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By Kristy Siegfried | 4 March, 2020


Relief operations in Syria’s Idlib overwhelmed, says UN aid chief. Aid efforts to meet the needs of nearly one million people displaced by recent fighting in north-west Syria have been overwhelmed, Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters on Tuesday. “There needs to be more of everything,” he said, speaking from Hatay, near Turkey’s border with Syria, following an inter-agency mission into Idlib on Monday. The number of people forced to flee since December has now reached 980,000. Lowcock said that they were struggling to survive in “horrific conditions” and that US$500 million was needed to reach 1.1 million of the most vulnerable people with humanitarian assistance. The US announced US$108 million in additional funding for the operations, while the UK pledged an extra US$114 million in aid for Syrians, part of it to be used in Idlib. Separately, a new analysis of satellite imagery released today shows that large parts of north-west Syria have been rendered uninhabitable since fighting there escalated in April 2019. The report by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Save the Children and World Vision found that the destruction of homes and vital infrastructure would make it nearly impossible for families to return in the near future. Satellite images also showed camps for the displaced spreading over what was previously agricultural land.

EU promises financial and border support to Greece. EU chiefs on Tuesday pledged €700 million in financial assistance to Greece to help it manage arrivals of asylum-seekers to its border with Turkey. After touring the border zone, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would provide Greece “all the support needed” including additional border guards and coastal patrol vessels to be deployed by the EU border protection agency, Frontex. Meanwhile, UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi urged countries to stop arguing about who accepts more or fewer refugees and to instead work together to address the causes of their displacement. “A ceasefire in Idlib, Syria, is an absolute, urgent priority,” he added. UNHCR on Monday called on States to refrain from excessive violence in controlling their borders and to maintain systems for handling asylum claims. Several aid groups on the Aegean island of Lesvos said they were suspending their work with refugees and evacuating personnel after attacks on staff. A group of doctors told the Guardian they had left the island after their car was attacked as they left Moria reception centre for asylum-seekers.


How escalating horror in the Sahel has left more than a million displaced. The second part of a Telegraph series on escalating violence in the Sahel region focuses on central Mali, where communities that have lived in fragile harmony for decades have been set against each other by extremists playing off ethnic divisions. Armed groups have multiplied, and militias have launched dozens of revenge attacks. Similar cycles of violence are playing out in Burkina Faso and Niger. Schools have been forced to close and humanitarians say a growing number of children are being pressured to join militias or extremist groups. Psychologists working in central Mali said those children who make it to safety are often so traumatized they wake up screaming in the night.

Dutch authorities issue alert over missing pregnant asylum-seekers. The Guardian reports that Dutch authorities have issued an alert over the disappearance of at least 25 heavily pregnant African women from asylum centres in the Netherlands. The majority of the women and girls are from Nigeria, but women from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda are also among those missing. Unaccompanied minors have also regularly gone missing from Dutch asylum shelters, according to the Guardian and Argos Radio of the Netherlands. Dutch authorities fear that the women and their newborn babies could have been trafficked or illegally adopted. Thousands of Nigerian women and girls have been trafficked to Europe in recent years, most lured by the promise of jobs into forced sex work.

Thousands displaced by violence in south-western Colombia, says MSF. A humanitarian emergency is unfolding in Nariño, a department in south-western Colombia, according to the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières, following several months of escalating conflict between several armed groups that has affected around 14,000 people. MSF teams working in Nariño said they had witnessed at least seven mass displacements since the end of 2019 and called on Colombian authorities to urgently increase its assistance to those affected. In the Pacific coastal coat of Olaya Herrera, more than 680 families reportedly spent the end of 2019 in makeshift camps. Around 4,000 people are also living in dire conditions in camps around the Telembí River, according to MSF.


Lual Mayen has developed a video game that puts users in the shoes of refugees as they flee violence and search for food and water. Now head of his own video game company in the United States, Mayen spent his first 22 years in a refugee camp in northern Uganda and drew on his and his family’s experiences to develop the game which is called Salaam, an Arabic greeting meaning peace.


Fighting in Syria’s Idlib has forced people to live in ever closer proximity, with the majority of the population now living in an area 45 per cent smaller than one year ago.