News in Brief 5 May 2017 (AM)

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Veronique and some of her children who spent 6 months hiding in the bush in Bohong after violence broke out in Central African Republic. Photo: UNICEF/ Logan

Humanitarian agencies decision to pull back in CAR is temporary

The decision by four major humanitarian agencies to withdraw partially from the Central African Republic (CAR) amid attacks on their workers is "temporary", the UN said on Friday.

Jens Laerke from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that the move reflected the "extreme" situation in parts of CAR's north:

"Certainly OCHA like others in the humanitarian community works very firmly on the basis of a 'stay and deliver' principle, which means that we will do everything that we can in order to stay and deliver our programmes. It's only when we come to these extreme cases that the UN will withdraw."

In the first quarter of this year, humanitarians were targeted at least 33 times in CAR, where conflict stems from a major political crisis dating back three years.

The announcement by humanitarian agencies that they're to pull workers back to the capital, Bangui, comes amid warnings that one million children's lives are under threat.

UN Children's Fund UNICEF said that well over double that number of people need humanitarian assistance and that nearly 900,000 are displaced.

Country representative Christine Muhigana said that CAR risked becoming a forgotten crisis and that without sufficient support there would be no way to keep children healthy and safe.

Alarm over latest lawyer detention in China

The arrest in China of a lawyer and the ongoing crackdown against human rights defenders has been described as deeply troubling by the UN human rights office, OHCHR.

Chen Jiangang was reportedly taken into custody on Wednesday in Yunnan province in the south-west of the country.

No official reason has been given for his arrest but OHCHR said that Chen was representing Xie Jang, another lawyer who has been in detention since July last year.

Jang faces charges including inciting subversion of state power.

Ravina Shamdasani is a spokesperson for the UN human rights office, OHCHR:

"Despite numerous calls by a number of UN human rights bodies, including Special Rappporteurs, the UN Committee against Torture and by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, we are dismayed by this continuing pattern of harassment of lawyers, through continued detention, without full due process guarantees and with alleged exposure to ill-treatment and coercion into self-incrimination."

Chen's arrest comes after he reported in March that his client and other detained lawyers had been subjected to ill-treatment and torture in custody, according to OHCHR.

Liberia mystery disease spread risk "is low": WHO

The mystery disease in Liberia that has claimed 12 lives remains "unexplained" but it is not Ebola, the UN health agency said on Friday.

Latest information from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that 16 people have been infected, in addition to those who have already died.

All patients except one had attended a funeral before falling sick, according to WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic.

He said that the overall risk of the disease spreading remains low but that a raft of tests is ongoing to test the theory that the illness is linked to something people ate or drank:

"What is really important to say is that the overall risk of spread of this event is considered as being low. The event is clustered about the participants of the religious funeral. In addition there is a sharp decrease in the number of deaths reported since 25 April… The possibility of food, drink or water poisoning so as I said the toxicology lab tests will help to elaborate this hypothesis."

Liberia was declared free of Ebola virus transmission in June last year.

Along with Guinea and Sierra Leone, Liberia was one of three West African countries which bore the brunt of the Ebola epidemic that claimed more than 11,300 lives.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 3'55"

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