Nearly 900 children released by north-east Nigeria armed group

The decision by a large armed group based in north-east Nigeria to release nearly 900 youngsters has been welcomed by UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, which has warned that those freed will need long-term help if they are to lead a normal life in the future.

“Today, 894 children, including 106 girls, were released from the ranks of an armed group called (the) Civilian Joint Taskforce (CJTF) in Maiduguri, north-east Nigeria as part of this group’s commitment to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children,” said Spokesperson Christophe Boulierac.

According to the UN agency, the children of the troubled region “have borne the brunt of years of conflict”, linked to an insurgency led by armed extremist opposition groups.

Youngsters ‘witnessed horrors’

“They have been used by armed groups in combatant and non-combatant roles and witnessed death, killing and violence,” UNICEF said in a statement, noting that the CJTF was formed in 2013 to protect communities and help the Nigerian military fight against separatists.

Friday’s mass-release in regional capital Maiduguri, follows the CJTF’s commitment in September 2017 to end and prevent recruitment and use of children, as part of a UN-led action plan.

In total, 1,727 children and young people have now been released by the CJTF, and UNICEF says that it has not recruited any more children since then. Between 2013 and 2017, the UN agency believes that more than 3,500 children have been recruited and used by non-state armed groups in north-east Nigeria.

Others have been “abducted, maimed, raped and killed”, it says, amid ongoing clashes, mass displacement and alarming levels of food insecurity.

Highlighting the scale of need in a report released earlier this week, UN humanitarian coordinating office OCHA, said that the organization and its partners reached more than 1.2 million people with food security assistance across Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states in March.

Nearly 20,000 children under the age of five were treated for severe acute malnutrition, OCHA said in a statement, adding that humanitarians provided protection services to 87,000 people, while more than half a million people gained access to sanitation facilities.

Released youngsters need training, education to reintegrate

“The children and young people released today will benefit from reintegration programmes to help them return to civilian life and seize new opportunities for their own development,” Mr. Boulierac told journalists in Geneva. “Without this support, many of the children released from armed groups struggle to fit into civilian life as most are not educated and have no vocational skills.”

At least 9,800 people formerly associated with armed groups, as well as vulnerable children in communities, have accessed rehabilitation services between 2017 and 2018, the UNICEF spokesperson added.

Speaking in Nigeria, Mohamed Fall, UNICEF Representative of UNICEF and Co-chair of the UN Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on Grave Child Rights Violations (CTFMR) reaffirmed his commitment to liberating and helping youngsters caught up in the conflict.

“We cannot give up the fight for the children, as long as children are still affected by the fighting. We will continue until there is no child left in the ranks of all armed groups in Nigeria,” he said.

Climate change: ‘A moral, ethical and economic imperative’ to slow global warming say UN leaders, calling for more action

It is nothing less than a “moral, ethical and economic imperative” to take more action to mitigate the existential threat posed by climate change, said top executives from across the United Nations system on Thursday.

Calling on Member States to take “urgent action to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”, the leaders of more than 30 UN agencies and entities, issued a formal, joint appeal for governments everywhere to “step up ambition and take concrete action” ahead of the landmark Climate Action Summit, which has been convened by UN chief António Guterres this September.

The appeal noted that to keep rising temperatures down, countries had to strive to “fulfil their obligations on human rights, including the right to health, the right to food security, the right to development, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women, intergenerational equity, and decent work and a just transition for all, as stated in the Paris Agreement.”

We call upon Member States to come to New York in September with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020 – UN leadership appeal

As set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming, limiting global warming to 1.5°C “is necessary to prevent irreversible changes. Achieving this goal will require changes on an unprecedented scale at all levels, but it is still possible if we act now”, said the UN system-wide appeal.

“With great urgency we call upon Member States to come to New York in September with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020 and in support to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The communique issued after consultations during a meeting of the UN Chief Executives Board for Coordination, called on countries to ensure that appropriate “adaptation measures” are taken to protect people, jobs and ecosystems, “particularly people in those regions most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change including those at risk through forced displacement and migration.”

$100 billion per year by 2020, for climate action

On the crucial issue of paying for the ambitious measures which need to be taken, the appeal described climate finance as “critical to deliver action on the necessary scale to address climate change…developed countries must deliver on the goal of mobilizing governments and the private sector to achieve the goal of $100 billion per year by 2020, to support climate action in developing countries and further enhance their efforts on scaling-up financial resources.”

And in the race to innovate, the appeal calls for greater ambition, noting that “the Fourth Industrial Revolution offers tremendous potential for a paradigm shift to low-emission, climate-resilient development pathways.”

The UN system is supporting “the enhancement of capacity of Member States to develop and utilize relevant data and technological innovations, to find solutions for climate and sustainable development challenges and disaster risk reduction and management, including the use of new and emerging technologies, including information and communication technologies, data and tools.

And the UN is going to practice what it is preaching from the Secretariat and beyond. “We will present our system-wide efforts towards reaching climate neutrality in our internal operations by 2020 and enhancing environmental and social sustainability in all UN activities”, says the joint appeal.

‘Abhorrent’ ambulance attack in Libyan capital imperils life-saving work, warns UN

An attack on an ambulance in Tripoli on Wednesday that has critically injured the head of emergency services in Libya’s war-torn capital, along with two paramedics, has been strongly condemned by UN humanitarians.

Health workers and civilians have not been spared in heavy clashes that erupted in early April between the internationally recognized Government and eastern forces loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army, marking the latest episode in spiralling violence that followed the overthrow of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

As the conflict continues into its second month, more than 400 people have died and some 2,000 have been wounded, in addition to the thousands of displaced civilians, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The “direct attack of a marked ambulance seriously injuring three health workers is absolutely abhorrent and should not be tolerated,” said UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Maria Ribeiro. “Those who ordered and carried out this attack must take legal and moral responsibility for this heinous act”, she insisted.

Echoing her comments, the WHO described the attack “on an ambulance with visible logos” as a “shocking and intolerable violation of international humanitarian law”.

“Not only did this attack injure key personnel, but the ambulance itself was taken away, thereby depriving patients of future care”, said Dr Syed Jaffar Hussain, WHO Representative in Libya.

Since conflict in the oil-rich North African nation escalated last month, 11 other ambulances have been either “impacted” or suffered “collateral damage”, according to the UN health agency.

In April, three medical workers were killed in Tripoli, and numerous first-line responders have struggled to reach the wounded without being hurt themselves, WHO said in a statement.

“This flagrant breach of the basic rules of warfare could jeopardize the operations of field hospitals and ambulance teams and deter dedicated health staff from performing their life-saving duties,” said Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO’s Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. “WHO cannot accept any actions that put health workers in harm’s way. Health staff in Libya are working to save lives and must be allowed to work without additional risk to their safety or well-being.”

Since the beginning of the Tripoli clashes, WHO has been supporting field hospitals and field ambulance teams, providing medical supplies that include trauma kits with medicines for war injuries.

It has also deployed emergency medical teams to key referral hospitals to perform surgery in and around Tripoli.

 

DR Congo: Ebola claims over 1,000 lives, Guterres commits ‘whole’ UN system, to help ‘end the outbreak’

Now in its tenth month, the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has claimed more than a thousand lives, prompting Secretary-General António Guterres to throw the support of “the whole United Nations system” into stemming the spread of the deadly virus.

Mr. Guterres expressed concern over the number of new Ebola cases in the east of the DRC on Wednesday, reiterating UN support “for efforts to end the outbreak”.

Full involvement and engagement of local people remains the key – UN chief