News in Brief 28 February 2017 (PM)

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Children sitting in front of a school that was badly damaged in the conflict in Yemen. Photo: UNICEF/Abu Monassar

UN relief chief "extremely disappointed" by denial of access to Taiz

The UN relief chief Stephen O'Brien has said he's "extremely disappointed" by rebel fighters' refusal to allow aid into Taiz city in Yemen.

The Humanitarian Coordinator has spent several days travelling around the war-torn country this week, where almost 19 million are in need of humanitarian assistance.

On Tuesday his convoy was denied passage by Houthi rebels at the final checkpoint before crossing the frontline into Taiz, a city of over half a million, which has been besieged by militia fighting government forces for almost two years.

Mr O'Brien said the convoy turned back in order to continue negotiating over access, but to no avail.

Here's UN Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric.

"He remains focused on his mission to advocate for the people affected in Yemen, to marshal the resources necessary to provide life-saving assistance and protection, and to remind the parties to the conflict of their responsibility to respect humanitarian and international  law, including the provision of timely, full and unimpeded humanitarian access."

Civilian displacement from western Mosul "rising sharply"

Around 16,500 Iraqis have been displaced from western Mosul since the government operation to liberate neighbourhoods there began just over a week ago.

The UN says that figure marks a sharp rise and is expected to significantly increase as Iraqi troops, together with allies battle with ISIL terrorist fighters in the densely populated areas of the west.

After three months of heavy fighting, government forces took control of the eastern part of Iraq's second city in January, but an estimated 750,000 civilians remain trapped in the west.

Families escaping western Mosul are primarily fleeing south, and then on to displacement camps and emergency sites, said the UN.

Nearly 180,000 have been displaced from the city overall so far.

More details from Stéphane Dujarric again.

"Emergency assistance is being provided to families as they reach camps and emergency sites, and emergency packages of food, water, hygiene items and blankets are provided to them. As space in displacement camps fills up, humanitarian partners and national authorities are racing to prepare space for new arrivals. Currently, space is available to some 85,000 people, and work is ongoing to expand shelter capacities."

Concern rising for Benghazi residents trapped in combat zones

The head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said on Tuesday he was following "with deep concern" reports outlining the plight of civilians trapped in combat zones in the city of Benghazi, without access to food and water.

Martin Kobler urged all warring parties to provide civilians a safe passage away from the fighting, and called on them to protect civilians or fighters who have surrendered or are injured.

Many civilians are trapped in the Qanfuda area and news reports suggest that some are starving and resorting to eating grass.

Mr Kobler said that UNSMIL had received a letter from the Libyan National Army expressing their readiness to accept a ceasefire and give safe passage to civilians living in the Building 12 area of the city.

"All parties to the conflict will be held accountable" he said.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2'54"

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