Bombardments, food and water shortages leave hundreds of thousands of Syrians at risk
Two UN agencies are expressing concern over the humanitarian situation in Afrin, a district in north-western Syria, where fighting between Turkish forces and a Kurdish militia has displaced an estimated 50,000 people.
The UN human rights office, OHCHR, said it has received “deeply alarming reports” about civilian deaths and injuries due to air strikes and ground-based strikes.
Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told journalists in Geneva on Friday that hundreds of thousands of people are at risk, including those recently displaced from other areas captured by Turkish-led forces.
“We have received reports that only those civilians who have contacts within the Kurdish authority or the Kurdish armed forces have been able to leave, but even they have to make a treacherous path through, risking shelling and explosive hazards only to reach checkpoints manned by Government-backed armed groups where they may only be permitted to cross after paying a bribe.”
Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said families have been facing severe water shortages over the past 10 days as the source for Afrin city has reportedly been cut off.
Along with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, UNICEF started trucking water on March 11 to the most vulnerable neighbourhoods.
The plan to deliver 500,000 litres of water every day for up to 30,000 people lasted just four days, and was interrupted on Thursday, due to an escalation in attacks.
On Tuesday, the UN was able to observe the evacuation of 147 civilians, including eight medical cases and 78 children, according to Marixie Mercado, spokesperson for UNICEF.
She said the evacuees had no luggage with them, not even plastic bags to hold belongings.
“The children show clear signs of malnutrition. Most of the very young children are vitamin D deficient and cannot walk properly. Many showed signs of micronutrient deficiencies which is very dry and cracked skin, fatigue and lesions on the edges of the mouth. Many children were in need of scabies and lice medication. The women also showed signs of anaemia and malnutrition.”
Refugee figures approach total expected for the year: UNHCR
Some 57,000 refugees, nearly 78 per cent of whom are women, have been displaced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), fleeing “horrific inter-ethnic violence and sexual abuse”.
That’s according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) which fears thousands more could arrive in Uganda if the security situation inside the DRC does not improve immediately.
In just three days, between the 10th and 13th of March, more than 4,000 people crossed into Uganda from the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, an increase on 2017, when 44,000 fled over the course of the entire year.
Babar Baloch is the agency’s spokesperson:
“Since the beginning of this year, we have seen on average at least over 1,000 refugees fleeing Ituri province and the North Kivu arriving in Uganda. We have seen flare-up of violence on the other side, inside DRC, and that has been sending more and more refugees. We keep hearing about villages being burned down, civilian populations being attacked, and that’s one of the reasons we believe that there could be more people fleeing into Uganda. We are about to reach the planning figure we had for this year, which we thought during the entire year we are going to receive 60,000 refugees. Within the first three months of the year, we are almost about there, to cross that number. So, we are really worried that more will be fleeing.”
Meat product responsible for listeriosis outbreak in South Africa: WHO
South Africa has been managing what is the world’s largest ever recorded outbreak of listeriosis, a foodborne disease which has led to close to 980 cases, and 183 deaths in the country since January 2017.
That’s according to Peter Ben Embarek, technical expert on food safety for the WHO, the World Health Organization.
Listeriosis is one of the most serious and severe foodborne diseases, and although relatively rare, a high death rate is associated with this infection, making it a significant public health concern.
The long incubation period of listeria makes it complicated to investigate, which can mean several weeks may pass before symptoms including fever, septicemia and meningitis, start to show.
Two weeks ago, food was identified as the primary source of the outbreak, the origin being a type of processed sausage, called polony, which is commonly consumed in South Africa.
A proper investigation has not yet been carried out to identify the cause and to understand the original source of the bacteria.