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UN Updates: February 2, 2017
Colombia: More than 200 men and women of the FARC-EP marched to the Transitional Point of Normalization of Pondores, department of La Guajira, in northern Colombia yesterday. The Pondores transitional point is where the separation of forces will take place, a task which the UN Mission in Colombia will verify. Once FARC-EP members are in the camps, the first step for the laying down of arms is the registration of arms and weapons. Unstable armaments—such as gunpowder, grenades and anti-personnel mines—will be destroyed on-site. Ultimately, the UN Mission in Colombia will remove all weapons from the camps. More than 6,300 FARC-EP members began moving towards sites over Colombia last week - one of the largest logistics operations in the country.
Iraq: Ján Kubiš, the SG’s Special Representative for Iraq, briefed the Security Council today about the progress made by Iraqi forces in Mosul. The liberation operations in Iraq will come to an end in the foreseeable future and the days of Da’esh are numbered. At the same time, one of the most disturbing aspects of the crisis has been the extremely high percentage of civilian casualties. Nearly half of all trauma victims being treated in Erbil in the Kurdistan Region are civilians.
The UN Mission, UNAMI, has received no evidence of any systematic or widespread violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law on the part of the security forces. However, criminal acts against civilians and prisoners of war still happen. Mostly, they are quickly investigated with measures taken to prevent such acts in the future. The protection of civilians, the avoidance of steps that could incite sectarian tensions, and the prevention of revenge attacks in Mosul and in other liberated areas of the country are of vital importance for winning the hearts and minds of the population.
Syria: The UN is deeply concerned by an attack affecting the Carlton Hotel in Syria’s Idleb city that damaged the administrative offices of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent’s (SARC) Idleb branch. The president of the branch was injured in the attack. The UN calls on all parties to cease attacks that impact humanitarian workers and humanitarian offices. All humanitarian organizations in Syria — working only to assist people in need — must be protected. We further call on all parties to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure from the effects of hostilities and refrain from using of explosive weapons in populated areas, as required by international humanitarian law.
Meanwhile, following some repairs, water to Damascus from the main source in Wadi Barada has been restored to about 60% of the population as of yesterday. Since December 22, 5.5 million people in Damascus and surrounding areas have been cut. Partners on the ground have reported that some of the estimated 17,500 people displaced by conflict in the area have started to return to their homes.
Yemen: The UN is extremely concerned about an intensification of military operations, including airstrikes, in the Dhubab and Al Mokha districts of Yemen’s Taizz Governorate. There has also been a sharp increase in airstrikes in Hudaydah and surrounding areas. Displacement is increasing from Mokha, with at least one third of the population, approximately 30,000 people, forced to flee to other areas in Taizz governorate, as well as to Hudaydah and Lahj governorates. There are conflicting reports on the number of people that are still in the city.
Assistance is being provided to the displaced in Hudaydah and a response is being mobilized in the governorate of Taizz. The UN is also concerned about the impact of military operations on the movement of commercial and humanitarian vessels in the Red Sea near Yemen's ports, the gateway of 70% of imports for Yemen.
Somalia: New warnings indicate that the humanitarian situation has further deteriorated in Somalia, and there are worrying signs that famine is possible in the country this year. The UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says the number of people in need of assistance in Somalia has increased to 6.2 million – roughly half of the population. Nearly 3 million people are classified as facing crisis and emergency food insecurity. Acute malnutrition levels remain high, with 363,000 malnourished children under the age of five, including 71,000 who are severely malnourished and face increased risk of morbidity and death. The Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq, warned in a statement issued today that unless a massive and urgent scale up of humanitarian assistance takes place in the coming weeks, famine could soon hit some of the worst drought-affected areas in the country.
Myanmar: According to the OCHA, at least 92,000 people have been displaced since the October attacks on police posts in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State. This includes some 69,000 people who have fled across the border into Bangladesh. The UN estimates that 23,000 people remain displaced in the north of Maungdaw Township where security operations continue. After a three-month interruption in most aid deliveries provided by UN agencies and partners in northern Rakhine, the Government has allowed an incremental resumption of some activities. With international staff still facing severe movement restrictions, national staff are distributing food and other items in most villages.
While health clinics and nutrition centers have re-opened in most areas, few people have been accessing them, as the situation remains tense. People are still afraid to move freely to access services, and movement is restricted by a travel pass requirement. The UN is calling for the relaxation of travel restrictions in northern Rakhine, both for local people who are impeded in accessing humanitarian aid and basic services as well as for staff from aid organizations that need access to assess and respond to humanitarian needs, irrespective of nationality, ethnicity, religion, or citizenship status.
Mediterranean migration: UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have issued a joint statement calling on European leaders to take decisive action to address the tragic loss of life on the Central Mediterranean route and the deplorable conditions for migrants and refugees in Libya. The statement was issued ahead of tomorrow’s informal meeting of the European Council and stresses the need for concerted efforts to change the way migrants and refugees are dealt with in Libya and neighboring countries, including a shift away from automatic detention towards the creation of proper reception centres.
Etienne Tshisekedi: The Special Representative of the SG in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Maman Sidikou, has said that the death of Etienne Tshisekedi in Brussels is a great loss. His death should be honored by all Congolese by moving forward on the path to reconciliation and democracy, he said in a video message. The Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Said Djinnit, also paid tribute to Mr. Tshisekedi.
Zika: One year ago, Zika was declared a public health emergency of international concern after sweeping through the Americas. Looking back on that decision, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan, said that Zika revealed fault lines in the world’s collective preparedness, including poor access to family planning services and the dismantling of national programs for mosquito control.
Dr. Chan says that WHO and affected countries need to manage Zika not on an emergency footing, but in the same sustained way we respond to other established epidemic-prone pathogens, like dengue and chikungunya. That is why WHO is creating a cross-Organizational mechanism to provide sustained guidance for effective interventions and support for families, communities, and countries experiencing Zika virus. For the research community, WHO also identified priority areas where more knowledge is urgently needed.
Food Price Index: The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Price Index rose notably in January, led by sugar and cereals, even as global markets remain well-supplied. World cereal stocks are at an all-time high, boosted by record production, including larger-than-expected wheat harvests in Australia and the Russian Federation.