This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
155 million faced acute food insecurity in 2020, conflict the key driver
At least 155 million people faced crisis levels of food insecurity in 2020 because of conflict, extreme weather events and economic shocks linked in part to COVID-19, a UN-partnered report said on Wednesday.
It’s been five years since hunger levels were this bad across the 55 countries under review, according to the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC), which said that 20 million more people went hungry last year, than in 2019.
Countries in Africa remained “disproportionally affected”, researchers said, with conflict pushing almost 100 million people into acute food insecurity, and economic shocks accounting for another 40 million and weather extremes 16 million more.
In a call for action, UN Secretary-General António Guterres maintained that conflict and food insecurity went hand in hand. “Addressing hunger is a foundation for stability and peace”, he said.
According to the report, the worst-affected countries were Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen; Afghanistan, Syria and Haiti also featured among the 10 worst-hit last year.
‘Pandemic hub’ plan unveiled by WHO’s Tedros and Germany’s Merkel
An international hub for pandemic control is to open in Berlin later this year to ensure better preparedness and transparency in the fight against future global health threats, the UN health agency announced on Wednesday.
With initial support from the German Government, the centre will specialize in gathering epidemic intelligence.
At a press conference in Geneva, Chancellor Angela Merkel said via video message that she had first discussed the idea with World Health Organization Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, last autumn.
Here’s Tedros, speaking at a press conference at WHO headquarters in Geneva:
“It is a fact of nature that there will be more viruses that will emerge with the potential of sparking epidemics or pandemics. Viruses move fast, but data can move even faster, with the right information, countries and communities can stay one step of an emerging risk and save lives.”
A super computer will help the centre “lead innovations in data analytics across the largest network of global data to predict, prevent, detect prepare for and respond to pandemic and epidemic risks worldwide”, WHO said.
South Asia strained to breaking point by COVID crisis: UNICEF
The deadly surge in COVID-19 cases across South Asia is unlike anything the region has seen – and there’s a “real possibility” that the healthcare system will be pushed to breaking point, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said.
According to UNICEF, in almost all countries in the South Asia region, with the exception of Maldives and Bhutan, fewer than one in 10 people have been vaccinated.
In a statement on Tuesday, George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, called for governments to “do everything within their power to stop the devastation”.
Infections have spiked massively across the region, with India accounting for over 90 per cent of both cases and deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The situation is particularly alarming in Nepal, where there’s been a 137 per cent rise in infections this week - the highest level since the pandemic started last year.
This has led to a shortage of hospital beds, intensive care units and critical medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and oxygen concentrators.
Daniel Johnson, UN News