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International community of nations welcomes accord on Iran’s nuclear programme

INTERNATIONAL – The international community of nations have congratulated the team of international negotiators and Iran on achieving a political framework that paves the way for an historic comprehensive joint plan of action on Iran’s nuclear programme to be achieved by 30 June.

“That comprehensive agreement will provide for substantial limits on Iran’s nuclear programme and for the removal of all sanctions,” said United Nations Secretary General  Ban Ki-moon  in astatementreleased by his spokesperson, following the announcement that Iran and the Foreign Ministers of the so-called ‘E3+3’ (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), had reached a deal.

“It will respect Iran’s needs and rights while providing assurances to the international community that its nuclear activities will remain exclusively peaceful,” Mr. Ban’s statement continued.

The statement added that the Secretary-General is convinced that a comprehensive, negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue will contribute to peace and stability in the region and enable all countries to cooperate urgently to deal with the many serious security challenges they face.

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As Yemen conflict intensifies, UN relief chief urges all sides to do more to protect civilians

INTERNATIONAL – Extremely concerned for the safety of civilians caught in the midst of “fierce fighting” in Yemen, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator called today on all parties involved to meet their obligations under international law and do their utmost to protect the ordinary women, children and men who are suffering the consequences of the conflict.

In astatementissued by her office this afternoon, Valerie Amos, who is also the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said reports from humanitarian partners in different parts of the country indicate that some 519 people have been killed and nearly 1,700 injured in the past two weeks – over 90 of them children.

Further, Ms. Amos said tens of thousands of people have fled their homes, some by crossing the sea to Djibouti and Somalia. Electricity, water and essential medicines are in short supply.

“Those engaged in fighting must ensure that hospitals, schools, camps for refugees and those internally displaced and civilian infrastructure, especially in populated areas, are not targeted or used for military purposes,” she said.

Despite the grave dangers, she continued, United Nations agencies and humanitarian partners are coordinating with the Yemen Red Crescent and local authorities to deliver emergency health kits, generators so that people can get clean water, food and blankets.

“Before this recent escalation in the violence, millions of Yemenis were already extremely vulnerable. I hope that peace, security and stability will be restored as soon as possible,” Ms. Amos concluded.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator’s statement on the rising tide of violence in Yemen and the plight faced by civilians in the crisis-gripped country joins warnings issued by host of UN officials throughout the week, including Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, who just yesterday drew attention to the mounting number of child casualties, and urged all parties involved in military operations to “avoid creating new risks” for Yemen’s children and to adhere to international law.

In addition, this past Tuesday, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the situation in Yemen was extremely alarming, with dozens of civilians killed over the past four days, echoing a statement issued later that day by UNSecretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon’s Spokesperson.

“The country seems to be on the verge of total collapse,” High Commissioner Zeid warned, calling on all sides to protect civilians from harm, and to resolve their differences through dialogue rather than through the use of military force.

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Sharp fall in sugar drives downward spiral of food prices – UN

INTERNATIONAL – According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the global food prices continued to decline in March – dropping some 40 points below last year’s level – with sugar prices sliding to their lowest level since February 2009.

Noting a 1.5 per cent drop since February and 18.7 per cent overall descent from a year ago, FAOconcludedthat the dipping prices for vegetable oils, cereals and meat more than offset a rise in dairy prices – contributing to the lower index, which in March averaged 173.8 points.

TheFAO Food Price Indexis a trade-weighted guide that aggregates price sub-indices of cereals, meat, dairy products, vegetable oils and sugar prices on international markets. On a downward path since April 2014, abundant supplies and the rising US dollar have pushed down international prices of most food commodities.

Mainly due to improved crop prospects, sugar dropped a sharp 9.2 per cent since February to 187.9 points in March. The continued weakening of the Brazilian currency against the US dollar also contributed to the change.

A 2015 downward trend in cereal prices, which averaged 169.8 points in March – down 1.1 per cent from February and some 18.7 percent below its level a year earlier – is attributable to large export supplies and mounting inventories, in particular for wheat and maize.

Witnessing nearly a 3.1 per cent drop since February, the vegetable oil averaged 151.7 points in March – its lowest value since September 2009.

Also, meat averaged 177 points, down 1 per cent from its revised February value, while dairy rose for the second consecutive month to average 184.9 points, a 1.7 per cent increase from February.

Meanwhile, according to FAO’s latestCereal Supply and Demand Brief, due to a larger than anticipated maize harvest in the European Union (EU), the 2014 cereal output estimate was raised to 2,544 million tons, which, if confirmed, would outstrip the 2013 record by 1 per cent.

Looking ahead to 2015, reduced plantings in the EU global wheat production are expected to lead to a 1 per cent drop in the current 2014 estimate – yielding 722 million tons this year. While China, India and Pakistan are all expected to harvest close to 2014’s record levels, production is predicted to decline in the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

As for coarse grains, preparations are only now under way for plantings in the northern hemisphere. However, in the southern hemisphere where crops are more advanced, early indications point to a decline in 2015 production from last year’s high levels. In particular, following severe precipitation shortfalls earlier this year, South Africa’s maize production is expected to decline by a sharp 33 per cent.

Rice production prospects for 2015 are generally positive in the southern hemisphere, with sizeable increases forecasted in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Colombia and Paraguay. By contrast, Australian output is officially anticipated to fall by 18 per cent, reflecting lingering shortages of irrigation water.

At the same time, FAO projected close to a 17 million tons increase in 2014-2015 world cereal utilization – to 2,493 million tons – largely mirroring historical revisions in China and India.

By the end of the 2015 crop season, the world cereal stocks forecast stands at 645 million tons – a sharp upward change since last month's report – which mainly reflects ascending revisions to wheat and maize stocks in China. Based on the current forecasts for cereal stocks and utilization, the cereal stocks-to-use ratio is expected to reach 25.9 per cent in 2014-2015, its highest value since 2001-2002.

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Marking World Day, UN calls on businesses to commit to employing people with autism

INTERNATIONAL – On World Autism Awareness Day, April 2, the United Nations is spotlighting the unique skills of people with autism and the need to recognize their talents through an initiative inviting businesses to make concrete commitments to employ people on the autism spectrum.

“People with autism have enormous potential. Most have remarkable visual, artistic or academic skills. Thanks to the use of assistive technologies, non-verbal persons with autism can communicate and share their hidden capabilities,”saidSecretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon in a statement on the Day.

“Yet even where autism awareness is most advanced, more than 80 per cent of adults with autism are unemployed. That is why it is so important for employers to understand their unique and often exceptional skills, and to enable work environments where they can excel,” he added.

At a Headquarterseventtoday, Mr. Ban will launch a 'Call to Action' initiative to urge employers to create work zones where people with autism can excel, as most have remarkable visual, artistic or academic skills.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that manifests itself during the first three years of life. It results from a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, mostly affecting children and adults in many countries irrespective of gender, race or socio-economic status. It is characterized by impairments in social interaction, problems with verbal and non-verbal communication and restricted, repetitive behaviour, interests and activities.

And recent data suggests that employers are missing out on the abilities of people on the autism spectrum which they have in greater abundance than 'neurotypical' workers do – such as, heightened abilities in pattern recognition and logical reasoning, as well as a greater attention to detail. But hurdles to employment for those with autism include a shortage of vocational training, inadequate support with job placement, and pervasive discrimination.

World Autism Awareness Day– marked globally on 2 April – aims to foster greater understanding and empower parents into seeking early intervention therapies. It also invites policy-makers to encourage schools to open their doors to students with autism.

“We encourage public offices, corporations, and small businesses to have a closer look at the way they perceive people with autism, to take the time to learn about the condition and to create life-changing opportunities,” the UN chief said.

This important mission can only be achieved with appropriate vocational training and adequate support alongside a recruitment process that can allow people to successfully integrate into workforces around the world, Mr. Ban continued.

The UN General Assembly unanimouslydeclared 2 April World Autism Awareness Dayto highlight the need to help improve the quality of life of children and adults, who are affected by autism, so they can lead full and meaningful lives.

In that text, the Assembly called for training for public administrators, service providers, care-givers, families and non-professionals to support the integration of persons with autism into society, so that they can realize their full potential.

Today's event, which will focus on measures required to support growth in employment opportunities for people on the autism spectrum, will feature opening remarks by Mr. Ban as well as the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information (DPI), Cristina Gallach. Joining them in the day-long discussion are members of academia, finance, small businesses as well as country representatives to the United Nations.

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UN Economic, Social body to launch network tackling ‘monumental’ global employment challenge

INTERNATIONAL – As the Economic and Social Council concluded its three-day segment on boosting integration of the three pillars of sustainable development, the body’s Vice-President said he would work with the United Nations labour agency to follow-up on delegates’ work by launching an international entity to help address the issue of providing employment and decent work to people around the world.

“I am pleased to inform you that I and the Director-General of ILO are working towards launching a Global Network of Stakeholders on Employment Creation and Decent Work for Sustainable Development,” said Vladimir Drobnjak, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). “We are holding consultations with the potential members of this network. This network will be Council’s contribution towards addressing this global challenge of monumental proportions.”

Mr. Drobnjak said the outcome of this week’s work would serve as an important contribution to ECOSOC’s high-level segment, including the high-level political forum on sustainable development and he stressed his confidence that countries and regions had had an opportunity to learn important lessons from one another regarding the issues at hand.

“The discussions we led and the conclusions we draw from this segment can provide additional food for thought in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda, in particular relating to [proposed sustainable development goal] SDG 8,” he said. “The integration segment has inspired some concrete policy recommendations and action-oriented solutions to promote policy coherence in economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development for the promotion of full employment and decent work for all.”

He listed highlights of the discussions that took place, including the idea that insufficient demand had been resulted from recent economic growth, meaning that jobs had not been generated and that fiscal policies such as a carbon tax and a financial transaction tax could help stimulate the economy.

He also noted calls for greater policy coherence, for making dignity and prosperity the norm in labour markets, for greater participation of women and for formalisation of the informal economy through provision of social protection and job security.

Environmental sustainability and job creation were mutually reinforcing, he said, pointing out that transition to more environmentally sustainable approaches can have a positive impact on job creation, quality and productivity. The transition to a green economy had to be a just transition for workers.

Mr. Drobnjak also stressed that infrastructure and industrialization would be critical pillars for economic growth and job creation in Africa and underlined the need for Africa to get its fair share of the 600 million new jobs that the global economy needed to add.

The Director-General of the ILO, Guy Ryder, and Assistant Secretary-General Thomas Gass from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs also made closing remarks, with Mr. Ryder lauding ECOSOC’s efforts and partnership on the issue of employment at the UN.

“Our deliberations over the past three days have generated a rich exchange of views and experiences illustrating the inextricable link between decent work and sustainable development,” he said.

Mr. Gass underlined the importance of a strong ECOSOC Integration Segment to offer substantive and strategic policy guidance in the years ahead, particularly in the context of the post-2015 development agenda.

“It should continue to engage policy makers and the UN system in the promotion of a balanced integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development around ECOSOC’s annual theme,” he said.

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‘Children urgently need our protection,’ warns UN child rights envoy as casualties mount in Yemen

INTERNATIONAL – Alarmed by the rising number of child casualties in Yemen, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui today April 1, urged all parties involved in military operations “avoid creating new risks” for crisis-torn country's children and to adhere to international law.

Over the past week alone, 62 children were killed and 30 others injured in Yemen,according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

“I am alarmed by the rising number of child casualties in Yemen,” said Leila Zerrougui in a statement. “Children urgently need our protection. We cannot tolerate seeing them victims of this conflict.”

Ms. Zerrougui said that the conflict continues to impact access to education and healthcare for Yemeni children and urged the protection of both schools and hospitals.

“All parties involved in military operations in Yemen must avoid creating new risks for children,” Zerrougui added. “They must act in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law.”

In the past few months, the UN has verified an increase in the recruitment of children, notably by Al Houthi/Ansar Allah and other armed groups. The number of children maimed has also been on the rise.

Also today, the Yemen Humanitarian Coordinator, Johannes Van Der Klaauw, said he was appalled to learn of the killing of a volunteer with the Yemen Red Crescent Society (YRCS) in Al Dhale'e in southern Yemen, on Monday.

“Humanitarian workers are putting their lives at risk every day in Yemen to provide critical, life-saving assistance to millions of Yemenis. Their courage and dedication are unsurpassed,” he said in astatement from Amman, Jordan.

Mr. Van Der Klaauw appealed to all parties to the conflict to ensure freedom of movement and access for humanitarian workers to carry out their work in safety, as well as unfettered access to those in need. This includes allowing the free and safe movement of humanitarian aid supplies into and within Yemen.

The incident has been confirmed by Yemen's Ministry of Health and humanitarian partners working in the health sector.

“I am also deeply concerned by reports of mounting civilian casualties and continued destruction and damage to civilian infrastructure,” he said, calling on all parties to observe their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and the means to provide them with access to food and livelihoods and other vital services.

The escalating conflict has put immense strain on health facilities. Some hospitals are functions at minimum capacity and medicines are in short supply. To date, the World Health Organization (WHO) has provided interagency emergency health kits for more than 80,000 people, as well as blood bags, oxygen cylinders with regulators, and IV fluids.

“Communities across Yemen have been caught up in attacks and cross-fire, endangering the lives and health of the young and old, and even people already displaced by violence,”saidDr. Ahmed Shadoul, WHO Representative in Yemen.

Hospitals in all affected governorates are in urgent need of oxygen supplies, medicines and supplies for treating trauma wounds, life-saving equipment and medicines, additional health staff and additional bed capacity. Due to the violence, there are also concerns about the ability of ambulances and other vehicles to transport injured people to hospitals to receive care, as well as the availability of fuel for ambulances and hospital generators.

The country's second largest hospital in Sana'a City has been partially evacuated due to its proximity to a military base, and full evacuation is expected to take place soon. In some areas, where populations are unable to leave due to the violence, health facilities, including ambulances, are unable to cope with the number of casualties.

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International Criminal Court welcomes Palestine as State Party to the Rome Statute

INTERNATIONAL – The International Criminal Court (ICC) welcomed Palestine as the 123rd State Party to its founding Rome Statute today April 1, in a ceremony held at the seat of the Court in The Hague in The Netherlands.

“Accession to a treaty is, of course, just the first step,”saidJudge Kuniko Ozaki, the ICC’s Second Vice-President. “As the Rome Statute today enters into force for the State of Palestine, Palestine acquires all the rights as well as responsibilities that come with being a State Party to the Statute. These are substantive commitments, which cannot be taken lightly.”

During the ceremony, Ms. Ozaki presented Riad Al-Malki, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, with a special edition of the Rome Statute, as a symbol of their joint commitment to the rule of law.

Joining Ms. Ozaki and Mr. Al-Malki at the ceremony were several other ICC judges, as well as the ICC Deputy Prosecutor, James Stewart, ICC Registrar Herman von Hebel and the President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Statute, Sidiki Kaba.

“Such highly symbolic commitment confirms, once again, that people all over the world embrace the noble ideals of the ICC, that are ideals of peace and justice for all,” said Mr. Kaba.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Palestine Dr. Riad Al-Malki said thee accession brought the world closer to its shared goals of justice and peace.

“As Palestine formally becomes a State Party to the Rome Statute today, the world is also a step closer to ending a long era of impunity and injustice,” he said.

Today’s step comes after the 16 January announcement by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that she had opened a preliminary examination into the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, following the accession earlier in January by the Palestinian Authority to the Court’s founding Rome Statute.

Anews releasefrom the ICC noted that Ms. Bensouda opened an initial examination of the situation following the Palestinian Government accession to the Rome Statute on 2 January 2015 and its declaration of 1 January 2015, accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC ‘over alleged crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014.’

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Eliminating sheep and goat plague will boost livelihoods and nutrition

INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations agricultural agency will outline a strategy in Côte d’Ivoire today March 31, for the total eradication of sheep and goat plague by 2030 at an international conference that began today in the country’s capital, Abidjan.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) aim to tackle the disease, known as Ovine Rinderpest – orPeste des petits ruminants(PPR) – and free hundreds of millions of rural families from one of the major risks to their food security and livelihood.

“The positive impact on the livelihoods of farmers and food and nutrition security for all communities, Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations' Zero Hunger Challenge will be substantial,”saidthe FAO Assistant Director-General for Africa, Bukar Tijani, as he opened theInternational Conference for the Control and Eradication of PPR.

The disease, which can kill up to 90 per cent of the animals it infects, was first diagnosed in Côte d’Ivoire in the 1940s and has expanded rapidly in the past 15 years, reaching 70 countries across South and East Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and threatening Europe.

Livestock health experts from the FAO and the OIE say the technical tools, including an inexpensive, safe and reliable vaccine and simple diagnostic tests already exist, and they have a developed a three-pronged strategy to control and eradicate PPR focusing on targeting the approach, strengthening veterinary services and looking at other diseases that might be priorities in a given country or region.

The two organizations worked together on a previous joint campaign which eradicated bovine rinderpest, a catastrophic cattle plague that was responsible for famines and the collapse of empires, and which remains the only animal disease to have been eradicated. There are key similarities that experts think make PPR an apt target for a campaign aimed at outright eradication.

“First of all, the viruses belong to the same family. Some of the tools that were developed for rinderpest have actually been adapted to be used for Peste de petits ruminants,” said Juan Lubroth, FAO's Chief Veterinary officer in Rome. “Other aspects of the rinderpest campaign were regional networks that became so, so important to implement the strategy. Well, the same will be done for Peste de petits ruminants. So certainly there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from that.”

There are ample economic incentives to learn those lessons and apply them to targeting the complete eradication of PPR, not least the $1.45 billion to $2.1 billion of losses directly attributable to the disease as well as much more stemming from restrictions on trade and livestock mobility triggered by outbreaks.

In addition, over 2 billion small ruminants worldwide, 80 per cent of which are in affected regions, represent an important asset for a third of poor rural households in developing countries. Sheep and goats readily adapt to harsh environments, provide year-round protein and dairy products, and income from wool and leather, and they contribute to greater gender equity because of the role women play in tending to them.

“Sheep and goats – or, goats at least – are often referred to as the poor person’s cow,” said Mr. Lubroth. “So, if you are a poor farmer or in poor communities, the role of sheep and goats is very, very important.”

Funding for and political commitment to the campaign would be vital, not least because the global price tag for poorly-targeted PPR vaccinations are anyway likely to run between $4 and $5.5 billion over the next 15 years. FAO and OIE believe that focusing on elimination will reduce the costs currently associated with battling outbreaks and new incursions.

“One of the lessons of rinderpest was that we did not have the financial resources to be able to do a faster job among the countries or the continents affected,” said Mr. Lubroth. “We want to avoid some of those lessons and be able to get the financial resources available now, during and in the post-PPR campaign to ensure the world is free from PPR.”

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DR Congo: UN welcomes ‘milestone’ declaration aimed at combating rape in war

INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, today March 31, called the signing of a landmark declaration by military commanders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) a “milestone” on the road to ending conflict related sexual violence.

“This is a day we will all remember as a giant leap forward in the fight against conflict-related sexual violence,” SRSG Bangura said in a statement from the DRC capital of Kinshasa.

“The signing of this declaration by commanders, and the implementation of the FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo) action plan, represent the progress we can make when political will and commitment are coupled with concrete action and support from the international community. The Government and military of DRC should be very proud of this accomplishment,” she emphasized.

Signed by FARDC commanding pledging to combat rape in war, the declaration is seen as an integral step in implementing the national action plan against sexual violence in conflict launched by the armed forces in September 2014.

In Kinshasa, Ms. Bangura joined the FARDC military commanders, key Government leaders including the Ministers of Defence, Justice, Gender, Education and Health, the personal representative of the DRC President on sexual violence and child recruitment, and senior leadership from the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

The pledge will be taken by every commander serving in the FARDC and requires military leaders to take a number of important actions, including respecting human rights and international humanitarian law in relation to sexual violence in conflict and taking direct action against sexual violence committed by soldiers under their command.

It aims ensure prosecution of alleged perpetrators of sexual violence under the command of commanders and facilitate access to areas under their command to military prosecutors and handing over perpetrators within their command that are under investigation, have been indicted or convicted.

In addition, it aims to sensitize soldiers under command about the zero tolerance policy on sexual violence in conflict; and take specific measures to ensure protection of victims, witnesses, judicial actors and other stakeholders involved in addressing sexual violence.

In addition to the signing of the declaration, the Minister of Defence also established the Commission that will oversee the implementation of the FARDC’s action plan against sexual violence, and which includes representatives from the military, the Ministries of Justice, Health and Gender, MONUSCO and UN Women.

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Ahead of pledging conference, senior officials urge donors to stand by Syrian people

INTERNATIONAL – The crisis in Syria is getting much worse, characterized by shocking “levels of savagery,” the top United Nations relief official has warned, urging countries to pledge as generously as possible ahead of the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference kicking off on March 31in Kuwait City.

“While we are managing to get more aid in through cross-border operations, we are seeing a closing down of our ability to get aid across conflict lines inside Syria. The situation is very grave,” UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valery Amos said in an interview withUN Radio.

As the Syrian conflict enters its fifth year, 12.2 million people remain in dire need of aid, saysthe UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which Ms. Amos heads. Nearly half of all Syrians have been forced from their homes – 3.8 million people have fled to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, and 7.6 million people have been internally displaced – making this the largest displacement crisis in the world.

“Needs are increasing and although the amount donors are giving us is also increasing, it’s not increasing at the same pace. I really want to thank our donors for sticking with us but we all know that a political solution has to be found so that the violence that we are seeing on a daily basis calms down,” she said.

Ms. Amos’s call comes on the eve of the conference to be overseen by the Secretary-General and hosted by the Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. The Third Pledging Conference aims to mobilize donor support and raise funds required to meet the needs set out in the2015 Syria Response Planand theRegional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) 2015-2016.

Ms. Amos said the last two years, conference pledges made a significant contribution to the amount that needed for Syria and neighbouring countries. For example, last year, 90 per cent of the money pledged was received but this year the crisis has spread beyond Syria’s borders and the immediate region.

“What we are seeing are needs increasing not just in Syria and in neighbouring countries but across the world. As I speak to you, we are seeing a very difficult situation, for example, unfolding in Yemen,” she added.

She said that on the margins of the conference: “We want the neighbouring countries to be able to have a voice and have an impact on the region. From the Secretary-General down, we are all in contact with all the countries invited, asking them to pledge generously, and we hope they will.”

Joining Ms. Amos at the conference will be Mr. António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ms. Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Ms. Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

In astatementreleased today, Ms. Cousin echoed Ms. Amos’ pledge to stand by the Syrian people. “Together, we remain committed to the millions of victims of a conflict that has gone on far too long. As the crisis continues, the needs continue to grow, and the resources of the humanitarian response are stretched further and further.”

“Needs are also changing as the crisis enters a fifth year. We are now faced with Syrian children who have spent the first critical 1,000 days of their lives in a conflict situation without adequate food and nutrients. We must ensure our food assistance addresses the development needs of the most vulnerable victims of this crisis,” she said.

WFP is designing and implementing programmes to respond to the evolving needs of Syrian families. It is also working with UNICEF and other partners to encourage children to go to school through school feeding programmes.

“We must not lose a whole generation to war,” urged Ms. Cousin, who is also scheduled to meet Government officials, donor representatives and WFP’s non-government organization partners.

In all, WFP has provided life-saving aid to close to 6 million displaced Syrians every month through providing food assistance, vouchers and electronic cards.

Also at the Kuwait conference on Syria, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) will be asking for $415 million to support some 560,000 Palestine refugees registered in Syria.

“If we do not receive funds immediately at the Kuwait conference, the programme of cash assistance to nearly half a million people will halt in a matter of a few days,” said UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness ahead of the Pledging Conference.

Humanitarian access to around 18,000 Palestinian civilians trapped in the besieged camp of Yarmouk in Damascus, suffered prolonged interruptions due to clashes throughout 2014, he added. There were only 131 days of access, during which UNRAW distributed an average of 89 food parcels a day. At least 400 parcels are required per day to meet minimum nutrition standards for all civilians trapped. Distribution has now resumed after almost three months of no access. During that time, many tried to flee the region.

“With almost no option for flight, Palestinians are increasingly vulnerable and speak of feeling trapped, singled out and unwelcome in the region. In worrying numbers, Palestine refugees are leaving Syria by unsafe routes to Turkey through ISIL-controlled areas or at the mercy of sea traffickers,” Mr. Gunness warned.

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