News in Brief 4 May 2017 (AM)

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Access to safe water is vital for thousands of civilians sheltering in and around Aburoc, South Sudan. Photo: OCHA/Gemma Connell

South Sudan urged to halt offensive threatening 35,000 displaced in Aburoc

The South Sudanese government has been urged to halt any further offensives towards the town of Aburoc, where more than 35,000 people have sought refuge in recent weeks due to fighting.

The call came from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on Thursday, who said that up to 50,000 had made "terrifying journeys" to the town in the Upper Nile region, mainly on foot.

Zeid said most of the displaced had come from south of the town, where government forces had carried out attacks, and now found themselves in an area controlled by an opposition armed group.

Tens of thousands have died in South Sudan and two million are displaced since fighting erupted in 2013 between forces loyal to the president and his deputy.

The human rights chief said there were concerns that opposition fighters had placed civilians deliberately "in harm's way" in the event of an attack by government forces.

"Civilians in Aburoc are at serious and imminent risk of gross human rights violations, inter-ethnic violence and re-displacement" said Zeid.

Here's Human Rights Office spokesperson, Ravina Shamdasani.

"The UN Mission in South Sudan has not been granted access to Aburoc, we have been told to go in at our own peril essentially, and humanitarian actors have had to withdraw because of this imminent threat of great violence. So the people there are really facing grave shortages of medicine food and water, in addition to having made really these perilous journeys to get where they are."

Pilot project announced to make cancer treatments more available: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a pilot project to begin this year, aimed at making some of the most expensive cancer treatments more widely available in low- and middle-income countries.

Manufacturers are being invited to submit applications in September to make so-called "biosimilar"—meaning almost identical –versions of two drugs on WHO's Essential Medicines List.

They are the drug rituximab, used mainly to treat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and a form of leukaemia; and transtuzumab, used to treat breast cancer.

WHO Assistant Director General, Marie-Paule Kieny, said that the medicines, which are made from biological sources such as cells, were "often too expensive for many countries, so biosimilars are a good opportunity to expand access and support countries which use and regulate these medicines."

Food Price Index falls in April due to "robust supplies"

Global food prices fell last month due to "robust" supplies of many staples such as sugar and vegetable oils.

April's Food Price Index, from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed a drop in overall prices of 1.8 per cent, although prices overall were 10 per cent higher compared to last year.

The index tracks international market prices of five major food groups.

Vegetable oil prices fell almost four per cent last month due to weakening demand for palm oil and the expectation of "bumper harvests" in the Americas.

Sugar prices fell almost 10 per cent due to a glut in exports from Brazil combined with weak demand across the world.

Meat prices were the only group registering a rise in price, climbing 1.7 per cent due to strong demand in Europe and China.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2’46″

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