By Kristy Siegfried | 6 November, 2020
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Several thousand flee post-election unrest in Côte d’Ivoire. Violent clashes erupted in Côte d’Ivoire following Saturday’s presidential election, reportedly killing at least a dozen people and injuring many more. Thousands of Ivorians have fled the violence to neighbouring Liberia, Ghana and Togo. UNHCR said most of the arrivals, who totalled over 5,000 by Thursday, were women and children from the country’s west and southwest regions. They included many former Ivorian refugees who had recently returned home. The largest number arrived in Liberia where they are staying with local communities. UNHCR is working with local authorities to register new arrivals and provide food. In 2011, another disputed presidential election in Côte d’Ivoire resulted in over 3,000 deaths and more than 300,000 Ivorians fleeing the country. UNHCR called on Ivorian political and opinion leaders to refrain from inciting violence, resorting to hate speech, and to resolve any disputes peacefully and through dialogue.
Over 40 feared dead in Mozambique after boat sinks. A boat carrying 74 people fleeing violence in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province sank on Sunday just north of the provincial capital of Pemba. A passing sailboat rescued 32 people while over 40 others are thought to have drowned, a local official told Reuters. Armed militants have stepped up their attacks in Cabo Delgado in recent weeks, storming villages, burning houses and crops, and killing residents. More than 11,200 people fleeing the violence arrived on Pemba’s beaches during the last two weeks of October, according to UN figures. Over 300,000 people in Cabo Delgado have been displaced over the last three years, of which some 100,000 have sought refuge in and around Pemba, increasing the city’s population by a third. Médecins Sans Frontières warned this week that the new arrivals need urgent humanitarian assistance, particularly as the rainy season gets underway.
Heavy fighting flares in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Fighting was reported in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region on Wednesday after the government launched military operations in response to an alleged attack on a federal army base. Reuters reports that tensions in the region have been escalating since September when Tigray held regional elections in defiance of the federal government. With internet in the region shut down, the impact of the fighting on local populations is not yet clear. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for immediate measures to de-escalate tensions and ensure a peaceful resolution to the dispute. There are currently 1.8 million people internally displaced across Ethiopia, while the country is host to 792,000 refugees.
ONE QUESTION FOR…
Carolina Mateos, UNHCR’s head of office in Pemba, Mozambique
What are the most urgent needs of the displaced people who have been arriving to Pemba in their thousands in recent weeks?
“With more than 11,200 displaced people arriving in Pemba in the last two weeks, the needs are overwhelming. Hundreds of people are sleeping on the beach without shelter and nearly half of the arrivals are children. There’s an urgent need for humanitarian assistance, particularly food, water and health services. Psychosocial support is also crucial, as many people have witnessed or endured violence.
“UNHCR and its partners are providing relief items as well as counselling. We’re also training a network of community volunteers so they can provide information in local languages on where displaced people can receive assistance and support.”
STORIES TO WATCH
Escalating violence in Syria’s Idlib. Shelling in Syria’s opposition-held Idlib Governorate on Wednesday killed eight civilians, including four children and two local aid workers. The attack, on a day of heavy rain, targeted Idlib City and two other towns to the north and south. In a statement on Thursday, Mark Cutts, the UN’s deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, condemned the killings and said the escalation in violence “compounds an already dire situation on the ground in Idlib” where over half the population of close to three million are internally displaced and COVID-19 cases are spreading in over-crowded camps. Al Jazeera reports that a truce, negotiated eight months ago by Turkey and Russia, appears to be unravelling, with attacks and counter attacks restoring a cycle of violence.
Central America tallies deaths and damages from Hurricane Eta. As the remnants of Hurricane Eta moved back out to sea on Thursday, governments in Central America began to tally the displaced and dead, recovering bodies from landslides and flooding. AP reports that it will be days before a final death toll is known, but that the torrential rains have further battered economies already hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. A week of rain spoiled crops, washed away bridges and flooded homes across the region, overwhelming national capacity in several countries. The foreign affairs minister in Honduras called for international assistance with recovery and reconstruction efforts. UNHCR is part of the UN response to provide humanitarian relief.
Coping with COVID-19 in crowded camps. Physical distancing, handwashing with soap and water, and access to health care services have been the main defences against the spread of COVID-19, but such measures are not available to millions of refugees and other displaced people living in crowded urban shelters, settlements or camps. This new data visualization by UNHCR shows just how hard it is to adhere to physical distancing restrictions when you live in a camp like Kutupalong in Bangladesh where an average of 45,000 people are sharing each square kilometre. Advice on handwashing is also hard to follow when water and soap are often in short supply. The data visualization also shows how UNHCR is responding in operations around the world with cash assistance, new shelters or housing and increased supplies of water and soap.
Syrian refugee Omar Alshogre’s shouts of joy after hearing he had been admitted to Georgetown University have been reverberating through the Internet this week. Omar’s time in a Damascus detention centre during the early days of the Syrian uprising made him a passionate public speaker and human rights activist. By attending Georgetown, he hopes to prepare himself to one day return to Syria and help rebuild his homeland.
DID YOU KNOW?
Currently, more than 22 per cent of refugee sites have access to less than 15 litres of water per person per day – the minimum standard for water consumption in an emergency context. By contrast, each person in Europe uses an average of 144 litres per day.