This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Urgent steps needed to alleviate suffering in Ethiopia’s Tigray region: Guterres
UN chief António Guterres has spoken of his grave concern for hundreds of thousands of civilians affected by the crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Mr Guterres underscored the need for urgent efforts to protect populations at risk.
He underlined the need for “urgent steps to alleviate the humanitarian situation” and extend protection to those in danger.
Mr. Guterres also welcomed the “positive engagement” of the Ethiopian Government during recent visits by senior UN officials, including High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
At a press conference in Addis Ababa on Monday, Mr Grandi said that people needed “all possible forms of support: food items, non-food items, medicine, clean water” and shelter, amid ongoing violence in some parts of Tigray by unnamed armed elements and militias.
Key workers in 145 countries to receive COVID vaccines
Key workers and other vulnerable people in 145 countries should receive COVID-19 vaccines in the first half of this year, under the joint UN-led COVAX initiative for fair access to coronavirus-beating jabs, it’s been confirmed.
The aim of Wednesday’s announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, is to help Governments to prepare their vaccine distribution programmes, by providing details about which vaccine they can expect to receive, between now and the end of June.
UN Children’s Fund UNICEF – which plays a key role in immunisation campaigns worldwide - welcomed the development, describing COVAX as the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation ever mounted.
Some 1.2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which requires ultra-cold chain storage are to be delivered to 18 countries in the first quarter of the year, out of an agreed total of 40 million.
Another 336 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford jab will be dispatched to nearly all countries that have signed up to the COVAX scheme, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe – once it has been approved for use by the UN health agency.
The total number of doses will cover, on average, 3.3 per cent of the population of the countries benefiting from the scheme.
Navalny prison sentence prompts ‘dismay’ from UN rights office
The UN human rights office, OHCHR, has said that it is “deeply dismayed” at the more than two-and-a-half-year prison sentence handed down to Russian opposition activist Aleksei Navalny.
Mr Navalny returned to Moscow last month from Germany, where he had been recovering after allegedly being poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.
In a statement on Wednesday, OHCHR noted that he had been found guilty of violating the conditions of a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement, that the European Court of Human Rights had ruled to be “arbitrary, unfair and manifestly unreasonable”.
The UN rights office also urged the authorities in Russia to release all those detained for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression in the past few weeks of protests across the country.
Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani cited reports that up to 1,400 people were arrested on Tuesday.
“The Government must ensure that demonstrations are handled in line with its obligations under international human rights law”, she said.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.