Top of the Morning: North Korea Nuclear Fears; Syria Monitors Making a Small Difference; World Malaria Day

Top stories from the Development and Aid World News Service—DAWNS Digest. 

North Korea Could Test Nuclear Weapon Any Moment Now

There have been a few press reports over the past 24 hours suggesting that North Korea will test a nuclear weapon in the very near future. If carried out, this would be North Korea’s third nuclear test–and the first since 2009. It would effectively sink any hope of reconciliation between the USA and DPRK, and also signal that Pyongyang is willing to ignore the demands of its biggest trading partner, China. “North Korea could carry out an underground test of a nuclear weapon as early as Tuesday night as the North’s reclusive leadership dramatically tries to up the stakes with the U.S. and the West, U.S. officials told NBC News. U.S. officials say North Korea may already have an arsenal between 12 and a “few dozen” far more advanced weapons, many more than generally believed. The officials couldn’t be specific on a date for the test, but they told NBC News they were “100 percent” certain there would be a nuclear test within the next two weeks or “at any time.” (NBC

Monitors Are Arriving Very Slowly in Syria…But they are making a difference, Says Annan

Latest from the UN today, where the UN peacekeeping chief and Kofi Annan briefed the Security Council. The U.N. peacekeeping chief told the Security Council on Tuesday it will take a month to deploy 100 unarmed military observers to Syria, envoys said, though international mediator Kofi Annan argued that a few monitors on the ground can make a difference. Herve Ladsous, U.N. under-secretary-general for peacekeeping, told the council that there will be 30 monitors in place in Syria by the end of April out of a total of up to 300 authorized by the Security Council on Saturday to supervise the country’s fragile 12-day-old ceasefire, diplomats told Reuters…Despite the slow pace of their deployment, even a small number of observers can have an enormous impact on the 13-month old conflict between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition, Annan told the 15-nation council. ‘We have also seen events change – at least temporarily – in Homs, where violence has dropped significantly in response to the presence of a very small number of observers,’ Annan said, according to a transcript of his remarks. (Reuters

It’s World Malaria Day…

…And on the whole, humanity is winning the battle against malaria, but here’s some disturbing news from the DRC:  “A massive increase in malaria cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is overwhelming existing treatment capacity, demanding a comprehensive and stepped-up response, the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said today. MSF’s health centres and hospitals have observed a marked increase in malaria cases, including in its severe form. In six provinces (half of the vast country), the number of people treated for malaria in MSF projects has increased 250 percent since 2009, with the rise even more sharp in recent months. The increase is particularly alarming due to the high number of severe malaria patients requiring hospitalisation and urgent blood transfusions due to malaria-induced anaemia. In the face of such a high burden of this disease, MSF is unable to respond in all affected areas, the organisation announced.”  (MSF