News in Brief 06 December 2017 (AM)

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CAPTION: A woman prepares a meal on an indoor stove with her baby in Chhattisgarh, India. Photo: UNICEF/Dhiraj Singh

Air pollution affecting 17 million babies, mostly in South Asia: UNICEF

Nearly 17 million babies under a year old are living in areas where outdoor air pollution is higher than international limits which potentially is putting their brain development at risk.

The majority—12 million—are in South Asia.

That's according to research published on Tuesday by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Air pollution is associated with some of the biggest killers of young children, such as pneumonia, responsible for 920,000 deaths each year.

It is also linked to asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory infections and diseases.

Air pollution can affect developing brains through several ways, including by causing inflammation in the membrane which protects the brain from toxic substances.

UNICEF is calling for action to reduce air pollution: for example, by replacing fossil fuel with cleaner energy sources, or through "smart" urban planning.

"We know that reducing air pollution can help improve children's health, and even save their lives," the agency stated. "We are learning it might also help protect their brains – and thus, their futures."

UN office urges caution amid stable outlook for Asia-Pacific economic growth

Deepening inequalities, domestic financial vulnerabilities and natural disasters induced by climate change may overshadow economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the UN office there, ESCAP.

In its year-end flagship report, published on Wednesday, ESCAP highlights that domestic private consumption remains the main driver of economic growth, facilitated by factors such as relatively low inflation and low interest rates.

However, the report cautions that while the regional outlook for 2018 remains stable, private investment is weak in most countries, partly due to debt in the corporate and banking sectors of some major economies.

To achieve stable and sustained economic growth, ESCAP suggests that higher wages will be needed, supported by a "revival" of private investment.

Economic gains also could be threatened by emerging risks, including trade protectionism, geopolitical tensions, a tightening in global financing and recurring natural disasters, the UN office adds.

Hurricane Maria: UN supports Dominica families with cash transfers

Thousands of vulnerable people on a Caribbean island hard-hit by a recent hurricane will receive emergency cash transfers from two UN agencies.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) will assist the authorities in Dominica in supporting more than 8,000 families with monthly payments ranging from $90 to $239, depending on the number of children in the household.

The money will allow families to meet basic needs, including purchasing food, clothes and school supplies.

Dominica was struck by Hurricane Maria in September, resulting in widespread damage to infrastructure, roads and bridges, as well as to agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

One estimate showed that 98 per cent of roofs were damaged, leaving entire communities homeless.

The UN agencies had provided distribution of food and relief items in the immediate aftermath of the storm, and are now supporting the Government in the next phase of the relief operation.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 3'17"

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