This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Clarity still needed on effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine passports: WHO
Inoculation against COVID-19 may not prevent transmission, and vaccination passports may not be an “effective strategy” for restarting global travel, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
The UN health agency announcement comes ahead of World Health Day on Wednesday 7 April and a call from the agency to look after the most vulnerable in society.
This means tackling “poverty and health inequities”, building sustainable societies and promoting food security and nutrition, WHO spokesperson Dr Margaret Harris told journalists in Geneva.
There have been more than 131 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including more than 2.8 million deaths globally. Only around 604 million vaccine doses have been administered so far.
Asked about the WHO’s stance on vaccine passports for those who had received the shot, Dr Harris highlighted ongoing lack of clarity about new coronavirus transmission:
“We would not like to see vaccination passports as a requirement for entry or exit because we are not certain at this stage that the vaccine prevents transmission and there are all those other questions, apart from the question of discrimination against people who are not able to have the vaccine for one reason or another. ”
Scale of acute hunger in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is ‘staggering’
Levels of hunger in the Democratic Republic of the Congo now affect one in three people there – a “staggering”, record high - UN humanitarians warned on Tuesday.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), 27.3 million people face “acute” food insecurity; around seven million of these are suffering “emergency” levels of acute hunger.
This means that the central African country is home to the highest number of people in urgent need of food security assistance in the world, according to the latest Integrated Phase Classification analysis.
Conflict remains a key cause of hunger, WFP spokesperson Tomson Phiri explained, particularly in the eastern provinces of Ituri, North and South Kivu and Tanganyika – and the central Kasais.
Other key factors compounding this crisis include the slump in DRC's economy and the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, the UN agencies said.
Refugee agency supports health care for 120,000 refugees in Iran
To Iran finally, where the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has appealed for funding to help hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals receive basic health care.
Some 800,000 mainly Afghan nationals live in Iran; the country provides free COVID-19 treatment and hospital care, but premiums for surgery and other lifesaving care are increasingly beyond the reach of many.
UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch told journalists in Geneva on Tuesday that this increases the likelihood that refugees will not seek treatment for urgent health needs or they might send their children to work, making them even more vulnerable:
“The impact of the pandemic on livelihoods has been particularly severe for refugees, who usually rely on precarious and unstable jobs. Many can no longer cover their most basic needs, let alone the costs of health insurance, which is estimated to represent some 40 per cent of an average refugee family’s monthly expenditure.”
UNHCR already helps 100,000 refugees get healthcare in Iran, and it has just secured funding to ensure that another 20,000 refugees can access the country’s national health insurance scheme.
But the agency noted that its 2021 funding appeal of $97 million is only seven per cent funded.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.