In Mogadishu UN Emergency Relief Coordinator urges aid to civilians

12 May 2007The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator today became the highest-ranking UN official to visit Somalia’s capital Mogadishu since the early 1990s, and amid continued violence called for increased relief aid to civilians there. The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator today became the highest-ranking UN official to visit Somalia’s capital Mogadishu since the early 1990s, and amid continued violence called for increased relief aid to civilians there.John Holmes undertook the mission to assess the humanitarian situation in the areas affected by the recent fighting, to commit parties in Somalia to respect International Humanitarian Law, and to encourage authorities to allow full and unhindered humanitarian access to populations in dire need of assistance and protection. “It is the authorities’ responsibility to look after civilians, to protect civilians and at the very least not to obstruct aid,” Mr. Holmes said. He noted that access and insecurity have impeded the provision of humanitarian assistance commensurate with the needs of the population. During his visit, Mr. Holmes met President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi. The USG highlighted his concerns about the severity and magnitude of the crisis and stressed that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) must provide a more enabling operating environment for aid workers. On its part, the TFG noted its desire to cooperate with international organizations. Mr. Holmes also visited a cholera treatment centre which has admitted 308 patients just in the last month, as well as a former embassy now hosting 150 displaced families, some for as long as 17 years. Many are pastoralists and agro-pastoralists who have lost their livelihoods, who are unable to find work in the capital, and who lack the means to return to their former lives. In addition, he met with representatives of civil society in the capital, including elders and women’s groups. Together, they discussed the dire situation that has prevailed in Mogadishu. “I feel enormous sympathy for the suffering that the Somali people have endured,” Mr. Holmes said. “I am here to help, and I will continue to advocate tirelessly on their behalf,” he concluded. A bomb exploded a few minutes after Mr. Holmes arrived in the Somali capital, and two other bombs went off within half an hour, all on the path of his itinerary. Personnel from the Africa Union Mission to Somalia defused a fourth explosive device, also on the route of his itinerary. Mr. Holmes returned to Nairobi today, and plans for a second day in Somalia were cancelled. Mr. Holmes will continue his mission, traveling to Uganda from 14 to 16 May, where he will conduct discussions in the capital, Kampala, and travel to new settlement sites and camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kitgum District in northern Uganda. read more

UN refugee agency backs plan to boost protection for people fleeing disasters

Delegates endorsed the “Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change” at the Nansen Initiative Global Consultation in Geneva, which concluded Tuesday. The Agenda identifies the practices necessary to address the possible protection needs of people displaced across borders in the context of disasters and climate change, in a principled and practical way. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has, from the very beginning, been a staunch supporter of the Nansen Initiative and is committed to continuing to work with relevant partners to maximize support to States.The non-binding agreement adopted at the meeting pledges to protect people driven to other countries by disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, droughts and rising sea levels. “Among the most important lessons derived from the Nansen Initiative is that states can prevent and prepare for increased displacement in future when the right policies are in place,” UNHCR said in a press release. The UN refugee agency has also launched an overview highlighting its work on the environment and climate change, which has been released at a time when more and more people are vulnerable to environmental disasters and changing global temperatures. UNHCR notes that the majority of the almost 60 million people displaced around the world today are situated in ‘climate change hotspots.’ The overview also sets out UNHCR initiatives to tackle climate and disaster displacement, including the development of guidance, together with the Brookings Institution and Georgetown University, on planned relocation of populations threatened by disasters and climate change. With the upcoming UN conference in Paris, known informally as COP 21, where global leaders will meet to reach consensus on a historic climate change agreement, UNHCR has renewed its call for states to reach an accord that takes into account the growth of climate-change related human mobility and the need to take proactive measures in response. “If we can draw any lessons from the current refugee situations in Europe and the Middle East, it is to take the forecasting seriously, accept the realities of migration and displacement, and deal with them effectively and as a matter of urgency,” said UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk in his address at the Nansen Consultation. “Radical action is required of us now to mitigate against the worst effects of climate change. The Paris agreement presents an opportunity to achieve this,” he added. read more