African migrants are perishing at a rate of about 25 persons per week – or about 1,300 annually – on the African continent, even before embarking on perilous sea journeys to Europe or the Arabian Peninsula. Since 2014 over 7,400 men, women and children have died in transit across Africa, new records published today by IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) show.
These recently added records bring the total number of deaths documented on the African continent to 573 in 2019, and 7,401 in the last five years. Moreover, these figures fail to capture the true scale of the tragedy, as they represent only fatalities which have been reported.
The new records are based on hundreds of eyewitness accounts collected from migrants through surveys by the Mixed Migration Centre’s Monitoring Mechanism Initiative (4Mi). The interviews with migrants were conducted by 4Mi between December 2018 and April 2019 in West, North and East Africa and were analysed by the Missing Migrants Project team before being added to its MMP database.
However, 4Mi interviews covered only a small sample of the total number of migrants on the move in Africa – meaning that hundreds of additional deaths likely remain unreported and, of course, uncounted.
Nonetheless, due to the absence of other sources of information, surveys such as those conducted by 4Mi reveal important information about migrants’ experiences, including the risks to life that people face during their journeys.
Records show that thousands of people lose their lives as they journey through North Africa, where 4,400 deaths have been reported since 2014. However, deaths in this region are not well documented, and the true number of lives lost during migration remains unknown.
Migration routes in Sub-Saharan Africa also are dangerous, as demonstrated by the 1,830 deaths recorded by the project since 2014. Many of these deaths were recorded in West Africa, where 240 people were reported dead in 2019.
Overland routes in the Horn of Africa and the perilous sea passage across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea have claimed the lives of at least 1,171 people since 2014. Migrants reported having witnessed others die from starvation, dehydration, exposure to harsh weather conditions, vehicle accidents and violence at the hands of smugglers.
Unfortunately, survey data contain no information on the identities of those whom survey participants witnessed die. Beyond initiatives like 4Mi, little efforts have been made to collect more information on people who die on migration journeys in the African continent. Their remains may never be recovered, nor their deaths investigated. Their deaths may also not be known by their families, who are forced to navigate daily life with the pain of not knowing whether their loved one is alive or dead.
Kano govt. shut down O’Pay office, gives reason
The Kano state government has ordered the police to shut down a branch of Opay office in the state. Opay is an online payment outlet for commercial tricycle operators.
The outlet, as gathered was closed down during a raid carried out by the Kano state police command over alleged non-compliance with the government rules and directives.
The armed security personnel stormed the state office at Lodge road in Kano at about 11:00am on Thursday.
The police officers also ordered all the staff and scores of commercial tricycle operators known as Adaidaita Sahu to immediately vacate the premises, threatening anyone who failed to comply with the order risked arrest.
Confirming the development, the spokesman of the Police Command, DSP Abdullahi Haruna Kiyawa, explained that the command received an order from Kano state government to close the office.
Haruna added that the Opay company didn’t comply with some rules set for it by the state government in order to operate
29 million babies born into conflict in 2018 – UNICEF
More than 29 million babies were born into conflict-affected areas in 2018, UNICEF said today.
Armed violence across countries including Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen meant that, throughout last year, more than 1 in 5 babies globally spent their earliest moments in communities affected by the chaos of conflict, often in deeply unsafe, and highly stressful environments.
“Every parent should be able to cherish their baby’s first moments, but for the millions of families living through conflict, the reality is far bleaker,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “In countries around the world, violent conflict has severely limited access to essential services for parents and their babies. Millions of families lack access to nutritious food, safe water, sanitation, or a secure and healthy environment to grow and bond. Along with the immediate, obvious dangers, the long-term impacts of such a start in life are potentially catastrophic.”
When young children experience prolonged or repeated adverse and traumatic events, the brain’s stress management system is activated without relief causing ‘toxic stress’. Over time, stress chemicals break down existing neural connections and inhibit new ones from forming, leading to lasting consequences for children’s learning, behaviour, and physical and mental health.
Examples of the impact of conflict on babies and young children – given by UNICEF staff working in conflict zones – include:
- “Some of the young children we see shake with fear, uncontrollably, for hours on end. They don’t sleep. You can hear them whimpering, it’s not a usual cry but a cold, weak whimper. Others are so malnourished and traumatized they detach emotionally from the world and people around them, causing them to become vacant and making it impossible for them to interact with their families,” UNICEF worker in Yemen.
- “My son, five-year-old Heraab, finds himself in a community where he is constantly exposed to the sounds of explosions, smell of smoke, accompanied by the regular shrieking of sirens, be it police or ambulance, or the persistent honking of cars and motorbikes rushing the injured to hospital. He shudders and wakes up at night if a truck passes by with speed, sometimes shaking the windows of our house, thinking it must be another attack,” UNICEF worker in Afghanistan.
- “Some of the children are scared and look very anxious, others are very aggressive. They are frightened of visitors and flee when they see visiting vehicles coming. The cars remind them of fighting, war weaponry they need to flee from,” UNICEF worker in Somalia.
- “I’ve travelled to the hardest to reach areas of South Sudan to help provide humanitarian assistance to children who have been forced to flee their villages because of violence. With no basic services, no health facilities, poor sanitation, no food, and deep-set trauma, families struggle to survive. I see despair in the eyes of the children I meet. The conflict has taken away their childhood,” UNICEF worker in South Sudan.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child, in which, among other things, governments pledged to protect and care for children affected by conflict. Yet today, more countries are embroiled in internal or international conflict than at any other time in the past three decades, threatening the safety and wellbeing of millions of children. Hospitals, health centres and child friendly spaces – all of which provide critical services to parents and babies – have come under attack in conflicts around the world in recent years.
Providing safe spaces for families and their young children living through conflict – where children can use play and early learning as outlets for some of the trauma they have experienced; and providing psychosocial support to children – and their families – are critical parts of UNICEF’s humanitarian response.
When caregivers are given the support they need to cope with and process trauma, they have the best possible chance of providing their young children with the nurturing care needed for healthy brain development – acting as a ‘buffer’ from the chaos around them.
“Parents who interact with their babies can help shield them from the negative neurological effects of conflict. Yet, in times of conflict, parents are frequently overwhelmed,” said Fore. “Ultimately what these families need is peace, but until then they desperately need more support to help them and their children cope with the devastation they face – 29 million new lives and futures depend on it.”
Wanted Rwandan warlord killed by DR Congo troops
A Rwandan Hutu rebel leader wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crime charges has been shot dead by the Congolese army, DRC military spokesperson said on Wednesday in what Kigali described as “good news for peace”.
Sylvestre Mudacumura, commander of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), was “definitively neutralised” in DRC’s North Kivu province on Tuesday night, General Leon-Richard Kasonga said.
Mudacumura, wanted for charges including rape, torture, and pillage, was killed about 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the capital of the province Goma.
Neighbouring Rwanda welcomed the news, saying it proved DRC President Felix Tshisekedi’s commitment to fighting “negative forces”.
“The death of Sylvestre Mudacumura is good news for peace and security in the region,” Rwandan state minister for regional affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe told AFP.
“With his genocide group, the FDLR, he was destabilising DRC, killing Congolese and Rwandans.”
The FDLR was created by Rwandan Hutu refugees in eastern DRC after the genocide of Tutsis by majority Hutus in Rwanda in 1994.
According to the United Nations, the force numbers between 500 and 600 active fighters.
They are scattered across the mineral-rich eastern Congolese provinces of North and South Kivu as well as in southern Katanga, and the group is regularly accused of committing atrocities against civilians in the zones it controls.
“His death confirms the commitment of President Felix Tshisekedi in fighting negative forces and will open a new era of good and peaceful cooperation between DRC and countries in the region,” Nduhungirehe said.
The FDLR, opposed to the current Rwandan government, has not launched any large-scale offensive in Rwanda since 2001.
– Warning to other warlords –
Eastern DRC has been torn for more than two decades by armed conflicts fed by ethnic and land disputes, competition for control of a wealth of mineral resources and regional rivalries.
Mudacumura’s death “is a strong signal for other rebels,” said General Richard Kasonga, spokesman of the Congolese army, calling it a “big step” in the fight against insecurity and terrorism.
He called on “all armed groups to lay down their arms, or face the same fate as Mudacumura.”
During a visit to the region early this month, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also called on the rebels to disarm.
US researcher Jason Stearn said the death was “an extremely important event”, telling AFP that the FDLR is “one of the biggest armed groups in the region, even if they have diminished in capacity.”
However, Stearn, of New York University’s Congo Research Group, held out little hope for peace in a region where around 130 armed groups remain active.
“We have seen a lot of commanders die without the groups necessarily disappearing or diminishing in force,” he said.
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