HIGHLIGHTS OF THE U.N. SYSTEM
TUESDAY, 22 SEPTEMBER 2020

 
SECRETARY-GENERAL/GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The Secretary-General spoke at the opening of the 75th session of the General Assembly this morning, telling the delegates present, who were observing social distancing regulations, that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the annual meeting beyond recognition but it has made it more important than ever. 
COVID-19 has laid bare the world’s fragilities, he said, citing rising inequalities, climate catastrophe, widening societal divisions and rampant corruption. We face a foundational moment, he said, saying that COVID-19 is not only a wake-up call; it is a dress rehearsal for the world of challenges to come.  We must move forward with humility, recognizing that a microscopic virus has brought the world to its knees, he said.
The Secretary-General said that populism and nationalism have failed. Those approaches to contain the virus have often made things manifestly worse. 
He added that efforts by nations to pursue vaccines for their own people only, which he called “vaccinationalism,” is not only unfair, it is self-defeating.  None of us is safe until all of us are safe, the Secretary-General warned.
The Secretary-General recalled that as the pandemic took hold, he had called for a global ceasefire. Today, he appealed for a stepped-up international effort — led by the Security Council — to achieve a global ceasefire by the end of this year.
He added that recovery needs to build resilience, which in turn requires a New Social Contract at the national level and a New Global Deal at the international level.
The Secretary-General’s full remarks are available here.
 
SUDAN
The UN and humanitarian organizations in Sudan have reached more than 400,000 people with life-saving assistance as the worst floods in three decades continue to cause great damage. More than 120 people have lost their lives and more than 800,000 people have been critically affected by the torrential rains.
Since the beginning of the rainy season in July, aid organizations have supported Government by providing emergency shelter and household items to more than 150,000 people and health services to more than 350,000 people. Critical water and sanitation support has also reached more than 350,000, while more than 160,000 people have received food assistance.
This quick response has been possible due to the UN and its partners, with the support of donors, having prepositioned supplies to meet the most immediate needs of 250,000 people before the rains started. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warns that these stocks are running out and, with the rains expected to continue, more funds are urgently needed in the areas of health, water, sanitation and hygiene services, which are critical to respond to both the COVID-19 pandemic and to floods.
 
MOZAMBIQUE
The World Food Programme (WFP) today expressed its concern about the escalating conflict and deteriorating food security situation in the northern province of Cabo Delgado in Mozambique. More than 300,000 people have fled their homes and villages, abandoning their crops and leaving them completely reliant on humanitarian assistance.
Since 2017, Cabo Delgado has been experiencing attacks by Non-State Armed Groups that have gradually displaced communities who are now seeking refuge in other provinces, such as Nampula and Niassa. The UN agency warned that the situation is even more worrisome given that the province has the second highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the country, with more than half of children under 5 chronically malnourished.
World Food Programme added that thousands of refugees have crossed into neighboring Tanzania, deepening concerns among the international community about the regionalization of the conflict. With Cabo Delgado currently recording the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Mozambique, population displacements also have the potential to accelerate the spread of the virus.
WFP urgently requires $4.7 million per month to assist those internally displaced in the region. Without additional funding, the UN agency said that it will be forced to reduce food rations as early as December.
 
UKRAINE
Marking the International Day of Peace yesterday, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, Osnat Lubrani, called on all relevant parties to uphold the ceasefire and move towards establishing lasting peace for the benefit of the civilian population. 
Some 3.4 million in Eastern Ukraine rely on humanitarian assistance to meet their daily needs, with COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbating their vulnerabilities.
Due to COVID-19-related movement restrictions, the number of monthly crossings along the ‘contact line’ has fallen by more than 93 per cent last month compared to the same period last year. As a result, some 1.2 million vulnerable people in Donbas are not able to receive their pensions, travel to care for sick family members, or reunite with their families for the last six months.
While Ms. Lubrani commended some improvements to infrastructure for better delivery of services on the ‘crossing points’ on both sides, she called on relevant parties to facilitate safe crossing of more people with critical needs in the context of COVID-19. The UN and the humanitarian community are ready to help with coordinated, realistic and clearly communicated procedures.
 
TOBACCO
The World Health Organization (WHO), together with the World Heart Federation and the University of Newastle Australia, said today in a new report that 1.9 million people die every year from tobacco-induced heart disease.
This means that one in all five deaths from heart disease are attributable to tobacco.
Just a few cigarettes a day, occasional smoking, or exposure to second-hand smoke increase the risk of heart disease, but the report says that if tobacco users take immediate action and quit, then their risk of heart disease will decrease by 50 per cent after one year of not smoking.
Moreover, high blood pressure and heart disease increase the risk of severe COVID-19.
The report says that tobacco control is a key element for reducing heart disease.
 
MIGRATION
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) today appealed to the European Union (EU), ahead of tomorrow’s presentation of the European Commission’s new Pact on Migration and Asylum, for a truly joint and principled approach that addresses all aspects of migration and asylum governance.
UNHCR and IOM said that recent events across the Mediterranean have further highlighted the urgent need to reform the EU’s management of migration and asylum. These include delays in disembarking migrants and refugees rescued at sea, increasing reports of push-backs and the fires at the Moria Registration and Identification Centre (RIC) on the Greek island of Lesvos.
The UN agencies noted that the current approach in the EU is unworkable, untenable and often carries devastating human consequences. IOM and UNHCR said that they strongly agree with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that saving lives at sea is not optional. They added that they stand ready to support the EU and its Member States in line with their respective mandates and expertise.