This is the News in Brief, from the United Nations.
Alert over rapid spread of COVID-19 in Latin American prisons: OHCHR
In prisons in the Americas there’s deep concern that COVID-19 infections are spreading rapidly amid chronic overcrowding and unhygienic conditions, coupled with the lack of proper access to healthcare, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, said on Tuesday.
Thousands of inmates and prison officials have already been infected across North and South America, triggering protests and riots.
Here’s OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville speaking via videoconference:
"On 21 March, 23 inmates died after security forces intervened to supress rioting in La Modelo prison in Colombia. Other incidents, including attempts to escape, have been registered in detention centres in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, Mexico and the U.S.”
Mr. Colville urged authorities to conduct thorough, prompt, independent and impartial investigations into how people had died during the riots.
The gravity of the measures taken to quell the disturbances seemed to indicate that in some cases States had not used appropriate measures, he said.
In March, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged Governments everywhere to protect people in detention as part of COVID-19 containment measures.
Eight in 10 Afghans could be infected by new coronavirus, officials warn
To Afghanistan now, where UN agencies have reported an official warning that up to 80 per cent of the country’s people are at risk from the COVID-19 pandemic.
UN migration agency IOM, and the UN refugee agency UNHCR, said that a randomized sample of 500 people in the capital, Kabul, had showed that half of the city’s five to seven million residents were likely infected.
Social distancing is not practical in a country where the average family size is seven and where most live in one-room homes with poor ventilation, IOM said.
Worsening conflict in the past three months has also hampered health efforts, with lack of access to non-Government-controlled areas preventing testing in around a third of the country.
In a related development, both agencies said that Afghanistan is struggling to absorb more than 270,000 labourers who have returned from neighbouring Iran and Pakistan since January.
As of Tuesday, Afghanistan has recorded 2,900 confirmed cases of new coronavirus and 90 deaths.
Asked about reports that Afghan workers had drowned after being forced into a river by Iranian border guards, UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch said it was “a sad and worrying incident” which the agency was monitoring.
Food insecurity in West Africa could leave 43 million at risk as COVID hits: WFP
Well over 40 million people across West Africa face desperate food shortages in coming months, twice as many as before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday.
Appealing for support, WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs warned that the new coronavirus risks weakening communities that have already fled armed conflict and endured climate change emergencies.
“We must sustain our assistance across the region. Especially in places such as Central Sahel, Central African Republic, Nigeria and Cameroon...An additional 20 million people could struggle to feed themselves due to the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in the next six months, doubling the number of food-insecure, to 43 million in this region.”
An estimated 12 million children under five years old could be acutely malnourished in the lean season from June to August, up from 8.2 million in the same period last year.
The development comes as the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on Friday said that West and central Africa had “one of largest displacement situations in Africa”, with 5.6 million internally displaced people, more than 1.3 million refugees and 1.6 million stateless people.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.