The head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia told the Security Council on Wednesday that with the recent election of President Gustavo Petro, expectations were running high for progress towards the full and final implementation of a lasting peace deal, after decades of civil conflict.UN Special Representative and head of mission, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, also expressed hope for renewed progress on the Government’s peacebuilding commitments and its willingness to resume talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), which would enable the end of a decades-long conflict.
“I am certainly confident that Colombia can demonstrate to the world, once again, that there is no better alternative to ending conflicts than through dialogue,” said Mr. Massieu.
The UN envoy credited the “total peace policy” of President Petro, which is anchored in the implementation of the Final Agreement with the former FARC-EP rebels.
And he welcomed the Government’s efforts to foster the active participation of women.
“From Chocó to Catatumbo, from Putumayo to southern Bolivar, it is these women and their communities who confront and resist violence by armed actors fighting for territorial control,” Mr. Massieu said, echoing the Secretary‑General’s call to respond positively to the President’s call for a ceasefire.
Turning to the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non‑Repetition, he welcomed the Government’s commitment to implementing its recommendations and took note of the response of the Unit for the Search of Persons Deemed as Missing, to calls made by indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities for further action.
However, the Special Representative noted that representatives of those communities he had met, expressed concern about the ongoing threat posed by illegal armed actors and their frustration at unmet expectations of State services and opportunities.
Also briefing the Council, Muhammad Abdul Muhith, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, welcomed the Government’s commitment to reducing inequality, governing with and for women – including through its appointment of a gender parity cabinet – and the creation of the Ministry of Equality to address issues related to gender, ethnic communities, youth, and children.
He also welcomed the decision by the Government and ELN to resume peace dialogues.
Moreover, the Chair urged the UN and international and regional partners to support the process and the implementation of agreements to ensure a sustained path towards peacebuilding in Colombia.
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In Mozambique, more than 20 per cent of girls aged between 13 and 17 have been married or live with someone as if they were married. Women’s support groups are putting thousands of them on the road to financial independence, making them less vulnerable to gender-based violence.Teresa Gala is a 44-year-old mother of five. She was married at 14, and had to leave school because of her new circumstances. For more than three decades, her days were filled with domestic chores and taking care of her children. During the agricultural season, Ms. Gala added to her daily routine by working on her family farm.
However, her thoughts always remained focused on having her own business, one that would give her financial independence.
“Since I didn’t study and didn’t have my livelihood, I always had to ask my husband for money, “says Ms. Gala. “Being aware that he didn’t earn much, sometimes I asked almost nothing, but I still heard ‘no’ many times. It was very humiliating”.
Three decades ago, when she got married, there was almost no debate about child marriage in the country, but things are changing for the better. Since 2019, the Spotlight Initiative, a global initiative of the United Nations funded by the European Union, has been supporting the approval and implementation of Mozambican laws that protect women and girls from gender-based violence and harmful practices, such as early marriages.
In 2021, life improved for Ms. Gala, when she joined the Tambara Women’s Association (ASMTA) in Manica province, an organization backed by the Spotlight Initiative. These associations and women’s groups create support networks where women can learn and grow together economically, and create trusting relationships and safe spaces to address issues related to gender-based violence and women’s rights. In Mozambique, over the past year, the Spotlight Initiative supported more than 9,000 women in this way.
Through the group, Ms. Gala had access to a “business kit” which included the initial funds for her to start a company selling yogurt made from Malambe (baobab tree fruit) and Maheu (a fermented corn drink).
In the Tambara district, where Ms. Gala lives, temperatures easily reach over 40 degrees Celsius but, by investing her first profits in a freezer, she was able to make Maheu and Malembe ice cream, which was an immediate hit with her customers.
With more money coming in, Ms. Gala was able to buy a cell phone, enabling her to communicate with clients and social contacts, and join the national mobile financial system.
With proceeds from her micro-enterprise, she now contributes to the household expenses and pays the university fees for one of her daughters, who is studying for a health degree.
“My business makes me feel more respected at home. Today I am a financially stable woman, with savings, who contributes to household expenses and the education of my children”, she says. “I no longer have to wait for my husband to meet my financial needs”.
An unrelenting series of crises has trapped vulnerable Haitians in a cycle of growing desperation, without access to food, fuel, markets, jobs and public services, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Friday.Hunger has reached a catastrophic level – the highest level 5, on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification index, or IPC) – in the capital’s Cité Soleil neighbourhood.
According to the latest IPC analysis, a record 4.7 million people are currently facing acute hunger (IPC 3 and above), including 1.8 million people in Emergency phase (IPC 4) and, for the first time ever in Haiti, 19,000 people are in Catastrophe phase, phase 5.
Currently, 65 percent of Cité Soleil’s population, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, are in high levels of food insecurity with 5 percent of them in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
Increased violence, with armed groups vying for control of the vast and now lawless area of Port-au-Prince, has meant that residents have lost access to their work, markets and health and nutrition services. Many have been forced to flee or just hide indoors.
Food security has also continued to deteriorate in rural areas, with several going from Crisis to Emergency levels.
Harvest losses due to below average rainfall and the 2021 earthquake that devastated parts of the Grand´Anse, Nippes and Sud departments, are among the other devastating factors, beyond the political and economic crisis.
“WFP stands with the people of Haiti – serving the vulnerable and helping the poorest. We are here to ensure schoolchildren get a nutritious meal each day, families meet their basic food needs and communities are empowered,” said Jean-Martin Bauer, WFP Country Director in Haiti.
“This is a time of tumult in Haiti. But there is a way forward. We all need to be steadfast and focus on delivering urgent humanitarian assistance and supporting long-term development.”
“We need to help Haitians produce better, more nutritious food to safeguard their livelihoods and their futures, especially in the context of a worsening food crisis,” said José Luis Fernández Filgueiras, FAO Representative in Haiti. “Resource mobilization efforts must be scaled up in order to strengthen the resilience of households targeted by emergency food assistance to increase their self-reliance.”
For years, natural hazards and political turmoil have taken a toll on Haitians who were already in need in both rural and urban areas. The onset of the global food crisis, with rising food and fuel prices, has led to growing civil unrest that has plunged Haiti into chaos, completely paralyzing economic activities and transport.
The basic food basket is out of reach for many Haitians. Inflation stands at a staggering 33 percent and the cost of petrol has doubled.
Despite the volatile security situation in the capital, Port-au-Prince, WFP provided more than 100,000 people with emergency assistance in the metropolitan area in 2022. WFP’s focus remains on strengthening national social protection and food systems that are central to the country’s recovery efforts and long-term development.
Over the next six months, WFP requires US$ 105 million for crisis response and to tackle root causes and bolster the resilience of Haitian.
FAO has been providing emergency livelihoods support to small-scale vulnerable farming households. During the autumn agricultural season starting this month, FAO aims to reach close to 70,000 people with cash for work, food crop production assistance, goat and poultry breeding assistance, and food storage and processing support for school feeding programmes. FAO urgently requires some $33 million to assist more than 470,000 of the most vulnerable people.
While the agencies continue operating in Haiti as the security situation allows, increased insecurity, violence and lack of fuel are hampering humanitarian operations which are critical for the most vulnerable Haitians.
And, nearly 100,000 children under the age of five who are already suffering from severe acute malnutrition -also known as severe wasting – are especially vulnerable to the ongoing cholera outbreak affecting Haiti, UNICEF has warned.
At a time when much of the country is facing growing food insecurity, acutely malnourished children have weakened immune systems and they are at least three times more likely to die if they contract cholera, further reinforcing the need for urgent action to contain the disease.
Since cholera was first reported on 2 October 2022, there have been 357 suspected cases with more than half of these in children under 14.
Children aged between one and four years are at the greatest risk.
“The crisis in Haiti is increasingly a children’s crisis,” said Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti. “One in three of those suffering from cholera is under the age of five.
“For children who are already weak from a lack of nutritious food, catching cholera, and suffering the effects, including diarrhoea and vomiting, is close to a death sentence. They must be identified and treated urgently, and concrete measures must be taken to prevent new cholera cases in the communities.”
In Cité Soleil, where the first cholera case was reported, up to 8,000 under-fives are at risk of dying of concurrent malnutrition, wasting in this case, and cholera unless urgent action is taken to contain this threat.
The health system has been brought to its knees in Haiti following the gang blockade of the country’s principal fuel terminal.
Around three-quarters of major hospitals across the country, which rely on diesel generators for electricity, report being unable to provide regular services. Fuel shortages also mean there are now only three ambulances functioning in Port-au-Prince – with close to none running across the rest of the country.
Vulnerable populations, including pregnant women and girls, are the most impacted by restricted access to health services.
UNFPA, the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, estimates that close to 30,000 pregnant women are at risk of being unable to access essential healthcare, and almost 10,000 could experience life-threatening – if not fatal – obstetric complications without skilled medical assistance. Around 7,000 survivors of sexual violence could be left without medical and psychosocial support by the end of the year.
“Despite the extremely challenging security situation and fuel shortages, UNFPA and our partners are operating mobile clinics frequently in internally displaced persons sites around Port-au-Prince,” said Saïdou Kaboré, UNFPA Representative in Haiti.
“Our trained community workers are doing all they can to ensure that women and girls, especially pregnant women and survivors of violence, can access services and support that are critical to their health and survival.”
Also on Friday, the UN human rights office OHCHR, revealed in a highly disturbing report from Haiti, that children as young as 10, as well as elderly women, have been subjected to appalling sexual violence – including collective rapes for hours in front of their parents or children, by more than half a dozen armed elements – amid an explosion of gang violence in Port-au-Prince.
The report, titled Sexual violence in Port-au-Prince: a weapon used by gangs to instill fear, was jointly published by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) and OHCHR.
“Gangs use sexual violence to instill fear, and alarmingly the number of cases increases by the day as the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Haiti deepens,” Nada Al-Nashif, the Acting Human Rights Chief said.
“The gruesome testimonies shared by victims underscore the imperative for urgent action to stop this depraved behaviour, ensure that those responsible are held to account, and the victims are provided support.”
The report painstakingly documents sexual crimes perpetrated against women, girls and boys of all ages – and to a lesser extent men – by gangs waging their turf wars and seeking to expand their areas of influence. LGBTI+ people have also been targeted.
Armed gangs have used rape and collective rapes to instill fear, punish, subjugate, and inflict pain on local populations, the report stated.
Viewed as sexual objects, women, girls, and sometimes men, are also coerced into becoming the “partners” of armed elements, in gang strongholds. Refusing such sexual demands can lead to reprisals including killing and arson attacks.
The world is at risk of yet another year of record hunger as the global food crisis continues to drive more people into worsening levels of acute food insecurity, The World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Thursday.In a call for urgent action to address the root causes of rising hunger, ahead of World Food Day, the agency said the current crisis was down to a “confluence of competing crises”, caused by climate shocks, conflict and economic instability.
The number of hungry people around the world has shot up from 282 million to around 345 million since the beginning of 2022, and by mid-year, WFP had reached just over 111 million in need, aiming to reach a record 153 million by year’s end.
“We are facing an unprecedented global food crisis and all signs suggest we have not yet seen the worst”, said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.
“For the last three years hunger numbers have repeatedly hit new peaks. Let me be clear: things can and will get worse unless there is a large scale and coordinated effort to address the root causes of this crisis. We cannot have another year of record hunger”.
The emergency food relief agency underscored that it is currently “holding back famine” in five countries: Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
Conflict continues to drive the most vulnerable into catastrophic hunger, with communications disrupted, humanitarian access restricted and communities displaced.
The current war in Ukraine, for example, has disrupted global trade, pushing up transport costs and lead times while leaving farmers lacking access to enough fertilizers and other agricultural supplies they need, to produce enough food.
“The knock-on effect on upcoming harvests will reverberate around the world”, WFP warned.
Meanwhile, climate shocks are increasing in frequency and intensity, leaving those affected, no time to recover between disasters.
An unprecedented drought in the Horn of Africa is pushing more people into alarming levels of food insecurity, with famine now projected in Somalia, while floods have devastated homes and farmland in several countries, most strikingly in Pakistan.
WFP explained that the ability of governments to respond is constrained by their own national economic woes – currency depreciation, inflation, debt distress – as the threat of global recession also mounts.
“This will see an increasing number of people unable to afford food and needing humanitarian support to meet their basic needs”, the agency warned.
So far this year, WFP has increased assistance six-fold in Sri Lanka in response to the economic crisis, launched an emergency flood response in Pakistan, and expanded operations to records levels in Somalia, as famine looms.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, two out of every five Afghans have been supported by WFP assistance.
The agency also launched an emergency operation in Ukraine and opened a new office in Moldova to support families fleeing the conflict.
WFP requires US$24 billion to reach 153 million people in 2022. However, with the global economy reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, the gap between needs and funding is bigger than ever before.
The agency has warned that unless the necessary resources are made available, the price will be measured in lost lives and the reversal of hard-earned development gains.
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