UNHCR Briefing Notes

Geneva, 23.11.2012

1 – Thousands of civilians reported displaced by North Kivu fighting;

2 – UNHCR begins aid airlift for IDPs in western Myanmar;

3 – UNHCR aid deliveries reach 300,000 people across Syria

 

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

 

1 – Thousands reported newly displaced in North Kivu With recent fighting in and around Goma, UNHCR is extremely concerned about the situation of displaced people in Democratic Republic of the Congo’s North Kivu province, especially children and other vulnerable groups.

Normally, UNHCR oversees 31 displaced camps in North Kivu, hosting

108,000 people. But the fighting has meant that we and our partners have not been able to access most of these. Only Mugunga III, just to the west of the provincial capital Goma, can be currently visited.

The stepped-up fighting between government forces and rebel M23 fighters that is being reported from the town of Sake, 20 kilometres west of Goma, is causing thousands of civilians to flee the area. Our protection monitors are reporting many incidents of violence affecting civilians.

In Goma, more than 60 incidents of assault on civilians have been reported by our partners. They say eight people have been killed, and houses and shops have been looted.

According to office of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, 16 children were injured by gunfire during the fighting between the M23 and DR Congolese armed forces. Another 500 unaccompanied minors, who were receiving assistance in Goma before the city’s takeover on Tuesday by the M23, are now newly displaced or refugees in Rwanda.

UNHCR once again appeals to all parties to the conflict to avoid actions that place civilians in harm’s way.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that there are more than 1.6 million internally displaced people in North and South Kivu, including 285,000 newly displaced between July and September.

 

2 – UNHCR begins aid airlift for IDPs in western Myanmar A first airlift of UNHCR tents to the victims of recent violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state left Dubai this morning and is expected to arrive in Myanmar shortly. This follows an appeal this week by the UN refugee agency and partner agencies for additional funds to cover humanitarian needs in the affected areas.

The plane that left Dubai today is the first of two planned flights for this weekend. Dubai is home to UNHCR’s emergency stockpiles. In all

3,500 family-sized tents are being provided for 17,500 internally displaced people.

Since the unrest erupted in June, UNHCR has already distributed over

500 tents from in-country stocks and 700 tents donated by the Korea International Cooperation Agency. But the shelter needs are immense, with renewed violence in late October bringing the number of IDPs in Rakhine state to more than 115,000.

The existing relief camps are overcrowded, and host families are struggling to support themselves. Some people are living on the sites of their burnt-out homes, while others are sleeping on boats or taking refuge on islets. The displaced population is in urgent need of a safe place to stay.

Under the inter-agency response in Rakhine state, UNHCR is the lead agency for emergency shelter, non-food relief items, camp coordination and camp management, and protection. It is seeking US$24.35 million to meet these needs until next June.

Shelter needs vary across Rakhine state. In the northern township of Maungdaw, UNHCR and its partners are working to rebuild homes to support the return of people affected by the June unrest. In and around the state capital Sittwe, the priority is to provide temporary shelters for IDPs who cannot yet return home amidst ongoing inter-communal tensions.

The government, together with UNHCR and the World Food Programme, has built longhouse-style shelters for more than 4,0

00 families

To date, UNHCR has distributed relief items for more than 50,000 IDPs.

This includes plastic sheets, blankets, mosquito nets, jerry cans and kitchen sets, as well as family items such as clothing and hygiene materials. An additional 25,000 kits of basic relief items and 25,000 kits of family items are needed.

The Myanmar Government is responsible for the management of the 24 IDP camps around Sittwe. UNHCR is providing support by coordinating services such as water, sanitation and health care in compliance with basic humanitarian standards and protection principles. The agency is also working to ensure equitable aid distribution in the camps and the guarantee of basic safety and security for camp residents. At the same time, it is training government officials in camp management, setting up mechanisms to engage IDPs, map displacement trends and monitor protection issues in the congested camps.

While we work to deliver urgent humanitarian aid, the protection needs of the affected population remain a priority for us. Since the June unrest, we have seen increased restrictions on movement, which is affecting people’s livelihoods and food security. Access to basic services has also been difficult. If not addressed, these problems could trigger further displacement.

The longer-term solution lies in promoting community reconciliation and addressing the underlying causes of inter-communal tensions in Rakhine state, namely the lack of citizenship which is affecting a significant number of the population of Rakhine State. UNHCR is ready to support the government and to provide expertise on issues relating to citizenship laws.

 

3 – UNHCR aid deliveries reach 300,000 people across Syria UNHCR has now delivered vital aid packages to some 60,300 families across the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria), benefiting more than 300,000 people. The goal is to provide such assistance to 500,000 people – or

100,000 families – by the end of this year.

UNHCR aid deliveries so far this month have been made to Hassakeh, Aleppo, Homs and in and around Damascus. The 42-kg family aid packages contain items ranging from blankets and kitchen sets to jerry cans and hygiene materials.

There have been a number of security incidents associated with the ongoing aid distribution, including the hijacking of three trucks during the last week of October carrying some 1,500 mattresses and a fire in an Aleppo warehouse apparently caused by shelling that resulted in the loss of 15,179 blankets, 1,492 hygiene kits, 4,232 kitchen sets, 9,600 jerry cans and 4,881 plastic sheets.

Across the region, meanwhile, the number of Syrian refugees in surrounding countries now stands at 442,256 – an increase of more than

213,000 since the beginning of September. And this figure does not include the hundreds of thousands more Syrians who did not come forward for registration.

As of yesterday, the number of Syrian refugees either registered or awaiting registration in Lebanon was 127,420; in Jordan 125,670; in Turkey 123,747; in Iraq, 55,685; and in North African countries, 9,734.

In Iraq, the number of those registered or awaiting registration has tripled since September 1st, from 18,700 to more than 56,000. Three quarters of all Syrian refugees in Iraq are in the Kurdistan Region. And nearly half of the registered Syrian refugee population in the country lives in camps. Domiz camp in the northern Kurdistan Region hosts some

18,500 people. Over the past two months, it has received between 500-600 new arrivals daily. Further south, Al Qaim camp in Anbar province now has some 7,500 Syrian refugees.

In Jordan, nearly 4,500 desperate and exhausted Syrian refugees have crossed the border over the past eight days, most of them women and children. Most came from the villages of Hrak, Sawra, Dael, and Qubeit Al Gazal in the southern governorate of Dara’a. Accounts from those arriving speak of large numbers of people having left Dara’a and being either en route to Jordan or planning to cross soon. Our teams on the gro und say those arriving over the past week were among the most frightened they had seen so far — particularly the women.

Meanwhile, preparations for winter are continuing in Jordan’s Za’atri camp with the arrival of the first batch of prefabricated shelters. Each will hold one family. The first refugee families are scheduled to make the much anticipated move from tents to prefabricated shelters early next week. The new shelter project will improve living conditions for some 12,500 Syrian refugees. They will be selected among the most vulnerable cases and families who have been registered with UNHCR longest.

For refugees in urban areas of Jordan, between now and the end of the year, UNHCR will distribute financial assistance to some 9,000 Syrian families in Irbid, Mafraq, and Amman governorates. Of these Syrian families, one in three are female-headed households. It is estimated that this assistance will support approximately 50,000 people, including

1,000 Jordanian host families as temperatures continue to drop throughout the region.

 

Gisèle Nyembwe

Public Information Associate

Collaboratrice adjointe chargée de l’information UNHCR Canada

Tel: (613) 232-0909 ext. 225

Mobile: (613) 986-4300

 

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