News in Brief 24 October 2017 (AM)

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Vaccinators in the Syrian Arab Republic deliver polio vaccines to children despite conflict. Photo Credit: WHO


Fewer cases of polio in 2016 "than any other year in history": WHO

There were fewer cases of polio last year than "any other year in history," said the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday, adding that total eradication of the deadly disease was "in sight".

Only 12 cases occurred in three countries during 2016, said WHO's Christian Lindmeier at a press conference marking World Polio Day.

Although Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria registered cases, high-quality country campaigns and innovative methods to vaccinate children have "corned the virus" and put eradication within reach, said Mr Lindmeier.

"With fewer cases than in any other year in history, the program has its best opportunity yet to end polio for good. Since 1988, progress against polio has been strong and consistent, with cases reduced by over 99% since the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Fewer children were paralyzed by wild poliovirus in 2016 than in any other year in history; only 37 cases."

Despite the decline in numbers, cases continue to be identified, especially in hard-to-reach areas.

"As long as polio exists anywhere, it is a threat to children everywhere", said WHO.

More people flee homes across Democratic Republic of the Congo: UNHCR

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday it's increasingly concerned about the rising number of people fleeing their homes in certain regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Violence between armed groups and against civilians is fuelling a humanitarian crisis, leaving eight million needing aid, especially in the Kasai region.

Since 2015, the number of internally displaced has doubled to nearly four million.

Some 428,000 have fled their homes in the past three months alone, UNCHR's Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva.

"Some 100,000 Congolese have fled to neighbouring countries as refugees. With widespread militia activities, and unrest and violence fuelled by ethnic and political conflict affecting many areas, the risk of further displacement is high."

The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday that it was ramping up emergency assistance for around 3.2 million people across the Greater Kasai region of DRC, "to avert a humanitarian catastrophe".

"We have the tools" to overcome "grave challenges": UN chief on UN Day

As the world marks United Nations Day, the "tools and wealth" exist to overcome challenges of widening conflicts and inequality.

That's the belief of UN chief António Guterres in a video message to mark the day, celebrated each 24 October.

The Secretary-General is with UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR) on Tuesday, where he will draw attention to the "proven track record" of peacekeeping missions around the world, for more than 70 years.

He is expected to say that peacekeeping is indispensable and makes a tangible difference every day in the lives of millions of the world's most vulnerable people.

At UN Headquarters in New York, deputy chief Amina Mohammed will oversee the Secretary-General's Awards ceremony, which will honour innovation and creativity, together with gender equality and parity, among other categories.

Matt Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2'53"

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