This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
COVID-19: Yemen ceasefire announced in bid to contain coronavirus
A ceasefire declaration by Saudi Arabia in war-shattered Yemen that was due to come into effect on Thursday has been welcomed by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, as a way to promote peace and stop COVID-19.
The pandemic has not yet reached Yemen, but there have been confirmed cases in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
In a statement released on Wednesday evening, Mr. Guterres responded positively to the two-week unilateral truce call by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on behalf of the international coalition supporting the Government of Yemen.
The move would “help to advance efforts towards peace” and “the country’s response to pandemic”, he said, before urging the other warring parties to issue similar expressions of goodwill.
“I now call upon the Government of Yemen and Ansar Allah to follow through on their commitment to immediately cease hostilities”, the UN chief said, in reference to President Abdrubbuh Mansour Hadi, and the mainly Houthi opposition forces who occupy the capital, Sana’a.
Mr. Guterres also called on the Government and the Houthis to engage with each other, “without preconditions”, in negotiations facilitated by his Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, to end more than five years of fighting.
UN Deputy chief launches blueprint to protect poorer countries from coronavirus
To New York now, where UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has led a call by more than 60 international agencies to help developing countries facing catastrophe from the new coronavirus pandemic.
Owing to the COVID-19 crisis, global financial markets have witnessed heavy losses over the last month, and investors have moved around $90 billion out of emerging markets - the largest outflow ever recorded.
To prevent emerging economies from collapsing, the UN System’s 2020 Financing for Sustainable Development Report calls for a debt amnesty for Least Developed Countries.
It says that poorer countries also need help from international investors to spend more on their national health systems and keep small businesses afloat.
Trade in commodity-rich countries should also be stimulated by eliminating trade barriers that restrict supply chains, the report says, with recommendations from within the UN system, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.
The report’s authors noted that even before the outbreak of COVID-19, one in five countries – home to billions of people living in poverty – were likely to see per capita incomes stagnate or decline in 2020.
Now, billions more are likely to be affected as governments struggle to cope with the pandemic.
The call for greater solidarity was echoed in Geneva too, where UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said that there has never been a more compelling argument for universal and affordable access to health care.
“Actions to upgrade public health care, in every country, are especially urgent,” she said, via videoconference in an address to the Human Rights Council.
Highlighting the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) in coordinating the global effort against COVID-19 so that countries are equipped to trace, isolate and treat people infected by the virus, she insisted that “this effort should be fully resourced.
She added: “There will need to be a significant regional and global effort to avoid the collapse of any country's medical system – a matter of urgent interest to everyone.”
The fight against desert locust swarms goes on in East Africa despite COVID-19 measures
Finally, in the Horn of Africa, Governments together with the United Nations are still tackling an upsurge in locust swarms, despite COVID-19 restrictions on the movement of people and equipment.
In Kenya, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO) is training farmers to use motorized sprayers to contain the pests.
But COVID-19 has impacted the supply of pesticides as global air freight has been reduced significantly in recent weeks.
Today, the swarms remain a serious threat to Kenya and its neighbours, with around 20 million people already experiencing acute food insecurity in the region.
Here’s Kenyan farmer George Dodds:
“The people in our community, the small-scale farmers, it’s a very big problem. For food security in Kenya especially after problem like coronavirus. How are we going to feed Kenya? All of our produce is for local consumption. I think everyone
needs to take this seriously and support everywhere you can, because it’s a very big problem, for Kenya as a whole.”
In a bid to help, FAO continues to promote locust surveillance by communities using a handheld tablet; this records and transmits data in real time to national locust centres and to FAO headquarters.
Since 2015, more than 450 of these handheld devices have been distributed to teams in northern Africa, the Near East and southwest Asia.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.