Ethiopia: UNHCR Operational Update, January 2023

Ethiopia is the third largest refugee hosting country in Africa, generously sheltering over 880,000 refugees, mainly from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan. The majority are women and children who need special care and attention.

UNHCR is a key partner in the government-led Inter-Agency response to the plight of IDPs, leading the Protection and co-leading the Camp Coordination & Camp Management (CCCM) Clusters. UNHCR is also active in the Shelter/NFI, Logistics and Health Clusters.

UNHCR is supporting people affected by conflict & the worst drought in 40 years.

It’s also helping the government & communities to build resilience against natural hazards, such as recurrent droughts and flooding.

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Statement on stopping transmission of VDPV2 in Yemen’s northern governorates and in Somalia

Acknowledging that our common goal is to attain ‘Health for All by All’, which is a call for solidarity and action among all stakeholders;

Noting the progress achieved globally in eradicating poliovirus transmission since 1988;

Noting with deep concern the challenges involved in stopping ongoing outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) in the Region, without full access to vaccinate all vulnerable children in the affected populations;

Observing with alarm the prolonged outbreak in Yemen and the persistent restrictions on implementing outbreak response vaccination in the country’s northern governorates, and further observing that the cVDPV2 outbreak which has been continuing since 2017 is the world’s longest ongoing such outbreak;

Recognizing the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s efforts to target its resources in the most impactful way by identifying particular areas affected by polio, including Yemen’s northern governorates and south-central Somalia, as “consequential geographies” – two of seven subnational geographies globally which together accounted for 90% of all polio cases in 2022 and which are all affected by broader humanitarian emergencies;

Recognizing the high risk of expansion of the polio outbreaks within and from the two Regional consequential geographies due to their complex emergency settings, limited access to high-risk populations, weak immunization services, gaps in coverage of supplementary vaccination campaigns, and unmitigated spread of misinformation and disinformation in northern governorates of Yemen;

Recalling that the international spread of polio is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern under the International Health Regulations (2005);

Observing with alarm that 197 children have been paralyzed by cVDPV2 in Yemen’s northern governorates, representing almost one-third of all global cases of this strain in 2022, and that the international spread of poliovirus from Yemen to Djibouti, Egypt and Somalia has been confirmed;

Recognizing the best operational approach and experience to vaccinate all children, especially infants and young children, against polio, and achieve more than 90% coverage to stop an outbreak is through house-to-house delivery of vaccination; and if that is not possible, to implement an intensified fixed site vaccination with effective mobilization of families and young children to fixed sites near their homes;

Recognizing the continued threat to all children posed by vaccine-derived poliovirus and the importance of regional solidarity and support to deliver on the goals of the 2022-2026 Polio Eradication Strategy, which have been endorsed and supported by a wide range of committed donors, such as Rotary International and Member States of the Region, in particular the UAE through the sustained commitment of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE;

We, the Member States of the Regional Subcommittee on Polio Eradication and Outbreaks for the Eastern Mediterranean:

DECLARE THAT:

The ongoing circulation of any strain of poliovirus in the Region is a Regional Public Health Emergency;

COMMIT TO:

Mobilizing all needed engagement and support by all political, community and civil society leaders and sectors at all levels to successfully end polio as a Regional Public Health Emergency;

Advocating with relevant community and subnational leaders to increase access and ensure full implementation of polio outbreak response in the most programmatically and epidemiologically impactful operational manner, ideally through house-to-house vaccination campaigns in all areas;

Focusing efforts on reaching remaining zero-dose children in the consequential geographies of the northern governorates of Yemen and south-central Somalia, working in the broader humanitarian emergency response context;

Helping to mobilize needed resources and highest-level international commitment to finalize and fully implement the Somalia Polio Eradication Action Plan 2023, in the context of competing health response priorities such as ongoing drought and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic;

Helping to mobilize resources for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners to support the outbreak response in Yemen; and Helping to strengthen coordination with other public health and humanitarian efforts in Somalia and Yemen, to ensure closer integration in particular with routine immunization and the delivery of essential health and nutrition services to children;

REQUEST THAT:

The international humanitarian and development communities scale up their support for providing essential services, including a robust vaccination response to the polio outbreaks in Somalia and Yemen using modalities that will deliver an acceptable level of coverage;

The authorities and polio eradication partners in Somalia accelerate high-quality and rigorous implementation of the Somalia Polio Eradication Action Plan 2023 to stop the longest-running outbreak in the country and prevent the further spread of cVDPV2 by the end of 2023;

The national authorities and the Regional Polio Eradication programme strengthen cross-border coordination across Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen and Djibouti, considering the documented importation of cVDPV2 from Somalia into Kenya and Ethiopia, and from Yemen into Djibouti, Egypt and Somalia, and the high risk of further instances of cVDPV2 crossing international borders;

Authorities in northern governorates of Yemen, all immunization partners and the humanitarian development community respond urgently to the unmitigated vaccine-related misinformation and disinformation that is being disseminated, which is risking the lives of thousands of children in Yemen and across the Region;

All authorities in northern governorates in Yemen facilitate the resumption of house-to-house vaccination campaigns in all areas to ensure the delivery of vaccines to the youngest and most vulnerable children, and in areas where house-to-house vaccination is not feasible, make all efforts to implement intensified fixed-site vaccination through a modality that also includes robust social mobilization and outreach to ensure high coverage; and

The Regional Director continue his strong leadership and efforts to support the cessation of polio outbreaks in Somalia and Yemen, including by advocating for all necessary financial and technical support, reviewing progress, implementing corrective actions as necessary, and regularly informing Member States of the aforementioned and of any eventual further action required, through the World Health Organization’s Executive Board, the World Health Assembly and the Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean.

Source: Global Polio Eradication Initiative

Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on Human Rights in Eritrea (06 March 2023)

It is my honour to address you on the human rights situation in Eritrea since the last oral update by the former High Commissioner in March 2022.

The human rights situation in Eritrea remains dire and shows no sign of improvement. It continues to be characterised by serious human rights violations. Our Office continues to receive credible reports of torture; arbitrary detention; inhumane conditions of detention; enforced disappearances; restrictions of the rights to freedoms of expression, of association, and of peaceful assembly. Thousands of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience have, reportedly, been behind bars for decades. Furthermore, the harassment and arbitrary detention of people because of their faith continues unabated with estimated hundreds of religious leaders and followers affected.

Furthermore, Eritreans continue to be subjected to indefinite military or national service, which intensified following the Tigray conflict. I would like to recall the story of a young man whose brother was compelled to escape to the forest to avoid forced conscription and has spent the last eight years of his life hiding there, occasionally entering the city at night, to get food and water. Conscripts continue to be drafted for an open-ended duration of service beyond the 18 months provided by law, often in abusive conditions, which can include the use of torture, sexual violence and forced labour. Those who attempt to desert military service are detained and punished. Eritrea further continues with the practice of punishing family members for the behaviour of relatives who evade the draft, including by home evictions.

In fact, the national service remains the main reason Eritreans flee the country. According to UNHCR, at the end of 2022, there were over 160,000 and 130,000 asylum seekers and refugees in Ethiopia and Sudan, respectively, representing a slight increase from previous years mainly from the age group of 18 to 49 years old. Recently, there have been reports of some other countries engaging in forced returns of Eritrean asylum seekers, which exposes returnees to serious human rights violations in the country.

We reiterate our call to Eritrea to bring its national service in line with its international human rights obligations; and call upon States to stop the forcible return of asylum seekers to Eritrea.

Your Excellencies,

It is alarming that all these human rights violations are committed in the context of complete impunity. Eritrea has not taken any demonstrable steps to ensure accountability for past and ongoing human rights violations. No person has been held accountable for the human rights violations documented by the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea in 2016 and in 2017, which found that Eritrea had committed crimes against humanity, including enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, and other inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder. In addition, Eritrea has not taken any steps to establish accountability mechanisms for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) in the context of the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia as found by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) of our Office and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. Eritrea has rejected this JIT report and has allowed perpetrators in the EDF to act with impunity. There is no genuine prospect that the domestic judicial system will hold perpetrators to account.

Furthermore, reports show that while the EDF has commenced withdrawal from Tigray, as requested under the Agreement for Lasting Peace through a Permanent Cessation of Hostilities that was signed in Pretoria, South Africa, in November of last year, the withdrawal remains very slow and largely incomplete, which requires continued monitoring and reporting of the situation.

Your Excellencies,

Let me now turn to Eritrea’s engagement and cooperation with our Office. Following his January 2022 visit to Eritrea to attend the launch of the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework discussions, our Regional Representative for East Africa led a second mission to Eritrea in May 2022, at the invitation of the Government. The mission explored areas of technical support and assistance following technical assessment visits by our Office to the country in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

During the visit, the team met with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Information, and other senior government officials, as well as our development partners. Following discussions with national counterparts, five areas were identified for potential technical cooperation and support by our Office including on (1) enhancing rights as part of a transformative justice system; (2) the harmonisation of “indigenous or traditional laws” in line with international and regional human rights norms; (3) support to a regional conference on traditional justice; (4) enhancing the rights and protection of persons with disabilities; and (5) capacity building on the effective engagement with UN human rights mechanisms.

Further to these two missions, the authorities have not responded to our follow-up towards devising a concrete plan of activities and implementation. Similarly, in Geneva, the Permanent Mission has not engaged with our Office, nor has our Office received any response to communications relating to Eritrea’s involvement in the conflict in Tigray. This total lack of cooperation is in stark contrast to Eritrea’s commitments as a member of the Human Rights Council and its voluntary pledge as a member of this Council to continue its engagement with our Office.

Your Excellencies,

OHCHR is unable to progress with technical engagement and cooperation in light of Eritrea’s lack of response over the years. While we welcome the Government’s increased engagement with the United Nations Country Team in the context of the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, there is a need for engagement on critical human rights issues, through dialogue with our Office and extension of full cooperation to international human rights mechanisms. This includes the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, and the relevant thematic Special Procedures mandate holders notably those who have requested a visit – including the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Eritrea also has a number of overdue reports to United Nations treaty bodies (the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee Against Torture).

During its third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in January 2019, Eritrea made important commitments supporting 131 out of 261 recommendations, including on peace, justice and on supporting stronger institutions. During our Office’s last visit in May 2022, the Government stated that a coordinating body on reporting had designed a plan and a framework for action to implement these recommendations. Our Office has not seen this plan despite our follow up.

In closing, let me reiterate our call for the Government to engage in a full and frank dialogue with our Office. We remain ready to build on these missions to Eritrea, particularly last year, to begin to address some of most serious human rights concerns, including through the provision of technical support. I also call on Member States to encourage and facilitate the engagement by Eritrea with the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms.

Thank you.

Source: UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

UN: Taliban Pursuing Policy of Gender Apartheid

GENEVA — A report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council Monday accuses Afghanistan’s de facto Taliban rulers of pursuing a policy “tantamount to gender apartheid.”

Richard Bennett, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, told the council that “the Taliban’s intentional and calculated policy is to repudiate the human rights of women and girls and to erase them from public life.”

“It may amount to the crime of gender persecution, for which the authorities can be held accountable.”

The Taliban regained power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S.-led Western forces left the country after nearly 20 years of war.

Bennett said conditions in Afghanistan have continued to deteriorate since he submitted his initial report to the council back in September and noted, “Afghans are trapped in a human rights crisis that the world seemed powerless to address.”

Based on subsequent visits to the country in October and December, Bennett said he observed a harsher crackdown on any form of dissent and increasing attacks on the rights of women and girls, as well as ethnic and religious minorities.

Not only are women and girls barred from visiting parks, gyms, and public baths, but new edicts issued by the Taliban have prevented women from attending universities and banning them from working with non-governmental organizations.

“The abysmal treatment of women and girls is intolerable and unjustifiable on any ground, including religion,” he said.

“No country can function with half its adult population effectively imprisoned at home,” he added, saying the ban imposed on female NGO workers was adding to nationwide economic, social and cultural distress.

The United Nations reports that since the Taliban takeover of the country in 2021, the poverty rate has doubled with 28 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including more than six million Afghans on the brink of famine.

Bennett accuses the Taliban of interfering in the delivery of aid instead of intensifying its efforts to remedy the situation.

“I urge them to immediately cease actions that disrupt equitable and speedy access to humanitarian aid to those most in need, particularly women and children,” he said. “The role of women employees is critical in aid delivery. I urge the de facto authorities to immediately lift the ban on women working for NGOs.”

Bennett reported on widespread human rights violations, on the flogging in public of hundreds of women, children and men for alleged crimes including theft and so-called illegitimate relationships. He said he had received credible reports of multiple extrajudicial killings of fighters by the Taliban, of arbitrary arrests, torture, and ill treatment.

“There must be consequences for those responsible for serious human rights violations,” he said. “Longstanding impunity needs to be challenged for past as well as present crimes.”

The United Nations does not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan, so the previous government continues to represent the Afghan people at this international body.

Nasir Ahmad Andisha, ambassador and permanent representative of Afghanistan at the United Nations in Geneva, took the floor before the council, validating the litany of severe abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law described by the special rapporteur.

Andisha said the arbitrary arrests and forceful detentions of peaceful human rights defenders, university professors and activists “should be investigated as gender persecution — a crime against humanity.”

He called for the establishment of an independent investigative mechanism that could collect, analyze, and preserve evidence of human rights violations of Afghans, “especially those of women, children, and vulnerable groups.”

His words were echoed by the human rights organization Amnesty International, which is calling for the creation of a fact-finding mission like those already in place in countries such as Ethiopia, Iran, and Myanmar.

“The human rights situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating rapidly, and the Taliban’s relentless abuses continue every single day,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general.

Callamard said an investigative mechanism is required to meet the enormous challenge of documenting and recording human rights abuses in Afghanistan.

“The creation of a fact-finding mission is essential, with a focus on the collection and preservation of evidence to ensure justice is delivered,” she said, adding that all those found guilty of violations are held accountable in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts or international criminal courts.

Callamard warned that “the current accountability gap is allowing grave violations and abuses in Afghanistan to continue unabated, and it must be urgently closed.”

Source: Voice of America

Norwegian fly emergency aid to Ethiopia in support of UNICEF

Addis Ababa, Today, Norwegian’s most important flight of the year is bound for drought-hit Ethiopia. The flight marks the return of Norwegian and UNICEF’s “Fill a Plane” initiative which is now back for the sixth time. This year, Norwegian’s plane is loaded with emergency aid for children affected by the country’s worst drought crisis in 40 years.

For the sixth time, Norwegian in collaboration with UNICEF Norway are sending a plane with emergency aid to one of the world’s major crisis zones. This year’s mission will bring relief to children affected by malnutrition and drought in Ethiopia. This morning, Norwegian’s newest 737 MAX 8 aircraft was loaded with 10 tonnes of emergency aid from UNICEF’s warehouse in Copenhagen – the world’s largest humanitarian warehouse.

“Finally, together with UNICEF, we can once again fill a plane with emergency aid. I am very happy that we can contribute to getting even more direct emergency aid to children in Ethiopia and, through this, contribute to putting the spotlight on one of the world’s biggest crises,” said Geir Karlsen, CEO of Norwegian.

Internal engagement is central driver for collaboration

Norwegian is providing the aircraft, crew and key employees to UNICEF for this mission.

“Thanks to the fantastic efforts of Norwegian’s employees, we can now send a fully loaded plane with medical equipment, medicine and other emergency aid to the Horn of Africa. It means a lot to have employees who are such active supporters,” said Camilla Viken, Secretary General of UNICEF Norway.

The collaboration between Norwegian and UNICEF Norway stretches back more than 15 years.

“The partnership with UNICEF is a great source of pride internally at Norwegian. Most importantly, we see that our contributions are having meaningful and immediate results. Through fundraising campaigns by employees, humanitarian campaigns and donations from customers we have contributed to giving children all over the world better living conditions,” said Karlsen.

About the crisis in Ethiopia

Children and families in southern and eastern parts of Ethiopia are suffering from the worst drought in four decades. Five rainy seasons have failed and a sixth is in danger of failing, with more than 24.1 million people and 12.9 million children in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

“As the world faces humanitarian crises increasing in complexity, scale and frequency, it is more important than ever to reach vulnerable communities with lifesaving supplies,” said Etleva Kadilli, Director of UNICEF’s Supply Division.

“UNICEF is proud to partner with Norwegian on the Fill a Plane initiative to deliver items to Ethiopia from our Global Supply and Logistics Hub in Copenhagen, including emergency health kits, medicines and midwifery kits. Every child deserves access to essential supplies, and this shipment will support health services to provide critical care for children and their families,” said Kadilli.

About the collaboration between Norwegian and UNICEF

Norwegian has supported UNICEF Norway since 2007, and the commitment among both the employees and the company’s customers has strengthened over many years. Various activities to fundraise as well as voluntary efforts in connection with the “Fill a plane” initiatives have secured help for hundreds of thousands of children.

Some employee fundraising initiatives have included running the New York marathon and knitting mittens and socks for UNICEF. Over 100 Norwegian employees will participate in this year’s Fornebuløpet run in Oslo, raising vital funds for UNICEF. As an established Christmas tradition in Norwegian, the company makes an annual donation to UNICEF on behalf of colleagues rather than distributing Christmas presents.

Since the partnership was established in 2007, Norwegian and the company’s customers have collected more than 50 million Norwegian kroner for UNICEF Norway. Customers can choose to give a monetary gift to UNICEF Norway when they buy plane tickets via the company’s website.

Source: UN Children’s Fund

Ministry of Justice Discussing on Transitional Justice Policy Options

Addis Ababa The Ministry of Justice is undertaking inaugural ceremony of public consultations on transitional justice options in Ethiopia today.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Demeke Mekonnen, UN High Commissioner for Regional Office for East Africa, Marcel Clement Akpovo, Justice Minister, Gedion Timothewos, and Ethiopian Human Rights Commissioner, Daniel Bekele as well as Speaker of the House of Peoples’ Representatives Tagesse Chafo are presiding over the consultation.

Key findings from community consultations on transitional justice and introduction to the Green Paper National Consultation Road map will be discussed.

Source: Ethiopia News agency