The Secretary-General welcomes the announcement by the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban of a ceasefire to enable the Afghan people to celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday in peace.
The Secretary-General urges all parties concerned to seize this opportunity and embrace an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. Only a peace settlement can bring an end to the suffering in Afghanistan. He reiterates the urgency of a lasting ceasefire for addressing the COVID-19 emergency and underlines the readiness of the United Nations to provide any assistance that the parties may require.

The Secretary-General’s latest Policy Brief is out today and this one looks at the impact of COVID-19 on South-East Asia.
It found that governments in the region have acted swiftly to battle the pandemic and avoid its worst effects, with regional cooperation having been robust across multiple sectors. 
South-East Asia has reported significantly lower confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths, on a per-capita basis, than most other global regions, but the health, economic and political impact has hit the most vulnerable the hardest.
In a video message launching the Brief, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations is strongly committed to our partnership with the countries of South-East Asia, and we will continue to support efforts to get the region on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and build a peaceful future for all.
Both the Policy Brief and the Secretary-General’s video message are online.

In a statement we issued yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General said that he is deeply concerned about the increasing violence in many parts of the Darfur region of Sudan, notably the attacks in West Darfur on 25 July and in North Darfur on 13 July, in which dozens of people were killed and more than 1,500 houses burned, leaving thousands displaced and in dire need of humanitarian assistance.    
The Secretary-General commends the efforts by the Sudanese authorities, under the leadership of Prime Minister Abdala Hamdok, in responding to these incidents, and called for an investigation to ensure accountability.  Deliberate attacks against civilians violate international human rights law and international humanitarian law. 
The Secretary-General reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to support the implementation of the national protection strategy developed recently by the Transitional Government.  The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) will continue to focus on its protection mandate, and humanitarian partners continue to provide emergency relief.  
The Secretary-General urges all armed groups, particularly those that have not joined the ongoing peace talks in Juba, to resolve their grievances through a political process.  As Sudan continues its process of democratic transition, there is a clear imperative to end the conflict in Darfur with a definitive and inclusive peace agreement.

In a new report, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) documents at least 358 civilian casualties, that is 106 deaths and 252 injuries, in the months of April, May and June. This figure represents an overall increase in civilian casualties of 173 per cent compared to the preceding period in the first quarter of 2020.
Ground fighting was the leading cause of civilian casualties, followed by explosive remnants of war and airstrikes. 
The overall increase in civilian casualties was driven by a major escalation of hostilities, despite the calls for a cessation of hostilities by the United Nations and many UN Member States. 
The UN Mission in Libya renews its call for all parties to the conflict to immediately halt all military operations and respect international human rights and humanitarian law, to protect civilians and allow the authorities to respond to the threat of COVID-19.

In Zimbabwe, where 60 per cent of the population is projected to be food insecure by the end of the year, the World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed for an additional $250 million.
WFP said that the already severe hunger crisis is being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  WFP is calling for international support to prevent what it calls a potential humanitarian catastrophe.
A nationwide lockdown has led to massive joblessness in urban areas, while hunger in rural areas is on the rise due to the return of now unemployed migrants to their villages and the absence of vital remittances.
Hyperinflation has pushed the prices of basics beyond the means of many Zimbabweans. 
Due to lack of funding, WFP will only be able to help 700,000 of the 1.8 million people it had intended to reach. With additional resources, WFP hopes to reach 4 million of the most vulnerable people this year.

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has provided medicines and medical equipment, including a portable ultrasound machine, to the Red Cross to the district of Tyre in south Lebanon.This donation is expected to benefit 200,000 people and will limit patients’ potential exposure to COVID-19. Medics involved in the emergency interventions against the coronavirus will be better equipped to conduct diagnosis at patients’ homes. 
Meanwhile, the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) has supported an online discussion for young people to provide more information about the virus. The youth participants from Paralimni and Deryneia discussed how the pandemic has affected their everyday lives and future, its impact among vulnerable groups, and ways that youth can collaborate to overcome challenges.

A new report launched today by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Pure Earth warns that lead poisoning is affecting children on a massive and previously unknown scale.
According to the report, around 1 in 3 children – up to 800 million globally – have blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), the level at which action is required. Nearly half of these children live in South Asia.
Lead is a potent neurotoxin which causes irreparable harm to children’s brains. It is particularly destructive to babies and children under the age of five, as it damages their brains before they have had the opportunity to fully develop.  
More on the report on UNICEF’s website.

Today, the International Labour Organization (ILO) released a study which says that a zero-emission economy can lead to 15 million new jobs by 2030 in Latin America and Caribbean.
The study, done in conjunction with the Inter-American Development Bank, says that a zero-carbon economy would end 7.5 million jobs in the fossil fuel industry and animal-based food production. However, these lost jobs are more than compensated for with new employment opportunities: 22.5 million jobs in agriculture and plant-based food production, renewable electricity, forestry, construction, and manufacturing.
The report also offers a blueprint on how countries can create decent jobs and transition to net-zero emissions. This includes policies facilitating the reallocation of workers, advance decent work in rural areas, enhance social protection and support to displaced, enterprises, communities and workers.
The full report is on the ILO’s website.

Today is the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. This year, the Day focuses on the first responders to human trafficking. 
In a message for the Day, the Secretary-General says that like the frontline heroes saving lives and sustaining our societies in the COVID-19 pandemic, these providers are keeping vital services going throughout the crisis. They are identifying victims, ensuring their access to justice, health, social assistance and protection, and preventing further abuse and exploitation.
The Secretary-General highlights that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated many global inequalities and created new obstacles on the path to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It also left millions of people at greater risk of being trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced marriage and other crimes.
The Secretary-General notes that women and girls already account for more than 70 per cent of detected human trafficking victims, and today are among the hardest hit by the pandemic.  He stressed that with previous downturns showing that women face a harder time getting paid jobs back in the aftermath of crisis, vigilance is especially important at this time.
The full message is available online.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) today released new figures showing a sharp rise in the number of Ukrainians identified as victims of trafficking and assisted from January to June 2020. The total number of 800 represents a leap of 40 per cent compared to the first half of the previous year.
IOM said that 97% of the victims identified in the first half of 2020 were trafficked for labour exploitation.

Today is also the International Day of Friendship. To mark the Day, the UN encourages governments, international organizations and civil society groups to hold events, activities and initiatives that contribute to the efforts of the international community towards promoting a dialogue among civilizations, solidarity, mutual understanding and reconciliation.