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News in Brief 6 April 2020

News in Brief 6 April 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

‘Horrifying’ surge in domestic violence must be addressed – UN chief

UN chief António Guterres has spoken out against what he’s called the “horrifying global surge in domestic violence” linked to COVID-19 lockdowns.

In an appeal for action, Mr. Guterres said that almost all countries had seen the numbers of women and girls facing abuse increase, as a response to economic and social stresses brought on by the pandemic, as well as restrictions on movement.

The UN Secretary-General has called on governments to set up emergency warning systems in pharmacies and groceries, declare that women’s shelters are essential services and scale up public awareness campaigns, particularly those targeted at men and boys.

Even before the global spread of the new coronavirus, statistics showed that a third of women around the world experienced some form of violence in their lives.

Victims live in developed and emerging economies; nearly one in four female college students in the United States reported sexual assault or misconduct, while in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, partner violence is a reality for more than six in 10 women.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 87,000 women were intentionally killed in 2017, and more than half were killed by intimate partners of family members.

Since the pandemic, countries including Lebanon and Malaysia have seen the number of calls to helplines double, compared with the same month last year; in China they have tripled.

In Australia, search engines such as Google are seeing the highest magnitude of searches for domestic violence help in the past five years, one UN report showed.

Arab region’s women and girls need protection too, say UN economic, social experts

Echoing the UN leader’s message, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia on Monday said that in the Arab region, domestic violence and social challenges have worsened, too.

Lockdowns and enforced coexistence owing to quarantines, economic stress, perceived and real food insecurity, and fears about exposure to the virus meant that “women survivors of

violence will face increased difficulties in accessing help during the pandemic”, the Executive Secretary of the organisation, Rola Dashti, said.

A recent report from the UN Commission indicated that women face twice as many job losses as men because of the new coronavirus

To protect vulnerable women, Ms. Dashti urged Arab Governments to adopt policies aimed at protecting them from falling into poverty, especially those working in the informal sector.

Such measures could include emergency cash transfers and small-scale grants, she explained.

COVID-19 risks are greater for people of African descent – rights experts

People of African descent could be at a greater risk of dying than others from COVID-19 because of discrimination in healthcare access, UN-appointed independent experts said on Monday.

In an appeal for governments to commit to racial equity and equality in providing health services, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent noted that some States had shown “robust responses” to the pandemic.

But others “have not recognised the specific health risks faced by people of African descent or how racial discrimination and implicit bias and racial stereotypes may pervade policy”, the Working Group’s chair, Ahmed Reid said.

The panel said that no protection efforts have focused the public health response on the specific vulnerabilities of people of African descent.

Disproportionate numbers work in service industries, live in densely populated communities, face food and water insecurity, and often lack access to secure housing – all additional sources of risk, the UN panel maintained.

It added that in many countries, people of African descent disproportionately work as health carers and in the health care delivery sector “despite no public efforts to ensure their safety and protection”.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • ‘Horrifying’ surge in domestic violence must be addressed – UN chief

  • Arab region’s women and girls need protection too, say UN economic, social experts

  • COVID-19 risks are greater for people of African descent – rights experts

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Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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© UNICEF/Noorani