News in Brief 12 July 2021

News in Brief 12 July 2021

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

Conflict, climate change and COVID-19 forcing more people into hunger

Global hunger levels have skyrocketed because of conflict, climate change and COVID-19 - and one in five children is stunted.

Those are some of the key findings of the first comprehensive global assessment of food insecurity carried out since the coronavirus pandemic began.

According to the report, published on Monday by UN agencies, the number of people affected by chronic hunger in 2020 rose by more than in the previous five years combined.

Reversing this situation will take years if not decades, said the World Food Programme (WFP), along with agencies FAO, IFAD, WHO and UNICEF.

According to “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 (SOFI)” report, climate change has left communities in developing countries most exposed to hunger - despite the fact that they contribute little to global CO2 emissions.

These poorer nations are also the least prepared to withstand weather-related shocks and stresses that were “driving hunger like never before”, WFP said.

Schools must reopen for all children despite COVID, urge UN agencies

Primary and secondary schools in 19 countries are still closed because of the COVID crisis, UN agency heads said on Monday, in a warning that over 156 million students have been affected.

In a call for physical lessons to begin again, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore and UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay insisted that “schools should be the last to close and the first to reopen”.

Governments have “too often shut down schools and kept them closed for prolonged periods” to avoid virus transmission, the agency heads explained, even though bars and restaurants had remained open.

Warning that losses young students incurred from not being in school “may never be recouped”, the UNICEF and UNESCO officials listed problems including learning loss, mental distress, exposure to violence and abuse, missed school meals and vaccinations.

These likely meant lower grades, reduced social skills and poorer physical and mental health, the agency heads maintained, adding that the most affected were often children in low-resource settings who did not have access to remote learning tools, and very young children at key developmental stages.

UN rights chief leads call for action on systemic racism

Finally, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday urged “transformative change” in policing, where people of African descent are involved.

Presenting a report containing numerous recommendations to Member States at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Ms. Bachelet said that countries should act to end "profound injustices (that have been) inflicted for generations".

The development follows the killing of United States citizen George Floyd in 2020 by police officer Derek Chauvin, who was captured on video kneeling on Mr. Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes.

After a six-week trial this year, Mr. Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to prison for more than two decades.

In her call for action, Ms. Bachelet highlighted how “many” countries lacked adequate measures to stop systemic racial discrimination.

Law enforcement officers were rarely held accountable for human rights violations and crimes against persons of African descent, she said:

“Deficient investigations; inadequate oversight, complaint and accountability mechanisms; and widespread prejudice about the presumed underlying guilt of victims of African descent are contributing factors. Investigations, prosecutions and trials largely do not adequately consider the potential role of racial discrimination, stereotypes and biases in lethal incidents involving the police.”

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet speaking at the Human Rights Council.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

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  • Conflict, climate change and coronavirus behind skyrocketing hunger
  • Schools still shuttered in 19 countries due to COVID-19
  • UN rights chief's action call on structural racism
Audio Credit
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
Audio Duration
3'27"
Photo Credit
World Bank/Rumi Consultancy