Humanitarian emergency getting bigger by the hour, warns UN food agency
The humanitarian emergency caused by Tropical Cyclone Idai in south-west Africa is “getting bigger by the hour”, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday.
Five days after the storm made landfall in Mozambique, at least 1,000 people are feared dead there alone, although Malawi and Zimbabwe were also badly hit.
Victims are reportedly trapped by floodwater awaiting rescue, UN agencies said, while across all three countries, tens of thousands have lost their homes, with roads, bridges and crops washed away.
Here’s Christophe Boulierac from UN Children’s Fund UNICEF:
“Many people are in desperate situations, several thousand are fighting for their lives at the moment sitting on rooftops, in trees and other elevated areas. This includes families and obviously many children.”
According to WFP, an estimated 1.7 million people were in the path of the cyclone in Mozambique, in addition to the 920,000 people affected in Malawi and “thousands more” in Zimbabwe.
Aid access is “the biggest challenge”, with WFP staff on the ground reporting that the flooding resembled “inland oceans extending for miles and miles with water above tree level”.
The agency has airlifted high-energy biscuits, water and blankets to people crammed on rooftops and elevated patches of land outside the port city of Beira, where 90 per cent of buildings are damaged.
DRC’s election of President Tshisekedi 'a momentous transition moment'
To the Human Rights Council now, which has heard that the election of President Felix Tshisekedi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is “an extraordinary opportunity” for the country to advance civil and political rights.
Speaking to the Council in Geneva, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, welcomed Mr. Tshisekedi’s inaugural speech in January, in which he made a “clear commitment” to respect citizens’ rights and end discrimination.
The President’s recent decree ordering the release of all political prisoners was also to be welcomed, Mr. Gilmour said, in anticipation of their actual release and the closing of all unofficial detention centres.
“Such measures, if fulfilled, would represent an exceptionally positive development towards the opening up of democratic space, which has been increasingly restricted in recent years. During the electoral process, such restrictions were obvious. In the weeks just before and after the elections, the Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC documented the killing of at least 36 civilians in elections-related violence; most killed by security forces using disproportionate use of force, including the use of live ammunition.”
The Assistant Secretary-General’s comments coincided with the publication of a report into DRC violence and rights abuses in 2018.
It found that more than 1,100 people were killed in conflict-related violence, almost 900 were subjected to sexual violence in a war-setting, including 279 children.
Mali violence ‘is worsening’ for civilian in centre and north, warns rights expert
Staying with the Human Rights Council, the forum also heard a warning on Tuesday that people in Mali’s central and northern regions are “highly vulnerable” amid a worsening security situation there.
In addition to extremists who use Mali’s desert regions as a base and terrorize communities, an absence of government and the rule of law has prompted people to use violence to settle their differences, Independent Expert Alioune Tine said.
Delivering his report to the Council, Mr. Tine welcomed the fact that the presidential election took place in 2018 despite attacks by extremist groups against election officials.
But he noted that there has been little progress in implementing the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, more than three years after it was signed.
Government authorities “remain incapable of combating violence” in the centre and north of the country, the expert also warned, noting that ambushes and the use of improvised explosive devices against security forces remain “one of the main threats” to the peace process.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.