This is the News in Brief from the United Nations
Afghanistan “one step from famine”
In Afghanistan, millions of people are “one step away from famine” because of drought, a top UN aid official said on Friday.
Speaking in Geneva, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Toby Lanzer, urged the international community to “stand very closely” with the Government in the embattled country.
“The situation on the ground in Afghanistan for 3.6 million people is very grave, they are one step away from famine…Once a drought has destroyed the livelihood of millions of people who depend on herding sheep or goats or cattle, once a drought has created levels of food insecurity such as those that we are seeing in Afghanistan today, recovering from that is not a two or three-month prospect.”
Mr. Lanzer underlined that civilian casualties in Afghanistan linked to attacks by violent extremists so far this year are greater than in Yemen, and that it also has more people who are food insecure than South Sudan.
His comments come ahead of a high-level conference on Afghanistan at the UN next week; its goals are to show the solidarity of the international community with the Afghans and their government, and emphasize the importance of development and reform.
According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, more than 8,000 people were injured in the country in the first nine months of the year.
This toll included nearly 2,800 fatalities, with suicide and non-suicide improvised explosive devices the leading cause of casualties.
Guatemala conviction welcomed of Dos Erres massacre perpetrator
The conviction of a former Guatemalan soldier involved in the mass killing of villagers during the country’s civil war has been welcomed by the UN human rights office, OHCHR.
Spokesperson Liz Throssell told journalists in Geneva on Friday that the ruling against Santos López Alonso – one of only six military personnel to have been convicted - was “another important step” for transitional justice in Guatemala.
“We welcome the ruling this week by a Guatemalan court to convict and sentence a former soldier to 5,130 years in prison for his role in the Dos Erres massacre – one of the most shocking episodes of the country’s long civil war, when more than 200 people were killed in the village of Dos Erres in 1982…Santos López Alonso, who was a member of an elite force of the Guatemalan military known as the Kaibiles, was found guilty of crimes against humanity and murder in 171 of these cases.”
Ms. Throssell added that the court had concluded that the crimes against humanity committed in Dos Erres were part of a larger state policy of the ruling military junta.
According to a UN-backed national rights commission, 200,000 lives were lost amid hundreds of massacres that were carried out in indigenous Maya villages.
200,000 Cox’s Bazar households to make clean fuel switch
And finally, to the largest refugee camp in the world, in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, where residents are set to make the switch to clean fuel – a move that UN refugee agency UNHCR says will have significant health and environmental benefits.
Spokesperson Andrej Mahecic explained that until now, the camp’s many hundreds of thousands of residents – who fled a bloody security operation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 - have needed to gather huge amounts of firewood for cooking and heating.
This puts women and children at risk of and the smoke is also a health hazard, he said, adding that distribution of Liquefied Petroleum Gas, or LPG, started this week:
“The distribution and the switch to LPG is in support of Bangladesh’s overall humanitarian response and it aims to provide more than 200,000 refugee households as well as a significant number of vulnerable Bangladeshi host families with clean, healthy safe and reliable source of energy for cooking and for heating. It will also help to tackle and revers the environmental impact of the refugee situation in southern Bangladesh.”
The UNCHR project is also supported by the Bangladeshi Government, the World Food Programme (WFP) and other UN agencies.
Another positive change in Cox’s Bazar is the construction of two healthcare facilities.
Joel Millman, from the UN Migration agency IOM, said that one centre would help those with mental health issues, while the other would provide maternity and sexual and reproductive health services.
Daniel Johnson, UN News