This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Impact of COVID-19 on cancer care globally has been ‘profound’, warns WHO
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a “profound” impact on cancer diagnosis and treatment globally, the UN health agency said on Tuesday.
Fifty per cent of governments surveyed have had cancer services “partially or completely disrupted because of the pandemic”, said Dr André Ilbawi, from the World Health Organization’s Department of Noncommunicable Diseases.
Delays in diagnosis have become common and interruptions in therapy or abandonment of treatment have increased significantly”, the WHO official told journalists in Geneva, adding that this would likely have an impact on the total number of cancer deaths in coming years.
“Healthcare professionals have been under great stress to deliver services and there are significant reductions in research and clinical trial enrolment. To state it simply, the consequences of the pandemic on cancer control efforts have been profound.”
Although countries “of all income levels” have been affected, Dr Ilbawi said that wealthier nations, including the Netherlands, had countered the pandemic’s impact on cancer care with special programmes offering speedier access to diagnosis and treatment for those displaying symptoms.
Call for ‘crimes against humanity’ probe in DR Congo
An alert over potential crimes against humanity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) now after the UN rights office, OHCHR, said that it has been appalled by a spike in attacks against civilians there.
The warning, issued on Tuesday, specifically cited one armed group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), operating in Ituri province, as well as in Beni territory in North Kivu province.
But OHCHR said that it was also concerned about human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law by security and defence forces in the DRC.
Spokesperson Marta Hurtado explained why the human rights office believed that the armed group was potentially guilty of such serious international crimes:
“Why we are saying that? Because they are widespread and systematic and they’ve been consistent, and they are targeting directly the civilian population…you can say that these crimes could amount, if proven in a court, to crimes against humanity.”
According to a new report by the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the country, at least 849 civilians were killed last year in the areas of concern, in attacks by the ADF.
The report also documents serious violations by security and defence forces during operations against ADF combatants, with 22 civilians killed in the first half of last year, nine women and 12 children sexually abused and 81 arrested arbitrarily.
DPR Korea: Prison system a place of ongoing grave abuses, warns Bachelet
Finally, to DPR Korea, commonly referred to as North Korea, where UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has called for new efforts to seek justice for victims of gross human rights violations.
Tuesday’s call by the High Commissioner for Human Rights comes as her Office published a new report indicating that serious crimes including torture and “enslavement”, are likely still being committed inside the country’s prisons.
Rights office, OHCHR, said that it had received “consistent and credible accounts of the systematic infliction of severe physical and mental pain or suffering upon detainees in the ordinary prison system”.
These may amount to the crime against humanity of torture, OHCHR said, adding that prisoners were beaten, forced into stress positions for prolonged periods and subject to psychological abuse, forced labour and starvation.
The UN report also reiterates a lack of progress on the urgent need to establish the truth and ensure accountability on cases of abductions and enforced disappearances of ethnic Koreans, Japanese nationals, and others since the Korean War until today.
“A lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula can be achieved only if such violations end and the rights of victims to truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence are fulfilled”, the report noted.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.