Civilian casualties humanitarian concerns mounting as Yemen fighting continues UN

In the last 24 hours alone, air strikes aimed at halting rebel activities have hit the Yemeni cities of Aden, Al Dhale’e, Sana’a, Sa’ada, Al Hudaydah, and Hajjah Governorates killing at least eight civilians, according to information provided today by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the press.At the same time, clashes are continuing in the country’s south as Houthis and Government forces battle in Aden and Ma’ala, where a number of civilian targets have reportedly been destroyed including four residential buildings and a number of bridges connecting two major roads from Aden.The situation in Yemen has been rapidly deteriorating since the country formed a new Government in November 2014 aimed at ending a period of political turbulence and bringing about a full transition towards democracy. The country continued to be plagued by violence and political demonstrations despite UN efforts to bring about a peaceful political resolution.As the fighting has ratcheted up in intensity, the World Health Organization (WHO) today released its estimates suggesting that more than 540 people have been killed and some 1,700 others wounded by the violence in Yemen since 19 March. In a press release issued this afternoon, the WHO also deplored the deaths of health care workers and damages to health facilities in Yemen as a result of the conflict and voiced concern about “the serious implications of these attacks.”The UN agency reported that on 4 April two volunteer paramedics with the Yemen Red Crescent Society in Aden were shot when their ambulance was hit by gunfire while, in another incident, one security guard was killed and two nurses were injured in the health centre of Al-Mazraq camp for internally displaced persons.“In times of crisis, it is vital that [health care workers] be allowed to continue their work without additional risk,” the WHO declared. “Health facilities and ambulances must be treated as neutral premises and should never be exploited for military purposes.”The Geneva-based health agency added its emphasis that all combatants respect the protection of health facilities under international humanitarian law and underscored that patients be guaranteed their basic right to health without further endangerment to their lives.On a similar note, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) voiced concern about the escalating number of child deaths in Yemen due to the hostilities.At least 74 children are known to have been killed and 44 children maimed so far since the fighting began but the figures, UNICEF said, are “conservative” and the UN agency believed that the total number of children killed is much higher.“Children are paying an intolerable price for this conflict,” lamented UNICEF Yemen Representative Julien Harneis in a press statement. “They are being killed, maimed and forced to flee their homes, their health threatened and their education interrupted.”“These children should be immediately afforded special respect and protection by all parties to the conflict, in line with international humanitarian law,” he added.UNICEF reported that its teams were on the ground working to provide families with safe water and essential health services while also prepositioning therapeutic food and oral rehydration salts for young children.Nevertheless, the agency continued, the conflict is exacerbating the already precarious situation for children in one of the region’s poorest countries,” with much of Yemen already prone to food insecurity and with sever acute malnutrition widespread among young children.Against that backdrop, increasing numbers of people from Sana’a and Sa’ada are reportedly being displaced to Amran Governorate, just north of the country’s capital. OCHA said local partners estimated that up 28,000 people had moved into Amran since the beginning of the crisis and warned that the fighting risked interrupting humanitarian access, such as medical supplies, to those civilians most in need. In addition, the ongoing shelling in Aden has disrupted the city’s waterworks with the need to ensure a reliable water supply becoming an “urgent priority” for humanitarian partners. read more

Stem cell treatment offers new hope for multiple sclerosis patients

first_img Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Prof John Snowden, director of blood and bone marrow transplantation at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital, told the BBC: “We are thrilled with the results – they are a game changer for patients with drug resistant and disabling multiple sclerosis.”The results were released at the annual meeting of the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation in Lisbon.The process involves patients’ faulty immune systems being destroyed using chemotherapy, and then stem cells are taken from the patient’s blood and bone marrow before being re-infused. These are unaffected by MS and they rebuild the immune system.The transplant costs around £30,000, about the same as the annual price of some MS drugs. As for those who were given drug treatment, 39 of the 50 had a relapse within a year. Over the same three-year period, the treatment failed altogether for 30 of them – or 60 per cent.Additionally, those who had transplants experienced a reduction in their disability. Of 52 patients, only six suffered a relapse in three years with the new treatment Of 52 patients, only six suffered a relapse in three years with the new treatment In the trial, more than 100 patients from hospitals in Chicago, Sheffield, Stockholm and Sao Paolo, were treated with either haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) or conventional drugs. They all had a type of relapsing remitting MS – in which attacks are punctuated by periods of remission.After a year, just one relapse occurred among the 52 patients who had stem cell treatment and, after an average follow up of three years, the transplant treatment had failed for just three of them – about six per cent. Doctors on Sunday hailed what they say is a major breakthrough in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, halting progress of the disease and relieving symptoms in some patients.An international trial also found that the stem cell transplant treatment could reduce disability for people with MS, according to the BBC.The disease, which attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord and affects people’s immune systems, leads to fatigue, muscle and mobility problems, as well as a range of other disabilities.But now a new stem cell treatment is being called a “game changer” as it involves wiping out a patient’s immune system using cancer drugs and then rebooting it with a stem cell transplant.Louise Willetts, 36, a patient from Rotherham, is free of symptoms for the first time since being diagnosed with the disease in 2010. She told the BBC: “It feels like a miracle.”last_img read more