This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Syrians face ‘unprecedented’ hunger amid impending COVID crisis
Syrian communities devastated by years of civil war now face an “unprecedented” hunger crisis, just as urgent action is needed to prevent COVID-19 from spreading further, UN humanitarians said on Friday.
The warning comes ahead of a major donor pledging conference next Tuesday for the war-shattered country.
There are serious concerns that Syrians – nine in 10 of whom have to live on $2 or less a day – are dangerously exposed to the new coronavirus should it reach them, said Dr Richard Brennan from the World Health Organization (WHO).
To date, nine people have died from the new coronavirus, he said:
“We’ve only had 248 cases (of new coronavirus infection) in country thus far, but we can take no comfort in that. We have other countries in the region, the number of cases has got off to a slow start, and we’ve seen in more recent times a real acceleration, so we’ve seen this in Iraq, we’ve seen it in Turkey, we’ve seen it in
Egypt and we can fully expect that we will have a similar development in Syria as well.”
The development coincides with an urgent World Food Programme (WFP) appeal for funding amid a 200 per cent food price hike, in less than a year.
The UN agency helps 4.8 million people a month in Syria’s 14 governorates but to carry on doing so, it needs $200 million urgently, said spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs.
580 civilians killed so far this year in central Mali – OHCHR
To central Mali now, where violent intercommunal disputes and exactions attributed to State armed forces have claimed the lives of nearly 600 civilians this year.
In an appeal for justice, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, urged the Government in Bamako to tackle impunity and protect the country’s people.
According to the UN rights chief, armed groups linked to Peulh herders and Dogon farmers and hunters, have clashed increasingly in recent months, burning houses, looting granaries and forcibly recruiting victims.
Attacks across community lines have also been “instrumentalized” by several extremist groups, Ms. Bachelet said, noting that they have extended into Mali’s central regions, as they are challenged further north by national and international armed forces.
In an appeal for all perpetrators to be held accountable for their rights violations, the High Commissioner insisted that this should include members of the defence and security forces, active in the central regions of Mopti and Ségou.
They had mainly been involved in targeting members of the Peulh community, she said, before insisting that people “need justice, redress and reparations”.
After ‘megaflash’ lightning strikes, dust plumes hit historic proportions
A dust storm of “truly historic proportions” has been reported in the Caribbean, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Friday, following
confirmation of record lightning strikes measuring several hundred kilometres in South America. In its latest annual update on dust plumes, the UN agency highlights that a massive Saharan swirl arrived from North Africa in the Eastern Caribbean about 10 days ago.
Since then, it has spread just off the northern coast of South America and as far north and west as the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
It has darkened the sky, contaminated rainwater and reduced visibility.
“It also poses a significant health hazard”, WMO’s Dr Oksana Tarasova said, adding that Martinique, Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico all experienced record values of PM10 – tiny particles which can penetrate into the lungs and cause respiratory problems and disease.
The dust drama follows the UN agency’s announcement on Thursday that a series of record lightning bursts happened in 2019.
One megaflash stretched more than 700 kilometres (400 miles) across southern Brazil last October.
It was equivalent to the distance between Boston and Washington DC in the United States, or between London, England, and Basel, Switzerland.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.