News in Brief 24 August 2017 (AM)

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A boy who is an unaccompanied minor looks across the beach in Trabia, Italy. In May 2016, since the beginning of 2016, almost 184,500 people had crossed the Mediterranean to seek safety and protection in Europe. Photo: UNICEF/UN019996/Gilbertson VII Photo

Europe: Refugee and migrant arrivals drop but dangers persist, says UNHCR

Despite a decline in the arrival of refugees and migrants in Europe, the likelihood of death on the journey to the continent is still "alarmingly high."

That's according to a report issued on Thursday by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) which said many of these people are still relying on smugglers and traffickers to get to the continent, thus putting them at risk of death and serious abuses.

The report found that overall Mediterranean crossings fell sharply in the first-half of this year compared to the same period in 2016.

This was mainly due to a 94 per cent drop in the number of people coming to Europe via the sea route from Turkey into Greece.

At the same time, crossings from North Africa to Italy have remained at or around 2016 levels.

UNHCR estimated that more than 2,200 people have died or gone missing at sea, while at least 40 have died on land routes at or near European borders.

The agency explained that the numbers could be higher as this information is hard to confirm since most refugees and migrants are travelling clandestinely.

UNHCR reported that "violence and abuse along the journey, most notably in Libya, are rife," with reports of sexual violence, torture and abductions for ransom.

It calls for renewed commitment to ensuring protection as well as concrete steps to address smuggling and trafficking, combined with safe and legal pathways to Europe, such as resettlement and family reunifications.

UN fund allocation to support Gaza facilities during energy crisis

An additional allocation of US$2.5 million from a UN fund will help to address urgent needs in the Gaza Strip, now in its fourth month of a severe energy crisis, the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, announced on Thursday.

The funding will boost the UN's emergency fuel operation which supplies generators for some 190 critical health, water and sanitation facilities.

It will also be used to provide essential life-saving medical equipment and supplies, while 2,200 farmers will receive solar panels, cash assistance and agricultural supplies to help with reducing food production costs.

OCHA reports that as a result of the power crisis, households in Gaza have been receiving less than 25 per cent of their needs over the past six weeks.

Meanwhile, hospitals and other facilities are operating practically all day on generators that were not meant to be used continuously.

WFP mourns death of child killed in "terrible tragedy" in South Sudan

The World Food Programme (WFP) is lamenting the death of a child who was killed when one of its contracted aircraft hit a house in South Sudan.

The incident occurred in the capital, Juba, on Tuesday, resulting in the death of a five-year-old girl and injuries to four other people—a boy, a girl and two women.

In a statement on Thursday, WFP South Sudan Country Director Adnan Khan extended condolences to the family and offered the agency's support to them during what he described as "this terrible tragedy."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with them," he stated, adding that "an official investigation is underway and the aircraft will be carefully reviewed to discover what caused it to be so low."

The Ilyushin-76 cargo aircraft was attempting to land at the airport during a thunderstorm when it hit a tree and then the metal roof of the single-storey house.

A second house was also damaged by its jet blast.

The aircraft was then diverted to Entebbe International Airport in Uganda.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

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