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Key COP26 climate summit postponed to ‘safeguard lives’
April 3, 2020 | 0 Comments

With no end in sight to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the UN climate change talks which were due to take place in Scotland later in the year, have been postponed until October 2021.

NEW YORK, USA, April 3, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The decision was announced on Wednesday night by the advisory group to the COP26 talks, overseen by the UN climate change body, the UNFCCC, after talks involving the United Kingdom and other countries.

UNFCCC said the postponement would better enable all parties to focus on important climate issues while allowing more preparation time.

“The world is currently facing an unprecedented global challenge and countries are rightly focusing their efforts on saving lives and fighting COVID-19”, said COP26 President-Designate and the UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma.

UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, underscored that while COVID-19 is “the most urgent threat facing humanity today…we cannot forget that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity over the long term”.

She said that when economies restart, it will provide a chance for nations to “recover better, to include the most vulnerable in those plans, and a chance to shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, just, safe and more resilient”. 

The President of the last COP, which ended up taking place in Spain, Chilean politician Carolina Schmidt, said the Bureau’s decision to postpone COP26 was “a needed measure to protect all delegates and observers”. 

“Our determination is to make sure that the momentum for climate ambition will continue”, she concluded.

‘Foremost priority’

“The need to suppress the virus and safeguard lives is our foremost priority”, UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement issued shortly after the announcement, on behalf of Secretary-General António Guterres.

The Secretary-General maintained that efforts to increase ambition and action on climate change must continue, “especially as countries take measures to recover from this crisis”.

The science on climate has not changed, he said, with emissions at a record high while global warming impacts compound the socio-economic challenges that this crisis will intensify.

The UN chief stressed that “the COVID-19 crisis reinforces the importance of science and evidence informing government policies and decision-making”.

The science makes clear that human behaviour is altering the planet’s ability to regulate itself, dramatically impacting lives and livelihoods.

“This dramatic human crisis is also an example of how vulnerable countries, societies and economies are to existential threats”, he observed, adding that “countries must work to protect the health of people and the planet has never been more at risk.”

Assuring the continuance of work involving UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Member States and other partners to “emerge from this global crisis stronger”, the statement closed with the assertion that “solidarity and greater ambition are needed now more than ever” to transition to a “sustainable, low carbon economy that limits global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius”.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of UN News.

Source : African Media Agency (AMA)

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COVID-19 Pandemic Poses Grave Risk to Communities in Displacement Camps
April 3, 2020 | 0 Comments

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 3, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- For millions of people seeking refuge from violence or disasters in camps around the world, the potential impact of COVID-19 could be catastrophic. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been  rapidly adapting its global operations in anticipation of an outbreak of the virus in the camps where it works. 

“Based on decades of experience in camp management and migration health, we see the arrival of COVID-19 as an inevitability, not a possibility, and have been preparing with this in mind,” said IOM’s Director General António Vitorino. 

“The fact that cases have been identified in a Mainland Greece camp administered by IOM yesterday emphatically drives home the gravity of the situation.” 

There are a total of 41.3 million people internally displaced as a result of conflict and 25.9 million refugees living in situations of displacement globally, the most vulnerable of whom often end up in camps.  

As co-lead of the global Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster, IOM works alongside governments to care for and uphold the rights of people in camps or camp-like settings. In 2019, IOM carried out CCCM activities in 1,117 displacement sites in 23 countries, reaching 2.4 million people. The Organization also provided health services to 2.8 million people globally. 

As cases begin to emerge in countries dealing with severe displacement crises such as Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Greece and Syria, IOM is increasingly concerned about the impact COVID-19 will have on the health of people living and working in the camps and in nearby communities.  

IOM is also concerned that COVID-19-related restrictions will inhibit our ability to deliver humanitarian assistance to those who rely on aid their survival. Mobility restrictions within camps could also hamper the ability for camp populations to work and provide for themselves and their families. 

The Organization’s Health and CCCM teams are working with authorities around the world to implement measures that prevent the spread of COVID-19 in camps and ensure its operations remain safe and effective. 

Physical distancing and isolation are extremely difficult in densely populated, overcrowded camps where land is already limited. Additionally, most people do not have adequate access to the clean water and sanitizing agents necessary to stop widespread transmission, nor access to national health facilities. 

Furthermore, these settings are challenging places for the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions to live. The threat this virus has on their health is particularly worrying. 

Health centres inside camps are ill-equipped to respond to the high numbers of patients who could be infected. This is particularly worrying in places like Northwest Syria or Yemen where conflict has already destroyed the majority of the health infrastructure. 

In addition to producing Operational Guidance specifically related to COVID-19 for camp managers, IOM has been working pre-emptively with authorities and health cluster partners on several priorities: 

  • Increase, improve and advocate for more hygiene facilities, such as hand-washing stations at camp entrances, communal facilities and gathering points; 
  • Train staff and community leaders to screen for symptoms; 
  • Secure additional land to expand living spaces, distribution sites and construct new temporary health facilities; 
  • Implement measures that allow for physical distancing such as scheduled timeshares of communal facilities or reduced movement within camps; 
  • Re-purpose existing structures for isolation facilities and, in some locations, equip and support mobile clinics and medical teams; and 
  • Stock up on personal protection equipment (PPE) for health staff who may come into contact with people who become ill. 

“In health crises throughout the world, the leaders of the affected communities are the most effective first responders,” said DG Vitorino. “At the same time, migrants, regardless of their circumstances, must be systematically included into national health systems if we are to beat COVID-19.”

The Organization is also disseminating factual, up-to-date information about COVID-19 to help dispel myths and decrease stigmatization. All measures are being implemented in consultation with camp communities, adapted to local contexts and their evolving challenges. 

“We require solidarity and sustained support from the international community to curb the threat the virus poses in humanitarian settings, particularly through the interagency Humanitarian Response Plan and IOM’s COVID-19 Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan (SRP),” added DG Vitorino. 

IOM is addressing the mobility aspects of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic with a funding requirement of USD 116.1 million. 

Learn more about IOM’s COVID-19 Response and Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan (SRP).

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

For more information, please contact: Angela Wells, IOM Public Information Officer for the Department of Operations and Emergencies, Email: awells@iom.int, Phone: +41 79 403 5365

Paul Dillon, IOM Managing Editor, Email: pdillon@iom.int, Phone: +41 79 636 9874

Source : African Media Agency (AMA)

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WARIF tackles gender-based violence in Nigeria with mobile SMS platform
April 3, 2020 | 0 Comments

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 3 April 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- One year after launching a pioneering SMS service used by traditional birth attendants to fight gender-based violence in Nigeria, WARIF founder Dr Kemi DaSilva says she’s doubling down in her efforts to help vulnerable populations in rural Nigeria. “By having a platform to identify, report and address the pressing issues or rape, human trafficking and other forms of violence against women and girls, we’re raising awareness that there are organisations such as ours that can provide valuable services to support victims.”

Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF) is a non-profit organisation that combats gender-based violence against women and girls in Nigeria. In 2019, WARIF partnered with SAP and incorporated the SAP People Connect 365 mobile service into its Gatekeepers project. The organisation has since trained over 500 traditional birth attendants from 15 local government areas across Lagos State to use the software. Many users report cases in real time, allowing quicker responses from healthcare teams.

“We’re getting active cases faster, allowing us to intervene more quickly and in real-time, which we couldn’t do before,” says DaSilva. “We are also receiving positive feedback from traditional birth attendants as well as the women and girls they have helped.”

Gender-based violence is a major concern in Nigeria. According to a study by the UN and the Nigerian government, 28% of Nigerian women aged 25 to 29 have experienced some form of physical violence since age 15.

To ensure its mobile platform met the needs of healthcare providers working in remote communities, WARIF participated in a series of design thinking workshops with SAP. Rohit Tripathi, Head of Products and Go-To-Market at SAP Digital Interconnect, which worked closely with WARIF, says: “We made certain that birth attendants, regardless of where they are, could easily access this service without having to compromise on any of the functionalities. This also helped us enhance the service.”

Replacing silence with a community of support

Aside from the stigma associated with gender-based violence, healthcare providers in Nigeria also battle cultural norms. “The perpetrator is usually well-known and might even be a family member,” says DaSilva. “Many families and commun.

SAP People Connect 365 mobile service is a text messaging platform that fosters ongoing conversations among healthcare providers and others across WARIF’s education and community service programmes. Traditional birth attendants, for example, engage more with each other at monthly meetings and through social media chat groups, incorporating information about identified cases in the field.

DaSilva credits the platform with helping to upend traditions of silenced around sexual abuse. “Traditional birth attendants are sharing problems they ordinarily wouldn’t have had an opportunity to share, much less address in a timely manner, due to the remoteness of the communities in which they work. By training them, we also encourage supportive relationships which helps all of us collectively shine a spotlight on solving these problems.”

Traditional birth attendants ‘key to success’

DaSilva backs WARIF’s original strategy to train local traditional birth attendants to use the mobile software, since these healthcare providers are already trusted by everyone, including the local leaders who adjudicate instance of abuse in many Nigerian rural communities.

“When cases have been identified, we’re always well-received when presenting to the community gatekeepers in the various geographical areas we visit,” says DaSilva. “They are happy for us to intervene because they lack knowledge or training on how to help. In many cases it’s a question of lacking the means to communicate for assistance, which our platform can now enable.”

Despite challenges including power outages and community resource constraints, DaSilva says WARIF is exploring further plans to extend its reach with more community agencies. “We’re working with people who actually care and are willing to work with us to enable us to scale and impact a wider group of women we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to access.”

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of SAP Africa.

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Staggering numbers of women unable to exercise decision-making over their own bodies, new UNFPA report shows
April 2, 2020 | 0 Comments
Yveka, 17, visits a UNFPA mobile clinic in Haiti. Haiti’s former Minister of Women, Dr. Lise Marie Dejean, says many women lack autonomy over their bodies and health. © UNFPA

NEW YORK, USA, April 2, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Out of nine pregnancies, Kadiatou experienced five tragic stillbirths, all at her home in rural Mali. Each time, she gave birth without the assistance of a skilled attendant. She never received antenatal care.

None of this was her choice.

Her ninth pregnancy ended in an excruciating and prolonged labour, which led to an obstetric fistula – a traumatic birth injury that causes chronic incontinence, and can lead to pain, infection and rejection by the community.

Even so, her husband’s family refused to allow her to seek care.

“My husband wanted to send me to Bamako for treatment,” 46-year-old Kadiatou explained to UNFPA, “but his little brother objected, saying it was not that bad.”

She suffered for a year before finally undergoing the repair surgeries she needed.

Kadiatou’s case is not an isolated one: Around the world, millions of women are not empowered to make fundamental choices about their own bodies and health.

new report by UNFPA offers, for the first time, a global view of women’s decision-making power over their own bodies. The findings are dismaying.

Kadiatou was not empowered to seek care after she developed an obstetric fistula, a traumatic birth injury. © UNFPA Mali

Based on data from 57 countries, a quarter of women are not able to make their own decisions about accessing health care. A quarter of women in these countries are not empowered to say no to sex with their husband or partner. And nearly 1 in 10 women is not able to make her own choices about using contraception.

Only 55 per cent of women are able to make their own decisions over all three areas.

And in more than 40 per cent of these countries, women’s decision-making power is not improving – or is even regressing. For example, in Benin, 41 per cent women were able to make these decisions in 2006, compared to 36 per cent in 2018.

“Women hardly ever spoke”

Dr. Lise Marie Dejean saw this all too clearly when she was practicing in south-western Haiti.

“I remember when I was doing training sessions for couples on reproductive health,” she recalls. “Women hardly ever spoke. Always the men spoke.”

These experiences had an impact on Dr. Dejean. She went on to serve as the country’s first Minister for the Status of Women and Women’s Rights, and she founded the feminist organization Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen.

The world has agreed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, an ambitious set of goals to improve human welfare. These new data will help track progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality. © Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images

UNFPA’s new data show that more than 20 per cent of Haitian women are not empowered to make their own health-care decisions. A roughly equal percentage of women are not able to refuse sex with their partner. Seven per cent are not empowered to make contraceptive choices. Overall, only 59 per cent of Haitian women are able to make decisions over all three areas.

Poverty and rural isolation can make things worse. “In two very remote localities of Grand’Anse, Lopineau and Massanga, I also noticed that it was men – members of peasant groups – who came to me to ask for a contraceptive method for their wives. In other words, when women had to adopt a method, it was mostly the men’s decision,” Dr. DeJean said. “All of this reflects, in my opinion, a lack of autonomy for women.”

A gulf between laws and reality

UNFPA’s new report also launches a system to measure whether governments are enacting laws to protect women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services and information.

Mali, where Kadiatou lives, has in place 79 per cent of the laws and regulations needed to guarantee full and equal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. For example, laws in Mali guarantee access to maternal health care. This makes Kadiatou’s experience particularly eye-opening; laws were not enough to support her right to safe pregnancy and childbirth.

In fact, Mali is one of several countries showing a significant gulf between the legal measures in place to protect women’s autonomy and women’s actual experiences. Such findings can help pinpoint which actions are needed, and where. Some countries require interventions to address attitudes and education, for instance. Others still have significant legal gaps.

The report also underlines another critical gap: more than 100 countries around the world do not have available data on either women’s decision-making power over their sexual and reproductive health or on the laws guaranteeing their access to reproductive health services and information.

“Urgent actions are needed to collect the data, for low- and middle-income countries and high-income countries, in order to realize our commitment to universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights,” said Mengjia Liang, a UNFPA data specialist who worked on the report.  

“Before this data, we knew that women’s decision-making on sexual and reproductive health was a major challenge and that restrictive laws were in place, but until now we didn’t have the evidence to back this up,” added Emilie Filmer-Wilson, a UNFPA human rights expert who worked on the report. “These data shows us the urgency of stepping up our efforts to support women’s rights and agency.”

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of UNFPA .

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Nigeria: UN and partners acting to avert coronavirus spread in displacement camps
April 2, 2020 | 0 Comments
UNOCHA. A mother and her baby at Internally Displaced People (IDP) Camp B in Mafa, Borno State, Nigeria.

The UN system in Nigeria and its partners are working to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus disease in some of the most vulnerable areas in the country: communities and camps housing millions of internally displaced people (IDPs) uprooted by the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast.

NEW YORK, USA, April 2, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/-Teams are supporting authorities in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states in developing emergency response plans that take into account the living conditions in many communities and IDP camps, where overcrowding can increase the risk of disease outbreaks.

“Humanitarian partners are installing hand-washing stations in IDP camps and ensuring supply of clean water. Partners are also distributing soap and teaching women how to produce their own,” said Edward Kallon, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria.

“More than ever, it is crucial for vulnerable people to have access to not only water, soap, shelters, but also food, education and protection.”

The decade-long crisis in the BAY states, which has spilled over into the Lake Chad region, has left more than seven million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

Most of the displaced are in Borno state, the majority of whom are women and children, with around a quarter being children under age five, according to the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA.

“We will not wait for COVID-19 to reach camps for internally displaced persons before we act”, Mr. Kallon stated. “They have already suffered enough from the decade-long conflict and our priority is to ensure the continuous delivery of life-saving assistance, especially health services, to the most vulnerable women, children and the elderly who need special attention”.

The UN and its humanitarian partners are actively involved in camp coordination and camp management in IDP sites across northeast Nigeria, in support of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

Key activities are being implemented jointly and under global guidance on COVID-19 Outbreak Preparedness and Response issued by the World Health Organization (WHO).

COVID-19 has affected 12 states across Nigeria, with 139 cases recorded as of Wednesday, and the UN also plans to bring in vital health equipment and tools to prevent and treat the respiratory disease.

The UN team has developed messages, posters, videos and other communications aimed at raising awareness about COVID-19 among IDPs and other vulnerable people in the northeast. Sensitization campaigns are also reaching millions in various states through partnerships with major TV and radio channels.

The UN and the Network of People Living with HIV (NEPWHAN) also will launch a survey tool to understand challenges to continuous access to quality HIV treatment, care and support amid the pandemic response.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of UN News.

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COVID-19: International community must step up to prevent pandemic from devastating vulnerable on the run
April 2, 2020 | 0 Comments
Video screen shot . Young Naamat, a Syrian refugee in Jordan, helps take care of her brothers and sisters.

Given how quickly the COVID-19 pandemic is spreading, an outbreak is “looking imminent” in the world’s refugee camps, crowded reception centres or detention facilities where migrant families are sheltering, the Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday.

NEW YORK, USA, April 2, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- An outbreak of a respiratory disease like COVID-19 could spread easily through the overcrowded confines and unsafe conditions typical of many camps or settlements”, Henrietta Fore said in a statement. “Families in these environments would be more likely to get sick and less capable of fighting off the disease because of inadequate services”

She pointed out that there are 31 million children who have been uprooted from their homes, including over 17 million internally displaced, 12.7 million refugees and 1.1 million asylum seekers – all needing some form of assistance. 

“Most of them do not have the luxury of calling a doctor when sick, of washing their hands whenever they need to, or of practicing physical distancing to stop disease transmission”, detailed the UNICEF chief. 

Curtailing the spread

Ms. Fore maintained that any public health response to the pandemic should “reach the most vulnerable, including refugees, migrants and those who are internally displaced”. 

This means equitable access to testing and treatment as well as to prevention information, water and sanitation services.  Moreover, there should be plans in place for safe, family-based protection and support for children who are unable to be with their caregivers.

It also means that containment measures – such as border closures and movement restrictions – should not block rights of children to seek asylum and reunite with family members or hinder aid agencies’ efforts to provide humanitarian assistance. 

“Uprooted children and families should be moved quickly out of harm’s way to adequate accommodations where they have access to water, soap, physical distancing and safety”, Ms. Fore spelled out.

Working on the ground

Currently, UNICEF is working with partners to prevent the disease from spreading among refugee, migrant and displaced communities by promoting hygiene practices that help thwart transmission. 

It is also developing accurate, child-friendly information on COVID-19 along with materials to fight stigma and promote positive parenting. Likewise, the UN agency is distributing hygiene supplies and providing access to water.

“But we cannot do this alone”, stressed the UNICEF chief. “Now, more than ever, governments and the international community should come together to protect the most vulnerable in these unprecedented times”.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of UN News.
 

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WHO concerned over rapid escalation in COVID-19 spread as caseload approaches one million
April 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

NEW YORK, USA, April 2, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Deaths from COVID-19 have more than doubled in the past week and will soon reach 50,000 worldwide, while the global caseload is heading towards one million, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) told journalists on Wednesday.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there has been “a near exponential growth” in case numbers over the past five weeks, affecting practically every country, territory and area of the world.

“As we enter the fourth month since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am deeply concerned about the rapid escalation and global spread of infection”, he stated.

Although Africa, Central America and South America have reported relatively lower numbers of cases, Tedros warned that the disease could have “serious social, economic and political consequences” in these regions.

“It is critical that we ensure these countries are well equipped to detect, test, isolate and treat cases, and identify contacts. I am encouraged to see that this is occurring in many countries, despite limited resources”, he said.

‘Solidarity’ drug trials underway

Meanwhile, 74 countries have responded to the UN health agency’s call to participate in a “Solidarity Trial” to compare four promising drugs or drug combinations, which might help treat COVID-19, and save the lives of those worst affected.

More than 200 patients are taking part so far and have been randomly assigned to one of the study tracks.

Tedros said “each new patient who joins the trial gets us one step closer to knowing which drugs work”.

The trial was announced last Friday and aims to reduce the time needed to generate evidence about which medicines are safe and effective against the new virus.

To mask or not to mask?

The UN health agency continues to work with Governments and manufacturers to speed up production of protective equipment, including masks, for health workers on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19.

Tedros also addressed the growing debate over whether the general public should also wear masks.

“WHO recommends the use of medical masks for people who are sick and those caring for them”, he said, adding “however, in these circumstances, masks are only effective when combined with other protective measures”.

Battling locusts and disease in Sudan

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Sudan continues its battle against swarms of desert locusts which are ravaging crops and threatening food security.

To support the country in this fight, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) contributed 10 4×4 off-road vehicles to the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources during a virtual handover ceremony held on Wednesday.

“While these vehicles would help to curtail the destructive effects of the locusts, and enhance food security, they would also be of use to advance Government’s endeavor to combat the dreadful COVID-19 disease”, said Jeremiah Mamabolo, the Joint Special Representative at UNAMID, speaking from Khartoum.

The event marked the first-ever virtual press conference in the history of UN and AU peace operations in Sudan, according to the mission.

In a sign of the times, UNAMID drivers – wearing protective masks and gloves — handed over the keys of the vehicles to transport officials at the Ministry’s parking lot.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of UN News.

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Low-skilled workers, developing countries at risk of steep economic decline as coronavirus advances
April 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

NEW YORK, USA, April 2, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/-The global economy could shrink by up to one per cent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and may contract even further if restrictions on economic activities are extended without adequate fiscal responses, according to analysis released today by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

The DESA briefing finds that millions of workers are at risk of losing their jobs as nearly 100 countries close their national borders. That could translate to a global economic contraction of 0.9 per cent by the end of 2020, or even higher if governments fail to provide income support and help boost consumer spending.

Struggling service industries

According to the forecast, lockdowns in Europe and North America are hitting the service sector hard, particularly industries that involve physical interactions such as retail trade, leisure and hospitality, recreation and transportation services. Collectively, such industries account for more than a quarter of all jobs in these economies.

As businesses lose revenue, unemployment is likely to increase sharply, transforming a supply-side shock to a wider demand-side shock for the economy. The severity of the impact will largely depend on the duration of restrictions on the movement of people and economic activities and on the scale and efficacy of responses by national treasuries.

Against that backdrop, UN-DESA is joining a chorus of voices across the UN system calling for well-designed fiscal stimulus packages which prioritize health spending and support households most affected by the pandemic.

“Urgent and bold policy measures are needed, not only to contain the pandemic and save lives, but also to protect the most vulnerable in our societies from economic ruin and to sustain economic growth and financial stability”, said Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

Spillover to developing countries

Today’s analysis also warns that the adverse effects of prolonged economic restrictions in developed economies will soon spill over to developing countries via trade and investment channels. A sharp decline in consumer spending in the European Union and the United States will reduce imports of consumer goods from developing countries.

Developing countries, particularly those dependent on tourism and commodity exports, face heightened economic risks. Global manufacturing production could contract significantly, and the plummeting number of travellers is likely to hurt the tourism sector in small island developing States, which employs millions of low-skilled workers.

The UN civil aviation body, ICAO, welcomed the commitment by leaders of the G-20 industrialized nations late last week indicating that bold fiscal support was needed to safeguard the global travel industry, in order to aid the global recovery in the coming months.

Meanwhile, the decline in commodity-related revenues and a reversal of capital flows are increasing the likelihood of debt distress for many nations. Governments may be forced to curtail public expenditure at a time when they need to ramp up spending to contain the pandemic and support consumption and investment.

Elliot Harris, UN Chief Economist and Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, said the collective goal must be a resilient recovery which puts the planet back on a sustainable track. “We must not lose sight how it is affecting the most vulnerable population and what that means for sustainable development,” he stressed.

‘The alarms raised by UN-DESA echo another report, released on 31 March, in which UN experts issued a broad appeal for a “large-scale, coordinated, comprehensive multilateral response” amounting to at least 10 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP).

Shared responsibility, global solidarity

The document, titled “Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-10,” describes the speed and scale of the outbreak, the severity of cases, and the societal and economic disruption of the coronavirus.

Secretary-General António Guterres launched the report with a dire warning about the scope of the crisis. “COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” he stressed, noting that the virus is “attacking societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods.”

The UN Chief underscored the importance of focusing on the most vulnerable by designing responses that, among other things, provide health and unemployment insurance and social protections while also bolstering businesses to prevent bankruptcies and job losses.

The recovery from COVID-19 must lead to an economy focused on building inclusive and sustainable economies that are more resilient in facing pandemics, climate change, and the many other global challenges, he added.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of UN News.

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African Development Bank approves $2 million emergency assistance for WHO-led measures to curb COVID-19 in Africa
April 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank on Tuesday approved  $2 million in emergency assistance for the World Health Organization (WHO) to reinforce its capacity to help African countries contain the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its impacts.

The grant, which is in response to an international appeal by the WHO, will be used by the world body to equip Regional Member Countries to prevent, rapidly detect, investigate, contain and manage detected cases of COVID-19.

It is one part of several Bank interventions  to help member countries address the pandemic which, while slow to arrive in Africa, is spreading quickly and is  straining already fragile health systems.

Specifically, the WHO Africa region will use the funds to bolster the capacity of 41 African countries on infection prevention, testing and case management. WHO Africa will also boost surveillance systems, procure and distribute laboratory test kits and reagents, and support coordination mechanisms at national and regional levels.

This grant “ will enable Regional Member Countries to put in place robust containment measures within 48 hours of COVID-19 case confirmation and also support the WHO Africa Region to disseminate information and increase public awareness in communities,” said the Bank’s Human Capital Youth and Skills Development Department.

The grant will contribute toward a $50 million WHO Preparedness and Response Plan,  which other partners including the United Nations system, are also supporting.

It is estimated that Africa will require billions of dollars to cushion the impact of the disease as many countries scramble together contingency measures, including commercial lockdowns, in desperate efforts to contain it. Globally, factories have been closed and workers sent home, disrupting supply chains, trade, travel, and driving many economies toward recession.

The Bank Group is expected to unveil a financial assistance package that will enable governments and businesses to undertake flexible responses to lessen the economic and social impact of this pandemic.

Last Thursday, the Bank raised an exceptional $3 billion in a three-year social bond, the proceeds from which will go to help alleviate the economic and social effects of the pandemic. It is the largest dollar-denominated social bond launched in international capital markets to date.

*AFDB

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UN launches COVID-19 plan that could ‘defeat the virus and build a better world’
April 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

The UN chief launched on Tuesday a new plan to counter the potentially devastating socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, calling on everyone to “act together to lessen the blow to people”.

UN Photo/Mark Garten
UN Secretary-General António Guterres briefs the media on the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NEW YORK, USA, April 1, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- “The new coronavirus disease is attacking societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods”, said Secretary-General António Guterres, pointing out that the potential longer-term effects on the global economy and individual countries are “dire”.

The new report, “Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19“,  describes the speed and scale of the outbreak, the severity of cases, and the societal and economic disruption of the coronavirus.

“COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” underscored the UN chief.

 “This human crisis demands coordinated, decisive, inclusive and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies – and maximum financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries.”

As strong as weakest health system

Mr. Guterres called for “an immediate coordinated health response to suppress transmission and end the pandemic” that “scales up health capacity for testing, tracing, quarantine and treatment, while keeping first responders safe, combined with measures to restrict movement and contact.” 

He underscored that developed countries must assist those less developed, or potentially “face the nightmare of the disease spreading like wildfire in the global South with millions of deaths and the prospect of the disease re-emerging where it was previously suppressed”.

“Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world”, he stressed. 

Focus on most vulnerable

In tackling the devastating social and economic dimensions of the crisis, the UN chief pushed for a focus on the most vulnerable by designing policies that, among other things, support providing health and unemployment insurance and social protections while also bolstering businesses to prevent bankruptcies and job losses. 

Debt alleviation must also be a priority he said, noting that the UN is “fully mobilized” and is establishing a new multi-partner Trust Fund for COVID19 Response and Recovery to respond to the emergency and recover from the socio-economic shock. 

“When we get past this crisis, which we will, we will face a choice”, said the UN chief, “we can go back to the world as it was before or deal decisively with those issues that make us all unnecessarily vulnerable to crises”. 

Referencing the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he maintained that in recover from the COVID-19 crisis must lead to an economy focused on building inclusive and sustainable economies that are more resilient in facing pandemics, climate change, and the many other global challenges. 

“What the world needs now is solidarity,” stressed the Secretary-General. “With solidarity we can defeat the virus and build a better world”.

Grim 2020 socio-economic estimates 

The report includes estimates from a host of UN agencies.

According to the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), five to 25 million jobs will be eradicated, and the world will lose $860 billion to $3.4 trillion in labor income.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) projected a 30 to 40 per cent downward pressure on global foreign direct investment flows while the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) saw a 20–30 per cent decline in international arrivals. 

Meanwhile, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) anticipated that 3.6 billion people will be offline and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) forecast that 1.5 billion students out of school.

The report calls for a large-scale, coordinated, comprehensive multilateral response that amounts to at least 10 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) and warns that there is no time to lose in mounting the most robust, cooperative health response the world has ever seen.

In closing, Mr. Guterres called the pandemic “a defining moment for modern society”, saying the “history will judge the efficacy of the response not by the actions of any single set of government actors taken in isolation, but by the degree to which the response is coordinated globally across all sectors for the benefit of our human family”.

“With the right actions, the COVID-19 pandemic can mark the beginning of a new type of global and societal cooperation”, concluded the Secretary-General.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of UN News.

Source : African Media Agency (AMA)

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Coronavirus poses latest threat to battered health system in DR Congo
April 1, 2020 | 0 Comments

The looming threat of the new coronavirus disease COVID-19 is just the latest challenge to the beleaguered health care system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which is struggling with deadly measles and cholera epidemics that have killed thousands of children over the past year, the UN children’s fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.

NEW YORK, USA, April 1, 2020,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- As the DRC has also been battling an Ebola outbreak in the volatile eastern region, UNICEF fears mounting cases of COVID-19 will further strain the public health system in a country that is among the most at risk in Africa.

Coronavirus will most likely divert the available national health capacity and resources, and leave millions of children affected by measles, malaria, polio and many other killer diseases,” said UNICEF Representative Edouard Beigbeder, speaking from the capital, Kinshasa.

While the DRC has so far recorded nearly 100 cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths, the measles epidemic has generated 332,000 cases and killed over 5,300 children since early 2019, making it the worst in the world. At the same time, 31,000 cases of cholera were reported during this period.

© UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo
A mother holds her 3-month-old baby as he receives a vaccination against measles at a health centre in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

And although the Ebola outbreak garnered international attention and has been contained, UNICEF said it had “unfortunate side-effects” as resources to fight childhood killers like measles, cholera and malaria, instead went towards stemming the disease.

Health system ‘on life support’

Strengthening the battered healthcare system in the DRC is vital to protect young lives, a new UNICEF report titled On Life Support  argues.

Medical services there are ill-equipped and underfunded, trained staff are in short supply, and around half of all facilities lack safe water and sanitation.

UNICEF estimates more than nine million children across the country require humanitarian assistance, including health care.

Most live in the three eastern provinces affected by the Ebola outbreak, where many doctors and nurses chose to take better-paying jobs in Ebola response.

Ongoing militia violence in these areas – including attacks against health centres –forced nearly one million people to flee their homes in 2019, thus making it harder for families to access health facilities.

“Unless health facilities have the means to deliver immunization, nutrition and other essential services, including in remote areas of the country, we risk seeing the lives and futures of many Congolese children scarred or destroyed by preventable diseases”, Mr Beigbeder warned.

Increase support for public health

UNICEF is calling on the Congolese Government to allocate more public funding for basic health care services that support pregnant women, newborns and young children, and to prioritise the strengthening of routine immunization.

Currently, less than six per cent of the annual budget goes towards healthcare, which must change, according to Xavier Crespin, the agency’s Chief of Health in the country.

“Instead of expending huge efforts and resources on an ad hoc response to individual health emergencies, those same resources should be directed towards strengthening the national health system,” he said.

“That means a big investment in routine immunization, in adequate staffing and salaries, and in equipment that is currently in extremely short supply, especially outside urban areas.”

UNICEF is also urging donors to support national efforts to improve routine health care services in order to better protect children against communicable diseases.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of UN News.

Source : African Media Agency (AMA)

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Smart Africa Launches Africa Wide Coordinated Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic
March 31, 2020 | 0 Comments

Smart Africa, a bold and innovative commitment from African Heads of State and Government to accelerate sustainable socioeconomic development , has launched a continent-wide technology based coordinated impact response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic for Africa.

Kigali,Rwanda., March 27, 2020 – Smart Africa has launched a continent-wide technology based coordinated impact response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic for Africa. This response is aimed at bringing together the 30 member states under the Smart Africa Alliance and the 40 private sector members of the Alliance to coordinate efforts to stem the pandemic in Africa.

In order to tackle this unprecedented crisis, by its magnitude and its impact on society, the Smart Africa Secretariat seeks to support digital health services projects that aim at improving and accelerating the African governments response to the challenges of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The projects under the initiative are aimed at assisting African countries to:

  • Assess individual risk and guide decision making;
  • Assist African populations in finding nearby testing sites;
  • Provide reliable updates and alerts from public health authorities;
  • Report on community status;
  • Track and report transmissions.

Moreover, to ensure that the efforts are relevant to the African context, critical technological parameters are considered as below:

  • A solution available via web, application (iOS, Android, Windows), SMS, USSD, and other messaging platforms;
  • Data collection from diverse points such as individual smartphones or terminals at public facilities (e.g. testing terminals at border controls, testing terminals by medical authorities, etc.);
  • A reporting dashboard accessible to the admin with relevant data – specific rights depending on the status of the admin (e.g. public authorities, medical authorities) will be established;
  • Anonymized data (no personal information including name, ID, address recorded on the system) generated by use of the solution can be published in real-time through a database accessible with an API and map interface on a public website for public health authorities to monitor;
  • Reliably informative content available in local languages in various formats (written – vocal with Interactive Voice Recognition technology) – e.g. prevention practices, isolation practices, closest health facilities, additional one-on-on support, etc.;
  • Assessment and guidance compliance to the World Health Organization (“WHO”), national and local public health guidelines and include exposures, symptoms of illness, and underlying health status.

“There are numerous international interventions to the coronavirus pandemic but so far very few that are relevant to the immediate African context. We are bringing a credible and coordinated technology based African response which must go beyond our 30 member countries to the entirety of the African continent. The aim is to save lives and we must all do our part,” said Mr. Lacina Koné, Director General of Smart Africa.

The response will be initiated through a call for proposals which will involve numerous stakeholders across Africa. Once initiated the response by governments to the pandemic is expected to be coordinated, efficient and to save lives.

About Smart Africa

SMART Africa is a bold and innovative commitment from African Heads of State and Government to accelerate sustainable socioeconomic development on the continent, ushering Africa into a knowledge economy through affordable access to Broadband and usage of Information and Communications Technologies.

The Transform Africa Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda on 28th-31st October 2013 culminated in the adoption of the Smart Africa Manifesto document by seven (7) African Heads of States (Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Mali, Gabon, Burkina Faso) in which they committed to provide leadership in accelerating socio-economic development through ICT’s.

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