Famine may be happening "right now" in Yemen, warns UN aid agency

Famine may be happening "right now" in Yemen, the UN said on Friday, as a blockade on aid and other essential goods by a Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels there enters its 12th day.

Jens Laerke, from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), made the comments in Geneva.

He was responding to a question from a journalist who asked him to clarify a warning from UN aid chiefs that the closure of air, sea and land ports in Yemen threatened millions of vulnerable children and families.

"It means that these are the number of people in areas where there's an IPC4 � Integrated Phase Classification 4 � which is the last step before obviously 5, which is famineBut you are correct, there may be as we speak right now, famine happening, and we hear children are dying. I mean there's excess mortality as a cause and consequence of undernourishment."

Yemen imports up to 90 per cent of its daily needs, including fuel, which has now reached crisis levels.

Reserves are in such short supply that three Yemeni cities have been unable to pump clean water to residents in recent days, according to UN partner the Red Cross.

This has left one million people at risk of a renewed cholera outbreak, just as the country emerges from the worst epidemic of modern times.

Other diseases are also a threat, including diphtheria, a serious infection of the nose and throat, that's easily prevented with a vaccine.

It's "spreading fast" and has already claimed 14 lives, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which said that a vaccination campaign is planned in nine days' time.

In addition to water and sewage problems in Hodeida, Sa'ada and Taiz, the Red Cross warned that the capital Sana'a and other cities "will find themselves in the same situation" in two weeks � unless imports of essential goods resume immediately.

Indigenous murders mark new trend in post-FARC Colombia

To Colombia now, where there's concern over a rising number of murders of community leaders by armed groups, who have filled a "power vacuum" left by the demobilization of FARC guerillas.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, issued the warning in Geneva on Friday � a month after the killing of Jose Cortes.

He was a leader of an Afro-Colombian community in Mira y Frontera in Tumaco, in the south-west of the country.

So far this year there have been nearly 80 other such killings and another 13 suspected murders.

Here's UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler:

"What we are highlighting is what we see is a new pattern of leaders of these particular communities of Afro-Colombians and indigenous communities being targeted and we, I mean we were looking and the information we received in the last few weeks and we were waiting to see if we could establish some sort of pattern there, and it looks like that's the case."

Implementation of Colombia's peace agreement with FARC separatists was announced a year ago.

UNHCR says that delays and problems linked to the accord have increased uncertainty in areas of the country where state control remains weak.

The agency is calling for additional protection measures for individuals at risk and for affected communities, who are at risk of forcible displacement or collective confinement by armed groups.

Trade needn't be the "bad guy" in climate talks, says UNCTAD deputy chief

And finally to the climate talks in Bonn, Germany, where a senior UN official has said that international trade has a role to play in making the planet greener.

Isabelle Durand, who's Deputy Secretary-General of the UN Trade and Development agency UNCTAD, explained that global commerce is often seen as "the bad guy" because of its carbon footprint.

But it could still help in reducing global warming � something that Member States have been discussing in the German city at the UN climate summit, which ends later on Friday.

Here's Ms Durand now:

"It's true, we have to decrease this carbon footprint. But trade could also be part of the solution. Because if you develop trade on a regional level based on the resources of the countries on a local or regional level you help the country to make a new choice. How about renewable energies or new technologies, capacity to avoid all the problems that in the laws and least-developed countriesthat we did in the past."

In Bonn, Ms Durand called for better sustainable transport infrastructure in developing countries � something that industrialised countries have had more success at implementing, in sectors such as shipping.

Source: United Nations Radio

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