By Kristy Siegfried | 1 April, 2022
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Number fleeing war in Ukraine hits 4 million mark. The number of people who have fled Ukraine since the start of the war five weeks ago surpassed 4 million on Wednesday, with another 6.5 million people displaced within the country. In total, around a quarter of the population have been forced to flee their homes amidst what the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, described as “extraordinary levels of violence”. During a visit to Ukraine this week, Grandi said the “protection and humanitarian needs are enormous and continue to grow” with some 13 million people estimated to need humanitarian assistance across the country. He added that humanitarians must be able to deliver aid safely to Ukrainians in need, wherever they are. UN aid agencies and local partner organizations managed to deliver food and medicines to people in the encircled northeast city of Sumy on Thursday, where shelling and fighting have destroyed homes, hospitals and schools, and cut off power and water. Osnat Lubrani, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, said that over the past month, the UN and its partners had repeatedly sought access to other encircled cities, including Mariupol and Kherson, without success. “We need all parties to agree to the exact terms of humanitarian pauses … for the safe delivery of assistance and the evacuation of civilians,” he said. “I call on all the fighting parties to also uphold their obligations, in the name of humanity.”
Donors urged to end ‘downward humanitarian spiral in Afghanistan’. A UN pledging conference on Thursday secured pledges for more than half the US$4.4 billion that humanitarian aid agencies are seeking for Afghanistan this year, but left a gap of $2 billion at a time when half the population is facing acute hunger. With more than 24 million Afghans in need of humanitarian assistance to survive, donor countries pledged $2.44 billion towards the appeal launched in January. Media reports attributed the shortfall partly to widespread concerns about a recent decision of the de facto authorities to maintain the indefinite ban on girls above grade 6 returning to schools. UN officials said the population should not be punished for the actions of the Taliban leadership. “By pledging generously, the world can send a strong signal of solidarity to the people of Afghanistan, who have already been through far too much,” Martin Griffiths, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator said. “We have the power to stop the downward humanitarian spiral in Afghanistan and it is our moral duty to use this power.” The Washington Post reports there was widespread agreement that distributing aid was only a stopgap remedy and that a functioning economy needed to be re-established.cks of food, fuel and medicines are almost entirely exhausted. Prior to the conflict, the region was host to around 100,000 refugees from neighbouring Eritrea and a similar number of internally displaced Ethiopians.
Thousands flee clashes in DR Congo into Uganda. Some 10,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo crossed into Uganda this week after intense fighting between government forces and a rebel group in North Kivu province’s Rutchuru territory. UNHCR’s Representative in Uganda, Joel Boutroue, said that artillery fire and gunshots could be heard from across the border on Monday and Tuesday and that six people arrived with gunshot wounds. Uganda has closed its border crossing with the DRC to trade but is allowing in the refugees. Boutroue said UNHCR was working with Ugandan authorities to assist the new arrivals and has started relocating them to a nearby transit centre. The clashes have displaced an additional 36,000 people within the DRC. Most are staying with host families or in markets and schools.
STORIES TO WATCH
US to lift Title 42 border policy in May, according to sources. The Biden administration reportedly plans to end its use of Title 42, a pandemic-related public health order that has seen most migrants, including asylum-seekers, turned away from the US border for the past two years. Although the government has yet to make any official announcement, in a draft order obtained by the Wall Street Journal the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reportedly said there was “no longer a serious danger” migrants would introduce COVID-19 to immigration detention facilities. In recent weeks, with the deadline to either lift or extend Title 42 looming, the administration has come under increasing pressure to end the policy and restore asylum processes, particularly at the southern border. In all, there have been 1.7 million expulsions under the order, which the CDC issued in March 2020.
Number of Venezuelans crossing Darien Gap soars. The number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants crossing the perilous jungles of the Darian Gap, which marks the border between Colombia and Panama, reached 2,500 in the first two months of 2022, almost the entire total for 2021, according to figures released by UNHCR and IOM this week. The total number of people risking the crossing so far this year has almost tripled compared to the same period last year. The socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are thought to be one reason why Venezuelans and other nationalities of refugees and migrants, who had settled in other countries across Latin America, are heading north in growing numbers. AFP reports that significant numbers of Venezuelans are also heading south to Chile, but that they face difficult journeys through high altitudes and increasing controls at Chile’s border with Bolivia, including a heavily guarded trench.
South Sudanese battle impacts of flooding as new wet season looms. UNHCR warned this week that flooding and displacement in South Sudan is expected to worsen when the wet season begins next month. Record rainfall in the past three years has caused rivers to overflow and flood thousands of hectares of farmland, killing livestock and preventing people from farming. Flood waters from the worst floods in living memory last year have not subsided in many places, and thousands of people remain displaced, while others are marooned in dike-ringed compounds. UNHCR’s Special Advisor on Climate Action said developing countries like South Sudan are being disproportionately affected by more frequent and intense weather extremes driven by climate change.
Many of Hollywood’s biggest stars wore blue #WithRefugees ribbons to the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night, to show their support for refugees around the globe. Five of this year’s Oscar-nominated films dealt with themes of displacement, loss, home and belonging, including Dune, Flee, Encanto and Belfast. Explaining her decision to wear the blue ribbon, Jamie Lee Curtis said, “I just want to represent the refugee crisis and let people wake up and realize this is a humanitarian crisis.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Nearly six out of 10 Ukrainian refugees from Ukraine – 2,284,000 as of 31 March – have crossed into Poland.