World News in Brief: Sandstorm alert, albinism and climate change, rights in Peru


The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in a new report on Thursday that every year, around 2,000 million tonnes of dust enter the atmosphere, “darkening skies and harming air quality in regions that can be thousands of kilometres away”.

WMO chief Petteri Taalas said this was partly due to poor water and land management. The phenomenon was also exacerbated by higher temperatures and drought brought on by a warming climate, leading to higher evaporation and drier soils.

WMO said that exposure to dust particles has been associated with heart attacks, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. Sand and dust storms also pose risks to aviation and ground transportation as well as agriculture. 

According to WMO in 2022, hotspots with significantly higher dust concentrations were identified in Central and South America, most of Central Africa, Spain, the Red Sea, the Arabian Peninsula, as well as in Iran, south Asia and northwest China.

Prof. Taalas stressed WMO’s commitment to help countries improve dust storm forecasting skills and early warning services. He also underscored that more needed to be done in the face of continuing environmental degradation and fast-advancing climate change.

Climate change ‘a matter of life and death’ for people with albinism

And staying with climate change: its impacts on skin cancer in people with albinism are both deadly and largely overlooked, a UN-appointed independent rights expert said on Thursday.

Muluka-Anne Miti-Drummond, the Special Rapporteur on albinism issues, said that in Africa alone, persons with albinism are up to 1,000 times more likely to develop skin cancer, with many dying by the age of 40.

She underscored she has campaigned tirelessly for sunscreen to be made freely available to persons with albinism, as a “life-saving medical product that can prolong and improve the quality of life for many who don’t have the means to afford it”.

People with albinism also have visual impairment, the expert said, and as such are disproportionately affected by climate-related disasters.

Ms. Miti-Drummond called for the inclusion of people with albinism in all fora related to climate change and disaster management, insisting that for many of them, climate change is “a matter of life and death”.

Peru needs ‘meaningful reforms’ to policing during protests

Peruvian authorities must undertake meaningful reforms to ensure human rights are respected during protests and demonstrations, following an alarming increase in the use of force.

Independent human rights experts issued the alert in a new report on Thursday calling for “decentralized and inclusive national dialogue”.

The report focuses on the conduct of security forces during nationwide protests between December 2022 and March 2023.

It concludes that Peruvian authorities unduly restricted demonstrators’ human rights. 

Security forces used unnecessary and disproportionate force, including lethal force, outside of the circumstances permitted by international human rights standards, the report states. 

It also documents the use of less lethal weapons, incompatible with international standards, that resulted in protesters being seriously and – in some cases – fatally injured.

Hundreds killed and injured 

Rights office OHCHR, recorded that 50 people were killed and 821 injured in the context of protests from 7 December to 31 March, allegedly by security forces. some 208 members of the security forces were injured.

Criminal investigations were opened against 241 people who took part in the demonstrations. Of these, at least 221 have since been closed due to lack of evidence. This includes 192 people who had been arrested in San Marcos University in Lima on 21 January.

In April 2023, the authorities set up a dedicated team within the Public Prosecutor’s Office to investigate alleged crimes committed in the context of the protests. 

“Those responsible for human rights violations must be held accountable, through fair judicial proceedings,” UN rights chief Volker Türk said. “Accountability is paramount if we want to start healing wounds and creating trust in the institutions of the State. Victims should be provided with full reparation.”

“It is paramount that the grievances and concerns across the whole spectrum of the Peruvian society are addressed. An inclusive national dialogue is needed. This is the only way forward. Everyone needs to feel heard and represented in society to stop endless political and social crises,” Mr. Türk said.

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