Francisca Vigaud-Walsh

Hurricane María’s Survivors: “Women’s Safety Was Not Prioritized”

Hurricane María’s Survivors: “Women’s Safety Was Not Prioritized”

One year ago this week, Hurricane María made landfall in Puerto Rico causing catastrophic damage to the island. Women and girls are typically disproportionately impacted in natural disasters, and there are widely held standards and guidelines in place to guarantee their protection before, during, and after an emergency. However, insufficient protocols were put in place to ensure that women were protected during and after the storm. In fact, violence against women increased after Hurricane María, and women’s rights activists have now declared a crisis of gender-based violence (GBV) in the storm’s aftermath. 

Still At Risk: Restrictions Endanger Rohingya Women and Girls in Bangladesh

 Still At Risk: Restrictions Endanger Rohingya Women and Girls in Bangladesh

The Rohingya minority in Myanmar has undergone a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing marked by widespread and systematic sexual violence. While Rohingya women living in refugee camps in Bangladesh are currently safe from the violence in Myanmar, gender-based violence (GBV) continues in refuge, with hundreds of incidents reported weekly. And despite the acute awareness of the use of sexual violence as a weapon against the Rohingya, the humanitarian community in Bangladesh was—and remains—ill-prepared to prioritize the response to GBV as a lifesaving matter.

A Rohingya Refugee Describes His Flight from Violence in Myanmar

A Rohingya Refugee Describes His Flight from Violence in Myanmar

During a recent mission to the camps in Bangladesh which now houses tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees, Daniel Sullivan and Francisca Vigaud-Walsh interviewed Mayyu Ali, a young Rohingya man who described the crimes against the Rohingya people in Myanmar. Mayyu called on the international community to take concrete action to end the violence.

Portfolio: Explosive economy of Venezuela causes refugee crisis

On a rainy Wednesday before Easter, hundreds of Venezuelan immigrants shuffled into the brick-walled patio of the Casa de Paso Divina Providencia in the Colombian border town of Villa del Rosario, sat at long wooden tables and waited patiently for to have lunch. A priest promulgated mass before dozens of church volunteers served steaming fountains of rice, lentils and sausages. The immigrants settled.


Many wore ragged clothes. His sunken cheeks and thin limbs suggested that this was his first decent meal in days. The children were barefoot. A man came in on his crutches, his right leg amputated below the knee. Another came pushing an old woman in a wheelchair.

(Read: Europe, Asia, Latin America and the United States will persecute corrupt Venezuelans)

These are the victims, often desperate, of the worst migration crisis in the recent history of Latin America. Some had arrived from Venezuela that morning, escaping from food shortages, hyperinflation, the collapse of the economy, diseases and violence.

Others had been in Colombia for days or weeks, looking for work, looking for food, sleeping in the streets and avoiding being deported.

While the eyes of the world have focused on the crisis of the Syrian refugees and the exodus of the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, the humanitarian disaster in Venezuela has gone relatively unnoticed. But the large number of people who are now fleeing the country is changing that. The UNHCR says that 5,000 migrants leave every day; At that rate, 1.8 million people, more than 5% of the population of Venezuela, will leave this year.

It was not always like that. For decades, Venezuela was a net importer of people, attracting Europeans with lucrative oil jobs. A generation ago, it was the richest country in Latin America.

When Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999, launching the socialist 'Bolivarian Revolution', some wealthy Venezuelans left, fearing Cuban-style communism. But the vast majority of Venezuelans stayed and many enjoyed the benefits of Chávez's oil-funded social programs. Only recently there has been a massive migration of Venezuelans driven by the collapse of the economy and the deterioration of the revolution, under the leadership of Maduro.

Many go west to Colombia, which, coming out of a long civil conflict of its own, is ill-equipped to receive them. Today there are more than 600,000 Venezuelans in Colombia, twice as many as a year ago.

While Colombia has been the country most affected by the Venezuelan exodus, it is far from being the only country that faces this challenge.

UNHCR says that 40,000 Venezuelan immigrants arrived in Peru in the first two months of this year. Thousands more have emigrated to Panama, Ecuador, Chile, Spain, EE. UU and beyond. Boats carrying Venezuelan immigrants have docked on Caribbean islands. In January, one turned up in front of Curaçao, where at least four people died.

The number of Venezuelans seeking asylum abroad has skyrocketed by 2,000% since 2014. Brazil is another country that has received a large influx. In total, authorities and international organizations estimate that some 70,000 Venezuelans have fled south to Brazil.

The collapse of the Venezuelan health system has caused a resurgence of previously controlled diseases. The government no longer provides reliable medical data: when the health minister revealed last year that the number of cases of malaria had increased by 76% in one year, deaths related to pregnancy had increased by 66% and infant mortality had Uploaded 30%, was fired immediately.

A recent survey conducted by the opposition suggested that 79% of Venezuelan hospitals have little or no running water.

The British Medical Journal recently reported on an acute contraceptive shortage "that contributes to peaks in unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal and infant mortality and sexually transmitted diseases." HIV and AIDS rates have risen in Venezuela to levels not seen since the 1980s. Measles, eradicated in much of Latin America, have returned. Of the 730 cases confirmed in the region last year, all but three were in Venezuela. As people flee, they take the disease with them. In the first months of this year, there were 14 confirmed cases in Brazil and one in Colombia. The 15 victims were Venezuelan immigrants.

"People are running away because if they stay, they die," says Dany Bahar of the Brookings Institution in Washington. "They are dying because they do not get enough food to eat; because they contract malaria and can not receive treatment

Financial Times: Venezuela’s imploding economy sparks refugee crisis

On a rainy Wednesday before Easter, hundreds of Venezuelan migrants shuffled into the brick-walled courtyard of the Divine Providence Shelter in the Colombian border town of Villa del Rosario, sat down at long, low wooden tables and waited patiently for lunch. A priest led mass before scores of church volunteers served up steaming bowls of rice, lentils and sausages. The migrants tucked in.

Many wore threadbare clothes. Their sunken cheeks and wiry limbs suggested this was the first decent meal in days. Children were barefoot. One man hobbled in on crutches, his right leg amputated below the knee. Another pushed an elderly woman in a wheelchair.

These are the weary, often desperate victims of the worst migration crisis in recent Latin American history. Some had arrived from Venezuela that morning, escaping food shortages, hyperinflation, a collapsing economy, disease and violence. Others had been in Colombia for days or weeks, looking for work, scavenging for food, sleeping in the streets and avoiding deportation.

While the eyes of the world have been on the Syrian refugee crisis and the exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, Venezuela’s humanitarian disaster has gone relatively unnoticed.

But the sheer number of people now fleeing the country is changing that. The UNHCR says 5,000 migrants are leaving every day: at that rate, 1.8m people, more than 5 per cent of Venezuela’s population, will depart this year. Venezuelans at a church-run dining facility in Cúcuta, Colombia

The Red Cross and the UN launched appeals last month and the US Agency for International Development made a first donation to what is likely to become a larger relief fund. The implosion of Venezuela, which has been building for some time, is becoming an international disaster.

“This crisis in Venezuela, which is now spilling into the broader region, is man-made,” says Mark Green, head of USAID. He blamed the “delusional and inhumane policies” of the leftwing government of President Nicolás Maduro, which “exacerbated an avoidable humanitarian crisis”.

It was not always like this. For decades, Venezuela was a net importer of people, luring Europeans with lucrative oil jobs. A generation ago, it was the wealthiest country in Latin America.

Refugees flee from Venezuela crisis When Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999, launching the socialist “Bolivarian revolution”, some wealthy Venezuelans left, fearing Cuban-style communism. But the vast majority stayed and many enjoyed the benefits of Mr Chávez’s oil-financed social programmes. It is only recently, with Mr Maduro at the helm, the economy collapsing and the revolution unravelling, that Venezuelans have departed en masse.

“We are potentially facing the biggest refugee crisis in our hemisphere in modern history” says Shannon O’Neil, senior fellow for Latin America at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. The crisis in numbers People queue outside a Caracas supermarket in November last year © AFP 13,000% Predicted rate of inflation in Venezuela this year, according to the IMF. The economy is expected to contract once again 66% Rise in pregnancy-related deaths in a year, according to the health minister Antonieta Caporole. Infant mortality also rose 30%. Ms Caporole was sacked after making this statement 79% Percentage of Venezuelan hospitals that have little or no running water, according to opposition-led research.

Many are heading west to Colombia which, emerging from a long civil conflict of its own, is ill-equipped to receive them. There are now more than 600,000 Venezuelans in Colombia, twice as many as a year ago. Thousands have poured over the footbridge that separates the Venezuelan town of San Antonio from the Colombian city of Cúcuta. Walk the streets of Cúcuta and you find Venezuelans everywhere, selling cigarettes at the traffic lights, working as prostitutes, sleeping rough. Recommended Analysis Reshaping geopolitics 2017 Venezuela debt: US, Russia and China play for high stakes “I spent my first week in Cúcuta selling arepas on the streets, then empanadas, then bottles of water — anything to make a bit of money,” says 27-year-old Yamileth Medina, who left Venezuela in July.

When her husband Alejandro and their four-year-old son followed her, they were robbed at gunpoint on their way to the frontier. Alejandro’s passport was stolen and he made it to Colombia only by pleading with border guards. The family is seeking refugee status and is waiting to hear if they will be deported back to Venezuela. “I can’t stand the idea of going back,” Ms Medina says. “I hate the idea of my son growing up in that environment.”

While Colombia has borne the brunt of the Venezuelan exodus it is far from alone. The UNHCR says 40,000 Venezuelan migrants arrived in Peru in the first two months of this year. Thousands more have emigrated to Panama, Ecuador, Chile, Spain, the US and beyond. Boats carrying Venezuelan migrants have landed on islands in the Caribbean. In January, one capsized off Curaçao, killing at least four people. Venezuela map

The number of Venezuelans seeking asylum abroad has rocketed by 2,000 per cent since 2014. Brazil is another of the countries to have received a huge influx. In all, authorities and international organisations estimate some 70,000 Venezuelans have fled southwards to Brazil. “We are dying of hunger,” says Purificación Rivero, a 52-year-old woman from the Warao tribe who travelled 700km to Boa Vista in Brazil. “Three members of my family — a grandson, a son and an aunt — have already died of hunger. I blame the Venezuelan government, which is letting the poor die.” Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is expected to remain in power after the country's election on May 20.

The collapse of the Venezuelan health system has prompted a resurgence of long-vanquished diseases. The government no longer provides reliable medical data and when the health minister revealed last year that the number of malaria cases had jumped 76 per cent in a year, pregnancy-related deaths had risen 66 per cent and infant mortality had climbed 30 per cent, she was promptly sacked. A recent opposition-led survey suggested 79 per cent of Venezuelan hospitals have little or no running water. The days when the Chávez government prided itself on decent medical care for the poor are long gone.

The British Medical Journal recently reported an acute shortage of contraceptives, “contributing to spikes in unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal and infant mortality and sexually transmitted diseases”. HIV and Aids rates have risen in Venezuela to levels not seen since the 1980s. Measles, eradicated in much of Latin America, has returned. Of the 730 confirmed cases in the region last year, all but three were in Venezuela. As people flee, they are taking the disease with them. In the first months of this year, there were 14 confirmed cases in Brazil and one in Colombia. All 15 victims were Venezuelan migrants. “The infant mortality rate is on a par with Pakistan and the poverty rate of 85 per cent in on a par with Haiti and sub-Saharan Africa,” says Dany Bahar of the Brookings Institution in Washington. “People are fleeing because if they stay, they die. They die because they don’t get enough food to eat, they die because they get malaria and can’t get treatment, they die because they need dialysis and can’t get it.”

Those who survive and get out face formidable challenges once they cross the border. In Colombia, half the migrants are pouring into Norte de Santander, one of the country’s more lawless departments. While the Marxist guerrilla group, the Farc, has disarmed as part of the country’s historic peace process, two smaller groups, the ELN and the EPL, are fighting to the north of Cúcuta, and two criminal gangs, the Rastrojos and Urabeños, are tussling for control of smuggling routes to and from Venezuela.

Non-governmental organisations in Cúcuta say that out of desperation, many Venezuelan migrants are drifting into organised crime and Colombia’s cocaine trade. The irony of mass migration from Venezuela to Colombia is not lost on local residents. For decades, it was the other way around. During Colombia’s civil conflict, up to 4m people fled to then-stable-and-prosperous Venezuela. Now, many are coming back. José Domingo Sequeda left Colombia in 1979. Now 63 and living in the Venezuelan city of Valencia, he is considering selling up and returning to Colombia. “He doesn’t want to, because Venezuela has given him everything he has,” says his daughter Yurelys, who left Venezuela in January and now lives in Cúcuta.

“But the situation there has become unbearable.” Venezuela health As the number of migrants soars, tension with local populations are rising, particularly in northern Brazil where the border towns are too small to absorb large numbers of new arrivals. There are now an estimated 40,000 Venezuelans in Boa Vista, Roraima’s state capital — 10 per cent of the city’s population. “This is the first time we have such a flux of people at the border caused by a political crisis in a neighbouring country,” says Doriedson Silva, co-ordinator of civil defence for the state of Roraima. In Caracas, where the military oversees food distribution, people queue to buy meat © AFP In the nearby town of Mucajaí, two Venezuelans killed a Brazilian during a bar brawl last month, officials say, prompting local residents to burn down a building housing migrants. “Some say we’re a plague, nothing but dirty pigs,” says Richard Gil, a 51-year-old Venezuelan who arrived in Brazil a month ago. “But we’re decent families and we’re all paying the price.” In Colombia too, animosity towards Venezuelans is growing and in February the government tightened border controls. But the frontier is 2,200km long — the distance from London to Athens — and is almost impossible to police properly. “The tightening of the border won’t keep people in Venezuela,” says Francisca Vigaud-Walsh, a senior advocate at Refugees International in Washington. “It will just drive up criminality, smuggling and trafficking, including sex trafficking.” It is difficult to see what might change in Venezuela to stem the exodus.

The economy has contracted 40 per cent in five years and is forecast to shrink further still. The IMF expects inflation to hit 13,000 per cent this year. There is a presidential election on May 20 but there seems little doubt that Mr Maduro will ensure he wins. He refuses to allow humanitarian aid into the country, meaning its citizens will keep leaving. Venezuelan asylum seekers Faced with that reality, international aid organisations are focusing their efforts outside Venezuela. USAID pledged $18.5m to help migrants in Colombia and the UNHCR has appealed for an initial $46m.

The Red Cross has called for SFr2.2m ($2.3m) to help 120,000 Venezuelans in Colombia. But such figures are minuscule set against the scale of the problem. Brookings estimates the cost of caring for Venezuela’s migrants at between $2.8bn and $5.2bn — money which has yet to be raised. In the meantime, the job is falling to local charities, NGOs and the Catholic Church.

At the Divine Providence Shelter, the bishop of Cúcuta, Víctor Manuel Ochoa, glides around the courtyard in his white soutane and scarlet zucchetto, comforting hungry migrants. The situation is much worse than a year ago when the lunches started. “Firstly, the number of people arriving has jumped, secondly they’re travelling further and further to get here from the Venezuelan interior and thirdly their needs are greater. They’re more desperate. “We give them what we can, with love and affection, but we simply can’t feed everyone.”

This originally appeared here

Financial Times: Venezuela’s imploding economy sparks refugee crisis

On a rainy Wednesday before Easter, hundreds of Venezuelan migrants shuffled into the brick-walled courtyard of the Divine Providence Shelter in the Colombian border town of Villa del Rosario, sat down at long, low wooden tables and waited patiently for lunch. A priest led mass before scores of church volunteers served up steaming bowls of rice, lentils and sausages. The migrants tucked in.

Many wore threadbare clothes. Their sunken cheeks and wiry limbs suggested this was the first decent meal in days. Children were barefoot. One man hobbled in on crutches, his right leg amputated below the knee. Another pushed an elderly woman in a wheelchair.

These are the weary, often desperate victims of the worst migration crisis in recent Latin American history. Some had arrived from Venezuela that morning, escaping food shortages, hyperinflation, a collapsing economy, disease and violence. Others had been in Colombia for days or weeks, looking for work, scavenging for food, sleeping in the streets and avoiding deportation.

While the eyes of the world have been on the Syrian refugee crisis and the exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, Venezuela’s humanitarian disaster has gone relatively unnoticed.

But the sheer number of people now fleeing the country is changing that. The UNHCR says 5,000 migrants are leaving every day: at that rate, 1.8m people, more than 5 per cent of Venezuela’s population, will depart this year.

The Red Cross and the UN launched appeals last month and the US Agency for International Development made a first donation to what is likely to become a larger relief fund. The implosion of Venezuela, which has been building for some time, is becoming an international disaster.

“This crisis in Venezuela, which is now spilling into the broader region, is man-made,” says Mark Green, head of USAID. He blamed the “delusional and inhumane policies” of the leftwing government of President Nicolás Maduro, which “exacerbated an avoidable humanitarian crisis”.

It was not always like this. For decades, Venezuela was a net importer of people, luring Europeans with lucrative oil jobs. A generation ago, it was the wealthiest country in Latin America.

When Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999, launching the socialist “Bolivarian revolution”, some wealthy Venezuelans left, fearing Cuban-style communism. But the vast majority stayed and many enjoyed the benefits of Mr Chávez’s oil-financed social programmes. It is only recently, with Mr Maduro at the helm, the economy collapsing and the revolution unravelling, that Venezuelans have departed en masse.

“We are potentially facing the biggest refugee crisis in our hemisphere in modern history” says Shannon O’Neil, senior fellow for Latin America at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Many are heading west to Colombia which, emerging from a long civil conflict of its own, is ill-equipped to receive them. There are now more than 600,000 Venezuelans in Colombia, twice as many as a year ago. Thousands have poured over the footbridge that separates the Venezuelan town of San Antonio from the Colombian city of Cúcuta. Walk the streets of Cúcuta and you find Venezuelans everywhere, selling cigarettes at the traffic lights, working as prostitutes, sleeping rough.

“I spent my first week in Cúcuta selling arepas on the streets, then empanadas, then bottles of water — anything to make a bit of money,” says 27-year-old Yamileth Medina, who left Venezuela in July. When her husband Alejandro and their four-year-old son followed her, they were robbed at gunpoint on their way to the frontier. Alejandro’s passport was stolen and he made it to Colombia only by pleading with border guards. The family is seeking refugee status and is waiting to hear if they will be deported back to Venezuela. “I can’t stand the idea of going back,” Ms Medina says. “I hate the idea of my son growing up in that environment.”

While Colombia has borne the brunt of the Venezuelan exodus it is far from alone. The UNHCR says 40,000 Venezuelan migrants arrived in Peru in the first two months of this year. Thousands more have emigrated to Panama, Ecuador, Chile, Spain, the US and beyond. Boats carrying Venezuelan migrants have landed on islands in the Caribbean. In January, one capsized off Curaçao, killing at least four people. 

The number of Venezuelans seeking asylum abroad has rocketed by 2,000 per cent since 2014. Brazil is another of the countries to have received a huge influx. In all, authorities and international organisations estimate some 70,000 Venezuelans have fled southwards to Brazil.

“We are dying of hunger,” says Purificación Rivero, a 52-year-old woman from the Warao tribe who travelled 700km to Boa Vista in Brazil. “Three members of my family — a grandson, a son and an aunt — have already died of hunger. I blame the Venezuelan government, which is letting the poor die.”

The collapse of the Venezuelan health system has prompted a resurgence of long-vanquished diseases. The government no longer provides reliable medical data and when the health minister revealed last year that the number of malaria cases had jumped 76 per cent in a year, pregnancy-related deaths had risen 66 per cent and infant mortality had climbed 30 per cent, she was promptly sacked. A recent opposition-led survey suggested 79 per cent of Venezuelan hospitals have little or no running water. The days when the Chávez government prided itself on decent medical care for the poor are long gone.

The British Medical Journal recently reported an acute shortage of contraceptives, “contributing to spikes in unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal and infant mortality and sexually transmitted diseases”. HIV and Aids rates have risen in Venezuela to levels not seen since the 1980s.

Measles, eradicated in much of Latin America, has returned. Of the 730 confirmed cases in the region last year, all but three were in Venezuela. As people flee, they are taking the disease with them. In the first months of this year, there were 14 confirmed cases in Brazil and one in Colombia. All 15 victims were Venezuelan migrants.

“The infant mortality rate is on a par with Pakistan and the poverty rate of 85 per cent in on a par with Haiti and sub-Saharan Africa,” says Dany Bahar of the Brookings Institution in Washington. “People are fleeing because if they stay, they die. They die because they don’t get enough food to eat, they die because they get malaria and can’t get treatment, they die because they need dialysis and can’t get it.”

Those who survive and get out face formidable challenges once they cross the border. In Colombia, half the migrants are pouring into Norte de Santander, one of the country’s more lawless departments. While the Marxist guerrilla group, the Farc, has disarmed as part of the country’s historic peace process, two smaller groups, the ELN and the EPL, are fighting to the north of Cúcuta, and two criminal gangs, the Rastrojos and Urabeños, are tussling for control of smuggling routes to and from Venezuela. Non-governmental organisations in Cúcuta say that out of desperation, many Venezuelan migrants are drifting into organised crime and Colombia’s cocaine trade.


The irony of mass migration from Venezuela to Colombia is not lost on local residents. For decades, it was the other way around. During Colombia’s civil conflict, up to 4m people fled to then-stable-and-prosperous Venezuela. Now, many are coming back. José Domingo Sequeda left Colombia in 1979. Now 63 and living in the Venezuelan city of Valencia, he is considering selling up and returning to Colombia. “He doesn’t want to, because Venezuela has given him everything he has,” says his daughter Yurelys, who left Venezuela in January and now lives in Cúcuta. “But the situation there has become unbearable.”

As the number of migrants soars, tension with local populations are rising, particularly in northern Brazil where the border towns are too small to absorb large numbers of new arrivals. There are now an estimated 40,000 Venezuelans in Boa Vista, Roraima’s state capital — 10 per cent of the city’s population. “This is the first time we have such a flux of people at the border caused by a political crisis in a neighbouring country,” says Doriedson Silva, co-ordinator of civil defence for the state of Roraima.

In the nearby town of Mucajaí, two Venezuelans killed a Brazilian during a bar brawl last month, officials say, prompting local residents to burn down a building housing migrants. “Some say we’re a plague, nothing but dirty pigs,” says Richard Gil, a 51-year-old Venezuelan who arrived in Brazil a month ago. “But we’re decent families and we’re all paying the price.”

In Colombia too, animosity towards Venezuelans is growing and in February the government tightened border controls. But the frontier is 2,200km long — the distance from London to Athens — and is almost impossible to police properly. “The tightening of the border won’t keep people in Venezuela,” says Francisca Vigaud-Walsh, a senior advocate at Refugees International in Washington. “It will just drive up criminality, smuggling and trafficking, including sex trafficking.”

It is difficult to see what might change in Venezuela to stem the exodus. The economy has contracted 40 per cent in five years and is forecast to shrink further still. The IMF expects inflation to hit 13,000 per cent this year. There is a presidential election on May 20 but there seems little doubt that Mr Maduro will ensure he wins. He refuses to allow humanitarian aid into the country, meaning its citizens will keep leaving.

Faced with that reality, international aid organisations are focusing their efforts outside Venezuela. USAID pledged $18.5m to help migrants in Colombia and the UNHCR has appealed for an initial $46m. The Red Cross has called for SFr2.2m ($2.3m) to help 120,000 Venezuelans in Colombia. But such figures are minuscule set against the scale of the problem. Brookings estimates the cost of caring for Venezuela’s migrants at between $2.8bn and $5.2bn — money which has yet to be raised.

In the meantime, the job is falling to local charities, NGOs and the Catholic Church. At the Divine Providence Shelter, the bishop of Cúcuta, Víctor Manuel Ochoa, glides around the courtyard in his white soutane and scarlet zucchetto, comforting hungry migrants. The situation is much worse than a year ago when the lunches started. “Firstly, the number of people arriving has jumped, secondly they’re travelling further and further to get here from the Venezuelan interior and thirdly their needs are greater. They’re more desperate.

“We give them what we can, with love and affection, but we simply can’t feed everyone.”

This piece originally appeared here

The Dialogue: Venezuela’s Migration Crisis

On April 2, the Inter-American Dialogue in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) hosted an event titled “Venezuela’s Migration Crisis.” This discussion, which was moderated by Michael Camilleri, featured panelists Shannon O’Neil from CFR, Francisca Vigaud-Walsh from Refugees International, and Dany Bahar from the Brookings Institution. This conversation explored the current status of the migration crisis, the US and international community’s response, and the challenges going forward.

As presented in various news reports, Venezuela’s economic, social, and democratic deterioration is producing a massive outflow of migrants leaving the country. The problem has become regional as receiving countries like Colombia, Brazil, and Ecuador are trying to figure out how to respond. Many experts have argued that the regional response has been piecemeal and fragmented with little international support, no mechanisms for burden sharing, and limited resources to cope overall.

The United States has few tools to change the course of Maduro’s regime, according to O’Neil. The government has been imposing sanctions on the government’s assets and allies with other countries following the lead. But, she argues, sanctions are only effective when asking for a change in behavior not a change in regime – the Trump administration has made clear that it wants the latter. “Sanctions are a blunt tool that takes a long time to take any effect. The international community should focus on more effective ways to tackle the humanitarian crisis.”

To further complicate the matter, both O’Neil and Vigaud-Walsh argued that the international community is not giving the crisis the attention it deserves. Unlike previous refugee crises, Venezuela’s is not happening under the context of a war. But the humanitarian crisis is so dire that it demands an international response. Even when the international community has responded, it has been slow, weak, and atypical in comparison to other cases. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) has mostly engaged the crisis through internal advocacy and fundraising with global partners. According to Vigaud-Walsh, “UNHCR estimates that an additional 1.7 million Venezuelans will become refugees in 2018. The international community has provided $46 million in aid with only $2.5 million coming from the United States.” This, coupled with the fact that most governments in the region have tight budgets for humanitarian aid, leaves a very protracted, uncoordinated response.

Besides the limited resources for a regional response, the panelists were concerned about the leadership vacuum in the region due to the resignation of Peruvian president Pablo Kuczynski, who congregated the Lima Group, and the upcoming elections in various Latin American countries. There is uncertainty about whether incoming leadership in key countries such as Mexico, Colombia, or Brazil will speak up about the humanitarian crisis.

Bahar highlighted some of the costs of the refugee crisis. Based on his estimates, the costs of hosting refugees ranges from $2.8 to $5.2 billion. This is based on the cost of hosting one refugee per year based on Germany and France’s estimates for Syrian refugees.

There are a few challenges that should be acknowledged. First, the Maduro regime has made it extremely difficult for humanitarian aid and assistance to reach its intended recipients. Bahar and other experts have argued that aid is being used as a political tool. Second, refugees that fled to Venezuela during the Colombian civil war remain in regions outside government control. Third, countries experiencing refugee inflows could see their politics impacted, especially in the midst of a region-wide electoral season. The ongoing developments may dictate whether foreign policy gains a space in the regional dialogue. 

Looking ahead, the panelists agreed that host countries must recognize the expertise and capabilities of UN refugee agencies and NGOs to coordinate and manage the crisis. The lack of a coordinated regional response may be perpetuating the current situation. Looking forward, the European refugee crisis may serve as a case study on how Venezuela’s neighbors should react.

This piece originally appeared here

Council on Foreign Relations: Venezuela’s Migration Crisis

Yesterday I joined Dany Bahar, David M. Rubenstein Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Francisca Vigaud-Walsh, Senior Advocate for Women and Girls at Refugees International, at the Inter-American Dialogue for an event co-sponsored with CFR's Center for Preventive Action on Venezuela's migration crisis. You can watch our discussion of the increasingly dire situation and potential roles the United States, regional governments, other donor countries, and multilateral bodies can and should take here

This piece originally appeared here

IRIN: For victims of the Ituri conflict’s sexual violence, aid is scarce*

Around 8pm one January night, the bullets started flying through the village of Blukwa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri Province. It was just one incident in a wave of violence that has flared up in the region in recent months, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee.

As with conflicts elsewhere in Congo, rape and other forms of sexual violence feature prominently in the Ituri attacks, in which hundreds of people have been killed.

But for many women and girls who have fled to Uganda, care for their physical and psychological wounds is hard to come by – even when they are willing to seek it out, overlooking the stigma often attached to victims of sexual violence.

Support includes identifying survivors; providing access to psychosocial, medical, and legal services; training health workers in clinical management of rape; and supplying post-rape kits to health facilities.

As Dismas Nkunda, the executive director of Atrocities Watch Africa, noted, Uganda is known for its “robust” refugee regime, one that now accommodates around 1.4 million people who have fled neighbouring countries.

“Providing appropriate support for survivors of rape is mandatory for any refugee protection regime anywhere in the world, so there should be no excuse whatsoever for failure to support these victims,” he said.

Francisca Vigaud-Walsh, senior advocate for women and girls at Refugees International, said the reasons for the unmet needs are clear. “It is unsurprising that there is a limited number of services for rape survivors arriving from Ituri into Uganda,” she said. “The humanitarian response in Uganda is woefully underfunded, and limited resources are now being diverted to the cholera response,” she said.

Rape: One survivor’s story

Speaking recently from Kyangwali, a sprawling Ugandan settlement for refugees, one  former resident of Blukwa recalled the January night she fled. The woman, who did not want to use her name, said she and her husband heard shooting and he went to investigate. “We should run to save our lives,” he told her as he returned to the house. “He grabbed our son and ran with him,” she recalled. “I tried to follow, but I lost touch. It was dark.

“I couldn’t call them, so I decided to go my separate way to hide. While I was in the bush, I heard and saw two people coming towards my direction. They had guns; I knew I was dead.

“I tried to plead with them to spare me. They couldn’t listen. They undressed and raped me. One covered my mouth while the other raped me. After he finished, his colleague came and did the same. They raped me without any mercy. They threatened to kill me if I ever shouted.

“After raping me, they left. I remained in the bush with a lot of pain. When I returned back home in the morning I thought I would find my husband and son… They were no more. They had been killed the same night I was terribly raped.”

Exhausted and hungry, she said she managed the two-day walk to the shores of Lake Albert and boarded a boat to Uganda, where some 50,000 people from Ituri have sought refuge this year.

According to an official at a Ugandan reception centre cited by the aid agency CARE last month, nine out of every 10 women arriving  arriving from Congo – most of whom had travelled from North Kivu Province, with some coming from adjacent Ituri had been raped, sometimes more than once, and sometimes by gangs – both inside Congo and as they fled to Uganda.

“All these women who make it here were victims of rape and other forms of gender based violence,” said the unnamed official.

Addressing the gap in aid for victims of sexual violence, Vigaud-Walsh said: “In part, Uganda and its humanitarian partners simply cannot keep up with the unrelenting number of refugees that continue to stream in from the DRC and South Sudan, not to mention Burundians that have fled persecution into Uganda. The OPM (Office of the Prime Minister) scandal, with regards to refugee registration and exploitation, has not been helpful either – it has shaken the will and trust of international donors.”

“Nonetheless, international donors must recognise that joint [UN refugee agency] – OPM efforts are underway to redress these failures,” she added. “The reduction in humanitarian dollars to Uganda will only serve to punish refugees. More financing is needed, in particular to allow for services for rape survivors to be prioritised for women and girls arriving from Ituri, DRC, as [for] those who continue to arrive from South Sudan.”

The stigma of survival

Alain Sibenaler, the Uganda country representative of the UN Population Fund, which works in partnership with CARE in assisting survivors of sexual violence in Kyangwali, said: “It is not easy estimating the magnitude of the problem because the majority of the cases go unreported, given the shame associated with rape.”

The suffering of survivors extends beyond the crime itself, noted CARE Country Director Delphine Pinault. “Despite the prevalence of rape and other forms of sexual violence, at the community level stigma surrounding being a survivor still persists, including being ridiculed, rejected, and isolated as a result of the shame,” she said.

CARE is setting up centres in Kyangwali to provide counselling and group activities to survivors of gender-based violence.

“Through a set of activities that brings women together in a rather relaxed fashion, they will be supported to tell their stories and process the past,” Pinault said.

Under-resourced response

She added that there were too few professional counsellors and specialists for traumatised children to allow survivors to speak in their own language.

As previously reported by IRIN, a cholera outbreak among new arrivals in Uganda has reduced the funding and resources needed to respond to cases of gender-based violence.

And as a 17-year-old from the Ituri village of Lewi explained, individual needs are great.

“I am traumatised,” said the woman, who asked that her name not be used. “I am physically, emotionally, and psychologically affected. I can’t forget the terrible experience. Why did they have to rape me like that? It was so painful and terrifying.”

Primary healthcare facilities in the 17 villages that make up Kyangwali are very few in number and poorly supplied. The nearest referral hospital is 80 kilometres away. At the national level, Uganda languishes near the bottom of global healthcare league tables.

These shortcomings are all too evident for the survivor from Blukwa, who lost her husband and son. She says she is now incontinent, suffers pains in her abdomen, and that a whitish liquid is secreted from her genital area.

“I was referred to the health facility for checkups and treatment,” she said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get proper medical treatment. I was given some drugs that didn’t help.”

“I am alone and traumatised. How can I live without my husband and son? It could have been better if I was killed with them,” she said.

*This story was amended on 27 April to clarify that the Ugandan official at a reception centre was referring to Congolese women who had arrived from other parts of Congo, for the most part North Kivu Province, and not only Ituri, when he said that nine out of ten of them had been raped during their journeys.

This piece originally appeared here

 

IRIN: For victims of the Ituri conflict’s sexual violence, aid is scarce

Around 8pm one January night, the bullets started flying through the village of Blukwa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri Province. It was just one incident in a wave of violence that has flared up in the region in recent months, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee.

As with conflicts elsewhere in Congo, rape and other forms of sexual violence feature prominently in the Ituri attacks, in which hundreds of people have been killed.

But for many women and girls who have fled to Uganda, care for their physical and psychological wounds is hard to come by – even when they are willing to seek it out, overlooking the stigma often attached to victims of sexual violence.

Support includes identifying survivors; providing access to psychosocial, medical, and legal services; training health workers in clinical management of rape; and supplying post-rape kits to health facilities.

As Dismas Nkunda, the executive director of Atrocities Watch Africa, noted, Uganda is known for its “robust” refugee regime, one that now accommodates around 1.4 million people who have fled neighbouring countries.

“Providing appropriate support for survivors of rape is mandatory for any refugee protection regime anywhere in the world, so there should be no excuse whatsoever for failure to support these victims,” he said.

Francisca Vigaud-Walsh, senior advocate for women and girls at Refugees International, said the reasons for the unmet needs are clear. “It is unsurprising that there is a limited number of services for rape survivors arriving from Ituri into Uganda,” she said. “The humanitarian response in Uganda is woefully underfunded, and limited resources are now being diverted to the cholera response,” she said.

"When I returned back home in the morning I thought I would find my husband and son… They were no more. They had been killed the same night I was terribly raped.”


Rape: One survivor’s story

Speaking recently from Kyangwali, a sprawling Ugandan settlement for refugees, one  former resident of Blukwa recalled the January night she fled. The woman, who did not want to use her name, said she and her husband heard shooting and he went to investigate. “We should run to save our lives,” he told her as he returned to the house. “He grabbed our son and ran with him,” she recalled. “I tried to follow, but I lost touch. It was dark.

“I couldn’t call them, so I decided to go my separate way to hide. While I was in the bush, I heard and saw two people coming towards my direction. They had guns; I knew I was dead.

“I tried to plead with them to spare me. They couldn’t listen. They undressed and raped me. One covered my mouth while the other raped me. After he finished, his colleague came and did the same. They raped me without any mercy. They threatened to kill me if I ever shouted.

“After raping me, they left. I remained in the bush with a lot of pain. When I returned back home in the morning I thought I would find my husband and son… They were no more. They had been killed the same night I was terribly raped.”

Exhausted and hungry, she said she managed the two-day walk to the shores of Lake Albert and boarded a boat to Uganda, where some 50,000 people from Ituri have sought refuge this year.

According to an official at a Ugandan reception centre cited by the aid agency CARElast month, nine out of every 10 women arriving  arriving from Congo – most of whom had travelled from North Kivu Province, with some coming from adjacent Ituri had been raped, sometimes more than once, and sometimes by gangs – both inside Congo and as they fled to Uganda.

“All these women who make it here were victims of rape and other forms of gender based violence,” said the unnamed official.

Addressing the gap in aid for victims of sexual violence, Vigaud-Walsh said: “In part, Uganda and its humanitarian partners simply cannot keep up with the unrelenting number of refugees that continue to stream in from the DRC and South Sudan, not to mention Burundians that have fled persecution into Uganda. The OPM (Office of the Prime Minister) scandal, with regards to refugee registration and exploitation, has not been helpful either – it has shaken the will and trust of international donors.”

“Nonetheless, international donors must recognise that joint [UN refugee agency] – OPM efforts are underway to redress these failures,” she added. “The reduction in humanitarian dollars to Uganda will only serve to punish refugees. More financing is needed, in particular to allow for services for rape survivors to be prioritised for women and girls arriving from Ituri, DRC, as [for] those who continue to arrive from South Sudan.”
 

The stigma of survival

Alain Sibenaler, the Uganda country representative of the UN Population Fund, which works in partnership with CARE in assisting survivors of sexual violence in Kyangwali, said: “It is not easy estimating the magnitude of the problem because the majority of the cases go unreported, given the shame associated with rape.”

The suffering of survivors extends beyond the crime itself, noted CARE Country Director Delphine Pinault. “Despite the prevalence of rape and other forms of sexual violence, at the community level stigma surrounding being a survivor still persists, including being ridiculed, rejected, and isolated as a result of the shame,” she said.

CARE is setting up centres in Kyangwali to provide counselling and group activities to survivors of gender-based violence.

“Through a set of activities that brings women together in a rather relaxed fashion, they will be supported to tell their stories and process the past,” Pinault said.
 

Under-resourced response

She added that there were too few professional counsellors and specialists for traumatised children to allow survivors to speak in their own language.

As previously reported by IRIN, a cholera outbreak among new arrivals in Uganda has reduced the funding and resources needed to respond to cases of gender-based violence.

“I am alone and traumatised. How can I live without my husband and son? It could have been better if I was killed with them.”

And as a 17-year-old from the Ituri village of Lewi explained, individual needs are great.

“I am traumatised,” said the woman, who asked that her name not be used. “I am physically, emotionally, and psychologically affected. I can’t forget the terrible experience. Why did they have to rape me like that? It was so painful and terrifying.”

Primary healthcare facilities in the 17 villages that make up Kyangwali are very few in number and poorly supplied. The nearest referral hospital is 80 kilometres away. At the national level, Uganda languishes near the bottom of global healthcare league tables.

These shortcomings are all too evident for the survivor from Blukwa, who lost her husband and son. She says she is now incontinent, suffers pains in her abdomen, and that a whitish liquid is secreted from her genital area.

“I was referred to the health facility for checkups and treatment,” she said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get proper medical treatment. I was given some drugs that didn’t help.”

“I am alone and traumatised. How can I live without my husband and son? It could have been better if I was killed with them,” she said.

*This story was amended on 27 April to clarify that the Ugandan official at a reception centre was referring to Congolese women who had arrived from other parts of Congo, for the most part North Kivu Province, and not only Ituri, when he said that nine out of ten of them had been raped during their journeys.

For the full article, click here

Vidas en riesgo: Fallas en las medidas de protección que afectan a hondureños y salvadoreños deportados de Estados Unidos y México

Vidas en riesgo: Fallas en las medidas de protección que afectan a hondureños y salvadoreños deportados de Estados Unidos y México

Según los hallazgos en el informe de Refugees International (RI), tanto Estados Unidos como México deportan a personas con considerables necesidades de protección a Honduras y El Salvador, países de los que huyeron. El informe, Vidas en riesgo: Fallas en las medidas de protección afectan a hondureños y salvadoreños deportados de Estados Unidos y México, indica que el proceso de protección en todas las etapas –desde la tramitación de una solicitud de asilo hasta la deportación y reinserción en el país de origen– se caracteriza por graves fallas que, en última instancia, ponen en peligro vidas humanas. La investigación de RI también determinó que, a pesar de las inversiones sustanciales en servicios de acogida para los deportados, tanto Honduras como El Salvador tienen sistemas de protección deficientes.

Putting Lives at Risk: Protection Failures Affecting Hondurans and Salvadorans Deported from the United States and Mexico

Putting Lives at Risk: Protection Failures Affecting Hondurans and Salvadorans Deported from the United States and Mexico

Both the United States and Mexico are deporting individuals with significant protection needs back to Honduras and El Salvador – the countries from which they fled. In this report, Refugees International (RI) finds that the protection process at every stage – from asylum application to deportation to reintegration into the country of origin – suffers from serious failures that ultimately put lives at risk. The RI research also found that despite important investments in reception services for deportees, both Honduras and El Salvador have weak protection systems.

All Africa: Five Migration Trends to Watch in 2018

2017 saw a host of new and quickly deepening humanitarian crises from Southeast Asia to Africa. But behind this rising tide of forced displacement was an isolationist and xenophobic political backdrop that could render 2018 even worse, especially given the lack of diplomatic leverage and leadership required to resolve intractable conflicts.

In the United States, President Donald Trump spent his first year erecting bureaucratic walls to keep out immigrants and refugees, while calling for a physical wall along the southern US border. In Europe, far-right candidates threatened to upset a host of elections. And, as North Africa acted as a holding cell, conflicts in both the continent's east and centre escalated while humanitarian budgets shrank, driving up the numbers of internally displaced and urgent protection needs.

"What distinguishes conflicts of today is that they're unending," Demetrios Papademetriou, co-founder and president emeritus of the Migration Policy Institute, told IRIN. "None of the conflicts we see today are anywhere near being resolved, because the resolutions are extremely complex. They involve religion, power, control of resources. No refugee-producing conflict today will be resolved in the near future."

UN member states are hammering out the details of two global compacts - one on refugees and one on migration - to be adopted at this year's General Assembly in September. But few are optimistic that they will be game-changers for better global refugee and migration governance in the years to come.

So, while this year promises to be even more difficult, here are five key questions on migration policy the answers to which will shape how 2018 really plays out for some of the world's most vulnerable people:

A dramatic decline in sea crossings from Libya to Europe in 2017 sounds on the surface like a success. But this year is likely to expose the kinds of human rights abuses the EU is willing to tolerate to keep externalising its migration responsibilities.

Like the 2016 EU-Turkey accord - which choked off the Aegean Sea route but led to more than 10,000 asylum seekers being detained on Greek islands and returns to unsafe countries - Italy's deals with Libyan groups have come with a human cost: abuse for up to one million migrants languishing in detention centres, often with ties to militias. Despite an international outcry, mainly due to CNN footage of what appeared to be slave auctions, little is likely to change before Italy's general election in March.

Towards the end of 2017, the EU and the African Union put together a repatriation plan to send migrants back to their countries of origin or other transit countries, such as Niger, with the help of the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration.

"The bigger question is what happens to people when they're back in Niger," Minos Mouzourakis, policy researcher at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles in Brussels, told IRIN. "The EU is talking about resettlement as an option, but that doesn't mean the same people being evacuated to Niger will have access to durable solutions. What is the actual objective? Are we just returning people to another transit country and calling it an evacuation, or are we giving them avenues to other legal options like resettlement?"

Migrant returns are paid for through programmes like a 3.3 billion-euro "emergency trust fund" originally billed as development aid for North Africa.

In late December, 162 refugees and migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yemen were brought to Italy from Libya under the EU-AU plan. But if the troubled inter-EU relocation programme is any indication, infighting may prevent the bloc from implementing a meaningful plan for resettlement from Africa.

Last year, Trump all but ended resettlement to the United States, which has taken two thirds of the world's resettled refugees annually for the past decade. His executive order last January banned refugees and travellers from several Muslim-majority countries, prompting months of legal battles and indefinitely barring tens of thousands who had cleared the years-long vetting process. Though courts have saved the programme, the president sets the ceiling for refugee admissions, and in September he set it at 45,000 for fiscal year 2018, the lowest level since its inception in 1980. So far, admissions have slowed to a trickle. Many advocates predict the United States won't even come close to Trump's number.

Domestically, this threatens the entire American resettlement regime, since resettlement agencies' federal funding is tied to the number of refugees they assist. Several agencies are already closing offices and laying off personnel.

Other countries are stepping in with increased resettlement pledges, including Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. But those slots won't be enough to fill the hole left by the United States.

"At a time when the international community is trying to come together to promote more equitable responsibility-sharing on refugees, when the US cuts the number of refugees it'll resettle, it sends a very negative signal to the rest of the world," Mark Yarnell, senior advocate and UN liaison for Refugees International in Washington, DC, told IRIN. "And even though resettlement is so rare relative to the number of people who are refugees, it's still the solution many refugees hope for - and when they see it diminishing, they're more likely to take more hazardous paths to safety."

To view full article, click here

VOA Afrique: NGO denounces recruitment of Burundian refugees in Rwanda by armed groups

The NGO Refugees International denounces the recruitment by "armed groups" of Burundian refugees in the Mahama camp in Rwanda, including children, and calls for sanctions.

Burundian refugees in Rwanda are recruited by "armed groups" in violation of international law, denounces the NGO Refugees International (RI) which calls, in a report released Monday, December 14, the international community to "punish" those responsible.

However, the Burundian government had already criticized Rwanda for hosting Burundian opponents and tolerating the recruitment of opponents in these camps. But Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, along with her colleague in charge of refugees, Seraphine Mukantabana, had already formally denied the allegations.

In this report titled "Right of asylum undermined: recruitment of Burundian refugees in Rwanda", RI points to the "recruitment of Burundian refugees inside the Mahama refugee camp (in south-east Rwanda) by non-state armed groups, including the recruitment of children ".

The American NGO said to have based in particular on testimonies collected in Rwanda in September and October 2015.

More than 70,000 Burundians, according to the UN, have fled to Rwanda since the start of violence in their country.

"Threat to peace"

"The arming of Burundian refugees in Rwanda would not only represent a serious violation of international law, but also a serious threat to peace in Burundi and the region as a whole," said Michael Boyce, one of the report's drafters.

The NGO calls on Rwanda, accused by Burundi to support an embryonic rebellion, to ensure that "any recruitment of refugees ceases immediately". It also urges the African Union (AU) and the UN "to punish the actors - whether Burundian or Rwandan - violating the civilian and humanitarian nature of the right of asylum."

Some refugees say they were "dragged inside Rwanda ... by people who speak Kinyarwanda (national language of Rwanda, ed) and wearing military uniforms," I details.

Recruiters pressure

According to the NGO, which campaigns for the protection of displaced persons, there are reports of "verbal and written threats, harassment, intimidation and physical attacks against refugees who refuse to be enlisted".

The pressure is such that some are forced to "sleep in the showers or latrines" camp to escape their recruiters, according to RI.

According to the report, some Burundian refugees claim to have been threatened with arrest by Rwandan officials after complaining of attempts to force them to be drafted.

Since the beginning of unrest in late April in Burundi, hundreds of people have been killed in severely repressed demonstrations, then clashes between police and protesters, and more than 200,000 people have left the country, according to the report. 'UN.

On Friday alone, 87 people were killed in coordinated attacks on three military camps, the most serious violence incident since a failed military coup in May.

This piece originally appeared here

As 16 Days of Activism End, The Fight Against Gender-Based Violence Continues

As 16 Days of Activism End, The Fight Against Gender-Based Violence Continues

At the close of this year’s 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, Francisca Vigaud-Walsh writes that women’s bodies are often a battleground in conflict zones, and humanitarian aid areas must be a place for healing their wounds. Programs such as the U.S. initiative "Safe From the Start" are essential tools in the addressing the impacts of violence against woman and girls in conflicts.

Displacement and Violence in the Northern Triangle

Displacement and Violence in the Northern Triangle

Following a recent mission to the Northern Triangle region of Central American, Refugees International finds that current conditions require that the United States government not deport Temporary Protective Status beneficiaries from Honduras and El Salvador. Rather, the U.S. should provide alternatives for Honduran and Salvadoran women, men and children to remain in the United States legally.

The Guardian: Tensions in Uganda after funding delays lead to reduced food rations for refugees

The flood of people fleeing South Sudan, coupled with delays and constraints on funding, has led to a shortfall in food rations to refugees.

According to agencies working on the ground in Uganda, where most of the refugees have been arriving from the conflict across the border, food supply lines are being shut down and distribution of aid is becoming increasing irregular.

The UN’s World Food Programme said it had been forced to cut the amount of grain handed out due to delayed funding, with cash transfers offered to refugees to make up the shortfall.

“When the funding comes late it takes a bit longer to secure the cereals. It means that you have to go to the markets to procure, transport, store and distribute,” said El Khidir Daloum, WFP director for Uganda.

In the past fortnight, South Sudanese refugees at Nyumanzi settlement in Adjumani, which hosts about 20,000 people, protested in front of officials from the prime minister’s office.

Titus Jogo, refugee desk officer in Adjumani, said that they had to calm people down and explain that, while the WFP did not have enough cereal stocks this month, money would be provided instead so that people could buy food at the local market.

Andie Lambe, executive director at International Refugee Rights Initiative, said: “Our understanding is that the ration cuts this month were as a result of a break in the food pipeline within WFP and that these cuts are both temporary and that the gap was substituted with a cash equivalent of the missing ration. In addition, WFP assured us that this would not be applied to recent arrivals and vulnerable households.

“The refugees are dependent on handouts due to the lack of alternatives for them to support themselves. When rumours of rations being permanently cut or stopped altogether are combined with actual cuts and without clear explanation being given for this, tensions will increase and it is not unreasonable for refugees to voice their disquiet.”

The sheer scale of the disaster, in which more than 86% of refugees are women and children, means that strains have been put on already scarce resources.

“Uganda is dealing with a refugee crisis of historic proportions and the country and its humanitarian partners have not been able to meet the needs of one million South Sudanese who have sought protection from violence in a relatively short amount of time,” said Francisca Vigaud-Walsh of Refugees International.

“Uganda has an exemplary refugee policy and has done what it can to provide safe harbour and land to refugees, but the needs of refugees outstrip the capacity of humanitarian responders, given that the funding simply isn’t there,” she said.

In May this year, WFP was forced to cut food rations to refugees in the east African nation by 50% due to severe funding shortages. The agency need an estimated $167m (£126m) to provide aid through to the end of the year, but donors contributed only $30m as of September.

“Every month we need $20m to feed the refugees in Uganda. For the next six months we have a shortage of $62m to $85m for refugees,” said Daloum. “We know what it takes to secure those resources, but at the same time, this is a life-saving issue.”

The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, and the UN secretary general, António Guterres, hosted a summit in June in Kampala to call for action for South Sudanese refugees, with $674m needed to support them in 2017. However by August, only 21% of that sum had been raised.

This piece originally appeared here

Guilt by Association: Iraqi Women Detained and Subject to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

Guilt by Association: Iraqi Women Detained and Subject to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

After the liberation of Mosul from Islamic State (ISIS) occupation in July 2017, Refugees International (RI) traveled to Iraq to examine the specific challenges faced by women and girls in the aftermath of the military operation. Among the most urgent issues are the detention and sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) of Iraqi women and girls perceived or alleged to be affiliated with ISIS by Iraqi Security Forces and other Iraqi authorities.

Too Much Too Soon: Displaced Iraqis and the Push to Return Home

Too Much Too Soon: Displaced Iraqis and the Push to Return Home

The battle against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq is in its late stages, but in the aftermath of the conflict new challenges arise. There are 11 million people in Iraq who need humanitarian assistance. The original causes of their vulnerability—conflict and displacement—may be lessening, but their unmet daily needs remain.

Lest we forget: Assisting ISIS survivors in Iraq

Lest we forget: Assisting ISIS survivors in Iraq

This month marks the three-year anniversary of the withdrawal of an 11,000-strong Peshmerga force from Sinjar in northern Iraq. The withdrawal left Sinjar’s Yazidi minority community besieged by Islamic State (ISIS) fighters. For one displaced Yazidi family with whom I recently met in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, there is both reason to grieve and to celebrate. The head of family told me that dozens of extended family members were kidnapped by ISIS during the siege. But this anniversary also marks the first that his now 15-year-old daughter, Vian,* is home.