UN Geneva round-up: anti-Taliban protests, DR Congo rights crisis, hunger in Ethiopia

Afghan refugees in New Delhi, India hold anti-Taliban banners during a protest, on 10 September 2021. Since its takeover, the Taliban has been cracking down on protesters inside the country. (Credit: Keystone/AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

A summary of the most critical issues being discussed at the United Nations in Geneva this week.

Protests and hunger in Afghanistan. The Taliban has been cracking down on protests that erupted in several cities over the past few weeks, Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told journalists on Friday. The Taliban has used whips and sticks to beat protesters, and banned on Wednesday all demonstrations that did not have its approval.

The country is also facing a looming humanitarian crisis. Around 93 per cent of Afghan households are not getting enough food. The main reason is the loss of livelihood the conflict has caused, said Anthea Webb, deputy regional director for the World Food Programme (WFP) at the press briefing.

As winter approaches, the situation will likely deteriorate even further. If enough wheat seed does not get into Afghanistan by September, many will starve, Rein Paulson, director of the office of emergencies and resilience at the Food and Agricultural Organization told reporters on Tuesday.

“Wheat is the most important crop cereal crop in Afghanistan and provides more than a half of caloric requirements for the population in Afghanistan,” he explained.

Mounting abuses in DR Congo. The human rights situation in the eastern part of the country is spiralling as armed groups continue to target civilians. There have been over 1,200 civilian casualties and 1,100 rapes this year alone, according to data collected by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The UN agency, local authorities and organisations are working together to provide medical and psychological treatment to those who have been physically and mentally traumatised. The UNHCR still needs close to half of the necessary $205m in funding required to operate in DR Congo this year.

Ethiopian hunger crisis expands. The Tigray conflict in Ethiopia is increasing in scope. Close to seven million people face hunger in the country, WFP spokesperson, Tomson Phiri, told journalists on Tuesday. The number in Tigray is 5.2 million. In the neighbouring Amhara province, the growing conflict has made an additional 1.7 million people food insecure.

Martin Griffiths, the UN aid chief, warned in early August that 100 trucks need to pass the checkpoints into Tigray daily. Only 10 per cent of that is getting in, said Phiri.

Covid-19 pressures bioweapons convention. Covid-19 has heated up debate about strengthening the biological weapons convention. Compared to the chemical weapons convention, the bioweapons agreement is weak, according to experts. A meeting that concluded Wednesday considered a number of proposals for making the convention fit for purpose, Geneva Solutions reported on Thursday. Read more here.