This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Coronavirus containment ‘still the priority’ as cases rise
Governments should continue to treat containment of the coronavirus as a priority, the head of the UN health agency, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Monday.
Speaking in Geneva after he described cases identified so far of infection in people with no travel history to China as possibly the “tip of the iceberg”, the World Health Organization Director-General warned that while the spread of the respiratory disease appeared to be slow, it could accelerate.
“The detection of this small number of cases could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire but for now it’s only a spark. Our objective remains containment, we call on all countries to use the window of opportunity that we have to prevent a bigger fire.”
As of Monday, WHO reported 40,235 confirmed cases in China, where the virus was declared on 31 December - and 909 deaths.
Outside the country there have been 319 cases in 24 countries and one death, with reports of infections in France and the United Kingdom in the past two days.
The overall pattern had not changed, Tedros told journalists.
Ninety-nine per cent of all cases were in China and most sufferers displayed mild symptoms, while two per cent were fatal.
As part of measures to coordinate an international response to the epidemic, WHO has sent an advance team of international epidemiology experts to Beijing, to assist the authorities with the outbreak.
Leading them is Dr. Bruce Aylward, who was recently responsible for coordinating the agency’s response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
His job will be to “lay the groundwork” for a larger international team of experts which is expected to follow to China.
Locust threat ‘increases further’ in Horn of Africa
New locust swarms are expected to hatch in the coming weeks in the Horn of Africa, adding to the already “unprecedented threat” to food security there, the UN said on Monday.
In its latest alert, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) confirmed that the Desert Locust reached Uganda and Tanzania on Sunday.
East African nations have been battling with enormous swarms of desert locusts since the beginning of 2020 in what experts have called the worst outbreak in decades.
Infestations are already threatening crops and livelihoods in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia and swarms of the winged insects have appeared on both sides of the Red Sea coast, including in Yemen.
According to the UN Environment Programme, UNEP, the emergency is likely linked to the fact that the last five years have been hotter than any other since the industrial revolution, with abnormally high rainfall in East African nations that has multiplied locust populations.
Plea for action to stop 3,700 people dying every day on world’s roads
And finally, a staggering 3,700 people die on the world’s roads every day.
That terrifying statistic was unveiled by the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety Jean Todt, as part of a bid to boost traffic safety, particularly in developing nations, where nine in 10 traffic deaths happen.
Ahead of a Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Sweden, Mr. Todt called for bold measures between now and 2030 to prevent crashes.
Together with the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the World Health Organization, the Special Envoy for Road Safety also pointed out how alleged gaps in car safety could be addressed by manufacturers:
“You will buy a car in Switzerland which will look the same as the car that you can buy in Nigeria or Colombia and it will not be the same…I mean, a lot of new technology that we call Driver X – like electronic stability control. It is a cheap device - it’s about a 25 per cent reduction on road crashes - and you don’t have that available on the cars that look the same in a lot of other countries.”
Mr. Todt noted that although the Sustainable Development Goals included action on traffic safety, more governments needed to realize that road crashes cost them up to five per cent of their economic wealth – preventing investment in schools, hospitals, access to water and sanitation and much-needed climate change prevention measures.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.