By Kristy Siegfried | 5 November, 2021
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict marked by ‘extreme brutality’. A joint investigation by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the UN Human Rights Office released this week found all parties to the conflict that erupted in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region a year ago had committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the conflict has been “marked by extreme brutality”. The report was released the day after the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency following the seizure of two key towns on the main road to Addis Ababa, the capital, by Tigrayan forces. Dessie was confirmed to have fallen on Sunday while the fate of Kombolcha was less clear, with accounts of continuing sporadic gunfire, The Guardian reported. Large scale displacement of people from Dessie and Kombolcha, which were already hosting a large number of internally displaced people, has been reported. Aid deliveries, meanwhile, have been hampered by the ongoing insecurity and limited humanitarian access. Since the civil war, thousands of people are believed to have been killed and more than two million have fled their homes.
Suicide attack on Afghanistan’s largest military hospital kills 19. Two blasts hit the entrance of the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan military hospital in Kabul on 2 November, followed by gunfire, according to news reports. The Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K), later claimed responsibility for the bombing. The United Nations’ mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), along with countries including Pakistan, condemned the attack and called for those responsible to be held to account. Separately, the Taliban this week banned the use of foreign currencies in a move that could weigh on an economy already struggling with cash shortages. Despite such challenges, UNHCR and partners continue to deliver aid in the country. This week, two of three scheduled UNHCR charter flights landed in Kabul with 33 tons of winterization kits for displaced Afghans. Some 700,000 people have been uprooted from their homes in Afghanistan this year alone, with many of them having little or no shelter as winter approaches.
Warming climate threatens most vulnerable, warns UNHCR. As the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) got underway in Glasgow this week, UNHCR warned the climate crisis is already amplifying vulnerability, driving displacement and making life harder for those already forced to flee. Ahead of the conference, UNHCR’s Special Advisor on Climate Action, Andrew Harper, went to southern Mauritania where climate change has transformed the region, pushing already vulnerable communities into conflict, poverty and food insecurity. Malian refugees who fled drought and conflict in their country are now seeing their livelihoods dry up in Mauritania. Harper will attend COP26 next week to call on world leaders to provide more support and funding to help communities and countries facing the worst impacts of climate change to adapt, as well as to avert, minimize and address displacement. In Glasgow this week, delegates representing some of the developing countries most affected by climate change called on richer countries to meet commitments to limit warming to 1.5°C and to fulfil a pledge to provide developing nations with US$100 billion to support adaptation and mitigation measures.
STORIES TO WATCH
Civilian casualties grow as battle for Yemeni city intensifies. More than 100 civilians in the Yemeni province of Marib have been killed or injured in the past month as fighting rages for the country’s last major pro-government stronghold, reports The Guardian. Marib city has been under sustained attack from Houthi militias since the beginning of the year. On Sunday, at least 29 people were killed when a missile struck a mosque and religious school to the south of the city. Reuters reports that growing numbers of Yemenis already uprooted by seven years of war are again on the move. Authorities in charge of camps for internally displaced people in Marib said on Wednesday that more than 15,000 people had fled in recent days as fighting approached the west of the governorate. It was the third or fourth time many had been forced to move.
UNHCR urges governments to step up efforts to resolve plight of stateless people. Seven years after UNHCR launched its #IBelong campaign to advocate for an end to statelessness worldwide by 2024, the agency called for accelerated progress to resolve the plight of millions of people around the world who remain unrecognized as a citizen by any country. Since the launch of the campaign in November 2014, more than 400,000 stateless people in 27 countries have acquired nationality, while tens of thousands of people across the world now have a pathway to citizenship due to legislative changes. In addition, 29 states have acceded to Statelessness Conventions. “We are encouraged by this global momentum to tackle statelessness, which with concerted efforts by States, we can eradicate,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. Among successful efforts to prevent statelessness is a programme in the Philippines that has registered the births of 900 at-risk Sama Bajau indigenous seafarers.
Drought causing further displacement in Syria and Iraq. The Independent reports from north-eastern Syria where a drought – the country’s worst in 70 years – has dried up rivers, lakes and dams that families relied on to grow crops and keep livestock. Even clean drinking water has become scarce. The water shortages are reportedly so severe that some families already displaced more than once by Syria’s protracted conflict, are now preparing to move again. A coalition of aid groups warned earlier this year that millions of people in Syria and Iraq will be impacted by dangerously low levels in the Euphrates River. Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNCIEF) warned this week that water scarcity is impacting the lives of children and young people in Iraq, which is also experiencing a prolonged drought.
Four years after swathes of forest in southern Bangladesh were cleared to make way for an influx of more than 740,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, projects to restore the ecosystem and “re-green” the camps are yielding results – and creating a new cadre of environmental defenders in the process. “One day, when I return to my country,” says refugee plantation guardian Mohammed Ali, “I will look after the trees there and I will convince people to take care of them too.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Some 2.1 million people have been displaced by the crisis across northern Ethiopia.