News in Brief 19 February 2016 (AM) – Geneva

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Children write on the blackboard at a school in the village of Staromykhailovka, which is on the frontline between the cities of Donetsk and Mariyanovka, Ukraine. Photo: UNICEF/Aleksey Filippov

One in three children in Ukraine have psychological scars, says UNICEF

In Ukraine, thousands of children are still suffering the consequences of fighting there, two years after the conflict started, the UN Children's Agency said Friday.

According to UNICEF, well over half a million children have been affected in non-government-controlled areas and on both sides of the front line in the east of the country.

One in three youngsters need psychological support.

Here's UNICEF Representative in Ukraine, Giovanna Barberis:

"All of the children are facing the risk of stepping on mines every day, again  they are exposed to traumatic events…These are children that have witnessed violence and fighting and are in need of immediate support."

Despite an easing in the security situation between government forces and separatists, the humanitarian situation remains very worrying for vulnerable populations, UNICEF says.

The UN agency has provided aid to Ukraine from the outset of the conflict, but it says that many challenges remain, including access problems that have prevented it from reaching the neediest children.

Officially, some 1.6 million people are displaced in the country, and one in five schools are either damaged or destroyed.

Last year, more than 20 children were killed and more than 40 injured, UNICEF says.

Yemen on brink of catastrophe, warns UN

Fighting in Yemen has left the country on the brink of catastrophe, the UN said Friday, in an appeal for US$1.6 billion that's needed to provide critical aid to nearly eight million people.

Here's Jamie McGoldrick, the UN's Resident Humanitarian coordinator in Yemen.

"The ongoing conflict is still as intense as it was… ground fighting, shelling and air strikes are a common feature in many part of Yemen, and as a result of  that, the populations are in a difficult position."

The UN humanitarian coordinator said that aid agencies were still having just as much trouble as ever accessing hard-to-reach populations in Yemen, where more than 14 million people are now food insecure.

In Taiz – a large city of over 600,000 people – McGoldrick said that aid had been delivered on an "ad hoc basis", but vital supplies had not got through to 200,000 people, effectively trapped in a so-called enclave on the front line.

In total, some 21 million people need some form of humanitarian help in the Arabian Peninsula country, which is being fought over by government and Houthi forces as the UN attempts to broker peace there.

Air drop plans for besieged Syrian town still in early stages, says UN food agency

Preparations for a UN-led humanitarian air drop to the Syrian town of Deir ez-Zour are continuing "around the clock", the UN's World Food Programme has said.

While the operation is still in the early planning stage, WFP spokesperson Bettina Luescher said that the agency would do "anything" it could to pull it off, since the situation was "devastating" in the besieged city.

"This will be a high-altitude operation where we would be dropping off life-saving aid supplies with parachutes. We would be using a plane that is specially equipped for this kind of high-altitude operation, we would be working with flight crews that are highly experienced…and it's important to realize that we are planning this, we're hoping to do this, we're working around the clock."

The WFP spokesperson confirmed that the plan was to reach around 200,000 people in the eastern city, which is in the hands of ISIL and where people face dire food shortages.

Elsewhere in Syria, where humanitarian aid was trucked in this week to more than 80,000 people, WFP said that children had been "grabbing" the food that was being brought in.

In Moadamiyeh, which has not had any UN aid for a year and a half, WFP said it had reached more than 21,000 people, before stressing that it hoped the aid convoys were not a "one-off".

The UN Children's Agency, UNICEF, meanwhile, said that water shortages remained a serious problem in the northern city of Aleppo, after key treatment facilities had been shut down.

In response, the agency has upped its water deliveries to eight million litres a day, enough for more than half a million people.

At a press briefing at the UN in Geneva, there was also confirmation that Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is heading back from Damascus to attend a preparatory ceasefire taskforce meeting today in Geneva with members of the International Syria Support Group, notably Russia and the United States.

A question mark remains, however, about when the ceasefire talks will resume.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 4’16″

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