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Yemen: UN welcomes ceasefire as 'lifesaving' humanitarian relief begins to arrive

INTERNATIONAL – The top United Nations humanitarian official has welcomed the commencement of a ceasefire in Yemen aimed at allowing the delivery of “lifesaving” relief and aid to the country's civilian populations.

“I call on all parties to the conflict to respect this vital pause in hostilities,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA) Valerie Amos said in astatementissued late yesterday evening. “This pause will provide a respite for civilians and allow the delivery of food, medical supplies and other essential items to people who have been trapped in conflict zones.”

Ms. Amos also extended her thanks to the Member States involved in supporting the UN's efforts and enabling humanitarian agencies and partners on the ground to provide the humanitarian relief.

Since the Yemen conflict erupted in mid-March 2015, over 1,400 people have been killed and close to 6,000 people injured, roughly half of whom have been civilians. Civilians across the border in Saudi Arabia's frontier towns have been caught up in the fighting as well.

Meanwhile, Yemen was already in a precarious state prior to the explosion of violence with the current fighting only fuelling concerns in the humanitarian community that the country would grow increasingly food insecure.

In 2014, a World Food Programme (WFP) food security survey found that 10.6 million people – 41 percent of the population – were food insecure with more than five million people severely food insecure – in need of food assistance. The current conflict will exacerbate the precarious food security situation because the country imports more than 90 percent of its food needs.

“Given the role of the United Nations in coordinating emergency relief activities in an impartial and neutral way, I request that humanitarian assistance to Yemen be routed through existing UN and international humanitarian organization channels,” Ms. Amos added. “It is essential that humanitarian assistance is not politicized.”

The Under-Secretary-General's statement comes as Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, arrived in the capital, Sana'a, where he hopes to meet the various Yemeni parties, in particular Houthi representatives, and the hope is that the pause can serve as a basis for a more permanent cessation of hostilities.

At the same time, the UN Security Council also reaffirmed its “strong commitment to the unity, sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Yemen, and its commitment to stand by the people of Yemen” in a statement released yesterday evening.

The 15-member Council called on all sides in the country to comply with international humanitarian law and welcomed any efforts aimed at supporting a political transition.

To that point, the UN body called on the Secretary-General to convene a conference of all Yemeni stakeholders with the intention of brokering “a consensus-based political solution” and called on all Yemeni parties to attend these talks.

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Paraguay: Human rights experts deplore Government’s failure to protect 10-year-old rape survivor

INTERNATIONAL – The Government of Paraguay has failed in its responsibility to protect a 10-year old sexual abuse survivor and provide her with critical and timely treatments, including a “safe and therapeutic” abortion, a group of United Nations experts said today.

The girl’s pregnancy – which came to light in national and international media several weeks ago – was the result of repeated sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by her stepfather. Yet Paraguay’s reportedly “restrictive” abortion laws only permit the termination of a pregnancy when the life of a woman or girl is at “serious risk.”

“The Paraguayan authorities’ decision results in grave violations of the rights to life, to health, and to physical and mental integrity of the girl as well as her right to education, jeopardising her economic and social opportunities,”warnedthe four experts composing the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice.

“Despite requests made by the girl’s mother and medical experts to terminate this pregnancy which puts the girl’s life at risk, the State failed to take measures to protect the health as well as the physical and mental integrity and even the life of the 10-year old girl,” they continued. “No proper interdisciplinary and independent expert assessment with the aim to insure the girl’s best interests was done before overturning life-saving treatments, including abortion.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), child pregnancies are extremely dangerous for the health of pregnant girls as they can lead to complications and death in some cases, especially as girls’ bodies are “not fully developed to carry a pregnancy,” the experts added.

In Latin America, in particular, the UN reports that the risk of maternal death is four times higher among adolescents under 16 years old with 65 per cent of cases of obstetric fistula occurring in the pregnancies of adolescents. In addition, early pregnancies are also dangerous for the babies with a mortality rate 50 per cent higher.

Against that backdrop, the UN experts welcomed last Friday’s decision by Paraguayan authorities to establish a multidisciplinary panel of experts to express itself on the terms of the overall health of the girl and to give an opinion on the risks and recommendations to ensure her health.”

Nevertheless, they noted that girl’s mother had reported the ongoing sexual abuse against her daughter in 2014 and deplored the authorities’ “unresponsiveness to take action.” Moreover, they said they “deeply regret” that the State had “failed in its responsibility to act with due diligence and protect the child.”

The UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice is composed of five independent experts from all regions of the world: Emna Aouij of Tunisia, Rashida Manjoo of South Africa, Juan Mendez of Argentina; and Dainius Puras of Lithuania.

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UN expert calls on Greek Government to ‘urgently implement’ anti-racism measures

INTERNATIONAL – The Government of Greece must implement stronger measures in order to effectively address hate speech and verbal abuse against vulnerable groups including irregular migrants and minorities such as the Roma people, according to a United Nations human rights expert.

“Combating hate and prejudice is not just about financial resources, and in times of economic crisis, scapegoating the most vulnerable members of society only contributes to reinforcing a climate of hostility and violence towards such groups and individuals,” the UN Special Rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere, said in anews releaseissued earlier today and coming on the heels of his five-day visit to the Mediterranean country.

As Greece continues to reel from the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, it also remains on the frontline of the European Union’s ongoing irregular migration crisis.

According to UNdata, 2015 alone has already seen some 40,000 people make crossings to Italy and Greece – the first and second largest countries of arrival respectively. The numbers have also been recently picking up as weather conditions in the Mediterranean improve.

In the press release, Mr. Ruteere nevertheless praised the Greeks’ “continuous and committed hospitality” and noted that citizens had been “displaying efforts to save migrants from drowning and providing them with basic necessities despite strained resources due to the long lasting economic crisis.”

Against that backdrop, the Special Rapporteur also welcomed efforts and initiatives made by the Government of Greece to address the scourge of racist violence affecting minority groups across the country – including reforming the legal framework and establishing strong and credible human rights institutions. But, he warned, much still remained to be done.

“The Romas of Greece, while being, for the vast majority Greek citizens, continue to face rampant discrimination and remain economically and socially disadvantaged,” he continued. “I call upon the Government to take into account and urgently implement the numerous recommendations made by UN and European mechanisms.”

Along with those mechanisms, he urged Athens to establish more efficient outlets for victims to seek remedies and ensure their access to justice while also creating an independent body to guarantee transparency and credibility of investigations into police violence.

The Special Rapporteur will present a final report on his visit to the UN Human Rights Council in 2016.

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International community voices deep concern as deadly violence flares up across South Sudan

INTERNATIONAL – A deadly outburst of violence between residents of a United Nations protection-of-civilians (PoC) site in the South Sudanese capital of Juba has prompted the Organization's strong condemnation and triggered wider concern over the safety of internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout the country.

According to a press release issued by the UN Mission in South Sudan earlier this morning, the fighting erupted on Friday, 8 May following a domestic dispute and steadily degenerated into a series of clashes between individuals wielding machetes, sticks and metal bars that continued throughout the weekend despite repeated interventions by UN peacekeepers.

One person was killed during the violence on Sunday and about 60 more were injured in the disturbances, which also provoked the departure of an estimated 3,500 IDPs from the protection sites.

The Mission noted that it had sought assurances from South Sudanese authorities about the safety and well-being of the IDPs who left the Mission's protection sites earlier this week, adding that “the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians continues to lie with the government of the Republic of South Sudan.”

In addition, the Mission reiterated its “long-standing policy” that all departures from UNMISS protection sites are done so on “a strictly voluntary basis,” and that it does not prevent IDPs from leaving its premises if that is their preference. In the meantime, the Mission said, it is engaging with community leaders in the Juba PoC sites to defuse the situation and avert a recurrence of the disturbances of this past weekend.

South Sudan has been in the grip of conflict since December 2013 – a conflict marked by brutal violence against civilians and deepening suffering across the country. The major humanitarian consequences are widespread displacement due to the violence, including high rates of death, disease, and injuries, severe food insecurity and disrupted livelihoods, and a major malnutrition crisis.

Some 119,000 people are sheltered in UNMISS compounds across the country while the Organization estimates that the number of people in need for 2015 will include an anticipated 1.95 million IDPs and a projected 293,000 refugees.

Last weekend's violence in Juba coincides with a deterioration of the security situation in South Sudan's northern Unity State. A series of “continuing and consistent reports”indicate, in fact, a surge in kidnappings and rapes and an overall uptick in violence, which has forced the UN and other aid agencies to withdraw staff from the region.

Addressing reporters at today's press briefing in Geneva, spokesman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, said his office remained “deeply concerned about the escalation of fighting in the strategic, oil-rich Unity State” and cited reports of killings, rape, abduction and looting of cattle and other property.

Mr. Colville explained that thousands of civilians have fled the attacks – with at least 2,200 new arrivals seeking refuge at UNMISS' PoC site in Bentiu as of 10 May, while others had fled or are in bushes between villages south of Nhialdiu and Koch, and Leer.

According to interviews with civilians who managed to flee, he added, perpetrators of these atrocities are Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers and armed youth. There are also mobilized youth reportedly clad in civilian clothes and wielding AK47s.

“Ahead of the rainy season, when people are planting crops, we urge absolute restraint by the parties to the conflict,” Mr. Colville concluded. “Attacks on civilian lives and infrastructure amount to clear violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law and must be investigated.”

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Ahead of humanitarian pause, Yemen sees ‘deadliest’ week of fighting – UN

INTERNATIONAL – Nearly 200 civilians have died in Yemen in the past week, as the country has seen its deadliest period of fighting since violence broke out on 26 March this year, according to figures released today 12th May by the United Nations human rights office.

In the six days from 4 May to 10 May, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that at least 182 civilians have died, with 41 of those women and 51 children. In total, the Office verified the deaths of 828 civilians since 26 March, 182 of whom were children and 91 of whom were women. A further 1,511 people have been injured.

“A significant proportion of the casualties over this most recent six-day period – around half – were reportedly caused by airstrikes, especially in Sa’ada Governorate,” OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colvilletold reportersin Geneva. “On one occasion, on 6 May, dozens of people fleeing fighting in Al-Tawahi District in Aden Governorate took to boats aiming for Djibouti, when they were shelled by mortars apparently fired by members of the Popular Committees affiliated with the Houthis. The boats caught fire and there were casualties.”

Civilian houses have been struck by airstrikes and ground fire, the Office reports, with at least 66 public buildings reported to have been partially or completely destroyed, as well as much civilian infrastructure.

“Given this alarming escalation, we welcome the announcement of a five-day humanitarian pause in Yemen, due to start today,” said Mr. Colville. “This should enable desperately needed aid operations to be carried out, and it is essential that it is honoured by all sides to the conflict.”

The Office urged that the proposed humanitarian pause be used as a basis for a more permanent cessation of hostilities and called on the coalition led by Saudi Arabia to enable fuel supplies to enter regularly into Yemen to facilitate humanitarian operations.

An aid shipment arrived at the port of Hodeida on Friday, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)said todayat the same briefing, adding that preparations were underway for a possible huge airlift of humanitarian aid if the pause in fighting holds.

The plan, according to spokesperson Adrian Edwards, is for three flights to bring in 300 tonnes of sleeping mats, blankets, kitchen sets and plastic sheeting.

“Hundreds of thousands of people across Yemen are struggling to meet their basic needs and are in desperate need of help,” he said. “In addition to the flights, UNHCR will be seeking to distribute more of the aid we already have in Yemen, and to carry out rapid needs assessments in previously hard-to-reach areas. Our staff and partners are preparing to give relief kits out to tens of thousands of displaced people.”

UNHCR also plans to use the pause in hostilities to transport and pre-position aid to Sana'a, Amran, Haradh and Aden for onward distribution to vulnerable populations in surrounding provinces. Medicines and rations will be sent to the Mayfa’a reception centre in the east, and food, kerosene and diesel will be transferred to the Kharaz refugee camp, near Aden.

“While a humanitarian pause falls short of the peace so vitally needed in Yemen, it is nonetheless critically important that aid gets through, as existing stocks in country are becoming depleted, adding to the suffering of civilians,” Mr. Edwards said.

Ahead of the pause in fighting, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) called on all parties to the conflict to protect Yemen’s unique heritage amid reports of severe damage to cultural sites, including the old cities of Sana’a, which was heavily bombed on the night of 11 May, and the old city of Sa’ada.

“I condemn these destructions and I call on all parties to keep cultural heritage out of the conflict”, said the Director-General, Irina Bokova, ina statement.

“I am particularly distressed by the news concerning air strikes on heavily populated areas such as the cities of Sana’a and Sa’ada. In addition to causing terrible human suffering, these attacks are destroying Yemen’s unique cultural heritage, which is the repository of people’s identity, history and memory and an exceptional testimony to the achievements of the Islamic Civilization.”

Ms. Bokova stressed that all parties should respect their obligations under international treaties, particularly the 1954 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols, as well as the 1972 World Heritage Convention.

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New quake hits Nepal as UN races to deliver aid to those affected

INTERNATIONAL – A new earthquake measuring 7.3 magnitude struck Nepal today 12th May, killing dozens of people, as emergency responders race against time to reach affected populations two weeks after another deadly tremor struck the country killing thousands, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said.

The epicentre of the quake was southeast of Kodari, 76 kilometres northeast of Kathmandu – an area already affected by the 25 April quake, OCHA said in aflash update.

The initial quake was followed by several aftershocks including a 5.6 magnitude tremor with the epicentre in Kodari and a 6.3 magnitude one with the epicentre in Ramechhap District. Strong aftershocks continue to be felt.

Landslides were reported in Langtang Region in the Himalayas. Many areas around the epicentre are particularly susceptible to landslides.

There are reports so far of 24 people dead and another 543 injured. Five people were reported rescued in Charikot. Reports of people buried under rubble are also coming in from across the country, including from Tatopani, OCHA said.

Some buildings damaged by the 25 April quake collapsed today in Gorkha District and Chautara. New damage to housing and infrastructure is also being reported across the districts.

The earthquake caused some panic and many people fled to and remain in open spaces.

The existing camps in Chautara remain open and are accommodating additional people. People in other areas are also expected to remain in the open air areas. The Nepalese Army is requesting additional shelter as it expects people to stay in the open overnight.

National search and rescue (SAR) teams have been deployed. The Government of Nepal advised it dispatched military helicopters to assess damage and possibly provide emergency health assistance, OCHA has said.

The Government has also asked the hospitals in affected areas, including Kathmandu, to remain on stand-by to treat the injured. No request for international SAR teams was made. International SAR teams, which remain in the country, were requested to support the response. No additional international assistance has been requested so far.

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Mothers and children need more – not less – social protection, says ILO labour agency

INTERNATIONAL – Calling for greater “social protection” for women as the United Nations draws up a new development agenda, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has cited alarming statics, including that some 800 women die in child birth every day, only 28 per cent of employed women receive cash benefits during their maternity leave, and that child poverty is rising in 18 of 28 countries in the European Union.

“At a time when the world is discussing a post-2015 development agenda, it is essential that the international community identifies financing sources for social protection,” or social security guarantees to protect them against economic distress and hardship caused by the absence or a substantial reduction of income from work because of illness, maternity, lack of employment, disability, old age and others, Isabel Ortiz, Director of the ILO Social Protection Department said as the agency released two new studies late last week.

In theSocial protection for maternity: Key policy trends and statisticsreport, ILO notes that only 36 per cent of employed women are legally entitled to cash benefits during their maternity leave.

“In practice, however, maternity leave legislation is not implemented effectively, so only 28 per cent of working women are covered in case of maternity,” ILO said in apress release.

“Around 800 women die from childbirth every day. In addition, 18,000 children also pass away daily. The sad reality is that despite efforts carried out as part of the Millennium Development Goals process, maternal and child mortality rates in developing countries are still very high,” according to the UN labour agency.

“Most of these deaths are preventable with adequate social protection. Universal maternal and child health care is key to reducing high mortality rates, together with cash transfers to ensure adequate food, clothing, and access to social services,” added Ms. Ortiz.

ILO said a related report,Social protection for children: Key policy trends and statistics, also paints a worrying picture. While there has been an explosion of small cash transfer schemes in recent years, the study shows, there is also a considerable gap with regard to the availability of adequate child and family benefits.

A worrying trend, according to ILO, is that in some countries, the levels of maternity and child protection benefits have dropped as a result of fiscal consolidation policies.

For example, it said, several European countries have reduced the level of maternity and child benefits or have limited the level of coverage, leading to an increase in child poverty in 18 of the 28 countries of the European Union between 2008 and 2013.

The reports include detailed national data on maternity protection and child and family benefits for 188 countries surveyed.

They looked at a sample of 57 low- and lower middle-income countries and show that introducing a basic universal maternity cash benefit would require, on average, 0.41 per cent of national gross domestic product (GDP). Meanwhile, having universal child benefits would, on average, require 1.9 per cent of national GDP.

The projected costs for a basic universal child benefit vary greatly between countries, ranging from 5.2 per cent of GDP for Niger to 0.2 per cent of GDP for Guyana, considering that children constitute a large proportion of the population in these countries.

The same variation applies to basic universal maternity protection, where it ranges from less than 0.1 per cent of GDP in Bhutan, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Morocco, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam to 1.1 per cent of GDP in Niger.

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After Ebola outbreak, expert panel urges ‘unified entity’ within UN health agency for emergency response

INTERNATIONAL – Independent experts tasked to assess the World Health Organization’s (WHO) response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa said “at present, WHO does not have the operational capacity or culture to deliver a full emergency public health response” and urged investments by its member States to make it fit for purpose.

“Now is the historic political moment for world leaders to give WHO new relevance and empower it to lead in global health,” said the panel’sfirst report, commissioned by WHO’s Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan and shared today with member States in advance of next week’s World Health Assembly, the world’s highest-level health setting body.

“A strengthened, well-funded WHO can support all countries as they prepare to meet the challenges of increasing global interdependence and shared vulnerability,” the report said. “In response, the [WHO] Secretariat needs to take serious steps to earn this leadership role in relation to outbreaks and emergency response and to regain the trust of the international community.”

The panel will present its final report after visiting and consulting with the affected countries, currently set for June 2015.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jašarevic told theUN News Centrethat the agency appreciated the work done by the panel to have the report ready ahead of the World Health Assembly so that member States could assess the committee’s findings and make recommendations based on those findings.

“We can then take forward the recommendations endorsed by our member States,” Mr. Jašarevic said.

The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak on record, and to date has affected more than 26,000 people including over 11,000 deaths, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Retracing the timeline of the epidemic, the report said that “although WHO drew attention to the ‘unprecedented outbreak’ at a press conference in April 2014, this was not followed by international mobilization and a consistent communication strategy.”

“The countries most affected, other WHO Member States, the WHO Secretariat, and the wider global community were all “behind the curve” of the rapid spread of the Ebola virus,” it said.

“Further, in this emergency, before August 2014 WHO did not appropriately seek support from other United Nations agencies and humanitarian actors in the United Nations Inter-Agency Standing Committee system,” it said. “ At an earlier stage these resources could have been made available and known systems put in place; these might have averted the crisis that led to the need to establish the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).”

And “given WHO’s extensive experience with outbreaks, health promotion and social mobilization,” the panel noted, “it is surprising that it took until August or September 2014 to recognize that Ebola transmission would be brought under control only when surveillance, community mobilization and the delivery of appropriate health care to affected communities were all put in place simultaneously.”

The panel, chaired by Barbara Stocking, President of Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge of the United Kingdom and former chief executive of Oxfam GB, concluded that “there is a strong, if not complete, consensus that WHO does not have a robust emergency operations capacity or culture.”

The report says that each global health crisis has shown the tragic consequences, including those in the social and economic spheres, of the failure of countries to invest in global public goods for health. Those failures are then mirrored as weaknesses in WHO, as the agency suffers from a lack of political and financial commitment by its Member States despite the global health risks they face.

“The Ebola outbreak might have looked very different had the same political will and significant resources that were spent in responding to it been made available to member States and the WHO Secretariat over the past five years in order to support three key areas of action: ensuring global health preparedness at country level in implementing the International Health Regulations (2005); supporting countries to establish or strengthen primary health care systems; and developing diagnostics, vaccines, and medicines for neglected tropical diseases.”

Turning to the number of options that have been suggested by different organizations and individuals regarding the way forward for WHO, the report listed three: a new agency should be established for health emergencies; the emergency part of the health response should be led by another United Nations agency; or investments should be made so that the operational capacity of WHO for emergency response is fully in place.

The panel said it recommends that the third option “be pursued with vigour.”

“As WHO already has the mandate to deliver on operational response, it would be a far more effective and efficient use of resources to make WHO fit for purpose,” the report concluded. “This will require the resources and political will of the Member States.”

In addition to Ms. Stocking, the other members of the panel are: Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfun, Director-General of the National Institute for Biomedical Research, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Dr Faisal Shuaib, Head of the National Ebola Emergency Operations Center, Nigeria; Dr Carmencita Alberto-Banatin, independent consultant and advisor on health emergencies and disasters, Philippines; Professor Julio Frenk, Dean of the Faculty, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts; and Professor Ilona Kickbusch, Director of the Global Health Programme at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland.

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Yemen conflict is taking 'dreadful toll' on civilians – UN top relief official

INTERNATIONAL – The conflict in Yemen is taking a dreadful toll on civilians, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for the country has warned, as he also expressed deep concern over yesterday's airstrikes on the city of Sa'ada, where scores of civilians were reportedly killed.

“Many civilians are effectively trapped in Sa'ada as they are unable to access transport because of the fuel shortage,” Johannes van der Klaauw said in a statement released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Mr. van der Klaauw said that thousands of more civilians were forced to flee their homes after the coalition declared the entire governorate in Sa'ada a military target.

“The targeting of an entire governorate will put countless civilians at risk,” the humanitarian coordinator warned, saying that the indiscriminate bombing of populated areas, with or without prior warning, is in contravention of international humanitarian law (IHL).

Communities across Yemen are being impacted by the conflict and shortage of basic commodities, he said, urging the international community to “redouble our efforts to stop the fighting and to save lives.”

“The impact on civilian infrastructure across Yemen has been devastating. Many Yemenis are now deprived of access to basic services, including medical treatment, food, water and other necessities. Conflict continues to rage across the country, putting men, women and children from all of Yemen's communities at risk,” Mr. van der Klaauw said.

Since the Yemen conflict erupted in mid-March 2015, over 1,400 people have been killed and close to 6,000 people injured, roughly half of whom have been civilians. Civilians across the border in Saudi Arabia's frontier towns have been caught up in the fighting as well.

He reiterated that under international law, all parties to the conflict must strive to avoid inflicting harm upon civilians, and must comply with the fundamental principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. These obligations are binding on all those taking part in the hostilities, including coalition forces, the Yemeni armed forces and non-state armed groups. Issuing warnings of impeding attacks does not absolve the parties of their IHL obligations to protect civilians from harm.

“I call upon all parties to the conflict to observe their duty to protect civilians. I further call on parties to the conflict to avoid locating military personnel and assets in densely populated areas, thereby endangering civilians,” Mr. van der Klaauw said.

All parties must avoid using populated areas as launching grounds for attacks, he added.

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In Russia for 'Victory Day', Global community chief meets with President Putin on world issues

INTERNATIONAL –Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon, in Russia for 'Victory Day' marking 70 years since the end of the Second World War in Europe and the sacrifice made by millions, met for discussions with President Vladimir Putin on world issues from the conflict in Ukraine to enhancing cooperation to tackle climate change.

“The Secretary-General and President Putin discussed in depth the way forward on Ukraine,”saida statement from Mr. Ban's spokesman's office.

Both agreed that full and good faith implementation by all sides of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk agreements presented the best opportunity to bring forth a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Mr. Ban and President Putin also exchanged views on UN engagement toward this end, the statement said.

“They also discussed the political process on Syria, Russia's contribution to peacekeeping and climate change,” the note added.

The Secretary-General also expressed his appreciation for the invitation to attend today's celebrations.

Also with the Secretary-General were Irina Bokova, Director-General at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.

While in Moscow, Mr. Ban alsometwith the President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades. The UN chief said he welcomed the “new optimism” about the resumption of negotiations aimed at achieving a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus.

“The Secretary-General and the President also exchanged views on climate change ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris, France in December 2015.”

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