This is the News in Brief from the United Nations
Violent clashes in eastern DRC undermining Ebola response
Efforts to contain the spread of deadly Ebola virus in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are under threat, as conflict continues to hamper the progress of aid workers there.
According to the World Health Organization, WHO, there are now 200 cases of the disease in this latest outbreak, and 125 people have died.
The epicentre is the town of Beni, which registered 29 new cases of Ebola out of a total of 35, identified in the last week.
Violent clashes there have prevented the essential work of tracing all those who have come into contact with Ebola carriers, WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said.
“We resumed the work but there are attacks and there is violence between Government and rebel groups that is not directly targeted to Ebola responders but that forces teams to not be able to function fully on a daily basis; we can’t go for a couple of hours to some areas because there are either shooting going on, or there is a protest by groups in the city on this violence.”
Convincing communities to conduct safe burials so they did not promote the spread of disease is also a crucial issue, Mr Jasarevic said.
One Ebola victim’s body had been “stolen” on the way to the cemetery on Thursday, before being returned, he said, before noting that people “want their traditions to be respected”.
Since a vaccination campaign started on 8 August in the North Kivus, more than 15,800 people have been inoculated.
Australia urged to evacuate offshore processing facilities amid suicides and mental distress
Australia has been urged by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, to end its offshore processing policy on the Pacific islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea, amid reports of attempted suicide by children and young adults.
In an appeal on Friday, UNHCR’s Catherine Stubblefield said that conditions for migrants and asylum-seekers had deteriorated since the policy began in 2013, and that there was widespread mental illness.
“In one of the various cases brought to our attention during September, a suicidal pre-teenage girl remains in Nauru despite doctors’ advice to the contrary. Medical records seen by UNHCR staff show she first doused herself in petrol, before attempting to set herself alight and pulling chunks of hair from her head.”
According to UNHCR, more than 1,400 people are still being held on both locations and more than 80 per cent are suffering from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Around 500 people have been returned to Australia on medical grounds, but this is “significantly lower” than all those with acute needs, the agency has insisted.
Among UNHCR’s concerns is the lack of basic services available to people forcibly moved to Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
This is the responsibility of the Australian Government, it said, highlighting that it had “designed, financed (and) managed” the offshore processing policy.
833 children released from armed group in North-East Nigeria
And finally to Nigeria, where an armed group has released more than 800 children in the troubled North-East of the country – the first formal handover since it signed an agreement to end child recruitment just over a year ago.
The move by the Civilian Joint Task Force comes after it was named in the UN Secretary-General’s Annual Report for Children and Armed Conflict.
The group was formed in 2013 to protect communities and support the country’s security forces against Boko Haram extremists.
UN Children’s Fund UNICEF described the mass release as a “significant milestone” in efforts to protect youngsters from being made to fight.
According to its findings, however, another 600 children still remain within the ranks of the Civilian Joint Task Force in the city of Maiduguri, and many youngsters remain in other militia, either in combat or support roles.
Since 2017, UNICEF has worked with the Nigerian authorities to support more than 8,700 children released by armed groups.
This work has involved tracing their families, getting them home and offering support, an education and training, in addition to helping them overcome the stigma associated with what has happened to them.
Daniel Johnson, UN News