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News in Brief 18 May 2020

News in Brief 18 May 2020

This is the News in Brief, from the United Nations.

UN chief renews call for solidarity as WHO warns ‘majority’ of world still at risk

A “massive” and combined effort by all countries is needed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday, as UN health agency head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus insisted that “the majority of the world’s population remains susceptible” to the virus.

Addressing World Health Organization (WHO) Member States attending the foreshortened and virtual World Health Assembly, Mr. Guterres pointed out that despite “some solidarity”, there had been “very little unity” in the global response to the new coronavirus so far.

Because of this, “a microscopic virus has brought us to our knees,” he said, before reiterating his support for the WHO, describing it as “irreplaceable”.

Acknowledging calls by some countries for an inquiry into how the new coronavirus threat spread so rapidly, the UN chief insisted that it was too early to do so.

To date, the WHO has reported more than 4.5 million cases of COVID-19 infection and more than 300,000 lives lost.

WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that early blood test studies had indicated that even in the worst-affected regions, no more than 20 per cent of the population had antibodies for new coronavirus.

“In other words, the majority of the world’s population remains susceptible to this virus,” he said, before urging countries to proceed with caution when easing lockdown measures.

Outrage over rape of four-year-old girl in Somalia

The rape of a four-year-old girl in the Somali capital Mogadishu, has sparked outrage and condemnation from the UN, which has called for a speedy investigation and justice for the victim and her family. In a statement issued after last week’s attack, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said that other similar cases in Somalia were also being reported.

Anders Thomsen, who’s the UNFPA country representative, reiterated a call for the Sexual Offences Bill to be adopted by Parliament and passed into law.

He told UN News that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of intimate partner violence and sex crimes and said that the new legislation will be vital in preventing and criminalizing all such offences.

“It’s very, very clear that people are going through a tremendous amount of hardship. Mostly economic hardship because ports have been closed, remittances from abroad are not coming, the exports of livestock have been halted, a lot of shops have been shut down, so people are really going through hardship; we know that when populations go through hardship, they lose their income, stress increases, and women are often are the ones who pay the price through violence.”

Connecting us all, a beacon of hope, says UN’s Guterres

UN chief António Guterres has said that keeping people connected digitally around the world represents a “beacon of hope” during the COVID-19 emergency.

His message to commemorate World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD), marks the founding of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on 17 May 1865, when the first International Telegraph Convention was signed in Paris.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, these connections – with loved ones, with schools and colleges, with workplaces, with healthcare professionals and essential supplies– are more important than ever”, Mr. Guterres said in a video message.

“Leaving no one behind means leaving no one offline”, he added, noting that new technologies, from 5G and big data to cloud computing and artificial intelligence, “are powerful tools to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges, including the pandemic”. Echoing the UN Secretary-General’s comments, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said that it’s more determined than ever to connect all the world's people to the internet to tackle inequality.

The agency is convinced that information and communication technologies can contribute to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – 17 specific goals to overcome everything from poverty to a lack of basic healthcare.

It said in a statement on Monday that the new coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital tools to economies and societies everywhere.

Nobody is safe until we are all safe, the ITU said in a statement, adding that the full potential of online communication will not be realised until everyone is connected.

Daniel Johnson, UN News

  • UN chief renews call for solidarity as WHO warns ‘majority’ of world still at risk

  • Outrage over rape of four-year-old girl in Somalia

  • Connecting us all, a beacon of hope, says UN’s Guterres


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Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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