ReliefWeb - Updates

ReliefWeb - Updates

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ReliefWeb - Updates

Thailand: Number of COVID-19 cases per Province (As of 31 March 2020)

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 04:30:11 +0000

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Country: Thailand
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Please refer to the attached map.

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Mauritania, a timely visit

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 03:42:28 +0000

Country: Mauritania
Source: Scaling Up Nutrition

At the invitation of the Ministry of Economy and Industry, which hosts the SUN Focal Point, the coordinator of the Scaling Up Nutrition or SUN Movement recently made a visit to Mauritania. The aim of the visit, which took place from 3 to 4 March, was to revive efforts to treat and prevent existing malnutrition by attacking the different underlying causes through coordinated sectoral efforts.

Mauritania regularly suffers a deterioration in its nutritional situation during the hunger gap, when increased cases of acute malnutrition are noted that are estimated to affect around 11% of the population. Of these, 1.8% are severe cases, and therefore very close to the emergency threshold of 2% set out in WHO guidelines. Efforts to address this situation are clearly essential but they must not, however, obscure the need for a more structural response to the problem. In fact, after an encouraging decline of more than 40% from 2001 to 2009, chronic malnutrition has remained stable at 20% among children under the age of five for the last 10 years. Such a rate could irreversibly delay the population’s cognitive development, jeopardising the country’s hopes for its future generations’ sustainable development.

The visit was an opportunity to capitalise on recent political awareness of the role of nutrition in developing the country’s human capital. “*The President of the Republic and the Prime Minister are demonstrating great leadership with regard to nutrition. They do not see nutrition as an emergency problem but as an investment in people and children, in the resilience that will make the country prosperous and innovative and enable it to play a role in the region,” *noted the SUN Movement Coordinator at the end of her visit, as she congratulated the President on his Priority Programme focused on promoting greater social inclusion.

The President of the Republic, His Excellency Mr Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani, and the Prime Minister, Mr Ismail Bedde Cheigh Sidiya, are in fact committed to signing a decree that will enable progress in the National Nutrition Development Council in order to bring about enhanced cooperation on nutrition among all sectors concerned. They have also demonstrated their common desire to make concrete and ambitious commitments on nutrition with a view to the Nutrition for Growth Summit, planned for December 2020.

Finally, the visit helped to improve coordination between civil society, religious leaders and student groups active in nutrition and the technical and financial partners, the real pillars in the work of combating malnutrition at national and decentralized levels, and in addition enabled a discussion on the pivotal role of political decision-makers at regional level. The donors were also consulted during the visit to ensure their support for a better coordination of efforts to prevent malnutrition. All the ingredients are thus in place to be able to consolidate efforts and foster a new energy, breaking down the barriers between sectors so that nutrition can become a shared concern, in the interests of children and adults, for a prosperous and peaceful Mauritanian society.

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Haiti: Respuesta al brote de COVID-19 en la Región de las Américas: Llamamiento a donantes - Versión 2 (25 de marzo del 2020)

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 03:39:15 +0000

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Countries: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)
Source: Pan American Health Organization

Resumen de la situación

En el sitio web de la OPS/OMS dedicado a la COVID-19 (https://bit.ly/39qia6q) se presentan actualizaciones diarias de la situación en la Región.

En seguimiento al brote inicial del nuevo coronavirus (COVID-19) en la Ciudad de Wuhan, Provincia de Hubei en China, la propagación rápida a nivel comunitario, regional e internacional ha ocurrido con un crecimiento exponencial del número de casos y muertes a nivel mundial. Al 23 de marzo del 2020, 336.354 casos han sido confirmados de casi todos los países del mundo. El 30 de enero del 2020, el Director General de la OMS declaró que el brote de la COVID-19 era una emergencia de salud pública de importancia internacional, en conformidad con el Reglamento Sanitario Internacional (RSI) (2005) y con el asesoramiento recibido del Comité de Emergencias. El Director General de la OMS caracterizó a este brote como una pandemia el 12 de marzo del 2020, con llamados a los países a tomar acciones urgentes y agresivas.

Transmisión de la enfermedad: El virus se detectó en muestras ambientales tomadas de un mercado de animales vivos en la ciudad de Wuhan (China) y algunos casos humanos han sido vinculados epidemiológicamente a ese mercado. Hay evidencia cada vez mayor de vínculos con otros coronavirus similares conocidos que circulan en los murciélagos. La evidencia epidemiológica muestra que la COVID-19 también puede transmitirse de una persona a otra. En brotes anteriores causados por otros coronavirus, como el coronavirus causante del síndrome respiratorio del Oriente Medio (MERS-CoV) y el causante del síndrome respiratorio agudo grave (SARS-CoV), la transmisión de persona a persona se debió con mayor frecuencia a gotículas, al contacto personal y a objetos contaminados (fómites). Los modos de transmisión del SARS CoV 2 (el virus que causa la COVID-19) probablemente sean similares.

Gravedad de la enfermedad: La información actual indica que el virus puede provocar síntomas leves similares a los de la influenza, así como un cuadro más grave y, según los datos más recientes, los pacientes presentan una variedad de síntomas: fiebre (83%-98%), tos (68%) y disnea (19%-35%). Con base en los datos actuales, 81% de los casos parecen ser leves, cerca de 14% parece devenir en un cuadro grave y alrededor de 5% son casos críticos. Considerando los datos de otros países, los países de las Américas pueden esperar una proporción similar de casos críticos que requieran cuidados de soporte avanzados, principalmente en las unidades de cuidado intensivo. Los factores de riesgo de un cuadro grave son tener una edad más avanzada o comorbilidades. El virus que causa la enfermedad COVID-19 puede infectar a la gente de cualquier edad, pero el riesgo de un cuadro más grave aumenta gradualmente con la edad empezando alrededor de los 40 años de edad. La evidencia hasta la fecha sugiere que dos grupos de personas tienen un mayor riesgo de sufrir cuadros graves atribuidos a la enfermedad COVID-19. Estos son, las personas mayores (es decir, aquellas personas con más de 60 años de edad) y aquellos con condiciones médicas preexistentes (como enfermedades cardiovasculares, diabetes, enfermedades crónicas respiratorias y el cáncer).

Medidas de Salud Pública: Con el fin de controlar la expansión del brote, 37 de los 52 países y territorios en la Región han implementado restricciones al viaje internacional a partir del 14 de marzo. Clausuras completas de las fronteras se han anunciado en 25 países, parando completamente los viajes internacionales. Otras medidas nacionales instituidas varían desde el encierro total (clausura de cualquier negocio excepto aquellos que brindan servicios esenciales), toque de queda en las noches hasta recomendaciones que restringen los viajes no esenciales.

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Viet Nam: Japan pledges at least ¥200 million in aid to help Vietnam fight COVID-19 pandemic

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 03:31:19 +0000

Countries: Japan, Viet Nam
Source: Government of Viet Nam

Japan pledges at least ¥200 million in aid to help Vietnam fight COVID-19 pandemic

Motegi announced the aid during his phone talks with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh on Tuesday afternoon.

Over the past two months, Japan granted ¥20 million in medical supplies to the Southeast Asian nation, according to Motegi.

He spoke highly of the drastic measures deployed by Vietnam in the fight against the pandemic, expressing thanks to the Government of Vietnam for having taken care of and ensured safety for 20,000 Japanese living and working in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Deputy PM, FM Minh appreciated the assistance from the Government and people of Japan to Vietnam to curb the spread of the virus.

As the current ASEAN Chair, Vietnam has been working actively to coordinate and accelerate ASEAN’s joint efforts as well as cooperation between the bloc and partners in response to the pandemic.

Both sides underlined the importance of international collaboration in this fight through the sharing of information and experience, manufacturing of vaccines and medical equipment and citizen protection among others.

The Japanese side vowed to proactively cooperate with Vietnam over its initiatives on fostering ASEAN responses to the pandemic.

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Pakistan: Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA): Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Daily Situation Report (01 Apr 2020, Evening)

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 03:25:59 +0000

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Country: Pakistan
Source: Government of Pakistan

Please refer to the attached file(s).

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COVID-19 and Timor-Leste’s readiness to fight

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 03:19:23 +0000

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Country: Timor-Leste
Source: Australian National University

Written by Angelo M. G. Aparicio, Michael Rose

Just a few weeks ago, Timor-Leste was one of the very few countries which had not registered any cases of COVID-19. However, on 21 March this changed with a positive diagnosis of an unknown member of the public. The news sent people, especially in Dili, into panic mode. Some people started to flock to grocery stores in Dili and began panic-buying. Fortunately, the panic appears to have been concentrated in a few large shops (and on social media) and hasn’t spread to street-side vendors, marketplaces or the villages.

Neither panic nor complacency are useful responses here. That, at the time of writing, we still haven’t had another positive diagnosis is a sign for hope. Given our current understanding of how easily the virus can spread and how easily an already fragile health system could be overwhelmed, calm action is needed to prevent the number of cases increasing. Initial studies seem to suggest that tropical conditions may slow the virus down, and are a cause for cautious hope we might be spared the worst. The terrifying situation developing in Indonesia is a stark warning we might not be. We must be prepared.

COVID-19 is still not widely understood by the community here. Many people both in and outside of Dili appear to have limited information regarding how dangerous this pandemic is. The situation in local neighbourhoods and markets has not changed much. In neighbourhoods around Dili, many people are still hanging out in big groups. If this is what we’re seeing in Dili, we can be pretty certain the message isn’t getting through to the villages at all.

The government has chosen to use Dili’s Vera Cruz Clinic as the COVID-19 treatment centre and various hotels and residential compounds as quarantine centres. However, people are not well informed about what exactly these facilities are for, and the result has been confusion. Communities in the areas near the quarantine centres protested against their set-up and some community members even threw rocks at one of the quarantine sites. People were scared that they might get the virus just by being close to the centres. It is apparent that many people still have no clue what social distancing entails or what quarantine and self-isolation mean and why they’re important, all factors that can be directly attributed to our (so far) poorly managed attempts to get the information out there. Our preparedness is weeks behind the rest of the world and that is dangerous.

That said, we now seem to be making progress. On 26 March, a state of emergency was declared. Foreigners from COVID-19 affected countries are now banned from entering the country, returning Timorese are being placed in quarantine, and people are being encouraged (although with questionable efficacy) to minimise travel within the country and avoid gathering in public places.

The Ministry of Health, with the support of the World Health Organization, has also recommended preventive measures each citizen should take to fight the virus. The messages that will now be familiar to readers – wash your hands regularly, do not touch your face, maintain social distance and avoid crowded places – are being passed on. However are they doable? For many people they may not be, not only due to a lack of information but also a lack of means. Most people live in small houses with large families. They often have limited access to fresh water and many people rely on communal water taps. People need to gather firewood for cooking and work with others to tend their gardens. Even in the city most need to go out and interact with others (for example, vendors, construction workers, small business owners, and their staff) on daily business. Close human interaction is unavoidable.

These conditions really concern me because this makes it so easy for the virus to spread. Practising social distancing, storing large amounts of food and working from home are privileges only a few can afford. The state of emergency notwithstanding, the government is still doing little to support people. How could it do better? In order to guarantee that people are staying at home and practising the preventive measures recommended, the government needs to prioritise making sure water and electricity are reliable and free for this exceptional period. It needs to find a way to get cash to small business owners, vendors, and daily-wage workers in self-isolation in order for them to sustain their lives. And telecommunication companies should be paid to provide free internet access and calls in order to facilitate communication and avoid people having to go out and buy phone/data credit. If nothing else, food needs to be delivered to people’s houses. At this time, we really expect our government to put our safety, health and security before any other issue.

The government also needs to seek support. So far, we have established a single laboratory to test for COVID-19. This is an achievement, but do we have enough test kits to cope with a major surge in cases? Clearly external support from all sources should be actively pursued and welcomed.

Despite some positive measures, the Timor-Leste government needs to prepare for the worst, and its needs to seek support from partners. We need to prepare for a lockdown of the country and the possibility of a rapid increase in confirmed cases that will need intensive treatment.

I would like to believe we Timorese are resilient. History and foreign occupations have taught us what it is like to fight for our lives. We have learnt to survive with limited food, and to isolate ourselves from danger (the Indonesian military who tried to kill us) and not have contact with people outside of our vicinity. Although COVID-19 is a different case, I want to end this article by saying that we are trained for this and we will get through this together. This could be a great opportunity for this country to again reunite. We can beat this invisible enemy if everyone, especially our politicians and leaders, works together. Hamutuk Ita Bele! (Together we can!)

A note on the feature image: The Movimentu Tasi Moos (Clean Seas Movement) is a group of activist youth who formed to protect Timor-Leste’s marine environment, in particular by cleaning up beaches near Dili. In this crisis they have taken it upon themselves to disinfect public places. (Photo credit: Antoninho Bernadino/Ekipa Movimentu Tasi Moos)

This post is part of the #COVID-19 and the Pacific series.

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China: UN-led Campaign Promoting Prevention of COVID19 Comes to a Close with Contributions from Netizens in 50 Languages

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 03:15:41 +0000

Country: China
Source: UN Development Programme

Beijing, March 9th – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), today concluded a joint campaign on Chinese social media which mobilized hundreds of thousands of netizens to share crucial information on best health practices during the COVID-19 epidemic in over 50 languages and dialects.

With over 36 million views on Weibo, the month-long campaign, titled “Spread the Word, Not the Virus”, aimed to ensure that everyone is able to access the information they need to protect against COVID-19, regardless of their language, location, income or culture.

“Everyone has the right to know how to protect themselves against this epidemic,” said Beate Trankmann, UNDP Resident Representative in China. “In the absence of coping mechanisms, vulnerable and marginalized populations, including the elderly and ethnic minorities, could be severely impacted by the crisis and UNDP’s role is to help increase their resilience” she added.

The campaign galvanized netizens into making a positive social impact by volunteering their time to record creative messages geared to spread essential information to reach all corners of the society, particularly the disadvantaged who may not otherwise have been able to access it.

The campaign also created its own community by bringing people together through a shared mission to fight what the WHO has labeled the ‘infodemic’ – the spreading of false information and rumors resulting in fear and stigmatization. Despite physical isolation during the outbreak, participants were able to connect and find mutual support online from a network of likeminded individuals equally inspired to share and learn from others.

“By helping people to stay informed, even if you are far from the frontlines, you can still contribute to the fight,” said Jiahao Li, a participant from Shanghai who submitted a video in which he was teaching his grandmother how to wear a mask in Shanghainese.

Overall, the campaign went through two distinct stages. The first focused on disadvantaged groups and ethnic minority communities within China and motivated the youth to present WHO knowledge in Tibetan, Yi, Dai, and Uighur languages and dialects. As the virus began spreading across borders to other countries, a second stage was marked by many non-Chinese volunteers contributing submissions in Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Spanish, Romanian and Icelandic among others, as many international netizens joined the online community.

As much as campaign contributors helped others to stay informed about best health practices, they also helped themselves. Maria Fernanda, a participant from Spain, stated, “while making a video in Spanish, I feel like it is also a process of internalizing the self-protection knowledge as I repeated it many times during the filming. Not only have I minimized my own social contacts, I also encourage my friends to do the same.”

Ultimately, a total of 50 languages and dialects were featured by netizens in the campaign, showcasing the creativity and distinctive cultural identity of individual contributors. One participant even shared her video message through sign language for the benefit of the hearing impaired.

The campaign also leveraged technology by incorporating the use of an A.I. news anchor to further disseminate critical health advice and updates on the virus. UNDP worked closely with WHO throughout the entire process to ensure that all information being shared as part of the campaign was accurate and reliable.

In addition to the engagement of netizens, more than 20 artists and celebrities were involved in the campaign to help amplify its impact, including UN Goodwill Ambassadors and advocates: Michelle Yeoh, Lang Lang, Yao Chen, Zhao Wei, and Zhou Xun were among those who helped to spread the message of solidarity.

UNDP Animal Ambassadors for the Sustainable Development Goals, twin pandas QiQi and DianDian also joined in the campaign through a video submitted by the Giant Panda Research Base in Chengdu.

For more information and interview requests, please contact:

*Beijing: Yue Zhao, *yue.zhao@undp.org, +86 185 1111 0464

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Situation Report - Sri Lanka 01st April 2020 at 1800hrs

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 03:11:41 +0000

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Country: Sri Lanka
Source: Disaster Management Centre of Sri Lanka

Please refer to the attached file(s).

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China: World must work together to defy the consequences of Coronavirus

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 03:11:18 +0000

Country: China
Source: Government of the People's Republic of China

p.china.org.cn by Beate Trankmann,March 11, 2020

Since its outbreak, the effects of the coronavirus have been felt in countries across the world. With around 110,000 confirmed cases of COVID19 and over 4,000 deaths (March 10), this epidemic has put public health systems and emergency services under immense pressure. Demand for medical supplies and protective equipment has surged, and many people have been quarantined due to suspected contamination. However, while the circumstances have been severe, this crisis has also been a strong reminder of China’s resilience and the importance of international solidarity.

To date, the efforts China has made to address this epidemic have been impressive. At the epicenter of the outbreak in Hubeiprovince, health and emergency service personnel have been working tirelessly around the clock and deserve our gratitude and admiration. Inspection and screening measures as well as movement restrictions have been effective in halting the virus’ spread.

In addition, the government’s willingness to receive international advice and expertise, in particular from the World Health Organization (WHO), has been instrumental in advancing knowledge of this new virus and will help all nations protect their people and control the outbreak. As the first country to face this crisis, China has many experiences that the international community can learn and apply in their respective situations.

Indeed, to fully control and defeat this epidemic, international cooperation is indispensable. With confirmed cases now in more than 100 countries around the world, collective action and solidarity are more important than ever.

This is not a time to point fingers and assign blame, particularly based on incomplete or unverified information. Reports of discrimination and prejudice as a result of this crisis are worrying. Fake or inaccurate news, labeled the “infodemic” by the WHO, can only sow fear and divide people at time when working together is absolutely essential.

In the spirit of solidarity, UNDP is committed to working with countries and communities across the world in the fight against this epidemic. In China,UNDP has fully supported the people and government, working with relevant authorities to provide emergency support and assist in the procurement of critical medical supplies. With initial funding of half a million USD for immediate response measures, UNDP has provided urgently needed equipment including infusion pumps, patient monitoring systems and protective suits, which are vital to reduce the infection risk facing frontline health personnel.

UNDP has also launched a social media campaign titled Spread the Word, Not the Virus, to combat the aforementioned “infodemic” so that everyone has the knowledge they need to properly protect themselves. With over 27 million views, the campaign has mobilized netizens to share reliable information from the WHO in over 40 languages and dialects so that the elderly or those in ethnic minority communities who might not speak Mandarin can have access to it.

Moving forward, we must recognize the fact that this crisis transcends health. Already we are seeing signs of a potential constraining impact on regional as well as global economic growth. Unlike during the 2002-03 SARS outbreak when China contributed merely 4 percent to global GDP, it now accounts for roughly 16 percent. As the world’s second largest economy and a massive consumer market, China is intractably linked with the rest of the globe through trade, investment and finance. Its integration into global value chains and transportation networks is multifaceted and complex. For example, 7 out of the 10 biggest ports are located in China.

At home, the economic fallout is expected to impact people’s livelihoods, with the disadvantaged suffering the most. Due to quarantine measures, many people in China have not been able to return to work as yet. In the absence of savings and financial coping mechanisms, those who have been recently lifted out of poverty could face the risk of sliding back.

Therefore, beyond the immediate emergency response, it is crucial to address the socio-economic impact of the crisis and focus on protecting vulnerable communities in the most affected areas. Efforts must be made to understand the effects of the virus at the household level as well as on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that constitute the backbone of many local economies, to gauge the extent to which the epidemic is impacting the ability of families and individuals to support themselves.

To this end, UNDP is currently working to implement socio-economic assessments of the health crisis in Hubei province through household surveys examining vulnerable and impoverished groups. Complementary to this, data will also be collected to measure the impact of the virus induced lull in economic activity on SMEs and POEs. These findings will inform measures taken by local governments to help increase community resilience.

As always, UNDP’s commitment remains the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals for everyone, everywhere. We will continue to assist China in overcoming the setbacks brought on by this epidemic, and help to achieve its goal of ending extreme rural poverty in 2020.

The progress made so far in combating the coronavirus has been encouraging. However, this is not a battle that ends when the last confirmed case is treated. The ramifications of this epidemic will be wide-ranging and enduring and we must work to fully understand them in the near-term in order to address potential challenges in the long-term. In this way, we can ensurethat recovery from this crisis is sustainable and thatin its aftermath, no one is left behind.

Beate Trankmann is the UNDP Resident Representative in China.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn and Chinagate.cn

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World: COVID-19 is testing our resilience across all sectors of the economy and areas of development

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 03:06:23 +0000

Countries: Moldova, Serbia, Ukraine, World
Source: UN Development Programme

A message from Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, Director of UNDP's Regional Bureau for Europe and CIS

The COVID-19 pandemic is a new challenge we are facing in today’s fast changing world, and we are facing it as a global society. Like climate change, it is testing our resilience across all sectors of the economy and all areas of development – from public health, social protection and governance systems to information sharing and economic policies. And also like climate change, it will take the efforts of everyone from individuals to governments working together to combat the threat.

In our region of Europe and Central Asia, UNDP has always worked to make sure the most vulnerable and excluded are not left behind, develop game changing solutions to accelerate sustainable development, and promote prevention and preparedness against crises and shocks.

With this experience, we stand ready to assist countries to counter the crisis, assess its impact and move forward with early recovery and long-term development response. In the region, some of the work we’ve been doing already brings benefits to the current crisis, such as the digitalization of legal aid, court systems and service provisions, transparent procurement of drugs and essential health services and strategies for socio-economic impact and resilience.

Already our countries are springing into action – UNDP Moldova has created a support platform for distance learning and UNDP Serbia and our EU partners are adapting a new disaster resilience project to provide much needed medical supplies including respirators, personal protective equipment and diagnostic tests. UNDP Ukraine is building on its drug procurement work with the Ministry of Health to ensure outreach to hard-to-reach populations, including those in the conflict zone.

UNDP is there now, and will be there as we work through this crisis together. Especially for vulnerable communities and social groups; countries with fragile economies and underdeveloped healthcare systems; communities affected by conflicts; women, elderly and marginalized groups already suffering from social stigma.

The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its threat to people and economies, are yet to be fully assessed and understood. We know it will be wide-reaching. And that our response will need complex answers. But it also presents us with the unprecedented opportunity to rethink the development trends that are holding us back, improve social and economic eco-system and harness the best opportunities provided by technology and innovation.

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PNG: Flooding affects more than 1,000 settlers in Lae

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 03:03:13 +0000

Country: Papua New Guinea
Source: The National

By LARRY ANDREW
MORE than 1,000 people living in the vicinity of the Lae Tidal Basin project site have been affected by flooding after heavy rain over the last two days.
The flood water levels reached up to 3m in some areas, damaging food gardens, affecting drinking water storage drums and almost reaching into homes.
The settlers said they feared the water could flood their homes if rain continued and called on PNG Ports and the Morobe government to help them relocate to safer grounds.
Chairman for the ward three Village Court (Lae Urban LLG) Magistrate Peter Wai said with the state of emergency on and a 14-day lockdown in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, the hardship faced by families in portion 508 at the Papuan Compound would only worsen if there was nothing done and if the rains continued.
Wai said the community had lost two children in a similar flood several years ago and this was the fourth time their area had been affected by flooding.
He appealed to Lae MP John Rosso and Morobe Governor Ginson Saonu to liaise with PNG Ports on how best to resettle the community to other parts of the city or they would continue to face the threat of flooding.
“The flood covered our vegetable and banana gardens which we survive on.
“We cannot get food from there,” Wai said.
He said hunger and disease were problems that faced the settlers with their gardens destroyed, drinking water storage affected and contaminated from flooded pit toilets. He said the settlers were anxious about how they would carry on during the lockdown period.
“After the lockdown period is over we want the government to relocate us.”

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An open call to health workers from the diaspora to help Serbia fight the Corona virus epidemic

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 02:54:00 +0000

Country: Serbia
Source: UN Development Programme

Belgrade, 22nd March 2020 - Returning Point programme, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Serbia’s diplomatic missions and consulates, and with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), herewith issues an open call to medical workers abroad who are currently not professionally engaged to report if they are available and willing, should the situation require it, to temporarily return and help fight the Corona virus epidemic in Serbia through their expertise, experience and skills.

Due to the increasing pressure on the health care system, wishing to prepare in a timely manner and to support the struggle for preserving the lives and health of the citizens of Serbia, we invite all the health workers, doctors, nurses, medical technicians and other health experts abroad, who are currently not professionally engaged, to submit information on their availability and specifically on their professional expertise and experience.

This information will be used for the purpose of compiling a record of the capacity available, establishing cooperation and possible volunteer-type engagement for the purpose of providing assistance to the most vulnerable citizens as soon as humanly possible.

Returning point programme, the Government of the Republic of Serbia and UNDP herewith issue an open call to all those willing to respond to this invitation to do so by filling in the following online form at: https://tackapovratka.rs/.

We thank you in advance for your help in disseminating this invitation so that we could reach as many of our experts in the diaspora in as short a period of time as possible!

Contact person:

Ivan Brkljač

Director of the programme for circular migrations – Tačka Povratka (Returning Point)

https://tackapovratka.rs/

medicina@tackapovratka.rs

+381 11 3050 540

+381 60 6969 138

***

On the programme for circular migrations Returning point

Returning point is a platform whose mission is to provide the Serbian diaspora with information on all the possible ways of establishing contact with Serbia, and also on the possibilities for providing help and the circulation of information for those individuals who wish to return to their native country.

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Serbia: First emergency supplies cargo lands in Belgrade

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 02:51:29 +0000

Country: Serbia
Source: UN Development Programme

BELGRADE, March 27, 2020 – The first aircraft carrying critical medical equipment arrived last night Belgrade, Serbia’s capital, in an effort by the European Union (EU) and UNDP to support the country to cope with the Covid-19 epidemic. The supplies such as respirators, protective equipment and diagnostic tests will be distributed to the healthcare facilities across the country.

The transportation of the medical supplies are part of a recent EU - UNDP €7.5 million initiative to enhance Serbia’s preparedness to cope with disasters and emergencies and build resilience to crises and shocks at national and local level. Funds and activities are being realigned to immediately tackle the corona virus crisis.

“The virus knows no boundaries and we are all facing the same challenge,” said EU Ambassador to Serbia Sem Fabrizi. “This first EU plane which arrived from China is a first deliverable of this package, but there is much more to come. We are facing difficult times, across Europe, but solidarity will help us win this battle together”.

This new initiative builds on the successful partnership during the migration crisis in 2017, when the EU and UNDP helped the most impacted municipalities in Serbia to improve public health infrastructure, services and community cohesion, benefiting both the local population and migrants and refugees.

“UNDP has been supporting countries around the world since the very early stages of this crisis. We are glad to have been able to help the Government of Serbia secure the much needed medical supplies which can save many lives”, said UNDP Resident Representative Francine Pickup, highlighting that EU’s immediate response and provision of funds was key to secure the transportation of this important shipment. “In parallel with emergency response, we are ramping up the socio-economic recovery of Serbia,” added Pickup.

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South Sudan Key Message Update: Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) persists in Akobo and Duk as intercommunal clashes escalate, March 2020

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 01:08:07 +0000

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Country: South Sudan
Source: Famine Early Warning System Network

Key Messages

  • In March, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes are widespread. Most households have depleted their cereal stocks from the 2019/2020 harvest and the availability of livestock products, fish, and wild foods is seasonally declining. At the same time, limited income sources and high food prices continue to constrain household food access. In Jonglei, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Lakes, and Central and Eastern Equatoria states, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are driven by crop and livestock losses during the 2019 floods and/or escalations in intercommunal conflict that have disrupted food assistance delivery.

  • FEWS NET and partners previously estimated that 20,000 people would likely be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in parts of Akobo and Duk of Jonglei state from February to April. Field information from partners indicate that WFP distributed food assistance equivalent to at least 25 percent of their daily kilocalorie needs for 45 days to 13,000 people in Walgak, Buong, and Diror payams of Akobo West in March, which may have reduced the severity of hunger among households who received the assistance. However, some households in Akobo and Duk likely remain in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).

  • Intercommunal conflicts in Jonglei (Duk, Nyirol, Akobo (West), and Pibor counties), Warrap (Gogrial East and Tonj South counties), and Lakes (Cueibet and Rumbek Centre counties) escalated from January to March, causing loss of life, loss of household assets, and disruptions to trade flows and food assistance delivery. Of significant concern are Pibor of Jonglei, where at least 6,000 people were newly displaced, and Tonj South of Warrap, where 55 people were killed in a cattle raid. In Lakes, conflict disrupted trade flows from Rumbek Centre to Wau of Western Bahr el Ghazal. In addition, there are reports of violations of the cessation of hostilities agreement between the government and hold-out groups in Kajo-Keji, Lainya, Yei, and Morobo counties of Central Equatoria state, which is likely to disrupt first-season planting, trade flows, and food assistance delivery.

  • As of March 30th, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Sudan. The government has banned mass gatherings, closed borders, and implemented port of entry restrictions, though imports of food, fuel, and medicine – including humanitarian aid – are still permitted. Restrictions on gatherings have compelled the closure of tea shops, restaurants, and non-food shops such as salons/barbers and boda boda operators, affecting casual labor income in these sectors. FEWS NET anticipates port of entry and gathering restrictions could affect humanitarian operational capacity and distribution points, thereby slowing or reducing food assistance imports and delivery, which is planned to scale up during the lean season. Given that planned food assistance was likely to reach 20-26 percent of the country population per month with nearly 40 percent of their daily kilocalorie needs from March to July, delayed or reduced food assistance could lead to a deterioration in food security outcomes.

  • Movement restrictions affecting trade activity within Uganda and Sudan and the closure of Nimule, Kaya, Warawar, Gok Machar, and Renk border ports of entry in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are already leading to reduced food commodity imports, price hikes, and panic buying. According to FEWS NET market and trade monitoring data, maize imports from Uganda to South Sudan declined nearly 30 percent from the week of March 9th to the week of March 16th. In the Konyokonyo market in Juba, the price of a kg of maize more than doubled, while the price of a kg of sorghum rose nearly 15 percent from the week of March 2nd to the week of March 23rd. Speculative price hikes are also reported in Yei and Maridi in Greater Equatoria. Given South Sudan’s reliance on food commodity imports, FEWS NET anticipates a further decline in trade volumes, putting pressure on already high food prices and reducing poor households’ purchasing power during the lean season.

  • The recently released 2019/20 Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) report estimates 2019/20 net national cereal production was 818,500 tons, confirming preliminary estimates that production was approximately 10 percent above 2018/19. Nationally, the increase was driven by Greater Equatoria and parts of Lakes and Western Bahr el Ghazal states, where improved security and above-normal rainfall led to higher area planted and crop yields. However, state-level crop production declined by up to 25 percent in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile, and Jonglei due to the 2019 floods. The 2020 national cereal deficit is an estimated 482,500 tons, covering 63 percent of national cereal needs.

  • The March to May bimodal rainfall season has started on time in parts of Greater Equatoria. Key informants report that farmers are preparing land for first-season planting. Although total area planted is expected to be higher in 2020 than 2019, localized insecurity and shortages of seeds and tools are likely to delay planting and limit area planted to below pre-conflict levels. In addition, FAO’s Desert Locust update on March 24th reported that mature desert locusts arrived from Uganda and split into two swarmlets; one moved on through Bor South of Jonglei toward Ethiopia, while the other spread to Mundri of Western Equatoria. There remains a risk that new swarms could enter South Sudan when vegetative crops emerge in Greater Equatoria in April or May. If control measures in Kenya or Uganda do not prevent the spread of desert locust into South Sudan, damage to crops and pasture could exacerbate food insecurity in the country.

  • In agropastoral and pastoral livelihoods zones, livestock are currently in dry season grazing areas, where some water and pasture remain seasonally available. Although livestock body conditions range from fair to good, milk availability is atypically low due to the impact of conflict, the 2019 floods, and high dry-season temperatures on access to rangeland resources. In parts of Lakes, Warrap, and Jonglei, the escalation in intercommunal conflicts has prevented some livestock from accessing typical dry season grazing areas with adequate water and pasture. In most flood-affected areas, key informants report that livestock health generally remains very poor due to inadequate veterinary services, resulting in livestock deaths from pests and disease such as worms and liver flukes. However, milk production and access are relatively better in parts of Upper Nile state, where rangeland conditions are above normal and livestock body conditions are good.

  • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes are expected to remain prevalent through September, driven by conflict-related household asset erosion, escalation in intercommunal conflict, poor macroeconomic conditions and high food prices, and the national cereal deficit. Reductions in food assistance and trade activity due to COVID-19 response measures, as well as potential crop and pasture losses from the desert locust upsurge, could further exacerbate existing food insecurity. Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is likely among pockets of the most vulnerable household groups, including the displaced, newly returned refugees, or poor host households who lack access to arable land and do not own livestock. In the event that a resurgence of political conflict or other movement restrictions prevent populations from accessing food sources or restrict humanitarian access for a prolonged period, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be possible in South Sudan.

  • In the event that COVID-19 enters and spreads within South Sudan, limited health services and sanitation infrastructure could lead to high infection rates. Close living quarters in protection of civilian sites and IDP camps could also contribute to high infection rates. If put into place, additional movement restrictions or enforcement of quarantines to limit the spread would likely reduce household income and food access, as high proportions of the population are market-dependent and dependent on food assistance or daily income. Further, in rural areas, a high rate of infection and movement restrictions could affect households’ ability to engage in main season land preparation and planting from April to May, leading to more severe food insecurity outcomes in the long term.

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Cambodia: Emergency Bill Recipe for Dictatorship

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 01:02:25 +0000

Country: Cambodia
Source: Human Rights Watch

COVID-19 Crisis Pretext for Hun Sen to Seek Unlimited Powers, Go After Critics

(New York) – The Cambodian government should withdraw its draft state of emergency law, which would empower Prime Minister Hun Sen to override fundamental human rights protections, Human Rights Watch said today. On March 31, 2020, the Council of Ministers approved the “Law on Governing the Country in a State of Emergency,” which would allow the government to restrict all civil and political liberties and target human rights, democracy, and media groups. The one-party National Assembly is expected to vote on the bill later this week or early next week.

Hun Sen has claimed that the law is necessary to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government should submit a new draft that addresses the COVID-19 public health crisis while protecting basic rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, association, and privacy, Human Rights Watch said.

“Even before the coronavirus, Hun Sen ran roughshod over human rights, so these sweeping, undefined, and unchecked powers should set off alarm bells among Cambodia’s friends and donors,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Instead of passing laws to protect public health, the Cambodian government is using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to assert absolute power over all aspects of civil, political, social, and economic life – all without any time limits or checks on abuses of power.”

The bill contains many overly broad and vague provisions that would violate fundamental rights without specifying why these measures are necessary and proportionate to address the public health emergency.

Under article 5, the government would have:

  • Unlimited surveillance of telecommunications: “Putting in place measures to surveil and keep track of all means [of communication] for the receipt of information via telecommunication contact systems in every form” (art. 5(10));

  • Control of media and social media: “Prohibiting or restricting the distribution or broadcast of information that could generate public alarm or fear or generate unrest, or that could bring about damage to national security, or that could bring into being confusion regarding the state of emergency” (art. 5(10) and (11));

  • Catch-all unfettered powers: “Putting in place other measures that are deemed appropriate for and necessary to responding to the state of emergency” (art. 5(12)).

Article 5 would also give the government complete authority to restrict freedom of movement and assembly.

Articles 1 and 4 of the bill would allow the law to be used even after the COVID-19 crisis ends. It says that a state of emergency can be declared when, “The people of the nation face danger” and “in order to defend national security, public order, the lives and health of citizens as well as property and the environment,” and “particularly” in cases of “an urgent public health crisis arising from the wide-spreading of contagious disease” and of “grave disruption of national security and public order” (arts. 1 and 4). Just as problematic, article 3 makes it clear that a state of emergency could be declared “for a limited or unlimited period of time,” without specifying the basis for making decisions about the length (art. 3).

The bill also would create a permanent opportunity for the government to declare martial law. Article 5(2) states that, “At times of war, or in other circumstances in which national security is confronted with grave danger, the country can be governed while under a state of emergency via a martial law regime” [emphasis added].

Notably, the bill fails to provide any oversight for the use of these sweeping executive powers. On April 1, a Council of Ministers statement said that a state of emergency would not be declared for longer than three months – but added that the government would have discretion to extend it.

“The emergency law will allow Hun Sen, at long last, to run the country by fiat,” Adams said. “It will make his dictatorial rule legal and official.”

Human Rights Watch expressed grave concern that the law could be easily misused against critics of the government and nongovernmental organizations. The bill includes disproportionate fines and prison sentences for vague criminal offenses. For instance, article 7 creates the “crime of obstructing operations during a state of emergency,” punishable by one to five years in prison or five to ten years if the obstruction “leads to public unrest or adversely affects national security.” Article 8 would create the “crime of not respecting measures” required by the government, with punishments of up to one year in prison, or five to ten years if it “leads to public unrest.” These provisions could easily be used against critics of the government’s handling of the current COVID-19 crisis – or any other situation in which a state of emergency is declared.

Article 9 creates a serious risk for civil society organizations by stating that, “Legal entities can be deemed criminally responsible” for violations of the law. The Cambodian government has long targeted independent media as well as organizations that promote human rights and democracy. Fines up to US$250,000 would bankrupt most Cambodian organizations.

The draft law comes amid a longstanding crackdown by the Cambodian government on civil society, the media, critics, and the opposition. Independent newspapers and radio outlets have been shut or sold to owners with ties to the government. Social media networks face surveillance and intervention by the government, reinforced by the government’s adoption of the 2018 decree called, “Publication Controls of Website and Social Media Processing via Internet,” which allows for interference with online media and government censorship.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Cambodia is a state party, allows countries to adopt exceptional and temporary restrictions on certain rights that would not otherwise be permitted “in times of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation.” But the measures must be only those “strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.”

The Human Rights Committee, which interprets the covenant, clarified that states parties are required to “provide careful justification not only for their decision to proclaim a state of emergency but also for any specific measures based on such a proclamation.” The committee stressed that such measures “are of an exceptional and temporary nature and may only last as long as the life of the nation concerned is threatened.”

On March 16, a group of United Nations human rights experts declared that “Emergency declarations based on the COVID-19 outbreak … should not function as a cover for repressive action under the guise of protecting health [...] and should not be used simply to quash dissent.”

“From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hun Sen has denied or downplayed the risks posed to Cambodia by the coronavirus in Cambodia, but evidently he’s more than willing to join the bandwagon of autocratic leaders using the crisis to justify giving themselves vastly expanded powers,” Adams said. “The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should remind Hun Sen that if he wants to suspend certain rights, he has to notify the UN Human Rights Committee. But pandemic or not, many rights cannot be suspended, and Cambodia will remain bound by its international legal commitments.”

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Venezuela: Key Messages and Frequent Asked Questions on COVID-19

Thu, 02 Apr 2020 00:08:02 +0000

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Countries: Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), World
Source: R4V

Key Messages

• International support to the Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) needs to continue and be strengthened. In particular, interventions to save lives of refugees and migrants from Venezuela and alleviate suffering remain more necessary than ever.

• The regional, sub-regional and national R4V Coordination Platforms are working closely with partners and national authorities to include refugees and migrants in national and local public health response arrangements, including prevention, testing and treatment, ensuring protection considerations in the implementation of new measures, and complementing state efforts.

• Women, children, as well as people living with disabilities and LGBTI people, among other refugees and migrants with specific protection needs, require a response that considers gender, age and diversity dimensions.

• Mitigation and prevention measures taken by countries, such as movement restrictions and closures of borders should not undermine the right to seek asylum, regularization processes and ensure access to protection mechanisms for those in need.

• Prevention and communication messages need to engage all communities and be available in languages and media formats that are understandable and accessible by all, including children and people living with disabilities.

• The anxiety and fear of the impact of COVID-19 should not generate situations of discrimination and xenophobia against refugees and migrants.

• Coordinated measures (such as “salvaconductos” and similar exemptions from applicable movement restrictions for R4V response actors) are necessary to mitigate the impact on life-saving activities, initiatives as well as integration processes of refugees and migrants from Venezuela in the host communities.

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The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security - Report of the Secretary-General (A/74/753–S/2020/210)

Wed, 01 Apr 2020 23:41:57 +0000

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Countries: Afghanistan, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Pakistan
Sources: UN Security Council, UN General Assembly

Seventy-fourth session
Seventy-fifth year
Agenda item 36
The situation in Afghanistan

General Assembly
Security Council

I. Introduction

  1. The present report is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 68/11 and Security Council resolution 2489 (2019), in which the Secretary-General was requested to report every three months on developments in Afghanistan.

  2. The report provides an update on the activities of the United Nations in Afghanistan, including political, humanitarian, development and human rights efforts, since the issuance of the previous report dated 10 December 2019 (A/74/582-S/2019/935) and until the end of February 2020.

II. Relevant developments

  1. Uncertainties surrounding the electoral process and the resumption of talks between the United States of America and the Taliban were at the forefront of political developments in Afghanistan during the reporting period. On 18 February, the Independent Election Commission announced that Ashraf Ghani had won a second term as President, with 50.64 per cent of the votes. The results were rejected as “illegal” by the Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah, who announced plans for the formation of an alternative, “inclusive” government. Meanwhile, talks between the United States and the Taliban resumed on 6 December. After a reduction in violence beginning on 22 February, the two parties signed an agreement in Doha on 29 February on a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign troops and counter-terrorism guarantees. In parallel, Afghanistan and the United States signed a joint declaration in Kabul, reaffirming commitments to continue supporting Afghanistan. These developments should help to pave the way for intra-Afghan negotiations. The security situation remained volatile, with a high number of security incidents, in particular in the southern, northern and eastern regions, before a period of reduction in violence. For 2019, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 10,392 civilian casualties, a 5 per cent decrease compared with 2018. The humanitarian situation remained dire.

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Afghanistan Approaching ‘Defining Moment’ as Peace Talks Lag, COVID-19 Pandemic Looms, Deputy Special Representative Tells Security Council

Wed, 01 Apr 2020 23:29:07 +0000

Country: Afghanistan
Source: UN Security Council

SC/14154

Political uncertainty, delays in the start of the peace process, increasing violence and the imminent full force of the COVID-19 pandemic make this a critical time for Afghanistan as it struggles to emerge from decades of conflict, the Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) told the Security Council in a videoconference meeting[*] on 31 March.

“Afghanistan appears to be reaching a defining moment,” said Ingrid Hayden, briefing the 15-member Council on developments since the United States and the Taliban signed their Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan on 29 February and the inauguration of incumbent President Ashraf Ghani as the winner of the 28 September 2019 elections — an outcome disputed by his rival, Abdullah Abdullah.

[Her briefing also came on the heels of the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security, contained in document S/2020/210.]

Ms. Hayden, who is also the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, said the key question for Afghanistan today is whether its leaders can rally together to engage in meaningful peace talks with the Taliban — a choice made stark by the all-encompassing threat of COVID-19 to the health of its 38.04 million people and the stability of its institutions.

Describing the risk to Afghanistan posed by COVID-19 as “extreme”, she said a reduction in violence leading to a ceasefire would save lives, create a more conducive environment to begin intra-Afghan peace negotiations and enable the Government to focus on battling the looming health crisis. The deadly effects of the novel coronavirus are particularly concerning, she said, given Afghanistan’s fragile health system, its high number of internally displaced persons, its overcrowded prisons, the difficulties women face accessing health care and the lack of built-in social protection guarantees.

To help mitigate the risk, the United Nations in Afghanistan had developed a response plan to support the Government’s response to the pandemic, she said, emphasizing that that will require $108.1 million in funding until 30 June. Quoting the Secretary-General, she said COVID-19 threatens all of humanity and so all of humanity must fight back. “Only through the collective action of Member States, in close cooperation with Afghan authorities, can we hope to minimize the impact of this global threat on Afghanistan’s vulnerable population,” she said.

On peace efforts, she said that “now is not the time for divisions” and that UNAMA is urging all parties to work together to resolve their differences. With the decision by the United States on 23 March to reduce its assistance by $1 billion this year, and its readiness to do the same in 2021, Afghanistan must demonstrate a compelling case for continued international investment. Despite deep-seated grievances, now may be a rare opportunity for Afghanistan’s leaders to address fundamental issues, she stressed.

Despite the political impasse, she said that it is heartening to see the Afghan establishment agree on a diverse team to negotiate with the Taliban that includes representatives of all major ethnic groups, as well as five women members. UNAMA is encouraging the Taliban to reciprocate by including women in its delegation, thus sending a tangible signal that it has fundamentally reformed. She added that prisoner releases, if carefully managed, can build confidence to start the peace process, and that the Mission urges the parties to resolve the issue swiftly in line with international law.

Since it signed its agreement with the United States, the Taliban appears to be adhering to its commitment to reduce violence against international military forces, which have begun to withdraw from Afghanistan, she said. However, recent weeks have seen a resurgence of conflict-related violence, driven mainly by Taliban attacks against the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces. For March alone, she added, UNAMA has recorded more than 180 civilians killed, with the Taliban responsible for a high number of civilian casualties.

“This trend is regrettable, but it is also reversible,” she said, explaining that the past few months have shown that violence can be reduced significantly with a genuine commitment among all parties. She expressed concern over an Afghan Air Force air strike in Kunduz on 21 March in which nearly all those killed were women and children, as well as the threat posed by Islamic State-Khorasan Province, which claimed an attack on a Sikh-Hindu temple in Kabul on 25 March that killed and injured dozens of civilians.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members echoed the call for Afghanistan’s political leaders to show unity, pressed the Taliban to halt acts of violence and underscored the many ways that COVID-19 threatens the whole country. Speakers also congratulated Deborah Lyons of Canada on her appointment as the Secretary-General’s new Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA, which was announced on 24 March (see Press Release SG/A/1952).

The representative of the United States said recent developments, such as the formation of an inclusive Afghan negotiating team and progress towards an exchange of prisoners, “reflect the promise of peace”. However, to enter negotiations, the country needs an inclusive Government, she said, noting that United States Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo visited Kabul on 23 March to urge Afghanistan President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah to set aside their differences. Should an inclusive Government be formed, United States President Donald J. Trump’s Administration is prepared to revisit its decision to reduce its assistance to Afghanistan. She noted that the United States has announced $15 million to help the country halt the spread of COVID-19 and hoped that others will follow suit. She went on to call on the Taliban to immediately bring down levels of violence, emphasizing that the United States remains committed to defending the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.

China’s representative called on all of the country’s parties, including the Taliban, to jointly develop political and security plans that are acceptable to all, through intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations. China will continue to work with the international community, especially the Russian Federation and Pakistan, to promote that dialogue process. “A divided Afghanistan is in nobody’s interest,” he clarified. He welcomed the agreement signed by the United States and the Taliban, noting that Afghanistan and Pakistan recently started transporting goods through the Gwadar Port, marking new progress in Afghanistan’s integration into the regional economy. All efforts should be made to help Afghanistan fight the COVID-19 pandemic and China is donating 30,000 test reagents, 250,000 masks and some ventilators to arrive on 1 April.

The United Kingdom’s representative, noting that the COVID-19 virus is a concern for all issues on the Council’s agenda and Afghanistan in particular, said that while options are being examined to effectively respond to the pandemic, it is ever more important that the Taliban commits to the ceasefire and that Afghan political leaders come together so the Government can lead the necessary response. The parties must overcome differences and ensure the momentum in intra-Afghan negotiations is not lost. Turning to Afghanistan’s needs, the United Kingdom has committed $362 million, he said, adding that coordination between development, security and political actors is more crucial than ever before. “There are many risks ahead of us and around us, but we need the key decision makers in Afghanistan from all parties, from all areas, to hold their nerve and to do the right thing and to come together for peace and for the people and to tackle the pandemic,” he said.

The Dominican Republic’s representative shared the Secretary-General’s concerns about an increase in the number of people in Afghanistan — from 6.3 million to 9.4 million — in need of humanitarian assistance and protection due to the conflict. “We hope that the humanitarian situation does not worsen during this time of pandemic,” he said. He added that it is important to address the drug crisis in Afghanistan and the wider region, which remains a serious problem, and encouraged the Government to ensure women a leadership role in peace talks.

Estonia’s representative expressed strong support for UNAMA’S engagement with national, regional and international partners, notably to promote gender equality. He welcomed Afghanistan’s approval for the State Ministry of Peace, an independent Government entity that coordinates peace-related issues across relevant ministries. He expressed deep concern about the 10,392 civilian casualties documented in 2019, underscoring the imperative of establishing a ceasefire amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Calling the Afghanistan Government’s formation of a team for peace negotiations a “very positive development”, he nonetheless expressed regret that the Taliban has refused to cooperate. Any effort pertaining to the peace process should not erode the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, he cautioned.

France’s representative emphasized that the current circumstances should push all stakeholders to be more united than ever in supporting the people of Afghanistan — “a country that has been plagued by war, terrorism, poverty, and now a pandemic”. Most crucial is to ensure continued and sufficient humanitarian assistance to face the many challenges ahead, especially the risks posed by COVID-19. All parties have an obligation to respect international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians, she stressed, describing the 25 March terrorist attack in Kabul as an appalling crime. Echoing the Secretary-General’s calls for a ceasefire, she also underlined the need for the swift appointment of an inclusive, united Government and for inclusive representation from all sides in the intra-Afghan negotiation process. In that regard, she said the signing of two agreements in February paves the way for peace and must continue despite the major disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Belgium’s representative said that the deadly terrorist attack on 25 March was another sad event in a conflict that has claimed 100,000 victims since UNAMA started counting more than a decade ago. Such violence adds to growing concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in Afghanistan and its impact on its population, with recent large-scale cross-border movements likely to put further pressure on the country’s health system. Echoing the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire, he said that Afghans need an inclusive Government that enjoys broad support, can confront the pandemic and seizes the opportunity for peace. Women must play a key role in negotiations, he said, adding that the Council must emphasize the importance of respecting Afghanistan’s Constitution and fundamental rights and freedoms. Noting that 687 grave violations against children in Afghanistan were verified in the last three months of 2019, he said that Belgium will keep looking for consensus within the Council with regards to children and armed conflict.

Indonesia’s representative said that raised hopes following the peace process agreements was marred last week by the ISIL/Da’esh attack, and concerns over rising COVID-19 cases. He appealed to Afghan parties to come together on a comprehensive peace agreement, urging the country’s leaders to set aside their differences and place people’s interest first. “We hope that the intra-Afghan negotiation will be convened once the COVID-19 crisis is over,” he said. Parties must ensure smooth humanitarian support and end violence against civilians, he said, while more broadly drawing attention to the Afghanistan-Indonesia Women Solidarity Network launched in March. He went on to call on all parties to ensure smooth humanitarian support and to “stop harming civilians”. With Ramadan approaching, it is time for a cessation of hostilities, he said, emphasizing that any peace agreement must not compromise the gains made by Afghan women.

South Africa’s representative strongly condemned the attack on the Sikh temple in Kabul, stressing: “Terrorist acts, whatever their motivation, can never be justified.” He encouraged all Afghan stakeholders committed to the nation’s peace talks to renew their efforts to rebuild trust, work towards peace and reconciliation, and to promote national unity, expressing hope that the agreement between the United States, Afghanistan Government and the Taliban, respectively, will mark an important first step from which intra-Afghan negotiations can begin.

Viet Nam’s representative strongly condemned attacks by the Taliban and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan, underscoring the importance of implementing resolution 2513 (2020) in starting negotiations for a permanent ceasefire. He welcomed the Government announcement of an inclusive team for peace negotiations, calling on it and the opposition party to set aside their differences, and urging the international community to increase technical support for conducting dialogue via remote means. He likewise urged the Taliban and all other terrorist groups to immediately stop fighting and permit unhindered humanitarian and health-care access. It is important for UNAMA to provide training, funding and technical support to Afghanistan in countering cross-border crime, he added.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines condemned in the strongest terms the killings at the Sikh temple in Kabul, reiterating the Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Encouraging all parties to uphold their commitments under the 29 February agreement between the United States and the Taliban, she stressed the importance of political inclusivity among all stakeholders to create a more just and equitable society that benefits all Afghans.

Also participating in the meeting were representatives of Germany, Tunisia, Niger, Russian Federation and Afghanistan.

[*] Based on information received from the Security Council Affairs Division.

For information media. Not an official record.

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Mauritania to Improve its Health System and Delivery of Essential Services

Wed, 01 Apr 2020 23:10:50 +0000

Countries: Mali, Mauritania
Source: World Bank

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2020 — The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved three grants for a total of $133 million from the International Development Association (IDA)*, including funding from the Refugee and Host Communities IDA18 sub-window, to help improve access to basic infrastructure and services for poor and vulnerable communities in the southern regions of Trarza, Gorgol, Assaba, Guidimakha, Hodh el Gharbi and Hodh el Chargui at the borders with Senegal and Mali.

"Through this financial package, the World Bank is doubling its program in Mauritania with a specific focus on the most fragile areas of the country where climate change, poverty and growing insecurity is affecting the daily lives of people," said World bank Country Manager, Laurent Msellati. "These three projects focus on the government’s priority to fight against exclusion, support the decentralization, and improve access to basic health services, drinking water, sanitation and electricity in secondary urban centers and rural areas, in particular in the Hodh regions supported by the Sahel Alliance. ”

The approved package will finance the following two projects and provide additional financing to an existing Health support project:

The Decentralization and Productive Intermediate Cities Support project amounting to $66 million IDA grant will help improve access to local services in selected localities in the southern regions or wilayas, and will strengthen the capacities of local governments to plan and manage public services. In particular, the project will finance basic infrastructures and decentralized services in intermediate cities. The project will also benefit refugees and host communities by addressing the increase in demand for local services and providing opportunities for refugees to contribute to the local economy.

The Water and Sanitation Sectoral Project amounting to a $44 million IDA grant, will increase access to improved water and sanitation services in selected rural areas and small towns located in the same regions. In particular, the project will build and rehabilitate water systems, latrines and handwashing facilities in public centers, undertake water, sanitation and hygiene awareness raising campaigns, and

strengthen institutions capacities and performance. About 473,000 people living in rural areas, including the M’bera refugee camp in Hodh El Chargui, will benefit from the project.

An additional financing amounting to $23 million IDA grant will scale up the Mauritania Health System Support project and expand the utilization and quality of reproductive, maternal, neonatal, and child health and nutrition services into the Hodh el Chargui region. In collaboration with humanitarian and development partners, the project will provide specific support to address the health needs of host communities and refugees, and will in particular reinforce the health facilities of the M’bera camp. The project will also provide Conditional Cash Transfers to poor households in order to promote vaccination, birth registration and nutrition services through the National Social Transfers program.

PRESS RELEASE NO: 2020/090/AFR

Contacts

Nouakchott
Khadijetou Cissé
(222) 46 49 18 08
kcisse@worldbank.org

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World: New COVID-19 fund launched to help vulnerable communities in low-income countries

Wed, 01 Apr 2020 23:00:00 +0000

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Country: World
Source: Start Network

RAPID RESPONSE COVID-19 FUND AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY FOR AID AGENCIES TO SUPPORT VULNERABLE PEOPLE IN LOW-INCOME COUNTRIES

LONDON -- A global network of aid agencies has launched a new COVID-19 aid fund to anticipate and respond to critical virus-related humanitarian needs in low-income countries. The fund is being kickstarted with a donation from IKEA Foundation for €1.5M, other donors are being sought.

The new fund will help respond to aid agencies' concerns about the humanitarian risk to communities in many parts of the world where resilience is low, due to other poverty and disasters, such as severe weather events or conflict.

The initiative is being led by Start Network, which has 50 members, many with expertise in the prevention and control of infectious diseases across the globe.

The new fund, known as Start Fund COVID-19, will be part of the Start Network's existing funding mechanism, the Start Fund, enabling the network to get the fund set up quickly. 'Start Fund COVID-19' will provide rapid funding for small to medium responses at the local level, neglected or underfunded aspects of the broader COVID-19 response and for early and anticipatory humanitarian action, needed before the virus spreads to vulnerable communities.

Christina Bennett, CEO of Start Network said:

"As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across low-income countries, it is critical to prepare for and respond to the human impact of the virus, particularly in those communities already living with weak public health systems and poor public services. Start Fund is the fastest humanitarian funding tool of its kind, so we're taking this tool and adapting it for COVID-19. This will provide critical rapid and early financing for NGOs to analyse, anticipate and respond to this crisis at the local level quickly, before the bigger funds come online."

Annemieke de Jong, Programme Manager at the IKEA Foundation, said:

"We stand in solidarity with the Start Network and our other partners who are on the frontline of COVID-19 response. They are working around the clock to protect vulnerable communities, where people are already living in poverty and have fewer resources to fall back on. We have contributed €1.5 million to the Start Fund to empower local organisations to take the lead in helping vulnerable communities to prepare for and respond to the pandemic. These small and medium responses are absolutely critical in making sure no-one is left behind and we urge other donors to step forward and support this fund."

Start Network has already begun responding to COVID-19 in Cameroon and Bangladesh through existing funding mechanisms. In Cameroon, agencies will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to almost 140,000 refugees and nearby communities. In Bangladesh, numerous projects, many of which are being led by local organisations, will help vulnerable communities across the country including Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar.

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