This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Health agency chief urges COVID-19 vaccinations for ‘high-risk’ populations
Key healthcare workers and others who are at high risk of COVID-19 infection should start getting access to vaccinations within the next 100 days, the UN health agency chief has said.
The appeal from Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus comes a year on from the first recorded COVID-19 death.
Today, the virus has claimed more than 1.93 million lives, and there are nearly 90 million confirmed cases.
“Governments, manufacturers, civil society, religious and community leaders, must come together to create the greatest mass mobilization in history for equitable vaccination”, said Tedros, who called for a “collective commitment” to get the job done.
He said that yet another new mutation of the coronavirus had emerged in Japan over the weekend, and that transmissibility “appears to be increasing”.
Although increased infectiousness can drive more cases, hospitalizations and deaths, “at present, the variants do not seem to show increased severity of disease”, Tedros explained, offering some reassurance.
“With new treatments coming down the pipeline, we are hopeful that more lives of those with serious cases of COVID-19 can be saved. But we need to follow the public health basics, now more than ever”, the Director-General of the World Health Organization said.
UN rights chief: Peru law enforcement used excessive force in mass demonstrations
Police officers in Peru used unnecessary and excessive force against protesters who challenged the interim President last November, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said on Tuesday.
In a new report, OHCHR highlighted failure of security forces to comply with international human rights norms and standards during mass demonstrations.
Spokesperson Liz Throssell said that its findings included that police officers had not distinguished between peaceful protesters, who were in the majority, and a minority accused of violence:
“Referencing available audio and video recordings, interviews with victims and witnesses, as well as medical records, the report says that police fired pellets from 12-gauge shotguns and tear gas canisters directly at people’s heads and upper bodies, indiscriminately and from close range. Two protesters were killed by shotgun pellets fired at their torso, and more than 200 people, including passers-by, were injured.”
In response to the report, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that international law was clear on people’s right to peaceful assembly. Lethal force should only be used against specific individuals to address an imminent threat of death, or serious injury, said Ms. Bachelet.
Humanitarian crisis looms in Madagascar amid drought and pandemic
In southern Madagascar, the number of people going hungry has doubled compared with last year to almost 1.4 million; years of drought and a lack of jobs linked to COVID-19 restrictions are to blame, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday.
Lola Castro, WFP Regional director for Southern Africa and Indian Ocean States, described “famine-like conditions”.
December saw only one day of rain, Ms. Castro said, while thunderstorms have been “blasting, destroying and burying” people’s crops:
“What are we seeing? The people are eating whatever they can find, between cactus mixed with mud, leaves, roots, whatever they can find, leaves, seeds, whatever is available. And the situation is even more dramatic this year also because the funds have not arrived on time to really be able to prepare food or provide cash transfers to these people…children have abandoned the schools, 75 per cent of the children are either begging or foraging for food.”
The warning follows three consecutive years of failed rains, coupled with a sharp recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
WFP provides food assistance for almost 500,000 severely food-insecure people in the nine hardest hit districts in the island’s south, but intends to scale up aid to almost 900,000 in need.
To do so, it’s requesting $35 million, which will also provide emergency school meals for 150,000 children, so that they can stay in class.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.