UN refugee chief laments nearly 80 million forcibly displaced
Global displacement reached a staggering 79.5 million people last year - almost double the number of people in crisis registered a decade ago – owing to war, violence, persecution and other emergencies, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Thursday.
The agency’s latest Global Trends report shows that 8.7 million people were newly displaced in 2019 alone, with developing countries worst hit.
Nearly seven in 10 of those displaced came from Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.
Here’s the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi:
“This almost 80 million figure – the highest that UNHCR has recorded since these statistics have been systematically collected, is of course a reason for great concern. This is by the way approximately one per cent of the world’s population, we have never reached this very significant percentage.”
In Geneva, the UNHCR chief said that although the issue of displacement affects all nations, it was poorer countries which hosted 85 per cent of those forced from their home – not richer countries, “in spite of the rhetoric”.
Mr. Grandi also said that hardship caused by COVID-19 lockdown measures would “no doubt” push more people into leaving their homes in search of work.
DR Congo insecurity has worsened considerably, warns UN rights chief
To the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where violence and insecurity continue to uproot huge numbers of desperate people, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has warned.
At the Human Rights Council in Geneva she said that 1.5 million people have been displaced in the last eight months alone.
Among them, 1,300 civilians have been killed in clashes involving armed groups and government forces over the same period.
The number of victims has increased significantly in recent weeks, the High Commissioner said, and some of these could constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes.
In the northeastern province of Ituri, more than 500 civilians have been killed since last October, according to the UN human rights office, OHCHR.
It said that Lendu militia had principally targeted the Hema people but was now attacking other communities.
In the formerly quieter central Kasai region, the High Commissioner said that most abuses had been committed by State forces, with more than 100 people killed by police officers, since her last update to the Human Rights Council.
UN health agency calls for global agreement on first COVID-19 vaccine recipients
Finally, to the World Health Organization (WHO), which has called for countries to collaborate on the mass-production of a COVID-19 vaccine, once one is found that works against the new coronavirus.
Some 300 trial vaccines are currently being tested, and three are close to starting the final phase of human testing, WHO Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan told journalists via videoconference on Thursday.
Assuming these trials are successful, there could be a couple of hundred million doses of one or more vaccines by the end of the year, Dr Swaminathan said, with billions more hopefully available in 2021.
To do this, countries need to support and invest in the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility, known as COVAX, she said:
“But we can only do that if the world comes together, if countries come together and agree to this mechanism. So, we are proposing a framework that could be used to decide who should be prioritised. And I mentioned, that …you could think about groups of people who should be prioritised. You think of one group of people who are at the front line, we have drivers and ambulance workers and other healthcare
workers across…but also the police, the grocery store workers, the sanitation workers, these are the people who are exposed a lot.”
The WHO official noted that other people at risk who would also benefit from a vaccine included the elderly, those with hypertension, diabetes and dementia.
Individuals in prisons, nursing homes, factories and urban slums where outbreaks have been identified should also receive the inoculation as a priority, Dr Swaminathan said.
Earlier this month, WHO announced that the COVAX Facility had signed a first deal with pharma giant AstraZeneca securing access to 300 million doses of vaccine as they become available.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.