News in Brief 22 May 2020

News in Brief 22 May 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

COVID-19 transmission ‘already happening widely in Yemen’

Transmission of COVID-19 is likely happening widely across Yemen, UN humanitarians have said.

Latest data indicates around 180 cases of infection and 40 deaths, but real numbers are almost certainly higher, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Friday.

The agency has warned that that the virus could easily spread “faster, more widely and with deadlier consequences” than elsewhere, as Yemenis endure what is the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe.

Only half of the war-torn country’s health facilities are open, and medics need much more assistance to counter the threat of COVID-19, aid agencies maintain.

In particular, tests for the disease remain in short supply, as does personal protective equipment.

To help, 125 metric tonnes of supplies have now arrived in the country, and much more is in the pipeline.

The development comes amid a severe funding gap for 30 lifesaving aid programmes which may have to close in coming weeks, said UN OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke, ahead of a pledging conference for Yemen taking place next Tuesday.

“We are heading towards a fiscal cliff, if we do not get the money coming in, the programmes that are keeping people alive and are very much essential to fight back against COVID will have to close. And then the world will have to witness what happens in a country without a functioning health system battling COVID-19. And I do not think the world wants to see that.”

Funding the entire aid operation in Yemen is more urgent than ever, OCHA says, with up to $2 billion required until the end of the year.

Bangladesh storm Amphan affects 10 million people, spares refugee ‘megacamp’

To Bangladesh now, where cyclone Amphan made landfall on Monday, affecting around 10 million people but sparing the refugee megacamp in Cox’s Bazar.

UN aid teams and local partners report that around 100 people have been killed in Bangladesh and India, while half a million families may have lost their homes.

To reduce the storm’s impact, the Bangladeshi authorities evacuated two million people in good time. The Indian authorities evacuated another million.

More than 12,000 cyclone shelters were also set up with COVID-19 prevention equipment, including masks, sanitizers and handwashing facilities in Bangladesh.

So far, the country has had more than 26,000 confirmed cases of infection and nearly 400 people have died from the disease.

The region is vulnerable to tropical storms from March to December, linked to the monsoon and cyclone seasons.

As damage assessments continue, humanitarians have warned that strong winds and heavy rain have affected crops and fishing communities, along with around half a million livestock in Bangladesh.

There are also concerns that salt water intrusion will have a severe impact on livelihoods for up to three years. To help, the World Food Programme (WFP) has prepositioned food stocks including high energy biscuits for 90,000 families.

It confirmed that the Cox’s Bazar refugee megacamp that’s home to hundreds of thousands of mainly ethnic Rohingya was largely spared from damage when the cyclone made landfall.

But the agency has warned that a direct hit from any cyclone has the potential to be devastating.

As world’s forests continue to shrink, UN echoes call for sustainable conservation

Urgent action is needed to safeguard the world's forests amid “alarming rates” of destruction of trees and plant and animal life they shelter, UN environmentalists have said. According to a report produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), 420 million hectares of forest have been lost since 1990.

Forests provide more than 86 million green jobs, it’s believed.

Of those living in extreme poverty, more than nine in 10 are dependent on forests for food, firewood and work.

This number includes eight million extremely poor, forest-dependent people in Latin America alone.

Among the more positive findings from the State of the World's Forests published on Friday, is data showing that the rate of deforestation has decreased in the past three decades.

The largest increase in protected forest areas has been in broadleaved evergreen forests, like those typically found in the Tropics.

Furthermore, over 30 per cent of all tropical rainforests, sub-tropical dry forests and temperate oceanic forests are now located within protected areas.

Nonetheless, 10 million hectares are still being lost each year through conversion to agriculture and other land uses, the UN report notes.

In a call for action to promote sustainable conservation to protect plants, animals and livelihoods, the agencies are calling for greater efforts to “reconnect” forest fragments, after finding nearly 35 million patches of forests in the world, ranging in size from one to 680 million hectares.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

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  • COVID-19 transmission ‘already happening widely in Yemen’

  • Bangladesh storm Amphan affects 10 million people, spares refugee ‘megacamp’

  • As world’s forests continue to shrink, UN echoes call for sustainable conservation

Audio Credit
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
Audio Duration
4'40"
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© UNICEF