Tuesday’s Daily Brief: UNESCO ready to help after Notre Dame fire, and updates on Libya, Nicaragua, and the Cyclone Idai response

© UNHCR/Roberto Carlos Sanchez A young girl and her family apply for asylum in San Jose, Costa Rica, after fleeing Nicaragua.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


On Tuesday, top stories include: UNESCO ready to assist in rebuilding Notre Dame in the wake of a devastating fire; Nicaraguan refugees reach 60,000, a year after the crisis started; concern in Libya regarding medical access as hostilities continue; and one million reached with food assistance in Mozambique.

UNESCO experts ready to assist reconstruction of iconic Notre Dame, following devastating blaze

Two-thirds of the largely medieval roof of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris have “gone” after the devastating fire in Paris on Monday evening, but UN cultural experts are standing by to offer help where it is needed in rebuilding the iconic structure.

That’s what UNESCO World Heritage Centre Director Mechtild Rössler told UN News after visiting the site on Tuesday.  She described seeing people praying outside the stricken symbol of the city and the nation, still trying to take in the scale of the disaster.

Read the full story here, and listen to the interview:

Nicaragua crisis: One year in, more than 60,000 have fled, seeking refuge

Doctors, journalists, students and farmers are among more than 60,000 Nicaraguans who have fled the country in fear of their lives since anti-Government demonstrations began last April, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday.

Echoing concerns from the UN’s human rights office, OHCHR, and others about the deteriorating situation in the Central American country, UNHCR said that families with young children are now taking extreme measures to cross the border.

“The kinds of reasons that people have been giving for fleeing are the fear of losing their lives, being attacked or kidnapped by paramilitary groups,” spokesperson Elizabeth Throssell told journalists in Geneva.

Read more here.

Libya: WHO appeals for access amid fears that fighting may hamper medical supplies distribution

In Libya, ongoing violence has now displaced more than 18,000 people in the capital, Tripoli, and humanitarians remain concerned for some 3,600 migrants and refugees held in detention centres there.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), since clashes erupted between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA) 11 days ago, 174 people have died, including 14 civilians. Several ambulances have also been hit by shrapnel, WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic told journalists in Geneva, in an appeal for the warring sides to respect international humanitarian law.

“WHO really urges all parties to exercise restraint and prevent collateral damage to civilians, hospitals …We also obviously call for access and we are concerned that hostilities could impede the movement of medical supplies that are currently in Tripoli sea port to hospitals throughout the city.”

According to the UN Migration Agency, IOM, there are 6,900 migrants in Government detention centres in Libya; far more are believed to remain in centres run by non-state armed groups.

After years of violent instability in Libya following the overthrow of President Muammar Gadaffi in 2011, more than 820,000 people need humanitarian assistance urgently. Despite this, the UN’s US$202 million appeal is only six per cent funded.

And the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda, said on Tuesday that she was “deeply concerned about the escalation of violence in Libya”, since the advance of the LNA on Tripoli.

“I call on all parties and armed groups involved in the fighting to fully respect the rules of international humanitarian law” she said, adding that “this includes taking all necessary measures to protect civilians, and civilian infrastructures, including schools, hospitals and detention centres.  I urge all parties to the conflict not to commit any crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction, and in particular, for commanders to ensure that their subordinates do not do so.”

More than one million now reached with emergency food aid in cyclone-ravaged Mozambique

In the month since Cyclone Idai inundated parts of southeast Africa, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Tuesday that it has now reached one million people with food assistance in the worst-hit nation, Mozambique.

The agency eventually intends to reach a total of 1.7 million people who need urgent food and nutrition support in the country’s most affected provinces, but WFP is still $130 million short of being able to fully fund its response through to the end of June.

In addition, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has begun the distribution of maize, bean and vegetable seeds, together with tools for up to 14,700 farmers.

And in Zimbabwe, the UN Children’s Fund says an oral cholera vaccine campaign targeting close to 488,000 people began on Tuesday, in the two districts worst-hit by Idai.

An ongoing cholera outbreak, that has so far infected more than 5,000 people, threatens to make conditions worse for those who have lost their harvests to flooding in Mozambique, and WFP is supporting three cholera treatment centers in Beira with food assistance.

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