141 Syrian Civil Society Organisations Urge for Unhindered Humanitarian Access and Civilian Protection Across Syria
Amid ongoing indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Daraa, Raqqa and across Syria, and as Syrians under siege suffer their longest wait for humanitarian aid, Syrian civil society are calling on International Syria Support Group (ISSG) members to carry out airdrops to break the sieges and to ensure credible monitoring and enforcement of de-escalation efforts.
In a 23 June letter to Jan Egeland, ISSG Humanitarian Task Force Chair, 141 Syrian civil society organisations and humanitarian aid groups stressed the urgency of the humanitarian access situation in Syria, declared a red line by French President Emmanuel Macron, and urged the ISSG to exhaust credible alternatives for aid delivery, including airdrops, where land access remains blocked.
“In the face of the shameful state of humanitarian access, the UN and Member States must seek a step-change to ensure aid reaches those in most need, including through airdrops. We fully appreciate that airdrops are not the best means of delivering aid, but they will nonetheless save some lives and may create the leverage required to force the regime’s hand on land delivery. Nor should we hold out hope for regime consent in this endeavor: the regime that uses the Syrian people’s suffering for its political gain will never be a partner in delivering full relief and aid to those in need.”
Published on the Syrian Network for Human Rights on June 23, 2017.
By Kirsten Mathieson, Senior Health Policy and Research Adviser, and Emma Diggle, Humanitarian Health Adviser
Save the Children is proud to help launch the new ‘Humanitarian Mechanism’, developed alongside WHO, UNICEF, and Médecins Sans Frontières, to support civil society organisations’ procurement of affordable vaccines for use in humanitarian emergencies.
Affordable and timely access to vaccines is a key challenge to protecting children affected by conflict from vaccine-preventable diseases. For example, MSF was previously asked to pay as much as $68.10 for as single dose of the pneumococcal vaccine to vaccinate refugee children in Greece.
Such prohibitive prices can prevent humanitarian organisations from delivering emergency vaccination programmes where they are most needed. Two-thirds of unimmunised children globally live in conflict-affected countries. Unaffordable vaccines shouldn’t be a barrier to these children being protected from potentially life-threatening, yet easily prevented diseases. By helping to make vaccines more affordable, so that they can reach some of the most excluded children, the new ‘Humanitarian Mechanism’ is a tremendous step forwards in addressing this challenge.
The Humanitarian Mechanism will help civil society organisations (CSOs) operating in humanitarian contexts to step in where governments are unable to respond, such as in Syria and South Sudan. It aims to facilitate timely access to an affordable supply of vaccines by:
Two of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies,GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Pfizer, have agreed to provide CSOs with access to their pneumococcal vaccines for use in humanitarian emergencies at their lowest available global prices, of $3.05 and $3.10 per dose, respectively. Given that pneumonia is one of the biggest killers of children under five worldwide, this is an incredible breakthrough that could save a huge number of lives. The new Humanitarian Mechanism will help operationalise these commitments from GSK and Pfizer.
Now that the Humanitarian Mechanism is in place, it must be used to extend affordable access for all vaccines. This requires further commitments from industry to make additional offers under this mechanism. GSK, Pfizer and other vaccine manufacturers make a number of other vaccines; those vaccines should also be available at the lowest price. We urge other companies to follow GSK’s and Pfizer’s lead, and we urge these two originator companies to expand their offer to the other relevant vaccines they produce.
We also urge companies to make a broader commitment that extends beyond refugees and internally displaced people to reach all children in humanitarian situations. Commitments must allow CSOs to access affordable vaccines to deliver immunisation in areas of a country where government services are not available – ie, where governments cannot or will not fulfil their responsibilities to deliver to the whole population.
We’ll continue to advocate on these issues so that the Humanitarian Mechanism can fully drive change to protect some of the most excluded children from all vaccine-preventable diseases.
Published on Save the Children UK on June 7, 2017.
By Stephanie Nebehay
Spreading ethnic violence is driving more people from their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the humanitarian situation is "dramatically deteriorating", the United Nations said on Monday.
Some 100,000 people were uprooted last week alone, bringing the ranks of displaced in the central Kasai region to nearly 1.3 million, it said. The total number of displaced throughout Congo has more than doubled to 3.7 million since Aug 2016.
"This very acute crisis in the DRC is not just expanding dramatically in terms of numbers but it's also expanding in terms of geographical scope," said Rein Paulsen, head of the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs office in Congo.
"The fact that we are also now seeing an evolution of the conflict in the Kasais where inter-ethnic violence and conflict is becoming a dominant characteristic should be a deep, deep concern to all of us," he told a news briefing.
The U.N. said last month it had documented 40 mass grave sites and killings of more than 400 people in Kasai, the focus of the fight against the Kamuina Nsapu militia, since August when security forces killed its leader. The militia has been fighting largely to avenge his death.
Paulsen cited fresh reports from U.N. staff of inter-ethnic fighting in the Kasais, including the Penda and Chokwe ethnic groups against the Luba and clashes between the Lunda and Luba.
In Manono, in the eastern province of Tanganyika, more than 140 villages have been reportedly burned down in a separate conflict between the pygmy population and Bantu ethnic groups, causing forced displacement, he said.
Across the vast Central African nation, an estimated 1.9 million children under five are severely acutely malnourished, a condition which could kill them or leave them with lifelong damage, Paulsen said.
The United Nations has received just 19 percent of the $812.5 million sought in the humanitarian appeal for Congo this year, he said.
The world body said last month it was horrified by a video screened by the government that appeared to show the brutal killing of two U.N. investigators.
Congo's government said the film showed members of an anti-government militia carrying out the act although that has not been confirmed by either the U.N. or independent analysts.
Paulsen said that government workers - education inspectors and local transportation staff - had been "killed and beheaded" in the Kasais in the past week despite tighter security.
Published on Reuters' website on May 8, 2017.
The Yemeni human rights defender talks to Lydia Noon about Britain’s arms deals, drones and gender discrimination during the war.
How and why did you get involved in human rights in Yemen?
I have felt a sense of guilt about people who are oppressed since I was a child. My activism started in 2004 during a six-year war between the regime of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthis, an armed rebel group.
I wrote several opinion pieces against war and its abuses. Some families of those arrested in Sana’a (Yemen’s capital city) asked for my help, and alongside other male and female activists, I stood with them. We organized several campaigns opposing detention and war.
How has life changed for you since the start of the civil war in 2015?
The situation in Yemen wasn’t good – even before the war. Since the Houthis took control of Sana’a in 2014, and the Saudi-led coalition launched their aerial military campaign in March 2015, every family in the country has been shedding tears: either for a relative lost in the war or a detainee confined behind bars.
Citizens are now without a state or a constitution to protect their rights. Political parties are not providing the basic essentials for people in government or Houthi-controlled areas. Yemenis are stranded between the aerial and ground violations of the parties involved.
I am a part of this nation and the suffering of others is mine as well. But I have decided to face this situation and continue my work.
What is life like for women in Yemen?
Yemeni women have the same but double sufferings [as men]. Many women suffer from a lack of education, early marriage, exclusion from political participation and other forms of discrimination. But if a woman has the support of her family then nothing can stand in her way; there are no laws preventing her participation in all aspects of life.
You are the chairperson of the Mwatana organization for human rights. What kind of things do you do?
Mwatana follows an investigative research approach to ensure accurate documentation of human rights violations. We play a lobbying and advocacy role to support victims of human rights abuses.
Besides publishing reports and documentaries, we monitor and publish information on arbitrary detention and forcible disappearances, facilitate contact between detainees and their families and work to set all those arrested and disappeared free. We also work on training and awareness-raising as part of our mission to create a human rights collective awareness.
It sounds like risky work. Have you been the target of intimidation?
Some fellow civil society activists and I were once beaten by a group of women that the Houthi armed group sent to disperse a protest where we were demanding to know the destiny of a forcibly disappeared civilian. We were detained for hours.
The executive director of Mwatana, Abdulrasheed Al-Faqih, has been arrested twice by the Houthis and has had his passport confiscated on a separate occasion. Four Mwatana field researchers have been arrested and released at various times; one of them spent over two weeks in detention.
Britain sells weapons to Saudi Arabia, do you think this makes it complicit in the war in Yemen?
Britain hurts itself when it insists on supporting a state that has committed documented war crimes against Yemeni civilians.
Mwatana has documented the aerial attacks against civilians in which British weapons were used. Britain’s support of Saudi Arabia is not limited to the selling of weapons; it also provides political and intelligence support.
It is so hurting and frustrating that Britain has supported Saudi efforts of preventing an international, independent inquiry mechanism to investigate violations of all parties to the conflict in Yemen. No matter how high the mutual interests between Britain and Saudi Arabia, the blood cost is ultimately higher.
The number of drone strikes in Yemen increased drastically under the Obama administration. Do you expect more of the same under Trump?
The first US drone strike under President Trump took place in the al-Baidha province [on 21 January] and killed 15 civilians – ten children and five women, documented by Mwatana. This is a very big number and the military target of the operation is still unclear.
As usual with the drone program, transparency is absent. The new worrying development in these drone operations is the accompanying ground raids which seem random and careless about civilians.
Is there enough humanitarian assistance on the ground in Yemen?
Humanitarian assistance cannot be enough because the catastrophe is too big and can only be addressed by state capabilities. Humanitarian organizations are trying to play an important role but they only bridge gaps.
The accessibility of such organizations on the ground is restricted due to setbacks posed by various armed groups. The end of the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen demands the end of the war in the first place.
Published on the New Internationalist's website on April 5, 2017.