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By Matthew Mpoke Bigg | 28 August, 2020

THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES

COVID-19 drives Nicaraguan refugees to hunger and desperation. More than three quarters of Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers in Costa Rica are going hungry due to the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, warned today. Many are able to eat just once or twice a day and UNHCR is concerned this could drive them to return to Nicaragua in adverse conditions. At least 81,000 Nicaraguans have sought international protection in neighbouring Costa Rica, who fled human rights violations and persecution. Before the pandemic hit, only three per cent of these refugees were eating once a day or less. Now, this has more than quadrupled to 14 per cent, according to an assessment in July by UNHCR. The majority of Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers in the country, 63 per cent, now report eating only two meals a day.

More unaccompanied children relocated from Greece to countries in Europe. In the last week, 49 unaccompanied children have been relocated to France from Greece, where they were living in harsh conditions in overcrowded reception centres on the islands. These moves came as part of a programme agreed between Greece and 12 countries in Europe. According to UNHCR, 207 children have been relocated since April and 1,600 should eventually move. The children fled conflict in their home countries and had endured hardship ever since. EU states have so far committed to transferring around 1,100 of the 1,600 unaccompanied children targeted for relocation. Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR’s Representative in Greece, said the cooperation was significant. “We have been advocating on this for years, particularly since the overcrowding on the island centres worsened in 2019,” he said. “We have sought this solidarity for the most vulnerable, such as unaccompanied children who stay too long in the reception centres on the islands, at the land border, living in police stations or who are homeless.”

300,000 people lose homes, incomes, food supplies and belongings in Yemen flooding. Torrential rains and flash floods have battered parts of western Yemen in recent weeks. According to al-Jazeera, the crisis has put more pressure on aid organizations that were already struggling to help millions of Yemenis facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the internally displaced people hit by the floods were already living in abject poverty, often in overcrowded, makeshift shelters made from plastic sheeting or mud which have been washed away or sustained significant damage. People are now being forced to shelter in mosques, schools or with relatives or live out in the open, in abandoned buildings, some of which are at risk of collapsing, or in whatever is left of their damaged homes.


ONE QUESTION FOR…

Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Representative in Yemen

How bad is the situation in Yemen in the wake of torrential rain and flooding and what can be done?

“When the torrential rains started in Yemen it caused the collapse of some traditional houses that have stood for centuries and are UNESCO World Heritage sites. So one could only fear for temporary shelters that house many of the 3.6. million Yemenis displaced by the conflict.

“Shelter partners have now assessed that more than 300,000 persons have been directly affected by the floods. Many of their mud and tarpaulin shelters have been washed away along with their personal belongings. Many of them are also displaced, as one out of eight Yemenis is an internally displaced person.

“As the rain continues to pour on the West Coast and the Marib governorate, where dams are overflooded and on the brink of breakdown, as well as on Aden and Sana’a, the needs will exceed current figures. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is providing emergency shelter support, core relief items and cash assistance to those in need despite facing critical underfunding for the humanitarian response in Yemen.”


STORIES TO WATCH

Lebanon needs help in its hour of need, says UN refugee chief. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called on the international community to support Lebanon in the wake of a devastating explosion in the capital Beirut. The blast in the port killed at least 180 people and left some 6,500 injured. “This is a country that for more than 70 years has hosted millions of refugees, Palestinians, Iraqis and now of course the very large Syria situation. But Lebanon is also now in its own hour of need,” Grandi said. “This is a situation of an almost perfect storm… all those crises are hitting Lebanon at the same time.” He was speaking at the end of a four-day visit to the country. UNESCO, the UN’s education, scientific and cultural organization, will for its part organize two conferences to seek “considerable” funding for Beirut, Agence France Press reported, quoting Director General Audrey Azoulay.

In Burkina Faso, 2,500 schools close due to deteriorating security. The closures, amid a rising wave of insecurity, have deprived 350,000 children of access to education, UNHCR reports.  Coming between April 2017 and the end of last year, the closures imperil the education of both nationals and the children of families who have been forced to flee to Burkina Faso because of violence by armed groups.  “I was very sad to have to stay home all day and not be able to continue classes,” said Oumar Ag Ousmane, a young Malian refugee in Burkina Faso. The picture across the Sahel is even worse. UNICEF says that during the same time frame school closures due to violence in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger rose six-fold. By the end of last year, more than 3,300 schools were shut, affecting almost 650,000 children and more than 16,000 teachers.


GET INSPIRED

Alphonso Davies was born 19 years ago in a refugee camp in Ghana. Now he has shot to stardom. His parents are from Liberia and the family moved to Canada while he was a child. This week he won the Champions League, European soccer’s most prestigious club prize, with German team Bayern Munich. Davies is one of the team’s star players.


DID YOU KNOW?

It is three years since approximately 671,000 Rohingya refugees arrived in Cox’s Bazar district from Myanmar. This new influx joined some 213,000 Rohingya who had fled to Bangladesh in previous years.In all, there are 3,415,989 people in the Sahel region who are refugees, asylum-seekers, refugee returnees, internally displaced people and IDP returnees. The region comprises Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania and the figure is reported either by national authorities or UNHCR.