“This crushing feeling of being alone. No one knows. No one cares.
No one is willing to go one extra mile to save us: don’t I matter?
The feeling of being insignificant is the hardest part of surviving attacks, crimes, conflicts, madness.
This invisible loneliness is the machete that chops off dignity, the mine that explodes peace, the bullet that kills hope”
All protection responders would have heard an echo of what the Global Protection Cluster was told in DR Congo earlier this month by a lady that, with another 10 mothers, set up a group that save and reintegrate boys and girls recruited by armed groups. For them, like for us, Protection of Civilians is not an abstract idea. It is a village, a hospital, a school, a market, a water network, a camp for boys, girls, men, women, elderly, displaced who have names and dreams.
During this reporting period, Protection Clusters across multiple operations reported an intensification of attacks against civilians, threatening the safety of millions and damaging vital infrastructure needed for the response. This is what they are telling us:
- Conflict and violations of basic norms remains the single biggest driver of protection challenges today.
- Armed conflict continues to be characterized by high levels of civilian deaths, injury and psychological trauma and sexual violence. Every field operation describes psychological distress and growing mental health needs amongst the affected populations. 71% rate the risk of distress as severe or extreme.
- Individuals and local communities are under fire. Civilians are not only collateral damage but direct targets. Objects and goods essential to the survival of civilians, as well as civilian infrastructures are damaged or destroyed. 30 operations report risks related to housing, evictions, land and property. 36% rate the risk as severe or extreme.
- Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, attacks against medical care persist and significantly weaken the ability of health systems to function. Attacks on education also continue to expose children to risks of recruitment, forced labour, early marriage. 30 operations report violence against children as a major concern, with 61% describing the risk as severe or extreme.
- Explosive ordnance contamination is a risk across 24 operations. In 48% of operations, the risks for civilians are severe or extreme. When used in populated areas, civilians remain the primary victims of explosive ordnance.
- With 90% of our Clusters operating in active conflict settings, the protection of civilians remains critical and deserves greater consideration in humanitarian decision-making and response.
- Active conflict or violence is occurring in 28 out of 31 cluster operations. 82% report the situation as severe or extreme.
- Displaced persons increasingly find themselves caught up in or near armed conflict with States and non-State groups who often disregard the basic principles of that law.
- In situations of armed conflict, the protection of civilians is first and foremost the responsibility of the parties to the conflict, both State and armed groups. It is also a priority for United Nations peace-keeping operations, and a humanitarian system-wide objective.
- Clusters on the ground are driving collective analysis and stepping up advocacy, programming on protection of civilians.
- Protection Clusters exert efforts in providing more effective protection to civilians through a collective push and a system-wide response – connecting the dots between the global protection of civilians’ agenda in the Security Council and the reality of our field work. The clusters are also stepping up protection analysis to shape the wider humanitarian response like in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso and Mali.
In this report, you will also find a series of good practices on protection of civilians from field Clusters – featuring Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Mali, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Ukraine. Read more.