has been devastated by Boko Haram militants. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1VqTteq)

During an address to the nation, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said security and trade will top the agenda during U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the country later this week. (VOA http://bit.ly/1COqMlD)

The trial of Chad’s former ruler Hissene Habre on war crimes charges has been adjourned until September 7 after the presiding judge appointed three new lawyers on Tuesday for the defence. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1COeV7p)

Hollywood actor George Clooney launched an initiative on Monday to track down and help bring to justice those funding and profiting from Africa’s deadliest conflicts in a bid to fight corruption in war zones. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1COeVEm)

Some 65 percent of Zimbabwe’s 14 million people now rely on the informal sector to survive, according to the African Development Bank. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1COeUAk)

Aid dependency, weak governance and protracted conflict mean that Central African Republic is in danger of becoming “the case study of a failed state”, a report warns. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1GA1SkB)

MENA

A UN aid ship docked in Yemen’s devastated port city of Aden Tuesday, bringing in desperately needed relief supplies after four months of fierce fighting between rebels and loyalist fighters. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HHj7V1)

The International Organization for Migration reports an extortion racket is flourishing in war-torn Yemen. The IOM says traffickers, armed groups and others are kidnapping vulnerable Ethiopian migrants on their way to Saudi Arabia and holding them for ransom. (VOA http://bit.ly/1OvsXvN)

Greek authorities say a boat carrying 150 to 200 migrants has been located adrift in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and two merchant ships have reached it to offer help or evacuate the vessel if necessary. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Ovt0Yt)

Asia

Thailand’s human rights body has named as a commissioner the wife of a lawyer who disappeared 11 years ago after criticizing police conduct. (AP http://yhoo.it/1VqTpvb)

Eleven members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party were sentenced Tuesday to long prison terms after a court convicted them of insurrection over a protest last year that turned violent. (AP http://yhoo.it/1VqTq2h)

The Laos football federation pledged Tuesday to investigate a local club over allegations teenage African players were trafficked to the communist country and forced to sign contracts without adequate pay. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1VqTqPG)

A new $100 billion international development bank backed by developing countries launched in Shanghai Tuesday, in what official Chinese media called a challenge to Western-backed international lenders. (VOA http://bit.ly/1COqOtT)

The Americas

A Honduran spring is happening, led by young people mobilising over the social networks, who are flooding the streets with weekly torch marches against corruption and impunity. (IPS http://bit.ly/1Ih3Ewq)

President Michelle Bachelet’s push to relax strict abortion laws in socially conservative Chile has created a rift inside her ruling coalition and key elements of the reform are likely to be scratched. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1GA2lmF)

…and the rest

A diverse coalition of 24 leading British scientific institutions has issued a communique urging strong and immediate government action at the U.N. climate change conference set for Paris in December. (IPS http://bit.ly/1GzMJ2M)

The Rockefeller Foundation is adding $64 million more to an already $100 million initiative that recognizes cities for their ideas on physical, social and economic resilience. (AP http://yhoo.it/1VqTsXO)

A key United Nations body granted accreditation to civil society organization Freedom Now, overturning an earlier rejection of an application by the U.S.-based group that works to free prisoners of conscience worldwide. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1OvsZnq)

Pope Francis said he had “great hopes” that a fundamental agreement to tackle climate change would be reached in Paris later this year and that he believed the United Nations needed to play a central role in the fight against global warming. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1GA25nT)

Opinion/Blogs

Five ways aid agencies can better communicate with those they help (IRIN http://bit.ly/1COpCqq)

Sustainable development is failing but there are alternatives to capitalism (Guardian http://bit.ly/1MiUrW8)

The How Is As Important As the What When It Comes to Technology for Development (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1IhcRVF)

The Political crisis leaves Burundi on the Brink of Economic Collapse (African Arguments http://bit.ly/1g2GG1J)

Three concerns ahead of Côte d’Ivoire poll (IRIN http://bit.ly/1COqI5n)

Confessions of a humanitarian: the consultant’s manifesto (Guardian http://bit.ly/1IhcD0H)

Will Development Finance Serve Africa? (Addis Fortune http://bit.ly/1g2GwYh)

Science is a perfect but overlooked target for aid (SciDevNet http://bit.ly/1g2GBLm)

Obama rewarding oppression in Cuba (CNN http://cnn.it/1MiUSzO)

Playing the EU asylum lottery (IRIN http://bit.ly/1GzN19L)

17 suggestions for supporting peacebuilding in fragile states (Guardian http://bit.ly/1OvtwFI)

Discussion

comments…

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EU Threatens Big Sanctions on Burundi

Meanwhile, a grenade attack in a bar killed four people. These attacks are becoming more commonplace in the run up to the presidential elections next month.  “The EU is determined to adopt, if necessary, targeted restrictive measures against those whose actions might have led or might lead to acts of violence and repression and serious human rights violations,” EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg said in a statement. The European Union funds about half the annual budget of Burundi, one of the world’s poorest nations, and diplomats have said in the past donors would seek targeted sanctions rather than broad steps that could harm the population.” (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1GjuMq6)

More Violence in Northern Nigeria…”As many as 30 people were killed Monday after a bomb exploded at a bus station in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria, in an attack likely to be blamed on the rebel group Boko Haram. The blast occurred near a fish market in the Baga Road area of the city, which has been repeatedly targeted in recent weeks by shelling, bombs and suicide attacks.” (Al Jazeera http://bit.ly/1Lh9b7m )

Quote of the Day The Pope is on a Roll: “It makes me think of … people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit a distrust, doesn’t it?” he said to applause. He also criticized those who invest in weapons industries, saying “duplicity is the currency of today … they say one thing and do another.” (Reuters http://reut.rs/1Gju10o)

Africa

Eritrea has defended its controversial policy of decades-long national service from which some 5,000 people flee each month, saying it has “no other choice” due to threats from long-standing enemy Ethiopia. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1IudO98)

European Union foreign ministers threatened to sanction individuals involved in Burundi’s political violence. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1N0YYdI)

Amnesty International called on Cameroon to immediately release 84 children who have been held for months without charge, after the teachers at their Quranic schools were accused of running terrorist training camps. (DW http://bit.ly/1GCzC47)

Somalia’s security agency said Monday it carried out a night raid on key targets inside a Shebab-controlled town in southern Somalia, targeting “senior” commanders. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1IudR4B)

Anglo-Irish company Tullow Oil said Monday it had settled a long-running tax dispute in Uganda by agreeing to the payment of a $250 million bill. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1IudQhj)

MENA

Israel disputed on Monday the findings of a U.N. report that it may have committed war crimes in the 2014 Gaza conflict, saying its forces acted “according to the highest international standards”. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6RBRZ)

Israeli Druze blocked an Israeli army ambulance they believed was transporting wounded Syrian rebels on Monday, local authorities said, a rare confrontation underscoring Druze concern for brethren caught up in the civil war next door. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6Rxl5)

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists is urging Egypt to stop what it describes as “a politically motivated campaign” against the pan-Arabic Al Jazeera network.  A CPJ statement Sunday also called on Germany to release jailed Al Jazeera reporter Ahmad Mansour immediately. (VOA http://bit.ly/1TI2C1k)

Asia

An intense heat wave over three days has killed more than 180 people in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, officials said on Monday, leading authorities to declare an emergency as the electricity grid crashed and bodies stacked up in the morgues. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6RvcY)

A co-ordinated Taliban attack on the Afghan parliament in Kabul has ended with all six gunmen killed, the interior ministry says. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Gjva8b)

Human Rights Watch on Monday criticized a Malaysian Islamic court for fining nine Muslim transgender women for cross-dressing and jailing two of them for a month. (AP http://yhoo.it/1H6RrK6)

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is running for president next year, has resigned from the cabinet in a break with President Benigno Aquino as he is investigated for corruption. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6RDJl)

Malaysian authorities Monday gave a Muslim burial to 21 human trafficking victims, believed to be Rohingya Muslim refugees, found in shallow graves in jungles bordering Thailand. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IudNlm)

Malaysia has stepped up health screenings at all entry points into the country, after the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome was reported in neighboring Thailand last week. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1IudMxT)

The Americas

Authorities in Chile’s capital Santiago have imposed emergency measures amid rising pollution. According to city officials, pollution has reached a “critical level”. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Lw2Bb2)

Dozens of Central American migrants say they have managed to escape from a gang that abducted them in southern Mexico. They migrants told police they had been held for hours by armed men who stopped their bus, but later fought back and broke free from their captors. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Lw2Bru)

El Salvador has just experienced one of its most violent months since the end of the civil war in 1992, with 635 homicides reported in May for the country of just over 6 million people. June is on track to break that mark, with the latest bloodshed coming Sunday when suspected gang members killed two soldiers guarding a bus terminal in the capital. (AP http://yhoo.it/1H6RtBH)

…and the rest

The European Union launched a naval operation Monday to try to stop human-traffickers from bringing migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe in unseaworthy boats, a lucrative and at times deadly practice. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IudM0M)

Russia plans to extend a ban on Western food imports for six months starting from early August and may add new products to the list, in retaliation to extended European sanctions against Moscow, officials said on Monday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1eDO7vu)

Opinion/Blogs

Former Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky served four presidents and tells some great stories from her career in foreign policy. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1Lh9uyZ)

Pope Francis’ Timely Call to Action on Climate Change (IPS http://bit.ly/1Lw1k3J)

If we want to end poverty, we need to be able to measure it properly (Guardian http://bit.ly/1eDOWEN)

Argentine women hit back at violence (BBC http://bbc.in/1THXA4O)

Is South Africa On a Slippery Slope? (GroundUp http://bit.ly/1GCzv8E)

What if Beijing and Washington understood each other perfectly…but still clashed? (The Interpreter http://bit.ly/1dbwiCu)

We must protect women and girls during crises (Devex http://bit.ly/1dbwuBJ)

On Child Mortality (An Africanist Perspective http://bit.ly/1eDRra7)

Anticorruption Co-opted:  Problems with the Purported Polygamy-Corruption Connection (Global Anticorruption Blog http://bit.ly/1QM9PhQ)
The failure of the TPP matters, but not for economic reasons (The Interpreter http://bit.ly/1QM9QT2)

Discussion

comments…

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Questions and answers on how the European Commission helps refugees

Who is a refugee?

Every year natural disasters, conflicts and human rights violations force millions of people to leave their homes and to flee to save their lives. Their survival often depends on international assistance and protection.

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her home country and is unable or unwilling to return because of fear of persecution. The 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees gives refugees legal protection under the international refugee law. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated to respond to refugee needs.

An internally displaced person (IDP) is someone who was forced to flee his/her home but who did not cross a state border. IDPs benefit from the legal protection of international human rights law and, in armed conflict, international humanitarian law.

However, IDPs do not benefit from the specialised protection of international refugee law. No UN or international agency has been formally mandated to assist them. National governments have the primary responsibility for the security and well-being of all displaced people on their territory, but often they are unable or unwilling to comply with this obligation. The most important reference document to address the issue of protection and assistance to IDPs is the non-binding Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement from 1998. The African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance to IDPs in Africa (the so called Kampala Convention), which entered into force in 2012, is the first ever binding international legal instrument on the rights of IDPs.  

How many refugees are there?

Today, there are more than 59.5 million people in need of help and protection as a consequence of forced displacement, more than at any time since comprehensive statistics have been collected, with the continuing crises in Syria, Central African Republic and South Sudan and Ukraine as major aggravating factors. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), globally some 38.2 million people are IDPs, around 19.5 million are refugees and 1.8 million people applied for asylum in 2014. Together, these forcibly displaced people represent the combined population of greater London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Vienna, Budapest, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Stockholm, Lisbon, Warsaw, Athens, Barcelona and Brussels.

According to the latest UNHCR data, about half of the global refugee population are children under 18, the highest proportion in more than a decade. About half of the entire refugee population are women and girls. In many societies, they face specific risks such as discrimination and are less likely than men and boys to have access to basic rights.

Syria became the world’s largest source country of refugees during 2014 with an estimated 3.9 million people, overtaking Afghanistan, which had held this position for more than 30 years. Somalia, Sudan, South-Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar follow. It is estimated that around 45% of the world’s refugees are trapped in protracted situations (in exile for five years or more without prospects of immediate durable solutions).

For humanitarian workers, helping the displaced is becoming more difficult, costly and dangerous. In countries such as Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Central African Republic, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen or Iraq, getting help to internally displaced populations means working in environments where access is difficult and conflict or criminality present deadly risks.

86% of today’s refugees live in the developing world, which means that they find refuge in countries and among people who already struggle with poverty and hardship. Greater international solidarity is needed to address this challenge.

According to the UNHCR, out of the total 14.4 million refugees in the world in 2014, more than 1 million were in the EU.

What is World Refugee Day?

Each year, on 20 June, the world focuses on the plight of people who are forced to flee their homes due to conflicts or natural disasters. This day has been significant since 2001, when the UN General Assembly designated it on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Humanitarian situation and needs

Many of the people forced to flee and abandon their homes often have to do this at very short notice and to leave with nothing or very few possessions. Particularly in volatile contexts, they rely on local communities and international humanitarian aid for their survival. Too often, their flight to safety turns into protracted and long term displacement, as the problems that uprooted them take a long time to resolve.

Sustainable solutions for refugees include voluntary repatriation to their home countries, which is the preferred long-term outcome for the majority of refugees. Another solution is local integration or resettlement either in the asylum country where they are living or in third countries where they can be permanently resettled. The IDPs can be reintegrated in their place of origin (return), integrated in areas where they have taken refuge (local integration), or integrated in another part of the country (settlement elsewhere).

Refugees and those internally displaced (IDPs) face major challenges in terms of protection, access to shelter, food and other basic services such as health, nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene and education. Those who end up living in urban areas (IDP’s, refugees) may encounter poverty, lack of psychosocial support and difficulties in normalizing their status. Violence, abuse and exploitation against the most vulnerable often peak in the aftermath of emergencies, which underlines the importance of effective protection mechanisms to be put in place immediately.

The patterns of displacement are increasingly complex, as large numbers of migrants flow inside and between countries and regions. Their problems, and the burden on host countries, are worsened by climate change, increasing urbanisation, population growth and food insecurity. At the same time, the efforts of the humanitarian community to bring relief and contribute to lasting solutions are made more difficult by donors’ budgetary constraints, triggered by the global financial and economic crisis and the multiplication of crisis in need of funding.

The European Commission’s humanitarian response

Refugees are among the most vulnerable in humanitarian crises. This is why the European Commission provides substantial resources to help them. The European Commission gave more than €854 million or some 70% of its annual humanitarian aid budget in 2014 to projects helping refugees and IDPs in 33 countries worldwide. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) invests heavily in assisting displaced people and is currently responding to crises such as: Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan, Somali refugees in Kenya and Yemen, Congolese refugees in the Great Lake region, Colombian refugees in Ecuador and Venezuela, Myanmar refugees in Thailand, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and Sahrawi refugees.

Humanitarian aid delivered by the European Commission helps:

  • meet the most pressing needs of refugees;
  • protect and support refugees during their displacement and when returning to their place of origin;
  • increase the self-reliance of refugees and reduce their ‘dependency syndrome’.

The Commission focuses its support on organisations dealing with migrants, refugees and IDPs including the UNHCR, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the Red Cross and Red Crescent family and non-governmental organisations. The three above-mentioned organization remained in 2014 among the first five humanitarian aid partner of the Commission, in terms of volume of funding (2. ICRC, 3. UNHCR, 5. IOM).

Through this support, the Commission’s action paves the way for durable solutions for refugees and IDPs. It coordinates its assistance with the organisations in charge of early recovery and development.

While supporting the victims of displacement, the European Commission is also working to decrease the number and scale of refugee crises: for instance, through its work on disaster preparedness and prevention, which aims to reduce the vulnerability of disadvantaged communities and prevent their displacement.

Refugees and development policy

The European Commission also provides development assistance to tackle the challenges related to forced displacement, since there is growing recognition of the importance of refugees and IDPs to the economy and development, with the potential to contribute to the economy of hosting countries (also acknowledged by the European Council in 2013).

This is particularly relevant in the case of refugees who are displaced for the long term; either in camps or urban areas (known as protracted displacement). These challenges must therefore be addressed by long-term development strategies in order to enable the refugees to be self-reliant and to support host communities.

The Commission is already a leading international donor in terms of support for refugees in developing countries with €200 million in ongoing projects from development funds.

In addition, the European Commission is currently working on developing new, more comprehensive and multi-sectoral approaches aimed at seeing sustainable solutions for refugees, IDPs and returnees. The objective is to ensure that development actors, together with humanitarian actors, will engage to address the crisis that forces the population to flee from the beginning in order to prevent that displacement turns into a permanent situation.

Examples

The humanitarian consequences of the crisis in Syria have reached an unprecedented scale. Around 11.5 million Syrians are internally displaced or are living as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, North Africa and the EU. Many of those who were able to reach the neighbouring countries are now living in hardship; struggling to find shelter and food for their families and schooling for their children. The European Union is a leading donor in the response to the Syria crisis with around €3.6 billion of total budget mobilised by the Commission and Member States collectively in humanitarian, development, economic and stabilisation assistance. EU humanitarian assistance channelled through the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) primarily supports life-saving medical emergency responses, the provision of essential drugs, food and nutritional items, safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), shelter, distribution of basic non-food items and protection programmes. This funding is channelled through UN agencies and accredited international humanitarian organisations to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people.

In 2015, the Commission has increased its humanitarian assistance to the Syria crisis by €136 million, half of which will go to meet needs inside Syria, and the other half to Syrian refugees and host communities in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. This includes €2.5 million to respond to the emergency inside Yarmouk refugee camp.

A new EU comprehensive strategy has been developed to tackle the crises in Syria and Iraq, which will include €1 billion in funding over the next two years. The new strategy will champion activities from several EU instruments and increase the impact of Europe’s solidarity and political support. This will include enhancing economic resilience among refugee and host communities especially to promote prospects for young people.

The Third International Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait City was held on 31 March 2015. During the conference, donors pledged a total of US$3.8 billion in humanitarian and development assistance to the Syria crisis out of which the EU and its Member States pledged €1.1 billion – the largest pledge by any donor.

To strengthen the development and protection capacities in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, and to enable Syrian refugees to tap into their own potentials, the European Commission is funding a Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP) in the region. The programme combines efforts to improve protection of refugees with longer-term livelihood support to host communities and, whenever possible, refugees alike. The Commission is currently also developing RDPPs for the Horn of Africa and North Africa in close collaboration with EU Member States.

The on-going crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) has forced an estimated 220 000 people since December 2013 to flee to Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo, bringing the number of Central African refugees in neighbouring countries to over 462 000 people. The European Union is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to CAR with over EUR 186 million provided since 2014. The European Commission alone has provided EUR 69 million (including about EUR 20 million for CAR refugees in neighbouring countries) in humanitarian aid since December 2013.

Almost half of the funding is spent in Chad, which was facing the biggest influx of people fleeing CAR at the beginning of the crisis, €7.8 million in Cameroon and €1 million in the DRC and the Republic of Congo. The humanitarian assistance addresses the basic needs of refugees such as shelter, food, health, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene. The funds are implemented through the European Commission’s partners such as UN agencies, International NGOs, and international organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies.

In CAR, the European Commission is funding humanitarian projects to enable free access to primary health services through mobile clinics. Projects seeking to improve the protection of civilians are also being supported. Food assistance is a priority. Moreover, the European Commission is supporting integrated actions to provide safe drinking water, re-establish decent sanitation facilities and promote better hygiene practices (WASH).

The situation in South Sudan since the outbreak of civil war in December 2013 remains one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises. Over 2 million people have fled their homes, of which 565 000 South Sudanese have taken refuge in Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, putting additional resource constraints on these countries and having a destabilising effect on the whole region. At over 1.5 million people have been internally displaced (IDPs), mostly because of widespread violence against civilians. More than half of the refugees (around 60%) are children. At the same time, the country hosts more than a quarter of a million refugees, mainly from Sudan. Overall, life-saving needs for food, health care, clean water, shelter, sanitation, protection, etc. continue to rise.

Humanitarian aid is delivered in extremely and increasingly challenging circumstances. Hostilities and attacks against humanitarian workers seriously constrain access to those in need. The commandeering of assets and other illegal obstructions further constrain the work of aid organisations.

The European Commission has made available more than €200 million since 2014 (over €120 million in 2015 alone) to respond to the unfolding and intensifying humanitarian crisis inside the South Sudan and support the urgent needs of refugees in the Horn of Africa, including South Sudanese refugees. The aid covers the provision of food aid, basic health care, clean water, sanitation, shelter and protection for the most vulnerable people. The funds also support the response to epidemics such as cholera and Hepatitis E.

As a result of the illegal annexation of Crimea and fighting between Russia-backed separatists and government forces in Eastern Ukraine, over two million people have been forced to flee their homes and have become increasingly vulnerable. As of June 2015, over 1.3 million people are registered as internally displaced (IDPs), and more than 860 000 have fled to neighbouring countries, especially Russia, Belarus and Poland. Refugees and internally displaced persons need shelter, food and sanitation items as well as proper healthcare and psychosocial support, education and protection. Medical supplies are extremely limited across the conflict zone. Despite a ceasefire agreement that came into force in February 2015, access to Donetsk and Luhansk regions remains challenging for humanitarian organisations.

The European Union and its Member States have jointly contributed over € 139 million in financial aid to the most vulnerable since the beginning of the crisis. Aid is provided to all affected populations, including refugees in Russia and Belarus, and is delivered according to humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. On the ground, the assistance is being delivered through partner organisations, including UNICEF, UNHCR, WHO, IOM, Save the Children, Danish Refugee Council, People In Need, WFP and ICRC.

In a joint operation in January 2015, EU and its Member States organised the delivery emergency supplies by air and road, including tents, blankets and sleeping bags for the harsh winter conditions, in cooperation with humanitarian partners including UNICEF and UNHCR.

Asylum in the EU

Most displaced persons remain in their own countries or find refuge in neighbouring states, but many also travel to Europe to seek asylum. The EU has stepped up its search and rescue activities in response to the tragic situation in the Mediterranean, and thousands of people are being rescued every week.

The new European Agenda on Migration sets out proposals to establish a temporary relocation mechanism for 40 000 persons in Italy and Greece in clear need of international protection, to be relocated within the EU. The Agenda also includes a recommendation for an EU wide scheme to resettle 20 000 refugees in all Member States.

For further information

European Agenda on Migration

Homepage of DG HOME

Homepage of DG ECHO

Homepage of DG Europeaid

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Boko Haram: More EU funds to help the affected populations

In response to the growing humanitarian consequences of the Boko Haram attacks, the European Commission is providing €21 million to help the populations in Nigeria and the neighbouring countries who are affected by the violence inflicted by the militant Islamist group.

These new funds will provide immediate support, including clean water, food, shelter, health care and protection to the displaced and the host communities in the north-east Nigeria, as well as to Nigerian refugees and returnees in the neighbouring countries.

EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides, who is visiting Nigeria to assess the humanitarian situation, said: “More than 1.7 million people have been displaced by the terror of Boko Haram. Many of them live in precarious conditions in other parts of Nigeria or the neighbouring countries where they have fled. Meeting some of them today, I saw with my own eyes the immense needs that the conflict is causing among civilians. We are stepping up our humanitarian response to the call of those in the greatest need“.

€12.5 million of the funding will be used to tackle the humanitarian challenges in Nigeria, and €8.5 million will go to supporting refugees in Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

This new aid comes on top of the relief the Commission has provided to the most vulnerable people affected by food insecurity and malnutrition throughout Nigeria and its neighbouring countries. In 2014 and 2015, the Commission has allocated more than €107 million and €123 million, respectively, to provide humanitarian assistance to people in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

Background

The violent conflict in North-East Nigeria, with indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population, has displaced 1.5 million people within the country and forced over 230 000 to flee to Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

The displaced people in Nigeria live in precarious conditions and are in need of basic services. In addition, the security situation often prevents humanitarian organisations from reaching those in need and deliver basic supplies.

In the neighbouring countries, the newly-arrived refugees put additional strain on the resources of the host communities which already suffer from the consequences of successive food crises and extreme poverty.

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The Number of People Displaced By Conflict and Disaster Has Reached a Record High

Ahead of World Refugee Day on June 20, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees released their annual “Global Trends” report on the state of refugees in the world today. The data are staggering.  There are now  more refugees and internally displaced persons in the world than at any point since World War II – estimated at nearly 60 million have been driven from their homes by conflict and upheaval.

The current displacement crisis facing the world can be traced back to 2010 when refugee numbers started to sharply increase after years of steady decline. Conflicts in Afghanistan, Somalia, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic contributed to the increase, but natural disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti, devastating floods in Pakistan and typhoons in the Philippines and China also added millions to the rolls of displaced.

But while the trend started in 2010, it was not until the Arab Spring in 2011 that displacements went into overdrive.

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The result of the conflicts in the Middle East is a staggering flow of refugees that all countries in the region are struggling to cope with. But while refugees from Syria and Iraq garner the most attention, it would be wrong to assume that displacement is merely a regional problem. Nearly every region in the world witnessed an increase in the number of displaced persons. In Europe, the conflict in Ukraine created the worst displacement crisis since the end of the Balkan wars while in Asia the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities sent many across borders to seek a better life. Renewed conflict in Africa, as well as human rights violations in countries such as Ethiopia and Eritrea, saw numbers of people living in refugee or refugee-like conditions increase while rampant crime and natural disasters displaced thousands in the Americas.

To put the current crisis in perspective, if the 59.5 million displaced persons were a nation it would be the 24th largest in the world, just behind the UK and Italy.

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Yet despite the scale of the problem, it is not difficult to find examples of states shrugging off their responsibilities towards refugees. Countries in both Europe and Southeast Asia have done everything possible to ignore the flow of refugees on boats in the Mediterranean and Andaman Sea, only giving way to limited resettlements and rescue operations when public pressure over the humanitarian situation reaches critical mass. The influx on unaccompanied children trying to escape widespread gang violence in Central America led to increased funding for deportations from the US government, and in some cases, outright bans on any unaccompanied children from entering the city limits of some municipalities.

Even in countries with much smaller refugee flows, action is being taken to stop those trying to cross. This week Hungary announced it would build a fence along its border with Serbia to stop migrants from crossing, while scores of refugees were blocked from entering France from Italy.

These recent actions by developed countries highlight the disparity between who is bearing the burden of the current crisis. According to UNHCR, industrialized countries have settled less than 1 million refugees over the last 10 years, while the developing world currently hosts 86 per cent of the total.

Speaking at a press conference in Istanbul for the launch of the report, High Commissioner Antonio Guterres spelled out the reality facing aid agencies trying to cope with the crisis.  “To those that think that it doesn’t matter because humanitarian organization there will be able to clean up the mess, I think it’s important to say that we are no longer able to clean up the mess,” he said. “UN agencies, NGOs, the Red Cross . . . we no longer have the capacities and the resources to respond to such a dramatic increase in humanitarian needs in the world.”

Something has to give. Either the international community dramatically increases its assistance to refugees and IDPs around the world and address some of push factors that are driving people from their homes; or it resigns to the fact that World War Two levels of displacement are the new norm.

Graphics from UNHCR

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EU boosts humanitarian aid to those displaced by Boko Haram violence

The European Commission is providing €21 million to help the populations in Nigeria and the neighbouring countries that are affected by the violence inflicted by Boko Haram.

EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides, who is visiting Nigeria to assess the humanitarian situation, said: “More than 1.7 million people have been displaced by the terror of Boko Haram. Many of them live in precarious conditions in other parts of Nigeria or the neighbouring countries where they have fled. Meeting some of them today, I saw with my own eyes the immense needs that the conflict is causing among civilians. We are stepping up our humanitarian response to the call of those in the greatest need”.

The Commissioner also expressed his grave concern over the lack of humanitarian access to the people who need help. “There are restrictions of access in many areas, in particular along Lake Chad. All possible efforts should be made to ensure that humanitarian organisations can be there for those who need their help,” Commissioner Stylianides said.

The new EU funding will provide immediate support, including clean water, food, shelter, healthcare and protection to the displaced and the host communities in the north-east of Nigeria, as well as to Nigerian refugees in the neighbouring countries. €12.5 million of this funding will be used to tackle the humanitarian challenges in Nigeria, and €8.5 million to support the refugees in Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

This new aid comes on top of relief that the Commission is providing to the most vulnerable people affected by food insecurity and malnutrition throughout Nigeria and its neighbouring countries. In 2015 and 2014, the European Commission has allocated more than €123 million and €107 million, respectively, to provide humanitarian assistance in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

Commissioner Stylianides is in Nigeria to assess the humanitarian consequences of the Boko Haram terror activities. He is meeting with displaced persons and relief organisations and discussing how EU aid can be put to the best use despite the difficult circumstances. Tomorrow, the Commissioner will hold meetings with Government representatives and civil society organisations.

Background

The violent conflict in North-East Nigeria, with indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population, has displaced 1.5 million people within the country, and forced over 230 000 people to flee to neighbouring Niger, Cameroon, and Chad.

The displaced people in Nigeria live in precarious conditions and are in need of basic services. In addition, the security situation often prevents humanitarian organisations from reaching those in need to deliver basic supplies.

In the neighbouring countries, the newly arrived refugees put additional strain on the resources of the host communities which already suffer from the consequences of successive food crises and extreme poverty.

For more information

ECHO Factsheet:

http://ec.europa.eu/echo/files/aid/countries/factsheets/nigeria_en.pdf

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