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News in Brief 7 August 2020

News in Brief 7 August 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

Needs following Beirut explosion, ‘immediate and huge’ across Lebanon

Across Lebanon, “the needs are immediate and they are huge” in the aftermath of the explosion that destroyed Beirut city port, UN agencies said on Friday.

Latest reports indicate at least 150 fatalities and thousands of wounded, but that figure is likely to rise, as rescuers search the port for survivors still trapped following the devastating blast.

Christian Lindmeier from the World Health Organization (WHO) said that many people were still missing and that hospitals were overwhelmed.

Three facilities are “non-functional” and two more have been partially damaged, he told journalists via videoconference in Geneva, with a total of 500 beds put out of action as a result of the disaster.

“The immediate focus now is on the trauma care and the search and rescue of course still, that’s very important, there’s still people under the rubble and there’s still people alive under the rubble from what we can see from the media reports; and that is the first priority now, and of course bringing in supplies, food, shelter also, medicines, medical equipment for trauma situations but for all the other diseases that cannot be treated now in hospitals.”

According to UN Children’s Fund UNICEF, at least 80,000 children are among those whose houses had been damaged in the blast, and many homes are now without water or electricity.

At the same time, COVID-19 infections have spiked, the agency warned, with a record 255 infections registered on Thursday.

To date, Lebanon has seen 70 COVID-19 deaths and 5,672 cases in total, and areas around the blast site are among the most active clusters of transmission, UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado said.

COVID-19: Lift sanctions ‘bringing suffering and death’, urge UN experts

UN appointed independent rights experts have called on countries to lift – or at the very least, ease – sanctions to help countries fight the global pandemic.

People in countries under sanctions cannot protect themselves against the disease or get lifesaving treatment if they fall ill, because humanitarian exemptions to the sanctions are not working, the experts said on Friday.

“Sanctions that were imposed in the name of delivering human rights are in fact killing people and depriving them of fundamental rights, including the rights to health, to food and to life itself,” they said in a statement.

Water, soap and electricity needed by hospitals are in short supply because of the sanctions, along with food and fuel for delivering vital goods from Cuba to Sudan to Venezuela, Alena Douhan, a UN Special Rapporteur, insisted.

With other human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council, she welcomed efforts by many States, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to try to help sanctioned countries fight COVID-19.

Shipwreck tragedy that claimed 27 lives was preventable: UN agencies

A shipwreck off the coast of Mauritania has claimed 27 lives, the UN migration and refugee agencies IOM and UNHCR said on Friday.

Describing their deaths as preventable and needless, the agencies said that a lone survivor from Thursday’s tragedy had been brought to the city of Nouadhibou, after a rescue operation by the Mauritanian coastguard.

The accident is evidence that despite COVID-19 movement restrictions, “migrants are still compelled to undertake risky journeys”, said IOM Mauritania Chief of Mission, Laura Lungarotti.

The boat is understood to have left Dakhla in Western Sahara, some days ago; it was heading for the Canary Islands before encountering engine trouble.

Those on board were left stranded at sea, before suffering extreme dehydration, the UN agencies said, noting that the passengers were mostly from sub-Saharan Africa and included Guineans.

In an appeal for greater international cooperation to tackle the smuggling networks that are often involved in these tragedies, UNHCR also called for measures to strengthen asylum-seekers’ integration in host communities.

This is so “they don’t feel the desperation that drives them to risk their lives on these desperate journeys”, said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean.  

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • 'Immediate and huge' needs facing Beirut and Lebanon
  • Mauritania shipwreck, another preventable tragedy
  • Lift sanctions 'bringing suffering and death'
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Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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