#UNICEF; #childrenSafety; #War&Peace; #Ceasfire; #Covid19Pandemic
Geneva, Apr 18 (Canadian-Media): The head of the UN children’s fund UNICEF warned on Friday that 250 million children around the world living in the “waking nightmare” of conflict desperately need warring parties to stop fighting as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, UN reports said.
Children wear masks at a pre-school in Johannesburg, South Africa, during the COVID-19 outbreak. Image credit: © UNICEF/Shiraaz Mohamed
In her appeal, UNICEF Executive-Director Henrietta Fore urged belligerents to consider that they would not be able to fight the disease while still fighting each other.
Waking nightmares “To the children living through these waking nightmares, a ceasefire could mean the difference between life and death…while the fighting continues, so too does COVID-19’s silent march on vulnerable children and populations caught in the middle,” she said.
A global ceasefire would protect children from being killed, maimed or forced from their homes by conflict. It would stop the attacks on vital infrastructure like health centres and water and sanitation systems.
“It would open space for vulnerable populations to access essential services like healthcare; services that are key to stopping a pandemic. It would create opportunities to engage with parties to conflicts for the safe release of children from armed forces and groups.”
Lull in fighting in 11 countries
Ms. Fore’s call comes nearly a month after UN chief António Guterres appealed for a global ceasefire, which has resulted in a temporary lull in hostilities in 11 countries.
Violent conflict continues nonetheless in parts of Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen and elsewhere.
Recession will likely cause hundreds of thousands of child deaths The development coincides with the publication of UN research suggesting that the global recession caused by COVID-19 could cause hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths this year.
Responding to the findings – which would reverse gains in reducing infant mortality – Mr. Guterres called for urgent action to protect youngsters’ wellbeing.
Even before the pandemic, childhood malnutrition and stunting were at unacceptable levels, he said.
Now, with classrooms closed almost everywhere, nearly 310 million children who rely on school meals are missing out on this daily dose of nutrition.
School closures remove ‘early warning mechanism’
“Children are both victims and witnesses of domestic violence and abuse. With schools closed, an important early warning mechanism is missing,” the UN chief explained.
“Reduced household income will force poor families to cut back on essential health and food expenditures, particularly affecting children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers.”
In addition to the suspension of polio vaccination campaigns, measles immunization has also been halted in at least 23 countries, the UN Secretary-General continued.
“And as health services become overwhelmed, sick children are less able to access care. With the global recession gathering pace, there could be hundreds of thousands additional child deaths in 2020.”
Recommendations to Governments to counter the negative effects on children of lockdown measures include increasing assistance to families, securing food supplies from local markets and prioritizing schooling, nutrition programmes, and maternal and infant care.
#UN; #InternationalReligiousLeaders; #UNPeace&Security; #Covid19
Geneva, Apr 11 (CAnadian-Media): Religious leaders of all faiths are being urged by the UN Secretary-General to join forces and work for peace around the world and focus on the common battle to defeat COVID-19, UN reports said.
António Gutteres made the call in a special appeal issued on Saturday, and at a time when Christians are celebrating Easter, Jews are marking Passover, and Muslims will soon begin the holy month of Ramadan.
"We have always known these occasions to be moments of community. Of families coming together. Of hugs and handshakes and the gathering of humanity. But this is a time like no other", he said.
Globally, there have been more than 1.6 million cases of COVID-19 and nearly 100,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The new coronavirus disease has ushered in what the UN chief described as "a strange, surreal world". Streets are silent, storefronts are shuttered and places of worship are empty in efforts to contain its spread.
It is also a world where "we are worried about our loved ones who are equally worried about us", he continued, before wondering "how do we celebrate at a time like this?"
In the spirit of this holy period, the Secretary-General encouraged people everywhere to use this as a time for reflection, remembrance and renewal.
"As we reflect, let us spare a special thought for heroic health workers on the frontlines battling this awful virus – and for all those working to keep our cities and towns going", said Mr. Guterres.
This is also time to remember "the most vulnerable of the vulnerable around the world": people in war zones, refugee camps, slums and other areas least equipped to fight the virus.
"And let us renew our faith in one another and draw strength from the good that is gathering in troubled times as communities of diverse faiths and ethical traditions unite to care for one another", he added.
"Together, we can and will defeat this virus – with cooperation, solidarity, and faith in our common humanity".
Geneva, Apr 11 (Canadian-Media): In a joint appeal issued on Saturday, the five UN envoys to the Middle East urged warring parties in the region to work towards an immediate end to hostilities, in line with the Secretary-General’s recent call for a global ceasefire during the COVID-19 pandemic, UN reports said.
Economic duress is compounding the impact of conflict in Syria, even before the COVID-19 pandemic touched the country. Image credit: © UNICEF/Khydr Al-Issa
While many parties have responded positively to the UN chief's appeal, they stressed that more needs to be done to translate it into action.
"Too many in the Middle East have endured conflict and deprivation for far too long. Their suffering is now compounded by the COVID-19 crisis and its likely long-lasting social, economic and political impacts", they said.
The envoys represent the Secretary-General in countries that include Syria, Iraq and Yemen, which on Friday confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus disease.
Globally, more than 1.6 million cases of COVID-19 have been recorded, and nearly 100,000 deaths.
Engage in good faith
"We call on all parties to engage, in good faith and without preconditions, on negotiating immediate halts to ongoing hostilities, sustaining existing ceasefires, putting in place more durable and comprehensive ceasefires, and achieving longer-term resolutions to the persistent conflicts across the region", the UN envoys said.
Rival sides are also encouraged to exercise maximum restraint, to de-escalate tensions and to work to resolve their differences through dialogue, negotiation, mediation or other peaceful means.
"We urge parties to reach out across conflict lines and cooperate locally, regionally and globally to stop the rapid spread of the virus and, where possible, to share resources, and allow access to medical facilities where needed", they added.
Humanitarian access and solidarity
The five envoys underscored the need to facilitate humanitarian access and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, communities under siege, and all those who have been ravaged by war and deprivation.
"This requires fast-tracking the passage of health and aid workers at borders and in-country and ensuring they are protected", they explained, while also callng for the safe and voluntary return of refugees and IDPs.
The senior officials further urged all partners to work with the UN on pandemic response and recovery, and underlined the need for solidarity at this moment.
"None of these efforts will succeed if the guns of war and conflict are not silenced", they emphasized.
"At a time like this, partisanship and narrow interests must yield to the greater cause and the good of the people. That is why we echo the Secretary-General in calling on all parties in the Middle East to work with the UN so we can 'focus on the true fight of our lives'".
#UN; #Libya; #GunViolence; #Attacks; #War&Peace; #UNSMIL; #covid19Pandemic
Geneva, Apr 8 (Canadian-Media): Fighting must stop immediately in Libya if it is to have any chance of staving off the COVID-19 outbreak, the top United Nations official in the North African country said on Tuesday as he condemned an attack on a major Tripoli hospital, UN reports said.
On 3 January, four schools came under attack in the Soug al Jum'aa locality, east of Tripoli, causing extensive damage and affecting nearly 3000 students. Image credit: UN Libya
At least one health worker was injured when the Al-Khandra General Hospital came under heavy shelling on Monday, damaging the fully-functioning 400-bed facility.
Yacoub El Hillo, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Libya, said the attack not only violated international humanitarian law, but also defied calls for a global ceasefire amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It also showed ongoing disregard for a truce announced in mid-January between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) led by commander Khalifa Haftar that began to lay siege to the capital Tripoli, a year ago.
“This is unacceptable at a time when healthcare and health workers are vital in our fight against a global pandemic”, Mr. El Hillo said, adding that the hospital was a potential COVID-19 assigned facility.
“A deplorable strike like this – resulting in senseless damage of a most-needed medical facility – cannot be justified”, he said in a statement.
Guterres condemns attacks
In a statement released on Tuesday night, the UN Secretary General strongly condemned the attacks on the hospital, and "continued attacks on medical personnel, hospitals and medical facilities, particularly at a time when they are critical to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic."
António Guterres reminded all parties that medical personnel, hospitals and medical facilities are "protected under international humanitarian law and that attacks on them may constitute war crimes."
Libya racing against time to contain virus
Libya has reported 18 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus so far, and one death, according to a global situation report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday.
“Libyan health authorities, together with the UN and our humanitarian partners, have been racing against time to contain the spread of the virus”, said Mr. El Hillo, also the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Libya.
“If Libya is to have any chance against COVID-19, the ongoing conflict must come to an immediate halt.”
As of March, a total of 27 health facilities in Libya have sustained damage to varying degrees due to the proximity of fighting, with 14 being forced to close and the remainder at risk of following suit as lines of conflict shift.
In a statement on 4 April, the first anniversary of the start of the LNA’s offensive to seize Tripoli, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said the country was in the midst of a needless conflict that has shattered hopes for a peaceful political transition through a UN-backed National Conference and subsequent elections.
If Libya is to have any chance against COVID-19, the ongoing conflict must come to an immediate halt - UN deputy Special Representative in Libya
“The conflict has since escalated into a dangerous and potentially endless proxy war fueled by cynical foreign powers that has now widened geographically, with civilians paying the highest price”, it said.
The humanitarian situation has deteriorated to unprecedented levels, it said, with UNSMIL documenting at least 356 civilian deaths and 329 injuries in the year to 31 March. Some 149,000 people in and around Tripoli have been forced to flee their homes since the offensive began; nearly 345,000 civilians remain in frontline area and an estimated 749,000 live in areas affected by fighting.
An estimated 893,000 are in need of humanitarian assistance, UNSMIL said, adding that it has received a growing number of reports of human rights violations, including hundreds of cases of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and extrajudicial executions by armed groups across Libya.
The conflict is taking a heavy toll on Libya’s already struggling economy. An oil blockade imposed on 17 January has results in more than $4 billion in financial losses, while funds that should be going into critical infrastructure are being redirected to the war effort.
“The influx of foreign fighters and advanced weapons systems into the country continues unabated and their use on the battlefield has directly lead to an intensification of the conflict,” UNSMIL said, pointing as well to a “flagrant disregard” of an embargo on arms shipments into Libya.
#UN; #Mali; #Covid19; #UNPeace; #Minusma
Geneva, Apr 8 (Canadian-Media): As the COVID-19 pandemic plagues the world, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali told the Security Council on Tuesday that the mission continues to fulfill its mandate while doing whatever it can to prevent the coronavirus outbreak from overrunning the country, UN reports said.
UN Security Council meets remotely to discuss Mali.Image credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten
To date, Mali has recorded 46 positive COVID-19 cases, including one case within the UN mission, and five deaths.
“Despite these exceptional conditions, MINUSMA [the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali] continues to fulfill the mission entrusted”, Special Representative and head of MINUSMA, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, said in an open videoconference to the Council.
He highlighted two priorities, namely the Implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation and supporting the political framework for managing the crisis in the country’s conflict-affected central region.
Spotlighting priorities In implementing the Agreement, since February 2020, more than 1,000 elements have been deployed in Gao, Timbuktu, Kidal and Ménaka as part of the first reconstituted Units of the Malian Defense and Security Forces in the North, according to the mission chief.
Among other things, he said that despite the kidnapping of the Leader of the Opposition and former presidential candidate, Soumaila Cisse, three days before the poll, the first round of legislative elections went off peacefully, and at the national level, the 30 per cent quota for women was fulfilled.
Turning to the central region MINUSMA continues to implement its adaptation plan.
“A total of 19 additional civilian staff have already been redeployed to Mopti, said Mr. Annadif, adding that as part of MINUSMA’s efforts to respond to early warnings, “a hotline has been established in Mopti to serve the civilian population”.
Moreover, with MINUSMA support, the Malian authorities continue to conduct dialogue and reconciliation initiatives.
As the number of displaced increases – reaching 218,000 people in March, as compared to 199,385 last November – the UN envoy expressed hope that “concrete actions to fight impunity will be taken”.
Meanwhile, MINUSMA continues to provide regional security support, and has begun construction on a Joint Force headquarters in Bamako.
Battling the virus together
Lastly, Mr. Annadif highlighted “the exemplary cooperation” that has been established between the UN system and the Government in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since 19 March, commercial flights to Mali have been suspended, group gatherings are prohibited, and a curfew has been introduced from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.”, he updated – all while MINUSMA and the Country Team continue to fulfill their mandates and comply with Government directives.
Complying with the Secretary-General’s decision during the pandemic, the rotation of uniformed contingents has been suspended until 30 June, but exceptions may occur on a case-by-case basis, he said, noting that isolation periods and other virus prevention-spreading guidelines would be respected.
Mr. Annadif added that staff with medical conditions or those wishing to join their families have taken special Government-authorized flights requested by some embassies.
“As you can see, we face many challenges, including the safety and well-being of the whole UN family in Mali, but also have real hopes through the capacity for resilience of the Malian People”, concluded the Special Representative.
For their part, the members of the Security Council expressed solidarity with Mali in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and called on the Government and the UN to continue working together to prevent the virus from spreading and for MINUSMA to continue delivering on its mandate despite the pandemic, while ensuring the safety and security of its staff and peacekeepers.
They welcomed the progress made in implementing the Agreement so far while underlining that more is needed.
The Council encouraged the Government and the signatory armed groups to continue to accelerate the implementation and welcomed the conclusions of the national inclusive dialogue, which helped to achieve the results.
They condemned Monday’s terrorist attack against the Malian Defense and Security Forces in Bamba, and expressed their condolences to Mali and to the victims’ families and called for the swift liberation of Mr. Cissé.
Moreover, the Council members called on the Government to work harder to stem violence in the Centre and ensure that all those responsible for violations and human rights abuses be brought to justice.
#Syria; #BrutalCivilWar; #deconfliction;
Geneva, Apr 6 (Canadian-Media): Parties to Syria’s brutal civil war, now in its tenth year, failed to abide by their obligations under international law to avoid attacks on hospitals and other civilian facilities that featured on the UN’s so-called deconfliction list, Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday, UN reports said.
One of six mobile clinics provided by WHO to deliver health services to people fleeing violence in Aleppo, Syria. Image Photo: WHO Syria
He made that point as he sent to the Security Council a summary of a 185-page report from the UN Board of Inquiry that he set up on 1 August last year, into a number of incidents in northwest Syria involving facilities on the deconfliction list and UN-supported facilities.
Places on the list are supposed to be exempted from military targeting, because they involve healthcare or other purely civilian activities, or were supported by the UN.
“The impact of the hostilities on civilian and humanitarian sites in northwest Syria is a clear reminder of the importance for all parties to the conflict to observe and ensure respect for international humanitarian law”, said Mr. Guterres in a letter to José Singer Weisinger of the Dominican Republic, the Council’s President for April.
Distinguish between civilians and combatants That includes the obligation at all times to distinguish between civilians and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and to direct attacks only against combatants and military objectives, he said.
“According to numerous reports, the parties have failed to do this”, he stated, emphasizing that any measures taken by Member States to combat terrorism must be consistent with their obligations under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law.
The three-member Board of Inquiry, chaired by retired Lieutenant-General Chikabidia Obiakor of Nigeria, was prompted by several incidents reported in northwest Syria since 17 September 2018 when the Russian Federation and Turkey signed a memorandum on stabilizing the situation in the Idlib de-escalation area, home to the last pockets of rebel resistance.
Its report and recommendations - accompanied by more than 200 appendices and annexes – gives the Secretary-General a basis for considering what he might do to better protect and manage the Organization’s humanitarian resources in the field.
In preparing its report, the Board of Inquiry made no legal findings nor considered questions of legal liability or legal responsibility. But as the summary noted, it was unable to visit any of the sites it was tasked to look at, after the Government of Syria failed to respond to requests to do so.
But with information from UN entities, non-governmental organizations, witnesses and other sources, including satellite imagery from the Operational Satellite Applications Programme of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), it sought to piece together incidents at six locations.
Five facilities likely attacked by Syrian Government and allies In light of the information available to it, the Board of Inquiry said that it was “highly probable” that an attack on the Rakaya Primary Health Care Centre, in the village of Rakaya Sijneh in Idlib governorate, on 3 May 2019 was carried out by Syrian Government forces.
It added that it was “plausible” that damage to a similar health care facility in Kafr Nabutha, in Hama governorate, on 7 May 2019, was attributable to the Government and its allies.
Turning to an attack on the Nayrab Palestinian Refugee Camp near Aleppo airport on 14 May 2019, in which 11 people were killed and 29 injured, the Board of Inquiry said that it was “probable” that the strike was carried out either by armed opposition groups or by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an extremist organization designated a terrorist group by the Security Council.
Regarding damage done to the Kafr Nobol Surgical Hospital in Kafr Nobol, in Idlib governorate, on 4 July last year, it said that it was “highly probable” that the strikes had been carried out by the Government and/or its allies. It added, however, that it lacked sufficient evident to make a conclusive finding.
The Board of Inquiry went on to state that it was “highly probable” that an attack on a child protection centre in Ariha, Idlib governorate, on 28 July 2019 was conducted by the Government and/or its allies, adding once again however that there was not enough evidence before it to reach a firm conclusion.
The Board of Inquiry did not look into a seventh incident at As-Suqylabiyah National Hospital in As-Suqylabiyah, Hama governorate of Hama, on 26 May 2019 as it was not on the United Nations deconfliction list nor was it supported by the Organization.