News in Brief 04 August 2016 (AM)

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"Deep concern" expressed over health of Chinese human rights defender

"Deep concern" was expressed on Thursday over the health of a prominent human rights defender who has been on hunger strike for three months, claiming ill-treatment at the hands of Chinese authorities.

Yang Maodong, known by his pen-name Guo Feixiong, has suffered "degrading and humiliating treatment while in detention," according to a statement issued on his behalf by a group of UN independent experts.

They said he had suffered abuse both "at the hands of other inmates, and prison guards at Yangchun Prison, in Guangdong province."

The human rights activist was arrested in 2013 for taking part in a public protest against official censorship of a local newspaper, and later sentenced to six-years in prison accused of provoking public unrest.

The experts said that his public profile seems to have been a "cause and aggravating factor" for being denied medical care, and they called on the Chinese government to "urgently provide" him with specialized treatment.

New funding for thousands of returning Iraqi families welcomed: UNHCR

Funding for vital infrastructure projects needed to help Iraqi families return home to Diyala Governorate has been welcomed by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

The agency said that the government of Italy had pledged €441,500 to help rebuild public services in the Saadiya and Jalawla districts; areas that had come under the control of extremist groups in late 2014.

The conflict displaced around 20,000 families, and although some began returning home last year, most have yet to return due to the huge extent of the damage.

Around 50% of all buildings in Saadiya are still in ruins, and 75% in Jalawla.

The Italian-financed project will focus on the restoration of power, said UNHCR, along with sanitation improvements.

International food price index falls for first time in five months

International prices for major food commodities have fallen for the first time in five months, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO.

The FAO Food Price Index showed a "modest decline" for July, due largely to a drop in the price of grains and vegetable oils.

Cereals fell 5.6 per cent compared with June, thanks largely to a drop in maize prices due to favourable growing conditions in the United States.

Vegetable oils dropped nearly three per cent.

The value of dairy, meat and sugar products rose slightly, but not enough to offset other falling prices.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2'11"

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