This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
370,000 children displaced in Central African Republic
Ongoing violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has pushed child displacement to levels not seen since 2014, the UN has warned.
The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, estimates that 370,000 youngsters are now internally displaced across the country.
At least 168,000 children were forced to flee their homes before and after national elections on 27 December. Around 70,000 of them have been unable to return.
This is the highest level of child displacement in the country since 2014, UNICEF said, and humanitarians are deeply concerned that children are at risk of sexual and physical abuse, malnutrition and recruitment by armed groups.
Here’s UNICEF Representative in CAR, Fran Equiza, speaking from the capital Bangui:
“Protection is one of the main concerns that we are experiencing in the country. Just in the last three months of 2020 alone, the UN verified more grave violations than in the entire first half of the same year.”
Mr. Equiza explained that there had been 415 incidents affecting 353 children from October to December 2020, compared with 384 incidents involving 284 youngsters.
Rights experts urge Nigerian authorities to release humanist
A freedom of expression alert now, and a call for the release of a prominent rights expert in Nigeria, who’s been detained for 365 days and counting, after allegations of blasphemy.
In their appeal for Mubarak Bala, UN-appointed independent rights experts noted that he has been held without charge in Kano state since 28 April last year – even though Nigeria’s Federal High Court ruled that he should be released.
The Special Rapporteurs added that Mr. Bala - as head of the Humanist Association of Nigeria - had led campaigns promoting freedom of religion and belief.
He also worked to raise awareness about religious extremism until he was arrested after a complaint that he had insulted the Prophet Muhammad in his online posts.
Mr. Bala’s continued detention meant that the Government was “sending the wrong signal” to extremist groups that it was acceptable to silence and intimidate rights defenders and non-believers, warned the Special Rapporteurs, who report to the Human Rights Council.
COVID-19 cases rise for ninth consecutive week, variants spreading
COVID-19 infections have increased for the ninth consecutive week globally and variants have continued their spread to new countries, the UN health agency has confirmed.
Nearly 5.7 million new cases were reported in the last seven-day period, above previous highs, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its latest coronavirus update, published late on Tuesday.
The number of deaths from the virus also increased – for the sixth consecutive week - with more than 87,000 confirmed victims.
All parts of the world reported falling numbers of infections, apart from Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.
And although Southeast Asia reported the highest increases in infections and deaths for the third week in a row, it was India that accounted for the vast majority of cases at 2.17 million, a 52 per cent increase.
On the three coronavirus variants of concern, WHO said that the so-called UK strain has been detected and verified in three more countries since last week, bringing the total to 139; that’s effectively most of the world, except Greenland and several central and southern African nations.
The South African variant is in 87 countries and the Brazil and Japanese mutation has been reported in 54.
Katy Dartford, UN News.