Thousands Fled After Burkina Faso Massacre – UN

In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

More than 3,300 people, most of them children, fled their homes in Burkina Faso’s volatile north following the country’s worst massacre in years, the United Nations said Tuesday.

The UN refugee agency said thousands of children were among those who fled Solhan village, near the border with Niger and Mali, after gunmen stormed in on Saturday, massacring civilians.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said at least 138 men, women and children had been “executed” in the attack, while nearly 40 people were seriously injured.

Local sources have put the number of dead at at least 160, marking the deadliest attack since Islamist violence erupted in the West African country in 2015.

The slaughter in the early hours of Saturday followed the slaying of 14 people late Friday in the village of Tadaryat in the same region, where jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have been targeting civilians and soldiers.

“Fearing for their lives, over 3,300 people fled to the nearby villages of Sebba and Sampelga, among them more than 2,000 children and over 500 women,” Baloch told journalists in Geneva.

“They arrived with few or no belongings,” he said, adding that most “were generously welcomed by local families who are sharing what little they have.”

Baloch said that the new arrivals urgently needed water, sanitation, shelter, plus essential aid items and medical care.

UNHCR and its partners were building 200 shelters and providing assistance, but said more resources were needed to scale up the response.

Baloch said that the massacre came just a few weeks after gunmen shot at UNHCR and other aid organisation vehicles on the road between the city of Dori and the Goudoubo camp, housing some 12,200 Malian refugees and asylum seekers.

While no-one was injured in that attack, he warned that “growing insecurity and the presence of armed groups in several regions of Burkina Faso increasingly hamper the delivery of aid and protection for those in need.”

UNHCR, he said, “calls for concerted action to reinforce the protection of civilians and reminds all parties that humanitarian organisations are carrying out life-saving interventions in an independent and impartial manner.”

Since 2015, Burkina Faso has struggled to fight back against increasingly frequent and deadly jihadist attacks from groups including the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS).

The attacks, which have claimed at least 1,400 lives, first started in the north near the Mali border, but have since spread to other regions, particularly in the east.

Since 2019, violence in the country has forced more than 1.2 million people to flee their homes, according to UNHCR numbers.

Just since the start of this year, some 150,000 people have become internally displaced in the country, Baloch said, adding that 84 percent of them were women and children.

AFP

#TwitterBan: ‘Tweets’ In Line With UN Declaration Of Human Rights – Adeboye

 

The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, says the use of social media application, Twitter is in line with Article 19 of the UN universal declaration of Human Rights.

The senior pastor said in defence of his post on Monday, via the now-banned platform.

“The Redeemed Christian Church of God is domiciled in more than 170 nations & territories,” Pastor Adeboye said, adding, “the tweets here are in accordance to Article 19 of the UN universal declaration of Human Rights”.

His comments come days after the Federal Government announced a suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.

Read Also: FG Gives Condition To Be Met Before Twitter Ban Is Lifted

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed while announcing the suspension cited the persistent use of the platform for activities that are “capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”

Following the announcement, telecom operators in Nigeria blocked Twitter leaving users in the country unable to access the microblogging website while some navigated the hurdle using Virtual Private Networks (VPN).

Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has also directed the immediate prosecution of offenders of the Federal Government’s ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government says it would restore operations of the app in Nigeria if the platform would be used responsibly by the citizens.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, disclosed this on Monday after a meeting with some of the top envoys of various Diplomatic Missions in Nigeria.

UN Envoy Urges Yemeni Rivals To ‘Bridge The Gap’

In this file photograph taken on September 5, 2018,  (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

 

The UN envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, urged rival Yemeni forces Monday to “bridge the gap” to reach a ceasefire, praising a diplomatic push for peace in the devastated country.

Yemen’s civil war, which started in 2014, pits Iran-backed Huthi rebels against an internationally recognised government supported by a Saudi-led military coalition.

“Throughout the process, we have suggested several ways to bridge the gap between the parties,” Griffiths told reporters, speaking after meeting Huthi officials in the rebel-held capital Sanaa.

Yemen’s long war has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions.

“There’s an extraordinary amount of diplomatic consensus… there is a real diplomatic energy now, which hasn’t always been the case,” Griffiths said.

The effort to secure peace in Yemen comes after regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran restarted talks last month, their first high-level meeting since Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran in 2016.

While the United Nations and the US administration of President Joe Biden are pushing to end the grinding conflict, the rebels have demanded the re-opening of Sanaa airport before any ceasefire agreement.

The Saudi-led coalition imposed an air blockade on the Huthis, which has resulted in the closure of Sanaa airport to commercial flights since 2016.

“All of our proposals have also guaranteed the reopening of this airport where we are speaking today, Sanaa airport,” said Griffiths,

Griffiths, a British diplomat, was earlier this month named as the UN’s next humanitarian chief.

UN Official Urges ‘Political Process’ Amid Gaza Reconstruction

In this file photograph taken on September 5, 2018, Palestinian school children raise the victory gesture over a UN flag during a protest at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school, financed by US aid, in the Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in the occupied West Bank.  (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

 

A UN official in war-battered Gaza Sunday called for a “genuine political process” to avert further bloodshed after the military conflict between Israel and Islamist group Hamas that ravaged the Palestinian enclave.

As thousands of Gazans slowly tried to piece back together their lives, top UN staff visited the territory after an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire Friday halted 11 days of mutual bombardment.

On Sunday, in a badly-damaged district of Gaza city, volunteers swept up clouds of dust at the feet of collapsed buildings, while others shovelled debris onto the back of a donkey-drawn cart.

Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip since May 10 have killed more than 200 Palestinians, rendered thousands homeless and laid waste to buildings and key infrastructure across the blockaded territory.

It was the latest such bombardment to hit the crowded coastal strip of some two million people, after three previous wars with Israel since 2008.

– ‘No pause to breathe’ –

Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, said the reconstruction needed to go hand in hand with efforts to create “a different political environment”.

“We need to have a genuine focus on human development,” on proper access to education, jobs and livelihoods, he said.

“But this needs to be accompanied by a genuine political process”.

Speaking earlier to a group of journalists, he said “the layers of hardship in Gaza keep getting thicker”, because the root causes of the conflict have not been addressed.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking ahead of an imminent trip to the region, reaffirmed Washington’s support for a two-state solution so Israelis and Palestinians can live “with equal measures of security, of peace and dignity”.

Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, and have wounded over 1,900 people, the Gaza health ministry says.

Rockets from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child and an Arab-Israeli teenager, an Israeli soldier, one Indian, and two Thai nationals, medics say. Some 357 people in Israel have been wounded.

There is controversy about how many of those killed in Gaza were combatants, and how many were civilians. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed the bombing campaign had killed “more than 200 terrorists” in Gaza.

Lynn Hastings, of the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, said the intense bombing had devastated people’s mental health.

During the last war in 2014, “we had humanitarian pauses, where people were able to get out,” she said.

“That really speaks to the amount of trauma that was experienced this time, where there was absolutely no pause for people to breathe.

“The comments that I have heard are not ‘I need access to water’ — even though there are 800,000 people who don’t have access to clean water right now — but about the impacts on their lives overall and how they are ever going to recover from this,” she said.

– Aid deliveries –

Authorities Saturday started distributing tents and mattresses in the Gaza Strip, as OCHA said at least 6,000 people had been made homeless by the bombardment.

Lorries bringing much-needed medicine, food and fuel entered Gaza Friday through the Kerem Shalom crossing after Israel reopened it.

Peace talks have stalled since 2014, including over the status of occupied east Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The latest military escalation started after violent clashes in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site, which is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.

Israeli forces had moved in on Palestinian worshippers at the site, toward the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

They had also sought to quell protests against the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, to make way for Jewish settlers.

The clashes prompted Hamas to launch rockets from Gaza towards Israel on May 10, and Israel responded with air strikes.

On Sunday, Jewish visitors entered the Al-Aqsa compound for the first time in about three weeks.

Haim Elboim, 20, said visiting felt “very good”.

“This is the centre of the land of Israel. That’s why we created a Jewish state,” he said, of the establishment of the country in 1948 on land where Palestinians lived.

A Palestinian presidential spokesman warned the Israeli visits could “sabotage” the Gaza ceasefire.

Israeli police Friday fired stun grenades at worshippers in the Al-Aqsa compound, and beat an AFP photographer covering the unrest.

The incident was reminiscent of the tensions that sparked the latest round of conflict.

AFP

UN ‘Alarmed’ By Tanzania Return Of Fleeing Mozambicans

File: (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

 

The United Nations said Tuesday it was alarmed by reports that Tanzania has been forcibly returning people fleeing unrest in neighbouring Mozambique.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, upheld the right to cross borders to seek asylum and said conditions at the frontier village of Negomano in Mozambique were “dire”.

“UNHCR and partners have received worrying reports — including direct testimonies — that several thousand Mozambicans have been pushed back from Tanzania into northern Mozambique since last year,” spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told reporters in Geneva.

“This includes reports of over 1,500 returned this month.”

He said an April mission to Negomano found that most Mozambicans sheltering there had hoped to find refuge in Tanzania after fleeing deadly attacks by non-state armed groups in Palma in March.

Jihadists swooped on the coastal town on March 24. The attack marked a major intensification in an insurgency that has wreaked havoc across northeastern Cabo Delgado province for over three years as the militants seek to establish a caliphate.

“UNHCR is alarmed at reports that Mozambicans have been… forcibly returned, and prevented from seeking asylum,” Cheshirkov said.

“We call on all parties to allow free movement of civilians fleeing violence and conflict, in search of international protection, safety and assistance, including to respect and fully uphold the right to cross international borders to seek asylum.”

He said that in Negomano, many people told the UNHCR they had been detained in Tanzania, taken to a local school and interrogated by officials.

Those without proof of Tanzanian nationality were returned to Mozambique.

“The situation is particularly desperate for single mothers, now staying in Negomano without family support,” said Cheshirkov.

“The conditions at Negomano are dire and needs are acute for food, water and sanitation, and health services, but only limited humanitarian assistance is reaching the remote area.”

The refugee agency and its partners have been providing protection and basic assistance to 50,000 people in northern Mozambique since last year and plan to assist an additional 250,000 people by the end of 2021, the spokesman said.

The agency counts 724,000 people who have been forcibly displaced since the unrest started in Cabo Delgado in October 2017.

AFP

Israel Envoy Tells UN Conflict Was ‘Premeditated’ By Hamas

(FILES) In this file photo Israel’s politician and diplomat Gilad Erdan is seen as he receives Italy’s interior minister at a hotel in Jerusalem on December 11, 2018. (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

 

Israel on Sunday told the UN Security Council that the recent deadly violence was premeditated by Hamas, urging condemnation of the militants during a session on the crisis.

“It was completely premeditated by Hamas in order to gain political power,” said Israel’s ambassador to the world body, Gilad Erdan.

Erdan said that Hamas escalated tensions due to internal Palestinian political maneuvering after the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmud Abbas, delayed long-awaited elections.

Hamas said its rocket fire into Israel was in response to Israeli forces’ entry into the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, amid high tensions over moves to evict Palestinian families in the city.

READ ALSO: Israel Pounds Gaza, Hits Media Building Housing AP And Jazeera

“Do you really believe that this property dispute is what caused Hamas to launch these large-scale attacks on the people of Israel?” Erdan said.

He thanked the United States, which had delayed the UN session, and he called on the world body to condemn Hamas.

“Hamas targets civilians; Israel targets terrorists,” Erdan said.

“Israel makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties; Hamas makes every effort to increase civilian casualties.”

At least 55 children are among the 190 people who have been killed in Gaza since Monday, with 10 dead in Israel, according to authorities on the two sides.

AFP

UN ‘Increasingly Concerned’ Over Algeria Rights Abuses

In this file photograph taken on September 5, 2018, Palestinian school children raise the victory gesture over a UN flag during a protest at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school, financed by US aid, in the Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in the occupied West Bank.  (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

 

The UN voiced alarm Tuesday at reports of sexual violence in detention and disproportionate use of force against protesters in Algeria, calling for investigations into all alleged abuses.

The United Nations human rights office said it had received numerous reports of abuses in Algeria since weekly mass demonstrations by the Hirak pro-democracy movement resumed in February.

“We are increasingly concerned about the situation in Algeria where the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and participation in public affairs continue to be under attack,” spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

“Over the past two months, activists, human rights defenders, students, journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens peacefully expressing dissent have continued to face criminal prosecution,” he said.

The Hirak protest movement was sparked in February 2019 over president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office.

The ailing autocrat was forced to step down weeks later, but the Hirak has continued its demonstrations, demanding a sweeping overhaul of a ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.

Marches were suspended for around a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but protesters have returned to the streets since February 13 as the movement regains momentum.

Since then, Colville said the rights office had received “sustained reports of unnecessary and disproportionate force against peaceful protesters, as well as continuing arrests.”

“Hundreds of protesters, or anyone alleged by security forces to be a demonstrator, are being arbitrarily arrested,” he said, adding that around 70 people were reportedly currently detained “for exercising their legitimate human rights.”

Some protesters had meanwhile reportedly only been released from detention after being forced to sign a document vowing to halt their participation in the demonstrations.

“New allegations of physical and sexual violence in detention have also been surfacing in recent days,” Colville said.

Authorities had prevented a number of marches from occurring and were blocking access to the places where demonstrations were taking place, he said.

“We urge the Algerian authorities to stop using violence to disperse peaceful demonstrations and to halt arbitrary arrests and detention of individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly,” Colville said.

He decried that the Hirak activists were being “prosecuted on the basis of overly broad laws, and called on authorities to fulfil a presidential pardon announced in February to members of the movement.

“We reiterate our call on the authorities to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into all allegations of human rights violations, to hold accountable those responsible, and to ensure that victims have access to redress.”

AFP

Damasak Attack: Civilians, Aid Workers Should Not Be Targets For Terrorists – UN

A google map of Damasak, the headquarters of Mobbar Local Government Area of Borno State.

 

The United Nations has condemned the attack on humanitarian facilities in Damasak, a town in Borno State.

In a statement on Sunday, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, raised concern over the recurrent reports of violent attacks by non-state armed groups putting the lives of civilians at risk.

He stated that civilians and aid workers, as well as their facilities and assets, should never be a target for terrorist attacks.

The Nigerian Army had confirmed the attack which occurred on Saturday, although it said ground troops, supported by the Air Component of Operation Lafiya Dole (OPLD), thwarted it.

READ ALSO: Two Soldiers, Several Boko Haram Fighters Killed In Borno Town – Army

It said the troops engaged the terrorists with superior firepower – both from the air and on the ground – which compelled them to withdraw in disarray with several men and equipment casualties in the process.

Sadly, two soldiers died during the encounter while two others and an officer injured were taken to a military hospital in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

In his reaction, Kallon stated that the attack, which he said lasted through the morning of the following day, targeted three international aid facilities.

He called for the safety and security of the people and aid workers, saying humanitarian operations and facilities were the lifelines for victims of violence and conflict in the North East.

A file photo of UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon.

 

The UN official said humanitarian operations in Damasak would be reduced as a result of the attack, adding that it would affect the support to 8,800 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and 76,000 people in the host community receiving humanitarian assistance and protection.

Read the full statement by Mr Kallon below:

STATEMENT ON THE ATTACK AGAINST AID FACILITIES IN DAMASAK

I am deeply concerned about recurrent reports of violent attacks by non-state armed groups putting the lives of civilians under risks. Last night and through the morning, a violent attack in Damasak town, in Borno State, was reported with three international aid partners’ facilities directly targeted, set ablaze, and sustained damage. I continue to be concerned about the safety and security of civilians and humanitarian workers.

I strongly condemn the attack, as humanitarian aid operations and facilities are the lifelines for people affected by violence and conflict in north-east Nigeria who are dependent on assistance to survive.

Humanitarian operations in Damasak will be reduced due to the violent attack, which will affect the support to 8,800 internally displaced people and 76,000 people in the host community receiving humanitarian assistance and protection there.

Civilians and aid workers, their facilities, and assets should never be a target. They must always be protected and respected.

I call on armed parties to observe and commit to international humanitarian law and human rights law and ensure the protection of civilians, humanitarian property, and personnel.

I also appeal to our generous donors and stakeholders for support in funding the nine humanitarian hubs and to the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), as these are vital enablers of the humanitarian operations in north-east Nigeria.

I also appeal to donors to urgently continue their support for the Humanitarian Response Plan for north-east Nigeria in order to provide life-saving and life-sustaining support to some 6.4 million displaced people and host communities affected by the humanitarian crisis there.

Huge Rise In Child Migrants Crossing Dangerous Panama Jungle – UN

In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

The number of US-bound migrant children crossing the dangerous Darien jungle in Panama on foot has increased more than 15-fold in recent years and is likely to rise further during the pandemic, the UN children’s agency warned on Monday.

Children accounted for just two percent of these migrants in 2017 but that had risen to more than 25 percent in 2020, UNICEF said in a statement.

The Darien Gap jungle, the only land corridor between Colombia and Panama, is “one of the most dangerous routes in the world due to the mountainous terrain, wildlife and insects, as well as the presence of criminal organizations,” the agency added.

Crossing the vast, roadless Darien Gap rainforest is the only option for US-bound migrants traveling overland from South America. Most of those making the crossing are Haitians and Cubans, but there are also some Asians and Africans.

“I’ve seen women step out of the jungle carrying their babies in their arms after walking for more than seven days without water, food or any kind of protection,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Over the past four years, more than 46,500 migrants, including 6,240 children and adolescents, have crossed the inhospitable jungle. The number of minors increased from 109 to 1,653 between 2017 and 2020, UNICEF said.

READ ALSO: Israel Reopens Egypt Crossing For First Time Since COVID-19 Pandemic

In 2019, a peak of nearly 4,000 children made the crossing. Half of them were under five years old and many arrive injured and with serious physical and psychological problems.

Experts believe more and more migrants are choosing to travel with their families, including young children and pregnant women, to avoid being deported to the different countries they pass through.

“These families are pushing their own limits and putting their lives in danger, often without realizing how much of a risk they are taking. Those who manage to eventually cross this perilous border are physically and mentally devastated,” Gough added.

Migration across the dangerous jungle is likely to increase in the next months due to the economic crisis and unemployment generated by the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with violence and climate change, UNICEF said.

AFP

COVID-19 Highlights Urgent Need To Reboot Global Effort To End Tuberculosis – WHO

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organised by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / POOL / AFP
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organised by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) on July 3, 2020, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / POOL / AFP

 

An estimated 1.4 million fewer people received care for Tuberculosis (TB) in 2020 than in 2019, according to preliminary data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) from over 80 countries- a reduction of 21% from 2019.

The countries with the biggest relative gaps were Indonesia (42%), South Africa (41%), the Philippines (37%), and India (25%).

“The effects of COVID-19 go far beyond the death and disease caused by the virus itself. The disruption to essential services for people with TB is just one tragic example of the ways the pandemic is disproportionately affecting some of the world’s poorest people, who were already at higher risk for TB,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Building up health systems so everyone can get the services they need is key. Some countries have already taken steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on service delivery, by strengthening infection control; expanding the use of digital technologies to provide remote advice and support, and providing home-based TB prevention and care.

But many people who have TB are unable to access the care they need. WHO fears that over half a million more people may have died from TB in 2020, simply because they were unable to obtain a diagnosis.

This is not a new problem: before COVID-19 struck, the gap between the estimated number of people developing TB each year and the annual number of people officially reported as diagnosed with TB was about 3 million. The pandemic has greatly exacerbated the situation.

One way to address this is through restored and improved TB screening to rapidly identify people with TB infection or TB disease. New guidance issued by WHO on World TB Day aims to help countries identify the specific needs of communities, the populations at highest risk of TB, and the locations most affected to ensure people can access the most appropriate prevention and care services. This can be achieved through the more systematic use of screening approaches that employ novel tools.

These include the use of molecular rapid diagnostic tests, the use of computer-aided detection to interpret chest radiography, and the use of a wider range of approaches for screening people living with HIV for TB. The recommendations are accompanied by an operational guide to facilitate roll-out.

But this will not be enough alone. In 2020, in his report to the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General issued a set of 10 priority recommendations that countries need to follow.

These include activating high-level leadership and action across multiple sectors to urgently reduce TB deaths; increasing funding; advancing universal health coverage for TB prevention and care; addressing drug resistance, promoting human rights, and intensifying TB research.

And critically, it will be vital to reducing health inequities.

“For centuries, people with TB have been among the most marginalized and vulnerable. COVID-19 has intensified the disparities in living conditions and ability to access services both within and between countries,” says Dr. Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme.

“We must now make a renewed effort to work together to ensure that TB programmes are strong enough to deliver during any future emergency – and look for innovative ways to do this.”

UN Seeks Access To Migrants Injured In Yemen Blaze

In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

The UN migration agency has urged rebels who control the Yemeni capital Sanaa to provide access to dozens of African migrants who were seriously injured in a weekend hostel fire.

The Sunday blaze at an overcrowded holding facility in Sanaa killed an unconfirmed number of migrants and injured more than 170, over half of them seriously, the International Organization for Migration said.

“As many migrants are in a critical condition, meeting their health needs must be an urgent priority,” IOM Middle East and North Africa director Carmela Godeau said in a statement Tuesday.

“We are facing challenges accessing the injured due to an increased security presence in the hospitals,” she said.

“Humanitarians and health workers must be given access to support the treatment of those affected by the fire.”

There has still been no word from the Huthi rebel authorities on what caused Sunday’s fire or how many people it killed.

The IOM said more than 350 migrants, most of them from Ethiopia, were in a hangar area where the fire broke out.

“While the cause of the fire is still unconfirmed, its impact is clearly horrific,” said Godeau.

Despite more than six years of devastating conflict in Yemen that have created what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the impoverished country is still a magnet for migrants from the nearby Horn to Africa seeking a better life in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Restrictions on movement imposed during the coronavirus pandemic have led to a reduction in migrant arrivals from more than 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020.

But they have also led to “thousands of migrants becoming stranded with little access to basic services or protection,” the IOM said.

It said it was working with Ethiopian authorities to restart a voluntary repatriation programme for stranded migrants.

More than 6,000 have registered to return home from Yemen’s government-held second city Aden, of whom a first 1,100 are are expected to leave in the coming weeks, the IOM said.

UN Expert Urges ‘Global Arms Embargo’, Sanctions On Myanmar

In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

The United Nations Security Council should impose a “global arms embargo” and targeted sanctions against Myanmar’s military, a top UN rights expert said Thursday, voicing alarm at the brutal repression of anti-coup protests.

In a fresh report, Thomas Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights situation in Myanmar, called for the international community to “act urgently and decisively” to support those demanding a return to democracy in the country.

“The stakes could not be higher,” he said.

The UN Security Council, he said, should urgently “impose a global arms embargo” and “impose targeted economic sanctions against the Myanmar military and its sources of revenue.”

It should also refer the situation in the country to the International Criminal Court “to investigate and possibly prosecute atrocity crimes that have occurred, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity,” the report said.

READ ALSO: Israel, Denmark, Austria Agree Deal For Vaccine Development

The UN and the international community must meanwhile deny the military junta recognitions as the country’s legitimate government, the expert said.

“I urge the members of the (Security) Council to consider the unrelenting brutality that we are witnessing in Myanmar,” he said in a statement.

Myanmar has been in uproar since the military seized power on February 1, ending a decade-long experiment with democracy and triggering a mass uprising that the junta has increasingly sought to quash with lethal force.

Wednesday marked the bloodiest day so far, with the UN saying at least 38 people died, as online images streamed out of Myanmar showing security forces firing into crowds and blood-covered bodies with bullet wounds in their heads.

The UN Security Council is due to discuss the crisis on Friday, as international pressure mounts.

Western powers have repeatedly hit the generals with sanctions, and 41 states have imposed arms embargos on Myanmar.

– ‘Terrified’ –

Andrews’ report covered the period up to March 1, so did not include the escalating violence in recent days.

But he had already said on February 17 that he was “terrified” at developments in the country, warning “we could be on the precipice of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar.”

The US national said in his report that he had requested access to Myanmar as soon as he was named to his post last year, back when Aung San Suu Kyi was still in charge of the civilian government.

But his request had been denied with reference to the pandemic.

Andrews meanwhile said it was clear that “the people of Myanmar are experiencing the illegal overthrow of their government and the brutal repression of a military authoritarian regime.”

He hailed that they had “risen up in opposition as a diverse yet powerfully unified whole.”

“The non-violent civil disobedience movement is proving to be remarkably effective, drawing its organic power from the unflinching and democratic desires of the people,” he said.

“Indeed, Myanmar appears to have never been more unified.”

He called on the international community to “rise to the occasion of this moment in history by following the lead and the inspiration of the people of Myanmar,” voicing hope that “justice, dignity, and human rights will prevail.”

AFP