This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Coronavirus: demand for facemasks has created shortfall for those in real need
Unprecedented global demand for facemasks and other protective equipment fuelled by the coronavirus epidemic has created potentially dangerous shortages for those who need them most, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced.
At a news conference in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged against stockpiling to ensure that healthworkers and those infected with the virus could still obtain them.
He said that he had decided to speak to manufacturers of personal protective equipment – PPE for short – to ensure that medical staff in particular received surgical masks.
“Demand is up to 100 times higher than normal and prices are up to 20 times higher. This situation has been exacerbated by widespread and inappropriate use of PPE outside patient care. As a result, there are now depleted stockpiles and backlogs of four to six months. Global stocks of masks and respirators are now insufficient to meet the needs of WHO and our partners.”
As of Friday, there have been 31,211 confirmed cases of the respiratory disease in China and 637 deaths, after it was declared on 31 December in Wuhan city in the centre of the country.
Outside China, there are 270 infections in 24 countries and one person has died.
Although the last two days have seen fewer reported new infections in China, the WHO chief cautioned against “reading too much” into that development.
Citing reports received from the Chinese authorities on 17,000 cases of coronavirus, WHO said that 82 per cent of cases displayed mild symptoms, 15 per cent were severe and three per cent were critical.
Thousands forced to flee violent gangs in Mozambique
Renewed violence in Mozambique has forced thousands of people to flee for their lives, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, said on Friday.
Attacks on communities by unidentified armed groups have been happening since October 2019, the agency said.
But reports of a dramatic increase in the number and brutality of these incidents in recent weeks have created a rapidly worsening situation, said spokesperson Andrej Mahecic:
“Armed groups have been randomly targeting local villages and terrorizing the local population. Those fleeing speak of killings, maiming, and torture, burnt homes, destroyed crops and shops. We have reports of beheadings, kidnappings and disappearances of women and children... At the request of the Mozambican Government to all humanitarian agencies, UNHCR is expanding its presence in the province to better respond to the growing needs of the displaced population.”
In Cabo Delgado, Mozambique’s northernmost province, at least 28 attacks have been carried out since the beginning of the year, in nine of its 16 districts.
This has led to at least 100,000 civilians fleeing “in many directions, including to small islands where many have nowhere to stay”, according to Mr. Mahecic.
Many areas affected by the attacks were devasted by Cyclone Kenneth in April 2019.
People in Cabo Delgado have also been seriously affected by recent floods, which destroyed bridges, further limiting their access to food and other resources.
Climate crisis fears fulled as Antarctica posts record temperature reading of 18.3°C
Fresh fears of accelerating damage to the planet’s ice sheets and sea level rise have been fuelled by confirmation from the UN’s weather agency that the Antarctic likely saw a new temperature record of 18.3 degrees Celsius on Thursday.
In Geneva, spokesperson Clare Nullis from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that the record reading taken in the north of the continent, would be considered unusual, even during the current warmer summer months.
“It’s among the fastest-warming regions of the planet. We hear a lot about the Arctic, but this particular part of the Antarctic peninsula is warming very quickly. Over the past 50 years it’s warmed almost 3°C.”
Amid steadily warming temperatures, Ms. Nullis also noted that the amount of ice lost annually from the Antarctic ice sheet “increased at least six-fold between 1979 and 2017”.
Turning to glacier melt, Ms. Nullis warned that around “87 per cent of glaciers along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated in the last 50 years, with most of these showing an accelerated retreat in the last 12 years”.
Concern is particularly high over the main glacier tributaries to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, in particular the Pine Island glacier, where two large rifts that were first spotted in early 2019 have each grown to some 20 kilometres long.
Its immense ice sheet is up to 4.8 kilometres thick and contains 90 per cent of the world’s fresh water, enough to raise sea level by around 60 metres, were it all to melt.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.