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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-01-06

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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

DAILY HIGHLIGHTS

Tuesday, 6 January 1998


This document is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information and is updated every week-day at approximately 6:00 PM.

HEADLINES

  • Secretary-General Kofi Annan approves the oil-for-food plan submitted by the Government of Iraq.
  • World Food Programme appeals for $378.2 million to expand its emergency feeding operation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
  • United Nations refugees agency expresses concern at the increasing influx of migrants arriving in Italy from Turkey or Iraq.
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, pays official visits to the Philippines and Singapore.
  • Floods kill more than 1,800 people in Somalia, according to United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs.
  • More than 70,000 people have been identified to participate in the referendum for Western Sahara.


United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has approved the Distribution Plan submitted by the Government of Iraq for the third phase of the oil-for- food programme.

Iraq, which is facing United Nations sanctions following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, is allowed to sell oil in order to purchase food and other humanitarian supplies for the Iraqi people.

In a letter to the President of the Security Council dated 5 January 1997, the Secretary-General says that he informed the Government of Iraq of the approval of its Distribution Plan for the purchase and distribution of humanitarian supplies. A copy of the categorized list of supplies and goods which accompanied the Distribution Plan was being made available to a Committee which is overseeing the oil-for-food programme, Mr. Annan said.

Experts of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) which is responsible for monitoring the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, has reviewed the list and identified items which would be subject to notification. A unit of the Security Council is to be notified of the export of such items because of their dual use for civilian or prohibited purposes under relevant Security Council resolutions.

Under the new plan, a total of $1.3 billion will be used to address the humanitarian requirements of the Iraqi people for a period of six months. Of this amount, $805 million has been allocated for food distribution. The Plan also allocates money for such supplies as soap and detergents, equipment, spare parts for food processing and logistics for the functioning of the distribution system. The Plan also allocates $200 million for medicines and medical supplies.

The Plan is divided into six parts which, in addition to procurement of food, medicine and medical supplies, include resources and equipment for water sewerage, electrical power, agriculture, and education.


The World Food Programme (WFP) has appealed for $378.2 million to avert a threat of famine in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) this year.

The funds will be used to expand the emergency operation in the country. The Executive Director of WFP Catherine Bertini characterized the operation as the biggest in WFP's history. She appealed to the international community to act now to prevent food shortages from developing into a famine situation.

Agricultural production in the country has been crippled by flooding and a combination of drought and tidal waves, said Francis Mwanza, an officer in the Rome-based agency, in an interview with United Nations Radio on Tuesday.

He said that WFP would increase the number of people assisted by the agency from over 4.7 million in 1997 to 7.5 million this year.

"We have a situation where the last harvest only managed to harvest enough food to last them until about April/May" he said, adding that the country might face a famine.

Of particular concern to WFP, Mr. Mwanza said, is the plight of vulnerable people, especially children who should have sufficient food "to avoid the nutritional deficiencies inflicting lasting damage on their physical and mental capacity."

WFP is also targeting pregnant and nursing mothers, handicapped people, and people in hospitals, according to Mr. Mwanza. "These are the people that would suffer the most if there is a famine in the country. And already they are suffering from food shortages."


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed concern at the increasing number of migrants who have arrived in Italy from Turkey or Iraq.

The refugee agency's Spokeswoman, Pam O'Toole told the press in Geneva on Tuesday that many of these mainly Kurdish migrants were victims of unscrupulous traffickers who demanded huge sums of money. Some of the people have been forced to sell their homes or possessions for the trip, Ms. O'Toole said.

In recent months, she added, there were incidents of the migrants "being washed up on the shores of Italy or Greece in pitiable conditions". Ms. O'Toole said the migrants had often been put to sea in very unseaworthy and overcrowded crafts. Some of those crafts have sunk, she said.

The latest arrivals in Italy included people who had allegedly been robbed in transit in Albania. They had been given insufficient food rations.

Ms O'Toole said that the United Nations refugee agency strongly condemned the way in which the smugglers were taking advantage of these extremely vulnerable people.

Since July last year more than 3,000 people have arrived illegally in Italy. The migrants included other nationalities such as Egyptians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Algerians.

UNHCR applauded the Italian Government's decision to allow the migrants to apply for asylum, Ms O'Toole said. Quoting Government figures, Ms. O'Toole said that 400 out of the 839 people who arrived on 26 December have already applied.


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Mrs. Sadako Ogata has paid an official visit to the Philippines and Singapore.

Mrs. Ogata visited the Philippines on Monday where she is expected to stay until Thursday. While in the country, Mrs. Ogata will collect $50,000 which accompanies the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award which she was unable to personally receive in Manila last year. The money will be used for a UNHCR project in Myanmar, according to the refugee agency's Spokeswoman.

Mrs. Ogata is also expected to meet President Fidel Ramos and other senior government officials and to thank them for providing leadership in the protection of refugees.

The High Commissioner is scheduled to go to Singapore on Friday where she will thank the Government for its contribution to the successful completion of the Comprehensive Plan of Action for Indo- Chinese Refugees. She will also urge the Government to continue to support UNHCR's activities.

In Singapore, Mrs. Ogata will meet with the Foreign Minister, Professor S. Jayakumar and the Minister of Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng.


More than 1,800 people have died in Somalia as a result of the floods, according to the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA).

In its latest Situation Report on Somalia Floods, DHA says the United Nations Coordinator for Somalia has confirmed that as of 31 December 1997, 1,855 people have died and approximately one million are still at risk. More than 33,360 livestock have also been killed in the floods.

Severe diarrhoea, malaria, and respiratory infections are reported to be widespread and have already taken a heavy toll. Cholera outbreaks have been confirmed in Mogadishu and Merca, and there are sporadic cholera cases in Kismayo, says DHA.

In Bualle, the local clinic received 1,232 cases between 17 and 23 December 1997, according to World Vision which is working on the ground. Diarrhoea cases are reported to have increased from the previous week while cases of bloody diarrhoea decreased. At a feeding centre in nearby villages, relief workers observed a slight increase of undernourished children.

United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations have appealed for $12.8 million to move their joint operation from the first phase of emergency rescue and relief into a new phase of continued relief and rehabilitation. This phase is expected to last until at least June 1998.


More than 70,000 people have been identified for participation in the referendum to decide the future of Western Sahara.

The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, MINURSO, is helping the people of the territory to prepare for a referendum to decide between independence and incorporation into Morocco.

According to a United Nations Spokesman, between 3 December last year and 5 January this year, a total of 16,350 persons were convoked and 10,036 were identified.

Western Sahara was a Spanish colony until 1976 when Spain withdrew and released itself from international responsibility over the territory. The territory was subsequently occupied by Morocco, a move which was opposed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front). The POLISARIO Front took up arms against Moroccan forces.

Following diplomatic initiatives by the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations, the Security Council approved a settlement plan for Western Sahara in 1990. Under the plan, there would be a ceasefire, and a transitional period during which the Special Representative of the Secretary-General would be in charge of all matters relating to the referendum, assisted by the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).

The plan was eventually bogged down by the two parties' differences on certain groups of people to be included in the referendum.

A breakthrough was achieved last year when a new Special Envoy of the Secretary-General brought the two parties together and they agreed to resume the identification process.


For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org


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