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30,000 Ukrainians returning home every day

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photo © UNHCR/Maciej Moskwa

More than 870,000 people who fled abroad since the Russian invasion on 24 February, have now returned to Ukraine, UN humanitarians said in their latest emergency update, amid concerns about deteriorating food security inside the country.

Citing the State Border Guard Service, UN aid coordination office, OCHA, said that 30,000 people are crossing back into Ukraine every day.

The recent returnees reportedly include women with children and older persons, compared to mostly men at the beginning of the escalation.

Relief delivery challenge

This significant figure suggests that migration back to Ukraine might continue increasing, potentially creating new challenges for the humanitarian response as people will need support to reintegrate into their communities or find suitable host communities if returning to their homes is no longer viable,” OCHA said in a statement.

Of the 12 million people in need in Ukraine, humanitarians have reached 2.1 million of them, and the UN’s $1.1 billion flash appeal for Ukraine is now 64 per cent funded.

War rages in east and south

Fighting is concentrated in the eastern and southern oblasts – or regions – of Ukraine, causing damage and civilian casualties and driving humanitarian needs. OCHA also reported rockets strikes in central and northern Ukraine, before citing Ukraine’s State Emergency Service (SESU), which said that 300,000 km2 – or almost half of Ukraine – requires demining.

Relief workers killed

In its latest emergency update, OCHA also reported that two humanitarian workers and five of their relatives have been killed in eastern Dontesk oblast.

They were sheltering at the Caritas Mariupol office when the building was reportedly hit by rounds fired from a tank, probably on 15 March, although the information only became available recently, as the city had been cut off for weeks.

In a statement, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, said he was “deeply saddened” by news of the deaths.

“Both aid workers dedicated their lives to the service of others through their work for Caritas. On behalf of the United Nations and the humanitarian community, I send our heartfelt condolences to their families and colleagues, and to those of the other civilians who were killed.

This deeply tragic and unacceptable event is just one example of this war’s horrific consequences for civilians, including aid workers“, the UN relief chief added.

“Tens of thousands of civilians in Mariupol — which has been an epicentre of horror since the conflict began — and in other locations around Ukraine have now endured 50 days of violence and shelling. More than 1,932 civilians have died since 24 February, including more than 150 children. This must stop.”

Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that there are “immediate food insecurity issues” in nearly three in 10 oblasts – with a further 11 per cent of oblasts (that are partially exposed to fighting) expecting shortages within two months.

Farming support

Rural and isolated communities have been worst-hit by food insecurity, FAO said, as it announced support for farmers to plant their fields, save their livestock and produce food.

Urgent cash support is also planned for the most vulnerable families, including those headed by women, the elderly and those with disabilities.

Meanwhile, OCHA also noted that Russia reported that more than 783,000 people – including nearly 150,000 children – have crossed into Russia from Ukraine since 24 February.

Latest data from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, indicates that more than 4.7 million people have fled Ukraine since the war began. Another seven million are internally displaced.

UNAIDS warns of ‘wave of deaths’

The war in Ukraine has resulted in the destruction and disruption of health services and logistical supply chains that hundreds of thousands of people living with and affected by HIV, depend on for survival, the UN agency committed to ending AIDS said in a press release on Wednesday.

Some 250,000 Ukrainians are living with HIV, and lack of access to antiretroviral therapy and prevention services would mean a wave of deaths and risks a resurgence of Ukraine’s AIDS pandemic, said UNAIDS.

The community-led networks which are vital to maintaining life-saving services need an urgent upscaling of international support.”  

More than 40 health facilities that offered HIV treatment, prevention and care services before the war, are now closed and there are various levels of service disruption at other sites.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has this week verified more than 100 attacks on health facilities in Ukraine, while supply routes within the country have been thrown into disarray.

An initial delivery of more than 18 million doses of life-saving antiretroviral medicine procured by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), that arrived in Lviv last week, is now being distributed in partnership with the Ukrainian health ministry, and 100% Life, the largest organization of people living with HIV in Ukraine.

“If they can be delivered to those in need, the medicines are sufficient to cover a six-month supply for all people living with HIV on first-line treatment”, said UNAIDS.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, is also providing emergency funding to ensure the continuity of life-saving HIV and tuberculosis services. 

Civil society organizations are mounting “a heroic effort”, said UNAIDS, to deliver vital medical supplies and HIV services to people living with and affected by HIV, including to vulnerable populations.

They are reaching people in extraordinary challenging locations, despite the huge obstacles. But the civil society organizations on which this delivery and care system depends need further international support to be able to continue their work.”

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As the climate dries the American west faces power and water shortages, experts warn

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waterscarcity

Two of the largest reservoirs in America, which provide water and electricity to millions, are in danger of reaching ‘dead pool status.’ A result of the climate crisis and overconsumption of water, experts say.

Lake Mead, in Nevada and Arizona, and Lake Powell, in Utah and Arizona, are currently at their lowest levels ever. ‘Dead pool’ status would mean the water level in the dams was so low it could no longer flow downstream and power the hydroelectric power stations.

The Lake Mead reservoir, which is the largest artificial body of water in America, was created in the 1930s by the construction of the Hoover Dam, an engineering masterpiece. Lake Powell, the second largest, was created in the 1960s, with the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam.

“The conditions in the American west, which we’re seeing around the Colorado River basin, have been so dry for more than 20 years that we’re no longer speaking of a drought,” said Lis Mullin Bernhardt, an ecosystems expert at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “We refer to it as “aridification” – a new very dry normal.”

Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which is created by the Glen Canyon Dam, not only provide water and electricity to tens of millions in Nevada, Arizona, California, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Mexico, but they also provide irrigation water for agriculture. Experts warn that as the crisis deepens, water cuts will need to be introduced, but this may not be enough.

“While regulating and managing water supply and demand are essential in both the short and long term, climate change is at the heart of this issue,” said Maria Morgado, UNEP’s Ecosystems Officer in North America. “In the long term we need to address the root causes of climate change as well as water demands.”

Over the last 20 years, 90 per cent of major disasters were caused by floods, droughts and other water-related events. With more frequent droughts, people in water-scarce areas will increasingly depend on groundwater because of its buffer capacity and resilience to climate variability.

Increases in water demand due to growing populations and irrigation for agriculture have been compounded by climate change impacts such as reductions in precipitation and temperature rises. A rise in temperature leads to increased evaporation of surface water and baking of the earth, decreasing soil moisture.

“These conditions are alarming, and particularly in the Lake Powell and Lake Mead region, it is the perfect storm.”

This is part of a wider trend affecting hundreds of millions of people across the planet. As climate change wreaks havoc on the Earth’s interconnected natural systems, drought and desertification are swiftly becoming the new normal, everywhere from the United States to Europe and Africa.

Drought in Numbers, a 2022 report from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, found that since 1970 weather, climate and water hazards have accounted for 50 per cent of all disasters and impact 55 million people globally every year. The report also found that 2.3 billion people face water stress annually.

Drought is also one of several factors that impacts land degradation, with between 20 and 40 per cent of the world’s land being classed as degraded, affecting half the world’s population and impacting croplands, drylands, wetlands, forests and grasslands.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, of which UNEP is one of the leading members, was set up to halt and restore ecosystems around the world. The Decade runs until 2030, the same timeline as the Sustainable Development Goals, and aims to counteract climate change and halt biodiversity collapse through restoring ecosystems.

UNEP

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WFP: First Ukrainian humanitarian grain shipment leaves for Horn of Africa

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photo © UNOCHA/Levent Kulu

The first vessel transporting Ukrainian wheat grain to support humanitarian operations run by the World Food Programme (WFP) has left the port of Yuzhny, also known as Pivdennyi, the UN agency reported on Tuesday. 

The MV Brave Commander departed with 23,000 metric tonnes of wheat grain for WFP’s response in the Horn of Africa, where the threat of famine is looming due to severe drought. 

This is the first shipment of humanitarian food assistance under the Black Sea Grain Initiative signed by Ukraine, Russia, Türkiye and the UN in July. 

Feeding the world’s hungry 

It marks another important milestone in efforts to get much-needed Ukrainian grain out of the war-torn country and back into global markets, to reach people worst affected by the global food crisis. 

“Getting the Black Sea Ports open is the single most important thing we can do right now to help the world’s hungry,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.  

“It will take more than grain ships out of Ukraine to stop world hunger, but with Ukrainian grain back on global markets we have a chance to stop this global food crisis from spiraling even further.” 

WFP will use the wheat grain shipment to scale-up its efforts in southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, supporting more than 1.5 million people affected by drought. 

Globally, a record 345 million people in more than 80 countries are currently facing acute food insecurity, while up to 50 million people in 45 countries are at risk of being pushed into famine without humanitarian support. 

The current hunger crisis is being driven by several factors including conflict, climate impacts, and the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The war in Ukraine is another catalyst as the country is a major grain exporter.  Ukraine was exporting up to six million tonnes of grain a month prior to the start of the conflict in February, but volumes now are at an average of one million tonnes per month. 

More action needed 

WFP said that with commercial and humanitarian maritime traffic now resuming in and out of Ukraine’s Black Sea Port, some global supply disruptions will ease, which will bring relief to countries facing the worst of the global food crisis. 

Crucially, Ukraine will also be able to empty its grain storage silos ahead of the summer season harvest, the agency added. 

However, despite these developments, the unprecedented food crisis continues. 

WFP stressed the need for immediate action that brings together the humanitarian community, governments, and the private sector to save lives and invest in long term solutions, warning that “failure will see people around the world slip into devastating famines with destabilizing impacts felt by us all.” 

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New WEF ESG initiative looks to improve socioeconomic conditions in Northern Central America

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The World Economic Forum announced a new initiative in three Central American countries that will support the private sector apply Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics and better environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting to improve local socioeconomic conditions and environmental resilience.

The announcement was made at events convened by the Forum with CentraRSE in Guatemala, COHEP in Honduras and Fundemas in El Salvador. These were attended by leaders from the public and private sector, civil society and international organizations who discussed the benefits and opportunities of implementing structured ESG reporting metrics, practices and global corporate trends. National and regional efforts and best practices were also showcased.

The Measuring Stakeholder Capitalism initiative has identified a set of 21 core and 34 expanded universal metrics and disclosures drawn from existing standards. The metrics and disclosure seek to improve how companies measure and demonstrate their performance against environmental, social and governance indicators and consistently track their positive contributions towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Strengthening sustainability credentials and building the capacity to report this information will represent a significant advantage for businesses and the economy as a whole, particularly to attract foreign investment and integrate into regional and global value chains.

“Amid an increasingly challenging context confronted with overlapping global crises, public-private collaboration and the decisive action of local leadership are even more necessary to improve economic, social, environmental and governance conditions. All sectors must work together to build a prosperous and resilient ecosystem, offering hope and real opportunities for people in the region to develop their potential at home,” said Marisol Argueta, Head of Latin America at the World Economic Forum.

The initiative is a response The initiative is a response to US Vice President Kamala Harris’s Call to Action, which calls on businesses and social enterprises to promote economic opportunities for people in the region as part of a comprehensive strategy to address the root causes of migration. Vice President Harris has announced a total of more than $3.2 billion in new commitments to the region in coordination with the Partnership for Central America since the effort was launched in May 2022.

“As we look to multi-sector approaches to solve the social challenges facing our communities globally, the World Economic Forum’s ESG framework provides a structure for businesses to drive greater economic development. Working with public and private sector partners, this can translate into quality jobs, environmental protections and better lives for families,” said Jonathan Fantini-Porter, Executive Director of the Partnership for Central America.

The areas of focus, led by the Partnership for Central America (PCA), intend to support the region’s long-term development through digital and financial inclusion, food security and climate-smart agriculture; climate adaptation and clean energy; education and workforce development; and public health access. The planned ESG metrics and corporate reporting activities also aim to motivate local leaders to take measurable action on their contributions to enhancing socioeconomic conditions and environmental resilience in the region.

Based on existing standards, this framework provides a set of metrics that can be reported by all companies, regardless of industry or region. These metrics also offer comparability, which is particularly important for creating a systemic and globally accepted set of common standards for reporting corporate sustainability performance.

As part of the activities carried out in Central America, the Guatemalan company, Grupo Mariposa announced the adoption of the global metrics framework promoted by the World Economic Forum (Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics) and declared its commitment to include them in future reporting cycles. Grupo Mariposa is the first company in Central America to incorporate the metrics in its reports.

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