News in Brief 27 September 2016 (AM) – Geneva

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A girl, who fell and struck her head in her home, awaits medical examination, at Dar El Shifa Hospital in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: UNICEF/Alessio Romenzi

Eastern Aleppo medical facilities "on verge of destruction"

Escalating violence in Eastern Aleppo has brought the last remaining health facilities in the northern Syrian city to the "verge of complete destruction", the UN health agency said Tuesday.

Issuing the warning, the World Health Organization (WHO), reported that just 25 medical centres, clinics and hospitals have managed to stay open.

Problems are compounded by the fact that only around 35 doctors are on hand to treat a growing number of wounded, as WHO's Fadela Chaib explains:

"The escalation of fighting in Aleppo is claiming more victims every day.… Over the last weekend alone, more than 200 people were injured and taken to understaffed health facilities in East Aleppo.The remaining health facilities in East Aleppo are on the verge of complete destruction."

All access routes are closed to eastern Aleppo, where up to 275,000 people are believed to need help, and WHO is calling for the evacuation of the sick and wounded.

Elsewhere in Syria, the agency has helped deliver medicines and health kits for more than 120,000 people, in Al-Waer in Homs, Zabadani and Madaya in Rural Damascus, as well as in Foua and Kufraya in Idlib governate.


Investigation call for US police killings of African-Americans

The killing of African-Americans in US police shootings should be investigated independently, a UN-appointed rights panel has said.

The call for the matter to be taken up by investigators who are not answerable to the US government follows the death of Keith Scott in the state of North Carolina.

An official probe into the shooting by police officers is ongoing.

Ricardo Sunga is the head of the UN Working Group on People of African Descent:

"We strongly condemn the continuing police killings and violence against African-Americans; men, women and children, including those lesser-known cases…The Working Group is convinced that the root of the problem lies in the serious lack of accountability for perpetrators of such killings despite the evidence. Specifically we are deeply concerned about the low number of cases where public officers have been held accountable."

In a separate recommendation, the UN Working Group has expressed alarm at the lack of action to address xenophobic rhetoric in Italy, the main entry point for many migrants and refugees seeking work or refuge in Europe.

It's calling on the Italian parliament to condemn the use of racist speech by politicians, something that was formerly limited to extremist groups, it says.


Welcome for ruling against Mali's Timbuktu desecrator

An international court ruling which has found a man guilty of war crimes for destroying priceless mausoleums in Mali's Timbuktu has been described as "historic", according to UNESCO.

Welcoming the judgment by the International Criminal Court against Ahmed Al-Faqi Al-Mahdi, the UN agency said that it was a crucial step in ending impunity for the destruction of cultural heritage.

Damage to the nine tombs dates to 2012, when Mali was in the grip of insurgent group Ansar Dine.

Al-Mahdi was sentenced to nine years in prison for his part in the crime.

Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, also said the ruling supported the belief that heritage has a major role to play in reconstruction and peace building, while also highlighting how deliberate attacks on culture have become weapons of war.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3’26″

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