UN Geneva round-up: Kabul attack, Afghanistan medical supplies dire, Yemen shelter crisis

Afghans carry the dead body of an Afghan at a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, 27 August 2021, a day after deadly attacks outside the airport. (Credit: Keystone/AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)

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

Deadly bombing at Kabul airport. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group claimed responsibility for an attack that killed at least 85 people outside Kabul airport yesterday, including members of the Taliban, and 13 US soldiers. 

There are more than 200 injured, said Rick Brennan, acting regional emergency director for WHO's office for the Eastern Mediterranean, at a press conference on Friday. Two suicide bombers and gunmen perpetrated the attack. People continue to crowd the airport hoping to board a flight before the evacuation deadline on Tuesday, with the recent explosion bolstering fears that the airport could become target to further attacks. 

Speaking hours after the explosion, US president Joe Biden vowed to complete the evacuation, adding “we will not be deterred by terrorists”.

Medical supply crisis in Afghanistan. The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned earlier this week that it will soon run out of medical supplies in Afghanistan after shipments coming from Dubai were held up at the airport in Kabul.   

Dr. Richard Brennan, WHO regional emergency director based in Cairo, said the agency is “exploring all options”. Humanitarian access through Kabul airport is unlikely in the weeks following the 31 August evacuation deadline, Brennan said. Mazar-i-Sharif Airport in the north is the most promising alternative. The WHO is working with Pakistan to make flights possible and aims to fly the first shipment in the next two to three days. 

Gender difference in child displacement.  More children than ever before live outside their country of birth as migrants or refugees – and boys outnumber girls, according to a report released on Friday by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). 

The findings, which examine the differences between the experience of displaced boys and girls, show there were over 35.5 million child migrants by 2020. Thirteen million of these children are refugees and asylum seekers. The number of displaced boys is 1.2m more than girls, the largest difference ever recorded, UNICEF says. 

Gender shapes how the decision to leave home is made, the authors say, with boys more likely to migrate longer distances and to cross borders than girls, who are more likely to migrate internally. The dangers of travel are higher for girls, who are more likely to be trafficked. 

Deepfake threat looms. AI-generated fake videos and pictures are easy to make and pose an increasing threat to international security, industry and government experts at a UN panel warned this week. 

The Innovations Dialogue, hosted by the UN Institution for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), met on Wednesday to discuss the risk of deepfakes to international security. “The international community now urgently needs to prioritise issues of digital trust and security, and we need to take concrete steps to protect and promote shared standards of truth if we want to harness the transformative benefits of the digital revolution,” Robin Geiss, UNIDIR’s director said. Read more here

Shelter crisis in Yemen. Humanitarian needs, including shelter, are soaring among displaced persons in Yemen as fighting continues to disrupt the war-torn country, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned this week.

There are 4 million displaced persons in Yemen. Nearly 24,000 people have been displaced in Yemen’s Marib governorate this year alone, where 190,000 are sheltered. The conditions in these settlements are “deplorable”, Aikaterini Kitidi, spokesperson for the UNHCR told journalists on Tuesday, adding that many shelters have been further damaged  by floods and fires. 

Civil war has raged in Yemen since 2014 between the country’s Saudi-backed coalition government and Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, with talks showing no progress. Speaking at the UN Security Council on Monday, Khaled Khiari, assistant secretary-general for Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, said: “It is imperative to resume an inclusive, Yemeni-led political process to reach a negotiated solution to the conflict”. He was referring to a 2015 peace plan, which called for a nationwide ceasefire.  

UN rights council slammed. The resolution of the special human rights council on Afghanistan on Tuesday met with outrage from member states and NGOs. Many have called for an independent monitoring and accountability body for human rights violations. The resolution “expresses grave concern” for reported violations, but does not explicitly condemn nor name the perpetrators. UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet will update the council in September on the human rights situation in the country. Read more here