From Syria to Ukraine, children bear the brunt of forced displacement crisis

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Updated 22 September 2022

From Syria to Ukraine, children bear the brunt of forced displacement crisis

From Syria to Ukraine, children bear the brunt of forced displacement crisis
  • Raouf Mazou, assistant high commissioner for operations at UNHCR, calls for more contributions
  • Situation of forcibly displaced is “very, very worrying,” he told Arab News on the sidelines of UNGA

NEW YORK CITY: Nearly half of the world’s forcibly displaced people are still children under 18-years-old, according to data published by the UN refugee agency — that is 1.5 million more people than the entire population of Saudi Arabia.

It is an old problem, but it is not going away.

By the end of 2021 the UNHCR data put the number of forcibly displaced people of all ages as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human-rights violation or events seriously disturbing public order, globally at 89.3 million. This has risen to 100 million since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in March.

“The situation with the forcibly displaced is very, very worrying,” Raouf Mazou, assistant high commissioner for operations at UNHCR, told Arab News on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

“To this year we came to a total number of about 100 million people forcibly displaced. These include refugees and internally displaced people.”

But even with the figures released in June, the 42 percent of children forced out of their homes stands at approximately 37,506,000.

To give this some perspective, that is 15,756,000 more than the entire population of Cairo, nearly five times the number of people in Riyadh, and nearly 28 million more people than London.

Moreover, the problem is growing. While many children and adults — usually women — were forced from their homes by drought, food insecurity and armed conflict, there are also 1.5 million children who were born as refugees.

Annually, between 2018 and 2021, this equated to an average of between 350,000 and 400,000 children born into a refugee life each year. Whether on their own or with family, all face food insecurity, poverty and threats to their safety.

“If one looks at the past 10 years, we’ve seen every year an increase in these numbers,” Mazou said.

In turn, this exposed them to increased vulnerability and attacks, often violent sexual assaults. The victims range from children to adults, the attackers operate alone and in groups.

Gang rapes have become worryingly common in South Sudan as the flimsy truce moves closer to complete failure.




Conflicts around the world have led to a surge in child malnutrition. (AFP)

“That is as a result of conflict, as a result of climate, as a result of a number of reasons. It’s a very (concerning) situation,” Mazou told Arab News.

On Monday Martin Griffiths, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, told the Security Council that hunger is being used as a “tactic of war,” something humanitarian organizations are trying to combat through lifelines, by working with local groups who are the first, sometimes only, “responders on the ground.”

He warned that the presence of humanitarian aid workers does not spell the end of suffering for those displaced.

South Sudan is “one of the most dangerous places to be an aid worker last year, with 319 violent incidents targeting humanitarian personnel and assets.”

Griffiths said five aid workers were killed in 2021 — five more have died since the beginning of this year.

Up until the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a big majority of refugees — 69 percent of the global number, to be precise — originated from just five countries, notably Syria, South Sudan and Afghanistan.

In Syria more than 6.9 million people have fled their homes internally, and more than 6.5 million remain outside Syria, of whom 5.7 million are refugees in the region, still being hosted by neighbours. Up until Ukraine happened, Syria accounted for the highest number of displaced people.

Currently 14.6 million people in Syria rely on aid — 1.2 million more than a year before. More than 90 percent of Syrians live in poverty.

After 11 years of conflict, those displaced by the Syrian war are beginning to become a forgotten cause.

“There’s always an element of asylum fatigue,” Mazou said. “Because after some time, people expect that the solution would be resolved and therefore, there is less attention. And then you see a reduction in the funding.”

According to him, the events of 2021, such as the war in Ukraine and the violent regime change in Afghanistan, have pushed Syria even further out of the limelight.

“Each of these new situations require additional funding and reduce the availability of funds for other locations,” Mazou said.

He said the ripple effect has been an increase in the amount of need.

“The resources that are being mobilized are not increasing as fast as the number of refugees and the amount of need that we have,” he said.




UN refugee agency official Raouf Mazou appeals for generous contributions to meet urgent humanitarian needs. (Screenshot)

Among the issues faced by refugees is gender-based violence and risks to children, which are on the rise.

Then there is the food-security crisis, which has set new records with 13.9 million people going hungry every day, and is being aggravated by the conflict in Ukraine.

“We have about 11 million refugees in 42 countries, which are dependent on food assistance,” Mazou said.

“And what we are seeing now is that in a number of countries, we do not have enough resources.”

He said the cost-of-living crisis had exacerbated the problem, meaning the amount of food being made available was decreasing as costs soared.

The situation is so bad, according to Mazou, there are refugees who are receiving little or no food assistance.

The problem is not just food scarcity, though. One of the first things child refugees lose is access to education.

Nearly one-in-two Syrian children are out of school and vulnerable to child labour, early and forced marriages, trafficking, and recruitment by armed actors, according to UNHCR data.

Mazou said just 37 percent of all refugee children have access to secondary education, while those in tertiary education amount to just 6 percent of those who need it.




An internally displaced child stands next to tire in a school in the village of Afdera, 225km of Semera, Ethiopia. (AFP)

“The problem is that less access to education means that they are less prepared and ready to be part of the country when they are able to go back. So, definitely one can speak of a lost generation,” he said.

Mazou said the UNHCR is in ongoing discussions with governments to ensure that refugee children are included in existing education systems.

According to the UNHCR Data Finder report, a vast majority of those people forcibly displaced from their homes and countries are hosted by low- and middle-income countries — not richer Western ones.

“Low- and middle-income countries host 83 percent of the world’s refugees and Venezuelans displaced abroad,” the report said, adding: “The least developed countries provide asylum to 27 percent of the total.”

Many Syrian refugees who left the country during the war now find themselves in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.

It is well documented that Lebanon, a country the size of the British county of Cornwall and with a population of four million, hosts somewhere in the region of 2 million known refugees.

Lebanon is in a financial crisis of its own where banks are denying citizens access to their own savings.




A rescuer carries a migrant child as they disembark from the Abeille Languedoc after being rescued by its crew following a failed crossing attempt in French waters. (AFP)

It is clear that the cost-of-living crisis has hit funding for refugees significantly in the past three years, with the pandemic and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan forcing millions to flee.

In its 2021 donor impact report, the UNHCR said: “2021 was another difficult year.”

It went on to add: “Economic crisis, conflict, climate change, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have demanded that we adapt to new challenges every day.”

“But the trials and tribulations of 2021 especially impacted some of the world’s most vulnerable people: the over 84 million forced to flee their homes to escape war, persecution, and other life-threatening situations.”

In January, 2022, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) announced it was seeking from the international community $ 1.6 billion this year.

UNRWA was established by the General Assembly in 1949, mandated to provide assistance and protection to 5.7 million Palestine refugees registered with the agency across its five fields of operation.

UNRWA’s mission is to “help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.”




The number of refugees from Ukraine following Russia's invasion of the country on February 24, 2022 has reached 4.2 million, the United Nations says. (AFP)

In January Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA commissioner-general, said the international community recognized the “lifesaving role of UNRWA” and its role in contributing toward stability in the Middle East.

“In 2022, that recognition must be supported by the adequate level of funding to meet this critical moment for Palestine refugees,” he said.

“Chronic agency budget shortfalls threaten the livelihoods and well-being of the Palestine refugees that UNRWA serves and pose a serious threat to the Agency’s ability to maintain services.”

Earlier in September Lazzarini concluded an official visit to Cairo during which he met with Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the secretary-general of the Arab League, and Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s foreign minister.

Commending Egypt and the Arab League for their political support, he called for continued Arab solidarity with Palestine refugees, not least in their financial support of the UNRWA.

"But it requires adequate resources to implement the mandate that this region, and most of the world, gives it,” Lazzarini said. “Political support — without matching financial resources — will not cover the cost of 700 schools, 140 health centres, and food and cash assistance for over two million poor and conflict-affected Palestine refugees.”

It is no different for the UNHCR, said Mazou, who explained that while the pandemic has seen an increase in donations both from the private sector and individuals – likely driven by their own newly found hardship — the needs continue to grow.




Hunger has become a 'weapon of war' in countries such as Ethiopia and Afghanistan, and the scale of needs globally has vastly outpaced resoures, according to Martin Griffiths, UN relief chief. (AFP)

“There are a number of situations — in Yemen for instance, where you have 5 million internally displaced people, plus about 100,000 refugees in a situation where there’s been conflict for quite some time,” Mazou told Arab News.

“It’s clear that financial support is required and also support to deal with the root cause of the conflict, which have, as an impact and as a consequence, displacement. So more financial resources are needed for sure.”

Mazou praised GCC member states for their contributions to the refugee cause, but added: “You can never be satisfied with the level of contributions we are receiving right now.”

Pointing out that the UNHCR’s global budget is around $10 billion, he said: “We normally get half of it as contribution, so we already have a gap globally.”

Addressing GCC countries, he said “Whether it is UAE, whether it is Saudi Arabia, whether it is Qatar, they have been contributing. But of course they need to contribute more.”

It is not a question of being ungrateful, Mazou explained. “This is what we ask all our donors, we appreciate what they do, but we ask for more.”

 


Burkina putsch leader urges end to violence on French targets

Burkina putsch leader urges  end to violence on French targets
Updated 16 sec ago

Burkina putsch leader urges end to violence on French targets

Burkina putsch leader urges  end to violence on French targets

OUAGADOUGOU: Burkina Faso’s new self-proclaimed putsch leader on Sunday called for an end to violence against French targets, after a series of attacks against buildings linked to the former colonial power.

“Things are progressively returning to order, so we urge you to freely go about your business and to refrain from any act of violence and vandalism ... notably those that could be perpetrated against the French Embassy and the French military base,” an officer said, reading on television from a statement from Captain Ibrahim Traore, who stood by
his side.

Dozens of supporters of Traore gathered at the French Embassy in the capital. Security forces fired tear gas from inside the compound to disperse the protesters after they set fire to barriers outside and lobbed rocks at the structure, with some trying to scale the fence.

The latest unrest began on Friday, when junior military officers announced they had toppled the country’s junta leader, sparking deep concern among world powers over the latest putsch to hit the Sahel region battling a growing insurgency.

Late on Saturday, the junta leader, Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, said he had no intention of giving up power and urged the officers to “come to their senses.”

His comments came shortly after the army general staff dismissed the coup as an “internal crisis” within the military and said dialogue was “ongoing” to remedy the situation.

The capital remained tense overnight, with demonstrators gathering on the main roads of Ouagadougou as a helicopter hovered above.

In a statement read out on television on Sunday, the officers who claimed the coup said they had lifted a curfew they had imposed and called for a meeting of ministry heads for later in the day.

The officers had accused Damiba of having hidden at a military base of former colonial power France to plot a “counteroffensive,” charges that he and France denied.

The French Foreign Ministry condemned “the violence against our embassy in the strongest terms” by “hostile demonstrators manipulated by a disinformation campaign against us.”

It marked the latest incident against a France-linked building in two days, after a fire at the embassy on Saturday and a blaze in front of the French Institute in the western city of Bobo-Dioulasso. A French institute in the capital also sustained major damage, the ministry said.


Trump staffers not returning White House records, National Archives says

Trump staffers not returning White House records, National Archives says
Updated 46 min 15 sec ago

Trump staffers not returning White House records, National Archives says

Trump staffers not returning White House records, National Archives says
  • FBI seized more than 11,000 records, including about 100 classified documents, in a court-approved search

WASHINGTON: Former President Donald Trump’s administration has not turned over all presidential records and the National Archives will consult with the Justice Department on whether to move to get them back, the agency has told Congress.
A congressional panel on Sept. 13 sought an urgent review by the National Archives and Records Administration after agency staff members acknowledged that they did not know if all presidential records from Trump’s White House had been turned over.
“While there is no easy way to establish absolute accountability, we do know that we do not have custody of everything we should,” acting Archivist Debra Wall said in a letter Friday to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
The Archives knows some White House staffers conducted official business on personal electronic messaging accounts that were that were not copied or forwarded to their official accounts, in violation of the Presidential Records Act, Wall said.
“NARA has been able to obtain such records from a number of former officials and will continue to pursue the return of similar types of presidential records from former officials,” Wall said in the letter, first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
She said the Archives, the federal agency charged with preserving government records, would consult with the Department of Justice on “whether to initiate an action for the recovery of records unlawfully removed.”
The Oversight Committee shared a copy of the letter with Reuters but has not issued a statement on it yet.
Representatives for Trump did not immediately return a request for comment on the matter.
Trump is facing a criminal investigation by the Justice Department for retaining government records — some marked as highly classified, including “top secret” — at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after leaving office in January 2021.
The FBI seized more than 11,000 records, including about 100 documents marked as classified, in a court-approved Aug. 8 search at Mar-a-Lago.
The Justice Department and Trump’s lawyers have been locked in a legal battle over how the records are handled. Government lawyers have been granted access to the classified documents but on Friday asked an appeals court to expedite its ability to access the non-classified documents seized in Florida.
Read more:
Trump was sued by New York’s attorney general. What legal woes does he face?


French march in Paris to rally support for women in Iran

French march in Paris to rally support for women in Iran
Updated 02 October 2022

French march in Paris to rally support for women in Iran

French march in Paris to rally support for women in Iran
  • Some women cut off chunks of their hair in protest

PARIS: Thousands of people marched in Paris on Sunday to show their support for Iranian protesters standing up to their leadership over the death of a young woman in police custody. Several female demonstrators chopped off chunks of their hair and tossed them into the air as a gesture of liberation.
Women of Iranian heritage, French feminist groups and leading politicians were among those who joined the gathering at Republique Plaza before marching through eastern Paris.
“Woman, Life, Liberty!” the crowd chanted, undeterred by the rainy weather. Some banners read: “Freedom for Iranian women,” or “No to Obligatory Hijab” or just the young woman’s name: “#Mahsa Amini.”
It was the latest and appeared to be the largest of several protests in France in support of the Iranian demonstrators. Iranians and others have also marched in cities around the world.
Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets over the last two weeks to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who had been detained by Iran’s morality police in the capital of Tehran for allegedly not adhering to Iran’s strict Islamic dress code.
The protesters have vented their anger over the treatment of women and wider repression in the Islamic Republic, and the demonstrations escalated into calls for the overthrow of the clerical establishment that has ruled Iran since 1979.
At the Paris protest, some chanted in Persian and French, “Khomenei get out!” — referring to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khomenei. Some women’s cheeks bore drawings of a red poppy, the symbol of a martyr in Iran.
Iris Farkhondeh, a 40-year-old French scholar who came to France as a refugee when she was a toddler, said she worries about rising Islamist extremism and the risk of terrorist attacks in France by religious extremists.
“The battle we fight in Iran is the same as that in France,” she said.
Other protesters described anger at Iran’s dress codes and encroaching restrictions on women. Some were afraid to give their names out of concerns for repercussions for family members in Iran.
Romane Ranjbaran, 28, came to protest with her mother and other family members.
”Iran is part and parcel of my history. My mom knew free Iran, when women were free,” she said.
She said she was happy to see so many people at Sunday’s gathering.
“It is an international fight. If we want the situation in Iran to improve, we need international support,” she said.


Greece says it’s open to talks with Turkey once provocations end

Greece says it’s open to talks with Turkey once provocations end
Updated 02 October 2022

Greece says it’s open to talks with Turkey once provocations end

Greece says it’s open to talks with Turkey once provocations end
  • “It is up to Turkey to choose if it will come to such a dialogue or not, but the basic ingredient must be a de-escalation,” Dendias said

ATHENS: Greece wants to have a constructive dialogue with Turkey based on international law but its Aegean neighbor must halt its unprecedented escalation of provocations, the Greek foreign minister said on Sunday.
The two countries — North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies but historic foes — have been at odds for decades over a range of issues, including where their continental shelves start and end, overflights in the Aegean Sea and divided Cyprus.
“It is up to Turkey to choose if it will come to such a dialogue or not, but the basic ingredient must be a de-escalation,” Nikos Dendias told Proto Thema newspaper in an interview.
Last month, the European Union voiced concern over statements by Turkish President Tayip Erdogan accusing Greece, an EU member, of occupying demilitarised islands in the Aegean and saying Turkey was ready to “do what is necessary” when the time came.
“The one responsible for a de-escalation is the one causing the escalation, which is Turkey,” Dendias said.
He blamed Ankara for increased provocations with a rhetoric of false and legally baseless claims, “even personal insults.”
Turkey has sharply increased its overflights and violations of Greek airspace, Dendias told the paper, adding that its behavior seems to be serving a “revisionist narrative” that it promotes consistently.
He said Turkish claims that Greece cannot be an equal interlocutor diplomatically, politically and militarily violates the basic rule of foreign relations — the principle of euality among nations.
“It is an insulting approach that ranks various countries as more or less equal,” Dendias said.


UN Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance to hold forum on blended finance

UN Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance to hold forum on blended finance
Updated 02 October 2022

UN Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance to hold forum on blended finance

UN Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance to hold forum on blended finance
  • Blended finance structures will help mobilize climate capital toward emerging markets, developing economies: Alliance

GENEVA: The UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance will hold a high-level forum on the potential of blended finance aims, the Emirates News Agency reported.

It follows the publication Call on Policymakers to facilitate the scaling of blended finance structures to fund climate solutions in order to meet the terms of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and UN sustainable development goals.

The agenda will include a keynote address by UN Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Climate Action Selwin Hart.

The alliance, signed by UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance Mark Carney and UN High-Level Climate Action Champion Nigel Topping, noted that blended finance structures would help to mobilize climate capital toward emerging markets and developing economies.

Given their experience and expertise, particularly in EMDEs, as well as their higher risk tolerance and official development mandates, multilateral development banks and development finance institutions have significant potential to mobilize private capital through blended finance.

By collaborating with Convergence (the global network for blended finance) and establishing dialogue with members of the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action, the alliance hopes to contribute to the implementation of the highlighted solutions.

Massive capital mobilization into EMDEs is possible only if donors, development banks, and private-sector financiers work together to effect systemic change in how private capital is deployed in climate and SDGs finance.