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Rohingya crisis: UNICEF issues ‘Child Alert,’ outlines urgent action to save lives

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Issuing a dire warning on the desperate situation of Rohingya refugee children, who now number more than 320,000 in Bangladesh, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for an end to the atrocities targeting civilians in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, and immediate and unfettered access to all children affected by the violence there.

At present, UNICEF has no access to Rohingya children in northern Rakhine state, where horrific violence since late August has driven over half a million members of the minority Muslim community to seek refuge across the border in Bangladesh.

“Many Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh have witnessed atrocities in Myanmar no child should ever see, and all have suffered tremendous loss,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, releasing a new report Outcast and Desperate: Rohingya refugee children face a perilous future.

“This crisis is stealing their childhoods. We must not let it steal their futures at the same time.”

In the report, UNICEF has called for urgent action in four key areas:

  1. International support and funding for the Bangladesh Humanitarian Response Plan and humanitarian response plan for Myanmar;
  2. Protection of Rohingya children and families, and immediate unfettered humanitarian access to all children affected by the violence in Rakhine State;
  3. Support for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar; and
  4. A long-term solution to the crisis, including implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.

The most pressing need for thousands of refugees and refugee children is food, safe water, sanitation and vaccinations. Psychosocial support, education and counselling is also urgently needed.

Meanwhile, the influx of refugees continues unabated – between 1,200 and 1,800 children are arriving per day (about 60 per cent the total number) and thousands more are said to be on way.

To cope with the crisis, UN relief agencies are working at full tilt, but funding and resources are in short supply.

Ahead of an international pledging conference on 23 October in Geneva, UNICEF has urged donors to respond promptly to the requirements of the updated Bangladesh Humanitarian Response Plan released jointly by the UN and humanitarian agencies.

The Plan calls for $434 million, including some $76.1 million to address the immediate needs of newly-arrived Rohingya children, as well as those who arrived before the recent influx, and children from vulnerable host communities.

The ministerial-level conference, organized by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and co-hosted by the European Union and Kuwait, will provide Governments an opportunity to show their solidarity and share the burden and responsibility.

In the midst of a crisis which appears to overwhelm any response, UN agencies successfully concluded the first phase of a massive oral cholera vaccine (OCV) campaign, reaching over 700,000 children and people over the age of one with protection against the deadly diarrheal disease.

“The coverage is commendable as the oral cholera vaccination campaign was planned and rolled out against very tight timelines,” said Dr. N. Paranietharan, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) presence in Bangladesh.

Among the 700,487 people inoculated since the campaign was launched on 10 October, 179,848 are children aged between one and five.

“[The campaign] demonstrates the commitment of the Government of Bangladesh, partners on the ground, as well as partners such as GAVI (a public–private global health partnership) and the International Coordinating Group on vaccine provision, to help secure the health and wellbeing of these immensely vulnerable people,” added the WHO official.

The second phase is scheduled for early November to give an additional OCV dose to children aged between one and five years, for added protection.

The vaccination campaign supplements other preventive measures, such as increased access to safe water, adequate sanitation and good hygiene. To help improve hygiene, a bar of soap was also handed out to each individual administered the vaccine.

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New Solar Project to Restore Electricity to Over One Million Yemenis

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The World Bank announced today a new project to finance off-grid solar systems in Yemen to power vital basic services, and improve access to electricity for vulnerable Yemenis in rural and outlying urban areas.

Funded by a US$50 million grant from IDA, the World Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries, the new project will rely on the commercial solar market, which has grown despite the conflict, providing further support to the local economy and creating jobs.

Solar power has proved to be the most immediate solution for severe energy shortages in Yemen. A booming solar industry has developed driven by the private sector, but the costs have put the technology beyond the reach of public facilities and the most vulnerable populations.

The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project will work with the current solar supply chain and the existing network of microfinance institutions, to finance and deliver off-grid solar systems to rural and peri-urban areas. The aim is to restore or improve access to electricity to 1.4 million people, around half of them women. The project will also fund solar power for critical infrastructure, such hospitals, schools, water corporations, and rural electricity providers.

The lack of electricity in Yemen has had a devastating impact on Yemenis and the provision of services,” said Dr. Asad Alam, World Bank Group Country Director for Yemen, Egypt, and Djibouti. “While responding to immediate need, the project will contribute to building a more inclusive and sustainable solar market in Yemen through targeted financing to the private sector which will expand its reach to the poor and vulnerable.

The project will be implemented in partnership with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and in collaboration with the local private sector, including Micro Finance Institutions, solar equipment suppliers and technicians. Working with the Yemeni private sector will help create hundreds of jobs.

Investing in solar will make Yemen’s electricity more resilient, reduce the dependence on fuels for critical service facilities, and create jobs in the private sector,” said Joern Torsten Huenteler, World Bank Energy Specialist and Task Team Leader of the project, “What Yemenis need today more than ever is a quick and innovative energy solutions to help ease the crisis.

With this new financing, IDA emergency grants to Yemen issued since July 2016 have totaled US$1.183 billion.

These projects have been prepared – and are being implemented – in partnership with Yemeni institutions and UN organizations such as the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the United Nations Office for Project Services.

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Japan works with UNIDO to boost employment in Lebanon

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Photo: UNIDO

The Government of Japan has announced that it will fund a project to create jobs in the carpentry and construction sectors in northern Lebanon. This is one of eight new projects implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Nigeria, Somalia and the Syrian Arab Republic, with Japanese funding totaling US$5.2m.

The project will build upon previous interventions to create economic opportunities, particularly among host and refugee communities, in the northern areas of the country. The technical assistance will focus on the design of new training modules for construction skills training and the delivery of marketable vocational skills training to vulnerable individuals.

Matahiro Yamaguchi, Ambassador of Japan to Lebanon, stated, “Japan is very keen on creating employment opportunities in productive sectors such as carpentry and construction, in order to promote economic development in the country.” He expressed hope that the project assists both Lebanese residents and Syrian refugees in gaining access to job markets and entrepreneurship by equipping them with essential technical skills and practical knowledge.

Speaking at the kick-off event held on 28 March at UNIDO headquarters in Vienna, during which the eight projects and the funding from the Government of Japan were announced, UNIDO Director General, LI Yong, highlighted that the projects aim to strengthen the humanitarian-development nexus and promote inclusive and sustainable industrial development by taking a human security approach.

Ambassador Mitsuru Kitano, the Permanent Representative of Japan to the International Organizations in Vienna, stated that the projects will “help individuals to live under healthy conditions, consolidate their livelihoods and, with all of this, gain optimism for their future.”

Lebanon continues to be by far the largest host of Syrian refugees in proportion to population. The country is currently hosting more than one million refugees, resulting in a 25% increase in the population. In particular, interventions aimed at creating jobs and economic opportunities are considered urgent by the government and the United Nations.

This project will target individuals in areas that have been significantly impacted by the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon in order to upgrade their skills and knowledge to be better prepared to handle any external shocks to the labour market, as well as to enhance their employability. Given the backdrop of high youth unemployment (30%), falling oil prices and a slow in economic growth, this training couldn’t come at a better time for participants in the north of Lebanon.

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Economy and Human Welfare to Grow Under IRENA’s 2050 Energy Transformation Roadmap

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Increasing the speed of global renewable energy adoption by at least a factor of six – critical to meeting energy-related emission reduction needs of the Paris Climate Agreement – can limit global temperature rise to two degrees, according to the latest edition of the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) long-term renewable energy outlook. At the same time, the report finds that by 2050, the global economy would grow by one per cent and global welfare, including benefits not captured by GDP, such as health benefits from reduced air pollution and reduced climate impacts, among others, would improve by 15 per cent, compared to the current trajectory.

Global Energy Transformation: A Roadmap to 2050, launched today at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, also finds that increasing cumulative energy system investment by 30 per cent to 2050 in favour of renewable energy and energy efficiency, can create over 11 million additional energy-sector jobs, completely offsetting job losses in the fossil fuel industry. Immediate action will also reduce the scale and value of stranded energy-related assets in the future. The roadmap currently anticipates up to USD 11 trillion of stranded energy assets by 2050 – a value that could double if action is further delayed.

“Renewable energy and energy efficiency together form the cornerstone of the world’s solution to energy-related CO2 emissions, and can provide over 90 per cent of the energy-related CO2 emission reductions required to keep global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius,” said IRENA Director General Adnan Z. Amin. “If we are to decarbonise global energy fast enough to avoid the most sever impacts of climate change, renewables must account for at least two-thirds of total energy by 2050.

“Transformation will not only support climate objectives, it will support positive social and economic outcomes all over the world, lifting millions out of energy poverty, increasing energy independence and stimulating sustainable job growth,” continued Mr. Amin. “An opportunity exists to ramp up investment in low-carbon technologies, and shift the global development paradigm from one of scarcity, inequality and competition to one of shared prosperity – in our lifetimes. That is an opportunity we must rally behind by adopting strong policies, mobilizing capital and driving innovation across the energy system.”

Current government plans fall short of emission reduction needs. At today’s trajectory, the world would exhaust its energy-related “carbon budget” (CO2) for 2oC in under 20 years, despite continued strong growth in renewable capacity additions. By the end of 2017, global renewable generation capacity increased by 167 GW and reached 2,179 GW worldwide – yearly growth of 8.3 per cent.

However, without an increase in deployment, fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal would continue to dominate the global energy mix by 2050. The roadmap analysis outlines an energy system in which renewables account for up two-thirds of total final energy consumption, and 85 per cent of power generation by 2050 – up from 18 per cent and 25 per cent respectively today.

To achieve this, at least a six-fold acceleration of renewable energy is needed, both through increased electrification of transport and heat, and more direct use of renewables. Electrification, and renewable power are key drivers outlined in the report, with solar and wind capacity leading the energy transformation.

Visit the IRENA website to download Global Energy Transformation: A Roadmap to 2050

IRENA

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