Democratic Republic of the Congo UNHCR Operational Update, December 2022

UNHCR facilitated the safe return of 670 Congolese refugees from Zambia into the territory of Pweto, Upper Katanga province.

1,900 emergency shelters were built by UNHCR and 16 community kitchen sheds were constructed at Buchagara Site, North Kivu.

5,556 refugees benefited from soap distribution to improve hygiene conditions in North Ubangi.

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees

UN Appeals for $2.6 Billion to Ease Hunger Crisis in Somalia

The U.N. is appealing for $2.6 billion this year to assist 7.6 million of the most vulnerable Somalis who are facing acute hunger and possible famine from conflict, high food prices, and unprecedented drought.

“Famine is a strong possibility from April to June this year, and of course beyond, if humanitarian assistance is not sustained, and if the April to June rains underperform as currently forecast,” Adam Abdelmoula, the U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, told reporters in a video briefing.

The country, along with other parts of the Horn of Africa, is in the throes of historic drought after five consecutive failed rainy seasons.

Abdelmoula said nearly 6.4 million people are currently facing high levels of food insecurity and that is expected to rise to 8.3 million between April and June, including 727,000 of them who are expected to experience catastrophic hunger levels.

Source: Voice of America

Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (A/HRC/52/60)

Human Rights Council

Fifty-second session

27 February–31 March 2023

Agenda item 3

Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil,

Political, economic, social and cultural rights,

Including the right to development

Summary

In the present report, which covers the period from December 2021 to December 2022, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict explores challenges in ending and preventing grave violations against and strengthening the protection of children affected by armed conflict. She outlines the activities carried out in discharging her mandate, and the challenges faced and progress achieved in addressing grave violations against children. The Special Representative also lays out her advocacy activities, including through her focus on lessons learned and best practices. She provides information on her field visits and efforts to build partnerships, including with regional organizations and international partners. At the end of her report, the Special Representative outlines priorities and makes recommendations to enhance the protection of children affected by conflict.

Source: UN Human Rights Council

Weekly Bulletin on Outbreaks and other Emergencies: Week 6: 30 January to 5 February 2023

This Weekly Bulletin focuses on public health emergencies occurring in the WHO African region. This week’s articles cover:

Cyclone CHENESO in Madagascar

Lassa fever in Nigeria

Mpox in the WHO African Region

For each of these events, a brief description, followed by public health measures implemented and an interpretation of the situation is provided.

A table is provided at the end of the bulletin with information on all new and ongoing public health events currently being monitored in the region, as well as recent events that have been controlled and closed.

Major issues and challenges include:

Since 19 January 2023, Madagascar is responding to cyclone CHENESO which has currently left around 500 000 people without access to health care services, in almost half of the 114 districts across the country. Many roads and bridges have been cut or made impassable, many health care facilities are now inaccessible, hence complicating the provision of care and humanitarian assistance to affected communities. There is urgent need for resource mobilization, in a context of extreme precarity and poverty, weak and fragile health system, and lack of qualified human resources. In addition, there are concomitant and resource-consuming emergencies including a protracted malnutrition crisis in southern and south-eastern parts of the country, the COVID-19 pandemic, resurgence of malaria and plague, and an outbreak of circulating vaccine derived poliovirus-2.

There is an ongoing seasonal Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria for which the number of suspected and confirmed cases as well as the number of the affected Local Government Areas (LGA) and States increased compared to that reported for the same period for the previous two years.

While the increased number of cases reported may be considered as result of improved surveillance activities, more effort is needed to further reduce the fatality of the disease and limit its geographical extension. Additional resources are also required for the country to be able to respond to others ongoing emergencies including other disease outbreaks (cholera, Covid-19, meningitis, etc.) and mitigate the impact of the volatile security situation in the affected areas.

Source: World Health Organization

WHO Eritrea Annual Report 2022

Eritrea is located in the Horn of Africa and borders the Red Sea to the east, the Republic of Djibouti to the South-East, Ethiopia to the South and the Republic of Sudan to the north and west. The surface area is over 124,000 square Kilometres. The population is estimated to be 3,650,000 (UNDESA) as of 2021 and is projected to grow to 3,937,197 (increase of 7.9%) by 2026. As of 2020, about 41.1% and 14.0% of the total popula- tion was under the age of 15 years and under 5 years, respectively. The population that is 65 years and above is estimated at about 4.5%. Life expectancy at birth is estimated to be 67 years as at 2020 (UNFPA 2020).

The health agenda of Eritrea is implemented mainly through the interventions elucidated in the National Health Plan as well as the Health Sector Strategic and Development Plan (HSSDP). The country is currently operating the third HSSDP for five years, 2022-2026, with the central goal of “improving the health status of its people”. The WHO country office aligns collab- orative activities with the MoH with the priorities and interventions contained in the HSSDP, through Country Cooperative Strategic (CCS) document.

The next WHO CCS (2023-2027) has four strategies that are aligned with the country’s HSSDP (2022-2026). These strategic priorities are:

Increase achievement towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC), leaving no one behind

Enhance health security through strengthened prevention, detection, and response

Promote and optimize synergy, coordination, and leadership on the determinants of health for im- proved health and well-being and

Enhance health systems functionality to sustainably modernize medical services and expand resilient and comprehensive public health services.

This annual report of the 2022 provides a consolidated update of WHO’s activities against the objectives that were set out for the year 2022. It highlights key actions taken by WHO in the various programmes that range from advocacy, technical and financial support to implementation and operational support. This report also highlights achievements made, the challenges and lessons learned. The next steps to sustain or improve on the gains made as well as circumvent the challenges encountered have been included in the interventions in the CCS 2023-2027.

Taken together, despite multiple challenges, WHO in collaboration with MoH and other partners addressed the critical health challenges through innovation, adaptability, leveraging on the capacity of bilateral and multilateral partners and prioritization. The efforts made significant impact as many of the health indices have improved with some achieving UHC and SDG targets. Some infectious diseases are at the verge of being eradicated from the country. By sustaining the gains made and addressing the gaps/challenges encountered there will be further progress towards UHC and achieving more SDGs targets thereby further improving the health of the people of Eritrea.

Source: World Health Organization

UN Revises Toll From DR Congo’s Kishishe Massacre to 171

M23 rebels killed at least 171 civilians during a massacre in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in November, the United Nations said Tuesday, revising an earlier reported toll of 131.

In a document summarizing abuses committed in the DRC last year, the U.N. Joint Human Rights Office said the M23 had executed at least 171 civilians in the settlements of Kishishe and Bambo, in eastern North Kivu province.

The massacre provoked outrage in the DRC, where the Tutsi-led M23 has captured swathes of territory in North Kivu since late 2021 and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

A preliminary U.N. probe initially found that 131 civilians had been killed.

Reported figures for the scale of the massacre vary widely.

The DRC’s government initially said that some 300 had been killed, for example, while the M23 said that eight civilians were killed by stray bullets.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch said in a report that the M23 had executed at least 22 people in Kishishe and killed another 10 while searching for enemy militia members.

Elsewhere in its statement on Tuesday, the U.N. noted that it had recorded nearly 6,000 human-rights violations in the DRC last year — marking a 15-percent reduction compared to 2021.

Abuses committed by state forces also fell, the U.N. said, with 2,400 recorded cases last year compared to 3,162 in 2021.

Armed groups committed about 60% of the recorded abuses. About 85% of the total number of violations occurred in four provinces in the DRC’s volatile east.

Despite the overall drop in recorded rights violations, there had been a “substantial increase” in the number of summary executions, the UN said.

Although it did not specify a figure, it attributed the rise to an uptick on attacks on civilians in Ituri and North Kivu provinces.

The U.N. pointed to the M23, Codeco, Nyatura and Allied Democratic Forces armed groups as being responsible for the trend.

The M23 resumed fighting in late 2021 after lying dormant for years, claiming that the DRC had failed to honor a pledge to integrate its fighters into the army.

Its re-emergence sparked a crisis in the country’s east and led to a spike in tensions with neighboring Rwanda, which Kinshasa accuses of backing the group.

U.N. experts, the United States and other western states agree with Kinshasa. Rwanda denies the accusation.

Source: Voice of America

No New Variants Since China Ended Zero-COVID, Study Finds

No new variants of COVID-19 emerged in Beijing in the weeks after China ended its zero-COVID policy late last year, a new study said on Wednesday.

China saw an explosion of infections after it started to lift its strict pandemic measures in early December, sparking fears the world’s most populous country could become a fertile breeding ground for new, more transmissible or severe strains.

More than a dozen countries promptly imposed fresh restrictions on travelers from China, also citing a lack of transparency about the scale of the outbreak, sparking Beijing’s ire.

But the new study by Chinese researchers, which analyzed 413 samples from Beijing sequenced between November 14 and December 20, said “there is no evidence that novel variants emerged” during that time.

Instead, more than 90% of the cases were BF.7 and BA5.2, omicron subvariants that were already present in China and have been overtaken by more transmissible subvariants in Western nations.

BF.7 accounted for three-quarters of the samples, while more than 15% were BA5.2, according to the study published in The Lancet journal.

“Our analysis suggests two known omicron sub-variants — rather than any new variants — have chiefly been responsible for the current surge in Beijing, and likely China as a whole,” lead study author George Gao, a virologist at the Institute of Microbiology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a statement.

Wolfgang Preiser and Tongai Maponga, virologists at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University not involved in the research, cautioned that it only covered a few weeks after China lifted its zero-COVID measures.

“If new lineages were to emerge in the course of the surge, the study was probably too early to find them,” they said in a Lancet comment piece.

China has also dramatically cut back on its testing, potentially affecting the results, which also only cover Beijing and not the whole nation, they added.

However, the virologists welcomed the “much-needed data from China.”

“Although the fairly mild travel-related measures imposed by some countries for travelers from China once again might be viewed as punitive, one can but hope that this paper heralds more openness and prompt exchange of data going forward,” they said.

Source: Voice of America

QRCS mourns humanitarian personnel killed in earthquake

February 7th, 2023 ? Doha, Qatar: Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) announces the death of four personnel from its representation mission in Turkey, who were operating in Syria, as a result of the devastating earthquake that struck many countries yesterday, Monday.

The deceased are: (1) Nisreen Al-Hussein (psychosocial support professional at Salqin Clinic in Syria), (2) Doaa Yasser Ramadan (health system support pharmacist in Syria), Mustafa Al-Daghim (mobile clinic field officer at Al-Andalus Camp), and Mohannad Youssef Al-Aali (driver in Azmarin town).

Other personnel of the mission lost family members in Turkey and Syria because of the earthquake-caused destruction of residential buildings in the affected areas.

Ali bin Hassan Al-Hammadi, Secretary-General of QRCS, expressed his deep sorrow for the devastation caused by the earthquake, and the thousands of casualties, including four employees of QRCS’s representation mission in Turkey. He extended his sincere condolences to the families of the deceased, the two sister National Societies, and the Turkish and Syrian nations in this painful affliction.

Mr. Al-Hammadi said, “The tragedy affected some QRCS’s personnel working in Syria, as well as their families. To all of us, the agony is double, with the loss of dear colleagues who spared no effort to deliver humanitarian aid to the unfortunate people of Syria. Amid such an appalling tragedy, let’s pray for the deceased, the injured, the grieved nations, and all humanity”.

According to him, QRCS would keep supporting the victims both in Syria and Turkey, to relieve them and help them overcome the ordeal.

QRCS has already activated its emergency operations room and launched a $10 million fundraising campaign to provide more humanitarian aid. QRCS’s field personnel in northern Syria is currently distributing the first batch of emergency relief aid, consisting of 4,800 food parcels, for the benefit of the displaced Syrian families most affected by yesterday’s earthquake.

Pursuant to the directives of HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, ordering an airlift from Qatar to Turkey, QRCS prepared its contingency stock of relief materials in Doha to be deployed to the affected areas, in cooperation with Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) and Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD).

The emergency relief shipment contains 35 tons of aid items, including 2,250 heavy blankets, 2,750 light blankets, 1,000 jerrycans, 3,000 mosquito nets, 2,000 tarpaulins, 500 shelter maintenance kits, and 1,360 family hygiene kits.

Source: Qatar Charity

UNDP: Work, Not Religion, Main Recruiting Tool of Violent Extremist Groups

A new report by the U.N. Development Program, UNDP, warns violent extremism is growing in sub-Saharan Africa and threatening to reverse hard-won development gains for generations to come.

Sub-Saharan Africa has emerged as the new global epicenter of violent extremism, with nearly half of global terrorism-related deaths in 2021. More than one-third of these deaths have occurred in just four African countries: Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Somalia.

Achim Steiner, UNDP administrator, said his agency’s report sheds new light on what drives people to join fast-growing extremist groups. He stresses the importance of understanding why “violent extremist groups are able to both succeed in penetrating nation states, communities, and essentially spread their networks of influence.”

Nearly 2,200 men and women in eight countries — Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, and Sudan — were interviewed for the study. More than 1,000 are former members of these groups, both voluntary and forced recruits.

At the core of this report, said Steiner, is the effort to identify what factors are most influential in persuading people to join extremist groups.

“Is it religion that is attracting people and radicalizing them or is it a push factor that has a great deal to do with the economic reality.”

The lead author of the report and regional peacebuilding adviser, Nirina Kiplagat, cites work, not religion, as the main driving force. She said one-quarter of voluntary recruits cited job opportunities and the urgent need of livelihoods as their primary reason for joining extremist groups.

“It is only 17% that cited religious ideologies for the primary reason motivating them to join and this is compared to 40% in 2017,” she said.

This is a reference to UNDP’s 2017 groundbreaking study, the first that attempted to understand the journeys to violent extremism.

Kiplagat adds women’s reasons for joining extremist groups differ from those of men.

“Women were less likely to join for ideological reasons and tended to join with family and in particular their spouses, their husbands.

“And what we find in contrast, is that male recruits tend to join with friends,” she said.

In another interesting finding, the report notes that an extra year in school decreases the odds of voluntary recruitment by 30%.

Between 2017 and 2021, UNDP reports extremist groups were responsible for 4,155 attacks in Africa and 18,417 fatalities.

Achim Steiner said he agrees the numbers are alarming, but that he believes too much emphasis is being placed on security-driven militarized responses to counter violent extremism.

He said militarized approaches often exacerbate the problem, yet they continue to predominate in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Nearly half of the respondents cited a specific trigger event that pushed them to join violent extremist groups,” he said. “And a striking 71% of those quoted human rights abuse often conducted by the state security forces as a tipping point.”

Steiner said violent extremism is not just a localized phenomenon. He said it also has a geopolitical dimension.

“Whether it is the Wagner group, whether it is the spread of Boko Haram or ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] or al-Qaida, we have seen that…once these groups gain a foothold,” this inevitably sometimes becomes part of a geopolitical drama or competition.

This, he said “is very much the tragedy for many African countries because they become part of a larger battleground.”

Wagner is a Kremlin-linked mercenary military group. Nigeria-based Boko Haram is a militant terrorist group that has killed thousands of people in its bid to force the government to adopt strict Islamic law.

The report explores pathways out of violent extremism. Most interviewed said they left the groups they had joined because their financial expectations were unmet, and they no longer agreed with the actions or ideology of the group’s leadership.

The report recommends greater investment in basic services including child welfare education, quality livelihoods, and investing in young men and women to counter and prevent violent extremism.

Lead author Kiplagat said, “Research shows those who decide to disengage from violent extremism are less likely to re-join and recruit others.

“This is why it is so important to invest in incentives that enable disengagement,” she said.

Source: Voice of America