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News in Brief 26 May 2023

News in Brief 26 May 2023

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

Guterres pays tribute to over 100 ‘blue helmets’ killed in the line of duty last year

The UN’s 87,000-plus peacekeepers worldwide are “a beacon of hope and protection” for vulnerable civilians, in an increasingly dangerous and uncertain world, the UN chief said ahead of UN Peacekeepers’ Day on Monday.

Speaking in New York on Thursday, António Guterres said that the men and women from 125 countries serving across the UN’s 12 peacekeeping operations represent the “beating heart” of the Organization’s commitment to peace.

But complex conflicts, stagnating peace processes, terrorism and gang violence, mean that peacekeepers are increasingly “working in places where there is no peace to keep”, he warned.

Last year, another 102 ‘blue helmets’ fell in the line of duty. More than 4,200 have been killed in total, in 75 years of UN peacekeeping operations, and the UN Secretary-General paid tribute to their “service and sacrifice”.

He also called for governments to “seriously reflect on the need for a new generation of peace-enforcement missions and counter-terrorism operations”, which should be sustainably funded.

Stop tobacco farming, grow food instead, says WHO

With hunger spreading worldwide and tobacco still responsible for eight million deaths a year, countries should stop subsidizing tobacco crops and help farmers grow food instead, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

Ahead of World No Tobacco Day on Wednesday 31 May, WHO deplored that 3.2 million hectares of land across 124 countries are being used to grow deadly tobacco – even in places where people are starving.

Here’s Dr. Rüdiger Krech, WHO’s Director for Health Promotion:

“It’s often said that tobacco farming would be so important for economic growth. This is a myth that we urgently need to dispel. … The profits go to the global tobacco companies. So why, we ask for this year’s World No Tobacco Day, would tobacco farmers still grow tobacco? Because the tobacco industry holds farmers in a cycle of dependency.”

Dr. Krech explained that farmers struggle under the burden of debt contracted with the tobacco companies and find themselves exposed to nicotine poisoning and dangerous pesticides.

WHO, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have joined forces around the Tobacco Free Farms initiative to help thousands of farmers in countries like Kenya and Zambia to grow sustainable food crops instead of tobacco.

Ukraine: UN humanitarians bring aid to millions as civilian suffering continues

In Ukraine, humanitarians reached 5.4 million people with desperately needed aid by April this year, including cash assistance, food, health services and medicines, the UN said on Friday.

Jens Laerke from the UN’s humanitarian affairs office (OCHA) told reporters that

the assistance also included support for survivors of gender-based violence.

More than 60 per cent of those reached with aid are women and girls, he said.

Here he is briefing reporters in Geneva:

“The escalating war is taking a heavy toll on civilians who live close to the front lines, people who cannot go back to their homes, and people across the country living under almost daily threats of attacks.”

Mr. Laerke explained that mine contamination remains a deadly threat to farmers and humanitarians delivering assistance. In the agricultural regions of Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Kherson, dozens of mine-related accidents are being reported every month.

Dominika Tomaszewska-Mortimer, UN News.

Audio Credit
Dominika Tomaszewska-Mortimer, UN News - Geneva.
Photo Credit
© MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko