• English

UN space agency vigilant over threat posed by ‘near-Earth objects’

NEOs are asteroids or comets that come relatively close to the Sun, to about 50 million kilometres from Earth’s orbit. Some of them, ‘potentially hazardous objects’ (PHOs), come even closer – in interstellar terms – with a minimum distance of less than 7.5 million kilometres.

Measuring more than 140 meters across, the PHOs have the potential to cause regional devastation with possible global consequences

Do look up

Even smaller objects can still cause significant, although localized, damage. The object responsible for the Tunguska event on 30 June 1908 over Siberia, is believed to have been up to 60 metres in diameter.

The largest asteroid impact event in recorded history, it was chosen in 2017 as a fitting anniversary to commemorate International Asteroid Day.  

Even smaller NEOs can be hazardous, damaging buildings and injuring people. On 15 February 2013, a large fireball approximately 20 meters across disintegrated in the skies over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

Tweet URL

According to US Space Administration (NASA), the explosion released the energy equivalent of around 440,000 tons of TNT and generated a shock wave that blew out windows and even damaged buildings. Over 1,600 people were injured in the blast, mostly due to shattered glass.

The majority of such objects originate from the inner part of the Solar System’s main asteroid belt. They form under the gravitational influence of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars, and because of collisions between larger space bodies. 

Warning network

UNOOSA, whose experts have been tracking NEOs for many years, insist that such a global issue merits a robust international response. Addressing the hazard, however much it sounds like a page out of a sci-fi playbook, includes identifying threats, and coming up with some solutions.

As a result, the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) were established to coordinate global planetary defence.

While the task of IAWN is to provide Member States with comprehensive communication plans and protocols to help take educated decisions in case of an asteroid impact, the SMPAG acts as an inter-space agency forum that selects technologies needed for NEO deflection and helps reach consensus on planetary defence measures.

In practical terms this means that should there be a credible impact threat, IAWN would issue an alert.

If the object is larger than 50 metres and the probability of impact exceeds one percent within the next 50 years, SMPAG would evaluate mitigation options and come up with an implementation plan.

UNOOSA’s ultimate aim is to protect the Earth and humankind from the devastating impact of asteroids and International Asteroid Day has over years grown into a global educational campaign to help do just that. 

If you want to know more about how UNOOSA is working to stop sci-fi Armageddon from becoming a reality, you can find more details on Near-Earth Objects and Planetary Defence, here.

UN agencies head up new $115 million push for cleaner, healthier oceans

FAO will co-lead the Clean and Healthy Oceans initiative together with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), in a strategic partnership with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the UN educational, science and cultural agency UNESCO.

“Together, we can turn the tide on pollution for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life,” said FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu.

The source-to-sea initiative will direct up to $115 million in grants to clean up coastal areas and was signed off at the 64th Council Meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). 

Coastal activities such as seaweed harvesting  in Zanzibar, Tanzania, can be heavily impacted by pollution.
© Des Bowden

Coastal activities such as seaweed harvesting in Zanzibar, Tanzania, can be heavily impacted by pollution.

Solutions for ‘dead zones’

Oceans have lost nearly two per cent of their oxygen since the 1950s, resulting in “dead zones,” which don’t have enough oxygen to sustain living tissue. Pollution from land-based sources, including the overuse of fertilizer, organic waste from livestock, and untreated wastewater, typically drive hypoxia worldwide. 

Tweet URL

“Oceans face serious sustainability problems, mostly caused, and accelerated by climate change, such as increasingly acidic and warmer waters, rising sea levels and overexploitation of marine stocks”, said Executive President of CAF, Sergio Díaz-Granados.

“This financing reaffirms the multilateral commitment to lead the fight against climate change and promote the development of the blue economy,” 

Through long-term hypoxia, coral reefs may experience mass mortality, while valuable coastal fish species migrate to higher oxygen areas, and marine reproduction rates plummet. 

Protecting human and ocean health 

The Clean and Healthy Oceans strategy aims to curb land-based pollution of our oceans through policy and regulatory innovation, infrastructure investments, and nature-based solutions.

The programme will also map land-based sources of ocean pollution to better understand hypoxia effects and apply ocean science to develop solutions that improve both human and ocean health.

“This partnership leverages the strengths and expertise of each organization, ensuring a comprehensive approach to safeguarding marine ecosystems. Working together, in the spirit of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, we will make a step towards the ocean we need for the future we want,” added IOC-UNESCO Executive Secretary, Vladimir Ryabinin.

INTERVIEW: Policing one of the world’s ‘biggest drug trafficking corridors’

The effort is centred on the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos meet and from where illicit items including drugs are trafficked to lucrative markets across Southeast Asia.

UN News spoke with Jeremy Douglas, the Regional Representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, on a mission to the border area.

Jeremy Douglas, UNODC’s Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, at the Golden Triangle in Thailand.
UN News/Runa A

Jeremy Douglas, UNODC’s Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, at the Golden Triangle in Thailand.

Jeremy Douglas: I’m standing in northern Thailand, in the Golden Triangle, with Laos and Myanmar directly behind me on the banks of the Mekong River. It’s one of the biggest drug trafficking corridors in the world. In Shan state, Myanmar, there is the major production of heroin and opium, but also synthetic drugs like methamphetamine which are spilling out across the region and feeding the whole of the Asia Pacific [region], basically from Japan all the way down to New Zealand and everywhere in between.

There are complex governance issues inside Myanmar with a lot of fragmented groups controlling different territories. Drug production is happening in these often very remote areas where the borders are open and porous; it’s really easy to traffic items in and out of Myanmar, so that poses challenges for its neighbours.

UN News: How is the drug trade evolving in this region?

Jeremy Douglas: What we’ve seen over the past decade and really pronounced over the last three to four years is a drop off in traditional plant-based drugs. There has been a slight resurgence in opium since the military takeover in Myanmar, as farmers are returning to cultivating the drug after losing other livelihood generating activities. Nonetheless, we see a downward trend overall in terms of plant-based drugs.

We also see a huge surge in synthetic drugs produced by organized crime networks, which have migrated their operations from other parts of the region because they can operate with relative impunity. They have invested in building big drug producing facilities.

UN News: What type of new response does this require?

Jeremy Douglas: It requires that governments cooperate at various levels, especially frontline cooperation at the borders where the trafficking is taking place. This means sharing information and conducting joint operations to stop the delivery into Myanmar of chemicals needed to manufacture synthetic drugs and to prevent the trade of hundreds of tons of drugs the other way. 

You also need to deal with the business of organized crime, including money laundering and all the other nasty elements that are associated with trafficking of a range of different items, including wildlife products, arms, and even human trafficking.

Goods are loaded onto a boat in Laos to be transported across the Mekong river to Thailand.
UN News/Daniel Dickinson

Goods are loaded onto a boat in Laos to be transported across the Mekong river to Thailand.

UN News: How important is that collaboration?

Jeremy Douglas: Collaboration is fundamental, as transnational criminality is a shared responsibility. Coordination and cooperation are crucial, as a rapid response is often needed at these border points. This is why UNODC has supported the establishment of around 120 border liaison offices, or BLOs, across the region which allow law enforcement agencies to share information and take action.

This collaboration is working; our Thai colleagues have highlighted a number of cases of human trafficking, migrant smuggling as well as drugs, timber, and arms trafficking which they have disrupted with the help of colleagues in different BLOs.

In Laos, officers there have been the first to identify an emerging global trend. The chemicals used to make synthetic drugs are called precursors, and these are being trafficked into the illegal labs. Now our colleagues in Laos have uncovered the trafficking of so-called pre-precursors – chemicals that are used to make the precursors.

The Thai navy has been operating joint patrols in the Mekong region with counterparts from China, Laos, and Viet Nam.
UN News/Daniel Dickinson

The Thai navy has been operating joint patrols in the Mekong region with counterparts from China, Laos, and Viet Nam.

UN News: What are the challenges the BLOs face?

Jeremy Douglas: They need to be supported to evolve and adapt to a crime environment which does not remain static. Law enforcement officers need to understand the latest trends, to have the latest information, so they know what to expect and how to deal with it. 

Tweet URL

Crucially, these networks also need political support. It can be challenging for States to collaborate on these types of non-traditional security issues, as they are often viewed as very sensitive national issues. So that’s where the UN can step in and play a special role to help facilitate dialogue between States. 

The fact that governments and local law enforcement agencies are proactively sharing information is a great success and a credit to the UN.

UN News: How does illegal trafficking in this relatively small area connect with the bigger transnational, regional, and global organized crime context?

Jeremy Douglas: The organized crime trafficking organizations that dominate the Asia Pacific region, play a global role in the drug trade and other illicit activities. They look for safe havens where it is easier for them to do business and operate with impunity.  

They look for chaos, the lack of governance, porous borders, and this they can find in parts of the Golden Triangle. So really, it’s an organized crime haven.

UN News: How does the work that takes place here connect or affect people living in other parts of the world?

Jeremy Douglas: The drugs that are manufactured here make it as far as the Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan, so we see very powerful narcotics on the streets of Sydney or Tokyo that lead to addiction and all the destructive impact they have on individuals, families, and the broader society.

Synthetic drugs trafficked out of the Golden Triangle end up on the streets of Tokyo, Japan (pictured) and other markets in Southeast Asia.
© ADB/Richard Atrero de Guzman

Synthetic drugs trafficked out of the Golden Triangle end up on the streets of Tokyo, Japan (pictured) and other markets in Southeast Asia.

UN News: How transferable is this model that UNODC has established to other parts of the world?

Jeremy Douglas: It’s definitely a transferable concept. UNODC is working on a similar network in Central Asia and northern Africa. But, there are other places in the world, in Africa and in Latin America, which would really benefit from following the excellent model set here in Southeast Asia, for example, southern and Central Africa has substantial cross-border crime.

We see much more heroin in southeastern Africa, with heroin moving by sea into East Africa and then across land borders. And in Latin America, the cocaine trade is a cross-border transnational trade in which cocaine is passing through Ecuador, from the growing countries Colombia and Bolivia, and onwards to the Balkans in Europe. So, there’s much work to be done.

Quick facts on border liaison offices (BLOs)

  • Some 120 BLOs have been established across Southeast Asia.
  • BLOs are established in pairs – on either side of an international border crossing.
  • BLOs address myriad cross-border issues, including drug and precursor chemical trafficking, migrant smuggling, human trafficking, wildlife and forestry crime, and, in some locations, the movement of terrorist fighters alongside public health and pandemic-related matters.
  • The BLO network works to enhance relationships between the law enforcement and border communities, community policing efforts, and the role and leadership of women in law enforcement agencies.

Child health: More focus needed on earliest years, urges WHO

The report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Children’s Fund UNICEF find that the first years of a child’s life provide “irreplicable opportunities to improve lifelong health, nutrition and well-being” according to a press release.

It tracks progress against the global Nurturing care framework, which provides guidance on supporting the healthy physical, intellectual, and emotional development of young children.

Protecting development 

This framework promotes an integrated approach to early childhood development, covering nutrition, health, safety and security, early learning, and responsive caregiving as essential areas for interventions.

“Early childhood development provides a critical window to improve health and well-being across life with impacts that resonate even into the next generation,” said Dr. Anshu Banerjee, Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at WHO.

“While this report shows encouraging progress, greater investment is needed in these foundational early years so that children everywhere have the best possible start for a healthy life ahead.”

A child’s early experiences have a profound impact on their overall health and development.

They affect health, growth, learning, behaviour and, ultimately, adult social relationships, well-being, and earnings. The period from pregnancy to the age of three is when the brain develops fastest, with over 80 per cent of neural development happening during this time, said WHO.

Tweet URL

Expanding commitment 

According to the report, government efforts overall to boost early childhood development have increased since the framework was launched five years ago. 

Close to 50 per cent more countries have developed related policies or plans, and services have expanded. 

In a recent rapid survey, more than 80 per cent of responding countries reported training frontline workers to support families in providing early learning activities and responsive caregiving.

Children and caregivers

Increased investments are needed to scale up services and demonstrate impact, especially among vulnerable populations. Ensuring adequate support for children with developmental difficulties and addressing caregiver psychosocial wellbeing are also key, according to the report. 

“To improve the health of children, we must not only focus on meeting their immediate physical needs, but also ensure they are able to learn effectively, and develop positive, emotionally rewarding relations with people around them,” said Dr. Bernadette Daelmans, Head of Child Health and Development at WHO. 

Cohesive efforts are needed with dedicated financing, across a range of different sectors, the report notes, including health, education, sanitation, and protection services.

Family-friendly policies supporting equitable access to affordable, high-quality childcare are also important.

Syrians facing ‘ever worsening’ conditions, top UN officials warn

“The violence and suffering of the Syrian people remind us of what is at stake as diplomatic efforts continue on Syria,” said Najat Rochdi, UN Deputy Special Envoy for the country. “Ultimately, we need a nationwide ceasefire in line with Security Council resolution 2254.”

Worsening crisis

Briefing on current conditions, she said recent reports have tracked deadly drone attacks, shelling, terrorist attacks, and a spate of pro-Government airstrikes.

“Syrians face an ever-worsening humanitarian crisis,” she said.

Against this backdrop, Syrians still face massive displacement, an acute economic crisis, and the tragedy of the detained, disappeared, and missing, she said.

“All of these factors show us why it is so important for renewed diplomacy to translate into real solutions to meet the immediate concerns of the Syrian people, build some trust and confidence among the parties, and move forward towards a political solution,” she stressed.

“Syrians’ needs must be at the centre of our approach, and humanitarian action must be depoliticized,” she added.

Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefs the Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria.
UN Photo/Manuel Elías

Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefs the Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria.

Humanitarian update

Martin Griffiths, the UN Humanitarian Affairs chief and Emergency Relief Coordinator, echoed that call.

“Twelve years of conflict, economic collapse, and other factors have pushed 90 per cent of the population below the poverty line,” he said, adding that a recent visit to the Syrian capital of Damascus left him “with a greater sense of the profound humanitarian challenges but also the urgent opportunities facing Syria”.

Amid the ongoing violence, sharply rising food prices, recovery from the devastating earthquakes in February, and a spreading cholera outbreak, he said the humanitarian community’s “best chance” to improve the future of the Syrian people is further expanding early recovery activities.

Cross-border aid lifelines

Equally important is the Council’s 12-month renewal of its resolution on cross-border operations, which will improve humanitarian conditions, he said.

Tweet URL

Calling for increased international support, he said the UN and its partners currently “have limited means to help the most vulnerable people in Syria”, with the $5.4 billion UN humanitarian response plan less than 12 per cent funded. 

He said a $200 million deficit will force the World Food Programme (WFP) to slash by 40 per cent its emergency food aid to Syrians for next month.

“The humanitarian response in Syria is at a critical juncture, as is the future of Syria itself,” he said. “Considerable challenges are apparent, but so are important opportunities if we can leverage recovery funding, if we can continue to be present in northwest and northeast Syria, and if we can turn our attention to sectors which have such a central role in determining basic needs”, such as electricity and water.

“We can only address these issues if we can make our presence one of partnership and support to the people who suffered these many years,” he said.

Finding 100,000 missing Syrians

On Thursday afternoon, the UN General Assembly adopted a draft resolution to establish a first-of-its-kind institution that will work to reveal the fate of an estimated 100,000 people missing or forcibly disappeared in Syria.

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 83 in favour to 11 against, with 62 abstentions.

Ahead of the vote, Deputy Special Envoy Rochdi had told the Security Council that many of the families of the missing were looking to the world body’s vote today “with hope that a new entity dedicated to the issue of missing persons in Syria could bring some measure of relief” to those in and outside the country “who have been demanding their right to know the truth”.

Security Council extends UNDOF mandate

In other business, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Disengagement Force (UNDOF), established in 1974 to, among other things, maintain a ceasefire between Israel and Syria.

For more details on this and other meetings occurring throughout the UN system, visit our dedicated UN Meetings Coverage page.

‘The world is failing the Haitian people’ warns UNICEF chief

Briefing correspondents at UN Headquarters in New York just a few days after visiting Haiti along with the head of the World Food Programme (WFP), Catherine Russell said “the current situation of insecurity is unacceptable.

“Women and children are dying. Schools and public spaces should always be safe. Collectively the world is failing the Haitian people.”

‘Barely functional’

An estimated 5.2 million – close to half the population – need humanitarian support, including three million children.

Institutions and services children rely on “are barely functional” the Executive Director warned, while violent armed groups control more than 60 per cent of the capital Port au Prince, and parts of the country’s most fertile agricultural areas.

“Haitians and our team there tell me it’s never been worse” she said, with unprecedented malnutrition, grinding poverty, a crippled economy, and a continuing cholera outbreak.

All this “while flooding and earthquakes continue to remind us just how vulnerable Haiti is to climate change and natural disasters”, she added.

UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell  visits a health centre in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
© UNICEF/Georges Harry Rouzier

UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell visits a health centre in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Raped and burnt alive

Ms. Russell recounted some of the shocking testimony she had heard talking to women and girls at a centre for survivors of gender-based violence, which has now reached “staggering levels”.

“An 11-year-old girl told me in the softest of voices that five men had grabbed her off the street. Three of them raped her. She was eight months pregnant when we spoke – and gave birth just a few days later.

“One woman told me that armed men had barged into her house and raped her. She said her 20-year-old sister resisted so strongly that they killed her by setting her on fire. Then they burned down their house.”

The UNICEF chief said she had heard many similar stories, “part of a new strategy” by armed groups.

“They rape girls and women, and they burn their homes to make them more vulnerable and more easily controlled. Because if they break the women, they’ve broken the foundation of the communities.”

Room for hope

She said amid the horror, there had been “some hope” – in the form of extraordinary teachers, health workers, paediatricians, and young people themselves: “A 13-year-old girl, Serafina, told me that she picked doctor as a profession because ‘I love when people take care of other people’.

“These children are what the parents of Haiti are pinning their hopes on. We should all be doing the same.”

The UNICEF chief said she was very proud of the UN humanitarians doing their best on the ground, most of the Haitians. “Many have had to move homes, some multiple times, to find safety from the violence and kidnappings for ransom.”

Act now

She said a bare minimum of $720 million is needed for humanitarian support but less than a quarter of that had been received.

Ms. Russell outlined urgent steps she said need to be taken, including providing immediate extra funding and a better response, a long-term and sustained humanitarian effort, preparedness and resilience-building for natural disasters to come and improved protection for humanitarians.

Tweet URL

‘Not irreversible’

Her briefing followed a statement on Wednesday from the recently-appointed independent UN human rights expert on Haiti, William O’Neill who has just concluded a 10 day fact finding mission.

The Human Rights Council-appointed expert who has long experience in the country having helped set up the National Police in 1995, said beyond the gang violence and displacement, land grabs by oligarchs in the northeast had made conditions worse for thousands already living on the edge.

In this context of chronic insecurity, the Haitian authorities face immense challenges. But the situation is not irreversible”, he said.

“Much can be done to address the structural and economic challenges that have led to the current crisis. And this, quickly, and with few means. The State has a fundamental role to play in this regard, as guarantor of the human rights of the population.”

International force needed

Mr. O’Neill said the deployment of a “specialized international force” alongside national police, was “essential to restore the freedom of movement of populations.”

He added that an embargo on arms coming mainly from the United States, established by the UN Security Council, must be immediately implemented.

He said Haiti was at a turning point. “It is urgent to take action. The survival of an entire nation is at stake. The country has the choice to recover, to demonstrate its will to overcome the crisis to move towards a better future or to resign itself and sink further into chaos.

“Ensuring the security and protection of the population, overcoming structural institutional shortcomings, and restoring confidence in public institutions are fundamental prerequisites for holding free and transparent elections and for consolidating the rule of law.”

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts such as Mr. O’Neill, serve in their individual capacity and are independent of any Government or Organization. They are not UN staff and do not receive payment for their work.

Ukraine: Concerns mount over influx of weapons and growing civilian casualties

Since her last briefing in May, said Izumi Nakamitsu, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, reports from open sources indicate an influx in the transfer of heavy conventional weapons, including battle tanks, combat aircraft, artillery and missile systems.

“There are reports that the supply of arms and ammunition has accelerated and expanded ahead of the reported counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces,” she noted. 

Ms. Nakamitsu added that there were also alarming accounts of weapons transfers to the Russian armed forces for use in Ukraine, including uncrewed combat aerial vehicles and ammunition.  

Tight control over weapons 

Highlighting the risk of diversion and insufficient control over arms supplies, the UN representative urged the implementation of measures to prevent further instability and insecurity.

She emphasized the importance of pre-transfer diversion risk assessments, end-user certificates, non-retransfer clauses, effective legal and enforcement measures, and post-shipment verifications.

She underscored the importance of supply chain transparency and information exchange covering all States involved. 

Speaking of the grave impact of the intensifying war on civilians, the High Representative said that according to the UN human rights office (OHCHR), from the beginning of the invasion in February 2022 to 18 June this year, there have been 24,862 civilian casualties in Ukraine, with 9,083 killed and 15,779 injured. 

The real figures are believed to be significantly higher, however. The majority of civilian casualties have resulted from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, she explained.

Deadly attack in Kramatorsk

“The missile attack in central Kramatorsk on 27 June which killed 12 people is a case in point,” said Ms. Nakamitsu and reminded ambassadors of the political declaration adopted last November to strengthen the protection of civilians from the humanitarian consequences of explosives being used in urban areas. 

Apart from the loss of life and injuries, critical infrastructure and services have also become targets of relentless attacks, she said. Energy infrastructure, healthcare and educational facilities, roads, and bridges have all suffered extensive damage. Land contamination caused by mines and explosive remnants of war has rendered vast areas unusable for agriculture, while hindering the movement of people. 

“The destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam is possibly the most significant incident of damage to civilian infrastructure since the start of the war,” believes Ms. Nakamitsu.

‘Take all feasible precautions’

The High Representative reminded that International humanitarian law prohibits targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure during armed conflicts, and emphasized the need for parties involved “to take all feasible precautions in the conduct of military operations to avoid, or at least minimize, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.” 

Reiterating the UN’s strong condemnation of attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, she called for their immediate cessation and reaffirmed commitment to support any meaningful efforts aimed at achieving a just and sustainable peace in Ukraine. 

Guterres condemns Israel’s recent advancement of plans to build in occupied West Bank

A strongly worded statement by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General reiterates that settlements are a flagrant violation of international law and relevant UN resolutions. Antonio Guterres, it says, urged the Government of Israel to halt and reverse the expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, to immediately and completely cease all settlements activities there and to respect its relevant legal obligations.

The statement refers to the Monday’s advancement of plans for over 5,500 housing units in Israeli settlements in Area C of the occupied West Bank, including the retroactive regularization, under Israeli law, of three settlement outposts adjacent to the settlement of Eli.

Settlements impede peace

Antonio Guterres emphasized that Israel’s persistent expansion of settlements, including in East Jerusalem, “deepens humanitarian needs, fuels violence, increases the risk of confrontation, further entrenches the occupation, and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination”.

The UN chief warned that the ongoing settlements are eroding the possibility of establishing a contiguous and viable sovereign Palestinian State, based on the pre-1967 lines and impede the ability to achieve a viable two-State solution, and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.

Northeastern Nigeria: malnourished children fighting for their lives

The UN’s top humanitarian official in the country Matthias Schmale informed that severe hunger is affecting 4.3 million people in Nigeria’s Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. The number of children under five at risk of life-threatening severe acute malnutrition has doubled in one year to reach 700,000.

Describing the situation in the region, Mr. Schmale said: “I have been to Borno and the other two states several times, I’ve seen mothers fighting for lives of their malnourished children in nutrition stabilization centres.” The children he spoke to complained about being hungry for days

“Those of us who are parents must imagine what it’s like when you cannot ensure your children have enough to eat,” he emphasized.

Drivers of crisis

The “catastrophic” situation is primarily the result of more than a decade of insecurity linked to non-State armed groups, which prevents people from farming and earning income from the land, Mr. Schmale said.

Another harmful factor is climate change and extreme weather impacts. Last year saw the worst floods in ten years in Nigeria, which affected more than 4.4 million people across the country, not just the north-east.

Soaring prices of food, fuel and fertilizers have exacerbated the crisis, and the response remains severely underfunded. The UN official said that out of the $1.3 billion in humanitarian funding needed for the region, only 25 per cent has been secured so far. 

Top UN official urges Israeli, Palestinian leaders to ‘put on the brakes’

“The choice is clear,” said Tor Wennesland, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO). “Either continue along the downward spiral of violence and provocations leading to a political vacuum or turn towards constructive dialogue linked to concrete actions that can create hope and a political horizon.”

‘Alarming spike’

Urging Israeli and Palestinian leaders to “put on the brakes and rethink the options”, he warned of an “alarming spike in violence” across the northern and central occupied West Bank that has led to numerous Palestinian and Israeli casualties over the past 13 days, since the submission of his latest monthly report, covering the period between mid-May and mid-June.

Providing a grim snapshot of current hotspots, he said military operations – including airstrikes in the West Bank – clashes, attacks, and extremely high levels of settler-related violence, have continued and intensified dramatically.

In addition, he reported the use of more sophisticated weapons by Palestinians, including an advanced improvised explosive device and rockets launched towards Israel.

‘Settler rampage’

From 20 to 25 June, Israeli settlers perpetrated 28 violent attacks against Palestinian villages, he said, adding that the “settler rampage” had caused one death and dozens of injuries.

Israel, as the occupying power, has an obligation to protect Palestinians and their property in the Occupied Territory and to ensure prompt, independent, impartial, and transparent investigations into all acts of violence, he said.

“The deepening occupation, settlement expansion, the high levels of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, and, critically, the absence of a political horizon are rapidly eroding hope among Palestinians and Israelis, and particularly among youth, that a resolution of the conflict is achievable,” he said.

‘Extremely dangerous’

“The speed and intensity of the security deterioration we are witnessing on the ground are extremely dangerous,” he said.

“The unfolding events seriously challenge broader stability and undermine the Palestinian Authority,” he added.

While the ceasefire following the Gaza escalation in May has held, there is a constant risk that events in the West Bank could spill over into the Gaza Strip, he said.

Tweet URL

Aid consequences

Equally concerning are the Palestinian Authority’s fiscal and institutional challenges, exacerbated by funding shortages, including for UN agencies, that impact the delivery of crucial basic services. This may further aggravate the deterioration of the situation on the ground, he cautioned.

“Let there be no doubt, neither the Palestinian Authority nor the UN will be able to provide humanitarian assistance without donors urgently stepping up financial support,” he warned.

Regarding other significant developments, he said that the UN’s Palestine refugee agency, UNRWA, resumed after four months full service delivery in the West Bank, including at 42 health clinics and 90 schools serving more than 40,000 children. The disruption was due to a work dispute with the local staff union and a strike, he noted.

‘We must urgently act’

But, the ongoing security situation remains a grave challenge, he said.

“We must urgently act collectively to stop the violence,” he said. “At the same time, it is crucial to bring the parties back onto a path that addresses the political issues driving the current dynamics, so that a process to resolve the core issues can begin.”

Council renews DR Congo sanctions, Somalia mission

At the outset of the morning meeting, the Council unanimously adopted two resolutions, renewing for six months the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) and extending by one year the current sanctions regime covering an arms embargo, travel ban, and asset freeze that require States to refrain from, among other things, providing weapons to non-governmental entities operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For more details on this and other meetings occurring throughout the UN system, visit our dedicated UN Meetings Coverage page.

Get help now

Send a message with a description of your problem and possible ways of assistance and we will contact you as soon as we consider your problem.

    [recaptcha class:captcha]