A blog by Grant Montgomery, co-founder of Family Care Foundation, a 501c3 that provides emergency services and sustained development for communities, families and children on 5 continents. Articles and commentary on Philanthropy, Global Aid and Development.
Nearly 600,000 Syrians are surging toward the Turkish
border to escape unexpectedly swift Syrian government advances into the
country’s last opposition-held enclave, amid warnings that the exodus could
mushroom into the worst humanitarian crisis of the nearly nine-year war.
More than 200,000 people have fled their homes in the past week alone, according to U.N. figures. They are streaming north along clogged roads toward the relative safety of the Turkish border, as Syrian troops, backed by Russian airstrikes, slice through opposition-held towns and villages in the northwestern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo.
They have joined more than 300,000 people displaced from areas farther south since the launch of a government offensive in early December, bringing to 586,000 the number of people now on the move in a shrinking pocket of territory hugging the Turkish border.
More than half are children, most of the rest are women,
and they are sleeping on roadsides or camping under trees in muddy fields
because there is no accommodation to be had, the United Nations says. The
existing camps are full, local homes have taken in all the people they can
hold, and there is an acute shortage of tents to provide shelter from harsh
winter temperatures, which are projected to drop to 19 degrees Fahrenheit over
For refugees who can’t go home, starting over in a new country is a life-changing opportunity – for generations. But the chances of that, even for the most deserving cases, are less than one in 20, according to new data from the UN.
The UN refugee agency reported on Wednesday that 63,696 refugees were offered resettlement in 2019, slightly more than in 2018. Those were placed from an estimated 1.4 million potential cases – just 4.5 percent.
Every year, UN refugee case-workers prepare files of candidates eligible for “resettlement” – those who are most vulnerable in the country they have taken asylum in, or who face special threats back home. Once accepted by the receiving country, resettlement usually means not just an air ticket and accommodation, but a clear path to permanent residency and citizenship.
Locust swarms of biblical proportions are threatening crops across a wide
swath of Africa and southwest Asia—spurring alarm among top international
A major concern is famine. The United Nations is warning that mass swarms of desert locusts are endangering food supplies in eastern Africa. Officials in Rome noted the situation has a high potential to devolve into a full-blown crisis. Dominique Burgeon, an emergency services director at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, said the locust infestation in Africa is now FAO’s top priority.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres took to Twitter in an effort to draw global attention to the worsening outbreak. The swarms are now threatening farms in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia but are expected to spread to neighboring countries and India soon.
The U.N. chief pinned blame for the crisis squarely on global warming. Cyclones that struck the driest parts of the Arabian Peninsula last year triggered the current crisis, creating ideal conditions for the desert locust species to multiply. “Desert locusts are extremely dangerous,” Guterres wrote. “Triggered by the climate crisis, the outbreak is making the dire food security situation in East Africa even worse.”
The desert locust is a particularly ravenous species that can eat its own weight in food every day. Swarms easily consume entire fields and form mass clouds large enough to block out the sun. They’re quick, too, moving up to 150 kilometers in a day. More breeding cycles are expected. The swarms increase in size twenty-fold with each successive generation and could reach India by June.
“It’s certainly the most dangerous
migratory pest in the world, desert locust,” said Keith Cressman, FAO’s senior
agriculture officer. “A swarm the size of Rome can eat enough food in one day
as everybody in Kenya.” Cressman said FAO is now classifying the
situation as “an upsurge, which is one step before a full plague.”
Fighting in Idlib, the last area in Syria under opposition-control, has intensified in recent weeks. Since December 1, nearly 520,000 Syrians have been forced to leave their homes, many for the second time.
On average, WHO and its partners reach 800,000 in northwest Syria every month – but the agency said the situation on the ground is changing by the hour. This has further limited access to basic healthcare, an increasing lack of basic medicine, and less protection against communicable diseases as a fragile immunization network, put in place by WHO and partners, is now disrupted. An estimated 2.9 million people in Syria’s northwest are in need of healthcare.
A senior official said it was “striking” that in the case of Idlib, where
Syrian Government forces plus their allies Russia and others are battling the
last remaining rebel fighters, “the enormous humanitarian needs are being
largely ignored by the international media and governments.
“Northwest Syria represents one of the world’s most severe humanitarian
crises, where civilians are suffering on an extraordinary level.
Humanitarian agencies can only do so much. What we need is a renewed
international commitment to bring an end to this protracted and devastating
crisis”, he said.
Shelling by Syrian government forces early Monday killed
five Turkish soldiers in Syria’s northwest Idlib province, according to
Turkey’s Defense Ministry, which said its forces carried out retaliatory
strikes on Syrian military positions.
The violent escalation between Turkey and Syria, which are
neighbors but bitter adversaries, amounted to some of the most serious clashes
between the two governments in years.
Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are
pursuing a military offensive in Idlib, a province in northwestern Syria that
hosts more than 3 million people, including residents and civilians displaced
from other parts of the country. The Syrian offensive has killed hundreds of
civilians and caused an exodus of displaced people from towns caught up in the
fighting, according to humanitarian aid groups.
The latest violence appeared certain to further test
Turkey’s complicated partnership with Russia. The relationship rests on
strengthening commercial and military ties but has recently been strained as
the two governments have backed opposing sides in conflicts throughout the
Middle East, including in Syria and Libya. Russia is also Assad’s most
important military ally and has backed Syria’s Idlib offensive as part of
Moscow’s overarching goal of restoring all of Syria’s territory to government