News in Brief 21 July 2017 (AM) – Geneva

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A cholera treatment centre in Yemen, where conflict has left most people food insecure and more vulnerable to infection, particularly children and those over 60. Photo: WHO

Cholera outbreak in Yemen now the world's largest: WHO

Thousands of Yemenis become infected with cholera and watery diarrhoea every day, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday, in a call to step up efforts to stop the epidemic.

In the three months since the disease began to spike in the country, there have been 360,000 patients and more than 1,800 deaths.

WHO says it's the world's largest cholera outbreak.

Here's the UN agency's spokesperson, Fadela Chaib:

"Every day we have 5,000 more Yemenis falling sick with symptoms of acute watery diarrhoea or cholera…Cholera also, as you may know, attacks the most vulnerable, for this current outbreak in cholera, children are paying the highest price. Children aged under 15 account for 41 per cent of all suspected cases."

Cholera is transmitted after coming into contact with dirty water or food.

The infection is easily treated but conflict has left more than 17 million Yemenis in need of food aid and destroyed vital infrastructure – less than half of Yemen's medical centres are open.

WHO's priority is to "scale up" access to clean water and sanitation facilities in the 21 governorates where infection has taken hold, spokesperson Fadela Chaib told reporters in Geneva.

She added that despite a possible decline in the number of suspected cholera cases in the three worst-affected governorates, the epidemic is far from over.

Yemen airstrike destroyed a “house of straw”, says UN human rights office OHCHR

Staying with Yemen, an airstrike there has left at least 18 civilians dead after targeting a "makeshift house of straw", the UN said on Friday.

The UN human rights office OHCHR blamed "Arab Coalition Forces" for the attack in the village of Al Asheerah in Taizz Governorate on Tuesday.

Yemen has been ripped apart by fighting between Coalition forces loyal to exiled president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and Houthi rebels, who back former head of state Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Rupert Colville is a spokesperson for OHCHR; he said that the victims had been displaced by other airstrikes three months ago:

"According to witnesses who fled the area and were interviewed by one of our monitors in Yemen, the airstrike destroyed a makeshift house which was made of straw or some similar type of material, killing all three families who were inside it at the time. At least 18 civilians in all, including 10 children and two women, are believed to have died in the incident."

It remains unclear why the latest attack took place where it did, as Al Asheerah is some eight kilometres from a military camp where clashes have been reported.

Since March 2015, OHCHR has documented more than 13,000 civilian casualties, including 5,021 fatalities.

It says that two-thirds of all casualties were caused by the Coalition and one-quarter by the Houthis "mainly through shelling and mortar” fire.

Eight in 10 Nigerian migrant teenage girls arriving in Italy face sexually exploitation,  says IOM

A huge rise in the number of Nigerian girls arriving in Europe has been accompanied by soaring sexual abuse linked to organised crime.

Those are the key findings of a report from IOM, the International Organization for Migration.

In the past three years, the UN agency has seen a near-600 per cent increase in the number of potential sex trafficking victims reaching Italy by sea.

In 2014, around 1,400 girls crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Italy; that number soared to more than 11,000 last year.

Another disturbing trend is that the girls are getting younger.

Here's IOM's Flavio Di Giacomo:

"But the problem is they do not have any idea to the extent of the exploitation they are going to face, sometimes they don't even really understand what is prostitution because they are very young, they are very naive, so they don't really have any idea about what they are going to face."

IOM is calling for the Nigerian girls and young women to be taken to safe houses as soon as they arrive in Italy, but it is hard to convince them to ask for help.

This is because they are often travelling with a so-called "Madam" who hands them over to criminal gangs, the UN agency says.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 4’13″

 

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