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By Kristy Siegfried | 7 January, 2020

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

New Year begins with “world in turmoil”. Addressing the media at UN headquarters in New York on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said geopolitical tensions were at their highest level this century and that “this turbulence is escalating”. Without mentioning specific events, he noted the impact of the climate crisis, growing extremism and “a dangerous advance of terrorism”, particularly in Africa. He reminded world leaders of the “terrible human suffering caused by war” and urged them to exercise maximum restraint and to renew international cooperation. The Institute for Security Studies describes conflict as Africa’s biggest challenge in 2020 – a year that the African Union has designated for its “silencing the guns” initiative aimed at ending all conflicts on the continent. Meanwhile, aid groups say they are struggling to deal with the emergence of new conflicts while dealing with existing conflicts that have become protracted. The Sahel is cited as a region of particular concern, while ISS also highlights fragile peace agreements in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and the insurgency in northern Mozambique.

“Daily nightmare” for civilians in Syria’s Idlib. With at least 300,000 civilians forced to flee their homes in southern Idlib province since mid-December and another 400,000 people already displaced between May and August last year, the situation for civilians in Syria’s last opposition-head province is a “daily nightmare”, according to the UN’s deputy regional humanitarian coordinator. In a statement today, Mark Cutts said humanitarian organizations are struggling to cope with the increased needs and that at least 13 health facilities in Idlib have been forced to suspend their operations due to insecurity. The New Humanitarian reports that while some of the displaced have been welcomed into private homes, mosques and schools, others remain out in the open, exposed to heavy winter rains and a growing sense of desperation and hopelessness.


WHAT’S ON OUR RADAR

Attacks on civilians rising in Burkina Faso. More than 250 civilians have been killed by religious extremists in Burkina Faso since April 2019, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch on Monday. A surge of attacks in recent months has caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes, with nearly half a million people now displaced. In the most recent attack, at least 14 people were killed on Saturday when a bus carrying students drove over an improvised explosive device in northern Sourou province, near the border with Mali. According to HRW, armed Islamist groups, which began operating in Mali and spread into Burkina Faso from 2016, are responsible for the attacks.

Lone child refugees in Uganda’s biggest refugee settlement. Uganda hosts the largest number of unaccompanied child refugees in the world, most of them from South Sudan. Al Jazeera reports from Bidi Bidi settlement, where some older children tend to younger siblings alone while they wait to be reunited with missing parents. Other children who arrive at the settlement alone are matched with volunteer foster families and monitored by case workers and a network of volunteer para-social workers, who are refugees themselves. A refugee-led organization there, called I Can South Sudan, provides music lessons and other social activities aimed at improving the children’s quality of life.

Refugees and migrants trek through snow in Bosnia’s borderlands. The Washington Post features a series of photos by Associated Press photographer Manu Brabo showing refugees and migrants walking through snowy mountain passes and trying to find shelter as they head for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s border with Croatia. Some are travelling with small children who they try to keep warm by huddling around fires. Others are pictured lying exhausted on the snow or after being stopped by Bosnian police. Refugees and migrants were removed from a tent camp near the north-western town of Bihac last month, but according to AP some are now making their way back to the area with the aim of crossing into Croatia.


GET INSPIRED

In Ethiopia, refugees and local people are working together to clear a destructive weed and turn it into energy efficient briquettes that refugees can use as an alternative to charcoal.


DID YOU KNOW?

Uganda hosts the largest number of unaccompanied and separated child refugees in the world – some 41,200 in 2018.