Turnbull takes record delegation to China

Malcolm Turnbull will lead Australia’s biggest-ever trade and business delegation to China next week.

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About 1000 business leaders will join the prime minister, three ministers and two state premiers on the two-day visit, which will include talks and banquets with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

The visit comes amid a slowing of the Chinese economy, which is crucial for Australian jobs and growth, and concerns continuing about China’s militarisation of islands in the South China Sea.

Business chiefs will be seeking to build on the China-Australia free trade agreement which came into effect in December, cutting tariffs across many economic sectors.

The Chinese economy is changing from one based on growth in exports to a greater consumer focus.

Australia is seeking to open more doors to trade in food and agriculture, financial services, aged care, education and urban services.

As Chinese visitors to Australia top the one million mark, the prime minister will launch a new Tourism Australia promotion in Shanghai.

He’ll also launch an innovation “landing pad” for start-ups.

Over two days he is expected to have about four hours of talks with the two Chinese leaders.

In global security talks, Mr Turnbull is expected to underline Australia’s position that China’s actions in the South China Sea are raising anxieties and tensions among its neighbours.

Australia believes disputes of the ownership of the various reefs should be settled by international law and the economic growth of the region depends on peace and stability.

Fifteen Australian chief executives will sit down with their Chinese counterparts for a business roundtable, which will report to the prime minister.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Tasmanian leader Will Hodgman will also be involved in trade and investment talks.

Giants vow to go after Swans in AFL

GWS look up to their cross town AFL rivals, but have vowed to go after the Swans in Saturday’s Sydney derby.

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The Giants (1-1) have lost seven of the eight previous derbies to Sydney (2-0) and all three SCG encounters between the two sides, but are full of confidence after an upset win over Geelong.

The vast experience gap between the clubs has closed considerably this season, with Sydney bringing in several youngsters to replace five departed veterans and GWS acquiring crafty forward Steve Johnson.

Sydney have, however, kicked 38 goals to 17 in their first two games.

“They are a very impressive outfit as a team and as a club,” Giants’ forward Rhys Palmer said on Friday at the SCG.

“We sort of look up to them and the way they go about it.

“We do respect them quite a lot, but we know we have some really good players and we’ve got to stick to our strengths.

“We want to go after them and we’ll always respect opposition, but we know what we want to do and we’ll definitely take it up to them tomorrow night.”

Palmer is one of just four Giants outside former Swan Shane Mumford to have won at the SCG, doing so twice during his Fremantle days.

He said the key to doing well at the SCG started in the midfield.

“They (Sydney) have got a great midfield, (Dan) Hannebery, (Kieren) Jack, (Josh) Kennedy, so we’ve got to beat them and nullify their influence on the game,” Palmer said.

The red-hot Swans have a good idea of what to expect from GWS.

“Looking at the game last week against Geelong, they were very strong inside – they won the contested ball considerably,” Swans’ forwards coach Brett Kirk told AAP.

“They showed some speed and Tom Scully is having a really good start to the season.”

Palmer said Mumford hadn’t talked up playing against his old club.

“He’s been talking to (Giants general manager football operations) Wayne Campbell about a new contract for a couple of weeks now, so he’ll be looking to continue his great form,” Palmer said.

“Playing against your old side, you like to do your best and prove them wrong.

“We saw Stevie J doing it last week and I’m sure ‘Mummy’ will be doing it tomorrow night.”

Both teams have brought back a veteran.

Forward-midfielder Ben McGlynn replaces Dean Towers in the Swans’ line-up and Giants key defender Joel Patfull comes in for the injured Caleb Marchbank.

Sydney legend Adam Goodes and former Swans’ ruckman Mike Pyke will do a halftime lap of honour.

Shark scares surfers at Margaret River

A great white shark has given a group of top surfers an almighty scare, less than a year after Mick Fanning’s much-publicised drama.

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The shark, estimated to be 4.5m in length, paid the surfers an unwelcome visit on the eve of competition starting at the Margaret River Pro in WA.

The incident prompted World Surf League organisers to again outline the safety measures that were upgraded in the wake of Fanning’s close encounter last July at the J-Bay Open in South Africa.

His final was called off after Fanning had to fight off a shark and fellow Australian Julian Wilson paddled over to offer help.

Friday’s first round of competition in the men’s and women’s events went ahead without incident.

But American Kanoa Igarashi has described the frightening encounter late on Thursday, when he and a handful of other professionals were surfing Margaret River’s famed Mainbreak.

“We were in the water about 10 minutes before dark, which was a really bad idea,” Igarashi told Stab Magazine.

“We went over a wave and me and Caio (Ibelli) are looking out and see this fin emerging out of the water – it looked like a submarine – it kept growing,” Igarashi told Stab Magazine.

“Then it was flustering and thrashing, making so much water and then it just shot down and I looked over at Caio and he had the most scared face I’ve ever seen. No one said a word.”

Igarashi said the true size of the shark dawned on him when what he thought was a second marine creature several feet away from the main fin turned out to be its tail.

He said they bolted to shore.

In the wake of the incident, surfing organisers repeated the measures put in place following Fanning’s scare.

Each competitor has an allocated jetski driver, plus there is a safety boat for equipment caddies and watercraft for all event photographers.

The event is also trialling a new prototype for underwater surveillance.

Fanning has started his mid-season sabbatical and is not competing at Margaret River.

Australian Matt Wilkinson is the man to beat in WA off the back of winning the first two rounds of the world tour.

He won his round-one heat, while Wilson posted the best day-one score among the men of 17.10.

Three heats of the men’s first round are yet to be run.

American Courtney Conlogue took the women’s lead at the end of last month by winning Bells Beach for the first time.

She also won her opening-round heat on Friday, while Hawaii’s reigning world champion Carissa Moore posted the best score of 15.77.

Closest start to AFL season since 1994

This is the closest AFL season ever, the competition has never been so even and there are no such thing as easybeats.

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They’re cliches that coaches and players have routinely and repeatedly wheeled out throughout recent years, keen to banish the faintest whiff of complacency.

But they’re now starting to mostly ring true, at least in the context of the modern era, and the league has every right to feel delighted with their recent equalisation measures.

Some 16 premiership points (four wins) and percentage is all that separates ladder-leading Adelaide and 17th-placed Hawthorn after nine rounds.

Not since 1994, when last-placed Brisbane Bears had two wins to their name and first-placed West Coast had six, has there been such a logjam after nine rounds.

To put those 23 years in context, the Bears and Fitzroy have since merged while Fremantle, Port Adelaide, Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney have all joined the league.

“Everyone’s loving this season, aren’t they? It’s a credit to our clubs and our players that it’s a season like no other since I’ve been in football,” AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan told reporters.

“Across the weekend there were upsets again, teams coming from 30-odd points down.

“Seventeenth I think is two games out of eighth, the football is incredible … basically everyone can beat everyone.”

The one exception is arguably Brisbane, who are now incredibly short-priced favourites to collect the wooden spoon after recent lopsided losses.

“Brisbane clearly are having a tougher time than others and they’re a little off the pace but they’re rebuilding – a new coach, new head of football,” McLachlan said.

“They’re going to take a couple of years.”

Sydney coach John Longmire noted it wasn’t just the ladder that showed how tight things have been this year.

“You look at the momentum swings in the course of games, and from week to week, they can be huge,” Longmire said ahead of his club’s clash with Hawthorn at the SCG on Friday night.

“This would have to be the most equal and closest season we’ve had for a long time.”

A series of upsets in round nine have created a serious ladder logjam.

The gap between the Crows and 10th-placed Essendon is two wins and percentage. Not since 2007 have the top 10 teams been so close on the table after nine rounds.

It is part of the reason that many believe the Swans can surge into the finals despite a woeful 0-6 start to the year. No club in VFL/AFL history has ever reached the finals from an 0-5 start, let alone 0-6.

“You don’t look too far ahead, it’s just not relevant to us at the moment. It’s more relevant for us to be playing good football this week against Hawthorn,” Longmire said.

“I’ve always looked at what is immediately in front of us.”

Milford caps comeback with Qld selection

This time last year Anthony Milford was banned from State of Origin.

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Now the Brisbane playmaker is being groomed as Queensland star Johnathan Thurston’s heir apparent.

Milford capped a remarkable turnaround when he was named as Maroons five-eighth for the May 31 Origin opener, with the recovering Thurston (shoulder) as 18th man.

Milford, 22, will make his Origin debut if Thurston does not overcome the injury he sustained in the trans-Tasman Test and it seems all is forgiven for Milford after the 2016 Emerging Origin camp debacle, when he was among eight players who broke curfew.

Milford held out Melbourne’s Cameron Munster and North Queensland’s Michael Morgan for the starting pivot role in Thurston’s absence.

“We just felt that at the moment, Anthony’s the right choice,” Queensland coach Kevin Walters said.

“We’ve seen in the last couple of years in the NRL what an exciting player he can be and now he gets an opportunity on the big stage.

“I am excited about what he can produce for us on the night.”

Milford’s Origin call-up caps a dream month for the youngster.

Barely two weeks ago Broncos officially confirmed Milford had signed a new four-year deal, reportedly worth $1 million a season.

Milford has also stepped up in the absence of injured halfback Ben Hunt to help Brisbane move to second spot on the NRL ladder with six straight wins.

“I think the blessing in disguise was having Benny out,” Milford told QRL Media.

“It made me take more control of the team and the lead them around the field more. That has helped my game and made me mature a lot.”

Walters said Thurston was “unlikely” to play game one.

“We’re preparing to play the game without Johnathan Thurston.”

Claim humans may come from Med, not Africa

The birthplace of the human race may be Mediterranean Europe and not Africa, a controversial new discovery suggests.

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Scientists base the claim on an analysis of two very ancient fossils, a tooth and lower jawbone, unearthed in Bulgaria and Greece.

Evidence indicates that the ape-like creature they belonged to was the oldest pre-human known, dating back as far as 7.2 million years.

Graecopithecus freybergi is said to be several hundred thousand years older than the most ancient potential human ancestor discovered in Africa, Sahelanthropus, from Chad.

The implication is that humans split from their ape cousins not in Africa, as has been widely assumed, but Europe.

“We were surprised by our results, as pre-humans were previously known only from sub-Saharan Africa,” PhD student Jochen Fuss, a member of the international research team from the University of Tubingen in Germany, said.

For more than 40 years, the “cradle of humanity” has been firmly located in East Africa, where hundreds of fossils of humans and pre-humans were discovered in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Graecopithecus fossils, described in the journal Public Library of Science ONE, were found to have dental traits seen in modern humans, early humans and pre-humans, but not great apes.

CT scans were used to visualise the internal structure of the tooth and jawbone.

“While great apes typically have two or three separate and diverging roots, the roots of Graecopithecus converge and are partially fused – a feature that is characteristic of modern humans, early humans and several pre-humans including Ardipithecus and Australopithecus,” lead researcher Professor Madelaine Bohme, also from the University of Tubingen, said.

The lower jaw, nicknamed El Graeco by the scientists, had additional dental features suggesting a pre-human lineage.

Both the Greek and Bulgarian fossils were roughly 7.2 million years old, dating them to a time when the Mediterranean region was covered in Africa-like savannah grassland and home to giraffes, gazelles, and rhinos.

UN’s North Korea sanctions monitors hit by ‘sustained’ cyber attack

The hackers eventually breached the computer of one of the experts on May 8, the chair of the panel of experts wrote in an email to UN.

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officials and the UN Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee, known as the 1718 committee.

“The zip file was sent with a highly personalized message which shows the hackers have very detailed insight into the panel’s current investigations structure and working methods,” read the email, which was sent on May 8.

“As a number of 1718 committee members were targeted in a similar fashion in 2016, I am writing to you all to alert you to this heightened risk,” the chair of the panel of experts wrote, describing the attack as part of a “sustained cyber campaign.”

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A spokesman for the Italian mission to the United Nations, which chairs the 1718 sanctions committee, said on Friday that a member of the panel of experts had been hacked.

No further details who might be responsible were immediately available.

North Korea’s deputy United Nations envoy said on Friday “it is ridiculous” to link Pyongyang with the hacking of the UN panel of experts or the WannaCry “ransomware” cyber attack that started to sweep around the globe more than a week ago.

Cyber security researchers have found technical evidence they said could link North Korea with the WannaCry attack.

Reuters reported on Sunday that North Korea’s main spy agency has a special cell called Unit 180 that is likely to have launched some of its most daring and successful cyber attacks, according to defectors, officials and internet security experts.

The UN Security Council first imposed sanctions on North Korea in 2006 and has strengthened the measures in response to the country’s five nuclear bomb tests and two long-range rocket launches. Pyongyang is threatening a sixth nuclear test.

A second email by the UN sanctions committee secretary to the 15 Security Council members on May 10 said the U.N. Office of Information and Communications Technology was “conducting an analysis of the affected hard drive.”

“Increased vigilance relating to 1718 Committee-related correspondence is therefore advised until data analysis and related investigations are completed,” the email read.

Rouhani hopes Europe won’t follow Trump

Iran welcomes cooperation at all levels to bring stability to the Middle East, President Hassan Rouhani has told his French counterpart hours after US President Donald Trump lambasted Tehran again as he tours the region.

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In a telephone call, Rouhani told France’s new president Emmanuel Macron he was hopeful that Europe would not copy Trump’s stance against the Islamic Republic.

Visiting Iran’s arch-foe Saudi Arabia on Sunday, Trump singled out Iran as a key source of funding and support for militant groups in the Middle East, sending a tough message to Tehran the day after Rouhani won a second presidential term.

He said on Monday in Jerusalem that shared concern about Iran was driving Israel and many Arab states closer, calling Tehran a real threat in the region.

“The Islamic Republic is ready for cooperation in all levels with other countries, including France, to fight against terrorism and to resolve the Syrian crisis,” Rouhani was quoted saying to Macron by Iran’s state news agency IRNA.

The French leader had called to congratulate him on being re-elected in Friday’s presidential vote.

“We should bring peace and stability back to the region. We hope Europe does not fall into the trap of countries that promote their wrong interpretations of the region,” Rouhani was also quoted as saying.

Paris, which is at odds with Iran over the crisis in Syria, took one of the hardest lines against Tehran during negotiations between Iran and major powers in 2015, but has been quick to restore trade ties.

French carmakers PSA and Renault are taking advantage of their lack of US operations by piling into a resurgent Iranian market that is still off-limits to rivals fearful that Trump’s administration will impose sanctions.

France has said it backs Trump’s call to strengthen the monitoring of the deal, but that it is committed to implementing it, including the lifting of sanctions.

Asked earlier on Monday whether Paris agreed with Trump’s call to isolate Iran, the French foreign ministry said it would “work towards developing political dialogue that should be part of a constructive approach with regard solving regional crises”.

Rouhani said at a news conference on Monday that stability could not be achieved in the Middle East without Tehran’s help.

China confirms detention of accused spies

Chinas has confirmed that it is investigating six Japanese citizens, following a Japanese news report that Chinese authorities had detained six men possibly for spying.

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Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing that six Japanese nationals are suspected of engaging in “illegal activities,” but did not give details.

Japan’s Kyodo News reported earlier that three Japanese were detained in Shandong province and three in Hainan province – two regions with major Chinese naval facilities – in March.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday that China told Japan that authorities detained six Japanese in Hainan and Shandong provinces in March for violation of domestic law. He said he would not provide further details.

China has periodically detained Japanese citizens on suspicion of spying, including four in 2015.

Last December, a Chinese military-run newspaper lashed out at Kyodo for publishing photos of an under-construction aircraft carrier and suggested that the incident highlighted the need for China to better protect its military secrets, even though satellite images of the vessel were publicly available at the time.

China’s government and state media have repeatedly warned of the country’s vulnerability to foreign spies. Beijing, the capital, has encouraged neighbourhood patrols and offered large cash rewards for tips about foreign agents, while the national government has introduced an annual National Security Education Day and disseminated cartoon posters warning government workers to stay vigilant against attractive foreigners who might seek to seduce them.

China’s government crippled a US spy network in China by killing or imprisoning more than a dozen CIA sources between 2010 and 2012, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Hua, the foreign ministry spokeswoman, declined to comment about the Times article on Monday but said that as a general matter, China’s state security apparatus investigates threats to national security and carries out its duties effectively and according to law.

Duterte hopes to boost ties with Russia

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to “correct” the country’s over-dependence on traditional partners such as the United States as he embarked on a visit aimed at boosting ties with Russia.

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Duterte lamented that, while the Philippines and Russia have had diplomatic relations for the past 40 years, co-operation has remained minimal and must be increased for the mutual benefit of the two countries.

“Russia must cease to be at the margins of Philippine diplomacy,” he said in a speech before leaving for Moscow.

“Over-dependence on traditional partners has limited our room to manoeuvre in a very dynamic international arena.”

“This is a strategic oversight that has led to many missed opportunities for our country. I am determined to correct this.”

Duterte said he would push for “pragmatic engagement in the politico-security sphere, increased economic co-operation, and enhanced cultural and people-to-people exchanges” in meetings with President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

“My visit underscores the independence of the Philippines’ foreign policy and the firm resolve to broaden the horizons of friendship and cooperation with other nations,” he said.

“Russia is a country that we must work with. There are opportunities for co-operation that cannot be ignored.”

Duterte has been forging stronger ties with such non-traditional partners as Russia and China as part of an effort to shift the country’s foreign policy away from long-time ally, the US, which has criticised his anti-drug campaign, which has left thousands dead.

He has an invitation to meet with US President Donald Trump, but no date has been set.

Bomb at Bangkok hospital, wounds 24

There was no claim of responsibility for Monday’s blast at the Phramongkutklao Hospital, which is popular with soldiers and their families and retired military officers.

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“It was a bomb. We found the pieces that were used to make the bomb,” Kamthorn Aucharoen, commander of the police’s explosive ordnance team, told Reuters, adding it was not clear who was behind the attack.

“Right now, authorities are checking out closed circuit cameras,” Kamthorn said.

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said 24 people had been wounded. Most of the wounded were hit by flying glass, the military’s national security unit said.

Suspicion is likely to focus either on political dissidents opposed to military rule or Muslim separatists based in the south of the predominately Buddhist country.

Soldiers cordoned off the hospital’s entrance, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.

Deputy national police chief General Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul said the bomb had been hidden in a container by the entrance of a pharmacy.

Monday is the anniversary of a May 22, 2014, military coup that toppled a democratically elected government and ended months of unrest, including sometimes deadly street demonstrations.

Since the coup, the junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, has clamped down on dissent and ramped up prosecutions under sedition and royal defamation laws.

The military has always played a prominent role in Thai life but since the coup it has become embedded in society with military men more entrenched than under previous governments.

The military government has acknowledged it wants to weaken political parties and maintain permanent influence over elected governments, partly through a new constitution approved by the king last month.

An election is due by the end of next year.

Labor Senator to refer secret Ashby recording to police, electoral commission

Queensland Labor Senator Murray Watt is concerned there may be evidence of intent to commit electoral fraud.

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He now plans to refer the matter to the electoral commission, Australian Federal Police and Queensland Police.

But there’s no evidence the issues raised by One Nation staff James Ashby were ever acted on. It’s not suggested that any wrongdoing occurred.

Mr Ashby said the comments were part of a brainstorming session and a “poor choice of words”.

“They were quite clearly secret recordings, it captured some off-guard comments, there’s only one thing I regret and that’s a poor choice of words,” he told AAP on Monday.

Listen to the Ashby recording and Hinch’s response

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He claimed the conversation was recorded illegally by a disaffected staff member, saying One Nation would make its own complaint to police.

“This almost has a flavour of blackmail, which has been used over the last 12 months,’ he said.

According to the recording obtained by The Courier-Mail, Mr Ashby is heard suggesting the party could “make some money” at the upcoming state election by charging candidates to cover half the cost of campaign expenses.

Asked to explain, he replies: “Because when you lodge the receipt at the full price with the Electoral Commission of Queensland you get back the full amount that’s been issued to you as an invoice.”

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Mr Ashby said no action was taken and stated the party didn’t profit from its candidate’s electoral expenses.

The recording have attracted attention from all sides of the political spectrum.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was important political parties complied with electoral laws.

“It is vitally important that all of our electoral laws are strictly complied with. They go to the heart of our democracy,” he said in Canberra.

Deputy Queensland Premier Jackie Trad said authorities should investigate.

“Clearly, if there are issues there in relation to whether electoral laws are being circumvented or they are being used in a way that they weren’t intended to be used then that should be looked at,” she told reporters.

Queensland opposition frontbencher Scott Emerson said he “firmly backed” an investigation.

Ms Hanson’s Senate colleague and fellow crossbencher Derryn Hinch said contents of the recording were “shocking”.

Ms Hanson is in Perth on Monday and is expected to make a statement.

‘Extremely high’ number of deaths expected as Yemen slides into Cholera epidemic

Cholera has killed 315 people in Yemen in under a month, the World Health Organisation has said, as another aid organisation warned Monday the outbreak could become a “full-blown epidemic”.

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The WHO has recorded another 29,300 suspected cases of cholera in 19 provinces across the war-torn country from April 27 to Sunday, it said on Twitter late Sunday.

“Cholera continues to spread in Yemen,” it said.

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The UN health agency said that in a single day last week, 20 cholera deaths and 3,460 suspected cases had been registered in the country, where two-thirds of the population are on the brink of famine.

“The speed of the resurgence of this cholera epidemic is unprecedented,” WHO country representative for Yemen Nevio Zagaria told reporters in Geneva by phone from Yemen last week, warning that a quarter of a million people could become sick by the end of the year.

Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread through contaminated food or water.

Reining in the disease is particularly complicated in Yemen, where two years of devastating war between the Houthis and government forces backed by a Saudi-led Arab military coalition has left more than half the country’s medical facilities out of service.

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Many health workers in the country have not been paid for seven months.

Zagaria said that humanitarian workers cannot access some parts of the country, and that the number of suspected cholera cases could be far higher than those registered.

At the same time, he said, lacking electricity meant water pumping stations were only functioning in an intermittent way, and the sewer systems were damaged.

“The population is using water sources that are contaminated,” he said.

The United Nations is planning to dramatically scale up the number of treatment centres and rehydration centres.

Without dramatic efforts to halt the spread of the disease, “the price that we will pay in terms of life will be extremely high,” he warned.

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Save the Children on Monday warned that at the current rate more than 65,000 cases of cholera are expected by the end of June.

“Save the Children staff in Yemen are warning that a deadly cholera outbreak could become a full blown-epidemic,” it said in a statement.

An epidemic refers to the spread of a disease in excess of normal expectancy, according to the WHO. 

“The upsurge comes as the health system, sanitation facilities and civil infrastructure have reached breaking point because of the ongoing war” in Yemen, Save the Children said.

It said the cholera response is “massively underfunded”, calling for “urgent financial support”.

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