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Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar need to be relocated ahead of rains: UN chief

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United Nations:About 1.5 lakh Rohingya refugees, who fled violence in Myanmar to settle in crowded camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, are living in flood-prone areas and must be relocated ahead of the coming rainy season, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said.
“In relation to Cox’s Bazar, the monsoon is the biggest concern. We believe that about 150,000 people are in areas that are flood-prone or can be negatively impacted by the monsoon in a dangerous way for the people,” he told reporters here yesterday.
The UN chief was responding to a question on the need to relocate the Rohingya refugees currently living in camps in the border town of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
Guterres said he has had the opportunity to discuss with the Bangladesh government the best way to relocate these people. “And I think the best way to relocate these people is in higher areas that can be outside… Treated to accommodate this group that, of course, is extremely vulnerable to the monsoon,” he said.
He added that on-ground officials of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and other agencies will be talking with the Bangladesh authorities on the issue. “We believe the higher ground is the best place for this kind of relocation,” he said.
When asked why has he not yet appointed a special adviser on Myanmar, Guterres said he has been conducting a number of consultations for that appointment.
“I hope it will come soon. It is not an easy function that everyone is ready to accept, but I’m sure that we will have a solution soon,” he said.
Veteran Indian diplomat Vijay Nambiar had served as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Adviser on Myanmar from 2010 till December 2016. Guterres is yet to name his successor.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation appealed to the international community to contribute generously to enable appropriate and timely health services to the Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar, now facing grave risks to their lives and health in view of the coming rainy season.
“This is one of the biggest humanitarian crisis in recent times. No single agency or the government of Bangladesh alone can meet the massive health needs of such a large population group,” WHO South-East Asia Regional Director Poonam Khetrapal Singh said at a meeting of partners in Dhaka.
WHO said the country’s health sector is grossly underfunded to meet the needs of 1.3 million Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar.
“The Rohingya population are settled in an area that is prone to cyclone and a terrain that would be flooded as soon as rains begin. The risk of outbreak of life threatening water and vector-borne diseases under such conditions is huge,” Singh said.
Coordinating the work of over a 100 partners on the ground along with the Ministry of Health, WHO has facilitated the contingency plan for the rainy season and coordinated a simulation around it. The plan aims at continuity of health services during rains and floods to minimise the risk of disease and deaths among the affected population.


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Sri Lanka bombings death toll rises to 359, 18 more suspects held overnight

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Colombo: Police say the death toll in the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka has risen to 359 and more suspects have been arrested.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara also said Wednesday morning that 18 suspects were arrested overnight, raising the total detained to 58.
The prime minister warned that several suspects armed with explosives were still at large.
Another top government official said the suicide bombings at the churches, hotels and other sites were carried out by Islamic fundamentalists in apparent retaliation for the New Zealand mosque massacre last month.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Sri Lanka attacks and released images that purported to show the attackers. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that investigators were still determining the extent of the bombers’ foreign links.

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UN says over 250 killed, over 1,200 injured in Libya battle

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TRIPOLI: At least 264 people have been killed and over 1,200 wounded in weeks of fighting on the outskirts of Libya’s capital, the World Health Organisation said , as African leaders gathered in Cairo to discuss the crisis.
The agency called on Twitter for “a temporary cessation of hostilities, and for all parties to respect humanitarian law”.
Eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on the capital on April 4, as his self-styled Libyan National Army pledged “to purge the west of terrorists and mercenaries”.
Forces loyal to the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, launched a counter-attack at the weekend.
The fighting has since eased somewhat as both sides appeared to be preparing for the next phase of the battle.
Fighting in Tripoli’s southern suburbs has so far displaced at least 35,000 people, UN humanitarian coordinator for Libya Maria do Valle Ribeiro said on Monday.
“Displacement is continuing at an increasing rate every day,” she said, warning that the figures were a conservative estimate.
The two sides have reached a near stalemate since armed groups backing the GNA launched their counter-attack on Saturday.
An AFP team on the ground at the weekend confirmed that GNA-aligned fighters had pushed the frontline back several kilometres in the southern district of Ain-Zara, around a dozen kilometres south of the city centre.
Another frontline is a little further southwest, around the districts of al-Swani and Qasr ben-Ghachir, around 30 kilometres from Tripoli, on a key road between the capital and the old international airport.
Occasional bursts of gunfire — and heavier projectiles — have been audible, sometimes resonating in the city centre.
“It is calm on most fronts,” Mustafa al-Mejii, a spokesman for GNA forces, said.
“Orders were given to forces on the perimeter of Tripoli airport to consolidate their positions,” he said.
Haftar’s force said on its official Facebook page it had received “significant” reinforcements, particularly in the west.
Valle Ribeiro said civilians were being displaced every day, while some had been trapped by fire including “heavy artillery and… shelling in some densely populated parts of the city”.
“Any country that has leverage should be using that leverage to ensure that civilians can be protected,” she said.
African leaders were due to meet in Cairo at the behest of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to discuss the violence.

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Israel to name Golan settlement after Trump

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JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he plans to name a new settlement in the occupied Golan after US President Donald Trump in appreciation of his recognition of Israel’s claim of sovereignty there.
Netanyahu, who has been on a trip to the region with his family for the week-long Passover holiday, said in a video message that he would present a resolution to the government calling for a new settlement named after the US president.
“All Israelis were deeply moved when President Trump made his historic decision to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” he said.
Trump again broke with longstanding international consensus on March 25 when he recognised Israel’s claim of sovereignty over the part of the strategic plateau it seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.
The decision came only two weeks ahead of a tightly contested Israeli election, which saw Netanyahu win a fifth term in office.
Trump has shifted US policy sharply in Israel’s favour since taking office, most notably by recognising the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israel annexed 1,200 square kilometres (460 square miles) of the Golan it seized in 1981, a move never recognised by the international community.
Around 18,000 Syrians from the Druze sect — most of whom refuse to take Israeli citizenship — remain in the occupied Golan.
Some 20,000 Israeli settlers have moved there, spread over 33 settlements.

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