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WHO supports measles campaign targeting millions of children in northern Nigeria

INTERNATIONAL, 17 November 2019, Health - More than 28 million children in northern Nigeria will be protected against measles and meningitis through an immunization campaign by the authorities alongside international partners, including the World Health Organization (WHO).

The campaign got underway on Saturday and is being implemented by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and WHO, with the support of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Despite the availability of a vaccine, measles continues to be a leading killer of children globally, according to WHO.

"The measles vaccine remains the most cost effective preventive measure against measles and WHO is committed to supporting the Nigerian government in reaching every eligible child in the country with the needed vaccines irrespective of their location," said Dr Fiona Braka, the UN agency’s Team Lead of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI).

Dr. Joseph Oteri, Director of Disease Control and Immunization with NPHCDA, underlined the Government’s commitment to ensuring that the campaign reaches all eligible children in the north.

"We will go to markets, schools, churches, mosques and everywhere we can get good catchment to reach our target population. No child deserves to die from any vaccine preventable disease," he said.

Thousands of health workers mobilized

WHO has trained over 44,000 health workers and is mobilizing over 17,000 vaccination teams to support the campaign, which will target children in 19 states across the north.

Dr. Oteri explained that Nigeria has experienced repeated measles outbreaks in recent years due to low routine immunization coverage.

He added that the country also lies in the so-called "meningitis belt", which stretches from Senegal to Ethiopia, where most of the world’s cases occur.

Meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial form of the disease, is a serious infection of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Fatality rates are high.

Gavi is funding the vaccines against measles and meningitis, as well as the operational costs for the campaign.

Overall, the organization has immunized more than 279 million African children against meningitis.

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UN calls for action to tackle ‘ubiquitous but invisible’ global road safety crisis

INTERNATIONAL, 17 November 2019, SDGs - Saving lives by improving road safety is “one of the many objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, the United Nations chief said in his message for the global day set aside for remembering the victims of traffick accidents.

Noting that more than 1.3 million people die in road accidents every year, Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out that more young people between the ages of 15 and 29 die from road crashes annually than from HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis or homicide.

World Health Organization (WHO)
Facts on road traffic injuries

“The World Day of Remembrance of Road Traffic Victims is an opportunity to reflect on how we can save millions of lives,” he said.

And since 2015, his Special Envoy on Road Safety, Jean Todt, has worked to mobilize political commitment, raise awareness about UN road safety conventions, foster dialogue on good practices and advocate for funding and partnerships. 

“While the scale of the challenge is enormous, collective efforts can do much to prevent these tragedies”, the UN chief attested.

In 2018, a UN Road Safety Fund was launched to finance actions in low- and middle-income countries, where around 90 per cent of traffic casualties occur.  

And next February, a global ministerial conference on road safety will be held in Sweden to strengthen partnerships to accelerate action.

“Urgent action remains imperative”, concluded the Secretary-General. “On this World Day, I call on all to join forces to address the global road safety crisis.”

‘Ubiquitous yet invisible’

The UN Department of Safety and Security (DSS) calls road traffic crashes a ‘hidden epidemic’.  

According to DSS, they have a “dramatically transformative impact” on people’s lives with most causalities remaining “almost invisible to society at large”.

Last February, with the participation of UN leaders from the Secretariat, UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and others, including the Chef de Cabinet and Special Envoy on Road Safety, the UN launched the Road Safety Strategy in New York and Geneva that showed unity and the shared message of road safety across the UN-system.

The Day has become an important tool in efforts around the world to reduce road casualties.

It offers an opportunity to draw attention to the scale of emotional and economic devastation road crashes cause and recognizes the suffering of victims and the work of rescue services.

Ending fatal road crashes are in line with the 2030 Agenda, particularly in line with Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3), which encompasses good health and wellbeing and SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities.

Five pillars of road safety

Pillar 1:   Road safety management

Pillar 2:   Safer vehicles

Pillar 3:   Safer road user behaviour

Pillar 4:   Post-crash responses

Pillar 5:   Safer driving environment

This takes leadership in demonstrating outstanding road safety behavior every day and working together to find the best solutions.

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UN film festival encourages young people to promote peace, dialogue and empathy

INTERNATIONAL, 16 November 2019, Migrants and Refugees - Demonstrating empathy, humour and intelligence, a group of young film-makers have been recognized for their short videos, which tackle the weighty issues of discrimination, intolerance and misogyny in a creative and entertaining way, at a ceremony held at UN Headquarters.

The PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival, held on Wednesday, is a joint initiative by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and, which, over the last 11 years, has become an important global platform for youth media, with screenings held around the world.

The top prizes (International Jury Awards) went to the Spanish makers of “Seeking Refuge”, which follows the story of a young refugee girl as she tries to adapt to life in a new country; Mexican video “Tags”, which explores the issues of discrimination and pre-conceived notions; and “We are Enough: A Message of Girl Empowerment”, made by a young Jordanian director, which examines the expectations placed upon women and girls by society.

‘I am enough: every woman should feel this way’

Faced with a “barrage of discrimination and stereotypes”, Jordanian Lina Abojaradeh decided to send an open letter to society with her powerful video “We are Enough: A Message of Girl Empowerment”, which won the International Jury Award in the 18-25 category.

Speaking to UN News, Ms. Abojaradeh explained that her work, which examines the expectations placed on women and girls, was inspired by her experience of breaking off an engagement, and the way she was subsequently treated by society: “I realized then that I could not look for acceptance from society or another person, and that this was a message that many women could benefit from”.

Winning the award has given Ms. Abojaradeh more confidence in her abilities and, she says, the drive to continue using art to raise awareness about important issues. Her upcoming plans include a documentary project, and a book of poetry.

Showing solidarity with refugees

In “Seeking Refuge”, a young refugee, forced to flee conflict in her home country with her mother and sister, struggles to adapt to her new surroundings in Spain, but eventually learns the language, makes friends and begins to enjoy her new life.

The video was made entirely by a group of nine-year-old children, all of them under the age of 12, who were part of a Spanish initiative called “Telekids Workshop”, which helps young people to learn about all stages of the film-making process. The group were represented in New York by Eva Limones MacDonald, who performed several roles behind the camera, including directing the actors.

Her teacher, Jacqueline Sanchez-Carrero, explained that the inspiration for the video came from a book based on true stories of refugee children: “In the workshop, we show children the problems that other children of their age have, so that they develop human values. At just nine-years-old, they already have a basic knowledge of media literacy: for now, they want to continue making movies, but we will see what will happen in the future!”

No soccer, no samba: fighting Brazilian stereotypes

A special award, for the Prevention of Xenophobia, went to the film “Brazilian, But Not Soccer Player”, which takes a comic look at the prejudices faced by against people from different cities, countries, and cultures. 

The video was made by Patrick Melo, a young Brazilian from the northeast of the country, who now lives in Rio de Janeiro. Patrick told UN News that he made the video after realizing that many others have to deal with a caricatured, stereotyped image of the region: “Some people see the northeast as a joke, and even use it as a synonym for inferior people with little intelligence. This is untrue, and I have been trying to raise awareness of the reality of my region, using humour”.

Patrick, who was invited to the UN along with the other award winners, found the experience enriching: “I met people from very different places, and I realized how much they care about their own culture, just as I love Brazilian culture. I understood the importance of respecting others' culture in theory but taking part in the PLURAL + festival taught me to do it in practice”.

These young filmmakers have not allowed the negative narratives of migration to rob them of their empathy. António Vitorino, Director-General, IOM

The IOM’s Rahma Soliman, one of the organizers of the festival, told UN News that the primary goal of PLURAL+ is to ensure that youth are engaged in the critical topics of migration, social inclusion, and diversity: “Throughout the years, PLURAL+ has not only provided young people with an effective platform to express themselves on crucial migration and diversity issues but also reinforced the belief of IOM and UNAOC that youth are powerful and creative agents of social change.”

For Thibault Chareton from UNAOC, and the co-organizer of the festival, “Brazilian, But Not Soccer Player” was this year’s standout video: “I liked that the video is funny. In today’s context, humor remains a great way to share important messages and to call upon the public’s shared humanity and universal values of tolerance and acceptance”.

In all, 25 filmmakers, from 70 countries, won awards, and were given the opportunity to screen their work in front of an audience, which included ambassadors, UN representatives, journalists, and filmmakers.

Praising the young artists, António Vitorino, IOM Director-General, said that the festival recognized two powerful forces, youth and film “Combined, they hold the power to bring about positive change, to shift divisive narratives, to promote peace and dialogue – put simply, to make a better world.”

“The videos are evidence of the resilience of young people”, he said, adding: “These young filmmakers have not allowed the negative narratives of migration – so popularized in contemporary media – to rob them of their empathy.”

Watch the 2019 award-winning PLURAL+ videos here

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Repression, use of force risk worsening Bolivia crisis: UN human rights chief

INTERNATIONAL, 16 November 2019, Human Rights - The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is urging authorities in Bolivia to ensure security forces comply with international standards on the use of force following the deaths of at least five protestors on Friday.

The South American country has plunged into political chaos following the resignation last week of President Evo Morales, with at least 17 people killed in demonstrations since then.

 
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Michelle Bachelet, the UN rights chief, said while earlier deaths mostly resulted from clashes between rival protestors, the latest incidents appear to be due to the disproportionate use of force by the army and police.

With the country divided, she fears the situation could worsen.

"I am really concerned that the situation in Bolivia could spin out of control if the authorities do not handle it sensitively and in accordance with international norms and standards governing the use of force, and with full respect for human rights," she said in a statement issued on Saturday.

"The country is split and people on both sides of the political divide are extremely angry. In a situation like this, repressive actions by the authorities will simply stoke that anger even further and are likely to jeopardise any possible avenue for dialogue."

Widespread arrests inflaming tensions

Ms. Bachelet is also concerned that widespread arrests and detentions are adding to the tensions. More than 600 people have been detained since 21 October, many in the past few days, according to her office.

The UN Secretary-General has dispatched his Personal Envoy in efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

"This situation is not going to be resolved by force and repression," she said. "All sectors have the right to make their voice heard – this is the basis for democracy."

Ms Bachelet called for prompt, transparent and impartial investigations into the arrests, detentions, injuries and deaths that have occurred as a result of the crisis.

Data on these incidents also should be made available, she added.

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Over 1 million health consultations provided in Yemen in 2019: UN migration agency

INTERNATIONAL, 15 November 2019, Health - Since the beginning of the year, the UN Migration Agency has carried out over one million health consultations for displaced and conflict-affected Yemenis and migrants struggling to reach the help they need, the organization announced on Friday.

Yemen’s public sector has been pushed to “a breaking point”, as the country enters its fifth year of conflict, prompting the closure of half of the country’s health facilities. As of 11 September, 1,095,072 health consultations were provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as part of its emergency lifesaving services and support to the health sector to ensure it continues to operate in the war-battered country.

Over 19,000 people received psychosocial counselling, 113,000 others received reproductive health consultations, and more than 71,000 were part of health awareness-raising activities.

Public health facilities were already strained before the onset of Yemen’s crisis in 2015. Now, people must travel long distances for essential services, while some are forced to go without.

Further, dried up financial resources and a lack of health professionals has catalyzed the problem, while the number of people seeking medical assistance continues to rise in certain areas, overwhelming health centres.

The country’s humanitarian situation remains the worst in the world, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Around 80 per cent of the population is in need of some kind of assistance, roughly 24 million people, and some 14.4 million find themselves in acute need, nearly two million more than just one year ago.

In it’s latest monthly update on the situation, the agency cited examples of health centres rendered inoperable due a swell in fighting, with expecting mothers turned away from hospitals not equipped to handle births.

One woman living in Birali, Lahj governorate, where IOM helped re-establish the local health centre recalled that before the centre was running again, “we had to travel to Hadramout or Aden”, approximately 120 and 450 kilometeres away, respectively. “A women in labour couldn’t do that”, she added.

IOM is supporting restoration and operational needs of 86 facilities across the country to help ensure Yemenis have access to effective, safe, and free health care, through over 120,000 consultations every month.

To reach migrants and displaced persons unable to access traditional health facilities, the organisation also operates nine mobile health teams, four of which provide newly-arrived migrants with emergency health services along Yemen’s coast.

Warehouses around the country store stockpiles of critical medicines, antibiotics or disease management medications to ensure a constant supply.

IOM’s Health Programme Coordinator in Yemen, Dr. Nedal Odeh said that with health needs rising, and many people living in places “with virtually no health services,” the organisation’s aid to conflict-affected communities “is vital to the continuation of accessible health services and strengthening of the overall health system in Yemen.”

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ICC gives greenlight for probe into violent crimes against Rohingya

INTERNATIONAL, 15 November 2019, Human Rights - Judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday authorized an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity, namely deportation, which have forced between 600,000 and one million Rohingya refugees out of Myanmar, into neighboring Bangladesh since 2016.  

The pre-trial judges “accepted that there exists a reasonable basis to believe widespread and/or systematic acts of violence may have been committed that could qualify as crimes against humanity of deportation across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border” the Court said in a press statement, in addition to “persecution on grounds of ethnicity and/or religion against the Rohingya population.” 

After a reported military-led crackdown, widespread killings, rape and village burnings, nearly three-quarters of a million Rohingya fled Myanmar's Rakhine state in August 2017 to settle in crowded refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh. 

This is the second strike against the alleged crimes this week, as the tribunal’s decision follows a Monday submission by Gambia to the UN’s principal judicial organ, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing Myanmar of “mass murder, rape, and genocidal acts” which violate its obligations under the Genocide Convention, in addition to destruction of villages, arbitrary detention, and torture.  

As a member to the Genocide prevention treaty, Gambia “refused to stay silent”, and as a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the small African nation has taken legal action to assist the persecuted majority-Muslim Rohingya, with support by other Muslim countries.  

While the UN’s ICJ, known as the ‘World Court’, settles disputes submitted by States on a range of matters, the ICC is the world’s only permanent  criminal tribunal with a mandate to investigate and prosecute individuals who participate in international atrocity crimes, including genocide and crimes against humanity. 

In July, the ICC’s top Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, requested an investigation be open into the alleged crimes committed since October of 2016, concerning Myanmar and Bangladesh.  

At that time, her Office’s preliminary examination found “a reasonable basis” to believe that at least 700,00 Rohingya were deported from Myanmar to Bangladesh “through a range of coercive acts causing suffering and serious injury.” 

Under the Rome Statute that created the ICC, which highlights crimes against humanity as one of its four crucial international crimes, the top Prosecutor concluded sufficient legal conditions had been met to open an investigation.  

While Myanmar is not a State party to the treaty, Bangladesh ratified the Statute in 2010, meaning authorization to investigate does not extend to all crimes potentially committed in Myanmar, but will focus on violations committed in part on Bangladeshi territory, the ICC said in July.  

‘Only justice and accountability’ can stop the violence 

Judges forming the pre-trial chamber, Judge Olga Herrera Carbuccia, Judge Robert Fremr, and Judge Geofreey Henderson received views on this request by or on behalf of hundreds of thousands of alleged victims.  

According to the ICC Registry, victims insist they want an investigation by the Court, and many “believe that only justice and accountability can ensure that the perceived circle of violence and abuse comes to an end.” 

“Noting the scale of the alleged crimes and the number of victims allegedly involved, the Chamber considered that the situation clearly reaches the gravity threshold,” the Court said.    

The pre-trial Chamber in addition authorized the commencement of the investigation in relation to any crime, including future crime, so long as it is within the jurisdiction of the Court, and is allegedly committed at least in part in the Rome Statute State Party, Bangladesh, or any other territory accepting the jurisdiction.  

The alleged crime must also be sufficiently linked to the present situation, and must have been committed on or after the date of the Statute’s entry into force for Bangladesh or the relevant State Party.  

Judges from the ICC have given the greenlight for prosecutors to commence collection of necessary evidence, which could result in the judge's issuance of summonses to appear in court or warrants of arrest. Parties to the Statute have a legal obligation to cooperate fully with the ICC, nonmembers invited to cooperate may decide to do so voluntarily. 

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‘Diversity is a form of wealth, not a factor of division,’ UNESCO chief says ahead of International Day for Tolerance

INTERNATIONAL, 15 November 2019, Human Rights - At a time when extremism and fanaticism are too often unleashed, when “the venom of hatred” continues to poison a part of humanity, “tolerance has never been more vital a virtue”, the United Nations cultural agency’s chief has said in her message on the International Day for Tolerance.

“Tolerance is more than standing idly by or remaining insensitive to differences between men and women, cultures and beliefs”, Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said, but instead a “state of mind, an awareness and a requirement.”

 
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In 1996, the UN General Assembly invited Member States to observe the Day each year on 16 November to, among other things, foster mutual understanding among cultures and peoples. The 2019 edition of the Day will be marked this Saturday.

Ms. Azoulay stressed that tolerance is “to realize that cultural diversity is a form of wealth, not a factor of division”.

“It is to perceive that each culture, beyond immediate or apparent differences, is a constituent part of universality and speaks the common language of humanity.”

Quoting former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, she said that tolerance is “a virtue that makes peace possible”.

Combatting intolerance

Since its foundation, UNESCO has aimed to “build peace by combating the intolerance that still too often tears our societies apart, and by relentlessly fighting all forms of racism and discrimination”, the agency chief maintained.

Ms. Azoulay cited the words of former Director-General Federico Mayor: “UNESCO bears and echoes the message of tolerance, true to its mission of being ‘the conscience of the United Nations’”.

In conclusion, Ms. Azoulay invited everyone to share UNESCO’s message of tolerance and peace.

Fighting intolerance requires

  • Law:  Governments are responsible for enforcing human rights laws and banning and punishing hate crimes and discrimination against minorities.
  • Education: Greater efforts must be made to teach children about tolerance, human rights and other ways of life, both at home and in school.
  • Information access: Policies must be developed to generate and promote press freedom and press pluralism, to allow the public to differentiate between facts and opinions.
  • Individual awareness: People should become aware of the link between their behavior and the vicious cycle of mistrust and violence in society, by asking yourself if you stereotype people, reject those who are different from you and/or blame you problems on 'them'?
  • Local solutions: Tools of nonviolent action include discrediting hateful propaganda, co-organizing groups to confront problems and establishing grassroot networks to demonstrate solidarity with victims of intolerance.
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Bolivia crisis: UN chief sends envoy to support peace, amidst renewed clashes

INTERNATIONAL, 14 November 2019, Peace and Security - UN chief António Guterres announced on Thursday that he had appointed a Personal Envoy who would be travelling to Bolivia later in the day, to offer support to national leaders, following the departure of former president, Evo Morales. 

“The Secretary-General remains deeply concerned about the developments in Bolivia”, his Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in New York. “He reiterates his appeal to all Bolivians to refrain from violence and exercise utmost restraint”, he added, referring to the rising incidents of violence following weeks of protest which began over disputed presidential election results. 

Opposition Senator, Jeanine Añez, assumed the presidency on an interim basis on Tuesday, and has promised to hold elections soon, according to news reports. The deputy Senate leader was third in line to become interim leader, but supporters of Mr. Morales took to the streets amidst violent clashes with security forces, to protest her appointment.  

Mr. Guterres has appointed Jean Arnault to engage as his Personal Envoy “with all Bolivian actors”, said Mr, Dujarric, “and offer United Nations support in efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis, including through transparent, inclusive and credible elections.”  

The veteran envoy is a former Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Colombia. He has also served as Special Representative for Georgia, Afghanistan, Burundi and Guatemala. 

Bolivia’s political crisis began in October, as Mr. Morales, the nation’s first indigenous president, declared victory after elections for a disputed fourth term, amidst allegations of electoral fraud and vote rigging. On Sunday independent observers from the Organization of American States called for the result to be annulled, declaring there had been “clear manipulation” of the vote.  

After agreeing to hold fresh elections, Mr. Morales stepped down under military and police pressure on Sunday accepting an offer of asylum from Mexico, declaring that he was the victim of a coup.

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Renewal of cross-border aid operation critical to northern Syria: UN relief chief

INTERNATIONAL, 14 November 2019, Peace and Security - The top UN humanitarian official was in the Security Council on Wednesday to appeal for the renewal of an operation that delivers life-saving food and other aid relief to some four million civilians in northern Syria.

The mandate of the cross-border mechanism operating from Turkey will expire in January.

“Without the cross-border operation, we would see an immediate end of aid supporting millions of civilians,” Mark Lowcock, the UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told the Council.

“That would cause a rapid increase in hunger and disease. A lot more people would flood across the borders, making an existing  crisis even worse in the region.”

Rising humanitarian needs

The cross-border operation was mandated under UN Security Council Resolution 2165 of July 2014.

Since then, nearly 30,000 trucks have brought food, water, medical items, shelter and other assistance into Syria.

Mr. Lowcock said the operation has grown by more than 40 per cent over the same period last year due to rising needs.

The UN relief chief visited the operation last month, describing it as “one  of the most closely scrutinized aid delivery systems in the world today”.

All movements and deliveries are monitored during the entire journey: from the border, to warehouses in Syria, to distribution points, and at delivery.

“Nothing in life is completely risk-free but I can say with confidence that the UN knows what is going across the border under our programme and where it is going,” he stated. “We know that help is reaching the civilians who need it.”

Overall, 11 million Syrians, or half the population, require humanitarian assistance, as the war there approaches its ninth year.

Recently, increased airstrikes and ground strikes in the northwest have caused a high number of civilian casualties. There were more than 100 in the past two days alone, Mr. Lowcock said.

Meanwhile, there has been a decrease in hostilities in northeast Syria, following recent agreements on a pause in the military offensive against the Kurds launched by Turkey across the border in early October.

While most of the 200,000 people who fled the region in the early stages of the fighting have returned, Mr. Lowcock reported some 70,000 remain displaced.

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UN mosquito sterilization technology set for global testing, in battle against malaria, dengue

INTERNATIONAL, 14 November 2019, Health - With more than half the world now at risk from mosquito-transmitted dengue fever, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN has taken the lead on a global effort to eradicate the disease – and many others – by measuring the impact of releasing millions of sterilized pests across several continents, it announced on Thursday.

Using a process known as Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) – developed decades ago to target crop-eating insects in the United States – UN researchers have spent the last 10 years adapting it to mosquitoes.

Working with the World Health Organization’s (WHOtropical diseases programme,  they have now drawn up guidelines for nations wanting to tackle disease outbreaks transmitted by the winged insects.

 
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“Countries have already started like Italy, Greece and Mauritius, and others are on the point of doing it, for example the United States, France and Brazil”, said Jeremy Bouyer, medical entomologist at the Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, a joint International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) / Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) initiative.

“We already have evidence that SIT is able to reduce the density of mosquitoes very significantly and now we must prove that it will also impact the transmission of the disease.”

Insect birth control

Describing the Sterile Insect Technique as “an insect birth control method”, Mr. Bouyer explained that it involves releasing sterile males “that will out-compete the wild males in the field and they will induce sterility in the females so that their eggs will not hatch - so you will control the next generation”.

If this is done for long enough, “you will be able to reduce, and in some cases, eliminate the target population”, he added.

Working with WHO’s tropical diseases programme, Mr. Bouyer’s team developed guidelines for nations wanting to tackle disease outbreaks transmitted by mosquitoes.

Highlighting progress in automating and upscaling the mass production of sterile mosquito populations, which can be released from a drone in their hundreds of thousands over communities, he added: “The important bottlenecks which were sex sorting and drone release, are now solved so we are ready for pilot testing.”

 Dengue, along with other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes - malaria, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever – account for about 17 per cent of all infectious diseases globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The agency is expecting 110 countries to report dengue cases this year.

On average, WHO registers three million cases every year, but they may reach four million in 2019, it said.

Four-year wait for results

Florence Fouque, Team leader of the UN-sponsored TDR, the Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, said that it would likely take around four years before it is known whether the pilot tests have been successful in reducing disease transmission.

“Sometimes very low population of mosquito can still transmit disease, so what we have to measure is the impact on the people, and this is what we want to do because it has never been done until now,” she said.

“Two major species of mosquitoes … are transmitting several diseases, which are viruses, including dengue, zika, chikungunya, yellow fever; but it is only about two species, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.”

Enormous potential

If successful, the potential health benefits could be enormous, Raman Velayudhan, Coordinator, from WHO's Department of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) said.

Of the current dengue epidemic, he said: “Many countries in the world have reported an increase, and we have reports from Bangladesh, Brazil, Philippines, and a few African countries and almost 10 other Latin American countries, dengue has continued to increase.”

Higlighting the safety of the irradiation technique, Mr. Bouyer insisted that no test tube manufactured genes – known as transgenes – were being inserted into mosquitoes.

“The mutations we are creating with this system are random, so we are not transgenic, we are not putting transgenes into the mosquitoes and they are occurring naturally in the population,” he said. “It’s just that we have enough mutations to create full sterility in what we release. But there is no particular concern with what we release, the mosquitoes are not radioactive, they are just irradiated and thus sterilized.”

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