News in Brief 16 November 2017 (AM)

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The Al Hudaydah port is a major lifeline for Yemen, bringing in food and humanitarian assistance. These cranes have been out of service since mid-2015, with little hope of repair anytime soon. Photo: Giles Clarke/OCHA

UN agency chiefs call for end to Yemen blockade

The closure of air, sea and land ports in Yemen is hampering the delivery of humanitarian aid and threatening the lives of millions of vulnerable children and families.

That’s according to the heads of three UN agencies who are calling for an immediate lifting of the blockade on the country.

The appeal by the top officials at the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) came in a statement issued on Thursday.

More than 20 million people in war-torn Yemen are in urgent need of assistance, making it the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

A Saudi-led military coalition that has been battling rebels for the past two years, implemented the blockade last week.

The country is also in the grip of a cholera outbreak, with more than 900,000 suspected cases and 2,200 deaths since April.

The UN officials said that while the Saudi-led military coalition has partially lifted the blockade, closure of much of Yemen’s ports “is making an already catastrophic situation far worse.”

They have issued the appeal which calls for permitting the entry of lifesaving supplies such as medicines, vaccines and food into the country.

These items, they said, “are essential to staving off disease and starvation,” adding that “without them, untold thousands of innocent victims, among them many children, will die.”

Rise in chronic undernourished in sub-Saharan Africa: FAO

Conflict and climate change are mainly behind the increase in the number of undernourished people in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a report published on Thursday by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The figure rose from 200 million in 2015 to 224 million a year later, the study reveals.

The majority are living in countries affected by conflict.

José Graziano da Silva is the FAO Director-General.

“The increase of hunger in sub-Saharan Africa is directly linked to conflicts. In 2016, over one-third of the conflicts in the world took place in sub-Saharan African countries and they mainly affected rural areas. As a result, agriculture was damaged, food production and food systems were disrupted and livelihoods have been destroyed.  The situation was even worse when the impacts of conflicts were combined with the effects of El Niño, La Niña and climate change. This is what is behind the famine situation in South Sudan, northeast Nigeria and Somalia.”

The report identifies ways to support food security and livelihoods which also help build resilience against conflict while also contributing to peace efforts.

Overall, 815 million worldwide are undernourished, FAO said.

WHO Moscow meeting seeks to end tuberculosis

Ministers of health from around the globe are meeting in Moscow for a two-day conference convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) on ending tuberculosis in the Sustainable Development Era.

The conference opened on Thursday and the goal is to accelerate action to address gaps in access to care as well as the issue of multi-drug resistant TB.

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that mostly affect the lungs.  It is spread through the air when people with TB cough, sneeze or spit.

Although tuberculosis is curable and preventable, it is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide, according to WHO.

Melita Vujnovic is the agency’s Representative in Russia.

“Another very important area is scientific research and innovation. For decades we do not have a really new effective medicine against tuberculosis, and the tuberculosis bacillus is developing resistance. We need new diagnostics; we need a new vaccine that will be effective throughout life.”

The conference is expected to conclude with an outcome document containing “bold commitments” by countries aimed at ending TB and meeting targets towards achieving health-related development goals.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration:4’23”