Today, the Secretary-General launched the Policy Brief on Education during COVID-19 and Beyond.
In a video message, the Secretary-General stressed that education is the key to personal development and the future of societies. He noted that, in mid-July, schools were closed in more than 160 countries, affecting over one billion students.
The Secretary-General said that, despite the delivery of lessons by radio, television and online, and the best efforts of teachers and parents, many students remain out of reach. Learners with disabilities, those in minority or disadvantaged communities, displaced and refugee students, and those in remote areas are at highest risk of being left behind.
The Secretary-General emphasized that we already faced a learning crisis before the pandemic. Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities.
The Policy Brief calls for action in four key areas. The first is reopening schools once local transmission of COVID-19 is under control. The second is prioritizing education in financing decisions. The third is targeting the hardest to reach and the fourth is related to the future of education.
The Policy Brief was launched alongside the Save Our Future Campaign, a multi-partner initiative aimed at re-imagining the learning agenda and ensuring that education becomes a core part of the COVID recovery around the world.
LAKE CHAD BASIN
In a statement we issued last night, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the heinous attacks against civilians last Friday and Sunday, in the Lac Province of Chad and the Far North Region of Cameroon. The attacks led to the killing and abduction of many civilians, including women, children and displaced people who had fled violence.
Those responsible for these atrocities must be held accountable. International human rights law and international humanitarian law must be fully respected and all civilians in Cameroon and Chad must be protected.
The UN remains steadfast in its support to the countries of the Lake Chad Basin in their efforts to overcome the scourge of terrorism, and address the security, political, humanitarian and socio-economic challenges in the region.
Turning to Yemen, our humanitarian colleagues report that heavy rains caused severe flooding in several parts of Yemen. The worst affected areas are in Abyan, Marib, Amran, Sa’ada, Al Jawf, Ibb and Al Dhale’e governorates.
More than 10,000 displaced people who had been living in temporary shelters were again displaced by the floods, which also destroyed homes, relief supplies and other property. Casualty estimates are not yet available.
The UN and humanitarian organizations are currently working to assess the situation and mobilize emergency assistance, including relief items for displaced families.
Yemen has experienced heavier than usual rains this year, which is worsening an already catastrophic humanitarian situation that includes the growing risk of famine, the devastating impact of COVID-19 and other challenges. More rain is expected in the coming days.
To date, the Yemen response plan is only 21 per cent funded. Cuts to donor funding are forcing core programmes to close or reduce support across sectors, including food, water, health and nutrition.
We remain concerned about the safety and protection of more than four million civilians in northwestern Syria – 2.7 million of whom are internally displaced – following reports of airstrikes and shelling in the past few days.
Yesterday, local sources reported airstrikes impacting three communities in Idlib governorate as well as one community in northern Lattakia governorate. As a result of airstrikes, three people were reportedly killed and seven injured in Bennsh, in Idlib governorate.
The UN calls on all parties to heed the calls by the Secretary-General for a full ceasefire as an essential measure to enable communities to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UN also continues to remind all parties, and those with influence over them, of their obligation to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure as required by International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law.
In the Philippines, the United Nations and our partners today launched the largest international humanitarian response plan in the country since Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
The Humanitarian Country Team COVID-19 Response Plan, which calls for $122 million, focuses on providing critical health and humanitarian assistance to the 5.4 million poorest and most marginalized Filipinos living in poor, densely populated urban areas. It also prioritizes the safety and well-being of women and girls.
The Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, Gustavo Gonzalez, said that our role is to make the best use of our global knowledge and resources to join the Government’s efforts to contribute to the safety and well-being of the Filipino people.
So far, more than 30 million people [have been reached] with messages on COVID-19 prevention and access to services. More than four million people have received health care services and more than 620,000 people have received water, sanitation and hygiene supplies.
In a note we issued yesterday, we reaffirmed that the United Nations is cooperating fully with the Colombian authorities responsible for determining with certainty the cause of death of Mario Paciolla.
The Verification Mission, with all necessary support from UN Headquarters, has responded to all requests for assistance. This has included the lifting of immunities to permit interviews with colleagues of Mr. Paciolla and through facilitating all requests to review personal effects and work equipment as part of the investigation.
We have also been in close communication with the Government of Italy, through its Embassy in Bogota and its representation at the United Nations in New York.
It is through this cooperation with the relevant investigations that the UN can best contribute to what all concerned wish to see, that the circumstances of Mario Paciolla’s death are fully clarified. While awaiting the results of those investigations and cooperating fully with them, we do not intend to comment about details of the case or speculate about the outcome of the investigations as it would be inappropriate to do so.
ILO CONVENTION ON WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOUR
Earlier today, the Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour has reached universal ratification. The convention was adopted 21 years ago.
Guy Rider, the head of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that this reflects a global commitment that the worst forms of child labour - such as slavery, sexual exploitation, the use of children in armed conflict or other illicit or hazardous work that compromises their health, morals or psychological wellbeing - have no place in our society.
The ILO estimates there are 152 million children in child labour, 73 million of whom are involved in hazardous work.
The COVID-19 pandemic now brings the risk that years of progress will be reversed, leading to a potential increase in child labour for the first time in 20 years, unless action is taken.
And, in case you were wondering, the Convention reached universal ratification when the Kingdom of Tonga deposited its instruments earlier today.
LATIN AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that children living in coastal areas of Central America and the Caribbean could face the additional threat of catastrophic storms as the 2020 hurricane season moves into a more active phase.
UNICEF is especially concerned that a powerful storm could severely undermine ongoing efforts to stop transmission of COVID-19. The virus could spread easily in crowded emergency shelters where physical distancing would be difficult to ensure. At the same time, existing control measures like handwashing could falter if essential water, sanitation and health infrastructure were to be damaged or destroyed.
Across the region, UNICEF is working to support hurricane preparedness efforts and public health responses through education, community outreach and technical support to governments. UNICEF is also supporting the Safe Schools initiative across 18 countries in the Caribbean to protect students and educators from natural hazards, and it is prepositioning life-saving supplies to reach thousands of children in the region.
Today, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced the appointment of South Sudanese track and field athlete Yiech Pur Biel as their newest Goodwill Ambassador.
A refugee, Pur was forced to flee the conflict in South Sudan in 2005, journeying alone to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya when he was only ten years old.
Growing up in Kakuma, Pur devoted himself to athletic training. He began running competitively in 2015, before becoming part of the first Refugee Olympic Team at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
In his new role as a Goodwill Ambassador, Pur will continue to advocate for the rights of the displaced while pursuing his training to be on the Refugee Olympic team in Tokyo 2021.