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By Tim Gaynor | 29 October, 2021

THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES

Data reveals plight of Venezuelan refugees and migrants evicted in pandemic. An interactive report released by UNHCR this week highlights the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Venezuelan refugees and migrants facing homelessness and eviction as a result of lockdowns and worsening socio-economic and livelihood opportunities. The data visualization draws on a survey of some 1,200 households across Latin America. Key findings include the fact that that three-quarters of those who lost their homes were forced onto the streets – and that 80 per cent of those evicted were women, more than half of whom were their family’s sole breadwinner. The survey also found that many evicted families struggled to access basic services including clean water and sanitation, facing greater risk of exposure to the virus as a result. Entitled No Home Away from Home, the report includes recommendations to authorities, civil society and displaced communities themselves on how to mitigate the risk of eviction and find long-term solutions.

Afghans face deadly hunger as winter looms. Drought, conflict, COVID-19 and a collapsing economy have left more than half the people in Afghanistan facing a record level of acute hunger, according to a UN assessment released 25 October. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report – co-led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) – revealed that the lives, livelihoods and access to food for 22.8 million people will be severely impacted. “It is urgent that we act efficiently and effectively to speed up and scale up our delivery in Afghanistan before winter cuts off a large part of the country, with millions of people – including farmers, women, young children and the elderly – going hungry in the freezing winter”, said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. “It is a matter of life or death.” In a measure of the rising desperation, the BBC this week reported that a starving family in western Herat province had sold their infant daughter for US$500 to buy food. UNHCR this week appealed to the international community to urgently increase financial contributions to extremely vulnerable displaced Afghans both within and outside the country, who desperately require support to survive the coming winter.

Burundian refugees return to uncertain conditions. More than 60,000 Burundian refugees have returned home voluntarily this year as security concerns ease. But UNHCR warned that underfunding of humanitarian programmes is making it hard for them to restart their lives. Around half of the returnees have come from Tanzania, with the rest returning from Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and, since the beginning of October, Uganda. Each week, convoys arrive in Burundi with around 1,500 people. On arrival at one of five reception centres, families are given household items and cash assistance to help them settle back in. However, without meaningful investment in the return areas to support reintegration, UNHCR warned that the cycle of displacement could be repeated. Just 10 per cent of the US$104.3 million needed to support return and reintegration in Burundi has been committed, despite the increased numbers going home. Returning refugees told the UN Refugee Agency they were particularly concerned about finding work to support their families.


STORIES TO WATCH

Killings at a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh raise fears over growing gang violence. Attackers shot and stabbed people at an Islamic school at the Balukhali refugee complex before dawn on 22 October, killing seven refugees. About 20 people were also badly hurt in the assault, Deutsche Welle reported. In a statement, UNHCR deplored the attack and urged Bangladesh authorities to take immediate measures to improve security in the refugee camps, and to investigate, arrest and prosecute those responsible. Police arrested one man armed with a gun and a knife at the scene. The sprawling settlements are becoming increasingly violent, residents say, with armed gangs vying for power, kidnapping critics and warning women against breaking conservative cultural norms. The attack follows the murder last month of Mohib Ullah, a prominent Rohingya leader who had become a leading voice for the stateless community.

Climate shocks could push nearly 3.5 million people across Somalia into a food crisis by the end of the year. The country is bracing itself for a third consecutive below-average rainy season, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned. As a result, the November cereal harvest in the north-west is expected to be 63 per cent below the 2010-2020 average. A reduction in pasture for livestock is also undermining vulnerable people’s food security and nutrition. Climate change is increasingly understood as a major driver of conflict in Somalia as the struggle for dwindling resources intensifies clan divisions and inter-clan conflict, according to a humanitarian needs overview. While needs are growing, the humanitarian response is hampered by the lowest funding levels in five years, currently at just 50 per cent. The briefing comes ahead of a major UN climate conference due to start in Glasgow on 31 October.

Four migrants, three of them children, drown in Aegean Sea boat wreck. A vessel carrying 27 people was trying to cross from Turkey to Greece when it sank off the Greek island of Chios in “adverse weather conditions” on 26 October, the Greek Coastguard said. Twenty-two people were rescued and one person is believed to be missing, Reuters reported. Their nationalities were not immediately made public. Greece is one of the main routes into the European Union for asylum-seekers crossing from Turkey in overcrowded boats. But the number of arrivals has fallen sharply in recent years and deadly shipwrecks have become infrequent. As of 24 October, an estimated 1,299 people have drowned or gone missing this year while trying to cross the Mediterranean, according to data collated by UNHCR.


GET INSPIRED

Just 5 per cent of refugees access higher education globally, and the figure is even lower for refugee girls. But 22-year-old Raba Abdurahim Hakim, a refugee from Sudan, beat the odds and is studying for a bachelor’s degree in psychology at United States International University-Africa in Kenya with the help of a Mastercard Foundation scholarship. “The more I advanced in school, the fewer girls I met in the classroom,” said Raba, who began her course last month. “I am so happy that my dream has finally come true!”


DID YOU KNOW?

As of October 2021, there are over 5.9 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants worldwide. More than 80 per cent are in Latin America and the Caribbean.