This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Ceasefire can’t hide scale of destruction in Gaza: UNRWA
The humanitarian community has welcomed the ceasefire agreed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel but warned that the destruction in Gaza will take years, if not decades, to fix.
Speaking from Gaza, Matthias Schmale from the UN relief agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, said that there was no “going back to normal” in the enclave, after more than 10 days of rocket fire and airstrike exchanges between the warring parties that have killed more than 250 people, and injured thousands:
“Going back to normal life means having to watch very carefully where we are going; unexploded devices, we know that at least one school, one of our 278 schools, where we have established two deeply buried bombs, and we have alerted the Israeli authorities to them. So obviously we cannot just rush back into our buildings and schools, we have to make sure they’re safe.”
Mr. Schmale noted that UNRWA staff who are mainly residents of the region said that the violence had been “worse in intensity and terror than 2014”, before echoing the UN Secretary-General’s call for a meaningful political process to resolve the grievances of both Palestinians and Israelis.
‘Above-normal’ Atlantic hurricane season forecast
An “above-normal” Atlantic hurricane season is expected once again this year, UN weather experts said on Friday.
Thirteen to 20 named storms are forecast, including six to 10 which could develop into hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes, with winds in excess of 179 kilometres per hour – that’s 111 miles per hour.
In its hurricane outlook, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) noted that communities in the Caribbean, Central America and the United States were still recovering from the devastating and record-breaking 2020 storm season.
Spokesperson Clare Nullis said that the past six seasons have all seen above-average hurricane activity which has caused hundreds of casualties and billions of dollars’ worth of damage.
The fact that the El Niño weather phenomenon is not in an active phase is significant, she said:
“Why are we expecting an above above-average season? Lots of different factors, one of them being that the El Niño Southern Oscillation is currently neutral; when we have an El Niño event it tends to suppress hurricane activity. At the moment we don’t.”
Ms. Nullis highlighted that despite the deadly impact of the 2020 hurricane season, thousands of lives were likely saved thanks to timely and targeted evacuation warnings and other emergency resilience measures.
True COVID-19 toll may be two to three times higher than reported
The true number of deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic may be two to three times higher than the officially reported figures, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
Based on deaths either directly or indirectly attributable to the coronavirus, the UN health agency said that the 3.4 million deaths reported globally in the first year of the pandemic “are likely a significant undercount”.
The WHO’s annual ‘state of the world’s health’ report suggests that the total number of deaths attributable to the pandemic in 2020 “is at least three million”, which is 1.2 million more than the 1.8 million deaths reported to the UN agency.
These include people who have died directly from coronavirus infection, and others who have been unable to access healthcare because it has been diverted to deal with the pandemic, WHO said.