News in Brief 7 February 2017 (PM)

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A fourth grade student, writing on the blackboard in a classroom lined up with sandbags to reinforce the windows and prevent them from shattering during the frequent mortar shellings in Ukraine’s Donetsk region. UNICEF Photo/Hetman

Surge in fighting in eastern Ukraine forces children out of school

Thousands of children have been forced out of schools in eastern Ukraine following last week’s surge in fighting, humanitarian organisations in the country have confirmed.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners have strongly condemned the indiscriminate shelling of schools and are calling for all sides to immediately recommit to the ceasefire signed in Minsk in August 2015.

More than 2,600 children from 13 schools in government-controlled eastern Ukraine have been affected by the escalation in fighting, along with hundreds more from schools in non-government controlled areas.

At least five schools and two kindergartens have been damaged by heavy shelling and 11 other schools have had to close, according to relief agencies supporting the emergency education response in the country.

They are urging all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and ensure that schools and other civilian infrastructure are never attacked.

Haiti US$ 291 million appeal to help over 2 million vulnerable people

A US$ 291.5 million appeal to cover the critical needs of 2.4 million vulnerable people this year has been launched by the Haitian government and humanitarian groups in the country.

The plan aims to save lives while strengthening the resilience of the population and national institutions to crises and natural disasters.

In 2016, the island nation faced multiple humanitarian challenges such as Hurricane Matthew, a persistent cholera epidemic and a deterioration of food insecurity due to a lingering drought made worse by the El Niño phenomenon.

Meanwhile, the return of more than 168,000 people from the Dominican Republic in the past two years, including deportees, has further exacerbated the situation.

The country’s increased vulnerability to natural disasters and the presence of approximately 46,000 people in displaced camps from the 2010 earthquake, also add to the humanitarian context.

The plan aims to protect the affected people and find long term solutions to their plight.

Dangers of Yemen sea crossings highlighted by UN campaign

A campaign aimed at spreading awareness about the dangers of crossing the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea from Africa to Yemen has been launched by the UN Refugee Agency, UNCHR.

More than 117,000 refugees and migrants arrived in the war-stricken Middle Eastern country during 2016.

Many were lured by smugglers to take the perilous boat journey across the high seas in search of protection and better livelihoods.

On 3 February, eight Somali refugees died after boarding a boat used by smugglers in the locality of Al Sadaf in Lahij governorate in Southern Yemen.

UNHCR Spokesperson, William Spindler has more.

“The refugees, 7 men and a woman fell overboard when the smugglers abruptly started the engine and tried to flee an approaching vessel of the Yemeni coast guard. The woman apparently was hit on the head by the rotor of the ship and died as a result, the others apparently drowned. The boat which was carrying over 100 Somali refugees was intercepted and taken into custody by the Yemeni coast guard. Its final destination was reportedly the Sudanese coast. This is just the latest of a series of incidents in what is one of the deadliest sea crossings in the world for refugees and migrants.”

UNHCR is alarmed that many people are heading to a country where the conflict is worsening, displacement is growing, and new arrivals face a very uncertain future.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 3’39″