News in Brief 28 March 2017 – Geneva (AM)

Mosul airstrikes "may target civilians disproportionately"

Iraqi forces and their partners have been urged to take "the greatest care" possible in their campaign to liberate Mosul from ISIL militants amid reports that hundreds of civilians have been killed in airstrikes.

The appeal from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) comes after witnesses said that extremists had forced them to stay in houses that they then use to attack government troops.

Spokesperson Rupert Colville told journalists in Geneva that airstrikes had "unquestionably" caused casualties and may have a "lethal and disproportionate impact on civilians.

But he said that the matter is complicated by the fact that ISIL, or Daesh, deliberately stockpiles explosives in buildings containing civilians.

"Witness after witness has told us that ISIL forced them to remain in houses, and even locked them in their rooms while positioning fighters on the roofs from where they launched attacks on Iraqi army forcesWitnesses similarly have told us that ISIL has informed them that the best thing they can do is to die for the Caliphate. And that also perhaps explains why they are deliberately targeting civilians who are attempting to flee."

The deadliest incident in the Mosul campaign so far was on 17 March when an airstrike on a house left at least 60 people dead.

According to the UN human rights office, at least 307 people were killed between 17 February and 22 March.

Latest data indicates that nearly 280,000 people have been displaced from Mosul since the operation began in October last year.

Yemen health system on "point of collapsing"

The health system in Yemen is on the "point of collapsing" two years after fighting escalated in the country, the UN said on Tuesday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) made the announcement amid reports that it is becoming increasingly difficult to treat those injured in the conflict between government and rebel forces.

At least 274 health facilities have been damaged or destroyed by the conflict, while fuel imports for electricity generators are at critically low levels.

Here's WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic:

"I was in Yemen last month and could see for myself in Hodeida, for example, a chemo-dialysis centre, where the director told me they could stop working every day simply because there is no more fuel to run chemo-dialysis machines that are already so obsolete that they are falling apart. And in this centre for example they treat 600 people for kidney failure who if they cannot get treatment twice or three times a week would be simply left without it and would probably die."

UN Children's Fund UNICEF says that more than 460,000 children are now severely malnourished, 200 per cent more than in 2014.

One in two children also suffer from stunting and many children die from easily treatable illnesses because they cannot get the care they need.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), six million people are now displaced across 22 governorates and nearly 19 million people are in need of help.

Funding is critically low, however, with just seven per cent of the USD 2.2 billion dollar Yemen appeal received to date.

South Sudan famine relief reaches 150,000 people

Life-saving food aid has been delivered to nearly 150,000 people in South Sudan, one month after famine was declared there.

The country is in the grip of ongoing conflict between government forces and rebels loyal to the former First Vice President that has displaced 1.9 million people.

According to UNICEF, the UN Children's Fund, a quarter of a million children are now suffering from severe acute malnutrition in South Sudan.

Providing help are 13 mobile teams that have been deployed to Unity State, where the majority of those facing famine live.

The UN rapid-response teams - a collaboration involving UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP)and partners - have screened more than 5,700 children under five for malnutrition and vaccinated at least 25,000 against polio and measles.

Source: United Nations