News In Brief 09 February 2018

9 February 2018

More than 85,000 civilians displaced since December while hostilities rage in Yemen: UNHCR

An upsurge of violence across Yemen has resulted in the displacement of more than 85,000 people in just the last 10 weeks.

Yemen is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with more than 22 million in need, fuelled by ongoing conflict, a breakdown in public services and a collapsing economy.

UN refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Cécile Pouilly said the agency was “alarmed” as hundreds of people are forced to flee their homes each day, due to increasing military operations, particularly on the west coast.

“We are particularly concerned for those that remain in areas close to hostilities in Taizz and Hudaydah governorates. As a result of prolonged fighting in those two governorates, conditions continue to deteriorate, exposing people to violence and disease without access to basic services.”

Most of those displaced in these two governorates are trapped inside their homes or in caves as ground clashes, aerial bombardment and sniper fire rage around them.

In addition to new displacements from those fleeing the coast, UNHCR is also observing a spike from other frontline areas, including Yemen’s border governorates.

Refugee women and children victims of sexual violence

UNHCR is also “very concerned” by recent reports from asylum seekers of continuing sexual and gender-based violence in sub-standard reception centres on the Greek islands.

The situation is especially worrying in the official Reception and Identification Centres on Lesvos and Samos.

Some 5,500 refugees continue to endure sub-standard shelter with inadequate security in centres that are struggling to operate at double their intended capacity.

Bathrooms and latrines are no-go zones for unaccompanied women or children after dark, while even bathing during the day can be dangerous, leading to inadequate hygiene conditions.

Those assaulted find it difficult to report incidences because of fear, shame and trust issues, and actual numbers are likely to be much higher than reported, said UNHCR on Friday.

Conditions are also increasing frustration, leading to a tense and challenging security environment, which further raises the risk of sexual and gender-based violence.

UNHCR welcomed measures taken by the Government to reduce the risk, but believes further vital steps are needed to protect those living in reception centres.

Refugees in “grave danger” of flooding and landslides

60,000 Rohingya children living in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh are at a direct risk of flooding and landslides during the approaching monsoon period, said the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Friday.

Cyclone season could begin as early as April and last until the end of the year, affecting 100,000 child and adult refugees.

The dangers of compromised water sanitation have a direct impact on children’s health as they are highly prone to waterborne diseases, such as acute watery diarrhoea and cholera, according to UNICEF’s Christophe Bouleriac, briefing reporters in Geneva.

“One major concern is the impact on water and sanitation infrastructure. More than 3,000 latrines and almost 4,000 waterpoints could be affected by flooding or landslides in the hills and valleys of Cox’s Bazar. In the valleys, latrines and water points are at risk of flooding. The tube wells and latrines risk contamination. People will have no access to the latrines.”

Younger children are also at a risk of drowning in flood waters, and UNICEF is raising awareness to ensure they are not left unattended.

Audio Credit:
Bronwen Cowley, United Nations, Geneva
Audio Duration:
3'48"