SG’s Zero Hunger Challenge; Syria; Nigeria; New UN envoy on sexual violence in conflict; Somalia’s constitution-making process.

SG’s Zero Hunger Challenge: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has launched a ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ which invites all countries to work for a future where every individual has adequate nutrition and where all food systems are resilient.

“In a world of plenty, no one – not a single person – should go hungry,” Mr. Ban said during the launch of the initiative in Rio last night. “I invite all of you to join me in working for a future without hunger.”

The ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ has five main objectives: to achieve 100 per cent access to adequate food all year round; to end malnutrition in pregnancy and early childhood; to make all food systems sustainable; to increase growth in the productivity and income of smallholders, particularly women; and to achieve a zero rate of food waste.

Syria: The United Nations relief coordination agency today said that the humanitarian situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, with up to 1.5 million people in need of assistance. UNICEF has also said that it needs additional funds of around $14 million for its response to the crisis in Syria. Along with its partners, UNICEF is providing assistance to Syrian children in need in areas such as health, nutrition, education and child protection.

With the violence in Syria continuing unabated, Joint Special envoy Kofi Annan said that he has been in intensive consultations with a number of ministers and officials in capitals around the world about the possibility of convening a meeting of ministers to discuss what further actions could be taken.

“It is time for countries of influence to raise the level of pressure on the parties on the ground, and to persuade them that it is in their interest to stop the killing and start talking,” he told a news conference in Geneva.

Nigeria: The United Nations human rights office today condemned the repeated attacks on churches in Nigeria by the extremist Islamist group Boko Haram, and warned that acts against civilians, including on grounds of religion or ethnicity, could amount to crimes against humanity.

It is estimated that over 100 people have been killed when several churches were attacked by Boko Haram in Kaduna state, in the country’s centre, last Sunday and in its aftermath, according to OHCHR. Boko Haram is the same group that claimed responsibility for the bombing last year of the UN offices in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Some 30 people were killed in the initial attacks on Sunday and subsequent retaliation by Christian youths who set up checkpoints. The rest were reportedly killed in clashes between the security forces and Muslims protesting at the deadly retaliatory acts by the Christians, and most recently in clashes between the security forces and alleged insurgents in the Damaturu area.

New UN envoy on sexual violence in conflict: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Zainab Hawa Bangura, currently the Minister of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone, as his new Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. She will replace Margot Wallström, a Swedish politician with a long history of defending women’s rights, who had served in the position since it was created two years ago.

According to a statement from Mr. Ban’s spokesperson, Ms. Bangura brings to the position over 20 years of policy, diplomatic and practical experience in the field of governance, conflict resolution and reconciliation in Africa. She has been instrumental in developing national program on affordable health as well as advocating for the elimination of genital mutilation.

Somalia’s constitution-making process: The top United Nations political official for Somalia today welcomed the signing of a communiqué agreed on by Somali leaders as a key step in preparing the East African country for the upcoming end of its transitional governing arrangement.

After decades of warfare, Somalia has been undergoing a peace and national reconciliation process, with the country’s Transitional Federal Institutions currently implementing the so-called Roadmap for the End of Transition in Somalia, devised in September last year, that spells out priority measures to be carried out before the current transitional governing arrangements end on 20 August.