By Kristy Siegfried | 11 March, 2022
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
War in Ukraine causes fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II. The number of people who have fled Ukraine today reached 2.5 million, while nearly 2 million are thought to be displaced inside the country, according to UNHCR. Earlier this week, Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said planning figures based on a figure of 4 million people from Ukraine seeking refuge would likely have to be revised upwards, with that number expected to be reached in the coming days. “If the war continues, we will start seeing people that have no resources and no connections,” Grandi told a news conference. Reuters reports from Poland, where thousands of Poles have jumped in to help some 1.5 million refugees with offers of places to stay, transportation, food and even babysitting services, but risk becoming overwhelmed. The Polish government together with UNHCR today began distributing emergency cash assistance to refugees in Warsaw. The programme will soon expand to other towns and cities hosting large numbers of Ukrainians, and similar programmes are being rolled out in other neighbouring countries. The Polish government also proposed a law this week allowing people housing refugees to claim €8.3 (US$9.10) per day per person. Meanwhile, some refugees have moved westward, with more than 80,000 Ukrainians now registered in Germany and more arriving every day, according to the German interior ministry. Germans have reportedly offered up 300,000 private homes to house the refugees.
Aid response for those displaced inside Ukraine scales up. The UN estimates that the war in Ukraine has forced at least 1.85 million people from their homes who remain inside the country. An additional 12.6 million people have been directly affected by the conflict. Aid agencies are struggling to access cities such as Mariupol and Kharkiv, where ongoing fighting and landmines have prevented civilians from leaving, and food, water, medicines, generators and fuel are desperately needed. UNHCR today repeated its call for civilians and civilian infrastructure to be protected and international humanitarian law respected. The New Humanitarian reports from the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, which has become a hub both for people fleeing the conflict and the aid response. Local aid groups and civilian volunteers there have been providing food, shelter and other support to thousands of displaced people while the international aid response gears up. UNHCR said it has scaled up its operations in central and western Ukraine and was working with local authorities to improve conditions at border crossing points where people are waiting in line for hours in freezing temperatures. The agency is also working with partners to deliver humanitarian supplies such as food and shelter kits to the east of the country.
Thousands displaced by drought in Somalia. UNHCR said today it was increasing assistance to thousands of people displaced by a severe drought in Somalia, following three consecutive years of failed rains that have decimated crops and livelihoods. Last week alone, more than 17,000 people in the country’s southern Bay region abandoned their homes. UNHCR estimates that between January and the end of March, half a million Somalis will likely have been displaced by the drought. Voice of America reports that families who have run out of food are setting out on foot to reach urban areas where they hope to get assistance, sometimes walking for weeks. Meanwhile, there are few resources to cover the needs of people arriving at already crowded settlements for internally displaced people. UNHCR noted that so far only 5 per cent of the US$157.5 million required to respond to the needs of displaced people in Somalia this year has been received. The UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Adam Abdelmoula, told a press conference in Nairobi on Wednesday that the devastating effects of the drought were being overshadowed by other humanitarian crises, including the war in Ukraine.
STORIES TO WATCH
UN rights chief warns of worsening civilian toll in northern Ethiopia. UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Monday that the situation in northern Ethiopia had deteriorated since November, with her office receiving reports of wide-spread violations by all parties to the conflict, including rapes and lethal air strikes. As a conflict that started in Tigray in November 2020 has spread to neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara, the number of civilian deaths and injuries has increased. Bachelet noted that the insecurity also continued to block the delivery of humanitarian supplies to the region, where extreme hunger and displacement have been growing. UNHCR last week launched an appeal for US$205 million to deliver protection and assistance to over 1.6 million people displaced by the conflict in northern Ethiopia, including Eritrean refugees forced to flee camps that have come under attack, and almost 60,000 Ethiopians displaced across the border into Sudan.
Fire at Rohingya refugee camp kills child, leaves 2,000 homeless. A fire swept through a Rohingya refugee camp in south-eastern Bangladesh on Tuesday, killing a four-year-old child and destroying some 400 shelters as well as two learning centres and a health-care centre. UNHCR said refugee volunteers trained in firefighting were the first to respond before the local fire department arrived to contain the blaze. Those affected are staying in temporary shelters or with family and friends. It was the sixth fire this year to hit the world’s largest refugee camp, where shelters are made of highly flammable bamboo and tarpaulin. Aid agencies have been advocating for the use of more fire-resistant materials for the building of refugee shelters. A devastating fire last March killed at least 15 refugees and destroyed more 10,000 shelters.
War in Ukraine could leave refugees hungry elsewhere. Writing in The Washington Post earlier this week, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme, David Beasley, warned that the fallout of the war in Ukraine would contribute to worsening hunger across the globe. Russia and Ukraine together account for about 30 per cent of the world’s wheat exports. WFP had purchased about half of its wheat supply – used to feed refugees and vulnerable people in Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen and elsewhere – from Ukrainian farmers. “That conveyor belt now turns in reverse,” wrote Beasley, “as WFP mobilizes to assist more than 3 million Ukrainians inside and outside the country.” He added that if Ukrainian fields lie fallow this year, aid agencies like his will be forced to find new markets at an inflated cost. Higher food prices caused by the economic aftershocks of the pandemic and rising crude oil prices have already forced WFP to slash rations to refugees and other populations across East Africa and the Middle East.
A market garden in the town of Oullam in northern Niger is bringing together women from three different communities: refugees from Mali, those displaced from other parts of Niger and locals. As well as providing food and an income for the women, the garden is helping to combat desertification in a region hit by rising temperatures.
DID YOU KNOW?
In Somalia, the current drought has so far displaced more than 670,000 people, while an estimated 175,000 people have been displaced in Ethiopia’s Somali and Oromia regions.