This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Air bridge vaccination operation begins in Ebola-hit DR Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has seen an increase in the number of reported cases of the deadly Ebola virus linked to ongoing violence by armed groups targeting remote communities, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
According to the UN agency’s latest outbreak update, 27 new cases were identified last week in the east of the country – three times the average number of infections in the past 21 days.
A total of 2,210 people have died in the current epidemic.
To ensure continued care, a limited daily helicopter “air bridge” operation has begun to help communities still at risk.
The health team on board conducted their first vaccinations on Thursday, WHO’s Dr Michel Yao told journalists in Geneva.
“The community want the intervention but around we have armed group that prevent us from reaching these communities. So we have started with an airbridge to have access to Biakato since yesterday we started vaccination where people came from these villages for vaccination. But the ideal for us will be to actually move through these villages to be able to see how far the virus has spread.”
Although the increase in infections is worrying, current infection rates are well down on the 120 cases a week reported during the peak of the outbreak, in late April.
A further sign of progress in the fight against the outbreak – DRC’s tenth in 40 years – is the fact that it is now restricted to four health zones, as opposed to the 29 originally identified.
India’s citizenship act ‘fundamentally discriminatory’, says UN rights office
The Indian Government proposal to grant expedited citizenship for many religious minorities except Muslims is “fundamentally discriminatory”, the UN’s human rights office, OHCHR has said.
The statement is in response to legislation that seeks to protect specific religious minorities - Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – who have fled persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Here’s OHCHR spokesperson Jeremy Laurence:
“The amended law would appear to undermine the commitment to equality before the law enshrined in India’s constitution and India’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, to which India is a State party….We understand the new law will be reviewed by the Supreme Court of India and we hope it will consider carefully the compatibility of the law with India’s international human rights obligations. .”
Mr. Laurence insisted that all migrants are entitled to respect, protection and fulfilment of their human rights.
He added that only 12 months ago, India had endorsed the Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration, which commits States to help at-risk migrants.
This means avoiding arbitrary detention and collective expulsions and ensuring that all migration governance measures are human rights-based, he explained.
40th anniversary of smallpox eradication marked on Friday
Finally, it’s been 40 years since the eradication of smallpox – a scourge that killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone.
Speaking of the achievement, announced officially on 9 December 1979, head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted that “smallpox is the only human disease ever eradicated”, and that it was “testimony to what we can achieve when all nations work together”.
The last known case of smallpox was reported and promptly contained in Somalia in 1977.
The international eradication programme headed by the UN health agency yielded vital knowledge and tools which have been used against other diseases.
These include ring vaccination techniques and promoting good all-round health coverage to fight diseases such as polio and the Ebola virus.
It also laid the foundation for stronger national immunization programmes worldwide, WHO said, and underpinned the establishment of primary health care in many countries.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.