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News in Brief 11 March 2022

News in Brief 11 March 2022

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

Ukraine attacks on civilian targets, likely war crime: UN rights office

The UN rights office reiterated deep concern on Friday at the increasing number of civilian casualties in Ukraine caused by Russia’s on-going invasion.

The development came after reports that a psychiatric facility near Kharkiv had been bombed - one of 29 health attacks in the last 15 days, as the Russian military has advanced deeper into Ukrainian territory.

Any targeting of non-combatants could amount to a war crime, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

Fifteen days into the war, schools, hospitals and nurseries have been hit by shelling, said spokesperson Liz Throssell.

She explained that the maternity hospital in Mariupol that was attacked on Wednesday “was both clearly identifiable and operational when it was hit”.

“We remind the Russian authorities that directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects, as well as so-called bombardment in towns and villages and other forms of indiscriminate attacks, are prohibited under international law and may amount to war crimes.”

Latest UN data indicates that 549 civilians have been confirmed killed and 957 injured in Ukraine, but the fact that mass graves have had to be dug to bury the dead, indicates that the true figure is likely to be far higher.

Afghanistan’s women are courageous and not victims: Bachelet

To Afghanistan, where the country’s women must be given the space to lead, if it’s to find peace and progress, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said on Friday.

Speaking after visiting Kabul on Thursday, Ms. Bachelet said that the Taliban’s takeover last August had led to a drop in the number of people dying in conflict – although reports indicate that door-to-door searches were continuing, for former government officials and members of the Afghan security forces.

Among ordinary Afghans, there were still heartbreaking reports of mothers being forced to sell a child to feed the rest of the family, the High Commissioner said, as she warned that the humanitarian and economic crisis in the country today “may claim far more lives” than violence.

In an appeal to the Taliban, Ms. Bachelet urged authorities to allow “maximum space for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, to respect the role of the independent media, and to refrain from using any violence” against anyone expressing criticism.

“The women of this country are often depicted in international fora as victims. In fact, Afghan women have in the face of war seen poverty and unspeakable violence and discrimination, they’ve been working tirelessly to protect and provide for their families and communities... They are not passive bystanders.”

UNHCR ramps up aid to thousands displaced by Somalia drought

In Somalia, assistance has been scaled up to thousands of people displaced by severe drought, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Friday.

The move comes after three consecutive failed rainy seasons that have decimated crops and livestock.

In the first week of March, more than 17,000 people in southern Bay region were displaced by the drought, joining tens of thousands more who were also forced to leave their homes since the start of the year.

If the current trend holds, UNHCR estimates that half a million Somalis will likely be displaced before the end of March.

So far, shelter materials, hygiene items and other necessities, have been delivered to 36,000 drought-affected people in the country; this includes 24,000 in Galmudug and Puntland regions, where the situation is most dire.

Separated and unaccompanied children are being provided with medical assistance, psychosocial support, and counselling as well as safe spaces to protect them against forced child recruitment.

For this year, the UN agency needs $157.5 million to deliver critical aid and protection to 2.9 million internally displaced people in Somalia, as well as around 15,000 new arrivals from Ethiopia and other countries, among others.

As of 1 March, only five per cent of that amount had been received.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

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  • Ukraine war crimes warning: OHCHR 
  • Afghanistan: Rights chief calls for women’s rights recognition
  • UNHCR ramps up aid to thousands displaced by Somalia drought
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Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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© WHO/Uka Borregaard