News in Brief 23 December 2016 (PM)

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Displaced Aleppo, Syria, residents wait in line to receive food distributed by the World Food Programme.
Photo: WFP/Hani Al Homsh

Aleppo evacuation ends but scores of Syrians still in besieged areas

The operation to evacuate civilians from the Syrian city of Aleppo has drawn to a close, but the situation in the country remains "catastrophic" with more than 13 million people in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

That message was delivered to the Security Council on Friday by John Ging the Director of Operations for the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA.

He reported that more than 35,000 people were escorted from districts in eastern Aleppo in a process that ended on Thursday evening.

The Syrian conflict has raged since March 2011, and Mr Ging said this year was marked by "horrific suffering" and loss of life.

"Attacks on civilian infrastructure – including schools, medical facilities, settlements for the internally displaced, and public markets – have destroyed institutions otherwise relied upon by Syrians for food, shelter, education and medical care. At least 126 attacks were recorded against medical facilities this year, more than 770 medical personnel have been killed during the conflict and one in four schools has ceased to function with some two million children out of school. And despite calls for an end to besiegement as a tactic of war, we end 2016 with hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians – 700,000 to be precise – still trapped in besieged locations, while humanitarians continue to struggle to access them with aid."

Hopes for Ukraine ceasefire

A potential ceasefire could bring an end to deadly fighting in eastern Ukraine, the UN Secretary-General has said.

Nearly three years of conflict between Ukraine government forces and separatist rebels has displaced more than a million people.

Ban Ki-moon's comments follow an announcement that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has welcomed a declaration in which the sides have recommitted to a ceasefire starting this Saturday.

The OSCE has a monitoring mission on the ground.

Stéphane Dujarric is Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General.

The Secretary-General notes the statement by the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral contact Group on 21 December through which the relevant parties reiterated their commitments to a comprehensive, sustainable and unlimited ceasefire, starting tomorrow, and to the implementation of the Minsk agreements.  He welcomes this development and hopes it will bring an end to the deadly violence along the line of contact in eastern Ukraine. He expects that all concerned will abide by their commitments so as to enable the return of calm and continue the Minsk process with a view to making tangible progress.

Liberia mission to close in 2018

The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) will end in March 2018 following the adoption of a resolution in the Security Council on Friday.

UNMIL has been in the country since 2003 following the signing of a peace agreement after two civil wars over a 14-year period.

Security Council members voted to extend the mission's mandate for a final time, with 12 of the 15 countries voting in favour of the resolution while three abstained.

UNMIL is in a drawdown phase as Liberia officially assumed full responsibility for its national security in July of this year.

The resolution calls for UNMIL to continue its core tasks.

The mission will also advise the Government on developing leadership and other capabilities of the national police, particularly in relation to elections security.

Liberians are scheduled to go to the polls in October 2017.

Daniel Dickinson, United Nations.

Duration: 3'46"

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