HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
WEDNESDAY, 13 MAY 2020
MENTAL HEALTH POLICY BRIEF
Tonight, we will be putting out a policy brief from the Secretary-General, in which he presents a series of recommendations to ensure that mental health services are fully included in COVID-19 response and recovery plans.
The policy brief will be released at 11pm New York time, and we will also have a video message recorded by the Secretary-General released at that same time.
DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL/COVID-19/SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
This morning, the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG) met virtually to coordinate support so that countries can overcome and recover better from the pandemic.
The Deputy Secretary-General and chair of the Group, Amina J. Mohammed, underscored that the pandemic is a global health, humanitarian and socioeconomic emergency.
Behind the numbers are people and families. COVID-19 placed many things on pause, and also exacerbated grave existing problems including inequality and climate change.
“The way the UN system responds now will put our reforms in action to enable us to better address this development crisis in full emergency mode,” said the Deputy Secretary-General.
The group members also reviewed progress in reinforcing humanitarian-development collaboration as well as consolidating the reforms launched by the Secretary-General to strengthen the UN’s support to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
This morning, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, briefed the Security Council in a closed consultation on Lebanon. She presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of resolution 1559.
Also today, regarding Lebanon, the International Support Group for Lebanon, which brings together the United Nations as well as a number of Member States, took due note of the unanimous adoption by the Government in Beirut of its Financial Recovery Plan as a constructive framework for future reforms.
The Group also noted the Government’s decision to request an IMF programme as a first step in the right direction.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the horrific attack on a hospital in Kabul. The attack killed and wounded dozens of people, including women and children.
The Secretary-General said that he is also following with concern the escalation of violence in Afghanistan. He expressed his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Afghanistan.
The Secretary-General reiterated that attacks against civilians are unacceptable and that hospitals, medical facilities and their personnel have special protection under international humanitarian law.
The Secretary-General emphasized that those who carry out such crimes must be held accountable.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, also issued a statement stressing that as countries around the world are focusing on their response to COVID-19, it is fundamental that hospitals and healthcare institutions, as well as the patients they host, are protected.
In South Sudan, our peacekeeping colleagues tell us that the Ministry of Health has confirmed two COVID-19 cases in Protection of Civilians sites in Juba. Our colleagues say that this was not unexpected, given the rising number of cases confirmed within communities across the city.
The UN continues to urge displaced people in the sites to follow prevention measures such as social distancing, handwashing, and isolating themselves if they become sick.
The UN has been broadcasting prevention messages through our Radio Miraya station, as well as from inside protection sites.
The UN has doubled the water supply and increased the number of handwashing facilities. We have also distributed three months’ worth of food in advance.
This means that people don’t have to travel often between the camps and the town to purchase supplies.
The UN will continue providing this support and encouraging people living in the sites to follow prevention measures as much as possible.
In Libya, the heads of the UN’s principal humanitarian bodies have just issued a joint statement in which they say that conflict and the pandemic present a significant threat to life in Libya. The health and safety of the country’s entire population are at risk.
They say that close to 400,000 Libyans have been displaced since the start of the conflict nine years ago – around half of them within the past year, since the attack on the capital Tripoli started.
Despite repeated calls for a humanitarian ceasefire, including by the Secretary-General, hostilities continue unabated, hindering access and the delivery of critical humanitarian supplies.
The UN humanitarian leaders urge all parties to the conflict to protect vital water supply facilities and they express alarm that water facilities have been deliberately targeted or indiscriminately attacked.
This impacts thousands of women and children and impedes efforts to implement basic virus prevention measures, such as hand-washing.
They reiterate their support for the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire and a humanitarian pause to save lives and enable the Libyan authorities and their partners to devote their energies to stopping the spread of COVID-19.
The international community must not turn a blind eye to the conflict in Libya and its catastrophic impact on civilians, including migrants and refugees, across the country.
In a joint statement, the heads of the UN global health, human rights and development institutions today issued a joint call to political leaders to address the vulnerability of prisoners to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This statement was signed by Ghada Fathi Waly of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, of the World Health Organization (WHO); Winnie Byanyima of UNAIDS and Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
They stressed the need to reduce overcrowding; respect human rights; ensure health, safety and human dignity; ensure access to continued health services; and to adhere to UN rules and guidance, especially that of the World Health Organization.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today warned that an additional 6,000 children could die every day from preventable causes over the next six months, with the pandemic weakening health systems and disrupting routine services.
This would mean that the number of children dying before their fifth birthday could increase worldwide for the first time in decades.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) today said that the pandemic has led to a 3 per cent drop in global trade in the first quarter of the year.
This downturn is expected to accelerate in the next quarter, with UNCTAD forecasting a 27 per cent decline.
This has been accompanied by marked decreases in commodity prices – particularly fuel, as well as minerals, food and other raw materials.
The UN agency said it would now update its trade forecasts on a monthly basis to provide policymakers with up-to-date data so they can make better decisions.
WORLD HEALTH STATISTICS
The 2020 World Health Statistics published today by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that all over the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing significant loss of life and disrupting livelihoods. It is also threatening the recent advances in health and progress towards the global development goals.
According to the World Health Statistics report, life expectancy and healthy life expectancy have increased, but unequally. The biggest gains were reported in low-income countries, which saw life expectancy rise 21% or 11 years between 2000 and 2016.
Among the challenges are access to quality health services and the inability to pay for healthcare. On current trends, WHO estimates that this year, 2020, approximately 1 billion people will be spending at least 10% of their household budgets on health care.
WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the pandemic is highlighting the urgent need for all countries to invest in strong health systems.
Today, the Head of the UN Human Rights office in Iraq, Danielle Bell, warned that women in the country are facing several additional challenges right now. She said that restrictive measures adopted to fight the virus in Iraq heighten the risk of domestic violence.
At the same time, they substantially reduce the ability of victims to report abuses and seek effective shelter, support and access to justice.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, in the eastern province of Ituri, 200,000 people fled their homes in the last month, following large-scale military operations.
Clashes between the Congolese army and armed groups, intercommunal violence and land-related conflicts have all contributed to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation.
Since the beginning of the year, over 1,300 sexual and gender based violence cases have been recorded in the DRC. Forty health facilities were destroyed or looted and 80,000 children are out of school due to displacement or school attacks. Insecurity has severely hindered the humanitarian response.
Some humanitarian organizations have suspended operations in parts of the province, and in recent weeks about 66,000 people have been cut off from aid.
Despite these difficulties, the provision of medical support, food and non-food items continues in more accessible areas and our humanitarian partners are looking for windows of opportunity to resume their activities, despite chronic underfunding for the response.
As of today, only 11 per cent of the $ 2.1 billion requested in the DRC Humanitarian Response Plan has been funded.
VIRTUAL PRESS BRIEFING TOMORROW
Tomorrow, following my briefing, our friend Reem Abaza, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will brief you on the same virtual platform.
I want to end with a big thanks and some welcome news from Moldova. They have fully paid their budget dues for this year. With their full payment to the regular budget, 90 Member States have now paid in full for 2020 and we thank all of them very much.