News in Brief 10 January 2018

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Jean Arnault, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, briefs the Security Council on the situation in the country. Photo: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

"Diligent" support needed to reintegrate former rebels in Colombia

Former rebel fighters in Colombia need "diligent and thorough" support from the UN and all parties with a stake in the country's ongoing peace process.

That's according to the head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, which is helping to realize the fruits of the 2016 peace deal which ended decades of conflict between Government and FARC rebel forces.

Jean Arnault told the Security Council that the temporary ceasefire between the Government and the ELN rebel group ended on Tuesday without a new agreement.

He said it was unfortunate that ELN oil pipeline attacks had resumed on Wednesday, hours after the ceasefire deadline expired.

It was announced that the UN chief António Guterres would be visiting Colombia in a few days' time to see some of the peacebuilding efforts first hand.

Mr. Arnault told Security Council members that the Government and the FARC rebel leadership were committed to move forward with the peace process.

"We continue to view with concern the socioeconomic reintegration of the 14,000 former combatants. We are fully aware of the challenges, and we praise the efforts that have been made by Government agencies… But we must not forget that we are dealing with a large group of former fighters whose level of accumulated frustration with the reintegration process — illustrated by the number of members still in jail — is not easy to overcome. All of us — Government, UN agencies, international community, and civil society — will have to be diligent and thorough in our support to their reintegration and the development of the communities in which they are inserted."

Human Rights chief condemns "upsurge" in casualties in Eastern Ghouta

An upsurge in civilian deaths and injuries across the besieged Syrian suburb of Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, has been condemned by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said that a Syrian Government ground offensive against the rebel-held area, reportedly backed by Russian air strikes, was compounding a "humanitarian catastrophe".

He said residential areas were being hit constantly, with rebel groups also "causing terror" among the population of Damascus via rocket attacks.

The human rights chief also expressed grave concern for around 2 million living in Idlib Governorate and rural Hama, where increased clashes have reportedly displaced nearly 100,000 people since 1 December.

More details on the Syria's humanitarian plight from UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.

"Meanwhile, we welcome the exceptional delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance to an estimated 50,000 Syrian men, women and children stranded at Rukban, near Jordan's north-eastern border with Syria, earlier this week. The delivery of humanitarian assistance from Jordan began on 8 January and so far, has provided assistance to over 18,000 people."

Heavy rains may intensify cholera epidemic across Congo: WHO

Heavy rains and flooding are likely to exacerbate an ongoing cholera epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), said the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday.

The epidemic is already the most severe to take place in the country in more than 20 years.

Health experts fear that the situation in the capital, Kinshasa, will deteriorate due to a combination of overcrowding and the rainy season.

WHO reports that the epidemic has spread to 24 out of 26 provinces, resulting in 55,000 cases, including nearly 1,200 deaths last year alone — double the number of cases from 2016.

The fight to contain the disease is ongoing across the Kasai region and other areas, but it has been affected by severe cuts in humanitarian funding, a weakened health system, and a breakdown of local medical supply chains.

Matt Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 3'28"

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