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Fiji: UNICEF steps up response as ‘full picture’ of Cyclone Winston’s impact becomes clearer

13 year-old Makereta Nasiki sits in her room, showing damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston in the town of Ba on Viti Levu Island of Fiji (24 February 2016). Photo: UNICEF/UN011243/Sokhin

26 February 2016 – As the full picture of the worst cyclone ever to hit Fiji becomes more apparent, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that up to 120,000 children across the county may be badly affected.

UNICEF officials say that the trauma of the event itself must not be underestimated, and many children have been affected by varying degrees of loss, including the devastation of losing family or community members, the sadness of losing homes or belongings, and the danger of losing places of critical importance to their development, such as schools and health centres. In addition, there are many dangers at play in a post-emergency situation, such as increasing levels of stagnant water that are a breeding ground for diseases like diarrhoea.

“Children are often the most vulnerable during emergencies and UNICEF continues to support the Government of Fiji’s efforts in addressing the needs of children,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative Karen Allen.

UNICEF Pacific’s Joseph Hing, who travelled with the first shipment of emergency supplies to Koro Island, one of the areas worst affected by Tropical Cyclone Winston, said that “the damage to Koro Island is extensive and the scale of the destruction is overwhelming,” he said. “I spoke to countless people who have lost everything. Their lives have been turned utterly upside down.”

A grandmother, whose young grandson was nearly swept away by the storm surge, told him that “you can lose all your material belongings, but what’s more important is our lives,” he said.

The geographic make-up of Fiji and the logistical challenges involved in completing assessments of the outer islands pose many barriers, but each day brings more progress, the officials said.

The UN agency is continuing to work in close partnership with Fiji’s Government and other partners to ensure a coordinated and strategic emergency response.

Within the first 24 hours of the request of the Government for assistance, UNICEF provided 3,000 people in the worst affected areas with water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to ensure safe drinking water and delivered education supplies to 995 students of eight schools in the Lau and Lomaiviti groups.

Emergency health kits, to service a population of 1,000 people for 3 months, as well as tents and education supplies, funded by the New Zealand Government, are being distributed to worst-affected outer islands. On Wednesday night, health supplies which included vitamin A capsules, oral rehydration salts, zinc tablets and six basic health kits were loaded onto boats departing for Gau Island and Batiki Island.

The Australian Government has donated to UNICEF hygiene kits for 7,920 people and water purification tabs for 1,066 household.

However, funding is needed to sustain and scale up this response, the officials say.

“More heartening though are the stories we are hearing of heroism and the very best of humanity,” Ms Allen said, noting that “Fijians are renowned for the kindness and generosity and we are seeing nothing but solidarity and shared commitment to recover together.”

UN rights expert urges Russia not to implement new extradition treaty with DRP Korea

Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Marzuki Darusman. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

26 February 2016 – A United Nations rights expert today urged the Government of the Russian Federation not to implement an extradition treaty signed with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) earlier this month.

“I am alarmed by the new extradition treaty signed between the DPRK and the Russian Federation on 2 February 2016. The treaty calls for transferring and readmitting individuals ‘who have illegally’ left their country and stay ‘illegally’ in another’s territory,” said Marzuki Darusman, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, in apress release.

There are an estimated 10,000 regular labourers from DPRK in Russia, some of whom stay in the country after their contracts have expired in order to seek asylum. Others fleeing the DPRK try to reach Russia through other countries, Mr. Darusman said.

The Special Rapporteur noted that in November 2015, Russia signed a separate extradition treaty with the DPRK, calling for mutual assistance in criminal matters.

“I am concerned that the latest treaty is much broader in scope and may lead to forced repatriation to the DPRK of individuals at risk of human rights violations, in contravention of Russia’s international obligations,” he said.

Given the practice of the DPRK to send labourers to Russia, who often work in slave-like conditions, Mr. Darusman said, it is feared that such a treaty could also be used to capture and repatriate workers who attempt to seek asylum.

In fact, the practice of sending workers abroad to be exploited may constitute state-sponsored enslavement of human beings, possibly amounting to a specific category of crime against humanity, he emphasized.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the DPRK, in its 2014 report, found that persons who are forcibly repatriated to the DPRK are commonly subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, summary execution, forced abortions and other sexual violence. At the time, the Commission called on countries to respect the principle of non-refoulement and abstain from forcibly repatriating any persons to the DPRK.

“I also note that the signing of the treaty took place against the context where the DPRK continues to commit deliberate belligerent acts, such as nuclear testing followed by the latest missile launch. Such acts adversely impact on the constructive efforts to address the ongoing gross human rights violations in the country, and reinforce even further the international community’s resolve to pursue political and legal accountability,” Mr. Darusman said.

“I strongly urge Russia to respect the principle of non-refoulement and not to implement the treaty,” he added.

UN Radio’s first podcast explores refugees and migration through Oscar-nominated film

Actress Saoirse Ronan and UN Radio producer Matt Wells in the General Assembly ahead of her participation in a podcast recording. Photo: UN Radio

26 February 2016 – The issue of refugees and migration has risen to the top of the international community’s agenda with the massive flow of people seeking safety and new lives in Europe of late.

But the issue is not a new one – people changing countries has been a constant throughout history, with the United Nations tackling the challenge since its inception in 1946. A recent film screening at UN Headquarters allowed the historical and modern aspects of it to be explored in UN Radio’s first-ever podcast.

The film is the Oscar-nominated movie, Brooklyn, which tells the story of a young woman’s migration from small-town Ireland to Brooklyn, New York, in the early 1950s.

I feel like it is incredibly special that our film is being screened here, and that we have a chance to be included in the immigration conversation.

Its screening was followed by a discussion on the issue of modern migration and the refugee crisis. Taking part were Irish writer Colm Tóibín, on whose novel the film is based, and the movie’s star, Saoirse Ronan who tell UN Radio about how the film’s plot mirrored many aspects of their own lives.

“I feel like it is incredibly special that our film is being screened here, and that we have a chance to be included in the immigration conversation,” Ms. Ronan says in the podcast. Mr. Tóibín notes in it that every modern-day refugee and migrant has an epic story that deserves to be heard.

The biggest surprise, according to producer and presenter of the pilot podcast, Matt Wells, was the way in which those attending the screening and discussion – both UN staff and others – identified so closely with the themes raised by the film.

Brooklyn is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Ms. Ronan), and Best Adapted Screenplay.

 

Source: United Nations

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Karl William
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United Nations Section

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Robert Williams

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