News in Brief 15 May 2017 (AM)

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A family displaced by fighting between ISIS and Iraqi security forces carry their belongings as they walk through the destroyed western neighbourhood of Al Mamum, near Mosul, Iraq. (file) Photo: UNICEF/Alessio Romenzi

Poverty impacting 25% of children in Middle East and North Africa

Poverty is continuing to impact at least 29 million children across the Middle East and North Africa, or one in four children in the region.

That's according to a study published on Monday by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The agency made the assessment based on whether children were deprived of two or more of the basic life necessities, including education, decent housing, nutritious food, quality healthcare, safe water and sanitation.

UNICEF Regional Director Geert Cappelaere said at a conference on child poverty, held in Rabat, Morocco, that it was about much more than simply family income.

"When children are deprived of the basics" he said, "they are at risk of getting trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty".

Among the key findings were that almost half of all children in the Middle East and North Africa live in inadequate housing, and are not fully immunized.

A quarter of those aged 5 to 17 are not enrolled in school or have fallen two grades behind, and a third of all children live in homes with no tap water.

Hungarian government urged to withdraw bill "stigmatizing" NGOs

The Hungarian government has been urged by independent UN experts to withdraw a bill which they say would "delegitimize and stigmatize" NGOs – or non-governmental organizations – that receive all or part of their funding from abroad.

Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and David Kaye, who is the UN expert on protecting the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said the proposed law would have a "chilling effect" on all human rights activity.

Hungary's bill on the Transparency of Organizations Financed from Abroad, would impede the "legitimate work of NGOs and individual human rights defenders scrutinizing government and exposing human rights violations" said the experts.

The bill proposes that NGOs receiving more than 24,000 Euros from abroad should have to register as "foreign-supported organizations" and subject themselves to a raft of new reporting requirements.

Water and sanitation "extremely limited" in much of Mexico: UN expert

Safe drinking water and sanitation services in many parts of Mexico need to be expanded and improved urgently, a UN expert said on Monday, at the end of his first official visit to the country.

Léo Heller is the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe water and sanitation, and he called on the Mexican government to make services more reliable, safe and affordable, including for marginalized and indigenous communities.

He said they, in particular, were being poorly served by a struggling national water and sanitation system.

Mr Heller acknowledged the progress Mexico has made in expanding infrastructure, but said it has not translated into real delivery of services.

"Mexico should rapidly enact an updated water law, and close the gap between constitutional promises and reality" he said.

He pointed to one neighborhood in Mexico City that still relies on donkeys for water transportation.

He said he would be submitting a full report on his findings to the Human Rights Council in September.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2’39″

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