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News in Brief 13 February 2023

News in Brief 13 February 2023

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

Quake misery ‘does not pale in comparison with Indian Ocean tsunami’: UN rescue agency

In Türkiye, 6,000 high-rise buildings are known to have collapsed in last week’s earthquake disaster, UN rescue experts said on Monday, as chances diminish of finding any further survivors.

Winston Chang from the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team, UNDAC, said that 10,000 rescuers are on the ground in the 10 southern provinces affected by the emergency in Türkiye:

“Well, definitely the needs are unprecedented. We have never seen such a scale. The last was the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, with 220,000 dead. And I think this one does not pale in comparison because of the different challenges we face: the bitter winter for one is really bringing a big challenge; the roads, the security situation, as we know, the complexities in Syria, all of these are posing a huge threat, a huge challenge to our rescue teams.”

More than 4,300 deaths had been reported in northwest Syria by Sunday 12 February, since an earthquake of 7.7 magnitude struck southern Türkiye on 6 February.

UN aid coordination agency OCHA said that Harim, Afrin and Jebel Saman are the worst-affected districts in northwest Syria, and that 52 trucks loaded with aid from five UN agencies have so far arrived via the sole international crossing at Bab al-Hawa, from Türkiye.

Priority needs include heavy machines to remove fallen concrete and other debris, medical supplies, shelter and non-food items including heating, emergency food and clean water and sanitation assistance.

UN’s rights chief condemns closure of last independent newspaper in Cambodia

The closure of one of Cambodia’s last independent news outlets has been condemned by the UN rights chief, Volker Türk.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement that he was “alarmed” that the licence for Voice Of Democracy had been revoked on Monday.

That decision came after Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen, reportedly said that he had been hurt by a story published by Voice Of Democracy.

In an appeal to the Government of Cambodia to rescind the decision, Mr. Türk said that the move appeared “arbitrary, as it was not preceded by a thorough and transparent process as required under Cambodia’s own press law”.

Construction begins on Yazidi genocide memorial: IOM

To Iraq, where the construction of a memorial marking the genocide of the Yazidi ethnic minority at the hands of ISIL fighters began this week.

With the help of UN migration agency IOM and the US Agency for International Development, a cemetery and lasting memorial are being built in Sinjar province.

It was there in August 2014 that ISIL groups attacked and killed thousands of ethnic Yazidi “in a systematic attempt to erase them from existence”, the UN migration agency said.

Survivors of the atrocity have welcomed the project, including Nobel Laureate Nadia Murad, a UN Goodwill Ambassador, who for years has campaigned for justice for all Yazidi people.

“Grief is part of the healing process,” said Ms. Murad, founder and president of Nadia’s Initiative, which launched the project in 2021. She added: “Having a place to collectively mourn and remember our families, friends, and neighbours is vital for survivors, especially those who have returned to Sinjar. It also serves an educational purpose – she said - reminding the world of what our community suffered, and how we must continue to focus on preventing such atrocities.”

Top rights experts say Israel should be held accountable for home demolitions

Israel’s “systematic and deliberate” demolition of housing built by Palestinians and its building of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories should be halted, UN independent rights experts said on Monday.

Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese said that in January alone, “Israeli authorities reportedly demolished 132 Palestinian structures across 38 communities in the occupied West Bank”.

This included 34 residential and 15 donor-funded structures and represents a 135 per cent increase, compared to the same period in 2022, the rights expert continued, while also condemning the “systematic denial of building permits for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank”.

In the southern West Bank’s Masafer Yatta, the rights expert insisted that 1,100 Palestinian residents “remain at imminent risk of forced eviction, arbitrary displacement and demolitions of their homes, livelihood, water and sanitation structures”.

Despite raising these concerns with the Israeli authorities, no response has been forthcoming, Ms. Albanese said.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • Earthquake humanitarian update: UN agencies
  • Construction begins on Yazidi genocide memorial: IOM
  • Cambodia: OHCHR chief condemns closure of last independent newspaper
  • Top rights experts say Israel should be held accountable for destroyed homes
Audio Credit
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
Photo Credit
© UNICEF/Muhannad Al-Asadi