By Kristy Siegfried | 24 June, 2022
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Afghanistan earthquake leaves 800 dead, thousands homeless. A 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck the Central Region of eastern Afghanistan in the early hours of Wednesday morning, causing devastation in remote mountainous areas of Paktika and Khost provinces which were already suffering the effects of heavy rain. The rain and strong winds hampered initial search and rescue efforts. Nearly 800 people had been confirmed dead by Friday morning and more than 1,400 injured, while thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged. Survivors spoke to The Guardian about losing their entire extended family and villages being buried. UNHCR, together with other UN agencies and partner organizations, has been rushing staff and humanitarian supplies to the affected areas to provide shelter for those left homeless. The agency said more support was urgently needed to avert a humanitarian disaster in the affected areas. The earthquake – the worst to hit the country in 20 years – comes as Afghanistan is grappling with a severe economic and humanitarian crisis with some 3.5 million people displaced by conflict inside the country and millions more struggling to survive amid rising levels of hunger and poverty.
Fighting in Ukraine takes increasingly heavy toll on civilians. The International Committee of the Red Cross warned this week that the humanitarian situation for millions of civilians in Ukrainian cities bearing the brunt of ongoing fighting is deteriorating four months into the war. In Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Donetsk and Kharkiv, homes, schools, hospitals, bridges, and other infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed and vital services cut off. Many of those who remain are elderly and in need of medical treatment that is no longer available. The BBC reports from the outskirts of Lysychansk, where volunteers in body armour are dodging shelling to help evacuate families given only 15 minutes to pack up their lives and leave their homes. The city has already been cut off from water, electricity, and mobile phone networks, but local officials estimate that between 7,000 and 8,000 civilians remain there.
Ethiopians flee massacre that killed hundreds. Reports of an attack by gunmen in Ethiopia’s western Oromia region on Saturday suggest that between 260 and 320 civilians were killed. Residents told AP the victims were ethnic Amharas, a minority in the region, and that other members of the community were desperately seeking to be relocated. The attack occurred in Gimbo district in the western part of Oromia. Ethiopia is experiencing one of the world’s most acute displacement crises. A conflict that erupted in late 2020 in the north of the country has since spread to other regions, creating huge internal displacement and sending refugees into Sudan. Meanwhile, WFP warned on Thursday that drought in the south of the country has pushed 7.4 million people into hunger.
STORIES TO WATCH
Côte d’Ivoire welcomes returning families as refugee status set to end. Some 14,000 Ivorian refugees have returned home so far this year, the majority of them from Liberia, ahead of the formal ending of their refugee status on 30 June. UNHCR described the resolution of a crisis that at its height forced more than 300,000 people to flee to neighbouring countries as a “welcome bright spot” amid a rising global trend of forced displacement. UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, celebrated World Refugee Day in Côte d’Ivoire after accompanying a group of refugees returning home from Liberia. More than 310,000 Ivorian refugees, or 96 per cent of all those registered across West Africa, have chosen to return home. UNHCR is organizing weekly transportation from Liberia for returnees, including young people who have no memory of their home country.
Refugee resettlement needs rising steeply. UNHCR estimates that more than 2 million refugees will require resettlement next year, up 36 per cent from this year’s 1.47 million. Spokesperson Shabia Mantoo attributed the rise to the impacts of the COVID pandemic, the emergence of new displacement crises and the protracted nature of many existing ones. Resettlement of refugees from a country of asylum to another country that has agreed to admit them and allow them to settle there permanently is only available to a tiny fraction of the world’s most vulnerable refugees, with just under 40,000 refugees departing for resettlement last year. UNHCR is appealing for countries to make more predictable, multi-year resettlement commitments and to speed up processing and departure arrangements.
New survey finds public support for refugees has increased. A survey released by Ipsos on World Refugee Day on Monday reveals that 78 per cent of people in 28 countries believe those fleeing conflict or persecution should be able to take refuge in another country. The result is up from 70 per cent in 2021, suggesting that the outpouring of public support for people fleeing the war in Ukraine may have led to a shift in attitudes towards refugees in the countries surveyed. “We hope this momentum can be maintained, so that all, and not some, refugees have access to protection and receive support,” commented Gillian Triggs, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed supported allowing more refugees into their country for those fleeing war or violent conflict. Support was lower for those fleeing persecution and views were divided on whether governments should be providing more support to refugees and asylum seekers. traffickers. UNHCR is calling for more action to prevent deaths and abuses of refugees and asylum seekers who embark on these journeys. asylum seekers who embark on these journeys.
Twin sisters Haya and Ghena Al Nuwab were born as refugees in Jordan after their parents and older siblings fled threats in Iraq. They were just three years old when the family was resettled to the United States. Now they are high school seniors and keen to share their family’s story to help others better understand what refugees must overcome to find safety.
DID YOU KNOW?
In 2021, just 4 per cent of the 1.4 million refugees in need of resettlement were resettled.