This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
UN health agency urges nations to donate 250 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine
Around two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been distributed globally, but only 0.5 per cent have reached low-income countries through the UN-partnered COVAX scheme, the UN health agency said on Friday.
In an urgent appeal for 250 million doses to help developing nations immunise key frontline workers and older populations most at risk, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the pandemic is far from over.
Dr Bruce Aylward, head of the ACT-A international hub that dispatches therapeutics, diagnostic and other critical equipment to treat coronavirus patients, said that “over 75 per cent” of the two billion doses distributed to date had gone to just 10 countries, in particular China, the US and India:
“The call is for a quarter of a billion doses out through the period through end of September to be donated, at least 100 million of those in June and July - that’s what we need to get the system going. Now we had a great start yesterday with the US announcing that it’s going to be giving up to 80 million doses and it gave the first 25 million doses that it would be donating, 75 per cent of that through COVAX yesterday, that’s an important start. We need many other countries to be joining and important for the US, right, crucially, is they said these doses are going to come in June.”
People will continue to die unless a $16 billion funding gap is filled to pay for testing and personal protective equipment, ventilators, oxygen canisters and steroid medication to help the poorest nations treat their sick, Dr Aylward insisted.
Alert over attacks on displacement sites in eastern DR Congo
To the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) now, where attacks by one of the main armed groups in the east have claimed dozens of lives, the latest in a series of brutal raids.
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, the Allied Democratic Forces, ADF, killed 57 civilians – including several children – in simultaneous assaults on the towns of Boga and Tchabi in Ituri province on Monday.
The victims died from bullet and machete wounds, said UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch, who added that bereaved family members reported that many had been burned alive in their homes:
“The people in this part of DRC have gone through multiple attacks, have been displaced many times, and they have to go through all this again and again, and we see the repeat of these brutal attacks, so the call is to scale up security, we’ve seen in the past where there is security presence, the number of attacks go down.”
Some 1.7m people have been displaced in Ituri following repeated targeting by armed groups, who number more than 100 in the DRC’s east.
UNHCR said that thousands more have fled Boga, to various nearby locations with virtually nothing but the clothes they were wearing.
Some have had to sleep out in the open and in overcrowded church compounds, but most have now been welcomed by poor host families.
Ghana: condemnation for arbitrary arrest of LGBT human rights defenders
To Ghana finally, where the arrest and alleged arbitrary detention of 21 LGBT rights defenders has been condemned by UN-appointed independent experts.
In an appeal for their immediate release, the experts said that the arrests on 20 May appeared to be linked to the criminalisation of consensual same-sex conduct, which carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment in Ghana.
Before police officers moved in, the 16 women and five male detainees were taking part in a training course for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse people in the city of Ho.
The rights experts noted that “all evidence” showed that they had been exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association at the time of their arrest.
Ghana “should ensure that no one is criminalised for defending the fundamental rights of LGBT people,” the experts said in a statement.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.