News in Brief 11 April 2017 – Geneva (AM)

Starvation “an inevitability” in vast swathe of Africa and Yemen, says UNHCR

Mass deaths from starvation in east Africa and Yemen are “fast becoming an inevitability” without more help from the international community, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday.

The UNHCR warning covers millions of people in the Horn of Africa, north-east Nigeria and Yemen.

And amid mass displacement, concerns are growing that the situation is as bad as the 2011 humanitarian crisis in east Africa that killed more than 260,000 people.

Adrian Edwards is a spokesperson for the Refugee Agency:

“We are raising our alarm level further by today warning that the risk of mass deaths from starvation among populations in the Horn of Africa, in Yemen and Nigeria is growing; this warning is in light of the drought situations that are also affecting many neighbouring countries and a funding shortfall that has become so severe that an avoidable humanitarian crisis in the region, possibly worse than that of 2011, is fast becoming an inevitability.”

The UN says that drought is only part of the problem and that conflict is responsible for mass displacement and food insecurity in countries including South Sudan and Yemen.

The Arabian peninsula state has seen more than two years of war and there are now more than 19 million people in need of humanitarian help there.

In north-east Nigeria where Boko Haram separatists devastated communities before being driven out by government forces, aid agencies are finding ever more extreme needs.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that US $ 22.8 billion is the amount needed to help the world’s 100 million most vulnerable people this year.

But it said that donors have so far provided just a fifth of that sum.

Migrant “slave market” horrors revealed in Libya

Hundreds of young men and women have been bought and sold as slaves in Libya where they are “brutalizedand abused”, the UN said on Tuesday.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) alert follows testimonies from victims it has spoken to from several African nations, including Nigeria, Ghana and the Gambia.

Many describe being sold “in squares or garages” by locals in the south-western Libyan town of Sabha, or by the drivers who trafficked them across the Sahara desert.

IOM’s Chief of Mission in Libya is Othman Belbeisi; he told journalists in Geneva that migrants were traded between smugglers who held them in detention and beat them, before demanding money from their families.

“Selling human beings is becoming a trend among smugglers as the smuggling networks in Libya are becoming stronger and strongerWe have testimonies from people who finished their time and they were left in the streets, and also from others who were there and witnessed the issue as well.”

Mr Belbeisi said that male migrants are often set to work in construction while women and girls are bought as sex slaves.

IOM has warned that these latest testimonies likely reflect a widespread migrant crisis throughout Libya where smugglers are commit sexual abuse and murder.

The country has gripped by violence since the 2011 popular uprising that led to the overthrow of President Muammar Ghadaffi.

At a briefing in Geneva on Tuesday the agency said it had also received reports of “mass graves” of unnamed migrants in the desert.

Mosul children in extreme danger: UNICEF

More than 220,000 children are believed to be in extreme danger in the Iraqi city of Mosul as the military campaign continues to force out ISIL militants.

UN Children’s Fund UNICEF made the announcement on Tuesday, warning of the risk to children as the conflict escalates.

Bastien Vigneau is the agency’s Regional Emergency Advisor and Senior Emergency Coordinator for Mosul.

Here he is speaking over the phone from Erbil in Iraq:

“Two hundred and twenty thousand children in West Mosul in the old city are in extreme danger if there is no way out for them. I mean it’s a race against time and the more time passes the less chances they have. One family told us they had to hide in their basement, ISIL was on the top floor and they were trying to remain as quiet as possible because they were afraid to be taken by force to the old city by ISIL, so they had to stay two weeks, they had a couple of dates and water; they were in fear because they had a one-year-old baby, so afraid that the baby would cry and they would be discovered.”

UNICEF says that a quarter of a million children have been displaced from Mosul since October 17 when the Iraqi army began its offensive against ISIL, successfully liberating the eastern districts in January.

Of that number, 151,000 have come from West Mosul in the last six weeks alone – an indication of the greater dangers that are involved in retaking the old city.

Source: United Nations Radio