HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
TUESDAY, 7 APRIL 2020
WORLD HEALTH DAY
Today is World Health Day.
The Secretary-General dedicated his message this year to all the healthcare workers -- nurses, midwives, technicians, paramedics, pharmacists, doctors, drivers, cleaners, administrators and many others -- who work, day and night to keep us safe.
He said, “today, we are more deeply grateful than ever to all of you, as you work, round the clock, putting yourselves at risk, to fight the ravages of this pandemic.”
The Secretary-General stressed that in these traumatic times, we stand with healthcare workers, and he told them “you make us proud; you inspire us. We are indebted to you.”
2020 is also the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, and the Secretary-General also gave special recognition to their expertise and their commitment.
A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners says that the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the urgent need to strengthen the global health workforce, with nurses being on the frontline in the battle against the virus.
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros said that nurses are the backbone of any health system, adding that the new report, entitled “The State of the World’s Nursing 2020,” is a wakeup call to ensure they get the support they need to keep the world healthy.
Today, there are just under 28 million nurses worldwide, with a global shortfall of 5.9 million, with the greatest gaps in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean region and Latin America.
The report estimates that countries experiencing shortages need to increase the total number of nurse graduates by on average 8 per cent per year, along with improved ability to be employed and retained in the health system.
TOGETHER AT HOME
And in case you missed it, the announcement yesterday, on April 18th, WHO and Global Citizen are organizing a special event to celebrate and support healthcare workers.
The event, titled “One World: Together At Home’ will be co-hosted by Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert and will feature – in addition to stars and musical acts [including Lady Gaga] - real experiences from doctors, nurses and families around the world.
The event will benefit the UN Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO.
In order to mitigate the risk of transmission of COVID-19, the Secretary-General has suspended the rotation and deployments of uniformed personnel – individual officers and formed, police and military units – until June 30th. This decision has been transmitted to all Troop and Police Contributing Countries, as well as to all relevant peace operations.
Our peacekeeping missions are working full time to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Our priorities are to ensure the COVID-19-free status of incoming uniformed personnel, and mitigate the risk that UN peacekeepers could be a contagion vector and simultaneously maintain our operational capabilities.
A few, limited exceptions may be considered to continue to deliver on the mandate, but only in extenuating circumstances on the basis of strict conditions to prevent the spread of the virus.
During a Security Council meeting on Mali, held in an open videoconference, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, said 46 COVID-19 cases have now been recorded in Mali, including one in peacekeeping personnel.
Despite these exceptional conditions, the Mission continues to fulfill its mandate and supports the government’s response to the pandemic, he added. The rotation of uniformed contingents is suspended until the end of June, although exceptions may be envisaged for the implementation of the mandate, with authorizations on a case-by-case basis and isolation periods to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Special Representative highlighted some positive recent developments in the country, notably the generally peaceful atmosphere that surrounded last week’s legislative elections and respect of a 30% quota for women. He also pointed out the redeployment of the first reconstituted Units of the Malian Defense and Security Forces in the Northern parts of the country.
With regard to Mali’s Centre region, Mr. Annadif said the mission continues to implement its adaptation plan to better protect civilians there.
But as violence and insecurity persist in the country, in a separate statement to the press, Mr. Annadif strongly condemned an attack on Malian armed forces that took place near Gao yesterday.
In Uzbekistan, the UN team there is helping the Government to contain the spread of the virus, as well as to address the socio-economic impacts.
The WHO has provided experts to work directly with the Ministry of Health and to support the country’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.
The UN also has provided training on lab diagnostics for medical schools and other academic centres.
The UN is also helping to procure ventilators, test kits and other health supplies, with UNDP securing protection and detection equipment for maternity wards, shelters for women, and civil society organizations supporting women with disabilities.
We are also helping the Government to address the issue of social protection in light of a significant number of people losing their jobs or being forced to take unpaid leave.
The UN team, led by the WHO is also working closely with the Government by supporting the National Preparedness and Response Operational Plan to contain the virus and procure medical equipment, personal protection equipment and diagnostic tests.
UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education to ensure continued learning for the most vulnerable children, including home learning through TV, online and printed copies in communities with no access to the internet.
The UN is working with the Government to provide counseling services over the telephone to women, including refugees. It is also transferring cash to women who had to stop working due to the outbreak, including through the use of online cash disbursement using blockchain technology in refugee camps.
For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) is also working with the Government to ensure that support to refugees is maintained, including through cash transfers for food and other needs.
And the UN Development Programme is supporting medical waste management in Jordanian hospitals to protect patients, medical workers and the general public.
Turning to Nigeria. Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, yesterday, in Nigeria, the UN, the European Union and the Government launched a COVID-19 Basket Fund to mobilise additional funds to support efforts to tackle the pandemic.
As of yesterday, Nigeria reported 238 confirmed cases and five deaths.
The new Fund, which will be facilitated and implemented by the UN in Nigeria, aims to ensure adequate essential health equipment needed for testing, preparing quarantine and medical care.
It will serve a financing and investment platform for the UN, donors, private sector, foundations, philanthropists and others to channel their financial support.
This new initiative is in addition to the $2 million funding by the UN in Nigeria, and the COVID-19 emergency preparedness and response plan for displaced and vulnerable people in the north-east that was launched last week.
The UN Refugee Agency is ramping up its efforts to increase capacity to prevent, treat and limit the spread of COVID-19 among refugee communities across the Eastern part, the Horn and Great Lakes region of Africa. As you know, these regions host some of the largest refugee populations in the world.
Many of UNHCR’s operations in the area have provided refugees with more food and basic relief items, including soap, to reduce the frequency of distributions and the risks posed by queues and large crowds.
UNHCR is also actively engaged with Governments of the region to ensure the inclusion of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people in the national response plans. You can find more on UNCHR’s website about their support operations.
The Co-Chairs of the Geneva International Discussions – the UN, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union – said they remain fully engaged to help address the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic. They appealed to all participants to respond to the Secretary-General’s call to put aside mistrust and animosity, avoid antagonistic rhetoric, and work together to reach out to the most vulnerable.
Turning to Cameroon, the Secretary-General condemns the double suicide bombing by suspected Boko Haram fighters that took place in Amichidé, in the Far North region of Cameroon on the 5th of April. He expresses his condolences to the bereaved families and to the Government and people of Cameroon.
The Secretary-General reiterates the UN’s continued support to the countries of the Lake Chad Basin in their unwavering efforts to address the security, socioeconomic and humanitarian challenges posed by Boko Haram.
And in Libya, Yacoub El Hillo, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, said he was appalled to have learned that heavy shelling hit Tripoli’s Al Khadra General Hospital today, injuring at least one healthcare worker and damaging the fully-functioning medical facility. He said that this is a clear violation of international humanitarian law.
Mr. El Hillo said that the repeated calls by the UN and the international community for a cessation of hostilities have only been met with complete disregard and the fighting has intensified. This is unacceptable at a time when healthcare and health workers are vital in the fight against a global pandemic, he added.
He said that if Libya is to have any chance against COVID-19, the ongoing conflict must come to an immediate halt.
Due to COVID-19, the traditional commemoration meeting of the General Assembly to mark the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda has been postponed. However, the public is invited to reflect on April 7th on one of the darkest chapters in human history when more than one million people – overwhelmingly Tutsi, but also moderate Hutus, Twa and others who opposed the genocide – were systematically killed in less than three months, and to reflect on the suffering of those who survived.
In his message, the Secretary-General underscored that in this Day of Reflection, we must quote “…honour those who were killed and we gain inspiration from the capacity of those who survived for reconciliation and restoration. We must never again let such atrocities occur.” He also stressed that “only by recognizing that we are all one human family sharing the same planet will we be able to rise to the many global challenges that confront us – from COVID-19 to climate change.”