HIGHLIGHTS OF THE U.N. SYSTEM
FRIDAY, 3 APRIL 2020

 
COVID-19/SECRETARY-GENERAL’S CEASEFIRE CALL
The Secretary-General today said that his appeal ten days ago for a global ceasefire in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic is resonating across the world, having been endorsed by some 70 Member States so far, as well as by regional partners, non-state actors, civil society organizations and others.
Religious leaders, including Pope Francis, and citizens through grassroots mobilization have also added their moral voice in support of a global ceasefire
The Secretary-General said today that a substantial number of parties to conflict have expressed their acceptance for the call, including in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Libya, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen.
But, he said, there is a huge distance between declarations and deeds, calling for robust diplomatic efforts to meet these challenges.
The Secretary-General made a special appeal to all countries with influence on parties waging war to do everything possible for the ceasefire to become a reality.
There is a chance for peace, he noted, but we are far from there. COVID-19 has shown how swiftly it can move across borders, devastate countries and upend lives. We need to do everything possible to find the peace and unity our world so desperately needs to battle COVID-19.
The full transcript is available here.

COVID-19/LIBYA
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today warned that, one year since the since the launch of a military offensive in Tripoli, fighting is further worsening in Libya, with COVID-19 now bringing new threats.
The ongoing conflict has severely impacted the country’s health system and medical services, which have limited financial resources and face shortages of basic equipment and medicines. Many hospitals or health facilities have also been damaged or closed.
UNHCR and partners are providing generators, ambulances, prefab-containers and tented clinics, in support of local health-care services. The agency is also raising public health awareness amongst refugees, asylum-seekers and Libyans, through posters, text messages and social media, aimed at mitigating the risks of exposure to COVID-19
UNHCR is also calling on the Libyan authorities to ensure the access and inclusion of all population groups in Libya to health surveillance, preparedness, response plans and activities, and it is reiterating its call to release those held in detention.
The agency also echoed the Secretary-General’s appeal urging warring parties across the world to cease their fighting in support of the response to the threat of the pandemic.
 
COVID-19/SYRIA
The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) today said Syria is one of the countries where the risk of mass infections in prisons is extremely high and which has yet to take any such action to tackle this.
OHCHR said the situation in all official prisons there and makeshift detention facilities is alarming, particularly in the overcrowded central prisons, and in the detention facilities run by the four Government security branches, and in the Sednaya military prison.
Vulnerable groups detained in Syria include elderly people, women and children, and many people with underlying health conditions, some of them directly as a result of the ill-treatment and neglect they have experienced while in detention.
The UN Rights Office urged the Syrian Government and the armed groups to take urgent action -- following the example of other countries -- to release sufficient numbers of detainees to prevent COVID-19 leading to yet more loss of life and misery after nine years of unrelenting death, destruction of the health system and displacement. It also called on all parties to allow humanitarian actors and medical teams unhindered access to prisons and other places of detention to check the conditions under which the detainees live and asses their needs.
 
COVID-19/OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY
Today, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Jamie McGoldrick, released $5.16 million from the oPt Humanitarian Fund to support the Inter-Agency COVID-19 Response Plan. This is in addition to the allocation of $1 million on 20 March.
The UN and humanitarian partners in the oPt are requesting US$34 million to respond to COVID-19 to prevent further transmission and mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic in support of the Government of Palestine’s COVID-19 Response Plan.
 
COVID-19/EGYPT
In Egypt, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said today that it is concerned about the overcrowded prisons in the country and the risk of the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus among more than 114,000 inmates. OHCHR urged the Egyptian Government to follow the lead of other states around the world and release those convicted of non-violent offences and those who are in pre-trial detention, who make up just below one third of those in jail.
The Office further recommends the released of administrative detainees, those who are in particularly vulnerable situations due to their age and serious underlying medical conditions, and those who are arbitrarily detained due to their political or human rights work.
OHCHR is also concerned by reports that the Government has moved to quash criticism on social media and silence the work of human rights defenders and journalists focused on the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
COVID-19/ AFGHANISTAN
The United Nations is ramping up its support to Afghanistan’s Government and people in the fight against COVID-19, backing measures on preparedness, containment and mitigation.
Yesterday, the World Bank approved a $100.4 million grant for Afghanistan’s emergency response and health systems preparedness.
Extensive risk communication and community engagement is underway countrywide and four testing centres have opened in Kabul, Herat and Jalalabad, with several more opening in the coming days.
Authorities working at the borders with Iran and Pakistan have been equipped to carry out their work in a safe manner and 34,000 frontline health workers are carrying out disease surveillance.
 
COVID-19/SUDAN
In Sudan, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are having an impact on humanitarian access, deliveries and services.
These measures include a 12-hour curfew, a month-long closure of schools and a reduction of staff in Government offices.
The United Nations and its partners are putting in place alternative plans to ensure the continuity of essential humanitarian assistance and to reduce the impact on already vulnerable people.
There are 9.2 million people in Sudan who need assistance, including nearly 3 million refugees and internally displaced people.
Starting this month of April, partners will organize advance food distribution of 2-3 months of rations at one time to limit the frequency of gatherings of people and the associated potential of spreading the coronavirus.
 
COVID-19/SOUTHERN AFRICA 
The COVID-19 pandemic has arrived in Southern Africa, with 13 countries in the sub-region reporting cases and putting in place heightened control measures within and across common borders. The pandemic is likely to compound already significant humanitarian needs in the region.
COVID-19 has also triggered an economic slowdown in several countries already facing economic challenges. This applies especially to Eswatini, Lesotho and Zimbabwe. 
At least 15.6 million people across 11 countries in Southern Africa are facing severe food insecurity. About 16.5 million people across the region live with HIV. Other communicable and vector-borne diseases are also common, including malaria and cholera.
The region has high rates of chronic malnutrition and rising rates of acute malnutrition in several countries, including Angola and Zimbabwe, which could worsen following the suspension of school feeding programmes due to the closure of schools to combat the spread of the virus.
Millions of people across the region live in overcrowded conditions with lack of proper sanitation, clean water and access to healthcare. There are nearly one million refugees and internally displaced people, including about 450,000 refugees, who live in camps or camp-like settings and has high geographical mobility and migration flows.
 
COVID-19/SOUTH-EAST ASIA
The World Health Organization (WHO) today stressed the need for a stronger whole-of-society and whole-of-government effort in the South-East Asia region to address the COVID-19 pandemic and avert further loss of precious human and other resources.
Communities need to be engaged and empowered to take appropriate decisions and measures, said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia, adding that, at this stage, everyone needs to contribute to minimize health as well as socio-economic impact of the pandemic.
In recent days and weeks, countries in the region have taken difficult decisions including implementation of unprecedented physical distancing measures to arrest the virus spread, with nearly 1.5 billion people - in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand together - currently experiencing lockdowns. Simultaneously, this is also an opportunity for countries to enhance capacities of their health systems.
 
COVID-19/GREECE
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that 23 migrants have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Ritsona open accommodation site in Central Greece. The IOM-managed camp, which hosts 2,700 people, reported its first confirmed case on Tuesday.
IOM warned that the immediate inclusion of all migrants in the national response to COVID-19 is not only a humanitarian measure, but essential to public health policy in the country.
The Ritsona site is one of 30 open accommodation facilities on the mainland of Greece, which in total accommodate just over 25,000 people, including 252 unaccompanied children. Following the national COVID-19 protocols, the Greek authorities have placed the site under quarantine for the next fourteen days, advising residents to remain in their accommodations.
IOM continues to work in the Ritsona site under strict safety protocol and is distributing food baskets and hygiene kits to all residents as an immediate response to the quarantine, which will limit access to the supply of food from the outside.
 
COVID-19/VENEZUELA
The UN and humanitarian partners in Venezuela are supporting the response to COVID-19 including through the distribution of diagnostic kits, epidemiological surveillance, assessment of available health services, training of staff, distribution of hygiene kits to hospitals, development of guidelines, and dissemination of information to communities for the prevention and containment.
The UN is also facilitating dialogue between the Ministries of Health of Venezuela and Colombia for information analysis and coordination of the response.
In addition, the UN in Venezuela finalized its COVID-19 preparedness and response plan, with a financial requirement of $61 million. The plan focuses on supporting critical health programmes and strengthening the capacity of 16 hospitals across the country to respond to the pandemic, as well as increasing access to water, sanitation and hygiene in vulnerable communities.
As of yesterday, 146 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed and five deaths reported in Venezuela.
 
BURKINA FASO
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) remains alarmed by insecurity in Burkina Faso that continues to drive thousands of people out of their homes every day.
Close to 840,000 have been displaced since January last year, and the arrival of COVID-19 in the country is adding a new element of uncertainty and insecurity into the mix.
Militant attacks near the border with Mali have affected some 25,000 Malian refugees living in remote camps. Most have chosen to return home, despite the insecurity that still prevails in Mali. 
UNHCR, working with Malian authorities, registered nearly 3,000 refugees in the regions of Gao, Mopti and Timbuktu. Working along with the authorities and partners on the ground, UNHCR is providing returning refugees with shelter, relief items and cash to support their initial needs. UNHCR is also providing the authorities with the needed health and hygiene equipment as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
ZIMBABWE
The Government of Zimbabwe, the UN and our humanitarian partners yesterday launched the country’s 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan, which seeks $715 million to help 5.6 million people who have been severely affected by climatic shocks and the economic situation.
Across the country, 7 million people in urban and rural areas now require urgent humanitarian assistance, up from 5.5 million people in August 2019. This includes more than 6 million people who are severely food insecure, 1.1 million children and women who require nutrition assistance, and at least 4 million people who need urgent support to access health services, including for sexual and reproductive health.
The United Nations and humanitarian partners are calling on the international community to urgently fund the humanitarian response in Zimbabwe.