This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Countries free of COVID-19 must be better prepared
As cases of COVID-19 infection continue to climb, UN health agency chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus repeated on Thursday, his warning that some countries are not doing enough to combat the disease.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization Director-General announced that the outbreak could be described as a pandemic.
Almost 125,000 cases have been reported from around 120 countries. The number of cases reported outside China, in the past two weeks, has increased almost 13-fold.
Speaking in Geneva, the WHO chief insisted that all countries had “lessons to share” about how to prevent infections, save lives and minimize the impact of the disease.
He insisted that the agency was playing its part, with more than 176,000 people enrolling in COVID-19 training courses on the “OpenWHO” online platform.
Mr. Ghebreyesus also said that more than $440 million has been pledged to support WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan appeal.
This prioritizes support for countries with weak health systems and significant gaps in preparedness.
Yemen at ‘critical juncture’
Yemen is at a “critical juncture”, the UN Special Envoy for the country told the Security Council on Thursday.
Speaking via video-link, Martin Griffiths said that the combatants will either move towards de-escalation or greater violence, which would make “the path to the negotiating table more arduous”.
Since 2014, Houthis rebels have been fighting the internationally-recognized Government and their allies for control of Yemen.
Mr. Griffiths said that “the most alarming military escalation” has taken place in Al Jawf, the governate east of the Houthi-held capital city, Sana’a. He expressed concern that the surge in fighting may trigger conflicts in other governorates, which would “drag Yemen into a new and irresponsible cycle of violence”.
The UN envoy underscored that “thousands of families have been displaced by the recent fighting and are in critical need of shelter and assistance”.
He reiterated that indiscriminate attacks on civilians are “unlawful and reprehensible” and urged them to exercise maximum restraint.
In a bid to stop the fighting, Mr. Griffiths said he’d visited the latest conflict zone northeast of Sana’a, to hear the concerns there.
“I heard from people in Ma’rib a strong demand for peace. But not a peace that would be dictated from a position of military dominance…I wish to be very clear, there is no justification for military escalation in Marib. Ma’rib must not become the next epicenter of Yemen’s tragic conflict”.
UN human rights experts celebrate release of Bolivian Government critic
The release of a high-profile critic of the Bolivian Government was welcomed on Thursday by a UN rights panel after calling his detention arbitrary, and in violation of fundamental human rights.
The development comes days after the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that the Mayor of the city of Cochabamba, José María Leyes, had been held after a trial “replete with violations of due process guarantees”.
Elected in 2015, Mr. Leyes denounced the Government's alleged attacks on the opposition as “ongoing political persecution” in the country, the UN panel said in Geneva.
He became a “target” of persecution and the Government of recently ousted President Evo Morales, and faced more than a dozen criminal complaints, the independent rights experts said.
In a ruling, they declared that his trial had not been impartial and independent and that “the executive branch had unduly interfered with the judiciary”.
Liz Scaffidi, UN News.