United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has welcomed the recent exchange of prisoners and detainees in eastern Ukraine.

In a statement from his Spokesperson, Mr. Guterres expressed hope that the humanitarian act could serve as a positive step towards strengthening the confidence among the sides.

In the statement, the Secretary-General also urged all parties to take further measures in that spirit, including by fully respecting and upholding the ceasefire agreement and continuing to work together to fulfil all of their commitments under the Minsk agreements.

The exchange, which took place on 27 December near the town of Maiorsk, involved more than 300 detainees and is the largest since the beginning of the conflict in the region.

Air strikes in Yemen claim nearly 70 lives this week � UN

Separate air strikes on a crowded market and a rural farm in Yemen earlier this week has left nearly 70 people dead, the top UN relief official in the country has said.

According to initial reports, at least eight children are among those killed.

The Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, said that the incidents "prove the complete disregard for human life that all parties, including the Saudi-led Coalition, continue to show".

Labeling the conflict an "absurd" war, he said the fighting has only resulted in the destruction of the country and suffering of its people, who are bearing the brunt of "a futile military campaign by both sides".

The conflict in Yemen, now well into its third year, has left in more than 22 million people across the country in need of humanitarian assistance, including over 11 million in acute need.

In the statement, Mr. McGoldrick called all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and ensure that civilians and civilian infrastructure are not harmed.

"I once again remind all parties that it has no military solution. There can only be a political solution," he said.

New IAEA projects to improve farming practices and farm animal health

Improved farming practices, healthier animals and � ultimately � increased food security will be the outcome of two new International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) projects.

The initiatives will bring benefits around the globe, including for poor farmers in developing Asian countries.

According to IAEA, part of a $600,000 grant by the OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) Fund for International Development will go towards helping rice farmers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic and Nepal cope with the effects of climate change.

These countries � which produce a majority of world's rice � have seen fluctuating yields in recent years due to rising temperatures that bring plant diseases and insect pests, extreme floods and droughts as well as increased soil salinity as a result of rising sea levels that lower soil fertility in coastal areas.

"By using nuclear and isotopic techniques, scientists can help farmers improve water management practices and optimize the use of fertilizer for best yields at the lowest cost," said IAEA.

The funds will also go towards the application of nuclear-related techniques for the diagnosis of foot-and-mouth disease and other fast-spreading contagious diseases impacting cattle in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam.

Source: United Nations Radio

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