Oct 29, 2020

UPDATE: UN Security Council to Further Restrict Humanitarian Access to Northwest Syria

Violet/CARE
Violet/CARE

The recent vote by the Security Council to further restrict humanitarian access to northwest Syria is both reckless and heartless. At a time when humanitarian needs in the NW of the country have never been higher, the Council has effectively shut down the most direct access route to food, shelter and medical assistance that the majority of more than three million Syrians in the northwest depend on for their survival. We fear that this decision will increase the suffering of those in need, who are overwhelmingly women and children. They have been displaced multiple times and have few, if any, coping mechanisms left after more than nine years of conflict. Although humanitarian organisations like CARE and our amazing local Syrian partners will work tirelessly to reach people in need of assistance under these new constraints, but we know there is no substitute for the UN and a limit to how much we can try to scale up to fill the gaps that will appear very quickly. This is a dark day in the 75 year history of the UN Security Council and Syrians should rightfully question all of us for allowing this decision to stand.

It comes on the back of an equally troubling decision the Security Council made in January of this year when it closed the Syria/Iraq border crossing that the UN was using to reach 1.4 million Syrians. In recent weeks CARE joined other humanitarian organisations operating in the northeast of the country to make the case that humanitarian needs were growing, and only by reopening this crossing, could the UN help to scale-up the response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the northeast. However, the Security Council squandered the opportunity to reopen this border crossing, leaving the region scrambling to procure essential medicines, medical services and equipment that is desperately needed to respond to the pandemic. CARE continues to provide assistance to communities in northeast Syria, but we remain deeply concerned that we will not be able to sufficiently scale up our work, and the trickle of humanitarian aid coming from Damascus in recent months does not even begin to meet existing needs. All Syrians who need humanitarian assistance are entitled to receive it regardless of which part of the country they happen to live in. We hope that the Security Council will very quickly find a way to put politics aside in both northwest and northeast Syria and ensure all Syrians can enjoy a brighter future.

Syrians are in urgent need of support from the international community, and increased funding will make the difference between life and death for hundreds of thousands of innocent children and families. Start helping Syrians today.

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Oct 29, 2020

COVID-19 and Extreme Weather Events Threaten to Roll Back Gains in Rohingya Camps

Credit: Tapash Paul/CARE
Credit: Tapash Paul/CARE

The global death toll from the coronavirus has crossed 800,000 as confirmed cases surged past 23 million, with Bangladesh overtaking Pakistan to become 15th on the list of countries with most COVID-19 patients. While the country has crossed a grim milestone, there are so far fewer causalities in the densely-populated Rohingya camps that have been and still are considered one of the most vulnerable places to the ongoing pandemic. 

As of now, COVID-19 situation across the camps has been tackled somewhat successfully. However, the apparent success in keeping the virus away should not hide the fact that the risks of a COVID-19 outbreak in the camps remain very high. Despite taking all the preventative measures, it cannot fully alleviate the very difficult conditions continually present in the camps. 

Coordinated approach by the Bangladesh Government, UN organizations and NGOs including CARE has yielded results. CARE is currently responsible for co-managing three camps (Camp 13, 14 & 16) under the supervision of Camp-in-Charge (CIC) appointed by the Government.  

As an early responder, CARE intervened to ensure that the Rohingya population and the host community members have access to life saving and essential services to fight COVID-19. CARE continued with the services e.g. related to health, water and sanitation, and Gender Based Violence where community engagement sessions were also organized to sensitize women, girls, men and boys as well as community level actors to create awareness on prevention and control methods for COVID-19. Staff and community volunteers are being trained on infection prevention and control (IPC) to strengthen knowledge and skills on safe delivery of response package at all levels.

Along with COVID-19 response from March 2020, CARE has implemented a number of programs to reach 334,227 people in the past three yearsCARE especially targeted the most vulnerable groups like elderly, unwell, care-givers and people with disability for offering life-saving servicesWhile establishing over 1,000 gender-segregated latrines in camps, a total of 91 accessible latrines were constructed for families with persons with disabilityPreviously, the latrine I had to use was 20 feet away from my house. I used to face a lot of difficulties then”- shared Bashir who is 17 and visually impaired.  

Apart from working with health, water, sanitation, protection and gender-based violence issues, CARE has also worked on nutrition issues extensively. CARE provided training and capacity building support to 11 partner organizationresponsible for implementing community based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM). Over 2000 staff members from these agencies were trained to provide CMAM services across 29 out of 34 Rohingya camps  

However, COVID-19 threatens to roll back gains made on nutrition in the camps as access to food supplies, income and diverse diets become more limited. According to Nutrition Sector1, progress has been made since the onset of the crisis in August 2017, when over 700,000 Rohingya people fled from Myanmar seeking shelter and safety in Bangladesh. Global acute malnutrition among children under five has reduced from 19.3 percent in 2017 to 10.9 per cent in 2019. It is evident that COVID-19 compromises the fragile gains made over the past three years. 

Aside from COVID-19, people living in the camps also face the threat of cyclone and landslide during the monsoon period; usually between June and October. The conditions in the camps have made Rohingya communities at particular risk of disasters. The strain on services, infrastructures and the environment from the influx has also increased the vulnerability. The exposure of these communities to extreme weather events would exacerbate already existing needs and vulnerabilities, especially for the most marginalized, including women and girls, persons with disabilities, elderly persons and children. 

“Close to a million Rohingya refugees are living in highly overcrowded camps in the Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh. So far with the collective effort of all humanitarian agencies and the government we have been able to limit the spread of COVID-19 successfully. However, the risk still remains and we need to keep working with the communities on food and nutrition security, creating health awareness while reinforcing our disaster preparedness activity”- said Ram Das, Deputy Country Director – Humanitarian Response of CARE Bangladesh. 

 

About CARE: Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. Last year CARE worked in 100 countries and reached more than 50 million people around the world. To learn more, visit www.care.org and www.care-international.org. 

 

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Jul 6, 2020

UPDATE: World Refugee Crises and COVID-19

Photo by Josh Estey/CARE
Photo by Josh Estey/CARE

World Refugee 2020 sees funding for refugee response plans at an all-time low. Despite the added threat of COVID-19 across all refugee hosting countries, international financial support is significantly lower than this time last year. 

The total amount required to respond to the 6 regional refugee response plans globally represents only 11% of what experts estimate as the volume of international arms trade per year, while the amount received as of June this year represents a mere 1% of that. 

“Now, more than ever, when global solidarity is the only solution to Covid-19, CARE calls on donors and States to share responsibility for the burden of hosting refugees.  Although the percentage has declined in the last two decades, Low Income Countries continue to host the majority of refugees, says Delphine Pinault, CARE International Humanitarian Policy Advocacy Coordinator.    

As of the middle of June 2020 a total of $1.12 billion has been received out of a required $10.86 billion (10.3%) to support joined up regional responses to some of the biggest refugee crises around the world.  “While we are seeing a pattern of needs and required funding increasing year on year, the percentage of funding actually received has dropped year on year” says Emma Naylor-Ngugi CARE Regional Director for East, Central and West Africa. 

Funding is critically needed to support refugee protection, self-reliance and innovation. Across the globe, from Jordan to Uganda to Ecuador, refugees are involved in wide range of self-initiated, small scale projects to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak. All this stands at risk of being lost if more and immediate funding is not committed to support refugee communities. 

Nirvana Shawky, CARE’s Regional Director for MENA says: Despite being amongst the most at risk of exploitation, violence, and poverty, we see women refugees making extraordinary contributions to the societies in which they live. On the front line of the COVID-19 response, experienced doctors and nurses are providing their services as volunteers, and community workers are raising awareness about the pandemic through phone services. Whether they are Syrian, Sudanese, Palestinian, Iraqi or Yemeni, we are inspired every day by refugees across the region showing resilience, overcoming challenges in their daily lives, and giving back to their hosting communities. 

The resourcefulness, self-reliance and proactive response by refugees to support their own communities and find solutions in the face of COVID-19 is mirrored across the globe. 

In East Central and Southern Africa, Naylor-Ngugi continues: Refugees in our region have adapted in incredible ways to fight the adverse effects of this pandemic. In Uganda for example, we have seen women start making masks and supporting the prevention of COVID-19 in their communities. But the stark reality is that this time next year, more gaps in life saving services will need to be filled by refugees themselves and the solidarity to their often very poor hosts, potentially exceeding their capacity to cope, because there is no money. 

While in Asia, Gareth Mace, CARE’s Deputy Regional Director- Program Quality, notes; “while many people may think of refugees as passive recipients of support or assistance, CARE knows well that this often does not fit the reality. In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, we are working with and alongside Rohingya community volunteers – many of whom are women - who are taking the lead on important responsibilities like awareness raising on COVID-19 and ensuring social distancing during distributions.” 

Of the 6 current regional or joint refugee response plans, four are under 10funded, with the appeal for the Democratic Republic of Congo refugee crisis just over 3funded, despite being 6 months into the year. The South Sudan regional refugee response plan has received 5 times less funding than this time last year. These 6 response plans cover around 1/4 of the over 79.5 million people displaced at the end of 2019. 

Claudine Awute CARE Regional Director for West Africa says; “refugees have little choice but to live in camps or with host communities - it is not uncommon for 20 people or more having to share a space normally suitable for five. On top of this, they are being asked to take precautions to protect themselves against COVID-19. If they can't afford the bare minimum, and are forced to live in places where space is at a premium, how can they really protect themselves against this pandemic?" 

According to Tatiana Bertolucci, CARE Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean; “Venezuelan refugees have responded with resilience and amazing innovative thinking, contributing to their communities. Anibal comes to mind - a Venezuelan in Ecuador who despite the pandemic did not lose hope to train and become a barber. He speaks eagerly about his plans, and never lets the setbacks in life get to him. Like Anibal, let’s not forget the contribution to our society refugees bring and our duty to protect them.”

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