World News in Brief: Child deaths in Ukraine, alarm over US death row ‘experiment’, Timor Leste nutrition boost

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“Over the last six days, children and families, and the infrastructure they rely on have come under attack in Dnipro, Lviv, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Odesa, and other populated areas”, said Munir Mammadzade.

With schools and health facilities destroyed and damaged, “Ukraine’s youngest citizens continue to bear the brunt of these attacks. Our heartfelt thoughts are with all those affected”, he continued.

At least eight schools and 10 health care facilities, including a maternity hospital, were reportedly damaged in the past week. 

Homes have been destroyed, and millions of children have started 2024 “under the sounds of sirens and bombardment, stoking a familiar fear”, said UNICEF’s top official in Ukraine. 

“The cumulative impact of reported casualties, damage to infrastructure, and relentless attacks has turned what should be a season of joy into one marred by dread, fear and sorrow.”

For children whose homes have been damaged or destroyed, often with heat and water cut off, the situation is particularly dire as they are facing temperatures reaching as low as -20°C.

“Nearly 1,800 children have been killed or injured since the escalation of the war in Ukraine, according to UN-verified reports. The true number is likely far higher”, added Mr. Mammadzade. 

He said killing and maiming of children, attacks on schools and healthcare, are grave violations of children’s rights and must stop.

Back up power for Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant: IAEA

Following discussions with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) has taken action to ensure an immediate back-up supply of electricity is available in the event of the main power line going down amid the fighting, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on Wednesday.

Frequent power cuts have remained a serious concern for safety and security at the Russian-held plant, which is Europe’s largest. Electricity supply is crucial to cool reactors, even if it’s fully shut down. 

Since August 2022 – just months after Russia’s full-scale invasion began, the ZNPP has suffered eight events where offsite power has been lost, noted IAEA.

“This means that if the main power supply through the 750 kV switchyard is lost, the back-up line will automatically be able to provide electricity to the plant without manual, and hence delayed, intervention, provided it remains operational,” Mr. Grossi said.

“This is a significant development, as it enables independence and redundancy in the site’s power supply scheme, even though overall offsite supply “remains extremely fragile”, he added. 

Rights experts’ alarm at death row ‘experiment’ in US

The imminent execution of a man on death row in the United States using the untested method of inhaling pure nitrogen must be stopped, top UN-appointed independent human rights experts said on Wednesday

Kenneth Eugene Smith was convicted of murder in 1988 and sentenced to death. He is scheduled to be executed on 25 January in Alabama. 

Authorities failed in their attempt to execute Mr. Smith in November 2022 by lethal injection.

UN Special Rapporteur Morris Tidball-Binz and other top rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council expressed concern that this first attempt at nitrogen asphyxiation “would result in a painful and humiliating death”. 

The experts added that punishments which cause unnecessary severe pain or suffering “likely violate the Convention against Torture, to which the United States is a party”.

‘Super Cereal’ boost for mothers in Timor-Leste: WFP

The Timor-Leste health ministry and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) on Wednesday signed a new agreement to purchase stocks of so-called Super Cereal, a specialized nutritious food which can help ease malnutrition in pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

It’s designed to assist around 10,819 pregnant and breastfeeding women in 13 municipalities: “Women and girls of childbearing age face the brunt of nutritious food gaps in the country”, said Alba Cecilia Garzon Olivares, WFP Country Representative, for Timor-Leste.

“This, coupled with the impact of COVID-19, increasing food costs, and climate shocks, places women at increased risk of malnutrition”, she added. 

She said the UN’s emergency food aid agency was “delighted” to partner with the Ministry of Health to boost lifesaving nutrition “and to support a healthier future for mothers and children in Timor-Leste,” 

The initiative is part of Timor-Leste’s broader strategy to eradicate stunting and reach the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of zero hunger by 2030.



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