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News in Brief 21 July 2023

News in Brief 21 July 2023

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

UN expert demands end to mass detention and child separation in northeast Syria 

A UN-appointed independent expert has expressed deep concern over the condition of children being held en masse in camps in northeast Syria, calling for an end to their indefinite detention.

Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, is the first independent rights expert to gain access to the infamous facilities Al Hol and Al Raj.

She said conditions in both camps constitute arbitrary and indefinite mass detention without legal or judicial process. 

Speaking in Geneva, the UN expert expressed alarm over the conditions, violence and deep insecurity that pervade the detention centres - where 56,000 suspected extremists and families of alleged ISIL fighters are reportedly detained, 80 per cent of whom are under 12. 

The main concern is the mass and indefinite detention of children, said Ms. Ni Aolain, who said that she also witnessed the systematic practice of separating boys from their mothers, causing irreparable harm. 

Although grateful for access to various facilities in the region, she raised concerns around the complete lack of access to the Annex at Al-Hol camp - home to thousands of third country nationals. 

“We cannot hold 10,000 people in a box where no one sees what happens to them and their children, it is fundamentally unacceptable by any measure of a civilised and humane treatment of persons in condition of detention.”

The UN’s Special Rapporteur appealed to all States whose nationals are detained in northeast Syria to live up to their fundamental human rights obligations and repatriate their nationals with more urgency - as at the current rate, these facilities will stay in business for a minimum of 20 years.

WHO warns of Dengue increase amidst changing climate patterns

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday warned of the spread of Dengue ahead of changing climate patterns. 

Dr. Raman Velayudhan, head of the Global Neglected Tropical Diseases Programme, encouraged countries to take preventative, early action in the face of extreme rain and drought conditions. 

Around half of the world's population is now at risk of dengue, the viral infection spread from mosquitoes, with an estimated 400 million infections occurring each year.

Excess rain means mosquitoes breed faster due to stagnant bodies of water. 

Ahead of the monsoon season, Dr. Velayudhan warned of the increase in Dengue cases to come after the rainy season, which is of particular concern as Asia accounts for 70 per cent of the global disease burden. 

Amid soaring global temperatures and rapidly changing climate patterns, the WHO expert warned that mosquitoes can survive even in water scarcity or drought situations, as erratic supply encourages water storage, where the insects can breed. 

“The warmer the climate it helps mosquitoes to multiple faster and its helps the virus multiple within the body of the mosquito. Both in the case of floods and drought, dengue outbreaks have the potential to increase and we really need to take action.”

The Americas region had reported 2.8 million cases in 2022, a number likely to be exceeded in 2023, as three million cases have already been reported this year. 

Dr Velayudhan said that detection is most important when the virus first appears in a population, as it initially presents very mildly. The second contraction of the virus, or ’Severe Dengue’, can be fatal. 

WFP warns of ripple effects of Sudan across West and Central Africa

The World Food Programme (WFP) called for immediate support to maintain peace and stability in west and central Africa on Friday, as the ripple effects of Sudan’s war continue to devastate neighbouring countries.

According to the WFP’s Executive Director, Cindy McCain, the recent conflict in the region is impacting hunger and migration across the whole region, rapidly depleting scarce resources, further stressing the already underfunded humanitarian response, and exacerbating inter-communal tensions.

After visiting the area, the WFP chief warned that spillover will be devastating for peace and stability in a place already facing climate extremes, insecurity, and economic decline. 

Travelling to the border with Sudan, where some 330,000 people have crossed to escape violence, she warned that the international community must act now to stop Chad from becoming another visit of the crisis.

The country hosts the largest refugee population in the West and Central Africa region and is also gripped by its own rising food insecurity.

WFP hopes to reach two million refugees and vulnerable Chadians - calling on the international community for an additional $157 million to reach those in need and to stabilise the deteriorating situation.

Caitlin Kelly, UN News.

  • UN expert demands end to mass detention and child separation in northeast Syria 
  • WHO warns of Dengue increase amidst changing climate patterns
  • WFP warns of ripple effects of Sudan across West and Central Africa
Audio Credit
Caitlin Kelly, UN News - Geneva
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© UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson