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Bukina Faso and the Sahel’s new Frontline: Responding to the world’s fastest growing displacement crisis

Burkina Faso is currently experiencing one of the fastest growing displacement crises in the world. The country has emerged as the latest epicenter of conflict in Africa’s troubled Sahel region. Once known for its harmony and unity across ethnic, religious, and linguistic lines, Burkina’s civilian population is increasingly caught in the crossfire as armed groups plunge the country into violence. Intercommunal tensions are on the rise, and the country now is grappling with its first major humanitarian crisis in recent history.

In recent years, a motley assortment of armed groups has wreaked havoc across the Sahel. Some have links to transnational jihadism, whereas others are criminal in nature or rooted in ethnic or communal identity. Together, they are exploiting the weakness of state authority, local grievances, and porous borders.

Most recently, these groups have spread into Burkina Faso, especially in the Central-North, Sahel, and East regions of the country, which border Mali and Niger. However, the roots of the crisis have been growing for years.

The 2014 ousting of former President Blaise Compaoré created a power vacuum that allowed armed groups from Mali to enter Burkina Faso. Burkinabé jihadi and other insurgent groups have since formed and are taking control of large swaths of territory.

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The violence has spread across communities at an alarming speed. Over the course of 2019, fighting forced more than half a million people to flee their lands.

People have been cut off from their livelihoods, and food insecurity is rapidly worsening. Aid groups are now warning that 900,000 people could be internally displaced by April 2020.

For its part, the government of Burkina Faso is struggling to meet the needs of its population. The minister for humanitarian affairs is in charge of the government’s response to the crisis. Response efforts require more effective inter-ministerial coordination, however, and many senior officials lack the necessary understanding and acceptance of the principles that guide the work of humanitarian organizations.

In certain instances, the resulting friction between humanitarian groups and the government has delayed or restricted aid provision.

Meanwhile, aid groups were initially caught off guard by the crisis. The UN has subsequently managed to establish key humanitarian coordination mechanisms, but more must be done to bolster the response.

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The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) currently estimates that $295 million will be required in 2020 to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need. Donors will need to quickly ramp up funding.

With donor support, the UN should move quickly to enlarge its humanitarian footprint, deploying additional qualified staff and strengthening key tools such as the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM), which creates a shared alert and response plan for aid groups. In addition, international aid agencies should deepen their collaboration with local groups that have the trust and knowledge of their communities.

Burkina’s military continues to struggle to stop the spread of insecurity. As a result, communities have formed “self-defense” groups.

Theselocal militia now regularly clash with insurgents and criminal elements, fueling cycles of retaliatory violence. In a troubling move, the government changed the national penal code to prohibit criticism of the military and block any contact with armed groups.

The new law, whose provisions on contact are too broad, has prevented human rights organizations from verifying the numerous claims of abuses committed by Burkinabé forces and forbids humanitarian organizations from negotiating with armed groups to secure access to populations in need.

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Prospects for peace in Burkina will depend heavily on the course of the broader conflict across the Sahel region. The government of Burkina should be applauded for responding to the crisis. However, it also must be encouraged to adopt a holistic approach that addresses the roots of the conflict and meets the basic needs of its population.

Source: “Humanitarian Response Plan 2020: Burkina Faso,” OCHA , (January 2020), https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.info/files/documents/files/hrp_2020-bfa-fr_abridged-web.pdf.

Source: “Humanitarian Response Plan 2020: Burkina Faso,” OCHA, (January 2020),

 

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Biden reverses Trump’s travel ban on Nigeria, Yemen, Eritrea, others

Mr Biden has now nullified the entry ban on citizens from over a dozen countries, including Eritrea, Yemen, Nigeria, and Sudan.

Newly sworn-in American president, Joe Biden, on Wednesday, issued an executive order nullifying a travel ban imposed on citizens of some Muslim-majority countries by his predecessor, Donald Trump.

Before his exit from White House on Wednesday, Mr Trump-led administration was notorious for its harsh policies against immigrants and asylum seekers, one of his many election campaign promises.

He tightened the policies amidst the coronavirus pandemic which rocked the globe, claiming his decision was to protect American populace.

However, Mr Biden, immediately after his inauguration on Wednesday, issued a number of executive orders undoing some of the policies and projects of his predecessor.

Reversals
Mr Biden has now nullified the entry ban on citizens from over a dozen countries, including Nigeria, Eritrea, Yemen, and Sudan.

“There’s no time to waste.

“These are just all starting points,” he said before signing the 17 executive orders in the White House, a statement that connotes the possibility of many more to come.

READ  IOM, UNHCR announce temporary suspension of resettlement travel for refugees

Mr Trump’s strict immigration policies have been condemned by leaders and civil groups in the past.

The American Civil Liberties Union, on Wednesday lauded Mr Biden’s decision berating his predecessor’s travel policy a “cruel Muslim ban that targeted Africans.

 

Culled from Premium Times

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Frightened residents brace as Cyclone Eloise approaches Mozambique

IOM is assisting the Government of Mozambique’s preparations for the arrival of Cyclone Eloise, moving people to safety in accommodation centers in Buzi. Photo: IOM 2021

 

Roughly 160 International Organization for Migration (IOM) staff in central Mozambique are working to prepare local communities for the imminent arrival of Cyclone Eloise, which is currently packing winds of at least 150 km/h.

“The people are scared,” said Cesaltino Vilanculo, an IOM Mobile team leader in the provincial capital Beira, who helped hundreds of families evacuate from unsafe temporary settlements to two accommodation centers.

“The water is rising in their zones and people are frightened, bracing for yet another storm.”

Eloise is expected to make landfall in Beira late Friday or early Saturday. By mid-afternoon today shops across the city are closed and flooded streets, empty.

IOM personnel will be ready to respond immediately with specialists in camp coordination and management, shelter, the distribution of non-food items, health and protection services and data mapping under IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM).

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The Port of Beira is set to close on Friday for a period of about 40 hours in expectation of dangerous winds and rain from the afternoon of 22 January through the morning of 24 January. Beira is the main entry point for goods bound for north coastal Mozambique.

A limited supply of emergency non-food items had been stockpiled in Beira, including tarps and water tanks. However, resources are stretched, as IOM is actively responding to the crisis across Northern Mozambique.

At the same time, over 900 people are already displaced in Beira City due to recent heavy rains and the impact of Tropical Storm Chalane, which hit nearby Sofala Province on 30 December.

“The government is working, identifying the safe places to bring the people who are most vulnerable,” explained Aida Temba, a protection project assistant with IOM Mozambique.

“The rain is coming, and the water is rising and it’s not easy to reach all the people who need assistance. But we do our best to respond.”

Hundreds of families were evacuated to two accommodation centres, sheltered in tents provided by Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction (INGD). One accommodation center was today closed, in favor of moving families to schools, which provide more stable structure. Those families’ needs include food, potable water, hygiene kits and soap.

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IOM Mozambique also has reported that due to heavy rainfall and the discharge of water from the Chicamba dam and the Mavuzi reservoir—both in the Buzi District west of Beira—over 19,000 people have been affected and hundreds are being moved to accommodation centers. Their needs include food, hygiene kits, and COVID-19 prevention materials.

IOM staff are supporting the Government of Mozambique with the movements in both Beira and Buzi and actively working to improve drainage ways in resettlement sites in preparation for further rains.

IOM’s DTM, working jointly with Mozambique’s INGD, is poised to produce a report on displacement and damages within the first 72 hours of the cyclone’s arrival.

Tropical storms historically are common in these early months of rainy season. Cyclone Idai struck the country in March 2019. It is considered one of the worst tropical cyclones to hit Africa on record, claiming hundreds of lives, and affecting three million people across wide swaths of Mozambique, Madagascar, Malawi and Zimbabwe. A second powerful storm, Cyclone Kenneth, hit Mozambique just weeks later.

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Total property damages from Cyclone Idai have been estimated at some USD2.2 billion. Almost two years later, roughly 100,000 people remain in resettlement sites, which also have been battered by the recent rains.

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IOM commends United States’ inclusion of migrants in COVID-19 vaccine roll-out

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) welcomes the inclusion of migrants in the new US Administration’s national strategy for COVID-19 response and its commitment “to ensuring that safe, effective, cost-free vaccines are available to the entire U.S. public—regardless of their immigration status”.

In light of this announcement, IOM calls on all countries to adopt similar migrant-inclusive approaches, to ensure that as many lives as possible can be saved.

“COVID-19 vaccines provide the opportunity we have been waiting for, but only if we use them wisely and strategically, by protecting the most at-risk first, no matter their nationality and legal immigration status,” warned IOM Director General António Vitorino. “I applaud those Governments choosing the path of inclusion and solidarity for their vaccine roll-outs.”.

According to the COVAX Facility – the multilateral mechanism created to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines – immunization campaigns have already started in over 50 countries.

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Many countries have yet to release their prioritization strategies for the vaccine roll-outs, but the United States, Germany and Jordan, among others, have already announced various measures to provide access to the vaccine equitably, including to asylum seekers, migrants in irregular situations and forcibly displaced persons. Last year, similar migrant-inclusive approaches were adopted for COVID-19 testing, treatment and social services in Ireland, Malaysia, Portugal, Qatar and the United Kingdom.

To facilitate truly effective and equitable immunization campaigns, IOM is working closely with the COVAX Facility, Member States, the World Health Organization, and other partners, and recommending that national authorities adopt practices to account for all migrant, such as:

Ensuring an adequate number of vaccine doses is planned for and procured to include migrants in-country, and that delivery systems are fit-for-purpose;
Reducing the number of administrative hurdles for migrants to access health care and vaccines, including high costs and proof of residence or identity.
Actively reaching out to migrant communities through linguistically and culturally competent communication methods to build trust, inform and engage in programming;
Offering guarantees that vaccination will not lead to detention or deportation;
Strengthening health systems and setting up mobile vaccination mechanisms where needed to ensure last-mile distribution.

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“Migrants play an enormous part in our socioeconomic development and collective well-being.  Despite this, many migrants have remained disproportionately exposed to excessive health risks through their living and working conditions and have continued to face tremendous challenges in accessing COVID-19 and other essential health services,” said Director General Vitorino.

“If we are not careful and deliberate about including migrants in vaccination plans, we will all pay a higher price.”

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