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Covid-19: IOM supports health actors, builds  90 quarantine shelters in Nigeria

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is supporting health actors to construct 90 quarantine shelters across Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States to decrease the risk of COVID-19 spreading in densely populated camps and host communities.

Conflict-affected communities in north-east Nigeria are increasingly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic as cases begin to be reported in Borno State. An outbreak would have devastating consequences for millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout the region, a majority of whom live in overcrowded and underserviced camps.

“Given the rapidly evolving situation in Nigeria and across the world, we must ensure that the health of displaced and host communities is a central part of our response,” said Franz Celestin, IOM Nigeria Chief of Mission.

North-east Nigeria remains highly prone to cholera outbreaks, and other diseases such as malaria, measles, Lassa fever, meningitis and hepatitis E are endemic. Lack of access to potable water and sanitation infrastructure increase the health risks of IDPs and returnees. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that around 35 per cent of medical facilities have been destroyed or partially damaged due to the conflict.

In coordination with health partners and emergency response agencies, IOM is constructing quarantine shelters to serve internally displaced and host communities in the towns of Gwoza, Pulka, Bama, Dikwa and Monguno. These shelters will cater to people with travel and contact history who might have been exposed to the virus.

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The quarantine shelters will consist of individual units with a latrine, shower, handwashing station and living quarters. Special provisions will be made for elderly groups and breastfeeding women. Facilities also have separate entrance and registration areas as well as restricted areas for health personnel.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, 981 cases have been confirmed across the country as of 24 April. On 18 April, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Borno State, the epicentre of a humanitarian crisis that has forced over 1.8 million people to leave their homes.

Ten years into a brutal conflict, a total of 7.9 million people need humanitarian assistance across the three most affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. An estimated 40 per cent of the displaced population reside in 298 displacement sites.

In 2019 alone, over 180,000 people fled following an upsurge in violence in the north-east. One in two camps in Borno State are currently overcrowded, which heightens the risk of disease transmission for the nearly 700,000 vulnerable people living in such conditions.

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“Camp decongestion has been a challenge, but it is now a priority. I call on all stakeholders to urgently contribute to efforts being made to decongest camps in respect of people’s rights and dignity,” said Edward Kallon, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria.

To decongest camps, IOM is rehabilitating buildings to accommodate IDPs living in reception centres in Ngala town as well as relocating residents from overcrowded camps to new shelters in Monguno.

Since the start of the pandemic, IOM has been raising awareness among displaced communities on measures for preventing the spread of COVID-19 such as handwashing and coughing best practices.

In more than 80 IOM-managed sites, hygiene promoters, including camp residents, have been disseminating information in line with physical distancing. They conduct door-to-door household visits, air mobile speaker and radio announcements and host small group discussions with 15 people maximum sitting one metre apart from each other.

IOM teams are also repairing WASH facilities and installing handwashing stations while providing basic hygiene items to 48,000 individuals, including soap, and cleaning and disinfection supplies for latrines, homes, and health facilities.

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As part of its overall response to the virus and support to the Nigerian authorities, IOM will manage the new UN isolation centre in Abuja and repurpose two of its laboratories for testing, once tests become available, and case management.

The nine-month project for quarantine shelters in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states is funded by the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

 

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Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

COMPASS will provide vulnerable migrants including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children access to a broad range of protection and assistance services.

 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands launched the Cooperation on Migration and Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions initiative (COMPASS) at the beginning of 2021. COMPASS is a global initiative, in partnership with 12 countries, designed to protect people on the move, combat human trafficking and smuggling, and support dignified return while promoting sustainable reintegration.

The initiative is centred on a whole-of-society approach which, in addition to assisting individuals, will work across all levels – households, communities, and the wider communities – and encompasses the following partner countries: Afghanistan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

“We want to mobilize families, peers and communities to encourage informed and safe migration decisions, protect migrants, and help those returning home reintegrate successfully,” said Monica Goracci, Director of the Department of Migration Management at IOM.

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“One key component is also undermining the trafficking and smuggling business models through the promotion of safe alternatives and information sharing to reduce the risks of exploitation and abuse by these criminal networks.” Vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children, will have access to a broad range of protection and assistance services such as mental health and psychosocial support, while migrants in transit who wish to return home will be supported with dignified return and reintegration.

Community level interventions will focus on improving community-led efforts to address trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and support sustainable reintegration of returning migrants. COMPASS will work with national and local governments to enable a conducive environment for migrant protection, migration management and international cooperation on these issues.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to launch the COMPASS programme in cooperation with IOM, an important and longstanding partner on migration cooperation,” said Marriët Schuurman, Director for Stability and Humanitarian Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

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“The programme is a part of the Dutch comprehensive approach to migration with activities that contribute to protection and decreasing irregular migration. Research and data gathering are also important components, and we hope that the insights that will be gained under COMPASS will contribute to broader knowledge sharing on migration and better-informed migration policies.”, added Schuurman. The initiative has a strong learning component, designed to increase knowledge and the uptake of lessons learned, both within the programme and beyond its parameters. COMPASS will actively contribute to global knowledge that supports countries in managing migration flows and protecting vulnerable migrants such as victims of trafficking. The implementation of COMPASS is set to start soon.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, as the donor to the COMPASS initiative, pledges its active support to partner countries to improve migration cooperation mechanisms within its long-term vision. 

IOM, the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, contributes its expertise as the technical implementation partner to the initiative. IOM works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners in its dedication to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. 

READ  WFP, UNHCR appeal for funding for over 3 million refugees hit by ration cuts in Eastern Africa

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A child, 40 others drown in shipwreck off Tunisia

Photo: Mediterranean Sea

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are deeply saddened by reports of a shipwreck off the coast of Sidi Mansour, in southeast Tunisia, yesterday evening. The bodies of 41 people, including at least one child, have so far been retrieved.

According to reports from local UNHCR and IOM teams, three survivors were rescued by the Tunisian National Coast Guard. The search effort was still underway on Friday. Based on initial information, all those who perished were from Sub-Saharan Africa.

This tragic loss of life underscores once again the need to enhance and expand State-led search and rescue operations across the Central Mediterranean, where some 290 people have lost their lives so far this year. Solidarity across the region and support to national authorities in their efforts to prevent loss of life and prosecute smugglers and traffickers should be a priority.

Prior to yesterday’s incident, 39 refugees and migrants had perished off the coast near the Tunisian city of Sfax in early March. So far this year, sea departures from Tunisia to Europe have more than tripled compared to the same period in 2020.

READ  38 people including children feared dead as vessel carrying fleeing civilians sinks 

UNHCR and IOM continue to monitor developments closely. They continue to stand ready to work with the national authorities to assist and support the survivors, and the family members of those lost.

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Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen with IOM support in wake of tragic boat sinking

Yemen: Stranded Ethiopian migrants prepare to board an IOM-facilitated flight from Aden, Yemen, to fly home to Addis Ababa. Photo: IOM/Majed Mohammed 2021

One hundred and sixty Ethiopian migrants have returned home safely from Yemen today with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), just one day after a perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden claimed the lives of dozens of people, including at least 16 children.

More than 32,000 migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia, remain stranded across Yemen in dire, often deadly, circumstances.

“The conditions of migrants stranded in Yemen has become so tragic that many feel they have no option but to rely on smugglers to return home,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM’s Director for Operations and Emergencies.

At least 42 people returning from Yemen are believed to have died on Monday when their vessel sank off the coast of Djibouti. Last month, at least 20 people had also drowned on the same route according to survivors. IOM believes that, since May 2020, over 11,000 migrants have returned to the Horn of Africa on dangerous boat journeys, aided by unscrupulous smugglers.

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“Our Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme provides a lifeline for those stranded in a country now experiencing its seventh year of conflict and crisis. We call on all governments along the route to come together and support our efforts to allow migrants safe and dignified opportunities to travel home,” added Labovitz.

COVID-19 has had a major impact on global migration. The route from the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries has been particularly affected. Tens of thousands of migrants, hoping to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), now find themselves unable to complete their journeys, stranded across Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.

While the pandemic has also caused the number of migrants arriving to Yemen to decrease from 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020, the risks they face continue to rise. Many of these migrants are stranded in precarious situations, sleeping rough without shelter or access to services. Many others are in detention or being held by smugglers.

READ  Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

“We cannot find jobs or food here; Yemen is a problem for us,” said Gamal, a 22-year-old migrant returning on the VHR flight. “I used to sleep in the street on cardboard. I could only eat because of the charity people would give me and sometimes we were given leftovers from restaurants. I never had much to eat.”

Since October 2020, in Aden alone, IOM has registered over 6,000 migrants who need support to safely return home. Today’s flight to Addis Ababa was the second transporting an initial group of 1,100 Ethiopians who have been approved for VHR to Ethiopia. Thousands of other undocumented migrants are waiting for their nationality to be verified and travel documents to be provided.

Prior to departure on the VHR flight, IOM carried out medical and protection screenings to ensure that returnees are fit to travel and are voluntarily consenting to return. Those with special needs are identified and receive specialized counselling and support.

In Ethiopia, IOM supports government-run COVID-19 quarantine facilities to accommodate the returnees on arrival and provides cash assistance, essential items and onward transportation to their homes. The Organization also supports family tracing for unaccompanied migrant children.

READ  42 Nigerians, 231 other African migrants arrive Assamaka

Across the Horn of Africa and Yemen, IOM provides life-saving support to migrants through health care, food, water and other vital assistance.

Today’s flight was funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Post-arrival assistance in Addis Ababa is supported by EU Humanitarian Aid and PRM.

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