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By Kristy Siegfried | 11 June, 2021

THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES

More than 350,000 at risk of famine in Ethiopia’s Tigray. In a joint statement on Thursday, the heads of three UN agencies warned that 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray region face a looming famine. The figure is based on the latest analysis by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a system used by humanitarian agencies to determine the scale of a hunger crisis. The IPC data found that over 5.5 million people in Tigray need food aid, including 350,000 who are facing level 5 “catastrophic conditions” – the most severe level of food insecurity. A summary of the data attributed the food crisis to the armed conflict that has wracked the region since November, causing mass displacement, destruction of livelihoods and limiting humanitarian access. The IPC warned that a further escalation of the conflict or hampering of humanitarian assistance would tip more areas of Tigray into level 5. The head of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, said that armed groups were still blocking the delivery of food aid and that there was an urgent need to scale up assistance across the entire region. Briefing journalists on Friday, UNICEF spokesperson James Elder said “an estimated 33,000 severely malnourished children in currently inaccessible areas of Tigray are at high risk of death. The world cannot permit that to happen.”

Burkina Faso’s deadliest attack in years leaves 138 dead. In the deadliest attack since 2015, gunmen stormed the village of Solhan in Burkina Faso’s northeast, near the border with Niger, on Saturday night. They executed 138 men, women and children and seriously injured 40 others. They also set fire to houses and the local market. UNHCR said more than 3,300 people had fled to nearby villages, fearing for their lives. By Wednesday, officials estimated that more than 7,500 people had fled, including many people who had previously been displaced by violence. UNHCR said its teams and partners were building shelters for the newly displaced, while government authorities had delivered food and relief items. The attack came just a few weeks after gunmen shot at vehicles belonging to UNHCR and other aid organizations on the road between the city of Dori and the Goudoubo camp for Malian refugees. Growing insecurity in several parts of the country is increasingly hampering the delivery of aid and protection, according to UNHCR.

UN says 100,000 have fled fighting in Myanmar border state. The UN said on Tuesday that an estimated 100,000 people in Myanmar’s Kayah State, which borders Thailand, had been internally displaced by recent violence, including “indiscriminate attacks by security forces” against civilian areas. In a statement, the UN in Myanmar expressed concern that the crisis could push people across international borders. Currently, many of the displaced are hiding in forests and in southern parts of neighbouring Shan state. The UN called for security forces to allow safe passage of urgently needed humanitarian assistance to those in need in Kayah. Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur for Myanmar, warned on Wednesday that those displaced in Kayah and cut off from food, water and medicine were at risk of “mass deaths from starvation, disease and exposure”. He called for urgent international action, noting a similar situation in other parts of the country since a military coup in February.


STORIES TO WATCH

Conflict in northern Mozambique continues to displace thousands. Two and a half months after a brutal attack by non-state armed groups on the northern Mozambican city of Palma, people continue to flee daily in search of safety, UNHCR said today. Some 70,000 people have fled Palma since 24 March, bringing the total number of displaced in Cabo Delgado province to nearly 800,000. Those fleeing report that the situation in Palma remains very unstable, with frequent gunfire at night and torching of houses. UNHCR said thousands of those displaced were stranded outside the city in unsafe areas where UNHCR and partner agencies have only limited access. Thousands of others have attempted to cross the border into Tanzania and claim asylum but have been pushed back.

Worsening gang violence in Haiti’s capital forces thousands to flee. Deadly clashes between rival gangs in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, have displaced more than 5,000 people since the start of the month, the UN said on Thursday. The violence has left several people dead or injured, hundreds of homes and small businesses burned, and police stations raided for weapons as gangs battle for control over several areas of the city. Haiti is also facing a surge in COVID-19 cases and is bracing for a referendum over a new constitution at the end of June. People are reportedly fleeing to safer areas of the city where some are staying with relatives while others are sleeping outside or in makeshift shelters. The latest displacement brings the total number of city residents uprooted by violence in the last 12 months to some 10,000.

IOC names 29 athletes for expanded refugee team at Tokyo Olympics. The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday named 29 athletes originating from 11 countries who will make up the Refugee Olympic Team heading to Tokyo in July. They will compete in 12 different sports at the Games, including athletics, boxing, cycling, judo, swimming and wrestling. It will be the second time a refugee team has competed at the Olympics. A smaller team of 10 refugee athletes took part in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After years of training in the hope of making the team, and the disappointment of the Games being postponed for a year due to the coronavirus, the athletes will be seeking individual glory in Tokyo while also bringing attention to the more than 80 million forcibly displaced people around the world.


GET INSPIRED

If anyone’s life story deserved to be turned into a book, it is surely that of Waheed Arian. In this interview with The Times, he describes moving between refugee camps and his home country of Afghanistan as a child, before travelling alone to the United Kingdom at the of 15. He eventually earned a place studying medicine at Cambridge University and now runs a charity that works with doctors in the UK to provide phone consultations to patients in conflict zones. His book, In the Wars: A story of conflict, survival and saving lives, is out on 17 June.


DID YOU KNOW?

Since 2019, violence in Burkina Faso has forced more than 1.2 million people from their homes, including some 150,000 who have become internally displaced so far this year.