News in Brief 06 July 2016

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A farmer in The Gambia shows a dry tuft of rice in a drought period. Photo: FAO/Seyllou Diallo

El Niño causing a "food and agriculture crisis"

The El Niño weather phenomenon is causing a "food and agriculture crisis" around the world that is likely to deepen in the years ahead.

That's the view of Jose Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), opening an event on Wednesday examining the global impact of El Niño.

Government representatives, partner UN agencies, food security experts and regional bodies, together with international donors, attended the conference, looking at the challenges posed by the two-year long weather pattern that has caused some of the worst droughts in decades.

The FAO chief said that around 100 million people could be affected by the end of 2016, with southern Africa facing its worst water shortages in 35 years.

He said that more than 39 million people are projected to be food insecure, across southern and eastern Africa alone.

"The impact of the drought on agricultural livelihood has been enormous. In fact El Niño has caused primarily, a food and agriculture crisis. If we work in a coordinated manner, we can make a difference. And we need to do it because of the impacts we are seeing of climate change, and I think that El Niño last year and this year, is just the beginning.”

Deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Syrian towns, cause for alarm

Deteriorating conditions and the need for urgent medical evacuations in four besieged Syrian towns, is a major cause for alarm, according to the country's UN humanitarian coordinator.

Yacoub El Hillo, called for the parties to the so-called Four Towns Agreement, which includes Madaya, Foah, Zabadani, and Kefraya, to allow immediate and unconditional access to humanitarian aid.

He warned that the conditions that led to some children starving to death in Madaya earlier this year could return, as there had been no access since April.

“We are calling on all parties…to ensure that this doesn't happen again" said Mr El Hillo.

The coordinator added that approvals from the Syrian government had been granted in both May and June, but due to political tensions and continued fighting, around 62,000 people trapped in the four towns were still waiting for life-saving supplies.

He said teams were standing by to proceed with vital medical evacuations.

After six years of brutal civil war, some 5.5 million people are in need in hard-to-reach or besieged areas of Syria.

Help them build "a better Nepal": goodwill ambassador Michelle Yeoh

"Hope, tenacity and strength" are the hallmarks of the Nepalese people as they continue to rebuild their towns and villages following the devastating earthquakes of 2015.

That's according to award-winning actor and UN Development Programme  (UNDP) Goodwill Ambassador, Michelle Yeoh who survived the main earthquake herself last April, which killed more than 8,000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of buildings.

She met Nepalese government officials to emphasize the importance of preparedness and resilience building and spoke to members of parliament in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.

She said the UNDP was "ensuring that communities throughout the country are prepared to withstand and recover from disasters."

She saw for herself some of the rebuilding efforts and spoke to fellow survivors.

"There are great challenges ahead but what you see is hope, tenacity, strength in the people and also reconstruction of livelihood. They need water they need their houses to be rebuilt. And the people of Nepal are not just sitting back and saying, 'just give it to me', they want you to help them rebuild a better Nepal."

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 3'11"


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