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Urgent need for ‘immediate’ solutions to combat drug-resistant infections, warns WHO

INTERNATIONAL, 17 January 2020, Health - Drug-resistant infections are on the rise as private investment in new antibiotic development declines, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

Two new WHO reports reveal that while some 50 new antibiotics and 10 biologics are under development, only 32 of the total target WHO-priority pathogens and the majority have very limited benefits when compared to existing antibiotics.

“Never has the threat of antimicrobial resistance been more immediate and the need for solutions more urgent”, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The reports also found that antibiotics research and development is primarily driven by small or medium-sized enterprises, as large pharmaceutical companies continue to exit the field.

“Numerous initiatives are underway to reduce resistance, but we also need countries and the pharmaceutical industry to step up and contribute with sustainable funding and innovative new medicines.”

Clinical development review

With the aim of encouraging the medical research community to develop treatments for resistant bacteria, in 2017, WHO published a list of 12 classes of bacteria plus tuberculosis, that were resistant to most existing treatments and, thus, increasingly jeopardize human health.

Of the antibiotic agents in the pipeline, only a precious few target the rapidly spreading, multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacteria. 

Gram-negative bacteria, such as E-coli, can cause severe and often deadly infections that particularly threaten people with weak or not-yet-fully-developed immune systems, including newborns, the elderly, and people undergoing cancer treatment.

“It’s important to focus public and private investment on the development of treatments that are effective against the highly resistant bacteria because we are running out of options”, says Hanan Balkhy, WHO Assistant Director-General for Antimicrobial Resistance.  “And we need to ensure that once we have these new treatments, they will be available to all who need them.”

In the pipeline

The pre-clinical pipeline shows more innovation and diversity, with 252 agents under development to treat WHO-priority pathogens.

However, these products are in the very early stages and still need to be proven safe and effective. Forecasts suggest the first two to five products will not become available for another 10 years, said the report.

On a more positive note, the pipeline for antibacterial agents to treat tuberculosis and Clostridium difficile, which causes diarrhoea, is more promising, saying that more than half of the treatments fulfil all WHO-defined innovation criteria.

However, WHO makes clear that new treatments alone will not be sufficient to combat the threat of antimicrobial resistance and its scientists are working with countries and partners to improve infection prevention and control.

5 new treatments by 2025

With the goal of delivering five new treatments by 2025, WHO and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative have established a non-profit research and development organization called the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership, to develop new and improved antibiotics that tackle drug-resistant infections.

The enterprise is currently working with more than 50 public and private sector partners in 20 countries to develop and ensure sustainable access to treatments.


Haiti earthquake victims honoured at UN, with pledge to safeguard the nation’s future

INTERNATIONAL, 17 January 2020, Peace and Security - More than 200,000 Haitians who perished in the devastating earthquake which struck the island nation ten years ago, were honoured in a solemn ceremony of remembrance at UN Headquarters in New York on Friday, along with 102 staffers who died – the single greatest loss of life in the Organization’s history. 

Haitians had been starting a new year with optimism, recalled UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the wreath-laying, but “in a few seconds, their hopes turned to dust.” 

“I will never forget the shock and sadness across the world and throughout the United Nations as the scale of the tragedy became clear”, he added. 

Although 12 January 2010, was one of the darkest days in its history, Haiti “drew on the courage and determination of its people and the assistance of its many friends. Roads were cleared, homes were rebuilt, schools were reopened, businesses got back to work,” Mr. Guterres noted.  

The UN chief took a moment in his speech to reflect on several aspects of the UN’s effort in Haiti that had caused more harm than good, recalling the cholera epidemic which began in 2010, widely believed to have been imported by peacekeepers.  

“Among the many challenges, the United Nations deeply regrets the loss of life and suffering caused by the cholera epidemic. I welcome the significant progress that has been made towards eliminating the disease. We are also committed to resolving pending cases of sexual exploitation and abuse”, said Mr. Guterres. 

He also noted the lack of progress in terms of Haiti’s economic, political and social development, with a crisis of leadership in recent months throwing the nation into turmoil: “Today, insecurity and slow economic growth are contributing to rising social tensions and a deteriorating humanitarian situation.  

I urge Haitians to resolve their differences through dialogue and to resist any escalation that could reverse the gains of the past decade.” 

He said the new Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) which replaced the 15-year peacekeeping operation. and the 19 agencies, funds and programmes present in the country, “will continue to work in partnership with the Haitian people on their path to recovery and prosperity.”  

UN Photo/Mark Garten
A memorial of the Haiti 2010 Earthquake is being constructed at the UN Headquarters with pieces of rubble from the Christopher Hotel in Port-au-Prince buried in the foundation of the memorial site.

UN lives lost, from 30 nations 

Before the ceremony, the UN chief visited what he described as “the moving new memorial”, entitled, ‘A Breath’, which now sits within Headquarters in midtown Manhattan, having arrived from Port-au-Prince.

"I thank the sculptor, Davide Dormino, and everyone who helped to transport it. I was particularly impressed by the inclusion of rubble from the Hotel Christopher, where so many of our colleagues perished."  

He said the UN staff who died had been in Haiti “to help build stability and prosperity and consolidate peace and security, with international, national and local partners. Among them were policy advisers, political officers, humanitarians, development specialists, security officers, soldiers, lawyers, drivers and doctors.  

When the quake hit, many United Nations personnel took part in search and rescue operations and carried injured people into the United Nations compound. Some had the heartbreaking duty of accompanying the body of a colleague home to their loved ones, for burial or cremation.”  

The tragedy brought Haiti and the UN together, he said, “and we will never forget.”  

The best way to honour the memory of the dead would be by “working alongside the people and Government of Haiti, and with the country’s friends and supporters throughout the international community.  

Together, we will safeguard Haiti’s future and build lives of peace, prosperity and dignity for all Haitians,” he concluded.   

Keep ‘flame of solidarity’ alive 

Speaking on behalf of the Haitian Government, Patrick Saint-Hilaire of the UN Mission, said that ten years on, the signs of the earthquake were “still evident everywhere”.  

He said the courageous people of Haiti were still “paying deeply” for the “adversity that has befallen Haiti” since then. 

Thanking the UN and all who rallied around Haiti after the disaster in solidarity, he said that now, “it is up to us Haitians, first and foremost, to take responsibility for our current challenges and to take the necessary initiative to improve the state of our nation. Today, however, more than ever, our country needs to continue to forge solidarity, national and international, concrete and consistent with the aspirations of the Haitian people.”  

There is “much work left to be done” he said, adding that as the mark the 10th anniversary, it is “not too late to take up the challenge of the complete reconstruction of Haiti.” 

Remarks were also made by the President of the UN Staff Union, Patricia Nemeth, with some family members of those who perished attending the ceremony. Ambassadors from the 30 Member States who lost UN personnel in the tragedy were invited to lay flowers in front of the flag.

Afterwards, some participants and guests walked over to the memorial site, which initially lay on the grounds of peacekeeping mission MINUSTAH's headquarters in Port au Prince.


Libya: ‘Dire and untenable’ situation for tens of thousands of children in unrelenting conflict

INTERNATIONAL, 17 January 2020, Peace and Security - The world should not accept the “dire and untenable” situation facing children in wartorn Libya the head of the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Friday.

“Children in Libya, including refugee and migrant children, continue to suffer grievously amidst the violence and chaos unleashed by the country’s longstanding civil war”, Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement

Since last April, when renewed hostilities broke out on the outskirts of the capital Tripoli, and western Libya, conditions for thousands of children and civilians deteriorated, with indiscriminate attacks in populated areas that have caused hundreds of deaths.

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Libya: Tens of thousands of children at risk amidst violence and chaos of unrelenting conflict

UNICEF has received reports of children being maimed, killed and also recruited to fight, said Ms. Fore.

Since the fall of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been in the throes of ongoing instability and economic collapse, despite its large oil reserves.

Thousands have been killed in fighting between factions of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Khalifa Haftar, based in the east, and the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, located in the west.

The UN Secretary-General will be at a major international summit due to take place in the German capital this coming Sunday, which both the Prime Minister of the UN-recognized Government and commander Haftar are due to attend, in the hope of establishing a permanent ceasefire.

Meanwhile, over the last eight months, more than 150,000 people – 90,000 of whom are children – have been forced to flee their homes and are now internally displaced.

Widespread destruction

Ms. Fore also flagged that under attack was the essential “infrastructure on which children depend for their wellbeing and survival”.

“Nearly 30 health facilities have been damaged in the fighting, forcing 13 to close”, she lamented, adding that attacks against schools and the threat of violence have led to closures and left almost 200,000 children out of the classroom.

Moreover, water systems have been attacked and the waste management system has virtually collapsed, greatly increasing the risk of waterborne diseases including cholera.

“The 60,000 refugee and migrant children currently in urban areas are also terribly vulnerable, especially the 15,000 who are unaccompanied and those being held in detention centres”, she continued. “These children already had limited access to protection and essential services, so the intensifying conflict has only amplified the risks that they face”.

Providing support

UNICEF and its partners on the ground are supporting the children and families with access to healthcare and nutrition, protection, education, water and sanitation.

Reach a comprehensive and durable peace agreement for the sake of each and every child in Libya – UNICEF chief

“We are also reaching refugee and migrant children with assistance, including those held in detention centres”, she elaborated. “Sadly, attacks against the civilian population and infrastructure, as well as against humanitarian and healthcare personnel are seeking to undermine humanitarian efforts”.

Ms. Fore called on all parties to the conflict and those who have influence over them to protect children, end the recruitment and use of children, cease attacks against civilian infrastructure, and allow for “safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to children and people in need”.

“We also call on Libyan authorities to end the detention of migrant and refugee children and to actively pursue safe and dignified alternatives to detention”, said the UNICEF chief.

Ahead of the peace summit in Berlin, this Sunday, Ms. Fore also urged the conflict parties and those with influence over them to “urgently reach a comprehensive and durable peace agreement for the sake of each and every child in Libya.”   


Tackling femicide in Argentina: a UN Resident Coordinator blog

INTERNATIONAL, 17 January 2020, Women - Tackling violence against women is crucial to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In January, the United Nations launched a Decade of Action to support meeting the 17 goals by 2030. 

In this blog, UN News has invited Roberto Valent, the UN Resident Coordinator in Argentina to highlight what efforts are being taken in the South American country to reduce the rate of femicide or the murder of women.  

Natalia Bandiera was 42 years old and lived in the city of Necochea, in Buenos Aires province, on the Atlantic coast of the South American country. She was recently killed by her partner, who shot her four times at close range and then barricaded himself in their house.

A week earlier Natalia had reported that she was a victim of gender violence and had asked for help. Reporting violence and abuse is key in order to ensure a timely and effective response. However, the system has significant weaknesses, and, in Natalia’s and many other cases, it proved insufficient to protect her.

Brutal statistics

Natalia’s death has added to the brutal femicide statistics in Argentina, where one woman is killed every 32 hours, according to the Women’s Office of the Supreme Court of Justice.

Thousands of women in Argentina suffer from the daily torments of violence, before being murdered. In 2018, the hotline created to assist women who suffer from violence, received 169,014 calls.

Eight out of every 10 women calling the hotline reported they had been abused over a period of more than one year; four out of 10 reported that they had been the silent victims of violence for over five years, and eight out of 10 reported abuse by their current or former partners.

What is at the core of these painful numbers? It is inequality between men and women, which in turn generates discrimination, contempt, prejudice, a lack of autonomy, a lack of opportunity and ultimately an environment conducive to emotional and physical violence against women. If we do not put an end to this violence, at least 1,390 more women will be murdered in Argentina in the next five years, just for being women.

The UN Resident Coordinator

The UN Resident Coordinator, sometimes called the RC, is the highest-ranking representative of the UN development system at the country level. In this occasional series, UN News is inviting RCs to blog on issues important to the United Nations and the country where they serve

Spotlight: a global alliance anchored in a local reality

 Violence against women and girls is a major obstacle to the fulfilment of women’s and girls’ human rights and to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It occurs worldwide, cutting across all generations, nationalities, communities and spheres of our societies, irrespective of age, ethnicity, disability or other background.

Latin America alone is home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of women being murdered in the world.  That’s why the European Union and the United Nations (UN) launched Spotlight, a global initiative, in September 2017 to address gender-based violence against women and girls.

Argentina has joined Spotlight along with dozens of other countries worldwide. Locally, the initiative aims to eliminate the most extreme manifestation of violence, the murder of women, or femicide.

The very name of the Spotlight initiative seeks to shine a bright public light on the issue of gender-based violence and the recently-launched campaign with Argentinian singer Lali Espósito, does precisely that.

 The campaign #AmigaDateCuenta (Spanish for “Friend, realize what is happening”), calls attention to behaviors such as jealousy, humiliation and control among teenagers.

Working together to keep gender-based violence front and center

The Spotlight initiative is a team effort. Its success will depend on the commitment of each and every one of those involved in putting an end to gender-based violence in Argentina.

The UN Decade of Action

The idea of the UN Decade of Action is to boost global efforts to realize the goal of implementing all 17 SDGs by a 2030 deadline.

UN Member States have pledged to mobilize financing opportunities, enhance national implementation and strengthen institutions to take positive and concrete actions to achieve sustainable development and protect the planet.

Argentina was chosen based on the state’s commitment to the issue. Important steps have been undertaken to eliminate violence; ensuring that national laws follow international standards; enlisting the support of Argentina’s civil society and women’s movement; and passing the Micaela Law to educate government workers on the problem of violence against women, and the Brisa Law to provide financial reparation for children of femicide victims.

The initiative is focused on the provinces of Salta, Jujuy and Buenos Aires, based on their high rates of femicide and the commitment demonstrated by local authorities to tackle the problem. That’s why we engaged intergovernmental organizations, civil society organizations, the women’s movement, academia, unions, the private sector, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and governors of the provinces, in consultations that began a year ago. 

Still, much remains to be done to enforce existing laws and to ensure access to services and justice for women and girls who experience gender-based violence, particularly those facing multiple forms of discrimination.

Local actions, global goals

In Argentina, Spotlight represents a unique opportunity for joint action between different UN agencies.

The initiative is being implemented under the leadership of my Office, with crucial activities being carried out by UN Women, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). UNICEF has also joined as an associated agency.

Together, we are now working to boost prevention measures through education, community work, and social networks. We aim to improve the quality of services for victims and strengthen national institutions to implement policies for a coordinated response to gender-based violence.

  On behalf of the EU and the United Nations in Argentina we invite everyone to join this effort and work together to prevent murders like Natalia’s.

 We can stop gender-based violence. It’s essential if we are to achieve the SDGs by 2030. The time is now.


Climate crisis ‘affecting quality of life and fuelling discontent’

INTERNATIONAL, 16 January 2020, Economic Development - The climate crisis, as well as persistently high inequalities, and rising levels of food insecurity and undernourishment, is affecting the quality of life in many societies and fuelling discontent, the UN warned on Thursday, on the publication of the 2020 World Economic Situation Report (WESP).

Switch to renewables and low-carbon energy urgently needed

UNDP Eritrea/Elizabeth Mwaniki | A solar mini-grid system in Eritrea powers two rural towns and surrounding villages.

The UN economic experts behind the report are unequivocal in their call for “massive adjustments” to the energy sector, which is currently responsible for around three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions.

If the world continues to rely on fossil fuels over the next few years, and emissions in developing countries rise to the level of those in richer nations, global carbon emissions would increase by more than 250 per cent, with potentially catastrophic results.

The report’s authors insist that the world’s energy needs must be met by renewable or low-carbon energy sources, which will lead to environmental and health benefits, such as lower air pollution, and new economic opportunities for many countries.

However, the 2020 WESP finds that the urgent need to switch to clean energy continues to be underestimated, noting that countries are continuing to invest in oil and gas exploration, and coal-fired power generation (read our story on the the move away from coal here).

This reliance on fossil fuels is described as “short-sighted”, leaving investors and governments exposed to sudden losses, as the price of oil and gas fluctuates, as well as contributing to deteriorating climatic conditions, such as global warming.

“Risk associated with the climate crisis are becoming an ever-greater challenge”, concludes the report, and “climate action must be an integral part of any policy mix”.

Strategies and technology for a transition to a clean economy that delivers accessible to reliable and decarbonized energy already exist, continues the report, but will require political will and public support. Failure to act will significantly increase the ultimate costs.

East Asia forges ahead, as Africa stagnates

ILO/Marcel Crozet | A female employee at a printing factory in Kyoto, Japan.

The East Asia region continues to be the world’s fastest growing region, with China’s economy growing at a rate of 6.1 per cent in 2019. Although growth is expected to level off, China will still see world-beating growth of 5.9 per cent by 2021.

The more economically developed parts of the world are seeing much slower growth, with the USA expected to see a slowdown from 2.2 per cent in 2019, to 1.7 per cent in 2020. The European Union is only expected to grow by 1.6 per cent, although this is an improvement on 2019, when the bloc only grew by 1.4 per cent. The sluggish growth in both regions is blamed mainly on global uncertainty.

Africa, meanwhile, continues to suffer from near stagnation. In a third of developing countries dependent on commodities, including Angola, Nigeria and South Africa, average real incomes are lower today than they were in 2014 and, in several sub-Saharan African countries, the number of people living in extreme poverty has risen.

Setback for UN development agenda

Although the report assumes that trade tension will ease, the potential for a relapse is high, says the report, as the root causes behind disputes have not yet been tackled.

Continuing weak growth in the global economy will make it harder to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda, the UN’s blueprint for a better future for people and the planet, includes commitments to eradicate poverty and create decent jobs for all.

What is the WESP?

The World Economic Situation and Prospects report is the UN’s flagship publication on expected trends in the global economy.

It is produced annually by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the five UN regional commissions (Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, and Western Asia).

On the launch of the WESP, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned of the potential impacts of a slowdown: “These risks could inflict severe and long-lasting damage on development prospects. They also threaten to encourage a further rise in inward-looking policies, at a point when global cooperation is paramount”.

Growth alone is not enough

The authors of the 2020 WESP conclude that it is not enough to simply focus on economic growth, at any cost, and governments must ensure that growth is inclusive.

“Policymakers should move beyond a narrow focus on merely promoting GDP growth, and instead aim to enhance well-being in all parts of society”, said Elliott Harris, UN Chief Economist and Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development.  

In order to improve well-being for all, Mr. Harris emphasizes the importance of prioritizing investment in sustainable development to promote education, renewable energy, and resilient infrastructure, and called for governments to pay closer attention to the implications of their policies on the environment, and a fairer distribution of wealth within their countries.


Yemen resilient and ‘unscathed’ in face of latest Gulf crisis

INTERNATIONAL, 16 January 2020, Peace and Security - Despite the threat posed by recent tensions in the Gulf, Yemen was able to weather the crisis thanks in part to restraint exercised by its political leaders, the UN Special Envoy for the country said on Thursday. 

Martin Griffiths was speaking in the Security Council, where he updated ambassadors on developments towards ending nearly five years of war between Government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, and the rebel group commonly known as the Houthis, which reportedly has links with Iran. 

He stated that “no major acts of military provocation” occurred in Yemen during the latest Gulf crisis, which was sparked by the killing of a top Iranian general by the United States. 

“Indeed, it has been one of the quietest weeks of the war in Yemen since the war began, with only one airstrike, very limited military movement on the ground and no drone or missile attacks on neighbouring States”, he said. 

“This achievement has not come by chance.  Yemeni leaders and leaders from the region have deliberately exercised restraint and withheld from acts of provocation.” 

Mr. Griffiths said the country “has been brushed by potential tragedy from regional tensions and, so far, appears to have emerged from it unscathed. This is evidence of its leaders’ desire to keep Yemen safe from such tensions but also to restore to its people, this year, the peace they so evidently deserve.” 

Ceasefire working 

The Envoy noted that the tensions overall have tested the resilience of efforts to de-escalate military hostilities and implement two peace agreements. 

Warring parties met in Sweden in December 2018 for UN-brokered peace talks which led to a ceasefire in the rebel-held port of Hudaydah, critical for aid flows into a country that is experiencing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.   

Mr. Griffiths underlined that although implementation has been unsatisfactory, the UN and both sides remain committed to the Stockholm Agreement. 

“Though violence unfortunately continues in the southern districts, the relative calm at the frontlines in Hudaydah city shows that the measures to enhance the de-escalation—the ceasefire mechanism—is working, and this is something we can, and should, build on,” he said. 

Yemen also is now less dangerous for civilians than prior to the Stockholm Agreement, according to a senior official with the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA

Ramesh Rajasingham, Director of the Coordination Division at OCHA, told Council members that casualties last year were about 35 per cent lower than in 2018, while fatalities dropped by nearly half. 

“But it is still a very dangerous place”, he said, pointing to deadly attacks and flare-ups along several front lines. 

“Every day we receive reports of civilians killed or injured when shells land on their homes, snipers fire on their communities, or landmines or other munitions explode.  These smaller-scale incidents occur in a constant stream and receive less attention than they should.” 

Positive signs in Aden 

Last November, the UN Special Envoy welcomed the signing of the Riyadh Agreement, aimed at ending infighting between the Yemini Government and separatist allies in the south, known as the Southern Transitional Council. 

Fighting broke out between the two sides in August when the Southern Transitional Council seized control of the city of Aden, where the Government is based.  

“The parties’ recommitment recently to time-bound measures to support implementation of the Riyadh Agreement is a very positive sign”, Mr. Griffiths said. 

He also reported “relative” improvement in the security situation in Aden, and that “key appointments” there could be announced in the coming days. 

“Overall, this is good news, of course, but not least because it is also a starting point for opening a new page to be dominated, and noted, and themed, by sincere consultations between the Yemeni parties to reach a political solution to end the Yemeni crisis,” he stated.


Syrian conflict has ‘erased’ children’s dreams: new UN report

INTERNATIONAL, 16 January 2020, Human Rights - Nearly nine years of conflict in Syria have robbed boys and girls of their childhood and subjected them to “unabated violations of their rights”, including being killed, maimed, displaced, forced to fight or subjected to torture, rape and sexual slavery. 

The findings come in the latest report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, released on Thursday. 

“I am appalled by the flagrant disregard for the laws of war and the Convention on the Rights of the Child by all parties involved in the conflict”, said Commission chair Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro.  

“While the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic has the primary responsibility for the protection of boys and girls in the country, all of the actors in this conflict must do more to protect children and preserve the country’s future generation.”  

Dreams erased 

The three-member Commission was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international law related to the Syrian conflict, which began in March 2011. 

Its latest report is entitled: They have erased the dreams of my children - a quote taken from a 2012 interview with a woman discussing attacks on her village in Idlib. 

The study is based on approximately 5,000 interviews conducted between September 2011 and October 2019 with Syrian children, but also eyewitnesses, survivors, relatives of survivors, medical professionals, defectors, members of armed groups, healthcare professionals, lawyers and other affected communities. 

I realized that my brother was shot in the head and neck. I witnessed how his soul left his body - Boy, al Houla, witness to the execution of his entire family, 2012

The Commission said the use of cluster munitions, so-called thermobaric bombs and chemical weapons by pro-Government forces, have caused scores of child casualties. 

Additionally, children’s experiences in the conflict “have been deeply gendered.”   

Women and girls worst affected 

Women and girls are “disproportionally affected” by sexual violence, and the threat of rape has led to restrictions in their movements. Girls have been confined to their homes, removed from school or faced obstacles to access health care.  

Meanwhile, boys, particularly those 12 and over, have been arrested and kept in detention facilities, and targeted for recruitment by armed groups and militia. 

“The younger ones are very good fighters. They fight with enthusiasm and are fearless. Fighters who are 14 -17 years old are on the frontline”, a person associated with an armed group told the authors. 

The war has also had an impact on access to education, with more than 2.1 million children not regularly attending classes of any form.   

“Urgent efforts are required by the Syrian Government to support as many children as possible to return to education.  Armed groups holding territory also need to act with haste to facilitate access to education,” said Karen AbuZayd, one of the commissioners. 

Pinheiro @UNCoISyria Chair: “ continue to be brutally scarred in the - they have been killed and maimed, recruited to participate in hostilities, detained and tortured, and have been subject to . This is a tragedy!” @UNGeneva
View image on Twitter

Commit to protecting children 

The report also expresses concern over the severe impact the conflict has had on children’s long-term physical and mental health.  

Large numbers of young Syrians now have disabilities as well as devastating psychological and development issues. Additionally, fighting has displaced some five million children. 

As the mother in Idlib stated: “They have erased the dreams of my children. They have destroyed what we have built during our whole life; my daughter was so depressed when she found out that our house was burnt down. My other child, a three-year-old boy, is traumatized by the crisis. He is continuously drawing tanks.”   

The Commission members called on all sides to “commit in writing” to granting children special protection during wartime, in line with international law. 

Other recommendations include ending child recruitment and taking child rights into consideration during military planning. 

They stressed that displaced children also require protection, which includes the obligation to repatriate children with family ties to ISIL extremist fighters. 

“States have well defined obligations to protect children, including from statelessness. Failing to abide by such fundamental principles would be a clear derogation of duty,” said Commissioner Hanny Megally. 


Aid to vulnerable Iraqis may ‘come to a complete halt within weeks’

INTERNATIONAL, 16 January 2020, Humanitarian Aid - Aid to vulnerable people in Iraq risks being completely blocked within weeks, warned the UN’s humanitarian chief in Iraq, Marta Ruedas, on Tuesday, as a result of the suspension of government documents allowing humanitarians to carry out critical missions.

Aid is in danger of rotting in warehouses, putting lives in jeopardy Marta Ruedas, Humanitarian Coordinator for the UN in Iraq

In a statement released on Thursday by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Ms. Ruedas declared that “our operations are at risk. Without predictable, continual access authorization, humanitarian aid is in danger of rotting in warehouses, putting lives in jeopardy and wasting badly-needed donor funds”.

Prior to November 2019, humanitarian organizations based in Iraq, including the UN and its NGO partners, were granted monthly letters, allowing them to pass through checkpoints unhindered. As of January 2020, almost all of these letters had expired and, with no alternative measures in place, the flow of aid deliveries in Iraq had slowed considerably.

A survey of NGO partners showed that more than 2,460 humanitarian missions have been cancelled or prevented from reaching their destinations. Some 2.4 million people are believed to be affected as a result.

More than 100 NGOs were active in Iraq in 2019, working under a coordinated, $700 million plan to assist some 1.75 million internally displaced persons, those returning home, and host communities. It is estimated that around $520 million is needed to continue vital humanitarian work through this year.

UNAMI says that, unless partners are allowed to immediately resume full, unimpeded movement of their personnel and supplies, humanitarian operations in Iraq “may come to a complete halt within a matter of weeks”, leading to the possibility of hundreds of thousands of people in conflict-affected areas going without food, medicine and materials to get them through the coldest months of the year.

“We request that the Government of Iraq provide clarity on the procedures for granting access authorizations for humanitarian organizations”, said Ms. Ruedas, “and allow us to resume delivering aid effectively and efficiently for the people of Iraq”.


2019 second hottest year on record, UN confirms

INTERNATIONAL, 15 January 2020, Climate Change - Last year was the second warmest year on record, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed on Wednesday. 

“The average global temperature has risen by about 1.1°C since the pre-industrial era and ocean heat content is at a record level,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.  

WMO confirms that 2019 is 2nd warmest year on record, based on consolidated data from @NASAGISS, @NOAA, @metoffice, @CopernicusECMWF and Japan Meteorological Agency
View image on Twitter

“On the current path of carbon dioxide emissions, we are heading towards a temperature increase of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius by the end of century.” 

WMO analysis showed the annual global temperature in 2019 was 1.1°C warmer than in the period from 1850-1900, or the pre-industrial era. 

Only 2016 was hotter, due to a very strong El Niño which causes warming, combined with long-term climate change. 

Furthermore, average temperatures for the past five years and 10 years, respectively, were the highest on record. 

Since the 1980s, each decade has been warmer than the previous one: a trend the UN agency expects will continue due to the record level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  

WMO added that 2019 and the past decade also were characterized by retreating ice, record sea levels, increasing ocean heat and acidification, and extreme weather, all of which have “major impacts” on human health and the natural environment. 

Meanwhile, the New Year began where 2019 left off, according to Mr. Taalas. 

“Australia had its hottest, driest year on record in 2019, setting the scene for the massive bushfires which were so devastating to people and property, wildlife, ecosystems and the environment,” he said. 

“Unfortunately, we expect to see much extreme weather throughout 2020 and the coming decades, fuelled by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”   


UN peacekeepers protecting hundreds displaced by Central African Republic fighting

INTERNATIONAL, 15 January 2020, Peace and Security - Fresh clashes in the Central African Republic’s southeast have driven some 400 people to seek shelter at a UN base there, the United Nations Spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Peacekeepers are patrolling the city of Alindao, Basse Kotto Prefecture, after skirmishes last Thursday between the country’s armed forces and members of an armed group associated with the mainly-Muslim ex-Seleka coalition, which have fought with mainly Christian anti-Balaka elements, destabilizing the nation since 2013.

“Two personnel from the Central African Republic’s (CAR) armed forces died in the violence”, Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in New York. “Today, the UN Mission says that the situation is calm, despite continuing tensions”. 

On 9 January, 650 families temporarily sought refuge in a hospital while at least nine people were injured by stray bullets and dozens of houses burned at the ELIM displacement site, according to the UN humanitarian affairs coordination office (OCHA). 

According to OCHA’s initial assessment, some 2,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) urgently need food, shelter and non-food items. Humanitarians are urgently mobilizing resources to meet their needs.

Mr. Dujarric said that the UN Stabilization Mission in CAR, which goes by the French acronym, MINUSCA, is preparing to send an investigation team of police, human rights and prison officers to Alindao.

Securing the capital

Meanwhile, Mr. Dujarric reported an update on efforts to secure the capital of Bangui’s PK5 Muslim enclave, which, on 31 December, was declared an "unarmed area", or weapons-free zone.

“The Mission says that all 13 bases of the ex-self-defense groups have now been dismantled”, he said, adding that “UN peacekeepers continue to conduct joint patrols with the Central African Republic’s Internal Security Forces to protect civilians”. 

The Mission has also launched an awareness campaign in the PK5 neighborhood to explain its outreach work to the community and protect civilians.

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