World News in Brief: Aid cut threat for Afghan deportees, saving Rohingya lives at sea, China respiratory illness spike, new rail transport treaty

Pakistan announced in October that it would begin deporting “undocumented” foreign nationals starting on 1 November, affecting thousands of Afghans who have found refuge in the country.

WFP said most families crossing the border are arriving hungry, desperate and in need of immediate support.

The UN agency continues to supply them with fortified biscuits and cash to buy food or other basic necessities, and has assisted 250,000 people so far this month.

Hsiao-Wei Lee, WFP Afghanistan Country Director said its programme there is already critically underfunded.

He warned that without additional resources “we will not be able to continue our support to these families who are arriving at the border with nothing but a few basics and some bread for their journey.”

WFP is urgently seeking US$ 27.5 million to support one million returnees and help them get through the winter.

Rights expert: Emergency response needed to save Rohingya refugees at sea

A UN independent expert has called for action to save the lives of Rohingya refugees making dangerous sea journeys to Indonesia as conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh continue to deteriorate.

“The crisis will only worsen without addressing its root cause – the illegal military junta of Myanmar,” Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country, said in a statement issued on Thursday.

Bangladesh is hosting more than one million Rohingya refugees, who have fled waves of violence in Myanmar.

More than 1,000 refugees arrived by boat in Indonesia’s northernmost province of Aceh over the past week. 

Mr. Andrews commended the Government of Indonesia for offering safety, shelter and support to the arrivals, and urged other countries in the region to follow suit

“This is an emergency, and an emergency response is required, including a coordinated search and rescue operation to save the lives of those who may be stranded on overcrowded, unseaworthy vessels,” he said.

Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.  They serve in their individual capacity, are not UN staff, and do not receive a salary.

China: WHO requests data on spread of respiratory diseases 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has made an official request to China for detailed information on a spike in respiratory illnesses in children. 

The Chinese authorities reported the increase 10 days ago, WHO said, and attributed it to “the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and the circulation of known pathogens” including the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus itself, influenza and a bacterium that causes pneumonia. 

Other reports of “clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children in northern China” followed earlier this week.

WHO said that it had asked China for laboratory results from the pneumonia clusters as well as insight into the other respiratory diseases which are spreading and the impact on the health system. 

The UN agency stressed that it was also in contact with clinicians and scientists through its existing technical partnerships and networks in China.

In the meantime, WHO advised people in China follow measures to reduce the risk of respiratory illness, such as recommended vaccination, testing and staying home when ill, masks, ventilation and hand-washing. 

New rail transport treaty also has ‘green’ benefits

A new UN convention that promises to boost transport of goods by rail will also bring major environmental benefits.

That’s the message from the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which said that moving cargo by rail between Europe and Asia will be easier, quicker and cheaper after the adoption last week of the international treaty to streamline cross-border rail trade.

UNECE Executive Secretary Tatiana Molcean said the treaty also means good news for climate action given that rail freight emits 5.7 times less greenhouse gases than road transport per tonne-kilometre, which is a unit of measure of freight transport.

Rail freight between China and Europe has already seen a major increase in recent years as it is much faster than shipping and less expensive than air transport.

The new treaty will open for signature in February. 

 

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