UN Weekly Roundup Feb. 12-18, 2022

Editor’s note: Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.

UN Chief Calls for Diplomacy on Ukraine

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Russia, Ukraine and the West on Monday to de-escalate tensions, saying “there is no alternative to diplomacy” and warning the cost in lives and destruction would be “too high to contemplate.”

UN Chief on Russia-Ukraine: ‘No Alternative to Diplomacy’

Millions of Yemenis in Danger of Losing Food Aid

U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said Tuesday that 8 million Yemenis had their World Food Program-provided rations reduced in December due to funding shortfalls. He warned that starting in March, they could see their rations reduced further or even completely cut if donors do not step up immediately.

Funding for Food Aid Rapidly Running Out in Yemen

6 Months Since Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan, Humanitarian Crisis Dire

Tuesday marked six months since the Taliban seized Kabul on August 15 and became the de facto authorities on the ground. While fighting has mostly ceased across the country, the collapsing economy and a debilitating drought has made food too expensive for millions of Afghans. People are selling everything, including in some cases their organs, in order to feed their families.

Humanitarians Fear Afghan Hunger Crisis Could Kill More Than War

In brief

— Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed traveled to Haiti during the week to visit the country, which saw its president assassinated in July and then had a severe earthquake a few weeks later. At a donor conference, the international community pledged $600 million to assist Haiti. Mohammed said it is important to keep the momentum and support for the country as it strives for peace and a resolution for its future.

— The U.N. said Friday that the last of three Ethiopian staff members who had been detained by authorities in that country had been released. Two others were released on Tuesday. The world body has seen tensions rise with the Ethiopian federal government, as it has expelled several high-ranking foreign staffers and detained several national ones in recent months, including scores of truck drivers, who drove aid convoys in the northern conflict zone.

— The World Food Program warned Friday that millions of people across the Sahel region of Africa are facing severe food insecurity, and 1.1 million are on the brink of starvation. A combination of conflict, COVID-19 and climate change has plunged more than 10.5 million people into acute hunger. The WFP is appealing for $470 million to cover its operations in the Sahel for the next six months.

Some good news:

The World Health Organization announced Friday the first six African countries that will receive technology from a global technology transfer hub in order to produce mRNA vaccines on the continent. Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia will be able to produce their own COVID-19 vaccines and expand production to include other mRNA-based vaccines. The transfer hub was established in 2021 to support manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries to produce their own vaccines to international standards.

Quote of note

“In this I am determined. What I have been telling the Chinese authorities, and I’m telling publicly, is that in Xinjiang human rights must be fully respected, but not only human rights must be fully respected, policies must guarantee that the identity – the cultural and religious identity of minorities is respected – and at the same time they have opportunities to be part of the society as a whole.”

— U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the Munich Security Conference on Friday that he is determined his high commissioner for human rights will make a “credible” visit to Xinjiang to see the situation of Uyghur and Turkic Muslim minorities.

What we are watching next week

On February 23, the U.N. General Assembly will hold its now annual meeting on the occupied Ukrainian territory of Crimea. No action is expected, but it will be an opportunity for the international community to express solidarity with Ukraine at a dangerous moment for the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.