News in Brief 23 March 2017 (AM)

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A young boy sits in front of a destroyed building in Homs, Syria. Photo: WFP/Abeer Etefa (file)

"We are failing the children of Syria," says UNICEF director

The fact that a dozen children were among the 53 killed in an attack on a school on Wednesday is a reminder that the world is "failing the children of Syria."

That's the view of the UN Children's Fund's Regional Director, Geert Cappelaere, speaking as the warring parties gather in Geneva for another round of UN-led peace talks, beginning on Friday.

The UNICEF official said that young people had already endured 2,200 days of international failure to bring about a resolution to the six-year-long civil war in Syria, and that they were "being deprived of their basic right to life" and education.

The intensification in fighting in many parts of Syria over recent days has driven yet more families from their homes in search of safety, he added.

The children killed in the school in Ar-Raqqa, in north-east Syria, had been sheltering there after being displaced.

"All parties to the conflict and those with influence must redouble their efforts to find a political solution" said Mr Cappelaere.

UN and partners appeal for $US20 million to assist Madagascar cyclone victims

The UN and humanitarian partners have launched an appeal for $US20 million to help address the "devastating consequences" of Cyclone Enawo in Madagascar.

The category 4 cyclone struck the island off the southeast African coast on 7 March, causing extensive damage due to high winds and flooding.

At least a quarter of a million people in the worst-hit areas need life-saving humanitarian assistance and protection in the storm's wake.

UN Resident Coordinator in Madagascar, Violet Kakyomya, said staff were working closely with national and local authorities.

According to the government, around half of the country's 22 regions have been hit and up to 85 per cent of subsistence crops in some areas were destroyed.

The emergency funds would provide water, sanitation and hygiene for 168,000, as well as food assistance for 170,000.

Uganda at "breaking point" over influx of refugees from South Sudan

Uganda has reached "breaking point" in its efforts to cope with the influx of refugees escaping conflict and food insecurity in neighbouring South Sudan.

That's according to a joint statement on Thursday from the government in Kampala and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi.

Thousands of refugees continue to arrive in Uganda every day, and the country is current host to more than 800,000, including 572,000 who've arrived since an intense outbreak of fighting around the South Sudanese capital last July.

Government and rival military forces clashed, triggering a wave of violence around the country, increasingly along ethnic lines; and famine was recently declared in some areas.

Uganda's Prime Minster said the unprecedented influx had placed "enormous strain on our public services and infrastructure," and international help was now urgently needed.

Lucy Dean, United Nations.

Duration: 2’40”

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