United Nations

    The United Nations said Aug. 12 that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did not congratulate Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his contested re-election, reversing a previous statement. Asked on Aug. 11 if Ban had sent a congratulatory letter to Ahmadinejad, UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said "yes." But when reporters asked her for details the next day, she said it could not be construed in any way as congratulating Ahmadinejad. "It is not accurate to refer to this as a congratulatory letter," she said, adding the UN would not release the contents of the letter.

    The Obama administration will work with the UN to fight terrorism and other major world challenges, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said Aug. 12. She said in a speech at New York University that Washington must lead by example, acknowledge its mistakes, change its policies and strategies when necessary and treat others with respect. She noted that Washington had decided to join the UN Human Rights Council, which the Bush administration spurned as an anti-Israel forum, as an example of the new approach to world issues. Last week Rice announced that Washington would hand over more than USD 2 billion in new and old contributions owed to the UN peacekeeping department.

    Adults and children who are severely ill with H1N1 flu or at high risk of complications should be treated with antivirals like Tamiflu, the World Health Organization (WHO) said this week. But otherwise healthy people with mild flu-like symptoms need not be given the drugs to combat swine flu, it said. The UN agency reiterated advice first issued on May 21 on the use of antivirals for patients infected with the H1N1 virus, which applies to patients above one year old.

    The lives of at least 40 percent of southern Sudanese are at risk because of escalating tribal fighting, food shortages and a cash-starved regional government, a senior UN official said Aug. 12. "Southern Sudan is facing an almost unmanageable set of problems. We just can't keep up," Lise Grande, the UN Deputy Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Southern Sudan said. Grande called the situation in the south a "humanitarian perfect storm." Southern politicians have warned increased violence bodes badly for the 2010 elections and a referendum on southern secession in 2011.

    With not enough food to feed all 12.5 million Zimbabweans and funding requirements to provide urgently-needed aid only half met, the UN humanitarian arm warns the situation remains acute. Even with commercial imports, there will be a 180,000 ton cereal deficit for 2009-2010, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. According to an assessment by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and Zimbabwean Government, only 1.4 million tons of cereal will be available domestically, compared to the more than 2 million needed.

    About the author