News in Brief 6 September 2016 (AM) – Geneva

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Paulo Pinheiro, Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria at a press conference at the UN in Geneva. Photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

 

Syrians in "despair" amid increase in fighting, say investigators

Syrians are in a state of despair amid a tragic increase in fighting and besiegement that's crushing hopes of peace, a United Nations rights investigators said Tuesday.

In a new report on the more than five-year conflict, the UN Commission of Inquiry authors note continued attacks on civilians by all sides, after the break-down of a truce in February.

Here's Commission of Inquiry chair, Paulo Pinheiro:

"The brief pause of hostilities demonstrated that where there is political will both within the international community and on the ground it is possible to lessen immediately the suffering of civilians, but as you know this did not last."

Violence is described as having reached "unprecedented levels" in eastern Aleppo, where civilians are unable to flee from daily airstrikes, according to the report.

Pro-government forces are also linked to bombing more than 20 hospitals and clinics in Aleppo governorate alone since the beginning of the year, while their opponents are blamed for indiscriminate shelling of residential neighbourhoods.

Afghanistan set for a "humanitarian crisis" this winter

Ongoing conflict and alarming levels of malnutrition have contributed to a potential humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan that could affect up to a million people, UN aid agency OCHA said Tuesday.

In a bid to alleviate the suffering, the UN's emergency relief coordinator Stephen O'Brien is visiting the country to meet people displaced by the violence, as well as government officials and aid partners.

Among the challenges caused by fighting between government forces and non-state actors are alarming levels of malnutrition; here's UN OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke:

"We have 2.7 million people who are malnourished in Afhganistan, over a million of those are children under five – that is an extremely high number of course, only about a third of those severely malnourished children are actually getting aid, and only about a quarter of those are being cured."

According to OCHA, more than one million people are expected to be homeless in Afghanistan or on its borders when winter comes, including many highly vulnerable families.

Iraqi siege town gets aid for 30,000 for a month

Food aid has reached more than 30,000 people who've been besieged in or near a northern Iraqi town for more than two years, the UN food agency has announced.

With the help of local partners, the World Food Programme (WFP) says that those living in and around Qayyarah now have enough food for a month.

WFP spokesperson Bettina Luescher said the situation on the ground is "devastating":

"All of its shops are either destroyed or closed, food stocks have been running really low, people are surviving on wheat. Black smoke rises from the oil fields surrounding this town. It's crucially important that we have access to places like this and to others that have seen so much fighting."

More than three million Iraqis have been displaced since June 2014 as government forces have battled extremist militants.

So far this year, WFP has been providing food assistance to more than one million people in all 18 governorates.

The agency still remains concerned about those living in the cities Mosul and Erbil further north, where it has no access.

Cambodia concerns for opposition politicians

Opposition politicians in Cambodia face an "escalating atmosphere of intimidation" by the country's military, according to the UN human rights office, OHCHR.

The warning from the UN comes after state armed forces mounted a show of force outside the headquarters of the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

The party's acting President, Kem Sokha, is due to appear in court on Friday on charges of refusal to appear as a witness in another case.

According to the UN human rights office, the lack of evidence raises serious concerns about the fairness of the proceedings.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 4’10″

 

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