News in Brief 21 April 2017 (AM) – Geneva

21 April 2017

325 million people suffer from hepatitis B and C

More than 325 million people are infected with hepatitis B or C virus, which can seriously damage the liver, and most sufferers do not get the life-saving help they need, UN health experts said on Friday.

Here’s Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of WHO's Department of HIV and the Global Hepatitis Programme, speaking in Geneva:

“What is striking is that if these people remain untreated, which most of them are at the moment, many of them will suffer from long-term and life-threatening consequences, specifically cirrhosis and liver cancer, and again, many of those will lead to death.”

According to the agency’s Global Hepatitis Report 2017, more than 1.3 million died from viral hepatitis in 2015 – a number on a par with deaths from tuberculosis and HIV.

But unlike TB and HIV, where mortality rates are declining, hepatitis deaths are on the increase.

Dr Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization (WHO) which published the data, said that this treatment gap requires an urgent response from the international community.

Hepatitis B levels are highest in Africa and the Western Pacific regions, affecting around six per cent of the population.

Hepatitis C is most common in the Eastern Mediterranean region, where the infection rate is more than two people in every 100.

By 2030, WHO wants to test and treat the vast majority of people for hepatitis B and C.

Today, diagnosis and treatment rates are as low as seven per cent.

Spiralling DRC violence leaves 1.5 million children at risk

Spiralling violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has displaced more than a million people amid reports that children have been detained, raped and executed.

UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, said on Friday that more than 1.5 million youngsters are at risk in the vast country’s central Kasai region.

An estimated 2,000 children have also been enrolled to fight and hundreds injured since fighting escalated last August.

Here’s UNICEF’s Tajudeen Oyewale, speaking from Kinshasa:

“When I was in the Kasai last week, the children I met ranged from 14 to 17 years old, and these are children who were victims or who were enrolled in the militia groups and that again emphasises the grimness of the situation on the ground…yes of course, girls are included in this population…it’s not just boys.”

UNICEF has warned that 600,000 youngsters have already been displaced by clashes between government forces and local militia, known as Kamuina Nsapu.

To date, the agency has secured the release of more than 380 children, previously enrolled in militias and detained in Kasai region.

It is not yet clear who is responsible for the reported abuse of children, who UNICEF said have endured “horrific ordeals”.

Amid ongoing clashes in DRC’s Kasai regions, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said that parents have reportedly sent their children to neigbouring Angola in order to avoid them being recruited by militias.

More than 11,000 refugees are now living in Angola’s north-east, but the vast majority only arrived this month.

UNHCR says that some reported having to hide in the forest for several days from fighting rebel and government forces, while children are in a “dire” condition.

Cuba should introduce new legislation to protect people from trafficking

Cuba needs stronger laws against people traffickers to prevent the country’s nationals being exploited abroad, a UN rights expert has said.

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, is the first independent UN human rights expert to visit the Caribbean island in 10 years.

She said that thousands of Cubans who have tried to get to the United States are “stuck” in transit countries including Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico, and vulnerable to abuse.

And amid the island’s emerging tourist boom, the Special Rapporteur urged the Cuban authorities to be wary of new forms of exploitation, such as foreign workers in the construction sector, and the sexual abuse of children.

UN body meets to discuss Iraq compensation payments for Kuwait invasion

The issue of Iraq’s US $ 4.6 billion outstanding compensation payment to Kuwait is to be discussed next week by the UN panel in charge of enforcing payment.

Beginning on Monday, the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) is set to examine a range of options to ensure its “timely payment”, it said in a statement on Friday.

The amount due relates to a claim made by the government of Kuwait as a result of Iraq’s invasion and eight-month occupation of the country beginning in August 1990.

Since late 2014, Iraq has been allowed to put its payments on hold, amid invasion by ISIL extremists.

To date, the Geneva-based body has been responsible for making available around US $ 48 billion in compensation from the Iraqi invasion to governments and international organizations.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 4'47"


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