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World News in Brief: UNHCR rushes support to Rohingyas, end ‘normalisation’ of prostitution, Zambia’s devastating drought


In an alert on Friday, Spokesperson Babar Baloch said that the agency and partners are stepping up support to assist some 8,000 mainly Rohingya refugees affected by the disaster earlier in the week.

“Teams have been mobilized to find shelter for those displaced as work continues to rehabilitate or fix damaged accommodation”, he said.

A child diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition is fed ready-to-use therapeutic food by her mother at a refugee nutrition facility in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

© UNICEF/Jimmy Kruglinski

A child diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition is fed ready-to-use therapeutic food by her mother at a refugee nutrition facility in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

“In addition to shelter, affected refugees also urgently require food and household items as well as access to health care and psychosocial support.”

Cox’s Bazaar is a network of some 33 camps in Bangladesh that mainly house hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled persecution in Myanmar in 2017.

Extreme weather vulnerability

The camps are extremely “vulnerable to the effects of climate change and prone to natural disasters, UNHCR’s Mr. Baloch said, adding Cox’s Bazaar has seen more than 770 landslides and floods since 2017 – and more damage is expected with further rain forecast.

To help the humanitarian effort, the UN agency has issued an urgent appeal to donors as relief efforts in the camps have been “severely hampered by acute underfunding”.  

UNHCR needs $275 million for its aid effort in Bangladesh this year but the appeal is just 25 per cent funded.

It is also critical that pledges made at last year’s Global Refugee Forum are fulfilled to advance self-reliance for Rohingya refugees and to ease the pressure on the Government of Bangladesh, UNHCR stressed.  

Independent rights expert calls for an end to ‘normalisation’ of prostitution

The UN’s independent human rights expert countering violence against women and girls called on Friday for prostitution to be recognised unambiguously as a “system of violence, exploitation and abuse”.

Special Rapporteur Reem Alsalem said in her latest report to the Human Rights Council that prostitution reduces women and girls to “mere commodities” and allows for a system of discrimination and violence to stop women from reaching true equality.

“Prostitution sexualises and racialises poverty, and targets women from marginalised backgrounds, who often lack access to protection services or viable livelihood opportunities, increasing their vulnerability to further exploitation,” Ms. Alsalem added.  

Use of ‘sex work’, problematic

She emphasised that prostitution violates physical, psychological, and economic rights of the individual and can lead to torture, dignity, and safety violations among others.  

Further, she said it is important to use phrasing that aligns with international human rights law, noting that the term “sex work” can dilute prostitution’s true harmfulness.

She also expressed concern about how men’s right to buy sexual acts normalises systematic violence and blurs the lines between consenting sexual activities and sexual violence.  

“The normalisation of prostitution, including pornography, creates harmful sexual expectations for men and boys and undermines the safe and equal participation of women and girls in society,” Ms. Alsalem said.  

Call for action

The expert is calling for States to, “decriminalise prostitution for women and girls, who must be treated as victims, provide comprehensive support and exit pathways, as well as criminalise the purchase of sexual acts, and apply stringent actions against pimping.”

Special Rapporteurs and other UN Human Rights Council-appointed rights experts are independent of the any government, receive no salary for their work and serve in their individual capacity.

Zambia: Over 50,000 children at risk of ‘severe wasting’

Almost 52,000 children under the age of five in Zambia are at risk of severe wasting – the deadliest form of malnutrition – within the next 12 months if urgent preventive measures are not taken, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned.

The assessment comes as Zambia, a landlocked nation in southern Africa, grapples with prolonged drought.  

Children in the Western, Southern, Central, and North-Western provinces – four out of ten of Zambia’s regions – are at particularly high risk of becoming malnourished, as many families already face hunger and are unable to provide nutritious food, UNICEF said.

“Children suffering from malnutrition are ten times more likely to die than well-nourished children,” UNICEF Director of Global Communication Naysan Sahba stated.  

“If we do not act now, there may be devastating and long-lasting effects on the health, nutrition, and development of Zambia’s youngest and most vulnerable population.”

The assessment, commissioned by the National Food and Nutrition Commission and supported by UNICEF, also revealed that pregnant and breastfeeding women are at risk of wasting.  

Low breastfeeding rates are also a cause for concern, the agency said, highlighting that rates of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life – which helps protect babies from sickness – “are worryingly low across” many provinces, especially in the urban parts of the capital Lusaka.

The UN agency called for immediate action to ensure food distribution and cash assistance for mothers and children, expand healthcare access, and improve health and sanitation services.

“We must urgently expand access to nutritious and diverse food, health services, and water, hygiene and sanitation services in order to avert a looming crisis,” Mr. Sahba said.

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