This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
UN steps up help to Lebanese in wake of huge explosion
UN peacekeepers in Beirut have been busy helping the Lebanese authorities in the aftermath of the devastating explosion in the city’s port area on Tuesday.
In the aftermath of the blast, UN Secretary-General António Guterres offered his condolences to the victims and their families.
He wished the injured a speedy recovery, including UN personnel.
According to Lebanese President Michel Aoun, the tragedy was caused by more than 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate igniting.
UNIFIL, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, said that it is still assessing the damage from the blast, which is believed to have claimed dozens of lives and injured thousands, among them UN naval personnel.
Here’s UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti:
“We do have our helicopters, we do have 10,500 troops in the south at the moment, monitoring the blue line, monitoring the south of Lebanon, but as the Force Commander said yesterday, we are now with the people and the Government of Lebanon, and we stand ready to help and provide any assistance or support that of course will be based on their request…The blast was huge and most of the downtown area has been destroyed, some other areas around town are the same. So, we are still trying to assess the situation and including the scale of the impact on military personnel.”
Mr. Tenenti noted that Beirut’s port was almost the sole entry point for cargo destined for Lebanon apart from the airport, and that its effects would be felt throughout the country.
To hear the UN News interview with Mr Tenenti, just go to UN News/AudioHub.
WHO surge team heads for South Africa
The World Health Organization (WHO) is sending a team of expert coronavirus-busters to South Africa, it announced on Wednesday.
The development comes as the country strengthens its COVID-19 response amid rising infections.
It is among the top five of the world’s most affected countries, with more than half a million cases and over 8,300 deaths.
A total of 43 experts from various fields will support South Africa’s outbreak management measures at the national and provincial level.
After an initial quarantine period, they will be deployed in provinces identified as needing the most urgent support. They include Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Kwazulu Natal and Mpumalanga.
“Collective efforts” are necessary to identify cases, isolate and provide care, follow up contacts and fully implement physical distancing and other key public health measures, WHO Representative for South Africa, Dr Owen Kaluwa, said in a statement.
With over 18 million cases reported today around the world, WHO said that “now is not the time to be complacent”.
New cases of infection are rising by around 250,000 each day, the UN health agency said in a statement.
It continued to urge the public “to remain vigilant” and countries to increase testing and contact tracing to ensure no cases are missed and ensure appropriate treatment is available.
Rights experts call to remedy 'alarming' situation in Jammu and Kashmir
UN-appointed independent rights experts have called for urgent action in India’s Jammu and Kashmir, amid concerns of ongoing abuses against civilians there.
The appeal comes a year after the Indian Parliament revoked the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which provided protection to its mainly Muslim citizens.
In a statement, the 17 experts said that the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir has been in “free fall”.
Twelve months ago, they wrote to the Indian authorities to end what they called “the crackdown” on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests, following the decision to end the state’s special status.
The experts also expressed concern about alleged arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, to which the Government recently replied.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the independent experts also said it was concerning that “many” protesters are still in detention, and that internet restrictions remain.
They added that the closure of the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission last October, was equally disturbing, as it removed one of the few ways that victims of rights violations could seek remedy.
No information had been provided about what would happen to the ongoing cases the commission had been investigating.
These include hundreds of suspected enforced disappearances dating from as far back as 1989, the experts said, while allegations regarding thousands of unmarked and some mass graves sites have also not been properly investigated.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.