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By Kristy Siegfried | 2 July, 2021

THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES

Aid deliveries to Ethiopia’s Tigray resume, but more access needed. Aid groups have renewed calls for unimpeded humanitarian access to reach hundreds of thousands of vulnerable and displaced people in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray province, warning that the ceasefire declared by Addis Ababa this week will only help alleviate a looming famine if aid workers can operate safely. The World Food Programme said today that fighting had forced it to suspend operations for 48 hours this week but that it had now resumed operations. The agency said it faced continuing access problems and was “way behind” in bringing life-saving supplies to people facing starvation. Electricity and telecommunications remain largely cut off across Tigray, making the work of humanitarian agencies more challenging. To make matters worse, two bridges crucial to delivering desperately needed food to much of the region were destroyed on Thursday. WFP’s emergency coordinator Tommy Thompson said he was “cautiously optimistic” an air bridge would be set up in coming days to speed aid delivery. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi tweeted today that the humanitarian situation in Tigray continued to deteriorate. He added that “to scale up and deliver urgent aid, Mekelle and Shire airports must re-open, communications and electricity must be restored and safe access must be given to those in desperate need”.

Seven dead, 10 missing after boat capsizes off Lampedusa. At least seven people, including a pregnant woman, drowned after a boat capsized off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa on Wednesday. The boat reportedly overturned as two Italian coast guard ships approached in response to a distress call. The coast guard rescued 46 people from the overturned vessel and brought them to Lampedusa. More than 250 people landed on the small island overnight on four boats, according to local media reports. Reacting to the news, UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi tweeted “it is intolerable that so many lives continue to be lost at Europe’s door without any organized, coordinated, state-led response being put in place to save people and prevent shipwrecks”. In a separate incident off the Spanish Canary Islands on Wednesday, a five-year-old girl died on a helicopter flight to hospital after being rescued from a boat which had reportedly been drifting in the Atlantic for 17 days. The authorities said one of the 36 passengers on board had already died when the boat was rescued by a merchant ship. At least five people have died in three different incidents on the Canary Island route in less than a week.

Lebanon’s deepening crisis sparks rising hunger among locals and refugees. More than three-quarters of households in Lebanon, including 99 per cent of Syrian refugee households, do not have enough food or money to buy food, according to a report released by UNICEF on Thursday. The recent assessment by UNICEF found that “a series of mutually reinforcing crises”, including a devastating recession, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Beirut Port explosions in August 2020, have left families and children in Lebanon “in a dire situation”. While the estimated 1.5 million Syrians living in the country, including 855,000 registered as refugees, have been hardest hit by the combination of crises, UNICEF said the number of Lebanese people in need of support was growing rapidly. A recent update by UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF notes that food insecurity among refugees has increased to “an alarming level”.


STORIES TO WATCH

UK Home Office to publish proposals on off-shore asylum centres. British Home Secretary Priti Patel will introduce a new “Nationality and Borders Bill” into Parliament next week that reportedly includes plans to create a centre for processing asylum claims outside the United Kingdom. Initial plans for the reforms were outlined in March but they have faced strong opposition from humanitarian organizations and refugee rights groups. The Home Office played down reports that the government was discussing sharing a processing centre in Africa with Denmark, which passed a similar law last month. Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, UNHCR’s representative to the UK, told The Guardian the agency had no information on reports of a collaboration between Denmark and the UK but added she was “extremely concerned” and urged the UK to “refrain from externalising its asylum obligations”.

Severe storms damage shelters of 16,000 Ethiopian refugees in Sudan. Strong winds, heavy rains and hailstorms razed tents, swept away belongings and destroyed latrines and other facilities at two refugee settlements housing Ethiopian refugees in eastern Sudan. Nearly 4,000 family tents sheltering 16,000 refugees were damaged. UNHCR said it was “in a race against time and nature to repair and reinforce shelters” and ensure those affected can access clean water and safe latrines before the intensifying rainy season brings more storms. The agency said it was working with partners to finalize construction and repairs of roads to both the Um Rakuba and Tunaydbah settlements, which will be critical to ensure access during the remainder the rainy season, which usually occurs between June and October. Last year, flash floods caused by heavy seasonal rains affected hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people, refugees and host community members in Sudan.

Syrian refugees in Jordan worry about food aid cuts. Some 21,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan are bracing for an end to their monthly food assistance from the World Food Programme from the start of July. The WFP announced in early June that a funding shortage had forced the agency to make “painful choices” and that further cuts affecting another quarter of a million refugees in Jordan would have to be made if more donor contributions were not received before September. The cuts come at a particularly difficult time for refugees already struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A WFP survey found that 68 per cent of refugees had seen their incomes drop since the start of the pandemic. Food insecurity among refugees in Jordan has doubled in the past year and now affects a quarter of all refugees.


GET INSPIRED

Six athletes from the fields of swimming, athletics, canoeing and taekwondo will make up the Refugee Paralympic Team competing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in August. Following the announcement by the International Paralympic Committee on Wednesday, several international stars and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors sent their congratulations to members of the team.


DID YOU KNOW?

In 2020, malaria was the single most common cause of deaths among refugees, followed by respiratory tract infections.