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News in Brief 19 June 2020

News in Brief 19 June 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

‘No choice’ but to suspend most aid flights, warns WFP

A critical warning now from the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), which said on Friday that it may soon have “no choice” but to suspend “most” of its critical aid flights because of a lack of funding.

WFP has been operating such flights to some 132 countries, as travel bans and closed borders in many parts of the world have caused logistics nightmares for the delivery of humanitarian aid and personnel.

Unless a “substantial injection of funds” is provided by donors by early July, WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said that it would have “no choice” but to ground most of its humanitarian air fleet by the end of next month:

“I think all the operations will be affected, all of them, because you need money to get to charter a plane for passenger and medical evacuation or to transport cargo. I know that slowly and slowly, step by step some commercial flights resume and we use them as often as it’s possible, but there are still countries in fact like the Middle East where it’s badly needed.”

WFP operates a network of so-called global aid hubs in China, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates, near the locations where supplies are manufactured.

It also controls regional hubs in Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa, Malaysia, Panama and Dubai.

Ukraine’s warring parties urged to heed ceasefire call

All parties to the fighting in eastern Ukraine should respect the global ceasefire call issued by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the Organization’s deputy rights chief has urged.

In a debate about the six-year conflict at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday, Deputy High Commissioner Nada Al-Nashif, noted that recent months have seen a sharp rise in civilians killed in the self-declared republics near the Russian border.

Humanitarian access also remains difficult across the contact line and Ms. Al-Nashif urged the Government of Ukraine and the opposition authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk to make it easier to get aid to those in need.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, she also spoke of increasing concern about older people in long-term care facilities, prisoners, those with disabilities, the homeless and Roma.

After a prisoner exchange last December, the Deputy High Commissioner said that testimonies of those released revealed “systemic” patterns of alleged torture and ill treatment by both the Ukrainian security services and in Donetsk, where detainees were subjected to electric shocks, asphyxiation, mock executions and sexual violence.

Amid ongoing conflict, Syria’s students cross country to take exams

Finally to Syria, where an appeal for safe passage has been issued by the UN for thousands of high school students who have to travel across frontlines to sit their exams.

Up to 23,000 youngsters - from the opposition-held northeast and northwest – need to reach Government areas for their end-of-year tests beginning on Sunday.

In at least two incidents, members of non-state armed groups have reportedly turned away dozens of students at checkpoints in Idlib and Aleppo governorates, according to the UN’s humanitarian coordinating office, OCHA.

Other reports indicate that elsewhere in the country, including in Raqqa governorate, students have been harassed and intimidated.

In a statement insisting that Syrian children have the right to complete their education “wherever they may live”, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, Imran Riza, and Regional Coordinator, Kevin Kennedy, called any obstacle to this, unacceptable.

Youngsters already face a raft of challenges to stay in school, they said, including displacement, violent conflict, poverty and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help them, the UN and partners have invested in safe accommodation and examination centres along with other measures to mitigate coronavirus transmission.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • 'No choice' but to suspend aid flights, warns WFP
  • Heed ceasefire call in Ukraine, UN rights official urges
  • Appeal for safe passage across frontlines for Syrian students
Audio Credit
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
Audio Duration
Photo Credit
WFP/Karolyn Ureña