US to do ‘everything possible’ to help rescue abducted Nigerian girls

Updated 03 May 2014
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US to do ‘everything possible’ to help rescue abducted Nigerian girls

ADDIS ABABA: US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday vowed that Washington will do “everything possible” to help Nigeria deal with Boko Haram militants, following the kidnapping of scores of schoolgirls.
“Let me be clear. The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime,” Kerry said in a policy speech in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
“We will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and hold the perpetrators to justice. That is our responsibility and the world’s responsibility,” he said.
The US, he added, was “working to strengthen Nigeria’s institutions and its military to combat Boko Haram’s campaign of terror and violence.”
Gunmen stormed the girls’ boarding school in the country’s northeast nearly three weeks ago, forcing them from their dormitories onto trucks and driving them into the bush after a gun battle with soldiers.
Nigerian police on Friday said Boko Haram militants were holding 223 girls of the 276 seized from the school, revising upwards the number of youngsters abducted.
The girls’ abduction has triggered global outrage and prompted protests in a number of Nigerian cities, as desperate parents call on the government to secure their release.
Nigerian mothers on Saturday vowed to hold more protests to push a greater rescue effort from authorities.
“We need to sustain the message and the pressure on political and military authorities to do everything in their power to ensure these girls are freed,” protest organizer Hadiza Bala Usman told AFP.
She said that women and mothers will on Tuesday march to the offices of the defense minister and chief of defense staff “to ask them what they are doing to rescue our daughters.”
“We believe there is little or no effort for now on the part of the military and government to rescue these abducted girls, who are languishing in some dingy forest,” she said.
Information Minister Labaran Maku said on Friday that President Goodluck Jonathan had chaired a top-level meeting with military and security chiefs about a possible rescue mission.
The mass kidnapping is one of the most shocking attacks in Boko Haram’s five-year extremist uprising, which has killed thousands across the north and center of the country, including 1,500 people this year alone.
A car bombing in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Thursday that killed 19 has fueled fears that the militant group may be shifting its focus outside of its historic base in Nigeria’s remote northeast.


Rohingya volunteers get UN training to deal with monsoon threat 

Rohingya refugee men make sand bags in preparation for the upcoming monsoon season in Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia, Bangladesh. (AFP / Munir Uz Zaman)
Updated 28 May 2018
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Rohingya volunteers get UN training to deal with monsoon threat 

  • UNHCR identifies 24,000 Rohingya refugees at ‘high risk’ of landslides and floods as Bangladesh’s monsoon season approaches.
  • Volunteers in refugee camps are being trained as first responders in emergency by the UN agency.

DHAKA, Bangladesh: “Initially we were a bit scared, but after acquiring disaster preparedness skills, we are feeling stronger,” said Nur Mohammad Majhi, a Rohingya community outreach member, in the refugee camp of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. 

Majhi is one of the several Rohingya refugees who have received disaster training from UNHCR to deal with landslides and floods in the approaching monsoon season.

“We want to stand by the people, stand with courage and be ready to rescue if needed,” Majhi told Arab News.

The UNHCR has completed training for 400 Rohingya safety unit volunteers, who will be deployed as first responders in emergency situations such as search-and-rescue activities during floods and landslides. The volunteers will work closely with other government emergency services.

Another 300 Rohingya volunteers will complete their training next week. 

“We are extremely concerned about the physical safety of tens of thousands of Rohingyas who live in overcrowded settlements in Bangladesh and the danger of an ‘emergency within an emergency,’” Caroline Gluck, UNHCR senior spokesperson at Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News.

The emergency response training has changed the mindset of the Rohingya refugees and given them confidence to deal with accidents and large-scale emergencies. 

“We’ve learnt a lot. Most people still don’t know what help is out there and we can help them,” said Ayub Khan, a Rohingya outreach member who recently attended a psychological first-aid training course run by the UNHCR.

“Now we can share the knowledge, the information we have. We can help people to worry less and bring some comfort,” Khan said. 

“I had no clue what to do during landslides. I had sleepless nights during the past few weeks fearing the natural disasters of the rainy season,” said Jamila Khatun, a refugee in Balukhali camp. “Now I feel much better and confident as the volunteers have educated me on how to tackle these emergencies.” 

The UNHCR has adopted an integrated approach to deal with this emergency. Volunteers in different groups have received separate training on basic awareness and mitigation, psychological first aid, and emergency and cyclone preparedness. 

Despite the extensive humanitarian support for Rohingyas, the UN agency has said 200,000 Rohingyas living on hill slopes face risky conditions. “Out of these, 24,000 are at high risk of landslides,” Gluck said. 

Agencies have relocated more than 21,800 refugees to safer locations, according to Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG). The UNHCR is trying to relocate some families inside the existing settlements to lessen the risks. 

The UNHCR is also working to stabilize slopes and improve pathways with sandbags and bamboo. Together with the World Food Program, UNHCR is also improving drainage and widening a canal to improve water flow and avoid flooding. 

“We have been working with the Bangladesh authorities to build and pave the main arterial road from the north to south of the biggest settlement, Kutupalong-Balukhali, which is crucial for access and a lifeline for aid,” said Gluck.

Bangladesh is now home to 1.3 million Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar in the wake of military offensives in Rakhine state last year.

About 100,000 Rohingyas will be moved to the island of Bhashan Char in the Bay of Bengal this summer, authorities said.