News in Brief 11 August (AM) – Geneva

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A crossing point in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine. Photo: UNHCR/Tania Bukakh

1.6 million displaced Ukrainians "struggle to find safety" amid ongoing hostilities

Parties to the conflict in Ukraine must respect the security of civilians, 1.6 million of whom are displaced and "struggle to find safety", the UN said on Friday.

The appeal from the UN refugee agency UNHCR comes amid ongoing sporadic conflict in the east of the country between government and separatist forces dating back to April 2014.

The situation in Donetsk and Luhansk has forced those living either side of the contact line to cross a "no-man's land" to see their families or obtain social security entitlements.

By June this year, more than 1.1 million people had made the crossing, often after facing long queues at checkpoints and limited access to basic services.

Here's UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic:

"Displacement has affected vulnerable groups particularly harshly, including more than 50,000 people with disabilities who have been forced to flee their homes… Some 150 healthcare facilities have been damaged since the start of the conflict, and medical personnel have also left the area…At least 700 schools have been damaged since the start of the conflict, including 55 schools directly impacted since the beginning of the year."

According to UNHCR, at least 40 houses are destroyed on the front line every week.

It has appealed to all parties involved in the conflict to ensure the protection of civilians from fighting and shelling, and to restrict the use of people's homes for military purposes.

According to latest available UN data, the conflict has claimed more than 10,000 lives, including nearly 2,800 civilians.

600,000 Syrians return home so far in 2017

More than 600,000 Syrians have returned home so far this year – almost as many as for the whole of 2016, the UN migration agency has said.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than eight in 10 of the returnees had been displaced inside Syria by more than six years of ongoing conflict.

Those who crossed back into Syria from outside the country came from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

Almost all of the returnees went to their own house and more than half of them went to Aleppo governorate.

Here's IOM spokesperson Olivia Headon:

"If you look at the reasons people gave for returning, more people are worried about their property, more people are taking refuge in a place where the economic situation isn't good. They can't provide for their families so they think that going home to the areas of return might help. You also see also people not being able to integrate into the places where they've been seeking refuge, because of different tribal links and things like that."

IOM described the returns as "mainly spontaneous" but "not necessarily voluntary, safe or sustainable", adding that 10 per cent of those who go home tend to be displaced once again.

To date, nearly six million people are homeless inside the country.

"Desperation" in Gaza amid ongoing power cuts: OHCHR

People in Gaza are experiencing "a feeling of desperation" amid ongoing power shortages and worsening living conditions.

That's according to the UN human rights office, OHCHR, which has urged Israel, the Palestinian and Gaza authorities "to uphold the human rights" of those in the territory.

Here's OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani:

"We have observed an increasingly dire situation for the men, women and children of Gaza. We've observed children swimming in sewage-laden polluted water to cool off, families who receive their few hours of electricity at 3am, thus leading to disrupted sleep for everyone, just a feeling of desperation."

OHCHR said in a statement that the Israeli blockade on Gaza continued to "disproportionately affect" civilians and must be lifted.

It added that measures to cut electricity and salaries and order early retirement of civil servants are having a "direct, negative impact" on the social and economic rights of Gazans.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3’59″


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