HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
WEDNESDAY, 1 APRIL 2020
Yesterday the Secretary-General launched a report on the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, noting that the world is facing an unprecedented test and that this is the moment of truth. With societies in turmoil and economies in a nose-dive, the Secretary-General stressed that we must respond decisively, innovatively and together to suppress the spread of the virus and address the socio-economic devastation that it is causing in all regions.
And today in a new report, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs warned that the global economy could shrink by almost one per cent this year, that’s 0.9 per cent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report notes that country lockdowns in Europe and North America have hit the service, hospitality and transportation sectors very hard, and collectively they account for more than a quarter of all jobs in those economies.
The report goes on to warn that the effects of the restrictions will soon spill over to development countries and could also lead to a significant contraction of global manufacturing, disrupting of global supply chains. Furthermore, the report says that as the pandemic worsens, economic anxiety and inequality will increase even in high-income countries.
As of yesterday, OCHA has provided a combined US$78.8 million to COVID-19 responses. This includes $75 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund, with the rest coming from Country-Based Pooled Funds.
So far programmes in 15 countries have been supported through these funds and additional countries are being identified under the global CERF allocation of $60 million – one of the largest ever made – to kick start the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan.
The allocations prioritize the most vulnerable people, including the elderly and people with disabilities, and will save lives by scaling up the readiness and response, limiting the further spread of the virus and mitigating the impacts of the pandemic.
As of today, close to US$374 million in generous donor funds have been made available for the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan.
Funding the plan will save lives and equip humanitarian agencies and NGOs to treat the sick while protecting health care workers and also help secure a logistics backbone for continued delivery of aid, and to people caught up in the world’s humanitarian crises.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today said it is sending a first batch of equipment to more than 40 countries to help them use nuclear-derived technology to rapidly detect COVID-19.
Dozens of labs in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean will receive diagnostic machines and other machines to speed up national testing, which is crucial in containing the outbreak. They will also receive biosafety supplies, such as personal protection equipment and lab cabinets for the safe analysis of collected samples.
Further deliveries of equipment to the growing number of countries seeking assistance are expected in the coming weeks.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said it is concerned about the impact of the pandemic on the quantity and quality of weather observations and forecasts, as well as atmospheric and climate monitoring.
Large parts of the observing system are either partly or fully automated. They are therefore expected to continue functioning without a significant degradation for several weeks. But if the pandemic lasts more than a few weeks, WMO said that the missing repair, maintenance and supply work, and missing redeployments will become of increasing concern.
Meanwhile, some parts of the observing system are already being impacted. Most notably the significant decrease in air traffic has had an impact as commercial airliners contribute to the Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay programme, which uses onboard sensors on planes, as well as computers and communications systems to collect, process, format and transmit weather observations to ground stations via satellite or radio links.
More on the WMO’s website.
Four UN entities – the UN Human Rights Office, the UN Refugee Agency, the UN Migration Agency and the World Health Organization, issued a joint statement calling on governments around the world to ensure equal access to health services for refugees, migrants and stateless people, adding that they should be fully included in national responses to COVID-19, including prevention, treatment as well as testing.
This crisis demands a coherent, effective international approach that leaves no-one behind, they said. Migrants and refugees are disproportionately vulnerable to exclusion, stigma and discrimination, particularly when they are undocumented.
Protecting the rights and the health of all people will be key to help control the spread of the virus, they said in the statement.
And also, staying on the topic of refugees, UNHCR has laid out a series of measures that are being taken in its field operations to help respond to the virus and prevent further spread.
The agency warned that, although the number of reported and confirmed cases of infection among refugees remains low, over 80 per cent of the world’s refugee population and nearly all the internally displaced people live in low- to middle-income countries, many of which have weaker health systems, water and sanitation systems and need urgent support.
The agency has tailored programmes in Brazil, Jordan, Mexico, Sudan, DR Congo, Burkina Faso, Bangladesh and Greece.
These programmes involve distribution of hygiene kits and temperature sensors and screening facilities, among other projects.
UNHCR is also working with UN partners to find solutions to logistical challenges resulting from disrupted manufacturing capacity as well border closures.
In Libya, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that eight cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, as of yesterday. The ongoing clashes and the restrictive measures in the country due to the pandemic are hampering humanitarian access.
Agencies have reported not being able to dispatch trucks to deliver assistance over long distances because of the curfews. Many programs, including those in the 2020 Libya Humanitarian Response Plan, are either being suspended, delayed or reduced.
OCHA has also warned that Libya is at high risk of the virus spreading, given its levels of insecurity, weak health system and high numbers of migrants, refugees as well as internally displaced persons.
And in Nigeria, the UN team there has mobilised $2 million to procure essential medical supplies.
The UN is supporting the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) to procure one million test kits.
We are also helping to mitigate the social and economic consequences of COVID-19 on Nigeria and are working with the World Bank and key donors to support the Government and the people.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN Mission there said yesterday they helped free 38 civilians, who had been abducted by the ADF rebel group in the vicinity of Mayi Moya, just 40 km north of Beni. This happened while the peacekeepers had deployed reinforcements to support the Congolese Armed Forces in an area under attack by the ADF. The civilians, including women and children, had been abducted by the ADF from different locations in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. They were safely transferred to a Congolese Army base.
As we have mentioned in the last few days, while the Mission takes all necessary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the DRC, it remains fully committed the core of its mandate, the protection of civilians, in support of the Congolese security forces.
The joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for refugees and migrants from Venezuela, Eduardo Stein, today said that while COVID-19 has brought many aspects of life to a standstill, the humanitarian implications of this crisis have not ceased.
He urged the international community to boost its support for humanitarian, protection and integration programmes, on which the lives and welfare of millions of people depend, including host communities.
Mr. Stein added that the current global public health emergency has compounded an already desperate situation for many refugees and migrants from Venezuela and their hosts and funding to support them is urgently needed.
The UN continues to work with national and local authorities to address the new challenges brought by the COVID-19 and is delivering basic support to those Venezuelan refugees and migrants.
The Head of the UN Mission in Support of the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA), Lt. Gen. Abhijit Guha, has expressed his grave concern about the increasing tensions in the Hudaydah area.
Welcoming the support both parties have pledged to the UN Secretary General’s call for an immediate global ceasefire, General Guha urged the parties to quote “silence the guns, stop the artillery, and end the airstrikes”. In light of the pandemic, General Guha said that it is ever more important to adhere to the ceasefire in Hudaydah to protect the women and children in the governorate from further hardship and suffering.
Meanwhile, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, met with the Yemeni women’s Technical Advisory Group yesterday in a video conference. During the meeting, Mr. Griffiths consulted with the group’s members on how to resume the political process as soon as possible to end the war.
Of the 19 countries on the agenda of the UN office for children and armed conflict, boys and girls in Somalia have experienced among the highest levels of violence. A new report by Virginia Gamba paints a bleak picture – with close to 15,000 UN-verified violations committed against children between 2016 and 2019. That includes cases of recruitment and use, abduction of children and sexual violence exceeding those verified in other countries.
And from Mali, the UN peacekeeping mission there reports that the tally of results for the first round of legislative elections held last Sunday is ongoing. The decision to hold the elections was one of the key outcomes of the national dialogue held in December last year. The UN peacekeepers and the mission provided logistical and operational support in preparation for the elections, and secured polling and election sites on polling day.
The opposition leader Soumaïla Cissé, abducted last week while campaigning in Timbuktu, remains missing. The UN is providing support to Malian authorities in their efforts to locate him.
Two Member States have paid their regular budget dues in full.
Our thanks go to Algeria and Kazakhstan, which brings us to a total number of 77.