UN Support to South African Government in Response to Attacks on Foreigners

By | 6 June 2008

(Johannesburg / New York): The United Nations System in South Africa is deeply saddened by the recent xenophobic attacks targeting foreign nationals; and concerned about the plight of almost 29,000 people displaced and currently residing in 99 ad hoc and temporary shelters in Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal Provinces.

Since 11 May 2008, the UN has been working closely with national, provincial and municipal authorities to support the needs of those displaced. In particular:

UNHCR has promoted with the Department of Home Affairs the issuance of conditional temporary legal status for undocumented victims and is working with the government to ensure it maintains its position to implement a policy of no deportation for victims. The UN refugee agency has donated 2,000 tents to the government, which can be used to temporarily host 10,000 people in the new sites in Gauteng Province. It has also provided 6,500 blankets and 2,000 mats. An additional 5,000 blankets will be made available for distribution in Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal Provinces. At the request of the Executive Director of the Disaster Management Centre, UNHCR deployed a senior physical site planner to provide technical advice during the identification of new sites for relocation. UNHCR implementing partners have also been involved in providing relief to victims in Johannesburg, Tshwane, Cape Town and Durban.

UNICEF has delivered basic emergency supplies, including blankets, clothing and infant cups urgently needed by women and children. Some 3,035 hygiene kits and 7,600 nappies have also been provided through several of its NGO partners on the ground, including the City of Johannesburg and the South African Red Cross Society. Thirty-five early childhood kits containing development materials to meet educational and recreational needs of more than 1,000 young children have been provided through the Active Learning and Leisure Libraries of South Africa.

WHO has locally procured 975 hygiene kits worth US$ 10,000 and has sent them to the South Africa Red Cross Society for distribution. WHO, together with UNICEF and UNPFA, are looking into health requirements and exploring specific requirements for both preventative and curative actions to address HIV/AIDS and sexual and reproductive health, among others issues.

As of 26 May 2008, UN OCHA has deployed information management officers to support the Provincial Disaster Management Centre to develop coordination tools and provide guidance to provincial and municipal disaster responders on international standards for humanitarian emergencies. UNDP and other agencies will further reinforce nationally owned processes for post crisis recovery that are resilient and sustainable. In this context, dialogue is taking place between the UN system and the National Disaster Management Centre and other concerned government structures to review areas of support for early recovery.

IOM has provided 2,500 non-food item kits, including 500 for children, half of which have been given to the provincial Department of Safety and the rest to the South African Red Cross Society. IOM is in close dialogue with the Government to assist in addressing the needs of migrants who want to return to their home countries.

Finally, at the request of the Provincial Disaster Management Centre for Gauteng, the UN deployed together with the Red Cross and NGO community technical experts to assist municipal authorities in conducting a rapid multi-sectoral assessment at sites to which foreigners are displaced. UNFPA designed instruments which have been used in collecting data, and conducting registration of the affected displaced people in the shelters. This is expected to yield data for planning and provision of necessary services.

The UN appreciates the inclusiveness extended by the government to the humanitarian community at this time of crisis and in the spirit of true partnership has provided both material assistance and technical guidance to the disaster management authorities. However, it has cautioned against the relocation of people to sites that are either unfit for habitation or ahead of the establishment of critical basic services. The UN will continue to assist the government of South Africa to ensure that the response meets with international agreed standards and human rights.

For media enquiries, please contact: Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 892 1679; Dizery Salim, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 9262; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570; Michelle Thulkanam, OCHA-Southern Africa. +27 11 517 1635, mobile + 27 82 908 1437.

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