By Kristy Siegfried | 27 January, 2020
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Over 500 people rescued from Central Mediterranean. The Ocean Viking, a rescue ship operated by Médecins Sans Frontières and SOS Méditerranée, rescued 407 people from several boats in the Central Mediterranean over the weekend. The most recent operations took place on Sunday night when 184 men, women and children were rescued from two rubber boats in distress. Another 72 people were rescued from an overcrowded wooden boat in Malta’s search-and-rescue zone on Saturday night. The German charity Sea-Eye said its rescue ship, the Alan Kurdi, had rescued another 78 people off the Libyan coast on Saturday, while Maltese authorities rescued 142 people on Sunday. Both the Ocean Viking and the Alan Kurdi are now seeking a safe port to disembark their passengers. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports from onboard the Ocean Viking on the high levels of sexual and physical violence experienced by female refugees and migrants in Libya. One heavily pregnant woman recently rescued at sea said she knew the journey was “too risky” but it was the only way out of the “hell” she experienced in Libya.
Deadly clashes in Libya erode fragile ceasefire. Heavy fighting broke out in Libya on Sunday as the country’s east-based forces advanced towards the strategic western city of Misrata, further eroding a crumbling ceasefire agreement brokered earlier this month by Russia and Turkey. The clashes came just hours after the UN decried “continued blatant violations” of an arms embargo on Libya, despite pledges to honour it made by several concerned countries at a summit in Berlin last weekend. Meanwhile, Deutsche Welle reports that proposals to revive the EU’s Operation Sophia naval mission in the Central Mediterranean with a focus on enforcing the arms embargo on Libya broke down on Friday after several EU countries expressed concern the mission would lead to greater numbers of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe.
WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR
Somali capital struggling to absorb 800,000 displaced people. The Guardian reports that the number of Somalis displaced by violence and climate shocks and now cramming into informal settlements in Mogadishu has reached an unprecedented high, putting pressure on the city’s infrastructure and threatening its recovery from three decades of conflict. Last year alone, more than 100,000 people arrived in Mogadishu. A recent assessment found “critical” levels of malnutrition among displaced people living in makeshift shelters in 700 sites across the capital. Last week, local media reported that about a dozen children had died from malnutrition in one settlement. Most of the displaced are staying on private land and are vulnerable to eviction. Last week, regional authorities launched a five-year strategy to respond to the issue.
Fighting escalates in Yemen. Fighting between rival forces has escalated in Yemen since an air strike killed more than a 100 people in the city of Marib last week, reports Middle East Eye. The clashes have forced more than 6,000 people from 900 households in Marib, Sana’a and Al Jawf governorates to flee since 19 January, according to a flash update published by the UN Population Fund on Sunday. The International Crisis Group warned on Friday that if the renewed fighting spreads, it would represent “a devastating blow to current efforts to end the war”.
Election “lockdown” in Cameroon threatens aid efforts. Armed separatist rebels in the north-west and south-west regions of Cameroon have threatened to impose a lockdown to prevent people voting in elections scheduled to take place on 9 February. The separatists, who kidnapped some 40 parliamentary and municipal candidates in the north-west region in December and burned down an electoral office earlier this month, said people’s movements would be restricted between 7 and 12 February. According to ACAPS, an independent humanitarian analysis project, the threats have also extended to aid agencies delivering assistance to some 680,000 people displaced by fighting between security forces and separatists in the two regions. Separatists have reportedly told aid groups to suspend all their activities during the lockdown.
Rise in suicides among South Sudanese refugees in Uganda. The number of suicides and suicide attempts among South Sudanese refugees living in settlements in Uganda more than doubled in 2019, compared to the previous year, according to UNHCR. Many of the refugees had experienced trauma as they fled the conflict in South Sudan, but a lack of funding for the refugee response in Uganda meant only 29 per cent of those in need of mental health-care services were reached with them last year. A new study by the World Health Organization and John Hopkins University offers some hope; it found that a guided self-help approach to managing psychological distress improved well-being among South Sudanese refugee women in Uganda.
As a French citizen, Andre Belibi Eloumou always had access to quality education. But that was not the case for his father, who fled Cameroon in the 1970s with only US$50 in his pocket. Andre, who is a personal trainer and fitness enthusiast, is now running 5,800 kilometres across the United States to raise funds and awareness for refugee children’s education. He’s now over halfway through his journey from New York to Los Angeles.
DID YOU KNOW?
So far this year, 4,773 refugee and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe, including 1,116 who used the Central Mediterranean route to reach Italy or Malta.