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Paying tribute and strengthening the role of #WomenHumanitarians on World Humanitarian Day

INTERNATIONAL, 18 August 2019, Humanitarian Aid - The work of women humanitarians makes a “huge difference” to the lives of millions of women, men and children in urgent need, the United Nations chief said in his message for World Humanitarian Day.

Marking the official day’s tenth anniversary on Monday, the UN is honouring the contribution of tens of thousands of women humanitarian aid workers who provide life-saving support to vulnerable people caught up in crises in some of the world’s most dangerous places.

The day is commemorated each year on 19 August, the date back in 2003 when the UN headquarters in Baghdad was targeted by a large terrorist truck bomb, killing 22 people, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN’s top representative in Iraq.

This year’s focus salutes the efforts of women humanitarian workers across the world who rally to people in need and are often the first to respond and the last to leave.

“From supporting civilians caught up in crisis to addressing disease outbreaks, women humanitarians are on the front lines”, said Secretary-General António Guterres.

These unsung heroes have long been working in their own communities in some of the most difficult terrains – from the war-wounded in Afghanistan, to the food insecure in the Sahel, to those who have lost their homes and livelihoods in places such as Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

“Their presence makes aid operations more effective by increasing their reach”, said the UN chief. “It also improves the humanitarian response to gender-based violence, which increases during emergencies”.

Across the globe, 250,000 aid workers are women – a figure that amounts to more than 40 per cent of the humanitarian workforce. But aid work is becoming increasingly dangerous.

Since August 2003, more than 4,500 aid workers of all genders have been killed, injured, detained, assaulted or kidnapped while carrying out their work. That averages out to five attacks per week.

Moreover, women humanitarians are at particularly high risk of robbery, sexual assault and other violence. 

Protect humanitarians

The UN emphasizes that under international law, all humanitarian workers must be safeguarded.

“World leaders, and all parties to conflict, must ensure that humanitarians are protected from harm, as required under international law”, Mr. Guterres stressed.

And yet, serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law continue around the world, which “must be investigated and prosecuted” always, he added.

As part of this year’s WHD commemorations, the UN and partners are launching the #WomenHumanitarians global campaign to pay special tribute to and raise support for the work women do to save lives and alleviate human suffering. 

The campaign tells the stories of 24 women over 24 hours, to show the range and diversity of their roles in humanitarian action. They include a driver in the Central African Republic who brings food to people in need; a woman who provides legal advice to refugee women and children from Somalia; and a midwife in Liberia who has cared for mothers and babies for three decades and has more than 800 girls named after her.

“This World Humanitarian Day, we showcase the commitment and drive of some truly amazing women in the humanitarian community”, said UN humanitarian chief and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock.  “The dedication of these women to help the world’s most vulnerable people is admirable, particularly those women who are often the first to respond in their communities when faced with a crisis,”

Today, and for the rest of this month, Mr. Guterres invites everyone to share through their online and social media platforms their own “powerful stories” of humanitarian aid workers to “reaffirm our common commitment to strengthening the role of women in humanitarian operations”.

“On World Humanitarian Day and every day, we stand up for humanitarian workers around the world”, concluded the Secretary-General. 

The attack sixteen years ago on UN Headquarters in Iraq was one of the most lethal in the Organization's history, and marked a turning point in how the UN and aid groups operate in the field. Here are hear first-hand accounts from some of the survivors.

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Terrorism survivors: ‘I lived in fear that I would be killed’

INTERNATIONAL, 17 August 2019, Peace and Security - To mark the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism this coming Wednesday, UN News travelled to Chad and the Far North region of Cameroon in West Africa to interview people who have personal stories to tell about how terrorism has shattered their lives.

For this final story in our special UN News series, we’ll hear from Fati Yahaya, who is 24-years old and comes from the village of Koghum in the north-east of Nigeria. She and her two young children were taken by armed insurgents in 2015 and spent three years as their prisoners. She has been living in Minawao, a camp for Nigerian refugees in the Far North region of Cameroon, since June 2018.

Boko Haram came to my village Koghum in March 2015. It was a Wednesday evening at around 10pm and we had just eaten food. I was at home with my 80-year old father-in-law and two young daughters, Aissatou and Helle.

They asked about my husband and when I told them he was not there, the fighters burnt the houses in the village and then forced us to accompany them on foot to Doghoade mountain, which was about 33 kilometers away.

At times, they beat us and called us infidels who do not want to practice religion. Sometimes they would take me away from my father-in-law and lock me in a room. Once I was held for three days in a locked room without food and water.

Fati Yahaya and her two young children were abducted by armed insurgents in 2015 and spent three years as their prisoners in north-east Nigeria. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Three years of suffering

I spent three years with these men, three years of suffering. I was not raped but I was beaten many times if I failed to follow their instructions, for example not looking the men in the eye. Some people were beaten to death, others died of hunger. I lived in fear that I too would be killed.

That is how we lived with them. God helped me and saved me from the suffering.

I was helped to escape by an old woman who had the trust of the men. I left with my two daughters, but my father-in-law stayed behind. We walked for two days in the rain and finally made it across the border to Cameroon and then to Minawao camp.

Today, I and my children are safe in this camp, but sometimes I dream of those men coming to find me and that frightens me. And sometimes my children ask, “where are those men who beat and tortured us?”

And If they see police officers with guns here in the camp, they get scared, and so I tell them, they should not be afraid. We can sleep peacefully here; there is no sound of guns, no killings, no brutality and we receive food.

My daughters now have peace of mind and play joyfully with other children. I pray that they can go to school and be educated. Maybe, one day one of them could become a doctor. That is my hope.

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Displaced by DR Congo violence, survivors’ testimonies highlight brutality of armed militia

INTERNATIONAL, 16 August 2019, Peace and Security - Two months since hundreds of thousands of people fled violence in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), UN humanitarians warned on Friday that armed militia continue to make their safe return impossible. 

Briefing journalists in Geneva, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Spokesperson Babar Baloch, said that staff had heard numerous testimonies from people whose family members had been killed in Ituri province. 

Severe underfunding for aid work and insecurity involving the Hema and Lendu groups have meant that increasing numbers are vulnerable and unable even to go home to pick up essentials, he added. 

“These people are not even able to return,” Mr. Baloch said. “Many of them have reported people who have tried - or relatives who have tried - to return to their villages and to their homes have been reportedly attacked and killed.” 

Ebola efforts hindered by mass displacement of people ‘on the run’  

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the mass displacement of people “on the run” has also hindered efforts to tackle the year-old Ebola virus outbreak. 

Latest data from the UN health agency published on Thursday indicated a total of 2,842 Ebola infections and 1,905 deaths in DRC’s Ituri and Nord Kivu provinces, with an overall fatality rate of 67 per cent. 

“The (Ebola) treatment centres are operational and the scenario of people - a highly mobile population on the run - is something that has been underlying in this response since the beginning, which is why it is so difficult to end it,” said WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier. 

Evidence of beheadings, several massacres 

The Hema and Lendu communities have a history of extreme violence in Ituri.  

In late June, the UN Human Rights office, OHCHR, reported attacks on “multiple villages” in Djugu and Mahagi territories, where investigators found evidence of several massacres where some victims had been beheaded. 

Information gathered by the UN “seems to indicate that despite the attackers reportedly belong to one community, and the victims to others, there appear to be additional political and economic motives underlying the assaults”, OHCHR said in a statement at the time. 

In the latest violence, attacks and counter-attacks forced people to flee Djugu territory, UNHCR said, adding that both communities had reportedly formed self-defence groups and carried out revenge killings. 

“In the last three weeks of June alone, more than 145,000 newly displaced people sought safety and assistance in the displacement sites across Ituri, while 215,000 were estimated to have fled to the neighbouring areas,” Mr. Baloch said, in line with UNHCR’s earlier statements highlighting widespread displacement in late 2017 and early 2018 in three of Ituri’s five administrative territories: Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu.  

“Difficulties with access in some places and the large area from which people have fled means the real figure is difficult to verify,” the UNHCR official warned. “Thousands have continued to flee since, although at lower rates.”  

While most of the displaced have found shelter with host communities, tens of thousands have been forced to find shelter where they can.  

Squalid camps, where fear rules

“Fear and squalor” prevail in displacement camps, Mr. Baloch insisted, adding that many “are forced to sleep in the open”. 

In Drodro, a relatively small town that has seen its population triple in just a few weeks, “local schools and churches have transformed into large, squalid dormitories,” he said, noting that UNHCR has built emergency hangars for those sleeping in the open, and individual shelters for the most vulnerable. 

Funding for this humanitarian crisis remains critically low, however, and UNHCR is appealing to the international community to come forward with further funding and allow humanitarian organizations to provide basic, life-saving assistance.  

So far this year, UNHCR has received only 32 per cent of the $150 million needed for its operations.

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UN Security Council discusses Kashmir, China urges India and Pakistan to ease tensions

INTERNATIONAL, 16 August 2019, Peace and Security - The Security Council met to consider the volatile situation surrounding Indian and Pakistani-administered Kashmir on Friday, addressing the issue directly within the UN body dedicated to resolving matters of international peace and security, for the first time since 1965. 

Although the meeting took place behind closed doors in New York, the Chinese Ambassador, Zhang Jun, spoke to reporters outside the chamber following deliberations, urging both India and Pakistan to “refrain from taking any unilateral action which might further aggravate” what was an already “tense and very dangerous” situation. 

The Indian-administered part of the majority-Muslim region, known as Jammu and Kashmir had its special status within the constitution revoked by the Indian Government on 5 August, placing it under tighter central control. Pakistan has argued that the move violates international law. 

The UN has long maintained an institutional presence in the contested area, which both countries claim in its entirety, with the areas under separate administration, divided by a so-called Line of Control. The UN Military Observer Group in Indian and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) observes and reports on any ceasefire violations.  

In a statement issued on 8 August, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he had been following the situation in Jammu and Kashmir “with concern”, making an appeal for “maximum restraint”.  

“The position of the United Nations on this region is governed by the Charter...and applicable Security Council resolutions”, said the statement. “The Secretary-General also recalls the 1972 Agreement on bilateral relations between India and Pakistan also known as the Simla Agreement, which states that the final status of Jammu and Kashmir is to be settled by peaceful means”, in accordance with the UN Charter

Ambassador Zhang said Council members had “expressed their serious concern” concerning the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir...The Kashmir issue should be resolved properly through peaceful means, in accordance with the UN Charter, the relevant Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements.” 

Pakistan requested the Security Council meeting on 13 August, and it was subsequently called for by Permament Member, China.  

Speaking to reporters outside the chamber, Pakistan’s Ambassador, Maleeha Lodhi said the meeting had allowed “the voice of the people of the occupied Kashmir” to be heard “in the highest diplomatic forum of the world.” She argued that “the fact that this meeting took place, is testimony to the fact that this is an international dispute.” 

She said that “as far as my country is concerned, we stand ready for a peaceful settlement of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. I think today’s meeting nullifies India’s claim that Jammu and Kashmir is an internal matter for India. Today the whole world is discussing the occupied state and the situation there.” 

Speaking a few minutes later, India’s Ambassador, Syed Akbaruddin, said that “our national position was, and remains, that matters related to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, are entirely an internal matter of India...The recent decisions taken by the Government of India and our legislative bodies are intended to ensure that good governance is promoted, socio-economic development is enhanced for our people in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.” 

He said that the Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir had announced measures which would return the region towards a state of “normalcy” 

“India remains committed to ensure that the situation there remains calm and peaceful. We are committed to all the agreements that we have signed on this issue.” 

But without naming names, he stated that “of particular concern is that one state is using terminology of jihad against and promoting violence in India, including by their leaders”, adding that India was committed to the principle “that all issues between India and Pakistan, as well as India and any other country, will be resolved bilaterally, peacefully, and in a manner that behooves normal inter-state relations between countries.” 

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Two years after exodus, Myanmar’s ‘desperate’ Rohingya youth need education, skills: UNICEF

INTERNATIONAL, 16 August 2019, Migrants and Refugees - The daily struggle to survive for Myanmar’s Rohingya people in one of the world’s largest refugee settlements, has caused “overwhelming” despair and jeopardized the hopes of an entire generation, the head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Henrietta Fore, said on Friday.

In a report marking two years since the arrival of around 745,000 Rohingya civilians in Bangladesh - after fleeing State-led persecution and violence in Myanmar - Executive Director Fore appealed for urgent investment in education and skills training.

‘Mere survival is not enough’

“For the Rohingya children and youth now in Bangladesh, mere survival is not enough,” she said. “It is absolutely critical that they are provided with the quality learning and skills development that they need to guarantee their long-term future.”

Without adequate learning opportunities, youngsters can fall prey to drug dealers and traffickers who offer to smuggle “desperate” ethnic Rohingya out of Bangladesh, the UN report warned.

Education ‘can help avoid risks’

Women and girls face harassment and abuse especially at night, UNICEF noted, while adding that one of the agency’s objectives through education is to give teenagers the skills they need to deal avoid “many risks”, including early marriage for girls.

In addition to Bangladesh’s Kutupalong camp, which is home to some 630,000 people, hundreds of thousands more, have found shelter in another dozen or so camps in the Cox’s Bazar region close to the Myanmar border.

Living conditions are often described as perilous by UN humanitarians, including UNICEF, which have issued frequent alerts about the devastating effects of monsoon rains on flimsy bamboo and tarpaulin shelters.

Between 21 April and 18 July this year, refugee camp authorities recorded 42 injuries and 10 fatalities, including six children, because of monsoon weather, according to UNICEF.

For the Rohingya children and youth now in Bangladesh, mere survival is not enough - UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore

Amid huge needs - and with conditions still unsuitable for the return of ethnic Rohingya to Myanmar, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) - basic public services have been provided in Cox’s Bazar, including health care, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, under the leadership of Bangladesh.

“But as the refugee crisis drags on, children and young people are clamouring for more than survival; they want quality education that can provide a path to a more hopeful future,” the UNICEF report insists.

According to the agency, around 280,000 children aged four to 14, now receive educational support. Of this number, 192,000 of them are in 2,167 learning centres, but more than 25,000 children “are not attending any learning programmes”, the agency noted.

Most 15 to 18-year-olds miss out on school

More worrying still, nearly all 15 to 18-year-olds are “not attending any type of educational facility”, UNICEF said, before highlighting the case of one Kutupalong resident, Abdullah, 18.

“I studied six subjects back in Myanmar,” Abdullah says. “But when I arrived here, there was no way I could continue. If we do not get education in the camps, I think our situation is going to be dire.”

In an appeal to the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar, UNICEF and other agencies are calling for the use of national educational resources – curricula, training manuals and assessment methods – to help provide more structured learning for Rohingya children.

“Providing learning and training materials is a huge task and can only be realized with the full backing of a range of partners,” UNICEF chief Ms. Fore said. “But the hopes of a generation of children and adolescents are at stake. We cannot afford to fail them.”

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‘Quash’ convictions and release women jailed for protesting against wearing veils in Iran, urge UN rights experts

INTERNATIONAL, 16 August 2019, Human Rights - Decades-long prison sentences handed down to three women protesting the strictly enforced wearing of veils in Iran, have drawn alarm and condemnation from six United Nations independent human rights experts.

“We are alarmed that the arrest and lengthy sentences handed to these women are directly related to the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly in the pursuit of gender equality in Iran,” the experts said in a joint statement on Friday.

They called upon the Iranian authorities to quash the convictions and “immediately release all human rights defenders who have been arbitrarily detained for their work in advocating women’s rights, and to ensure full respect for the rights of women to freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and non-discrimination.”

Respect and support for women rights defenders’ activities are essential to the overall enjoyment of human rights, according to the experts.

Mojgan Keshavarz was given a sentence of 23 years and six months, while Monireh Arabshahi and her daughter Yasaman Aryani were each sentenced to 16 years of incarceration.

All three were convicted of assembly and collusion in acts against national security, propaganda against the State and “encouraging and providing for [moral] corruption and prostitution”.

Ms. Keshavarz was also convicted on a charge of “insulting the sacred”.

The charges were brought after an online video showed the three women handing out flowers on the Tehran metro on 8 March, International Women’s Day.

The human rights defenders, who themselves were not wearing the hijab, peacefully protested Iran’s compulsory veiling laws and advocated for a woman’s right to choose what to wear.

After the video surfaced, the women were detained in April and “disappeared” without friends or family being able to contact them, for several weeks.

women human rights defenders challenging the imposition of a compulsory dress code on women, are acting in defense of universally guaranteed human rights -- UN human rights experts

During the initial investigation stage, they were denied access to lawyers and during the trial their legal representatives were reportedly prohibited from representing them – sparking the express concern of the rights experts, who said this appeared to contravene their right to a fair trial.

“We remind the Iranian authorities that women human rights defenders challenging the imposition of a compulsory dress code on women, are acting in defense of universally guaranteed human rights”, the statement continued. “The use of repressive legislation to criminalize the exercise of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is incompatible with Iran’s obligations under international human rights law”.

These women join the ranks of other Iranian human rights defenders who have been detained and convicted on national security-related charges for promoting women’s rights.

According to news reports, since January 2018, at least 32 people have been arrested and at least 10 imprisoned for protesting the mandatory wearing of the hijab.

Arrests of women’s rights activists have reportedly increased in recent weeks, and an official warning has been made that others protesting against the compulsory wearing of the veil may be charged with national security offences.

Although the UN experts notified Iran of their concerns, the Government replied that the three women had been arrested on charges relating to morality and national security offences.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary, and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

The UN experts who made the statement are Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Meskerem Geset Techane, Chair, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

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Environmental protection moves ‘closer to the people’ through new human rights agreement

INTERNATIONAL, 16 August 2019, Human Rights - The UN environment agency and human rights office (OHCHR) signed a landmark new agreement on Friday aimed at better protecting vulnerable human and environmental rights defenders and their families, while increasing protection for people and the places where they live, across the world. 

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will strengthen cooperation with OHCHR, as threats to individuals and communities defending their environmental and land rights intensify. Reports suggest that an average of more than three rights defenders were killed every week last year. 

Although more than 150 countries have recognized the right to a health environment in their constitutions or legal frameworks, “significantly more work is needed” to inform policy makers, institutions and the public, say the leaders, both women, of the two UN bodies. 

“A healthy environment is vital to fulfilling our aspiration to ensure people everywhere live a life of dignity”, said UNEP Executive Director, Inger Andersen. “We must curb the emerging trend of intimidation and criminalisation of land and environmental defenders, and the use of anti-protest and anti-terrorism laws to criminalise the exercise of rights that should be constitutionally protected.” 

“UNEP and the UN Human Rights Office are committed to bringing environmental protection closer to the people by assisting state and non-state actors to promote, protect and respect environmental and human rights. In doing so, we will move towards a more sustainable and just planet,” she added. 

Human, environmental rights, need 'stronger global partnerships'

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said: “Our planet is being recklessly destroyed, and we urgently need stronger global partnerships to take action to save it...We call on leaders and governments to recognise that climate change and environmental degradation severely undermine the human rights of their people, particularly those in vulnerable situations – including the generations of tomorrow.” 

A key part of the new protection agreement is to monitor threats to environmental human rights defenders more closely, develop better defenders’ networks, urge more effective accountability for perpetrators of violence and intimidation, and promote “meaningful and informed participation by defenders and civil society, in environmental decision-making.  

Ms. Bachelet said every State needed to be encouraged “to develop and enforce national legal frameworks which uphold the clear linkages between a healthy environment and the ability to enjoy all other human rights, including the rights to health, water, food – and even the right to life...We also strongly encourage greater recognition that the actions and advocacy of environmental human rights defenders are deeply beneficial to all societies.” 

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Children’s lives in Mediterranean Sea must take priority over politics, says UNICEF

INTERNATIONAL, 15 August 2019, Migrants and Refugees - The fate of 130 children on board two rescue ships in the Mediterranean Sea should not be put at risk by political point-scoring, the UN said on Thursday, amid ongoing uncertainty about whether the vessels will be allowed to dock in Italy.

The appeal by UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, to European Governments to prevent EU-bound migrants and refugees from being stranded at sea, follows the signing of a second Italian decree banning humanitarian vessels from entering the country.

Last week, Italian lawmakers agreed to impose fines of up to €1 million on vessels and organizations carrying out search and rescue operations, if they enter Italian territorial waters. In addition, vessels stand to be automatically impounded, said UNHCR.

So far this year, around 4,000 people have made the treacherous crossing to Europe via the so-called Central Mediterranean Route from North Africa to Italy  - nearly 80 per cent less than in the first seven months of last year.

On Sunday, more than 400 people were rescued off the Libyan coast by two boats at the centre of UNICEF’s appeal.

One of the boats, Open Arms, is reportedly moored close to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

UNICEF said that only 11 of the 103 children aboard the second vessel, Viking Ocean, had a parent or guardian with them.

In a statement, UNICEF Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant response in Europe, Afshan Khan, said that many of the youngsters had “fled poverty, conflict and unthinkable atrocities”, and had the right to be safe.

Amid reports that the Spanish authorities had agreed to shelter more than a dozen of those rescued at the weekend, many of whom are from Sudan, Ms. Khan welcomed what she called “recent progress towards a plan for increased solidarity and responsibility sharing among European Governments”.

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Terrorism survivors: Forced to farm, fish, fight, ‘they slaughtered three of my friends’

INTERNATIONAL, 15 August 2019, Peace and Security - To mark next week’s International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, UN News travelled to Chad and the Far North region of Cameroon in West Africa earlier in the year, to interview people who have personal stories to tell about how terrorism has shattered their lives.

In 2015, the island of Ngomiron Doumou in Lake Chad was attacked by armed extremists who said they belonged to the outlawed Boko Haram group. The island is home to some 5,750 people. Up to 300 men, women and children were abducted at gunpoint by Boko Haram fighters who had travelled to the island from Nigeria. Twenty-five-year-old Kedra Abakar is one of around 100 people who made it back to the island. Here is his story.

Cameroonian soldiers patrol parts of Lake Chad that have been effected by terrorist activity. (February 2019). UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

“My name is Kedra Abakar. I am 25 years old and live on Ngomiron Doumou island. I was 21 when Boko Haram invaded my island; they created confusion and fear. Many neighbours fled, but those who were unable to do so, maybe 2-300 people, were rounded up. I was one of those people. We were kept under a tree and they slaughtered three of my friends in front of us. It was terrible. We were told that if we didn’t go with Boko Haram, the same would happen to us. We were very fearful.

We were taken to Nigeria by Boko Haram. We had three duties; farming, fishing and fighting for Boko Haram. I had to fight when it was my turn. I was given a gun and told to attack a village - I was forced to do this - If I refused, they would have killed me. I did shoot my gun, but I do not know if I killed anyone.

I spent two painful years with Boko Haram and I was not happy. I looked for an opportunity to escape but knew if I was caught, I knew I would be killed, so I was very scared. In the end, I was able to flee. I took a canoe at night time on the shore of Lake Chad. I was not able to come directly to Chad but had to travel through Cameroon.

The United Nations is committed to supporting people who have been attacked, abducted, injured or traumatized by acts of terrorism wherever they are in the world. Ahead of the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism marked annually on 21 August, read more here about how the UN is showing solidarity with victims and survivors.

When I think of the time with Boko Haram, I am very unhappy. Only 100 of the 300 people who were taken, have returned to the island. Many died in the fighting and some are still there; those who believe Boko Haram is a good thing.

My advice to other young people is to understand that Boko Haram is very bad. I tell them that they must remain in the village if they can. We were cheated by Boko Haram as we did not know any better.

My community has welcomed me back. Whatever I needed they gave me. I hope that in the future there will be a school on the island, so people can be educated and not fall under the spell of Boko Haram.

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Three more humanitarian workers killed in Syria, with civilian death toll ‘rising every day’

INTERNATIONAL, 15 August 2019, Humanitarian Aid - An attack in the south of Syria’s restive Idlib province that led to the deaths of a paramedic, an ambulance driver and a rescue worker, were added to the grim total on Thursday of more than 500 civilian fatalities documented in the country by the United Nations, over the past three and a half months alone.

“The civilian death toll is rising every day as the fighting continues in Idleb and northern Hama”, said Mark Cutts, Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis.

Most of the deaths were a result of the “relentless campaign of airstrikes” by the Government and its allies, he explained.

He painted a picture of humanitarians and rescue workers risking their lives every day to “to help civilians trapped in this area”, including women and children, along with sick, elderly and disabled people.

“They dig people out from under the rubble, rush wounded civilians to hospital, provide medical services and help those fleeing the area”, Mr. Cutts spelled out. “But no one is safe”.

On the contrary, those who risk everything to help some of the most vulnerable people in the world are themselves coming under attack.

“Yesterday a series of airstrikes in the Ma’arat Humeh area in southern Idleb resulted in the death of two more of our humanitarian colleagues, a paramedic and an ambulance driver”, he elaborated. “Their ambulance was totally destroyed and a rescue worker was also killed”.

Wednesday’s attack highlights again the horror of what’s going on in Idleb – the last rebel-controlled part of Syria - and northern Hama, said Mr. Cutts, where three million civilians remain trapped by the fighting, with nowhere else to flee to, and where humanitarians, medical staff and rescue workers continue to pay with their lives in their efforts to help others.

Since the end of April, there have been at least 42 attacks on healthcare facilities reported, he added, affecting 36 health facilities and seven ambulances. Of these incidents, 11 were in Hama Governorate, 28 in Idleb and three in Aleppo Governorate.

“In total at least 17 health workers and patients have been killed”, he lamented, condemning this latest attack “and all attacks on civilians and civilian objects in the strongest terms”.

“I continue to call on all parties to the conflict to respect and protect medical and humanitarian personnel, their means of transport and equipment and property, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities, in accordance with international humanitarian law and in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2286 which relates specifically to the protection of civilians in armed conflict and to the protection of medical and humanitarian personnel in conflict zones” he concluded.

Since March 2011, Syria has been in the throes of a conflict that has forced more than half of all Syrians to leave their homes. With 5.6 million Syrian refugees and 6.6 million internally displaced, the crisis, described as the worst humanitarian disaster of modern times, with more than 12 million people in need of assistance.

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