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Ukraine war: $100 billion in infrastructure damage, and counting

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Bread from a WFP-contracted bakery is delivered to hospitals in Kharkiv, Ukraine. © WFP

War in Ukraine risks seeing 90 per cent of the country “freefall into poverty” and extreme vulnerability, nearly three weeks since Russia invaded its neighbour, a new UN report said on Wednesday.

UNDP warned that if the conflict drags on – and if more support to the country is not forthcoming quickly – it could wreck almost two decades of economic progress.

In addition to dire development setbacks, the UN agency explained that the environment is expected to suffer, while societal inequalities are likely increase.

Peace call

To help prevent these shocks and protect hard-won development gains, “we need peace now”, said UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner.

He insisted that among the agency’s primary objectives, UNDP was working to sustain “critical governance structures and services, which constitute the bedrock of all societies”.

He added: “The war in Ukraine is causing unimaginable human suffering with a tragic loss of life and the displacement of millions…An alarming economic decline, and the suffering and hardship it will bring to an already traumatised population must now come into sharper focus. There is still time to halt this grim trajectory.”

Early UN estimates indicate that nearly three in 10 people in Ukraine need life-saving humanitarian assistance. Based on the current direction of the fighting, 18 million people will likely become affected, and more than seven million may have to flee their homes.

Businesses shuttered

One in two Ukrainian businesses have shut down completely, while the other half has been forced to operate well below capacity, UNDP reported.

As one of the largest UN agencies on the ground in Ukraine, priorities include immediate crisis response and maintaining core government functions to ensure that public services can be maintained.

In a statement, UNDP noted that staff have remained operational throughout the conflict and that their presence has been bolstered with “targeted” deployments in key areas, such as debris management, damage assessment and emergency livelihood support, including cash-based assistance.

Daily help

Initial estimates are that $250 million per month in funding will be needed to cover partial income losses for 2.6 million people who are expected to fall into poverty.

Providing the most vulnerable with a basic income of $5.50 per day would cost $430 million a month, UNDP said.

Ukraine’s neighbours who have struggled to cope with the more than three million refugees created also need help, the UN agency said.

To that end, UNDP is already working with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, on resilience and development measures for those displaced by the violence, focusing on support to refugees and host communities through income generation and employment.

Rising civilian toll

Latest confirmed civilian casualty figures from the UN rights office, OHCHR, note that since the Russia’s all-out o against Ukraine started on 24 February, there have been 1,834 civilian casualties in the country – 691 killed and 1,143 injured. The actual figures – hampered by an inability to confirm numbers due to the fighting – are likely to be much higher, UN agencies warn.

Seven girls and 11 boys were among the dead, who also included 135 men and 99 women; a further 30 children and 409 adults also died, but their sex has not been established.

In eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, there have been 751 casualties (173 killed and 578 injured), and in Government-controlled territory, 582 casualties (134 killed and 448 injured).

In territory controlled by the self-proclaimed “republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk, beyond the contact line, the UN rights office has recorded 169 casualties (39 killed and 130 injured).

In other regions of Ukraine (the city of Kyiv and Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Zhytomyr regions), which were under Government control when the casualties occurred, there have been 1,083 recorded victims (518 killed and 565 injured) up to 14 March.

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Dozens missing after migrant boat sinks in Aegean Sea

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Volunteers help refugees arriving on the island of Lesbos, in the North Aegean region of Greece. (file) © UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson

Dozens of people are said to be missing after a boat of migrants and refugees sank in the Aegean Sea on Wednesday off the Greek island of Karpathos, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

“Very sad news from the Aegean: Dozens of people are missing after a boat sank off the island of Rhodes this morning (Wednesday),” UNHCR’s office in Greece said in a tweet.

News media reported that the vessel sank at dawn after setting sail from southern Türkiye yesterday, heading for Italy.

29 rescued

A major search and rescue operation is underway,” said UNHCR.

According to news reports, the Greek Coast Guard said that an air and sea rescue operation saved 29 people, all men, from the waters between Rhodes and Crete.

The media also cited the Greek authorities in reporting that the rescued are from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

The wrecked boat had sailed from Antalya, located on the southern coast of neighbouring Türkiye.

Still searching

News media quoted a Greek Coast Guard press official who said that those rescued affirmed that the voyage began with 80 people on board – so up to 50 are still missing.  

UNHCR confirmed the number of missing.

Deadly route

Since the beginning of the year, UNHCR has said that more than 60 people have died in the eastern Mediterranean.

Aegean Sea crossings between the Greek islands and Turkish coasts are often perilous – taking the lives of many migrants and refugees who travel on makeshift boats with hopes of arriving in Europe.

Since January, 64 people have died in the eastern Mediterranean, and 111 in 2021, according to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The last shipwreck in the Aegean Sea, which took place on 19 June, took the lives of eight people off the island of Mykonos, according to the IOM.

Every more deadly crossing

While the number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe is lower than in 2015, the journeys have become increasingly more deadly.

Throughout last year, the UN counted 3,231 migrants and refugees dead or missing in the Mediterranean Sea, and 945 people so far this year.

Successful voyages

At the same time, 70,325 migrants did manage to reach Europe, of which 65,548 individual crossings were reported in the Mediterranean, according to UNHCR.

Since the beginning of the year, Italy received the largest number of arrivals – 43,740, followed by Spain – nearly 17,000, Greece – 7,261, and Cyprus – 2,268.

Last year there were 123,300 arrivals, and in 2020, 95,800. Previously, 123,700 crossed the Mediterranean in 2019, and 141,500 in 2018.

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Nuclear-free Mongolia a ‘symbol of peace in a troubled world’

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Secretary-General António Guterres greets Mongolian peacekeepers which has the largest per capita contribution to peacekeeping operations. UN Mongolia/Rentsendorj Bazarsuk

In a visit to Mongolia on Tuesday, Secretary-General António Guterres underscored the UN’s full solidarity for the country, which he described as “a symbol of peace in a troubled world”. 

Mr. Guterres was speaking to journalists at a press conference in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, following a meeting with the Foreign Minister, Battsetseg Batmunkh. 

He stated that in a world with dramatic geopolitical divides, and where conflicts proliferate everywhere, Mongolia – as an area free of nuclear weapons – is an example for other countries to follow.   

No more nuclear weapons 

“We live in a world where for the first time in decades people are thinking that a nuclear war might be possible again,” said Mr. Guterres. 

“There is only one way to be absolutely sure that a nuclear war is impossible, and that way is if there are no nuclear weapons.”

Mongolia is the latest stop on the Secretary-General’s visit to Asia, which began in Japan on Friday. 

Tribute to peacekeepers 

Over the past six decades, the country has become an increasingly important contributor to the UN’s work, he said. 

Mr. Guterres expressed gratitude to Mongolian peacekeepers serving at UN peace operations, “often in the most challenging settings and with courage in the way they protect civilians where unfortunately, there’s sometimes no peace to keep”.  

The Secretary-General had met with Mongolia’s President, Khurelsukh Ukhnaa, and other senior officials, earlier on Tuesday. 

They discussed the geopolitical situation in the region, the challenges Mongolia faces as a landlocked country, and national efforts to tackle climate change.  

‘Make peace with nature’ 

Relatedly, Mr. Guterres also joined young people and peacekeepers at a tree-planting ceremony, part of Mongolia’s One Billion Trees campaign to address climate change and desertification. 

“My generation was very stupid. My generation declared war on nature – with climate change with the loss of biodiversity, with pollution,” he said

Mr. Guterres stressed how “nature is striking back” with storms, desertification, floods and disasters, which are making life very difficult for many people around the world and causing many victims.   

“Your generation has an important task to make peace with nature,” he said.  “And what we are going to do today, must be a gesture of that new attitude to make peace with nature.” 

The Secretary-General also visited a nomadic family in Mongolia and learned about their way of life. 

He also met a group of beneficiaries from UN projects, including women entrepreneurs and youth activists.   

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Substantial progress made in Vienna; sides focusing on Safeguards

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image source: Tehran Times

The third day of talks between experts from Iran and the EU centered around technical and legal matters regarding the Safeguards agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Delegates from Iran, the EU and the U.S. resumed talks in Vienna on Thursday after nearly a five-month hiatus. This round of talks started on Thursday without the presence of nuclear negotiators from the European trio – Germany, France and Britain. Only experts from these three countries have attended the negotiations.  

Iran believes that any agreement on restoring the nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is dependent on putting an end to unsubstantiated allegations about Iran’s past nuclear program. Iran insists that these questions had already been resolved within the PMD, when the nuclear deal was signed in July 2015.

According to reports, substantial progress has been made in bringing the views of Iran and the U.S. closer together during the last three days. However, in Tehran’s view nothing is resolved until everything is settled.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), also confirmed on Saturday that talks are mainly focused on Safeguards issues.

“We are now negotiating,” Kamalvandi said of the talks between Iran’s nuclear experts with Mora.

On the atmosphere of the talks, he said, “It is not bad.”

Mohammad Marandi, a senior expert on nuclear issues, also told Al-Mayadeen TV that “progresses” have been made in Vienna, but one should be “cautious”. He argued the success of talks is 50 percent. Marandi said the differences remain only between Iran and the United States.

He added, “We have heard from certain European sources that the Americans have revived their views on certain issues.”

The Russian chief negotiator in the Vienna talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, also tweeted that there is “no unresolvable issue” on the table in the Vienna talks.

Source: Tehran Times

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