This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
COVID-19: African nations urged to remain vigilant as lockdown easing begins
African nations must continue to be vigilant against the threat of COVID-19 as some countries begin to ease lockdown restrictions amid a sharp rise in numbers of infections, the continent’s UN health agency head said on Thursday.
To date, the continent is the least affected global region by far.
But Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, said that “rapid increases” in case numbers were now being identified.
While it had taken 36 days for the continent to reach 1,000 cases, only 62 days passed before it hit the 100,000 mark, she said, at a joint WHO/World Economic Forum event.
“We’re seeing some rapid increases; compared to two weeks ago, reported cases have tripled in five countries and doubled in 10 countries, noting that most countries still have fewer than 1,000 reported cases. This means that as Governments ease lockdowns and other social measures, it’s important that strong public health measures are in place, all over territories, not just in the capital cities, but communities and empowered and enabled to take preventive actions and that they continue on working on strengthening health systems and delivering essential health services to people.”
In South Africa, the country’s health minister Dr. Zwelini Mkhize, said that the situation was “stable” in most areas, but there were around 13 infection hotspots where additional restrictions and resources were being put in place to isolate infected people and quarantine suspected carriers.
Globally, there are more than 5.5 million infections and over 350,000 deaths linked to the disease.
UN migration agency IOM lauches $206 million Syria appeal
An urgent appeal for the people of Syria has been issued by the UN migration agency IOM, amid growing concerns that millions of people displaced by years of fighting are unprepared for the threat of COVID-19.
The disease has compounded an already devastating crisis that has left 11 million people in need of help, IOM Director General António Vitorino said, at the launch of the $206 million appeal.
It’s hoped that donors worldwide will show solidarity to support three million Syrians inside and outside their country.
Of the total amount, $33 million will be allocated to preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The Government has reported 121 confirmed COVID-19 cases to date.
While no infections have been recorded in the northwest, the region saw an alarming rise in hostilities in the first three months of the year, and the health and safety of the more than one million people living in tents in overcrowded, under-resourced sites, remain a serious concern.
Rohingya refugees ‘stranded at sea’, warns IOM
To the Bay of Bengal finally where it’s feared that up to 500 people of all ages are adrift and stranded at sea.
The development follows reports last month that more than 30 Rohingya refugees died after spending two months aboard a smuggler’s vessel attempting to enter Malaysia.
The UN migration agency, IOM, which issued the alert, has urged countries in the region to bring all those at sea to shore.
IOM’s Director General António Vitorino, also called on them to “uphold the commitments of the 2016 Bali Declaration as well as ASEAN pledges to protect the most vulnerable”, a reference to the 2015 crisis in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, where thousands of refugees and migrants in distress were denied life-saving care and support.
A coordinated response to this situation, inclusive of search and rescue operations and safe disembarkation, is urgently needed to ensure that those who are still stranded at sea can be brought to safety on land,” Mr Vitorino said.
The development comes 10 days after deadly Cyclone Amphan barrelled through the region, signalling the start of months of extremely dangerous sailing conditions.
For years, the Rohingya have travelled by sea to Malaysia to find work and reunite with their families, although IOM says that their numbers have diminished in recent years.
Conflict in Myanmar in mid-2017 forced around 850,000 Rohingya to flee across the border with Bangladesh where they now live in a series of sprawling refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.