News in Brief 14 March 2017

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UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani. Photo: UN Photo/Daniel Johnson

Conflict in Libya's east linked to executions, hostage-taking

Serious rights violations in Libya have been reported since the recent outbreak of fighting in the oil-rich east.

The country has been dogged by violence since the overthrow of former President Muammar Gadaffi in 2011.

In the latest escalation, conflict erupted on 3 March when the Benghazi Defence Brigade (BDB) took control of the oil crescent area from the Libyan National Army (LNA).

Here's UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani:

"Credible reports suggest that unlawful killings, including summary executions, hostage-taking, arbitrary detentions, torture, as well as widespread raids of civilian homes have been occurring, particularly in the towns of Ajdabiya, Benghazi, Brega and Beishir."

Ms Shamdasani said that the Libyan National Army had used airstrikes in the latest violence, and that it had detained more than 100 men and boys to date.

Major Syria polio vaccination programme begins

A massive polio vaccination campaign is under way in Syria; the aim is to reach more than 2.7 million children under five.

The joint World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) initiative covers all governorates in the war-torn country except two: Al Raqqa, which is controlled by ISIL terrorists, and Idlib, which received polio vaccines last month.

In the 12 governorates now being targeted, there's particular focus on more than half a million children living in so-called hard-to-reach areas.

Many of these children were missed in previous campaigns.

Tarik Jasarevic is a spokesperson for the World Health Organization:

"Why are we doing this campaign?  Well as you remember Syria was re-infected with polio in 2013 and with 36 cases, and following a swift and rapid response a number of campaigns across the region, the outbreak has been brought to an end and there were no cases since January 2014."

Thousands of health workers are involved in this polio campaign, which is the sixth in Syria since October 2015.

Artist puts children’s education first for development

An artist from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) believes that education is the key to a sustainable future for his country – and the continent.

Freddy Tsimba, who is famous for using recycled materials in his work, including spent bullet cases, says that his country's mineral riches have not helped it to develop.

"In my country, in the countries of the south, as we say, the real riches are in education. Because when I think about the minerals we have in DRC – Coltan and Uranium – I don't think it has really helped our country to get on, and I think we need to focus on education… give young people the chance to try different things… because without education you have nothing…Knowledge protects us. When you know something, you can defend yourself better."

Freddy Tsimba's sculpture is on display at the UN in Geneva.

Made from thousands of recycled keys, spoons and forks, it features a boy and a girl sitting under a tree, the Tree of Knowledge, which has sprouted from a large metal earth.

The artist still lives in Kinshasa, capital of DRC, where he says that dozens of children helped him to make his latest creation.

It's one of 54 artworks from each country in Africa, organized by UN partner African Artists for Development.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3’35″

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