How the Women's Refugee Commission is responding:
The humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) continues to deteriorate, with more than one in ten of the population now internally displaced or living as a refugee in a neighboring country. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 50 percent of the CAR population—2.3 million people—are in need of basic humanitarian assistance and 1.3 million are food insecure.
Reports of sexual violence and rape against women and girls continue to emerge from the conflict. There is widespread recruitment of child soldiers in a country where half of the population are children. On recent assessments, 50 percent of schools visited were still closed and 39 percent of all teachers were absent. Seventy percent of students have not returned to school, many citing the fear of violence as the primary reason.
Since November, the security situation has rapidly deteriorated in both the capital city, Bangui, and across the country. International NGOs are increasingly facing targeted attacks, creating further challenges and in some cases limiting their ability to reach civilians in need. The UN Security Council recently authorized an expansion of the African Union-led peacekeeping force MISCA, and the deployment of approximately 1,000 additional French troops in hopes that this effort will mitigate more significant incidents against civilians and humanitarians, not only in Bangui, but in many of the areas most impacted by violence in recent months.
Additionally, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee last week declared the CAR a level-3 emergency–the most severe. This obligates agencies to immediately and dramatically increase their staffing and funding levels to respond to the crisis.
A tremendous resurgence in violence began on December 15, 2013 in South Sudan following political upheaval. Over 120,000 people had been displaced, and probably many more, according to UN OCHA. 63,000 sought refuge in UN complexes. Unprepared for this massive and sudden influx, the UN compounds have little or no food, water, latrines, or other necessities. 45,000 people are estimated to be displaced in Awerial country in Lakes state, but security fears have prevented aid workers from reaching them. Civilians are also fleeing across state lines, walking hundreds of kilometers to reach Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, and Ethiopia.
The WRC's "Top 10 Critical Needs Facing Refugees and Those Displaced in Emergencies" highlights the critical balance between difference needs in the first days and weeks of a crisis. Protection, documentation, basic survival needs, and reproductive care are all essential.
The clash has ethnic, economic, and political roots, and has dangerous implications for the entire region. Violence is splitting along ethnic lines, stemming from South Sudanese President Salva Kiir's acussations that his former Vice President attempted a coup. Fighting has been widespread, but is most concentrated in and around the town of Bor, in Jonglei state.
Aside from the current humanitarian catastrophe, the international community is concerned that this conflict in the world's newest country will spread to the unstable East African region. South Sudan shares borders with the Central African Republic (a resurgent conflict that is also profiled on this page), the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan. The United Nations has nearly doubled the number of peacekeepers in the country, and has issued an appeal for $166 million for initial live-saving efforts.
On November 8, 2013, a massive typhoon devastated large swaths of the Philippines. An estimated 4 million people have been displaced.
Read our statement about the particular needs of vulnerable groups that must be taken into account as the world responds.
Read our statement calling on the international community to ensure children's best interests are protected in response to Typhoon Haiyan.
Read our blog on the importance of engaging youth in the response to the typhoon.
On September 3, 2013, the number of Syrian refugees passed two million, with children representing approximately half of the refugee population. On this date one year ago, there were less than 250,000 refugees from Syria; a shocking 1.8 million people have fled in the past twelve months.
As Syria’s brutal civil war continues to unfold, one third of the country’s population has fled to neighboring countries, marking this humanitarian crisis as the largest in the world, and one of the gravest in recent history. A further 4.25 million people are displaced inside Syria, according to data as of 27 August from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
‘Syria has become the great tragedy of this century - a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history,” said António Guterres, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees. “The only solace is the humanity shown by the neighboring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees.” With an average of almost 5,000 Syrians fleeing into neighboring countries every day, the need to significantly increase humanitarian aid and development support to host communities has reached a critical stage.’
The WRC’s Syria Response
Some 40% of the refugees are under 12 years old, and women make up nearly half of the entire refugee population. More than 100,000 Syrians, mostly civilians, have died. The threats to women’s and children’s safety continue to grow, and women’s voices remain absent from current attempts to find a peaceful, sustainable resolution to the current conflict.
The WRC has been on the ground in Jordan and Lebanon, assessing how the humanitarian response in these countries is meeting the needs of vulnerable groups. In Lebanon, our Disabilities Team has worked with local partners to assess if and how international relief agencies are including refugees with disabilities in their programming. To read our reports and assesments of disability inclusion in the refugee response in Lebanon click here.
In Jordan, our Sexual and Reproductive Health team conducted assesments in Z'aatri Refugee Camp and in urban refugee zones, looking at the availability of sexual and reproductive health services for refugee women and girls. Read our report "Reproductive Health Services for Syrian Refugees in Zaatri Refugee Camp and Irbid City, Jordan."
Our work in Syria's neighboring countries has allowed us to make recommendations to international agencies such as the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) about what is working for women and girls on the ground, and how to better distribute resources to meet their needs. Additionally, we have been undertaking international advocacy calling for an end to the violence in Syria, and increased funding for humanitarian assistance.
Read the open letter to the UN Security Council from the NGO Working Group on Women Peace and Security, of which the Women's Refugee Commission is a member, urging UN Member States to end the violence in Syria, to allow humanitarian agencies access to all those in need of assistance, to provide assistance to Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries and to ensure that the women and men of Syria are equally involved in rebuilding their country.
Photo:Alessio Romenzi / Corbis
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In any crisis, there is a series of essential steps that must be taken to protect and assist displaced persons. The Women’s Refugee Commission has developed a list of the of the Top 10 steps that must be taken by the humanitarian community and refugee-receiving countries to help protect the most vulnerable.
Special attention should be given to life-saving reproductive health services, particularly for survivors of sexual violence, pregnant women and newborns. The Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) outlines the basic reproductive health standards that must be met at the start of an emergency.
Safe access to cooking fuel is critical in humanitarian settings. Without it, displaced people face risks to their health, safety and well-being. Every sector, including camp coordination and camp management, food and nutrition, health or livelihoods, has a role to play in this issue--and sectors need to work together. The Women's Refugee Commission has developed a set of fact sheets for every sector to outline the issues involved, the problems and solutions.
Refugees with disabilities are extremely vulnerable and are often overlooked. The Women's Refugee Commission has developed a training "Disability Inclusion in Programs for Refugees and Displaced People." Check out the PowerPoint.