Friday’s Daily Brief: hunger in North Korea, human rights in Iran, updates on DR Congo and Benin

3 May 2019

This Friday, we cover: a worrying food crisis in the Democratic Republic of North Korea; attacks against civilians in DR Congo; outrage after the execution of child offenders in Iran; concerns over a super cereal distributed by the World Food Programme; and post-electoral violence in Benin.

North Korean families facing deep ‘hunger crisis’ after worst harvest in 10 years, UN food assessment shows

More than 10 million North Koreans are suffering “severe food shortages” after the worst harvest in a decade, according to a United Nations food security assessment released on Friday.

Crop failures due to dry spells, heatwaves and flooding during the growing season, mean that those affected do not have enough food to see them through to the next harvest.

Find our full story here.

Attacks in DR Congo continue to terrorize the population: UN refugee agency

Attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Ebola-hit North Kivu province forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes in April, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Friday.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, UNHCR’s spokesperson Babar Baloch, said that those displaced were facing “a desperate situation” and access to them was being hampered by continuing violence involving multiple armed groups.

It is estimated that up to 60,000 people fled in the past month as a result of fighting around Kamango, near the town of Beni, and that an estimated 50,000 people fled in neighbouring Lubero territory, where the Congolese army was fighting Mai-Mai militia.

The Beni area is the epicentre of the worst ever deadly Ebola virus outbreak in DRC’s history, which has killed close to a thousand people since August and infected nearly 1,500.

 “Fighting also continues in southern parts of North Kivu and towards the provincial capital of Goma. Often, displaced people are the targets,” explained Mr. Baloch. “Last week, five mutilated bodies were found in a river in Masisi Territory, around 60 kilometres to the northwest of Goma. The bodies included those of three children. Four of the dead were people who had been kidnapped from Kashuga, a nearby displacement site.”

Iran: execution of child offenders ‘absolutely prohibited’, says UN human rights chief

The UN human rights chief. Michelle Bachelet, stressed on Friday that capital punishment for child offenders is absolutely prohibited under international law, following the execution of two 17-year-old boys in Iran, on charges of rape and robbery.

In her statement, she said the two cases were “particularly outrageous because it appears that both boys were reportedly subjected to ill-treatment and a flawed legal process”.

The human rights office urged authorities in Iran to immediately halt any further executions of child offenders.

Reminding Iran that it is obliged to abide by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Ms. Bachelet called on authorities to immediately commute all such death sentences.

Mehdi Sohra-bifar and Amin Seda-ghat were 15 years old when they were arrested and accused of rape and robbery two years ago. The boys had originally denied all charges, but were later convicted, sentenced to death and executed on 25 April.

Distribution of ‘super cereal’ suspended by WFP, while tests continue

The World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Friday that it had suspended distribution worldwide of a fortified blended food fsuper cerealrom one of its suppliers.super cereal

The precautionary measure was taken while tests continue to establish whether eating the cereal could be linked to an illness outbreak in East Africa.

The combination of maize or wheat, blended with soya beans and fortified with vitamins and minerals, is used by WFP and partners to prevent malnutrition, especially among women and children.

According to medical centre and hospital records, three people died and 293 were admitted for treatment in the Karamoja region of Northeast Uganda in March and April after eating the super cereal.

To date, more than 2,400 food-related laboratory tests have been conducted – including for mycotoxins, heavy metals, pesticides and microbial contaminants – but the root cause of the problem has not yet been established.

Benin: UN chief deplores post-electoral violence

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has been following closely developments in Benin surrounding the 28 April legislative elections. He deplored the violence witnessed in the post-electoral period and called on all Beninese stakeholders to “exercise maximum restraint and seek to resolve their differences through dialogue in line with the democratic tradition of the country”.

The United Nations, through the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, will work with all concerned parties, in coordination with the Economic Community of West African States and other partners, to support the Beninese stakeholders in their efforts to find a consensual and peaceful solution to their differences.

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News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

Migrants, asylum seekers detained in Hungary ‘deliberately deprived of food’: UN human rights office

The UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday it was alarmed by reports that migrants and asylum seekers who are being held in Hungarian detention centres are being “deliberately deprived of food in contravention of international laws and standards”.

A free press is ‘cornerstone’ for accountability and ‘speaking truth to power’: Guterres

At a time when disinformation and mistrust of the news media is growing, a free press is “essential for peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights”, said the UN Secretary-General, in his message for World Press Freedom Day, marked on Friday.