This is the News in Brief, from the United Nations.
India’s New Delhi choking on record levels of smog
Unbearable levels of air pollution in India’s capital of New Delhi, declared a public health emergency by the local government as of Monday, have made “the invisible killer, visible”, a UN senior pollution expert has said.
According to media reports, residents of the capital city are set to suffer record-levels of smog for at least a week, even with emergency measures in place to tackle the problem, with some flights delayed and diverted due to thick smog.
Valentin Foltescu, Senior Programme Management Officer for the UN Environment Programme in India, UNEP, told UN News that current levels of fine particulate matter, containing unsafe chemicals harmful to human health, are 40 times higher than the World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended level.
The major contributor is poor farming practices, Mr. Foltsecu explained, with states adjacent to the capital region practicing widespread stubble burning in open fields. In addition, waste mismanagement and heavy traffic are also raising toxicity levels.
WHO has outlined the detrimental impact of particulate matter pollution, or PM2.5 on humans; stunting children’s brains, and triggering heart disease, stroke, pulmonary disease and lung cancers, with an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths globally linked to ambient air pollution.
UNEP is working with various sectors in a bid to help reduce the toxic smog in New Delhi and beyond, including Government-led agricultural initiatives, and projects on the ground to eliminate harmful open burning practices.
UNICEF urges governments to repatriate children stranded in Syria
The head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is appealing for Governments to repatriate scores of foreign children stranded in northeast Syria in the wake of the Turkish offensive which began last month.
The agency estimates nearly 28,000 children from more than 60 countries remain trapped in the region, mostly in displacement camps. This includes almost 20,000 from Iraq.
More than 80 per cent of the stranded foreign children are under-12, and half are under five. Additionally, around 250 boys are being held in detention, though that number is likely to be higher. Some are as young as nine.
Executive Director for UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, said on Monday that the escalation “brings a renewed urgency” for governments to repatriate these children before it is too late. Adding that, “all are living in conditions not fit for children.”
So far, at least 17 countries have repatriated more than 650 children who are now living with family members. UNICEF has supported the process by helping some of the youngsters to reintegrate, but Ms. Fore pointed out that these countries are the exception, rather than the norm.
Council deeply concerned over political developments unfolding in Guinea-Bissau
The UN Security Council on Monday expressed deep concern over Guinea Bissau’s political crisis, following President José Mário Vaz’s decision last week to dissolve the government, including sacking the Prime Minister and appointing new leadership.
In a Statement, the Council called on all actors to fully respect the response from the regional body of West African States, ECOWAS, which deemed the President’s actions “illegal”, and urged top politicians to reach agreement over a way forward.
The President’s dismissal and replacement of Prime Minister Aristide Gomes, intensified a bitter power struggle between the President and the ruling party just weeks before fresh Presidential elections, set for 24 November. One demonstrator has died, and several have been injured during related political protests.
President Vaz’s term in office expired this June, but under terms agreed with ECOWAS, he will stay in office until this month’s poll, in the hope of being re-elected.
The Council reiterated its strong support and commitment to the country’s peace process and underscored the urgent need to hold the already-delayed presidential election as agreed and allow for a peaceful transition of power.
Natalie Hutchison, UN News.