News in Brief 09 January 2018

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Rohingya children walk barefoot through the muck in Nget Chaung IDP camp
in central Rakhine, Myanmar on 18 December 2017. ©UNICEF/UN0155419/Myo Thame

Vulnerable Rohingya children living in "appalling conditions": UNICEF

The inability of UN agencies to access vulnerable Rohingya children who remain in northern Myanmar is "troubling", said the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday.

Describing her recent visit to Rakhine State, UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado, said that around 60,000 Rohingya children remain "almost forgotten", trapped in squalid camps in central Rakhine, while "the eyes of the world" are focused on the 655,000 who have fled across the border into Bangladesh.

"UNICEF and our partners still don't know what the true picture is of the children who remain in northern Rakhine because we don't have enough access. What we do know is troubling. Prior to 25 August, we were treating 4,800 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition; these children are no longer receiving this life-saving treatment."

She said UNICEF stood ready to work with the Government of Myanmar and the state authorities of Rakhine, to provide humanitarian relief to all children, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or status, but to do so unlimited access was essential.

She gave a vivid description of two of the worst camps she'd visited, in Pauktaw Township, which is reachable only by boat.

"The first thing that you notice when you reach the camps is the stomach-churning stench. Parts of the camps are literally cesspools. Shelters teeter on stilts above garbage and excrement. In one camp, the pond where people draw water from is separated by a low mud wall from the sewage. You can easily see how a little bit of rainfall would wash that filth over into the pond. Children walk barefoot through the muck. One camp manager reported four deaths among children ages 3-10 within the first 18 days of December. His only ask was for proper pathways so they wouldn't have to walk through their own waste."

Inter-Korean talks welcomed by UN chief

The UN Secretary-General has welcomed the progress made during high-level inter-Korean talks on Tuesday, which include the decision by North Korea to send a delegation to the upcoming Winter Olympics.

In a statement, António Guterres said that the games fostered an "atmosphere of peace, tolerance and understanding" that was "particularly relevant on the Korean Peninsula and beyond".

He added that he hoped engagement between the two Koreas would "contribute to the resumption of sincere dialogue", leading ultimately to the full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

After months of rising tension of DPRK or North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programme, the neighbouring nations agreed to hold cross-military talks, and reopen a dormant military hotline.

Peacekeeping chief urges Congo's leaders to honour election agreement

The UN Peacekeeping chief urged political leaders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to stick to an agreed timetable for holding "free, fair and credible elections".

Jean-Pierre Lacroix was briefing Security Council members on Tuesday, focussing on the role of the UN stabilization mission in the country, MONUSCO.

Security forces killed at least seven people at the end of December, who were protesting against President Joseph Kabila's refusal to step down from office.

He had agreed to set a date for fresh elections by the end of the year, as he's barred from running again, with his official mandate ending in December 2016.

DRC's election commission has set a new date of 23 December this year, but the opposition says it won't agree to such a long delay.

Here's Mr Lacroix.

"It is imperative that the DRC's political leaders adhere to the Constitution, the 31 December 2016 Political Agreement and the electoral calendar, which together, provide the political and legal framework for the holding of free, fair and credible elections, leading to a peaceful transition of power and the consolidation of the country’s democratic institutions. Political brinkmanship and a refusal to compromise would only result in further delays and deepening of the political crisis."

Matt Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 3’35″

Feature Image:  Two little girls fetch water from a pond in Nget Chaung camp in central Rakhine, Myanmar.  © UNICEF/UN0155423/Thame

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