This is the News in Brief, from the United Nations.
None of us is safe until we all are, says UN chief at EU push to end COVID
The “most massive public health effort in history” is needed to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday, addressing a European Union pledging conference in Brussels.
In a strongly-worded personal message, the UN chief welcomed donor countries’ contributions to a more than $8 billion fund, to speed up the production of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to end the new coronavirus threat.
But he said that five times that amount will likely be needed to put us all on “a path” to a world free of the disease.
To date, COVID-19 has “spread to every corner of the world, infecting more than three million people and claiming more than 220,000 lives”, Mr. Guterres said, his comments following a warning in recent days about the lack of sufficient solidarity
with developing countries - both in equipping them to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, which risks spreading like wildfire - and to address its dramatic economic and social impacts.
Worse is yet to come, he warned, as the virus is likely to strike many countries with ill-equipped health systems.
“In an interconnected world, none of us is safe until all of us are safe,” the UN Secretary-General insisted.
Air bridge operation gets underway for ‘most fragile’ countries
More than 100 countries grappling with COVID-19 are set to benefit from an international “air bridge” operation transporting essential health and humanitarian supplies, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Monday.
The project – supported by the United Arab Emirates – aims to supply millions of medical items and thousands of tonnes of aid supplies to vulnerable communities and frontline workers, the agency said.
It comes as most commercial airlines remain grounded and supply chains face unprecedented disruption.
An inaugural flight has already departed Abu Dhabi carrying medical equipment via Oslo in Norway, to various locations.
Once fully operational, three aircraft will fly to key locations across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, reconnecting aid operations “with a supply of medical equipment, goods and expertise needed to confront COVID-19 in the world’s most fragile settings”, WFP said in a statement.
In common with other UN agencies, WFP has warned that many communities are “on the edge of survival” in parts of the world, who are already dealing with economic shocks, conflict and natural disaster.
In the next three months, it needs $1.9 billion to pre-position three months of food assistance in priority hunger hotspots around the world.
The new air bridge operation represents a major contribution to the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan launched by the UN Secretary General at the end of March.
Within this, WFP has been mandated to provide common humanitarian services, for which it is appealing for an initial $350 million.
Welcome for Sudan’s decision to ban female genital mutilation
Finally, to Sudan, where the passing of a law criminalising female genital mutilation – FGM for short - has been welcomed by UN Children’s Fund UNICEF.
Almost nine in 10 girls in the country are believed to suffer from ritual genital cutting, which the transitional government that came to power last year, has now banned.
Under the new legislation, anyone carrying out FGM could be jailed for years and fined.
But in a statement, UNICEF said that much more work was needed to convince families to follow the Government’s lead.
It highlighted how the practice was “a violation of every girl child’s rights” which had serious consequences for a girl’s physical and mental health.
Despite the high prevalence of FGM in Sudan, the UN agency highlighted a recent survey showing potential evidence of a decline in the practice on younger girls, from 37 per cent in 2010 to 31.5 in 2014.
Globally, it is estimated that some 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM, according to the UN Population Fund UNFPA.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.