This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
UNICEF chief calls for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for most vulnerable
The head of UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, urged the Security Council on Wednesday to support the agency’s call for all countries to roll out inclusive national vaccination plans to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
This means everyone, “regardless of their legal status or if they live in areas controlled by non-State entities”, Henrietta Fore told the meeting on ensuring equitable access to new coronavirus vaccines in places affected by conflict and insecurity.
Her comments come as the agency steps up plans for the global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
UNICEF aims to procure two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of this year – in addition to the two billion doses of other vaccines that it obtains annually on behalf of 100 countries.
Ms. Fore highlighted the difficulty of reaching an estimated 60 million people living in conflict areas under the control of non-state armed groups, as well as refugees and migrants who are “routinely excluded” from national immunisation drives.
After repeating the UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire which would help aid vaccine delivery, the UNICEF chief urged the Security Council to re-start other “stalled immunization campaigns”.
“We cannot allow the fight against one deadly disease to cause us to lose ground in the fight against others,” she said.
COVID infections register 16 % fall worldwide in a week, variants spreading: WHO
An update on the COVID-19 pandemic from the World Health Organization, WHO, shows that although infections and deaths from the virus have fallen significantly, regions, including Europe, are still in the grip of the virus as variants continue to spread.
According to WHO, infections globally fell by 16 per cent last week – that’s 500,000 fewer than the previous seven-day period – and 10 per cent fewer people died.
In some European countries, this relative reduction is “likely due to a strong combination of public health and social measures”, the UN agency said, although it cautioned that there are still “high or increasing” infection rates among older age groups “and/or high death rates” in most of Europe.
France and the UK, along with Russia, the United States and Brazil, had the highest case tally in the past week, WHO data showed.
Highlighting the spread of the three main COVID-19 mutations that have been associated with faster virus transmission, the UN agency said that the “UK variant” is present in 94 countries across all regions, the “South African variant” has been found in 46 countries and the “Brazilian/Japanese variant” is now in 21.
‘Extreme food insecurity’ threatens Somalia, warns FAO
More than 2.6 million people in Somalia face an “extreme food insecurity” crisis, the UN agriculture agency warned on Wednesday.
Poor rainfall, flooding and an upsurge in desert locusts are mainly to blame, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said, before cautioning that the situation could worsen without “large-scale and sustained” humanitarian aid.
In addition to damage caused by locust infestations to pasture and crops countrywide, weather forecasts point to below-average rainfall from April to June across most of the country, which will threaten millions of people.
Working with the Government of Somalia, FAO country representative Etienne Peterschmitt said that although the agency’s teams and partners have delivered assistance and livelihood support, it is crucial to expand the emergency response to keep people eating, save lives and protect livelihoods.
From July to December 2020, FAO helped to reach more than 1.8 million people per month in parts of Somalia.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.