Pacific 

Philippines volcano: UN aid operation in place as thousands told to flee

 “The Government has officially requested the UN’s support in procuring face masks” to help against ash, dust and noxious sulfur dioxide, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.  In explosive eruptions last Sunday, the Taal Volcano, located on the island of Luzon, some 70 kilometres south of the capital city of Manila, began to violently spew magma, which has led to the evacuation of more than 38,000 people to 198 evacuation centres so far, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) tweeted on Wednesday.  A time-lapse video of Taal Volcano, located in Batangas province, taken on 12 January when volcanic activity intensified and generated a tall steam-laden column of…

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Pacific 

UN health agency urges China to continue search for source of new virus, as Thailand case emerges

Coronaviruses are described by WHO as “a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases”. Probably the best known is Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, commonly known as SARS, which broke out in Asia in 2003, and spread to countries in North America, South America and Europe, before being successfully contained later that year. Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people, and there are several known coronaviruses currently circulating in animals, that have not yet infected humans. Common signs of infection include respiratory…

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Pacific 

Australia bushfire crisis: UNICEF offers help and support

While acknowledging “the selflessness, professionalism and dedication” of first responders and all organizations working on the ground, UNICEF issued a statement on Monday extending its condolences to the children and families affected by the fires that continue to devastate the country. Flagging its experience in providing crucial long-term support to children across the world through the three stages of relief, recovery and rehabilitation, UNICEF expressed it “very real desire” to assist Australia. “UNICEF has significant expertise and experience globally in responding to emergencies, including natural disasters”, the statement said. “From…

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Pacific 

UN chief ‘deeply concerned’ following end of DPRK nuclear test moratorium

Media reported that leader Kim Jong-un  had announced that his country, also known as North Korea, was no longer bound to the self-imposed ban. “The Secretary-General very much hopes that the tests will not resume, in line with relevant Security Council resolutions,” the statement said. “Non-proliferation remains a fundamental pillar of global nuclear security and must be preserved.” The statement added that UN chief António Guterres has also reiterated his support for the resumption of dialogue aimed at bringing about “the complete and verifiable” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. “Diplomatic engagement…

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Pacific 

FROM THE FIELD: Bangladesh’s bamboo boom

Beset by millions of bamboo-chomping beetles, almost every shelter in the vast Rohingya refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh, needs replacing. With just over four months to go until the beginning of the monsoon season, the race is on for IOM, the United Nations migration agency which is managing the camp, to provide families living in the worst-affected temporary dwellings, with new and more durable bamboo.

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Pacific 

FROM THE FIELD: Nepal’s magic mushrooms

UNDP/Babu Raja Shrestha Mushrooms are nutritious, do not require soil in which to grow, and represent a high value crop in the mountainous Asian country. However, the soil-free growing method does require a steaming process in a drum, using firewood. The practice has led to deforestation and an increase in harmful climate change-inducing carbon dioxide. But now solar water heaters are being used as part of the process. Read more here about how farmers are reaping the benefits of solar power. And find out more about the oyster mushroom farming…

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Pacific 

Pakistan blasphemy death sentence ‘travesty of justice’, say UN experts 

Thirty-three-year-old Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, was sentenced to death – despite last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling in which Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi was tried and condemned to death by hanging for blasphemy but was later acquitted. “The Supreme Court ruling in the Asia Bibi case should have set a precedent for lower courts to dismiss any blasphemy case that has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt,” the experts said. Moreover, they raised concerns in an urgent appeal to the Government over the legal merits…

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Pacific 

Ending war only ‘real hope’ for prosperous Afghanistan: UN mission chief

Tadamichi Yamamoto, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), underscored that peace is the only solution to ongoing conflict which has resulted in more than 100,000 casualties over the past decade.  “As I told the Security Council last week, whatever the outcome of the presidential election may be, peace will be the issue of paramount importance to the new administration,” he said in a statement.  “I reiterate the call by the United Nations for everyone to raise their voices for peace, and for all stakeholders to make genuine and concrete steps…

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Pacific 

Independent UN rights experts raise alarm over ‘incommunicado detention’ of Chinese scholar

The whereabouts of former Xinjiang University President Tashpolat Tiyip have been unknown since his detention in 2017. “The Chinese authorities have indicated to us that Mr. Tiyip is being tried on corruption charges, that a lawyer has been hired by his relatives, and that he has not been sentenced to death,” the experts said. While any proceedings against Professor Tiyip have been shrouded in secrecy, reports indicate that he had already been convicted and sentenced to death. “Information that Mr. Tiyip is not sentenced to death, if it is confirmed, is…

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Pacific 

FROM THE FIELD: The Comeback Crane

Unsplash/Dan Freeman Rapid industrialization over the past 30 years and subsequent urbanization and intensification of agricultural production in the southeast Asian country, has resulted in the over-exploitation of natural resources and the loss of habitat on a massive scale.  While many impoverished Thai people benefitted from the development, the Eastern Sarus Crane became a casualty, as did the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and the Water Onion, colloquially referred to as ‘water lily’.   But now all three species are thriving following the collaboration of farmers and conservationists, who found ways to carry on…

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