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USA: Rights experts call for reforms to end police brutality, systemic racism

Affected communities must be included in shaping these reforms, which include diverting funding from policing to alternate safety measures, they added. 

“We have repeatedly raised our concerns about the excessive force used by American police in the context of peaceful demonstrations, and the use of lethal force against individuals who did not present a threat to life at the time of the police intervention”, the experts said in a statement. 

“In this time of political change, the United States must initiate far-reaching reforms to address police brutality and systemic racism.” 

Excessive force used 

African American communities have long decried police brutality and racial profiling. 

The issue gained global attention last year when protests broke out across the US, some of them violent, following the death of George Floyd, the unarmed African American man whose death while in police custody was captured on video. 

The rights experts welcomed a recent report on protest response in the city of Philadelphia which found authorities failed to sufficiently plan for the demonstrations and that excessive force had been used. 

They urged other municipalities to assess their response and allegations of systemic racism. 

“In Philadelphia, as in other parts of the country where Black Lives Matter protests took place, law enforcement interventions were not limited to areas where lootings and vandalism had allegedly occurred”, they said. “Police officers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and used pepper spray from close range against protesters, residents and bystanders indiscriminately. Tear gas canisters even landed in home yards hurting children.” 

 Revise laws on use of lethal force 

The experts were also concerned that law enforcement officers in the US are allowed to use lethal force whenever it is deemed “reasonable”. They called for relevant legal and policy frameworks to be revised urgently to reflect established international human rights standards. 

“The use of potentially lethal force is an extreme measure, which may be resorted to only when strictly necessary to protect life or prevent serious injury from an imminent threat”, they said. “Likewise, less lethal weapons must be employed only subject to strict requirements of necessity and proportionality, in situations where less harmful measures would be ineffective.” 

Relatedly, they called for reform of laws and policies regarding the use of tear gas, pepper spray and other “so-called less-lethal weapons” during protests. 

“The expanding and improperly regulated use of less-lethal weapons raise serious and dramatic concerns for the respect of the right to life and the right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment”, the experts said. “They can kill and have killed; they can harm and wound horribly, leading to permanent disability.”  

Against ‘militarisation’ of policing 

Noting the increased “militarisation” of policing, the experts said the use of military equipment by law enforcement cannot be justified, adding that studies show military gear and armored vehicles do not reduce crime or increase officers’ safety. 

With misdemeanours accounting for some 80 per cent arrests in the US, the rights experts said reducing “unnecessary interactions” between the police and community members would lead to decreased violence and deaths. 

“We have witnessed many police killings that have resulted from police action related to petty offences. Instead, non-serious offenses, including minor traffic violations, should be addressed through mechanisms outside the criminal legal system”, they recommended. 

The experts said ensuring equality and justice in law enforcement will require the participation of affected communities, who must be involved in shaping policing and related reforms. 

 “Policing reforms must adopt genuine and substantive measures to dismantle systemic racism in policing, including against racial, ethnic and other minorities, by divestment from current policing budgets and reinvestment in alternative social and economic resources that are vital for the safety of these communities”, they stated. 

“We hope that the new US administration will be able to pursue the necessary reforms with resolve, determination, and a strong political and financial commitment.” 

The role of UN experts 

The 18 experts who issued the statement were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on specific thematic issues.  They include members of a Working Group studying racial discrimination faced by people of African descent globally. 

The experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid by the Organization. 

In Yemen’s man-made catastrophe, women and girls pay the price

Abia – whose name we have changed for her privacy and protection – was worried, too. 

Since I got pregnant, I had been living in constant fear…

“Since I got pregnant, I had been living in constant fear”, she told workers from the UN sexual and reproductive health agency UNFPA. “I heard of many girls in my village losing their lives and their babies giving birth at my age.” 

Escalating hostilities had forced her family to flee from the contested major southern city of Taizz, to the camp. There, Abia said, “we could not afford to travel to a hospital, and did we not know where we could find one.” 

Those concerns were well founded: When Abia went into labour, she began bleeding profusely. 

Childbirth or death sentence? 

© UNFPA Yemen | Midwife Lena Al-Shurmani holds Abia’s newborn baby shortly after delivery.​

Six years of relentless conflict have made Yemen the site of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. More than 20 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. 

The health system hangs together by a thread; only about half of all health facilities in Yemen are functional, and of those still operating, only 20 per cent provide maternal and child health services. A woman dies in childbirth every two hours, says UNFPA. 

The country’s looming famine could make things worse. Already, more than a million pregnant and breastfeeding women are acutely malnourished, a number likely to double as food insecurity rises. 

High-level pledging conference 

Yet life-saving humanitarian aid has been chronically underfunded. 

In 2020, more than 80 of the 180 UNFPA-supported health facilities closed due to funding gaps, causing more than 1 million women to lose access to critical care and safe childbirth. Preventable maternal deaths have been documented in districts where these facilities have been closed.  

On 1 March, the governments of Sweden and Switzerland and the United Nations are convening a virtual high-level pledging event for the humanitarian crisis. UNFPA is appealing for more than for $100 million to provide reproductive healthcare as well as services for survivors of violence and emergency relief through to the end of 2021. 

A stroke of luck 

In the end, Abia was lucky. 

After she began to haemorrhage during labour, her husband rushed to find Ms. Al-Shurmani. The midwife arrived at Abia’s side around 2AM in the morning. 

© UNFPA Yemen | The maternal health and protection needs of women and girls greatly outstrip available resources.​​​

“She lost consciousness many times during the delivery. I really feared for her life,” Ms. Al-Shurmani recalled. 

Fortunately, she was able to get the bleeding under control. 

Abia survived, and she delivered a healthy baby girl. “I am very grateful to the midwife,” she said later. “She travelled far in the middle of the night to save my life and my baby.” 

Last year, despite the tremendous funding shortfall, UNFPA was able to reach three million people with life-saving reproductive health and women’s protection services.  

Those efforts were supported by Canada, the Central Emergency Response Fund, the European Union Humanitarian, Iceland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the Yemen Humanitarian Fund. 

Gender-based violence, child marriage 

Those services are only possible through the extraordinary efforts of women like Ms. Al-Shurmani. Trained by UNFPA to identify and assist survivors of gender-based violence, she works on an outreach team providing health services, psychosocial care and other support. 

“My work targets the most vulnerable and poor displaced families who live in camps and spontaneous settlements, especially as they are unable to reach health services”, she explained. 

Her work is often gruelling. “One of the main challenges I face is going out at night without a means of transportation, which forces me to walk with my companions on foot.” 

Emotional toll 

The job takes an emotional toll, as well. Ms. Al-Shurani has seen the vulnerabilities of women and girls increase dramatically. Child marriage rates are also rising as families struggle with poverty and insecurity. A recent UNFPA study across three governorates showed that one in five displaced girls, aged 10 to 19, were married. Among host communities, this number was one in eight. 

We not only need funding to sustain services but we urgently need to scale up to save the lives of women and girls…

Abia was one of those girls – she was married off a little over a year ago, at age 14. Ms. Al-Shurmani’s outreach team was able to provide her with psychosocial care, warm clothing, and referrals to emergency food and cash assistance.  

Tragically, that outreach team is the last one still in operation. Three other UNFPA-supported outreach teams in Ibb and Taizz have stopped providing services due to funding shortages. 

Some 350,000 women lost access to gender-based violence services in 2020, following the closure of 12 UNFPA-supported safe spaces. An estimated 6.1 million women and girls are in need of such services. 

“We not only need funding to sustain services but we urgently need to scale up to save the lives of women and girls,” said Nestor Owomuhangi, UNFPA’s Representative in Yemen. 

UN envoy: Democratic processes ‘pushed aside’ in Myanmar, as Ambassador denounces coup

Speaking at an informal General Assembly meeting on the Myanmar crisis, Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener said, “I told you in 2019 that I would sound the alarm if necessary…This is now the case”. 

‘Fragile and fluid’ situation 

The situation in Myanmar is “fragile and fluid”, the UN envoy said, calling it “a people’s fight without arms”.  

Ms. Schraner Burgener strongly condemned the military’s “recent steps” and urged the Ambassadors to “collectively send a clear signal” supporting democracy. 

She underscored the urgency in helping to lay the foundations of a “pluralistic democracy”, balanced with the complex domestic challenges of the civilian leadership.  

“I have tried again and again to explain the complex situation, namely that the army holds the real power”, the UN envoy said. “Genuine democracy requires civilian control over the military”. 

Reject regime 

Noting that “the takeover has not stabilized”, the UN official upheld that the international community must “not lend legitimacy or recognition to this regime”. 

She labeled it a “coup”, calling the military takeover and declaration of the state of emergency “a clear violation of the constitution regardless of what they claim”.  

Recalling that the National League for Democracy (NLD) had won the November election with 82 per cent of the vote, Ms. Schraner Burgener emphasized: “There is no justification for the military’s actions, and we must continue to call for the reversal of this impermissible situation, exhausting all collective and bilateral channels to restore Myanmar’s path on democratic reform”. 

Myanmar ambassador denounces ‘coup’

Responding to the envoy, Myanmar’s Ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, announced that he was representing not the military leadership, but the NLD, saying he was speaking instead, for the democratically-elected parliamentarians of the country. 

Denouncing the coup, he said that the continued and strong support for the people, was “imperative”, and appealed for all Member States and the UN, to condemn the takeover, and take “all strongest possible measures to stop the violent and brutal acts committed by the security forces against peaceful demonstrators, and end the military coup immediately”.

His voice breaking in the General Assembly Hall, he gave the three-fingered salute adopted by protesters in Myanmar.

The Ambassador said he would join those continuing “to fight for a government which is of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

‘Egregious’ violations 

Although the Secretary-General had called on Myanmar’s military and police to ensure the right of peaceful assembly, hundreds of people are being detained without charges or fair trial proceedings, leaving frantic families unable to locate or contact them, according to the UN envoy. 

“Ongoing violence, intimidation and harassment by security personnel, and deliberate acts to create insecurity and instability, as well as the enactment of draconian laws which deprive people of their basic human rights, some of which are also in violation of their own Constitution, are egregious”, she said. 

Among other grievances, Ms. Schraner Burgener pointed to the release of some 23,000 prisoners associated with political murders as “regretful”, and the ensuing chaos as a lost opportunity for an inclusive response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ongoing violence, intimidation and harassment by security personnel… are egregious — UN envoy

Collective responsibility 

With her “unique access to key stakeholders”, the UN official has directly relayed international concerns, advocated for dialogue and requested a country visit in which she meets with detained government leaders, which was rejected.  

“It seems they want to continue making large-scale arrests and have been coercing people to testify against the NLD Government”, she said. “This is cruel and inhumane”.  

Ms. Schraner Burgener urged influential Member States to step up, saying they have “a collective responsibility towards the people of Myanmar and safeguard their democratic aspirations”. 

“Clearly, regional engagement is needed on all fronts”. 

If there is any escalation in terms of military brutality against people exercising their basic rights, “let us act swiftly and collectively”, the UN envoy said. 

End the crackdown, urge rights experts 

At the same time, independent UN human rights experts called on the military to end the violent crackdown on peaceful protests. 

“The people of Myanmar have the right to protest peacefully and express their discontent with the military coup”, the experts said. “We call on the military to refrain from using force against peaceful protests, stop using live bullets against protesters immediately and respect their right to peaceful protest”. 

The experts also spoke against the arbitrary detention and harassment of those voicing their dissent or organizing and participating in peaceful protests as well as the journalists covering the events.  

“Deliberate attacks on journalists and their arbitrary detention are serious violations of international human rights law and must immediately stop.” 

Worrying measures 

The experts noted “a worrying series of regulatory measures” that would entrench military control over internet information and strip individuals of their human rights. 

“These vague and overly broad provisions would give the military unfettered power to censor dissenting voices on social media, disrupt the internet at will and access user information with no restraint or regard for their right to privacy”, they said. 

The experts urged the military to restore democratic institutions and ensure the release of all those detained for exercising their human rights. 

“We warn the military junta that those who are responsible for repression and killing of peaceful protesters as well as the detention of government officials and journalists will be held accountable before international jurisdictions”, the experts said. 

Independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific country situation. The experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work. 

Click here for names of the experts.

Côte d'Ivoire takes delivery of latest COVAX vaccine shipment, in further boost for Africa

The delivery of AstraZeneca/Oxford jabs, following the first historic shipment to Ghana earlier this week, showcases an unprecedented international parternship to provide at least two billion doses of coronavirus shots by the end of this year.

The vaccine doses were shipped by UNICEF from the Indian metropolis of Mumbai, via its regional supply centre, Dubai, to Côte d’Ivoire’s capital, Abidjan, as part of the first wave of vaccines headed to several low and middle income countries.

Equitable shots

“Today is an important first step towards achieving our shared vision of vaccine equity, but it is only the beginning”, said Jean-Marie Vianney Yameogo, the WHO Representative in Côte d’Ivoire, adding that “we are proud that Côte d’Ivoire is among the first countries in Africa to receive the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine through the COVAX Facility.”

As the COVID-19 global pandemic has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and disrupted billions more, Mr. Yameogo stressed the importance of reducing deaths and bringing the pandemic under control. The vaccine will also help prevent estimated monthly losses of around $375 billion to the global economy.

“Global and equitable access to a vaccine, which will protect health workers and those at greatest risk of contracting the disease in particular, is the only way to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on public health and the economy,” underscored Mr. Yameogo.

Moving forward

Meanwhile, UNICEF and its partners are working together to help more countries prepare for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

“Vaccines save lives. As health workers and other front-line staff are vaccinated, we will see a gradual return to normality… especially for children”, said Marc Vincent, the UNICEF Representative in Côte d’Ivoire.

“In the spirit of universal health coverage, we must leave no one behind”, he stressed.

UN climate report a ‘red alert’ for the planet: Guterres

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s Initial NDC Synthesis Report measures the progress of national climate action plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs, ahead of the 26th session of Conference of its Parties (COP26) this November in Glasgow. 

It found that even with increased efforts by some countries, the combined impact falls far short of what is needed. 

“Today’s interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet. It shows governments are nowhere close to the level of ambition needed to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement”, Secretary-General António Guterres said on the report’s findings. 

2021, a ‘make or break’ year 

He said 2021 is a “make or break year” to confront the global climate emergency.  

“The science is clear, to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we must cut global emission by 45 per cent by 2030, from 2010 levels”, he stressed. 

The Secretary-General called on major emitters to “step up with much more ambitious emissions reductions” targets for 2030 in their NDCs, highlighting that COVID-19 recovery plans offered the opportunity to “build back greener and cleaner”. 

“Decision makers must walk the talk. Long-term commitments must be matched by immediate actions to launch the decade of transformation that people and planet so desperately need”, Mr. Guterres urged. 

Report, a ‘snapshot, not a full picture’ 

The UNFCCC report covered submissions from countries up to 31 December 2020, showing that 75 Parties to the Framework Convention communicated a new or updated NDC, representing approximately 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, said that the report is a “snapshot, not a full picture” of the NDCs as COVID-19 posed significant challenges for many nations to complete their submissions in 2020.  

She added that a second report will be released prior to COP26, and called on all countries, especially major emitters that have not yet done so, to make their submissions as soon as possible, so that their information can be included in the updated report. 

“We congratulate Parties that rose to the challenges posed by COVID-19 in 2020, honoured their commitments under the Paris Agreement and submitted their NDCs by the deadline … but it’s time for all remaining Parties to step up, fulfil what they promised to do and submit their NDCs as soon as possible”, Ms. Espinosa said. 

“If this task was urgent before, it’s crucial now.” 

WHO-backed policy brief calls for action to address ‘long COVID’

The document summarizes what is known so far about “long COVID” and how countries are addressing the condition, whose troubling symptoms include severe fatigue and increased damage to the heart, lungs and brain. 

The policy brief was published by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Europe and the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. 

Struggling to be taken seriously 

Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO’s Regional Director, said long COVID is an extra cause for concern amid the pandemic, which has already caused immense suffering. 

“It’s important that patients reporting with symptoms of long COVID are included as part of the COVID-19 response to mitigate some of the longer-term health impacts of the pandemic”, he said. 

Long COVID is not fully understood, but available data indicate that roughly a quarter of people suffer from symptoms four to five weeks after testing positive for the coronavirus, and about one in 10 still experiences symptoms after 12 weeks. 

Patients, who include medical professionals, struggle to be taken seriously.  They report feeling stigmatized and unable to get a diagnosis, receiving “disjointed” care, while also facing problems in accessing health and disability benefits. 

Involve patients in research and response 

The policy brief highlights areas for action, including through developing “new care pathways”, creating appropriate services, and tackling wider consequences such as employment rights, sick pay policies and access to disability benefits.  

Coronavirus Portal & News Updates

Readers can find information and guidance on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from the UN, World Health Organization and UN agencies here. For daily news updates from UN News, click here.

Patient registers and other surveillance measures should be implemented, and research into post-COVID conditions must be conducted in collaboration with patients and care providers. 

 “Long COVID has demonstrated the importance of involving patients in research”, said Dr. Selina Rajan, lead author of the policy brief.  

“However, much remains to be understood about the long-term, multisystem consequences of COVID-19 infections in children and adults, and the interventions required to treat them.”

South Sudan: UN agencies support nationwide polio vaccination campaign

An outbreak of the life-threatening disease, which mainly affects children under five, was first declared last September and has spread to 17 counties in all states in the country, with 39 cases of vaccine-derived polio confirmed.   

The campaign began in November and rollout of the second phase started on 16 February.  Workers have been going from house to house to inoculate children with the oral polio vaccine, while adhering to COVID-19 protocols. 

Stop the outbreak, support routine immunization 

WHO and partners are supporting the Ministry of Health with the nationwide initiative in a country where widespread displacement due to ongoing conflict and insecurity, as well as perennial flooding, have led to low rates of immunization, making children more vulnerable to polio. 

While vaccine-derived polio is rare, it can occur when the weakened live virus used in the oral polio vaccine passes through populations where immunization rates are low and sanitation is inadequate.

Dr. Atem Nathan, Director General for Primary Health Care at the Ministry, said the goal is not only to stop the outbreak but to ensure South Sudan remains polio-free while improving routine immunization coverage. 

“I am encouraging all caregivers to allow their children to be vaccinated by the house-to-house teams”, he said. 

To stop the outbreak and prevent further spread, the Ministry, together with WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and partners are stepping up surveillance in the search for children who may have developed sudden paralysis. 

Strengthening surveillance, increasing outreach 

They are also strengthening investigation and timely transport of test samples. 

“The campaign provides an opportunity for the vulnerable children to receive critical interventions that can avert life-threatening disease such as disability from poliomyelitis”, said Dr Olushayo Olu, WHO Representative for South Sudan. 

Outreach has also been intensified through diverse channels such as community influencers, radio talk shows, household and focused group meetings, megaphone announcements, and through posters demonstrating the importance of vaccination. 

“To turn this vaccination campaign into a success, we need to ensure that parents are fully aware of the importance of the vaccination and ask for their children to get the vaccine. Therefore, communication activities are critical”, said Andrea Suley, UNICEF’s interim Representative in the country.

Financial transparency, 'sound governance and accountability’ essential to reach Global Goals

“As an international community committed to addressing inequality and advancing sustainable development, we must put in place the very principles of transparency, sound governance, and accountability that we so often champion”, Volkan Bozkir said at the release of the Report of the High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda (FACTI). 

Putting sound principles in place 

In the Financial Integrity for Sustainable Development report, the FACTI Panel recommends that governments finance critical action on extreme poverty, COVID-19 and the climate crisis by recovering billions of dollars lost through tax abuse, corruption and money-laundering. 

“Developing countries could not afford to lose resources during the best of times and they certainly cannot afford to now, in the midst of the COVID crisis”, attested the Assembly President.  

Noting that as much as 2.7 per cent of the global GDP is laundered annually, the FACTI Panel is calling on governments to agree to a Global Pact for Financial Integrity for Sustainable Development. 

Making the case 

Pointing out that corporations shopping for tax-free jurisdictions cost governments up to $600 billion a year, the Panel flagged the need for stronger laws and institutions to prevent corruption and money laundering and advocated for those enabling financial crimes to face punitive sanctions. 

The report also calls for greater transparency around company ownership, public spending and stronger international cooperation to prosecute bribery and to increase tax levels on giant digital corporations. 

“A corrupt and failing financial system robs the poor and deprives the whole world of the resources needed to eradicate poverty, recover from COVID and tackle the climate crisis”, said FACTI co-chair and former president of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė. 

Ibrahim Mayaki, FACTI co-chair and former prime minister of Niger, added that “closing loopholes that allow money laundering, corruption and tax abuse…are steps in transforming the global economy for the universal good”. 

Cutting tax avoidance 

At a time when billionaires’ wealth soared by 27.5 per cent and COVID-19 has pushed 131 million into poverty, the report notes that a tenth of the world’s wealth could be hidden in offshore financial assets – preventing governments from collecting their fair share of taxes.  

Recovering annual loss to tax avoidance and evasion would, for example, allow Bangladesh to expand its social safety net to nine million more elderly, permit Chad to pay for 38,000 classrooms, and enable Germany to build 8,000 wind turbines, according to the report 

Mr. Bozkir welcomed the Panel’s new system, which fosters financial “fairness, accountability and integrity” for sustainable development and expressed confidence that “if duly implemented” it can “advance progress towards achieving Agenda 2030”. 

“None of us stand to benefit from failure to act”, he attested. “The onus is on each of us to put in place a system of financial integrity for sustainable development” to free up resources that would otherwise be lost and build “trust in our international, national and local systems of governance, demonstrating transparency, accountability and the ability to deliver on the 2030 Agenda”.


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Syria: Economic decline, rising hunger and surging humanitarian needs

Citing “disturbing new food security data” published by the World Food Programme (WFP), Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock stated that some 60 per cent of the population “do not have regular access to enough safe and nutritious food”.  

“The increase may be shocking, but it cannot be said to be surprising”, he said via video link.  

‘Desperate measures’ 

The UN official told the Council that average household expenses now exceed income by an estimated 20 per cent, leaving millions to resort to “desperate measures” to survive. 

More than 70 per cent of Syrians say they have taken on new debt, and are forced to sell assets and livestock. Meanwhile, parents are eating less so they can feed their children, who are now working instead of studying.  

“Those who have run out of options are simply going hungry”, he spelled out, flagging that more than half a million under-fives are suffering from the effects of stunting. 

Looking north 

While these problems are visible in many parts of the country, Mr. Lowcock drew attention to the northwest and northeast, where nutrition data show that up to one in three children in some areas, suffer from the irreversible development and learning impacts of stunting. 

“A doctor at a pediatrics hospital told me that of his 80 in-patient beds, half are occupied by malnourished children”, five of whom had died due to their condition, he said. 

Meanwhile, malnutrition has become so normal that parents cannot spot the signs in their own children, another doctor told the relief chief. 

Cross-border assistance 

Some physicians shared their concerns that cross-border aid into Syria’s northwest may be disrupted, prompting Mr. Lowcock to stress the importance of humanitarian access. 

“All humanitarian assistance that enters northwest Syria is delivered cross-border” and supports 2.4 million people monthly, he said. Without it, “the situation would go from terrible to catastrophic”.  

“When it comes to delivering life-saving aid to people in need, all channels should be made, and should be kept, available”, the UN official said, echoing the Secretary-General.  

Should the Security Council fail to extend its authorization for cross-border assistance in the future, he warned that it would “trigger suffering and loss of life potentially on a very large scale”. 

Turning to the northeast, Mr. Lowcock informed ambassadors that recent tensions have caused temporary disruptions in emergency assistance for hundreds of thousands of people. 

While the UN has continued to scale up crossline medical deliveries there, expanding its reach is dependent on approvals, improved security conditions and adequate funding.  

Sixteen families live in a damaged school in Binish, a city in northwest Syria.

Protecting civilians 

He painted a picture of a series of “horrific bombings” that killed dozens and injured many others, a humanitarian worker killed while helping COVID-19-affected people on 16 February, and a hospital damaged when a missile struck an adjoining building,  

Every day, humanitarian workers in Syria deliver aid under the most difficult circumstances and at great personal risk, Mr. Lowcock said, spelling out: “They must be protected”. 

He informed the Council that the third draft of UN Strategic Framework for 2021-2023, which covers the UN country team’s agreed operational activities, is moving forward and noted those activities are complementary to the Humanitarian Response Plan “to save lives, enhance protection, and increase resilience and access to services”. 

“This is essential at a time when the economy continues to suffer severe decline, poverty and hunger are on the rise, and humanitarian needs are also increasing”, he concluded.

UN agencies begin registering asylum seekers at US-Mexico border

According to the agencies involved, an initial group could be allowed to enter the US this week, pending approval by authorities there. 

In a joint news release, the UN agencies said that the US and Mexican governments prioritized the Matamoros camp due to the difficult humanitarian conditions there.  

Other individuals with active MPP cases living outside the Matamoros camp will also be processed, they added. 

An estimated 25,000 applicants being processed in the US, were returned to Mexico under the policy known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). After the policy was terminated, a first group with active MPP cases entered the US on 19 February at the San Ysidro port of entry between Tijuana (Mexico) and San Diego (US). 

UN support 

The UN agencies involved in the exercise – the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) – are conducting in-person registrations, ensuring humane treatment of children and their families, and carrying out COVID-19 tests. 

So far, no cases of COVID-19 have been detected. 

In coordination with US authorities, UNHCR launched a website on 19 February for people with active MPP cases to pre-register. About 12,000 people signed up in the first three days of operation. The website is supplemented by alternative registration channels including email, social media, and telephone. 

Similarly, in addition to conducting COVID-19 testing, IOM is coordinating transportation to the designated ports of entry. UNICEF is offering support for the most vulnerable child protection cases, and providing information to families and children. 

Similarly, partner organizations the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Mexican Red Cross are offering free telephone calls to allow asylum-seekers to maintain contact with their families before crossing into the US.  

Order determined by US authorities 

The UN agencies also noted that according to the new US policy, all persons with active cases under the MPP programme will be able to enter the country to continue their immigration proceedings and lodge asylum claims.  

They clarified that the dates and points of entry to the United States for persons who have already completed registration are determined by the US government. 

“All individuals who qualify will be processed based upon the order determined by the US and not based on the date when they pre-register with UNHCR using the website or the hotline”, they added. 

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