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New York, Dec 23 (Canadian-Media): The top UN humanitarian official has called for a thorough investigation into weekend attacks against the premises of three international aid organizations in Yemen that wounded one person, in addition to damaging property.
The UN Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock in a camp for displaced people in Sana’a, Yemen on 29 November 2018. Image credit: OCHA/Ammar Al-Hajj
Mark Lowcock issued a statement on Monday condemning the attacks, which occurred in Al Dhale’e, located in the south-west of the country.
They were carried out by unknown individuals using rocket-propelled grenades.
“These events represent an alarming escalation in the risks faced by humanitarian workers in Yemen. Twelve organizations have now been forced to suspend aid programmes in Al Dhale'e, which will affect 217,000 local residents. Several organizations are working with local staff to ensure the most essential activities can continue,” he said.
Mr. Lowcock also expressed his continued grave concern over media campaigns in parts of Yemen that spread rumours and incitement against aid operations.
Humanitarians reach more than 12 million people across the country each month, he said, adding that they rely on the authorities to ensure they can operate in safe conditions.
Yemen remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Nearly five years of fighting between Government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, and rebels means that around 24 million citizens—or roughly 80 per cent of the population—rely on aid relief.
Lesotho: Tens of thousands ‘one step away from famine’ as drought impacts harvests and UN launches flash appeal
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Geneva, Dec 20 (Canadian-Media): Devastating drought in the southern African nation of Lesotho has left more than half a million people facing severe food shortages and tens of thousands “one step away from famine”, UN humanitarians said on Friday, in an appeal for funds, UN reports said.
A farmer uses conservation agriculture to grow maize in Lesotho (file photo). Image Credit: FAO/Rodger Bosch
The $34 million flash appeal will support more than 260,000 people “with lifesaving interventions” until April next year, Jens Laerke from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told journalists in Geneva.
“Most of the food insecure people are in rural areas and we estimate that at the peak of the lean season, which runs from January to March, some 71,000 people will face emergency conditions in rural districts. That is IPC phase 4 – one step away from famine,” the spokesperson added.
Ten districts in the small landlocked southern African nation are already “severely food insecure”, according to OCHA, with rural smallholders worst-hit.
Increasingly, women and girls “have reportedly left their rural homes to urban areas or South Africa in search of work, mostly as domestic workers trading sex for money or food” it warned.
One worry linked to this migration is that Lesotho has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world, at more than one in four people.
“It makes particularly women and children, girls in particular, very vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse,” Mr. Laerke said.
Citing the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification food security assessments, often referred to by the acronym IPC, the spokesperson explained that the 2018/2019 planting season had been badly affected by late rains and scorching temperatures.
And with forecasts indicating that Lesotho will receive below-average rainfall during the current 2019/2020 season – October to March - communities now face three back-to-back failed harvests.
The most vulnerable are in Leribe and Maseru districts.
More than 25% of the country severely food insecure
Today, “a total of half a million people – that’s more than a quarter of the population of Lesotho…are facing severe food insecurity because of severe drought which has gripped the country at the same time as people are approaching the peak of the lean season”, Mr. Laerke said.
According to OCHA, food insecurity levels are 64 per cent higher than last year, when the number of food insecure people was around 309,000 (257,283 in rural areas, 51,683 in urban zones).
Highlighting the catastrophic impact of the extreme weather on harvests, Mr. Laerke said that overall cereal production had decreased by more than 60 per cent compared to 2018.
Individual crops have suffered even greater losses, such as maize and sorghum, which respectively saw reductions of 78 and 93 per cent.
“The Government of Lesotho on 30 October declared a national disaster and issued a drought response and resilience plan,” he said. “Our flash appeal will support that plan.”
The UN appeal aims to conduct awareness-raising sessions and distribute life-saving information materials about risks of irregular migration, gender-based violence, violence against children, child marriage, trafficking in persons and how to report abuse.
Lesotho’s $83 million Drought Response and Resilience Plan aims to help more than 508,000 people, including 68,250 children.
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United Nations, Dec 17 (Canadian-Media): An average of nine children have been killed or maimed every day in Afghanistan so far this year, according to a new report from the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, which describes the country as “the world’s most lethal warzone”, UN reports said.
A 12-year-old girl holds her baby sister outside a nutrition centre in a camp for internally displaced people near the western city of Herat. The two girls came here with their family to escape fighting in their home province of Badghis. Image Credits: © UNICEF/Husseini
The report, entitled “Preserving Hope in Afghanistan: Protecting children in the world’s most lethal conflict”, accuses the parties to the fighting, which has dragged on for some 40 years, of failing in their duty to shield children from its consequences.
The dire predicament of the country as currently the world’s worst killing field, is an acknowledgement of the nearly 6,500 child fatalities and almost 15,000 others injured between 2009 and 2018.
The rate of child casualties has increased by some 11 per cent since 2018, which the study puts down to factors such as a surge in suicide bomb attacks and ground engagements between pro and anti-government forces.
2019 'particularly deadly for children'“Even by Afghanistan’s grim standards, 2019 has been particularly deadly for children”, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in a statement. “Children, their families and communities suffer the horrific consequences of conflict each and every day. Those same children are desperate to grow up, go to school, learn skills, and build a future for themselves. We can, and must, do so much more to reinforce their extraordinary courage and resilience.”
In the statement, UNICEF reminded all parties to the conflict to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, which require them to protect children, end the targeting of schools and health centres and allow access to humanitarian assistance.
Beyond avoiding conflict-related violence, children growing up in Afghanistan are confronted with a host of other challenges. These include severe malnutrition, which affects some 600,000 youngsters; child marriage, with one in three girls marrying before the age of 18; and a lack of access to formal education, which affects some 3.7 million school-aged children.
Significant underfunding for UNICEF programmes
UNICEF has programmes in place to address many of these issues. For example, the agency works with the authorities and local communities to protect girls from the risk of honour killings, domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Working through partners, UNICEF works to alleviate severe malnutrition by providing treatment to 277,000 affected children and, in an effort to provide water for some of the 2.8 million Afghans affected by a severe drought in 2018, is increasingly using sustainable gravity-fed and solar-powered water systems.
However, these programmes need to be drastically scaled up, if more children are to be reached: UNICEF wants to be able to treat another 300,000 severely malnourished children, and 36 per cent of the Afghan population does not have access to drinking water that is protected from outside contamination.
If UNICEF is to continue its vital humanitarian work in 2020, a significant funding gap needs to be overcome: $323 million is needed for the agencies Afghanistan operations but, to date, three-quarters of the programmes remain unfunded.
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Geneva, Dec 11 (Canadian-Media): Seventy people have now died from Samoa’s measles outbreak, UN humanitarians confirmed on Tuesday, as the organization released emergency funding to help the authorities step up efforts to eradicate the preventable disease.
The Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital at Motootua, provides the people of Samoa with numerous health services and facilities. Image credit: © UNICEF/Sa'o Mulivai
The development – announced by UN emergency relief chief Mark Lowcock - means that $2.6 million will be made available for the small Pacific island, where health providers have been reportedly overwhelmed.
87 new cases in past 24 hours
“As of this morning, 4,819 measles cases have been reported to the Disease Surveillance Team since the outbreak started, according to the Ministry of Health in Samoa”, Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said. “There were 87 cases recorded over the past 24 hours.”
The OCHA official added that the funds would be used to provide emergency vaccinations, obstetric and neonatal care for mothers and newborns infected with measles.
Funding to overcome outbreak trauma
In addition, the funding will help to deliver mental health and psychosocial support and provide clean water and sanitation, along with public health information.
To date, a reported 120 medical teams from the World Health Organization (WHO) have also deployed throughout the country to assist with the vaccination drive.
The UN has also backed another national campaign, with workers going door-to-door to promote awareness about the importance of getting inoculations.
Such moves are seen as vital to rebuilding community confidence and trust following the deaths last year of two babies during routine vaccination, amid strong anti-vaccination sentiment.
“Obviously this is a tragedy that you can have 61 child(ren) and nine other people being basically killed by a virus that is completely preventable,” said Tarik Jasarevic, WHO spokesperson.
After the outbreak was officially declared in October, Samoan authorities announced a state of emergency in November, in response to the growing number of infections.
90 per cent of vaccination target reached
“So far, about 90 per cent of the 143,000 people it targeted have been reached, Mr. Laerke said, noting that the island nation was not alone in suffering a measles outbreak, linked to low immunisation coverage.
“By the end of November 2019, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and American Samoa have all reported measles outbreaks,” he said. “Prior to the ongoing outbreaks, measles vaccine coverage varied in Pacific island countries and areas, ranging from 31 per cent in Samoa to 99 per cent in the Cook Islands and Nauru.”
Mr. Jasarevic added that measles outbreaks had also been reported in Australia, Cambodia, China, including Hong Kong and Macao, Japan, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea and Viet Nam.
To contain the public health threat, the Government of Samoa has launched a national appeal for nearly $11 million, as it works to vaccinate its population and treat those who have already been affected.
Its youngest citizens are most at risk, OCHA said in a statement, along with pregnant women and new mothers.