News in Brief 10 February 2016 (PM)

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This building in Yemen was destroyed by airstrikes. Photo: OCHA/P. Kropf (file)

Civilians in Yemen trapped by "intense" fighting

Intense fighting in Yemen's southwestern port of Al Mokha in Taizz Governorate has made it impossible to access the area and verify civilian casualties, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has warned.

On Friday, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said he was "extremely worried" over reports that civilians in the area were caught in an "intolerable" situation between warring parties.

OHCHR's Rupert Colville said reports indicate that Houthi-affiliated snipers had shot at families attempting to flee their homes in Houthi-controlled areas which suggest the use of civilians as human shields.

The Houthi militia, from the Shia minority in the North, has been fighting against the government since 2004.

The conflict escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition joined government forces in fighting Houthi rebels for control of the country.

Meanwhile, pro-Government forces reportedly took over the Al Maghini and Al Hali areas of Al Mokha city, placing the whole city and port under Government control, Mr Colville said.

"Civilians were trapped and targeted during the Al Mokha fighting. There are real fears that the situation will repeat itself in the port of Al Hudaidah, which is just up the coast from Al Mokha, where air strikes are already intensifying. The already catastrophic humanitarian situation in the country could spiral further downwards if Al Hudaidah port – a key entry point for imports into Yemen – is seriously damaged."

Serious violations of international law, including possible war crimes, have been documented with "alarming" frequency since the beginning of this armed conflict in Yemen, he noted.

Meanwhile, The UN estimates that around 12 million people are facing famine in the country, with 3.3 million people, including 2.1 million children, already acutely malnourished.

Humanitarian appeal launched to respond to acute DRC needs

A multi-year appeal of US$ 748 million has been launched in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to respond to the acute needs in the country, the UN humanitarian agency, OCHA, says.

Marking the first year of a new three-year action plan, humanitarian workers together with Congolese authorities aim to help 6.7 million during 2017.

The appeal will also target the needs of over 2 million internally displaced people (IDPs), 500,000 severely malnourished children under-five and the hundreds of thousands threatened by diseases and epidemics.

Jens Laerke is the Spokesperson for the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"Men, women and children in the Congo that we are trying to help have been in a very difficult humanitarian situation for the better part of the past two decades. They are facing acute vulnerabilities, a lot of that is caused by no or very little access to basic goods and services, there is also a protection crisis related to the conflict and the violence, particular in the eastern part of the DRC. There are also risks and threats from epidemics, acute malnutrition and lack of food."

Over 60 per cent of the humanitarian needs are located in the crisis-affected eastern part of the country.

Kenya declares drought a "national disaster"

Kenya has declared the current drought affecting more than 23 counties in the east African country a national disaster, the Deputy Spokesperson for the UN has said.

Farhan Haq confirmed the news on Friday during the UN's daily briefing to the press.

"A preliminary assessment indicates that the number of food insecure across Kenya has doubled from 1.3 million in August 2016 to 2.7 million. Furthermore, the country has experienced a rainfall deficit of up to 75 per cent in north-western and coastal areas."

Mr Haq said the United Nations stands ready to support the Government in helping the communities affected.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 3’32″

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