Archive for the ‘UNHCR’ Category

Zimbabwe Cholera Deaths Near 500; Deathly Sick Spilling Across Borders

December 2, 2008

A cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe has killed at least 484 people since August, according to the UN.

More than 11,700 cases of cholera have been recorded over the same period, an update from the UN office for humanitarian affairs said.

The cholera outbreak has affected most of Zimbabwe’s regions.

Its spread has been aided by the collapse of Zimbabwe’s health and sanitation systems amid a prolonged economic and political crisis.

Previously it had been reported that 425 people had died from cholera, which is spread by contaminated water.

The disease is endemic in Zimbabwe but this is the worst outbreak since 2000.


State media has reported that much of the capital, Harare, has been left without water because of a shortage of purification chemicals.

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Afghanistan at the crossroads: Drought, food crisis drive Afghans out of villages

November 10, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan, November 10 (UNHCR) – Severe drought and food shortages have caused thousands of people to leave their villages in Afghanistan’s north and west to find work and aid. Many more are expected to move in desperation as winter approaches.

Provinces such as Badghis, Faryab, Jawzjan, Ghor, Saripul, Balkh and Samangan have been hard hit by a harsh winter earlier this year, followed by a debilitating drought and poor harvest. The production of wheat – an Afghan staple – is reportedly down by 36 percent compared to last year, while the Ministry of Agriculture has said the country is facing a deficit of 2 million tonnes of mixed food items over the next six months.

Soaring global food prices have exacerbated the problem of food insecurity. A UN appeal in July reported that the prices of wheat and wheat flour have gone up by 200 percent countrywide over the past year. The worst affected people are the small farmers, landless people, nomads and casual labourers.

“There’s no rain this year,” complains Qadir, 25, who left his village in Balkh three months ago to find work in Kabul. “Back home, I own a plot of rain-fed land and grew wheat on it. It’s small but was enough to feed my family – until the drought. I just left the land. It’s useless.”

Saifullah, 30, chips in, “The drought has affected hundreds of families in Samangan. We cultivated seeds but couldn’t get a harvest or recoup our money. We’re all leaving.”

Momin, 18, is from Charken village in Balkh province, where he supports a family of six people. “My whole neighbourhood is affected. In the past, we could work on our farms. But now, people are going to Mazar-e-Sharif or Kabul to find jobs,” he says.

The three men have joined hundreds of others at Charahi Sarai Shomali, a busy roundabout in northern Kabul located beside a bus station that plies the route between Kabul and the northern provinces. They come here early every morning and wait for potential employers to pick them up for daily-wage labour, mostly on construction sites. They make US$3-US$4 a day and work three to four days a week on average.

To save up for their families, it’s not unusual for more than 10 of these migrant workers to share one room in Kabul. The living is rough, but at least they have some income and a roof over their heads – unlike the thousands of others who have been displaced by the drought and shortage of food and water.

The numbers of the drought-displaced vary. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimates that more than 6,500 Afghans have left their homes in the north and west as a result of the drought this year. The International Committee of the Red Cross believes some 280,000 people are suffering from its effects, and that thousands of families could leave their homes in search of food and work as winter looms.

In the last six months, UNHCR has reported the displacement of more than 2,700 families (approximately 19,000 people), mostly from or within Badghis, Balkh, Saripul and Samangan provinces. Some have gone to district centres like Mazar-e-Sharif, to nearby provinces like Herat, or to neighbouring countries such as Iran and Pakistan. All were forced to move because of food insecurity, drought or poverty.

Some families leaving Keshendeh district in Balkh dismantled their houses, indicating they had no intention to return. Those who remain said that without food and water assistance, 70 percent of the population – or some 500 families – could leave the area. UNHCR is working with other UN agencies and the government to start bringing water tankers as soon as possible.

“Meeting humanitarian needs in areas of origin is the best way to prevent food and drought-related displacement,” said Ewen Macleod, the UN refugee agency’s acting representative in Afghanistan. “This means pre-positioning aid before snow and the cold weather cut off access to some of these areas.”

Returnees have been affected too, including 183 families who returned from Pakistan to Saripul last year and recently left again for Quetta in south-western Pakistan. In the central Afghan provinces of Logar and Ghazni, food insecurity meant that returnees were too busy trying to support themselves to complete construction on their UNHCR-funded shelters. The agency worked with the World Food Programme to provide food to 700 families so that they could focus on finishing their homes before the onset of winter.

The largest recent displacement took place in Balkh, where 1,400 families left their homes in Alborz in late May and set up a makeshift camp beside a river in Sholgara district. After weeks of talks between the community, government and UN agencies, the families were transported back to their villages in mid-July, where they received food rations.

As security deteriorates in parts of the country, the UN has appealed for humanitarian access to allow aid workers to distribute food to needy communities ahead of winter. A recent report by British think tank, the Royal United Services Institute, warned that a looming famine in Afghanistan could pose a greater threat to international efforts to rebuild the country than the conflict there.

Desperation defies definition. Whether driven by hunger, thirst or poverty, thousands of Afghans are moving in an effort to survive. Asked if he plans to return home to Balkh soon, Momin the young job seeker in Kabul sighs, “If you have money, you miss your family. If you have no money, you can’t afford to miss them. You need to do something to help them.”

His friend Abdul Qadir, also from Balkh, adds simply, “If things get worse in Afghanistan, I’ll have to go to Pakistan again.”

By Vivian Tan
in Kabul, Afghanistan

Congo Nighmare: Children Famished, Sick, Exhausted

November 2, 2008

The U.N. humanitarian agency said Sunday that the violence in Congo has forced 250,000 people from their homes since rebels began their offensive in late August….children are suffering the most….Britain and France are determining if more aid can be sent….

By MICHELLE FAUL, Associated Press Writer
KIBATI, Congo – They wail and yell to show their distress: the youngest victims of eastern Congo’s latest eruption of violence have no other way to say they’re famished, sick and weary.

Thousands spent the night in the open, their mothers trying vainly to shield them from the chilly rain with cotton cloth or plastic sheets torn from sacks. Many are so weak and malnourished they have no protection against disease.

Children running as a rumor spreads that a truck is coming with food aid at a camp for displaced people north of Goma, Congo, on Sunday. (Karel Prinsloo/The Associated Press)

The U.N. humanitarian agency said Sunday that the violence has forced 250,000 people from their homes since rebels began their offensive in late August, swelling a refugee population that already stood at 1 million. More than 60 percent of the refugees are children, according to UNICEF.

Aid groups say that children are being disproportionately hit by a crisis that could expand into a full-blown humanitarian disaster if assistance is not widely distributed soon.

“We’re all so hungry. And today it doesn’t look like we’ll get any food again,” said 13-year-old Louise Maombi, who was comforting her sick 3-year-old brother outside a free clinic in a camp nearly four miles (six kilometers) north of the provincial capital of Goma. Twishime was sweating, running a high fever and crying that his body ached — typical signs of malaria.

Jaya Murthy, the spokesman in Goma for UNICEF, said emergency food, medication and tablets to chlorinate water had arrived from Rwanda on Saturday and would soon be distributed at the Kibati camp. With many aid workers having fled eastern Congo, the U.N. humanitarian agency said it would be Tuesday before food would arrive at Kibati, where the population has swelled from 15,000 to 50,000.

Even before the latest crisis, children at Kibati were reaching the “emergency threshold” where 10 percent are “skin and bones and the last stage before they perish,” Murthy said.

“We know the children are famished,” he said. “We don’t normally feel the type of desperation” displayed this week at Kibati.

The situation in eastern Congo “could have catastrophic consequences for hundreds of thousands of children who are weak, hungry and vulnerable to killer diseases,” he said. “If there is no immediate help many could die.”

Nurse Justin Majuwa of the Los Angeles-based International Medical Corps said the worst problems at Kibati’s clinic were malaria and acute diarrhea, diseases that can kill a weak baby in two or three days.

In the last couple of days, tens of thousands have headed north behind rebel lines, saying they had no choice but to get home because they could find no shelter or food.

On Saturday, a disconsolate woman wept on the roadside north of Kibati: She had fled the violence into neighboring Uganda and was making her way back through the forest when she lost her only son.

“What shall I do? What will become of me?” she wailed, tearing at the braids on her head. “I can’t go home without him and I can’t find him.”

She was too distraught to give her name.


Britain, France Say Congo Needs Much More Help

(AP)  Britain and France said Sunday that Congo needs help to maintain a fragile cease-fire between rebels and government troops, but made no offer to deploy European Union peacekeeping troops following a round of talks in the region.

In a joint statement issued on Sunday, Foreign Secretary David Miliband of Britain and his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, said any military reinforcements must first go to the 17,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Congo.

Miliband and Kouchner made a joint visit to the region from Friday, holding talks in Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania.

“The international community must support humanitarian delivery, strengthen the United Nations force MONUC, and help promote and enforce agreements,” the men said in their joint statement, referring to the UN force by its French acronym, MONUC.

Kouchner and Miliband flew to the region following a sudden and dramatic escalation of eastern Congo’s civil war in the past week which has displaced thousands of people.

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By MICHELLE FAUL, Associated Press Writer

Darfur: UN says 40,000 displaced in last 2 months

October 18, 2008

Some 40,000 civilians have been displaced in Darfur in the last two months by fighting between Sudanese government forces and rebels in the northern and central parts of the wartorn region, said the U.N. on Saturday.

By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Writer

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, right, opens a three-day meeting ...
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, right, opens a three-day meeting to discuss the situation in Darfur, at the Friendship Hall in Khartoum, Sudan Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008. The meeting is being attended by regional supporters of President Omar al-Bashir, including the African Union, the Arab League, Egypt, Libya and Qatar, but Darfur rebel groups critical to any peace talks are absent.(AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

The estimate is based on witness accounts, a brief assessment mission and reports by the Sudanese government and aid agencies working in the area, said Gregory Alex, the head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in North Darfur.

“No emergency assistance has gotten to these people,” said Alex. “For the last five or six weeks, they have been living off assistance they are getting from other people … or what they can scrounge for.”

Most of the newly displaced are living in the desert rather than in refugee camps, said Alex. Many of them had been displaced by fighting before but had returned ahead of the recent attacks, he added.

More than 2.5 million people have been displaced in Darfur and up to 300,000 killed since ethnic African groups rebelled against the Arab-dominated national government early in 2003.

A recent round of fighting began in August when government troops attacked rebel-held areas along the border with Libya in northern Darfur — sometimes accompanied by aircraft and Arab militias.

In September, the fighting moved south toward more populated areas. But the U.N. and aid workers said they have had little access to the areas because of the continued tension.

Some villages in the Jebel Marrah area in central Darfur were totally emptied by the September fighting, said an international aid worker, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of government harassment.

The locals in the area were warned ahead of the fighting and about 10,000 of them fled before it broke out, said the aid worker….

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Nearly 190,000 flee fighting in Pakistan

October 15, 2008
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Nearly 190,000 people have reportedly fled fighting between Pakistani troops and extremists near the border with Afghanistan, the United Nations said yesterday as fresh clashes in the area killed 17 extremists.

A Pakistani police commando leads a convoy of armed Pakistani ...

A Pakistani police commando leads a convoy of armed Pakistani people on patrol against Islamic militants in Mamoon Khataki Shabqader on the border of the tribal district of Mohmand Agency on October 9, 2008. A Polish engineer kidnapped two weeks ago in Pakistan by suspected Taliban militants appeared in a video address Tuesday urging the release of jailed Taliban fighters.(AFP/File/Tariq Mahmood)

Fighting is spreading across Pakistan’s rugged northwest as the government cracks down on insurgents blamed for attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan and a campaign of suicide bombings against military and Western targets within Pakistan.

Most of the clashes are taking place in Bajur, where the Pakistani military launched a big offensive in early August.

The U.N. refugee agency said 20,000 Pakistanis and Afghans had fled Bajur into eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province since the fighting began.

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Iraqi Refugees Return, and Are Stranded

December 20, 2007

Cara Buckley
The New York Times
December 20, 2007

BAGHDAD — The widow Hashim crossed the border into Iraq from Syria at dusk last month, heading homeward as the sun set behind her and the sky ahead grew dark.Her dwindling savings had bought her family passage aboard a crowded bus, but there was no telling what awaited her at journey’s end. The only sure thing was that she would have to look for a new home and a job in a city starved for work and crudely reshaped by war.

Four weeks later, Maha Hashim is sharing her uncle’s musty two-bedroom apartment with her four children, sister-in law and four nieces and nephews, in the once tortured Baghdad neighborhood around Haifa Street. She has vowed not to stay long, but has no job and cannot afford an apartment of her own. Her husband, a policeman, was killed by insurgents ….

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Iraqi Refugees: An Update

December 16, 2007

By Karen DeYoung
The Washington Post
December 16, 2007

BAGHDAD – When the Iraqi government last month invited home the 1.4 million refugees who had fled this war-ravaged country for Syria — and said it would send buses to pick them up — the United Nations and the U.S. military reacted with horror.

U.N. refugee officials immediately advised against the move, saying any new arrivals risked homelessness, unemployment and deprivation in a place still struggling to take care of the people already here. For the military, the prospect of refugees returning to reclaim houses long since occupied by others, particularly in Baghdad, threatened to destroy fragile security improvements.

“It’s a problem that everybody can grasp,” said a senior U.S. diplomat here. “You move back to the house that you left and find that somebody else has moved into the house, maybe because they’ve been displaced ….

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Another Test in Iraq: Our Aid to Refugees

August 22, 2007

 By Michael Gerson
The Washington Post
Wednesday, August 22, 2007; Page A17

The Bush administration correctly asserts that the entire Middle East, from royal palaces to terrorist camps, is watching the eventual outcome in Iraq to determine the state of American resolve. But the region is also taking a more immediate measure of America’s commitment to its friends: our response to the Iraqi refugee crisis. And this, too, is a matter of national credibility and honor.

About 2 million Iraqis have been displaced within Iraq by sectarian violence and contagious fear; another 2 million have fled the country for Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and beyond. According to the United Nations, a steady flow of new refugees continues at about 50,000 each month. For the most part, these Iraqis are not concentrated in refugee camps but dispersed in poor urban areas of cities such as Damascus or Amman,  making it difficult for humanitarian agencies to identify and reach them.

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Vietnam’s Montagnards Still Under Communist Fire; UNHCR Failing

August 20, 2007

August 18, 2007
The Co Van

Montagnards fleeing repression from the Central Highlands in Vietnam to Cambodia have come to fear a man named Eldon that works for the UNHCR in Phnom Penh. They don’t trust him and for good reason. They consider him their enemy and the guy who works for the communists in Vietnam.

Just last week, for the first time, the United Nations High Commissioner on refugees in Cambodia has finally admitted that a Montagnard named Y-Phuoc Buon Krong may have been tortured in Vietnam. Here’s the kicker why the Montagnards can never catch a break in their human rights struggle in Vietnam. The UNHCR says that they can’t talk about his torture for confidentially purposes.

Mr. António Guterres
UN High Commissioner for Refugees

I know about this type of deceit from first hand experience. I passed through Phnom Penh in late 2005 and met Eldon Hagar, UNHCR field rep, and toured the Montagnard refugee camp. On every issue, Hagar parroted the communist party line of the politburo in Vietnam, suspecting me to believe that besides the fabulous salary that a UN worker makes, only a person ingratiating himself to the totalitarian system in Vietnam must also be a true believer.

The Montagnards I met in the camp told me that they were afraid to talk to Eldon, because when they did, he reported what they said to the communist authorities. Then their families suffered reprisals.

Hagar first stunned me with this silly explanation. “Vietnam is no longer a communist country. It’s an authoritarian one,” he said. That should be startling news to the Politburo and the Vietnamese Communist Party that is the real power behind the Socialist Republic of Vietnam today. Perhaps Hagar doesn’t know about the police state control in the Provinces and Districts of Vietnam and the People’s Party that governs at every level with an iron first.

I informed Hagar that I had just come from Vietnam where I had finally located an old former South Vietnamese soldier friend of mine after 35 years. He was afraid for me to visit him in his village because the police would come after I left and cause problems for him. Hagar barely listened to me. Shrugging his shoulders he said that the same kind of thing happens in America. That’s strange talk for an American employed by the UNHCR.

Hagar lectured me on what he considered the real problem in Vietnam in regard to the Montagnards. “The Dega Christianity (tinh lanh) practiced by the Montagnards isn’t a religion at all. It’s a political movement led by Kok Ksor of the Montagnard Foundation in America to take back the Central Highlands. It has nothing to do with religion. The Montagnards have been manipulated by outside sources.”

Eldon. You’re parroting the communist party line in Vietnam. That’s the kind of stuff one reads in their newspapers controlled by the Communist Party. It’s hogwash.

But it is a fact that that Vietnamese Communist Party has confiscated huge tracts of the Montagnard homeland for their own personal use. Thousands of party members were transferred south after the war to take over the rich homeland and exploit the vast natural wealth there.

Ever the apologist, Hagar has a simple excuse for that. “Not only did they take the Montagnard land, they took all the peasant’s land in Vietnam and dispersed it as they saw fit.”

My conversation with Hagar becomes more bizarre, regarding human rights abuses.

Says Hagar, “I’ve been to Vietnam several times now to investigate the alleged human rights abuses that the Montagnards claim happen to them. There’s nothing to it. “

At the time, Hagar had only been in Cambodia for 6 months and had been the recipient of several carefully guided tours in Vietnam with an official escort. No one gets into the Central Highlands without an official communist party minder.

“We now have an employee on our UNHCR staff that investigates the reported human rights abuses. He is a Vietnamese based in Hanoi,” Hagar proudly boasts.

“Do you really believe that the communist party power apparatus would allow a Vietnamese to conduct an independent investigation? “ I asked.

Hagar’s next statement epitomizes the sell out of the Montagnards by the UNHCR when he answered,” Yes, by all means. Why wouldn’t we trust his reports? He wouldn’t jeopardize his job with us to report falsely. And if there were really any human rights abuses, don’t you think the American CIA would know about them? Don’t you think they have spies in the Central Highlands?”

The UNHCR rep in Hanoi is Vu Anh Son. Following a field trip to the Central Highlands in Oct 5-6 of 05, he came back with a glowing report. He stated that 8 of the 13 returned Montagnards are leading good lives with high stable incomes. Each of the target families earns up to hundreds of millions of Vietnamese dong a year (equal to approximately 6000 dollars)

For UNHCR to accept such a report is ludicrous and just plain dumb on their part to make it public. The $6000 a year is 30 times what a peasant in Vietnam can make in a year. Some of the best factory jobs around Saigon pay 100 dollars a month. The proselytizing department in Hanoi that directs the UNHCR rep behind the scenes needs to learn how to write more credible propaganda reports.

No one with an ounce of sense about the situation on the ground in Vietnam would believe such nonsense. It’s written for those living in the extended age of childhood, or could the UNHCR and Hagar be that naïve? Do they know how stupid they look by parroting such nonsense?

After spending several hours with Hagar, it’s plain to see why none of the human rights organizations in Phnom Penh have any respect for UNHCR. They have compromised themselves by trying to appease the tyrants who are committing what many human rights organization say is genocide against the Montagnards in Vietnam.

In July of 05, one hundred Montagnards under the care of the UNHCR were forced back to Vietnam. The guards employed night sticks and electric batons on the Montagnards who sat on the ground and refused to get on the buses to transport them back to Vietnam. Eighteen NGO’s in Phnom Penh signed a letter of protest to the Cambodian government over the abuse. I even talked to a human rights worker who witnessed the event.

View also this interview- 
you can listen to a Montagnard refugee who escaped to the US testify how he witnessed “Eldon” authorize the forced return and brutal beatings of these 100 Montagnard men, woman and children.

But Hagar offers another alibi. “Their source of information is a Human Rights Watch representative here in Phnom Penh. Human Rights Watch is not a credible source of truth here.”

HAGAR and the UNHCR are quite willing to accept anything the police state of Vietnam tells them, and to deny the legitimate humans rights abuses that the Montagnards have suffered for 32 years since the end of the Vietnam War.

Montagnards today are still fleeing Vietnam into the two eastern Provinces of Cambodia where they are hunted down for bounties and sold back to the Vietnamese Police authorities. The UNHCR’s response to this was to move their refugee camp from the Vietnamese/Cambodia border back to Phnom Penh, a distance of 200 kilometers-an impossible distance for a fleeing Montagnard to reach safety.

Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a long-time prisoner in the Communist Gulag, would have this to say to Hagar about the UNHCR’s unchallenged acceptance of what the police state system feeds them from Hanoi. “During my time in the camps, I had got to know the enemies of the human race quite well. They respect the big fist and nothing else. The harder you slug them, the safer you will be.”

Unlike Solzhenitsyn, it seems that Eldon Hagar and the UNHCR officials in Phnom Penh have become appeasers and a doormat to the “enemies of the human race.”

“Now, you will have to decide who is telling the truth here in Phnom Penh,” said Hagar as I left.

“The NGO community has their own agenda, but we at UNHCR don’t have one. We’re here to help the Montagnards.”

That parting line could not have been scripted better by beloved Big Brother in Hanoi, Vu Anh Son, who is also there to help the Montagnards.

The Co Van
Southeast Asian Traveler and Vietnam Veteran
Aug 2007

From Peace and Freedom: “Co Van” is Vietnamese for “advisor” or “consultant.”

For more information, go to the Montagnard Foundation:

Israel to turn away Darfur refugees

August 20, 2007

By MATTI FRIEDMAN, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM – Israel said Sunday it will no longer allow refugees from Darfur to stay after they sneak across the border from Egypt, drawing criticism from those who say the Jewish state is morally obliged to offer sanctuary to people fleeing mass murder.

Israel has been grappling for months over how to deal with the swelling numbers of Africans, including some from Darfur, who have been crossing the porous desert border.

The number of migrants has shot up to as many as 50 a day, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees….

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