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News in Brief 12 April 2021

News in Brief 12 April 2021

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

UK armed forces bill would limit war crimes accountability: UN rights chief

Legislation under consideration in the UK regarding armed forces personnel could limit accountability for war crimes if it is passed in its current form, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Monday.

In a statement, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged Parliament to heed warnings that the proposed new Overseas Operations Bill risks undermining key human rights obligations that lawmakers have previously agreed to.

The Bill could shield military personnel operating abroad “from due accountability for acts of torture or other serious international crimes”, Ms Bachelet explained.

In its present form, the UN rights chief said that the legislation potentially put it at odds with the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture.

The Bill is now reaching its final stages in the legislative process and will shortly be debated again by the House of Lords, the UK’s upper house, where amendments may still be made.

Astronaut joins with UN to find earth-bound solutions for growing hunger

Reaching to the stars next, where the UN hopes that teaming up with astronaut Thomas Pesquet will bring solutions to growing hunger levels, back on Earth.

The partnership between Frenchman Pesquet and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), announced on Monday, comes as the FAO said that almost 690 million people are already going hungry today – and that COVID-19 could leave another 132 million without enough to eat.

Speaking from personal experience, Pesquet said that there was no escaping the need to cherish food and reduce waste on board the International Space Station – two things that were urgently needed to protect the Earth today.

“When you see Earth initially, you’re struck by how beautiful it is and then you spend some time just absorbing and taking in the beauty and then you start realizing that it’s not always the case and you see the clearance in the forests, you see the water pollution, you see the air pollution, you start seeing all those things. It makes you think quite a bit about just the impact of our activities on the planet. So you adapt your own behaviour, you try to be more conscious of the

environment and the consequences of your actions at your level.”

Astronaut and FAO Goodwill Ambassador Thomas Pesquet speaking there, 60 years since Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to fly to space on 12 April - the International Day of Human Space Flight.

Initiative unveiled to tackle debilitating ‘kissing bug’ in Latin America and beyond

To Latin America now, where efforts are underway to tackle Chagas disease, a debilitating condition nicknamed “the kissing bug”, which is endemic to more than 20 countries and affects millions.

The aim of the scheme is to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of the tropical disease in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Paraguay, through testing and treatment programmes that are currently unavailable.

Here’s Mauricio Cysne (Sis-nay) from UN health agency UNITAID, speaking  ahead of World Chagas Disease Day on Wednesday:

 “Chagas disease affects six to seven million people a year across Latin America. It is a ‘silent disease’; it affects the poorest, the most vulnerable and kills slowly… This project will be implemented by a consortium of partners led by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in Brazil and will focus on ‘testing, treatment and care’ through the systematic screening of women and their newborns.”

About two million women of childbearing age are estimated to be affected by Chagas disease, which can be silent for decades and then re-emerge, causing long-term damage to the heart and gut.

The virus is transmitted by the blood-sucking triatomine insect called Trypanosoma cruzi.

It kills an estimated 10,000 people annually, with cases diagnosed as far away from Latin America as Spain. 

Daniel Johnson, UN News

  • UK armed forces legislation sparks warning from rights chief
  • Chagas Disease initiative to protect millions in Latin America
  • Human space flight could help find solutions to global hunger, 60 years on from Russian first
Audio Credit
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
Photo Credit
© ESA/Nicole Fischer