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CORONAVIRUS – UNITED NATIONS AGAIN TASKS GOVTS GLOBALLY ON IMMEDIATE ACTIONS – Protection of vulnerable children ranks high.

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  • Protect the vulnerable
  • Provide economic assistance, including cash transfers, to low-income families and minimize disruptions to social and healthcare services for children.
  • Prioritize the most vulnerable – children in conflict situations; child refugees and displaced persons; children living with disabilities.
  • Commit to building back better by using the recovery from COVID-19 to pursue a more sustainable and inclusive economy and society in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • World Health Organisation laments death of over 40,000 people worldwide in one week.
  • 123,00 deaths reported so far

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the globe, we are seeing an alarming pattern.  The poorest and most vulnerable members of society are being hardest hit, both by the pandemic and the response.  I am especially concerned about the well-being of the world’s children.  Thankfully, children have so far been largely spared from the most severe symptoms of the disease.  But their lives are being totally upended.

Foregoing is contained in the UN Secretary-General’s statement on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on Children released today in New-York. Mr. Antonio Guterres stated that: I appeal to families everywhere, and leaders at all levels: protect our children.  Today we are launching a report that highlights the risks they face.  The Director-General of the World Health Organisation also gave his daily briefing in Geneva. Secretary-General Guterres asserted that the following be accorded immediate attention:

  • First, education.

Almost all students are now out of school.  Some schools are offering distance learning, but this is not available to all.   Children in countries with slow and expensive Internet services are severely disadvantaged.

  • Second, food. 

A staggering 310 million schoolchildren – nearly half of the world’s total – rely on school for a regular source of daily nutrition.  Even before Covid-19 the world faced unacceptable rates of childhood malnutrition and stunting.

  • Third, safety. 

With children out of school, their communities in lockdown and a global recession biting deeper, family stress levels are rising.

Children are both victims and witnesses of domestic violence and abuse.  With schools closed, an important early warning mechanism is missing.  There is also a danger that girls will drop out of school, leading to an increase in teenage pregnancies.

And we must not ignore the growing risks children are facing as they spend more time online.  This can leave children vulnerable to online sexual exploitation and grooming.   A lack of face-to-face contact with friends and partners may lead to heightened risk-taking such as sending sexualized images.  And increased and unstructured time online may expose children to potentially harmful and violent content as well as greater risk of cyberbullying.  Governments and parents all have a role in keeping children safe.  Social media companies have a special responsibility to protect the vulnerable.

Fourth, health.  Reduced household income will force poor families to cut back on essential health and food expenditures, particularly affecting children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers.  Polio vaccination campaigns have been suspended.  Measles immunization campaigns have stopped in at least 23 countries.  And as health services become overwhelmed, sick children are less able to access care.  With the global recession gathering pace, there could be hundreds of thousands additional child deaths in 2020.  These are just some of the findings of the report we are issuing today.

Its conclusion is clear. We must act now on each of these threats to our children.  Leaders must do everything in their power to cushion the impact of the pandemic.  What started as a public health emergency has snowballed into a formidable test for the global promise to leave no one behind.

  • The report urges governments and donors to prioritize education for all children.
  • It recommends they provide economic assistance, including cash transfers, to low-income families and minimize disruptions to social and healthcare services for children.
  • We must also prioritize the most vulnerable – children in conflict situations; child refugees and displaced persons; children living with disabilities.
  • Finally, we must commit to building back better by using the recovery from COVID-19 to pursue a more sustainable and inclusive economy and society in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • With the pandemic placing so many of the world’s children in jeopardy, I reiterate my urgent appeal: let us protect our children and safeguard their well-being.

 CORONAVIRUS – WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION LAMENTS MORE THAN 40,000 DEATHS IN ONE WEEK – 123,000 deaths recorded so far. — WHO Director-General’s Briefing on COVID-19

Excellencies, colleagues, and friends,

Good morning.

Almost 2 million cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO from around the world, and more than 123,000 deaths. That’s more than 40,000 more deaths since I spoke to you last week.  This is an alarming and tragic increase.  At the same time, we’re seeing encouraging signs in some countries that have been the epicenter of the pandemic.  As you know, some countries are now considering lifting social and economic restrictions.  This is something we all want – but it must be done extremely carefully.  If done too quickly, we risk a resurgence that could be even worse than our present situation.  Our new strategy update outlines six factors for countries as they consider lifting restrictions.

  • First, that transmission is controlled;
  • Second, that health system capacities are in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact;
  • Third, that outbreak risks are minimized in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes;
  • Fourth, that preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools and other places where it’s essential for people to go;
  • Fifth, that importation risks can be managed;
  • And sixth, that communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the “new norm”.

At the same time, the virus is moving into countries and communities where many people live in overcrowded conditions, and physical distancing is nearly impossible.   COVID-19 magnifies our existing health inequalities. Governments must consider that for some countries and communities, stay-at-home orders may not be practical, and may even cause unintended harm.  Millions of people around the world must work every day to put food on the table. They cannot stay at home for long periods of time without assistance.

We are concerned by some reports in the media about violence erupting as a result of physical distancing restrictions.  We’re also concerned by reports of an increasing trend in domestic violence linked to the stay-at-home measures. This must be an area of focus for all countries.  Meanwhile, schools have closed for an estimated 1.4 billion children. This has halted their education, opened some to increased risk of abuse, and deprived many children of their primary source of nutrition and health care.

The pandemic is also disrupting the provision of essential health services and hampering our fight against other priority diseases.  Vaccination campaigns for polio have already been put on hold, and other vaccination programs are at risk because of border closures and disruptions to travel.  Since Friday there have been four new cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after 54 days without a new case.

I would like to use this opportunity, taking you back to COVID, to make a few remarks about wet markets.  Reports in some media on WHO’s view on the re-opening of wet markets in China are not correct.  The World Health Organization’s position remains that all sectors affected by COVID-19—including food markets—in China and around the world need to ensure strong regulatory systems, high standards of cleanliness, hygiene and safety once they are in a position to gradually resume normal activities.

WHO maintains that governments should rigorously enforce bans on the sale of wildlife. And they must enforce food safety and hygiene regulations to ensure that food that is sold in markets is safe.  WHO has provided guidance and support to countries on safe and healthy markets, including guidance for food businesses on COVID-19 and on food safety and live markets.   WHO has been working closely with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, to prevent zoonotic diseases in all concerned sectors.

WHO is committed to working with all countries to find tailored solutions to stop transmission, while ensuring essential health services continue and mitigating the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.  Only by working together will we bring this pandemic under control. The work has to happen not only at the international and national level, but also at the community level.   I’ve been seeing some good news stories.   Earlier this week I had the honour of speaking to leaders from the ASEAN-plus-three countries.  As a result of their experience with SARS and avian influenza, these countries have put in place measures and systems that are now helping them to detect and respond to COVID-19.

In Africa, people are mobilizing.  Long experience with managing diseases like HIV and tuberculosis means that some countries already have the expertise, laboratory infrastructure, and networks of community health workers that will be critical in containing COVID-19.  There are also reports of community groups in poor neighborhoods setting up hand-washing stations and distributing soap, bleach and hand sanitizer, and actively combatting misinformation.  Other countries are working on proactive screening, putting in hand washing stations at transport hubs, and creating call centres and celebrity campaigns to raise awareness.

Last week, we launched the United Nations Supply Chain Task Force, with the World Food Programme and other partners inside and outside the UN.  This emergency supply chain is designed to cover more than 30% of the world’s needs in the acute phase of the pandemic.  It will have hubs in eight countries and will deploy sixteen 747s and medium-sized cargo aircraft, plus passenger planes.  Every month we will be shipping millions of supplies, including personal protective gear, respirators, lab equipment and oxygen, as well as medical and technical staff.

The first Solidarity Flight took off on Tuesday, and more will follow.  Today I’m pleased to welcome Amer Daoudi, the Director of Logistics and Food Procurement at the World Food Programme.  We’re working with my brother David Beasley very closely. Thank you, Amer, and thank you to the World Food Programme for your support and partnership.  The WFP estimates it will need approximately US$280 million, simply to cover the costs of storing and moving supplies. The costs of procuring supplies will be much greater.

We urge donors to support this vitally important system and the World Food Programme.  We’re all in this together. And we will only succeed together.

I thank you.