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Civilians are #NotATarget
by OCHA, ICRC, IFRC, MSF, agencies
Aug. 2018
Every year World Humanitarian Day brings citizens of the world together to rally support for people living in humanitarian crises and to pay tribute to the aid workers who help them. This year, World Humanitarian Day builds on the momentum created by the 2017 #NotATarget campaign, which saw more than 2 million people take actions urging global leaders to do a better job of protecting civilians, humanitarians and health workers in conflict zones.
Civilians in conflict zones are routinely killed or maimed in targeted or indiscriminate attacks. Last year, the United Nations recorded the deaths or injuries of tens of thousands of civilians in attacks in just six conflict-affected countries: Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Iraq, Somalia and Yemen.
The failure of parties to conflict to protect civilians cannot go unchallenged. Around the world, conflict is exacting a massive toll on people’s lives. People in cities and towns struggle to find food, water and safe shelter, while fighting drives millions of people from their homes.
Children are recruited by armed groups and used to fight, and their schools are destroyed. Women are abused and humiliated.
As humanitarian workers deliver aid and medical workers treat the sick and wounded, they are directly targeted, treated as threats, and prevented from bringing relief and care to those in desperate need.
Conflict has forced record numbers of people to flee their homes, with over 65 million people now displaced, most of them within their own borders.
Humanitarians and health workers are frequently targeted in attacks and prevented from carrying out impartial humanitarian or medical activities. Since 2003, over 4,000 humanitarians have been killed, injured, detained, kidnapped and prevented from responding to those in need. That is an average of 300 cases a year. In 2017, WHO recorded 322 attacks across conflict-affected countries including Afghanistan, CAR, DRC, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalis, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria. These resulted in 242 deaths of and 229 injuries to medical personnel and patients.
There are rules governing fighters’ behaviour in war. Every time those rules are broken, human suffering intensifies. States and armed groups have clear and long established international legal obligations in conflict, including to protect civilians from harm, to spare schools and hospitals, and to ensure the safe and unimpeded passage of aid workers and supplies. Leaders and fighting forces must take active steps to spare civilians and the infrastructure they rely on.
Conflict increasingly takes place in towns and cities, injuring tens of thousands of civilians every year and laying waste to homes and vital infrastructure, including hospitals and schools, and water and power systems. More than 50 million people are currently affected by conflict in urban areas. Our global capacity to respond to these crises is increasingly overstretched.
Conflict-driven food insecurity and the potential for famine have left millions of lives hanging in the balance. Conflict is one of the main drivers of global food insecurity, in addition to climatic shock.
World leaders must ensure violators are held accountable. In his report this year on the Protection of Civilians in conflict, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on countries to undertake credible and effective investigations into allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law and to hold perpetrators to account, with the support of the United Nations as necessary.
At the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, global leaders made commitments to uphold the norms that safeguard humanity - to undertake actions to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure in armed conflict.
This year once again, millions of citizens from around the world are demanding that world leaders and non-state actors take action to protect people caught in armed conflict.
We demand that world leaders do everything in their power to protect civilians in conflict. Civilians are #NotATarget
* Agenda for Humanity: Respect the Rules of War:
* Report of the UN Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict:
* States must act to fulfil famine victims’ right to food, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food:

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Spiralling violence puts millions at risk in Ebola-hit eastern DRC
by UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
24 Aug 2018
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is alarmed by the latest escalation of violence in already volatile and Ebola-hit North Kivu province in east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The cumulative effect of conflict and the outbreak of the deadly disease is threatening millions of Congolese.
The fighting involving a number of armed groups operating in the area has intensified in all six territories in North Kivu, a province bordering Rwanda and Uganda. Thousands of civilians have fled their burned out villages, bringing reports of brutal attacks. The already dire humanitarian situation has been further aggravated by an outbreak of Ebola virus in parts of the province. The disease has killed more than 60 people and infected dozens more in recent weeks.
Forced displacement in this part of the country remains massive. It is estimated that more than a million people are displaced in North Kivu. This is the highest concentration of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the DRC. An estimated half a million people have been forced from their homes this year alone.
UNHCR is particularly worried about the deteriorating situation in the Ebola-hit northern territory of Beni. The area is home to some 1.3 million people. Spiralling conflict has left the population living there virtually in a state of siege since October 2017. Reports of increased human rights violations and restrictions of humanitarian access are frequent. Estimates are that more than 100 armed groups are active in the province, continually terrorizing the population.
Despite a large-scale military offensive of the Congolese Army against one of the main rebel groups, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) since January, there has been no let-up in the violence.
Despite security challenges, a UNHCR team accessed the area north of Beni earlier this month and conducted humanitarian assessments in Oicha and Eringeti districts. Residents told our staff about brutal attacks against the civilians carried out with machetes. Stories of massacres, extortion, forced displacement and other human rights violations are frequent.
Sexual and gender-based violence is rampant across the Beni territory. Many children are being recruited as child soldiers. The violence is particularly rampant in the so-called “triangle of death,” between the towns of Eringeti, Mbau and Kamango, on the Uganda-DRC border, as well as in the towns of Beni, Oicha and Mavivi.
UNHCR teams witnessed empty villages, countless torched and abandoned houses, as well as burnt cars. Those who fled found shelter mostly in Beni and Oicha, where both host and displaced communities fall prey to brutal and unpredictable attacks. Beni town hosts more than 32,000 displaced people, with the majority forced to live with host families or in schools or churches. More than two thirds have been forced to flee in the last three months.
UNHCR teams found the vulnerable displaced indigenous communities to be in some of the most critical situations. Forced out of their areas of origin in the forests, their living conditions in makeshift sites are abysmal. Families are sleeping rough, barely protected from the elements by their flimsy shelters.
They have few or no means of survival as they can no longer hunt in the forests, now under the control of armed groups. There’s a genuine risk of these people losing their culture and way of life.
UNHCR is scaling up its capacity in North Kivu to respond to the growing humanitarian needs. We are arranging additional emergency shelters and other humanitarian assistance to meet the needs of the displaced in Beni. While UNHCR’s humanitarian response is continuing despite the outbreak of Ebola, the prevailing security situation and drastic funding shortfall severely hamper our efforts. UNHCR’s DRC 2018 appeal totalling USD 201 million is only 17 per cent funded.

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