This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
UN chief’s concern for mariners’ ‘humanitarian and safety’ crisis
UN chief António Guterres has expressed concern for the world’s merchant sailors – indispensable workers who face a growing humanitarian and safety crisis, he said on Thursday.
In an appeal to Governments to help them, Mr. Guterres pointed out that some two million seafarers have supported the effort against COVID-19 by keeping the global logistics chain running.
But they are now physically and mentally exhausted, he said, and because of pandemic restrictions, unable to see their families and loved ones.
For some, tours of duty have been extended far beyond what international conventions recommend, in some cases to more than 17 months.
“Fatigued seafarers cannot operate indefinitely and disruptions to international shipping would have devastating consequences,” Mr. Guterres warned.
To help them, he called for marine personnel to be designated as “key workers”, as this would ensure safe crew changes and allow stranded seafarers to be repatriated.
Flooding adds new danger to communities fleeing Sahel violence
Humanitarians have stepped up assistance to communities affected by devastating flooding in Africa’s Sahel region, where several hundred thousand people have been displaced.
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said on Thursday that thousands need shelter, clean water and health services “across large swathes” of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger.
The rains began in August and are believed to be the worst in over a decade.
Dozens of people have died, including a displaced pregnant mother and her teenage daughter in Burkina Faso, when their neighbour’s house collapsed onto their tent.
In addition to destroyed housing, the flooding has damaged health centres and left farmland submerged.
Across the Sahel, communities have already had to contend with intense and indiscriminate violence that has forced more than 3.5 million to flee both within their own countries and across borders.
Colombia’s indigenous peoples ‘on threshold of genocide’
Indigenous people in Colombia are at risk of “physical and cultural extermination”.
That’s the message that Aida Quilque Vivas, from Colombia’s Nasa community, delivered to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, which has been discussing threats to rights defenders of native communities.
Addressing Member States on Wednesday, Ms Vivas said that the country’s 115 ethnic groups were on the “threshold of genocide”, despite the 2016 peace agreement between the Government and the FARC armed group.
Violations of their rights continues to be “systematic”, she told the Geneva forum via video link, with common threats including anti-personnel mines, assassinations and forced recruitment – especially in Choco region, but also in Antioquia, Valle del Cauca, El Cauca and Nariño.
Other risks are increasing, including from drug trafficking and Government support for mining and other extractive industries, Ms. Vivas explained.
Also addressing the Council, UN deputy rights chief Nada Al Nashif noted with concern increasing harassment, attacks, acts of violence and killings against indigenous peoples.
Without naming them, Ms. Al Nashif said that some States invested “great effort to silence, punish - even criminalize” - indigenous human rights defenders, and that the UN “cannot remain indifferent in such cases”.
Daniel Johnson, UN News