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IOM steps up support as Rohingya refugee numbers rise in Southeast Asia

Almost 3,300 arrived in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand last year, the UN agency said, a roughly 290 per cent rise over the 850 people recorded in 2021. 

IOM urged States in the region to work collectively to provide life-saving care and support to the refugees to prevent loss of life at sea during the migration journey.   

Steadfast support 

The Rohingya, a majority Muslim community, have been fleeing waves of violence and persecution in Myanmar. More than 700,000 left the country in 2017 to escape a brutal military crackdown. 

Almost one million Rohingya are currently living in crowded refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. 

“Since the beginning of the Rohingya refugee crisis, IOM has been steadfast in providing the necessary humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya,” said Sarah Lou Ysmael Arriola, Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. 

As the increase in arrivals continues, with nearly 300 already as of 23 January, IOM is ramping up operations to provide vital humanitarian assistance. 

Providing basic services 

Most arrivals have been recorded in Indonesia, where IOM is working with the authorities, NGO partners and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to facilitate access to basic services. 

IOM has provided protection and health services, in addition to refurbishing temporary shelters and ensuring water supply, access to food, sanitation and waste management. 

Teams are also conducting information sessions in the Rohingya language to support the refugees in identifying risks linked to human smuggling and trafficking, gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse. 

Education and housing help 

In Thailand, IOM is providing health services to Rohingya, in addition to promoting alternatives to detention for migrant children and mothers and an increase in education services for those in shelters.    

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, it is expanding a cash-based rental assistance programme, following vulnerability assessments, in response to the constant threat of eviction Rohingya refugees face.    

Since 2020, over 3,000 Rohingya in the three countries have received direct assistance from IOM. 

Saudi Arabia a strategic partner in UN support for Palestine refugees, amid concern over escalating violence

In a first since 2020, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini visited Saudi Arabia on 28 and 29 January at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  

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Longtime Saudi solidarity with Palestine refugees topped the agenda of his talks with the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Waleed ElKhereji, and the Supervisor-General of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, Dr. Abdallah al Rabeea.  

Recent escalation concerning 

A later meeting with the Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal, focused on the fragility of the situation in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the worrying escalation last week. 

A terrorist attack outside a Jerusalem synagogue on Friday left at least seven Israelis dead and three injured, while nine Palestinians were killed during an Israeli raid targeting suspected militants on a West Bank refugee camp the previous day. 

“The concerning events that are unfolding in the West Bank are a stark reminder that the stability of the region is often hanging by a thread,” said Mr. Lazzarini. 

“We at UNRWA look forward to working closely with Saudi Arabia, as a strategic partner, on ensuring that the lives of the refugees, particularly children and youth, continue to be transformed positively through education, healthcare and other services that the agency offers.” 

Supporting critical services 

The Commissioner-General again acknowledged how the much-needed Saudi contribution of $27 million at the end of last year was directly allocated to UNRWA’s core programme budget and helped maintain critical services to Palestine refugees. 

All discussions during his two-day mission explored ways for the UN agency to co-operate with Saudi entities on youth empowerment and employment.  

Mr. Lazzarini emphasized the importance for UNRWA to work with Saudi Arabia as a strategic partner, particularly in areas such as youth development and empowerment, as well as promoting regional peace and stability.  

“Education and modern-day skills are the best tools that the international community can offer to young Palestine refugees,” he said. “By helping them build their future, we would also be sending them a message that they are not alone.” 

A meeting with Prince Turki Al Faisal of 🇸🇦 means a discussion about regional stability and prospect for peace + how @UNRWA is an irreplaceable pillar of stability in absence of a political solution addressing plight of #PalestineRefugees https://t.co/G7QJ8jIsk0

Afghanistan: Humanitarians await guidelines on women’s role in aid operations

Representing the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), they stressed that the world’s largest humanitarian operation – supporting some 28 million people in Afghanistan – simply cannot function without women staff. 

The officials reported on their mission to the country last week, in the wake of the edict prohibiting Afghan women from working with local and international aid agencies, announced on 24 December. 

Days later, the de facto Taliban authorities authorized women to continue working in healthcare.   

A similar exception was made in education, though focused on the primary level as Afghan girls and women have been barred from attending high school and university. 

A clear message 

In their meetings with the Taliban, the IASC mission expressed opposition to the ban, which they hoped would be rescinded, and advocated for exemptions in all aspects of humanitarian action. 

They were told that guidelines are being developed, and were asked to be patient, said Martin Griffiths, UN relief chief and the IASC chair, speaking during a press conference at UN Headquarters. 

“I’m somebody who doesn’t like to speculate too much, because it is a matter of speculation.  Let’s see if these guidelines do come through. Let’s see if they are beneficial. Let’s see what space there is for the essential and central role of women in our humanitarian operations,” he said.  

“Everybody has opinions as to whether it’s going to work or not. Our view is that the message has clearly been delivered: that women are central, essential workers in the humanitarian sector, in addition to having rights, and we need to see them back to work.” 

Women’s vital role 

Humanitarians will require $4.6 billion to fund their activities in Afghanistan this year. 

Three years of drought-like conditions, economic decline, and the impacts of four decades of conflict, have left roughly two-thirds of the population, 28 million people, dependent on aid, with six million on the brink of starvation. 

Women comprise 30 per cent of the 55,000 Afghan nationals working for NGOs in the country, according to Janti Soeripto, President and Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children. 

“Without women on our teams, we cannot provide humanitarian services to millions of children and women,” she said. 

“We won’t be able to identify their needs; communicate to female heads of households, of which there are many in Afghanistan after years and years of conflict, and to do so in a safe and culturally appropriate way.” 

Lives at risk 

Furthermore, many women aid workers are themselves the sole breadwinners for their families, which means many more households will go wanting. 

“We’ve made it very clear that humanitarian aid must never be conditional, and it cannot discriminate,” said Ms. Soeripto.  “We were not there to politicize aid. We cannot do this work without women in all aspects of our value chains.” 

The loss of these valuable workers also comes as Afghanistan is facing its coldest winter in 15 years, with temperatures falling to nearly -30 degrees Celsius, resulting in numerous deaths. 

The IASC mission visited a clinic on the outskirts of the capital, Kabul, run by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and a local partner. 

Services restored 

Critical health and nutrition services there are up and running again now that women staff are back on board, said Sofía Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary General of CARE International. 

The clinic’s staff also shared a horrific statistic, as 15 per cent of the children who seek help suffer from severe acute malnutrition. 

“So, let there be no ambiguity. Tying the hands of NGOs by barring women from giving life-saving support to other women will cost lives,” she said, speaking from Kabul. 

During their meetings with the de facto authorities, the humanitarian chiefs also pushed for the full inclusion of girls and women in public life. 

Huge learning loss 

More than one million Afghan girls have lost out on learning due to the order banning them from secondary school, which has added to losses sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The university ban, announced last month, has further crushed their hopes, said Omar Abdi, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director for Programmes.  

“We are very concerned about girls’ and women’s development and particularly their mental health. In 2023, if secondary school education remains closed, an estimated 215,000 girls who attended grade six last year will once again be denied the right to learn,” he said. 

Despite the bleak outlook, Mr. Abdi pointed to a few positive signs.

Room for hope 

Since the ban, some 200,000 girls continue to attend secondary schools in 12 provinces, and women secondary school teachers continue to receive their salaries. 

“The officials we met in Kabul…reaffirmed that they are not against girls learning in secondary schools, and again promised to re-open once the guidelines are approved by their leader,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the number of community-based education classes in private homes and other locations has doubled to 20,000 over the past year, serving some 600,000 children, more than half of them girls. 

“These positive signs are the results of both the commitment from the de facto authorities and pressure from local communities to keep schools and community schools open,” said Mr. Abdi. 

“As long as communities continue to demand education, we must continue to support both public and other forms of education, community-based classrooms, catch-up classes and vocational training.” 

 

Syria: WFP chief calls for action now, as hunger soars to 12 year high

WFP Executive Director, David Beasley, said that if we don’t address this humanitarian crisis, “things are going to get worse than we can possibly imagine”.

Following 12 years of brutal conflict, an economy crippled by runaway inflation, a currency that has collapsed to a record low and soaring food prices, 12 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from, said WFP.

A further 2.9 million people are at risk of sliding into hunger, which means 70 per cent of the population may soon be unable to put food on the table for their families.

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New migration wave?

“Another wave of mass migration like the one that swept across Europe in 2015 – is that what the international community wants?”, said Mr. Beasley.

“If not, we must urgently seize this opportunity to avert the looming catastrophe and work together to bring peace and stability to the Syrian people.”

The WFP chief is on his fifth trip to Syria during his time in charge, and visited Al Nashabiyah subdistrict in Duma in East Ghouta, Rural Damascus.

Once known as the breadbasket for Damascus, East Ghouta and its fruit orchards were heavily bombarded between 2013 and 2018 and its residents largely displaced. During this period, WFP was only able to reach the area through three interagency convoys.

Self-reliance: the key

Since then, the agency’s started to help farmers and the community by fixing some of the irrigation canals that were destroyed during the conflict to help them grow wheat and other food so that they can feed themselves once more.

“WFP is working to irrigate nearly 28,000 hectares of land across the country, enough to feed 620,000 people here. That means less hunger, more economic opportunity, and a stronger local economy”, said Mr. Beasley.

“The $14 million investment will save $50 million per year in humanitarian assistance, and create nearly 90,000 jobs,” he added. “In a nation where around 85 per cent of WFP’s spend goes on humanitarian food assistance, that’s a huge saving. But we need to scale up these investments to boost the resilience of other food-insecure communities across Syria.”

Green shoots return

The veteran of US politics who leaves his job at the helm of WFP in a few weeks’ time, heard first hand from farmers who have started to grow food again, after WFP helped restore the irrigation systems, according to a press release.

They appealed to him for help to get more water so they can jump-start the agriculture work in the area again and produce much needed local food for their villages and surrounding areas.

Food prices have increased nearly twelve-fold over the last three years, WFP said.

Syria now has the sixth highest number of food insecure people in the world, with 2.5 million who are severely food insecure, and their lives are at risk without food assistance.

David Beasley, WFP Executive Director, visits farming and agriculture projects in East Ghouta, Syria, to help families grow their own food and get off food assistance.
© WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

David Beasley, WFP Executive Director, visits farming and agriculture projects in East Ghouta, Syria, to help families grow their own food and get off food assistance.

Malnutrition rate soaring

Child and maternal malnutrition are increasing at a speed never seen before, the agency alerted, not even during the nearly 12 years of civil war.  

WFP is now providing monthly assistance for nearly seven million people across Syria, where pockets of opposition to the Government in Damascus continue to resist, in the battle-scarred northwest.

This includes food ration distributions, prevention and treatment of acute malnutrition, school meals, cash-based transfers and support for livelihoods, resilience, and social safety nets, said WFP.

WFP Staff speaks with children in Eastern Ghouta, Syria, where cases of severe malnutrition and mortality have been reported and some households having resorted to rotating meals amongst family members.
© WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

WFP Staff speaks with children in Eastern Ghouta, Syria, where cases of severe malnutrition and mortality have been reported and some households having resorted to rotating meals amongst family members.

This is a crisis for the Syrian people. A doctor just told me that twice as many malnourished children are arriving here compared to a year ago. Families are struggling more than ever. They have no food, no heat & no electricity.

Has the world abandoned #Syria’s children?? https://t.co/FihkYUy33l

Two-thirds of Yemenis need humanitarian support and protection

The UN humanitarian affairs office OCHA is calling for $4.3 billion to reach the 17.3 million most vulnerable people in need, whose lives have been turned upside down because of protracted war, displacement and economic collapse, compounded by recurrent natural disasters.

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Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when Houthi rebels took the capital, Sana’a, forcing the Government to leave, leading to the establishment of a Saudi-led coalition in support of the Government who launched airstrikes on the rebels in early 2015.

Slight improvement

The total projected number in need this year has decreased slightly from 23.4 million people in 2022, to 21.6 million in 2023, while the “overall intersectoral target” is down from 17.9 to 17.3 million people.

These changes are mainly due to technical modifications to so-called “cluster-level needs assessments” and revised food security projections released last October.

They do not reflect an across-the board improvement in the humanitarian outlook”, the response plan stresses, and any gains that have been registered in 2022 “remain extremely fragile”.

The humanitarian response in Yemen will support many who are facing multiple challenges, including internally displaced persons and those attempting to return; persons with disabilities; and migrants and refugees

Key aims

The response approach will be organized around three strategic objectives, the plan outlines.

First, promoting life-saving activities, second, resilience contributing to durable solutions, and finally, the core principle of providing protection.

“The response strategy in 2023 aims to address immediate and significant levels of needs, delivering urgent life-saving humanitarian assistance to 14 million people, under the first strategic objective alone”, said OCHA.

Long-term development

At the same time, it recognizes the importance of working closely with development partners to prevent a broader collapse of basic services.

The plan calls for the humanitarian, development and peace-building sectors, to engage in coordinated action under the strategic umbrella of the recently established Yemen Partners Group (YPG) and its operational structure, the Yemen Partners Technical Team (YPTT).

An increased focus on protection is at the centre of the response, OCHA said, aims to ensure strengthened leadership, coordination and collective engagement on reducing protection risks and increasing the ability of effected populations to cope.

Residents living in Al Shuhada’a neighborhood in Al Hudaydah Governorate, Yemen, which is suffering from sewage overflow.
© UNICEF/Gabreez

Residents living in Al Shuhada’a neighborhood in Al Hudaydah Governorate, Yemen, which is suffering from sewage overflow.

‘People at the centre’

“The response will further place people at the centre, building on progress made on community engagement and accountability to affected people (AAP), by implementing new collective feedback mechanisms and the roll out of community perception surveys.”

Yemen is no longer in a state of full-scale war, but neither does it benefit from a formal peace, the plan points out.

During the truce which held from 2 April to 2 October across Yemen, at which point it lapsed due to lack of consensus, conflict-related displacement decreased by 76 per cent.

At the same time however, victims of land mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), including unexploded ordnance (UXO) increased by 160 per cent.

Costs keep rising

“Essential services and the economy continued to deteriorate. The cost of the minimum household expenditures basket rose by over 50 per cent in the space of a single year.”

Without a comprehensive political settlement, continued displacement, the economic situation, and lack of infrastructure, are likely to remain a key driver of needs, the plan notes.

An estimated 4.5 million people – or 14 per cent of the population – are currently displaced, most of whom have been displaced multiple times.

Natural disasters and climate-induced events, such as drought and flooding, are key drivers of displacement and heighten the humanitarian crisis.

Throughout 2023, humanitarian needs are likely to hold steady and the resilience of vulnerable populations is likely to lessen.

An estimated 5.4 million in need across Yemen are affected by access constraints, said OCHA, the “vast majority” of which, are related to bureaucratic impediments, which mainly include denials of movement and delays of travel permits.

#Breaking

The Humanitarian Country Team in #Yemen today released the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan seeking $4.3 billion to assist 17.3 million most vulnerable people.

Sustained funding is needed to prevent the humanitarian situation from further deterioration.

Palestinian refugees face hitting ‘rock bottom’, warns UNRWA in $1.6 billion appeal

Head of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, told journalists in Geneva that competing global crises, and skyrocketing levels of poverty and unemployment among Palestine refugees, have put immense strain on them – and the agency – which started the year some $70 million in arrears.

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“On the one hand we are asked to deliver public-like services to one of the most under-privileged communities in the region. We obviously are a UN agency (and) abide by UN values, but in reality, we are funded like an NGO, meaning that we depend on voluntary funding from Member States.”

Most Palestine refugees now live below the poverty-line and many depend on humanitarian assistance, including cash and food, from UNRWA.

Eyewitness

“I thought that they had reached rock bottom some time ago, but I discover each time that this misery people are confronted with is getting worse and worse,” the UNRWA Commissioner-General said, of his recent visit to meet Palestinian refugees in Syria. “I witnessed first-hand indescribable suffering and despair.”

The desperate situation of Syria’s Palestine refugees is mirrored in Gaza and Lebanon – where more than nine in 10 live below the poverty-line – and in Gaza. “Many told me that all they asked for was a life of dignity, that’s not much to ask for,” the Commissioner-General explained.

Totally dependent

“We have seen increased poverty in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon …there has been a stiff increase compared to previous assessments, which means again, we are the only lifeline for this community. The same happened in Gaza; in Gaza, we have more than one million people who are also dependent on our food assistance.”

Highlighting the vast scope of UNRWA’s work, Mr. Lazzarini explained that the agency provided services, much as a small government would. “We act in reality as a Minister of Education, a Minister of Primary Health, a Minister of Municipalities, a Ministry of Social Services for this extraordinarily vulnerable group of Palestinian refugees,” he said.

“We are also providing emergency humanitarian assistance and hence my appeal this morning for a total of $1.6 billion.”

In response to a renewed escalation of violence, a Palestine refugee family find refuge at the UNRWA Beit Lahiya Preparatory Girls’ School in northern Gaza.
©UNRWA Photo/Mohamed Hinnawi

In response to a renewed escalation of violence, a Palestine refugee family find refuge at the UNRWA Beit Lahiya Preparatory Girls’ School in northern Gaza.

Austerity package

Amid chronic funding shortfalls, UNRWA has expanded e-health access and telemedicine and launched a digital learning platform. “In the last three years, we had a ‘zero growth’ budget, which stayed at the same level,” Mr. Lazzarini said.

“Obviously, it didn’t meet all our needs, and that forced the agency to put in place austerity measures. And austerity comes at a cost; today, for instance, we regularly have up to 50 children per teacher attending class.”

Similarly tough conditions apply in healthcare provided by UNRWA, which provided seven million medical consultations in 2022. “On average, the doctor spent no more than three minutes with each patient, so it’s a bit quick, too,” the Commissioner-General said.

UNRWA’s 2023 appeal for $1.6 billion includes $848 million for core services including health, education, relief, social services and protection. Another $781.6 million is required for emergency operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

🚨#PalestineRefugees continue to be among the most vulnerable communities in the world

As humanitarian conditions worsen, we’re calling for $1.6 Billion to support our #GlobalAppeal – to continue delivering vital assistance & services that are a lifeline to #PalestineRefugees ⬇️ https://t.co/SUmgag5CKR

$2.54 billion needed to tackle unprecedented health needs in 2023: WHO  

In its appeal, the WHO said that a staggering 339 million people now need humanitarian assistance globally.  

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the UN agency’s Director-General, urged donors “to be generous” and help WHO to save lives, prevent the spread of disease within and across borders, and support communities as they rebuild. 

Today, WHO staff are providing assistance in 54 health crises around the world, 11 of which are classified as Grade 3, WHO’s highest level of emergency, requiring the most comprehensive response.  

“As it is often the case, the most vulnerable are the worst-hit,” the UN agency said in a statement. 

Responding in all crisis situations 

The UN agency is already working in an “unprecedented” number of emergencies, from the fall-out of devastating flooding in Pakistan, to catastrophic food insecurity across the Sahel and in the greater Horn of Africa.  

The WHO is also heavily involved in alleviating suffering in Ukraine following the Russian invasion and it continues to work in Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and northern Ethiopia, where conflict, COVID-19 and climate change have dangerously disrupted health care access.  

​The main hospital in Izyum, in the Kharkiv region, has been almost completely destroyed, leaving tens of thousands of people struggling to access essential services. .
© UNFPA/Andriy Kravchenko

​The main hospital in Izyum, in the Kharkiv region, has been almost completely destroyed, leaving tens of thousands of people struggling to access essential services. .

Tedros appeal 

“This unprecedented convergence of crises demands an unprecedented response,” said Tedros. “More people than ever before face the imminent risk of disease and starvation and need help now. The world cannot look away and hope these crises resolve themselves.” 

In 2022, WHO’s assistance to communities in conjunction with local and national authorities, non-governmental authorities and civil society organizations included medicines and other key supplies, training for health professionals, vaccines, enhanced disease surveillance, mobile clinics, mental health support, maternal health consultations and more.  

Health benefits 

“WHO delivers cost-effective, high-impact responses that protect health, lives and livelihoods,” the agency insisted. “Every $1 invested in WHO generates at least $35 in return on investment.” 

According to the WHO website, the UN agency is responding to Grade 3 health emergencies in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the greater Horn of Africa, Northern Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen. The COVID-19 pandemic and mpox outbreaks are also Grade 3 emergencies. 

UN convenes Lake Chad countries, amid growing regional crisis

The UN describes the conference as a critical international forum for effectively dealing with the challenges faced by the region. These include increased insecurity, development deficits, humanitarian needs, and barriers to access to basic social services, production systems and humanitarian support.

After nearly 13 years of conflict, armed groups continue to spread violence in the four countries that border the lake (Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon). Some 5.6 million people are believed to be at risk of severe food insecurity, and around 2.9 million are internally displaced. including 2 million in Nigeria alone.

Improve coordination, address the climate emergency

These figures have grown since the last Conference, held in Berlin in 2018, a result of increasing instability, the COVID-19 pandemic long-term effects, the impact of climate change, and economic shocks, all of which have exacerbated the humanitarian situation. The amount of funding required for the emergency response in the Basin has also risen, from $259 million in 2018, to an estimated $1.8 billion.

The Conference, which is taking place at the Mahatma Gandhi International Conference Centre in Niamey, Niger, between 23-24 January. is being co-hosted by the Governments of Niger, Germany, and Norway, together with the United Nations. Speakers include Joyce Musa, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator. 

The objectives of the conference include a focus on improved coordination between the different actors involved in humanitarian, stabilization, and development activities in the region; better access for humanitarian assistance to all parts of the population; and addressing the adverse impacts of climate change as part of peacebuilding and humanitarian efforts.

A family live in a storage area established at a reception centre in Pulka, Borno State, Nigeria. (file)
© UNOCHA/Yasmina Guerda

A ‘Gordian knot of problems’

Speaking on the first day of the conference, Ms. Msuya reminded delegates that Lake Chad was once a flourishing region, where goods moved freely across borders, in a collaborative environment.

That spirit of cooperation, she said, broke down under a “Gordian knot of problems”, from extreme poverty and poor access to essential public services, to a lack of trust, rising inequality, corruption, sectarian mistrust, and rapid depletion of natural resources and climate change.

“Immediate humanitarian action is necessary to save lives and relieve the suffering that has resulted from this collapse. But…unless we tackle the root causes of the crisis, the region’s wounds will not heal”, declared the deputy relief coordinator, in a call for a long-term commitment to building lasting resilience, in the face of an uncertain future.

UN refugee chief praises Moldova for opening the country to Ukrainians fleeing war

“The Moldovan people and Government have shown remarkable solidarity with refugees since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began nearly one year ago”, Filippo Grandi told the media during his visit to the country.

“This support was visible from the first days and weeks of the war, when tens of thousands of refugees – mainly women and children – fled Ukraine and continues to this day”.

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“Opening homes”

Despite many pressing economic challenges and limited resources, “Moldovans opened their country and their homes”, the senior UN official continued.

During the past 11 months, almost 750,000 Ukrainian refugees entered and over 102,000 have remained – almost half of whom are children.

“The Government’s decision earlier this week to activate temporary protection is another concrete and tangible expression of continued and sustained solidarity with the Ukrainian people”, he stated.

The UN refugee chief explained that the move provides a more secure legal status for refugees and paves the way for a more sustainable planning and response.

“Temporary protection will help refugees access employment, become self-reliant, and will also allow them to contribute to their host communities until they can return home in safety and dignity”.

It also provides the framework for even more long-standing access to education and other basic services as well as stability during trauma and upheaval.

Stepped-up support needed

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is committed to supporting Moldova and deepening its cooperation on refugee inclusion, while simultaneously mobilizing support for host families and communities.

Since the beginning of the refugee influx, it has delivered to Moldova more than $100 million worth of assistance and support.

“We will continue to invest in strengthening social protection systems in Moldova for refugees and Moldovans alike”, assured Mr. Grandi.

“But it is imperative that the international community steps up to provide renewed support for the refugee response and for the communities generously hosting refugees in Moldova”.

This means urgent and enhanced development investments in the country, as well as significant international efforts to shore up and grow the State’s economy, including encouraging private sector investment that can provide sustainable opportunities for both Moldovans and refugees.

 

In Moldova we could observe once more that mayors, district governors, community leaders, local NGOs, host families and generous individuals are key actors in responding to a refugee situation. When good government policies provide space, grassroots hospitality thrives. https://t.co/o5bvfBE0kc

Madagascar: innovative relief project offers hope for sustainable future

Focusing on remote Androy and Anosy regions – some four hours’ drive from the capital, Antananarivo – WFP’s Rapid Rural Transformation initiative delivers solar-powered hubs, a sustainable water source and digital health check-ups, in partnership with the Government.

The benefits for communities are multiple and welcome: energy, water and digital platforms, all provided in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner, the UN agency said.  

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Boosting empowerment

Equally important, the project seeks to stimulate grassroots development, while addressing rural communities’ most pressing needs. If successful, WFP plans to take the idea to other villages and regions.

“With this pilot project, we will facilitate rural transformation even in geographically isolated areas, through the provision of clean water for irrigation, the operation of healthcare facilities, the expansion of entrepreneurial opportunities, and the development of their agricultural value chains,” said Jocelyn Raharimbola, Governor of Anosy region.

“Following years of food insecurity, data on the ground shows an improvement in the nutritional situation thanks to emergency interventions and collaboration with agencies such as WFP.”  

The initiative is managed by regional authorities and allows partners to offer additional services including entrepreneurial training for women and younger members of the community.

Classes are available online on sustainability, business skills and farming, which is enhanced by easily installed solar-powered drip irrigation and hydroponics systems. The programme’s environmentally responsible and sustainable approach is a “game-changer”, maintained Tomson Phiri, WFP Regional Communications Lead and Spokesperson for Southern Africa.

Abundant sun

“If there is anything that the people in the south have, it is the abundance sunlight; it is hot, it is dry…we are establishing solar powered hubs that will provide a sustainable water source to the sites that I visited, we’ve introduced ICT (Information Communications Technology) in these remote areas, allowing for the provision of essential services be it energy, green energy, be it water, and digital platforms to members of the community.”

Mr. Phiri, speaking via Zoom from the capital, Antananarivo, told journalists in Geneva that while it was cyclone season in the north, the south was experiencing near-drought conditions.

Food insecurity remains an ever-present threat, the WFP spokesperson continued, with 2.2 million people in the southern and southeastern regions of Madagascar facing high levels of food insecurity during the pre-harvest period between now and April 2023.

The combined effects of the drought, COVID-19 and the insecurity upsurge have undermined the already fragile food security and nutrition situation of the population of southern Madagascar.
WFP/Tsiory Andriantsoarana

The combined effects of the drought, COVID-19 and the insecurity upsurge have undermined the already fragile food security and nutrition situation of the population of southern Madagascar.

Mr. Phiri said that the hubs were providing digital classrooms for learners: “I saw young people, we are nurturing dreams there, I met people, we are even sparking artisanal enterprises. I saw a welder just starting to use solar energy for his own enterprise, saw a barbershop, I saw a community that is being brought together by technology.”

Unenviable record

Madagascar is among the 10 countries most vulnerable to disasters in the world and is considered the most cyclone-exposed country in Africa, according to WFP.

The UN agency added that Androy and Anosy regions are at the sharp end of the climate crisis and have high rates of chronic malnutrition among children under five.

The Rapid Rural Transformation (RRT) initiative combines two climate risk mitigation strategies to assist people: better natural resource management through enhanced agricultural techniques to protect food production and diversifying their livelihoods to withstand climate shocks. 

The UN WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian organization saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and the impact of climate change. 

📢 Exciting news for people in southern 🇲🇬 Madagascar with the launch of the integrated and innovative @WFP’s Rapid Rural Transformation initiative!

👉 #news release here : https://t.co/4Z4ekUYqgF https://t.co/RkxqSlIQkx

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