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Could the answer to 100% renewable energy in Dominica be under the ground?

It’s called geothermal energy, and it’s an exciting prospect for the country. Geothermal has none of the intermittency issues of wind and solar – in other words, it provides stable energy day and night – and doesn’t take up any surface real estate, keeping the Roseau Valley in its pristine state.

Most SIDS are dependent on imported fossil fuels for electricity generation and transport, putting a major strain on their resources and jeopardising their energy security by exposing them to the vagaries of the international fuel markets.

Dominica, however, has a powerful clean power source lying in wait below the Roseau Valley, a popular tourist destination a short drive from the capital, Roseau, that is clean, completely renewable and could provide so much energy that the government could even sell excess electricity to neighbouring islands.

A high pressure project

Pipes are drilled deep underground until they hit a “geothermal reservoir”, an accumulation of water warmed by the Earth’s subterranean heat to approximately 250° Celsius. Because Dominica lies atop a volcanic ridge, this heat is relatively close to the surface. When the pipes reach the reservoir, the high pressure drives it to the surface, where it is converted to steam to drive turbines that produce electricity.

“We’ve found an excellent geothermal reservoir in Roseau Valley, around a thousand metres down,” said Fred John, the head of the government-owned Dominica Geothermal Development Corporation. “We’ve built two wells – one to bring up the hot water and another to return it back down to the reservoir – so it’s a closed loop system. We have chosen the technology that is the most environmentally friendly and best in class.”

The Government of Dominica has been convinced for decades that geothermal could be transformative for livelihoods, slashing the cost of electricity in a country which is currently reliant primarily on expensive imported diesel as a power source and supplemented by hydropower and a small amount of wind and solar.

The site of Dominica's geothermal energy plant.
UNDP/ Zaimis Olmos

The site of Dominica’s geothermal energy plant.

A transformation decades in the making

“Dominica has been pursuing this energy source as long ago as 1969,” says Vince Henderson, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business, Trade and Energy. “Studies carried out with the assistance of the United Nations determined that we have the potential to power the island. We’ve had the ambition to realise that potential since 1974, when we created the Geothermal Development Corporation.”

It took the government almost four decades to secure the funding needed to drill test wells, which confirmed that geothermal would be commercially viable, allowing them to sell to neighbouring Martinique and Guadeloupe. 

“Developing geothermal power is very expensive, particularly for remote island States. We were fortunate because we received a combination of grants and concessional loans in order to get to where we are,” said Mr. Henderson, pointing to funding that has come from a variety of sources, including the Caribbean Development Bank, American Development Bank and the World Bank as well as the governments of New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States. “However,” he added, “if the international community is serious, there has to be some upfront investment by way of grant funding.”

The Government of Dominica is confident that geothermal energy from the plant could be powering the island within the next two years, a small time to wait given the decades-long struggle to get the project off the ground.

“I think this gives the country a real shot to transform itself economically,” Mr. John said. “The first step will be cheaper electricity for everybody, which will make a huge difference. But then we go on to sell it, bringing revenue to Dominica and allowing the entire island economy to rise.”

Gaza war spillover compounds misery for most vulnerable in Lebanon

In a call for an immediate end to the war in Gaza which sparked intensifying exchanges of fire between armed militants Hezbollah and the Israeli military, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that airstrikes are hitting “deeper and deeper” into Lebanon, with 344 people killed to date, including eight youngsters.

“Together with those killed and the scores who have been injured, 30,000 children have now been displaced” out of some 90,000 since Hezbollah fighters stepped up strikes targeting northern Israel following Hamas-led terror attacks on southern Israel on 7 October and Israel’s subsequent intense bombardment of the Gaza Strip, said UNICEF spokesperson James Elder. 

“Even with our greatest efforts, a permanent ceasefire is essential,” Mr. Elder insisted. “Without that ceasefire, Lebanon is at risk of a full-scale war, which will be utterly devastating for the country’s 1.3 million children as well as well, of course, for the region’s children.”

Inside Lebanon, the UN official reported that key water station infrastructure has been destroyed, leaving “around 100,000 people now denied access to clean drinking water”. Around 23 health facilities serving 4,000 people are also closed as a result of the violence.

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Entire families sent out to beg

In a sign of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Lebanon linked to the crisis, the UN agency warned that new food insecurity data indicated that rates of wasting were found to be unexpectedly high among children living in informal tented settlements for the displaced.

“We had indications that the crisis was getting worse in terms of nutrition because we have seen a three-fold increase to children being referred to our malnutrition programmes over the past 12 months,” said Ettie Higgins, UNICEF Lebanon deputy head of office. “And these are now programmes that in some cases were suspended in parts of the country because of the lack of humanitarian funding.” 

As a result, communities are now “sending the entire family out for begging; they’re forcing children as young as four to work in agriculture…I spoke to a doctor recently who said that he had seven-year-olds coming to him with back problems because of the heavy loads of trash that they’re carrying on a daily basis.”

The UNICEF officer noted that children could expect to earn “maybe $2 per day, just to be able to eat and put a meal on the table. So, these stories unfortunately are getting more and more frequent and more and more severe and tragic.”

Displaced have lost everything – again

Even before the latest hostilities, Lebanon faced a deep economic crisis – made worse by the COVID-19 emergency and chronic political instability – which has left around half the Lebanese population living below the poverty line. 

Even more vulnerable are the one million-strong Syrian refugee population, nine in 10 of whom live in “extreme poverty”, according to the UNICEF report on the crisis, Caught in the Crossfire: The impact of six months of conflict on children in Lebanon.

The majority of those now displaced in the south of the country are Lebanese, and many who work in farming and olive growing have lost their livelihoods for a second time, explained Ms. Higgins.

“We’ve been supporting families…to get back on their feet since the economic crisis began three or four years ago, since 2019, and they have again lost everything,” she told journalists in Geneva via videolink from Beirut. 

“Many who have been working in agriculture, such as in olive farms, have also been destroyed, and even if they were able to go back, even tomorrow, the type of suffering that they’re subject to is going to be long-term because of the huge amount of unexploded ordnance that is now in many of these agricultural areas, meaning that it would be very, very difficult for them to re-establish themselves.”  

Funding collapse

Amid growing needs and a spike in tensions between Lebanese and Syrian refugee communities, which could be defused with prompt humanitarian action, the UNICEF officer warned that a number of donor countries had “significantly reduced” critical funding.

“We are facing a massive collapse in humanitarian funding over the past three months, four months in Lebanon,” Ms. Higgins said. “This has forced us to cut back virtually all of our services, including the provision of safe drinking water and simple things like getting rid of sewage from communities that are already overburdened.”

Syria influx

Following the outbreak of the Syria crisis in 2011, many Lebanese villages that are now reeling from the hostilities welcomed more than a million refugees “into their schools, their clinics, their, their communities”, the UNICEF officer continued. 

Today, “we are seeing tensions really spike and having an impact on children on a daily basis,” she continued, noting the high level of trauma displayed by Palestinian refugees now living in “terrible conditions in the camps here” while also suffering the “secondary trauma” of seeing what is happening to fellow Palestinians in Gaza.

 

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Gaza at ‘most dangerous’ stage amid huge unexploded weapons risk, warns demining expert

“This is the most dangerous period; once people start returning to the north, that’s when most accidents will occur, because they won’t be familiar with where your unexploded ordnance is located,” said Mungo Birch, Chief of the UN Mine Action Programme (UNMAS) in the State of Palestine. “It’s important that once the returns start, we’re poised and ready to be able to provide the risk education they need.”

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Speaking on the sidelines of the 27th International Meeting of Mine Action National Directors and United Nations Advisers in Geneva, head of UN peacekeeping and mine action Jean-Pierre Lacroix underscored that the Organization stood with UNMAS in its support for “humanitarian efforts, to convoys” and risk assessment.

A humanitarian ceasefire remains a “priority”, insisted the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations and Chair of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Mine Action, along with providing “much more humanitarian assistance to Gaza”, once deminers and weapons experts deem that it is safe to do so.

Lebanon threat

The UN peacekeeping chief also underscored the dangers of a regional escalation amid ongoing exchanges of fire over the Israeli-Lebanon border. “Talking about Lebanon, then you know what needs to be absolutely avoided is further escalation,” said Mr. Lacroix. “That would be devastating frankly to Lebanon, the whole region.”

Amid reports that it will take some 14 years to clear Gaza of all the rubble created by the conflict, Mr. Birch noted that there are an estimated 37 million tonnes in total. “To put that in context, that’s more rubble than in Ukraine.  In Ukraine, the front is 600 miles. Gaza is 25 miles long. It’s also 87 per cent urbanised, so it’s very densely packed construction.”

This includes some 800,000 tonnes of asbestos, “as well as various other contaminants”, he said. “…the problem is there’s more rubble in Gaza than there is space to spread it out,” Mr. Birch continued, describing how Israeli bombing sparked by Hamas-led attacks on Israel and rocket fire led to the destruction.

“There were lulls, but the bombardment was like nothing I ever experienced. I was with a colleague who had been in Ukraine, in the Ukrainian security forces, he said the bombardment was worse than anything he’d experienced in the Donbass.”

Rubble recyling for ‘the day after’

To tackle the issue of rebuilding Gaza after the fighting stops, Mr. Birch noted that recycling of the rubble “will figure heavily” in any reconstruction. 

“I mean, people are already talking about ‘the day after’, quote unquote, for Gaza,” he added, noting that a “rubble removal” workshop was held two weeks ago in Jordan with UN agencies including the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and other partners.

Despite the astonishing scale of the clearance operation ahead, UNMAS has just $5 million in funding. Another $40 million will be needed over the next 18 months just to start the process of clearance.

Worldwide, 60 million people in 60 countries live under constant fear of landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and unexploded ordnance, said UN peacekeeping chief Lacroix. They “do not know whether they will spend the day without being hit by a mine or an IED and who don’t know basically you know whether they will make it to the next day or whether their children or their relatives will make it to the next day – and that is really unacceptable.”

Ukraine’s global fallout

Despite no longer featuring as regularly among news headlines more than two years since the full-scale Russian invasion, the Ukraine conflict will continue to have “terrible consequences” in the country and globally for years to come, Mr. Lacroix insisted.

A sign in Ukraine warns of landmines.
© WFP/Niema Abdelmageed

A sign in Ukraine warns of landmines.

“The area that has been contaminated – the farmland that has been contaminated – used to provide food for 80 million people around the world, mostly middle-income and low-income countries.”

Echoing that concern, veteran landmine clearance specialist Paul Heslop explained that the economic ramifications of the conflict represented a “billions-of-dollar problem” that was happening at the expense of the world’s most vulnerable: 

“If the mined land or the suspected mined land in Ukraine is causing fuel to be one cent a litre or two cents a litre more than it needs to be, or a loaf of bread or a box of pasta to be 10 cents a box, or a loaf more than it needs to be, and you multiply that across how many loaves of bread are bought every day in the world  – billions; how many litres of fuel are used every day – billions; you start to talk about the economic impact of the perception and the presence of mines and UXO (unexploded ordnance) in Ukraine as being a billions-of-dollar problem for every country in the world.”

Beyond the economic impact of the Ukraine war, Mr. Heslop – Programme Manager for Mine Action at UNDP Ukraine – described the terrible injuries being caused by the fighting:

“It’s not just a lower limb like we’ve seen a lot of in Africa over the years where you know, somebody’s out gathering firewood or fruit and they step on the mine and they blow their leg off. In Ukraine, because of the nature and the intensity of the conflict, we’re often seeing double or triple or even quadruple amputees, and a lot of the those injured are in their 20s and 30s.”

Sudan danger zone

Demining action and removing the risk of unexploded weapons is already a serious problem in Sudan, where more than a year of fighting between rival militaries has left millions on the verge of famine, including in major built-up areas where people have little idea about the dangers.

“It’s a big change; a big risk is obviously for the civilians because the people, residents of the capital, they never experienced this kind of war in the history of Sudan,” said Mohammad Sediq Rashid, Chief of UN Mine Action Programme in Sudan.

“Unfortunately, unexploded ordnance accidents are happening now. There’s a little bit of change in terms of access.  Part of the capital is now gradually becoming accessible, so civilians are not waiting for (mine) clearance to happen.”

UN officials urge swift action to tackle El Niño-induced extreme weather

The current El Niño event began in mid- to late 2023, causing the ocean’s temperature to rise, and its impact has already decimated farming in southern Africa, triggering crop shortfalls and rising commodity prices. At the same time, flooding in Kenya has affected 200,000 people and killed more than 100 people.

Around 40 to 50 million people are currently affected in 16 countries, said Reena Ghelani, the new Climate Crisis Coordinator for the El Niño/La Niña Response.

These are the countries that are facing the climate crisis,” Ms. Ghelani told journalists at UN Headquarters, adding that adaptation efforts are key at a time when the UN Secretary-General released $54 million to “get ahead” of the situation and will soon announce more funding.

But, she warned, much more is needed, noting that a similar response plan had in the past cost $3 billion.

‘We can prevent this’

In addition, meteorologists have indicated a 60 to 80 per cent chance that a La Niña phenomenon will unfold later this year, bringing more rain to some regions and drought to others.

However, the changes would be extreme, and countries may not be able to recover and absorb this, Ms. Ghelani explained, adding that there are projections that the situation may get worse and affect communities around the world into next year.

If we act now and act fast, the world will have not another major crisis on its hands,” she told journalists at UN Headquarters. “We can prevent this. We know what needs to be done, and we can do it now with timely action.”

Starvation caused by drought in Kenya has caused this cow's body to deteriorate.
© UNEP/Nayim Ahmed Yussuf

Starvation caused by drought in Kenya has caused this cow’s body to deteriorate.

Drought rippling across southern Africa

In southern Africa, severe drought has led to many countries declaring a state of emergency. Recalling a recent trip to the region, Ms. Ghelani said February was the hottest in a century.

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“Action needs to happen now to support them,” she said.

For the longer-term, basic support that is required should centre on climate adaptation.

Time to step up action: FAO

Extreme weather is among the main drivers of food insecurity for 72 million people in 18 countries, said Beth Bechdol, Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

These El Niño impacts are deepening around the world,” she said, pointing to findings in the recently released 2024 Global Report on Food Crises.

“It’s time to step up our collective efforts to make sure that anticipatory actions that support people at the most critical stage of when a crisis like this begins to take its toll is the most important approach that we can prioritise.”

That means helping farmers so they can protect their crops, fields and livestock as their sources of food supplies and nutrition are needed, especially in times of crisis.

Protecting communities from hunger

For its part, FAO is providing assistance, from cash transfers for helping farmers and fishers protect their holdings ahead of a massive storm to backyard garden kits for families to produce food at home.

Gains have been made in tackling El Niño-induced consequences around the world, including by developing drought-resistant crops, she said.

In Central America’s “dry corridor”, she said FAO efforts included the timely distribution of drought-tolerant and short-cycle crop seeds, which helped families produce vegetables and made “a significant impact”.

Ms. Bechdol said FAO has also been studying the longer-term costs to agriculture following major disasters.

Ukraine: Civilians killed and injured as attacks on power and rail systems intensify

Since 22 March, Ukraine’s energy infrastructure sustained four waves of attacks that killed six people, injured at least 45 and struck at least 20 facilities.  

Just this past Saturday alone, missile attacks damaged four thermal power plants critical for electricity generation. Two of the plants are located in western Ukraine, far from the frontline.

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Previous reports from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also noted the attacks had damaged power and water supplies, which disrupted critical services necessary for children’s care. 

Danielle Bell, Head of Mission at HRMMU, said, “These attacks have caused civilian deaths, and they also jeopardise essential services such as power generation and rail transport, further compounding the risks and harm affecting the civilian population of Ukraine.”

Attacks on railways 

Recent attacks on Ukraine’s railway system have claimed the lives of at least 11 civilians and injured dozens in regions like Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Cherkasy. 

Those killed in the attacks were railway and power station workers who were either in or near the vicinity.

“Attacks on the railway system threaten a key mode of transportation that people in Ukraine depend on for personal travel and transport of essential goods, particularly given the restriction on all air traffic and limited access to seaports,” Ms. Bell said. 

Power and water supply affected

Within the last week, Ukrainian railway facilities saw three attacks, leaving civilians dead and injured. On 25 April, a missile strike killed three railway employees and injured four in Udachne in Donetsk.

That same day, several other employees were injured in a missile attack on a railway facility in Smila, located in the Cherkasy region.

In Balakliia in the Kharkiv region, 11 people were injured in a missile attack that caused damage to the railway station and a train that had just arrived. Eight more people also lost their lives due to railway attacks in Synelnykove and Dnipro.

HRMMU added that power outages frequently occurred in the immediate aftermath of attacks on energy infrastructure, affecting millions across the country and also leading to interruptions to the water supply.

UN reviews progress and challenges 30 years after landmark population conference

Dennis Francis was speaking at an event  to mark the 30th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo.

The landmark conference concluded with a Programme of Action, adopted by 179 governments, that put reproductive rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women, girls and young people at the heart of development.

Uneven progress

Mr. Francis pointed to significant advances and progress made since then, particularly in the areas of poverty reduction, life expectancy and food security. Maternal deaths have declined, he said, while access to primary education has expanded, for both girls and boys.

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“But we must also admit that progress has been uneven – both within and among countries,” he said, as climate change, conflict and other crises have jeopardized many of these hard-won gains.

Nevertheless, the visionary objectives outlined in the Programme of Action “have only grown in importance”, he added, noting their connection to the global push to achieve sustainable development for all by 2030.

Support women and girls

“We must certainly do much more to acknowledge that empowered women and girls, children and others in vulnerable situations are central for peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable societies – and proactively do much more to support and facilitate them in the full realization of their potential,” he said.

As many of the challenges that have hampered implementation of the Programme of Action persist, Mr. Francis urged countries to “find fresh, innovative ways” to both address and overcome them.

“And let us rededicate ourselves, in earnest, to a shared future of peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability, for all, with all, everywhere,” he concluded.

Accelerate action, set priorities

Separately, the UN Deputy Secretary-General called for the anniversary of the Programme of Action to be an opportunity to both accelerate action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to set priorities for the next 30 years.

Amina Mohammed delivered remarks to the 57th session of the UN Commission on Population and Development, which runs through Friday.

With the global population now surpassing eight billion, she said the international community must prepare for continued population growth in sub-Saharan Africa – and slow growth or decline in much of Asia, Europe and Northern America, and later, in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Missing the mark

While great progress has been made over the past three decades, she said many countries are still falling short of life expectancy targets, and many developing countries face significant challenges in achieving the SDG target on child mortality.

Additionally, 164 million women of reproductive age worldwide have no access to family planning services.

“While all countries are on the path towards longer lives and smaller families, some continue to face the challenges of rapid population growth. Others are grappling with the consequences of population ageing, sometimes population decline. And we see our health systems struggling,” she said.

Push back against pushbacks

Ms. Mohammed underlined the need for countries to fully recognize the megatrends that are reshaping the world today – such as climate change, demographic shifts, and urbanization – and their critical connections to the SDGs.

“We must remain vigilant and continue to address situations where sexual and reproductive health and rights are being rolled back,” she said. “We must respond and push back when women’s rights are being eroded, and when migrants and other vulnerable populations are mistreated.”

She urged the international community to “continue to uphold the dignity of all people, ensuring that no one is left behind” and to “support rights-based approaches in our population and development policies”.

World News in Brief: Violence blocking Darfur aid, new Iraq law, Chad elections appeal

In the past month, WFP supported more than 300,000 people there with food, including 40,000 in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state.

“We must be able to reach those who need us most in Sudan,” Executive Director Cindy McCain wrote in a post on social media. 

Separately, UN Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator Martin Griffiths warned that an escalation of hostilities there would be “catastrophic”

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Civilians in El Fasher are already struggling to survive hunger and deprivation, and they must be spared from violence, he wrote on social media. 

El Fasher has more than 330,000 people facing acute food insecurity, and nearly half of its residents are internally displaced. 

Over the weekend, the UN Security Council appealed for the warring parties in Sudan to immediately halt the military build-up and take steps to de-escalate the situation in El Fasher. 

The call came amid reports of an imminent offensive by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and their allied militia, which could threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons currently sheltering in the city. 

Iraq urged to shelve new law criminalising same-sex relations 

The UN human rights office, OHCHR, has urged Iraq to discard a new law that criminalises consensual same-sex relations and other forms of private consensual behaviour with heavy jail sentences. 

“The law runs contrary to several human rights treaties and conventions ratified by Iraq, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and should be shelved,” spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said on Monday. 

She added that “everyone, without distinction, is entitled to enjoy all human rights, including the right to privacy, the right to be treated as equal before the law and the right to protection from discrimination on various grounds that include sexual orientation and gender identity.” 

Under the new law, those found guilty of “establishing a homosexual relationship” will face 10 to 15 years in jail, while anyone who “promotes homosexuality” will be imprisoned for at least seven years and fined at least 10 million Iraqi dinars (approximately $7,600). 

Additionally, anyone accessing or performing gender-affirming medical treatments will face up to three years behind bars, and people who dress in clothing associated with the opposite gender will receive jail terms of up to three years or a fine of at least 5 million Iraqi dinars.

Chad: Guterres appeals for restraint ahead of presidential election 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged stakeholders in Chad to ensure a peaceful, inclusive, transparent and credible vote as the country prepares for the first round of presidential elections next week. 

“The Secretary-General encourages all political leaders to refrain from any acts or discourse that could undermine a peaceful process, to overcome any disagreements through dialogue and to address complaints that may arise through established legal channels,” his spokesperson said on Monday. 

Chadians go to the polls on 6 May. The elections are part of the transition back to democracy after three years of military rule following the death of President Idris Deby in April 2021. 

The longtime leader died fighting rebels in the north and his son, Mahamat Idriss Deby, was installed as head of the Transitional Military Council. 

The younger Mr. Deby promised a return to civilian rule and elections within 18 months, but extended the transition by two years. 

The Secretary-General reiterated UN commitment to continue to support efforts towards building a peaceful and prosperous future in Chad. 

 

UN expresses solidarity with Kenya following deadly floods

Mr. Guterres was saddened by the loss of life and damage caused by flash flooding in the capital, Nairobi, and other parts of the country, his spokesperson said on Monday.

The Secretary-General extended his condolences and solidarity to the families of the victims and to the people and Government of Kenya.

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On Monday, rescue teams were searching for survivors after a dam burst in Mai Mahiu in western Kenya, killing at least 35 people, according to international media reports.

The heavy rains began in March, killing more than 100 people across the country since then. This season’s flash flooding follows similarly heavy rains that began late last year, affecting almost 600,000 people.   

Solidarity and support

The UN Resident Representative in Kenya, Dr. Stephen Jackson also expressed solidarity with the people and Government during an event to distribute emergency aid to flood survivors, which was led by Vice President Rigathi Gachagua.

More than 300 households received aid, provided through the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, that included food, mattresses, blankets, water tanks, mosquito nets and equipment to help them rebuild.

“Together, we are taking steps to meet urgent needs. What worries me is how Kenya is currently facing a climate emergency that it did not cause; drought and floods,” said Dr. Jackson.

The UN team on the ground has been working closely with national and international partners since the start of the flooding to help support nearly 25,000 people with food and non-food items directly.   

Meanwhile, UNHCR in Kenya said the heavy rains are causing serious flooding and displacement at the Dadaab refugee camps, located in the north.

“Many refugees have been forced from their homes, seeking shelter in schools and on higher ground,” said UNHCR Representative to Kenya Caroline Van Buren, writing on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

The agency is coordinating with local government authorities, including to move people to safety.

Sudan: Security Council members call for immediate halt to military escalation in El Fasher

The call comes amid reports of an imminent offensive by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and their allied militia against the city, which could threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons currently sheltering there.

At least 43 people, among them women and children, have been killed in fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and RSF – backed by their respective militia – since 14 April, when the RSF began its push into El Fasher, according to the UN human rights office (OHCHR).

The office added that civilians trapped in the city – the only one in Darfur still in the hands of the SAF – are afraid of being killed should they attempt to flee. The dire situation is compounded by a severe shortage of essential supplies as deliveries of commercial goods and humanitarian aid have been heavily constrained by the fighting and access challenges through RSF-controlled territory.

Plunged into turmoil

Sudan has been plunged into turmoil since fighting erupted between SAF and paramilitary RSF, last April.

More than 14,000 people have been killed and thousands more wounded, amid reports of abhorrent sexual and gender-based violence.

The war has also displaced over six million civilians within Sudan and a further 1.8 million across its borders, against a backdrop of a massive crisis that has left 25 million people in need of humanitarian aid and protection.

End military build-up

In a statement, Security Council members called on SAF and RSF to end the build-up of military forces and to take steps to de-escalate the situation and comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law.

Council members also repeated their call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, leading to a sustainable ceasefire.

They urged all Member States to refrain from external interference that seeks to foment conflict and instability and instead to support efforts for a durable peace.

They also reminded all parties to the conflict and Member States to adhere to their obligations to comply with the arms embargo measures as stipulated in resolutions 1556 (2004) and 2676 (2023).

Signing the war in Gaza: Overcoming deafness and displacement

From the room he and his family call home inside the school-turned-shelter, he felt a duty to let the world know what life is really like for them, through daily videos he shares on social media as the ongoing war approaches its eighth month.

UN News’s correspondent in Gaza, Ziad Talib, spoke to Mr. Al-Habal with help from his sister-in-law, Ghalia Al-Kilani, who learned sign language so she could communicate with her sister, who is also from the deaf community.

Sign of the times

“I wanted to send a message to the deaf community all over the world, so I decided to film my normal life, when houses are being bombed,” Mr. Al-Habal explained. “I use European sign language so that the idea reaches them and so that people see what is happening in Gaza.”

He likened what he does to journalistic work, tailored to people with disabilities who are deaf.

What encouraged him to continue reporting everything that happens in Gaza is the increase in the number of followers online every day.

“They began to support me and support Gaza and the Palestinian cause,” he said.

Daily struggles

Despite this social media outlet, he continues to suffer, like many displaced people in Gaza. After fleeing northern Gaza seven months ago, he still struggles to find food, water and work to support his family.

Around 1.7 million Gazans have been internally displaced, more than half of whom are children, and they do not have access to sufficient water, food, fuel and medicine.

Currently, some one million people have sought safety in UNRWA facilities that have been turned into shelters, and about two million people in Gaza depend on the UN agency’s lifesaving support even as it faces great difficulties and delays in getting its supplies into the Strip.

“I am very tired, and I am very afraid,” Mr. Al-Habal told UN News. “I fear for my wife and daughter.”

But, that does not prevent him from extending a helping hand to everyone who needs it.

“When I see children in the street, I help them until they smile and forget the bombing,” he said. “What is important is that the children are happy and that they stay away from fear.”

Silent bombs

The continuation of hostilities in Gaza puts Mr. Al-Habal in constant fear for his family. He does not hear the sounds of bombing, and a hearing aid helps him pick up only a weak echo of what is happening around him.

“Whenever my daughter cries, I hug her and reassure her,” he said.

Yet, despite the difficult circumstances and the daily hardship he experiences in finding food and water, his efforts to search for a job opportunity do not stop.

Ghalia Al-Kilani, with her brother-in-law Bassem Al-Habal and her niece in the background, in a shelter for displaced people in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza.
UN News

Ghalia Al-Kilani, with her brother-in-law Bassem Al-Habal and her niece in the background, in a shelter for displaced people in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza.

Challenges for the deaf

Ms. Al-Kilani helps her brother-in-law convey what he says to those who do not understand sign language.

However, she said, there is a great challenge for the deaf community in Gaza in recognising the bombing and shooting that is happening around them, which puts their lives in extra danger.

She also emphasised the extreme difficulty faced by deaf persons with disabilities, to make a living now in Gaza. That’s why she began helping him communicate his voice and message through social media.

Ms. Al-Kilani began helping him translate and communicate everything he observed and photographed around him, and right now, Mr. Al-Habal has more than 25,000 followers on Instagram.

Stories from the north

Before speaking to UN News, Mr. Al-Habal explained to his social media followers the predicament faced by friends who are deaf with disabilities in northern Gaza, which seven months ago he called home.

Some of them were killed because they did not hear the bombing and the instructions of the Israeli forces, and when others tried to move their bodies, some were hit by gunfire, he said.

Back at the small room in the shelter, Mr. Al-Habal said he will continue to publish daily videos so that the world can see what is really happening to them.

“Why does the world watch what is happening to us and remains silent?” he asked, expressing hope that “the war will stop, and life will return to normal in Gaza.”

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