This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Desert camp aid delivery provides relief to desperate Syrians
The biggest UN humanitarian convoy yet to operate inside Syria has successfully distributed aid to 40,000 desperate people in a hard-to-access desert camp near the country’s southern border with Jordan, the organization announced on Friday.
Jens Laerke from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), highlighted that Thursday’s delivery to Rukban was only the second time the UN has been able to reach the remote site from within Syria.
“It was a complex, large-scale aid operation, it’s the biggest ever carried out by the United Nations in Syria. The mission lasted nine days, it consisted of 133 trucks in total, 118 loaded with relief supplies and 15 carrying logistics support. With more than 300 staff, volunteers and commercial suppliers that took part. It took more than two months of advocacy and negotiations with all parties to ensure safe access to the Rukban site.”
Rukban is around 300 kilometres from the capital Damascus and one of the last remaining remote and challenging locations to reach in Syria.
According to UN agencies, supply routes are often blocked and the majority of people at the site are women and children, some of whom walk barefoot around the camp despite the freezing conditions.
South Sudan alert as sexual violence surges: UN human rights office
A surge in sexual violence in South Sudan’s Unity state targeting victims as young as eight years old has underlined the need for Government measures to protect them, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, said on Friday.
Despite the signing of a peace deal between warring sides last autumn, UN investigators found that at least 175 women and girls have been raped or suffered other sexual and physical violence between September and December 2018.
The actual level of violence is likely to be considerably higher, OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville told journalists in Geneva.
He cited the testimony of a victim, one of many to be raped while fetching firewood, food or water.
She said, ‘We women do not have a choice, there is no alternative for us. If we go by the main road we are raped, if we go by the bush, we are raped. I was raped among others in the same area repeatedly on three different occasions. We avoided the road because we heard horrible stories that women and girls are grabbed while passing through and are raped. But the same happened to us, there’s no escape. We are all raped.’”
According to a joint report by OHCHR and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), attacks against women have decreased significantly since the peace accord was signed on 12 September.
Nonetheless, it warns that such incidents are “endemic” in northern Unity state, on the border with Sudan, creating a sense among communities that it is normal to be a victim of sexual violence.
The surge in conflict-related sexual violence is attributed to many factors including the breakdown in the rule of law, linked to the destruction of livelihoods, forced displacement and food insecurity after years of civil war.
But one of the main reasons is the large number of fighters in the area, who have yet to be reintegrated into the national army, according to the peace deal.
Philippines human rights defender arrested on libel
And finally, the arrest of the head of a prominent independent news outlet in the Philippines is concerning and such cases should be dismissed by the country’s judiciary, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, has said.
Maria Ressa, a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration, has been charged with libel, although she has been released on bail.
In a statement, UN spokesperson Rupert Colville called for an independent review of all charges against Ms. Ressa and other media professionals in the Philippines.
Any charges that appear to be aimed at preventing journalists from undertaking their profession should be dropped immediately, Mr. Colville added, in the interests of the public’s right to information.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.