HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC

SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES

THURSDAY, 26 MARCH 2020

 

SECRETARY-GENERAL
The Secretary-General addressed the G-20’s virtual summit on the COVID-19 pandemic this morning.
He told G-20 leaders that we are at war with a virus – and not winning it.
With an exponential growth in cases, the Secretary-General said the world needs a war-time plan to fight the pandemic.
For this, he stressed that solidarity is essential among the G-20 and with the developing world, including countries in conflict, which is why he issued a call earlier this week for a global ceasefire.
The Secretary-General called for three critical areas for concerted action by the G-20.
First, he underscored that COVID transmission must be suppressed as quickly as possible, which requires a coordinated G-20 response mechanism guided by the World Health Organization (WHO).
He also appealed for the waiving of sanctions that can undermine country’s capacity to respond to this pandemic.
Second, the he said we must work together to minimize the social and economic impact. What we face today, he said, is not a banking crisis like the one in 2008 – it is a human crisis.
Third, the Secretary-General emphasized that we must work together now to set the stage for a recovery that builds a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable economy, guided by our shared promise — the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
 
SYRIA
The U.N. is deeply concerned about the potential impact of the virus on millions of people across Syria, and particularly the over 900,000 people who remain displaced due to hostilities since December 1st in the country’s north-west.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the displaced live in conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to respiratory infections. Besides overcrowding, they also face physical and mental stress and deprivation due to a lack of housing, food and clean water. There are currently over six million internally displaced people throughout the country.
WHO is responding across Syria. It is prioritizing prevention, preparedness and risk communication by supporting health responders to detect, diagnose and prevent spread, surveillance of entry-points, provision of protective equipment and training of health workers.
Across the country, efforts are being accelerated to prepare laboratories and isolation wards and to inform the public.
Health facilities and selected intensive care units are being prepared and communities most at risk have been identified. A particular focus has been given to the northwest of the country, where WHO is shipping in additional ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to better cope with the strain on health care.

LIBYA
The U.N. is very worried by the confirmation of the first COVID-19 case in the country.
The health and safety of all people in Libya, including 345,000 of the most vulnerable, is at risk. A possible outbreak could overwhelm the already stretched humanitarian aid capacity.
The United Nations is supporting Libyan authorities in COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts, but funding is urgently required so that the national and UN health sector’s response plans can be implemented.
Sustaining funding for the Libya Humanitarian Response Plan for the COVID-19 pandemic is critical to ensure that existing vulnerabilities are not exacerbated and life-saving needs are addressed.
The UN is also alarmed that hostilities have continued in and around Tripoli despite the recently announced humanitarian pause.

DRC
In a statement issued today, Leila Zerrougui, the head of the Peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, echoed the Secretary-General's call for a global ceasefire.
She said the country needs peace and security more than ever to ensure that health services and humanitarian assistance reach all those who need it.
Ms. Zerrougui also reiterated that the UN is fully mobilized to support the efforts of the Congolese authorities and to protect the population.

INDIA
The UN Resident Coordinator in India, Renata Dessallien, welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strategy for a nation-wide 21-day lockdown to curtail the spread of the virus.
The UN system in India is fully mobilized and ready to further step up its support to the
Government of India to fight COVID-19, said Ms. Dessalien, adding that she believes that, if we work together, we can overcome one of the greatest health threats of our lifetime.
UN agencies are working with the Government on preparedness and response measures, disease surveillance, lab and research protocols, risk communications, training on infection prevention and control and cluster containment plan, as well as surveillance and tracking of travellers.
The UN in India remains active and is determined to deliver for the people they serve, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, who may be among the hardest hit.

SOUTH SUDAN
In South Sudan, where there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization, the UN team is working with authorities to mobilize the resources to strengthen the national capacity to prepare to respond to COVID-19, including both immediate health priorities and possible social and economic impacts.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and WHO are helping with national and local coordination, planning and monitoring, while UNICEF is working on infection prevention, control, risk communication, and community engagement.
WHO teams are also helping governments with surveillance, rapid response capacity, and case investigation. A laboratory with capacity to test COVID-19 has just been set up. The UN has also supported the construction of a multi-purpose infectious disease unit to isolate and treat suspected cases.
For its part, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is also helping the Government screen people entering the country, including the installation of a thermal scanner at Juba International Airport,
WFP and WHO are also supporting with logistics.

BURKINA FASO
In Burkina Faso, as part of the U.N.'s work to support the government’s response to Covid 19, UNICEF has enlisted the singer Smarty, a hip-hop star in the country, to give a boost to prevention efforts.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoIavngu6LI
The result is a video produced and designed to share information that can save lives. The video can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoIavngu6LI
In addition to this initiative, UNICEF has trained staff to sensitize the population on measures to prevent the spread of the virus. The agency is also working with partners to increase access to water and is accelerating the distribution of soap and hand sanitizer, especially in areas with a high concentration of displaced people. 
 
PHILIPPINES
In a note issued yesterday, you will have seen that we welcomed the temporary ceasefire announced by the Communist Party of the Philippines with the Government of the Philippines on March 24th, following the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire.
The Secretary-General encourages the parties to reach a lasting political solution to this longstanding conflict. The Secretary-General also hopes that this will serve as an example across the world to silence the guns and come together as we face the global threat of COVID-19.

SUDAN
In Sudan, on a related note, following the Secretary-General's call for a ceasefire. With peace talks underway, the Joint Special Representative for the UN\African Union Mission, Jeremiah Mamabolo, urged the Sudanese parties to recognize the gravity of the situation and reach a comprehensive peace as soon as possible.
He added the Covid-19 pandemic requires an absolutely united front to save lives, and assures the country of the continued support from the UN-AU mission. 

CAMEROON
And in response to questions about the temporary ceasefire announced in Cameroon, the spokesman can say the following:
We welcome the temporary ceasefire announced by the Southern Cameroon Defense Forces on March 25th, that also follows the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire. The Secretary-General calls on other armed groups to do likewise.
He also reiterates his call for renewed dialogue that will address all relevant issues in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon and that will put an end to the violence and human suffering. He reiterates the readiness of the UN to assist the authorities and the people of Cameroon in this regard.

NPT
The President-designate and the Bureau of the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the NPT are closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the UN Headquarters.
In light of the rapidly evolving situation surrounding the spread of the virus, the President-designate, following consultations with the States Parties and the Bureau, has written to States Parties seeking their agreement to postpone the Review Conference to a later date, as soon as circumstances permit, but no later than April of 2021.
We expect a full announcement to be made by the end of the week.

UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today launched a global education coalition to support countries in scaling up their distance learning practices and reaching children and youth who are most at risk.
The UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed, expressed the UN’s full commitment to the Coalition, warning that for millions of children and youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, school closures could mean the loss of a vital safety net of nutrition, protection and emotional support.

UNICEF
UNICEF also announced today that it will increase support in 145 low and middle-income countries to help children continue their learning while keeping schools safe. Nationwide school closures due to COVID-19 pandemic have disrupted the education of more than 80 per cent of students worldwide.

AFGHANISTAN
And in a statement yesterday, the Secretary-General condemned the attack on a Sikh-Hindu temple in Kabul.

BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS
Today marks the forty-fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Biological Weapons Convention, the first multilateral treaty to ban an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. In his message, the Secretary-General said the Convention has made an important contribution towards efforts to eliminate such threats, but he said the international community must remain vigilant. He called on States parties to urgently update the mechanisms within the Convention for reviewing advances in science and technology and to work together to improve biosecurity and preparedness so that all countries are equipped to prevent and respond to the possible use of biological weapons.

FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION
We thank our friends in Nairobi for paying Kenya’s dues to the regular budget, which brings us up to 74 fully paid-up countries.