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Green Light For New Cholera Vaccine, Ukraine Attacks Condemned, Action Against Racism, Brazil Rights Defenders Alert

A new oral vaccine for cholera has been given the green light for manufacture by the UN health agency allowing for the massive scale-up of lifesaving immunisation in the world’s most vulnerable communities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) decision means that Euvichol-S vaccine can be added to other cholera-busting drugs which are not being produced in sufficient quantities to help countries battling outbreaks of the preventable disease.

WHO reported 473,000 cholera cases in 2022 - double the number in 2021.

“The new vaccine is the third product of the same family of vaccines we have for cholera in our WHO prequalification list,” said Dr. Rogerio Gaspar, Director of the WHO Department for Regulation and Prequalification.

Production boost

It is hoped it will enable a rapid increase in production and supply “which many communities battling with cholera outbreaks urgently need”, he added.

WHO prequalification list already includes Euvichol and Euvichol-Plus inactivated oral cholera vaccines produced by EuBiologicals Co., Ltd, Republic of South Korea, which also produces the new vaccine.

Vaccines provide the best solution for preventing, limiting and controlling cholera outbreaks, said WHO, but supplies are scarce with many countries facing dire shortcomings in other areas of prevention and management - such as safe water, hygiene and sanitation.

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Today, 23 countries have reported cholera outbreaks; the most severe ones are in Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Somalia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Top humanitarian in Ukraine condemns latest Russian attack on Dnipro

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine Denise Brown has “vehemently condemned” Friday’s deadly attacks by Russian forces on Dnipro City and other parts of the Dnipro region.

Local authorities and aid workers on the ground said the attacks killed and injured civilians – including children – damaging buildings and infrastructure.

“Aid workers in Dnipro are already on the ground helping the affected people”, she said in a statement, noting that the attacks were “yet another example of a grave and reprehensible disregard for human life.”

Both the cities of Dnipro and Kryvyi Rih, with a combined population of 1.5 million, were reportedly hit.

Humanitarians on site

Humanitarian workers are on site in Dnipro complementing the efforts of rescue services and first responders.

UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York that humanitarian organizations are also providing hot meals for impacted people, rescue workers and emergency shelter kits to repair the damage to infrastructure and homes.

“Meanwhile, ongoing hostilities today and yesterday in the front-line Donetsk Region, in eastern Ukraine, reportedly killed and injured a dozen civilians and damaged homes and civilian infrastructure”, he added, citing reports from local officials.

UN rights chief calls for strong action against racism

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk has called for stronger action against racism and other colonial legacies, addressing Friday’s closing session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent in Geneva.

He said that addressing these legacies was key to his office OHCHR’s push for transformative change for racial justice and equality, which includes the call for States to deliver reparatory justice.

Mr. Türk also supported the proclamation of a second International Decade for People of African Descent, “so we can build on the gains made so far and address the ongoing challenges”.

Lived experience

To those of you who bring your lived experiences, knowledge and expertise to these discussions: your contributions to the anti-racism movement are reverberating around the world”, he said.

“They are exposing the magnitude of the challenges that are inflicted on people of African descent – notably women, young people, LGBTQ+ people and migrants.”

He added that by fostering new initiatives and ideas for ways to eliminate systemic racism “and its pernicious intersections with other forms of discrimination”, the Forum is “opening up new paths for profound change.”

He said OHCHR stood with all delegates in their struggle for justice and their demand for immediate action to tackle “the terrible legacy” of colonialism.

On the issue of reparations, he said the fight had to be led by those of African descent, notably women.

“It must be a comprehensive approach, embracing truth-seeking; acknowledgement and apologies; memorialization; compensation; and institutional and educational reforms.”

Brazil must prioritise land ownership reform, to help end deadly attacks against rights defenders

Brazil needs to prioritise the demarcation and titling of land across the country, which is the root cause of most attacks against human rights defenders in the country, an independent UN human rights expert said on Friday.

“Human rights defenders are under extreme threat in Brazil. The Federal Government knows this but has so far failed to put the structures in place to provide them with better protection” or tackle root causes said Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in a statement following an official visit there.

She said the Government recognises human rights defenders and their work, and understands the risks they face. But when human rights defenders challenge power structures that reinforce injustice, they are often violently attacked and face extremely high levels of risk, she said.

Death threats, shootings

“Again and again during my visit I heard from defenders who had survived assassination attempts, who had been shot at, had their houses surrounded, had death threats delivered to their door. I heard from defenders whose work had been criminalised,” Ms. Lawlor said.

Defenders most at risk in Brazil are from indigenous and traditional communities. “In many cases, perpetrators of the attacks are known. Yet, there is rampant impunity for these crimes,” the expert said.

She noted that business and markets play a key role as drivers of conflicts, putting rights defenders at risk. “The demarcation and titling of indigenous, quilombola and other traditional peoples’ land, as well as the revision of the legality of all existing concessions given to companies must be prioritised,” she said.

“The conflation of human rights defenders with criminals by local authorities - in particular defenders who are part of social movements and supporting the most vulnerable in society – is a clear problem and must end,” the expert said.

“The Federal Government needs to match the courage of human rights defenders in the country – and it must do so now,” Ms. Lawlor insisted.

Special Rapporteurs and other UN Human Rights Council-appointed rights experts are independent of any government or organization, receive no salary for their work and serve in their individual capacity.

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