News In Brief 01 February 2018

1 February 2018

“Human cost” of conflict in South Sudan has reached “epic proportions”: UNHCR chief

The “human cost” of South Sudan’s long-running conflict has reached “epic proportions” with the number of refugees set to rise beyond 3 million by the end of this year, said the head of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Thursday.

UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, together with UN relief chief Mark Lowcock, launched a $3.2 billion appeal to help those forced to flee their homes, as fighting continues across the world’s youngest country.

They are appealing for $1.5 billion to support refugees who have fled across the border into six neighbouring countries: Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR).

A further $1.7 billion is needed to help those internally displaced by the fighting, which has fuelled famine conditions and a humanitarian crisis since conflict broke out between forces loyal to the President and Vice-President, in 2013.

Mr. Grandi said the violence was “purging South Sudan of the people who should be the greatest resource of a young nation”.

“They should be building the country, not fleeing it,” he added.

Mr. Grandi and Emergency Relief Coordinator Lowcock have been visiting newly arrived refugees from the country in UNHCR’s Kakuma Refugee Camp, in northern Kenya.

Mr. Lowcock said that the conflict had taken a “brutal and deadly toll” and it was “in the interests of everyone to continue to provide generous and continuous support” to the refugees.

There are nearly 2.5 million South Sudanese who have already fled the country, and around 7 million need humanitarian assistance.

Repatriating Rohingyas “premature” says UN independent expert on Myanmar

Talk of repatriating more than 650,000 Rohingya refugees who’ve fled Myanmar since last August is premature, said the UN human rights expert on the country, following her visit to Bangladesh and Thailand in January.

Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee spoke to reporters in South Korea on Thursday, after being denied access to Myanmar itself by authorities there.

She said there had been a “decades-long cycle of violence” perpetuated by Myanmar’s leadership against several ethnic minorities there, including the Rohingya.

Ms. Lee said that security forces had established a pattern of domination, aggression and human rights violations against ethnic groups across the country, not just Rakhine State.

“Recent reports of attacks against civilians; against homes and places of worship; of forcible displacement and relocation; the burning of villages; land-grabbing, sexual violence, arbitrary arrests and detention; torture and enforced disappearances are acts that have been alleged against the military and security forces for generations. While reports from Rakhine State have rightly provoked international outrage, for many in Myanmar they have elicited a tragic feeling of déjà vu.”

Syrian refugee brothers in Lebanon hear for first time after life-changing operation

Syrian refugee brothers Mohammed and Issam have been deaf since birth, but now thanks to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and a life-changing donation from the Kuwaiti Red Crescent, they are able to hear again.

The boys, who live in Lebanon, met a popular Arab journalist last year who posted a video tweet of herself interacting with them using sign language.

The Kuwaiti Red Crescent responded by offering to pay the $55,000 bill for cochlear implant surgery.

The boys’ mother, Badriyeh, said that when UNHCR contacted her about the generous donation and planned procedure “I couldn’t believe it. I just started crying.”

“I didn’t know if they were tears of sadness or joy,” she added.

She told UNHCR that although her sons had “already missed a lot”, the most important next step is for them to learn to speak, read and write.

They are now attending a special school in Lebanon to catch up with their studies, and enjoying a new world of sound and music, for the first time.

Matt Wells, United Nations.

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