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COVID-19 driving Nicaraguan refugees to hunger, desperation

Costa Rica. Nicaraguan family that escaped from the political conflict in Nicaragua

A Nicaraguan asylum seeker embraces his children in Costa Rica, March 2019.  © UNHCR/Flavia Sanchez

 

More than three quarters of Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers in Costa Rica are going hungry, eating only once or twice a day as a result of the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

UNHCR spokesperson, Shabia Mantoo, disclosed this  today, August 28, 2020, during a  press briefing held at the Palais des Nations , Geneva.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is concerned that this could drive returns in adverse conditions.

Before the pandemic hit, and thanks to effective local integration initiatives in Costa Rica, only three percent of refugees were eating once a day or less. Now, this has more than quadrupled to 14 per cent. This is according to a humanitarian assessment conducted by UNHCR in July and August aimed at supporting Costa Rican authorities address the needs of more than 81,000 Nicaraguans who have sought international protection in the country.

The majority of Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers in the country, 63 per cent, now report eating only two meals a day.

Refugee hosting communities are facing similar conditions and the economic contraction in these countries will make it even more difficult for refugees and their hosts to recover.

READ  IOM empowers women business owners in Somalia to recover from COVID-19 Impact

Costa Rica generously hosts nearly 80 percent of all refugees and asylum seekers from Nicaragua who have fled human rights violations and persecution, or some 81,000 people. It is among ten countries worldwide that received the most new asylum claims last year, some 59,200.

With a large proportion of forcibly displaced people in Latin America reliant on the informal economy, especially as they begin their integration into the communities that host them, COVID- related quarantine measures are now impacting livelihoods and driving food insecurity.

Only 59 per cent of refugee families in Costa Rica are reporting steady work-related income streams as of the end of July, a staggering decrease from 93 per cent before the pandemic hit. This leaves many also at risk of eviction and homelessness. A fifth of Nicaraguan refugees surveyed in Costa Rica said they now do not know where they will live in the next month.

Hardships faced by Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers, including loss of livelihoods, eviction and hunger, have also been reported elsewhere in the region, including in Panama, Guatemala and Mexico.

Twenty-one percent of Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers surveyed said at least one member of their household is now contemplating a return to Nicaragua, mostly due to a lack of income or food. This is despite the risks they reported having fled. More than 3,000 asylum claims in Costa Rica have been withdrawn to date, principally by Nicaraguan nationals.

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UNHCR continues to provide impartial information to those considering whether to return to Nicaragua, where the social and political crisis has driven more than 102,000 people to seek protection abroad.

In the face of this worsening situation, UNHCR is working together with governments and partners to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees — for whom return is not an option — receive the support and assistance they need in host countries.

Since the start of the pandemic, UNHCR has stepped-up its cash assistance programmes throughout Central America to support forcibly displaced people in vulnerable conditions. In Costa Rica, UNHCR has assisted 1,221 vulnerable and at-risk families.

Through its partnership with the Costa Rican Social Security System, UNHCR is also ensuring health coverage for 6,000 asylum seekers with serious and chronic conditions. In Panama, UNHCR, through partners, has supported nearly 700 people with cash assistance, and has helped dozens of families with rent payments or mediation to avoid evictions.

However, a severe lack of funding is hampering the ability to address urgent humanitarian needs. UNHCR’s operation in Costa Rica, whose financial requirements for 2020 stand at US$26.9 million, is only 46 per cent funded to date.

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UNHCR continues to support efforts by States to address the needs of people forced to flee in Central America, as part of the regional framework for the comprehensive protection and solutions to forced displacement in Central America – known as MIRPS. It is also calling on all member States of the MIRPS to step up coordination and support in the face of new COVID-related challenges

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IOM steps up help on Yemen’s West Coast as clashes heighten desperation

A displaced woman and her children in a makeshift shelter on the west coast of Yemen. Photo: IOM Yemen/Rami Ibrahim

Al Makha – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has ramped up its humanitarian assistance on Yemen’s west coast where the needs of communities displaced by years of conflict are growing amid ongoing violence.

The Organization is also urging more help from donors and aid partners.

IOM’s response is focusing primarily on the two governorates of Ta’iz and Hodeidah, where active frontlines continue to cause instability and force families to flee.

Since 2017, when mass displacement in the area began, tens of thousands of people have struggled to survive in protracted displacement in hard-to-reach areas where public services and humanitarian assistance are extremely limited.

“We were displaced here four years ago and we still feel unsafe from the bullets flying overhead,” said Aziza, a mother displaced in Khoka district. “There are seven families living in my small shelter. We can’t afford medical care or school costs. We need peace and we need to go back home.”

READ  IOM provides 40,000 surgical gloves, 4,800 surgical masks other equipment to support Coronavirus response in China

More than 17,000 displaced families are living in more than 140 displacement sites in the area, while ongoing fighting continues to provoke new waves of displacement. Most recently, clashes in eastern Al Tuhayta district have displaced more than 200 families westward to safer areas.

“As the needs of displaced communities on the west coast continue to mount, IOM is ramping up its response to thousands of people in need of urgent services, especially health care, water and sanitation, and shelter,” said Christa Rottensteiner, IOM Yemen Chief of Mission.

“We urge donors and other partners to commit more significant investments to ease the levels of desperation facing too many people on the west coast.”

As one of the few international humanitarian organizations operating in the area, IOM is implementing lifesaving interventions in 13 displacement sites, providing shelter, clean water, latrines, cash and essential relief items to thousands of families in need.

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The Organization is expanding the availability of health care to affected populations by enhancing primary and child and maternal health care, addressing malnutrition, promoting mental health and psychosocial support, providing incentives to health-care workers and deploying mobile medical teams in underserved areas.

IOM is working with donors and partners to support communities on the west coast by coordinating services in displacement sites, and promoting longer-term recovery with transitional shelters, rehabilitating water networks, increasing COVID-19 testing and constructing flood risk reduction walls.

The Government of Canada has been instrumental in IOM’s scale-up of the lifesaving humanitarian response to the most immediate needs of communities – namely water, health and shelter improvement.

IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s plans and funding requirements to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of those impacted by, or at risk of, crisis and displacement in 2021 and beyond. The Platform is regularly updated as crises evolve, and new situations emerge.

READ  30 migrants killed in Libya

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Djibouti rolls out COVID-19 vaccinations for migrants

IOM is supporting Djibouti’s Ministry of Health in its vaccination roll-out in the different regions of the country. Photo: IOM/Amanda Nero (2017)

Djibouti – Migrants in Djibouti are being vaccinated against COVID-19 for the first time, as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) works with the Government to support the national immunization effort.

Since the start of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out globally, IOM has been advocating for the inclusion of migrants and Djibouti is one of the first countries in the region to initiate a campaign for them. Around 70 migrants have received jabs since the vaccination drive began on 12 October and it will continue till at least the end of the year.

The move is a crucial step towards protecting and safeguarding migrants across the East and Horn of Africa region, since Djibouti is one of the main transit countries for tens of thousands of migrants who attempt to leave the continent each year to find work, mainly in the Gulf countries.

More than 112,000 migrants passed through Djibouti in 2020 according to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix, despite the reduced mobility caused by the pandemic.

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The country is also a destination for thousands of stranded migrants, and those fleeing the conflict in Yemen. They often travel and live in overcrowded and makeshift settings, which disproportionately exposes them to COVID-19 and other health risks. Migrants also often have little access to COVID-19 prevention tools, such as reliable information, masks, sanitizer, clean water, and access to health services.

Migrants in Djibouti are receiving the vaccine at the Migration Response Centre (MRC) in Obock, one of several in the region where those in difficulty are assisted with shelter, food and health care, among other services. Nearly 1,000 migrants have sought and received support at the MRC in Obock, in the first half of this year.

“We’ve called on the local population, including migrants, to actively participate in the vaccination drive and reminded them that the vaccine is still the most effective way to protect yourself and those around you,” said the mayor of Obock, Abdoulmalik Mohamed Banoita.

IOM is also working to counter hesitancy and misconceptions around immunization, by conducting sensitization sessions in various languages.

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“The inclusion of migrants in the vaccine roll-out shows the Government of Djibouti’s commitment to include some of the countries’ most vulnerable people in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Stéphanie Daviot, IOM’s Chief of Mission in the country.

“We are grateful to the Government for its commitment and partnership with IOM to provide assistance of this nature to migrants and help reduce the spread and impact of this disease.”

Djibouti has had more than 13,100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 170 people have died since the start of the pandemic. Earlier this month IOM, the Ministry of Health, and other technical partners, launched an accelerated vaccination campaign with the objective of vaccinating 25 per cent of Djibouti’s population of about 1 million people. This target includes vulnerable population groups such as migrants and refugees.

The hope is that with the inclusion of migrants and communities on the move in the vaccine roll-out, the number of cases and negative impact of COVID-19 will be reduced.

READ  Striving for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines to leave no migrant behind

IOM is supporting the Ministry of Health in its vaccination roll-out in the different regions of the country within the framework of the East and Horn of Africa COVID-19 Strategic Response and Recovery Plan for 2021 and with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) of the US Department of State.

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IOM resumes voluntary humanitarian return assistance flights from Libya after months of suspension

Migrants headed for the Gambian capital Banjul board a plane at Misrata International Airport after IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return flights resumed from Libya. Photo: Moayad Zaghdani/IOM Libya

Tripoli – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has resumed humanitarian flights from Libya after receiving clearance from the Government of National Unity and has safely returned a group of stranded Gambian migrants who are among thousands of others waiting to go home through IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme.

Thursday’s flight, carrying 127 people (117 men,  five women, five children) from Misrata airport to the Gambian capital of Banjul, marked the first since 8 August when all humanitarian flights were suspended by the Ministry of Interior. The returnees included migrants who had been detained in overcrowded detention centres and waiting for months to go back to their home countries.

“More than 10,000 migrants in Libya have requested IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance and have been waiting for months to return home,” said Federico Soda, IOM Libya Chief of Mission. “It is extremely significant that the government has lifted the suspension because IOM’s VHR programme is critical for migrants who want to leave Libya and return home in a safe, legal and dignified manner and rebuild their lives.”

The return process is also supported by the countries of origin with whom the pre-departure work in Libya is closely coordinated along with the arrival of their nationals in the capitals. Before departure, the returning migrants had health checks and were given pre-departure transportation assistance, counselling services and protection screening. They also received personal protective equipment and took COVID-19 tests before boarding.

READ  IOM provides 40,000 surgical gloves, 4,800 surgical masks other equipment to support Coronavirus response in China

Libya has long been an important transit and destination country for migrants arriving from different parts of Africa. Many become stranded in the country with limited options to return home. Since 2015, more than 53,000 migrants have returned from Libya through the VHR programme, which is funded by the European Union under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration and through the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Migration Fund.

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