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News in Brief 28 July 2020

News in Brief 28 July 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

DPRK women forced home, ‘face grievous abuse in detention’

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has spoken out against “shocking and heart-wrenching stories” told by women who were forcibly repatriated to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), detained and interrogated.

The testimonies feature in a report released on Tuesday by Ms. Bachelet’s office, OHCHR.

It highlights regular, serious violations including violence and sexual assault for many women who fled their country looking to make ends meet, but who ended up being punished back in DPRK, commonly known as North Korea.

Based on 100 first-hand accounts by women detained from 2009-2019 and who have since left the country, the report notes how one woman had “tried hard not to reveal details of her life in China” was then “beaten and kicked so hard that one of her ribs was broken (and) she says she still feels the pain today”. Another said that “the beatings were so excruciating that she even attempted suicide.”

Leaving DPRK without permission is considered a crime, the UN human rights office report explains.

“The women who have often been the victims of exploitation and trafficking should be taken care of, not detained and subjected to further human rights violations,” Ms. Bachelet said in a statement, adding that the women “have a right to justice, truth and reparation”.

COVID-19 likely not seasonal: WHO

The COVID-19 virus is not impacted by the changing seasons like other respiratory diseases, the UN health agency said on Tuesday, before urging much greater respect for physical distancing measures to stop it spreading.

During a press conference, World Health Organization spokesperson Dr Margaret Harris noted that the biggest outbreak “with the most intense, the highest numbers” was in United States, where it’s summertime.

In the global south, Dr Harris noted that winter was under way there, with samples tested indicating “high” COVID infection rates but low influenza levels.
That indicates that a later flu season is likely in the southern hemisphere, with possible additional pressure on hospitals facing the joint burden of influenza and COVID-19 infection at the same time.

Here’s Dr Harris now:

“It would be a concern, because if you have an increase in respiratory illness when you already have a very high burden of respiratory illness, that puts even more pressure on the health system.”

Globally, WHO has reported 16.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including more than 650,000 deaths.

Kenya beats back Desert Locust upsurge, East Africa still at risk

To East Africa now, where preparations are underway to prevent a second Desert Locust invasion, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Tuesday.

In Kenya, progress has been made in driving back the winged insects, and only two of the 29 counties that were infested in February, are affected now.

But Ethiopia is still suffering, and the country has been partly re-colonised by destructive swarms from Kenya, FAO said, adding that crops remain under threat from locust hordes arriving from Yemen.

Progress in tackling the pest has also been made in Somalia despite security issues, but experts believe that breeding is likely in the north, along with Sudan and western Eritrea too.

Food security experts have already warned of abnormally poor livestock in areas where Desert Locusts settled on valuable grazing lands earlier this year.

In a call to build up monitoring and response capacity to deal with the crop pests across east Africa, FAO’s Resilience Team Leader for East Africa, Cyril Ferrand, also noted that the locust situation in Yemen and Southwest Asia remains a concern too.

Swarms can move up to 150 kilometres per day and “this requires all the assets, pesticides, planes, helicopters, fuel, plus the teams on the ground doing scouting and surveillance, to be moved accordingly”, Mr Ferrand said.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • Jailed DPRK women forced home, 'face grevious abuse'
  • COVID likely not seasonal, WHO warns
  • Desert Locust upsurge tamed in Kenya
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Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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