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Five Key Challenges for New UN Refugee Chief

The UN's new High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.  
Photo: Amanda Voisard/UNHCR - BY Kristy Siegfried

OXFORD, 5 January 2016 (IRIN) - Getting back to work following the end-of-year break can be tough. But spare a thought for Filippo Grandi, who arrived in Geneva this week to begin his five-year term as head of the UN’s refugee agency.

Not only is he replacing António Guterres, who held the office of High Commissioner for the past 10 years and was widely revered, but he is doing so at a time when record numbers of people around the world are fleeing persecution and conflict and in need of UNHCR’s protection and support. . . .

. . . Here are five of the greatest challenges likely to preoccupy him in the coming months:



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Quantifying Poverty as a Driver of Ebola Transmission

                                           - Fallah MP, Skrip LA, Gertler S, Yamin D, Galvani AP (2015) Quantifying Poverty as a Driver of Ebola Transmission.
December 31, 2015 - PLoS Negl Trop Dis 9(12): e0004260. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0004260



Poverty has been implicated as a challenge in the control of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Although disparities between affected countries have been appreciated, disparities within West African countries have not been investigated as drivers of Ebola transmission. To quantify the role that poverty plays in the transmission of Ebola, we analyzed heterogeneity of Ebola incidence and transmission factors among over 300 communities, categorized by socioeconomic status (SES), within Montserrado County, Liberia.

CLICK HERE - Quantifying Poverty as a Driver of Ebola Transmission


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NGOs Speak: Their Most Pressing Humanitarian Priorities for 2016


South Sudan tops many aid agencies' humanitarian priority lists. as a three-year civil war exacts a heavy toll on the citizens of the country.  (Nichole Sobecki, AFP)

Following a call from the UN for a record $20.1 billion, 15 of the world's leading aid agencies were polled on their top humanitarian concerns. - by Tom Esslemont - December 28, 2015

There’s one prediction for 2016 that most aid workers can make with confidence – that the new year will usher in rising humanitarian needs.

Besides displacement caused by long-term conflicts in places like Syria and South Sudan, there is also the threat of more violence in Central African Republic and hunger caused by El Nino, which is expected to bring more drought to already-parched southern regions in Africa and potential flooding in the east. . . .

. . . A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll asked 15 of the world’s leading aid agencies to name their top three humanitarian priorities for 2016. Not surprisingly, Syria topped the list of concerns. But what were the others?



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Social Vulnerability and Ebola Virus Disease in Rural Liberia


Clusters of social vulnerability in rural Liberia, by district. Social vulnerability of each cluster of districts can be loosely ranked from most to least vulnerable as: Cluster 1, food quality, displaced persons, disabled, dependent populations; Cluster 3, food quantity, food quality, lack of access to land/free medical care; Cluster 4, food quantity, disabled dependent populations and Cluster 5, water quality/proximity to medical care; and finally, Cluster 2, no strong vulnerability scores.

CLICK HERE - Social Vulnerability and Ebola Virus Disease in Rural Liberia

CLICK HERE - Social Vulnerability and Ebola Virus Disease in Rural Liberia (14 page .PDF file) - by Zoe Hoyle - September 15, 2015

A newly published research study by U.S. Forest Service researchers demonstrates that the social vulnerability indices used in climate change and natural hazards research can also be used in other contexts such as disease outbreaks.

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Budapest Migrant Standoff Enters Second Night


Hundreds of families have set up camp underneath Budapest's eastern station

Hundreds of migrants are in a standoff with police for a second night outside a Budapest railway station. - September 2, 2015

Earlier, scuffles broke out between the two sides as frustration among migrants boiled over outside Keleti station.

Many of the migrants have tickets and are insisting they be allowed to travel on to Germany and other countries, but Hungary says it is enforcing EU rules.

Meanwhile, Germany, Italy and France have called for "fair distribution" of refugees throughout the EU.

In a joint declaration, the country's three foreign ministers also called for Europe's asylum laws to be revised, the Italian foreign ministry said in a statement (in Italian).


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422,000 Besieged Syrians Didn't Get Food Aid In July, It's World's 'Largest Humanitarian Crisis:' UN


BARAA AL-HALABI via Getty Images

There were challenges due to conflict, insecurity and deliberate obstructions. - AP - by Edith M. Lederer - August 26, 2015

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused all parties in the Syrian conflict of "indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks" on civilians and said the U.N. and its partners couldn't deliver food to 422,000 people in besieged areas in July.

Ban said in his monthly report to the U.N. Security Council circulated Tuesday that access to the 4.6 million Syrians in hard-to-reach areas - most controlled by Islamic State extremists - remains a critical concern with extremely limited humanitarian access.

He said U.N. agencies and their partners reached only 29 of the 127 hard-to-reach locations last month, and in the besieged areas, the only aid that arrived was a trickle of health assistance to 1.8 percent of the population.


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Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien Remarks to the Press, Juba, South Sudan, 25 July 2015

                                                               - UN OCHA - REMARKS TO THE PRESS - [as delivered]

Juba, South Sudan, 25 July 2015

Today I conclude my four-day visit to South Sudan where I had the opportunity to see for myself the impact of the devastating crisis. This is my first visit to South Sudan since I began my role as the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator that was almost two months ago. But I have been here few times before. My last visit to South Sudan was in April 2012 to assess the humanitarian situation then, in my capacity as an Under-Secretary of State for International Development in the United Kingdom.


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'The Worst Atrocity You’ve Never Heard Of'

The ethnic cleansing unfolding in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan doesn’t get much coverage. But once you’ve witnessed it, says Nicholas Kristof, it will haunt you. By Adam B. Ellick on Publish Date July 13, 2015. Photo by Nicholas Kristof/The New York Times. - By ADAM B. ELLICK and NICHOLAS KRISTOF - July 13, 2015

You’ve heard of Darfur, and you know about the slaughter underway in Syria. But the worst ethnic cleansing you’ve never heard of is unfolding in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, where the government is bombing villages, schools and hospitals and trying to keep out food and medicine.

It doesn’t get much coverage, partly because it’s difficult to get access to. But when you’ve seen these atrocities, they haunt you. So we slipped into the Nuba Mountains through rebel lines to try to document the killings. This video is the result.


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South Sudan Food Crisis Deepens Amid Tanking Economy


Almost 700,000 South Sudanese now live as refugees in neighbouring countries. The vast majority fled their homes since civil war broke out in December 2013.  Photo: UNHCR - by Andrew Green - June 1, 2015

Through 17 months of conflict, tens of thousands of people have been killed in South Sudan and two million more displaced. Schools, health centres and markets have been looted and destroyed. It took a $1.8 billion humanitarian response last year for the country to avoid a famine.

And it’s about to get even worse.


CLICK HERE - Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) - The Republic of South Sudan
(5 page .PDF report)



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Meager Post-Ebola Harvests Worsen Food Insecurity in West Africa


Villagers harvest rice in Sierra Leone. Harvesting is often a communal affair in West African nations, but the Ebola crisis interfered with group activities and disrupted many other aspects of agricultural production in the region. Photo credit: ©FAO/Peter DiCampo. - by Lois Parshley - June 25, 2015

Pedelers Salee Craig used to grow vegetables. Near his home in Monrovia, Liberia, he planted peppers and bitter balls, potatoes and okra. A sturdy 39 year-old man with cheeks etched from former smiles, Craig is passionate and generally optimistic. 

But he's not smiling when he talks about the situation in Liberia now. Typically, farmers work to gather crops communally, harvesting together until the season is over. But in 2014, the Ebola crisis restricted travel. 

"Everyone was afraid of each other," Craig said. Mandatory government quarantines trapped people within their homes. As the disease spread, fields went unharvested and soon lay fallow. 

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