HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
TUESDAY, 12 MAY 2020
The UN country team expressed its shock and revulsion at today’s attacks at a Kabul maternity hospital as well as a funeral in Nangarhar.
The UN Mission there said that the attacks caused significant civilian casualties. The UN in Afghanistan calls for those responsible to face justice and offers condolences to victims and families.
The Secretary-General obviously joins this condemnation but we expect a more formal statement from him later today.
Also today, the Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Toby Lanzer, said that he is outraged by the attack on the Sad Bistar Hospital in Kabul. Mr. Lanzer said that it beggars belief that such a heinous act could be committed when Afghanistan is being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Lanzer emphasized that civilians receiving care in hospitals, health workers, medical infrastructure and aid workers are protected under International Humanitarian Law; violations must be investigated and those behind the attacks brought to justice.
COVID-19 : TELECOMMUTING ARRANGEMENTS AT UN HEADQUARTERS
The Secretary-General wrote to UN staff yesterday evening, noting how he has been inspired by how our work has been able to continue uninterrupted for the past two months. This, he said, has enabled the UN not only to stay open, but also to play an active global role in helping people cope with the emergency. He informed staff that, after consulting with senior management and our medical services, he is extending the current telecommuting arrangements at the Headquarters complex through June 30th 2020. These arrangements will continue to be reviewed. The Secretary-General said that a plan is also being finalized for a gradual and phased return to the building whenever it is considered safe for us to do so. The staff’s health and safety are the priorities guiding this process.
ROLE OF RELIGIOUS LEADERS
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at a high-level video conference on the Role of Religious Leaders in Addressing the Multiple Challenges of COVID-19. In his remarks, he stressed that, as the virus wreaks havoc and disruption on a scale not seen in generations, we see a dawning awareness that the differences that so often divide us pale in significance. For the Secretary-General, it lays bare our responsibility to promote solidarity as the foundations of our response – a solidarity based on the human rights and human dignity of all. The Secretary-General emphasized four areas where religious leaders play a pivotal role in delivering solutions to not only address the pandemic but also recover better. These include supporting his appeal for a global ceasefire and his appeal for peace in the home - regarding the alarming increase in violence against women and girls as this pandemic and the lockdowns spreads. The event was organized by the Permanent Mission of Morocco.
This morning, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, briefed the Security Council by video conference on the situation in that country. She welcomed the early actions of the new government. At the same time, she said, the road ahead will be complex, with many challenges, and it is most important to manage public expectations. To regain public trust, she said, the government must be able to prove itself and provide law and order and deliver basic public services. She also stressed the need to have accountability for the many deaths and injuries of innocent protestors. The Special Representative said that Iraq cannot afford to be used as a theatre for confrontation and different power conflicts. She told council members that a more just and prosperous Iraq can emerge from the current crisis and she reaffirmed the UN’s support for the Government of Iraq.
The UN’s Children Fund today said that is appealing for $1.6 billion for its humanitarian response for children impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is more than double the funds it called for in March, reflecting the devastating socioeconomic consequences of the disease and the increasing needs of families. As the outbreak enters its fifth month, the UN agency says the costs for supplies, shipment and duty of care are increasing dramatically. The Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, warned that the pandemic is a health crisis, which is quickly becoming a child rights crisis. UNICEF estimates that more than three quarters of children under the age of 18– that’s about 1.8 billion of them – are living in one of the 132 countries with some form of movement restrictions in place due to the pandemic.
UN ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME
A new report filed today by the UN Environment Programme says that in response to the current pandemic, UNEP will step up its work on mapping threats of diseases transmitted from animals to people and protecting the environment to reduce the risk of future pandemics. The agency will also focus on supporting nations to “build back better” – through stronger science, policies that back a healthier planet and more green investments.
UN Women, the International Labour Organization and the European Union Commission put forward a series of recommendations for G7 countries to ensure women’s security and economic empowerment in the post-pandemic future. The recommendations were made at a virtual High-Level Roundtable with Ministers, CEOs, trade unions and members of civil society. The recommendations include providing health care and other front-line workers with occupational safety and health equipment; designing economic recovery packages that recognize and place a value on unpaid care work and care jobs. Another recommendation is to allocate additional resources to address discrimination and violence against women and girls in COVID-19 national response plans.
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, also known as ECLAC, released a report proposing that governments in the region ensure immediate temporary cash transfers to meet basic needs and sustain household consumption, to cope with the socioeconomic effects of the pandemic. In addition, ECLAC reiterated that these transfers should be made permanent, extending beyond people in situations of poverty and reaching the broad social strata of the population that are very vulnerable to becoming poor. This would enable moving towards a universal basic income.
As of this morning, our humanitarian colleagues report that 58 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Yemen. The UN and our humanitarian partners in Yemen are responding by focusing on case management, risk communications, community engagement and the protection of the wider public health system. More than 125 metric tonnes of supplies are already in country while 4,836 metric tonnes are in the pipeline. These include 1,000 Intensive Care Unit beds, 417 ventilators, 52,400 tests and 755,000 pieces of Personal Protective Equipment. More supplies are urgently needed to scale up the response. None of this work can continue without urgent funding. Of 41 key UN programmes, 31 are expected to reduce or close down in the coming weeks unless immediate “lifeline funding” is made available. Aid agencies are seeking up to $2 billion to assist millions of people through the end of the year, including on COVID-19 activities.
The Joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for refugees and migrants from Venezuela, Eduardo Stein, said the pandemic is exposing Venezuelan refugees and migrants to even greater hardship, as many are now struggling to survive away from home. In response to the crisis, humanitarian organizations have revised the Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan launched in November last year from $1.35 billion up to $1.41 billion. The original plan prioritized activities to address protection, lifesaving and integration needs. The updated plan includes COVID-19-specific activities - like the provision of personal protective equipment, as well as the dissemination of vital information on the pandemic and available services. Other activities include the establishment of mobile health facilities for the testing and referral of virus cases as well as the upgrading of shelters with adequate physical spacing and improved sanitary conditions. More on UNHCR’s website.
In Ukraine, our colleagues at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today that the contact line between the government-controlled areas and the non-government-controlled areas remains closed since March 21st as part of the COVID-19 lockdown. In practice almost no-one, including humanitarian personnel, are currently able to physically cross the contact line where there are normally about 900,000 crossings registered every month. According to OCHA, this closure of the contact line has limited humanitarians’ ability to send convoys into the non-government-controlled areas. Only two UN-organized convoys delivering virus-related supplies have crossed into Donetsk since the beginning of this crisis. Humanitarian agencies continue their operations on both sides of the contact line with existing stockpiles, targeting some two million people.
In nearby Moldova, there are nearly 5,000 cases and 179 confirmed deaths due to the coronavirus. The UN team there, led by Resident Coordinator Simon Springett, with WHO’s technical know-how, is focusing on risk communications and ensuring that essential equipment reaches people at both the national and local levels. With the support of development and cooperation agencies – including Sweden, Switzerland, the US, the European Union, as well as the World Bank – the UN team has provided medical equipment and testing kits to state institutions. This includes more than 140,000 masks and 30,000 items for personal protective equipment, as well as tens of thousands of ventilators and other supplies.
The UN team has also ensured there is the medicine necessary for people living with HIV. The UN has trained more than 1,100 mayors and community leaders and over 9,000 doctors, epidemiologists and hospital managers. We are also developing an online dashboard to help the Government and people visualize the COVID-19 curve, to help raise awareness and encouraging people to stay at home. This system will also track needs in terms of essential medical supplies.
Turning to Mozambique, where there are more than 100 confirmed COVID-19 cases but no reported deaths, the UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Myrta Kaulard, is focusing on preventing the spread of the virus and addressing the drastic economic impacts. The World Health Organization, working with the Government, is leading the health response. The UN is helping to ensure the speedy delivery of essential medical supplies at low cost. The UN Development Programme and UNICEF are supporting the Government to provide connectivity, electronic services and digitalization during the lockdown. UNICEF is also helping to provide education and protection for millions of children out of school. The UN and our partners have set up an SMS code so that women and girls can report cases of domestic violence, which have been increasing during the lockdown, as they have in many other countries.
In South Sudan, the UN peacekeeping mission's radio station, Radio Miraya, has started to broadcast lessons for students who are out of school because of the virus. This initiative was launched yesterday in partnership with the Ministry of General Education and UNICEF. The lessons will be interactive, with children able to phone in with questions and to participate in on-air quizzes.
In Malawi, the Secretary-General has taken note of the verdict delivered on 8 May by the Supreme Court of Malawi. The Secretary-General expresses concern over the mounting violence, and he extends his condolences to the families of the three civilians, including a child, that were killed last week. The Secretary-General reiterates his call for all stakeholders to uphold the rule of law, observe human rights and promote peace, particularly as the Malawian people take actions to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN country team, under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator, continues to actively support the people of Malawi and all stakeholders in their efforts to preserve calm.
The United Nations Peacekeeping Force there (UNFICYP) said that at around 3.00 am, a small explosive device was detonated outside of a bakery in the bi-communal village of Pyla. The explosion caused minor damage to the property. No injuries to persons were reported. The UN Peacekeeping Force in the country said it is very concerned by this incident and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. The Mission is monitoring the situation closely and has stepped up patrols by peacekeepers in the area to ensure that calm and stability is maintained.
The four peacekeepers who were injured this weekend in Mali are now listed as being in stable condition. They are currently at a peacekeeping hospital in Kidal and will soon be flown to the country’s capital, Bamako, for additional medical treatments. As you will recall, they were seriously injured on Sunday when their convoy hit a roadside bomb near Aguelhok, in the Kidal region. Three peacekeepers, also from Chad, were killed in the attack.
The President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Ambassador Mona Juul, of Norway, has issued a statement to the press on the briefing entitled “Joining Forces: Effective Policy Solutions for COVID-19 Response”. In her statement, Ambassador Juul reiterates that we must put people at the centre of crisis response and recovery to achieve better, more equitable and resilient outcomes for all, and we must get back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. She is also calling for mobilization and international support for the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
INTERNATIONAL NURSES DAY
Marking International Nurses Day, the Secretary-General thanked nurses for caring for us, today and every day of the year. COVID-19 has made more evident that nurses are irreplaceable, the Secretary-General said in a tweet. The theme for the day this year is” Nursing the World to Health”.
And for her part, Amina Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary-General paid tribute to all nurses on the front lines of the pandemic, and, of course to her own mother – who was a nurse, who she described as an amazing one.
The World Health Organization reminds us that as the world struggles to respond to the pandemic, there is an urgent shortage of nurses worldwide: 5.9 million more are needed, especially in low-income and middle-income countries.
This year is also the year of the Nurse and the Midwife, and WHO added that now more than ever, it is essential that governments support and invest in their nurses.