Editor's note: Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.
Aid efforts ramp up in aftermath of earthquakes
As hopes fade for finding survivors under the rubble more than one week after massive earthquakes killed more than 40,000 people in parts of Turkey and Syria, relief efforts are ramping up to reach the millions of survivors who need winter clothes, food, water and sanitation. The United Nations launched a $1 billion appeal for Turkey and a nearly $400 million one for Syria this week.
For the first time since the Syrian war began in 2011, the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has agreed to allow the U.N. to bring humanitarian assistance into opposition-held parts of the country. Since 2014, the organization has relied on Security Council resolutions to cross from Turkey into Syria. Now, with millions of residents in the area impacted by the earthquake, Assad has agreed to let humanitarian workers use two additional crossings for three months. The United States says it will be watching, and if the Syrian leader reneges on his promise, it will seek council authorization to keep the crossings open.
Syria's Assad to Allow UN More Access to Quake Victims
Aid appeal for Ukraine as war hits one-year mark
The United Nations appealed Wednesday for $5.6 billion to provide humanitarian assistance to millions of Ukrainians affected by Russia’s invasion of their country nearly one year ago. Nearly $4 billion of the appeal will go toward easing the plight of 11.1 million people displaced or living in dangerous and difficult situations inside Ukraine. The remainder will assist 4.2 million Ukrainian refugees and communities hosting them in 10 European countries.
UN Appeals for $5.6 Billion for Millions of Ukrainian Victims of Russian Invasion
Uganda closes UN human rights office in Kampala
Uganda said this week that it would not renew the U.N. human rights office’s mandate in the country because it was no longer necessary. Human rights activists have protested the action and the U.N. human rights office is reportedly in discussions with the government to see what can be done.
Ugandan Activists Decry Closure of UN Human Rights Office in Uganda
— U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the African Union summit. He will address leaders Saturday on issues including peace and security threats, the cost-of-living crisis, and the impact of the climate crisis on the continent. He is also participating in high-level meetings on the situations in the Sahel, Libya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has had several bilateral meetings with leaders, including the AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
— The U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, known as UNMISS, said Thursday that violence rose sharply there at the end of 2022, mainly in Upper Nile, Warrap and Jonglei states. The number of civilians harmed by violence rose 87% between October and the end of December over the same period in 2021. There was also a huge spike in abductions (464%) and conflict-related sexual violence (360%). UNMISS urged the Juba government to urgently address the escalation and to protect civilians. For its part, the mission has increased patrols and set up temporary operating bases in hot spots.
— On Thursday, the U.N. launched a $1.3 billion appeal to help 6 million people in northeastern Nigeria, where child malnutrition rates are rising and 2.4 million people are in acute need due to conflict, disease and disaster. Women and girls make up 80% of those in need across three hard hit areas – Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. The U.N. says already high levels of severe acute malnutrition in children are forecast to more than double, from 300,000 children impacted last year to a projected 697,000 children this year.
— In Bangladesh, the World Food Program said Tuesday that because of a major funding shortfall, it will have to cut food assistance to Rohingya refugees for the first time since they fled Myanmar six years ago. The WFP is appealing for $125 million to avoid ration cuts, or at a minimum $80 million, to limit the ration cuts to one in 2023. The food agency said the first cut would be from $12 to $10 per person per month and would seriously impact food security and nutrition, which are already alarming. The WFP says without a cash injection by April, it could be forced to further cut an additional $4 per person. Most Rohingya refugees are fully dependent on that money to feed their families.
— The U.N. said Friday that Malawi is fighting its worst recorded cholera outbreak, with more than 1,400 deaths and 43,000 cases to date. U.N. agencies have been responding for several months, providing cholera beds, tents for cholera treatment, essential supplies including hygiene items, and mobile units for safe food storage.
Quote of note
“Low-lying communities and entire countries could disappear forever. We would witness a mass exodus of entire populations on a biblical scale. And we would see ever-fiercer competition for fresh water, land and other resources.”
– Secretary-General Guterres, on the consequences of sea-level rise, speaking Monday during a debate in the Security Council. He urged climate action to stem the warming, rising sea waters.
February 24 will mark one year since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. The fighting has displaced 5.3 million Ukrainians inside the country, caused nearly 8 million more to flee as refugees, and left 17.6 million people in the country in need of humanitarian assistance. The U.N. General Assembly is expected to take action on a draft resolution on Thursday that promotes peace in Ukraine in line with the U.N. Charter and international law. The Security Council will hold a ministerial level meeting on Friday on the subject.