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UN chief shares grave figures on civilians in armed conflicts


United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (C) addresses a Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts at the UN headquarters in New York, on May 22, 2018. Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that more than 128 million around the world need immediate humanitarian aid and this staggering figure is mainly driven by conflict. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)
 
UNITED NATIONS, May 22 -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that more than 128 million around the world need immediate humanitarian aid and this staggering figure is mainly driven by conflict.
 
In a statement to the security council convened for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, Guterres shared alarming figures on the issue.
 
"Last year, the United Nations recorded the death and injury of more than 26,000 civilians in just six countries affected by conflict: Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen," he said. "Ten thousand of these were in Afghanistan."
 
The UN chief noted civilians in conflict zones are also subject to horrific violations of human rights, including rape and other sexual violence.
 
He took the Democratic Republic of Congo for example, saying the UN documented more than 800 cases of conflict-related sexual violence last year -- a 56 percent increase on 2016.
 
In regard to refugees and internally displaced persons, Guterres said conflicts continue to force millions of people to flee their homes for an uncertain future, revealing that at the end of 2016, 65.6 million people were uprooted by war, violence and persecution.
 
The UN chief went on to point out that bombing and shelling of towns and cities killed and injured tens of thousands of civilians every year.
 
As for Syria, he said, attacks reportedly killed and injured significant numbers of civilians in Aleppo, Dayr al-Zawr, Homs, Idlib, Raqqah and Rif Dimashq, destroying essential infrastructure, schools and hospitals.
 
On infrastructure destruction, Guterres elaborated on the attacks targeting medical facilities as well as humanitarian and health workers. "In 2017, the World Health Organization recorded 322 attacks resulting in 242 deaths among medical personnel and patients."
 
Guterres also lamented the impediment of the accessibility of medical supplies and health care, citing looting of convoys as well as threats and bureaucracy on part of conflict parties.
 
On conflicts' impact on global food security, the UN chief noted ten of the 13 major food crises in 2017 were conflict-driven.
 
He took Yemen for example, saying "nearly 3 million women and children are acutely malnourished and more than 8 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from." (Xinhua)