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  • At least 26 dead in flash floods in western India
    Source: Agence France-Presse
    Country: India

    Flash floods triggered by torrential monsoon rain have killed at least 26 people. The rain and high winds have also cut power and communications across the north of Gujarat state.

    Ahmedabad, India | Wednesday 7/29/2015 - 07:40 GMT

    Flash floods triggered by torrential monsoon rain have killed at least 26 people in a west Indian state in the past 48 hours, authorities said Wednesday.

    The rain and high winds have also cut power and communications across the north of Gujarat state, raising concerns that villagers may be stranded.

    "Over 2,000 villages of north Gujarat have been affected due to the floods," the duty officer in the state's emergency control room told AFP.

    "We have lost contact with most of these villages and there is no information coming in from those areas."

    Rescue teams have been deployed to several hard-hit areas, including the district of Banaskantha where eight people have been killed in rain-related incidents including drownings, local official Dilip Rana said.

    "Efforts are on to first rescue those stranded in floodwaters," district collector Rana told AFP.

    Another four people died in Kutch district after several houses collapsed, while more than 1,000 people there have been relocated to higher ground, reported local official M S Patel.

    Six fatalities have also been recorded in the main city of Ahmedabad and eight in other districts, the control room officer said.

    The Indian weather bureau forecast that heavy rain will continue to inundate Gujarat for another 48 hours.

    Last month, more than 50 people were killed in the coastal state as the annual monsoon swept across the country.

    The monsoon is vital for South Asia especially for crop production. India receives nearly 80 percent of its annual rainfall from June to September.

    str-tha/ds/sm

    © 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

  • Empowering women against natural disasters in Bangladesh
    Source: World Food Programme
    Country: Bangladesh

    WFP project engages 1,800 ultra-poor individuals under a two-year resilience programme where participants, mostly women, take part in food-and-assets for work-and-training activities aimed at [disaster risk reduction.

    By Maherin Ahmed

    During the rainy monsoon months, up to 70 percent of Bangladesh gets inundated, making it tough for coastal communities to rebuild their lives.

    In Royganj, Sirajganj, Sima Rani Das stands in ankle-deep mud along the roadside holding a makeshift soil leveler with one hand while directing her peers with the other. “Everybody make sure to drink water,” she said, as the sun had reached its zenith and the temperature swelled to over 30 degrees celsius. About 25 women were fortifying a road embankment, built to prevent flooding and support a road in Rampur village.

    Enhancing resilience to natural disasters and effects of climate change

    Sima, 34, is a group leader for the Saemaul Zero Hunger Community Project, which is implemented by the World Food Programme (WFP) in partnership with the Local Government Engineering Department and non-governmental organisations through funding from the Republic of Korea. The project engages 1,800 ultra-poor individuals under a two-year “Enhancing Resilience to Natural Disasters and the Effects of Climate Change” programme where participants, mostly women, take part in food-and-assets for work-and-training activities aimed at disaster risk reduction.

    Receiving food for community work activities

    Community groups such as Sima’s, construct or repair embankments, raise roads, excavate irrigation canals and lift homesteads; in return they receive food, vouchers or cash.

    Sima digs soil, moves it up the slope and instructs the team on digging and dressing. “I have been providing training on slope, width and length measurements. I have never worked outside my house, this is the first time! As a group leader, I support my team as much as I can,” Sima explained, just as their workday was ending.

    “Our area is prone to flooding, and water often flows into our houses during the rainy monsoon months,” Sima recalls.

    Empowering women while sustaining incomes

    In 2014, Sima worked 78 days and received 156 kg rice, 16 kg pulses, 8 kg oil - about 4,500 taka (USD$58) as remuneration. “Before, my husband was the sole breadwinner, but now that both of us are working we can buy more nutritious food and save money,” she said. Their combined income is 7,000 taka (USD$90). “Last year I bought a cow for 9,000 taka and this year I want to repair our house,” Sima shared as she sat by the dining table in her family’s small and tidy home, not far from the reinforced embankment.

    Self-employment plays an important role in empowering women and sustaining economic gains at the household level. In the third year of the Saemaul Zero Hunger Community Project, a female member of each participating household receives a one-off cash grant for investment and 12 months of monthly subsistence allowance in order to help the woman strengthen her family’s resilience by starting income-generating activities and diversifying monetary sources.

    Before participating in the project, Sima did not have much decision-making authority in the family. “I rarely left the house, I did whatever chores my husband or in-laws asked me to do. Now I am independent,” smiled Sima. “When I earn money, I can go to the market, buy meat and cook just the way I wish. I don’t need permission from anyone!”

    Start small, dream big

    Sima and her team members also took part in a six-month training that taught them about various topics, including disaster preparedness,nutrition, health awareness and gender equality.

    “I did not know the importance of cleaning a wound and applying an antiseptic cream,” she said. “I also did not know that a girl should not marry before she turns 18. Now mothers of daughters are more aware.”

    Sima, herself a proud mother of a healthy six-year-old boy, dreams of his future. “I want him to study. I want him to be a pilot, doctor or lawyer. He will study and get a good job, then he will get married.”

    In 2014, the Enhancing Resilience programme provided food or cash to more than 81,000 participants for efforts invested in rebuilding communal assets and receiving training. Including family members of the participants, over 400,000 people in 129 disaster-prone unions benefited from the programme. Eighty-six percent of workers and trainees during the first two years of the programme were women.

    Author: Maherin Ahmed --------------------- Maherin Ahmed is the Communications Officer for WFP in Bangladesh.

  • Syrian conflict a ‘shameful blot’ on world’s conscience, UN humanitarian chief tells Security Council
    Source: UN Security Council
    Country: Syrian Arab Republic

    A political solution is more urgent than ever to end this brutal conflict and the immense suffering of beleaguered civilians, says Stephen O'Brien.

    SC/11984

    7493rd Meeting (AM)
    Security Council
    Meetings Coverage

    With no humanitarian solutions to the crisis in Syria, the immense suffering of its people would only worsen until a political settlement ended the conflict, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today.

    Syria today was “the most acute, unrelenting and shameful blot on the world’s humanitarian conscience”, said Stephen O’Brien, who recently replaced Valerie Amos as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. There were no humanitarian solutions to the crisis and each day that passed without the parties upholding their most basic obligations to protect civilians only resulted in more lives lost, more people displaced and without access to basic services and a generation of children who struggled to obtain an education or to have any sense of a future for themselves.

    A political solution was more urgent than ever to end this futile, hopeless cycle of brutality and violence, he said, urging the Council to consider its options through their eyes and the lens of the long-suffering Syrian people.

    “With much regret, my inaugural statement to the Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria continues where my predecessor left off, chronicling yet another month of grim statistics to convey the horrors of a brutal conflict and the immense suffering of beleaguered civilians, particularly women, children, the elderly and those living with disabilities,” he said.

    Briefing on the implementation of three Council resolutions adopted in 2014 by the parties to the conflict, Mr. O’Brien said that the Secretary-General’s latest report was no different from the previous ones in detailing the widespread violations of international humanitarian law and the inability or unwillingness of all parties to uphold their basic legal obligations. About 12.2 million Syrians were in need of humanitarian assistance today and an estimated 220,000 people had been killed in the conflict, he said. Over the past weeks, violence had continued to escalate across the country. Not even residential neighborhoods or areas of community life, including markets, schools, hospitals and places of religious worship, were immune from attack.

    Intense fighting had caused a surge in displacement, with over 1 million people having left their homes in 2015 so far, adding to the 7.6 million already internally displaced as of the end of 2014. Another tragic milestone was reached when the number of registered refugees hit 4 million in early July, the largest refugee population from a single conflict worldwide in more than 25 years.

    The parties to the conflict continued deliberately to cut essential services, such as water supply, to civilians, he said. The lack of access to clean water had resulted in a significant increase in waterborne diseases during the summer, including acute diarrhoea, Hepatitis A and typhoid. The conflict was also gradually destroying the country’s social and economic fabric, eroding development gains made over several generations, with 80 per cent of people living in poverty, food insecurity rampant amid rising prices and families and community networks destroyed. The trauma and emotional toll on civilians should be not overlooked. A child born in 2011 and entering school in 2015 would only know war. The conflict was producing “a completely lost generation of educated Syrians, which bodes ill for the future we all hope Syria would one day start rebuilding”, he said.

    In the first months of 2015, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations provided food assistance for 5.8 million people per month, medicine and supplies for nearly 9 million treatments, water and sanitation support for almost 5 million people and basic relief items, such as blankets, and other necessities of life for nearly 3 million people. It was vital that humanitarian organizations had the necessary resources to do their work. Yet, the response plan for Syria was only 27 per cent funded.

    Warning against the dangerous security environment, he noted that 77 humanitarian workers had been killed since the start of the conflict, with 32 United Nations staff members detained or missing, including 28 from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Speedy and sustained access to those in need of assistance was vital as some 4.6 million people, or a quarter of the country’s population, lived in areas extremely hard to reach for humanitarian actors. The Government approved an additional number of interagency convoys in June, but 45 convoy requests, including 33 made on 1 July, remained pending, he said, urging the approval of those requests.

    On Wednesday, 29 July, Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, was expected to brief the Council about the political situation in Syria.

    The meeting began at 10:23 a.m. and ended at 10:38 a.m.

    For information media. Not an official record.

  • Africa at risk of large meningitis outbreak, vaccine critically needed
    Source: World Health Organization
    Country: Niger, Nigeria, World

    An acute shortage of meningitis C-containing vaccine threatens to severely limit the world’s ability to minimize the number of people affected, four international public health organizations warned today.

    International partners call for immediate increase in vaccine production to ward off danger

    News release

    ​28 JULY 2015 | GENEVA - With Africa at risk of a large meningitis outbreak, an acute shortage of meningitis C-containing vaccine threatens to severely limit the world’s ability to minimize the number of people affected, four international public health organizations warned today.

    International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO) (the 4 organizations, which together constitute the International Coordinating Group for Vaccine Provision for Epidemic Meningitis Control - ICG) are therefore calling today on vaccine manufacturers to step up meningitis C-containing vaccine production by 5 million doses before the 2016 meningitis season starts in January.

    “Meningitis tends to hit Africa in cycles. Cases of meningitis C have been rising since 2013, first in Nigeria in 2013 and 2014, and then in Niger in 2015. We have to be ready for a much larger number of cases during the 2016 meningitis season,” said Dr William Perea, Coordinator for Control of Epidemic Diseases Unit at WHO.

    “We have had preliminary discussions with vaccine manufacturers and impressed upon them the need to produce a stockpile of 5 million doses of vaccine so as to be ready for flare-ups of the disease next year in Africa, but so far they haven’t yet revised their production plans to meet demand,” said Dr Imran Mirza, Helath Specialist, Program Division, UNICEF.

    While substantial progress has been made in recent years in protecting Africa from other main sub-types of meningitis with, for example, the introduction of the MenAfrVac vaccine against meningitis A in 2010, much work needs to be done to protect the African meningitis belt from meningitis C outbreaks.

    “We have been working to reinforce detection and response systems, and are working to secure other sources of meningitis C vaccine in Cuba and Brazil, but the manufacturers have not yet submitted an application for WHO prequalification,” said Mr Alejandro Costa, ICG Secretariat. Until they do, we can only turn to those manufacturers who are already prequalified and have provided vaccine in the past. We need to get them to produce and provide vaccine, in the right quantity and at an affordable price.”

    “In just the first six months of 2015, there have been 12,000 cases of meningitis C in Niger and Nigeria, and 800 deaths. At the same time, there has been a critical shortage of vaccine,” said Dr Myriam Henkens, International Medical Coordinator, MSF. “The campaigns consequently were limited to the critically affected age groups and areas, and even so, had to be delayed until vaccine supply became available and we believe next year will be worse. We need vaccine manufacturers to plan production of multivalent vaccine now to allow sufficient lead time and capacity to meet this demand.”

    The ICG stresses that vaccination remains key to preventing meningitis. “Since the introduction of the meningitis A conjugate vaccine (MenAfriVac) in 2010 in 15 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the meningitis disease burden has been dramatically reduced. No epidemics of meningitis A have been reported in areas where the population has been vaccinated. We need now to do the same for meningitis C,” said Ms Amanda McClelland, Senior Officer, Emergency Health, IFRC.

  • Surviving summer in an Iraqi camp
    Source: IRIN
    Country: Iraq, Syrian Arab Republic

    Some 250,000 displaced Iraqis and 100,000 Syrian refugees are living in camps under canvases, tarpaulins and blankets that barely shield them from the blistering summer heat.

    By Chloe Cornish

    ERBIL, 28 July 2015 (IRIN) - Fa'iza escaped from Mosul when the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) invaded. She has breast cancer and her symptoms are made worse by the extreme heat. It's 46 degrees Celsius in Baharka, a camp for displaced Iraqis in the northern Kurdistan region, and the mother-of-five is fraught. A long power cut has rendered her fan motionless for most of the morning. “I am sick,” she says. “And this heat makes it much harder.”

    The war against ISIS has forced 3.1 million Iraqis to flee their homes. An additional 251,000 Syrians are registered as refugees in Iraq. After facing floods, snow and ice this past winter, the summer has brought sandstorms and highs of 50 degrees Celsius.

    Some 250,000 displaced Iraqis and 100,000 Syrian refugees are living outside in camps under canvases and patchworks of tarpaulins and blankets which barely shield them from the blistering summer heat.

    “We have no other choice but to cope,” says Khudair, who fled from ISIS-occupied Fallujah and now lives in Hayy al-Jamiyah, a camp in Baghdad run by the local Sunni community. “Living in this camp is our best option. The air cooler truly helps,” he says, adding: “We take a minimum of two showers per day.”

    The impact of the heat is severe.

    “During the summer, we usually see an increase in [deaths] as a result of gastroenteritis,” says Mostafa Munjid, a doctor with the International Medical Corps who oversees medical care in four displacement and refugee sites. “Sometimes because of the camp situation and storage of food; sometimes because of contamination of water,” Munjid explains.

    A bold IKEA

    In Baharka, the camp in northern Iraq, the tactics are similar to Baghdad. “We distributed air coolers,” says camp manager Ahmed Ramadan Abdul of local NGO the Barzani Charity Foundation. “They can use them if there is electricity.” Ahmed hopes a donor will provide a second generator for the camp to allow more people to benefit.

    But the use of the air coolers is problematic even if there is electricity. They use between 100 and 160 litres of water per day. International organisations are advised against providing them, to avoid burdening infrastructure. A scuffle broke out last week, for example, between two families in Erbil's Kawergosk refugee camp vying for a share of the sporadic water supply.

    Originally constructed in August 2013 as a transit camp for 6,000 people, Kawergosk is now home to more than 10,000 Syrian refugees. Built by the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, and managed by the Danish Refugee Council, the infrastructure is under extra pressure during the summer months, raising tensions in the camp. Three boreholes work continuously to provide water; trucks deliver an additional 80,000 to 100,000 litres every day. Power is supplied for a predictable 19 hours per day, but water is available for only four hours, and at erratic times.

    Video Surviving Iraq's heat

    “For two years, we have all been fighting over water,” says Siham Mohammad Yasin, head of the Kawergosk residents’ Water, Sanitation and Hygiene committee. Water pressure is patchy and the inequality causes divisions. Residents closer to the pump cultivate attractive beds of sunflowers, while those living at the end of the pipe sometimes have barely enough water for washing.

    As the Syrian refugee crisis wears on, there has been more of an effort to come up with longer-term housing solutions that offer a greater emphasis on sustainability. Kawergosk now has three types of shelter, with different levels of heat protection and water provision.

    The camp's 12 most vulnerable families are in Refugee Housing Units, the result of collaboration between Swedish furniture manufacturer IKEA, UNHCR and Better Shelter. The innovative “flat-pack” structures offer some climactic control thanks to a specialised shading sheet on the roof and rigid, opaque walls as opposed to sun-absorbing canvas. Around 300 of these units are being tested across Iraq.

    See also: 10,000 flat-pack IKEA shelters for Iraqi displaced

    On the other side of the camp, Wasila and Mahmoud live with their five children in a “permanent-face” shelter, built, at least in part, with breeze block walls. They have their own toilet, washing facilities and a kitchen. There is a concrete foundation beneath their tent and extra land to put up shading. “We have more space for the children and more privacy,” says Wasila. Thanks to an air cooler, a fan, and winter blankets used to block out the sun, the temperature is bearable.

    But delays in completing these permanent plots mean that although the UNHCR tents are meant to last just nine months, more than half of Kawergosk's residents have lived in them for two years. They share communal latrines, cooking facilities, and four water taps between 25 families. Without walls and space for shading, it is much harder to keep these tents cool.

    “We hope for a permanent shelter,” Yasin, who lives in a non-permanent tent, tells IRIN. “It is the best future for us.”

    A tiny fraction of a solution

    They are the most visible populations that suffer from the extreme summer heat, but those in the camps only represent a small minority of the people in Iraq who need help with shelter. The International Organization for Migration reports that 67 percent of displaced people live in rented houses or with host families, another 10 percent in abandoned or partially constructed buildings, and a further 10 percent in informal settlements, schools or religious buildings.

    Azneef is an Armenian Christian from Hamdaniya in northern Iraq. After fleeing the ISIS advance last summer, she stayed in the skeleton of an incomplete shopping mall, but left after falling down some steps and smashing glass into her eyes and hands. After her daughter found work as a hotel receptionist, they managed to rent a house in Erbil, but Azneef says the cost of the air-conditioning in the summer may force them to leave.

    “I know we will not be able to pay the electricity bill,” she says. Azneef hopes friends in Erbil's Armenian Christian community might help her buy a pre-fabricated cabin to live in instead.

    As more and more displaced people run out of resources, there is concern that many will be forced to move into camps, where they do not have to pay rent and facilities are free. Such a shift has a recent precedent in Iraq. Since the contraction of the Kurdistan region's economy in 2014, many Syrian refugees who could no longer find work moved into camps. Even previously unpopular sites are now full.

    “If we don't have the resources to support people in rental accommodations, we will have to find space in the camps for millions of people,” says Tom Corsellis, Iraq Shelter Cluster co-chair.

    Accordingly, people living outside camps are prioritised for so-called “summerisation” assistance. NGOs and INGOs are encouraged to distribute unconditional cash assistance to help people living out of camps cope with the heat. “Sealing-off kits” provided during the winter block the windows of abandoned buildings, helping to even out daily temperature changes during summer. But due to lack of funding, only the most vulnerable have received summer shelter support.

    “It is much cheaper for people to stay in cities,” says Corsellis. “If we don't have money to help them do so, we'll have to invest in new camp infrastructure.” For an underfunded humanitarian response already cutting programmes for desperate refugees and displaced families, the knock-on effects could be disastrous.

    cc/jd-ag

  • Nine die as heavy rains continue to batter interior of Sindh
    Source: DAWN Group of Newspapers
    Country: Pakistan

    The government in Gilgit-Balochistan has increased relief efforts for flood-affectees in Chitral. Ten water supply schemes damaged in the recent floods have also been reconstructed.

    Rescue and relief operations by civil administration and army contingents are under way in flood-hit areas across Pakistan, said a report published on Radio Pakistan on Tuesday.

    Yesterday, The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had issued alerts to the government agencies concerned and provincial disaster management authorities (PDMAs) for a possible flood in River Indus and heavy rains in different parts of the country.

    Read: NDMA issues flood alerts to provinces

    More than 6,600 affectees in Chitral provided with treatment

    The government in Gilgit-Balochistan has increased relief efforts for flood-affectees in Chitral. Ten water supply schemes that were damaged in the recent floods have also been reconstructed.

    Meanwhile, water-borne diseases are rapidly spreading in Chitral as several areas remain inundated after heavy rains and floods. A report regarding the current situation has been sent to the director of General Health Services Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by District Health Officer (DHO) Israrullah.

    According the report, since the past three days more than 6,600 people were provided with treatment in different health facilities in flood-hit areas of Chitral including 2,300 women and 1,500 children.

    The DHO told DawnNews that more than eight mobile teams have been sent to various affected areas of the district. He added that shortage of necessary medicine is feared as the demand is high and arranging medicine from Peshawar takes time.

    Israrullah added that arrangements for a spray in the flood-hit areas is under way, where accumulation of mud has resulted in diseases. The floods also damaged eight Health Units in different areas, he said.

    Chitral Hospital's Child Specialist Gulzar Khan said that since the past three days, the number patients is increasing rapidly. He said that most reported cases are typhoid, diarrhea, malaria and gastro. Due to the polluted water, hepatitis is also spreading in flood-affected areas.

    Israrullah said that his office is regularly in touch with concerned authorities in different areas. He said, arrangements have been made to provide medical help to flood-affected people in far-off areas.

    Relief camps set up in seven districts of Punjab

    Punjab's provincial cabinet committee has been directed by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to take all measure to protect the lives and properties of people in low-lying areas along rivers. He added that adequate stock of necessary medicine should be made available for victims in medical camps and additional boats to be sent to affected villages in south Punjab.

    Three-time meals are also being provided by the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PMDA) in Punjab to flood affectees in relief camps that have been set up in seven districts of Punjab.

    Relief Commissioner Punjab Nadeem Ashraf reportedly said that 8,600 tents and 232 boats have been provided to district administrations for relief efforts. He added that livestock in flood-hit areas is also being vaccinated.

    More than 500 villages in Sindh affected by rising flood water

    Relief operations are also under way in Sindh's flood-hit areas of Sukkur, Larkana, Khairpur, Kashmor and Ghotki. More than 500 villages in these districts have reportedly been submerged due to rising flood water in River Indus.

    Help desk set up in KP to help flood affectees

    In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Director General PDMA Amir Afaaq informed that various organisations are making efforts to provide clean drinking water, shelter and health facilities to flood affectees. He added that the PDMA also established a help desk to efficiently cater to complaints of the affected people.

    The Flood Forecasting Division said on Monday that River Indus was in high flood at Chashma and Kalabagh and in medium flood at Taunsa whereas the Met Office forecast heavy but scattered rains across Punjab and Kashmir for 24 hours with an interval on Wednesday and continuation of the wet weather from Thursday to Saturday.

  • Latest Global Emergency Overview highlights measles in DRC and cholera outbreak in South Sudan
    Source: Assessment Capacities Project
    Country: Afghanistan, Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Uganda, Ukraine, World, Yemen

    The weekly Global Overview aggregates information from a range of sources and provides the latest updates on and a ranking of current humanitarian crises.

    Snapshot 22–28 July 2015

    Somalia: More than 10,000 people have been displaced in Lower Shabelle and Bay regions since AMISOM and Somali armed forces began their offensive. Al Shabaab has lost control of Bardhere in Gedo and Dinsoor in Bay. In accessible areas of Hudur town, Bakool, 33% GAM and 19% SAM were observed in a MUAC assessment in July – a significant deterioration since June. Very critical malnutrition rates persist in Bulo Burde, Hiraan.

    DRC: Measles has broken out in Maniema, with 415 cases recorded so far. 2,115 cases have been reported in Orientale this year, and 15,000 in Katanga. One reason for the rise in cases is lack of vaccination. Dungu, in Haut-Uele, Orientale, has seen a significant fall in WASH coverage and routine vaccination.

    South Sudan: The cholera outbreak continues, with 1,375 cases recorded since 18 May, most in Juba county. At 3.2%, the case fatality rate is double the global average. In Unity state, the government has prevented food aid reaching Malakal.

    Updated: 28/07/2015. Next update 04/08/2015.

  • UN seeks communities good at managing disaster risk
    Source: UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
    Country: World

    UNISDR today launched a search for communities that demonstrate excellence in managing disaster risk to draw attention to the importance of local knowledge in tackling emergencies.

    28 July 2015, GENEVA – The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) today launched a search for communities that demonstrate excellence in managing disaster risk in order to draw attention to the importance of local knowledge, traditions and customs in the struggle against extreme weather events, climate change and earthquakes.

    Margareta Wahlström, the head of UNISDR, said: “We want to identify and honour communities which exemplify the use of traditional, indigenous and local knowledge and practices, to complement scientific knowledge in disaster risk management. Over 19 million people from communities across the globe were newly displaced by disasters last year and we need to improve our understanding of how local practices can contribute to better management of disaster risk.

    “Under the campaign slogan, KNOWLEDGE FOR LIFE, we are seeking nominations from governments, local governments and civil society organizations for communities which should be declared Champions of Disaster Risk Reduction for their efforts. The first communities to be designated Champions will be announced on International Day for Disaster Reduction, Tuesday, October 13, this year.”

    The newly adopted global agreement, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, contains several references to the need for a strong focus on communities and indigenous peoples, their traditional, indigenous and local knowledge and practices, in the design and implementation of policies, plans and standards for disaster risk management. Nominations and queries should be addressed to iddr2015@un.org by COB September 14, 2015.

  • Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp turns three, challenges remain for 81,000 residents
    Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees
    Country: Jordan, Syrian Arab Republic

    More than half the population are children, presenting challenges not just on how to provide schooling and restore abruptly halted educations in Syria, but also in investing for the future.

    GENEVA, July 28 (UNHCR) – As Jordan's Za'atari camp – the largest refugee camp in the Middle East – prepared to mark its third anniversary, the UN refugee agency revealed on Tuesday (July 28) an increase in the number of refugees seeking shelter in camps across the rest of the country.

    UNHCR said that living conditions for more than half a million refugees living outside of camps in the country had become increasingly tough, swelling the population of other camps. The latest survey showed 86 per cent of urban refugees live below the Jordanian poverty line of 68 JOD (approx. US$95) per capita per month.

    "With Za'atari at capacity, the number of urban refugees seeking shelter in Jordan's second camp, Azraq, increased fourfold in the first six months of this year," UNHCR spokesperson Ariane Rummery told a press briefing in Geneva.

    In the first half of 2015, 3,658 people returned to Azraq from urban areas, compared to just 738 in the second half of 2014.

    This trend is driven by increasing vulnerability of urban refugees in Jordan whose savings are depleted after years in exile, and who are unable to find secure legal livelihoods. Those living in Amman, in particular, are trying to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the Middle East.

    Most have already seen the value of their monthly WFP food vouchers being cut in recent months and now face the prospect of losing them entirely from next month.

    Za'atari camp is the largest refugee camp in the Middle East, with around 81,000 Syrian residents. The temporary settlement was established on 29 July 2012 amid huge inflows of refugees from Syria.

    The camp was set up in nine days, and has grown in large stages since. Initially there were problems with electricity for lighting and for refugees to charge their mobile phones – the sole means by which they could keep in touch with families back in Syria and elsewhere.

    Lines of tents that housed the first refugees to arrive in Za'atari have now been replaced by prefabricated shelters. More than half the population are children, presenting challenges not just on how to provide schooling and restore abruptly halted educations in Syria, but also in investing for the future. One in every three children is not attending school.

    There are also some 9,500 young people in the camp aged between 19-24 who need skills training and, like their older counterparts, also need livelihood opportunities. Some 5.2 per cent of these were at university in Syria but had to drop out due to the conflict, while just 1.6 per cent successfully graduated.

    "More opportunities must be found for this generation, and the millions of other refugees around the region in similar predicaments," said Rummery. "They are the future of Syria."

    In all, more than 4,015,000 refugees are registered in the region neighbouring Syria, including some 629,000 in Jordan.

  • Burundi: Overall environment ‘not conducive’ to credible election process - UN
    Source: UN News Service
    Country: Burundi

    Violence, although observed in a less intense degree than during the period preceding the 29 June elections, remained an unfortunate feature of the entire process, judged the UN Electoral Observation Mission.

    27 July 2015 – While the 21 July election in Burundi that won President Pierre Nkurunziza a controversial third term was relatively peaceful and conducted adequately, the overall environment was ‘not conducive’ for an inclusive, free and credible electoral process,” the United Nations Electoral Observation Mission in the country (MENUB) announced today.

    This was the main conclusion of MENUB’s preliminary findings on the conduct of the presidential polls in Burundi, which took place after two postponements in an environment of “profound mistrust” between opposing political camps. The decision of the incumbent President to run for another term precipitated a deep political and socioeconomic crisis, the mission said.

    “The Constitutional Court's ruling on the admissibility of the President's candidature for a third mandate did not solve the wider political problem of presidential term limits in Burundi, but rather exacerbated further controversy, protests and tensions,” the Mission explained in a statement issued today.

    Freedoms of expression, assembly and association, essential conditions for the effective exercise of the right to vote, remained severely impaired. “Violence, although observed in a less intense degree than during the period preceding the 29 June [legislative and communal] elections, remained an unfortunate feature of the entire process.”

    The various dialogue efforts, including the most recent initiative under the leadership of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and the East African Community (EAC), remained inconclusive, stated MENUB.

    “Also, the parties did not reach agreement on a consensual electoral calendar. Nevertheless, on election day, Burundians in most places went peacefully to the polls to cast their ballots.”

    Out of the eight presidential candidates, four declared that they would withdraw from the race. However, their names remained on the ballot, pointed out the Mission.

    It also found that media freedom remained severely restricted. “Private and independent media outlets that were destroyed during the failed coup did not reopen, despite national and international appeals to the Burundian government to enable media to operate. State-owned media did not provide balanced media coverage to all presidential candidates.”

    The Commission électorale nationale indépendante (CENI) conducted adequate logistical preparations for the presidential elections and polling activities in the observed polling sites largely followed procedures, the UN observers noted.

    But tabulation at the observed municipal and provincial locations was carried out expeditiously, albeit in a disorganized manner, they said.

    In conclusion, MENUB reiterated the Secretary-General's call “for the cessation of all forms of violence respect of basic human rights and resumption of dialogue.”

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