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By Kristy Siegfried | 17 January, 2020


Millions of Syrian children “robbed of their childhood”, says UN. Nearly nine years of war in Syria have robbed boys and girls of their childhood and left them vulnerable to rights violations, violence, abuse and displacement, according to a report released on Thursday by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria  The 25-page report finds that countless children have been killed or maimed as a result of the conflict, while boys as young as six have been recruited as child soldiers and girls have been “disproportionately affected” by sexual violence. Large numbers of young Syrians now have disabilities and devastating psychological and developmental issues. In addition, armed groups have targeted schools, preventing more than two million children from attending classes regularly. The Commission urged States to ensure the protection of over five million children displaced internally and abroad. Separately, fighting continued to rage in Syria’s Idlib province on Thursday.

Lack of access cutting off aid to vulnerable Iraqis. Aid deliveries to some 2.4 million Iraqis, many of them internally displaced people, have slowed considerably since November and risk coming to a complete halt within weeks, the UN’s humanitarian chief in Iraq warned on Thursday. Marta Ruedas said government permission to aid agencies to carry out critical missions was previously issued every 30 days, but as of January, those permissions had expired and not been renewed. A survey of NGO partners carried out this month showed that more than 2,460 humanitarian missions had been cancelled or were prevented from reaching their destinations due to the lack of authorization letters needed to pass through checkpoints. “Aid is in danger of rotting in warehouses, putting lives in jeopardy and wasting badly-needed donor funds,” said Ruedas.


How fleeing Venezuelans survive long journeys on foot. Increasingly, the exodus from Venezuela consists of people simply walking out of the country. Unable to afford a bus fare, women and children, the sick and the elderly are trekking 200 kilometres from the Colombian border city of Cúcuta to the city of Bucaramanga. The journey includes climbing to an elevation of 2,750 metres to cross a long and frigid plateau – El Páramo de Berlín. Los Angeles Times reporter Andrea Castillo and photographer Marcus Yam accompanied some of the caminantes, or walkers, as they trudged along the side of highways carrying small children and homemade backpacks. Their report chronicles every stage of gruelling journey.

More Rohingya women and girls risking dangerous smuggling routes. The New Humanitarian reports that a growing number of Rohingya women and children are using once-dormant smuggling routes to leave refugee and displacement camps in Bangladesh and Myanmar. UNHCR estimates that 59 per cent of the people it tracked on maritime smuggling routes through the region between January 2018 and June 2019 were women and children, significantly more than in previous years. Groups that work with Rohingya say the trend is a sign of rising restrictions and safety fears in Myanmar’s Rakhine State and in Bangladesh’s refugee camps. Rohingya girls are often sent to Malaysia to be married to Rohingya men already there and willing to pay a bride price.

Asylum-seekers sleeping rough in Serbia. The BBC reports that hundreds of asylum-seekers and migrants are living in derelict buildings in and around the Serbian town of Subotica, near the border with Hungary. Some have come from Greece via North Macedonia while others crossed from Bosnia and Herzegovina after failing to reach Croatia. From Subotica, many attempt to cross into Hungary but are often caught and sent back, sometimes violently according to some of the men who talked to the BBC. Over 30,000 asylum-seekers and migrants arrived in Serbia last year, almost double the figure in 2018, according to UNHCR. A local pastor, Tibor Varga, makes stoves for the asylum-seekers out of old barrels and delivers them to the abandoned buildings.

Attack on Mali village leaves over a dozen dead. Fourteen people were killed and two wounded on Thursday in an attack on a Fulani village in central Mali, according to the UN. Armed men on motorbikes reportedly fired on villagers with hunting rifles and set fire to houses. Deadly clashes between Fulani people, who are traditionally nomadic herders, and Dogon and Bambara ethnic groups have escalated over the past year, stoked by the growing presence of armed Islamist groups. The number of people internally displaced by the violence, as well as by military operations in the north of the country, reached over 200,000 by the end of November, up from 80,000 a year earlier.


Communities across Argentina have stepped up to help resettle refugees. This is the story of how local people in one small town sponsored Syrian refugee Wadeh Alkhouly and his wife and three children to begin the next chapter of their lives there.


More than 1.4 million Iraqis are internally displaced, while the country is also hosting over 286,000 mainly Syrian refugees.