News in Brief 28 February 2017 (AM)

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Two children carry water in Leer, Unity State in South Sudan, parts of which have been declared as famine-affected. Photo: OCHA

Conflict continues to hamper humanitarian response to South Sudan famine

Ongoing fighting in South Sudan is preventing aid from reaching famine-hit communities, the UN has warned.

Some 100,000 people face starvation in parts of the country where famine was declared on eight days ago.

A further one million are on the brink of famine.

Since late January clashes in Upper Nile state have displaced tens of thousands of people, and violence has spread to new locations in Jonglei state in recent days.

During the chaos, aid stores were looted by armed gangs, according to the UN.

In Central Equatoria state, aid workers have been denied access to tens of thousands of people who have not received help for months.

In an appeal to all parties to guarantee aid access, Humanitarian Coordinator for the country Eugene Owusu said that he welcomed President Salva Kiir's reassurance that all aid access would be "unimpeded", before calling for urgent action as "lives are in the balance".

Child soldiers "are recruited to fight on Yemen's front line"

New figures released on Tuesday by the UN highlight the role played by child soldiers in the Yemen conflict.

According to the UN Human Rights Office, OHCHR, at least 1,476 boys have been recruited since violence between government and rebel forces escalated in March 2015.

Ravina Shamdasani is a spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office:

"The numbers are likely to be much higher than that as most families are not willing to talk about the recruitment of their children due to fear of reprisals…children under age of 18 often join the fighting after they are either misled or attracted by promises of financial reward or social status. Many are then quickly sent to the front lines of the conflict, or tasked with manning checkpoints."

Ms Shamdasani told journalists that seven in 10 children were recruited by Houthi opposition fighters; others by troops loyal to embattled President Abdrabbuh Hadi.

Amid the ongoing fighting in Yemen, humanitarians have warned about impending famine.

Severe acute malnutrition has tripled in Yemen from 2014 to 2016, according to UN Children's Agency UNICEF.

The agency also said that every 10 minutes, one child under five years old dies from preventable diseases, owing to the collapse of the health system there.

Thailand's shelves laws banning torture and enforced disappearance

The Thai government should think again about its decision not to pass new laws banning torture and enforced disappearances, the UN said on Tuesday.

The appeal from OHCHR, comes after the country's military-appointed parliament rejected draft legislation covering both issues.

OHCHR's Ravina Shamdasani described the move as a "devastating blow" to the families of the disappeared.

"The Assembly's decision to reject the bill is very concerning given the continued allegations of torture and disappearances in Thailand, and it is deeply worrying that such actions may now continue without any legal redress. For too long, there has been no accountability on cases of torture and involuntary and enforced disappearances due to the lack of a legislative framework. As a result, perpetrators of such heinous crimes still cannot be prosecuted."

Under current Thai legislation, criminal charges cannot be brought for torture, while investigations into disappeared individuals – such as lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit, missing since 2004 – are suspended after a certain period.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 3'26"

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