News In Brief 06 February 2018

6 February 2018

Burundi risks becoming a forgotten refugee crisis

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has expressed “great concern” about low levels of humanitarian funding for “desperate refugees” from Burundi.

The agency said on Tuesday that Burundian refugees receive just 21 per cent of the aid they need, which falls short of “acceptable humanitarian standards”.

UNHCR, and its 26 humanitarian partners, are launching a funding appeal for $391 million to support 430,000 Burundian refugees this year.

Since 2015, more than 400,000 refugees and asylum seekers have fled the country, and these numbers are expected to increase by over 50,000 this year.

Underfunding affects all aspects of life, including availability of food, shelter and education, as well as the capacity to respond to sexual and gender-based violence.

That’s according to Catherine Wiesner, UNHCR regional coordinator, who briefed reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.

“Underfunding also severely limits and affects our ability to invest in integrated social services and livelihood opportunities, the new progressive approaches that we would like to take, limiting support to environmental protection and restoration. In 2017, it prevented us from carrying out population verifications, and providing basic, vital documentation, and training government officials on refugee status determination as we would have planned.”

UN Commission condemns upsurge of violence in Syria

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria has condemned the upsurge in violence in eastern Ghouta, and in Idlib province.

Over the last 48 hours, the scale and ferocity of attacks has increased dramatically, resulting in reports of civilian casualties, and air strikes that have reportedly hit at least three hospitals.

“The parties to this conflict are failing in their obligations under international humanitarian law, including their absolute obligation to refrain from attacks against medical facilities and personnel,” said Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the Commission.

The Commission is investigating alarming news reports that bombs allegedly containing weaponized chlorine have been used in the town of Saraqeb in Idlib and in Douma in eastern Ghouta.

Mr. Pinheiro stressed that not only is aid access being denied, but the sieges are also in contravention of international law, and include the deliberate starvation of civilians.

He called for all warring parties to make the lives of civilians their paramount concern, to allow unimpeded humanitarian access, and to cease indiscriminate bombardment.

Fresh violence in DRC displaces thousands

At least 30 people have reportedly been killed in Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), while many villages have been burned to the ground, according to initial information from the affected areas.

That’s according to UNHCR which is “gravely concerned” by escalating violence between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups, which has led to new displacement over the last four days.

Tension between these two communities is not new for the region, which was devastated by violence nearly two decades ago, when around 400,000 were displaced.

In total, some 5 million people have been displaced by conflicts in the DRC; nearly 4.5 million of them internally.

Refugee arrivals picked up significantly on Monday, with 1,386 people crossing Lake Albert into Uganda.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch stressed that greater efforts to ensure security and humanitarian access in the area are vital.

“We fear the fighting could spread to the neighbouring areas, particularly because of the circulation of light weapons in the region. Meanwhile, as physical access in certain communities remains limited, the displaced populations have been without any assistance, despite their urgent needs for food and other basic relief items.”

Audio Credit:
Bronwen Cowley, United Nations, Geneva
Audio Duration:
4'