Monthly Archives: December 2014

Most intense Ebola transmission in West Africa reported in western Sierra Leone – UN

31 December 2014 – The number of Ebola cases is fluctuating in Guinea, decreasing in Liberia and showing signs the increase has slowed in Sierra Leone, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today as the UN development agency said it is helping the Liberian Government build border posts to cut the cross-border spread of infection in West Africa.

“Infections in Liberia’s Eastern border region have spiked recently as tight-knit cross-border communities spread the disease across the often porous border,” the UN Development Programme (UNDP) said in a press release, adding that 49 new Ebola cases had been recorded in the border county of Grand Cape Mount in December, including 12 in the past four days.

UNDP Director for Liberia, Kamil Kamaluddeen, was quoted as saying that “the official border crossings from Sierra Leone into Grand Cape Mount are all patrolled, however, there are a number of places where it’s possible to cross without detection.”

Motorbikes, tents, communications equipment and personal protective equipment will be also be provided for eight border crossings in remote areas bordering Sierra Leone, which will allow immigration as well as health workers to operate at the border, according to the development agency.

The outgoing head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), Anthony Banbury, has acknowledged the difficulty in getting response workers to some of the remote areas, but noted the importance being present out in the districts. Mr. Banbury’s tour of duty ends on January 3, 2015 and he will be succeeded by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania as the head of UNMEER.

WHO, in its latest update issued today, said the number of Ebola cases was fluctuating in Guinea and decreasing in Liberia, although Liberia reported more cases in the week ending 28 December than in the previous week.

WHO also said there are signs that the increase in incidence has slowed in Sierra Leone. “However,” it noted, “the west of the country is still experiencing the most intense transmission of all affected countries.”

To date, Ebola has affected more than 20,000 people with over 7,800 deaths, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“Interventions in the three countries continue to progress in line with the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response aim to conduct 100% of burials safely and with dignity, and to isolate and treat 100 per cent of EVD [Ebola Virus Disease] cases by 1 January, 2015,”according to WHO.

A total of 678 health-care workers are known to have been infected with Ebola up to the end of 28 December 2014, according to WHO, 382 of whom have died. The total case count includes 2 healthcare workers in Mali, 11 in Nigeria, 1 infected in Spain while treating an Ebola-positive patient, 1 in the United Kingdom who became infected in Sierra Leone, and 3 in the United States including 1 infected in Guinea, and 2 others infected during the care of a patient in Texas.

WHO also reported that the so-called Western Area Surge – an operation by the Government of Sierra Leone, WHO and UN partners – is intensifying efforts to curb the disease in the western parts of the country, particularly Freetown and neighbouring areas, to break chains of transmission, identify cases for early isolation and treatment, and conduct safe burials.

UNMEER said that in support of the Western Area Surge, USAID airlifted two urgently needed ambulances from Monrovia to Freetown, and the World Food Programme (WFP) has taken a series of measures to strengthen the capacities of its forward logistics bases.

The UN Mission also reported that the logistics commission of the National Ebola Response Cell of Guinea has said it needed more than 4,300 thermometers, including the thermo-flash, no-contact variety for medical facilities country-wide, as well as some 5.6 million pairs of surgical gloves for all health facilities.

In Guinea, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) handed over 10 ambulances to national authorities for the fight against Ebola, and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) more than $1 million worth of materials, including kits for Ebola survivors and pregnant women, as well as hand washing kits for maternity and youth centres. The donation also included 222 bikes and 36 motorcycles to facilitate contact tracing in affected communities.

UN investigates civilian obstruction of peacekeepers in southern Lebanon

31 December 2014 – The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has reported that a patrol of peacekeepers was obstructed on Tuesday afternoon by a group of civilians who used motor vehicles to block a road near the village of Ramyah.

UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told a news conference in New York that a backup UNIFIL unit responding to the roadblock was prevented from reaching the first patrol by another group of civilians who also blocked the road.

“During the standoff, the civilians, some of whom were carrying knives and small firearms, were aggressive towards the peacekeepers and tried to forcibly enter UNIFIL vehicles and snatch equipment,” Mr. Dujarric said.

“This prompted the UNIFIL troops to undertake a controlled response by firing a warning shot in the air, after which the crowd dispersed. There were no injuries or damage to property reported.”

An investigation into the incident is underway, headed by the UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces, to ascertain the facts and circumstances.

“The situation in the area of operations is calm,” said Mr. Dujarric. “UNIFIL condemns this aggressive conduct of some civilians towards peacekeepers, which is contrary to the spirit of UNIFIL’s relationship with the people of south Lebanon.”

South Sudan: UN boosts food assistance as ‘very critical’ Nile corridor reopens

29 December 2014 – A barge carrying a shipment of food destined for thousands of people in South Sudan has crossed over from neighbouring Sudan, reopening a long-closed river corridor along the Nile, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today.

“This is the first time in several years we have been able to use the Nile River to deliver food across the border between Sudan and South Sudan, and we are grateful to everyone who made it possible to re-open this vital supply line,” said WFP Acting South Sudan Country Director Stephen Kearney. “This will make an enormous difference in our efforts to bring food assistance to people in critical need.”

River transport of humanitarian supplies across the Sudanese-South Sudanese border ground to a halt in 2011 after the border’s closure following South Sudan’s independence. Its resumption – made possible by collaboration between the two governments – will now permit the UN and its agencies to deliver much-needed humanitarian cargo to thousands of South Sudanese civilians displaced by the country’s ongoing civil conflict.

The UN agency noted that river shipping is not only extremely cost effective but helps to reduce dependence on air operations, which costs six to seven times as much as moving food by river and road. The initial shipment will now deliver a total of 450 metric tons of food for the towns of Renk and Wadakona, in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state, and is expected to provide food for an estimated 28,000 people over the following month. An additional 21,000 metric tons of food is expected to follow in the coming days.

In an interview with UN Radio, Challiss McDonough, a WFP spokeswoman, warned that the food security situation in the country remained “very precarious” amid continued fighting and the increasing mass displacement of civilians fleeing the violence.

The UN has, in fact, estimated that some 2.5 million people could be in need of food assistance in the first three months of 2015, especially if hostilities in the country continue through the dry season.

“It is a very delicate situation and we are very concerned that if the fighting continues in the New Year that we could be looking at a continued threat of a hunger catastrophe,” explained Ms. McDonough. “The river corridor from Sudan is something that has not been available to us for the last several years so we’re very pleased that the two governments have made it possible to reopen this very critical supply line.”

The security situation in South Sudan has been steadily deteriorating since political in-fighting between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, started in mid-December 2013. The hostilities subsequently turned into a full-fledged conflict that has sent nearly 100,000 civilians fleeing to UNMISS bases around the country. The crisis has uprooted an estimated 1.9 million people and placed more than 7 million at risk of hunger and disease.

As a result, the country has experienced several intense bouts of violence over the past few months, including an incident in which the UN base in Bentiu came under fire resulting in the wounding of one child. Meanwhile, a prior attack caused hundreds of people to seek shelter at the nearest airport. Approximately 340 civilians took shelter with UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) troops, and then were escorted to safety.

Ukraine: UN kicks-off campaign to reach displaced persons with humanitarian aid

31 December 2014 – Amid continuing fighting and a deteriorating humanitarian situation in Ukraine, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today announced it is launching an initiative aimed at ferrying aid to the country’s internally displaced persons (IDPs), as well as other vulnerable citizens trapped by the ongoing hostilities.

The latest figures from the UN human rights office, OHCHR, and the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO), paint a stark picture of the reality on the ground for millions of people living in the regions directly affected by the conflict, such as Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk, where hundreds of thousands of IDPs remain trapped.

From mid-April to 12 December, at least 4,707 people were killed and 10,322 wounded by fighting. Since the tenuous ceasefire began, at least 1,357 fatalities were recorded. Moreover, the UN has recently reported that since March 2014, more than one million people have been displaced from the conflict-affected areas, including nearly 530,000 people within Ukraine, of who at least 130,000 are children.

Through its latest efforts, which will kick-off in January, UNDP will target the elderly, orphans, pregnant women, families with children and people with disabilities with some 30,000 food packages to supplement the more than 25,000 already distributed to IDPs across the country.

In addition to the food packages, the UN agency announced it would also distribute sets of warm clothing for adults and children as well as sets of bed linen and blankets in an effort to help mitigate the harsh Ukrainian winter.

“Supporting internally displaced persons and early recovery of critical social infrastructure in Eastern Ukraine is a priority for the United Nations Development Programme,” Inita Paulovica, Deputy Resident Representative of the UNDP in Ukraine, said in a news release. “Our main task is to ensure that no one is left behind.”

In late February 2014, the situation in Ukraine transcended what was initially seen as an internal Ukrainian political crisis into violent clashes in parts of the country, later reaching full- scale conflict in the east. A cease-fire and peace plan for eastern Ukraine was signed in the Belarussian capital of Minsk on 5 September, but remains fragile. The situation has since continuously deteriorated, with serious consequences for the country’s unity, territorial integrity and stability.

Social stability in South Sudan jeopardized by cattle displacement

Listen /

Cattle rest at a temporary camp near Rumbek.. FAO/Jose Cendon

Social stability is being jeopardized in South Sudan by the displacement of millions of cattle due to the ongoing political conflict, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The UN agency said that increased movement of livestock along unusual migratory routes in order to avoid violence has created tensions between farming communities.

In recent months, teams of FAO livestock experts have crossed South Sudan, conducting dozens of disease investigations and monitoring missions.

They have flagged what they call “worrying” new animal disease patterns, intensifying violence over access to land for grazing, and worsening livestock conditions.

In some locations, farmers have cut the amount of land they are planting by as much as 40 per cent.

This has caused the price of some basic foods to quadruple.

In 2015, the UN estimates that the number of people who are severely food insecure in South Sudan will rise to 2.5 million.

Stephanie Coutrix, United Nations.

Duration: 1’04″