News in Brief 10 November 2015 (AM)

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A child receives a vaccination against meningitis at the community centre in Al Neem camp for Internally Displaced People in El Daein, East Darfur, Sudan. Photo: UNAMID/Albert González Farran

Deadly infection almost eliminated in Africa's "meningitis belt"

The deadly bacterial infection, Meningitis A, is close to elimination across a large part of Africa, thanks to a vaccine introduced just five years ago.

The bacterial disease can cause severe brain damage or death within hours, but in the area that used to known as Africa's "meningitis belt", the introduction of the vaccine has had startling results, according to the World Health Organization's (WHO) Dr Marie-Pierre Préziosi.

"Sixteen out of the 26 countries have introduced the vaccine, vaccinated about 70% of their population aged one-29, and covering 237 million with dramatic effect. Because the disease has been nearly eliminated from those countries at the moment."

The belt runs across the continent, from Senegal to Ethiopia.

The affordable vaccine was developed in response to an outbreak in 1996 which left 25,000 people dead in just a few months.

WHO warned that only routine immunization in childhood would safeguard progress made against the disease.

Refugees travelling from Mali to Niger reaches new high

The number of Malians seeking refuge in neighbouring Niger has reached a new high.

That's according to figures released on Tuesday by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Conflict began in Mali in 2012 and despite the signing of a peace-accord in June, there are now 54,000 refugees from the country in Niger, said the agency.

UNHCR said that the continued flow of refugees was unexpected and was placing a strain on its operations in Niger.

Nearly 250,000 children in Guinea to receive free school meals

Nearly 250,000 children will receive school meals in Guinea during the academic year that begins this week.

That's according to the World Food Programme (WFP) which said it was expanding its school lunch programme from 735 to 1,605 primary schools across the West African country.

WFP said that daily hot meals in the most food-insecure parts of Guinea will help keep children in school and enable them to concentrate on learning.

The Ebola outbreak meant that many schools were closed for most of last year.

International Year of Pulses launched

Tuesday marks the launch of the UN's International Year of Pulses 2016.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that pulses, meaning all kinds of dried beans and peas, were a cheap and highly nutritious source of protein, which would benefit diets, especially in developing countries.

In a written message for the launch, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that pulses could "contribute significantly" to addressing hunger and food security.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2’37″

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