News in Brief 6 January 2017 (AM) – Geneva

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Joseph Kabila. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

DRC's Kabila "needs to endorse political accord" and avoid new violence

The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila, should publicly support an agreement which offers free and fair elections there, the UN said on Friday.

The appeal by the UN Human Rights Office, OHCHR, follows the signing of a political accord in DRC on 31 December.

Liz Throssell is a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:

"It is important that the Government, opposition parties, civil society and all Congolese citizens work to ensure the implementation of the accord and the creation of an environment conducive to free, fair, and credible elections. We therefore urge President Joseph Kabila to publicly endorse the agreement."

The political deal was reached after violent demonstrations in the country, linked to President Kabila's refusal to leave office when his second term ended late last year.

At least 94 people are believed to have died in clashes with security forces.

Alarm as asylum-seekers shelter on Greek islands amid plummeting temperatures

Concern is growing for hundreds of asylum-seekers sheltering on Greek islands – some in unheated tents – amid freezing temperatures.

The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR which raised the alarm is calling for the authorities to speed up efforts to move vulnerable people from the islands to the Greek mainland, where facilities are much better.

The situation in three Greek islands – Samos, Chios and Lesvos – is particularly bad.

Here's UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards:

"On Samos, around 700 people including young children and other vulnerable individuals remain in unheated tents in the Reception and Information Centre. While UNHCR and our partners have provided many hundreds of thermal blankets, sleeping bags and winter-protection kits, it's clear that people would be better off on the mainland."

UNHCR blames slow registration procedures for the delays in moving asylum-seekers to the Greek mainland, as well as a lack of space that it now says has been resolved.

To date, only 7,760 asylum-seekers have left or are due to leave Greece for relocation elsewhere in the European Union as part of a deal agreed by Member States in 2015.

This represents just 12 per cent of the total number of arrivals in Greece, a figure the UN Refugee Agency says is "unacceptably low".

Damascus children left even more vulnerable amid water crisis

Efforts are being stepped up to help the people of Damascus get clean water, but there are concerns that children have been left more vulnerable than before by shortages, amid ongoing fighting in Syria.

The warning, from UN Children's Fund UNICEF, follows reports that 5.5 million people in the Syrian capital have been without running water for two weeks now.

Despite a general ceasefire between warring parties, fighting at Wadi Barada outside the city has cut off access to its two main springs, according to UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulierac:

"Children bear the brunt of collecting water for their families. A UNICEF team who visited several Damascus schools yesterday say most kids walk half an hour to the nearest mosque or public water point…It takes children up to two hours to fetch water amid freezing temperatures."

To assist vulnerable families, UNICEF and its partners have re-equipped 120 wells in and around Damascus, meeting one third of daily needs in the city.

The agency has also provided generators and fuel to help pump water to 3.5 million people and says it is ready to repair the water springs and network – as soon as it gets access.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3’28″

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