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IOM aids COVID-impacted communities on Haiti-Dominican border, worldwide

Pedernales – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is distributing more than 12,000 food kits to migrant and Dominican families in several provinces affected by the economic consequences of border closures due to COVID-19, part of a worldwide IOM effort to aid communities stranded or impoverished in border zones due to sharp declines in commerce and other cross-border activities.

Besides the vigorous work ongoing on the frontier between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, IOM is implementing similar programs across Latin America. In Argentina, over the past two months, IOM has delivered 42 tons of food items to community kitchens in the locality of San Martin which daily assists 1,210 people in vulnerable conditions, both migrants and Argentine nationals. Food kits also have been distributed with the Argentine Red Cross to 1,200 refugees and migrants living in the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires, and three other provinces. Funding was provided by the European Union.

IOM Argentina also prepared 27,600 meals at a Caritas-managed centre in the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires, while food items were provided as well for 2,800 migrants assisted by four parish kitchens.

In Peru, nearly 4,000 food kits have been delivered since June this year to vulnerable refugees and migrants and host communities in Lima, the country’s capital, as well as in the border cities of Tumbes (on the frontier with Ecuador) and Tacna (Chile). In just the past week, IOM delivered 587 basic food baskets with its partner Adra, in coordination with the National Institute of Civil Defense, benefitting 2,300 persons in Tumbes.

Border restrictions have been in place here since March to control COVID-19’s spread between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The closure of the four official border crossings along the Haitian-Dominican frontier over these past seven months has affected the nearby populations. According to information from the Ministry of Economic, Planning, and Development of the Dominican Republic (MEPYD), around 90 per cent of formal trade with Haiti flows through these customs posts, which average 227,000 entries each year.

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During September and October, some 20,000 people benefited from the first 4,000 food kits delivered in the border provinces.

Conditions in the Dominican city of Pedernales illuminate the COVID-related setbacks now impacting millions of people in the Americas, many of them migrants. “The COVID emergency has really affected our community because both transportation and food production has decreased,” explained Rafael Pérez Jean, an evangelical pastor and director of The Casa de Luz Foundation in Pedernales. “The way we live in the border area also has changed. As the border is practically closed, products are not allowed to transit through the frontier as before, nor are visas available.”

The Casa de Luz Foundation is one of the civil organizations collaborating with IOM to distribute food in the five border provinces of the Dominican Republic: Pedernales, Independencia, Elías Piña, Dajabón, and Montecristi.

Pastor Pérez Jean has served as a bridge between IOM and the communities that benefited from these food kits. He recalled moments of uncertainty experienced in his town during the pandemic, explaining “People do not have access to food in sufficient quantities, and thanks to the aid that IOM has been providing these days, many people have received food at home. That helps them to have a livelihood.”

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Cristian Nuevo Poché agreed that COVID-19 changed lives in Elías Piña province, where he has been a community leader and schoolteacher for over 20 years. He explained that the pandemic exacerbated an already difficult economic situation in his area.  “Many of these families depended on the informal market trade. Now the market activities are almost nil, so many have had to migrate to work for private households in Santo Domingo,” Mr. Nuevo Poché said. “Food rations helped alleviate prevailing needs in the Pinzón community.”

Miguel Román, coordinator of IOM in the border region, explained that in November 8,000 kits will be distributed nationwide, of which 3,500 are already being delivered in the border provinces of Pedernales, Barahona, Bahoruco, Independencia (Jimaní), Elías Piña, Dajabón and Montecristi.

Another 5,500 kits will be distributed in Santiago, María Trinidad Sánchez, Santo Domingo Province, National District, San Pedro and La Altagracia.
Mr. Román emphasized that the kits being distributed are headed to those considered among the most vulnerable in the population, such as Haitian and Venezuelan migrants, as well as Dominican families with limited economic resources. The new distributions will include hand soap donated by the Colgate-Palmolive corporation to UNDP in the Dominican Republic, masks made by an IOM-supported migrant venture, and information about preventing COVID-19.

This distribution is carried out in two ways: through the IOM border teams and with partners and allied NGOs: ASCALA, FUNCAR / Centro Puente, FEI, MUDHA, CEDESO, Casa Del Caribe, CODHA, Venezuelan Diaspora, and La Merced Foundation. Likewise, the Venezuelan Association in Santiago (AVES), the Venezuelan Emigrants Foundation (FEV), FUNCOVERD, Duendes, and Ángeles Vinotinto, the Venezuelan Association in San Cristóbal and the Churún Merú Association in Bávaro.

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Assistance to the families most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the Dominican Republic is possible thanks to the contributions of the European Union and the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

In Argentina, partners included the Human Rights Secretary´s Office of Argentina and provincial Human Rights Offices, as well as the Argentine Red Cross. Besides EU aid, funding was also provided by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the U.S. State Department (PRM).

In Egypt, IOM has distributed thousands of food and non-food items and financial assistance to 2,675 persons in Alexandria, Cairo, Hurghada and Al-Fayoum. IOM estimates that there are 600,000 vulnerable migrants in Egypt who encounter a wide range of challenges, including inadequate access to food, health, and education services in addition to limited access to socio-economic opportunities.

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IOM appeals for lifesaving assistance to over half a million displaced and vulnerable migrants in Niger

International Organisation of Migration (

Niger, one of the Sahel region’s busiest transit countries for migrants, faces multiple emergencies. COVID-19, ongoing security threats and generations of deeply embedded poverty have contributed to a growing humanitarian crisis, with over half a million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and their host communities in need of essential services. Another 135,000 vulnerable migrants also need assistance in Niger in 2021.

To be able to provide much-needed assistance, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) today is appealing for USD 121 million to provide essential support to migrants, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities in 2021.

Continuous returns of migrants from Algeria—as well as migratory movements through Niger, both to and from Algeria and Libya—leave migrants lacking shelter, food, water and health assistance. In addition to these essential humanitarian interventions IOM is equally committed to promoting stability and social cohesion between host communities, IDPs and migrants.

Despite the official closure of land borders since 19 March, migrants continue to travel to, through and out of Niger on longstanding migration routes mainly to Libya and Algeria. IOM assists stranded migrants through its humanitarian operations (on the border with Algeria) and with search and rescue operations in Niger’s northern Agadez region, after which many migrants receive assistance in one of IOM’s six transit centres in Niger.

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An IOM assessment last year concluded at least 2.7 million migrants were stranded unable to return to their country of residence by COVID-19 mobility restrictions.

“In 2020, IOM assisted more than 9,000 stranded migrants in Niger, the majority of whom were from countries in the West and Central Africa region,” said Barbara Rijks, IOM Niger’s Chief of Mission. “Many of these migrants have been supported with voluntary return to their respective countries of origin, despite the official closure of the borders, through a humanitarian corridor established with the Government of Niger.”

Over 2,100 returning Nigeriens were also assisted with their COVID-19 isolation and onward assistance to their areas of origin once they arrived in Niger. Official convoys for stranded Nigeriens have been organized from various countries in West Africa by other IOM offices in collaboration with Niger’s government, including its consular missions.

Some 3.8 million Nigeriens will need assistance in 2021 according to the Humanitarian Needs Overview released by the Humanitarian Country Team in Niger. IOM Niger plans to scale up its level of assistance in areas that have been affected by different crises, including natural disasters and insecurity as a result of increasing activity by violent extremist organizations in Niger.

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IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s funding requirements in 2021 and beyond. The Platform is updated regularly.

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UNHCR appeals for immediate rescue of Rohingya refugees in distress on the Andaman Sea

This news comment is attributable Indrika Ratwatte, Director of the UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.
BANGKOK, Thailand – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is appealing for the immediate rescue of a group of Rohingya refugees in distress on the Andaman Sea today.
UNHCR received reports of an unconfirmed number of Rohingya refugees aboard a vessel in distress as of the evening of Saturday 20th February. The refugees report having departed from Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf, Bangladesh, approximately ten days ago. Many are in a highly vulnerable condition and are apparently suffering from extreme dehydration. We understand that a number of refugees have already lost their lives, and that fatalities have risen over the past 24 hours.
Refugees have told us that the vessel ran out of food and water several days ago, and that many of the passengers are ill. The vessel has reportedly been adrift since the engine broke down, more than a week ago. We have not been able to confirm the number of refugees or their precise location at this time.
In the absence of precise information as to the refugees’ location, we have alerted the authorities of the relevant maritime states of these reports and appealed for their swift assistance, should the vessel be found in their area of responsibility for search and rescue. Immediate action is needed to save lives and prevent further tragedy.
As always, saving lives must be the priority. In line with international obligations under the law of the sea and longstanding maritime traditions, the duty to rescue persons in distress at sea should be upheld, irrespective of nationality or legal status. We appeal to all governments to deploy their search and rescue capacities and promptly disembark those in distress.
UNHCR stands ready to support governments across the region in providing any necessary humanitarian assistance and quarantine measures in the coming days for those disembarked, in line with public health protocols.
The fact that refugees and migrants continue to undertake fatal journeys accentuates the need for immediate and collective regional response to search, rescue and disembarkation

READ  JIFORM calls for multi-dimensional approaches to tackling human trafficking

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Migrants play key role in disaster response, IOM explores diaspora’s engagement in humanitarian assistance

Stronger diaspora coordination has the potential for better and more effective humanitarian assistance in countries affected by disasters. Photo: IOM/Muse Mohammed

Many people, when they consider the contributions of migrants to their countries of origin, think first of remittance flows —the billions of dollars travelling annually between high income, “developed” destination countries to lower income regions in the Global South.

For decades, remittance flows have been larger than total official development assistance levels in low- and middle-income countries, and more stable than private capital flows. In 2020, which experts forecast as a year when a global pandemic would decrease remittance levels globally, the decline was nowhere near as considerable as predicted. Migrant workers and diaspora members —many employed in essential services— continued to send money home. Mexico, Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh all even saw rises in incoming remittances.

Yet, diasporas provide much more than financial support. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, diasporas have forged creative, transnational responses to support their communities in both their new countries of residence and those of origin. Diasporas provide supplies to hospitals; they equip communities with tutors and translators for school age children. They create helplines for families affected by the pandemic, developing campaigns to combat misinformation. And so much more.

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To increase the scope of humanitarian assistance around the globe, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has implemented a project aimed at developing and piloting a framework for diaspora engagement in humanitarian assistance.

In cooperation with the Haiti Renewal Alliance, IOM has begun conducting remote consultations with key actors worldwide. IOM also has launched a survey for diaspora organizations to explore best practices migrants can leverage to strengthen their engagement.

“The results of the survey will allow us to dissect the challenges and interests of Diaspora organizations when delivering assistance in their country of origin,” said Magalie Emile-Backer, co-founder of the Haiti Renewal Alliance, an organization actively working to integrate Diasporas in the humanitarian system.

This effort comes at a crucial time, when the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic stretches resources for assistance.

“Diasporas’ engagement already is a critical component of humanitarian assistance, unlocking doors and knowledge that might not otherwise be available. Engagement contributes also to increasing communities’ resilience,” said Luca Dall’Oglio, IOM Chief of Mission in Washington, DC. “Diasporas’ involvement has the potential to further scale up all aspects of humanitarian response, preparedness and recovery matters.”

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Ecuador
Founded by Ecuadorians and Spaniards, the Rumiñahui Association supports the needs of the migrant community in Spain. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of 30 experts stepped up to provide psychological assistance to migrants across Spain, especially to women who have been victims of gender-based violence. Additionally, the Rumiñahui Association coordinated with an organization in the United States to donate 5,000 food kits to vulnerable households in Ecuador.

Pakistan
The Pakistani Diaspora Health Initiative developed a digital platform where the Pakistani diaspora health community around the world register to provide online consultations. The organization also promotes webinars to share knowledge between local and overseas health professionals on the latest, evidence-based COVID-19 practices.
Closer coordination and cooperation with other humanitarian actors can maximize this potential. Funded by the US Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Affairs, the IOM project builds on several decades of work with diaspora communities. It aims to build the capacity of diasporas to better address disasters and to strengthen coordination with one another and with institutional humanitarian actors.

As seen during numerous man-made and natural disasters, diasporas have immense capacity for good. They can leverage their financial contributions, network with each other and offer technical skills and local area knowledge to quickly address humanitarian needs on the ground in communities of origin.

READ  Migrants among most vulnerable, as IOM ramps up coronavirus response worldwide

After analyzing the survey results, IOM will join with partners to develop a framework for Diaspora engagement as well as a set of operational tools that diasporas and institutional actors can use across sectors and locations. With the right skills, resources and partnerships, diasporas can enhance humanitarian efforts, ultimately increasing the reach and support towards affected communities.

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