‘War Crimes’ Committed In Ukraine – UN Investigators

This photograph shows a Ukrainian tank on the road near recently released Dolina village, Donetsk region, on September 22, 2022. (Photo by Anatolii Stepanov / AFP)

 

UN investigators said Friday that war crimes have been committed in the Ukraine conflict, listing Russian bombings of civilians areas, numerous executions, torture and horrific sexual violence.

“Based on the evidence gathered by the Commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine,” Erik Mose, the head of the investigation team, told the UN Human Rights Council.

The categorical nature of the statement was unusual.

UN investigators typically couch their findings on international crimes in conditional language, referring the final confirmation of war crimes and similar violations to courts of law.


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The council was set up by the Commission of Inquiry (COI) — the highest-possible level of investigation — in May to investigate crimes in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The team of three independent experts was presenting their first oral update to the council, after it launched initial investigations looking at the areas of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions, and said it would broaden the probe going forward.

Speaking a day before the seven-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion of its neighbour, Mose pointed to “the Russian Federation’s use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas,” which he said was “a source of immense harm and suffering for civilians.”

Torture, sexual violence

He highlighted that a number of attacks the team had investigated “had been carried out without distinguishing between civilians and combatants,” including attacks with cluster munitions in populated areas.

The team, he said, had been especially “struck by the large number of executions in the areas that we visited,” and the frequent “visible signs of executions on bodies, such as hands tied behind backs, gunshot wounds to the head, and slit throats.”

Mose said the commission was currently investigating such deaths in 16 towns and settlements, and had received credible allegations regarding many more cases which it would seek to document.

The investigators had also received “consistent accounts of ill-treatment and torture, which were carried out during unlawful confinement.”

Some of the victims had told the investigators they were transferred to Russia and held for weeks in prisons. Others had “disappeared” following such transfers.

“Interlocutors described beatings, electric shocks, and forced nudity, as well as other types of violations in such detention facilities,” Mose said.

The commission chief said the investigators had also “processed two incidents of ill-treatment against Russian Federation soldiers by Ukrainian forces”, adding that “while few in numbers, such cases continue to be the subject of our attention.”

The team had also documented cases of sexual and gender-based violence, Mose said, in some cases establishing that Russian soldiers were the perpetrators.

“There are examples of cases where relatives were forced to witness the crimes,” he said.

“In the cases we have investigated, the age of victims of sexual and gendered-based violence ranged from four to 82 years.”

The commission had documented a wide range of crimes against children, he said, including children who were “raped, tortured, and unlawfully confined.”

UN Appeals For $160 mn To Help Worst Hit In Pakistan Floods

People gather in front of a road damaged by flood waters following heavy monsoon rains in Madian area in Pakistan's northern Swat Valley on August 27, 2022. Photo by Abdul MAJEED / AFP
People gather in front of a road damaged by flood waters following heavy monsoon rains in Madian area in Pakistan’s northern Swat Valley on August 27, 2022. Photo by Abdul MAJEED / AFP

 

The United Nations and Pakistan launched an emergency appeal for $160 million on Tuesday as the country was submerged by floods, with the United States quickly offering $30 million.

The funds will provide 5.2 million of the worst-affected and most vulnerable people with aid including food, clean water, sanitation and emergency education, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, calling the disaster a “colossal crisis”.

“Pakistan is awash in suffering. The Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids — the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding,” he said in a video statement before announcing plans to visit Pakistan next week.

The United States, the largest donor to Pakistan, said it was providing a fresh $30 million for urgent needs including food, safe water and hygiene.

The US Agency for International Development in a statement announcing the aid said that one of its disaster specialists was working out of Islamabad to assess needs and coordinate with the Pakistani government and other local partners.

The United Nations said the aid would cover the initial six months of the crisis response and help to avoid outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, as well as providing nutrition to young children and their mothers.

It will also provide assistance to refugees and facilitate schemes to reunite families separated by the disaster.

“The people of Pakistan urgently need international solidarity and support,” Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, told a press briefing in Geneva.

He said some 500,000 people displaced by the floods were sheltering in relief camps, with many more temporarily staying with host families.

Around 150 bridges have been washed away, he said, and 3,500 kilometres (2,175 miles) of roads damaged in flooding and landslides, hampering access.

“The heavy rains are forecast to continue and with many dams and rivers already at flood levels, the flooding is likely to get worse before it gets better,” Laerke said.

Health facilities wrecked

Tens of millions of people have been affected by relentless monsoon rains that have submerged a third of Pakistan and claimed more than 1,100 lives.

The rains that began in June have unleashed the worst flooding in more than a decade, washing away swathes of vital crops and damaging or destroying more than a million homes.

World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier said Pakistan’s health facilities had been severely affected by the flooding, with 180 “completely damaged”.

He said there was already a vast disparity between rural and urban healthcare provision, while treatment for non-communicable diseases such as diabetes would be “severely” impacted.

“It’s a vast problem which opens up here,” he said.

The UN refugee agency said there were 1.3 million Afghan refugees registered in Pakistan and it had already delivered $1.5 million worth of emergency relief and shelter items — but “much, much more” would be needed in the coming weeks.

‘Climate catastrophe’

Guterres branded the floods a “climate catastrophe”, saying South Asia was one of the world’s hotspots where people are “15 times more likely to die from climate impacts”.

“It is outrageous that climate action is being put on the back burner as global emissions of greenhouse gases are still rising, putting all of us — everywhere — in growing danger,” he said.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization said that Pakistan and northwest India have been witnessing an intense 2022 monsoon season.

One site at Padidan in the southern Sindh province was reporting 1,288 millimetres of rain so far in August, compared to the monthly average of 46 millimetres, said WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis.

AFP

UN Chief ‘Warmly Welcomes’ Departure Of First Ukraine Grain Ship

In this file photo taken on February 28, 2022, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks on the Russia-Ukraine conflict at the General Assembly emergency special session in New York City. Kena Betancur / AFP
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks on the Russia-Ukraine conflict at the General Assembly emergency special session in New York City. Kena Betancur / AFP

 

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres “warmly welcomes” the departure Monday of a first ship carrying Ukrainian grain under a plan to lift Russia’s naval blockade, a spokesperson said.

“The Secretary-General hopes that this will be the first of many commercial ships moving in accordance with the initiative signed, and that this will bring much-needed stability and relief to global food security, especially in the most fragile humanitarian contexts,” the UN said in a statement.

AFP

At Least 471 Dead, Hurt Or Missing In Haiti Gang Violence – UN

In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP

 

At least 471 people were killed, injured or missing as a result of fierce clashes this month between rival gangs in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, the United Nations said Monday.

“Serious incidents of sexual violence against women and girls as well as boys being recruited by gangs have also been reported,” the United Nations said in a statement on the toll from violence between July 8 and 17 in the impoverished neighborhood of Cite Soleil.

It did not specify how many of those people were killed.

Some 3,000 people have fled their homes, among them hundreds of unaccompanied children, and at least 140 houses have been destroyed, the statement said.

“The humanitarian needs in Cite Soleil are immense and are growing due to poverty, lack of basic services, including security, and a recent spike in violence,” Ulrika Richardson, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, said in the statement.

While UN agencies are providing assistance in Cite Soleil, “a more sustainable and holistic approach needs to be found for the medium and longer-term development of this emblematic commune,” Richardson added.

Gangs that operate with widespread impunity have extended their reach beyond the slums of the Haitian capital, carrying out a wave of kidnappings.

At least 155 kidnappings took place in the month of June, compared to 118 in May, according to a report released by the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry has yet to comment on the outbreak of violence that ravaged Cite Soleil in early July.

Haiti is mired in a political crisis stemming from the 2016 elections, which was aggravated by the assassination of president Jovenel Moise at his home on July 7, 2021.

AFP

Ukraine Says Will Only Sign Grain Deal With UN, Turkey

A farmer stands as he collects wheat near Mykolaiv, on July 21, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

 

Kyiv said Friday that Ukraine will only sign an agreement with Turkey and the UN to resume grain exports that were disrupted by Moscow’s invasion, excluding any direct deals with Russia.

“Ukraine does not sign any documents with Russia. We will sign an agreement with Turkey and the UN,” presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak wrote on Twitter, adding that Russia would be signing a separate “mirror” agreement.

He vowed a Ukrainian “military response” to any “provocations” from Russia and said Moscow’s ships and representatives would not be allowed in Ukrainian ports used for grain exports.

According to Podolyak, any necessary inspections of cargo ships “will be carried out by joint groups” in Turkish waters.

A delegation from Ukraine was in Istanbul Friday with a deal set to be signed to unblock millions of tonnes of grain stuck in Ukrainian ports since Russia invaded on February 24.

“The country’s delegation led by Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov arrived in Istanbul for negotiations on the resolution of the grain issue,” Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said on Telegram.

It also posted a photo of the delegates meeting with UN chief Antonio Guterres.

“The Secretary-General once again expressed his support for the unblocking of Ukrainian ports and assured that security is an indisputable priority for the UN,” the ministry said.

Up to 25 million tonnes of wheat and other grain have been blocked in Ukrainian ports by Russian warships and landmines Kyiv has laid to avert a feared amphibious assault.

The blocked exports have sparked a surge in global food prices and raised fears of famine, particularly in the world’s poorest countries.

-AFP

UN Says No Plans To Start Naming Heatwaves

In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP

 

The United Nations said Tuesday it has no plans to start naming heatwaves in the same way as Atlantic hurricanes, as Europe faces scorching temperatures this week.

Throughout the annual Atlantic hurricane season, storms are named to make them easier to identify in warning messages and help ensure clear communication.

But the UN’s World Meteorological Organization said a similar system for heatwaves was not in the pipeline.

“Tropical cyclones are big systems, they affect multiple countries; heatwaves are more localised,” WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters.

“There are moves by some cities to name heatwaves, but at the moment there’s definitely not a coordinated move to name heatwaves.

“We don’t have a naming system and it’s not envisaged in the near future either.”

The southern Spanish city of Seville, which saw temperatures hit 40 degrees Celsius last month, will be the first in the world to name and classify heatwaves.

The pilot scheme announced in June aims to raise public awareness and trigger emergency measures quickly in the event of a heatwave alert.

The first five will be called Zoe, Yago, Xenia, Wenceslao and Vega.

Hurricane names are overseen by the WMO. They are reused every six years, though if the hurricanes are particularly devastating, the name is retired and replaced.

Naming systems are also used in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

22 Malian Migrants Died In Boat Disaster Off Libya – UN

In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP

 

Twenty-two Malian migrants died in a boat disaster off the Libyan coast, the UN said Tuesday, citing survivors who reported victims drowning and dehydrating with three children reportedly among the dead.

After nine days at sea, 61 survivors, mostly from Mali, were rescued by the Libyan coastguard and brought back to shore, the UN’s International Organization for Migration said, with the toll confirmed by Mali’s expatriates ministry.

The migrants embarked from the Libyan city of Zuwara, near the Tunisian border, on a rubber boat, at around 1:00 am (2300 GMT) local time on June 22, said IOM spokeswoman Safa Msehli.

“After nine days at sea, they were picked up by the Libyan coastguard,” she said.

They were brought back to shore on Saturday.

“According to the survivors, 22 migrants, all from Mali, died during the journey. Reported causes of death are drowning and dehydration. Among the dead are three children,” said Msehli.

“The total number of survivors is 61, with the majority from Mali.”

Msehli said some of the migrants were in very bad health and so were taken to hospitals by the IOM.

“The remaining migrants were taken to Al Maya detention centre,” she said.

– ‘World’s deadliest migration route’ –

Libya has become a key route for irregular migration to Europe in the chaotic years since the 2011 overthrow and killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising.

While many have drowned at sea, thousands have been intercepted by the Libyan coastguard, which has been backed by Italy and the EU, and returned to Libya.

“The (expatriates) ministry offers its condolences in the name of the government to the affected families and to the Malian people for this tragedy,” Mali’s government said in a statement that called on the Malian people to “fight against irregular migration”.

The International Organization for Migration has said that nearly 2,000 migrants drowned or went missing in the Mediterranean in 2021, compared to 1,401 the previous year.

It is the world’s deadliest migration route, but people hoping to build a better life in Europe increasingly risk it.

Mali, which is currently under military rule, is chronically unstable and has been buffeted by internal challenges and regional jihadist forces.

Jihadists joined a regional insurgency in northern Mali in 2012, and then extended their campaign to the centre of the country and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thousands of civilians have died, more than two million have fled their homes and economic damage to countries that are among the poorest in the world has been severe.

Al Jazeera Journalist Killed By Israeli Fire – UN

File Photo of a UN flag  (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

 

The United Nations said Friday that its findings showed that the shot that killed Al Jazeera TV journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11 was fired by Israeli forces.

The Palestinian-American journalist, who was wearing a vest marked “Press” and a helmet, was killed on May 11 while covering an Israeli army operation in Jenin camp in the northern West Bank.

“We find that the shots that killed Abu Akleh came from Israeli security forces,” UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.

“It is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation.

“We at the UN Human Rights Office have concluded our independent monitoring into the incident.

“The shots that killed Abu Akleh and injured her colleague Ali Sammoudi came from Israeli security forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians, as initially claimed by Israeli authorities” she said.

She added that the information came from the Israeli military and the Palestinian attorney general.

“We have found no information suggesting that there was activity by armed Palestinians in the immediate vicinity of the journalists,” Shamdasani said.

In line with its human rights monitoring methodology, the UN rights office inspected photo, video and audio material, visited the scene, consulted experts, reviewed official communications and interviewed witnesses.

The findings showed that seven journalists arrived at the western entrance of the Jenin refugee camp soon after 6:00 am.

At around 6:30 am, as four of the journalists turned into a particular street, “several single, seemingly well-aimed bullets were fired towards them from the direction of the Israeli security forces.

“One single bullet injured Ali Sammoudi in the shoulder; another single bullet hit Abu Akleh in the head and killed her instantly.”

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has urged Israel to open a criminal investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing and into all other killings by Israeli forces in the West Bank and in the context of law enforcement operations in Gaza.

Yemen Truce A Step Toward Broader Peace Deal – UN Envoy

A protester holds a Yemeni flag-themed placard in Parliament Square in London on July 5, 2020, as she demonstrates against the continued conflict in Yemen. - Yemen has been locked in conflict since the Huthis took control of Sanaa in 2014 and went on to seize much of the north. The crisis escalated when the Saudi-led coalition intervened the following year to support Yemen's internationally-recognised government. Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian disaster. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)
A protester holds a Yemeni flag-themed placard in Parliament Square in London on July 5, 2020, as she demonstrates against the continued conflict in Yemen. – Yemen has been locked in conflict since the Huthis took control of Sanaa in 2014 and went on to seize much of the north.  disaster. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

A renewed two-month truce in war-torn Yemen that has given the population a sense of normalisation is the first step toward a broader peace settlement, the United Nations special envoy said Friday.

The truce “has delivered some humanitarian respite to the population that is unprecedented in terms of the history of the conflict, and from that point of view, it also provides us with scope and breathing space for engaging on a political settlement”, Swedish diplomat Hans Grundberg told AFP in an interview.

“The truce is the first step towards a broader settlement,” he said on the sidelines of the Yemen International Forum in Stockholm, a conference attended by Yemeni political actors, experts and representatives of a host of civil society organisations.

The Yemeni government and Huthi rebels agreed earlier this month to extend the truce which went into effect in April and significantly reduced the intensity of fighting in a conflict the UN says has triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands and left millions on the brink of famine.

The country has been gripped by conflict since the Iran-backed Huthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014, triggering a Saudi-led military intervention in support of the beleaguered government the following year.

Under the truce, commercial flights have resumed from Sanaa airport to Amman and Cairo and oil tankers have been able to dock in the lifeline port of Hodeida, which is in rebel hands, in an attempt to ease fuel shortages.

“The truce provides us with steps that normalise life in certain small areas for the Yemeni population, and that I think is both important, but also symbolic,” Grundberg said.

“The obvious wish that I have is that this normalisation, not only on the airport but on all other issues that we’re engaging on, continues”.

A provision in the truce agreement for the rebels to ease their siege of Yemen’s third-biggest city Taez has yet to be implemented, and the government has demanded roads to the city be opened.

“We have been engaging in direct negotiations for the last two weeks in Yemen on this issue,” Grundberg said.

He said there had been “steps forward” but provided no time frame for a possible resolution to the issue.

“We have seen both sides coming with proposals to us, wanting to see a solution on the matter”, but “we haven’t reached a solution on the matter yet”.

“Right now we have a proposal on the table that I do hope can deliver.”

Hunger Crisis Could Swell Already Record Global Displacement – UN

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

 

Russia’s war in Ukraine has pushed global displacement numbers above 100 million for the first time, and the UN warns the resulting hunger crisis could force many more to flee their homes.

Efforts to address the global food insecurity crisis, which has been dramatically aggravated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is “of paramount importance… to prevent a larger number of people moving,” the United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi told reporters.

“If you ask me how many… I don’t know, but it will be pretty big numbers.”

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, traditionally a breadbasket to the world, has sparked dramatic grain and fertiliser shortages, sent global prices soaring and put hundreds of millions of people at risk from hunger.

“The impact, if this is not resolved quickly, would be devastating,” Grandi said. “It is already devastating.”

His comments came as he presented the UNHCR refugee agency’s annual report on global displacement, showing that a record 89.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2021 — more than doubling in a decade.

But since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on February 24, as many as 14 million Ukrainians may have fled within their own war-ravaged country or across borders as refugees, pushing global displacement past the grim 100-million mark for the first time.

– ‘Terrible trend’ –

“Every year of the last decade, the numbers have climbed,” Grandi said.

“Either the international community comes together to take action to address this human tragedy, resolve conflicts and find lasting solutions, or this terrible trend will continue.”

The UN agency found that at the end of 2021, a record 27.1 million people were living as refugees, while the number of asylum seekers rose 11 percent to 4.6 million.

And for the 15th straight year, the number of people living displaced within their own country due to conflict swelled, hitting 53.2 million.

The UNHCR report said last year was notable for the number of protracted conflicts in places like Afghanistan that escalated, even as new ones flared.

At the same time, growing food scarcity, inflation and the climate crisis were adding to hardship and stretching the humanitarian response, threatening to weaken already dire funding levels for many crises, UNHCR warned.

That has not been the case for Ukraine, with an enormous outpouring of solidarity, and fleeing Ukrainians welcomed with open arms across Europe.

– ‘Not unmanageable’ –

Grandi hailed the generous response to this crisis, but highlighted the contrast to how refugees fleeing wars in places like Syria and Afghanistan have been met.

The UN refugee chief recalled how European leaders had insisted “it’s full” when asked to take in more refugees from those conflicts.

“I’m not naive. I fully understand the context,” he said, adding though that the generous response to fleeing Ukrainians “proves an important point… The arrival of desperate people on the shores or at the borders of rich countries is not unmanageable.”

Grandi also pointed to how massive sums of money had been made immediately available to respond to the Ukraine crisis, despite countries’ insistence their coffers were empty when met with appeals for more aid for other situations.

“There cannot be inequity in the response,” he said.

Countries have vowed the aid provided for Ukraine would come on top of amounts pledged for other crises, but Grandi cautioned that so far “the mathematics doesn’t show that.”

– ‘Vicious circle’ –

It would be disastrous if already underfunded responses were cut further, he warned.

He voiced particular concern for the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, where massive displacement is being driven by a macabre combination of conflict, insecurity, poor governance and devastating effects of climate change.

“It’s a very vicious circle of many factors,” he said.

Grandi warned that beyond the immediate impact, the war in Ukraine was also complicating the response to displacement crises since it had “dealt a terrible blow to international cooperation.”

Even if the war were to end within months — which he thought unlikely — “the scars on international cooperation of those fractures between the West and Russia… will take a long time to heal.”

And, he warned, “if that is not healed, I don’t know how we will deal with this global crisis.”

AFP

Migrants Sent $605 bn Home In 2021, More By Mobiles – UN

In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP

 

Migrant workers sent home an estimated $605 billion to low- and middle-income countries last year, a UN study said Thursday, boosted by an increase in payments sent via mobile phones.

Global remittances rose 8.6 percent compared to 2020 and are projected to grow to $630 billion in 2022, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Such payments are a major source of income for many low-income households, with around 800 million family members expected to benefit in 2022.

Between now and 2030, global remittances will amount to $5.4 trillion, the equivalent of twice the GDP of Africa in 2021, IFAD has estimated.

“Remittances lift people out of poverty, put food on the table, pay for education, cover health expenses, allow housing investments and many other family goals beyond consumption,” IFAD president Gilbert Houngbo said.

However, the report warned that the upward trend would likely slow this year as inflation erodes wages, and as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Many countries in central Asia depend on remittances from Russia, with payments accounting for as much as 30 percent of their GDP, said the report.

But the decline in the value of the ruble and the economic impact of sanctions has triggered a “sharp decline in transfers”, IFAD said.

Most of the money sent home by migrant workers is transferred through bricks-and-mortar institutions with clients paying cash, but the coronavirus pandemic saw a important shift towards digital.

With lockdowns and border closures making physical services more difficult to access, mobile phone payments jumped by 48 percent in 2021.

They still only accounted for three percent of the global total, but Pedro De Vasconcelos, manager of the Financing Facility for Remittances at IFAD, said the trend is set.

“Cash is still king, but it’s losing ground,” he told AFP.

This matters because mobile payments are more convenient, particularly for those in rural areas, and are also cheaper.

In Africa — which received $94 billion in remittances in 2021, an increase of 13 percent on 2020 — transfer fees are the highest in the world.

AFP

UN Seeks $426 mn To Avert ‘Starvation’ In South Sudan

In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP

 

The UN’s World Food Programme on Tuesday appealed for $426 million to stave off famine in South Sudan, where conflict and floods have placed millions at risk.

“We are already in a crisis, but we need to restore food assistance… to prevent people from falling into starvation and famine. To do so, we urgently require $426 million for the next six months,” WFP’s programme officer for South Sudan, Adeyinka Badejo, told reporters.

“South Sudan is facing its hungriest year since independence,” Badejo warned from the capital Juba.

The reasons, she said, were accumulative — “continuing sub-national conflict, climate crisis of three consecutive years of floods, and severe economic shocks exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and now the war in Ukraine.”

The youngest country in the world, South Sudan has experienced chronic instability since becoming independent from Sudan in 2011.

A civil war between 2013-2018 left nearly 400,000 dead and millions displaced.

A peace accord provided for a power-sharing arrangement in a unity government gathering the two rivals, President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar.

But many articles of the accord are still to be implemented and armed clashes between the two sides have resumed.

Amplifying the impact from violence has been flooding.

The impoverished landlocked country is bracing for a fourth successive year of floods that could force 600,000 people from their homes, said Badejo.

Last year a million people were displaced.

“More than two-thirds of the population are experiencing a serious humanitarian and protection crisis and require humanitarian assistance to survive,” she said.

“Of these, we estimate that 8.3 million people, including internally displaced persons and refugees, will endure severe acute hunger during the lean season. This also includes two million women and children at risk of acute malnutrition in 2022.”

This year, the WFP had planned to provide food assistance to 6.2 million people.

But mounting demands and insufficient funds meant that the agency in April had to suspend help for 1.7 million of these — people deem