News in Brief 13 December 2017 (PM)

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A convoy bound for East Ghouta, Syria. (file) Photo: OCHA/Ghalia Seifo

At least 15 besieged Syrian civilians dead due to lack of medical care

At least 15 civilians in urgent need of medical evacuation have died in the besieged Syrian enclave of eastern Ghouta, the UN said on Wednesday.

Humanitarian agencies called for Government forces besieging the suburb east of the capital Damascus, to allow around 500 patients to leave, in order to receive life-saving treatment.

On Tuesday, a 29-year-old woman died who was suffering from cancer, said UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq.

She is the fifteenth person identified for urgent evacuation to die in the enclave, and her death came just 24-hours after a 9-year-old girl died in similar circumstances, he said.

"Eastern Ghouta remains under siege, with nearly 400,000 children, women and men in need of life-saving assistance. Civilians must be able to seek medical care. The UN calls on all parties to the conflict to facilitate immediate medical evacuation of the sick and wounded in a safe, timely and systematic manner, everywhere in Syria."

90 per cent of displaced Iraqis "determined" to go home: IOM report

Nine out of ten Iraqis displaced by conflict or other factors in recent years are determined to return home, the UN migration agency (IOM) said on Wednesday.

On Monday, the Iraqi Government declared the end of its combat operations against the ISIL, or Daesh terrorist group, after successfully liberating Mosul and other towns in the north of the country occupied since 2014.

So far this year, more than 1.3 million internally displaced have returned to their place or origin, according to the IOM study.

The agency estimates that more than 2.9 million displaced Iraqis have gone home since 2014, while nearly 3 million remain displaced.

Most of those who have still to go home, told IOM that they would not consider staying in the local community where they have found refuge.

Nearly one third of returnees are reported to have returned to houses that have suffered major damage.

Difficulties in returning may also be related to the fact that in some cases, those still to make the journey are among the poorest and most vulnerable families, strained by long years on the move.

350,000 children still in need across the Caribbean, following hurricanes

350,000 children remain in need across the Caribbean region, three months on from hurricanes Irma and Maria, which caused widespread devastation.

That's according to UN Children's Fund UNICEF on Wednesday, which said that on the island of Dominica, more than 35 per cent of children — particularly those living in shelters — are still to be enrolled in education programmes.

In Antigua & Barbuda, many children and families remain in shelters and are unable to return home.

Here's Farhan Haq again.

"Working in collaboration with Governments and NGO partners, UNICEF has been providing not only immediate humanitarian relief to the affected populations but also working to ensure longer-term recovery and resilience."

Family member of fallen Tanzanian peacekeeper speaks of loss and hardship

The UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix, visited a hospital in Uganda on Wednesday where some of the peacekeepers injured in the most deadly attack in recent UN history, have been recuperating.

At least 14 Tanzanian blue helmets lost their lives last Thursday, when rebel forces attacked a base operated by the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), MONUSCO.

Mr. Lacroix wished them well and thanked each of the peacekeepers individually for their service, at the Nakasero Hospital in Kampala.

He will be meeting family members of those killed in Tanzania, later in the week, but one of the relatives spoke to UN News on Wednesday about their huge sense of loss.

Yasir Ali Hamadi is from the island of Zanzibar, and his step-brother was one of those killed.

Here's some of what he had to say to our colleague from the UN Radio Swahili service.

"This is a big blow and to our family, because he was the bread winner and today he is gone. I know it is God's will but the family is torn apart. Sometimes I break down when I think about what the future holds. My mother cannot afford to pay my college fees. There was a time I could not go to school because I was living with my mother and my step-brother took care of that. When I fell ill, he was the one who helped me and he continued to pay for my school fees until now."

Matt Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 3'29"

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