Press Release: Special Rapporteur on Refugees and Internally Displaced People

    On behalf of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, I wish to extend the Commission’s condolences to the Heads of State and Governments of the 17 African states affected by floods, in West and East Africa, for the loss of lives caused by the recent heavy rains, that have affected more than a million ordinary people, caused destruction to property, infrastructure and the livelihoods of people living in those countries.

    The African Commission expresses its solidarity with, and sympathy for all the victims, in all the 17 African states stretching from West Africa to East Africa, during these very difficult times. The Commission notes with regret that the victims of these floods add to the highly unacceptable number of an estimated 13 million internally displaced persons on the continent.

    It is regrettable that some of the victims are people living in countries affected by, or emerging from conflict situations. These people were in the process of rehabilitating their livelihoods, which has been shattered by the floods.

    Natural disasters are not preventable. The incidence of the rains in the Sahelian belt of Africa is a normal phenomenon at this time of the year. It is the severity of the floods that has caught everybody by surprise. These heavy rains, however, cannot be separated from the weather trends associated with global warming. This is a reminder to all states, organisations and individuals to ensure that their economic and industrial activities, which accelerate global warming conform to international instruments and practices aimed at the protection of the environment. A safe and healthy environment is a fundamental and basic human right for all.

    This concern is particularly important to Africa, because Africa is the poorest continent, and is struggling to attain the targets of the Millennium Development goals by the year 2015. While we welcome the rains, the floods are a definite setback to the standards of living in those countries. They have affected food and clean waters supply, shelter, infrastructure and agriculture. There is a likely-hood of the explosion of water borne diseases, malaria, famine, and general impoverishment.

    I wish to call upon all governments of the affected states, the international community, and well-wishers, to respond to this disaster by providing the victims timely, adequate and necessary humanitarian assistance.

    It is my expectation that relief and humanitarian assistance will be delivered to the victims at the earliest opportunity possible, as weather conditions become favourable, and shall involve the participation of the victims in the determination of their needs, in particular the needs of women, children, the people living with disabilities and the elderly.

    I wish to recall that the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement adopted by the United National General Assembly, do provide a framework for provision of humanitarian assistance in those countries, where no policy framework for responding to natural disasters exists.

    The floods, on the other hand, are a reminder to the African Union to finalise the process of adoption of an AU Convention on Internal Displacement, which shall provide a framework for policy coordination towards internal displacement in Africa.

    SIGNED

    Bahame Tom Nyanduga

    Special Rapporteur.

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      Date: 18 September 2007

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