25 Nov UNHCR, Roles and Humanity Helps Given to South Sudan, Ethiopia, During Pandemic 2019-2020
UNHCR, Ethiopia, and Pandemic. COVID-19 is a pandemic situation that has now spread throughout the world. On March 11, 2020, COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Until now, there are approximately 222 countries in the world that have been indicated to be affected by the spread of Covid-19, one of which is Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is the largest country located in the Horn of Africa and is the second most populous country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ethiopia has a long history of hosting refugees. This is because the Government of Ethiopia maintains an open door policy and continues to provide access and humanitarian assistance to those seeking refuge in its territory. The country has a history of accepting refugees and asylum seekers due to ongoing insecurity resulting from internal conflicts related to human rights violations related to competition/struggle over natural resources and food insecurity related to drought.
Every year, refugees to Ethiopia have increased. In 2018, 36,135 people sought safety and protection within national borders. At the beginning of 2019, the country hosted 905,831,000 refugees, who were forced to seek refuge due to insecurity, political instability, conflict, hunger and other problems in their home countries. Also in 2020 when the Tigray war broke out, the United Nations estimates, the number of Ethiopian refugees in Sudan will swell to as many as 200,000 people.
What actually caused the increase in refugees in Sudan in 2020? Who is UNHCR and what is its role in helping Sudan? And what kind of assistance is provided to help the refugees there, especially during a pandemic situation? Let’s take a look to the article below!
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is an international organization working in the humanitarian field specifically tasked with dealing with refugees globally, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. This agency was established on December 14, 1950, with the aim of protecting and providing assistance to refugees at the request of a government or the United Nations to assist the refugees in the process of moving their place of residence to a new place.
It replaces the International Refugee Organization and the United Nations Agency for Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace in 1954 and 1981. It is mandated to lead and coordinate international measures to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its main purpose is to protect the rights of refugees. This agency ensures that every refugee has the right to protection.
The 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol serve as a reference for UNHCR to assist and protect refugees so that discrimination does not occur, the protection of punishment for refugees, to the application of the principle of non-refoulement or the prohibition of forced return. The principle of non-refoulement is very important and fundamental to UNHCR because this principle must be applied by every country that is a member of UNHCR so that no exceptions or reductions are allowed to the application of this principle.
The cause of the increase in Sudanese refugees in 2020
It turns out that there is an underlying reason for the increasing number of refugees, namely the Tigray war. The root of this crisis is Ethiopia’s system of government. Since 1994, Ethiopia has had a federal system where different ethnic groups control 10 territories. The strongest political party in Tigray, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), had a hand in shaping this system.
The TPLF is the leader of a four-party coalition that has ruled Ethiopia since 1991, when the military regime was toppled. Under this coalition, Ethiopia became more prosperous and stable. But concerns about human rights and the level of democracy in the country continue to emerge.
In the end, this discontent turned into protests, leading to a government reshuffle that made Abiy be the prime minister. The liberal Abiy formed a new party (the Prosperity Party), and fired government leaders from Tigray who were accused of corruption and oppression. Meanwhile, Abiy managed to resolve the protracted territorial dispute between Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea, that made him earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.
This made Abiy even more popular, but caused unease for his critics in Tigray. Tigray leaders view Abiy’s reforms as an attempt to centralize power and destroy Ethiopia’s federal system. Their dispute surfaced in September. Tigray defied the central government’s decision and held regional elections of his own. The central government, which decided to postpone the national elections due to the pandemic, said the Tigray regional elections were illegal.
The split began to heat up in October, when the central government suspended funding and cut ties with Tigray. The local government of Tigray said the central government’s stance was tantamount to “declaring war”. When the Tigray war broke out, tens of thousands of civilians fled to the borders of neighboring Sudan. The United Nations also estimates that the number of Ethiopian refugees in Sudan will swell to as many as 200,000.
UNHCR’s role and assistance as an Aid provider
To overcome the problems of South Sudanese refugees during the increasing COVID-19 pandemic in Ethiopia, UNHCR in collaboration with various partners in Ethiopia provides various forms of Humanitarian Assistance as a manifestation of its role as an Aid Provider. Humanitarian Assistance in practice is implemented in the form of emergency relief, which is humanitarian assistance that is given quickly to refugees, such as providing protection, shelter, WASH, education, health, food and nutrition, livelihoods and the environment to refugees in South Sudan.
Provision of Protection
UNHCR and ARRA (Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs) conducted a screening exercise at the Pagak Reception Center with 3,562 newly arrived refugees from South Sudan. Basic life-saving services are provided in Pagak, and protection assessments and awareness-raising activities are carried out in coordination with its Ethiopian partners.
Improvements were made in the field of mainstreaming child protection and SGBV (Social and Gender Based Violence) to other sectors, as well as community mobilization, awareness raising and case referrals. Remote case management mechanisms and helpline numbers are activated at all locations in anticipation of a possible lockdown where humanitarian actors will not be able to access the refugee camps. Partners provide COVID-19-related training for community workers, and customized awareness-raising activities and prevention messages through audio-recorded voice systems and home visits where possible.
Provision of shelters
With the continued increase in new arrivals, shelter coverage remains a challenge with 42.5 percent of South Sudanese households requiring adequate housing. As of June 2020, overall shelter coverage at the Gambella camps was 60.2 percent, leaving 39.58 percent of the population to share shelter with family members or live outside the camps.
485 temporary shelters have been provided, and 6.5 per cent of households needing housing upgrades or repairs have been assisted. Construction of five communal accommodation hangers, two facility hangers for the ARRA clinic and AAH nutrition center, and 50 emergency shelters have been completed at the Pagak Reception Center to reduce overcrowding and provide accommodation for new arrivals.
Access to adequate shelter remains substandard in all refugee camps in Ethiopia with only about half of the displaced population living in adequate shelter. Working with various shelter partners throughout operations, UNHCR continues to improve the shelter gap in all refugee camps. In 2020, the completion rate for the planned construction of new shelters and maintenance of existing temporary shelters reached 68% with delays due to scarcity of building materials and limited manpower availability due to movement restrictions related to COVID-19.
Also Read: Somalia, The Worst Hunger Crisis 2010-2012, What Assistance is Provided by FAO to Help Them?
WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) Program
Access to clean water supply increased from the previous 15.3 to 17.2 Liter/Person/Day (l/p/d) in June 2020 due to maintenance activities in the water scheme. When the COVID-19 pandemic was announced, two camps (Nguenyyiel and Tierkidi) and housing 47 percent of the displaced population, received less than 15 l/p/d (average 10 l/p/d) against the standard 20 l/p/d.
Then UNHCR worked with its partners to provide access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services for refugees and asylum seekers. An average of 18.6 liters of water was provided l/p/d in the 20 camps where data were available. Water supplies have been rebuilt in two of the four refugee camps in the Tigray Region where services WASH have been disrupted following the outbreak of conflict in the region.
COVID-19 prevention activities such as the provision of adequate water and soap as well as hygiene promotion activities continue to be carried out in all other camps except in the Tigray area. Nearly the entire population of the other camps has been reached by hygiene promotion messages related to COVID-19. 42,695 handwashing stations were functioning in the camps by the end of December 2020.
Provision of Educational Assistance
UNHCR and its partners manage 38 Early Childhood Education and Care centers, 24 primary schools, and five secondary schools. The Gross Enrollment Rate (GER) for Early Childhood Education and Care centers is 54 percent, 74 percent for primary schools, and 19 percent for secondary schools. Higher education scholarships are awarded to 1,122 students enrolled in Undergraduate (663), diploma (55) and certificate (404) programs.
In line with national directives to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the learning institute was closed on 17 March 2020, affecting more than 100,000 South Sudanese refugee children. These measures pose a risk of adversely affecting the development, safety and well-being of children, especially in camps where schools play an important role in child protection and in promoting peaceful coexistence.
Education actors support the national distance learning plan by distributing self-study materials and through house-to-house visits. 5,000 solar-powered radio sets purchased by partners to be distributed as pilot radio-based learning, targeting refugee students enrolled in basic and accelerated learning programs at the Nguenyyiel camp. Lessons are adapted to a home-based environment, self-study materials are provided through interactive exercises and quizzes, and subjects are adapted to a new process for Grades 1-7.
Provision of health assistance.
Essential health services are provided to meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers, including 24-hour emergency services, immunization, outpatient consultation and treatment, HIV/AID management, reproductive health, ambulance, and referral services. 13 health care centers have been established and supported in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rapid Response Teams(PRC) conducts disease surveillance, reporting and contact tracing for COVID-19. A total of 296 health care personnel, representing 80 percent of the health care capacity, were trained in active case finding, surveillance and risk communication activities. Awareness-raising campaigns were conducted through house-to-house visits and through the media.
UNHCR, in collaboration with the Government of Ethiopia and its partners, facilitates access to primary, secondary and tertiary emergency health services for refugees and asylum seekers. This supports the operational costs of primary health services in the various refugee camps, as well as the costs of referral care for secondary and tertiary health services at regional and central referral facilities.
Provision of food and nutrition assistance
The food and nutrition program is carried out with due observance of physical distancing, and without the use of biometrics in order to remain in accordance with COVID-19 prevention measures. Every month, General Food Distribution is given to the refugees, with an average of 97 percent of the population in need of food assistance in kind. Community Management of Acute Malnutrition Programs (CMAM), Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF), Blanket Supplementary Feeding Programs (BSFP), and community involvement were carried out in all camps. These programs target children under five years old, pregnant and lactating women, and medical cases. Malnutrition has many causes and remains a concern.
UNHCR contributes to the preventive and curative aspects of nutrition programs through the model Community Based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM). It monitors the nutritional status of refugees through assessments Standardized Expanded Nutrition Survey (SENS) and coordinates with partners in nutrition response programs. UNHCR was able to distribute a month’s worth of food to 25,000 Eritrean refugees in two of the four camps.
Provision of livelihood and environmental assistance
Several market-based livelihood initiatives were implemented with the aim of developing the agricultural sector, providing vocational and entrepreneurship skills training, and microfinance services. 5.6 percent of the target population received productive assets, training and business support in cash or in kind.
Food security and nutrition interventions are still being implemented, such as vegetable production activities, provision of small ruminants, e-vouchers, and aggregation of fresh food traders. A total of 120.25 hectares of fertile agricultural land have been cultivated.
Those are some of the aids provided by UNHCR to our brothers and sisters who are fleeing in Sudan as a result of the Tigray war. Hopefully the assistance provided can be put to good use, conflicts that occur can be resolved soon in a family way, and life can run better than before. That’s all from this article and see you next time, Totsiens!