The top UN humanitarian official has lauded the contributions of Persian Gulf countries to relief efforts around the world, and called for boosting ties between them and the world body to better meet today’s growing challenges. “In many countries across the globe, the combined humanitarian efforts of Gulf countries have made a life-saving difference, reaching communities that, at times, the UN and other aid actors could not,” stated Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, who is currently on a four-nation tour of the region. In his keynote address to the fifth annual Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development (DIHAD) conference, Mr. Holmes pointed out that member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have given nearly USD 500 million and pledged a further USD 320 million in humanitarian aid over the past three years.

Infants are suffering serious bouts of diarrhea, and in some cases dying, from infant formula provided in emergency situations, according to a coalition that includes the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Save the Children (UK), Mercy Corps, Care, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) International Organization for Migration, HOPE, Medecins Sans Frontieres and health officials from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka. They are urging all UN agencies, aid groups, and governments to ensure that women are not automatically given infant formula during an emergency and are encouraged to continue breast-feeding.

The World Food Program (WFP) has reiterated its appeal to the international community for urgent funds to support its operations in Haiti, the western hemisphere’s poorest country, following the deaths of four people in two days of rioting over rising food prices. “At this critical time, we need to stand with the people of Haiti and other countries hardest hit by rising food prices,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. Last month, WFP launched an appeal to donors for an additional USD 500 million to respond to global food and fuel prices, which have risen an estimated 55 per cent since last June.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed its concern over China’s deportation of a 17-year-old male refugee from Pakistan who was returned to his country of origin after being taken from his home in Beijing last week. UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva that the agency has made it clear to Chinese authorities that any deportation of refugees must scrupulously observe the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which China is a party.

The European Union should seize every opportunity to press Russia to end human rights abuses in Chechnya and other parts of the North Caucasus and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice, a coalition of leading human rights groups said April 7. The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), La Federation Internationale des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH), Human Rights Watch, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and Pax Christi Flanders called on the EU to implement a robust foreign policy toward Russia that prioritizes ending impunity for human rights abuses in Chechnya. (Human Rights Watch)

As five more men face trial in Cairo on April 9 in a widening and dangerous police crackdown on people living with HIV/AIDS, 117 organizations worldwide working in the fields of health and human rights condemned the crackdown and the participation of medical personnel. In a letter to the Health Ministry and the Egyptian Doctors’ Syndicate, the groups, led by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, said that doctors who helped interrogate men jailed on suspicion of being HIV-positive violated their own medical ethics, and their conduct led to a breach of trust in a privileged relationship. (Human Rights Watch)

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Jakob Kellenberger, is in Afghanistan for a seven-day visit to get a first-hand look at the situation in the country. ”We are extremely concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. There is growing insecurity and a clear intensification of the armed conflict, which is no longer limited to the south but has spread to the east and west,” Kellenberger said. He was to hold talks with the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai.

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