This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
UN humanitarians urge extension of Syria cross-border aid access
UN agency chiefs appealed to the Security Council on Tuesday to extend a deal guaranteeing cross-border aid access to northwest Syria, that’s due to expire in eight days.
“If the Council fails to extend (the deal), the consequences will be catastrophic for 4.1 million people in non-Government controlled areas,” said the top agency officials, who include emergency relief chief Martin Griffiths.
Last year, the UN and partners used the aid corridor from Turkey into Syria to reach an average of 2.7 million people every month.
Without these cross-border operations, “millions of people, especially those displaced for years and multiple times, will not have access to food and shelter,” the agency top officials warned.
They said that in addition to the threat of harsh winter conditions, communities in northwest Syria also need help to track, treat and test for cholera; as well as access to safe drinking water and protection for women and girls from gender-based violence.
Previous Security Council resolutions extended cross-border operations from Turkey for 12 months, but the last extension was for only six months.
Amid a reported surge in COVID-19 infections in China, coronavirus experts have been meeting at the UN health agency on Tuesday, to discuss next steps.
In Geneva, a spokesperson for the WHO confirmed to journalists in Geneva that Chinese scientists had been invited to participate in a meeting of the Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19.
The 30-strong expert group was formed in June 2020 to advise the UN health agency and Member States on coronavirus mutations and variants. The group’s last meeting was in October.
In an earlier statement, WHO said that Chinese scientists had been invited to present detailed data on viral sequencing to the expert meeting at WHO headquarters in Geneva.
The development follows a “high-level” encounter last Friday between the WHO and Chinese health officials, who were asked to share further information about China’s COVID strategy.
WHO in particular called on China to strengthen viral sequencing, clinical management and impact assessment of the COVID surge.
Guterres ‘deeply saddened’ over South Africa fuel tanker tragedy
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has expressed his deep sadness over the reported deaths of at least 34 people in South Africa, after a fuel tanker exploded in Johannesburg, on Christmas Eve.
The blast in Boksburg damaged a hospital emergency department, killing and injuring dozens and also reportedly destroying houses and cars.
News reports said the victims included nearly a dozen health workers, and almost two dozen others. Children were reportedly among those who perished.
According to news reports, the fuel tanker struck the underside of a low bridge, before exploding.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.