#UN; #Yemen; #UNICEF; COVID-19Pandemic; #HumanitarianAid
Geneva, May 30 (Canadian-Media): A plane chartered by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) landed at Sana’a airport on Saturday with lifesaving supplies to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in conflict-torn Yemen, UN reports said.
A UNICEF chartered plane at Sana’a airport offloading lifesaving supplies to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in conflict-hit Yemen. Image credit: @UNICEF/102665
The agency said that the supplies include a range of medical assistance including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) items such as aprons, boots, face masks and gloves for frontline health workers.
“These supplies will allow our courageous partners the health workers, who are working around the clock, to safely and more effectively address the spread of COVID-19,” said Sara Beysolow Nyanti, UNICEF Representative in Yemen.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has created an emergency within an emergency in Yemen where only half of health facilities are functional and with almost every child in Yemen (over 12 million in total) already in need of humanitarian assistance, including nearly half a million suffering from severe acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF.
“Despite the uncertainty that the pandemic brought, UNICEF is staying and delivering to reach children and families in need across the country. A robust and sustainable supply chain will allow us to continue doing our share,” Ms. Nyanti stressed.
The PPE items will help at least 1,600 health workers in primary health centres, hospitals and isolation units across Yemen to provide safe primary health care and nutrition services for a period of three months.
More supplies, including COVID-19 testing kits are in the pipeline to arrive into the country in the coming weeks.
These lifesaving supplies were provided with thanks to generous support from the Government of Australia and the International Development Association-World Bank.
Ahead of a planned donors conference to boost the Yemen humanitarian response, set for Tuesday, 2 June, UNICEF is appealing for $50 million to fund its COVID-19 response for children and communities across the country.
#UN; #CycloneAmphan; #HumanitarianAid; #OCHA; #WFP; #CoronavirusPandemic
Geneva, May 23 (Canadian-Media): The UN chief António Guterres commended the governments and people of India and Bangladesh on Saturday, for their life-saving efforts ahead of devastating Cyclone Amphan, and for the effective relief effort, wishing those survivors injured and affected by the disaster, a speedy recovery, UN reports said.
Cyclone Amphan hits West Bengal, India. Image credit: © UNICEF/West Bengal IAG
In a statement, the Secretary-General expressed his sadness at the loss of dozens of lives due to the most powerful storm to form in the Bay of Bengal, that packed powerful winds, slamming into the vulnerable coastal area along the border between the two nations, compounding the on-going COVID-19 crisis, and compromising efforts to maintain physical distancing.
Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN humanitarian affairs office (OCHA), said on Friday that Cyclone Amphan had impacted some 10 million people in Bangladesh, killing at least 25 there, and more than 70 in India. Half a million families may have lost their homes, he added.
Deadly mix of cyclone, COVID-19
The storm caused unprecedented damage across the historic India city of Kolkota, cutting off power supply to cities and towns, many of which are working to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, where there are more than 30,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bangladesh and 432 deaths, according to latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Bangladesh government evacuated around two million people before the storm hit, Mr. Laerke said, and more than 12,000 cyclone shelters had been set up with COVID-19 prevention equipment, including masks, sanitizers, soap and handwashing facilities.
About one million people had also been evacuated in India. According to WHO figures, there are more than 125,000 coronavirus cases there, with 3,720 deaths reported.
On Friday, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced a $132 million emergency relief package, after travelling to the region to survey the damage.
First responders, communities praised
“The Secretary-General commends the governments, first responders and communities for their pre-emptive work to make people safe ahead of the storm and to meet their immediate needs afterwards”, said the statement from the UN Spokesperson’s Office. “The United Nations stands ready to support these efforts.”
The Secretary-General expressed his “solidarity with the people of India and Bangladesh as they face the impact of a devastating cyclone while also responding to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
WFP team conducting assessment
Elisabeth Byrs, from the World Food Programme (WFP), told journalists on Friday a team was conducting a Rapid Needs Assessment. While most crops had been harvested already, early reports suggest that there was damage to fisheries, particularly smallholder shrimp farmers.
WFP had prepositioned food stocks, including high energy biscuits for 90,000 families, in affected areas and extra food stocks could also be made available and ready for distribution, if needed.
The Rohingya camps had been largely spared from damage when Cyclone Amphan made landfall in Bangladesh and India on 20 May, however a direct hit from a cyclone had the potential to be devastating, said the agency.
The UN refugee agency’s Charlie Yaxley (UNHCR) said that in Cox’s Bazar, home to around a million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, 118 shelters had been destroyed and 1,423 had been damaged, affecting just over 7,000 Rohingyas refugees in the settlement. Of that number, 555 had been moved to temporary shelters or were staying with relatives while their homes were repaired.
‘Textbook example’ of good preparation
Clare Nullis, for WMO, the World Meteorological Organization, said the disaster mobilization for the cyclone had been “a textbook example of how it should be done. The forecast provided by the Indian Meteorological Department, which served as WMO’s regional specialized meteorological centre and provided forecast for the entire basin, “had been spot on”.
The information that it provided had been the basis for the massive evacuation and the community response, Ms. Nullis added.
#UN; #Yemen; #Covid19Outbreak; #OCHA; #WHO
Yemen, May 23 (Canadian-Media): War-torn Yemen’s health system has ‘in effect, collapsed” under the strain of a widening COVID-19 outbreak, with epidemiologists estimating that the virus could spread faster and more widely than in many other countries, the UN warned on Friday.
Speaking at a virtual press conference in Geneva, Jens Larke, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Yemen was “really on the brink right now”, with teams on the ground “talking about having to turn people away because they do not have enough oxygen, they do not have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)”.
He warned that the numbers of infections being reported were worrying, but the UN is now “working on the assumption that there is widespread communal transmission going on”.
The civil war in Yemen metastasized in 2014 when rebel Houthis, known officially as the Ansar Allah movement, took control of Yemen’s north and captured the capital Sanaa, forcing the UN-recognised government there to flee to Aden. Since 2015, a Saudi-led coalition of mostly Arab countries has been battling the Houthi rebels to reinstate full Government control, drawing in other nations to the conflict.
More funding crucial to repel virus
With only half of Yemen’s health facilities fully functioning, funding for the country’s aid operation is crucial, with up to $2 billion required until the end of the year. The UN and Saudi Arabia will co-host a virtual pledging event on 2 June to support fund raising.
“We are heading towards a fiscal cliff”, said Mr. Laerke. “If we do not get the money coming in, the programs that are keeping people alive and are very much essential to fight back against COVID-19, will have to close”, he warned.
“And then, the world will have to witness what happens in a country without a functioning health system battling COVID-19, and I do not think that one will see that”.
More than 30 key UN programmes risk closing in the coming weeks due to lack of funding. Coronavirus Rapid Response Teams are funded only for the next six weeks.
According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest figures, Yemen has 184 cases and 30 deaths.
Cases ‘almost certainly much higher’
However, “the actual incidence is almost certainly much higher”, said the OCHA spokesperson. “Tests remain in short supply, aid agencies in Yemen are operating on the basis that community transmission is taking place across the country, and only half of the health facilities are fully functioning. Yemen’s health system needs significant assistance to counter the threat. Humanitarian aid agencies are scaling up outreach, prevention and case management. “
Some 125 metric tons of supplies have arrived, while over 6,600 metric tons of tests, personal protective equipment and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) supplies are in the pipeline.
However, oxygen and PPE are more urgently needed. Preserving large-scale existing aid programmes in health, water and sanitation, nutrition and other sectors also offers an essential defence against infection for millions of people.
A UN flight arrived in Yemen’s capital Aden on Thursday, with more international staff on board.
Laerke said that UN staff “both in and out of the country” are working together to deliver critical programmes, including some international staff working remotely as well as international staff in Yemen and Yemeni nationals on staff.
“Yemeni national staff remain the large majority of aid workers in Yemen”.
Spirit of Eid
In a message to all Yemenis as the holy month of Ramadan draws to a close, the UN Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, passed on his heartfelt wishes: “May the spirit of Eid guide us all to achieve sustainable peace and stability for all men, women and children in Yemen, redirect the country toward reconciliation and recovery, and pave the way for a better future”, he said.
“Today, I urge the parties to forgo war and division and build on points of convergence. I call on them to join efforts to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and turn the tide for the sake of the people of Yemen.”
#IOM; #HumanitarinAid; #UnitedStates; #VulnerableMigrants; #WHO; #Covid19Response
Washington DC, May 22 (Canadian-Media): The Government of the United States is providing nearly USD 28.5 million in new funds to support the International Organization for Migration (IOM) COVID-19 response globally. The contribution will provide vital humanitarian assistance to refugees, vulnerable migrants and host communities in almost 30 countries, IOM reports said.
IOM. Image credit: Twitter handle
Since the outbreak started, more than 4.5 million cases and over 300,000 deaths have been reported worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Concentrations of cases amongst migrants in different parts of the world have continued to emerge in recent weeks.
Migrants are often vulnerable due to the circumstances of their journey, and the pandemic has only exacerbated those conditions. Many encounter obstacles in accessing adequate shelter, food, medical care and essential supplies. Finding credible, culturally and linguistically tailored information on risks, hygiene and services can sometimes be another barrier.
“The lack of health resources can leave migrants exposed to vulnerable and exploitative situations,” said IOM Director General António Vitorino.
“IOM is especially concerned with meeting the growing needs of displaced populations most at risk, including women and girls, children, people with disabilities and the elderly.”
Support from the United States will help address the increasing threats and challenges affecting migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Turkey and other countries. Scaling up preparedness and response measures as well as delivering basic services to people on the move is critical in order to minimize COVID-19's spread and reduce mortality rates.
IOM launched its revised COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan of $499 million to tackle the far-reaching consequences of this public health crisis. The US donation now brings the total amount funded to nearly USD 100 million or 20 per cent.
#UNHumanitarianAid; #CycloneAmphan; #Bangladesh; #India; #Covid19Pandemic
Geneva, May 21 (Canadian-Media): UN humanitarians and partners are working hard to assist the people of Bangladesh and India suffering from the impact of Cyclone Amphan, which made landfall on Wednesday, wreaking havoc, causing high tidal surges, flooding and embankments to collapse, UN reports said.
Cyclone Amphan made landfall in eastern India on Wednesday afternoon local time.
Image credit: WB State Inter Agency Group on Disaster Management.
“It is believed that around 10 million people in Bangladesh are impacted by the cyclone, with half a million families potentially having lost their homes”, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters during a regular virtual briefing on Thursday, from New York.
The cyclone, which lashed coastal areas with brutal winds and rain, left at least 84 people across India and Bangladesh dead, according to news reports.
“Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the storm has damaged houses and crops in Bangladesh”, he continued. “Power has been cut off to cities and towns, many of which are working to contain the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Noting that while the cyclone had been downgraded to a tropical depression, he asserted that “it is still expected to bring heavy to moderate rain over the next 24 hours”.
The Bangladesh Government has already evacuated nearly two million people to more than 12,000 cyclone shelters that are supplied with, among other things, masks and sanitizers, to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Refugees sheltering in BangladeshThe Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh flagged that preliminary reports indicate that damage is minimal in Cox’s Bazar - home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar - with some 300 shelters damaged, approximately 60 of which were fully destroyed.
Flooding and small landsides have been reported in several refugee camps, as well as blocked drains and damaged stairs, latrines, and bridges – but no word of casualties or deaths.
Humanitarian partners are on standby to ensure access to information, temporary shelter, food, safe drinking water and other vital services for affected refugees according to need.
Damage in India Meanwhile, the UN Country Team in India reported that Cyclone Amphan, which caused widespread damage around Calcutta is now considered even more destructive than Cyclone Aila, which slammed the region in May 2009.
Amphan hit seven districts badly, namely South 24 Paraganas, North 24 Paraganas, East Medinipur, West Medinipur, Howrah, Hooghly and Kolkata, with damages also reported in the district of Birbhum.
#UN; #CrossBorderOperation; #LifeSaving; #Covid19Support
Geneva, May 19 (Canadian-Media): The UN’s top aid official has urged the Security Council to renew a mechanism that provides lifesaving assistance to millions of desperate people in northwest Syria, through cross-border deliveries from Turkey.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Mark Lowcock (r), meets with a group of Syrian drivers on the Turkish side of the two countries' common border (file photo).
Image Credit: OCHA/David Swanson
Humanitarian Coordinator Mark Lowcock made the appeal on Tuesday during a virtual briefing to ambassadors in which he outlined the pressing need to keep the trucks rolling, amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The cross-border operation for northwest Syria, authorized by the Security Council, is a lifeline for millions of civilians whom the UN cannot reach by other means. It cannot be substituted. Its authorization must be renewed”, he said.
“An early decision by the Council will avoid disruption of this vital operation and help humanitarian organizations continue the scale-up that the current needs and the prospect of COVID-19 demand. A delay will increase suffering and will cost lives.”
Staggering rise in deliveriesThe cross-border operation is the sole means for the UN to bring assistance to northwestern Syria, where the humanitarian situation has deteriorated since December following a government offensive to root out extremists.
Mr. Lowcock said deliveries continue at record levels, Last month, 1,365 trucks made the journey from Turkey: a more than 130 per cent increase over April 2019.
The scale-up was necessary, he added, not only because of the staggering humanitarian demands and the need to prepare for the pandemic’s impact, but also because the cross-border operation is set to expire in less than two months.
The UN Secretary-General has recommended that it be renewed for an additional 12 months, having submitted a review to the Council ahead of schedule to prevent the disruption of aid flows.
“This decision cannot be left to the last minute”, Mr. Lowcock told ambassadors. “Too many lives are at stake.”
Overland aid reaches northeast
Turning to northeast Syria, Mr. Lowcock reported that last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) delivered some 30 tonnes of medical supplies to Qamishli by road.
This marked the first overland aid delivery by the UN health agency in two years. Mr. Lowcock said while another 23 tonnes of aid is expected in the coming days, more needs to be done.
“The findings of the Secretary-General’s review of cross-line and cross-border operations are also clear with regard to the northeast”, he stated.
“A combination of more cross-border and cross-line access is required to sustain, and preferably increase, humanitarian assistance.”
UN boosts COVID-19 support
Meanwhile, the UN is supporting COVID-19 preparedness and response across Syria, where the authorities have so far confirmed 58 cases and three fatalities. While none have been in the northwest, the region remains at high risk of an outbreak.
The UN is also boosting efforts to expand testing capacity and case investigation, as well as infection prevention and control.
Although a UN humanitarian fund has already dispersed some $23 million for preventative measures, Mr. Lowcock said significant shortages in personal protective equipment and other medical items remain.
The UN Secretary-General recently called for the waiver of sanctions that could impede countries’ efforts to beat back the pandemic: a message echoed by his Special Envoy for Syria, who briefed the Council on Monday.
Mr. Lowcock has welcomed commitments to apply humanitarian exceptions to these measures.
Canada; #HumanitarianCrisis; #Vulnerable
Geneva, May 18 (Canadian-Media): In the face of rising humanitarian needs, now in the context of a global COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever for Canada to continue supporting its partners in carrying out their life-saving work around the world to help those in communities affected by conflict and suffering from acute food insecurity.
Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, today announced that Canada is providing $306 million in response to the annual humanitarian appeals issued by UN humanitarian agencies, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and non-governmental organizations, including Canadian organizations, to support their 2020 operations around the world.
Karina Gould. Image credit: Twitter handle
Canada’s support will help address the needs of millions of vulnerable people by providing food assistance; life-saving health care, including sexual and reproductive health and sexual and gender-based violence services; safe drinking water; sanitation and hygiene facilities; and shelter and protection services.
Canada’s humanitarian assistance is in line with its Feminist International Assistance Policy, which addresses the specific needs and priorities of people in vulnerable situations, particularly women and girls.
“It is now more vital than ever to support the most vulnerable people. We must respond to the health crisis caused by COVID-19, but we must also respond to other ongoing humanitarian crises. Millions of people are still counting on us to alleviate poverty, food insecurity, gender inequality and the violation of human rights and to protect youth. Together with its international partners, Canada is working tirelessly to respond to global crises and to save lives,” - Karina Gould, Minister of International Development
#UNHCR; #VirtualMusicCharityConcert; #CoronavirusReponse
Geneva, May 16 (Canadian-Media): Orchestral musicians from 30 countries, led by Maestro Shlomo Mintz, team up for globe-spanning performance in support of the UN Refugee Agency’s COVID-19 appeal, UNHCR reports said.
Maestro Shlomo is the main organiser of United in Music. The photo was taken January 1, 2015. Image credit: © Chab Lathion
More than 50 musicians from around the world are contributing their talents and time to a joint virtual concert performance to raise funds for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency’s COVID-19 response.
United in Music is slated to premiere on Thursday 28 May at 18:00 GMT (12:00 EST) and will be hosted and streamed on UNHCR’s global YouTube channels.
The musical charity fundraiser was initiated by Shlomo Mintz, a world-renowned violin virtuoso and conductor, as a response to an invitation from Christine Mori and Alexis Spieldenner of Canadian-based Bravo Niagara! Festival of the Arts.
The duo invited Maestro Mintz to collaborate on a virtual performance of Vivaldi’s celebrated Concerto for Four Violins, together with musicians of different orchestras based in Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. United in Music will be recorded remotely by the diverse ensemble of artists in their respective homes. The artists will be performing works by Vivaldi, Kreisler and Rachmaninoff.
All donations from the concert go to UNHCR to help protect refugees and the communities that welcome them in the ongoing global fight against COVID-19.
“The original idea behind the concert was to share a message of hope by bringing music and joy into people’s homes during this challenging time,” said Mintz. “We know there are millions more around the world who have been forced from their homes and are in in urgent need of humanitarian support — especially now. This brought me to the idea to turn this performance into a musical charity fundraiser. Our goal is to help raise funds for UNHCR in their efforts to support refugee families now facing the threat of COVID-19.”
The event will include a video introduction from Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and is supported by Barbara Hendricks, a globally acclaimed American-born classical singer and UNHCR’s lifetime Honorary Goodwill Ambassador.
“Music truly has the power to uplift and unite individuals — particularly during times of hardship,” said Hendricks. “As we all remain physically distanced, virtual communications are the connective thread that are keeping us together. I’m grateful for Maestro Mintz and for all the artists helping support the vital work of UNHCR in support of refugees. Every dollar raised will have a life-saving impact on millions of children, women and men who have been uprooted from their homes.”
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said: "This is a great example of organizations coming together creatively across the globe to support refugees, and we are enormously grateful to Maestro Shlomo Mintz, Bravo Niagara! Festival of the Arts, and all the brilliant musicians who have come together from all over the world to collaborate to raise funds for UNHCR’s COVID-19 response.”
BRAVO NIAGARA! Festival of the Arts
This project is a testament to our belief in the transformative power of music for social change.
We are honoured to collaborate with Maestro Mintz and the UNHCR in uniting musical ambassadors from around the world to support refugees during this time of global crisis.
#UN; #GlobalHumanitarianResponsePlan; #Covid-19Pandemic
Geneva, May 7 (Canadian-Media): The updated Global Humanitarian Response Plan, launched on Thursday, provides help and protection that prioritize the most vulnerable in society, such as older people, people with disabilities, and women and girls, media reports said.
A young girl at the Khair Al-Sham IDP camp in Syria. Image credit: OCHA
Speaking ahead of the launch event, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Mark Lowcock warned of a significant rise in conflict, hunger and poverty, as well as looming famine, unless action is taken now.
“If we do not support the poorest people – especially women and girls and other vulnerable groups - as they battle the pandemic and impacts of the global recession, we will all be dealing with the spillover effects for many years to come. That would prove even more painful, and much more expensive, for everyone”, he said.
Averting a hunger pandemic
COVID-19 has now reached practically every country on the planet, with the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting more than 3.6 million cases and over 251,000 deaths as of Thursday.
However, humanitarians believe the peak of the disease in the world’s poorest countries is expected to hit within the next three to six months.
The impact is already being felt, with incomes plummeting and jobs wiped out. Meanwhile, food supplies are falling as prices soar, and millions of children are missing out on routine vaccinations and school meals.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is among the UN agencies and partners responding to the immense needs, reaching nearly 100 million people on any given day.
“You can imagine what happens if the economic deterioration continues and if the supply chain breaks down. It will be catastrophic,” said David Beasley, the WFP Executive Director.
A plan for swift, determined action
The $6.7 billion Global Humanitarian Response Plan calls for swift and determined action to stave off the most debilitating effects of the pandemic in 63 low and middle-income countries.
While most of these nations have low COVID-19 caseloads, their surveillance, laboratory testing and health systems are weak, according to WHO.
Speaking during the launch, Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the UN agency’s Health Emergencies Programme, underscored the need to maintain vaccination and other essential health services during the crisis.
“Tackling the pandemic while continuing to provide lifesaving and essential health services in places where infrastructure is at best limited and often destroyed, health systems are already at breaking point, and where health care workers and communities may be facing conflict and other emergencies - this is an extremely challenging task,” he said.
‘We are all at risk’
The updated plan builds on an earlier appeal made by the UN Secretary-General in late March which called for $2 billion.
António Guterres urged donors to step up support to stop the new coronavirus from circling back around the globe.
“Humanitarian aid is not just a moral imperative; it is a practical necessity to combat the virus”, he said in a video message.
“If COVID-19 wreaks havoc in the poorest places, we are all at risk”.
Extraordinary measures needed
The initial plan has netted $1 billion which has been used to install handwashing facilities in refugee camps and other vulnerable places, and to provide countries with medical supplies such as gloves, surgical masks, N95 respirators and testing kits.
New transport hubs for transporting supplies by air have also been established, while nearly two million people worldwide, including health workers, have been trained in virus identification via an online portable run by WHO.
As UN relief chief Lowcock stated, this is not ‘business as usual’.
He told the launch event that “extraordinary measures are needed, reflecting the extraordinary problem we face.”