News in Brief 10 November 2017 (AM)


Yemen was already one of the world’s poorest countries before the ongoing conflict devastated infrastructure. Photo: OCHA

Yemen blockade could set back gains against cholera

The air and sea blockade on Yemen has "severely hampered" humanitarian operations in the war-torn country and set back efforts to overcome the nationwide cholera epidemic, the UN said on Friday.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which issued the warning five days into the embargo by Saudi Arabia, said that medical supplies were "critically low" in places where they are desperately needed.

Here's spokesperson Fadelah Chaib:

"We all call to the Saudi and all other parties to the conflict to think about the fact that the cholera is still raging, other health problems exist and we need to get access to the people. The fact that we are closing borders will not help in controlling the outbreak of cholera, and even we can see more cases and more death as a result of not being able to get access to people."

Yemen's ongoing cholera epidemic – which began in April – has caused more than 900,000 suspected cases of disease and claimed well over 2,000 lives.

UN Children's Fund UNICEF echoed concern over dwindling aid supplies.

Its representative in Yemen, Meritxell Relano, said that the situation was "already catastrophic and just getting worse".

Seven million people did not know where their next meal was coming from, she added, before calling for the reopening of Hodeida, the western sea port where the bulk of humanitarian aid is delivered.

First debate on lethal autonomous weapons to begin in Geneva

The complex question of how to regulate so-called Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) is to be discussed for the first time by the international community at the UN in Geneva.

The meeting of national experts, industry, academics and non-governmental organisations begins on Monday.

Chair of the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems is Ambassador Amandeep Singh Gill of India, Permanent Representative of India to the Conference on Disarmament.

He told journalists that artificially intelligent weapons presented new challenges for the international community, since they could be created using computer algorithms that can be "slapped onto existing products", changing their nature.

But there was no question of who has responsibility for them:

"This idea that we should have a ban on future autonomous weapon systems is already there, it's been talked about. There are other approaches to regulating this challenge, but despite the variety of views that are on the table, there is one common understanding that has come out of the discussions in the last three years, which is that human being have to remain responsible for decisions that involve life and death."

Fully autonomous lethal weapons do not exist yet, but like self-drive cars, their day is coming, Ambassador Gill said.

Ahead of the meeting in Geneva next week, the Ambassador said that an open letter had been addressed to the group of experts by 100 international figures – including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk – to address the challenges posed by autonomous weapons technology.

Alarm over measles spike among Myanmar refugees in Bangladesh

Measles vaccinations have been stepped up for Rohingya refugees arriving in Bangladesh from Myanmar amid a spike in suspected cases of the disease.

The joint campaign by World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) follows an announcement that of more than 400 suspected cases in the last week, nearly all are new arrivals from Myanmar.

Measles, a childhood killer disease, can be particularly dangerous among unimmunized and malnourished children.

It is one of the major health risks among the more than 600,000 people who have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since late August, following a military operation in Rakhine state.

The refugees are now living in cramped and insanitary conditions in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district.

To respond to the potential health crisis, nearly 360 000 under-15-year-olds are to receive measles and rubella vaccines.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 4’04″




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