APO News from Africa:
The United Nations refugee agency is shipping tents, mosquito nets and other essential relief items to Angola, where some 9,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have fled this month alone.
“Refugees reported fleeing attacks from militia groups, who are targeting police, military officials, and civilians who they believe are supporting or representing the Government,” Babar Baloch, spokesperson at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters at the UN's Geneva Office.
The civilians arrive mainly in Dundo, the capital of Angola's north-eastern Luanda Norte Province.
UNHCR is sending an additional emergency team to the town tomorrow, to support relief efforts.
There are concerns that the situation will worsen as Angola's wet season peaks in April, further complicating living conditions and the health of refugees, particularly women, children, the elderly and the disabled.
The refugees are fleeing from the Kasai region, a formerly peaceful area that turned violent in mid-2016, after a traditional leader, Kamuina Nsapu, was killed in fighting with security forces. Since then, the fighting has displaced more than one million civilians.
“The new arrivals are terrified and still fear for their lives and mentioned they do not have any immediate plans to return home,” Mr. Baloch said. “Some parents have reportedly sent their children across the border, worrying they would be forcibly recruited by the militias if they had stayed in the DRC.”
‘Children being killed or injured’
There is particular concern about the situation of children in Kasai. An estimated 2,000 children were being used by the militias in the affected region and were yet to return to their homes, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).
“These children were being killed or injured in the fighting, and were often arrested and imprisoned,” UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulierac said in Geneva.
More than 4,000 children had been separated from their families and at least 300 seriously injured, according to the UN agency.
“Those children should be safe in their homes, schools and playgrounds, not forced to fight on the battlefield or wounded or killed in the violence,” Mr. Boulierac added.
The violence in the region had also had a devastating impact on education and health systems in the region. More than 350 schools had been destroyed in the provinces of Kasai Central and Kasai Oriental, and one out of three health centres no longer function.
The UN refugee agency echoed this concern, saying many of the children arriving in Angola are malnourished and sick “suffering from diarrhoea, fever and malaria.”
Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations (UN).
Secretary-General Patricia Scotland will meet with political leaders in Lesotho to reaffirm the Commonwealth’s support to the country ahead of general elections on 3 June.
Her visit from 24 -27 April is part of the Commonwealth’s long-standing engagement with Lesotho. Assistance to the country has included support with the development of Lesotho’s parliamentary governance, observation of elections, and the follow up of observer group recommendations to strengthen democracy and improve electoral processes.
This is the second time a coalition government in Lesotho has collapsed since the 2012 elections. The last coalition fell on 1 March after a no confidence vote. Secretary-General Scotland said: “My aim is to determine how the Commonwealth can support the peace-building agenda and assist the country to implement reforms and recommendations from observers and envoys. There is good practice in effective coalition governance throughout the Commonwealth that we can draw upon.”
During the mission, Secretary-General Scotland will explore how the Commonwealth can work with the Southern African Development Community, other development partners, faith-based organisations and other NGOs to promote peaceful elections and implementation of reforms. “This is a critical time for Lesotho as it prepares for elections. It is important that we reassure the country of our firm commitment to continue supporting its democracy and development,” she said.
The Secretary-General’s engagement is in line with the 2017 Commonwealth theme ‘A peace-building Commonwealth’.
She said, “Our theme this year is about building democratic institutions, holding credible elections, upholding human rights and promoting good governance. I firmly believe that, while politicians, government agencies and development organisations play a critical role in achieving and maintaining peaceful societies, every citizen is a stakeholder in the peace-building process. This is the message that I hope will come across loud and clear during my visit to the Kingdom of Lesotho.”
Immediately after her mission to Lesotho, the Secretary-General will travel to Malawi for a meeting with the President and officials in Lilongwe.
Distributed by APO on behalf of Commonwealth Secretariat.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today air-lifted life-saving food supplies to drought-stricken Somalia for the most vulnerable people, particularly children, who are displaced from their homes and have no access to food or cooking facilities.
A Boeing 747, donated by UPS Foundation, arrived in Mogadishu from Dubai this morning carrying 47 metric tons of high-energy biscuits (HEBs) – enough to assist 31,000 people for three days – as well as critical medical supplies on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO). The shipment was arranged by the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Dubai.
As the drought intensifies, particularly in parts of south and north-eastern Somalia, severe food insecurity has spread. Half of the population, including 330,000 acutely malnourished children, are in need of urgent assistance.
“A rapid response is crucial to support drought-affected families across Somalia,” said WFP Representative and Director of Gulf Office Abdallah Alwardat. “This airlift is a great example of WFP and its partners coming together to reach those furthest behind with life-saving assistance.”
HEBs are ideally used in emergency situations as they are rich in minerals and vitamins and do not require preparation. Following consumption of HEBs over three days, WFP then provides other types of live-saving food assistance.
Over the past three years, an emergency food assistance response by WFP and its partners has supported drought-affected people with vital supplies, such as specialized nutritious foods, school meals programmes and cash-based transfers.
Distributed by APO on behalf of World Food Programme (WFP).