News in Brief 23 May 2017 – (AM) Geneva

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Refugees from continue to arrive in Democratic Republic of the Congo. A group of Burundian women wait for emergency food supplies to be distributed at Kamvivira transit centre. UNHCR/Eduardo Soteras Jalil

Candidates for WHO top job make final presentations to Member States

The final moments in the campaign to become the next head of the World Health Organization (WHO) are being played out in Geneva.

Three candidates for the UN health agency top job made their last pre-election speeches to 194 Member States at the World Health Assembly in the Swiss city earlier on Tuesday.

They are doctors Tedros Ghebreyesus, David Nabarro and Sania Nishtar.

He – or she – will take over from Dr Margaret Chan from China, who's stepping down after two five-year terms.

As is customary, Member States are to vote in closed session.

Among the candidates, Dr Nabarro from the UK told Member States that he would seek a 50:50 gender balance in the organization, which would be more results-focused, transparent and accountable.

Dr Nishtar from Pakistan said she would help Member States encourage their parliaments to promote universal health coverage and the implementation of international health regulations.

And Dr Ghebreyesus from Ethiopia highlighted the opportunities provided by the Sustainable Development Goals agenda in improving the health and wellbeing of people everywhere.

Burundi refugee population to pass 500,000 by end of year: UNHCR

In Burundi people are still fleeing violence and insecurity in their thousands, the UN said on Tuesday, amid concern that refugee numbers could easily surpass half a million by the end of the year.

The warning from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, accompanies its statement that there has been "no improvement of the political situation" in the small central African country.

Communal strife erupted there in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza won a controversial third term in office.

Babar Balouch is a spokesperson for UNHCR:

"Arriving refugees continue to cite human rights abuses, fear of persecution and sexual and gender-based violence as reasons for fleeing. With no sign of improvement of the political situation, the total refugee population is expected to grow to over half a million by end 2017, making it potentially the third biggest refugee situation in Africa."

Neighbouring Tanzania hosts the majority of Burundian refugees, with nearly 250,000 already accommodated in three overcrowded camps.

Another 160,000 are in Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

UNHCR is calling for funding to provide basic services to those in need and stave off the risk of these vulnerable communities catching cholera.

The current US $ 250 million appeal for the more than 530,000 refugees UNHCR expects to arrive from Burundi is only two per cent funded.

DRC Ebola response is gearing up despite difficulties, says WHO

In Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), efforts are continuing to respond to the deadly Ebola outbreak in the remote north of the country.

Four people have died so far in Likati health zone, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), out of 43 reported cases of the haemorrhagic disease.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti is the Regional Director of WHO's African Region:

"We now have a mobile lab on the ground and we are anticipating now being able to get confirmation of cases yes or no much more quickly in that remote area. We were able to get people out there pretty quickly considering that it is so difficult logistically, there are no roads and by the time you get close to the place; and we've had to have plane and helicopter transport basically to get people and materials, equipment out there, but it's been able to start happening fairly quickly."

WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic told journalists in Geneva that an additional five patients are receiving treatment in a specialist facility, and of more than more than 400 contacts traced, 54 have cleared the 21-day incubation period for Ebola.

The government of DRC has not yet announced whether it intends to deploy the experimental Ebola vaccine, but preparations are under way to ensure that it can be transported at the required minus 80 degrees Centigrade if necessary, Mr Jasarevic added.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 4’11″

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