UN Weekly Roundup: April 30-May 6, 2022

Editor’s note: Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.    

Some civilians evacuated from Mariupol steel plant, surrounding areas 

The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross were able to evacuate nearly 500 civilians in two humanitarian operations this week in southern Ukraine. One hundred people, including 17 children, who had been sheltering for weeks in the tunnels and basements of the mammoth Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, got out May 2. Others were evacuated from Mariupol, Manhush, Berdiansk, Tokmak and Vasylivka, and were receiving humanitarian assistance in Zaporizhzhia. A few dozen evacuees chose to remain in Mariupol to search for their relatives. A third operation was underway at the end of the week. 

Evacuation of Civilians from Mariupol Steel Plant Under Way Friday 

Accountability for war atrocities 

Several countries, as well as the International Criminal Court, are assisting Ukrainian prosecutors in collecting, documenting and preserving evidence of war crimes carried out since Russia’s invasion February 24. They are using 21st century technology to find perpetrators and bring them to justice. 

A Trove of Digital Evidence Documents War Crimes in Ukraine 

Ukraine’s traumatized generation 

The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, said Friday that millions of children in Ukraine have suffered psychological trauma after more than two months of relentless bombing and shelling, a lack of food, the inability to go to school, and the loss of other essential services. 

UNICEF: Ukraine War Has Devastating Psychological Impact on Children 

Aid trickling into Northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region 

Despite a March 25 cease-fire in northern Ethiopia, aid groups said they are struggling to get food and medicine to those in need. Even outside the worst-affected areas in Tigray, which are off limits to reporters, providing aid is fraught with risks and challenges. 

As Tigray Aid Blockade Continues, Nearby Areas Also in Desperate Need of Food, Medicine 

WHO: Nearly 15 million COVID-related deaths worldwide 

The World Health Organization said Thursday that the COVID-19 pandemic directly or indirectly caused 14.9 million deaths worldwide from Jan. 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2021. Known as “excess mortality,” the figure represents the number of people who died versus the number who would have been expected to die had there not been a pandemic. 

COVID Caused 14.9 Million Excess Deaths Globally: WHO 

In brief 

— Secretary-General Antonio Guterres traveled to West Africa this week, making stops in Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. One of the aims of his trip was to see and hear firsthand about the impacts the war in Ukraine is having on food security in the region. On Monday, the U.N. chief will be back on the road, making a two-day visit to Moldova to meet with Ukrainian refugees. 

— A recent upsurge in fighting between South Sudanese armed groups has led to the deaths and injuries of dozens of people, the rapes and abductions of multiple women, and the burning and looting of homes. The U.N. says some 40,000 people have been forcibly displaced from their homes and are in need of shelter and other assistance. South Sudan’s humanitarian situation is severe, with nearly 7 million people needing assistance, but funding is scarce. The U.N. says it has received only 8% of the $1.7 billion needed this year. 

Quote of note 

“People would first drive for three days and then go on foot. Children, strollers, some carrying kids on their shoulders. Oh God, it’s so tough when I think about it. We were driving on the highway. It’s such a nightmare, there was so much shooting and shelling. I don’t know how the woman who was driving the car we were in, I don’t know how she managed, but we finally arrived to Manhush.” 

— Tetiana Prykhodko tearfully describing to VOA’s Yaroslava Movchan how she fled from the besieged city of Mariupol to the town of Manhush, ultimately arriving at a center for displaced persons in Dnipro, where they met. 

What we are watching next week 

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield heads to the Syrian-Turkish border Monday. She will visit the Bab al-Hawa border crossing which connects southern Turkey with northwestern Syria and is the sole remaining international crossing that humanitarians can use to get vital aid to millions of civilians living in non-government-controlled areas. Russia has wanted to shutter this crossing for some time, arguing that aid moved across lines of conflict inside the country and controlled by Damascus is sufficient. The U.N. Security Council will have to decide in early July whether to continue access via Bab al-Hawa or end it. Several countries, including the United States, would like to see cross-border access expanded. Thomas-Greenfield will then continue to Brussels to attend an EU pledging conference for Syria where she is expected to announce new humanitarian support for the people of Syria and countries hosting Syrian refugees. 

 

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