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UNHCR urges global deal on refugees as 68.5  million displaced

ROME Italy (Xinhua) -- A global deal on refugees was urgently needed, as the number of people forcibly driven from their home by war, persecution, and violence reached 68.5 million in 2017, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said here on Wednesday.

The new record high marked a 2.9 million increase against 2016, and included an estimated 16.2 million of new displaced people. More specifically, some 11.8 million individuals were newly displaced inside their own country, and 4.4 million were new refugees and asylum seekers.

These were some of the figures provided by the UNHCR in its “Global Trends” annual report, unveiled on Tuesday, and presented at Rome’s Foreign Press Association to mark the World Refugee Day.

Refugees fleeing their countries due to war and persecution accounted for 25.4 million of the 68.5 million last year. Furthermore, minors represented at least 52 percent of the overall figure, marking a 41 percent increase compared to 2009.

“We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach, so that countries and communities are not left alone in dealing with this,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi stressed in the report.

In fact—despite a misperception widely spread across Europe, Italy included—some 85 percent of all refugees at the end of 2017 were granted protection in developing countries, according to UNHCR.

The report showed that nine of the ten largest refugee-hosting countries belonged to developing regions, with Turkey (3.5 million), Pakistan (1.4 million), Uganda (1.4 million) and Lebanon (998,900) topping the ranking, and Germany (970,400) as sole “representative” of developed countries.

Thus, the need for a global approach to manage the phenomenon was pressing, according to the UN officials.

“The UNCHR is engaged in discussing (the issue) in these days, both internally and with the International Organization for Migration (IOM),” UNHCR Representative for Southern Europe Felipe Camargo told Xinhua.

“The aim is to elaborate a proposal on migrant and refugee disembarking system and on redistribution of responsibilities, which could eventually be integrated in the debate on migration on-going within the European Union,” Camargo explained.

Details of such blueprint were not yet available, but its basic principle would “obviously remain that of solidarity and responsibility sharing,” according to the official.

In a statement released on the eve of the World Refugee Day, UNHCR’s Grandi had already mentioned that “in a matter of months, a new Global Compact on Refugees will be ready for adoption by the United Nations General Assembly.”



UN condemns deadly ethnic violence in South Sudan refugee camp in Uganda

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- The UN refugee agency on Thursday condemned the ethnic violence in a South Sudan refugee settlement in northwestern Uganda that left four people dead and 19 others injured. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a statement said it regrets the tragic loss of life that followed a scuffle between two male refugees of Dinka and Nuer tribesmen at Rhino Refugee Settlement in Arua district on Sunday. 

The refugee agency said the sporadic violent attacks on refugees by fellow refugees in the subsequent days resulted in four confirmed fatalities, including that of a minor and 19 others injured. 

“The acts that caused these deaths and injuries are criminal and the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to book in accordance with the laws Uganda,” said Joel Boutroue, UNHCR Representative in Uganda. 

The four Dinka tribesmen were killed in clashes with the Nuer following a dispute between two male refugees while watching a World Cup football match on television at a recreational center, according to the Ugandan police. 

It’s alleged that one of the males left the center and when he returned he found that the other had taken his seat, prompting a heated argument between the two, which led to the fight that in turn sparked off a series of violent attacks in different villages in the Settlement. 

Boutroue cautioned that the misdeeds of a few should not be attributed to an entire community. 

“It is telling that such a minor incident should trigger a tragedy of such magnitude. It has created an extremely volatile situation for refugees in Tika Zone who are mostly women and children without the protection of their menfolk,” said Boutroue. 

“We are following the situation closely and reviewing durable options to maintain peace in the area,” he said.

The Uganda government through the Office of the Prime Minister and UNHCR has agreed to separate the two communities as a priority in order to prevent the escalation of already high tensions between youth on both sides, according to Boutroue. 

“We are also going to work with the communities to promote peace and reconciliation,” he said. 

More than 1 million South Sudan refugees, according UNHCR, have fled to neighboring Uganda since December 2013. Some left their home country because of the ongoing ethnic violence there.


Uganda to distribute free mosquito nets to 1.4 million refugees

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- As the world commemorated World Refugee Day on Wednesday, Uganda said it will distribute mosquito nets to all refugees in the country in efforts to fight the deadly malaria.

Health Minister Ruth Aceng told reporters here that refugees residing in 10 settlements will get the nets starting June 23.

“With support from Global Fund, a total of 849,495 mosquito nets have been procured aiming to protect approximately 1.4 million people,” she said.

A study conducted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in December 2017 showed that only 37 percent of refugee households owned at least one mosquito net.

Uganda hosts refugees from neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi among others.

Ministry of health figures show that malaria kills between 70,000 to 100,000 people in the country, mostly pregnant mothers and children.


Uganda to closely monitor social media in fight against crimes

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday said the government will closely monitor the use of social media for illegal purposes and causing insecurity.

Museveni while addressing lawmakers on the security situation in the country said criminals were using social media platforms to spread lies, threaten violence and cause panic in the East African country.

He said the government does not want to block social media but it will locate the criminal elements and arrest them.

“We are going to acquire capacity on top of what Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) has to quickly locate the criminals without interfering with other users,” he said.

“Why hide identity? You hide (your identity) because you are a liar. We shall use technology to quickly locate the criminals hiding behind social media. We shall get you and expose you.”

The stringent security measure is among the ten that Museveni announced to address the spate of murders and kidnappings in the country.

Uganda has over 23.5 million mobile phone subscribers, according to the recent report by the UCC.


Uganda’s commercial milk production earnings grow by 5 pct in 2017

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- Uganda’s commercial milk production earnings grew by 5 percent to 752 million U.S. dollars in 2017 from 716 million dollars in 2015, a top government official said on Thursday.

Joy Kabatsi, minister of state for animal industry told reporters that 80 percent of the milk produced is sold.

She was speaking ahead of this year’s national commemoration of June as the Dairy Month. National celebrations will be held on June 27-29 under the theme, ‘Gender Inclusion for Wealth and Health in Milk Production and Consumption’.

“Milk production increased from 2.08 billion liters in 2015 to about 2.5 billion liters in 2017/18. About 80 percent of the total national milk produced is marketed and 20 percent consumed by the farming households. Only 33 percent of the marketed milk is processed, 67 percent is marketed raw,” Kabatsi said.

She said the country’s total earnings from dairy exports have grown to 130 million dollars in 2017 from 60 million dollars in 2016. Dairy imports dropped to 5.2 million dollars from 5.4 million dollars over the same period.

“The increase in the net exports has been as a result of increased compliance and meeting standards of Uganda’s milk and milk products on both regional and international markets due to efforts by DDA (Dairy Development Authority) in regulation and quality assurance,” the minister said.

The dairy exports mainly go to the East African Community, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Syria, Egypt, Oman, United States, Nepal and Bangladesh among others.


Uganda to enact law regulating use of drones

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday directed that a bill regulating the use of drones in the country be brought to Parliament for approval.

Museveni ordered this while briefing Parliament on the security situation in the country after a spate of murders including the killing of a legislator, senior state prosecutor, and a senior police officer.

He said drones can be used for useful purposes but also illegal activities, thus warranting legislation.

Museveni told the legislators that over 500 drones have been impounded at the customs, noting that only 30 have been authorized to fly.

He said the military was already using drones to monitor the security situation in some parts of the country, noting that the police could also use them as a quick reaction to the crime scene.

Museveni said in the meantime, illegal drones flying will be jammed and the owners arrested.

In Uganda the use of drones is neither illegal nor legal because there is no law regulating them. Government has set up a defense committee which authorizes their use.


Uganda rolls out vaccine to protect newborns against diarrhea

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- Uganda’s ministry of health said Wednesday starting next week all newborn babies will be immunized with the rotavirus vaccine free of charge to protect them against diarrhea.

Vivian Nakalika, the ministry’s spokesperson told Xinhua that on June 26, the vaccination will be officially unveiled and it will be included in the routine national immunization schedule.

“People have been paying a lot of money. With the rollout, the public will be able to access the vaccine free of charge in all public health facilities,” she said.

Rotavirus diarrhea accounts for almost 40 percent of diarrheal cases in Uganda and an estimated over 10,000 children below 5 years of age die each year, according to the ministry of health.

The World Health Organization says rotaviruses are the most common cause of severe diarrheal diseases in young children throughout the world.

The global health body recommends that rotavirus vaccine for infants should be included in all national immunization programs.

Health experts believe the introduction of the vaccine will go a long way in reducing infant mortality in Uganda.



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