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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-02-11

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:


Wednesday, 11 February 1998

This daily news round-up is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information. The latest update is posted at approximately 6:00 PM New York time.


  • Security Council permanent members and Secretary-General reiterate need to continue diplomatic efforts to resolve Iraqi crisis.
  • Humanitarian Coordinator of Oil-for-Food Programme says Secretary- General's proposals take integrated approach.
  • Secretary-General, concerned at reports of shelling in Freetown, calls on both sides to spare civilians.
  • United Nations food and agriculture agency is concerned about spread of livestock disease in eastern Africa.
  • United Nations seeks $70 million to meet Liberia's humanitarian needs.
  • United Nations study finds landmine crisis can be overcome within years, not decades.
  • Head of United Nations children's agency says decline of development aid raises alarming prospects for children.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the permanent members of the Security Council on Wednesday reiterated that all efforts must continue to achieve a diplomatic solution to the Iraqi crisis.

A statement attributable to the Secretary-General's Spokesman said that Mr. Annan met with representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council in an effort to resolve the crisis. They discussed the principal problems that have arisen and the possible next steps that could be taken.

"A number of aspects were considered and participants undertook to consult their capitals with a view to resuming discussions later this week", the statement said.

The Secretary-General's proposed increase in the "Oil-food- Programme" takes an integrated approach to Iraq's humanitarian needs, the Programme's Coordinator said on Wednesday.

In an interview with United Nations Radio, Dennis Halliday said that, if accepted, the Secretary-General's proposal to raise Iraq's oil revenues to $5.2 billion every six months would improve the health and nutrition of the Iraqi people. Currently, young children are particularly vulnerable, with an estimated 25 per cent suffering from malnutrition, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Mr. Halliday noted that the proposed expansion would address the underlying causes of a number of childhood diseases. "One of the big problems we have here is that the potable water supply has failed very badly over many years of damage and then neglect", he said. "This means, for example, that young children are having instant formula mixed with water that is unboiled and unfit to drink, and it's giving them all sorts of appalling problems, including diarrhoea and dehydration."

The Secretary-General is calling for projects to enhance the performance of water-treatment plants and associated drainage networks. He also envisages improving sewage treatments and garbage collection to ameliorate the overall sanitation conditions.

Speaking from Baghdad, Mr. Halliday said there was a "massive need" for rehabilitating Iraq's infrastructure. The Secretary-General has called for one-time expenditures to improve the electricity sector, hospitals and primary health facilities, among others. Mr. Halliday noted that these needs are interlinked. Power, he said, "not only generates for the hospitals and education systems, but also pushes the water and sanitation system along, which is directly linked to the nutritional levels of the people here".

Asked how the military build-up in the region was affecting the humanitarian work in Iraq, Mr. Halliday said, "there's a lot of anxiety amongst the people, of course, and amongst those staff members working on the oil-for-food programme". He stressed that this tension notwithstanding, work continued throughout Iraq.

"I am concerned at reports that heavy shelling in Freetown is posing serious risks for the safety of civilians, and that some staff of humanitarian organizations have been prevented from evacuating", Secretary- General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday. He called on both sides of the conflict in Sierra Leone to spare civilians and to ensure the protection of humanitarian personnel.

Citing reports of a rapidly deteriorating situation, with growing numbers of displaced persons fleeing the fighting, the Secretary-General says the international community stands ready to help. "United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations are ready to expand the delivery of humanitarian assistance", he said, underscoring the need for all parties to facilitate the free access of humanitarian organizations and goods "as a matter of life-saving urgency".

The Secretary-General said his Special Envoy, Francis Okelo, stands ready to assist in the implementation of the Conakry Agreement of 23 October 1997. That Agreement calls for the junta to surrender power to the legitimate government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to ensure a peaceful re-establishment of the constitutional order in Sierra Leone and to improve the lives of the country's people.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has expressed concern at the possible spread of livestock diseases in eastern Africa.

An FAO animal health officer told United Nations Radio on Wednesday that there was fear that the Rift Valley fever extending from Tanzania upwards through Kenya and Somalia could spread to Ethiopia. Peter Roeder who works within FAO's Special Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES), said that the main sign of the fever in animals was abortion and mortality, particularly in younger animals. The fever is a virus disease transmitted by mosquitoes which are favoured by flood conditions in the region.

Mr. Roeder said that in addition to the fever, which affected both animals and humans, there was also "a complex animal disease emergency as a result of the emergence of many other diseases favoured by the terrible conditions there and caused also directly by the flooding." According to Mr. Roeder, there was an outbreak of rinderpest and peste petite ruminants, which was a rinderpest-like disease affecting goats and sheep in Somalia. The FAO official added that there was evidence of camel pox which had killed camels and pneumonia which had affected goats. Other animals have died in the flooded areas from the direct effects of flooding and from such things as foot-rot which have caused a lot of damage to the feet of sheep and goats.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was actively engaged in gathering and analyzing the information on the epidemic situation in the region. It was also looking at the climatic data in order to predict what was likely to occur in the future. The agency also issued emergency appeals to help mitigate the negative effects of floods on the people who depended on livestock for their food security.

The United Nations on Wednesday appealed for $70 million to meet humanitarian needs in Liberia, as the country recovers from the effects of a seven-year conflict which claimed an estimated 150,000 lives and displaced more than half the pre-war population of 2.3 million people.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, despite progress in normalizing the political and security situation in Liberia, more than 1.4 million people remain seriously affected by the conflict. They include the internally displaced, refugees, ex-combatants, child soldiers and other vulnerable groups.

The United Nations consolidated inter-agency appeal aims at providing support for resettlement and reintegration of these groups. Projects will include vocational training and the development of small businesses.

The United Nations predicts that the vast majority of Liberian refugees in neighbouring countries, estimated at close to half a million people, are expected to choose repatriation over the next 18 months. The appeal is designed to promote the consolidation of peace and assist victims of the conflict in moving from dependency on relief assistance to increasing levels of self-sufficiency.

Toward that end, the country will receive assistance to rehabilitate its agricultural sector and capacity for fishing and fish processing. Attention will also be paid to revitalizing the health infrastructure, including reproductive health care. On the educational front, the appeal calls for providing textbooks and teacher training. Other projects will address safe water and sanitation.

The appeal also covers efforts to revitalize the agricultural economy, re- establish basic health and education services, and restore sustainable rural community life. A community-based strategy will be used to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches child soldiers and other war-affected youth, the elderly, the handicapped, female-headed households and children under five years of age, as well as populations in areas that are difficult to access.

The undeclared war to rid the world of landmines can be won, according to a new study of United Nations mine action programmes in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia and Mozambique. It found that the challenge of global demining -- while daunting -- can be met within years, not decades as previously thought.

Released on Wednesday, the study found that even in the most severe situations, adequate resources can make a difference. "The experience of Afghanistan shows this clearly: it is anticipated that all high- priority minefields in that country will be cleared within the next two years", according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which initiated the study.

The study reveals that much has been learned since the United Nations began its first humanitarian mine action programme in Afghanistan. There, the United Nations has proven that it can establish truly indigenous programmes. Currently, there are some 3,000 full-time deminers employed by United Nations-supported Afghan non-governmental organizations. "With well- coordinated external assistance, such programmes can become progressively more sustainable", the study points out. Above all, it stresses the need to place the safety and well-being of people at the centre of any mine action programme.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday that the decline of official development aid to developing countries raised alarming prospects for children.

UNICEF warned that the war on global poverty was faltering so badly that the flow of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to developing countries was in danger of drying up completely if current trends continued.

UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy cited a recent report of the 21- nation Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as the latest evidence that the developed world was lagging far behind in their commitment to help developing countries eradicate poverty. The figures released by the DAC Chairman in Brussels confirmed earlier findings that ODA had tumbled to its lowest levels ever, she said.

Ms. Bellamy noted that children already bore a disproportionate burden of poverty as 12 million young children died every year from causes that could be prevented at a relatively modest cost in a $28 trillion world economy. "If the world can run at a full gallop to the economic rescue of East Asia, there is no reason why we cannot do the same for the 1.3 billion people -- half of them children -- who are struggling to survive on the equivalent of less than a dollar a day," she said.

According to the OECD report, development assistance from DAC member countries totalled $55 billion in 1996, a 6 per cent decline over the year before. UNICEF pointed out also that as a share of the combined donor's Gross National Product (GNP), ODA had fallen to 0.25 per cent in 1996, the lowest level since the United Nations set a target of 0.7 per cent in 1970. If all donor countries had met that target, Ms. Bellamy said, ODA would exceed its current levels by $100 billion a year. Over 10 years, she added, that amount would be more than enough to ensure universal access to basic social services including health and nutrition, education, low-cost water supply and sanitation.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <> - email:

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