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Clash at UN with Russia, Syria over Syria Hospital Attacks

The United Nations said on Friday at least 18 health centers have been attacked in the past three weeks in northwestern Syria

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The destroyed building of Nabd Al-Hayat hospital that was hit by an air strike is seen in Hass, Idlib province, Syria, May 6, 2019 in this still image taken from a video on May 9, 2019. VOA

The United Nations said on Friday at least 18 health centers have been attacked in the past three weeks in northwestern Syria, prompting a confrontation between western powers and Russia and Syria at the Security Council over who is to blame.

While the area is nominally protected by a Russian-Turkish deal agreed in September to avert a new battle, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces — backed by Russians — have launched an offensive on the last major insurgent stronghold. Some three million civilians are at risk, the United Nations said.

“Since we know that Russia and Syria are the only countries that fly planes in the area, is the answer … the Russian and Syrian air forces?” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce said to the 15-member council on where the blame lay.

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen said Russia and Syria were responsible for the attacks on the health centers. He said it was “most alarming” that several of the centers attacked were on a list created by Russia and the United Nations in an attempt to protect them.

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United Kingdom Ambassador Karen Pierce address a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Yemen, Oct. 23, 2018 at UN headquarters. VOA

Pierce said it would be “absolutely grotesque” if health facilities that provided their locations were “finding themselves being the authors of their own destruction because of deliberated targeting by the regime.”

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the Syrian and Russian forces were not targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure and questioned the sources used by the United Nations to verify attacks on health centers.

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U. N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA) Mark Lowcock attends a news conference for the launch of the “Global Humanitarian Overview 2019” at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 4, 2018. VOA

“We categorically reject accusations of violations of international humanitarian law,” Nebenzia told the council. “Our goal is the terrorists.”

An array of insurgents have a foothold in northwestern Syria – Idlib province and a belt of territory around it. The most powerful is the jihadist Tahrir al-Sham, the latest incarnation of the former Nusra Front which was part of al Qaeda until 2016.

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U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council he did not know who was responsible, but “at least some of these attacks are clearly organized by people with access to sophisticated weapons including a modern air force and so called smart or precision weapons.”

Lowcock said 49 health centers had partially or totally suspended activities, some for fear of being attacked, while 17 schools have been damaged or destroyed and many more closed. He said that in the past three weeks up to 160 people have been killed and at least 180,000 people displaced.

U.N. political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo warned the Security Council: “If the escalation continues and the offensive pushes forward, we risk catastrophic humanitarian fallout and threats to international peace and security.” (VOA)

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World Population Expected to Reach 9.7 Billion in 2050, United Nations Reports

The new population projections indicate that nine countries will be responsible for more than half the projected population growth

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FILE - Faces in the crowd at the peace assembly in Kathmandu, May 7, 2010. VOA

The world’s population is getting older and growing at a slower pace but is still expected to increase from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050, the United Nations said Monday.

The U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division said in a new report that world population could reach its peak of nearly 11 billion around the end of the century.

But Population Division Director John Wilmoth cautioned that because 2100 is many decades away this outcome “is not certain, and in the end the peak could come earlier or later, at a lower or higher level of total population.”

The new projections indicate that nine countries will be responsible for more than half the projected growth between now and 2050. In descending order of the expected increase, they are: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States.

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The world’s population is getting older and growing at a slower pace but is still expected to increase from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050. VOA

In sub-Saharan Africa, it is projected to nearly double by 2050, the report said.

Undersecretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Lu Zhenmin said in a statement: “Many of the fastest growing populations are in the poorest countries, where population growth brings additional challenges in the effort to eradicate poverty,” promote gender equality and improve health care and education.

The report confirmed that the world’s population is growing older due to increasing life expectancy and falling fertility levels.

The global fertility rate fell from 3.2 births per woman in 1990 to 2.5 births in 2019 and is projected to decline further to 2.2 births by 2050.

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A fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman is need to ensure population replacement and avoid declines, according to the report.

In 2019, the fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa was the highest at 4.6 births per woman, with Pacific islands, northern Africa, and western, central and southern Asia above the replacement level, the report said.

But since 2010, it said 27 countries or areas have lost one percent or more of their population.

“Between 2019 and 2050 populations are projected to decrease by one percent or more in 55 countries or areas, of which 26 may see a reduction of at least 10 percent,” the U.N. said. “In China, for example, the population is projected to decrease by 31.4 million, or around 2.2 percent, between 2019 and 2050.”

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World population could reach its peak of nearly 11 billion around the end of the century. Pixabay

Wilmoth, the head of the Population Division, told a news conference launching the report that the population growth rate is slowing down as the fertility level gradually decreases. That decrease usually follows a reduction in the mortality level that initially instigated growth, he said.

Wilmoth stressed that multiple factors lead to lower fertility including increasing education and employment, especially for women, and more jobs in urban than rural areas, which motivate people away from costly large families to  smaller families.

But to achieve this, he said, people also need access to modern methods of contraception.

According to the “World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights” report, migration is also a major component of population growth or loss in some countries.

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Between 2010 and 2020, it said 14 countries or areas will see a net inflow of more than one million migrants while 10 countries will experience a similar loss.

For example, some of the largest outflows of people — including from Bangladesh, Mepal and the Philippines — are driven by the demand for migrant workers, the report said. But some migrants are driven from their home countries by violence, insecurity and conflict, including from Myanmar, Syria and Venezuela.

The U.N. said countries experiencing a net inflow of migrants over the decade include Belarus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine. (VOA)