Virus ‘creates coping crisis’ for nearly 40M refugees

A report by the United Nations refugee agency and a prominent non-government organization (NGO) released Monday found that tens of millions of internally displaced people or those hit by conflict could lose out on humanitarian protection support due to insufficient funding.

Almost 40 million of them could suffer in 2020, said the UNHCR and Norwegian Refugee Council report, specifying places such as the Central African Republic, Mali, Yemen, and northern Mozambique.

“The human toll of the pandemic on the world’s vulnerable should not only be measured by the number of lives it has taken but by the eclipsing number it has shattered,” said the council’s Jan Egeland. “Covid-19 has hardest hit millions of people with absolutely no access to protection services. Children recruited by armies cannot reclaim lost childhoods. Women raped and beaten wear their scars for life.”

Lockdowns trigger gender-based violence

The report, which examined data on 54 million people targeted for assistance in 26 humanitarian response plans, also said gender-based violence has increased dramatically since the onset of Covid-19.

Experts projected in April that an additional 15 million women and girls would be exposed to gender-based violence for every three-month lockdown around the world.

In Mali, over 4,400 cases of gender-based violence were reported between January and September, but only 48 percent of towns had support services, it said.

The Central African Republic (CAR) – already one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman or girl – reported gender-based violence incidents more than doubled, including rape, sexual slavery, and forced marriage.

In Niger, reports have been received of women being tortured for engaging in economic activity outside of the home and not wearing full veil coverings.

Child marriages are also on the rise.

According to UN estimates, 13 million more underage marriages could occur over the next decade due to the side effects of the pandemic.

Trafficking is also a concern, with protection aid workers in 66 percent of the countries surveyed reporting that people are at increased risk of trafficking due to the virus.

“The world cannot afford to be complacent and indifferent to their plight. Millions of lives are at stake. Humanitarians can only do so much,” said Gillian Triggs, the UNHCR’s assistant high commissioner for protection. “Armed conflict continues to be the main driver of forced displacement, so peace is indispensable to end conflict and suffering.”

In Mali, 66 percent of gender-based violence survivors reported since January are girls younger than 18.

Between 2013 and 2019, the protection sector received only 38 percent of its requirements for humanitarian aid. As of November, this year it had only gotten 24 percent.

Northern Mozambique is one of the fastest-growing protection crises in the world.

In November, civilians witnessed massacres by non-state armed groups in several villages, which resulted in beheadings and abductions of women and children.

In Yemen, on the Arabian peninsula, it is estimated that more than two-thirds of girls are married before they reach age 18, compared to 50 percent before the conflict.

Funding for protection in Cameroon in 2020 has fallen wildly short of what is needed.

Only 13 percent of its requirements have been received so far, or just USD3 per person, leaving more than 2 million people without assistance.

Source: Philippines News agency

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