Published:  12:43 AM, 12 February 2020

Hear the voice of people

Hear the voice of people Syrian men cradle babies as they navigate the rubble of destroyed buildings after an air strike on Aleppo's Salihin district. -Guardian

Around the world, people are being killed, injured and are forced out from their homes by terrifying conflicts and oppression. They go to bed hungry because their harvests are failingyear after year due to natural disasters. From Syria to South Sudan, more than 125 million people around the world have had their lives devastated in conflict or disaster.Countless families are being pushed deeper into poverty every day. 

Many governments donate substantial amounts in aid. But the millions affected by crises need more than water, shelter and food. They often need safe refuge and an end to the violence, and a sustainable means to reduce the risk of disasters they will face in the future.

We live in a world in which warring parties  kill civilians without thinking about the consequences, and in which the human and economic costs of disasters are growing. Unless we act soon, serious natural hazards will become more frequent. Millions more people will be pushed further into a life of poverty and suffering and international aid efforts will struggle to cope.

No matter what, war means suffering for ordinary people. A huge and growing number of them are losing their homes, their schools, their jobs, their hospitals and their lives. The failure to prevent conflict often results in a further failure to protect civilians. In today's conflicts, the most basic rules of war are being bent or broken to gain even the slightest advantage on the battlefield. Terrible human rights abuses continue to go unchecked.

World leaders must re-commit to the international laws they've agreed to, such as those set out in the Geneva Convention and the Arms Trade Treaty.

We are in the middle of the most serious refugee crisis since the Second World War, with tens of millions of people risking everything to flee terrifying conflict, disaster and poverty. And yet, having escaped the unthinkable, many vulnerable families are met by closed borders, hostility, discrimination, abuse and worse.

There is no single solution to the refugee crisis and no one country that can tackle it alone. Governments worldwide must develop a fair, united and co-ordinated response to help the millions of vulnerable people who are on the move. They must act quickly and responsibly to save and protect lives, and promise never to undermine international law by bargaining away fundamental human rights.

Help local people face the future on their own terms In a world where times of crisis are set to become more frequent and more serious, many lives will be lost unless we take action now. Oxfam believes that the best chance we can give local communities to cope and recover from crises is to help them face the future on their own terms - rather than impose terms on them.

We need to create a new humanitarian model that gives responsibility and leadership of disaster and crisis response to local people. We need to work together to reinforce national and local humanitarian responses, not replace or undermine them. With the right investment, local people and communities will be able to save more lives in a crisis - and come back stronger afterwards.

More people than ever are affected by emergencies due to conflict and disaster. In 2019, over 134 million people in 42 countries are predicted to be in need of humanitarian aid.

Somalia has seen persistent instability and conflict since 1991. More than 5 million Somalis (over 40 percent of the population) need some form of humanitarian assistance, over 1 million face crisis levels of food insecurity. Conflict has driven 740,000 Somalis to nearby countries and a further 2.6 million people are displaced within the country. Flooding at the end of 2019 could push these numbers to record levels.

In late 2020 or early 2021, Somalia hopes to hold its first direct parliamentary and presidential elections since 1969, suggesting the political situation is stabilizing somewhat. Nonetheless, militant groups represent a persistent domestic threat, and elections could trigger renewed conflict rather than bring peace, thereby increasing risk to humanitarian workers. Anticipated flooding could worsen food insecurity at least until the spring of 2020.

The humanitarian situation in Burkina Faso deteriorated rapidly in 2019, driven primarily by conflict involving armed groups that have gained control of territory in the north and east. Instability has driven a massive rise in displacement, from 9,000 people at the start of 2018 to nearly 500,000 (as of October 2019).

Conflict has decreased access to education, health and other services and the trend will likely continue in 2020. The number of displaced people is projected to reach 900,000 by April 2020. Food insecurity is expected to steadily worsen. The situation could deteriorate even more rapidly if the planned presidential election in November 2020 sparks further instability, as happened in 2015.

Civil conflict in South Sudan has killed almost 400,000 people since 2013; 7.5 million people need humanitarian assistance. The crisis has created 2.2 million refugees and displaced 1.5 million inside the country.

South Sudan is currently experiencing a period of relative calm following a nationwide ceasefire in 2018 and a deal to create a yet-to-be formed unity government. If fragile talks break down, South Sudan faces a high risk of renewed conflict, there is well-founded fear that parties excluded from the peace deal will disrupt humanitarian efforts. The country is ill equipped to cope with the potential spread of Ebola from the Democratic Republic of Congo (ranked #2 on the Watchlist).

Afghanistan faces immense humanitarian needs driven by nearly two decades of conflict and political instability; 9.4 million Afghans (25 percent of the population) need humanitarian assistance. Well over 10 million people suffer critical food insecurity. There are almost 2.5 million registered Afghan refugees living outside the country.

Prolonged uncertainty plaguing peace talks and 2019 election results bode ill for the country's recovery from years of conflict and instability. All sides may try to strengthen their negotiating positions by escalating military operations, which could increase civilian casualties and humanitarian need. Half a million people are expected to be displaced in 2020.

Venezuela faces a rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis rooted in political and economic turmoil; 4.6 million Venezuelans have fled the country as of November 2019.An estimated 5,000 continue to leave daily. Nearly a quarter of the population within Venezuela requires humanitarian assistance; 94 percent of households live in poverty and 80 percent of the population face some level of food insecurity. Hyperinflation is driving severe shortages of food, medicine and clean water.

International sanctions could deepen the economic crisis and internal political tensions could escalate domestic unrest, driving further displacement in 2020 and furtherstraining the capacity and resources of host governments in the region. Nearby countries could impose greater restrictions on Venezuelans crossing borders, driving them to use illegal routes, which would increase their vulnerability.

Nigeria faces multiple conflicts, most prominently a decade-long insurgency in the northeast and rising communal violence in central areas and the northwest. Food insecurity and large-scale displacement has been aggravated by a cholera outbreak.

There are over 2 million displaced Nigerians living in the northeast as of November 2019. 243,000 have fled the northeast to neighboring countries. Over half of the 13.4 million people living in the conflict-affected northeast states need some form of humanitarian assistance.

Continued conflict along with new constraints on humanitarian efforts will likely exacerbate conditions in Nigeria. The situation in the northwest could deteriorate even further, particularly if armed groups operating there establish links to counterparts active in the Sahel.

More than half of the population of Syria has been displaced by conflict since 2011.The war has created 5.7 million refugees. Eleven million Syrians (65 percent of the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance.

The situation in Syria remains volatile especially in the northwest and northeast. There remains a risk of major escalation and subsequent displacement in 2020. The crisis has long been defined by attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure. Syria will continue to face massive immediate and long-term humanitarian needs even if conflict deescalates.

At just over 5 million people, the Democratic Republic of Congo has the largest internally displaced population in Africa; 15.9 million people require humanitarian assistance, and 15.6 suffer from crisis levels of food insecurity. Congo is in the midst of the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history.

Continued armed conflict, political instability and the spread of Ebola could trigger a major deterioration in the crisis in 2020. Should the disease spread to an active conflict zone or a major city, the humanitarian crisis will be even more severe.

The writer is working with
The Asian Age

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