Tomorrow at 10 a.m., the Secretary-General will hold a briefing to release a report on the impact of his call for a global ceasefire.
The Secretary-General issued a statement yesterday, in which he showed his supported for the delay announced of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, which was due to be held in November, in Glasgow, in the UK. He said that as hundreds of thousands of people fall seriously ill and many die from COVID-19, the need to suppress the virus and safeguard lives is our foremost priority.
The Secretary-General said this health crisis reinforces the importance of science and evidence informing government policies and decision-making and added that the science on climate has not changed: emissions are now at a record high and impacts are multiplying and will compound the socio-economic challenges that this crisis will intensify.
Solidarity and greater ambition are needed now more than ever to transition to a sustainable, resilient low carbon economy that limits global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The Secretary-General will continue to work tirelessly with the COP hosts, Member States, civil society, youth, and businesses to ensure that we recover better and emerge from this global crisis stronger.
In a letter that was sent to Member States yesterday, the Secretary-General said that, while we face the enormous challenges posed by COVID-19, UN operations are also under increased financial pressure due to continued financial constraints. He said that we ended 2019 with arrears of $711 million, the highest level for a decade and a 34 percent increase compared to 2018.
This high level of arrears, he writes, is now compounded by a sharp decline in the payment of assessments by Member States, which currently stands at 42 percent compared to 50 percent in earlier years. As a result, we are at a risk of confronting a cash deficit even earlier than in previous years, unless we slow down our expenses.
The Secretary-General writes that he is directing managers to temporarily suspend all hiring for regular budget operations and to further scale down non-post expenses, in order to ensure timely payments to staff and vendors.
He is grateful to the Member States that have paid their regular budget dues in full for 2020 and renews his appeal that all should do so as early as possible.
COVID-19/CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
In an update from the Central African Republic, the UN peacekeeping mission there is continuing to support the authorities to prevent and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The mission’s field offices throughout the CAR are participating in local crisis committees set up by local authorities. They are also supporting information and awareness campaigns. For example, some offices conducted awareness-raising sessions in prisons, and helped authorities deliver thousands of prevention posters and leaflets throughout the country.
In addition to this, the mission is working in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), which has been approached by local hospitals to provide materials and training assistance.
From Malawi, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases, but the UN is already working hard to support the Government’s preparedness and response plan.
The UN is helping with lab testing capacity and recruiting public health specialists, as well as engaging with Malawian entrepreneurs to ensure there are enough supplies to respond to the pandemic.
We are also working to prepare distance learning options for schools and helping to repair and improve the water and sanitation infrastructure.
In Bolivia, the UN team is supporting the Government to prevent the spread of the pandemic and apply WHO’s guidelines.
We are providing technical training for the public health sector, helping to purchase equipment and supplies, and communicating to the public on how to prevent the virus.
The UN team and the Government have set up a Strategic Coordination Situation Room, which works around the clock to collect and analyze data for an effective response.
The UN’s Humanitarian Country Team is working on the needs to offer shelter, food security, education, protection, and communications, in support of the Government’s plan.
Turning to India, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, today said she was distressed by the plight of millions of internal migrants affected by the sudden announcement of a lockdown in the country.
She welcomed subsequent measures, such as the instructions by the Supreme Court to ensure that migrants are provided enough food, water, beds and supplies, but noted that pervasive challenges remain.
The UN in Myanmar is continuing to scale-up its support to the Government to prevent, contain and respond to COVID-19.
More than 5,000 sets of basic necessities – such as blankets, kitchen utensils, mosquito nets, and hygiene items – will soon be sent to the Yangon Regional Health Department. The UN will also support people in quarantine facilities in Yangon with food assistance.
The UN had earlier announced plans to send 50,000 test kits to the Ministry of Health and Sports.
UNAIDS today welcomed the Portuguese Government’s decision to grant temporary residency rights to all migrants and asylum seekers who applied for residency in the country before March 18th, when the state of emergency for COVID was announced.
These immigrants and asylum-seekers will therefore have access to social and health benefits, including national health services, bank accounts, work and rental contracts, at least until the beginning of July.
UNAIDS noted that migrants face the same health threats from COVID-19 as host populations and must be included to ensure an effective response that addresses both the health and socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic.
In Lebanon, in line with the UN peacekeeping mission’s efforts to assist the host population in the common fight against COVID-19 in the country’s south, UNIFIL troop contributing countries have been taking initiatives aimed at providing communities with medical equipment and other supplies that are available at their disposal.
In the last few days, the Italy-led UNIFIL Sector West Command carried out several projects within their area of responsibility, in response to requests from local hospitals to be able to receive suspected COVID-19 cases. The mission has donated pre-fabricated containers and medical equipment to a number hospitals.
Turning to Syria, Najat Rochdi, the Senior Humanitarian Adviser to Special Envoy Geir Pederson, convened the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) Humanitarian Task Force via video-conference today. Mr. Pedersen joined and reiterated his appeal for a complete, immediate nationwide ceasefire throughout Syria to enable an all-out-effort to counter COVID-19 and spare all Syrians additional suffering.
The Special Envoy expressed his readiness to work with all the parties to the conflict to further his appeal.
Humanitarian Task Force members were informed that the virus could have a devastating impact given the protracted crisis and the extensive destruction and damage to the health system. Syria’s public health system is fragile and will require considerable support to reinforce its capacity. Additional medical equipment, devices and supplies are urgently needed to contain a potential outbreak.
Ms. Rochdi and the UN’s humanitarian leadership in the field further stressed the importance of maintaining border and in-country crossings for the shipment of relief items, including cross-border. The movement of humanitarian workers and those requiring urgent medical care is essential.
WHO is leading UN efforts to support preparation and mitigation measures across Syria, including in the northwest and the northeast. In Damascus, WHO has supported substantial rehabilitation of the central laboratory and procured additional essential equipment to support setting up further planned labs across the country.
In Yemen, the Office of the UN Special Envoy for the country, Martin Griffiths, is engaging the parties on reaching agreements on a nationwide ceasefire, humanitarian and economic measures to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, and the urgent resumption of the political process aimed at comprehensively ending the war. This process further aims to foster joint efforts to counter the threat of COVID-19.
The Office of the Special Envoy is discussing concrete steps with the parties and remains in regular contact with them. Martin Griffiths is conducting daily bilateral consultations with the aim of convening virtually the parties together as soon as possible.
“I hope that these consultations can soon be completed and deliver what Yemenis expect, demand and deserve,” he said.
In parallel, the Office of the Special Envoy continues its efforts to reach out to the broader Yemeni groups and communities to consult them about ways to resume an inclusive political process. The Office seeks their inputs on what could be done to support the capacity of Yemen to avert and mitigate a COVID-19 outbreak.
In Libya, we are deeply concerned about the ongoing hostilities in and around Tripoli despite an agreed truce to allow national authorities and humanitarian organizations to focus on the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19.
Armed clashes and shelling have been reported in and around Tripoli and Abu Qurayn, reportedly damaging homes and causing civilian casualties.
The fighting rages as the UN is working to support the Libyan authorities with its COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts. Ten people have been confirmed with the virus so far in Misrata and Tripoli.
CENTRAL SAHEL/FOOD INSECURITY
In the Central Sahel region, the number of hungry people is rising steadily as conflict and the associated humanitarian crisis deepen. More than 5 million people are now facing severe food insecurity, and that is according to a new joint food security assessment done by the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as well as other partners.
In Burkina Faso, the number of food insecure people is expected to at least triple to 2.1 million. A year ago, 680,000 were food insecure.
The situation is also extremely worrying in Mali and Niger, with 1.3 and 2 million people severely food insecure respectively.
This dramatic spike in the number of hungry people comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is spreading into the region, adding to the challenges faced by already fragile [health] systems.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today that international prices for major food commodities declined sharply in March, driven by weakening demand and the fall of oil prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The FAO Food Price Index in March declined 4.3 percent in relation to February. The Sugar Price Index had the biggest drop, down 19.1 percent from the previous month, and the Vegetable Oil Price Index declined by 12.0 percent.
International rice prices, by contrast, rose for the third consecutive month, with Indica quotations sustained by stockpiling due to the pandemic.
FAO Director-General warned national leaders at last week's G20 summit to make sure that agricultural trade continues to play an important role in contributing to global food security and to avoid policies that interrupt trade flows that underpin the food-supply systems.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) released a report which found that, based on data obtained in 57 countries, a quarter of women are not able to make their own decisions about accessing health care and are not empowered to say no to sex with their husbands or partners. And nearly 1 in 10 women is not able to make her own choices about using contraception.
The report found that in more than 40 per cent of these countries, women’s decision-making power is not improving – or is even regressing.
UNFPA’s new report also launches a system to measure whether governments are enacting laws to protect women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services and information.
COVID-19/READ THE WORLD
UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Publishers Association (IPA), today launched the initiative Read the World, which is being supported by several children’s authors. Through the campaign, authors will read extracts of their books to millions of children and young people currently living in isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
AUTISM AWARENESS DAY
Today is Autism Awareness Day, and in his message for the Day, the Secretary-General notes that this year’s observance takes place in the midst of a public health crisis that places people with autism at disproportionate risk.
In these unpredictable times, he stated, we must commit to consulting persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, and ensuring that our non-traditional ways of working, learning, and engaging with each other, as well as our global response to the coronavirus, are inclusive of and accessible to all people, including people with autism.