News in Brief 16 December 2016 (AM) – Geneva

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One of six mobile clinics provided by WHO to deliver health services to people fleeing violence in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: WHO Syria

Fears that women and children are still trapped in Syria’s Aleppo

The halting of an operation to evacuate civilians from Syria's Aleppo city has prompted fears that "a high number" of women and children are still trapped in opposition-held areas.

They are "desperate" to get out, the UN has said.

The warning comes from the World Health Organization's Elizabeth Hoff, who has been observing the transportation of sick and injured people from besieged neighbourhoods to hospitals in government-controlled west Aleppo, rural Aleppo and Idlib.

Speaking to reporters over a poor-quality phone line from the Syrian city, Ms Hoff said that 194 sick and injured people were moved before the operation was aborted.

"The worrying part for us is that there are still in the besieged enclaves of east Aleppo where we have had the evacuation going on, there are still high numbers of women and infants, children under five that need to get out, they have been collecting themselves on the points where the buses and ambulances are waiting for them. But now with the operation aborted they will have to get back to their houses and this is a grave concern for us because they are desperate to get out."

Reports indicate that the operation was halted after coming under attack.

To date, more than 70,000 people have left east Aleppo and moved into west Aleppo, according to latest reports.

There is no clear estimate of how many civilians are left in opposition-held areas, which are thought to number no more than five neighbourhoods.

Alert over Myanmar's "callous" approach to Rohingya abuses

Myanmar's "callous" approach to the crisis in Rakhine state ignores the needs of victims and could have grave repercussions for the country and region, the UN has said.

The warning, from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, follows grave concerns over a security operation in the north of the state, which is home to minority Rohingya Muslims.

Reports of serious violations there – including killings, rape and homes being set alight – are recorded "on a daily basis", according to Ravina Shamdasani, from the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva:

"The High Commissioner warns the Government of Myanmar that its "short-sighted, counterproductive, even callous" approach to handling the crisis in northern Rakhine – including its failure to allow independent monitors access to the worst affected areas – could have grave long-term repercussions for the country and the region."

While condemning the attacks on border police which preceded the security operation in Rakhine state, the UN rights chief said that the military action had displaced 27,000 people, and was "clearly the wrong approach".

Record cash deal for displaced signals change in aid model

There’s been a  significant change in the way the world's refugee crises are managed according to the UN, with the news that 2016 saw record levels of cash-based aid.

By the end of the year the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, expects to see US $430 million go directly to individuals in 60 countries.

UNHCR's Adrian Edwards has more details:

"People can buy their own food, fuel, clothes and medicine, they can pay for rent, they can do whatever they like, depending on their personal priorities. It also has a benefit for local economies, and tends to foster positive relations with host communities."

The cash policy is a change from the traditional humanitarian model, where aid is delivered in bulk and then distributed.

The policy reflects the fact that 80 per cent of the world's displaced now live in cities, where they have only limited access to legal employment and basic services.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3’41″

 

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