Somalia: Big influx at nutritional feeding centres for children

The nutritional feeding centre for malnourished children supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Baidoa, Somalia has more than twice as many young patients this year as one year ago, underscoring the large food needs in the country.

“One look at our nutritional feeding centre shows how high the needs are for Somalia’s children,” Dominik Stillhart, the global director of operations for the ICRC, said after visiting the feeding centre this week. “The good news is that assistance is coming in, but the needs are overwhelming.”

The nutritional feeding centre in Baidoa currently has 230 patients under the age of five. A year ago at this time it had 100 patients. Nationwide, the ICRC and Somali Red Crescent Society have seen an 80 percent increase in the number of malnourished children treated at its stabilization centres and clinics this year compared to last year (12,710 in January-April 2017 vs. 7,086 in January-April 2016).

“The humanitarian community must work as fast as it can to help the 6 million people in need in Somalia, including the 360,000 acutely malnourished children, in a way that assistance reaches those who really need it, wherever they are, and as soon and possible,” said Jordi Raich, the head of delegation for ICRC’s Somalia office.

The humanitarian community cannot repeat the mistakes of Somalia’s 2011 famine, Raich said. A slow and at-times inefficient aid response resulted in too many deaths six years ago. Somalia’s latest hunger crisis, though exacerbated by climate, is still man-made, and too many families are suffering because of it. The humanitarian community at large must efficiently deliver assistance where it is needed most to prevent thousands of avoidable deaths.

Distributed by APO on behalf of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

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Panelists share experiences on the implementation of Agenda 2063 and the SDGs

As part of activities marking the two-day Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD) in Addiss Ababa, high level representatives from some African countries on Thursday shared their successes and challenges in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063.

During the plenary session titled, “Challenges and opportunities arising in achieving inclusive growth and prosperity for all,” Zimbabwe’s minister of women’s affairs, gender and community development – Nysasha Chikwinya – said women constitute over 51% of Africa’s population and that her government has been smart enough to understand that involving women in politics and decision-making is crucial for achieving the SDGs.

“In Zimbabwe our constitution provides for 50-50 representation of women in politics and decision-making as a tool to realize gender equality. We are proud to have taken this bold step to empower women in Zimbabwe, and I trust there are many other countries that have done better. Those that have not should realize that without this important tool Agendas 2030 and 2063 cannot be fully realized.”

Ms. Chikwinya said more than half of African farmers are rural women who don’t understand most of the issues around climate change and mitigation measures, stating, “we need a sound and robust education program for women so that they can consciously participate in these programs.”

The point on empowering women was supported by Ugandan minister of state for gender, labour and social development – Mutuuzo Peace Regis – who said her government is heading the right direction as “42% of our parliamentarians are women.”

The Ugandan minister also said her government has focused enough resources towards empowering youth, given that “78% of our population is under age 35.” Ms. Regis credited her government for educational policy that has led to a “drop in illiteracy rate from 32% to 24% in just 10 years,” adding that one of the many other efforts by her government to ‘leave no one behind’ as per the SDGs is a “social assistance grant program for persons above 65 of age.”

Other panelists included high-level delegates from Egypt, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Botswana, and the AU Commissioner for Economic Affairs – who all highlighted successes made in the context of the SDGs and Agenda 2063.

There was a general view, however, that a lot still needs to be done in areas such as youth unemployment, girls’ education and bridging gender gaps, reviving local economies, putting in place solid financial instruments, and investing in statistics.

The session was moderated by Fatima Denton, Director of ECA’s Special Initiative Division, and chaired by Seleshi Awulachew, Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity – who urged governments to align the Agendas to their national development plans.

“Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 originate from our respective countries and regions and therefore shouldn’t be regarded as an imposition but rather as a co-creation, which should not be difficult to align with national development plans and implemented,” said Mr. Awlachew.

It is expected that discussions during the two-day forum will result in a clear articulation of, and agreement on Africa’s collective inputs in form of key messages to the 2017 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF).

Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

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UN report exposes human rights violations and abuses against civilians in and around Yei, South Sudan

A United Nations report published today released the findings of an in-depth investigation into human rights violations and abuses committed in and around Yei town, Central Equatoria (150km southwest of the capital, Juba) between July 2016 and January 2017.

The report by the Human Rights Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Human Rights Office documents violations and abuses against civilians both sides of the conflict, based on ethnicity and/or their presumed support for other side. This includes 114 killings by pro-Government forces. The extent of the abuses by armed opposition groups remains unclear due to lack of access to areas where these groups are active. The report finds that these violations and abuses may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity and that they warrant further investigation.

The report exposes cases of indiscriminate shelling of civilians; targeted killings; looting and burning of civilian property and cases of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls, including those fleeing fighting.

Until recently, Yei was largely a peaceful town, with between 200,000 and 300,000 residents of many different ethnicities. In July 2016, violence erupted between Government and Opposition forces, which led to the departure of Opposition leader Riek Machar together with a small group of followers across the Equatorias, into the Democratic Republic of Congo. As Government forces pursued him, fighting simultaneously broke out along the route, particularly in Yei. This violence fuelled strong divisions along ethnic lines and resulted in targeted killings, arrests, rapes and mass civilian displacement of more than half of the population of the town.

Satellite imagery used to corroborate allegations shows that there was widespread burning of homes and businesses, resulting in the forcible displacement of tens of thousands of civilians. Even as people fled the violence, reports suggest that armed actors harassed, robbed and targeted them as they headed to Uganda to seek refuge.

The report documents “the profound human suffering caused by the ongoing conflict and the exploitation of local and ethnic divisions for political ends.”

“The conflict in Yei, in particular, highlights the startling level of impunity in South Sudan, which has fed successive cycles of violence across the country,” the report states.

Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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As Yemen conditions deteriorate, Somali refugees look to return home

As the bitter conflict in Yemen grinds on and the humanitarian situation there continues to deteriorate, conditions facing the almost 280,000 refugees in-country are worsening and their needs and vulnerabilities are growing by the day.

Yemen has remained both a destination and a transit hub for refugees and migrants from the Horn of Africa and beyond, the overwhelming majority of refugees in Yemen, 91 per cent or some 255,000, are Somali refugees who have been coming to the country since the early nineties.

Though Yemen has traditionally been very generous in accepting those in need of international protection and is the only country in the Arabian Peninsula signatory to the Refugee Convention and the Protocol, the ongoing war has limited the capacities to provide adequate assistance and protection to refugees.

After more than two years of war, many refugees face increased hardship; struggling to cover basic needs, losing livelihoods and lacking access to basic and essential services.

With conflict in Yemen affecting civilians and resulting in deaths and casualties, some 30,600 Somalis have reportedly already returned to Somalia from Yemen since the beginning of the current war. An increasing number are now approaching UNHCR for assistance to support their return, citing safety and security concerns and limited access to services in Yemen.

UNHCR is now providing some support to those choosing to return on their own. In 2017, UNHCR is able to assist up to 10,000 Somali refugees who have made the choice to return, based on the information received at Return Help Desks on conditions in Somalia and the assistance package that is being offered both in Yemen and Somalia. UNHCR’s humanitarian operations in Yemen will continue to provide support to those refugees who remain in Yemen.

Most Somali refugees registered in Yemen originate from Banadir, Lower Shabelle, Bay, Middle Shabelle and Woqooyi Galbeed regions in Somalia. In Yemen, most reside in Aden, Sana’a and Lahj governorates, the latter of which is where Yemen’s only refugee camp, the Kharaz refugee camp, is located.

UNHCR assistance will include documentation, travel and transportation assistance and financial support in Yemen to facilitate the journey, as well as assistance upon arrival in Somalia. Special measures will be put in place for the travel of individuals with specific needs. Most refugees opt to return to Mogadishu, in the anticipation that assistance and services will be more accessible and available.

In Yemen, UNHCR has been providing protection and services for refugees and asylum seekers including by providing legal assistance, supporting education and livelihoods programs, and providing access to health and pyscho-social services, a cash programme for persons with specific needs amongst others.

Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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