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News in Brief 3 September 2021

News in Brief 3 September 2021

‘Major’ humanitarian crisis looming in Afghanistan, UNHCR warns

A major humanitarian crisis is looming in Afghanistan, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Friday, amid ongoing uncertainty about vulnerable Afghans seeking shelter across the country's borders.

The “reality is the displacement crisis is inside Afghanistan”, with more than 600,000 Afghans forced to move this year, “80 per cent of which are women and children,” said UNHCR spokesperson, Babar Baloch, speaking from Pakistan.

In an appeal to the world not to turn away its attention or focus from Afghans and Afghanistan, he warned that it cannot be allowed “to become a humanitarian catastrophe”:

“If you look at the displacement numbers, 80 per cent are women and children, and we know Afghanistan is a landlocked country. If support, if trade is not going into there, we could be facing a major, major crisis.”

Since the Taliban takeover almost two weeks ago, there has not been an exodus of Afghans from the country crossing into neighbouring Pakistan and Iran, UNHCR said.

Air quality improvements from COVID lockdowns confirmed

COVID-19 lockdowns brought “unprecedented” improvements in air quality in some parts of the world - but not enough to halt climate change caused by global warming, UN weather experts said on Friday.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, WMO, South East Asia saw a 40 per cent reduction in the level of harmful airborne particles caused by traffic and energy production in 2020.

The agency’s Dr. Oksana Tarasova told journalists in Geneva that although the clean air development was welcome for many people and particularly those with breathing difficulties, the absence of harmful microparticles left the path clear for naturally occurring ozone, “which is one of most dangerous pollutants”:

“So, despite such an unexpected experiment with atmospheric chemistry, we noticed that in many parts of the world, even if you take down the transport and some other emissions, the air quality would not meet the requirements of the World Health Organization (WHO).”

Dr. Tarasova added that although toxic human-made emissions fell during 2020, extreme weather events fuelled by climate change worsened air quality significantly. 

This included the June 2020 so-called “Godzilla” dust cloud – the largest African dust storm on record - and wildfires from Australia to Siberia, which have worsened air quality significantly – and which have continued this year.

Iran must halt execution of Kurdish prisoner: rights experts

The imminent execution of an Iranian Kurdish prisoner must be halted and his death sentence repealed, UN-appointed independent rights experts said on Friday.

Their appeal follows serious concerns that Heidar Ghorbani did not receive a fair trial and was tortured during pre-trial detention.

He was arrested in October 2016 in connection with the alleged killing of three men affiliated to Basij paramilitary forces.

No information was provided to Mr. Ghorbani’s family on his whereabouts for three months after his arrest.

In a statement, the rights experts said that they were “seriously concerned” that Mr. Ghorbani’s confession was forced as a result of torture and ill-treatment.

They also expressed concerns that he had been denied access to a lawyer during the investigation, and that his lawyer did not have full access to his case file during the trial.

During his trial, Mr. Ghorbani denied all charges, stating that he was not a member of a Kurdish political organization and never had a weapon when the victims were killed, the rights experts noted.

Katy Dartford, UN News.

  • Afghanistan: ‘major’ crisis looming, UNHCR warns
  • Clean air improvements from COVID lockdowns confirmed: WMO
  • Iran must halt execution of Kurdish prisoner, rights experts urge
Audio Credit
Katy Dartford, UN News - Geneva
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Unsplash/Joel Heard