Services for Palestine refugees “need to be maintained at all costs”: UN chief
The security of the whole Middle East would be “severely undermined” if the UN agency that supports Palestine refugees, UNRWA, ceased to exist, due to significant budget cuts.
That’s the stark message delivered by UN chief António Guterres at a press conference in Rome, following an emergency funding conference on Thursday for UNRWA.
According to news reports, nearly $100 million was pledged, following the decision by the United States in January to cut its funding for the agency this year by around $290 million.
The Secretary-General said that Palestine refugees could not live without the education, health and community support services UNRWA provides, adding that host countries Jordan, Lebanon and Syria also rely heavily on the agency’s support.
Mr. Guterres said he was deeply grateful to Egypt, Sweden and Jordan for leading international efforts to make up the shortfall.
“It is absolutely essential that the extraordinary unanimity in political support to UNRWA and to its activities, translates itself into cash — into the financial support necessary to fully bridge the gap. A very important first step was reached today, but a long way is in front of us.”
Thousands flee eastern Ghouta as UN prepares to assist those in need
Thousands of civilians reportedly left a rebel-held area of eastern Ghouta in Syria on Thursday, with the UN saying it was ready to provide assistance to those in need.
According to news reports, it marks the first mass exodus from the besieged enclave, following more heavy fighting as government forces move to recapture the densely populated area, close to Damascus.
UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said that the UN had a presence at shelters where some evacuees were arriving, where families were being assisted by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
“The shelter has a staffed medical point, water and electricity. The UN is conducting needs assessments at the shelters and stands ready to provide assistance to people in need who have evacuated from eastern Ghouta. WHO is sending hospital beds, medical equipment and medicine to help support health needs in the Dwier collective centre.”
The UN and partners also managed to deliver food assistance on Thursday for 26,100 people in need, in eastern Ghouta’s main city of Douma.
“Strong evidence” of torture during investigation into 43 Mexican students’ disappearance
There are “strong grounds” to believe that an investigation into the disappearance of 43 students from a rural Mexican college four years ago was marred by torture and cover-ups.
That’s according to a review by the UN human rights office, OHCHR, of the 63 individuals prosecuted following the mass disappearance at Ayotzinapa Teachers’ College in Guerrero state, which sparked national outrage.
The report highlights an “almost uniform” pattern of arbitrary detention to extract information or confessions, and “significant delays” in bringing suspects before a prosecutor, denying them legal protection.
The report also highlights “implausible” accounts by investigating authorities to explain detainees’ injuries.
It does not address the issue of who forcibly disappeared the 43 students and killed six others.
Here’s Jan Jarab, OHCHR Representative in Mexico.
“We have documented 34 cases of torture, where we say we have very strong evidence of torture in the cases of persons who were detained either as supposed members of organized crime or of local police of Iguala and Cocula who were supposed to have been in collusion with organized crime.”