News in Brief 24 February 2020

News in Brief 24 February 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations 

UN chief issues ‘Call to Action’ on human rights  

With basic human rights “under assault”, the UN Secretary-General on Monday launched a Call to Action aimed at boosting equality and reducing suffering everywhere.  

António Guterres was addressing the opening of the latest session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. 

“Human rights are about the dignity and worth of the human person. They expand the horizons of hope, enlarge the boundaries of the possible, and unleash the best of ourselves and our world.” 

The UN chief outlined a seven-point blueprint for positive change. 

It calls for putting human rights at the centre of global efforts to achieve a sustainable future for all people and the planet. 

The plan also highlights the need for more action to prevent violence against women, which the UN chief called “the world’s most pervasive human rights abuse”. 

Other priorities covered include the crucial role of human rights as a crisis prevention mechanism, empowering civil society, and advocating for the application of human rights online.  

COVID-19 not a pandemic: UN health agency  

While a sudden increase in new cases of COVID-19 is of concern, the disease outbreak is not a pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday. 

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained that the decision to use the word “pandemic” to describe an epidemic is based on an ongoing assessment of the geographical spread of the virus, the severity of disease it causes, and the impact on society. 

Speaking in Geneva, he said: “For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death”.  

A WHO joint mission with China concluded work on Monday. 

While the country has reported more than 77,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 2,600 deaths, WHO reported that cases are declining.   

Outside China, there were 2,074 cases of COVID-19 in 28 countries, with 23 deaths.   

The agency chief described the sudden increase of cases in Italy, Iran and South Korea as “deeply concerning”. 

Syria: Senior UN aid official warns of potential ‘bloodbath’ in Idlib 

 A senior UN humanitarian official warns that “a real bloodbath” could occur in northwest Syria as people continue to flee ongoing military operations in the last opposition-held stronghold in the country. 

Mark Cutts, the UN Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, told journalists in Geneva on Monday that the fighting in Idlib is pushing civilians into an ever-decreasing space near the border with Turkey.  

“The fighting is now coming dangerously close to the area where more than a million are living in tents and makeshift shelters, so it’s an extremely alarming situation, because if airstrikes move and shelling move any further into that area, we are no doubt going to see a real bloodbath, a real massacre of civilians in that area”.  

The violence has uprooted nearly 900,000 people since December, according to UN estimates. 

Mr. Cutts reported that while aid is flowing into affected areas through cross-border deliveries from Turkey, more assistance is needed. 

The UN recently revised an emergency appeal from $336 million to some $500 million, aimed at reaching more than one million people in the region.   

Dianne Penn, UN News. 


- UN chief outlines 7-point Call of Action on human rights
- COVID-19 is not yet a pandemic, says head of WHO
- Syria: Senior aid official warns of potential 'bloodbath' in Idlib

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Dianne Penn, UN News
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