Taliban militants killed six UN foreign staff in an attack on an international guest-house in Kabul on Oct. 28, deepening concerns about security for a presidential election run-off due in 10 days. The resurgent Taliban have vowed to disrupt the November 7 run-off as US President Barack Obama weighs whether to send more troops to Afghanistan to fight an insurgency that has reached its fiercest level in eight years. In another sign of the growing reach of militants, rockets were also fired at a foreign-owned luxury hotel near the presidential palace in the heart of the Afghan capital, forcing more than 100 guests into a bunker, a hotel guest said.
The World Health Organization plans to distribute 200 million doses of swine flu vaccine to 100 developing countries. WHO secretary-general Margaret Chan says shipments could begin next month. The WHO says nearly 5,000 swine flu deaths have been reported worldwide. Cuba is on the list of recipients. State media reports that Cuba will accept vaccines, putting aside previous skepticism about their effectiveness. Chan spoke at the end of a four-day visit to the island. The communist government previously said it would rely on the army sealing off areas where the virus is spreading and mass quarantines to fight swine flu. Cuba has reported seven deaths and 793 confirmed cases.
Some governments' broad counter-terrorism laws are punishing women and gays and suppressing groups pushing gender equality, said Martin Scheinin, a UN special rapporteur on promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism. "There's been a lot of progress in acknowledging terrorism can most effectively be fought with compliance with human rights, nevertheless there's still a lot to do," Scheinin, who is appointed by the U. Human Rights Council, told reporters. As examples, he said in Algeria women had been arrested and accused of being extremists after they reported sexual violence by armed Islamists, while in Nepal transgender people attacked by insurgents were also targeted by police under the guise of counter-terrorism.
UN agencies continue to aid scores of thousands of Indonesians after last month's 7.9-magnitude earthquake ravaged parts of western Sumatra island, leaving nearly 200,000 households in need of emergency shelter and other assistance. The WFP, targeting children under five as well as pregnant or lactating mothers and primary school children, has aided more than 68,000 people, distributing distributed 25 metric tons of biscuits between 21 and 25 October, for a total of 178 metric tons of biscuits and noodles since the disaster struck. UNFPA is currently assisting some 30,000 women and girls of reproductive age in the worst affected areas, including over 1,650 pregnant women. Early food and nutrition assessments reveal approximately 38,000 households, or 190,000 people, in the most affected areas are experiencing temporary shortages of staple foods such as rice, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported.
A UN special investigator on torture said he was denied entry into Zimbabwe on Oct. 28 for an eight-day trip to look into alleged attacks against opposition party members. Manfred Nowak learned that his mission had been canceled after he arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, en route to Zimbabwe, the UN said in a news release. Zimbabwe said it canceled the mission to allow for consultation with southern African leaders over the country's power-sharing agreement, the UN said. Though Nowak applauded the consultation planned for Oct. 29 in Harare, he said it was not a valid reason for the government to cancel his mission.