HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
WEDNESDAY, 08 APRIL 2020
COVID-19/SECRETARY-GENERAL ON WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
The Covid-19 pandemic is one of the most dangerous challenges this world has faced in our lifetime. It is above all a human crisis with severe health and socio-economic consequences.
The World Health Organization, with thousands of its staff, is on the front lines, supporting Member States and their societies, especially the most vulnerable among them, with guidance, training, equipment and concrete life-saving services as they fight the virus.
I witnessed first-hand the courage and determination of WHO staff when I visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year, where WHO staff are working in precarious conditions and very dangerous remote locations as they fight the deadly Ebola virus. It has been a remarkable success for WHO that no new cases of Ebola have been registered in months.
It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19.
This virus is unprecedented in our lifetime and requires an unprecedented response. Obviously, in such conditions, it is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities. Once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe, and how all those involved reacted to the crisis. The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future.
But now is not that time. Now is the time for unity, for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences.
In a statement we issued yesterday, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the heavy shelling of Al Khadra General Hospital in Tripoli, in the Libyan capital. He also condemned the continued attacks on medical personnel, hospitals and medical facilities, particularly at a time when they are critical to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Secretary-General reminds all parties that medical personnel, hospitals and facilities are protected under international humanitarian law and that attacks on them may constitute a war crime.
The Secretary-General reiterates his call for a global ceasefire and a humanitarian pause in Libya in order to save lives and enable the Libyan authorities and their partners to devote all their energies to stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
In Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that the confirmed numbers of COVID-19 on the continent has risen to more than 10,000, with more than 500 recorded deaths.
While the virus was slow to reach the continent compared to other parts of the world, infections has grown exponentially in recent weeks and are continuing to spread.
Reaching the continent through travellers returning from other hotspots, Africa’s first COVID-19 case was recorded in Egypt on 14 February. Since then a total of 52 countries have reported cases.
The World Health Organization is calling for a decentralised response, which is tailored to the local context. Communities need to be empowered, and provincial and district levels of government need to ensure they have the resources and expertise to respond to the outbreaks locally.
WHO is working with governments across Africa to scale up their capacities in critical response areas such as coordination, surveillance, isolation, case management and contact tracing, as well as infection prevention and control, risk communication as well as community engagement, including laboratory capacity.
Our colleagues in Asia, at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), say that COVID-19 is having far-reaching economic and social consequences for the region, with strong cross-border spillover effects through trade, tourism and financial linkages.
A new report highlights the immediate risk to the region’s economic outlook posed by the pandemic, deepening the economic slowdown that was already underway.
Tomorrow, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) will issue its Financing for Sustainable Development Report for 2020.
Billions of people live in countries teetering on the brink of economic collapse due to the explosive mix of financial shocks fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, heavy debt obligations and declining official development assistance.
This year’s report explores the steps that governments must take to avert the debt crisis and address the economic and financial havoc wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
DESA will speak to journalists at 2pm today to provide details on tomorrow’s report.
In a statement issued today, the head of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, said that COVID-19 virus is generating an unprecedented global economic crisis, with the economic destruction cruelly and unequally distributed.
For the world’s poorest countries, the financial fallout caused by the pandemic, combined with debilitating debt-service obligations, are hampering their ability to prevent further transmission and protect citizens, said Ms. Fore.
She noted that, for the families within those countries, with widespread loss of income and limited access to food in environments where social distancing is impossible, soap and water for handwashing is a luxury, and quality health services non-existent, the situation is already dire, and it is only going to get worse.
While children are largely spared the immediate health consequences of the pandemic, they will suffer the economic destruction left in its wake, Ms. Fore cautioned. More than 200 million children live in debt-distressed countries and those at high risk of debt distress.
Her full statement is online.
In Venezuela, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for the country, Peter Grohmann, said that the first shipment of 90 tons of UN lifesaving supplies is scheduled to arrive today to support the COVID-19 response.
This shipment includes 28,000 Personal Protective Equipment kits for health workers on the frontline, as well as oxygen concentrators, pediatric beds, water quality control products and hygiene kits. These are among the items to be shipped in.
The supplies were financed by the international donor community, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and UN agencies. Today’s flight was also arranged by UNICEF.
The supplies will be made available to health care centres and the most vulnerable people through the partners of the Pan-American Health Organization, UNICEF and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
In support of national efforts to respond to the pandemic, the UN and our humanitarian partners are appealing for $61 million to scale up the response under the COVID-19 Prevention and Response Plan in Venezuela.
The Plan focuses on strengthening the capacity of the health system to quickly identify and treat COVID-19 patients; supply water, hygiene and sanitation in prioritized hospitals and communities; and provide timely and trustworthy information to the public to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Plan also seeks to ensure other critical humanitarian programmes can continue, including provisions of food, nutrition, protection, and education among others.
The UN is calling for solidarity, access and increased funding to help combat the pandemic and save lives, while urging donors to sustain the existing Humanitarian Response Plan.
As of yesterday (7 April), 166 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Venezuela and seven deaths were reported.
In Nigeria, the UN is supporting the Government led-efforts in curbing the spread of the virus, where we today donated three ambulances to Lagos State, home to some 21 million people.
Other essential preventative, testing and treatment equipment has been procured by the UN and is expected to arrive in the country in the coming days.
In Zimbabwe, the severe climate- and recession-induced hunger crisis is deepening the COVID-19 crisis. The World Food Programme (WFP) said today that they are urgently calling for $130 million through August to help millions of the most vulnerable people in the country.
A recent nationwide assessment found that the number of acutely food insecure Zimbabweans has risen to 4.3 million, from 3.8 million at the end of last year.
WFP’s Director in the country, Eddie Rowe, said that, with most Zimbabweans already struggling to put food on the table, the COVID pandemic risks even wider and deeper desperation.
The total number of food insecure people in Zimbabwe is now at 7.7 million, which is more than half of the country’s population.
And we have an update on operations out of the UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Panama. The depot, managed by the World Food Programme (WFP), is the primary regional logistics hub responding to COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean.
A COVID-19 special unit was created and has planned to double the number of staff, including a pharmacist, to manage the cold warehouse, where medications will be stored.
The depot has already airlifted more than eight tons of supplies to 24 countries, on behalf of the Pan American Health Organization and the WHO, including COVID-19 kits.
With several commercial flights cancelled around the world, the humanitarian depot now plays an important role in the pandemic response. The depot manager in Panama said that they are trying to ensure that humanitarian cargo reaches its destination within 48 hours of order placement.
COVID-19/ EUROPE’S FOOD SUPPLY
The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is reiterating its call to all countries to facilitate the cross-border flow of goods, in particular food, to the maximum extent possible during the ongoing pandemic, and to make full use of existing trade facilitation standards.
The Commission is sharing online information on the pandemic’s impact on Europe’s food and agriculture sector and on global food supply chains.
UNICEF in Spain has delivered a first batch of medical supplies to the Spanish health authorities to support the fight against the pandemic.
The shipment includes hand sanitizer and gloves and more supplies are expected in the coming days, including masks, gloves, detection kits, and personal protective equipment.
The donation is part of UNICEF's global COVID-19 response, in collaboration with the World Health Organization and done through the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, currently being promoted by the United Nations Foundation.
The UNICEF and the Religions for Peace (RfP) coalition yesterday launched a global Multi-Religious Faith-in-Action COVID-19 Initiative. The aim is to raise awareness of the impacts of the virus pandemic on the world’s youngest citizens.
The initiative reflects the unique and critical roles played by religious leaders and actors, in influencing values, attitudes and actions that affect the development and wellbeing for the world’s children.
The initiative is coordinated by the global partnership on Faith and Positive Change for Children, Families and Communities, which involves Religions for Peace’s Interreligious Councils, including senior leaders of the world’s religious and spiritual traditions.
And lastly, according to a new report issued the International Labour Organization (ILO), the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to wipe out 6.7 percent of working hours globally in the second quarter of 2020. That is equivalent to 195 million full-time workers.
The report highlights some of the worst affected sectors and regions, and outlines policies to mitigate the crisis.
There is more information online.