This is the News in Brief, from the United Nations.
Syria is a ticking time-bomb that must not be ignored, says UN human rights chief
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has expressed serious concerns about a sharp rise in killings of civilians and ongoing abuses across Syria.
The situation is deteriorating and is a “ticking time-bomb” that must not be ignored, she said in a statement on Friday.
Her spokesperson, Rupert Colville, explained that UN rights officials “are receiving more reports every day of targeted killings and bombings from one end of the country to the other”.
Many of these attacks take place in populated areas,” he said, noting that parties to the conflict in Syria, including ISIL appear to see the COVID-19 pandemic as a way “to regroup and inflict violence”.
In April, the Office of the High Commissioner documented at least 35 civilian deaths from attacks involving improvised explosive devices, compared to just seven the previous month.
Most were in residential neighbourhoods while seven other attacks hit markets.
In one of the deadliest attacks in recent months, 51 people – including at least 29 civilians were killed on 28 April when a fuel truck exploded in a market in the north-western city of Afrin.
Conflict and floods force tens of thousands to flee in Somalia, amid COVID-19 threat
To Somalia now, where the UN refugee agency, UNCHR, has issued an appeal for help from the international community to meet massive humanitarian needs caused by conflicts and heavy floods.
t has helped to airlift emergency assistance - including jerry cans, soap, blankets, sleeping mats, kitchen sets and plastic sheets for more than 8,000 people in Baidoa, Bardheere and Qardho.
Apart from the additional threat of COVID-19 infections, communities also face impending desert locust swarms.
These and other difficulties have left the country’s 2.6 million internally displaced people extremely vulnerable, UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley said.
"If current trends continue, this year’s rains give every indication that they could pose the same catastrophic threat as the Deyr rains of last year, which led to more than 400,000 people being forced to flee their homes.”
The Government of Somalia has initiated COVID-19 testing across the country.
There have been around 900 confirmed cases of infection among the general population but only one confirmed case among displaced people so far.
UNHCR’s concern is that decades of conflict, together with a global shortage of testing kits, have left the country’s health infrastructure in a precarious position to respond, should the virus spread rapidly.
Virus hunters continue search for animal link to COVID-19 infections in people
And finally, the key work of tracing the animal transmission source of COVID-19 coronavirus infection in humans must continue, to prevent future health emergencies, a top UN scientist said on Friday.
Since the respiratory disease emerged in central China in late December, officials have raced to locate where and how the virus was first transmitted from its animal host to humans.
A now-closed Wuhan city wholesale market “played a role” in the outbreak, said Dr Peter Embarek from the World Health Organization (WHO), but it is not clear if it was the original source.
In previous coronavirus outbreaks, such as the MERS event in 2012, finding the missing animal-human link took almost a year, he explained.
“So it’s never too late, but it’s important that we try to find the source and understand what happened at the start of the event to avoid a repeat of this event and to avoid another spill-over event in coming years with other different viruses.”
The WHO official also noted that cats, ferrets and dogs were susceptible to the virus, while pigs and poultry show greater resistance to it.
He also said that the new coronavirus could not be transmitted by mosquitos and parasites.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.