Entries in UNHCR (3)


UN High Commissioner for Refugees Warns of ‘Unmanagable Crisis’ in Syria

BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The UN High Commission on Refugees chief António Guterres spoke to the UN Security Council on Wednesday and warned that a “moment of truth” was approaching in Syria.

Noting that the refugee crisis is “accelerating at a staggering pace,” Guterres told the council that the international community could not allow the situation in the embattled country to deteriorate any further, and that the resulting disaster could “overwhelm the international response capacity -- political, security related and humanitarian."

“This must not be allowed to happen,” he stressed.

The head of the UNHCR also explained just how much the refugee crisis had already escalated. In April of 2012, about a year after the crisis began, there were only 33,000 registered refugees in the region.

"As of [Monday], we had registered -- or given out registration appointments -- to 940,000 Syrians across the Middle East and North Africa," he said, adding that since early January, more than 40,000 people had fled Syria every week.

Within Syria, an estimated 2 million are internally displaced and more than 4 million are affected by the fighting. Three quarters of the refugees are women and children.

"The children pay the hardest price of all," Guterres said. "Thousands of young lives have been shattered by this conflict and the future generation of an entire country is marked by violence and trauma for many years to come."

"Countries of asylum have been very generous and kept their borders open, but their capacity to do so is under severe pressure," said the High Commissioner.

Guterres concluded that the situation in Syria was likely to "deteriorate further before it gets any better," and that if the international community failed to prevent these worst-case scenarios, it would need to further step up its humanitarian response.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Somalian Famine Relief Slowed By Gov't Offensive Against Insurgents

STUART PRICE/AFP/Getty Images(DADAAB, Kenya) -- The United Nations warns that famine in southern Somalia has spread to three more regions and that all of southern Somalia will be a famine zone within the next month if there is not an urgent intervention, potentially dooming tens of thousands to death by starvation.

But getting assistance to the neediest areas has been complicated by an offensive launched by African Union and Somali government troops in Mogadishu against the al Qaeda-affiliated group al Shabaab, U.N. officials said.

The AU Mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, told ABC News that it has been working to push back al Shabaab to make it easier for humanitarian groups to deliver assistance. In the last month at least 100,000 refugees have fled their drought-stricken homes to come to the war-torn capital. But two of the newly declared famine areas are both nearby and inside of the city itself.

Ej Hogendoorn, the Horn of Africa Director for the International Crisis Group, said that AMISOM has launched a pre-emptive strike against Shabaab after there were indications that the group planned to carry out a violent campaign during Ramadan. Al Shabaab launched a similar offensive last year that included a deadly suicide bombing at the Muna Hotel which killed 32 people, including government officials.

The fighting has severely hampered the ability of aid agencies to reach those who are starving.

"The ongoing offensive is negatively affecting the ability of UNHCR and other partners to deliver assistance to populations in distress at a time when their needs are most urgent," said Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, spokesperson for UNHCR in a statement.

The complication of violence is what makes Somalia's crisis so much worse than the already serious drought the rest of the Horn of Africa is facing. The famine conditions, say humanitarian groups, are the result of a deadly equation of both drought and violence. Aid agencies don't want to get involved in the politics, they say, and just want to help people.

Lejuene-Kaba tells ABC News that the increase in fighting between pro- and anti-government forces over the last three days has been particularly disruptive to the relief effort.

Hogendoorn said that AMISOM and the Somali government's military actions have been more about securing and capturing the city from Shabaab than about delivering aid.

"We want all parties to ensure that there is humanitarian access, that humanitarian space be preserved at all times," said Lejeune-Kaba. "Without that access it's the civilians who suffer."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Refugee Camps Swell as East African Famine Worsens

Oli Scarff/Getty Images(DADAAB, Kenya) -- After many families make the long, perilous journey from Somalia to the refugee camps in Kenya, they are in for another excruciating wait.

Once the refugees get through the gate they are brought inside to be registered. Fingerprints are taken and then families receive yellow bands and are given a ration that is intended to last 20 days. However, it can take two months before families can enter into one of the refugee camps.

"It is a problem," said William Spindler, the UNHCR director.

Saturday the UN said that if families run out of food, they are allowed to come back for more. But few waiting in these desert outskirts know that.

More than 1,000 refugees arrive and register every day.

The camp has now swollen to 400,000 refugees, which is equal to the population of Cleveland or Minneapolis.

Beyond the swelling refugee camps here in Kenya, the UN warned this week in emergency meetings that more than 10 million people could face starvation across the horn of Africa unless they get food and quickly.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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