This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Aid agencies push for workarounds in Libya as COVID-19 hampers distributions
In Libya, UN aid agencies on Tuesday insisted that they are working tirelessly to get aid to where it is needed most, while preventing the spread of COVID-19 there amid continuing violence.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the country has eight confirmed cases of the disease – six in Misrata and two in Tripoli – and more than 100 suspected cases.
Spokesperson Jens Laerke said that clashes between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (or GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA) – and COVID-19 restriction measures – were hampering humanitarian access and the movement of medical and other humanitarian personnel.
The new coronavirus has already disrupted global shipping and air supply chains which, millions of people in crisis rely on around the world, Mr. Laerke explained:
“We are asking individual countries for exemptions to movements of essential personnel that needs to move. That is a country-level negotiation that is going on.”
To help stem the spread of the virus, OCHA has delivered critical supplies, including sterile gloves and gowns, surgical masks and caps and hand disinfecting gels.
Syria’s vulnerable not forgotten as UN food relief agency adjusts to pandemic precautions
To Syria now, where the emergence of the new coronavirus has prompted changes to aid deliveries there by the World Food Programme (WFP) to protect people from infection.
The agency provides lifesaving food to 4.5 million people in the war-ravaged country each month.
It estimates that nearly eight million people are food insecure and already extremely vulnerable after nine years of conflict. It says that a nutritious and sufficient diet necessary to strengthen their immune system will soon be “beyond the reach of many”.
Spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said in Geneva that WFP is now increasing the number of distributions it makes during daylight hours and encouraging social distancing by families receiving aid at distribution points.
It has also set up handwashing stations and uses mobile phone text messages to notify families when they should come to collect their supplies, and driving rations as close to families’ homes as possible.
In Salheen, a destroyed neighbourhood of Aleppo, WFP has warned that people there are more vulnerable than ever, as COVID-19 precautions have prevented them from earning their usual daily or weekly pay.
The agency said that many families are increasingly forced to reduce the number of meals and portion sizes they eat, or sell their livestock and assets to purchase food.
DR Congo healthcare weaknesses exposed as never before by coronavirus – UNICEF
Finally, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where populations that are just emerging from a 20-month long Ebola epidemic are now facing the new coronavirus.
According to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, the disease has exposed the fact that the country’s health system can barely provide “even basic services such as routine immunization”.
Some three million children in DRC have unmet vital health needs, UNICEF says, and more than nine million youngsters require humanitarian assistance.
In Kinshasa, Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF DR Congo Representative, confirmed that eastern provinces of the vast country have recorded about 100 confirmed cases of infection and eight deaths:
“Coronavirus will most likely divert the available national health capacity and resources and leave millions of children affected by measles, malaria, polio and many other killer diseases.”
Last year, DRC experienced the world’s worst measles epidemic which killed more than 5,300 children under the age of five, according to a new UNICEF report, On Life Support.
The country was also unable to prevent more than 30,000 cases of cholera in 2019 and more than 500 deaths – while some 16.5 million people contracted malaria last year, resulting in nearly 17,000 deaths.
Strengthening the DRC’s basic healthcare system is vital, Mr. Beigbeder insisted. “Unless health facilities have the means to deliver immunization, nutrition and other essential services, including in remote areas of the country, we risk seeing the lives and futures of many Congolese children scarred or destroyed by preventable diseases,” he said.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.