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First Person: Hawaii’s ‘silver tsunami’: the challenge of caring for kupuna elders

INTERNATIONAL, 29 March 2020, Health - The International Labour Organization (ILO) marked its centenary in 2019 and as part of the commemoration launched a photography project called “Dignity at Work: The American Experience” to document the working life of people across the United States. UN News joined the ILO on a visit to the US state of Hawaii. 

Diane Paloma is the CEO of Lunalilo Home and the King William Charles Lunalilo Trust which cares for elderly people in Honolulu, the capital of the US state of Hawaii. Some 80 residents and day-care clients are looked after at Lunalilo, which was established in 1883 following a bequest by King William Charles Lunalilo, the first of a long line of Hawaiian kings to be formally elected by the island’s people.

“I'm like the Jackie of all trades and master of none! I oversee the Trust’s investment portfolio and coordinate with the Board in order to move our strategic plan forward; but my primary focus is nurturing and caring for our kupuna, the Hawaiian word for elder. The knowledge and wisdom of kupuna is highly respected in our culture.  

Our founder, King William Charles Lunalilo, recognized his wealth could be utilized for the benefit of others, which was a visionary idea in the 1880s. The reverence for kupuna comes from the philosophy and innate belief that we are a part of this genealogical tie to people in the past. We look to our ancestors for guidance and this gives us a sense of place, and of who we are. They have knowledge and wisdom and so it's our job to pick up those pearls and utilize them for the betterment of the next generation because in Hawaiian culture, you're nothing if your lineage doesn't live on in perpetuity. 

Coolest people

I think that's the unique aspect of how we approach kupuna care; rather than just taking care of their medication, dietary needs as well as bed and shelter and clothes, we consider how to provide comfort, compassion and dignity. And how do we give them respect and recognize they are the coolest persons in the world based on life experiences? Ultimately, the best way is to share in their stories. Really, the carers here become the residents’ surrogate families.

They may not remember what happened yesterday, but they remember an event 60 years ago to the date and can describe to you the smells and what they felt and heard. I’m learning something new every day. I think we need to document while we can what life was like in Hawaii, because if we don’t this knowledge could be lost. 

You absolutely need to have the heart for working in this industry of senior and elder care, as it's neither the most lucrative nor the easiest job; it’s extremely fulfilling but also very challenging. Over ninety per cent of our residents have some form of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. And as the US populations ages we are faced with what I call a silver tsunami, a tidal wave of baby boomers who have grown old. This situation is really going to challenge our society.

This industry relies on people and I would say there has been a shift in our workforce, as it's been really difficult to find people who want to do this sort of work.  Many would prefer a more lucrative job in a hospital or even in a hotel earning $20-25/hour. Some work here as a stepping-stone to becoming a registered nurse which pays a livable wage in Hawaii and means they can afford to have one job instead of two.

Migrants

Migrants have played a critical role in Hawaii and continue to do so, especially in the health care sector. It’s good to have diversity in the workforce. I'm a product of that migrant workforce; my Japanese ancestors came here four generations ago to work on the sugar cane and then pineapple plantations. 

We don't want to have only one particular type of caregiver, so we welcome diversity and I personally love the different cultures that they bring to Lunalilo, especially the food! We have workers from Uganda, Tonga and Ecuador as well as the Philippines.

Migrant workers often come with different philosophical values. My challenge is, how can I teach somebody from another country, aloha and that compassion? It takes a little bit longer than if we had somebody who innately understands aloha and caring for kupuna, so employing a migrant can come with risks.

One of the biggest stressors in Hawaii is the high cost of living and there are many families who are living paycheck to paycheck; I would say that 40 to 50 per cent of them are just one or two paychecks away from homelessness. So, how are they supposed to afford care for their kupuna, which is already in limited supply in Hawaii? In this respect, there are some cases of older people being neglected in Hawaii.”

Good Health and Well-Being

  • The aim of creating a healthier global population is the target of SDG 3.
  • The UN believes that “ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being at all ages is essential to sustainable development.”
  • Among the targets are reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births from 211 (in 2017) and ending the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases as well as combating hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases.
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First Person: False promises in Mauritania

INTERNATIONAL, 28 March 2020, Migrants and Refugees - Women and girls face particular challenges as migrants, whatever their reason for leaving their country of origin. UN agencies are learning more about these difficulties, and how to address them.

Mauritania, where the job market has been tight in recent years, has seen many people fall prey to the patter of so-called hiring agents, who sell false promises of lucrative job opportunities abroad, and charge a hefty price for their services.

Mouna*, a mother in her thirties, fell into this trap. A hiring agency told her that they had secured a secretary position for her at the ministry of foreign affairs, in one of the Gulf nations, with a $400 dollar per month salary.

However, when she arrived, the reality was very different: she was forced to work as a maid and babysitter for a family and, when she fell ill, they abandoned her on the streets to avoid paying her hospital bills, and then claimed that she had run away.

Women and girls disproportionely affected

A former victim of human trafficking, by © Sibylle Desjardins / IOM

Mouna’s story is just one example of the many ways that gender interacts with migration. Recognizing this, the UN migration agency, IOM, has been digging into the available data to understand gender-specific migration trends, enabling organizations to launch projects and initiatives that will be effective in reducing inequality and improving the lives of all migrants.

With a number of partners, IOM formed the Counter Trafficking Data Collective, the first global data hub on human trafficking, which gathers research from organizations around the world. The data shows that women make up almost two-thirds of trafficking victims. It also demonstrates that many of them are recruited by intimate partners, family, relative or friends.

IOM’s research has shown that women and girls are disproportionately affected by the lack of options for safe and legal migration. Reasons include unequal access to rights, resources and information. Some countries, for example, place legal restrictions on women’s right to movement, requiring them to get permission from a spouse or male guardian if they want a passport.

The Missing Migrants Project

And if, given the barriers to safe migration, women decide to take irregular, unsafe, and illegal routes, they are exposed to many risks, often connected to dangerous means of transport, including unsafe travel conditions during sea crossings.

In 2019, IOM recorded the deaths of 501 women during migration. Nearly half of them drowned attempting to cross a body of water. The reasons for deaths during migration on land, include exposure to harsh environments, vehicle accidents and a lack of access to medicine for those who fell ill.

Mauritanian vail produced traditionally. in shop run by a migrant returnee, by © Sibylle Desjardins / IOM

These fatalities were logged as part of IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, part of the agency’s efforts to bring more attention to the circumstances in which women and girls die or go missing during their journey, and bring about policy change so that more migrant women and girls lead lives in dignity and safety.

A successful return home

For Mouna, the nightmare she experienced in the Gulf is over. With the help of an IOM reintegration programme, she has been able to rebuild a new, more successful life back in Mauritania. 

The programme supports vulnerable returnee migrants, many of whom spend all of their savings to leave home. As well as providing psychosocial and medical assistance, IOM gave them the financial support they needed to start income-generating activities.

For Mouna, this meant opening a shop selling items for women. Today, she has an expanding customer base, and a growing demand for her products.

“I never thought I would be able to start up a business on my own”, she says. “IOM helped me rebuild my confidence and I am grateful, from the depth of my heart”.

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COVID-19: UN donates quarter of a million face masks to NYC health workers

INTERNATIONAL, 28 March 2020, Health - On behalf of the city, the Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, was on hand to receive 250,000 face masks donated by the UN on Saturday, destined for health workers in the metropolis that is home to the Organization’s Headquarters.

In a statement, Mr. Guterres said that the face masks stored in United Nations facilities, werer part of UN stocks, deemed surplus to requirements.

The UN chief praised medical professionals in New York City who, he said, have been working “courageously, selflessly, and tirelessly in response to the spread of COVID-19 across the boroughs,” in a reference to the five boroughs into which the City is administratively divided (Manhattan, Queens, The Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island).

Mr. Guterres went on to express his hope that the protective equipment will “play some small role in saving lives”.

Shortly after the statement was released, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, said in a press conference that the spread of the virus is leaving people disorientated. The State is on lockdown and, said Mr. Cuomo, the peak of the virus is still forecast to be up to three weeks away.

I'm pleased to announce, with @USAmbUN Kelly Craft, the donation to the USA of 250,000 protective face masks, just located in storage at the @UN.

These masks will be given to medical professionals in NYC working courageously & tirelessly in response to .

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter
 

728 people have died from COVID-19, said the New York governor, and the State is working on three hospitals dedicated to COVID-19 patients. The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, said on Friday that the City needs some 15,000 ventilators to treat critically patients.

Noting that the UN speaks “with one voice to express our resolute support for this great city and its proud people”, the Secretary-General expressed his hope that the “modest donation” of face masks will makes a difference.  

New York, declared Mr. Guterres is “not just our home or the headquarters of the United Nations.  It is a vibrant international capital through which the world communicates, debates, trades, and prospers”.

United Nations and US Mission personnel are currently working with the Mayor’s office to ensure the swift delivery of the face masks to medical facilities around the city.

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COVID-19: UN envoy hails strong Israel-Palestine cooperation

INTERNATIONAL, 28 March 2020, Health - Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, has praised the coordination between the Israeli and Palestine authorities in reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Mladenov’s comments were made during a telephone conversation with the other members of the Middle East Quartet, a body set up to mediate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It is made up of representatives of the European Union, Russia, the USA, and the United Nations. 

During the call, which took place on Thursday, Mr. Mladenov gave a detailed briefing on the UN COVID-19 response plan, focusing mainly on Gaza, where there is a substantial risk of the disease spreading. 

In a statement released on Friday, the coordination and cooperation established between Israel and Palestine, with regard to tackling COVID-19, was described as “excellent”. 

The Israeli and Palestinian authorities are continuing to coordinate their responses closely and constructively, the statement said, which is a major factor in the level of disease containment achieved so far.

The Israeli government has reportedly approved measures to limit the movement of people and trade, including closing schools and banning mass gatherings, whilst the Palestinian Prime Minister is reported to have ordered a lockdown on Sunday night.

Latest World Health Organization (WHO) figures show more than 3,300 confirmed cases in Israel, and more than 80 in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Since the beginning of the crisis, Israel has allowed the entry of critical supplies and equipment into Gaza: examples of critical supplies include swabs for collection of samples and other laboratory supplies required for COVID-19 testing, and Personal Protective Equipment to protect health workers.

The statement also noted Israel’s cooperation in allowing health workers and other personnel involved in the COVID-19 response to move in and out of the West Bank and Gaza.

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First Person: Heartbreak and hope – one doctor’s story from China’s coronavirus ground zero

INTERNATIONAL, 28 March 2020, Health - Xiang Lu is one of the thousands of Chinese doctors who was dispatched to fight the COVID-19 outbreak in the hardest-hit province of Hubei, as it reached its peak. When UN News spoke to him on 23 March, he said that the situation is vastly improved and he may, at last, be able to return home.

Since the original outbreak of the coronavirus in Hubei, China, at the end of January, 346 medical teams, from 29 Provinces in China, have been sent to Hubei to save lives, aiding local medical teams.

The hospital that Xiang oversees, the Yifu Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing Medical University, got notification to go on the mission, on 24 January, just before Chinese New Year, the most important time for people to return home and reunite with family. This is an edited and translated version of the interview conducted by our colleagues from the UN News Chinese team. 

A battalion assembled overnight

Jiangsu Medical Mission at the airport to head to Hubei Province., provided by Lu Xiang

“So many medical staff volunteered to go, that they had to be put on a waiting list. The first batch of medical personnel, six doctors and nurses, was dispatched from our hospital on 25 January.

With over 30 years of experience, I was eager to contribute to the front line, but the severity and massive scale of the epidemic was also intimidating. I eventually got the phone call to go on 10 February, and I was told that I was going to lead a team to the city of Huangshi. In less than 24 hours, I had to assemble a temporary medical team of 310 people from a dozen hospitals, so I was really pressed. 

I didn’t know some of the medical staff, and I’m not familiar with Huangshi, but I knew that my management and clinical experience would be helpful on the front line. All the people on the mission were very willing to participate in this battle. I remember feeling under pressure and stressed, but also full of confidence.

A patient recovering from COVID-19 after efforts by Lu Xiang and his medical team, provided by Lu Xiang

At that time, the epidemic in Huangshi was close to its peak. By the time we arrived, there was close to 800 patients, including around 100 in a critical condition. The medical staff were very tired, and there was a shortage of protective materials.

Clearly, our medical team had arrived at the most difficult time and the most intense period of the battle against the virus. It was really difficult: if the conditions are poor, there is no way to fight the war. 

No time to eat

For the first two weeks, we worked almost around the clock. There was almost no time to eat, let alone to contact our families. We renovated the hospital to increase the number of beds, and concentrated critical patients in one of the best-equipped hospitals. 

I even worked as a temporary carpenter to transform general wards into intensive care wards that met the national standards overnight!

Although there is no medication to cure COVID-19, my experience is that it is important to diagnose and seek to treat patients as early as possible. I have seen some encouraging cases: a 93-year-old patient in critical condition recovered, and another patient was discharged from hospital after two rounds of ventilator intubation.

Doctors don’t fear hardships, but misunderstanding

Since the beginning, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the international organizations made objective assessments of China's fight against the epidemic and made correct decisions. I think this was a sign of solidarity and support.

Not being misunderstood by others is, I think, the most important thing.  As doctors, we are not afraid of hardship, we ’re not afraid of fatigue. But we hope that people can understand us in the right way, especially in difficult times such as these.

Facing pandemic: Don’t Panic!

Next week, my team will complete its mission and return home. I’m pleased to say that none of our medical team members and local medical staff were infected. 

For the general public, my main message is “don’t panic!”.

When Wuhan saw a big rise in cases, many people were panicked, and flocked to the hospitals, which caused cross-infection. So, stay calm, and stay indoors whenever possible. This is the most important experience that I want to share.”

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Critical work of UN ‘largely uninterrupted’, despite unprecedented challenge of COVID-19

INTERNATIONAL, 27 March 2020, UN Affairs - Although the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the United Nations to operate in new ways, its vital work worldwide continues largely uninterrupted, heads of UN principal organs assured Member States, during a joint briefing on Friday held online.

In his welcoming remarks, the UN General Assembly President underscored the value of safety and solidarity in the face of a crisis that has affected practically every corner of the globe.

“Although we are not sitting together, be rest assured that we are in this together”, said Tijjani Muhammad Bande. “We must lead by example. We must stay at home, abide by social distancing recommendations, wash our hands, and look out for one another”.

Mr. Bande reported that thanks to technology, the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee was able to make important budget decisions during this time.

He said countries must not only defeat the new coronavirus: they also have to mitigate its social and economic impacts, stating that “we need to galvanise multilateral action now to protect gains made towards the eradication of poverty and zero hunger, as this crisis puts a strain on food production and supply chains, among others”.


Joint virtual briefing for Member States on the COVID-19 pandemic (27 March)

UN Web TV @UNWebTV

 

Changes at the Security Council

The UN Security Council has had to change its working methods due to the pandemic.

Ambassador Zhang Jun of China, Council President for March, reported that despite difficulties, members have been holding meetings by video teleconference.

“We know that Member States are very much keen to know what’s happening in the Security Council. What’s true is that the new situation does create a lot of difficulties through maintaining transparency, but we are working very hard on that”, he said.

So far, the Council agenda has included “hotspot issues” such as the situations in Libya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Members have also issued statements condemning deadly attacks in Afghanistan and against peacekeepers in the Central African Republic. They are also set to act soon on several draft resolutions.

Development gains under threat

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which is at the heart of the UN’s work in advancing sustainable development, has not stopped working, President Mona Juul told countries.

However, she warned of the pandemic’s threat to development gains, particularly in the world’s most vulnerable countries, while the need for humanitarian relief is urgent.

“Beyond immediate humanitarian aid, developing countries will need support to lessen the overall socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. In this, the UN must play a key role”, said Ms. Juul.

“We need joint UN efforts to assist developing countries in their recovery and in building more resilient health systems”.

As response will require substantial financing, she welcomed recent announcements on economic support by G-20 countries, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

Communications for Solidarity

The UN Secretary-General participated in the G-20 virtual summit on Thursday, where he pressed for collective action and financial support to stop the virus and minimize its impact.

António Guterres updated Member States on measures taken to protect UN staff globally as they execute the Organization’s mandates, underlining that “our critical work is continuing largely uninterrupted”.

“Our Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams are on the frontlines”, he said. As of last week, 93 per cent of teams, reported “being engaged with national authorities in preparing preparedness and response plans.”

The UN chief urged countries to support initiatives announced this week, such as his appeal for a global ceasefire, a humanitarian response fund for the world’s poorest countries, and a call to stand against increasing hate crimes targeting people perceived to be associated with spreading the coronavirus.

He also announced the launch of a communications strategy aimed at fighting misinformation around the pandemic.

The COVID-19 Communications for Solidarity Initiative will inform the global public and promote and inspire acts of humanity around the world.

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Peacekeeping radio stations provide COVID-19 information to vulnerable communities in conflict-affected countries

INTERNATIONAL, 27 March 2020, Health - UN Peacekeeping radio stations have in recent decades helped build support for peace process in a dozen countries around the world including Cambodia, Croatia, Namibia and Timor-Leste.  

Today, these stations are playing another vital role – getting the word out to vulnerable communities in conflict-affected states about the coronavirus pandemic and how people can protect themselves and others from getting the disease. 

" is real. Keep safe," says -ese musician Check B Magic.
Embedded video

UN Peacekeeping currently has large, popular and trusted radio stations in four African countries: The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, which have already recorded cases of COVID-19; and Mali and South Sudan which have not.  

The stations ability to reach both big urban centers and isolated communities in countries which lack basic communications infrastructure, can play an important role in addressing the disease. 

Providing accurate and timely information to the public and media about the UN’s role in COVID-19 prevention and preparedness and the impact on UN personnel and activities in the country is an operational necessity and fundamental to fighting the disease. 

Radio Miraya, the station of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), has for weeks been dedicating time and resources to provide the population on the pandemic. Based in the capital Juba, Miraya has the largest reach of any broadcaster in South Sudan and due to an effective relay system can be heard throughout most of the country.  

“For the great majority of people across South Sudan there is no internet, television or newspapers available. So how do people get their news? Some by word of mouth, but mostly from Radio Miraya,” said David Shearer, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan and Head of UNMISS.  

He added: “We know from a public opinion survey that Radio Miraya is available across over two-thirds of this vast country and that 80 per cent of those it reaches listen to it every day. That literally makes Radio Miraya a communication lifeline for communities in times of crisis.” 

Radio Miraya reports the latest news about the global epidemic and the impact it may have on South Sudan.  It also runs public service announcements (PSAs), including recently written songs by popular artists on the best practices to prevent any eventual outbreak for starting or spreading, such as handwashing and social distancing. 

UNMISS/Sofie Lafrance
On Radio Miraya's early morning show in South Sudan, Afro-Beat artist Check-B Magic (left) and a representative of the civil society organization War Child Holland discuss his song 'COVID/Corona, which raises awareness about Coronavirus.

In South Sudan, Radio Miraya’s ‘critical role’ 

Right now, with the onset of the coronavirus, Miraya is playing an especially critical role.  

Its staff is working long hours to broadcast public health messages from WHO on how people can keep themselves safe. It constantly updates on the Government’s plans and preparations for the virus as well as providing more in-depth coverage of how the virus is impacting communities. It also reports on the situation in other countries linking South Sudanese to the news across the world so they can understand its impact globally. 

“It’s not just dull health warnings. We’re also taking an innovative approach playing songs and jingles by South Sudanese musicians and offering light-hearted tips about how to have fun and relax while staying safe. That improves the chance to reach all audiences, including young people. We will try pretty much anything to get the message across if it will help the people we are here to serve,” Mr. Shearer said. 

In South Sudan and in the other countries hosting peacekeeping operations, the UN radio stations have echoed the Secretary-General’s recent call for a global ceasefire so the world can concentrate its efforts on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Peacekeeping radio stations cooperate with public and private broadcasters in the countries where they operate. The often provide their national counterparts with content, public service announcements, and training.  Never has this cooperation been more crucial than today.  

But radio is not the only communications tool available to UN Peacekeeping, and the missions’ social media platforms are also being put to good use. Providing the public with simple messages and important facts on the disease can be quickly and effectively done via Twitter, Facebook or other social media that may be popular in the country.  

A better-informed public is key to helping fight the pandemic. And peacekeeping radio is playing its part. 

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UNFPA advocates for women, girls suffering unseen impacts of COVID-19 pandemic

INTERNATIONAL, 27 March 2020, Women - The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is pledging support for those suffering from invisible impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including women and girls whose access to life-saving sexual and reproductive health care may be disrupted. 

In a statement on Friday, Executive Director of the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, Natalia Kanem, said the Fund’s work is ramping up even as the novel coronavirus continues to test health care systems around the world.  

As we continue responding to the outbreak, @UNFPA is calling for renewed action to provide life-saving sexual and reproductive health for the world's most vulnerable.

See @Atayeshe's statement: http://unf.pa/gfd

View image on Twitter

She warned that women, girls and health workers must not be overlooked as the world responds to the greatest health crisis in a century.   

Women and girls most vulnerable 

As in most crises, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted access to critical sexual and reproductive health services and hampered authorities’ ability to respond to gender-based violence, at a time when women and girls need these services most.  

UNFPA is helping governments prioritize the special needs of women and girls – often the most vulnerable in times of crises – in line with the Fund’s goals of ending unmet need for family planning, preventable maternal deaths, gender-based violence and harmful practices by 2030. 

In his appeal for a global ceasefire amid the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this week, Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized that women and children are among the most vulnerable in times of war and face the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from the pandemic. 

UNFPA has appealed to donors to fund its response plan, which targets countries with weak public health systems including countries in fragile and humanitarian situations.  It is provisionally projecting that it will need $187.5 million. 

Efforts will focus on bolstering health systems, procuring and delivering essential supplies to protect health workers, ensuring access to reproductive health and gender-based violence services, and promoting risk communication and community engagement. 

Invisible impacts of COVID-19 

As communities around the globe grapple with the most immediate effects of the pandemic, overwhelmed healthcare systems and populations in quarantine can also suffer a ripple of additional impacts. 

“Now is a time for solidarity, resolve and selflessness.  We must not forget that there are people we may not immediately see, who are at great risk as a result of the consequences of the crisis,” said Dr. Kanem. 

Those can include pregnant women who require antenatal care but are unsure whether it is safe to go to the clinic, as well as women in abusive relationships trapped at home for the foreseeable future and fearing for their safety.  

Dr. Kanem also pointed to tens of millions of people living in refugee camps – for whom “social distancing” practices are not an option – and older people around the globe who remain isolated and starved of social interaction as they avoid infection.  

Meeting ‘intimate, yet essential’ needs 

UNFPA is working to support affected health systems, in particular by distributing material support to protect health workers and midwives. 

In China, Iran and the Philippines, it has distributed essential hygiene and other items to the most vulnerable and personal protective equipment to health workers.  In the Republic of Moldova, it has launched an online dashboard which disaggregates the country’s current caseload by location, sex, age and pregnancy status.  

However, Dr. Kanem stressed that more work is needed to ensure that the most intimate – yet essential – needs of women and girls are met as the world continues to battle COVID-19 in the months ahead.  

“This global scourge requires a global response,” she said, urging the international community to stand up for the dignity and health of women as part of its efforts. 

For more information on UNFPA’s response to COVID-19, please visit www.UNFPA.org

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Protect ‘healthcare heroes’ from COVID-19, urges UN rights expert

INTERNATIONAL, 27 March 2020, Health - States and business leaders must step up efforts to ensure that the selfless doctors, nurses, first-responders and other medical professionals working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic receive adequate protective equipment, a UN rights expert said on Friday.

“Their tireless work and self-sacrifice show the best of humanity”, said Baskut Tuncak Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes. 

View image on Twitter

Hailing the healthcare workers as “heroes” who “must be protected”, he stressed that unacceptable shortages in critical protective equipment that can stop them from being infected, continue to plague nearly all nations battling the new coronavirus

Moreover, low-income countries have even fewer resources, including the necessary protection for their healthcare providers. 

“Public and private funds are urgently needed to ensure that protective equipment and other medical supplies are universally available and accessible”, he stated. “States and businesses should ensure that financial obstacles are removed and that supplies are provided at no cost for low-income countries”.    

HeAnd to those hoarding equipment and exploiting the crisis for profit, were nothing short ofhe called “abhorrent”. 

“It is time to put aside our differences and to work together to protect the most vulnerable people from this virus, the elderly and those who bravely care for them: our health care workers”, said the independent rights expert.

Safeguard older persons 

Focusing on another vulnerable segment of the population, in societies across the globe, older persons, who are bearing the lion’s share of the pandemic, must also be fully protected from the infection, argued Rosa Kornfeld-Matte on Friday, UN independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, saying that they are “bearing the lion’s share of the pandemic”.

“Reports of abandoned older persons in care homes or of dead corpses found in nursing homes are alarming”, she underscored. 

Calling it “unacceptable”, the UN independent expert said, “we all have the obligation to exercise solidarity and protect older persons from such harm.”

In addition to a disproportionate risk of death, they are also under threat due to the extra special care they may need, or throughalso put them under threat, as does living in high-risk environments, such as residential homes, according to the expert.

The elderly with underlying health conditions, the socially excluded and those poverty-stricken or living in confined spaces, such as care homes and prisons and residential care homes, are of particular concern.

“Older persons have become highly visible in the COVID 19 outbreak but their voices, opinions and concerns have not been heard”, she flagged. 

“Instead, the deep-rooted ageism in our societies has become even more apparent”, she said, pointing to “some cruel and dehumanizing language on social media”.

She closed with a call to continue support services at home and in communities “without putting older persons and their care providers at risk”. 

“Communities and generations must come together to get through this crisis in solidarity,” Ms. Kornfeld-Matte concluded. 

Liz Oke
An elderly customer buys provisions at a shop in a South London suburb in the UK.

Domestic violence risk rises

Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Simonovic, pointed out that restrictive measures to fight COVID-19 are intensifying the risk of domestic violence.

"It is very likely that rates of widespread domestic violence will increase, as already suggested by initial police and hotline reports”, she said. 

For many women and children, home can be a place of fear and abuse that is heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic", she warned.

"All States should make significant efforts to address the COVID -19threat, but they should not leave behind women and children victims of domestic violence, as this could lead to an increase of domestic violence including intimate partner femicides", Ms. Simonovic upheld in a statement.

To make matters worse, movement restrictions and financial constraints “embolden perpetrators and provide them with additional power and control".

Ms. Simonovic expressed particular concerns about women at higher risk of domestic violence, such asAnd women with disabilities, undocumented migrant women and victims of trafficking are at even higher risk of domestic violence.

The UN expert called on governments not to put the protection of victims on hold and urged them to continue to combat domestic violence in time of COVID-19. 

Measures to protect victims must remain available or be adopted during the crisis. That includes ensuring access to protection by restraining orders and maintaining safe shelters and help lines for the victims, she said. 

Ms. Simonovic called on Governments to come up with urgent measures to assist these victims. 

"Governments must not allow the extraordinary circumstances and restrictive measures against COVID-19 to lead to the violation of women's right to a life free from violence", concluded the UN expert.

Click here for a list of the nine UN independent experts who endorsed Ms. Simonovic statement.

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Migrants in Hawaii care for the elderly, the aloha way

INTERNATIONAL, 27 March 2020, Health - Migrants are playing an increasingly important role in the provision of health care around the world. The number of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who move from developing countries to take up posts in developed countries is expected to rise as the global population of older persons and children continues to grow.

It’s three o’clock in the afternoon at the Lunalilo Home, a residential and day care centre for elderly people nestling at the foot of a dormant volcano on the outskirts of Honolulu, the capital of the US state of Hawaii. Novena Sanchez, originally from the Philippines, busies herself looking after the kupuna, the Hawaiian term for older people, who have gathered in the home’s communal room for an afternoon of activities. 

Ms. Sanchez came to the United States some 22 years ago after training as a nurse in the Philippines. During a break from work, she told UN News that she was always attracted to the nursing profession. “Since I was a young girl, whenever I went into a hospital or health centre, I would admire the nurses working there.”

From the Philippines to the US

She grew up in her home country in what she describes as a “hard way” and says she was “lucky” to come to the United States to live and work alongside her husband who had enlisted in the US navy. She’s been working for several years at Lunalilo, which was established in 1883 following a bequest by High Chief William Lunalilo, a former King of the Hawaiian Islands. 

Like many migrants, Ms. Sanchez brings useful skills and experience to her adopted country but says she has also sacrificed being away from her parents. Hers may be the typical migrant experience, sending money home to family in the Philippines while recognizing her “responsibilities” towards four children who were born in the United States. Ms. Sanchez is not the only migrant worker employed at Lunalilo. She’s joined by colleagues from as far away as Uganda, Tonga and Ecuador. 

Diane Paloma is the CEO of Lunalilo Home in Honolulu, Hawaii. | UN News/Daniel Dickinson

And the CEO of Lunalilo homes, Diane Paloma, is herself the descendant of Japanese migrant workers who came four generations ago to work on Hawaii’s sugar cane plantations.

“Migrants have played a critical role in Hawaii and continue to do so, especially in the health care sector,” she told UN News in her office overlooking Lunalilo’s verdant tropical lawn and small kitchen garden.

“It’s good to have diversity in the workforce” she says. “We don't want to have only one particular type of caregiver, so we welcome diversity and I personally love the different cultures that they bring to Lunalilo, especially the food!”

Aloha culture

Hawaii’s indigenous culture is reflected strongly in the daily life of the Pacific island archipelago and its multicultural communities, most commonly through the greeting aloha, which means hello, but which also carries a deeper cultural and spiritual significance encompassing love, affection, peace, compassion and mercy.    

Ms. Paloma recognizes that migrant workers often come with “different philosophical values. My challenge is, how can I teach somebody from another country, aloha and that compassion? It takes a little bit longer than if we had somebody who innately understands aloha and caring for kupuna, so employing a migrant can come with risks.”

Good health and well-being

SDG Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being. | United Nations

The migration of health and other skilled workers from developing to developed countries is not a new phenomenon, but the World Health Organization  says it is on the rise. Over the last decade, there has been a 60 per cent increase in migrant doctors and nurses working in the world’s wealthiest countries.

And while that may be good news for healthcare in those developed countries, poorer countries are often losing skilled workers either on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. The brain-drain of skilled workers means that the target of providing universal health coverage, a key aim of the Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3) which focuses on Good Health and Well-Being may be more difficult to reach.

Decent work

According to the International Labour Organization, the UN’s work-focused agency, some 2.1 billion people were in need of health care services in 2015; by 2030, this number is expected to reach 2.3 billion, driven by an additional 200 million older persons and children.

Speaking in Hawaii, Kevin Cassidy, the Director of the ILO’s office for the United States said that “sweeping changes in policies should address the rising need for care,” adding that “investment in the care economy should be an explicit objective of employment, macroeconomic, sectoral, internal and international labour migration and social protection policies,” leading to “decent work outcomes for migrant and national workers.”

Back at Lunalilo home, Novena Sanchez is showing a younger Hawaiian member of staff the best technique for helping kupuna to support their breathing using an oxygen tank. “I'm proud and confident of what I do and I’m always willing to help my colleagues.” They understand the advice she provides has come from years of experience. It’s unlikely, right now, that she will take these skills back to the Philippines, recognizing that she may only return to the country of her birth when she eventually retires.   

Good Health and Well-Being

  • The aim of creating a healthier global population is the target of SDG 3.
  • The UN believes that “ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being at all ages is essential to sustainable development.”
  • Among the targets are reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births from 211 (in 2017) and ending the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases as well as combating hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases.
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