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Africa’s Displaced People Subject of House Hearing

On July 9, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations held a hearing, “Africa’s Displaced People.”

Catherine Wiesner, deputy assistant secretary, Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), Department of State, testified: “The brutality of conflict, the growing gap between needs and resources, and the protracted nature of displacement in Africa all mean more human suffering; this is undeniable…Partnerships with the private sector have helped connect students and teachers in remote refugee camps to the internet, making e-learning possible for the first time. At PRM we have maintained our long-standing focus on protection, especially of women and girls, from gender based violence. Under the joint State Department and United States Agency for International Development initiative, ‘Safe from the Start,’ we have invested resources in the institutional changes – policies, staffing, training – necessary for our primary partners to ensure that the safety of women and girls is prioritized in every humanitarian response.”

Ann Hollingsworth, senior advocate, Government Relations, Refugees International (RI), stated: “In Touloum refugee camp, we spoke with two female refugees who said it was difficult to get their children the necessary nutrition, particularly since the food rations began, as local food is expensive and items such as fruit or meat are not provided by WFP [World Food Program]. Humanitarians that Refugees International (RI) spoke with said women often cannot afford essentials, such as milk for their children. One local NGO [nongovernmental organization] spoke to RI about malnourished children having to share their nutritional supplements with their families since the ration cuts began, prolonging their recovery time.” Ms. Hollingsworth continued, “An operational NGO worker that RI spoke with noted an increase in cases of sexual violence and exploitation against the Sudanese refugee women since the ration cuts began…It was clear to RI that the consequences of food ration cuts for the most vulnerable households have been unacceptable. An immediate increase in food assistance for those households is absolutely essential.”

The following witnesses also testified:

  • Thomas H. Staal, acting assistant administrator, Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, U.S. Agency for International Development;
  • Natalie Eisenbarth, policy and advocacy officer, International Rescue Committee; and
  • John Stauffer, president, The America Team for Displaced Eritreans.
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