World News in Brief: Malnutrition crisis risk grows in Haiti, clashes in DR Congo, peacebuilding in Colombia

World News in Brief: Malnutrition crisis risk grows in Haiti, clashes in DR Congo, peacebuilding in Colombia

An alarming surge in armed violence in areas of Haiti is heightening the risk of a malnutrition crisis in the country, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned on Tuesday.

Findings from the recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis indicate an alarming 19 per cent increase in the number of children estimated to suffer from severe acute malnutrition in Haiti this year.

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Around 1.64 million people are facing emergency levels of acute food insecurity, (IPC Phase 4), which increases the risk of child wasting and malnutrition.

The ongoing armed violence across Artibonite department and the West department, which encompasses Port au Prince, has restricted aid delivery and severely weakened an already fragile healthcare system, posing an imminent threat to the lives of over 125,000 children at risk.

“The violence and instability in Haiti have consequences far beyond the risk of the violence itself”, said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director.

The situation is creating a child health and nutrition crisis that could cost the lives of countless of children, she added.

‘Thousands of children on the brink’

“Thousands of children are on the brink, while life-saving supplies are ready to be delivered if violence stops and roads and hospitals are opened. This malnutrition crisis is entirely human made,” Ms. Russell said.

“Basic security is urgently needed for the people of Haiti, for the life-saving services they rely on, and for humanitarian workers to reach children and families in desperate need.”

Since January, the deteriorating security situation has continued to worsen the humanitarian crisis, with serious consequences for UNICEF’s ability to store, deliver and resupply aid.

Despite the highly volatile environment, UNICEF is doing all it can to protect families and provide life-saving support, including for those who are trapped and cut off from essential services.

The agency is calling for accelerated efforts by the international community to protect civilians, restore law and order and keep humanitarians safe; an immediate flexible funding boost; and protection for schools, hospitals and other key spaces for children. 

DR Congo alert as violent clashes cause new misery in North Kivu 

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Clashes in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have now uprooted 5.7 million people across North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri provinces.   

In an alert, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said that the violence has reached a devastating new level, with people forced to flee indiscriminate bombing and abuse.

As part of the humanitarian response, UNHCR and partners have provided emergency shelters to more than 40,000 of the most vulnerable people arriving in Goma, the capital of North Kivu.

Trauma and exhaustion 

Thousands of core relief kits and 1,000 tarpaulins have also been distributed to those now sheltering outside protection sites. But people are desperate, and the needs are huge, said UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh:

“Families continue arriving at sites traumatized and exhausted by the attacks, scarred physically and psychologically. Many report being abused – some sexually – during their flight.”

Mr. Saltmarsh called for concerted international action to address the crisis and noted that UNHCR has received just 14 per cent of the $250 million required for its response in the DRC this year.

Colombia: UN expert calls for new policy to cement peace agreement

An international UN human rights expert on Tuesday called on Colombia to implement the historic 2016 Peace Agreement as a new State policy, to help ensure all dialogue processes with non-state armed groups adopt a human rights approach focused on victims.

Antonia Urrejola told the Human Rights Council that obstacles to implementing the accord still remain and made recommendations that could contribute to peacebuilding.

She said there had been progress in some areas of the Peace Agreement, which brought decades of full-scale armed struggle between rebels and government forces to an end, notably in rural reform and transitional justice.

Her report also highlights that 80 per cent of the signatories to the Agreement remain committed to being reintegrated into society, despite the obstacles, and risks to their lives.

UN agencies in Colombia come together through a CERF-funded emergency response project, in Litoral del San Juan, on the border between Chocó and Valle del Cauca.
© PAHO/Karen González Abril
UN agencies in Colombia come together through a CERF-funded emergency response project, in Litoral del San Juan, on the border between Chocó and Valle del Cauca.

Ms. Urrejola is a Chilean national and human rights lawyer who served as Foreign Minister of Chile for three years from March 2022. Her position was mandated by the Council to examine obstacles to implementing the Peace Agreement.

Roadmap needs course correction

The 2016 Peace Agreement provides a roadmap to address the structural causes of the conflict and ensure non-repetition, the report notes, emphasizing that the State’s human rights obligations must be implemented progressively and independently of the political climate of the day. 

“The stigma attached to the peace signatories was reinforced, their internal division accelerated, and their reintegration, as provided for in the Agreement, was affected”, the report contends.

“At the same time, it created doubts about the suitability and impartiality of the members of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace”.

Ms. Urrejola called for the creation of a new high-level Government position to oversee the implementation of the 2016 Peace Agreement and government approach, ensure effective institutional coordination and provide adequate financial resources.

She also requests the Government to implement, as a priority, a policy for tackling organized crime: “The dismantling of criminal structures and the fight against corruption are fundamental pillars for the consolidation of peace.”

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