News in brief 26 April (AM)

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A health worker prepares to administer a vaccine to a child at a mobile vaccination unit, in Svay Pak village, an urban poor community in Rossey Keo district, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo: UNICEF/Llaurado

UNICEF reaches almost half of world's children with life-saving vaccines

The UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, has managed to immunize almost half of the world's children under-five, reaching 2.5 billion in nearly 100 countries.

The figures, released during World Immunization Week, make UNICEF the largest buyer of vaccines for children in the world.

The agency is also the lead procurement agency for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the three remaining polio-endemic countries, have each received more doses of vaccines than any other country.

Vaccination has "dramatically" reduced the deaths of children under five from preventable diseases.

It has also brought the world closer to eradicating polio.

However, close to 20 million children around the world still miss out on full vaccinations every year and around two thirds of unvaccinated children live in conflict-affected countries.

UN seeks $64 million to respond to urgent humanitarian needs in Kasai

The UN has appealed for $64 million to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs of people in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the next six months.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the funds would assist 731,000 people residing in what the agency described as the "latest humanitarian hotspot."

Armed clashes erupted in August 2016 between the Congolese army and a local militia group, displacing one million people in the Kasai region.

The appeal would provide water, food, medicines, basic household items, health and protection services, among others, to women who have suffered sexual abuse and other civilians who have been victims of violence.

Today, more than one million people are estimated to be displaced due to the violence, which started in Kasai Central and rippled across neighbouring Kasai, Kasai Oriental, Lomami and Sankuru provinces.

South East Asia pledges to intensify efforts against neglected tropical diseases

Countries in the South East Asia region have promised to fast-track efforts to eradicate, eliminate and control by 2020 neglected tropical diseases or NTDs, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed.

Affecting one billion people, NTDs are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical climates, such as leprosy, so-called "sleeping sickness" and river blindness to name a few.

A "Call for Action" plan was adopted by Member Countries at a High-Level Ministerial meeting in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on Wednesday

It underscores the importance of promoting innovation and research to improve surveillance, diagnosis and treatment for further reducing the burden of NTDs.

These illnesses affect the most marginalized and neglected population, pushing them further into poverty and a life marred by deformity and stigma.

However, many countries in the South East Asian region are getting closer to eliminating various NTDs.

The Maldives and Sri Lanka have managed to eliminate the parasitic disease caused by roundworms called lymphatic filariasis.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 3’10″

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