This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Fast-moving Afghanistan crisis ‘has hallmarks of humanitarian catastrophe’
Afghanistan is on course to witness its highest number of documented civilian casualties in a single year since records began, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.
As widespread fighting intensifies, the UN agency said that it was particularly concerned about the impact of the conflict on women and girls.
Here’s UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo:
“The human toll of spiralling hostilities is immense. The United Nations Assistance Mission has warned that without a significant de-escalation in violence, Afghanistan is on course to witness the highest ever number of documented civilian casualties in a single year since the UN’s records began. We are particularly worried about the impact of the conflict on women and girls. Some 80 per cent of nearly a quarter of a million Afghans forced to flee since the end of May, are women and children.”
Concerns are also growing about chronic hunger levels in the country, where one in three people are acutely food insecure and two million children urgently need nutrition treatment.
The situation has “all the hallmarks of a humanitarian catastrophe”, said the World Food Programme (WFP), which has appealed for funding to help reach 9.1 million people by December.
UN health agency urges support for new COVID-19 origins studies
The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged all countries “to put differences aside” to help understand where and how the COVID-19 virus started – including the unproven suggestion that it was manufactured in a laboratory.
The move, announced late on Thursday, comes after a joint report was issued in March by WHO and China into the origins of the coronavirus.
It determined that there was “insufficient scientific evidence to rule any of the hypotheses out” about how the coronavirus spread, while the UN agency explained that to address the “lab hypothesis”, it needed access “to all data”.
Future research would need to include “a further examination of the raw data from the earliest” COVID-19 infections, WHO said, adding that it had already received information from “a number of countries” that had reported finding the virus in blood samples taken in 2019, before the outbreak was declared a pandemic.
These countries included Italy, WHO noted, adding that it encouraged “all countries - including China” - to support the hunt for COVID’s origins.
DR Congo violence linked to armed group clashes over gold mines
Rival armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are carrying out horrific sexual attacks against women and girls, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has warned.
The alert was prompted by what UNHCR has called “widespread and systematic” abuse in Tanganyika province, where thousands of people have been internally displaced this year, often many times.
Spokesperson Shabia Mantoo, told journalists in Geneva that the rival armed groups responsible for the attacks were competing for control of mining areas – especially gold mines – and that the abuse was linked to retaliation for government-led military operations.
“Our staff have heard horrific testimonies of extreme violence. Forcibly displaced persons have accused armed groups of carrying out mass rape as women attempt to flee their homes. Some women and girls have been abducted and used as sex slaves by armed group members. Ransoms have been demanded from families in exchange for their freedom.”
The UN agency said that it remains committed to helping the survivors, but work is hampered by the ongoing violence and the long distances people have to travel to reach medical centres.
Katy Dartford, UN News.