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Ten years of Afghan economic growth, reversed in just 12 months: UNDP

INTERNATIONAL, 5 October 2022, Economic Development - A year on from the Taliban takeover in Kabul, Afghanistan is gripped by “cascading crises”, including a crippled economy that humanitarian aid alone cannot address, according to a new report from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) on Wednesday.

It says that the already-declining regular economy, as opposed to the black market, lost nearly $5 billion after August 2021 and is reversing “in 12 months what had taken 10 years to accumulate.”

Soaring prices 

The cost of a basket of essentials needed to avoid food poverty has meanwhile risen 35 percent, forcing poorer households to go deeper into debt or sell off assets, just to survive.

Nearly 700,000 jobs have vanished, said UNDP, further threatening a population reeling from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, drought, and war in Ukraine.

“The Afghan people have been relentlessly subjected to extremely difficult circumstances. They have survived numerous challenges in the last 40 years and shown enormous resilience”, the report states, officially entitled, One Year in Review: Afghanistan Since August 2021.

“Yet the last 12 months have brought cascading crises: a humanitarian emergency; massive economic contraction; and the crippling of its banking and financial systems in addition to denying access to secondary education to girls and the restrictions on women’s mobility and participation in the economy”.

‘Strong response’ by UN

The head of UNDP, Achim Steiner, praised the UN’s “strong, coordinated response to the crisis” saying it proved critical in averting a catastrophe last winter.

“Building upon what worked last year including tailored efforts across multiple sectors to improve the livelihoods of more than half a million people, there is a pressing need to support further measures to prevent a deeper crisis.”

“We need to help Afghans cope with the coming winter including through our ABADEI programme which aims to support two million people with livelihood and job opportunities over the next two years - with a focus on particularly vulnerable groups such as women entrepreneurs and young people."

Expanding connectivity

The report paints a bleak fiscal picture of the country, dating back more than a decade before the Taliban ascendency.

With GDP in steady decline since 2008, Afghanistan had come to rely on international aid to sustain its economy, which accounted for a staggering 75 percent of total Government spending and nearly 40 percent of GDP at the time of transition. But foreign donors largely suspended aid after the transition, UNDP notes.

Without support from outside, Afghanistan must now rely on limited domestic revenue from agriculture and coal exports.

Authorities have sought to address revenue shortfalls by cracking down on corruption in key revenue streams, such as customs, and by reaching out to the private sector and foreign investors.

“Two decades of heavy dependence on international aid and imports, a lack of industrialization and competitiveness, and limited mobility and connectivity among regions, among other factors, have hindered Afghanistan’s forward momentum,” the report says.

Cost of excluding women

UNDP analysis forecasts that restricting women from working can result in an economic loss of up to $1 billion – or up to five percent of the country’s GDP.

“The rights of women and girls are critical for the future of Afghanistan,” said UNDP Asia-Pacific Director Kanni Wignaraja. “It starts with education and continues with equal opportunity when it comes to employment and pay.

“UNDP made the support to women-owned businesses front and center of its aid activities: we provided support to 34,000 women-owned small businesses. Our goal is to reach 50,000 women-owned business by the end of this year.”

UNDP Resident Representative Abdallah Al Dardari said they was grateful for the $300 million in funding provided for the programme’s work on livelihoods as part of the overall crisis response, “but much more is needed for economic recovery”.

“Afghans are running out of time and resources. Afghanistan needs support from the international community to bring back to life local markets and small businesses which are the backbone of Afghanistan’s economy.”

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Guterres says Central African Republic must ‘spare no effort’ to help bring killers of UN peacekeepers to justice

INTERNATIONAL, 5 October 2022, Peace and Security - The UN Secretary-General has expressed his deep sadness over the death of three peacekeepers from Bangladesh who were killed on Monday in the Central African Republic (CAR), following a roadside bomb explosion near the border with Cameroon. Others were injured, and one remains in a critical condition.
The ‘blue helmets’ from the UN Stabilization Mission in CAR, MINUSCA, were travelling on night patrol, near the village of Kaita, when their vehicle detonated an explosive device.  The injured were evacuated to Bouar, where they are receiving treatment at a MINUSCA hospital, the mission said in a statement.
MINUSCA said it had launched an immediate investigation “in order to shed light on the facts and circumstances” of the attack.

In a statement released on Tuesday night in New York via his Spokesperson, the UN chief António Guterres, joined MINUSCA chief Valentine Rubwabiza, in offering his deepest condolences to the families of the fallen peacekeepers and the Government, and people, of Bangladesh.

Possible war crime

“The Secretary-General recalls that attacks targeting United Nations peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law. He calls on the Central African authorities to spare no effort in identifying the perpetrators of this attack, so that they can be brought to justice swiftly.”

The UN chief also called on authorities in CAR to life a restriction in place on night flights. The convoy attacked on Monday was travelling by road as part of its protection of civilians mandate.

Mr. Guterres noted that the night restriction on flights, “negatively impacts the safety and security of peacekeepers, who take considerable risks daily, to support national authorities.”

The Secretary-General also reaffirmed the solidarity of the United Nations with the people and Government of the Central African Republic. 

Ms. Rugwabiza, who is also UN Special Representative in CAR, saluted the “commitment and determination of the peacekeepers deployed within MINUSCA.”

‘Attack on peace efforts’

Reiterating its determination to carry out its mandate to protect civilians, “MINUSCA continues to support the Central African authorities in the fight against the threats posed by the presence of explosive devices”, through demining and clearance efforts, she added.

Reacting to news of the attack on Twitter, UN peacekeeping chief, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, condemned the “cowardly attack”, adding that “every attack on peacekeepers is an attack on peace efforts, and against the communities who ear the brunt of conflict, and long for peace.”

UN peacekeepers patrol the town of Bambari in the Central African Republic. (file)
MINUSCA/Hervé Serefio
UN peacekeepers patrol the town of Bambari in the Central African Republic. (file)
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World Teachers’ Day highlights need to transform education

INTERNATIONAL, 5 October 2022, Culture and Education - Teachers are at the heart of education, and their valuable work must also lead to better salaries and working conditions, the heads of three UN agencies and a partner organization said on Wednesday.
 The statement comes in their joint message to mark World Teachers’ Day, celebrated annually on 5 October.
The international community has committed to transform education - a process that must be led by teachers.

A critical partner

That’s the firm belief expressed by Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UN educational and cultural agency, UNESCO; Gilbert F. Houngbo, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO); Catherine Russell, Executive Director at the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International.

“Today, on World Teachers’ Day, we celebrate the critical role of teachers in transforming learners’ potential by ensuring they have the tools they need to take responsibility for themselves, for others and for the planet,” they said.

“We call on countries to ensure that teachers are trusted and recognized as knowledge producers, reflective practitioners, and policy partners.”

Fulfill the promise

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that teachers are the engines at the heart of global education systems, the statement said. 

Without them, it is impossible to provide inclusive, equitable and quality education to every learner.  Teachers are also essential to pandemic recovery and preparing learners for the future.

“Yet unless we transform conditions for teachers, the promise of that education will remain out of reach for those who need it most,” the partners warned.

They recalled that the Transforming Education Summit, held last month at UN Headquarters, reaffirmed that transformation requires the right number of empowered, motivated and qualified teachers and education personnel in the right place with the right skills.

Students participate in an Accelerated Education Programme at the Kashojwa Learning Center, Uganda.
© UNICEF/ Zahara Abdul
Students participate in an Accelerated Education Programme at the Kashojwa Learning Center, Uganda.

Demotivated, dropping out

However, in many parts of the world, classrooms are overcrowded, they said, and teachers are too few, on top of being overworked, demotivated and unsupported. 

As a result, an unprecedented number are leaving the profession. There has also been a significant decline in people studying to become teachers.

“If these issues are not addressed, the loss of a professional teaching corps could be a fatal blow to the realization of Sustainable Development Goal 4,” they warned, referring to global efforts to ensure quality education for all, by 2030.

Furthermore, teacher loss disproportionately affects students in remote or poor areas, as well as women and girls, and vulnerable and marginalized populations.

Global shortage

The partners pointed to recent estimates which reveal an additional 24.4 million primary school teachers will be needed globally, along with some 44.4 million secondary education teachers, if the world is to achieve universal basic education by the end of the decade.

Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia alone will require 24 million more teachers, roughly half the number of new teachers needed in developing countries.

These regions have some of the most overcrowded classrooms in the world, and the most overburdened teachers and understaffed educational systems. A remarkable 90 per cent of their secondary schools face serious teaching shortages.

“Therefore, bringing qualified, supported and motivated teachers into classrooms – and keeping them there – is the single most important thing we can do to improve the learning and wellbeing of students and communities,” said the partners.

“The valuable work that teachers do must also be translated into better working conditions and pay.”

Education innovators awarded

Relatedly, three innovative programmes from Benin, Haiti and Lebanon have been recognized for their efforts to enhance the role of teachers and transform education, both in their communities and beyond.

These projects are the recipients of the 2022 UNESCO-Hamdan Prize for Teacher Development, which will be presented at a ceremony in Paris on Wednesday.

They are run by the Graines de Paix Foundation, the organization PH4 Global and the American University of Beirut, who will share a $300,000 endowment to help further their initiatives.

Promoting peace, preventing violence

Graines de Paix organizes a programme in Benin called Apprendre en paix, Enseigner sans violence (Learning in Peace, Education without Violence) that provides educational solutions focused on how to prevent all forms of violence and prevent radicalization.

The project also promotes well-being and a culture of peace, security, equity, and inclusion. Over 4,500 teachers have been trained, and more than 250,000 children reached.

Through its Training Teachers to Transform Haiti programme, P4H Global strives to improve the quality of education in the Caribbean country by training teachers as well as school directors, parents and community members.

Strategies for success

The objective is to transform teachers’ methods into effective student-centred strategies that cultivate critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity. These are reinforced through measures that include personalized feedback via social media and messaging apps. 

More than 8,000 educators and 350,000 students across Haiti have benefited from the programme.

Under the TAMAM Project for School-Based Educational Reform, university researchers and educational practitioners in Lebanon work together to generate strategies grounded in the sociocultural contexts of the Arab region.

The initiative covers 70 schools in 10 countries in the region, and has benefited 1,000 educational partners, with 100 improvement projects initiated over the past 15 years.

About the Prize

The UNESCO-Hamdan Prize for Teacher Development was established in 2008 to support the improvement of teaching and learning quality in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

The prize, which is awarded every two years, is supported by the Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation for Distinguished Academic Performance.

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‘Worrying upsurge’ in deadly cholera, warns Tedros, in wide-ranging global health update

INTERNATIONAL, 5 October 2022, Health - The UN health agency is working diligently in Uganda to support the government in responding to an Ebola outbreak in four districts, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) told journalists on Wednesday, in a wide-ranging briefing which included the latest on a worrying increase in COVID-19 cases across Europe.
So far, 63 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola Virus infection have been reported, including 29 deaths; 10 infected health workers, four of whom have died; and four people who have recovered and are receiving follow-up care.

WHO has released $2 million from our Contingency Fund for Emergencies (CFE), and we’re…sending additional specialists, supplies, and resources,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the press briefing in Geneva.

Although the inoculations that curbed Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are not effective against the strain active now in Uganda, two vaccines in development could begin clinical trials in the coming weeks, pending government approval.

Pakistan: Post-flood diseases

Although the deadly flood waters in Pakistan have stopped rising, the dangers are surging, Tedros said.

“More than 1,500 lives were lost in the floods, but many more could be lost to disease in the coming weeks, without a massive and urgent international response,” he warned.

The country’s catastrophic flooding has damaged approximately 10 per cent of its health facilities, leaving millions without access to medical care, supplies and access to services.

Amidst new outbreaks of malaria, cholera, and dengue, WHO is focusing on supporting people in camps, those living along the roadside, individuals cut off by flood waters, and populations returning to their destroyed villages and homes.

In addition to $10 million released from the CFE, WHO issued an appeal for $81.5 million to support immunizations and other life-saving health services in response to the unprecedented disaster.

Tedros quoted the UN chief, saying: “This is not about generosity, this is about justice.”

Omicron: ‘Like chasing shadows’

Several European countries are reporting an increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, he told the media, but with the vaccines and therapeutics now available, “deaths don’t have to”.

“Omicron remains the dominant variant globally”, continued the WHO chief, adding that while more than 300 sub-variants are being tracked globally, weak surveillance, testing and sequencing make tracking the virus, “like chasing shadows”.

Meanwhile, he noted that influenza season is starting in the Northern hemisphere. Measures to curb COVID-19 also help reduce the flu and he reminded everyone to “please, get your flu vaccine”.

Cholera’s unwelcome return

After years of declining cholera cases, “a worrying upsurge” of deadly outbreaks across the world has emerged over the past year – including in 27 countries since January. 

According to limited data, the senior UN official said that the average case fatality rate so far this year, is almost three times that of the past five years.

“In Syria, more than 10,000 suspected cases of cholera have been reported just in the past six weeks. And in Haiti, after more than three years with no cases of cholera, two cases have been officially reported this week,” he detailed.

Tedros acknowledged that many cannot access simple interventions, such as vaccines, safe water and sanitation, oral rehydration or antibiotics for more severe cases. 

“Cholera thrives on poverty and conflict but is now being turbo-charged by climate change”, he said, while those drivers also “reduce access to clean water and create the ideal environment for cholera to spread,” he explained.

In Haiti for example, some cases are occurring in inaccessible areas controlled by armed gangs.

Though lethal, the disease is preventable and treatable with the right planning and action, said Tedros.

Deadly medical alert

WHO issued a medical product alert for four contaminated cough and cold syrups produced in India by Maiden Pharmaceuticals Limited that have been potentially linked to acute kidney injuries in The Gambia, including the deaths of 66 children.

As WHO conducts investigation with the company and regulatory authorities in India, Tedros recommends that all countries remove these products from circulation.

“Emergencies are an unfortunate fact of life. We might be able to prevent some, but we can’t prevent them all,” concluded the WHO chief. “But by investing in strong health systems at the local level, we can mitigate the impact emergencies have and save many lives”.

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Torture is ‘widespread’ and likely underestimated in DR Congo: UN report

INTERNATIONAL, 5 October 2022, Human Rights - Torture is “widespread” and underestimated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the abuse involves armed groups and State forces, UN investigators said on Wednesday.

In findings issued in a report by the UN Joint Human Rights Office in DRC (UNJHRO) and the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO), the authors indicated that 93 per cent of the 3,618 registered cases of “torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” affecting 4,946 victims had happened in areas experiencing conflict.

Of that total, covering the period between 1 April 2019 and 30 April 2022, there were 492 cases of sexual violence, affecting 761 victims.

“Torture can never be justified, no matter the circumstances or the context. The DRC authorities must act with urgency and determination to put an end to this scourge,” said Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al-Nashif, in a statement.

Responsibility shared

Members of the DRC’s defence and security forces were responsible for 1,293 cases, according to the report, while 1,833 cases were attributed to armed groups. “In certain contexts, (they) subjected victims to torture in collusion with members of the security forces,” it said.

Victims suffered torture and ill-treatment either during detention or “while exercising their fundamental rights, such freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, or during detention”, the report’s authors continued.

Highlighting the low number of complaints filed against perpetrators and the “widespread nature of torture” compared with the “magnitude of the violations”, the report explained that only two army officers, 12 national police officers and 75 members of armed groups were convicted of torture during the reporting period.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, visits Bunia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (January 2020).
MONUSCO
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, visits Bunia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (January 2020).

‘Hate speech’ surging

The development comes amid concerns that the DRC has been gripped by a ‘proliferation’ of hate speech, just 12 months ahead of presidential elections.

In a scheduled debate at the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, also expressed deep concern about the alarming security situation in the east of the country, where two provinces have been placed under military rule since May 2021.

Withdrawing UN peacekeepers MONUSCO from the country “could have serious consequences on the human rights situation in the east of the country and the sub-region”, said Christian Jorge Salazar Volkmann, Director of Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division at OHCHR.

Member States at the Geneva forum heard that although armed groups carried out most rights violations and abuses between 1 June 2021 and 31 May 2022, DRC security personnel were responsible for over four in 10 cases, out of an overall total of 6,782.

The military rule in Ituri and Nord Kivu provinces which came into effect on 6 May 2021 “do(es) not appear to have deterred armed groups from attacking civilians, particularly in internally displaced persons sites”, said Mr. Volkmann.

Some 2,413 people - 1,778 men, 471 women and 164 children – had been killed by armed groups in the first year of military rule in the two provinces, he said, compared to 1,581 people (1,076 men, 365 women and 140 children) during the previous 12-month period.

Nearly 5.5 million people had been forced from their homes by the violence, amid a resurgence of the M23 armed group in Nord Kivu’s Rutshuru province, which has attacked DRC “defence and security forces, civilians and (UN peacekeeping Mission) MONUSCO”, the OHCHR official added.

Families displaced by conflict and violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo receive humanitarian aid from the UN.
© UNICEF/Jean-Claude Wenga
Families displaced by conflict and violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo receive humanitarian aid from the UN.

Militia rule

Other attacks by militias the ADF and CODECO against civilians and humanitarians “may constitute serious crimes under international law”, Mr. Volkmann said, in an appeal for an end to the violence and a nationally-led demobilization and reintegration plan. 

While welcoming the life sentence handed down to Mihonya Chance Kolokolo, leader of militia group Raïa Mutomboki, for crimes against humanity and war crimes including the recruitment and use of children, rape, murder and the violation of natural reserves in South Kivu, the UN human rights official highlighted the “slow pace” of justice for “almost all” priority cases committed by Kamuina Nsapu armed group between 2016 and 2018 in the Kasai region.

To tackle hate speech, OHCHR has recommended practical measures to the authorities in the DRC.

These include implementing a proposed law on racism, tribalism and xenophobia which is under discussion in Parliament.

“One year before the next presidential elections, it is important that the alleged perpetrators of these messages be brought to justice and held accountable, and to prevent the security situation from further deterioration,” said Mr. Volkmann.

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Climate change heightens threats of violence against women and girls

INTERNATIONAL, 5 October 2022, Climate and Environment - Climate change and environmental degradation are escalating the risk and prevalence of violence against women and girls across the world, a UN-appointed independent human rights expert warned on Wednesday.

Presenting a report to the General Assembly on its causes and consequences, Reem Alsalem, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls described climate change as “the most consequential threat multiplier for women and girls, with far-reaching impacts on new and existing forms of gendered inequities”.

She maintained that the “cumulative and gendered consequences” of climate change and environmental degradation “breach all aspects” of their rights.

Climate inequality

Ms. Alsalem emphasised the damaging ways in which violence directed towards women and girls intersects with socio-political and economic phenomena, including armed conflict, displacement and resource scarcity.

And when coupled with climate change, they result in the feminisation and intensification of vulnerability, she said.

“Climate change is not only an ecological crisis, but fundamentally a question of justice, prosperity and gender equality, and intrinsically linked to and influenced by structural inequality and discrimination”.

Survival options

Emerging evidence shows that the negative impacts of climate change globally, aggravate all types of gender-based violence ranging from physical to psychological and economic, “all the while curbing the availability and effectiveness of protection mechanisms and further weakening the potential to prevent violence,” the UN expert said.

“When slow or sudden-onset disasters strike and threaten livelihoods, communities may resort to negative coping mechanisms, such as trafficking, sexual exploitation and harmful practices like early and child marriage and drop out from schools – all of which force women and girls to choose between risk-imbued options for survival”.

‘Understand the nexus’

She said women environmental human rights defenders, indigenous women and girls, women of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations, older women, women with disabilities, women in poverty, and those forcibly displaced were at particular risk, and yet often fall through the protection gap.

“Despite the irreparable and significant harm to the wellbeing of women and girls, more efforts and resources are necessary to understand the nexus between climate change and violence against women and girls”.

She urged the international community to double down on the commitment to gender equality and anchor the response to climate change and disaster risk mitigation in human rights.

Powerful stakeholders

“For our concerted efforts against climate change to be truly gender sensitive and transformative, measures to address the vulnerabilities faced by women and girls must build on a recognition of their role and agency as powerful stakeholders in the policy space,” Ms. Alsalem underscored.

“The wellbeing and the rights of women and girls should not be an afterthought and must be placed at the centre of policies and responses”.

She upheld that if designed and implemented with a robust gender lens, “the global response to climate change and environmental degradation can be truly transformative, rather than reinforce a vicious cycle”.

Special Rapporteurs 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 paid for their work.

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UN chief condemns DPR Korea missile launch over Japan as ‘reckless act’

INTERNATIONAL, 4 October 2022, Peace and Security - The UN Secretary-General on Tuesday strongly condemned the launch of a ballistic missile by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), more commonly known as North Korea, which reportedly travelled over Japan.

The missile launch was the first to violate Japan’s air space since 2017, and the intermediate-range ballistic missile fell into the Pacific Ocean well away from the mainland.

Sirens in Japan

Residents in parts of northern Japan were reportedly woken by sirens and text alerts, and warned to watch out for possible falling debris.

News reports said the missile travelled some 4,500 kilometres (2,800 miles) – the longest distance ever travelled by a North Korean weapon - reaching a height of 1,000km.

Last week, Japan, the United States and South Korea, held joint naval exercises for the first time since 2017, according to news reports, and following Tuesday’s launch, the three countries said they would be working closely together in conjunction with the wider international community, to coordinate an immediate and longer-term response to North Korea’s move – the fifth missile launch in just a week.

Two rockets were launched by DPRK on Saturday, outside the boundary of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

Violations

UN Security Council resolutions forbid North Korea from conducting ballistic or nuclear weapons tests.

“This was a reckless act and a violation of Security Council resolutions”, said UN chief António Guterres, in a statement issued by his Spokesperson.

“It is also of serious concern that the DPRK has again disregarded any consideration for international flight or maritime safety.”

Return to talks

Mr. Guterres urged North Korea to “resume dialogue with the key parties concerned with a view to achieving sustainable peace and the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

In March, Mr. Guterres condemned the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, which was DPRK’s first long-range test since 2017. Just a month earlier, DPRK also flouted its own 2018 moratorium with an intermediate-range ballistic launch.

North Korea has carried out 23 different weapons tests so far this year.

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Dementia: WHO launches blueprint to tackle generational health challenge

INTERNATIONAL, 4 October 2022, Health - Dementia is one of the greatest health challenges of our generation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which on Tuesday launched the first-ever research blueprint for tackling the disease, which 78 million people could be living with by the end of this decade.

“Although dementia is the seventh leading cause of death globally, dementia research accounts for less than 1.5 per cent of total health research output”, said WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan.

“Sadly, we are falling behind implementing the Global action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017-25,” she continued, adding that addressing dementia comprehensively requires “research and innovation to be an integral part of the response”.

Rules of engagement

Strategies are needed to better understand, prevent, and treat the underlying diseases that cause dementia and, at the same time, provide care and support to people who suffer from it, as well as those who care for them.

Research needs to be conducted within an enabling environment, where collaborations are fostered, and equitable and sustained investment is realized, the UN health agency maintained.  

Those are the objectives behind WHO’s new blueprint for dementia research, the first WHO initiative of its kind for noncommunicable diseases.

It’s designed to provide guidance to policy makers, funders, and the research community on dementia research, making it more efficient, equitable, and impactful.

From blueprint to best practice

WHO is encouraging national and international research agencies, together with financing bodies, to use the blueprint to inform upcoming funding and operationalize research.

At the same time, civil society should ensure that advocacy efforts are also aligned, supporting a more equitable, efficient, and collaborative research landscape. 

Blueprint for dementia research

  • Builds on WHO’s efforts to prioritize research and coordinate research activities for related infectious diseases.

  • Considers the whole dementia research spectrum, incorporating diagnostics, therapeutics, and emerging advances, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and ‘multiomics’, a biological analysis approach.

  • Encompasses epidemiology, health economics, care research, risk reduction, and brain health across the full course of life.

  • Provides insights throughout the research development process.

  • Involves people who have experienced dementia.

And researchers can identify research gaps to help achieve blueprint milestones and strategic goals.

“We can achieve progress in dementia research by strengthening and monitoring the drivers of research highlighted in the Blueprint so that they become the norm for good research practice,” said Ren Minghui, WHO’s Assistant Director General UHC/Communicable and Noncommunicable Diseases.

The UN health agency said it would work with all participants across relevant sectors to ensure that the actions outlined in the blueprint are implemented, milestones achieved, and strategic goals realized – with the ultimate aim of improving the quality of life of and support offered to people living with dementia, those who care for them, and families.

 Although dementia is the 7th leading cause of death globally, its research accounts for less than 1.5% of total health research output.
Unsplash/Steven HWG
Although dementia is the 7th leading cause of death globally, its research accounts for less than 1.5% of total health research output.
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Five years of violence in northern Mozambique has forced nearly a million to flee

INTERNATIONAL, 4 October 2022, Migrants and Refugees - Nearly one million people have fled extreme violence perpetrated by non-State armed groups in northern Mozambique over the past five years, the UN refugee agency UNHCR reported on Tuesday. 

As the conflict in Cabo Delgado province has not subsided, UNHCR is appealing for both an end to the bloodshed and greater international support for the displaced and local communities hosting them. 

The situation has had a devastating impact on the population, Spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh told journalists in Geneva. 

Beheadings, rapes and burnings 

“People have witnessed their loved ones being killed, beheaded, and raped, and their houses and other infrastructure burned to the ground,” he said

“Men and boys have also been forcibly enrolled in armed groups. Livelihoods have been lost, and education stalled while access to necessities such as food and healthcare has been hampered. Many people have been re-traumatized after being forced to move multiple times to save their lives.” 

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation has continued to deteriorate, with displacement figures increasing by 20 per cent, to over 946,000 in the first half of this year. 

Neighbouring province affected 

The violence has now spilled into the neighbouring province of Nampula, where four attacks were reported in September affecting at least 47,000 people and displacing 12,000. 

“People displaced during those latest attacks told UNHCR that they are scared and hungry. They lack medicine and are living in crowded conditions – with four to five families sharing one house,” said Mr. Saltmarsh.  

“Some sleep under open skies. Lack of privacy and exposure to cold at night and the elements during the day, create additional safety and health concerns, particularly for women and children.” 

Meeting the needs

UNHCR has been responding to the needs of displaced populations in Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Niassa provinces, through humanitarian assistance and protection support. 

Staff are providing shelter and household items, helping survivors of gender-based violence with legal, medical, and psycho-social support, and supporting displaced people to obtain legal documentation. UNHCR also supports those at higher risk, including children, people with disabilities, and older persons. 

The agency requires $36.7 million to deliver life-saving protection services and assistance in Mozambique but has so far received around 60 per cent of the funding. 

Promoting safe returns

Despite ongoing displacement in Cabo Delgado, some people have returned to their homes in areas they perceive as safe, said Mr. Saltmarsh.

Last month, UNHCR and partners conducted the first protection assessment mission to Palma, a town in the far north-east which saw deadly attacks in March 2021. Most of the 70,000 residents were displaced and the majority have returned in recent weeks.

“People who have lost everything are returning to areas where services and humanitarian assistance are largely unavailable. UNHCR is concerned about the risks people face should they continue to return to their areas of origin before conditions are stabilized,” said Mr. Saltmarsh.  

Danger remains 

While UNHCR is in favour of returns when they are voluntary, safe, informed and dignified, current security conditions in Cabo Delgado are too volatile for people to go back to the province. 

“However, growing protection needs and limited services for those who have chosen to return home must still be urgently addressed by relevant stakeholders, including authorities and humanitarian actors,” he said. 

In the interim, UNHCR is working closely with the Mozambican government and other partners to support and advocate for the inclusion of all displaced populations in national services.  

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Angela Merkel awarded top UN refugee prize, for aid to Syrians fleeing war

INTERNATIONAL, 4 October 2022 Migrants and Refugees - Former German chancellor Angela Merkel was named winner of the prestigious Nansen Award, for offering a haven to over 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers fleeing violence at the height of the Syrian conflict, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Tuesday.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi lauded Ms. Merkel for displaying “great moral and political courage” in helping so many survive and rebuild their lives, who had been forced to flee brutal fighting at home.

‘Humanitarian imperative’

The former scientist, who led her country for 16 years, stepping down only last year, welcomed the desperate Syrians at the height of the conflict in 2015 and 2016, when other countries were turning their backs on them.

At that time, she described the situation as putting “our European values to the test as seldom before”.

“It was no more and no less than a humanitarian imperative”, she said at the time.

She called on her compatriots to reject divisive nationalism, urging them instead to be “self-assured and free, compassionate and open-minded”.

‘True leadership’

The UNHCR chief praised the former Chancellor’s determination to protect asylum-seekers and to stand up for human rights, humanitarian principles and international law.

“It was true leadership, appealing to our common humanity, standing firm against those who preached fear and discrimination,” he said.

“She showed what can be achieved when politicians take the right course of action and work to find solutions to the world’s challenges rather than simply shift responsibility to others”. 

‘Leadership, courage and compassion’

Dr. Angela Merkel, the former Federal Chancellor of Germany, will receive the 2022 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.
© Bundesregierung/Steffen Kugler
Dr. Angela Merkel, the former Federal Chancellor of Germany, will receive the 2022 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.

Each year, the 2022 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award – named after the Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat and first High Commissioner for Refugees Fridtjof Nansen – is given to an individual, group or organization who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to protect refugees, internally displaced or Stateless people. 

The selection committee recognized Ms. Merkel’s “leadership, courage and compassion in ensuring the protection of hundreds of thousands of desperate people” as well as her efforts to find “viable long-term solutions” for those seeking safety. 

In addition to protecting those forced to flee war, persecution and human rights abuses, the former Chancellor was the driving force behind Germany’s collective efforts to receive and help them integrate into society, through education and training programmes, employment schemes and labour market integration. 

She also led the expansion of Germany’s refugee resettlement programme, and was instrumental in ensuring the country’s growth as a substantive, reliable and active humanitarian partner, including in refugee operations around the world, the committee said.

Both her policies and her public statements were positive forces in European and global debates on issues of asylum and managing forced displacement.

Centennial observances

Angela Merkel and the regional winners will receive their accolades on 10 October at a ceremony in Geneva.

This year marks a century since Mr. Nansen was awarded the 1922 Nobel Peace Prize for repatriating prisoners of war and protecting millions of refugees displaced by conflict. 

It is also 100 years since the creation of the Nansen passport, an identity document for refugees that enable holders to move across borders in search of work. 

Regional winners 

The Award selection committee also honoured four 2022 regional winners: 

Africa: An all-volunteer refugee firefighting group in Mauritania, called Mbera Fire Brigade, has extinguished more than 100 bushfires and planted thousands of trees to preserve lives, livelihoods and the local environment.

Americas: Vicenta González, whose nearly 50 years of service to displaced and other vulnerable people, including a cacao cooperative in Costa Rica, has supported refugees and host-community women, counting domestic violence survivors. 

Asia and the Pacific: The humanitarian organization Meikswe Myanmar has assisted communities in need, including internally displaced people, with emergency items, health care, education, and livelihoods opportunities. 

Middle East and North Africa:  Iraqi gynaecologist Nagham Hasan has provided medical and psychosocial care to Yazidi girls and women who survived persecution, enslavement and gender-based violence at the hands of extremist groups in northern Iraq.

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