News in Brief 21 June 2017 (AM)

Urgent appeal for civilian protection in Syria: UN chief

An urgent appeal has been made by the UN Secretary-General for combatants in Syria’s six-year civil war to do “everything in their power to protect civilians.”

In a statement issued on Wednesday, UN chief Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply alarmed” at the sheer depths of human suffering being endured across the country, particularly by civilians in Raqqa, which has been occupied since 2014 by the ISIL, or Daesh, extremist group.

A coalition of mainly Arab and Kurdish fighters supported by US-led airstrikes began an offensive to retake the city two weeks ago.

Mr Guterres said the thousands of trapped civilians faced “threats from every direction” and the situation was also grim for others stuck in besieged and hard-to-reach areas which have been without basic medical help, often for years on end.

The UN and partners were doing all they can to “stem the suffering,” he noted, “often at great personal risk.”

The UN chief said it was critical for warring parties to let humanitarian aid reach those in need of life-saving assistance.

Nigeria “dangerously unprepared” to receive returning refugees: UNHCR chief

The north-east region of Nigeria is “dangerously unprepared” to receive thousands of refugees returning across the border from Cameroon.

That’s the firm view of UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, who said on Wednesday that returns were simply “not sustainable at this time.”

The UNHCR chief said the agency had warned three weeks ago about the lack of shelter, water supplies and sanitation facilities in the border town of Banki, where there was also severe overcrowding.

A violent insurgency by the Boko Haram extremist group, based originally in north-east Nigeria, forced hundreds of thousands from their homes over the past few years.

Mr Grandi said that a Tripartite Commission, established with UNHCR and the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon, needed to hold its first meeting “as soon as possible to outline the minimum conditions needed for returns.”

Seed distribution begins, to fight hunger in north-east Nigeria

And staying in north-east Nigeria: Seeds and fertilizer for more than a million people are being distributed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as part of government-led efforts to fight hunger in the wake of Boko Haram violence.

The crop planting season has begun this month and the government, assisted by the UN, hopes to help restore livelihoods in areas devastated by conflict.

The emergency seed distribution comes at the same time as a German government contribution to FAO, of around US$4.5 million, to alleviate food insecurity in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.

The funds will help FAO improve agricultural production and safeguard livestock belonging to those including the displaced, refugees and host communities.

Source: United Nations Radio

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