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News in Brief 18 October 2021

News in Brief 18 October 2021

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations. 

Polio vaccination set to recommence across Afghanistan in November - WHO 

The decision by the Taliban leadership to support house-to-house polio vaccination across Afghanistan has been welcomed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). 

The campaign will begin on 8 November and will be the first in over three years to reach all children in Afghanistan. This includes more than three million children in previously inaccessible parts of the country.   

With only one case of wild poliovirus reported this year in Afghanistan, WHO said the country has an extraordinary opportunity to eradicate the disease.   

The polio programme is a result of ongoing high-level talks between the UN and the Taliban leadership to meet the urgent health needs of Afghans. 

However, WHO has reiterated that the overall health system in the country remains vulnerable.  To mitigate against the risk of a rise in preventable disease and deaths, all parties have also agreed on the need to immediately start measles and COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.  

Syrians agree to start drafting new constitution, says UN negotiator  

UN negotiator Geir Pedersen has said that the Syrian Government and the opposition have agreed to start “a drafting process” on a new constitution for the war-torn country. 

Speaking in Geneva late on Sunday, the UN negotiator also explained that for the first time, the two Syrian Co-Chairs had sat down together with him for a “substantial and frank discussion” on how to proceed with constitutional reform during this week’s meeting in Switzerland. 

It marks a potential turning-point after the fifth meeting of the 45-member Small Drafting Body in January ended without significant progress being made. 

In a related development, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has urged greater international support for the more than 13 million Syrians who’ve been displaced in the past 10 years.  

Around 6.7 million are displaced inside the country and 5.5 million are hosted in five neighbouring countries in the region, Mr. Grandi said on Monday, after visiting Syria. 

Families told him they’d endured “years of suffering”, and are “exhausted” 

Although the UN and partners have helped some families who have returned to the country by repairing their damaged homes, “they still (need) water and electricity”, the UN High Commissioner said, along with schools and hospitals, and the ability “to make a living.” 

Salt-affected soils cause increasing problems for agriculture, FAO warns 

More than one million hectares of soil spread across all continents, now contain too much salt to be fertile.  

This is causing growing problems for agriculture, jeopardizing food security by reducing crop yields and quality, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Monday.  

The warning comes ahead of this week’s Global Symposium on the issue, which will feature the launch of a Global Map of Salt-affected Soils. 

According to FAO, soils can become salt-affected very quickly for a variety of reasons including human mismanagement, inappropriate use of fertilisers, deforestation and sea level rise.  

Climate change is also making matters worse, particularly in coastal areas, which are the most at risk from rising seawater levels. 

Combating the problem requires a variety of tools, from raising awareness to adopting sustainable soil management practices, promoting technological innovation to stronger political commitment, FAO maintained. 

Katy Dartford, UN News. 

  • Polio vaccination set to recommence across Afghanistan in November - WHO 

  • Syrians agree to start drafting new constitution, says UN negotiator  

  • Salt-affected soils cause increasing problems for agriculture, FAO warns 

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Katy Dartford, UN News - Geneva
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