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World News in Brief: Houthis order US-UK staffers to leave, cholera response scales up in Somalia, teachers vital to fight against hate speech

Confirming the order from the de facto authorities, who control the capital Sana’a along with many other areas of the war-torn country, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters that the demand ran counter to the legal conditions under which the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operate.

Yemen descended into all out conflict in 2015, with Houthi rebels battling internationally recognized Government forces allied with a Saudi-led coalition.

A fragile cessation of hostilities broadly holds within Yemen’s borders, but Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping in solidarity with Palestinian militants fighting in Gaza has seen dozens of airstrikes in recent days by the United States and United Kingdom in retaliation.

Cargo vessels have been forced to divert from the Red Sea, threatening global trade and international economic recovery.

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No legal basis

Confirming the letter demanding the exit of Sana’a-based staff, Mr. Dujarric stressed that “any request or requirement for UN staff to leave based solely on the nationality of that staff is inconsistent with the legal framework applicable to the UN.”

He noted that it also “impedes our ability to deliver on the mandate to support all of the people in Yemen, and we call on all the authorities in Yemen, to ensure that our staff can continue to perform their functions on behalf of the UN”.

The letter from the Houthi’s de facto foreign ministry in the capital was reportedly sent to the UN’s acting Humanitarian Coordinator, Peter Dawkins, himself a British national.

It reportedly also ordered foreign organizations not to hire US and British personnel going forward.

Mr. Dujarric emphasized that UN staff “serve impartially and serve the flag of the UN – and none other”. 

UN humanitarians scale up cholera response in Somalia

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The spread of cholera and acute watery diarrhoea is continuing in Somalia, with over 470 new cases registered in recent days, including nine deaths, the UN aid coordination agency, OCHA, warned on Wednesday.

Most incidents are concentrated in the areas that experienced severe flooding late last year.

Over 18,300 cases were reported during last year, more than half of them children under five.

OCHA leading the way

OCHA is leading the response, setting up new treatment centres in flood-affected areas and running extensive community education and awareness campaigns through health workers and outreach teams.

Alongside Somalia’s Ministry of Health, humanitarians in the country have activated a national cholera task force and developed a six-month plan to scale up the response, which will require some $5.6 million. 

With preparations for anticipated April to June flooding now underway, insufficient funding remains a critical concern, UN humanitarians said.

UNESCO trains teachers to counter hate speech

UNESCO, the UN agency for culture, science, and education, is highlighting the key role teachers can play in curbing the rise of hate speech worldwide.

Marking the International Day of Education on Wednesday, UNESCO said that education and classroom teaching in particular are pivotal to countering narratives that fuel prejudice, discrimination and violence.

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According to UNESCO, a study conducted in 16 countries last year revealed that 67 per cent of internet users have encountered hate speech online.

Some 85 per cent of respondents expressed concern about the impact of disinformation.

‘Peace starts with education’

In her statement for the day, Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, underscored the urgent need to prioritize education as a tool to promote the values of human dignity and peace, adding that “if hatred starts with words, peace starts with education.

“What we learn changes how we view the world and influences how we treat others,” she continued.

To address this pressing concern, the agency organized a one-day online training for thousands of teachers.

The workshop equipped educators with tools to identify, confront and prevent hate speech incidents.

UNESCO also brought together ministers, academic leaders and educators from around the globe at an event in New York – home to UN Headquarters – to discuss the role education can play in achieving sustainable global peace.

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