This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Ceasefire needed to protect 250 million children: UNICEF chief
UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, warned on Friday that 250 million children around the world living in the “waking nightmare” of conflict desperately need warring parties to stop fighting as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads. In an appeal, UNICEF Executive-Director Henrietta Fore urged belligerents to consider that they would not be able to battle the disease while still fighting each other.
“To the children living through these waking nightmares, a ceasefire could mean the difference between life and death,” she said, adding that it would protect children from being killed, maimed or forced from their homes, and stop the attacks on health centres, water and sanitation systems. Ms. Fore’s call comes nearly a month after UN chief António Guterres appealed for a global ceasefire, which has resulted in a temporary lull in hostilities in 11 countries.
Violent conflict continues nonetheless in parts of Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen and elsewhere.
Recession will likely cause hundreds of thousands of child deaths
The UNICEF appeal coincides with the release of UN research suggesting that the recession caused by COVID-19 could cause hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths this year.
Responding to the findings – which would reverse gains in reducing infant mortality – UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for urgent action to protect youngsters’ wellbeing.
Even before the pandemic, childhood malnutrition and stunting were at unacceptable levels, he said.
Now, with classrooms closed almost everywhere, nearly 310 million children who rely on school meals are missing out on this daily dose of nutrition.
Children are both victims and witnesses of domestic violence and abuse. With schools closed, an important early warning mechanism is missing, the UN chief explained.
“Reduced household income will force poor families to cut back on essential health and food expenditures, particularly affecting children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers…And as health services become overwhelmed, sick children are less able to access care. With the global recession gathering pace, there could be hundreds of thousands additional child deaths in 2020.”
In addition to the suspension of polio vaccination campaigns, measles immunization has also been halted in at least 23 countries, the UN Secretary-General continued.
World has enough food to withstand COVID crisis, says UN agency
Finally, lower-than-expected production levels in China following the relaxation of lockdown measures there could be an indicator that tens of millions more people will have too little to eat globally this year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said on Friday.
At the same time, the agency appealed for the free movement of food across borders “with no restrictions” as there are enough basic foodstuffs – including rice, maize and wheat - to feed the world.
Here’s FAO Chief Economist, Maximo Torero:
“Today, we have 821 million people undernourished, so we are talking of an increase of around eight per cent to 10 per cent of that number if there are changes in GDP growth... Our lowest scenario with two per cent GDP growth is around (a) 30 million increase, our highest scenario is 88 million people going to undernourishment.”
A key concern is the vulnerability of mainly poor, export-led economies as the pandemic goes on; their mainly informal workers are unlikely to benefit from the injection of billions of dollars into the global marketplace to support trade by richer, industrialised countries as local currencies suffer against stronger denominations, the FAO believes.
To mitigate the pandemic’s impacts, FAO has urged countries to meet the food needs of vulnerable populations, boost social protection programmes, keep global food trade going and support smallholder farmers.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.