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World News in Brief: Gaza aid, support for Afghan returnees, end modern slavery

Any continuation in the recent increase in aid delivery to the Gaza Strip is uncertain now that fighting has resumed, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told journalists in New York on Friday.            

He said the UN was able to step up delivery of basic supplies into and across the Gaza Strip during the week-long pause in fighting, primarily through the Egyptian and Palestinian Red Crescent Societies.

This included 630 metric tonnes of flour for 224,000 people in the south, and 63,000 blankets and mattresses.  

“Cooking gas had been entering daily from Egypt during this period and has been available, or at least had been available, at one distribution centre in the south, in not enough quantities unfortunately to meet the demand,” he added.  

Trucks also transported 4,850 metric tonnes of food, 1,110 metric tonnes of bottled water, 148 metric tonnes of medical supplies, and 29,500 litres of fuel.  These items were delivered to shelters run by the UN agency that assists Palestine refugees, UNRWA, as well as hospitals and warehouses in northern Gaza. 

Mr. Dujarric cautioned that any continuation in the uptick in the delivery of basic supplies is now uncertain because of the resumed hostilities.

“We must have at least the same volume of fuel and other humanitarian goods enter Gaza that was entering during the pause,” he said.

UN Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator Martin Griffiths said the seven-day pause offered "a glimpse of what can happen when the guns fall silent."  He stressed the need to maintain progress in aid delivery.

"We need civilians and the life-sustaining infrastructure they rely on to be protected. We need the remaining hostages to be released immediately and unconditionally. We need a humanitarian ceasefire. We need the fighting to stop," he said in a statement.

Music star The Weeknd donates 4 million meals for WFP response in Gaza

Multi-platinum recording artist The Weeknd, who is a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), has directed $2.5 million from his XO Humanitarian Fund to the agency’s response in Gaza.

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The donation, which equates to four million emergency meals, will fund enough food to potentially feed more than 173,000 Palestinians for two weeks.

WFP said it comes at a critical time when more than one million people are on the verge of starvation in Gaza, where fighting between Israel and the militant group Hamas resumed on Friday.

The Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, has been a WFP Goodwill Ambassador since October 2021.

He has committed to dedicating the equivalent of $1 per ticket sold during the global leg of his After Hours Til Dawn stadium tour next year to the XO Humanitarian Fund, which has raised $5 million to date.

Afghanistan: $26 million appeal for returnees from Pakistan

Meanwhile, WFP is seeking $26.3 million to assist one million Afghans forced to leave Pakistan following the Government’s decision to deport undocumented foreigners.

The policy came into effect last month and more than 370,000 people have since made their way back to Afghanistan, where a harsh winter awaits them.

WFP are on the ground at two border crossings supplying families with cash to cover their most basic food needs.

Returnees face a bleak future in Afghanistan, where one-third of the people do not know where their next meal will come from and some areas in the west are also still reeling from multiple earthquakes.

Communities across the country rely on WFP food assistance to survive, but funding shortfalls have forced the agency to cut emergency assistance this year.

UN rights chief calls for action to end slavery 

More than 50 million people today are victims of slavery, one in four of them children, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said.

Volker Türk urged political and business leaders “to take real action to uphold human rights” in his message on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, observed on 2 December.

He said slavery is able to thrive because of how many economies are structured and run, adding that it preys on people whose rights are denied. 

“We know how to end slavery," he said.  "We know that without action, millions more people will need help.”