News in Brief 12 June 2017 (PM)

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UNRWA staff distributing food to displaced families in various UNRWA shelters in Gaza City. Photo: UNRWA Archives/Shareef Sarhan

UN chief expresses support, "admiration" for UNRWA following criticism

The UN Secretary-General expressed his concern on Monday over "recent public criticism" of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

António Guterres issued his statement following news reports on Sunday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netahyahu had suggested the UN should consider shutting down the agency.

UNRWA announced on 9 June that it had discovered part of a tunnel running under two of its schools in the Gaza strip.

It condemned the existence of the tunnel under UN premises and protested to extremist group Hamas, which controls the territory.

The UN chief called on all Member States to continue supporting UNRWA so that it could continue to fulfil "impartially and efficiently" its essential role.

Here's UN Deputy Spokesperson, Farhan Haq.

"He wishes to express his support for UNRWA and his admiration for the role it plays in delivering essential services and protecting the rights of millions of Palestine refugees across the Middle East. UNRWA is mandated by the General Assembly whose members have repeatedly acknowledged the Agency's unique contribution to peace and security in that region. UNRWA operates in the front lines of difficult conflict situations and provides education for half a million refugee girls and boys, teaching them human rights and tolerance. Its education and relief activities contribute critically to stability in the region."

"Urgent call" issued for US$1 billion to fight famine" WFP 

The World Food Programme (WFP) issued an "urgent call" on Monday for US$1 billion to help millions at risk of starvation in north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

WFP said that a total of 20 million people could starve to death unless the funds became available for use over the next six months.

More details from Farhan Haq again.

"WFP says three of the four countries facing famine are entering the so-called hunger season, the annual period when food from the last harvest runs out and the death rate among children spikes. WFP also stressed that any blocking of aid by any group translates into the suffering and death of innocent, adding that using food as a weapon of war is unacceptable."

Polio now "truly on the verge" of being eradicated: UNICEF chief

Polio, which used to paralyze more than 350,000 children a year, is now "truly on the verge" of being eradicated, according to the head of the UN Children's Fund, UNICEF.

Anthony Lake said that the virus had now been eliminated in all but three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

He praised the extraordinary efforts of governments, health workers, donors, as well as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and said that full eradication was only possible "if we work relentlessly to reach the children we have not yet reached".

UNICEF joined the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday in welcoming pledges worth US$1.2 billion to eradicate polio, made at the Rotary Convention in the US city of Atlanta.

The money will help protect 450 million children from polio each year.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said that eradicating the virus would "be a perpetual gift to coming generations."

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2’46″

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