News in Brief 08 October 2015 (AM)

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Students in Nepal, being taught how to take shelter beneath their desks in case of an earthquake. Photo: Jim Holmes for AusAID

Safer schools in earthquake zones

The lack of building codes in the world's most dangerous earthquake zones can turn schools into "graveyards for children," the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has warned.

Margareta Wahlström's comments come in a statement on Thursday marking the 10th anniversary of an earthquake in Pakistan which killed nearly 90,000 people, including 19,000 schoolchildren and their teachers.

She is encouraging more countries to join a new global initiative that provides expertise on making schools safe.

Countries sharing their experiences include Turkey and Iran which are working to retrofit, demolish or reconstruct schools in their seismic zones over the next five years.

Ms Wahlström said "a school should be second only to the family home as the safest place on earth for a child."

Food commodities drop to six-year low

Cereal, oil and other commodities are going through a period of "lower and less volatile prices," according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

An FAO index that tracks international market prices for five major food commodity groups fell to a six-year low in August.

The agency said high inventory levels, sharply lower oil prices and the renewed strength of the United States dollar are behind this decline.

However, FAO points out that while lower food prices "seem to be a boon to food security," they also reduce incomes for farmers.

Human rights chief concludes visit to Mexico

More than 150,000 people in Mexico have been killed over the past nine years and at least 26,000 have gone missing since 2007, according to the UN Human Rights High Commissioner who visited the country this week.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein also quoted statistics showing 98 percent of all crimes there remain unsolved, the majority of which were never properly investigated.

Furthermore, thousands of women and girls are sexually assaulted or killed.

Hardly anyone is ever convicted for any of these crimes, he said.

"Part of the violence can be laid at the door of the country's powerful and ruthless organized crime groups, which have been making life a misery for people living in several of Mexico's 32 States. I condemn their actions unreservedly. But many enforced disappearances, acts of torture and extra-judicial killings are alleged to have been carried out by federal, state and municipal authorities, including the police and some segments of the army, either acting in their own interests or in collusion with organized criminal groups."

The UN human rights chief proposed recommendations for the Mexican government such as strengthening the Attorney-General's offices to ensure human rights violations are properly investigated.

He added that while the international community has "good will" towards the country, it is ultimately up to Mexicans, particularly the country's political class, to resolve what he described as "these massive problems."

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 3’06″

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