#UN; #UNOCHA; #Covid19; #GlobalPoverty; #Starvation; #WHO; #NGOs
Geneva/UN, Jul 18 (Canadian-Media): The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession are set to trigger the first increase in global poverty in three decades, pushing 265 million people to the point of starvation by the end of the year, the UN’s top humanitarian official warned on Friday.
A girl walks through the mud carrying her younger brother at the Khair Al-Sham IDP camp in Idlib Governorate, Syria. Image credit: UNOCHA
Mark Lowcock called on the world’s leading industrial nations, the G20, to step up support, as he released an updated $10.3 billion appeal to fight coronavirus spread in 63 low-income countries.
“The pandemic and associated global recession are about to wreak havoc in fragile and low-income countries”, he said. “The response of wealthy nations so far has been grossly inadequate and dangerously short-sighted. Failure to act now will leave the virus free to circle round the globe, undo decades of development and create a generation’s worth of tragic and exportable problems.”
“It doesn’t have to be like this – this is a problem that can be fixed with money from wealthy nations and fresh thinking from the shareholders of international financial institutions and supporters of UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, and NGOs.”
‘Prospect of cascading crises’As of Thursday, there were more than 13 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, and nearly 580,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Mr. Lowcock fears that unless G20 countries act now, they will face a series of human tragedies more brutal and destructive than the direct health impacts of the pandemic.
“Rich countries have thrown out the rulebook when it comes to protecting their own economies. They must apply the same exceptional measures to countries that need help”, he declared.
“The prospect of cascading crises more brutal and destructive than anything the virus alone can do must jolt us all out of our comfort zone.”
UN agencies estimate that due to disruptions to health systems caused by the pandemic, some 6,000 children could die each every day from preventable causes, while annual deaths from HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, could double.
Humanitarians said the first confirmed case of the disease was reported in Idlib, Syria, last week, sparking fears of a devastating outbreak in crowded camps housing millions of people displaced by the country’s nearly decade-long conflict.
Prioritizing the most vulnerable
The COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan addresses the humanitarian impacts of the pandemic in 63 low- and middle-income countries, and supports their efforts to combat it.
The plan prioritizes the world’s most vulnerable citizens, including older persons, people with disabilities, displaced people, and women and girls.
It was initially launched in late March, shortly after WHO declared the global pandemic.
While $1.7 billion has been raised since then, the update includes a supplementary $300 million, to bolster rapid response from NGOs, $500 million for famine prevention, and a sharper focus on preventing gender-based violence.
#Geneva; #ILO; #Seafarers; #Covid19Crisis; #ITF; #IMO; #WHO; #ICS; #ICAO
Geneva/ILO, Jul 13 (Canadian-Media): The International Labour Organization has expressed support for new international measures to protect the rights of seafarers, stranded at sea because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Image credit: Twitter handle
It welcomed a joint statement signed by more than a dozen countries that gives seafarers enhanced rights as key workers. The new measures, also supported by other UN agencies and international organizations, enable seafarers to be repatriated and move more freely during the pandemic.
“I welcome the coordinated efforts undertaken by social partners and the international community to respond to the crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic in the maritime sector, and call on all member States to support the implementation of this joint statement,” said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.
The joint statement was signed during a virtual International Maritime Summit, hosted by the United Kingdom government, which discussed the global crew change crisis that has left more than 200,000 seafarers stranded at sea due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I welcome the coordinated efforts undertaken by social partners and the international community to respond to the crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic in the maritime sector, and call on all member States to support the implementation of this joint statement," said
Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General.
Some have been confined to vessels for months because of restrictions on international travel and measures to contain the virus.
The agreement will lead to the opening of foreign borders for seafarers and to an increase in the number of commercial flights, which will speed up repatriation efforts.
Seafarers have been among the hardest hit from the fall-out of the pandemic, said Corinne Vargha, Director of the ILO’s International Labour Standards Department.
While delivering a key service to society, they face safety and health risks, and, increasingly now, physical and mental exhaustion, due to their inability to return home or to join their ships because of measures taken to stop the spread of the virus.
"The ILO therefore thanks UK Secretary of State Grant Shapps and UK Minister for Aviation, Maritime and Security Kelly Tolhurst for this timely initiative and for giving the ILO an opportunity to share its perspective on the way forward."
The ILO has urged governments to recognize seafarers as ‘key workers’ who ensure the flow of trade and the movement of vital medical supplies, safety equipment, food and other critical goods during the pandemic.
Using the guidance of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 , the ILO has been working with its social partners – governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations – as well as a number of international bodies to solve the issue. These include the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), International Maritime Organization (IMO), World Health Organization (WHO), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), European Union and various governments.
“The ILO expresses its support for the joint statement, which provides useful, practical and timely commitments to actions that will help solve this pressing problem and expedite crew changes,” Vargha said. “We are committed to providing support to our constituents in addressing the issue of crew change, including through the implementation of this initiative.”
#UN; #Syria; #lifesavingFood; #UNICEF; #Covid19
Syria/UN, Jul 10 (Canadian-Media): With the deadline just hours away, the Security Council has failed on its third attempt this week to extend its authorization for lifesaving food, medicine and shelter to cross into northwest Syria from Turkey.
Brothers Ahmad (left), 7, and Saad, 5, carry a hygiene kit back to their tent in Fafin camp, northern rural Aleppo. Image credit: © UNICEF/Ali Almatar
Meeting via video-teleconference on Friday, the Council took up a draft resolution – presented by Belgium and Germany – that would have kept humanitarian aid flowing through the Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa crossing points until 10 January 2021.
Thirteen of the Council’s 15 members voted in favour, but the text failed to be adopted owing to the negative votes cast by China and the Russian Federation, who as permanent members wield a power of veto.
The Council was scheduled to discuss the stalemate during closed-door consultations immediately after the results of the vote – conducted by a special written procedure due to the COVID-19 pandemic – were announced.
Its current authorization for the cross-border mechanism, agreed at the last minute in January after lengthy negotiations, expires on Friday.
Belgium and Germany, the Council’s penholders on the humanitarian aspects of the Syrian conflict, had initially put forward a largely similar draft that would have extended the so-called cross-border mechanism, for a full year.
But it was vetoed by China and the Russian Federation on Wednesday, with delegations accusing each other of politicizing the humanitarian assistance that more than 11 million Syrians depend upon.
A competing draft resolution from the Russian Federation that would have authorized deliveries only through Bab al-Hawa until 10 January 2021, then failed to be adopted on Thursday as it lacked the required number of votes.
The result was four in favour (China, Russian Federation, South Africa, Viet Nam) to seven against (Belgium, Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States), with four abstentions (Indonesia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia).
Bab al-Salam is the humanitarian gateway to northern Aleppo while Bab al-Hawa serves Idlib.
More deliveries needed
In his latest report to the Council on the implementation of the cross-border mechanism, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that the deliveries through Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa are not only operating at record levels, but must be further scaled up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He recommended that authorization for both crossing points be extended for an additional 12 months, adding that a failure to renew would severe a lifeline from millions whom the United Nations cannot reach by other means.
Lebanon ‘fast spiralling out of control’ leaving many destitute and facing starvation, warns Bachelet
#UN; #Lebanon; #Destitutes; Starvation; #HumanitarianAid; #Poverty; #OHCHR
Lebanon/UN, Jul 10 (Canadian-Media): Sounding the alarm over the crippling impact of “growing economic shocks, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic” in Lebanon, the UN human rights chief called on Friday for a unified response by politicians and the people to overcome the worsening socio-economic crisis there.
Children enjoy a play area in Hermel, Lebanon. Image credit: UNICEFF
“Many have lost jobs, seen their life-savings evaporate before their eyes and lost their homes”, underscored High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urging the Government, political parties and the financial sector, to work together to protect the poorest and most defenceless.
Poorest most at risk
Vulnerable Lebanese and other at-risk groups, such as refugees and migrant workers, are increasingly unable to meet their basic needs.
“This situation is fast spiralling out of control, with many already destitute and facing starvation as a direct result of this crisis”, said Ms. Bachelet. “And as is so often the case in such situations, it is the poorest and most vulnerable who suffer the most”.
She painted a picture of hundreds of families unable to “afford to put food on the table”, saying “their situation will only get worse as food and medical imports dry up as the depreciated Lebanese pound has greatly increased the cost of imported goods”.
As of April, Government estimates reveal that a staggering 75 per cent of the population need aid.
Amidst the acute economic downturn, the COVID pandemic and containment measures, one in three Lebanese have reportedly lost their jobs, while many others are likely to be pushed into the informal sector.
“Unemployment propels poverty and indebtedness”, said the head of the UN rights office (OHCHR).
“In a country with no unemployment benefits and fragile social security nets, an unemployment crisis has grave implications not only for the economy but for the very social fabric of the country”.
Widespread protection needed
Last October, chronic mismanagement, corruption and political stalemate boiled over into street protests and now the country is teetering on the brink of economic collapse.
Since that time, the local currency has lost more than 80 per cent of its value, thousands of businesses have shuttered, and chronic power cuts have become the norm.
Moreover, many of the 250,000 migrant workers in the country have either lost their jobs, not been paid, or been left homeless and are unable to pay for healthcare or send remittances back home to their families.
“It is important during these difficult times that we re-evaluate how we treat migrants, including as workers”, said Ms. Bachelet. “As we respond to this pandemic and the socio-economic crisis, we must include and protect everyone, regardless of their migration or other status”.
All hands on deck
The UN rights chief called on the country’s political parties and leaders to enact urgently needed reforms, and to prioritize the provision of essential needs, including food, electricity, health and education.
The international community needs to increase its assistance to the Government to support these efforts, she added.
“Without strengthened social safety nets and bolstered basic assistance to ease the pain caused by required structural reform, vulnerable Lebanese, migrant workers and refugees will be pushed further into poverty and extreme poverty”, the High Commissioner spelled out.
“The alarm has been sounded, and we must respond immediately before it is too late”.
#UN; #HumanRights; #Humanitarians; #Calamity; #FrontLine; #UNHCR; #UNODC;#WHO
United Nations, Jul 10 (Canadian-Media): What does it take to help the world’s most vulnerable people, often in dangerous and unstable situations, and at considerable personal risk? In the latest season of award-winning UN podcast, Awake At Night, host Melissa Fleming speaks to some of the Organization’s most prominent humanitarians to find out what motivates them, and how they cope.
World Food Programme Executive Director, David Beasley, visits the Al Sabeen maternal hospital in Sana'a, Yemen. Image credit: WFP/Marco Frattini
In the first two seasons of Awake At Night, Ms. Fleming (who formerly ran communications at the UN refugee agency UNHCR, and now heads up the Department of Global Communications at UN headquarters in New York), interviewed a wide array of people who willingly put themselves in danger, in order to help others.
They include famed photographer, Giles Duley, who still bears witness to tragedy and conflict, despite losing an arm and both legs after stepping on an explosive device in Afghanistan; senior UNHCR official Vincent Cochetel, kidnapped and held hostage for over 300 days; and Fabrizio Hochschild, Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, who speaks frankly about his mental health trauma, a consequence of time spent in the field during the Bosnian war of the 1990s.
Season three opens with Ms. Fleming speaking with David Beasley, head of the World Food Programme (WFP), a former Governor of the US state of South Carolina, who’s held the top job at the emergency food aid agency, becoming an impassioned voice and advocate for the world’s hungry, since 2017.
Before the launch of the new season, Ms. Fleming spoke to UN News, and began by explaining why she wanted to launch Awake At Night in the first place:
"I started the podcast when I was working at UNHCR, travelling to war zones and refugee camps, and encountering colleagues who were making great personal sacrifices, even risking their lives, to serve refugees.
I have also met UN peacekeepers, frontline WHO health workers and colleagues from humanitarian agencies who are making a tremendous difference in the lives of the most vulnerable people on earth, and I wanted the public to have a chance to get to know them, to hear about what drives them to serve, and what insights they can offer into human nature – the evil and the good. And also, the central question as they face so much human suffering: what keeps them awake at night?"
What do you hope listeners will get from the podcast?
"Listeners to the first series told me they came away deeply moved by the sacrifice UNHCR colleagues were making to serve humanity. They said listening to my intimate conversations with humanitarian workers gave them insights into why they chose a profession that would take them away from their families and often put them in dangerous and difficult environments.
They also come away inspired by the sense of purpose that comes from helping others and with a better understanding of the value of the UN’s humanitarian work."
How does podcasting fit in to your vision for the UN communications effort?"I am a big believer in the power of human stories to educate, engage and generate empathy, and the life stories of our staff are fascinating. The podcasting format is ideal for allowing people to have the intimate feeling of listening in on a conversation.
The explosion of podcast listening around the world shows that people like to devote meaningful time delving into different worlds as they drive or jog or cook. We already have thousands of people subscribed to Awake at Night who can also be important supporters of the work and the values of the UN.
Why is now the right time to revive Up All Night, at a time when everyone is preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic?Well, the UN is working day and night all over the world to fight the virus and mitigate the impact. This new podcast series is timely because it will introduce listeners to UN staff working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response.
I think it will be fascinating to hear from colleagues representing all the dimensions of the pandemic’s impact. It will feature people like WFP Executive Director David Beasley at a time when the hunger crisis is surging as a result of the pandemic.
Alicia Barcena, Executive Director of ECLAC will speak to me, as poverty reduction gains in Latin America are tragically reversing course.
I will also have a conversation with Neil Walsh from UNODC as he fights on two fronts - the cyber criminals trying to exploit people in lock-down and his own cancer that threatens his life. Dr. Mike Ryan and Dr. Matshidiso Moeti from WHO will also talk to me while they are doing everything in their power to suppress the virus that is upending billions of lives."
You will be able to find the new season of Awake At Night wherever you get your podcasts, or on the official UN page, here.
#UN; #Yemen; #Famine; #WFP
Yemen/UN, Jul 10 (Canadian-Media): In Yemen, fears of famine have resurfaced as UN humanitarians also warned on Friday that 360,000 severely malnourished children could die unless they continue to get treatment and aid is stepped up. In an urgent appeal for funding, the World Food Programme (WFP) said that it needs $200 million per month to maintain assistance in the war-torn country.
Rania and her eldest daughter, Amani, stand in the entrance to their home in a camp for internally displaced people in Lahj, Yemen. Image credit: WFP/Mohammed Awadh
“If we wait for famine to be declared, it will already be too late as people will already be dying”, it said in a statement.
The UN agency has already had to limit distributions in the north of the country and fears that it may not be able to prevent people from starving, as it said it did last year.
Widely described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the country has been torn apart by more than five years of conflict between the forces of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi - supported by a Saudi-led international coalition – and mainly Houthi militia, for control of the Arab nation.
WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs told journalists in Geneva that the dire economic situation in Yemen caused by the conflict had led to reduced imports and soaring food prices in a country that imports almost everything it needs.
“There are 10 million people who are facing (an) acute food shortage, and we are ringing the alarm bell for these people, because their situation is deteriorating because of escalation and because of the lockdowns and the constraints and the social-economic impact of the coronavirus,”, she said. “Those people cannot go to find work, they have to stay home, they cannot feed themselves and their families.”
Day to day, vulnerable Yemeni families have been forced to reduce the number and quality of meals that they eat.
Breakfast “is no longer beans and bread but bread only, dinner is rice only instead of rice and vegetables”, Ms. Byrs said, noting that some 20 million people are food insecure nationally, with 13 million receiving food aid.
Nationwide, the conflict has displaced more than 3.65 million people and killed thousands. Fewer than one in two health facilities are fully functioning and nearly half of all children have been left stunted by malnutrition, requiring treatment, according to WFP.
In total, two million children require treatment for acute malnutrition “of which around 360,000 are at risk of dying without treatment”, the agency said.
“Of course, we continue to treat them”, Ms. Byrs added, noting that the UN agency began distributing food assistance on alternate months in parts of Yemen in April “to stretch the limited resources”.
Safety net stretched
Insisting that WFP’s aim “is to maintain a safety net for people for as long as possible”, the spokesperson maintained that its nutrition treatment programme for children under five and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers would continue at current levels.
But unless donors step up, the agency may have to reduce its prevention programme, which provides blanket supplementary feeding to all children under two, as well as to pregnant or breastfeeding women, one million of whom require treatment for acute malnutrition.
“We would prioritise areas with the highest prevalence of malnutrition” in that case, Ms. Byrs explained.
#UN; #Africa; WFP; #Refugees; #UNHumanitarian; #UNHCR; #ChildrenInCrisis
Africa/UN, Jul 09 (Canadian-Media): Millions of refugees across Africa face even greater food insecurity because of aid disruption and rising food prices linked to the COVID-19 crisis, UN humanitarians warned on Thursday.
A refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, now living in a refugee camp in Uganda, narrates her ordeal as a person living with a disability in a conflict area. Image credit: UN News/John Kibego
The alert from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), coincides with ongoing conflict and disasters on the continent, and severe underfunding for their work.
“While the situation continues to deteriorate for everyone, the disaster is magnified for refugees who have absolutely nothing to cushion their fall”, said WFP Executive Director, David Beasley. “In the best of times, refugees live in cramped conditions, struggle to meet their basic needs and often have no option but to rely on outside assistance for their survival. Now more than ever, they need our lifesaving support.”
More than 10 million refugees worldwide receive WFP assistance today; this includes the world’s largest refugee settlements, such as Bidibidi in Uganda, where food rations were cut by 30 per cent in April, owing to cash shortfalls.
More than 3.2 million refugees across East Africa are already receiving reduced rations because of underfunding, including in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan and Tanzania.
Significant funding shortfalls either threaten or have led to food cuts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.
Without urgent action, levels of acute malnutrition, stunting and anaemia are expected to rise, the agencies warned, while also urging Governments to ensure that refugees and displaced populations are included in social safety nets and COVID-19 response plans - in line with the Global Compact on Refugees - to ensure they are able to access food and emergency cash assistance.
Ethiopia refugee children in crisis
In Ethiopia, more than six in 10 refugee children are already experiencing critical levels of anaemia, while UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, warned that around one in two refugees are children “who may develop life-long difficulties if deprived of food at vital stages in their development”.
In Cameroon, WFP had to reduce its assistance to refugees from the Central African Republic by 50 per cent in May and June, because of funding gaps.
Cuts in rations are also expected for Nigerian refugees in the country, while across East Africa, congestion at borders linked to COVID-19 “have created congestion, delaying vital aid and trade flows”, the UN humanitarians said.
They added that in many parts of the continent, food prices are rising as a result, “posing a potentially devastating threat to millions of refugees, particularly those who were already living hand-to-mouth on daily wages”.
Food price shocks
In the Republic of Congo, the average price of a basic food basket has increased by 15 per cent, while in Rwanda, WFP reported that around refugee camps, found food prices were already on average 27 per cent higher in April compared to a year earlier, and 40 per cent higher than in 2018.
Because of these challenges, “many refugees are resorting to negative coping mechanisms, such as skipping meals or reducing meal portions”, the joint agency statement said.
In South Sudan, more than 80 per cent of refugees are likely resorting to such measures and “in some cases, refugees are resorting to begging, transactional sex, or early or forced marriages to be able to afford food”.
Globally, WFP needs more than $1.2 billion to support refugees globally for the next six months, just over half is for operations in Africa.
As part of the broader UN Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19, UNHCR requires $745 million for life-saving interventions, of which $227 million is for operations in Africa.
#UN; #UpliftChildren; #Music; #Covid19; #TikTok; #Equality; #UNICEF;
UN, Jul 09 (Canadian-Media): The iconic Bob Marley song One Love is to be re-released with the blessing of the musician’s family to support children whose lives have been upended by COVID-19, the UN said on Thursday.
Jamaican reggae artist and musician Ziggy Marley pledges his support for 'Say Yes for Children' while visiting UN Headquarters, in July 2001.
Image credit: © UNICEF/Nicole Toutounji
The fundraising initiative comes as the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that an additional 6,000 children could die every day from preventable causes in the next six months.
Almost all of them live in developing countries, where the coronavirus pandemic has placed additional strain on already fragile health systems and basic services.
Call for unity, then and now
Issued in 1977 by Bob Marley and the Wailers, with a call for unity and to tackle the suffering of children, a new version of the much-loved reggae anthem will go on sale on Friday 17 July.
It features members of the Marley family, world-renowned musicians, artists from conflict zones and children from vulnerable communities.
“Over 40 years ago, my father wrote One Love about unity, peace and universal love during a time when there was much trouble in the world”, said Cedella Marley. “Even in a time when we aren’t able to ‘get together’, his message remains true today: we can get through this global crisis if we come together through one love and one heart.”
The project also has the support of jewellery brand Pandora, which has pledged to match every dollar raised to purchase One Love, up to the value of $1 million.
A bid for greater equality
All proceeds will support Reimagine, UNICEF’s global campaign to prevent the COVID-19 emergency from becoming a lasting crisis for children.
“One Love speaks directly to one key truth about this pandemic: our best hope to defeat COVID-19 and to reimagine a more equal, less discriminatory world for children is through global solidarity and co-operation”, said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “We are delighted that the Marley family along with Pandora have lent their generous support, creativity and love to help the most vulnerable children.”
In addition to the immediate health impact of COVID-19 on children and their families, UNICEF has warned that youngsters have been affected indirectly too, through school closures, food shortages, limited access to basic healthcare and disruptions to medical supply chains.
TikTok chiming in
The agency intends to use the money raised from One Love to respond to immediate needs, which include soap, facemasks, gloves, hygiene kits, protective equipment and lifesaving information for children and families.
Support for youngsters’ education, protection and healthcare systems will also be possible, UNICEF said in a statement, which noted that internet platform TikTok, will promote the song launch with a special event and public challenge for fans who want to get involved.
“We have a unique opportunity to chart a brighter future for the children and young people mostly likely to suffer its long-term consequences”, said Ms. Fore. “From ending violence, injustice and discrimination, to building fairer and more just societies, young people have made their message loud and clear. It is time for the rest of the world to hear it.”