Wednesday, 12 May 2010

UN agency urges bolstered protection for Somali refugees

The United Nations refugee agency issued new guidelines today, calling on governments to enhance their protection of people escaping the “unfolding international tragedy” in Somalia.
The guidelines seek to ensure that the protection needs of Somalis are dealt with consistently. They also encourage nations to assess applications for refugee status for people from the war-torn country in the broadest way and to extend other forms of international protection when refugee status is not granted.

Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that that the agency believes that asylum-seekers from central and southern Somalia are in need of international protection.

Those who do not meet the criteria to be granted refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1969 Refugee Convention of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), she said, should still be protected, as applicable in situations of generalized violence or armed conflict.
The Horn of Africa nation continues to be plagued by fighting between Government forces and its supporters and Islamist rebels. It remains the scene of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), some 575,000 refugees and nearly 3 million people dependent on aid, out of a total population of nearly 8 million.
“In view of the nature of the conflict and the dramatic humanitarian situation, UNHCR does not believe that Somalia refugees can find an internal relocation alternative in central of southern Somalia,” Ms. Fleming stressed.
Further, she said, there is no possibility for Somalis not originally from the self-declared autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland to take shelter there.
Although most countries look into refugee claims on an individual basis, UNHCR is calling on countries facing large numbers of arrivals to grant protection to people from Somalia on a group basis.
“It is our view that involuntary returns to central and southern Somalia under today’s circumstances would place individuals at risk,” the agency’s spokesperson said.
Last week, Deputy High Commissioner Alexander Aleinikoff said that thousands of Somalis fleeing the violence in their homeland are expected to cross into neighbouring countries this year, adding to already overcrowded and under-resourced conditions in camps.
“The burden for these countries is enormous,” he said after a two-week visit to camps in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia for refugees and IDPs.
“If there was one resounding call from the refugees we met with it was this: please find me a new home,” Mr. Aleinikoff added.

Some of the camps have housed Somalis since the Somali Government collapsed in 1991, casting the country into chaos between political factions, armed groups and clans.

Recently the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), strengthened by the African Union (AU) and with logistical support mandated by the Security Council, has fought Islamic militant rebel groups in the political arena, and on Somali streets.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Half of Somali women, children suffer from anaemia: study

NAIROBI, May 7 (Xinhua) -- A national study has shown that Somali women and children are suffering from shocking levels of anaemia and Vitamin A deficiencies.

According to the study published on Friday by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis of Somalia (FSNAU), about 50 percent of all women, 30 percent of all school aged children and 60 percent of children fewer than five were classified as anaemic. "Anaemia in Somalia is caused by a range of factors including frequent exposure to diseases which are often untreated, and the consumption of predominantly cereal based diets, which are missing key vitamins and minerals," Grainne Moloney, interim Chief Technical Adviser of the FSNAU.
The results also show that one third of all children and half of adult women have Vitamin A deficiency.
Although children may seem healthy as they are not very thin, these underlying deficiencies mean these children are still malnourished.
The required nutrient rich foods, such as meat, eggs, fish, vegetables and fruits foods are often too expensive for poor households to buy and the problem is further exacerbated by inadequate health care and sanitation, disease and a lack of appropriate infant and young child feeding," Moloney said, adding that the levels of anaemia in Somalia are amongst the highest in Africa."
In conflict situations such as Somalia, the report says, the collapse of the health system and frequent displacement also contributes to micronutrient deficiencies. "Anaemia in children can delay both physical and intellectual growth; lead to increased risk of infectious diseases and an increased risk of death," it says. "In women, anaemia can lead to poor foetal development and birth complications during pregnancy, as well as an increased risk of infectious diseases and death."
Anaemia can be easily treated with a combined package of good nutrition and good health including: early treatment of childhood illness, consumption of foods high in iron such as red meat, iron supplementation, de-worming, food fortification and reducing intake of foods such as tea, which can inhibit absorption of iron.
Vitamin A deficiency is well known to cause night blindness, but more importantly, can increase the risk of mortality from childhood diseases such as measles.
However research has shown that where a population is at risk of Vitamin A deficiency, such as Somalia, supplementation reduces mortality in children 6 month to 5 years of age by up to 23 percent.
Unexpectedly, the report also shows that levels of iodine deficiency were not of concern, in fact high levels were reported across both school aged and adult women populations.
The study was conducted in Somalia between March and August 2009 led by the FSNAU and Food and Agriculture Organization.

Source: Xinhua