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World News : UN Supporting East Africa Flood Victims, Dozens More Migrant Deaths At Sea, Disinformation In Myanmar

The UN and humanitarian partners have provided emergency support for over 124,000 people in Kenya, where heavy rains continue to cause chaos, the UN said on Wednesday, as the UN chief extended his condolences to countries across the region where hundreds of lives have been lost in recent days due to flooding.

In a statement released late on Wednesday the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he had been deeply distressed to hear of the hundreds of lives lost and many others affected by the deluge in Kenya as well as Burundi, Somalia, Tanzania and other parts of East Africa.

He extended his condolences to the Governments and people of the countries affected, especially the families of those who have died or been injured in this disaster, said Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.

The UN and its partners are working closely with national authorities to address humanitarian requirements. The Secretary-General stresses that the UN stands ready to offer additional assistance as needed.

Mr. Guterres said he was extremely concerned about the impacts of El Niño-triggered extreme weather, which risk further devastating communities and undermining their livelihoods.

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Mr. Dujarric told correspondents earlier in New York that agencies were supporting Kenya's Government-led response to the heavy rains which have left more than 170 deaths since the middle of March, according to news reports.

The UN and partners on the ground have been providing water, sanitation and hygiene supplies, together with food, health and psychosocial support.

Supporting Government response

“Our partners are also supporting rescue operations and setting up camps to host men, women and children displaced by the floods”, said Mr. Dujarric.

“According to national authorities, the floods have impacted more than 190,000 people and displaced over 150,000 people across the country. The floods did not spare the agricultural sector. Over 4,800 livestock were lost and over 27,000 acres of cropland damaged”, he continued.

Further rain is expected this week, which is likely to add to the destruction caused by flooding, landslides and infrastructure loss.

Kenya’s vital tourism industry has also been hit, with scores of safari-goers reportedly evacuated in the past day from the Massai Mara national reserve, after hotels and lodges were flooded.

Several major roads in the capital Nairobi were temporarily closed on Wednesday due to flooding, and on Monday dozens were killed in the Mai Mahiu area in western Kenya when a river overflowed into a tunnel. Around 80 were also reported missing.

Agencies mourn loss of nearly 50 migrants bound for Canary Islands

The UN migration agency (IOM) and refugee agency UNHCR on Wednesday mourned yet another major loss of life at sea, when at least 50 migrants trying to reach the Canary Islands from Senegal were reported dead or missing.

The vessel reportedly sank on Monday some 60 miles south of El Hierro. Nine people survived the tragedy and were rescued, according to reports.

These people are seeking a better life, but their dreams are shattered because of greedy smugglers and flimsy boats,” said UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.

Migrant journeys

Recent data from the IOM revealed that drowning was a leading cause of migrant deaths in 2023, many of which occurred in the Sahara desert and on the sea route to the Canary Islands, where travellers hope for asylum and better opportunities to live and work, for themselves and their families, in Europe.

This journey, among others, is one way for migrants to escape life-threatening conflict and the impact of climate change, the IOM had reported.

In 2023, the journey across the Mediterranean Sea resulted in the deaths and disappearances of at least 3,129 migrants – the greatest death toll since 2017. Even further, about 1,866 unprecedented migrant deaths were recorded across Africa.

Mr. Dujarric said that IOM and UNHCR are drawing attention to the fact that “safe and regular pathways must be accessible and inclusive to save the lives of the refugees and the migrants.”

Alarm grows over spread of disinformation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

The UN team working on the ground in Myanmar has raised concern over the spread of misinformation, disinformation and hate speech, especially in northern Rakhine State – home to stateless mostly-Muslim Rohingya who have suffered years of persecution by Burmese authorities.

The breakdown of a year-long informal ceasefire between the ruling military and the rebel Arakan Army last November has now plunged 15 out of Rakhine’s 17 townships into conflict.

“We fully support community leaders in Rakhine State, especially women, and youth, who are coming together and redoubling efforts to promote social cohesion amid increasing signs of tension and the risk of communal violence re-emerging in the current very volatile context”, said Mr. Dujarric, citing the UN team in Myanmar.

He added that addressing the root causes of systemic discrimination and impunity in Rakhine State “is essential in establishing a sustainable pathway out of the current crisis facing Myanmar.”

Cycle of violence

The failure to do so will only fuel Myanmar’s vicious cycle of violence, the UN team added.

“And we have of course been consistent in condemning all forms of violence against civilians in Myanmar, and we reiterate our call for the protection of civilians, including aid workers, in accordance with international humanitarian law, for the cessation of hostilities, and humanitarian access”, Mr Dujarric concluded.

Last month, the UN human rights chief Volker Türk warned that Rakhine state “has once again become a battleground involving multiple actors, and civilians are paying a heavy price, with Rohingya at particular risk”.

He said it was “particularly disturbing” that whereas in 2017, the Rohingya were targeted by just the Burmese military and other security forces, “they are now trapped between two armed factions who have a track record of killing them. We must not allow the Rohingya to be targeted again.”

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