HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
FRIDAY, 20 MARCH 2020
The Secretary-General said yesterday that he continues to work from Headquarters, where he is meeting virtually with the senior staff from around the UN system, to ensure coordination of the COVID-19 immediate response and the world beyond, after this crisis passes.
The UN Global Compact is bringing together more than 10,400 companies in 166 countries. The Compact is now encouraging businesses to support workers and take actions on COVID-19.
For example, the UN team in Brazil tells us that the national UN Global Compact network is collecting information on measures that companies are taking to fight the pandemic and on voluntary initiatives to support the global response to the crisis. The objective is to map and encourage measures that address workers’ rights and safety, including remote work. Some companies have increased health services for people impacted by the virus.
In Moldova, the UN country team has been supporting the Government in putting together a real-time monitoring dashboard of virus cases in the country. Led by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the public dashboard shows the total number of cases at national and local levels and the number of confirmed and recovered patients, among other key information.
Regarding Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that, as of yesterday, more than 600 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 34 countries, compared to 147 just one week ago.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the Regional Director of WHO for Africa, says that the rapid evolution of the virus in Africa is deeply worrisome and a clear signal for action.
However, he stressed that it is still possible to change the course of this pandemic, calling on governments to draw on all of their resources and capabilities to strengthen their response.
Twelve countries in the African region are now experiencing local transmission. WHO says it is crucial that governments prevent local transmission from evolving into a worst-case scenario of widespread sustained community transmission.
As the virus spreads around the world, our humanitarian colleagues today expressed concern for the 100 million people living in warzones and other emergency settings who depend on the UN’s assistance.
Many people live in cramped conditions and with little or no access to proper sanitation and basic health services. As the virus reaches these places, our colleagues warn that the consequences could be devastating.
The humanitarian imperative is to keep getting life-saving help out to these people, while taking action to avoid the catastrophic impact that the COVID-19 outbreak could have on them.
Relief agencies are concerned about the limited surveillance systems in countries with large numbers of vulnerable groups, while the additional burden of COVID-19 could mean that other current outbreaks such as cholera, measles and yellow fever receive less attention.
Overcrowding of camps for internally displaced persons in some of the world's humanitarian hotspots are also high-risk areas for COVID-19.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and its partners are working around the clock to help raise awareness about how people can protect themselves and others from the virus. They are also taking precautions to ensure the safety of their staff and the people they serve.
UN agencies are right now assessing where humanitarian operations are being disrupted and identifying solutions.
The UN is working on a global humanitarian response plan which should be ready to launch next week.
And already, the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund has released $15 million to help contain the virus in vulnerable countries, while OCHA-managed funds in Afghanistan, Sudan and Jordan have also released funds to scale up preparedness.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said today that the inclusion of migrants and marginalized groups is necessary in all aspects of the response to COVID-19.
The UN agency said that it is particularly important that authorities make every effort to confront xenophobia. The virus does not discriminate, and nor should our response, if it is to succeed.
IOM warned that migrants all too often face obstacles in accessing healthcare, and if they fear deportation, family separation or detention, they may be less willing to access healthcare or provide information on their health status.
IOM pointed out that while many countries have chosen to tighten controls at their borders, it is critical that such measures be implemented in a non-discriminatory manner, in line with international law, and by prioritizing the protection of the most vulnerable.
At UN Headquarters, our security colleagues tells us that about 247 people have swiped into the building today, down from 11,000 on a normal day. The UN is taking responsibility by lowering the footprint and cutting back on the workforce that actually has to be in the building.
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us they expect a rapid deterioration of the Desert Locust situation in the Greater Horn of Africa. There is widespread breeding and new swarms are starting to form. As a result, this will pose an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods, as the next upsurge will coincide with the main cropping season across much of the region.
Aerial and ground locust control operations by Governments are ongoing, with the support from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and have reached thousands of hectares across the region.
However, if the swarms are not fully contained, impacts on crops and forage will drive up hunger in areas already facing very high levels of food insecurity.
Some 42 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda and Yemen are already facing severe food insecurity.
The FAO locust appeal has been revised to include Sudan and Yemen and now calls for $153 million – that’s up from $138 million – to support the response in ten countries. As of 18 March, $110 million had been pledged
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) yesterday airlifted emergency relief items to Chadto respond to the humanitarian needs of some 10,000 Sudanese refugees.
Clashes in Sudan’s West Darfur since late last year have forced more than 16,000 people, mostly women and children to cross into the neighbouring country of Chad.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Secretary-General congratulated Uzbekistan on the passage this week of legislation set to end statelessness for at least some 50,000 people. In granting nationality to those who previously had none, Uzbekistan is profoundly bettering the lives of a too-often invisible and vulnerable people.
The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, yesterday expressed alarm at the continuous military campaign in Al Jawf and Marib and the tragic toll it is taking on the lives of civilians.
“At a time when the world is struggling to fight a pandemic, the focus of the parties must shift away from fighting one another in ensuring that the population will not face even graver risks,” he said.
We have a statement from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, on South Sudan, in which she expressed serious concern over the escalation in intercommunal violence in the central and eastern parts of the country in the past month.
She urged State authorities to curb the bloodshed and bring those responsible to justice.
Today is the International Day of Happiness as well French language Day. Tomorrow, other days will be observed. These include: The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, World Poetry Day, the International Day of Nowruz, World Down Syndrome Day and the International Day of Forests.
Tomorrow, the Secretary-General also has a message on the International Day of Nowruz, on which he said that COVID-19, is casting a shadow around the world, including the regions that mark this ancient festival. He sends his deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones, and his best wishes to all those who have been affected.