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UN agencies urge global action as drought looms over Africas Sahel region

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According to estimates, about five million people in northern Senegal, southern Mauritania and parts of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, will require food and livelihood assistance, after having exhausted their food reserves – which may run out by the end of this month.In normal weather conditions, supplies would last beyond June, into September.“We are hearing of people cutting down the number of daily meals and children dropping out of school,” Abdou Dieng, the Regional Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) for West and Central Africa, said in a news release on Thursday.“Those are telling signs of a looming disaster that the world cannot continue to ignore.”It is feared the region’s children will be the worst affected, with more than 1.6 million at risk of severe acute malnutrition this year – representing a 50 per cent increase compared with the last major nutrition crisis in the Sahel, in 2012.Marie-Pierre Poirier, the Regional Director for West and Central Africa at the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that it was “tragic that the same mothers are coming back to the clinics year after year with their children for treatment.”It is tragic that the same mothers are coming back to the clinics year after year with their children for treatment of severe acute malnutrition — UNICEF official Marie-Pierre PoirierThis year, the numbers have been the worst, she added.“We can break this cycle if we invest now in building resilience – making families, communities and national authorities better equipped to prevent and deal with similar shocks in the future,” said Ms. Poirier.Strengthening resilience is also the top priority for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).“What will help stabilize the Sahel is support for pastoralists and agro-pastoralists, during this lean season and in the future, to cope with shocks that include climate change and conflicts,” said Coumba Sow, the Sub-Regional Coordinator for Resilience for FAO across the region.To mitigate the impact of the immediate crisis, the three UN agencies have developed a joint response to cover food needs, protect livelihoods and address malnutrition.They have also prepared longer-term interventions, including improving access to local food resources as well as strengthening health and social services to allow communities and countries at large, to prevent and deal with similar shocks in the future.Implementing these programmes however, relies on sufficient funding.Fully funded, the WFP response (requiring $284 million) will provide food and nutrition to some 3.5 million people. UNICEF’s response ($264 million) will protect almost 1 million children from severe acute malnutrition and provide them access to water and sanitation facilities and education until the end of the year.The FAO response (requiring $128 million, of which $45 million is urgently needed) will help the situation from further deteriorating for 2.5 million livestock and other farmers, and their families. read more

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Mondays Daily Brief human rights in the Near East and a Forum

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On Sunday, the UN food and agriculture agency, FAO, elected Qu Dongyu, China’s agricultural deputy minister, to take the reins on 1 August. Having received a total of 108 votes out of 191 cast, FAO’s 194-member countries chose Mr. Qu during its 41st annual conference in Rome.The new FAO chief, who was born in 1963, is the first person from a communist country to hold the top job and the ninth Director-General since the Organization was founded in 1945. Current chief José Graziano da Silva, from Brazil, will complete his four-year term on 31 July. As China’s vice-minister for agriculture, Mr. Qu worked on several rural development projects all over the world, during which time he was in close contact with many UN countries. UN committee sounds alarm over Israeli practices that violate Palestinians’ human rights Thousands of suspected foreign ISIL terrorist fighters and their families who are being held in detention in Syria and Iraq, must be treated fairly by their captors and taken back by their home countries, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Monday.In an address to Member States marking the start of the Human Rights Council’s 41st session in Geneva, Michelle Bacheletexplained that more than 55,000 men, women and children have been rounded up since the fall of the self-styled “Caliphate” in the spring.Read our full story here.Displacement challenges ‘cannot be done alone’ A United Nations human rights committee, mandated with investigating Israeli practices, noted on Monday “with deep concern the continued degradation of the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” as a result of  Israeli policies and practices. The recent spike in settlement expansion and settler violence, especially against children and schools, was also noted as alarming. The findings stem from the UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, which just concluded its annual mission to Amman, Jordan.The various illegal and discriminatory practices denounced by the committee include, to name a few: The killing and injury of Palestinians, resulting from the use of live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas by Israeli security forces against people posing no direct threat to life.Night raids to arrest children in the West Bank, after which children are often taken to unknown locations, held in military vehicles, and subjected to threats and verbal abuse during interrogations.Severe, arbitrary and punitive restrictions on the fishing zone in Gaza and lack of safe drinking water.The committee will present its next report to the General Assembly in November 2019.  Listen to or download our audio News In Brief for 24 June on SoundCloud: The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, announced that on 17 and 18 December it will be hosting the first-ever Global Refugee Forum in Geneva.With tens of millions of people affected by war, conflict and persecution, the Forum will provide an opportunity for countries to take stock of the situation today and strengthen the international response. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said that “refugee situations send ripples across entire regions and beyond”, pointing out that “dealing with displacement challenges cannot be done alone”, requiring a united vision among countries, coupled with concrete action.“This is the goal of the Global Compact on Refugees and it is what we will be working towards” during the Forum, he spelled out.UN Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to attend the event, which will be held at Ministerial level and, among other things, focus on burden and responsibility-sharing; education; livelihoods; and protection.New UN agriculture agency chief hails from China Statelessness for terrorists’ families, never an acceptable option, urges UN rights chief read more

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