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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.

READ  Internal displacement exceeds 100,000 in 2020

“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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UNHCR and IOM shocked and dismayed by deaths near Belarus-Poland border

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and are deeply saddened by the deaths of four individuals near the border between Poland and Belarus. The organizations express their condolences to the families of the deceased and are calling for an immediate investigation into this tragedy. The nationalities of the all the victims have yet to be confirmed but two Iraqi nationals reportedly died of hypothermia.

In recent months, groups of asylum-seekers and migrants have been transiting through Belarus, to seek asylum in neighbouring EU Member States – Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

The two agencies have been following with growing concern, reports of pushbacks of people at these borders. Groups of people have become stranded for weeks, unable to access any form of assistance, asylum or basic services. Many were left in dire situations, exposed to the elements, suffering from hypothermia. Some were rescued from swamps.

READ  Europeans sought sanctuary in Africa during World War 2

Recognizing the significant challenges posed by irregular movements, the agencies have called for the situation to be managed in accordance with international legal obligations, and for States to work collaboratively to resolve the situation, prioritising human rights.

UNHCR and IOM call for immediate access to those affected, in order to provide lifesaving medical help, food, water and shelter, especially in light of the approaching winter.

While States have the sovereign right to manage their borders, this is not incompatible with the respect for human rights including the right to seek asylum. Pushbacks endanger lives and are illegal under international law.

UNHCR and IOM have been engaging with relevant authorities to explore various options for the people who continue to be stranded at borders; from access to asylum, family reunification procedures, and voluntary return for those found not to be in need of international protection.

IOM and UNHCR reiterate that asylum-seekers and migrants should never be used by States to achieve political ends. The fundamental responsibility to protect vulnerable people should be shared among States in a spirit of solidarity. Political disagreement on responsibilities must never result in the loss of life, forfeiting States international obligations and commitments.

READ  Alarm as Nigeria receives 60 new deportees from countries ravaged by COVID-19

 

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UNHCR calls on Libya to urgently develop plan for asylum seekers and refugees, welcomes authorization to restart evacuation

Libya. UNHCR provides assistance to asylum-seekers caught in crackdown

A refugee feeds her baby while waiting to receive assistance at an emergency distribution by UNHCR and partners in Tripoli, Libya.  © UNHCR/Mohamed Alalem

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today urged the Libyan government to immediately address the dire situation of asylumseekers and refugees in a humane and rights-based manner. Raids and arbitrary arrests by the authorities this month targeted areas largely  populated by refugees and asylumseekers that resulted in several deaths, thousands detained, and many homeless and destitute.

“Since the start of the security raids and arrests by the Libyan authorities in October, we have witnessed a sharp deterioration in the situation facing vulnerable asylumseekers and refugees in Tripoli,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Western and Central Mediterranean Situation. “The Libyan authorities must come up with a proper plan that respects their rights and identifies durable solutions.”

Some 3,000 people are currently sheltering outside the Community Day Centre (CDC) in Tripoli, where UNHCR and its partners have been providing medical assistance and other services. Their situation is very precarious. Many were affected by the raids, demolition of their homes, and have escaped from detention in terrible conditions. Others have joined the group hoping to be evacuated.

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“Many have been left homeless and lost all their belongings as a result of the security operation and are now sleeping in the cold and in a very unsafe environment. This is utterly unacceptable,” said Cochetel.

UNHCR and partners had to suspend operations at the Community Day Centre for security and safety reasons, but remain engaged in an active dialogue with representatives of the protesters outside the CDC to explain the limited assistance it can offer, including cash and food assistance.

Together with other UN agencies, UNHCR stands ready to support an urgent plan of action that could help alleviate the terrible suffering of asylumseekers and refugees in Libya. 

UNHCR continues to call on the authorities to respect the human rights and dignity of asylumseekers and refugees, stop their arbitrary arrest and release them from detention. 

The UN Refugee Agency has welcomed authorization to restart humanitarian evacuation flights, but warns that it is not enough. 

“This is a positive development for some of the most vulnerable refugees, who have been waiting anxiously for many months to depart. Our teams are already working to ensure humanitarian flights can restart as soon as possible,” said Cochetel “But we also need to be realistic: resettlement or evacuation flights will only benefit a limited number of people.”    

More than 1,000 vulnerable refugees and asylumseekers are currently prioritised for humanitarian flights and awaiting their resumption. UNHCR continues to urge the international community to offer more legal pathways to safety outside Libya.

READ  Economies, societies are strengthened by migrants’ rich contributions world over- IOM Chief António Vitorino

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Free movement of people a top priority, say West African nations

Aligned migration policies must be effectively applied by border officials to ease free movement while combatting trafficking in persons, says the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Photo: Fredrick Ejiga/IOM

Abuja – Free movement of people and goods, and fighting human trafficking should be top policy priorities, members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed at talks convened with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Network for Migration and the African Union.

Three days of consultations in Abuja this week offered the first chance for ECOWAS members to collectively assess progress in implementing the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) objectives and to decide key recommendations to be put to next year’s International Migration Review Forum.

Integrated migration governance should be a key goal and Ambrose Dery, Minister of Interior for Ghana, the Chair of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Governments, said it was essential African nations addressed trafficking in persons and its devastating consequences on migrants.

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“Vile stories on international media concerning migrant slavery, as well as mistreatment of young African domestic helps in some Gulf States, call for a reflection on appropriate actions to be taken with a view to finding a lasting solution to this persistent problem that leads to the loss of young Africans, without whom the continent cannot build a prosperous and peaceful future,” Dery said. “In Ghana, the contribution of migrants has played a great role in shaping our national development.”

Governments must address the root causes of trafficking and ensure the free movement of people in a safe, orderly and dignified manner. ECOWAS representatives emphasized the need to join forces and align approaches to prevent and counter smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons to promote rights-based management of migration.

The meeting, which ended Thursday, also heard that policies must be effectively applied by border officials to ease free movement while combatting trafficking in persons.

Aissata Kane, IOM’s Senior Regional Adviser for Sub Saharan Africa, said the Global Compact for Migration was a landmark, multilateral document. “It aims to catalyze and boost combined support and assistance for addressing legal and humanitarian challenges of migration and foster its positive social, cultural and economic dividends within and outside the ECOWAS region.”

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IOM has been working with all stakeholders at intergovernmental and national levels, as well as within the UN Network for Migration, to promote safe, orderly and dignified free movement of people and economic exchange among ECOWAS Member States.

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