The United Nations family in Nigeria paused today to remember their colleagues who were killed a year ago during an attack on the world body’s compound in the capital, Abuja. Thirteen UN staff members, as well as several non-UN staff, died as a result of the suicide bombing on 26 August 2011, while more than 100 others were injured. Hundreds of personnel from 26 different UN agencies and entities had been at the compound when the bomber struck. “Although the devastating attack took the lives of our colleagues and partners and maimed many people, all of whom were in the building in the pursuit of service to humanity, our spirits have not been dampened,” said the UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Daouda Toure. “Their death mobilizes us more than ever before. Their sacrifice will not be in vain,” he added. “We will strive to pursue our work for the people of Nigeria for the continuance of peace and stability of this great nation, and the socio-economic development of all.” Mr. Toure also paid tribute to the resilience and courage of UN staff and officials who have continued undaunted with their development and humanitarian work of helping the people of Nigeria regardless of the constraints. He reaffirmed that the UN system in Nigeria will continue on its mission “to assist in improving the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms.” The UN victims served with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). read more

Hidat Teklom schedules flights in the DRC and will be involved in schedling unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) this summer. UN Photo Hidat Teklom schedules flights in the DRC and will be involved in schedling unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) this summer. UN Photo ‹ ›Being part of the new advances in peacekeeping is part of why Ms. Teklom joined the United Nations, “I love being involved, not just being an observer, and to work in a multicultural environment.” During her seven years with MONUSCO, Ms. Teklom has had to adapt to changing mandates for the Mission linked to the changing security situation in the country, as well as the waning financial resources forcing the Mission to be more creative on how it operates. “On the aviation side, the fleet has been reduced and reorganized,” she noted. There are also the daily hurdles she faces. “The greatest challenges have to do with last minute changes to the planned flights due to weather or a medical evacuation in a limited air asset. Then there was the national air traffic controllers strike,” said Ms. Teklom, an Eritrean national who herself worked as an air traffic controller before joining the UN. “Being in the UN has changed my perception towards the positive that this is an Organization which is meant to bring peace and stability to countries in crisis,” Ms. Teklom said. “Being in the UN has made me more responsible, accountable and able to accommodate a multicultural community.” Modest about her own abilities, Ms. Teklom describes UN peacekeepers with one adjective, “courageous.” As the Mission’s Air Operations Officer. Ms. Teklom helps plan, coordinate and carrie out the UN’s aviation plans in the country. It is up to her and her team to decide the type of aircraft to be used based on effectiveness and security, and coordinate the flights with key players on the ground and with the crew. “UAVs are flying objects so they are going to share the same airspace,” Ms. Teklom said. “We will need very close coordination with their launch centre to know what area they will be travelling in, flight level, speed, elapsed time, etc. Unlike a manned aircraft, we cannot communicate directly with the pilot.” When the head of UN peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous, announced in February plans for UAVs to be used in surveillance, he described them as “basically a flying camera”. Approved by the UN Security Council, the UAVs would improve situational awareness in the Kivus and exert some deterrence over armed groups by monitoring their movements during the night. The data would be relayed to the UN Force Commander who could use it to extend the peacekeepers’ capacity to protect civilians in the vast regions. The UAVs will be contracted through a third party. In late February, 25 companies from 11 countries expressed initial interest in the contracts, according to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), and travelled to the DRC to learn the area and UN operations. “There will certainly be a lot of adjustments,” said Ms. Teklom. “Even though the challenges are going to be high, being a part of this new technology is a privilege and an honour,” she stressed. read more

“Lead poisoning remains one of the most important environmental health concerns for children globally, and lead paint is a major flashpoint for children’s potential lead poisoning,” said the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director for Public Health and Environment, Maria Neira.“The good news is that exposure to lead paint can be entirely stopped through a range of measures to restrict the production and use of lead paint.”On the occasion of International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action, WHO chose to highlight the role that Governments play in protecting the health of workers, children and women of reproductive age through the adoption of procedures to eliminate the use of lead decorative paints and the provision information to the public on renovation of homes where lead paint may have already been applied.The Week of Action runs from 20-26 October 2013. This year’s theme – Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future – underscores the importance of avoiding the use of lead paint and using safe alternatives in order to prevent children coming to harm from lead poisoning.Lead paint may be found in the home, on toys, furniture and on other objects. Decaying lead paint on walls, furniture and other interior surfaces creates lead-contaminated dust in the home that young children easily ingest. Mouthing lead-painted toys and other objects also exposes young children to lead. The sweet taste of lead paint means that some children even pick off and swallow small chips of paint.WHO estimates that 143,000 deaths per year result from lead poisoning, with lead paint is a major contributor. Exposure also contributes to 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year, and the vast majority – 99 per cent – of children affected by high exposure to lead live in low- and middle-income countries.Exposure to lead creates health problems for many years into the future. Even in countries that have banned leaded paint decades previously, such paint continues to be a source of exposure until it is finally stripped and replaced. The cost of replacing lead paint means that people living in older, poorly-maintained housing are particularly at risk, and this disproportionately affects economically-deprived communities.“Paints with extremely high levels of lead are still available in most of the developing countries where paint testing has been conducted as part of the efforts of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint,” said David Piper, the Deputy Director of the UN Environment Programme Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (UNEP DTIE) Chemicals Branch.“In most of the countries with lead paint, equivalent paint with no added lead is also available, suggesting that alternatives to lead are readily available to manufacturers.”Worldwide, 30 countries have already phased out the use of lead paint. The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, co-led by WHO and UNEP, has set a target of 70 countries by 2015.At high levels of exposure, lead damages the brain and central nervous system to cause coma, convulsions and even death. Children who survive such poisoning are often left with intellectual impairment and behavioural disorders.At lower levels of exposure, lead affects brain development in children, resulting in reduced IQ, behavioural changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behaviour, and reduced educational attainment. These effects are believed to be irreversible. Adults are at increased risk of kidney disease and raised blood pressure. read more

Algeria, China, Cuba, France Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Viet Nam, Russia, and United Kingdom, were elected by secret ballot today at UN Headquarters in New York.Members of the Council serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.The Council, composed of 47 members, is an inter-governmental body within the UN system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them. All of its members are elected by the world body’s General Assembly, and it has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. It meets at the UN Office at Geneva. The Council’s membership is based on equitable geographical distribution and seats are distributed as follows:13 seats for African States, 13 seats for Asian States, 8 seats for Latin American and Caribbean States, 7 seats for Western European and other States, and 6 seats for Eastern European States. The other members of the Council and the end of their terms are as follows:Argentina (2015), Austria (2014), Benin (2014), Botswana (2014), Brazil (2015), Burkina Faso (2014), Chile (2014), Congo (2014), Costa Rica (2014), Côte d’Ivoire (2015), Czech Republic (2014), Estonia (2015), Ethiopia (2015), Gabon (2015), Germany (2015), India (2014), Indonesia (2014), Ireland (2015), Italy (2014), Japan (2015), Kazakhstan (2015), Kenya (2015), Kuwait (2014), Montenegro (2015), Pakistan (2015), Peru (2014), Philippines (2014), Republic of Korea (2015), Romania (2014), Sierra Leone (2015), United Arab Emirates (2015), United States (2015), and Venezuela (2015). read more

Strongly condemning the latest wave of fighting in the Central African Republic, including Wednesday’s deadly attack in the capital, Bangui, on a church that was sheltering thousands of people, the United Nations Security Council today demanded that all armed groups put aside their weapons and take immediate steps “to end the cycle of violence and retaliation.” In a statement to the press issued this evening, the Council “condemned in the strongest terms” the recent attacks in CAR, including those committed on 28 May on the Church of Notre Dame de Fatima in Bangui in which civilians, including displaced persons and a priest, were killed and others were injured and abducted. Council members further strongly condemned the violence in Bangui earlier this week during which three Muslim youths were killed by suspected anti-Balaka elements on their way to an inter-communal reconciliation football match as well as the destruction yesterday of one of the last mosques in the strife-torn capital. “The [Security Council] demands that all militias and armed groups and elements put aside their arms, cease all forms of violence and destabilizing activities immediately in order to end the cycle of violence and retaliation,” declared the statement. It went to reiterate that the CAR Transitional Authorities have the primary responsibility to protect civilians, and to encourage them to take the necessary measures to prevent further violence in the capital and throughout the country. “The members stressed the urgent and imperative need to end impunity in the CAR and the need for the Transitional Authorities to take immediate and concrete measures to ensure that the perpetrators of these acts are held accountable,” said the statement.Calling for the acceleration of the political and national reconciliation process in order to lay the ground for an end to violence, the Council in its statement called on the Transitional Authorities to demonstrate their commitment to this process and to take concrete steps in this direction, with the support of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the African Union.Further, the Council underlined the importance of and reiterate its support for the role played by the African-led peacekeeping force, known as MISCA, French Forces and the European force known as EUFOR RCA, as well as MINUSCA to protect civilians as mandated by its resolutions 2127 (2013) and 2134 (2014) in support of the efforts of the CAR Transitional Authorities. The members of the Council called on UN Member States and regional and international organizations to increase troop, financial, logistical and in-kind contributions to MISCA to enable it to implement fully its mandate and help prepare for the transfer of authority from MISCA to MINUSCA on 15 September 2014. “They further request the Secretary General to take all necessary steps and to accelerate the preparations for a successful and swift transition of authority,” the statement added. Earlier in the day, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) also condemned the attack against innocent civilians sheltering at the church and said such violence endangers some of the last havens for those fleeing rampant violence in the war-battered country. “Churches, monasteries and mosques have till now been safe havens for internally displaced persons across the CAR,” spokesperson Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba told reporters at a briefing in Geneva. At least 17 people were killed and 27 were missing after the attack on Notre Dame de Fatima, which, along with other attacks in the recent upsurge of violence in the country, was strongly condemned yesterday by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The attack is among the worst on any displaced persons site in Bangui since Séléka rebels were ousted from power in January 2014 and inter-community retaliatory violence spiralled, with human rights violations and clashes leaving 2.2 million in need of humanitarian aid. At the time of the attack, Notre Dame de Fatima was hosting 9,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), including many who had been there since December and some 2,050 who moved there only a week earlier to escape from a recent rise in insecurity in nearby neighbourhoods, Ms. Lejeune-Kaba said. She added that in Bangui, 32 out of 43 IDP sites are religious institutions. “UNHCR strongly condemns this attack against innocent civilians. We call again on all sides of the armed conflict to protect civilians, in line with their obligations under international law,” she said. “We also call on all sides of the conflict to allow for the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance and unhindered access to the people in need of protection and aid.” Providing details on the church slaughter, she said that the attackers arrived in pick-up trucks in the early afternoon and threw grenades into the church grounds before opening fire with small arms. The 17 killed during the attack include a priest, and 27 civilians were reportedly abducted by assailants who drove them to an unknown location. Two children and two adults also succumbed to their injuries on Thursday. read more

“Most of the world’s poorest people are women,” John Dramani Mahama said. “Currently we create programs and policies to address this imbalance, yet regardless of how successful they may be, they are not permanent solutions. They do not solve the ultimate problem, which is the vast inequality between men and women that so many traditions have inculcated.”He also addressed the plight of children and the work his country is doing to address their needs.“In order to address the issue of child mortality and malnutrition, preparatory work is underway to earmark disbursements for pregnant women and mothers of children under the age of one,” he said.He noted the central role of education in achieving gender parity, emphasizing that it was “the key to change.”“In Ghana, we have made tremendous progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goal target on universal basic education. We instituted the ‘Girl Child Program,’ which encourages parents to send girls to school, and at the primary level we have achieved gender parity between boys and girls,” he said.Turning to the practice of child marriage on the continent, Mr. Mahama highlighted that, in West Africa, two out of five girls are married before they turn 18, face increased maternal mortality rates and “are subject to the sort of poverty that is nearly insurmountable.”“Ghana has launched a campaign, under the auspices of [the UN Children’s Fund] to end child marriage in our nation by focusing not only on getting young girls in school but also on keeping them there their education is complete,” he continued. “This is being achieved through enhanced access to secondary education and beyond without compromising quality.”On UN reform, he emphasized that it was time “for greater inclusivity in the United Nations.”“The world that was in 1945 does not exist now in 2015,” he continued, “so the visionary Organization that was formed to meet the needs of that world must now be reformed to meet the needs of this one.”He also delineated those needs, among them the issues caused by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Boko Haram and Al-Qaida, as well to address the situatio of those killed in the South Sudan conflict and the “thousands dead in Syria, in Pakistan, in Nigeria, in Mexico, Afghanistan and Somalia; thousands more, the majority from African nations, dead in the Mediterranean Sea while attempting to flee poverty, hunger, disease or political strife or persecution.” read more

A recent report published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that the impact of the failed spring rains was compounded by the arrival of the El Niño weather conditions that weakened summer rains, which feed 80 to 85 per cent of the country.“This greatly expanded food insecurity, malnutrition and devastated livelihoods across six affected regions of the country,” OCHA indicated. Meanwhile, the water level of Wabishabelle River, in Somali region, has reportedly been rising since the past week following El Niño-caused heavy rains in the surrounding highlands, and in East and West Imy woredas of Shabelle zone. OCHA recalled that last week, the river broke its banks in East Imy woreda causing communities along the river bank to be engulfed by water. According to the Somali region Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Bureau, 700 households from Diray kebele, East Imy woreda are taking refuge in East Imy town. The Government and partners are monitoring the situation to identify intervention needs. At the same time, local authorities in Mustahil and Kelafo woredas of Shabelle zone, which are administrative divisions affected by recurrent drought, were alerted about the rising river level. OCHA said mass community awareness will be conducted ahead of the floods in order to mitigate their impact. In addition, the National Flood Taskforce is currently preparing flood contingency plans for all at-risk areas in the country. The UN is further highlighting that its humanitarian team in Ethiopia and the Government have held a series of briefings with donor partners – separately and together – to raise the alarm on the on-going El Niño caused drought emergency and to warn about what is coming ahead. “The active and consistent communication with donors is bearing fruit in terms of triggering donor interest and few pledges, although still insignificant in relation to the need,” OCHA stated.“Sweden, Norway, Canada, Switzerland, Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States have or will step-in with contributions in response to the emergency. Others are looking to re-program development budgets for emergency response or activate a crisis modifier,” it added.Given the expected increase in relief food needs following a recent assessment, the Government has also urged donor support to ensure a healthy food pipeline for the coming months. During the 2002 El Niño year, much of the required food aid was reportedly not delivered until late February 2003, leading to a doubling of moderate and severe acute malnutrition rates, which is three times more expensive than prevention. read more

“Until now, estimates of foodborne diseases were vague and imprecise. This concealed the true human costs of contaminated food. This report sets the record straight,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan upon release of the Estimates of the Global Burden of Foodborne Diseases – the most comprehensive report to date on the impact of contaminated food on health and wellbeing.“Knowing which foodborne pathogens are causing the biggest problems in which parts of the world can generate targeted action by the public, governments, and the food industry,” Dr. Chan explained.According to the report, which estimates the burden of foodborne diseases caused by 31 agents – bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins and chemicals – each year, as many as 600 million people, or almost one in 10 worldwide, fall ill after consuming contaminated food. Of these, 420,000 people die, including 125,000 children under the age of five years, accounting for almost a third of all deaths from foodborne diseases, the report said.The WHO report added that diarrhoeal diseases are responsible for more than half of the global burden of foodborne diseases, causing 550 million people to fall ill and 230,000 deaths every year.The health agency also reported that Africa and South-East Asia regions have the highest incidence and highest death rates, including among children under the age of five.“Based on what we know now, it is apparent that the global burden of foodborne diseases is considerable, affecting people all over the world – particularly children under five years of age and people in low-income areas,” said Dr. Kazuaki Miyagishima, Director of WHO’s Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses.Children are at particular risk of foodborne diarrhoeal diseases, with 220 million falling ill and 96,000 dying every year, WHO said, adding that diarrhoea is often caused by eating raw or undercooked meat, eggs, fresh produce and dairy products contaminated by norovirus, Campylobacter, non-typhoidal Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli.Other major contributors to the global burden of foodborne diseases are typhoid fever, hepatitis A, Taenia solium (a tapeworm), and aflatoxin, which is produced by mould on grain that is stored inappropriately.“The risk of foodborne diseases is most severe in low- and middle-income countries, linked to preparing food with unsafe water; poor hygiene and inadequate conditions in food production and storage; lower levels of literacy and education; and insufficient food safety legislation or implementation of such legislation,” the report said.The report’s findings underscore the global threat posed by foodborne diseases and reinforce the need for governments, the food industry and individuals to do more to make food safe and prevent foodborne diseases, WHO said.WHO is working closely with national governments to help set and implement food safety strategies and policies that will in turn have a positive impact on the safety of food in the global marketplace, the agency said.“Food safety is a shared responsibility,” WHO said. read more

According to UNEP, last week, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire introduced strict standards that will ensure cleaner, low sulphur diesel fuels, and better emissions standards, thus effectively cutting off Europe’s West African market.Earlier this year, a report by the non-governmental organization Public Eye exposed how European trading companies are exploiting weak regulatory standards in West African countries, thus allowing fuels with sulphur levels that are up to 300 times higher than those permitted in Europe.“West Africa is sending a strong message that it is no longer accepting dirty fuels from Europe,” said Erik Solheim, head of UNEP. “Their decision to set strict new standards for cleaner, safer fuels and advanced vehicle emissions standards shows they are placing the health of their people first.” He hailed the move as an example for other countries, noting that air pollution kills millions annually.“We need to ensure that all countries urgently introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles to help reduce the shocking statistics,” stated Mr. Solheim. In addition to new fuel standards, the group of West African countries has agreed to upgrade their own public and private refineries to meet the same higher standards by 2020. Photo: World Bank/Curt Carnemark UN Environment has been working with countries in West Africa to develop policies and standards that will stop the import of fuels with dangerously high levels of sulphur, as well as to introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles. Reducing such emissions around the world is essential to ensure levels of urban air pollution and climate emissions come down.Combining low-sulphur fuels with advanced vehicle standards can lead to as much as a 90 per cent reduction in harmful emissions.According to Nigeria’s Environment Minister Amina J. Mohamed, “for 20 years, Nigeria has not been able to address the vehicle pollution crisis due to the poor fuels we have been importing. Today we are taking a huge leap forward: limiting sulphur in fuels from 3,000 parts per million to 50 parts per million. This will result in major air quality benefits in our cities and will allow us to set modern vehicle standards.”Today in The Hague, Mr. Mohamed will meet with Lilianne Ploumen, Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation in order to take stock of the progress being made to improve the quality of fuels that have been exported from Dutch ports to countries in West Africa, as The Netherlands produces many of the exported dirty fuels.“The recent report from the NGO Public Eye made abundantly clear that coordinated action is needed to stop the practice of exporting dirty fuels to West Africa. I am very pleased West African governments quickly decided to introduce standards that will help accessing European standard quality fuels. Their people deserve cleaner air, better health, and a cleaner environment. I commend UN Environment for their excellent work,” announced Minister Ploumen.UNEP hosts the Secretariat of the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV), a global public-private partnership that supports a shift to cleaner fuels and vehicles worldwide. When PCFV began its work in 2005, not a single low or middle income country used low sulphur fuels. Today, 23 countries have made that shift. Another 40 are on their way to doing the same.In addition, UNEP is hosting the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which recently adopted a global strategy for moving the world to clean, low-sulphur fuels and advanced emissions standards. Experts estimate that this measure will save an annual 100,000 premature deaths by 2030. read more

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, the UN chief said that CICIG and its Commissioner play “a pivotal role in the fight against impunity in Guatemala.”“The UN Secretariat has serious concerns about this decision, which it is currently reviewing and which does not appear to be consistent with the Agreement on the establishment of CICIG,” Mr. Dujarric spelled out.According to his spokesperson, the Secretary-General has asked Mr. Velasquez to continue at the helm of CICIG from outside Guatemala until there is more clarity on the situation.“The Secretary-General encourages the Government of Guatemala to continue to search for a solution through dialogue in the framework of article 12 of the Agreement establishing CICIG,” the statement concluded.According to news reports, the agency’s mandate – due to expire next year – was revoked days after a long-running dispute between Mr. Velasquez and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales escalated, which included corruption probes against the President and his family.Mr. Morales reportedly had asked the UN chief to name a replacement for Mr. Velasquez, who is a Colombian citizen. read more