UN, NGO and General News Round-Up

Over 320,000 people have fled Mogadishu between February 1 and April 20, and at there are no signs of the violence abating, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) said. Many of the displaced live in extremely difficult conditions, lacking shelter, food and water. The official number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the country remains at 400,000. But as there is no safe way for aid organizations to gain access to large areas of the country, no proper count has been made in years. A recent UN report speaks of almost one million displaced people in Somalia, following 16 years of chaos and violence.

A plague of piracy off the Somali coast, with six vessels seized so far this year and many more attacked or threatened, has prompted the UN Security Council to consider a tougher counter-attack by the world?s navies, the Financial Times reports. The latest victims were the 26 crew of a Spanish fishing boat, freed unharmed at the weekend after a USD 1.2 million ransom was paid, according to Somali officials. Earlier this month French forces captured six hijackers of a French yacht after pursuing them on to land and recovering a reported USD 2 million ransom.

The UN Security Council took up Zimbabwe’s election standoff for the first time on April 29, and Western powers pressed for a UN envoy to visit the crisis-stricken country, Reuters reports. Vote checking from Zimbabwe’s March 29 presidential poll was put off again on April 29, further delaying the day when the world will know if President Robert Mugabe will remain in power. The US and British envoys said UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe had told the closed meeting that Zimbabwe was in the midst of its worst humanitarian crisis since independence from Britain.

Both rebel and Government forces have killed and maimed children during ongoing conflicts in the Philippines, according to a report released April 29 by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The report states that 19 children were killed in conflict situations between July 2005 and November 2007, while 42 were maimed. Just over half of these cases were perpetrated by Government security forces, a fifth were attributed to the Abu Sayyaf Group/Jemaah Islamiya rebels, and 8 percent to the communist insurgents, the New People?s Army (NPA).

United Nations Volunteers (UNV) working in Haiti have helped provide emergency relief to elderly and handicapped residents suffering from the current global food crisis. Working with the Community Violence Reduction (CVR) section of the UN mission there known as MINUSTAH, UNV assisted in providing some 1,000 elderly and handicapped people with rice and beans. The volunteers have focused on helping the country foster political and institutional stability, and played a pivotal role during the 2006 elections when they were the only monitors operating in parts of the Caribbean island nation.

Two major organizations for access to AIDS medication on April 28 announced new deals with generic medicine manufacturers to reduce the price of second-line anti-retroviral drugs, AFP reports. Six new and more affordable child-friendly formulations would also be made available under the new agreements, said UNITAID and the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDs Initiative. Compared to prices they announced in May last year, the reduction would be as much as 19 percent for the most frequently used second-line treatment such as tenofovir, lamivudine and lopinavir/ritonavir.

Save the Children Australia is co-sponsoring an International Conference on Child Labor and Child Exploitation to be held in Cairns, Australia between August 3 and 5. The conference will evaluate the progress and achievements made in relation to the eradication of the worst forms of child labor and explore the challenges ahead in securing rights for children in 21st century and meeting the UN Millennium Goals by 2015.

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