Month: July 2021 (Page 2 of 4)

UNICEF warns: Public water system on the verge of collapse in Lebanon.

The public water system in Lebanon is “on life support” and could collapse at any moment, putting 71 per cent of the population, or more than four million people, at immediate risk of losing access to safe supply, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, warned on Friday. 

Most water pumping will gradually cease in the next four to six weeks, the United Nations agency estimated, due to the escalating economic crisis and shortages in funding and supplies, such as chlorine and spare parts. 

A collapse could lead to water prices rising by 200 per cent a month as families rush to secure alternative or private suppliers. 

“The water sector is being squeezed to destruction by the current economic crisis in Lebanon, unable to function due to the dollarized maintenance costs, water loss caused by non-revenue water, the parallel collapse of the power grid and the threat of rising fuel costs,” said Yukie MokuoUNICEF Representative in the country. 

“A loss of access to the public water supply could force households to make extremely difficult decisions regarding their basic water, sanitation and hygiene needs,” she added. 

A UNICEF assessment based on data from Lebanon’s four main public utility companies revealed that more than 70 per cent of people are now living with “highly critical” and “critical” levels of vulnerability. 

Nearly 1.7 million people have access to just 35 litres a day, compared with the national average of 165 litres prior to 2020, or a nearly 80 per cent decrease. 

“At the height of the summer months, with COVID-19 cases beginning to rise again due to the Delta variant, Lebanon’s precious public water system is on life support and could collapse at any moment,” Ms Mokuo said according UN News.

UNICEF requires $40 million a year to secure the minimum levels of fuel, chlorine, spare parts and maintenance necessary to keep critical systems operational.  

Ms. Mokuo underscored the need for urgent action as facilities such as schools and hospitals will not be able to function, and millions will be forced to resort to unsafe and expensive water sources. 

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Africa: COVID-19 ‘third wave’ not yet over, while vaccine inequity threatens all.

Although new COVID-19 cases in Africa have slowed following an eight-week surge, this “small step forward” could be short-lived, the Regional Office of the World Health Organization said on Thursday. 

Cases on the continent fell by 1.7 per cent this week to nearly 282,000, largely due to a sharp decline in South Africa, home to the bulk of reported infections.

However, removing the country from the data would show an 18 per cent increase, or more than 182,000 cases: what the UN agency called a uniquely steep and unbroken nine-week surge. 

“Be under no illusions, Africa’s third wave is absolutely not over.

This small step forward offers hope and inspiration but must not mask the big picture for Africa,” said Dr Matshidiso MoetiWHO Regional Director for Africa.   

“Many countries are still at peak risk and Africa’s third wave surged up faster and higher than ever before.

The Eid celebrations which we marked this week may also result in a rise in cases. We must all double down on prevention measures to build on these fragile gains.”  

WHO said 21 African countries have seen cases rise by over 20 per cent for at least two consecutive weeks, which is three more than in the previous week. 

The highly transmissible Delta variant has been found in 26 countries, while the Alpha and Beta variants have been reported in 38 and 35 nations, respectively.  

The WHO has been urging Governments to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations as the squeeze on vaccine shipments eases.   

Some 60 million doses should be arriving on the continent in the coming weeks, including from the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom and through the COVAX global solidarity initiative.  

COVAX is also expected to deliver over half a billion doses alone this year. 

“A massive influx of doses means that Africa must go all out and speed up the vaccine rollout by five to six times if we are to get all these doses into arms and fully vaccinate the most vulnerable 10 per cent of all Africans by the end of September,” said Dr. Moeti.  

Around 3.5 million to four million vaccines are administered weekly in Africa, but numbers will have to rise to 21 million weekly at minimum to reach the September goal. 

So far, the continent has received just 1.7 per cent of the world’s 3.7 billion doses, and 20 million people there, only 1.5 per cent of the population, have been fully inoculated according UN News.

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Tedros, the WHO Director-General: “Tokyo Olympic Games has the power to inspire”.

The head of the United Nations World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has welcomed the start of the Olympic and Paralympic Games as a chance to spread “hope to the world”.

Speaking in the Japanese capital Tokyo, he said the world must unite with “determination, dedication and discipline” to triumph over the COVID-19 pandemic.

“More than any other event (the Games) have the power to bring the world together; to inspire; to show what is possible,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization told the International Olympic Committee, with the Olympic flame in his hand. 

He warned that the world was now in the early stages of another wave of infections and deaths, urging all countries to embark on a “massive global push” to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of their populations by September. 

Today, 75 per cent of vaccines have been administered in just 10 countries, Tedros said, while in low income countries, “only one per cent of people have received at least one dose”. 

The WHO chief said that the world’s failure to share vaccines, tests, and treatments, including oxygen, is fuelling “a two-track pandemic” between the haves who are opening up, and the have-nots who are locking down. 

“This is not just a moral outrage; it’s also epidemiologically and economically self-defeating”, he said, warning that the longer the inequity persists, the slower the recovery will be.  

More transmissions will lead to more potentially dangerous mutations, even greater than the devastating Delta variant, he cautioned. 
 
“And the more variants, the higher the likelihood that one of them will evade vaccines and take us all back to square one”, signalled the WHO official, reiterating that “none of us is safe until all of us are”. 

According UN News Tedros called the pandemic a test in which “the world is failing” and reminded that we are not in a race against each other, but against the virus. 

“In the time it takes me to make these remarks, more than 100 people will lose their lives to COVID-19”, he said. “And by the time the Olympic flame is extinguished on the 8th of August, more than 100,000 more people will perish”. 

COVID has already taken more than four million lives, and the toll continues to rise as the number of deaths this year, has already more than double last year’s total, according to the WHO chief. 

“The people of the world are sick and tired”, he said, “sick of the virus…the lives and livelihoods it has taken…the suffering it has caused… the restrictions and disruptions to their lives…the turmoil it has caused to economies and societies…[and] the dark clouds it has cast over our futures”. 

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A bomb attack on eve of Eid al-Adha in Iraq, ‘terrorism knows no bounds’.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres strongly condemned the “horrific bomb attack targeting civilians” at a busy market in the north-east of the Iraqi capital Al-Sadr City, just before the Eid al-Adha holiday.

Eid al-Adha ‘Festival of the Sacrifice’) is the latter of the two official holidays celebrated within Islam.

Eid al-Adha honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ishmael (in Judaism, Isaac) as an act of obedience to God’s command.

In a statement issued on Monday night, Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq said that the UN chief called the deadly attack in Baghdad’s Al-Sadr City “a reminder to us all that the scourge of terrorism knows no bounds”. 

At least 30 people were killed and dozens of others wounded when a bomb exploded in the Iraqi capital, according to security sources. 

The device exploded in the Al-Wuhailat market as families prepared for the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha on Tuesday. 

Mr. Guterres extended his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, the Government and people of Iraq and wished the injured a speedy recovery. 

“The Secretary-General underlines the need for the perpetrators of this crime to be swiftly brought to justice”, the statement read. 

According UN News the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also lamented the deaths, which included children, and the injuries sustained by those in the blast. 

“This horrific attack right before Eid Al-Adha is a terrible reminder of the violence Iraqi children continue to face”, said the UNICEF Representative in the country, Sheema Sen Gupta. 

“Those children were just preparing for the special days to come with their families”, she added.  

The UN official reminded that children should be protected at all times and grow in a safe environment free from any form of violence. 

“On the eve of Eid Al-Adha and as Iraqis mourn this sad moment, UNICEF calls for all actors in Iraq to work together towards a safer Iraq where children do not have to live in fear and where they enjoy their very basic activities and rights”, she concluded. 

News sources called it the deadliest bombing in Baghdad in six months and reported that the IS terrorist network claimed to be behind the blast, saying one of its members detonated an explosive vest. 

Although the Government declared victory in its war against the jihadist group at the end of 2017, so called “sleeper cells” continue to wage a low-level insurgency in the country. 

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Fewer women will regain jobs lost to the COVID-19 pandemic according the International Labour Organization.

According a new study released on Monday by the UN`s labour agency fewer women will regain jobs lost to the COVID-19 pandemic during the recovery period, than men.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) highlights that between 2019 and 2020, women’s employment declined by 4.2 per cent globally, representing 54 million jobs, while men suffered a three per cent decline, or 60 million jobs. 

This means that there will be 13 million fewer women in employment this year compared to 2019, but the number of men in work will likely recover to levels seen two years ago.

This means that only 43 per cent of the world’s working-age women will be employed in 2021, compared to 69 per cent of their male counterparts. 

The International Labour Organization paper suggests that women have seen disproportionate job and income losses because they are over-represented in the sectors hit hardest by lockdowns, such as accommodation, food services and manufacturing according UN News.

Fewer women will regain jobs lost to the COVID-19 pandemic

Not all regions have been affected in the same way. 

For example, the study revealed that women’s employment was hit hardest in the Americas, falling by more than nine per cent.  

This was followed by the Arab States at just over four per cent, then Asia-Pacific at 3.8 per cent, Europe at 2.5 per cent and Central Asia at 1.9 per cent. 

In Africa, men’s employment dropped by just 0.1 per cent between 2019 and 2020, while women’s employment decreased by 1.9 per cent. 

Throughout the pandemic, women faired considerably better in countries that took measures to prevent them from losing their jobs and allowed them to get back into the workforce as early as possible. 

In Chile and Colombia, for example, wage subsidies were applied to new hires, with higher subsidy rates for women.  

And Colombia and Senegal were among those nations which created or strengthened support for women entrepreneurs.  

Meanwhile, in Mexico and Kenya quotas were established to guarantee that women benefited from public employment programmes. 

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Boris Johnson: ‘Please, please be cautious’ as we lift COVID rules.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the British public to be cautious and said they must self-isolate when told to do so as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in England on Monday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday urged caution as the legal lockdown restrictions come to an end in England on so-called ‘Freedom Day’, even as he remains in self-isolation after coming in contact with UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid who has tested positive for Covid-19.

Coronavirus Freedom Day

“Please, please, please, be cautious,” Johnson said in a video from his own period of self-isolation, which was announced earlier on Sunday.

“Go forward tomorrow into the next step with all the right prudence and respect for other people, for the risks that the disease continues to present and, above all, please please please when you’re asked to get that second jab … please come forward and do it.”

Boris Johnson warned of the ‘extreme contagiousness’ of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which continues to keep the infection rate in the country at very high levels.

Under Step Four of the government’s four-step roadmap to end lockdown, Covid restrictions have now been replaced with guidance emphasising personal judgment and responsibility on face masks in indoor settings and caution in large gatherings. 

“We’re doing a big opening up, and that’s quite right. If we don’t do it now we’ll be opening up in the autumn and winter months when the virus has the advantage of the cold weather.

We’ll lose the precious firebreak we get with the school holidays,” said Johnson in a video posted on Twitter.

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Nelson Mandela day: Call for ‘dignity, equality, justice and human rights’ rings out.

Nelson Mandela International Day is an opportunity to reflect on the life and legacy of “a legendary global advocate for dignity, equality, justice and human rights”, the United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said on Sunday.

“Each year, on this day, Nelson’s Mandela’s birthday, we pay tribute to this extraordinary man who embodied the highest aspirations of the United Nations and the human family”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message commemorating the 18 July celebration of South Africa’s first Black head of State.  

Affectionately known as Madiba, his calls for solidarity and an end to racism are particularly relevant today, as social cohesion around the world is under threat of division.  

With hate speech on the rise and misinformation blurring the truth, questioning science and undermining democratic institutions, societies are becoming more polarized, said the UN chief.  

Nelson Mandela International Day

And the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has not only made these ills more acute but also rolled back years of progress in the global fight against poverty.  

“As always in times of crises, it is the marginalized and discriminated against who suffer the most, often while being blamed for problems they did not cause”, said Mr. Guterres according UN News.

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ECOSOC President: “Act now to provide COVID-19 vaccines for all”.

The President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Munir Akram, said on friday: ensuring COVID-19 vaccines for all will be critical if the world is to defeat the pandemic in his address to the closing its high-level segment.

ECOSOC is one of the six main organs of the United Nations, and the pandemic is unfolding during its 75th anniversary.

Reflecting on the past year, Mr. Akram recalled how the Council responded to the crisis, and climate and development challenges, including through drawing attention to the special needs of the world’s least developed nations.

He urged countries to build on convergence and consensus achieved to confront major tasks ahead, starting with ensuring everyone, everywhere, is protected against the virus.

“Universal and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines is essential to defeat the virus and to revive global trade, investment and growth.  

We have agreed on what needs to be done.

We must now do it,” he said, according UN News.

COVID-19 vaccines for all

ECOSOC promotes collective action for a sustainable world.

The meeting was held one day after the conclusion of its annual High Level Political Forum (HLPF) to review progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Developing countries will need $4.3 trillion to recover from the triple crises and to realize the 17 goals by 2030.

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Funding shortfall amid deepening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Senior UN official Ramiz Alakbarov on Thursday urged donors to step up support for Afghanistan, where ongoing drought and increased military operations amid foreign troop withdrawal, are displacing scores of civilians, creating a growing humanitarian crisis. 

According UN News: Ramiz Alakbarov, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, said a $1.3 billion appeal, launched earlier this year, is less than 40 per cent funded.

Some 18 million Afghans, or half the population, require assistance.

A third of the country is malnourished, while half of all children under five are experiencing acute malnutrition. 

The $450 million received so far, half of which came from the United States, falls far short of what is needed. 

“Our plan is to provide assistance to at least 15.7 million people, and right now it will not be possible without these additional contributions,” said Mr. Alakbarov, speaking via videoconference to journalists in New York. 

The developments are occurring as the deadline for foreign troops to fully withdraw from the country approaches. 

The drought, the second in three years, and ongoing military response in the wake of a “spring offensive” by the Taliban, have uprooted some 270,000 people who have fled rural areas for urban centres. 

In the northern city of Kunduz, for example, roughly 35,000 displaced people are being housed in schools and public buildings, and need food, water and sanitation.

The fundamentalist Taliban who have been fighting the internationally-recognized central Government for years, have taken over all districts surrounding the city. 

Afghanistan

Meanwhile, neighbouring countries, such as Iran, have been deporting Afghan refugees from their territories.  

Humanitarians are also witnessing “very intensive” population movements in areas near the borders with Iran and Pakistan, which are now largely closed. 

The closures have not yet affected humanitarians as aid stocks are sufficient to last through the end of August. 

Mr. Alakbarov has visited five regions of Afghanistan in as many weeks.

The UN official was particularly concerned about the plight of women and girls, who are facing “very difficult conditions”. 

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‘Deeply negative impact’ of COVID pandemic, reverses Sustainable Development Goals progress.

Closing a key international development forum on Thursday, the deputy UN chief Amina Mohammed observed that a year of “immense challenges” has reversed progress on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

After eight “solid days” of deliberations at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), Amina Mohammed attributed the COVID pandemic to “a reversal of SDG progress in some areas, and delayed action on many of the major transitions required to meet our 2030 goals”. 

She said the pandemic has had a “deeply negative impact” on health and well-being; employment, businesses, incomes, education; and human rights, with “a particularly damaging effect on women and girls”. 

Throughout the Forum, according UN News: during which nine Global Goals and 47 Voluntary National Review outcomes were examined in depth, many participants observed that some of the measures put in place during the pandemic could provide a foundation for SDG progress

Global Goals

Ms. Mohammed gave the examples of digital learning, which could help to transform education more broadly, along with building on critical fiscal support many countries had provided to their economy, jobs and people.   

“Governments should now consider whether some of these measures can be integrated into comprehensive social protection systems”, said the UN official. 

Recovery efforts can be designed both to restart economies and accelerate SDG implementation.  

Ms. Mohammed said that stimulus packages and Special Drawing Rights for foreign exchange reserves, can be leveraged to advance gender equality, boost investment in education, health and social protection.

They could also be used to accelerate climate change mitigation and generate decent jobs.   

But there can be no pandemic recovery without “international solidarity and cooperation”, including through climate finance and financing for development, she added.   

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