World news brief: Latest fighting in Sudan displaces thousands, second malaria vaccine, Russian dissidents ‘disappeared’

Located about 140 kilometers southeast of the war-torn capital Khartoum, Wad Madani lies in the heart of Al Jazirah state, known as the breadbasket of Sudan.

Nearly half a million people have fled to the state since war broke out in April between the Sudanese army and a rival military group known as the Rapid Support Forces.

Huge ‘human tragedy’

IOM reported that thousands are again uprooted after clashes erupted on the outskirts of Wad Madani on 15 December.

“This is a human tragedy of enormous proportions, exacerbating the country’s already dire humanitarian crisis,” said Amy Pope, the agency’s director general.

People affected by the fighting have sought refuge in other neighboring states, and many have also crossed the border into South Sudan.

Some of those on the run reportedly fled on foot and are sheltering in open areas, makeshift shelters, schools and with host communities, according to reports.

Signs of atrocity crimes

Meanwhile, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Nderitu, has expressed grave concern over the intensification of violence in and around Wad Madani as well as in El Fasher, North Darfur and in Nyala, South Darfur.

Nderitu was concerned that the escalation in clashes includes very serious allegations of ethnically motivated violence as well as deliberate attacks on medical personnel and facilities that could amount to international crime.

She reiterated her concern that the ongoing spread of violence could completely engulf Sudan.

“After eight months of continued fighting and appalling levels of violence, with all the signs of atrocity crimes being committed, the wheel of violence continues to turn.

“The price continues to be paid by those who are most vulnerable, who plead for safety and justice and who receive neither,” she said.

A child recovering from malaria at the Gracia Health Center in Beni town, in the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province

A child recovering from malaria at the Gracia Health Center in Beni town, in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province

WHO prequalifies second malaria vaccine

Another malaria vaccine has been recommended for use by the World Health Organization (WHO), who called the development “a significant milestone in the prevention of the disease”.

WHO has added R21/Matrix-M vaccine – developed by Oxford University and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India – to its list of prequalified vaccines.

Prequalification means that the countries get greater access to vaccines that can prevent malaria in children, with the help of the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF and Gavi, the vaccine alliance.

The first malaria vaccine to receive WHO prequalification was the RTS,S vaccine, which achieved this status in July 2022.

Both vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective in trials to prevent malaria in children and are expected to have a high impact on public health when used in conjunction with other recommended prevention measures.

Malaria is spread by mosquitoes, and more than 608,000 people in 85 countries died from it in 2022.

The disease burdens children in particular in Africa, where almost half a million young people die from the disease every year.

Russia called for an end to the forced disappearance of jailed opposition figures

A ‘pattern of enforced disappearances’ of jailed dissidents in Russia must end, says UN special rapporteur on human rights in the country said on Thursday.

Independent expert Mariana Katzarova issued a statement expressing concern over the situation of opposition politician Alexey Gorinov, who was sentenced to seven years in prison in July 2022 for criticizing Russia’s military actions in Ukraine.

Katzarova said she received information that his whereabouts and state of health have been unknown since Dec. 8, when he was last seen in Vladimir Region Penal Colony No. 2 by his lawyer.

Since then, according to the expert, the authorities have not allowed him any contact with his lawyer, family or the outside world.

“After his last visit to the penal colony, the lawyer was concerned that Gorinov was in a life-threatening state of health,” she said.

“I call on the Russian authorities to immediately disclose Gorinov’s whereabouts and his state of health, and to provide him with immediate access to appropriate medical care to his family and his defense lawyers. The practice of enforced disappearance of imprisoned political figures in Russia must end,” she said.

Katzarova issued an alert just on Monday, expressing concern over the enforced disappearance of jailed opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, whose whereabouts and well-being remain unknown after more than 10 days.

Special rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to monitor specific country situations or thematic issues.

They are not UN employees and do not receive payment for their work.

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