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One UN peacekeeper killed, another injured in coordinated attack on mission base in central Mali

INTERNATIONAL, 14 August 2017 – The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali today confirmed the death of a national soldier and one UN peacekeeper in an attack by non-identified gunmen.

“We mourn the loss of a United Nations peacekeeper killed in Mali earlier this morning while serving with our UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) following at attack by armed assailants to a MINUSMA camp in the town of Douenza,” MINUSMA said in a note on social media.

A second UN peacekeeper was injured in the attack, the Mission added.

“Today, around 5:30 am, the MINUSMA camps in Douenza, Mopti region, have been the target of an attack coordinated by unidentified gunmen,” the UN Mission said in a statement in French.

“A first group of assailants fired at a MINUSMA camp from an adjacent hill. In reaction, the Malian armed forces, established in the vicinity of the camp, retaliated. A second group walking on foot to the other MINUSMA camp opened fire. The peacekeepers have responded and two assailants have been killed,” the UN Mission added.

It noted that MINUSMA condemned in the strongest terms “this revolting terrorist attack.”

The Mission reiterated its determination to continue to fulfill its responsibilities “in support of Mali and its people in order to contribute to the achievement of lasting peace and stability.”

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UN chief Guterres condemns terrorist attack in Burkina Faso

INTERNATIONAL, 14 August 2017 – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has condemned the terrorist attack carried out yesterday in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. 

“The Secretary-General stresses that there can be no justification for such acts of indiscriminate violence,” said his Deputy Spokesperson, Farhan Haq, in a statement. 

Further to the statement, Mr. Guterres extended his heartfelt condolences to the Government and people of Burkina Faso and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.”

Media reports suggest that gunmen killed nearly 20 people and wounded several others during an overnight attack on a restaurant in Burkina Faso's capital. 

The Secretary-General reiterated the UN's support to Burkina Faso in its fight against violent extremism and terrorism. 

“He also reaffirms the Organization's commitment to the countries of the G5 Sahel as they scale up efforts to tackle multiple security challenges in order to promote peace and development in the sub-region,” concluded the statement, referring to the so-called Group of Five (G5) countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – that have deployed a joint force to tackle the threat of terrorism, as well as the serious challenges posed by transnational organized crime in Africa's restive Sahel region.

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Amid soaring food insecurity in DR Congo, UN agencies call for food aid, supplies

INTERNATIONAL, 14 August 2017 – More than one in ten people living in rural areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are hungry due to escalating and prolonged conflict and displacement, United Nations agencies today reported, warning that the situation will worsen unless urgent support comes in time.

"7.7 million people face acute hunger– a 30 percent increase over the last year,” said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) said.

In a new report, the UN agencies said that between June last year and June this year, the number of people in “emergency” and “crisis” levels of food insecurity – levels that precede “famine” – rose by 1.8 million, from 5.9 million to 7.7 million.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis released today also notes that the humanitarian situation has worsened due to the spread of fall armyworm infestations, and cholera and measles outbreaks.

In conflict-ridden areas, over 1.5 million people are facing “emergency” levels of food insecurity according to the IPC report, which means people are forced to sell everything they have and skip or reduce their meals.

“In conflict-ridden areas, farmers have seen their villages and fields pillaged. They have not been able to plant for the last two seasons. There is a lack of local markets providing for their food needs,” said Alexis Bonte, FAO Representative ad interim in DRC.

“The situation is set to get worse if urgent support does not come in time.”

Farmers, especially those displaced – the majority of whom are women and children – are in urgent food aid, as well as in need of tools and seeds so that they can resume farming, the UN agencies said.

In several areas, people only eat once a day. The meal is often based on corn, cassava or potatoes, which does not meet their daily nutritional and calorie needs.

“In some cases, diets are limited to starches and leaves,” FAO and WFP said.

Chronic malnutrition affects 43 per cent of children under five – more than 7 million – in DRC, according to the report.

The situation is particularly difficult in the Kasai region, where growing insecurity has worsened the poverty and food insecurity.

“FAO and WFP call for an urgent increase in the provision of lifesaving food and specialized nutrition assistance to combat malnutrition as well as seeds and tools so that farmers can plant again and regain their livelihoods,” the UN agencies said.

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Yemen's cholera epidemic surpasses half-million suspected cases, UN agency says

INTERNATIONAL, 14 August 2017 – More than 500,000 people in Yemen are suspected of having cholera, the United Nations health agency today said, warning that the disease is spreading quickly due to a lack of clean water or health access.

“Yemen's cholera epidemic, currently the largest in the world, has spread rapidly due to deteriorating hygiene and sanitation conditions and disruptions to the water supply across the country,” the UN World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.

Nearly 2,000 people have died since the outbreak began at the end of April, the UN agency added.

It blames a collapsing health system, a lack of clean water, and a build-up of human waste, which is not being collected in major cities.

Shortages in medicines and supplies is “persistent and widespread,” WHO said, adding that health workers have not been paid in nearly a year.

“Yemen's health workers are operating in impossible conditions,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “These doctors and nurses are the backbone of the health response – without them we can do nothing in Yemen. They must be paid their wages so that they can continue to save lives.”

The UN is supporting partners to set up cholera treatment clinics, rehabilitate health facilities, deliver medical supplies, and support national health response efforts.

In his statement, Mr. Tedros called for a political solution to the conflict in Yemen.

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Congratulating Kenyan people on peaceful elections, UN chief stresses dialogue to ease tensions

INTERNATIONAL, 12 August 2017 – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres congratulated today the people of Kenya for their peaceful participation in the presidential elections, and, stresses the importance of dialogue to defuse tensions, called on the political leaders to send clear messages to their supporters urging them to refrain from violence in the wake of the polls.

A statement issued by UN Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said the Secretary-General has taken note of the provisional results of the presidential election in Kenya, and of the announcement by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) of Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta as President-elect.

“He calls on those political leaders disputing the elections results to address election-related disputes through the relevant constitutionally mandated institutions,” said the Spokesman, adding that Mr. Guterres also called on the political leaders to send clear messages to their supporters urging them to refrain from violence.

According to the statement, the UN, in close collaboration with the African Union and other multilateral and bilateral partners, is fully engaged with Kenya's political leadership and relevant stakeholders to facilitate the successful conclusion of the electoral process.

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In Iraq, UN Youth Envoy says young people are 'most valuable force we have to shape a better future'

INTERNATIONAL, 12 August 2017 – As International Youth Day events kicked off worldwide today, at a special event in Iraq, the United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, pledged to do everything in her power to ensure the voices of youths, including those working to build peace, are heard.

“Today, thousands of young women and men work tirelessly, often under very dangerous conditions and with very little support or recognition, to build peace and promote security for all,” Ms. Wickramanayake, told the event, which was hosted by the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Iraq.

The event, in Baghdad, is part of the newly-appointed Envoy's first international mission. Her activities have touched on the theme of the 2017 edition of the Day, 'Youth Building Peace,' dedicated to celebrating young people's contributions to conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace.

As one of the most youthful countries in the world with over 60 percent of the population under the age of 25, Iraq – despite the many challenges it faces – is uniquely positioned to harness the potential of its young generation to promote peace and prosperity.

Challenges will remain however, and continue to obstruct a path to development and peace if they are not matched by offering young people real opportunities for education, employment and civic participation.

“[Young people] are the most valuable force we have to shape a better future,” Ms. Wickramanayake said, and added, in a message directed to the young people of Iraq: “The United Nations is with you and I, as your Envoy, will do everything within my power to ensure that your voices are heard.”

The event, organized in partnership with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Office in Baghdad, convened over 1,000 young people from all over Iraq and was attended by Abed Al-Hussein Abtan, Minister of Youth and Sports of Iraq, and Lise Grande, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq.

“Reconciliation is – right now and without doubt¬ – the highest priority in Iraq,” said Ms. Grande and the key to ensuring that reconciliation is sustainable “is ensuring that youth are involved in every reconciliation meeting, every reconciliation initiative and every reconciliation conference.”

For his part, Mr. Abtan called on Iraqi youth to “play the true role in contributing to all aspects of life in order to create an advanced Iraq that conveys a positive picture to the world.”

While in Baghdad, Ms. Wickramanayake met with young people from different backgrounds to discuss issues affecting Iraqi youth, with a particular focus on young women, internally displaced young people, and young people who are neither in employment, education, or training.

In addition, she met with the Officials of the Ministry of Youth and the Heads and Officials of UN Country team and the UN assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and discussed further avenues to strengthen youth focused programmes.

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Youth can play 'critical role' in creating a peaceful world for generations to come – UN chief

INTERNATIONAL, 11 August 2017 – In the lead-up to International Youth Day, marked annually on 12 August, the United Nations kicked off a commemorative event at its New York Headquarters with a message from Secretary-General António Guterres, who underscored his commitment to young people.

“I'm truly happy to address you on International Youth Day,” the Secretary-General said a video message. “As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am committed to the empowerment and inclusion of every young person around the world,” he added.

“In this spirit, I have appointed an impressive new Youth Envoy,” he said, introducing 26-year-old Jayathma Wickramanayake of Sri Lanka as the youngest and “one of the most important” members of his team.

“Governments must work with young people to successfully achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Empowered young men and women can play a critical role in preventing conflicts and ensuring sustainable peace,” continued Mr. Guterres.

After the Youth Envoy invited everyone to join in mobilizing young people, the Secretary-General said, “Together, we can create a peaceful world for generations to come.”

Against the backdrop that many of the world's 1.2 billion young people are affected by the hardship of conflict and war, the 2017 edition of the International Day will be celebrated under the theme 'Youth Building Peace.

Considering matters of youth, peace and security from a social developmental perspective, this year, the Day recognizes that more and more societies around the world are recognizing the role of youth as agents of change and critical actors in preventing conflict and building peace.

Organized by the UN Division for Economic and Social Affairs in collaboration with the Inter-agency Network on Youth Development, today's event draws together experts from youth civil society, government and the United Nations to explore the various ways in which young people are contributing to building and sustaining peace.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, on her first official trip, the Secretary-General's new Youth Envoy is conducting dialogues with young people and meeting with UN officials.

In December 1999, the UN General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth that 12 August be declared International Youth Day.

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After four years of conflict, uncertainty lingers for displaced Ukrainians – UN refugee agency

INTERNATIONAL, 11 August 2017 – As the conflict in Ukraine enters its fourth year, nearly 1.6 million internally displaced people are struggling to find safety, adequate housing and access to employment, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

“Sporadic exchanges of fire in areas near the line of contact continue to damage civilian infrastructure, leading to new humanitarian needs and creating risks of displacement,” said Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, at today's regular press briefing in Geneva.

“Safety and security remain major concerns for nearly 800,000 people living near the Line of Contact in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the country's east,” he added.

In June, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine recorded more than 1.1 million crossings of the dividing line in eastern Ukraine – sparking UNHCR's concern about difficulties over civilians' freedom of movement, particularly while crossing the conflict line.

“There are frequently long queues and subsequent delays at checkpoints. Those waiting to cross have limited access to basic services, such as drinking water, latrines, weather shelters and medical care,” the spokesperson noted.

Mr. Mahecic pointed out that this creates additional hardships for those with limited mobility and specific needs, especially older people and mothers with children making the journey.

“Since the beginning of 2016, nearly 586,000 retired and elderly people residing in the conflict zone lost access to their pensions as a result of verification procedures introduced by the Government of Ukraine. This has affected the most vulnerable groups, as many of them depend on pensions and social payments as their sole source of income,” he stated.

“Those living in non-Government controlled areas are required to register as internally displaced persons with the Ukrainian authorities in order to have access to their rightful pensions and social payments,” he continued.

UNHCR and partners advocate for displaced people to have full access to Government services and payments, and de-linking pensions and social benefits from residences.

The agency also maintains that at least 40 communities near the dividing line have limited access to medical services – with some 150 healthcare facilities damaged since the start of the conflict – and medical personnel have left the area.

Noting that in 2017, UNHCR helped to repair 89 schools, Mr. Mahecic stressed that “children in affected zones have limited access to education due to the security situation and damaged school buildings” with at least 700 damaged since the conflict began, including 55 schools this year alone.

Earlier this year UNHCR received first-hand testimonies of displaced people while conducting focus groups with conflict-affected population – including women; orphaned children; persons with disabilities and medical conditions; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and intersex people throughout 10 regions of Ukraine.

Along with problems of security, access to basic services, and livelihoods, residents of frontline communities told of civilian houses being used for military purposes.

“The stationing of combatants and weapons in residential areas places civilian populations at risk during fighting,” Mr. Mahecic underscored.

In conclusion, the spokesperson stressed that UNHCR continues to call on all conflict parties to protect civilians and their communities from fighting and shelling, and to restrict the use of civilian homes for military purposes.

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UN agency sounds alarm as drought-stricken herders in Ethiopia face massive livestock losses

INTERNATIONAL, 11 August 2017 – Drought has devastated herders' livelihoods as it exhausted pastures and water sources, the United Nations agriculture agency said today, stressing that supporting them to get back on their feet and prevent further livestock losses are crucial in the Horn of Africa country, where hunger has been on the rise this year.

The drought has led to a significant number of animals dying or falling ill, particularly in the southern and south-eastern regions of the country, as other areas recover from previous seasons' El Niño-induced drought,” warned the Food and Agriculture Organization of the (FAO).

FAO pointed out that drought-hit pastoralists face reduced milk production, rising malnutrition, and have limited income-earning capacity and severely constrained access to food.

“Some 8.5 million people – one in 12 people – are now suffering from hunger; of these, 3.3 million people live in Somali Region,” said the UN agriculture agency.

The current food and nutrition crisis is significantly aggravated by the severe blow to pastoral livelihoods. For livestock-dependent families, the animals can literally mean the difference between life and death – especially for children, pregnant and nursing mothers, for whom milk is a crucial source of nutrition.

With up to two million animals lost so far, FAO is focusing on providing emergency livestock support to the most vulnerable pastoralist communities through animal vaccination and treatment, supplementary feed and water, rehabilitating water points, and supporting fodder and feed production.

“It is crucial to provide this support between now and October – when rains are due – to begin the recovery process and prevent further losses of animals. If we don't act now, hunger and malnutrition will only get worse among pastoral communities,” said Abdoul Karim Bah, FAO Deputy Representative in Ethiopia.

By providing supplementary feed and water for livestock, while simultaneously supporting fodder production, FAO seeks to protect core breeding animals and enable drought-hit families to rebuild their livelihoods.

In addition to FAO-supported destocking and cash-for-work programmes to provide cash for families, animal health campaigns will be reinforced to protect animals, particularly before the rain sets in – when they are at their weakest and more susceptible to parasites or infectious diseases.

Funding appeal

FAO urgently requires $20 million between August and December to come to the aid of Ethiopia's farmers and herders.

FAO has already assisted almost 500,000 drought-hit people in 2017 through a mix of livestock feed provision, destocking and animal health interventions, thanks to the support of the Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden through FAO's Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, as well as FAO's own Early Warning Early Action fund and Technical Cooperation Programme.

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Iraq: UN refugee agency steps up humanitarian support for families returning to Mosul

INTERNATIONAL, 11 August 2017 – The United Nations refugee agency has been stepping up its assistance for people, including thousands of returnees, in the Iraqi city of Mosul, which had until recently been the scene of a fierce battle for control between terrorist fighters and the Government forces.

“Our field assessments show that the returning population of Mosul needs assistance of every kind, but the shelter needs are the most pressing, particularly in the western part of the city,' said Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at the press regular briefing in Geneva.

“Many neighbourhoods in the west have been extensively damaged or totally destroyed during months of fighting,” he added.

Mosul was liberated from control by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) terrorist organization in July.

UN partners say that of the 54 residential districts in west Mosul, 15 suffered destruction or heavy damage, another 23 areas are moderately damaged, while further 16 neighbourhoods sustained light damage.

Mr. Mahecic said that mines, unexploded ordnance and related devices pose massive risks for the city's residents, especially children, welcoming the ongoing mine clearing efforts by the authorities and the UN Mine Action Service.

Returning families also face challenges in accessing basic services and utilities – accessing water, electricity or fuel in parts of Mosul can be difficult and very expensive, he added.

So far, according to government figures, some 79,000 people returned to battered west Mosul – one out of every ten people who were forced to flee from this part of the city. Also, the government says, more than 165,000 people have now returned to the considerably less damaged east Mosul, where day-to-day life is gradually resuming.

However, managers in the camps for internally displaced persons in east Mosul estimate that at least 200 families have moved back to the camps after finding living conditions difficult in Mosul.

Reasons cited for their return a include lack of shelter; high rental prices; a lack of livelihood opportunities and limited basic services such as electricity and water.

Since the end of the military campaign to retake the city, UNHCR has distributed shelter kits to more than 3,200 families in east and west Mosul while also providing cash assistance to some of the most vulnerable displaced Iraqi families.

Large numbers of IDPs and returnees are also missing key civil documents. UNHCR and partners are providing legal assistance and supporting local authorities to reissue civil and identity documents to displaced families in the camps, including birth and marriage certificates.

“Given the scale of the destruction in Mosul, particularly in the western sector, humanitarian needs will remain high,” the spokesperson said.

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