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As COVID-19 rages, United Nations says the World is also battling an Epidemic of harmful falsehood and lies … Root out hate and harmful assertions about COVID-19 – Antonio Guterres Challenges Social Media Companies

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  • “This is a time for science and solidarity” — Guterres
  • UN announces counter- Communications Response Initiative
  • Falsehoods are filling the airwaves.
  • Wild conspiracy theories are infecting the Internet.
  • Hatred is going viral, stigmatizing and vilifying people and groups. 
  • UNITED NATIONS ADJUSTING SDGs ACTIVITIES TO INTEGRATE COVID-19 
  • UN makes an urgent call for debt restructuring and relief for developing countries.
  • Also calls for the establishment of a multilateral currency swap facility within the IMF

The ninth UN Secretary-General, António Guterres has lamented that ‘’As the world fights #COVID19, we are also fighting an epidemic of harmful falsehoods & lies… He has, therefore, announced I’m announcing a new @UN Communications Response initiative to spread facts & science, countering the scourge of misinformation – a poison putting more lives at risk.

A statement released by the United Nations in New-York quotes Guterres as lamenting that  ‘’As the world fights the deadly COVID-19 pandemic – the most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War – we are also seeing another epidemic — a dangerous epidemic of misinformation. Around the world, people are scared. They want to know what to do and where to turn for advice.

This is a time for science and solidarity.  Yet the global ‘misinfo-demic’ is spreading. Harmful health advice and snake-oil solutions are proliferating.  Falsehoods are filling the airwaves. Wild conspiracy theories are infecting the Internet. Hatred is going viral, stigmatizing and vilifying people and groups.  The world must unite against this disease, too. 

Today I am announcing a new United Nations Communications Response initiative to flood the Internet with facts and science while countering the growing scourge of misinformation — a poison that is putting even more lives at risk.  The vaccine is trust. First, trust in science. I salute the journalists and others fact-checking the mountain of misleading stories and social media posts.  Social media companies must do more to root out hate and harmful assertions about COVID-19. Second, trust in institutions — grounded in responsive, responsible, evidence-based governance and leadership. And trust in each other.  Mutual respect and upholding human rights must be our compass in navigating this crisis.

Together, let’s reject the lies and nonsense out there.  Today I am announcing a new United Nations Communications Response initiative to flood the Internet with facts and science while countering the growing scourge of misinformation — a poison that is putting even more lives at risk.  With common cause for common sense and facts, we can defeat COVID-19 — and build a healthier, more equitable, just and resilient world.

UNITED NATIONS ADJUSTS ACTIVITIES TO INTEGRATE COVID-19 INTO THE SDGs ACTIVITY

 The COVID-19 crisis is now a global one that has also morphed into larger and more global economic and social crisis than the financial collapse of 2008-2009. High income countries have done well to backstop their financial systems and have also begun to advance bold stimulus packages for recovery. However, emerging market and developing countries lack the wherewithal for such a response and worse—they are experiencing flight of portfolio capital like in no other period in their memories

Until the COVID-19 virus and the economic crisis that has ensued is contained everywhere, it can spread anywhere. As the UN-led Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development just called for in its new Financing for Development Report, a global and multilateral response is needed that attacks the virus and puts the global economy back on a path to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris climate agreement. That effort should start this week at the annual spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

Since the crisis began to unfold, Emerging Markets and Developing Economies (EMDEs) have experienced a withdrawal of at least $95 billion and over 85 countries have gone to the IMF for support. This is disastrous. At just the moment when they need the fiscal space to attack the virus, buoy their economies, and protect the vulnerable, they are faced with significant devaluation of their exchange rates and a ballooning of debt. Such a situation is wreaking immediate havoc and derailing efforts to meet the SDGs.

We call on the governors of the IMF and World Bank to mount a bold emergency response to stem the crisis in the developing world in order steer their economies toward the SDGs. Separate estimates by the IMF and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) see the immediate need for EMDEs to be at least $2.5 trillion. But the financing isn’t there. The currently available resource base of the IMF and the Regional Financing Arrangements only amounts to $1.5 trillion, with a maximum of $700 to $971 billion available to EMDEs, and is thus inadequate to meet the immediate needs for these countries identified by the UN and the IMF.

In a new working paper with colleagues Haihong Gao and Ulrich Volz, we call on the governors of the IMF and World Bank to mount a bold emergency response to stem the crisis in the developing world in order steer their economies toward the SDGs. First and foremost, we call for an issuance of the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights of at least $500 billion and for the advanced economies to put their shares into a trust fund that can be made available to finance programs for the EMDEs.

We also urgently call for debt restructuring and relief for developing countries. We also call for the establishment of a multilateral currency swap facility within the IMF. The Federal Reserve Bank of the United States has been swift and smart to backstop the dollar system in the advanced economies and in a small handful of emerging economies. However, this protection has not been extended to developing countries, but has rather accentuated the capital flight from these countries.

Among other proposals, we also urgently call for debt restructuring and relief for developing countries. Even with a rapid and significant expansion of liquidity and balance of payments support to EMDEs, a substantial amount of debt will need to be written off or rescheduled. The IMF has already noted that Argentina – the recipient of the largest IMF program – will need a significant debt restructuring, and the World Bank and IMF have called for bilateral debt relief for the poorest countries. UNCTAD suggests that $1 trillion in developing country debt will need to be alleviated in 2020 across multilateral and bilateral debt classes.

The United Nations has agreed upon a resolution setting forth a set of principles for sovereign debt restructuring processes that can be built upon. The IMF should also assure developing countries and markets alike that the coordinated use of capital controls (what the IMF calls ‘capital flow management measures’) as a stop gap until the rest of the world puts these multilateral efforts in order. These measures will enable the world to contain COVID-19, save lives and jobs, calm markets, and steer finance toward a more adept, sustainable, and inclusive world economy.

The world shares a common but differentiated responsibility to prevent destructive unilateral economic actions that prevent other nations from realizing these common goals, while maintaining the right to pursue national development strategies, advance global public goods and protect the global commons. We have to act now.

COVID-19: Major relief airlift will reach ‘most vulnerable’ African nations

Meanwhile, the UN has announced that  the first of the UN’s “ Flights” carrying urgently needed medical equipment to Africa, arrived in Addis Ababa yesterday. On board the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization  (WHO) Ethiopian Airlines charter, are one million face masks, along with gloves, goggles, ventilators and many other essentials. “We have seen time and again our health workers fall victim to infectious diseases as they work in hospitals and sometimes pass away”, said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “This is unacceptable.This personal protective equipment will help keep them safe. WHO is committed to protecting those on the front-lines of healthcare.” 

There is enough equipment to protect health workers while they treat more than 30,000 patients across the continent, WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said:  “This is by far the largest single shipment of supplies since the start of the pandemic and it will ensure that people living in countries with some of the weakest heaths systems are able to get test and treated, while ensuring that health workers on the frontlines are properly protected.” 

95 countries targeted  The supplies will be distributed in five other African countries initially – Djibouti, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia and Tanzania – as part of a wider effort to reach 95 countries most at risk from the new coronavirus with medical equipment and humanitarian workers. 

WHO reported that its logistics hub in Dubai has been working tirelessly to dispatch more than130 shipments of PPE and laboratory supplies to 95 countries, across all six WHO regions.  “Commercial flights are grounded and medical cargo is stuck. We can stop this virus in its tracks, but we’ve got to work together”, said David Beasley, WFP’s Executive Director.   “WFP is committed to getting vital medical supplies to front lines and shielding medical workers as they save lives. Our air bridges need to be fully funded to do this, and we stand ready to transport frontline health and humanitarian workers as well as medical cargo.”

To sustain such a massive logistical operation, WFP has appealed for $350 million, but it has so far only received a quarter of that amount. “We badly need funding and we stand ready to set up a logistical backbone for (the) global response effort”, Ms. Byrs said. 

Solidarity is key, says WHO: Partnering in the enterprise, the UN health agency is highlighting the need for solidarity between countries and organisations to overcome the pandemic. “This is an indication of how crucial it is and how important it is that we are all working across agencies and how this COVID response has to be an across UN response. This is how the world is going to beat it,” said Spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris. 

In addition to face masks, gloves and goggles, other vitally needed personal protective equipment being transported includes face shields, medical gowns, aprons and thermometers.  The UN health agency said in a statement that the cargo also includes “a large quantity” of medical supplies donated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and the Jack Ma Foundation Initiative, started by the Chinese billionaire who founded the Alibaba Group.

The African Union, through the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), is providing technical support and coordination for the distribution of the supplies.  In addition to dispatching vitally needed medical equipment and workers across Africa as part of the COVID-19 response, the Addis Ababa Humanitarian Air Hub will also ensuring medical evacuations for humanitarian workers.  A team of 25 WFP aviation and logistics staff is based at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa to manage the 24-hour operation, the agency said.  

COVID-19 STRATEGIC PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE PLAN Country Preparedness and Response Status for COVID-19 as of 13 April 2020 — World Health Organisation

 (This information will be better understood by Public Health Officials and Health Experts who know how to follow up — Terrific Headlines)

 All countries are at risk and need to prepare for and respond to COVID-19. Each country is encouraged to plan its preparedness and response actions in line with the global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan1.

Support will be prioritized to countries with weak health systems and significant gaps in preparedness capacity for technical and operational implementation. The support will be implemented through global, regional and country-level activities and be allocated based on needs and availability of funds. To facilitate the global planning process including the identification of the overall response envelope required, a preliminary categorization of countries was conducted based on:

  1. Operational readiness capacities based on the IHR (2005) State Parties Annual Reporting (SPAR) tool, which is a self-assessment.
  2. Current position on a continuum of response scenarios: preparedness, high-risk of imported cases, imported cases, localized transmission, and community transmission. The operational readiness categorization was refined based on additional information from voluntary external evaluations, pandemic influenza preparedness plans, country readiness assessment for health emergencies, missions to the countries, as well as the most up-to-date country specific COVID-19 situation analyses.

The resulting preliminary country categorization list can be found in the table below. This categorization will be updated regularly based on the evolving COVID-19 situation in each country and specific country risk and capacity assessments which will be conducted to identify key response requirements as the situation evolves. This will impact the total global resource envelope required over time.