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Archive for April 10th, 2014

Shameful attitude to vulnerable displaced shown by leadership of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) / Lives at risk if action not immediately taken

Posted by African Press International on April 10, 2014

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 9, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ – In a shocking display of indifference, senior United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) officials have refused to improve living conditions for 21,000 displaced people sheltering in a flood-prone part of a UN base, exposed to waterborne diseases and potential epidemics. Despite repeated requests from humanitarian organisations, UNMISS is taking no actions in the camp to improve their chances of survival. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today questions the UN’s commitment to meeting the needs of the war-torn country’s most vulnerable groups and calls for immediate action to save lives in Tomping camp.

The Tomping UN peacekeeping base, in the capital Juba, has been host to people who fled for their lives when conflict erupted in December. They are crowded into low-lying parts of the compound that are known to flood. Diarrhoeal diseases, respiratory infections and skin diseases already make up more than 60 percent of the cases in MSF’s clinic in the camp. A UN plan to establish an alternative site has been mired in implementation delays and is now unrealistic. Repeated requests by MSF and other organizations to expand the Tomping camp into available non-flooded space in the compound, at least as a temporary life-saving measure, have been inexplicably refused.

“The UNMISS decision not to improve conditions in Tomping is shameful,” says Carolina Lopez, MSF emergency coordinator. “In the first rainfall of the season 150 latrines collapsed, mixing with floodwater. People are living in natural drainage channels as there is no other space and there are 65 people per latrine. The rains, which will last the best part of six months, are getting heavier and if nothing is done right now, the consequences, already horrific, could become fatal. Whether as a permanent or as an interim solution, expanding into the dry parts of the compound has to be an immediate action.”

On April 3, Hilde Johnson, head of UNMISS, stated herself that the Tomping camp is ‘at imminent risk of turning into a death trap’. She then announced that it will be closed in May. However, only 1,118 residents have been moved over the past 5 weeks. Although the plan may have been a valid option a month ago, moving some 20,000 people to a space that is far from fully prepared in this timeframe, with the rains starting, is unrealistic. In the meantime, it is hard to understand why available space in Tomping cannot be used to save lives.

“They say there is not enough space in Tomping, but this is a sickening argument when on the other side of the barbed wire there are dry parking and storage spaces,” says Lopez.

Furthermore, many of the camp residents say they would not want to move to the proposed ‘Juba House’ location, another UNMISS base on the outskirts of Juba, as they would feel less safe there. MSF urges UNMISS to ensure that any movements are voluntary.

In the capital city and therefore easily accessible, Tomping is the most visible example of a shift in gear that is required country-wide. Elsewhere in South Sudan there are hundreds of thousands of displaced people; tens of thousands are in other UNMISS camps where MSF sees a disturbing lack of preparedness for the impending floods. In the UNMISS base at Malakal, for example, provisional data from MSF indicates alarming mortality rates, while preparations to improve the situation are minimal.

In Minkamman, which is an open camp rather than inside a UN compound, some 82,000 people who fled fighting in Bor are also living in appalling conditions. MSF runs four clinics providing 2,000 consultations per week, and with the current gaps in sanitation, the team is very concerned with the possibility of waterborne diseases. As the full rainy season approaches, the urgency to take action increases daily. Delays related to the inflexible UN system mean that plans are drawn up but virtually no infrastructure is in place.

“The UN mission in South Sudan reported to the UN Security Council on 18 March that ‘Protection of Civilians’ is a key priority,” says Jerome Oberreit, MSF Secretary General. “We urge the UN leadership to remember that protection means more than just corralling people in a guarded compound. Adequate living conditions are also essential, and require urgent, pragmatic action. People must be safe from disease as well as safe from violence.”


Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

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Deepening crisis in the Central African Republic devastating people’s ability to support themselves / UN report says immediate support for food and livelihoods needed to meet “acute and complex emergency”

Posted by African Press International on April 10, 2014

ROME, Italy, April 7, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ – The unprecedented crisis in the Central African Republic is devastating the economy and people’s ability to secure basic necessities, two United Nations food agencies said in an assessment report this week.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that the country needed a long and expensive humanitarian operation over at least the next 18 months to stem the growing toll, and pave the way to rebuild livelihoods.

The two UN agencies issued the report as they took action to help displaced and other conflict-affected families gain immediate access to food and cash, while also preparing for a crucial planting season, which will help families produce food and income for the long term.

The joint assessment reports that widespread conflict since December 2012 has caused the destruction of livelihoods, loss of food and cash crops, livestock and crucial productive assets across the country.

As a result, about 1.6 million people directly affected by the crisis are in need of urgent food, more than double the level estimated just over a year ago, in February 2013. Also, as of late March, some 625 000 individuals were displaced due to conflict.

Since early 2013, the people of the Central African Republic have been facing serious challenges in accessing food due to reduced supplies, trade disruption, and loss of purchasing power. Unemployment is rampant in all sectors, both formal and informal, and civil servants have not been paid for several months.

There has been a drastic loss of dietary diversity, and a sharply reduced intake of animal proteins, which raises serious concerns for family nutrition and health, especially among children.

“The level of destitution among many of the families I have seen recently in the Central African Republic is shocking and yet, there is still hope to improve people’s immediate and long-term prospects, if we can act on a broad enough scale to restore livelihoods and food security,” said Dominique Burgeon, the Director of FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division.

“First and foremost, we need to see violence stop. At the same time, we need to help save lives and rebuild livelihoods,” said Arif Husain, Chief Economist at WFP. “Every passing day only makes emergency assistance more difficult and more expensive and leads to the loss of more innocent lives.”

The vital agricultural sector contracted by nearly 37 percent in 2013 and business people who managed most of the trade and transport activities have left. This, coupled with a shortage of adequate vehicles, is severely affecting internal commerce, the availability of food and the import-export market.

“Prospects for the 2014 cropping season, beginning from March/April, are grim given the level of insecurity and lack of agricultural inputs,” the report said. Agriculture, the backbone of the economy providing some 57 percent of Gross Domestic Product, was the hardest-hit of all sectors.

The rainy season from this month poses a severe challenge to the already inadequate road network, threatening to make many places inaccessible by road and hindering pre-positioning of food stocks and agricultural inputs.

The report recommended that cash transfer programmes be considered in urban areas with relatively more secure food supply chains. Cash transfers could help revitalize community saving and loans to restart local economies. They could also be combined with in-kind food assistance.

The report said food assistance must include locally-preferred and available foods, such as cassava, rice and maize. Local purchase for delivery in the same area would also relieve pressure on logistics and strengthen liquidity, it added.

Two-pronged approach

FAO has a two-pronged approach to improving food security in the Central African Republic. First, essential agricultural inputs such as seeds and tools will be provided to about 75 000 households in time for the planting period starting in April.

Also, a comprehensive plan aims to help over 400 farmer groups and women’s associations recover their livelihoods and build resilience.

WFP is assisting 1.25 million women, children and men in the country. WFP provides food assistance to internally displaced people, nutrition support to malnourished children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and individuals with HIV/AIDS and emergency school meals for children.

As of March, only one-third of the funding needed by WFP was secured. As a result, vulnerable and displaced people were receiving half-rations with fewer types of food.

Funding is urgently required to provide sufficient life-saving assistance to growing numbers of people during the current rainy season and the lean season. This period, currently underway, is when food requirements are highest.



Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

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