News in Brief 23 May 2016 (AM)

Environmental degradation behind millions of premature deaths globally

Air pollution, chemicals, climate change and other environmental threats are responsible for almost one quarter of all deaths globally.

That's according to a new UN report which found that more than 12 million deaths in 2012, or 23 per cent of the total, were attributable to these factors.

Healthy Environment, Healthy People makes the case for putting the environment at the centre of efforts to improve human health.

It estimates that environmental degradation and pollution causes up to 234 times as many premature deaths as occur in conflicts each year.

The report also highlights benefits that come from investments in a healthy environment.

For example, the phase-out of nearly 100 substances that deplete the ozone layer may prevent up to two million cases of skin cancer annually.

The report was released on Monday, at the start of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya.

Private cement imports resume in Gaza

The resumption of private imports of cement into the Gaza Strip has been welcomed by a senior UN official in the region.

This follows Israel's announcement on Sunday that it was lifting a 45-day ban after allegations that supplies were being diverted.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, has issued a statement urging all sides to ensure that the deliveries "reach their intended beneficiaries and are used solely for civilian purposes."

He added that the humanitarian challenges in Gaza "remain vast" and that all efforts should be made to resolve the housing, electricity and water crises there.

Peace agreement "guarantors" in eastern DRC

A high-level delegation from the international community is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) this week in efforts to halt armed groups operating in the east of the country.

The group comprises representatives from the UN, the African Union (AU), the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

They are the so-called "guarantors" of a 2013 peace, security and cooperation agreement for the DRC and the region.

Their visit follows earlier consultations held in Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 2'15"

Source: United Nations Radio.