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News in Brief 20 January 2023

News in Brief 20 January 2023

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

Ukraine: First UN aid convoy reaches battered eastern city of Soledar

In Ukraine, relief for civilians in the battered eastern city of Soledar, after a UN aid convoy arrived on Friday morning – the first since Russia’s invasion began on 24 February.

Jens Laerke from UN aid coordinating office, OCHA, said that three trucks had been granted access to the heavily disputed city, with support for more than 800 people:

“What is on the convoy is food, water, hygiene kits and medicines and other medical supplies that are supplied by the United Nations agencies. It is intended for 800 people who remain in this area which has been…which has seen its fair share of hostilities and of widespread destruction. So, people are in dire need of aid there, so we are happy that this convoy has indeed reached.”

More convoys are expected in the days ahead and Mr. Laerke said that the UN and its partners are striving to increase inter-agency relief operations to areas close to the frontlines in Ukraine, where needs are acute.

China ‘making enormous progress’ to get every older adult vaccinated

China is “making enormous progress and effort” to get every older adult vaccinated against COVID-19, the UN health agency said on Friday, while also cautioning that it will take time to protect everyone.

Dr Kate O’Brien from the World Health Organization (WHO) explained that the change in China’s initial “zero-dose” policy for elderly people had left some unsure about asking for a coronavirus vaccine now:

“Clearly with the need for protection of older adults, it’s been difficult for older people to change their understanding of the recommendation and to move on from that first recommendation about adults being vulnerable. China’s making enormous progress and effort to get to every older adult with both primary doses and with booster doses.”

Dr O’Brien, who is the UN health agency’s Director for Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, said that the WHO would be “looking with great anticipation” at data from China on routine immunisations for 2022.

During the height of the pandemic, many countries had supplied the WHO with vaccine data on a monthly basis, but more recently there has been notable backsliding, “and we really don’t want that to happen”, Dr O’Brien said.

Madagascar: innovative relief project provides hope for sustainable future

An innovative project seeking to develop climate resilience, self-sufficiency and the empowerment of vulnerable rural communities in southern Madagascar, could offer a game-changing template for future humanitarian work, the UN World Food Programme (WFPsaid on Friday.

Focusing on remote Androy and Anosy regions – four hours’ drive from the capital, Antananarivo - WFP’s Rapid Rural Transformation initiative delivers solar-powered hubs, a sustainable water source and digital health check-ups, in partnership with the Government.

The benefits for communities are multiple and welcome: energy, water and digital platforms, all provided in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner, the UN agency said.  

Equally important, the project seeks to stimulate grassroots development, while addressing rural communities’ most pressing needs. If successful, WFP plans to take the idea to other villages and regions.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

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Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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© UNOCHA/Ivane Bochorishvili