Tag Archives: UNbodies

FAO appeals for $121 million to support livelihoods affected by Syria crisis

Photo: ©AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC

A Syrian Kurdish boy from Mile Village, Kobani, holds a goat near the Syrian border, after shepherds crossed into Turkey with their animals.

30 March 2015, Rome РSome $121 million are  urgently needed to prevent further deterioration of the food security situation and the collapse of regional food chains amidst the ongoing crisis in Syria, which has severely disrupted agricultural production and trade and left some 9.8 million people food insecure, FAO said today.

“We need to provide additional assistance to farmers to help them rebuild agricultural infrastructure and livelihoods, or we will see the food security situation continue to worsen,” said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa.

The Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, which will take place in Kuwait City on 31 March, presents an opportunity to raise critical funds to strengthen agricultural production in communities across Syria and neighbouring countries. 

Now in its fifth year, the Syria crisis has displaced more than 11 million people, of whom close to 4 million have fled to neighbouring Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Some 85 percent of these refugees have settled outside of camps – many in rural areas where agriculture is the livelihood of the poorest families.

In Syria itself, some 50 percent of livestock have been lost and the cereal harvest has dropped by half since the beginning of the crisis in 2011 due to conflict escalation and adverse weather.

Along with growing pressures on resources like water and land, the movement of people and livestock has also raised the risk of animal and plant diseases spreading across borders within and beyond the region. This is in part due to the collapse of the veterinary services in Syria, which has left thousands of animals unvaccinated.

Boosting agricultural production is essential to ensuring a steady food supply in Syria and the subregion, which has seen an increase in food prices that is particularly affecting the 75 percent of Syrians currently living in poverty.

Building livelihoods

This week’s pledging conference aims to raise the funds required to meet the needs outlined in the 2015 Syria Strategic Response Plan (SRP) and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) 2015-2016. In all, responding to the crisis in Syria and its spillover in the region will require $2.9 billion and $5.5 billion, respectively, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Under these plans, FAO is seeking $59 million for its work in Syria to support the production of staple foods, improve families’ nutrition and income, protect their livestock, and improve the way that governments, aid agencies and communities coordinate to build food security. These funds will assist more than 1.5 million people.

Another $62 million are needed to help host communities in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey cope with the influx of refugees by making their agriculture more productive and sustainable. These measures include preventing animal and plant diseases, supporting backyard farming and developing value chains.

FAO’s work in Syria

These interventions build on FAO’s existing work across Syria, which has supported the livelihoods of close to a million Syrians since the start of the conflict in 2011.

In 2014, some 238,000 people received seeds that produced enough cereals to feed more than 420,000 people for a year. Another 24,500 people received vegetable packages that allow them to grow more nutritious foods, and some 45,000 hens which are expected to produce nearly 9 million eggs for families in Syria. Meanwhile, more than 1 million animals were treated for parasites and some 7,600 small livestock keepers received feed for their animals last year.

“Food production is the backbone of rural livelihoods,” said Laurent Thomas, FAO Assistant Director-General for Technical Cooperation. “However, farmers are facing enormous challenges and they need urgent support to protect Syria’s already tremendously damaged agricultural production. This is not only crucial for improving the lives of millions of people in Syria but for food security and stability in the region as a whole.”

UN condemns kidnaping of DR Congo refugees, urges their immediate release

27 March 2015 – The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has today strongly condemned the recent kidnapping of Congolese refugees by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), calling for an immediate release of those still in captivity.

On 21 March, 15 Congolese refugees and one Congolese national were kidnapped by the LRA near the border between the Central African Republic (CAR) and the DCR. They were abducted from the DRC side of the border, where they had been tending to their fields.

According to UNHCR, 13of them, 2 women and 11 men, were released two days later and trekked back to the refugee camp near Zemio in the southeast of CAR. Some of the victims arrived with open wounds, and a 16-year old girl had been raped. Three refugee boys are still missing.

At a Geneva press briefing this afternoon, UNHCR’s Karin de Gruijl said that upon their arrival, the released refugees were immediately transferred to the health centre in Zemio where they received the necessary medical care. They were still in shock and anxious to learn about the missing refugees, she said.

UNHCR and its partners are providing psychosocial counselling to help them cope with this traumatic event. The UN agency also plans to step up awareness raising efforts to provide refugees with up-to-date information about the security situation, LRA activities in the region and the risks associated with moving between the camp in the CAR and their fields in the DRC.

LRA rebels have intensified their attacks on villages at the CAR-DRC border since the arrest in the CAR of Dominic Ongwen, an LRA top commander accused of crimes against humanity in the beginning of 2015.

The Lord’s Resistance Army sprung up in Uganda in 1986, established its first base in Sudan in 1993, and spread to the DRC in 2005, before moving further north into the CAR in 2009. Chased by the Ugandan armed forces, the remaining LRA rebels have pulled back in the forests in south-eastern CAR. They continue to wreak havoc and spread terror in the area.

According to UNHCR, more than 180,000 people remain internally displaced in LRA-affected areas in the CAR and the DRC, while LRA violence has caused more than 30,000 people to flee to the different neighbouring countries.

To meet those needs, UNHCR and partners are providing assistance to refugees. To date, some 640 refugees had registered to take part in the voluntary return programme that would be facilitated by the UN agency. The return programme is expected to start in the coming weeks, once the rehabilitation and extension of the airstrips in Zemio and Ango airstrips have been completed.

However, Ms. de Gruijl said the security situation tense there. There is not enough police to provide enforcement for the time being. Over the previous year, it had been a challenge to provide food to some parts of the CAR; consequently, people from camps are looking for ways to supplement both their nutrition and incomes. There are no also UN peacekeepers in that part of the CAR.

Zemio refugee camp hosts some 3,400 Congolese refugees from the Ango Territory, in Province Orientale in the north-eastern part of the DRC. Those Congolese fled LRA atrocities in the Province Orientale and found refuge in the CAR in 2009.

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Africa: Eritrea

More information about Eritrea is available on the Eritrea Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
 

U.S.-ERITREA RELATIONS

The United States established diplomatic relations with Eritrea in 1993, following its independence and separation from Ethiopia. The United States supported Eritrea’s independence, but ongoing government detention of political dissidents and others, the closure of the independent press, limits on civil liberties and Eritrea’s failure to accept a proposed U.S. Ambassador has strained U.S.-Eritrean relations. Eritrea’s authoritarian regime is controlled entirely by the president, who heads the sole political party, which has ruled the country since 1991. National elections have not taken place since 1991. Regionally, Eritrea has long-standing border disputes with Ethiopia and Djibouti that, in the past, turned violent. Eritrea remains subject to two UN Security Council sanctions resolutions.

U.S. interests in Eritrea include reconciling ongoing disputes with Ethiopia and Djibouti, urging progress toward a democratic political culture, citing and addressing human rights issues, promoting economic reform, and encouraging Eritrea to contribute to regional stability.

U.S. Assistance to Eritrea

At the Eritrean Government’s request, the United States no longer provides bilateral assistance to Eritrea. The United States has no military-to-military cooperation with Eritrea.

Bilateral Economic Relations

The Eritrean Government and ruling party control the economy. The United States and Eritrea have very little bilateral trade. Eritrea is a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, which has a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States.

Eritrea’s Membership in International Organizations

Eritrea and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank.

Bilateral Representation

There currently is no U.S. Ambassador to Eritrea; the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires is Louis Mazel. Other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.

Eritrea maintains an embassy in the United States at 1708 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-319-1991), but does not currently have an Ambassador to the United States.

More information about Eritrea is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

Department of State Eritrea Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Eritrea Page
U.S. Embassy: Eritrea
History of U.S. Relations With Eritrea
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
Investment Climate Statements
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Countries Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Travel and Business Information

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Yemen at War: Lifesaving aid blocked by airstrikes

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Millions in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, rely on aid organisations

BEIRUT, 27 March 2015 (IRIN) – The Saudi Arabian-led assault on Yemen has disrupted life-saving aid programs across the country, international aid agencies have said.

The provision of humanitarian aid to many Yemeni regions was already difficult as the country has slid closer to civil war following the takeover of the capital Sana’a in September by northern Houthi rebels. But on Thursday morning, a Saudi-led alliance of eight countries began bombing key Houthi targets in Sana’a and other cities.

Since then the United Nations and other aid agencies have been forced to suspend many key programs. International NGOs and the UN are seeking to evacuate their international staff, with several hundred still in the country. All commercial flights out of the country have been suspended since the Saudi attacks began.

Trond Jensen, head of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Yemen, said he was “extremely concerned” that vital aid was being suspended across the country. “In a conflict our ability to stay and deliver is badly affected,” he said.

Yemen, which has a population of just under 26 million, is the Arab world’s poorest country. Almost two-thirds of the population was already in need of aid before the crisis, while over 10 million are food insecure.

The Houthi takeover had already led to the suspension of key financial support to the country, while millions of dollars of development aid was suspended

Jensen said that the country’s dire economic situation was likely to be made worse by the suspension of key humanitarian aid. “Vulnerable people will be pushed over the edge,” Jensen added, agreeing that the country was in a perfect storm of crises.

He said, however, that the UN would seek to continue to deliver some humanitarian aid remotely. 

 

“We already had a network of local partners that UN agencies are operating through. We will continue to work through [them].”

Haajir Maalim, country director at Action Against Hunger, said they had suspended all operations in the northern regions of Hajjah and Al-Hudaydah and Abyan and Lahj in the south over security concerns. He added that they were seeking to maintain some services to ensure thousands of vulnerable people were not cut off from support.

“I think it is very worrying especially if the conflict carries on for a long time,” he said. “Yemenis are very resilient and life continues in Sana’a and other cities… but this can only continue for a short time.” 

“If the conflict continues the local capacity to withstand is limited.”

He added that they, too, were seeking to evacuate their international staff, while those that remain in country would be more restricted in their movement.

“One of the key risks we face is when we are moving,” he said, adding that both airstrikes and checkpoints pose a risk. “Movement to the beneficiaries will be limited.”


Maalim said he was wary that aid workers could also become targets for criminal gangs as the conflict continues.

“So far we have not seen [aid workers being] targeted, but as populations become desperate we do understand that aid agencies are seen as having resources.”

As fighting intensifies, there is little indication that any side is focusing on the humanitarian suffering in the country.  

The leader of the Iranian-backed Houthis has resorted to increasingly fiery rhetoric in the face of the attack, while the internationally recognised President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi called for the Saudi strikes, which have led to the killing of civilians.

A report released on Friday by the International Crisis Group think-tank warned that all sides were currently unwilling to search for a negotiated settlement and on Friday night, eyewitnesses in Sana’a said there were fresh airstrikes in the city.

“We are concerned that whatever resources are left in the country shall we diverted to conflict,” Jensen added.

jd/tl

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At Security Council, Ban urges action to end violence against religious, ethnic minorities in Middle East

27 March 2015 – Millions of lives in the Middle East – and the very social fabric of entire countries – are at stake, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned this morning, calling for urgent action from the Security Council to end the religiously and ethnically-motivated violence sweeping the region and end impunity for those committing crimes against humanity.

“I am deeply concerned about the grave dangers faced by minorities in parts of the Middle East. Currently, thousands of civilians are at the mercy of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, (ISIL), also called Daesh,” Mr. Ban said at a high-level debate on victims of attacks and abuses on ethnic or religious grounds in the region, chaired by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

“Its fighters kill systematically members of ethnic and religious minorities, those who do not share their misinterpretation of Islam and anyone who opposes their apocalyptic conception. They prey on women and children with unspeakable brutality. They destroy religious and cultural symbols that are the heritage of humanity,” Mr. Ban stressed.

The acts have spread to Syria, Iraq and now Libya and even in Yemen, where the bomb attacks perpetrated against mosques last week have further fueled sectarian violence. Condemning all acts of persecution, regardless of the reason – religious, ethnic, national, racial or other, the UN chief urged all parties to spare innocent lives.

Meanwhile, abuses in counter-terrorism are morally wrong and strategically counterproductive, Mr. Ban said, adding that combating terrorism never absolves governments of their responsibility to honour human rights.

In Iraq, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) cited information strongly suggesting that Daesh may have perpetrated genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against different minorities, and especially women and girls.

“My Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect warned last August that acts committed by Daesh pointed to the risk of genocide. Now we also see sectarian violence against local populations in areas liberated from its control,” the UN chief told the Council.

However, it is important to note that violent extremism in the region, for instance in Iraq, preceded Daesh’s advance, Mr. Ban pointed out, welcoming steps by the Iraqi Government to further national reconciliation, strengthen social cohesion, and reform the security sector. To that end, the Government must do more to uphold human rights and restore the rule of law in areas liberated from Daesh and the international community must help Iraq in this effort.

Five years into the Syrian conflict, the lack of accountability has led to an “exponential rise” in war crimes, crimes against humanity and other human rights violations. Both Government forces and non-State armed groups in Syria, especially Daesh and Jabhat al Nusra, have committed such deplorable acts.

“As we consider the plight of minority communities, we must avoid highlighting differences and reaffirm the values of diversity and peaceful coexistence. I urge the international community, particularly the Security Council, to overcome differences and seek new ways to ensure the protection of all Syrian civilians,” Mr. Ban said.

Mr. Ban plans to travel to Kuwait in the next few days for an international pledging conference for Syria. He called on all countries to give generously to help the millions of Syrians who are suffering and to assist neighbouring countries which shoulder most of the burden. Humanitarian assistance is vital to the region’s political stability.

Expressing concern about recent developments in Libya, where Daesh-affiliated groups are targeting minorities and attacking religious sites, Mr. Ban called on negotiating parties to quickly reach an agreement to bring an end to the military and political conflict. It is crucial to “curb the danger of Libya falling in the hands of terrorist groups.” Ongoing tribal tensions in the South could ignite violence along identity lines, the Secretary-General warned.

“No strategy will succeed without strong regional cooperation and an empowered Libyan State. The United Nations is developing a Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism which we will launch in September,” he said.

While governments have the primary responsibility to protect minorities, the international community must engage with partners in civil society, faith leaders and others with influence, including regional and other actors, as well.

To that end, the Secretary-General urged religious and community leaders to clearly remind their followers that religions are about peace, not violence and war.

Mr Ban also announced that next month, he and the President of the UN General Assembly would invite leaders from different faith communities to a special event at the United Nations.

“We will build on the experience of the UN Alliance of Civilizations to promote mutual understanding and reconciliation,” he said, underscoring that the Middle East is widely considered the cradle of many of the world’s great civilizations.

“Today, let us resolve to empower people – especially youth – to transform the region into the birthplace of a more stable and secure world.”

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More than 100 Chiefs of Defence gather at UN for first time

27 Mar 2015

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Welcoming ceremony for first detachment of China’s peacekeeping infantry battalion to arrive in South Sudan. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

A “Chiefs of Defence Conference” is welcoming more than 100 military leaders at UN Headquarters for the first time in history, to discuss the changing nature of peacekeeping and ways to improve the UN’s work on the ground.

That’s according to Edmond Mulet, the Assistant Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations.

The United Nations does not have its own military force and depends on financial and human resource contributions from Member States to operate its missions.

Stephanie Coutrix spoke to Mr Mulet and began by asking what the UN hopes to achieve through this conference.

Duration: 3’52”

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#NigeriaDecides

Africa’s largest democracy holds elections tomorrow. President Goodluck Jonathan is facing a tough re-election battle with longtime rival Muhammadu Buhari. With the Boko Haram insurgency raging, these elections are exceedingly consequential. Here are some resources to keep you informed about the elections and their significance.

A Good Think tank Policy Brief  (Council on Foreign Relations http://on.cfr.org/1FOoWkR)

A Good 14 minute podcast explainer: Global Dispatches Podcast: http://bit.ly/1ycCvCO

A Good explainer on the nuts and bolts of how the election will work. (BBC http://bbc.in/1FOpBmp)

More Nigeria News

Nigeria holds journalist…The Al Jazeera news organization says Nigerian forces have held two of its journalists in custody since Tuesday, as the country tightens security ahead of Saturday’s national election. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtwtA)

United Nations refugee chief António Guterres said masses of people fleeing the terrorist group Boko Haram have created a crisis comparable to the refugee situation caused by Syria’s civil war. A shortfall of international funding is hampering the UN’s ability to alleviate the situation. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtBxw)

Sat of the day: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that widespread violence and turmoil in the past year have taken a toll on United Nations worker with 33 detained and one missing. Two contractors have also been abducted. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BsOf5x)

Africa

An international court has denied a request from former Liberian president Charles Taylor to serve the rest of his 50-year prison sentence in Rwanda. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtmmb)

Dozens of senior officials in Burundi’s ruling party have urged President Pierre Nkurunziza to abandon a quest for a third term this June to avoid renewed violence in the landlocked central African nation. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1FWLhem)

South Sudanese opposition officials and civil society activists have condemned as self-serving and unconstitutional a move by parliament to extend the terms of the country’s elected officials, including themselves and President Salva Kiir. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLm1N)

Sierra Leone is preparing for another lockdown to fight the Ebola epidemic. It is believed that against all medical advice, some people continue to bury the dead themselves, bringing them into contact with the virus. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLlLl)

A former child soldier from Democratic Republic of Congo told the United Nations Security Council he was sorry for the harm he caused after he was forcefully recruited from his school by an armed group at age 12. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GZteDc)

A Somali businessman is betting on a biometric fingerprint system to keep alive vital money transfer firms which face closure after Western banks cut ties due to fears remittance cash may be channelled to militant groups. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1FWLgXP)

Sierra Leone authorities have again delayed the reopening of schools shut down for months to combat the spread of Ebola. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLmyL)

The three nations hardest hit by West Africa’s Ebola epidemic recorded the lowest weekly total of new cases so far this year in the week leading up to March 22, the WHO said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GZtiTt)

Liberian health ministry officials say a woman, the country’s first Ebola patient in more than a month, has been quarantined and stabilized and is responding to “supportive” treatment. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZttOk)

Nigeria’s main presidential candidates signed a second peace accord ahead of general elections on Saturday, the government said on Thursday, promising to hold peaceful polls and not incite religious or ethnic tensions. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1FWLhuQ)

MENA

The global chemical weapons watchdog will investigate allegations of chlorine gas attacks in Syrian villages that killed six and wounded dozens this month, a source said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsOJZj)

The long-running conflict with Israel claimed the lives of more Palestinian civilians in 2014 than any year since 1967, the United Nations said Thursday, in a damning report on the humanitarian situation. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HLaf2D

The United Nations accused the Islamic State of committing shockingly widespread and extremely severe human rights violations against the people of Iraq. (VOA http://bit.ly/1FWLmij)

Amnesty International says Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes by firing rockets and other crudely built, indiscriminate projectiles into Israel during last year’s conflict in the Gaza Strip. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GZtyll)

The human rights group Amnesty International said in a report Thursday that Palestinian militants committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza conflict by killing both Israeli and Palestinian civilians using indiscriminate projectiles. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HL9KFF)

The flag of once-independent South Yemen is visible everywhere around this port city, once the country’s capital. The banner — red, white, black and blue with a red star — is painted on walls, flown from homes, and flutters from the vehicles and checkpoints of militiamen in the streets. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HLadrz)

The International Committee of the Red Cross has called on all sides in a widening conflict in Yemen to obey the rules of war, voicing concern at reports of civilian casualties following Saudi-led air strikes. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsOKwb)

Asia

The U.S. government and major business leaders are renewing their call on the Thai government to crack down on slavery in its fishing fleets, and to punish people who force migrant workers to catch seafood that can end up in the United States. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HL9d6T)

Myanmar is increasing the salaries of its government employees — doubling some of them — as of next month. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BsOH3t)

Humanitarian agencies are struggling to cope with a growing number of people displaced by fighting in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1bxuun5)

The Americas

The death toll in Chile rose to four after rains battered the north and caused flooding, the government said on Thursday, while 22 others were unaccounted for as the military rescued stranded villagers. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsOL3b)

A delegation of U.S. telecommunication officials is in Havana to meet with their Cuban counterparts as part of talks to restore full diplomatic relations between the countries. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BsOAVy)

The heaviest rains to hit Chile’s northern desert regions in 20 year have left at least two people dead and 24 missing as the torrential downpours caused mudslides and rivers to breach their banks, leaving thousands of residents stranded. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BsODB0)

There’s an HIV outbreak in rural Indiana, tied to widespread injectible drug. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1IBb9fG)

…and the rest

Mass abductions of children by groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State are on the rise, with the practice now becoming a tactic of war, a UN envoy warned. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HLa8Eh)

Opinion/Blogs

Why gender equality by numbers will never measure up (Guardian http://bit.ly/1bxuljx)

Hollywood made a zombie movie but replaced the zombies with Asians (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1BsN59Z)

Record-breaking year for asylum claims: 8 key trends (IRIN http://bit.ly/1BsPYI3)

How dealing with climate change is like playing cricket (Guardian http://bit.ly/1BsQIg1)

Is social media fuelling a Mexican Spring? (BBC http://bbc.in/1EHkZc9

Education as a Cornerstone for Women’s Empowerment (Inter Press Service http://bit.ly/1EHl13y)

What’s Up With Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Their Children? (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1bxuC5Z)

Discussion

comments…

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