Syria’s war continues ‘unabated and with total impunity,’ Security Council told

Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kyung-Wha Kang briefs the Security Council. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

New York, 26 February 2015 – In a briefing to the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria, two senior United Nations relief officials warned today that as the conflict enters its fifth year, the violence and brutality continue unabated and with total impunity.

Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kyung-Wha Kang told the 15-member body that parties to the conflict continue to kill civilians and target critical infrastructure which condemn people to unnecessary suffering.

Ms. Kang delivered remarks on behalf of Under Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valery Amos. Joining Ms. Kang was António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Continue reading

Amid uptick in Ebola cases, UN agency cites challenges in reaching affected communities

This motorbike has crossed the border from Sarkonedou in Liberia to Koutizou in Guinea. The opening of Liberia’s official borders enables economic activities and allows students to attend school. Photo: UNMEER/Kennei Momoh

Geneva, 26 February 2015 – New cases of Ebola rose again in Guinea and transmission remains widespread in Sierra Leone, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported as it and the UN Ebola response mission both raised concerns about challenges in engaging communities to win the fight against the disease.

Both WHO and UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) also noted unsafe burials of those who died from the disease posed as a challenge and that “a significant number” of individuals are still either unable or reluctant to seek treatment for Ebola, which has affected over 23,500 people and killed more than 9,500 mainly in the Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Continue reading

In Paraguay, UN chief says 2015 a ‘pivotal year’ for international community

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Itaipu Hydroelectric Dam, the largest operational hydroelectric energy producer in the world, located on the border of Brazil and Paraguay. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Paraguay, 26 February 2015 – In an intensive year of landmark events – from establishing a post-2015 agenda to tackling climate change – Paraguay has yet another opportunity to demonstrate its “exceptional global leadership” in the international arena, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has affirmed.

Delivering remarks to the National Congress of Paraguay earlier today, the Secretary-General reminded those gathered that the international community continues to face “big global challenges” in addressing inequality and insecurity, deepening democracy, enhancing the quality of education, and respecting and protecting the rights of all regardless of gender, ethnicity, culture, religion or sexual orientation. Continue reading

Iraq: UNESCO outraged over terrorist attack against Mosul Museum

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Hatra in Iraq. Photo: UNESCO/Véronique Dauge

Iraq, 26 February 2015 – Iraq: UNESCO expresses outrage over terrorist attack against Mosul Museum The head of the United Nations agency mandated to protect heritage sites today said that she is “deeply shocked” by the footage depicting the destruction of statues and other artefacts at the Mosul Museum in Iraq.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General, Irina Bokova, condemned the “deliberate attack against Iraq’s millennial history and culture”, calling it an inflammatory incitement to violence and hatred. Continue reading

UN-backed treaty set to mark 10 years of dramatic change in tobacco use worldwide

A man smokes on the side of the road as a bus passes in Nepal. Photo: World Bank/Aisha Faquir

Geneva, 26 February 2015 – A World Health Organization-led treaty that aims to achieve a tobacco-free world has dramatically curbed tobacco use worldwide since its entry into force 10 years ago tomorrow, but “the war on tobacco is far from over” with the tobacco industry still spending billions to promote products that are expected to kill some 8 million people each year by 2030, the United Nations health agency said.

The WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) entered into force on February 27, 2005, enacting a set of universal standards stating the dangers of tobacco and limiting its use in all forms worldwide. Continue reading

Mali: Inquiry team concludes probe into violent demonstration against peacekeepers in Gao

Senegalese UNPOL Officers patrol the streets of Gao, Mali. Photo: MINUSMA/Marco Dormino

Mali, 26 February 2015 – The high-level team appointed by the United Nations to investigate the events surrounding a violent demonstration against the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has concluded its visit to the African country, the UN spokesperson’s office confirmed today.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the investigation on 29 January to determine the facts surrounding the “tragic incident” which resulted in the death and injury of protesters in the northern city of Gao. Continue reading

Natural disasters in Asia and Pacific impact some 80 million people, new UN study shows

Coping with severe floods in Pakistan. UN Photo/WFP/Amjad Jamal

New York, 25 February 2015 – When leaders and decision makers from across Asia and the Pacific gather next month in Japan to discuss how to reduce disaster risks, their top priority will be to build resilience in a region that saw some 80 million people affected and nearly $60 billion in economic losses incurred by natural disasters last year.

That’s according to Natural Disasters in Asia and the Pacific: 2014 Year in Review report released today by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). Continue reading

Cutting crime ‘manifestly important’ to sustainable development, UN Assembly told

Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov (left), and President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Martin Sajdik. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

New York, 25 February 2015 – Reducing violent crime is critical to sustainable development, the top United Nations ant-crime official told the General Assembly today, spotlighting that while global progress has been made in combatting the scourge, homicide levels in low and lower-middle income countries have increased by 10 per cent over the last decade.

According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in 2013, the homicide rate in these countries was on average 2.5 times the rate in high-income countries. Continue reading

UN health agency ‘taken aback’ as measles resurfaces in Europe, calls for widespread vaccination

Photo: WHO/F. Guerrero

Geneva, 25 February 2015 – European policymakers, healthcare workers, and parents must step up their efforts to vaccinate children against measles amid an ongoing outbreak across the continent, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said today, warning that a recent resurgence in the disease threatened Europe’s goal of eliminating measles by the end of 2015.

According to UN data, over 22,000 cases of the virus have surfaced across Europe during the 2014 to 2015 biennium with the outbreak spreading to seven countries. This comes despite a 50 per cent drop from 2013 to 2014.

“When we consider that over the past two decades we have seen a reduction of 96 per cent in the number of measles cases in the European region, and that we are just a step away from eliminating the disease, we are taken aback by these numbers,” Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, affirmed in a press release. Continue reading

UN Libya mission urges country’s stakeholders to pursue next round of talks

Participants in the Libyan Political Dialogue on arrival at the UN Office in Geneva on 14 January 2015 to start a new round of talks aimed at resolving Libya crisis. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Libya, 25 February 2015 – The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) announced today that it is undertaking a series of urgent consultations with stakeholders in the North African country to ensure the convening of the next round of talks soon and “not let this window of opportunity slip away.”

This follows recent political and security developments, particularly last week’s deadly terrorist bombings in the City of Al-Qubbah and the decision of the House of Representatives in Libya to suspend its participation in the political dialogue. The latest wave of violence has further rattled the war-weary nation, in conflict since the beginning of its civil war in 2011, which resulted in the ouster of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.It is urgent and necessary to reach an agreement on a strong and independent Government, whose highest priority should be restoring the confidence of the citizens in the Libyan State, as well as provision of services and combatting terrorism. Continue reading