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Migrants among most vulnerable, as IOM ramps up coronavirus response worldwide

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IOM Libya staff assist migrants at a disembarkation point in Tripoli, Libya. Photo:IOM

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has expanded the scope of its Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan (SPRP), to include far-reaching interventions that aim to mitigate the dire health and socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, the agency said on Wednesday.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has expanded the scope of its Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan (SPRP), to include far-reaching interventions that aim to mitigate the dire health and socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, the agency said on Wednesday. 

A revised appeal was launched in Geneva, seeking $499 million to support vital preparedness, response and recovery activities in more than 140 countries. 

The new plan broadens the Organization’s approach to encompass COVID-19 mitigation efforts in humanitarian settings, and numerous other contexts where people on the move are likely to be gravely affected by the pandemic.  

Greater commitment

“IOM is calling for greater commitment from international donors that will allow us to better alleviate the dire effects that COVID-19 is having on some of the world’s most vulnerable communities”, said IOM’s Director General, António Vitorino, while expressing gratitude for contributions to date. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of 15 April, more than 1.9 million cases and over 123,000 deaths have been reported worldwide.  

The announcement of the pandemic phase on 11 March, caused a sharp increase in movement restrictions both at international and local levels, including border closures and nationwide quarantines. As of 9 April, almost 46,000 restrictions on international travel have been enacted, according to IOM estimates.

As part of the UN’s global effort to tackle the health, social and economic consequences of the current crisis, IOM has been working with governments and partners to ensure that migrants – regardless of their legal status – returnees and forcibly displaced persons across the world, are included in local, national and regional preparedness, response and recovery efforts.

Prepare for the worst

“When migrants and displaced communities are excluded from national response plans and services, particularly health care, everyone is at greater risk”, said Mr. Vitorino. “We also need to anticipate and prepare for the potentially dire economic consequences for migrants, host and source countries.”  

Migrants will remain among the most vulnerable to the loss of economic opportunities, eviction and homelessness, as well as stigmatization and exclusion from essential services, said IOM.  

This will have a particularly drastic effect in countries where migrant workers contribute to poverty reduction, through remittances sent back home that allow their families to access basic services, medical care and education.

Millions of displaced and migrant populations living in camps and other overcrowded settings, many of whom are caught in conflict, are also highly vulnerable due to limited access to services and knowledge on how to protect themselves and their loved ones.   

IOM action to stem the spread of COVID-19 

  • Established treatment and isolation centres as well as handwashing stations in camps and camp-like settings.  
  • Launched multilingual information campaigns and hotlines targeting migrants and displaced persons to prevent community transmission. 
  • Trained government officials on surveillance in airports, sea ports and land border crossings.   
  • Conducted mapping of human mobility trends and dynamics to inform preparedness plans and track information on stranded migrants and provided laboratory support for case detection.  
  • Provided personal protective equipment and disinfection supplies at points of entry.   
  • Distributed humanitarian assistance to stranded migrants or quarantined returnees. 

  As the global co-lead on camp coordination and camp management in humanitarian responses, IOM provided assistance to 2.4 million people living in camps globally during the course of last year, and developed operational guidance for camp managers to anticipate the pandemic spreading to these vulnerable populations. The Organization also provided health services to 2.8 million people across the world.   

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Environment

2020, one of three warmest years on record

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The COVID-19 pandemic was not the only long-term crisis the world will remember from 2020. In terms of climate change, the year was also one of the three warmest on record, and rivalled 2016 for the top spot, the UN weather agency said on Wednesday. 

“The confirmation by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) that 2020 was one of the warmest years on record is yet another stark reminder of the relentless pace of climate change, which is destroying lives and livelihoods across our planet”, said Secretary-General António Guterres

He pointed out that at 1.2 degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels, the world is already witnessing unprecedented weather extremes in every region and on every continent.  

“We are headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius this century”, he warned. “Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top priority for everyone, everywhere.”  

Powerful force 

La Niña, which began in late last year, is expected to continue into the early-middle part of 2021.   

“The exceptional heat of 2020 is despite a La Niña event, which has a temporary cooling effect”, said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.  

La Niña and El Niño effects on average global temperatures are typically strongest in the second year of the event. 

“It is remarkable that temperatures in 2020 were virtually on a par with 2016, when we saw one of the strongest El Niño warming events on record”, he added. “This is a clear indication that the global signal from human-induced climate change is now as powerful as the force of nature”.  

The extent to which the continued cooling effects of La Niña this year may temporarily diminish the overall long-term warming trend remains to be seen.  

Following atypical patterns  

WMO pointed to sustained heat and wildfires in Siberia, diminishing Arctic sea ice and record-breaking hurricanes in the Atlantic as being among the climate events that most stood out in 2020.  

The UN weather agency also reminded that temperature is just one climate change indicator. Greenhouse gas concentrations, ocean heat content, global mean sea level, sea ice extent and extreme events are also factors. 

Backed by science 

WMO’s consolidated global temperature update incorporates information from five leading international sets of data.  

It also uses datasets that combine millions of meteorological and marine observations, including from satellites, with models to produce a complete reanalysis of the atmosphere.  

“The combination of observations with models makes it possible to estimate temperatures at any time and in any place across the globe, even in data-sparse areas such as the polar regions”, according to WMO.  

Looking to the future  

The Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C, preferably to 1.5°C degrees, compared to pre-industrial levels. 

However, the global average temperature in 2020 had already approached the lower limit of the temperature increase that the Agreement seeks to avert.  

Moreover, there is at least a one-in-five chance that the average global temperature will temporarily exceed 1.5 °C by 2024, according to WMO’s Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update, led by the United Kingdom’s Met Office. 

The 2021 Met Office annual global temperature forecast also suggests that next year will again be one of the earth’s hottest years.  

Updating its provisional December report, WMO will issue its final publication in March, which will incorporate temperature figures, information on all leading climate indicators and selected climate impacts. 

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Environment

Step up action and adapt to ‘new climate reality’-Report

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Though countries have made progress in planning for climate change adaptation, there are significant financing shortfalls in getting them to the stage where they provide real protection against droughts, floods and rising sea levels, a new UN environment report has found. 

According to the 2020 Adaptation Gap Report, released on Thursday by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), as temperatures rise and climate change impacts intensify, nations must urgently step up action to adapt to the new climate reality or face serious costs, damages and losses. 

“The hard truth is that climate change is upon us,” Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director, said in a news release announcing the findings. 

“Its impacts will intensify and hit vulnerable countries and communities the hardest, even if we meet the Paris Agreement goals of holding global warming this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing 1.5 degree Celsius.” 

Global commitment needed 

Annual adaptation costs in developing countries are estimated at $70 billion, but the figure could reach up to $300 billion in 2030, and $500 billion in 2050. Almost three-quarters of nations have some adaptation plans in place, but financing and implementation fall “far short” of what is needed, according to the UNEP report. 

Stepping up public and private finance for adaptation is, therefore, urgently needed. 

“As the Secretary-General has said, we need a global commitment to put half of all global climate finance towards adaptation in the next year … this will allow a huge step up in adaptation, in everything from early warning systems to resilient water resources to nature-based solutions,” Ms. Andersen added. 

Adaptation is a key pillar of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It aims to reduce countries’ and communities’ vulnerability to climate change by increasing their ability to absorb impacts.  

Nature-based solutions 

The UNEP report also underscored the importance of nature-based solutions as low-cost options that reduce climate risks, restore and protect biodiversity, and bring benefits for communities and economies. 

Its analysis of four major climate and development funds: the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Adaptation Fund, and the International Climate Initiative (IKI), suggested that support for green initiatives with some element of nature-based solutions has risen over the last two decades.  

Cumulative investment for climate change mitigation and adaptation projects under the four funds stands at $94 billion. However, only $12 billion was spent on nature-based solutions, a tiny fraction of total adaptation and conservation finance, it added. 

Cutting emissions will reduce costs 

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions will reduce the impacts and costs associated with climate change, according to the report. Achieving the 2 degrees Celsius target of the Paris Agreement could limit losses in annual growth to up to 1.6 per cent, compared to 2.2 per cent for the 3 degrees Celsius trajectory. 

UNEP urged all nations to pursue the efforts outlined in its December 2020 Emissions Gap Report, which called for a green pandemic recovery and updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that include new net-zero commitments.  

“However, the world must also plan for, finance and implement climate change adaptation to support those nations least responsible for climate change but most at risk,” the UN agency added. 

“While the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to hit the ability of countries to adapt to climate change, investing in adaptation is a sound economic decision,” it said. 

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Africa Today

Insecurity and bureaucracy hampering aid to Ethiopia’s Tigray region

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photo: UNFPA/Sufian Abdul-Mouty

Nearly three months after the start of conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, hundreds of thousands of people have yet to receive assistance, the United Nations reported on Wednesday, citing information from its humanitarian coordination agency, OCHA.

“Humanitarian assistance continues to be constrained by the lack of full, and safe, unhindered access to Tigray, caused by both insecurity and bureaucratic delays”, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told journalists

“The UN and its humanitarian partners in Ethiopia urgently call on all parties to allow the immediate safe passage of humanitarian personnel and their supplies to the Tigray Region to be able to reach all people who desperately need assistance.” 

Over two million in need 

Mr. Dujarric said the UN continues to receive alarming reports of civilians being injured and killed in rural areas in Tigray, as well as of violations against civilians, though verification remains a challenge.  

“Aid workers have been able to deliver assistance in some areas, mainly in cities, where access has been granted by the authorities. However, the number of people reached is extremely low compared to the 2.3 million people we estimate are in need of life-saving assistance”, he said. 

The situation is particularly critical for newly displaced people and refugees, especially those who were living in two camps that remain inaccessible, according to OCHA

Humanitarians further warn that the majority of the 270,000 people receiving benefits through the Government’s Safety Net Programme have also been without assistance as banks in most rural areas have been closed since before the crisis began. 

“These are extremely vulnerable people who rely on monthly cash transfers to meet their basic needs,” said Mr. Dujarric.

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