News in brief 29 August 2017 (AM) – Geneva

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UN Refugee Agency spokesperson Adrian Edwards urged an open-border policy for people fleeing violence in Rakhine state. Photo: UN Photo

Myanmar urged to open borders for all fleeing Rakhine violence

Access to communities in need of help in Myanmar's Rakhine state remains "severely restricted" amid what the UN has called a "dramatic worsening" of the security situation there.

Violence erupted in the state last Friday when attacks on police buildings left dozens of people dead, including security personnel.

The development comes as UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein expressed alarm on Tuesday at the violence.

In a statement the High Commissioner called on Myanmar's political leaders to condemn the inflammatory rhetoric and incitement to hatred, including on social media.

Rakhine state is home to more than one million Muslims.

There has been a history of violence between the minority and Myanmar's Buddhist majority.

More than 5,000 people are believed to have left Myanmar for neighbouring Bangladesh since Thursday and thousands more are at the border, UNHCR says.

Agency spokesperson Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva that some people had been reportedly prevented from leaving Myanmar.

"These appear to be isolated instances from what we can see at the moment so I don't think there's a systematic thing going on here. Do we have access to the populations to help them on other side of the border? No we don't."

The UN Refugee Agency has appealed to authorities to do "everything possible" to allow humanitarian aid in – and ensure the safety of workers.

Harvey storm is a "nightmare scenario" says UN weather agency

The storm system that's been lashing Texas is a "nightmare scenario" that's far from over, the UN weather agency said on Tuesday.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued the alert as Harvey – originally a hurricane but now a Tropical Storm – showed little sign of moving away from the southern US state, where it made landfall last Friday.

But the cloudbursts it's brought with it have caused catastrophic flooding in places, including the Galveston and Houston metropolitan areas.

Harvey has also claimed 14 lives, according to reports.

Here's WMO spokesperson Clare Nullis:

"The latest forecast that we have is that it is expected to move upwards today to the middle and upper coast of Texas and then weaken as it moves inland over Tennessee, so the wind speeds will weaken but the rainfall potential is still there and is still serious. In addition to the hazards from wind and water, tornadoes are an additional hazard that the local people are facing…as I said, it really is a nightmare scenario."

Total rainfall is forecast to reach 50 inches (or 1.2 metres).

There's been so much rainfall that weather centres have had to create new charts, WMO said.

180 million people lack basic drinking water in conflict zones

More than 180 million people have no access to drinking water amid violence and insecurity, the UN said on Tuesday.

UN Children's Fund UNICEF, which issued the warning to coincide with World Water Week, also highlighted how warring parties frequently deny communities access to water.

In Syria – where conflict is in its seventh year – 2016 saw at least 30 deliberate water cuts, UNICEF says.

Meanwhile, violence in parts of north-east Nigeria has also damaged 75 per cent of water and sanitation services.

In South Sudan, almost half the country's water points are in crisis, after three years of fighting.

And UNICEF says that in Yemen, war-inflicted damage and disrepair have left the country's largest cities at "imminent risk" of going without water.

In a statement the agency's Sanjay Wijesekera said that access to water and sanitation "is a right, not a privilege", especially in conflicts and emergencies.

He added that a lack of clean water and sanitation meant that potentially fatal diseases such as cholera were inevitable.

In Yemen, UNICEF says that more than a quarter of a million children are suffering from suspected cholera infections, while South Sudan is in the grip of the most severe cholera outbreak it has ever experienced- with more than 19,000 cases since June 2016.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 4’12″

 

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