This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
UNICEF adds voice to concerns over Rohingya return to Myanmar
UN Children’s Fund UNICEF has welcomed confirmation from Bangladesh that Rohingya refugees will not be returned to Myanmar against their will, amid reported ongoing rights violations there.
Since late August 2017, violence against Muslim minority Rohingya, has forced hundreds of thousands to flee Rakhine state and shelter in neighbouring Bangladesh.
Here’s UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulierac:
“We have seen widespread reports that Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh may be forcibly repatriated to Myanmar, reports that UNICEF views with the utmost concern. The camp authorities reinforced the message that while they are ready to repatriate refugees on a voluntary basis, no Rohingya refugee will be forced to return to Myanmar if they do not wish to do so.”
UNICEF’s comments are in line with unofficial polls in Cox’s Bazar by the UN agency which found that “the overwhelming majority of refugees” were unwilling to be go back to Myanmar unless their safety can be guaranteed.
Inside Myanmar, Rohingya communities are still vulnerable, UNICEF says, noting that they face restrictions on their movement and limited access to basic services including healthcare and education.
Afghanistan alert – widespread drought affects 3.5m people
In Afghanistan, drought has left 3.5 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance and UN agency the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that more than 9.3 million do not have enough food to eat.
Decades of war, civil unrest and natural disasters have contributed to Afghanistan’s problems and WFP says that the Government and its aid partners need additional support.
WFP spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel said that a high-level conference on Afghanistan in Geneva later this month would be an opportunity to highlight the country’s needs:
“Out of a total of 3.5 million people affected, 2.5 million will receive food assistance from the WFP and one million will receive assistance from the Government and other partners… WFP’s drought response will help hungry people to remain in their homes, engage in the next growing season and prevent further displacement to urban areas during the harsh winter.”
The drought affects 20 provinces in the north, south and west of Afghanistan, out of a total of 34.
The worst hit include Badghis, Ghor and Herat.
As part of its drought response, the UN agency plans to continue building irrigation canals, repair roads and plant trees – more than 10 million have taken root so far.
Libya hospital attack just one of a rising number, warns WHO
And finally, a hospital has had to shutin Benghazi in eastern Libya after staff were attacked by an armed group on Thursday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that three nurses and two security guards were beaten by the assailants, who stole valuable equipment.
The facility is the only urology hospital in the region, and its closure has put the lives of “a large number” of people at risk, WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said:
“Attacks on health facilities and medical staff across Libya have been increasing. Health workers operate in difficult situations and face intimidations, harassment, and attempts of the assassination while they are saving the lives of thousands whose access to health care services is limited.”
The incident is part of ongoing violence in oil-rich Libya, where armed groups have fought for control since the overthrow of President Muammar Gaadafi in 2011.
The UN is supporting the country’s recovery and its Special Envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame, told the Security Council this week that elections “should commence in the spring of 2019”.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.