INTERNATIONAL, 26 January 2020, Health - Governments must put an end to the informal segregation and institutionalized neglect of hundreds of thousands of women and children affected by leprosy, an independent UN human rights expert said on Sunday, World Leprosy Day.
The UN expert expressed concern over the “complete lack of specific plans by States to address the particular needs of women and children affected by leprosy and to end discrimination and violence against them”.
Today is #WorldLeprosyDay. Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease that mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract, and the eyes.http://bit.ly/2tR7y14
Citing institutional reasons, Ms. Cruz’s last report said that too many cases of women and children who are affected, go underreported.
Although their immature immune systems appear to be more prone to leprosy, some 10 to 20 per cent of children stop taking medicines because available treatments are simply not appropriate for their age.
Moreover, almost half of affected women experience depression and/or suicidal thoughts.
“Affected people are not only those left furthest behind, they are actively being kept out of the agenda, out of history,” she said.
Discriminatory practices endure
Affected people and their families have been “systematically subjected to dehumanization in different cultural backdrops”, according to Ms. Cruz.
“Stigmatization remains institutionalized in the States’ architecture and functioning”, she said, noting that over 50 countries have hundreds of discriminatory laws against leprosy-affected people.
The UN expert welcomed improvements in the response of some Governments, including in awareness-raising activities, campaigns to improve detection and early diagnosis, and access to treatment.
Nevertheless, she regretted that too many States with high incidence rates and discriminatory laws did not reply to her requests for visits or had they yet arranged a visit, months after they accepted her request.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. They are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
INTERNATIONAL, 25 January 2020, Humanitarian Aid - United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres was deeply saddened by the “loss of life and destruction of property” caused by a 6.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked eastern Turkey on Friday night.
Secretary-General @antonioguterres deeply saddened by earthquake #Turkey's Elazig province, extends condolences to the victims' families, as well as to the people and Government of Turkey.
Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on
The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the loss of life and destruction of property in the wake of an earthquake in Elazig province, Turkey. The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the
“The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the people and Government of Turkey”, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement issued on Saturday. “He wishes those injured a speedy recovery”.
Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority, AFAD, said that 25 people were killed in Elazig province – some 465 miles east of the capital, Ankara – and four in the neighbouring province of Malatya.
And the country’s Health Minister recorded more than 1,450 injured people.
State media in Syria and Iran both reported feeling tremors in their countries, and local media in Lebanon said that Beirut and Tripoli also felt the quake.
More than 400 aftershocks have been recorded, 14 of which had magnitudes over 4.0, according to AFAD.
Hundreds of residents were left homeless or with damaged homes as rescue teams from neighboring provinces worked throughout the night with floodlights, using their hands, drills and mechanical diggers to remove bricks and plaster from collapsed buildings in search of survivors.
“The United Nations expresses its solidarity with Turkey and has offered support”, concluded Mr. Dujarric.
INTERNATIONAL, 25 January 2020, Health - Following confirmed cases of the Novel coronavirus in Europe, the United Nations health agency released a statement on the need for the international community to work together as one to combat the infectious disease.
The evolving outbreak that began in China is “a sign that every country needs to be ready to timely detect and manage outbreaks of any type”, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday.
Virus infections have now been reported on four continents, including in Australia, France and the United States, among recent travelers to China. Several other countries in Asia have reported cases as well.
WHO’s Regional Office for Europe has officially been notified of the first novel #coronavirus cases in Europe. Three cases have been confirmed in France and WHO is in contact with the relevant authorities. WHO encourages countries in the European Region to continue to prepare.
On Friday, France officially notified the WHO Regional Office for Europe of three confirmed cases – two in Paris and one in Bordeaux. All of them had travelled from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, and are now hospitalized in France.
“Timely action is fundamental for early containment”, underscored WHO, commending France for quickly notifying WHO and rapidly issuing a public communication, saying that it not only exemplified the proper steps forward, but also illustrated “an example of global collaboration and solidarity”.
WHO maintained that the first confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Europe were not unexpected.
“They remind us that the global nature of travels exempts no country from infectious disease spread”, WHO stated. “This also means that no country can afford postponing the establishment of all necessary measures to protect their people”.
More than 1,300 cases have been confirmed worldwide, and 41 people have died, including a 62-year-old doctor at a Wuhan hospital who contracted the virus from a patient, according to State media.
At a time of uncertainty about how the virus originated and behaves, WHO spells out that “it is even more critical that countries, organizations and the international community act as one”.
“We need to move as one region, as one world in scaling up our ability to prepare and respond together”, said the statement.
“The time is now to make ourselves ready”, said WHO, adding that, together with Chinese authorities, it is doing everything it can to investigate the outbreak.
Although the virus’ behavior remains unpredictable, the UN health agency upheld that “today we are offered a window of opportunity; today we must grab it to make the region and the world safer”.
INTERNATIONAL, 24 January 2020, Human Rights - Against the backdrop of a constant stream of attacks targeting Jews, their institutions and property, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned on Saturday of a global crisis of antisemitic hatred.
As we see a deeply worrying resurgence in antisemitic attacks around the world, “solidarity in the face of hatred is needed today more than ever”, the UN chief told an annual Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony at New York City’s historic Park East Synagogue.
He reflected upon the resurgence of neo-Nazis and white supremacists spreading venomous ideology and memes online that “poison young minds”.
While the world is revolted by the horrific details of the Auschwitz death camps, Mr. Guterres maintained that everyone must look, learn and relearn the lessons of the Holocaust, so that it is never repeated.
He said that because prejudice and hatred thrive on insecurity, frustrated expectations, ignorance and resentment, leadership that fosters social cohesion and addresses the root causes of hatred, is needed at all levels.
An investment by all parts of society towards rooting out rising antisemitism, can be made, and done in a spirit of mutual respect, Mr. Guterres noted.
In the lead up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day, on Monday, the UN launched a poignant photo exhibition commemorating 75 years since Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi extermination camp, was liberated.
More than 1.1 million people were estimated to have been murdered in that one camp in occupied Poland, nine out of ten of them Jews.
Today, collective action against antisemitism and other forms of bias continues to be important for the dignity and human rights of all people everywhere.
INTERNATIONAL, 25 January 2020, Peace and Security - With over 240 public meetings and a wider range of civil society briefers, the UN Security Council continued its push towards more transparency in 2019, a year marked by widespread popular uprisings and the erosion of hard-won international treaties.
Here are some key figures for the world’s top peace and security body last year:
243 public meetings held – an average of 21 per month
1 new agenda item added (‘the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’)
On three occasions last year, sharply divided delegations presented competing draft resolutions, which resulted in the rejection of six proposed texts. China, France, Russia, UK and the US – the Council’s five veto-wielding permanent members – found themselves particularly at odds over questions of State sovereignty, trading sporadic accusations of interference in domestic affairs.
This is just a snapshot of the Council’s work in 2019 pulled from the annual round-up prepared by our hard-working colleagues in the Meetings Coverage section of the Department of Global Communications (DGC), who provide on-the-day summary coverage of the work of the main UN bodies at Headquarters, as well as of major conferences away from the house.
For an in-depth review of all the action in the Council last year, please go here.
INTERNATIONAL, 24 January 2020, Culture and Education - Aligning inclusive, quality education with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was centre-stage on Friday, as the President of the UN General Assembly held a high-level interactive meeting for the International Day of Education.
“The education sector is wrestling with mammoth challenges worldwide”, said Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, in his message for the day.
As a former teacher, I know the life-changing power of education.
Universal access to quality and, now, life-long education is a right, and a necessity. #EducationDay
Listing them, he said there was a “precipitate decline” in the quality and standards of education; a widening knowledge gap between students in technically advanced societies and those in developing countries; a crisis of learning in conflict zones; growing school bullying, and “the declining esteem of the teaching profession” overall.
Mr. Muhammad-Bande maintained that today’s education must “bridge the yawning gap” between the modern employment needs for specialized skills, and actual learning opportunities.
“School curricula have yet to anticipate and respond to workplace needs for hands-on, vocational, ICT applications, and sundry technical skills, while still advancing the traditional scholastic pursuits”, he stated.
Moreover, he highlighted, “the significance of the deficits in education outcome becomes obvious when viewed alongside the spiralling population crisis”.
Education in a crisis
The fate of school children trapped in conflict zones deserves even more urgent attention.
According to UNICEF, in 2017, 500 attacks were staged on schools in 20 countries worldwide. In 15 of those 20, troops and rebel forces turned classrooms into military posts.
Thousands of children were recruited to fight, sometimes made to serve as suicide bombers, or forced to endure direct attacks.
“The learning environment may also be rendered unsafe by gun-toting, machete-wielding, gangs and unruly youths, and by sexual predators on school premises”, Mr. Muhammad-Bande said.
And natural disasters pose additional threats to the learning environment.
Fixing the learning crisis - Assembly President recommendations:
Ensure instruction does not decline.
Align school curricula and work needs for competencies and skills.
Promote gender equality, social mobility, inter-cultural understanding.
Safeguard that persons with disabilities are included in education.
Respond to learning challenges caused by conflict and weather.
Enhance the capacities of education systems working in tandem with Governments, education planners and administrators.
Bridge the current gender, digital and financing gaps in education.
Cyclones, hurricanes and storms are among the climatic conditions that periodically wreak havoc on school buildings and facilities, making learning difficult, if not impossible.
“The choices that education stakeholders make have direct impact on various social groups, particularly, disadvantaged groups like rural communities, the urban poor, persons with disabilities, and women”, upheld the PGA, noting that nearly two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are female, mostly in under-developed countries.
Choice also becomes critical in the struggle to elevate the status of the teaching profession, recruit competent and motivated teachers, and expose teachers to innovative techniques.
But there are bright spots he said: “Forward-looking education policies have contributed to the attainment of SDG targets in some countries”, asserted Mr. Muhammad-Bande.
And participants at this year’s International Day of Education are given the opportunity “to share international good practices in inclusive quality education”.
Partnerships are key
Education enhances the “analytical, inventive and critical thinking capacities of human beings”, the Assembly President said, adding that in the process, it accelerates each nation’s technological attainments and economic growth.
“When a society remains perpetually under-developed, it must among other things re-evaluate its education system”, said Mr. Muhammad-Bande. “If the system is dysfunctional or does not facilitate the acquisition of pertinent knowledge and skills, the economy will, at best, stagnate, and at worst, collapse”.
Bearing in mind the “tremendous amount of work” that lies ahead, he shared his belief that partnerships can play an important role in implementing and attaining the SDGs, which is why his office “has placed strong emphasis on engendering partnerships across key priority areas”, including education.
In conclusion, Mr. Muhammad-Bande urged Member States and other key partners to examine the feasibility and value-added support in establishing a network of key existing education networks to exchange information and ideas, "including sources of support, relating to all aspects of education”.
Power of education
“Education has the power to shape the world”, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed spelled out at the podium.
“Education protects men and women from exploitation in the labour market” and “empowers women and gives them opportunities to make choices”, she said.
Moreover, it can help change behaviour and perceptions, thereby fighting climate change and unsustainable practices. A quality experience in the classroom helps promote mutual respect and understanding between people; combat misperceptions, prejudice and hate speech; and prevent violent extremism.
“Without education, we cannot achieve any of the SDGs”, Ms. Mohammed flagged.
And yet, with 2030 looming on the horizon, the world is lagging behind, prompting the Secretary-General to issue a global call for a Decade of Action, to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs.
“The situation in education is alarming…because of the crisis in the number of children, young people and adults who are not in education”, as well as because many who are, are not learning.
And refugees and migrants face additional challenges.
According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the proportion of refugees enrolled in secondary education is 24 per cent, only three per cent of whom have access to higher education.
“We have the power to shape education, but only if we work together and really bring the partnerships that are necessary to provide quality education”, she concluded. “We have a duty to step up our efforts, so that quality education for all is no longer a goal for tomorrow, but a reality”.
Action for “the four Ps on which our future depends”, namely people, prosperity, the planet and peace, is imperative, according to the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and CulturalOrganization, UNESCO in her Friday message.
Although education is “a valuable resource for humanity”, Director-General Audrey Azoulay pointed out that it is “all too scarce for millions of people around the world”.
A global learning crisis, confirmed by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, is a major cause for concern as it is also a crisis for prosperity, for the planet, for peace and for people”, she said, urging everyone to take action for education “because education is the best investment for the future”.
UNESCO has been charged with coordinating the international community's efforts to achieve SDG 4, quality education for all.
“First and foremost”, the UNESCO chief said, “our Organization takes action for people, by making education an instrument of inclusion and, therefore, of empowerment”.
Changing lives, transforming communities
For her part, Mona Juul, President of the UN Economic and Social Council, ECOSOC, maintained that education is “the most powerful means to escape poverty”.
“It changes lives, transforms communities and paves the way towards productive, sustainable and resilient societies in which children – girls and boys – can reach their full potential”, she expanded, urging everyone to strengthen their efforts to manifest a world in which every child receives a quality education that allows growth, prosperity, empowerment and so they can “make meaningful contributions to communities big and small, everywhere”.
INTERNATIONAL, 24 January 2020, Humanitarian Aid - The number of people requiring humanitarian assistance in Niger, a country which the UN humanitarian agency, OCHA, says is “being assaulted on all fronts”, is expected to increase in 2020.
Eighteen-year-old Cherif was forced to flee his village in northern Nigeria to Niger four years ago. UNOCHA/Eve Sabbagh
Currently, around 10 per cent of the population of the West African country, around 2.3 million people, requires humanitarian aid to survive.
Conflict, climate change and the arrival of refugees from neighboring countries have all combined to drive up the number of people who are not getting enough to eat, in what is already one of the world’s poorest nations.
But now, the Nigerien government, with the support of UN agencies, is helping the most vulnerable people.
The UN humanitarian agency’s Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ursula Mueller, recently travelled to Niger to meet some of the those who are benefitting. Read more about their stories here.
INTERNATIONAL, 23 January 2020, Women - Continued displacement from conflict-affected areas in northeast Syria leaves women and girls in urgent need of safe spaces, shelter and reproductive health services, according to a Flash Update this week from UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
More than 70,000 people from the northeast remain displaced in Al-Hasakah, Ar-Raqqa and Aleppo governorates due to ongoing conflict in the area. Over 17,500 of the IDPs are women of reproductive age.
In addition to continued drops in temperature, women face hazardous living conditions and increased risks.
And without adequate health care and other services, internally-displaced women and girls are more likely to suffer gender-based violence.
"Women and girls face multiple protection and reproductive health risks in northeast Syria. The risk of gender-based violence is particularly high in camps such as Al Hol, where 96 per cent of the camp population are women and children”, explained Karen Daduryan, UNFPA Representative in Syria.
Furthermore, “women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable and require special attention”, he said.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is providing services to displaced women and girls across northeast Syria.
Hope in crisis
UNFPA, through its implementing partners, operates six “safe spaces” for women and girls in the wartorn region, to ensure safety and support.
They provide essential services to address gender-based violence, including psychosocial support, case management, awareness raising, vocational training, and access to more specialized services such as mental health and reproductive healthcare.
The safe spaces serve newly-displaced women, as well as those living in host communities, and there are also mobile teams and clinics, taking treatment to where it’s needed most.
Lifelines for women in need
Asma’a Al Issa, 32, was one of many women who received life-saving access to reproductive healthcare through UNFPA and partner organizations.
“I was worried before giving birth”, explained Ms. Al Issa. First displaced three years ago when her house in Al Qadisia Village was demolished, she now lives in Al Tapqqa, a city in Raqqa governorate, in a home which is still being rebuilt.
It is a great mission to have saved her and her new baby’s life – UNFPA-supported midwife, Hanan
Ms. Al Issa received maternal health services from a clinic operated by the non-profit organization Al Mawada with support from UNFPA. She went into labour on 25 October, amid rising hostilities in the area.
With the skilled care provided by Hanan, a midwife at the clinic, her pregnancy went smoothly despite the violence and turmoil around her.
“Asma’a gave birth without any complications,” Hanan later explained. “It is a great mission to have saved her and her new baby’s life.”
“Now I am very happy to have a baby girl,” Ms. Al Issa told UNFPA. She was discharged with her and her daughter in healthy condition and high spirits.
More than 42,000 women beneficiaries
Since October last year, UNFPA and partners have provided reproductive health services, including safe childbirth, antenatal and postnatal care and family planning, to over 42,000 women of reproductive age. More than 39,000 services were provided to prevent, mitigate and respond to gender-based violence.
People living in 45 shelters and four IDP and refugee camps throughout the region were helped and between October and mid-January, UNFPA supported 40 deliveries.
“Asma’a is not a special case or an exception,” explained Dr. Adnan, a reproductive health coordinator working in the area. She’s proud of the healthcare that has been provided through international humanitarian efforts.
She is one of thousands displaced and deprived families that we serve every day – Dr. Adnan, reproductive health coordinator
A sense of safety and hope, is another vital byproduct of the access to care that women have been given, amidst too much violence and despair: “She is one of thousands displaced and deprived families that we serve every day.”
Between March 2019 and mid-January, 189,463 services were provided in the Al-Hol camp alone.
Reproductive health and gender-based violence services as well as sanitary napkins and dignity kits have been provided, and literacy courses, in coordination with UNICEF.
“In certain cases, UNFPA and its partners deal with radical cultural and social norms while delivering gender-based violence and reproductive health services. And this requires tailored and innovative ways of reaching out to affected women and girls" noted the agency’s Syria Representative, Mr. Daduryan.
Dedication to safety and access
Relocations and continued displacement create obstacles for healthcare access, in addition to insufficient supplies of materials and overcrowding.
“The scope and severity of needs, as well as geographic spread in the northeast, require urgent scale-up of UNFPA's humanitarian response”, he added.
“Due to generous support of multiple donors and dedicated work of partners, UNFPA has been able to reach out to most vulnerable women and girls with lifesaving and life sustaining reproductive health and gender-based violence services.”
UNFPA cites a number of challenges to continued support for women in North East Syria. These include overcrowding in collective shelters, insufficient supply of winterized clothes and limited specialized expertise in the provision of services to respond to gender-based violence.
“It is time to assess the results and gaps in outreach and quality of services to ensure that women and girls who need these services in camps, shelters, out-of-camp settlements and communities, have access to quality gender-based violence and reproductive health services and supplies,” urged Mr. Daduryan.
“We count on continued support of our donors and partners in this challenging task of ensuring health and dignity of all women affected by the crisis in northeast Syria.”
INTERNATIONAL, 23 January 2020, Health - The head of the UN health agency, WHO (World Health Organization), declared on Thursday that the respiratory disease Novel Coronavirus, is not yet an official Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), but warned that is an emergency in China.
However, after two days of deliberations, the WHO Emergency Committee, which advises the head of the agency, was divided on whether to declare a PHEIC.
The disease has spread rapidly to several countries including Japan, Singapore and the USA, and Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said in a press conference held in Geneva on Thursday that the outbreak poses a “very high risk” in China, as well as regionally and globally.
‘There’s still a lot we don’t know'
Mr. Tedros outlined the known facts about Novel Coronavirus. It causes severe diseases, he said, and it can kill, but in most cases, it causes milder symptoms: “We know that among those infected, one quarter of patients have experienced severe disease and that it can kill. We know that most of those who have died had underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease, that weakened their immune systems.
“We know that there is human-to-human transmission in China, but for now it appears limited to family groups and health workers caring for infected patients. At this time there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't happen”.
Mr. Tedros said that as of Thursday evening, 584 cases have now been reported to WHO, including 17 deaths. The vast majority of cases (575) have been reported in China.
Cases have also been reported in Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the United States of America and Vietnam, with further possible cases being investigated in other countries; among them, the United Kingdom.
‘Working night and day’
The WHO chief acknowledged that there are still many unknown factors: “We don't know the source of this virus. We don't understand how easily it spreads and we don't fully understand its clinical features or severity. WHO is working with our partners night and day in China and the other affected countries at the regional level, and here at headquarters, to fill the gaps in our knowledge as quickly as possible”.
More cases are expected in China, despite the actions taken by the Chinese authorities to control the outbreak. The country has succeeded in isolating and sequencing the virus, and has shared those genetic sequences with WHO and the international community.
The WHO chief warned, that the agency’s decision should not be taken as a sign that it is doing nothing: “WHO is following this outbreak every minute of every day. At a country, regional and global level, we're working to prevent human to human transmission.
“We have provided guidance to all countries for the rapid identification, management and containment of the virus based on the sequence we've got from China. We're coordinating our networks of global experts. We're working to advance the development of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. We are completely committed”.
Committee could meet again ‘in a matter of days’
A statement released by WHO soon after the press conference, noted that the Committee members agree on the urgency of the situation, and suggested the Committee should be reconvened “in a matter of days” to examine the situation further.
The Committee made a number of recommendations regarding measures to control the outbreak. Its members advised WHO to provide information to the international community via an international multidisciplinary operation, in order to enhance understanding of the situation and its public health impact.
The Chinese authorities were encouraged in the statement to provide more information on the ways they are managing the risk of further cases, and to work with the WHO and other partners to better understand the evolution of the outbreak.
All countries, recommends the Committee, should be prepared to contain the virus, through active surveillance, early detection, isolation, case management, and prevention of onward spread of infection, and to share full data with WHO.
A comprehensive list of the Committee’s advice and recommendations can be found in the WHO statement.
INTERNATIONAL, 23 January 2020, Climate Change - The world is “doomed” in the face of climate change unless major industrial nations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday.
The UN chief observed that while many smaller developing countries and the European Union have committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, “the big emitters” have yet to act.
If the big emitters do not rally around the principle of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, “we will be doomed because they represent a very important share”, the UN chief said.
“The G20 represents 80 per cent of the emissions that contribute to climate change.”
Mr. Guterres said Governments can take steps to help move the world towards a greener future, such as cutting subsidies for fossil fuels.
“As a taxpayer, I can’t really accept the idea that my taxes are used to boost hurricanes, or to bleach coral, or to melt glaciers”, he stated.
For the Secretary-General, climate change is the defining issue of our time, representing an “existential threat” to the entire planet and threatening development.
Mr. Guterres said he is encouraged by private sector commitment to the environment, as evidenced by increasing numbers of financial institutions and asset managers making carbon neutrality a priority in their investments.
Hope for ‘transformational decisions’
Similarly, cities, voters and young people have been mobilizing for action.
“I am hopeful that it will be possible to mobilize both the private sector and public authorities in order to take transformational decisions in the way we produce our food, power our economy, move, support industry and plan our cities - the transformational changes that are necessary for us, to reach the objectives that the scientific community tells us it is absolutely essential to do”, he said.