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News in Brief 4 September 2020

News in Brief 4 September 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

Increased support vital to help Beirut children back to school

As the new academic year begins in Lebanon, a massive scale-up in assistance is needed to ensure that children affected by last month’s Beirut disaster can go back to school, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday.

Eighty per cent of schools within 20 kilometres of the blast site sustained light or moderate damage and 20 per cent were heavily affected, according to the authorities. 

Resources are now urgently needed to ensure the least-affected schools can open by October.

But there are concerns for families who’ve been left homeless by the explosions in Beirut, and particularly for children who no longer have access to schoolbooks and the internet, as all schools plan to use remote and face-to-face learning, to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

In an appeal for $50 million for the next three months, UNICEF’s Lebanon Representative Yukie Mokuo, said that there is deep concern about the damage to schools in the hardest-hit neighbourhoods – and the potential psychological impact on up to 600,000 children.

Teachers need training and support to ensure that youngsters get quality remote learning, “but also a level of psychosocial care to help heal their trauma”, she added.

Violence could spark new mass displacement in DR Congo

To the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) now, where there are serious concerns of imminent mass displacement in the Kasai region, amid a resurgence in violence that’s linked to a lack of resources and inter-ethnic confrontation.

More than 24,000 people have already fled three separate flare-ups in the central region in the past month, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

It said on Friday that people have reported killings, rape, torture, looting and homes being torched, in a tussle for land, minerals and timber.

Dozens of people have also been injured, said the agency’s Babar Baloch, speaking in Geneva:

“UNHCR is actually calling for renewed focus on the Kasai to restore peace and defuse tensions and we are also appealing for allocation of resources as a lot of these tensions are due to meagre resources between different communities…But also a broader appeal to from our end to those who can help us in terms of the funding to help the people in Kasai as well as others who are displaced inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

In 2017, violence in the Kasais forced 1.4 million people from their homes, with 35,000 refugees seeking safety in neighbouring Angola.

UNHCR’s priority as the first humanitarians on the scene, is to help the survivors of sexual violence and refer them for medical care and psycho-social support.

It has also distributed plastic sheeting, blankets, soap and cooking kits to more than 4,000 people.

Host communities need help too, the UN agency noted, amid extreme poverty and high levels of malnutrition.

UN agency for Palestinian refugees launches $95 million appeal

A COVID-19 infection alert now from the UN agency for Palestinian refugee communities, UNWRA, which has warned that cases of coronavirus infection have jumped in recent weeks.

Until now, UNRWA’s efforts to contain the virus among the 5.6 million refugees it helps, have been largely successful.

But spokesperson Tamara Alrifai said that between July and September, the number of cases jumped from 200 to nearly 4,000. 

COVID-19 cases surged in the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria in July, she said, with more recent increases in Jordan and the first cases of local transmission in Gaza recorded in late-August.

“That’s a really dramatic jump…the jump is mostly due to the longer-term socioeconomic impact of the lockdown and the closures and the fact that beyond a few weeks, it was not possible to keep everybody confined in camps because Palestine refugees needed to go back to work, to livelihoods.”

Unless the UN is able to support refugees to stay in camps and meet people’s medical needs, Ms. Alrifai said that fears are growing of an outbreak in very densely populated communities.

Some $95 million is needed between now and the end of the year to help respond to the emergency.

“This funding is crucial for controlling the spread of the pandemic in Palestine refugee camps and to help prevent a major outbreak,” Ms. Alrifai insisted.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

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  • More support needed to aid Beirut children's return to class
  • Violence could spark new DR Congo mass displacement
  • UNRWA appeal to help Palestine refugees keep COVID at bay
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Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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UNICEF/Ramzi Haidar