This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Fleeing violence in Syria, families now forced to burn clothes to stay warm
Families fleeing violence in north-west Syria are burning their clothes to protect themselves against freezing winter temperatures, UN humanitarians said on Friday, while also warning of a “bloodbath” unless a ceasefire is agreed.
Since 1 December, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported that more than 900,000 civilians have been displaced, amid an offensive by Government forces against armed groups in the last opposition-held areas of Idlib Governorate.
Of that 900,000, 60 per cent are children, OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke told journalists in Geneva:
“In the freezing winter, many people have resorted to burning their spare clothes, pieces of furniture or materials that let out toxic fumes. The front lines and relentless violence continue to move closer to these areas which are packed with displaced people, with bombardments increasingly affecting displacement sites and their vicinity. We call for an immediate ceasefire to prevent further suffering and what we fear may end in a bloodbath.”
Amid growing needs, OCHA now plans to help 1.1 million people in Syria’s northwest, for which it is appealing for half a billion dollars.
Escalating Burkina Faso violence brings wider Sahel displacement emergency into focus
Deadly attacks on villages in Burkina Faso have forced 150,000 people to flee in just the last three weeks, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.
According to UNCHR, more than 4,000 people a day have fled attacks in Burkina Faso, since 1 January.
Spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said that more than 700,000 people have been displaced in the past 12 months.
“People fleeing the violence report attacks on their villages by militant groups, killing, raping, and pillaging. Terrified of these attacks, residents have left everything behind to find safety.”
The agency has warned of a displacement emergency in the wider Sahel region, amid a five-fold surge in terrorist attacks against civilians and military targets in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger since 2016.
Help is particularly needed in northern Burkina Faso, where displaced families are staying with host communities who have little in the way of resources themselves.
A similar pattern of violence has driven people from their homes in Mali and Niger, adding to the longstanding insecurity crisis further afield in the Lake Chad region, where the UN humanitarian coordination office (OCHA) estimates that 2.3 million people are displaced.
UN chief offers sympathy to German people after racist shooting
Finally, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said that he was appalled to learn of two apparently racially motivated shootings in Germany on Wednesday.
According to reports, the gunman killed 10 people in the town of Hanau, before killing himself, in what is likely one of the worst attacks on migrants in recent German history.
In a statement, the UN chief extended his deepest condolences to the families of the victims – as well as the Government and people of the Federal Republic of Germany – and wished a speedy recovery to those injured.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.