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Friday’s Daily Brief : Sudan and South Sudan, Ebola, ECOSOC elections, risks of 5G tech

South Sudanese facing famine in all but name, warns UN food agency

Record numbers in South Sudan – some seven million people – face acute food shortages, while more than 20,000 are close to famine, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Friday.

The warning, which follows years of violent unrest and vicious rights abuses linked to mass displacement, food shortages and disease outbreaks, coincides with the release of updated data on hunger levels in the country.

Find our complete story here.

UN suspending handover of camps in Darfur, peacekeeping chief tells Security Council

The joint African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), is suspending the handover of any more camps for displaced civilians to the Sudanese military, against a backdrop of worsening violence and insecurity across the country.

Briefing the Security Council on Friday, UN Peacekeeping chief, Jean Pierre Lacroix, said that the bloody 3 June military crackdown in the capital Khartoum, had highlighted the central role of the Darfur-linked Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which are reportedly made up largely of former Janjaweed militia, which has been accused of serious human rights abuses.

Read our full coverage here.

Ebola in DR Congo and Uganda, still not considered an international health emergency

The head of the UN health agency, WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus reconvened on Friday an Emergency Committee under International Health Regulations, to assess the status of what is now the second largest Ebola outbreak ever, in central Africa. Committee members decided that despite “deep concern” and the spread of the disease into neighbouring Uganda, the criteria for the declaration of an international health emergency were not met.

The Ebola outbreak is a health emergency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and for the region, but it is not yet a critical concern of international proportions, the committee noted.

“Although the outbreak does not at this time pose a global health threat, I want to emphasise that for the affected families and communities, this outbreak is very much an emergency,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus in a press conference., he joined via teleconference from DRC.

This week, a cluster of four cases was identified in Uganda, after a Congolese family crossed the border from DR Congo. Two of them died shortly after, and the response and containment efforts in Uganda were subsequently scaled up. The head of the Committee, Dr. Preben Aavitsland, urged neighbouring countries to heed the recommendations issued by WHO, to strengthen preparedness and detection measures.

“Although the spread of Ebola to Uganda is tragic, it is not a surprise. We have said since the beginning of the outbreak that the risk of cross-border spread was very high, and it remains very high. The fact that it has taken this long is a testament to the incredible work of all partners on both sides of the border,” stressed WHO’s Dr. Ghebreyesus .

Referring to the funding gap of over US$ 54 million faced by humanitarian and health organisations working to tackle the crisis on the ground, both officals called on the international community to step up funding and support to strengthen preparedness and response in the DRC and in neighbouring countries.

19 new members elected to the UN’s economic and social body, ECOSOC

The UN General Assembly elected on Friday 19 new members to the Economic and Social Council, one of the six main organs of the United Nations, which is mandated with tackling issues related to sustainable development, from an economic, social and environmental perspective.

The Council’s 54 members are elected for overlapping three-year terms. Seats on the Council are allotted based on geographical representation with 14 allocated to African States, 11 to Asian States, six to Eastern European States, 10 to Latin American and Caribbean States, and 13 to Western European and other States.

The 18 newly elected members to take up functions on 1 January 2020 are:

  • Benin, Botswana, The Congo and Gabon for Africa.
  • Bangladesh, China, South Korea and Thailand, for the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Latvia, Montenegro and Russia, for the Eastern European region.
  • Colombia, Nicaragua and Panama, for Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Australia, Finland, Norway and Switzerland, for Western Europe and other States.

In addition, Spain was elected to take over Turkey’s seat at the end of this year for just a one-year term.

5G technology jeopardizes forecasting and early warning alerts, say UN weather experts

The UN weather and climate agency, WMO, has warned that the latest “5G” mobile phone technology jeopardizes early warning services which protect people from natural disasters such as tropical cyclones.

In a resolution expressing “serious concern at the continuing threat to several radio-frequency bands” of 5G, the World Meteorological Organization’s executive Congress insisted that forecasting and alert services operated by countries had led to a big reduction in the loss of life in recent decades.

WMO’s spokesperson Clare Nullis explained that “we use these radio frequencies in the meteorological community…there’s concern that because of growing competition from new technology we’re going to be squeezed out of these frequencies.”

Weather alerts are linked to radio sensors that feed information into forecasting systems to provide more accurate predictions with longer warning times.

Experts are concerned that failing to manage unwanted emissions from new telecommunication technologies “would have a significant impact” on current weather-forecasting practices. Consequently, they say, it might reverse many of the gains in our warning services for natural hazards.


Listen to or download our audio News In Brief for 14 June on SoundCloud: 

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