News in Brief 7 March 2017 (AM) – Geneva

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Secretary-General António Guterres holds a joint press conference with President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo of Somalia (far right) in the capital Mogadishu. Photo: UNSOM

Somalia: action needed urgently to avoid famine, says OCHA

Action is needed urgently to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Somalia, where drought has left more than six million people in need of help.

The appeal comes from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who's been visiting the country.

OCHA, the UN's agency that coordinates humanitarian aid, says that half of Somalia's people need urgent help and three million do not have enough food to eat.

OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke said that US $ 800 million is needed between now and June to help the most vulnerable; to date, just US$ 100 million is available.

"It's a creeping disaster, it creeps up on you day by day it gets a bit worse. So how much time do we have? Well if we stopped operations today, people would start dying tomorrow…We really need to get the pledges out there, working to save lives and prevent further descent into this."

UN humanitarians are warning that the situation in Somalia is just as bad as in Yemen and Nigeria.

Elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, meanwhile, two years of drought have also left millions struggling in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Backlash against women hurts us all, says human rights chief

Women's rights are being rolled back and risk threatening the "gains of the past", the UN Human Rights chief has said.

Speaking out ahead of International Women's Day on Wednesday, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein warned against what he called the "obsession with controlling and limiting women's decisions over their bodies and lives".

The view that a woman's role should be essentially restricted to reproduction and the family is also damaging to efforts to promote gender equality, the High Commissioner said.

In a statement, he noted numerous countries where women's rights are under threat.

In Burundi, a law to ban marital rape blames female victims for "indecent dress" or "immoral behaviour".

In El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua, there's resistance to efforts to open up access to sexual and reproductive rights for women too.

Such challenges will affect developing countries the most, Zeid says.

That's because they have the highest number of young people, so they are most exposed to "more maternal deaths, more unintended pregnancies and fewer girls finishing school".

North Korea defends latest missile launch

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea's latest missile launches have been condemned by the UN Secretary-General.

António Guterres said in a statement on Monday evening that the exercise in which three weapons landed close to Japan’s shores violated Security Council resolutions.

They also "seriously undermine" regional peace and stability, the UN chief said.

The missile tests were also in the spotlight at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Tuesday.

UN Member States including Switzerland called for diplomatic negotiations as the only way to resolve tensions in the Korean Peninsula.

Australia's Deputy Permanent Representative to the disarmament talks, Vanessa Wood, meanwhile, called for North Korea to pay more attention to domestic needs:

"There is a pressing need to improve the welfare of North Korea's impoverished people, rather than divert resources to develop nuclear weapons and missiles. Australia will work with the international community in response to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's actions. We support efforts to forge regional and multilateral solutions to enhance security across the Indo-Pacific and deal with this threat. "

The DPRK rejected criticism of its actions and said that joint military exercises conducted by the Republic of Korea and the United States threatened North Korea's security.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3'32"

 

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