Refugee Information -UNHCR Briefing – Geneva, 04.12.2012

 

1 – UNHCR concerned at security for IDPs in eastern Congo

2 – UNHCR head of protection calls for safe passage for uprooted Syrians

 

This is a summary of what was said by the UNHCR spokesperson at today’s Palais des Nations press briefing in Geneva.

 

1 – UNHCR concern over security for IDPs in eastern Congo UNHCR is worried for the security of displaced people and aid workers in camps in eastern Congo after an attack on Saturday at the Mugunga III camp outside Goma. There were no deaths or serious injuries although one person was badly beaten. People’s homes as well as the camp pharmacy were looted. There were six unconfirmed cases of rape.

Witnesses say a small group of men from outside the camp were seen monitoring food distribution earlier in the day. A few hours later, the camp was surrounded by a large number of armed men. They told a woman to take them to the camp leader, and then beat her. The armed men then searched tents, stealing money, mobile phones, and food that had been handed out earlier by WFP. Looting was also reported among the population living immediately adjacent to the camp.

The reports of six rape cases are being investigated. It is also reported that around a dozen IDPs were forced to carry looted materials out of the camp, before being freed.  The few police were unable to intervene, while MONUSCO troops – also facing capacity constraints – were not in a position to maintain a permanent presence at the site.

UNHCR staff who visited the camp yesterday (Monday) said people in the camp were still anxious and upset.

The incident highlights the need for security at sites for internally displaced people to be prioritized, along with improved humanitarian access so that such populations can be better cared for. At least 30,000 people are currently at the Mugunga III camp, while some 75,000 more are staying in sites under the responsibility of the Camp Coordination and Camp Management cluster. The rest are living in spontaneous sites or with host communities.

As well as security difficulties at Mugunga III and elsewhere in North and South Kivu, UNHCR is also contending with shortages of shelters and non-food items. Some 12,000 highly vulnerable families are in urgent need of non-food help (blankets, kitchen sets, tarpaulins, plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, sleeping mats, jerry cans, soap, and sanitary napkins). We also need shelter for 47,000 highly vulnerable households.

According to UN figures 130,000 people have been newly displaced by the recent instability in and around Goma. This is on top of the estimated

841,000 people who were already displaced before this latest wave of insecurity.

In South Kivu, according to OCHA figures, some 878,000 people were displaced by the end of October 2012. The overwhelming majority of them (more than 96 per cent) are living in host communities. The fighting around Sake in North Kivu forced an estimated 18,500 people into South Kivu, mostly around Minova. UNHCR emphasizes that these figures are preliminary only, as they do not take into account the fact that some people may have been displaced multiple times (and thus could be counted

twice) or the recent returns.

 

 

2 – UNHCR head of protection calls for safe passage for uprooted Syrians UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Erika Feller, yesterday visited refugees in Jordan’s Za’atri refugee camp and noted that innocent civilians were the prime victims of the on-going conflict in Syria.

On her second mission to the region in less than a month, Feller met refugees who had recently made it to safety in Jordan.  Many were elderly, including one woman who had recently undergone open-heart surgery.  Several were clearly traumatized.

Feller said the conflict was disproportionately affecting civilians – at least 2.5 million of them – and called on both sides to ensure that those who have fled their homes throughout the country were abl e to reach safety. In some areas, insecurity has reached to the country’s borders, making escape to neighbouring states especially perilous.

As UNHCR’s senior refugee protection official, Feller reviewed reception arrangements at Za’atri, which as of this week has received more than 60,000 Syrian refugees since it opened four months ago. Many of those 60,000 have since moved on, some into the local community and others have returned to Syria. Za’atri currently has about 32,000 residents.

Preparations for winter are well underway in the camp, where overnight temperatures are now dropping to 1 degree Celsius. Tents are being reinforced and better insulated to protect against the weather, including the addition of “porches” where gas heaters are being placed. Some 30,000 high thermal blankets are being distributed, along with winter clothing.

A storm drainage system is being built and a layer of crushed rock spread throughout the camp to channel water away from shelters and prevent mud and standing water. In addition, more than 1,300 prefabricated shelters have been erected and another 1,300 are expected to be in place within three weeks.

As this work continues, we have recently heard erroneous reports that refugee children have died at the camp because of the cold. This is incorrect. Since November 23, we have had four infant deaths due to other medical conditions, but not because of the weather. Medical reports indicate that two of the infants had congenital defects – one of the oesophagus, and the other of the heart. Two other infants died as a result of serious diarrhoea. UNHCR extends its deep condolences to the parents, families and the Za’atri community. It is absolutely heart-breaking for us and for our partners who are working around the clock in the camp to try to help those who have already suffered far too much.

STATISTICS

Region wide, the number of Syrians registered or awaiting registration is now 475,280. This comprises 138,889 in Jordan, 133,895 in Lebanon,

130,449 in Turkey, 60,307 in Iraq, and 11,740 in North Africa.

In addition, governments in the region estimate there are several hundred thousand more Syrians who have not yet come forward for registration, including up to 150,000 in Egypt, 100,000 in Jordan,

70,000 in Turkey, and tens of thousands in Lebanon. More of these people are expected to seek registration in the coming months as their resources dwindle.

END

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