News in Brief 02 June 2016 (PM)

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Civilians in Fallujah, Iraq, are at extreme risk and need urgent help. Photo: OCHA Iraq

Alarming reports of civilian casualties in Fallujah

The top UN relief chief has expressed alarm over continued reports of civilian casualties due to heavy shelling in the besieged town of Fallujah in Iraq.

Military operations are being carried out against ISIL, or Daesh, in order to retake control of the city.

An estimated 50,000 civilians, including at least 20,000 children, are unable to leave and face shortages of food, clean drinking water and medicines.

Several hundred families are reportedly being used as human shields by the militants, warns Stephen O'Brien, the Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Children are also at risk of forced recruitment by fighting parties or of being separated from their families.

In the past two weeks, close to 5,000 people have managed to leave, enduring risky and harrowing escapes on foot, in soaring temperatures, to reach safety.

The Government of Iraq and humanitarian partners have set up camps in the Ameriyat al-Falluja district.

The authorities are helping to transport families escaping the city and providing information for people wanting to leave.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian community continues to provide people fleeing the city with water, health care, food, shelter and other emergency assistance.

Across Iraq, 10 million people need some form of humanitarian assistance, and a further three million are thought to be living in areas under ISIL control.

Nigeria launches $1 billion clean-up and restoration programme

A $US1 billion clean-up and restoration programme in Nigeria was launched on Thursday, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has confirmed.

The environmental restoration is likely to be the world's most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean up exercise ever undertaken.

Nigeria currently has the world's tenth largest crude oil reserves and is the world's thirteenth-largest producer of crude oil, according to the agency.

Oil was first reported in the Niger Delta in 1956, but oil exploration and production were suspended in the Ogoniland region in the 1990s due to public unrest.

However, major oil pipelines still cross through the area and oil spills continue to affect the region.

A UNEP report in 2011 found severe and widespread contamination of soil and groundwater in Ogoniland.

Drinking water has been contaminated and delta ecosystems such as mangroves have been devastated.

Experts suggest it may take up to 25 years until ecosystems are fully restored.

Global food markets "on stable path": FAO

Global food commodity markets are on a stable path for the year ahead, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports.

Solid production prospects and abundant stocks point to a broadly stable outcome for prices and supplies, the agency predicts.

Meanwhile, the world's food import bill is on course to fall below US$1trillion for the first time since 2009.

And that's even as traded volumes increase, according to FAO's bi-annual Food Outlook.

Food outlook reports look at major food commodities, such as cereals, oil crops, sugar, meat, dairy and fisheries.

The agency's Food Price Index for May, which measures monthly changes in international prices of a basket of food commodities, rose 2.1 per cent to average 155.8 points.

That's still some 7 per cent below the level reported a year ago.

The prices of cereals, dairy, meat and sugar rose across the index with the exception of vegetable oils which subsided after a strong hike in April.Duration:

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 3’40″

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