UN, NGO and General News Round-Up

Survivors of a deadly earthquake that struck western Pakistan two weeks ago urgently need winterized tents, blankets, warm clothing, food, health services and restored drinking water supplies as already very low temperatures are likely to plunge even lower as winter approaches, according to the latest UN assessment. Six teams from the WFP, UNICEF and the WHO, along with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), visited 63 villages over the past four days in south-western Baluchistan province, where the quake killed almost 200 people, injured hundreds more and left 20,000 others destitute.

The UN is rushing relief to civilians affected by the violence engulfing the far east of the Congo (DRC), as the world body’s peacekeeping mission in the vast African nation reports that fighting continues intermittently. The mission, known by its French acronym MONUC, has restricted the movement of UN personnel due to the hostilities in North Kivu province, where clashes have recently escalated between Government forces (FARDC) and the Congress in Defense of the People (CNDP). The fighting has displaced more than 250,000 people, on top of the existing 800,000 forced from their homes by previous hostilities.

A deadlock in international global warming negotiations may be snapped with help from a surprise proposal by the European Union to share renewable-energy technologies with African nations. Europe, seeking a new “ally” in limiting global carbon- dioxide emissions, also may offer funding to African countries to develop their economies “sustainably” under environmental rules, Anders Turesson, Sweden’s chief climate negotiator, said in an interview with Bloomberg. Nations from the two continents will meet Nov. 20 in Algeria to consider the proposals, he said.

Burma’s military government should immediately exonerate and free about 70 activists who are being tried by unfair courts for their peaceful participation in the protests in September 2007, Human Rights Watch said Nov. 12. A court inside Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison sentenced 14 of them to 65-year prison terms. In the past two weeks the Burmese government has stepped up legal proceedings against dissidents from the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and the “‘88 Generation Students.” More than 70 political activists, monks, nuns, journalists, and labor activists are being tried or have been summarily convicted in secret trials in prisons and closed court hearings.

The UN humanitarian wing has dispatched an emergency team to western Kenya, where floods following heavy rainfall have forced more than 7,000 families out of their homes and submerged entire villages. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that its staffers are working with Government officials and NGO aid partners to assess the needs of the displaced families. The emergency team is working with its aid partners in Eldoret and Kisumu to assess the available relief stocks and is also supporting national and district authorities to set up an aid pipeline to ensure the relief response is coordinated.

Naval escorts from the Netherlands and NATO are providing vital protection from pirate attacks off Somalia for UN World Food Program (WFP) ships loaded with life-saving aid for the war-ravaged country. Chartered WFP ships have been a frequent target for ransom-seeking privateers but since the naval escort system began in November 2007, no pirate attacks have been launched against ships loaded with WFP food despite 2008 being the worst year ever for piracy off Somalia. There have been more than 80 such attacks so far this year, including 32 hijackings, compared with 31 attacks in 2007.

Prosecutors demanded a life sentence on Nov. 11 for a Hutu man accused of mass murder and other crimes during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, Dutch media reported. The 40-year-old is accused by the Dutch state of murders of women and children, rape, assault and kidnapping in 1994, when 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days by the Hutu-led government and ethnic militias. Mpambara, who applied for asylum in the Netherlands in November 1998, is on trial under a Dutch law allowing the prosecution of suspected war criminals living in the country.

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