Statement attributable to the Spokesman of the Secretary-General on Boko Haram Attacks

NEW YORK, February 27, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Secretary-General reiterates his strong condemnation of the continuing indiscriminate and horrific attacks by Boko Haram against civilian populations in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. The abduction and use of children, including as “suicide bombers”, is particularly abhorrent.

The Secretary-General is encouraged by the positive steps taken by the countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and Benin, with the support of the African Union, towards operationalizing the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to counter the threat posed by Boko Haram in the sub-region. He calls on international partners to provide support to these regional efforts.

The Secretary-General urges the states involved to ensure that all measures taken to combat the terrorist threat of Boko Haram are conducted in line with international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law. He is concerned by the impact of combat operations on local populations in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria and calls on countries of the region to give the highest priority to the protection of refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons, including by providing them with life-saving support. The United Nations is scaling up its humanitarian operations and increasing its human rights monitoring in the affected countries.

The Secretary-General is convinced that a military approach alone will not suffice to counter the Boko Haram insurgency. Only through a multi-dimensional approach that addresses legitimate grievances, past and current human rights violations, and root causes of the conflict, will we be able to effectively respond to the barbaric threat posed by Boko Haram to regional peace and security and to local populations.

Source:: Statement attributable to the Spokesman of the Secretary-General on Boko Haram Attacks

Categories: African Press Organization

CAR refugees and host community struggling to survive in northern DRC

KINSHASA, Dem. Rep. of Congo (DRC) February 27, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Since December 2014, an estimated 20,000 Central Africans have fled over the river Ubangi into the Bili and Bosobolo health zones in Equateur Province, northern DRC, adding to 10,000 refugees already present in the area. The refugees have arrived with very few possessions, if any, and are heavily dependent on the local community. Available supplies of food and drinking water must be divided among an increasingly large population and the threat of malnutrition and water-borne illness looms.

“Food is scarce and the markets are empty. We’re seeing rates of severe malnutrition above the emergency threshold, which is of serious concern. In the first week of MSF activities in this area, we have already hospitalised 10 children for severe malnutrition,” says Nathalie Gielen, field coordinator for the MSF emergency pool.

The MSF emergency pool in DRC is providing emergency medical aid to refugee and host communities alike in three health centres and the general reference hospital in the area.

Refugees report having suffered violent attacks, kidnapping, rape, robbery and threats from armed groups on the CAR side of the border. Yet some people are so desperate for something to eat that they are choosing to go back to CAR in search of food.

“Life is hard here. We don’t have our fields or any money to buy things. Back home in CAR I had what I needed to work in the fields. But here, I have nothing,” says Anne Kabo, 73, a CAR refugee living in DRC with her family since last May. “Sometimes I work for the locals in exchange for sorghum leaves to feed the family. We eat whatever we can every day or two. It’s mostly sorghum leaves, with no oil.”

Sanitation and drinkable water are also major problems in the area. There is no source of potable water and sanitation – especially in the makeshift sites where refugees live – is very poor. Many people take their drinking water directly from the river, which could cause water-borne diseases to spread.

“In such conditions, the spread of disease is more or less inevitable. Last week there was a suspected case of typhoid fever in one of the makeshift sites where the refugees live – a 12-year-old boy. The family buried the body right next to their hut,” says Ms Gielen.

There are currently plans to relocate the refugees to a camp near Bili, 60km south of the river, starting in late February. But moving thousands of refugees could take weeks, and in the meantime, refugees and host population alike are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

“Though many people have just arrived in this area, there are others who have been living in these conditions for months. Refugees and the host community are struggling to find adequate food and water, supplies of which were scarce to begin with,” says Ms Gielen. “More humanitarian assistance – especially in terms of food and water and sanitation – is needed until a more durable solution is in place.”

Source:: CAR refugees and host community struggling to survive in northern DRC

Categories: African Press Organization

FDFA State Secretary Yves Rossier has visited South Africa and Burundi

BERN, Switzerland, February 27, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — As part of a four-day visit ending today, the State Secretary of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Yves Rossier, has held political consultations in South Africa and Burundi. In South Africa, the two parties established a platform for cooperation in the area of human rights. In Burundi, the State Secretary met with President Pierre Nkurunziza as well as several key stakeholders in light of the elections to be held in June of this year.

The FDFA State Secretary was received on 24 February by the South African Deputy Foreign Minister, Luwellyn Landers, in Pretoria. Together, Mr Rossier and Mr Landers co-chaired the sixth session of annual consultations between South Africa and Switzerland. The discussions focused on peace and security policy in Africa and Europe, the management of natural resources, and investment and economic and technical cooperation. Education and vocational training were also topics discussed in depth.

In addition, the State Secretary and his South-African counterpart took the opportunity to launch a sub-committee to host discussions on human rights, the rule of law, support for democracy and respect for diversity. At the economic level, South Africa is Switzerland’s main trading partner on the African continent. Swiss companies are among the biggest investors in South Africa.

From 25 to 27 February, Mr Rossier then visited Burundi at the invitation of the Minister of External Relations and International Cooperation, Laurent Kavakure. This visit follows on from the visit that took place between Mr Kavakure and Mr Rossier in September 2014 in Bern. The FDFA State Secretary was received by the President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza. The topics discussed included strengthening political dialogue between Switzerland and Burundi.

Mr Rossier also took the opportunity of the visit to meet with several figures from Burundian civil society during the run-up to the June presidential election. He had personal meetings with representatives of different political parties and spoke with with members of the National Electoral Commission. Switzerland is supporting the organisation of the presidential elections in Burundi through a United Nations fund.

Switzerland has had an official presence in Burundi since the country’s independence in 1962. It supports development cooperation and peacebuilding activities in the country. The FDFA State Secretary visited projects in the province of Ngozi that are supporting the process of decentralisation, land reform and better access to basic services for communities. In this context, Mr Rossier signed an agreement of CHF 6 million between Switzerland and the Republic of Burundi to promote decentralisation and strengthen local communities.

Source:: FDFA State Secretary Yves Rossier has visited South Africa and Burundi

Categories: African Press Organization

UN Envoy to Somalia welcomes release of hostages, calls for remaining captives to be freed

MOGADISHU, Somalia, February 27, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia (SRSG), Nicholas Kay, welcomed the release on 25 February of four remaining crewmen of the FV Prantalay 12 vessel, taken hostage at sea by Somali pirates on 18 April 2010.

This is the longest period of captivity by any hostages of Somali pirates. The crew, all Thai nationals, were released by their captors into the hands of the Somali Regional Administration in Galmudug.

“I am grateful to see the longest held hostages released from Somalia, and thank all those involved who made it happen, especially the regional authorities in Galmudug,” SRSG Kay said.

The mission to recover the hostages was conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), funded by the Contact Group for Piracy off the Coast of Somalia’s Trust Fund.

The FV Prantalay 12 was a Taiwanese flagged fishing vessel. After being seized by the pirates in 2010 it was used by the pirates as a mother ship, before it eventually capsized in July 2011. The remaining crew were then taken ashore.

Of the original 24 crew members, six succumbed to illness at various stages of captivity, and 14 Myanmar crew members were released to the Puntland Maritime Police authorities. They were repatriated by the UNODC’s Hostage Support Programme in May 2011.

While the release of the hostages is welcome news, Somali pirates are still holding 26 more hostages, abducted from the FV Naham 3. SRSG Kay called for their immediate release.

“I remain deeply concerned that 26 crew members are still being held hostage in Somalia, and urge their release without further delay.”

Source:: UN Envoy to Somalia welcomes release of hostages, calls for remaining captives to be freed

Categories: African Press Organization

IOM Works with Yemeni Coastal Community to Aid Migrants from Horn of Africa

GENEVA, Switzerland, February 27, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — IOM has been working to improve water and sanitation facilities at the Al-Husna Mosque, a local mosque in Basateen, whose Imam offers a temporary safe haven to destitute migrants from the Horn of Africa stranded en route to Saudi Arabia.

Basateen is an impoverished area in southern Yemen, just outside Aden, that hosts thousands of Somali refugees, Ethiopian migrants and Yemeni returnees. It is one of the most underdeveloped parts of Yemen and access to basic services – including food, water, heath care and shelter – are in short supply for both migrants and the local community. An acute lack of water and sanitation infrastructure raises the risk of disease.

To improve conditions for both migrants and the local community, IOM has worked with the Imam, local authorities and community leaders to connect the mosque’s sanitation network and those of neighboring houses to Basateen’s main sewage system.

It also installed 30 water taps and entirely renovated the mosque’s toilet facilities. Another 20 taps were installed in the mosque’s absolution area and a shade canopy was built to protect people from the sun. The mosque also serves as a food distribution point that IOM has operated since April 2013. IOM provides destitute migrants with two meals a day. To date, it has distributed over 142,000 meals to over 3,000 beneficiaries.

IOM provides additional assistance to vulnerable cases identified at the mosque, including minors, victims of trafficking, the sick, the elderly and people with disabilities. This includes basic health care services and non-food aid items.

Migrants at risk are also referred to shelters or to another IOM migrant response center in Basateen, where they and other new arrivals are able to receive more comprehensive care.

Source:: IOM Works with Yemeni Coastal Community to Aid Migrants from Horn of Africa

Categories: African Press Organization

IOM Aids Ethiopian Minors to Return from Tanzania and Yemen

GENEVA, Switzerland, February 27, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — IOM offices in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Yemen this week helped 125 Ethiopians – many of them unaccompanied minors – to return home from Tanzania and Yemen.

The 54 returnees from Tanzania, who included six unaccompanied minors, were detained by the Tanzanian authorities while trying to reach South Africa and spent over four months in detention before IOM arranged their return home.

The 71 returnees from Yemen, who were all unaccompanied minors, crossed the Red Sea and became stranded while trying to reach the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They spent between 2-3 months in Yemeni detention before IOM arranged their return.

In 2014, IOM helped 828 Ethiopian migrants to return home from Yemen, of whom 334 were unaccompanied minors. In the same year, it helped 598 Ethiopians to return from Tanzania, of whom 80 were unaccompanied minors.

IOM provides pre-departure medical check-ups, accommodation, food and transport in Tanzania and Yemen. IOM Ethiopia provides on-arrival assistance to all returnees, including food and onward transportation.

IOM, UNICEF and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs also conduct family tracing in order to reunify unaccompanied minors with their families. The children are fed and housed at the IOM Transit Center in Addis Ababa.

Now safely awaiting the family reunification program, 15-year-old Wehabdela Jemal, from the Southern Nations and Nationalities Reign-Sane-Sankura Zone, remembers the journey has been very hard.

“I left my town five months ago to head to Saudi Arabia after crossing Yemen,” he said. “We faced hunger, and thirst. At first, I thought we were going to make it there like my friends who told me that they are working there.”

After hiding in the bushes and crossing the Afar desert in Ethiopia, Wehabdela said he landed in Djibouti and boarded a boat to Yemen as he headed to Saudi Arabia. Months of hardship later, however, he was arrested upon arrival in Yemen.

“My friends who are already there told me there were lots of hardships they face but I wanted to take my chances anyway,” the teen said. “We were arrested right when we got there three weeks ago. Twelve of us were detained in Yemen after paying 25,000 Birr (USD 1,200). My family had to sell their plot of land to raise the money to pay for the broker.”

Mohammed Nur, 14, is another one of the returnees who migrated from the Silte Zone. He, too, was arrested at about the same time as Wehabdela. He said he and some of his countrymen, all teens, started their journey to Saudi Arabia three months ago. He came back to his country six months later with nothing to show for his efforts. His family members from abroad had to send 25,000 Birr (USD 1,200) for the smuggler’s fee in Yemen, as well.

“There was one returnee who showed us the way from Ethiopia but when we landed in Yemen, he disappeared in the middle of the way, I heard later that he has crossed to Ryadh. We were arrested,” the youth explained.

He described the difficult route to Yemen: “The road is treacherous, it is desert all the way; it is very hot. The whole hardship I faced on the way made me think that if I work hard in my own country I might just make better than there.”

Source:: IOM Aids Ethiopian Minors to Return from Tanzania and Yemen

Categories: African Press Organization