Switzerland’s Novartis AG is cutting prices for its malaria drug Coartem by a fifth to improve access to treatment, especially in Africa, it said on April 23. Reuters reported Novartis said it would reduce prices for the drug from April 25, which is World Malaria Day, and it was able to supply the drug more cheaply due to efficiency improvements at its production facilities in China and the United States. Malaria, which is caused by a parasite transmitted by mosquitoes, kills nearly a million people a year and is particularly deadly for young children and adolescents in Africa.

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the armed groups, and international parties to the Goma peace agreement should urgently implement the accord and end the horrific suffering of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children facing brutal violence and deadly diseases in eastern Congo, 63 international and Congolese human rights and aid groups said in a joint statement April 23. The NGOs are calling for the appointment of a high-level independent special adviser on human rights to ensure action on protecting civilians at risk, specifically women and girls threatened by sexual violence.

Health and agriculture ministry officials in Madagascar have asked the WHO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) for assistance as they fight a deadly outbreak of the viral hemorrhagic disease known as Rift Valley Fever (RVF). Seventeen people are suspected to have died from the virus outbreak across five regions of the Indian Ocean island nation, according to local authorities, and a total of 418 cases are suspected this year, the WHO reported April 18. Laboratory tests by scientists have also confirmed at least 59 cases of human infection.

The UNHCR and the World Food Program (WFP) have started distributing emergency aid to several indigenous communities in east-central Colombia living in an isolated area being disputed by Government forces and irregular armed groups. WFP provided 14 tons of food aid by boat last week to some 1,000 people ? who mostly belong to the Guyabero or Nukak Maku indigenous groups ? living in four villages along the Guaviare River after a request from UNHCR, the refugee agency’s spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters April 22 in Geneva.

Although over 6 million children returned to Afghanistan?s classrooms a month ago at the start of a new school year, United Nations agencies said April 21that half of the war-torn country?s young people are excluded from receiving an education, the bulk of them girls. ?In Afghanistan, despite progress in school enrollment, in the last two years half of the school-age children were estimated to be out of school,? Shigeru Aoyagi, Country Director of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) told journalists in the capital, Kabul.

Amnesty International, Care International UK, Medecins du Monde UK, Oxfam, Save the Children UK and other UK-based human rights and development organizations have called for fundamental policy changes towards the Gaza Strip by Israel, the international community and the West Bank-based Palestinian leadership. Their report details what are calling the worst humanitarian crisis in the strip since Israel occupied it in the 1967 war, and describe it as a man-made disaster resulting from the isolation and blockade of Gaza after its take-over by Hamas militants last June.

Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, 74, symbolically passed the torch on April 22 to a new generation of hand-picked environmental and peace activists whom she gathered this week for the first Jane Goodall Global Youth Summit in Florida, Reuters reported. Goodall, who rose to fame in the 1960s through her ground-breaking study of chimpanzees in East Africa, now spends 300 days a year on the road using her personal story and rock star status among young people to inspire them to act on critical issues in their communities.

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