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Critical work of UN ‘largely uninterrupted’, despite unprecedented challenge of COVID-19

INTERNATIONAL, 27 March 2020, UN Affairs - Although the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the United Nations to operate in new ways, its vital work worldwide continues largely uninterrupted, heads of UN principal organs assured Member States, during a joint briefing on Friday held online.

In his welcoming remarks, the UN General Assembly President underscored the value of safety and solidarity in the face of a crisis that has affected practically every corner of the globe.

“Although we are not sitting together, be rest assured that we are in this together”, said Tijjani Muhammad Bande. “We must lead by example. We must stay at home, abide by social distancing recommendations, wash our hands, and look out for one another”.

Mr. Bande reported that thanks to technology, the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee was able to make important budget decisions during this time.

He said countries must not only defeat the new coronavirus: they also have to mitigate its social and economic impacts, stating that “we need to galvanise multilateral action now to protect gains made towards the eradication of poverty and zero hunger, as this crisis puts a strain on food production and supply chains, among others”.

Joint virtual briefing for Member States on the COVID-19 pandemic (27 March)



Changes at the Security Council

The UN Security Council has had to change its working methods due to the pandemic.

Ambassador Zhang Jun of China, Council President for March, reported that despite difficulties, members have been holding meetings by video teleconference.

“We know that Member States are very much keen to know what’s happening in the Security Council. What’s true is that the new situation does create a lot of difficulties through maintaining transparency, but we are working very hard on that”, he said.

So far, the Council agenda has included “hotspot issues” such as the situations in Libya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Members have also issued statements condemning deadly attacks in Afghanistan and against peacekeepers in the Central African Republic. They are also set to act soon on several draft resolutions.

Development gains under threat

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which is at the heart of the UN’s work in advancing sustainable development, has not stopped working, President Mona Juul told countries.

However, she warned of the pandemic’s threat to development gains, particularly in the world’s most vulnerable countries, while the need for humanitarian relief is urgent.

“Beyond immediate humanitarian aid, developing countries will need support to lessen the overall socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. In this, the UN must play a key role”, said Ms. Juul.

“We need joint UN efforts to assist developing countries in their recovery and in building more resilient health systems”.

As response will require substantial financing, she welcomed recent announcements on economic support by G-20 countries, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

Communications for Solidarity

The UN Secretary-General participated in the G-20 virtual summit on Thursday, where he pressed for collective action and financial support to stop the virus and minimize its impact.

António Guterres updated Member States on measures taken to protect UN staff globally as they execute the Organization’s mandates, underlining that “our critical work is continuing largely uninterrupted”.

“Our Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams are on the frontlines”, he said. As of last week, 93 per cent of teams, reported “being engaged with national authorities in preparing preparedness and response plans.”

The UN chief urged countries to support initiatives announced this week, such as his appeal for a global ceasefire, a humanitarian response fund for the world’s poorest countries, and a call to stand against increasing hate crimes targeting people perceived to be associated with spreading the coronavirus.

He also announced the launch of a communications strategy aimed at fighting misinformation around the pandemic.

The COVID-19 Communications for Solidarity Initiative will inform the global public and promote and inspire acts of humanity around the world.


Peacekeeping radio stations provide COVID-19 information to vulnerable communities in conflict-affected countries

INTERNATIONAL, 27 March 2020, Health - UN Peacekeeping radio stations have in recent decades helped build support for peace process in a dozen countries around the world including Cambodia, Croatia, Namibia and Timor-Leste.  

Today, these stations are playing another vital role – getting the word out to vulnerable communities in conflict-affected states about the coronavirus pandemic and how people can protect themselves and others from getting the disease. 

" is real. Keep safe," says -ese musician Check B Magic.
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UN Peacekeeping currently has large, popular and trusted radio stations in four African countries: The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, which have already recorded cases of COVID-19; and Mali and South Sudan which have not.  

The stations ability to reach both big urban centers and isolated communities in countries which lack basic communications infrastructure, can play an important role in addressing the disease. 

Providing accurate and timely information to the public and media about the UN’s role in COVID-19 prevention and preparedness and the impact on UN personnel and activities in the country is an operational necessity and fundamental to fighting the disease. 

Radio Miraya, the station of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), has for weeks been dedicating time and resources to provide the population on the pandemic. Based in the capital Juba, Miraya has the largest reach of any broadcaster in South Sudan and due to an effective relay system can be heard throughout most of the country.  

“For the great majority of people across South Sudan there is no internet, television or newspapers available. So how do people get their news? Some by word of mouth, but mostly from Radio Miraya,” said David Shearer, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan and Head of UNMISS.  

He added: “We know from a public opinion survey that Radio Miraya is available across over two-thirds of this vast country and that 80 per cent of those it reaches listen to it every day. That literally makes Radio Miraya a communication lifeline for communities in times of crisis.” 

Radio Miraya reports the latest news about the global epidemic and the impact it may have on South Sudan.  It also runs public service announcements (PSAs), including recently written songs by popular artists on the best practices to prevent any eventual outbreak for starting or spreading, such as handwashing and social distancing. 

UNMISS/Sofie Lafrance
On Radio Miraya's early morning show in South Sudan, Afro-Beat artist Check-B Magic (left) and a representative of the civil society organization War Child Holland discuss his song 'COVID/Corona, which raises awareness about Coronavirus.

In South Sudan, Radio Miraya’s ‘critical role’ 

Right now, with the onset of the coronavirus, Miraya is playing an especially critical role.  

Its staff is working long hours to broadcast public health messages from WHO on how people can keep themselves safe. It constantly updates on the Government’s plans and preparations for the virus as well as providing more in-depth coverage of how the virus is impacting communities. It also reports on the situation in other countries linking South Sudanese to the news across the world so they can understand its impact globally. 

“It’s not just dull health warnings. We’re also taking an innovative approach playing songs and jingles by South Sudanese musicians and offering light-hearted tips about how to have fun and relax while staying safe. That improves the chance to reach all audiences, including young people. We will try pretty much anything to get the message across if it will help the people we are here to serve,” Mr. Shearer said. 

In South Sudan and in the other countries hosting peacekeeping operations, the UN radio stations have echoed the Secretary-General’s recent call for a global ceasefire so the world can concentrate its efforts on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Peacekeeping radio stations cooperate with public and private broadcasters in the countries where they operate. The often provide their national counterparts with content, public service announcements, and training.  Never has this cooperation been more crucial than today.  

But radio is not the only communications tool available to UN Peacekeeping, and the missions’ social media platforms are also being put to good use. Providing the public with simple messages and important facts on the disease can be quickly and effectively done via Twitter, Facebook or other social media that may be popular in the country.  

A better-informed public is key to helping fight the pandemic. And peacekeeping radio is playing its part. 


UNFPA advocates for women, girls suffering unseen impacts of COVID-19 pandemic

INTERNATIONAL, 27 March 2020, Women - The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is pledging support for those suffering from invisible impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including women and girls whose access to life-saving sexual and reproductive health care may be disrupted. 

In a statement on Friday, Executive Director of the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, Natalia Kanem, said the Fund’s work is ramping up even as the novel coronavirus continues to test health care systems around the world.  

As we continue responding to the outbreak, @UNFPA is calling for renewed action to provide life-saving sexual and reproductive health for the world's most vulnerable.

See @Atayeshe's statement:

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She warned that women, girls and health workers must not be overlooked as the world responds to the greatest health crisis in a century.   

Women and girls most vulnerable 

As in most crises, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted access to critical sexual and reproductive health services and hampered authorities’ ability to respond to gender-based violence, at a time when women and girls need these services most.  

UNFPA is helping governments prioritize the special needs of women and girls – often the most vulnerable in times of crises – in line with the Fund’s goals of ending unmet need for family planning, preventable maternal deaths, gender-based violence and harmful practices by 2030. 

In his appeal for a global ceasefire amid the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this week, Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized that women and children are among the most vulnerable in times of war and face the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from the pandemic. 

UNFPA has appealed to donors to fund its response plan, which targets countries with weak public health systems including countries in fragile and humanitarian situations.  It is provisionally projecting that it will need $187.5 million. 

Efforts will focus on bolstering health systems, procuring and delivering essential supplies to protect health workers, ensuring access to reproductive health and gender-based violence services, and promoting risk communication and community engagement. 

Invisible impacts of COVID-19 

As communities around the globe grapple with the most immediate effects of the pandemic, overwhelmed healthcare systems and populations in quarantine can also suffer a ripple of additional impacts. 

“Now is a time for solidarity, resolve and selflessness.  We must not forget that there are people we may not immediately see, who are at great risk as a result of the consequences of the crisis,” said Dr. Kanem. 

Those can include pregnant women who require antenatal care but are unsure whether it is safe to go to the clinic, as well as women in abusive relationships trapped at home for the foreseeable future and fearing for their safety.  

Dr. Kanem also pointed to tens of millions of people living in refugee camps – for whom “social distancing” practices are not an option – and older people around the globe who remain isolated and starved of social interaction as they avoid infection.  

Meeting ‘intimate, yet essential’ needs 

UNFPA is working to support affected health systems, in particular by distributing material support to protect health workers and midwives. 

In China, Iran and the Philippines, it has distributed essential hygiene and other items to the most vulnerable and personal protective equipment to health workers.  In the Republic of Moldova, it has launched an online dashboard which disaggregates the country’s current caseload by location, sex, age and pregnancy status.  

However, Dr. Kanem stressed that more work is needed to ensure that the most intimate – yet essential – needs of women and girls are met as the world continues to battle COVID-19 in the months ahead.  

“This global scourge requires a global response,” she said, urging the international community to stand up for the dignity and health of women as part of its efforts. 

For more information on UNFPA’s response to COVID-19, please visit


Protect ‘healthcare heroes’ from COVID-19, urges UN rights expert

INTERNATIONAL, 27 March 2020, Health - States and business leaders must step up efforts to ensure that the selfless doctors, nurses, first-responders and other medical professionals working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic receive adequate protective equipment, a UN rights expert said on Friday.

“Their tireless work and self-sacrifice show the best of humanity”, said Baskut Tuncak Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes. 

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Hailing the healthcare workers as “heroes” who “must be protected”, he stressed that unacceptable shortages in critical protective equipment that can stop them from being infected, continue to plague nearly all nations battling the new coronavirus

Moreover, low-income countries have even fewer resources, including the necessary protection for their healthcare providers. 

“Public and private funds are urgently needed to ensure that protective equipment and other medical supplies are universally available and accessible”, he stated. “States and businesses should ensure that financial obstacles are removed and that supplies are provided at no cost for low-income countries”.    

HeAnd to those hoarding equipment and exploiting the crisis for profit, were nothing short ofhe called “abhorrent”. 

“It is time to put aside our differences and to work together to protect the most vulnerable people from this virus, the elderly and those who bravely care for them: our health care workers”, said the independent rights expert.

Safeguard older persons 

Focusing on another vulnerable segment of the population, in societies across the globe, older persons, who are bearing the lion’s share of the pandemic, must also be fully protected from the infection, argued Rosa Kornfeld-Matte on Friday, UN independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, saying that they are “bearing the lion’s share of the pandemic”.

“Reports of abandoned older persons in care homes or of dead corpses found in nursing homes are alarming”, she underscored. 

Calling it “unacceptable”, the UN independent expert said, “we all have the obligation to exercise solidarity and protect older persons from such harm.”

In addition to a disproportionate risk of death, they are also under threat due to the extra special care they may need, or throughalso put them under threat, as does living in high-risk environments, such as residential homes, according to the expert.

The elderly with underlying health conditions, the socially excluded and those poverty-stricken or living in confined spaces, such as care homes and prisons and residential care homes, are of particular concern.

“Older persons have become highly visible in the COVID 19 outbreak but their voices, opinions and concerns have not been heard”, she flagged. 

“Instead, the deep-rooted ageism in our societies has become even more apparent”, she said, pointing to “some cruel and dehumanizing language on social media”.

She closed with a call to continue support services at home and in communities “without putting older persons and their care providers at risk”. 

“Communities and generations must come together to get through this crisis in solidarity,” Ms. Kornfeld-Matte concluded. 

Liz Oke
An elderly customer buys provisions at a shop in a South London suburb in the UK.

Domestic violence risk rises

Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Simonovic, pointed out that restrictive measures to fight COVID-19 are intensifying the risk of domestic violence.

"It is very likely that rates of widespread domestic violence will increase, as already suggested by initial police and hotline reports”, she said. 

For many women and children, home can be a place of fear and abuse that is heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic", she warned.

"All States should make significant efforts to address the COVID -19threat, but they should not leave behind women and children victims of domestic violence, as this could lead to an increase of domestic violence including intimate partner femicides", Ms. Simonovic upheld in a statement.

To make matters worse, movement restrictions and financial constraints “embolden perpetrators and provide them with additional power and control".

Ms. Simonovic expressed particular concerns about women at higher risk of domestic violence, such asAnd women with disabilities, undocumented migrant women and victims of trafficking are at even higher risk of domestic violence.

The UN expert called on governments not to put the protection of victims on hold and urged them to continue to combat domestic violence in time of COVID-19. 

Measures to protect victims must remain available or be adopted during the crisis. That includes ensuring access to protection by restraining orders and maintaining safe shelters and help lines for the victims, she said. 

Ms. Simonovic called on Governments to come up with urgent measures to assist these victims. 

"Governments must not allow the extraordinary circumstances and restrictive measures against COVID-19 to lead to the violation of women's right to a life free from violence", concluded the UN expert.

Click here for a list of the nine UN independent experts who endorsed Ms. Simonovic statement.


Migrants in Hawaii care for the elderly, the aloha way

INTERNATIONAL, 27 March 2020, Health - Migrants are playing an increasingly important role in the provision of health care around the world. The number of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who move from developing countries to take up posts in developed countries is expected to rise as the global population of older persons and children continues to grow.

It’s three o’clock in the afternoon at the Lunalilo Home, a residential and day care centre for elderly people nestling at the foot of a dormant volcano on the outskirts of Honolulu, the capital of the US state of Hawaii. Novena Sanchez, originally from the Philippines, busies herself looking after the kupuna, the Hawaiian term for older people, who have gathered in the home’s communal room for an afternoon of activities. 

Ms. Sanchez came to the United States some 22 years ago after training as a nurse in the Philippines. During a break from work, she told UN News that she was always attracted to the nursing profession. “Since I was a young girl, whenever I went into a hospital or health centre, I would admire the nurses working there.”

From the Philippines to the US

She grew up in her home country in what she describes as a “hard way” and says she was “lucky” to come to the United States to live and work alongside her husband who had enlisted in the US navy. She’s been working for several years at Lunalilo, which was established in 1883 following a bequest by High Chief William Lunalilo, a former King of the Hawaiian Islands. 

Like many migrants, Ms. Sanchez brings useful skills and experience to her adopted country but says she has also sacrificed being away from her parents. Hers may be the typical migrant experience, sending money home to family in the Philippines while recognizing her “responsibilities” towards four children who were born in the United States. Ms. Sanchez is not the only migrant worker employed at Lunalilo. She’s joined by colleagues from as far away as Uganda, Tonga and Ecuador. 

Diane Paloma is the CEO of Lunalilo Home in Honolulu, Hawaii. | UN News/Daniel Dickinson

And the CEO of Lunalilo homes, Diane Paloma, is herself the descendant of Japanese migrant workers who came four generations ago to work on Hawaii’s sugar cane plantations.

“Migrants have played a critical role in Hawaii and continue to do so, especially in the health care sector,” she told UN News in her office overlooking Lunalilo’s verdant tropical lawn and small kitchen garden.

“It’s good to have diversity in the workforce” she says. “We don't want to have only one particular type of caregiver, so we welcome diversity and I personally love the different cultures that they bring to Lunalilo, especially the food!”

Aloha culture

Hawaii’s indigenous culture is reflected strongly in the daily life of the Pacific island archipelago and its multicultural communities, most commonly through the greeting aloha, which means hello, but which also carries a deeper cultural and spiritual significance encompassing love, affection, peace, compassion and mercy.    

Ms. Paloma recognizes that migrant workers often come with “different philosophical values. My challenge is, how can I teach somebody from another country, aloha and that compassion? It takes a little bit longer than if we had somebody who innately understands aloha and caring for kupuna, so employing a migrant can come with risks.”

Good health and well-being

SDG Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being. | United Nations

The migration of health and other skilled workers from developing to developed countries is not a new phenomenon, but the World Health Organization  says it is on the rise. Over the last decade, there has been a 60 per cent increase in migrant doctors and nurses working in the world’s wealthiest countries.

And while that may be good news for healthcare in those developed countries, poorer countries are often losing skilled workers either on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. The brain-drain of skilled workers means that the target of providing universal health coverage, a key aim of the Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3) which focuses on Good Health and Well-Being may be more difficult to reach.

Decent work

According to the International Labour Organization, the UN’s work-focused agency, some 2.1 billion people were in need of health care services in 2015; by 2030, this number is expected to reach 2.3 billion, driven by an additional 200 million older persons and children.

Speaking in Hawaii, Kevin Cassidy, the Director of the ILO’s office for the United States said that “sweeping changes in policies should address the rising need for care,” adding that “investment in the care economy should be an explicit objective of employment, macroeconomic, sectoral, internal and international labour migration and social protection policies,” leading to “decent work outcomes for migrant and national workers.”

Back at Lunalilo home, Novena Sanchez is showing a younger Hawaiian member of staff the best technique for helping kupuna to support their breathing using an oxygen tank. “I'm proud and confident of what I do and I’m always willing to help my colleagues.” They understand the advice she provides has come from years of experience. It’s unlikely, right now, that she will take these skills back to the Philippines, recognizing that she may only return to the country of her birth when she eventually retires.   

Good Health and Well-Being

  • The aim of creating a healthier global population is the target of SDG 3.
  • The UN believes that “ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being at all ages is essential to sustainable development.”
  • Among the targets are reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births from 211 (in 2017) and ending the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases as well as combating hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases.

A sustainable global economy must arise once COVID-19 pandemic is reversed, UN chief tells G-20 summit

INTERNATIONAL, 26 March 2020, Health - World leaders at the G-20 virtual summit held on Thursday committed to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to counteract the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They will also expand manufacturing capacity to meet the huge and increasing demand for medical supplies, which will be made available at an affordable price and in the shortest possible time, pledged the leading economic powers.

The UN Secretary-General, the world’s top diplomat, was among those taking part, stressing that “we are at war with a virus – and not winning it”.

"This war needs a war-time plan to fight it" | United Nations

We are at war with a virus – and not winning it. It took the world three months to reach 100,000 confirmed cases of infection. The next 100,000 happened in just 12 days. The third took four days. The...

António Guterres delivered a three-part message to leaders, urging concerted action to suppress the virus and to minimize the social and economic impact of the pandemic.

“We must work together now to set the stage for a recovery that builds a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable economy, guided by our shared promise — the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, he concluded.

‘Fight like hell’ WHO chief tells summit

With the pandemic accelerating exponentially overall, the man at the forefront of global response urged the G-20 to “fight like hell” against what he called “the defining health crisis of our time”.

Like the Secretary-General, the World Health Organization (WHO) chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also delivered three messages to leaders: fight, unite and ignite.

“First, fight. Fight hard. Fight like hell. Fight like your lives depend on it – because they do”, he said.

Tedros also called for unity and solidarity, and to ignite production of the tools, protective equipment and treatments that can potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives.

WHO data shows nearly half a million cases of COVID-19 have been reported as of Thursday, and more than 20,800 deaths, while 199 countries and territories are affected.

Tedros warned that “without aggressive action in all countries, millions could die”.

Some nations heed ceasefire call

Communist guerillas in the Philippines and Anglophone rebels in Cameroon are laying down their weapons and acceding to the UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire amid the pandemic.

The UN has welcomed temporary ceasefires announced on Wednesday in the two countries.

The Communist Party of the Philippines has ordered the New People’s Army to stop assaults through 15 April, while the ceasefire by the Southern Cameroons Defense Force will come into effect on Sunday, according to media reports.

UN chief António Guterres made the ceasefire appeal on Monday, saying: “It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”


First Person: two months of COVID-19 confinement in Wuhan

INTERNATIONAL, 26 March 2020, Health - Many countries have recently begun to introduce lockdown measures that have led to many citizens having to spend much, if not all, of their time at home. For those in Wuhan, China, where COVID-19 is believed to have originated, the period of self-isolation has lasted around two months. UN News spoke to Dizi*, a Wuhan resident, to find out how she has been coping. The interview has been translated.

When the shutdown happened it felt a little sudden, because it began on January 23, the same day I came to my parents’ home for a visit. In fact, there was no time to respond. I felt the epidemic was very serious at that time, but I didn’t anticipate how long it would last. At that time, I thought that the lockdown would probably last for a few weeks. 

As time went on, the lockdown become more and more strict. In the first week or two, residents could go out to buy vegetables, or other goods, and supermarkets were open. Then, with more and more serious cases of the virus, it was suggested that the elderly should stay indoors and not go out at all. 

Most people were not allowed to enter or leave the community, apart from doctors, nurses and some workers with a pass.

Mental and physical preparations

Books read by a Wuhan resident during Covid-19 quarantine , by Dizi

I remember during the first two or three days, I looked at my phone for 13 hours a day, that is to say, whenever I was awake. I was checking the news about the virus, because the number of cases in Wuhan were going up too much in those days, and nobody was really sure how many patients there were, or how many beds were available. So, I was nervous.

Before the shutdown I was being treated for depression, with antidepressant drugs. Once the epidemic hit, I couldn’t get access to the medicine, so I decided to find other ways to cope, by exercising more, getting some sun on my face every day, and reading books I’ve never got around to starting.

The confinement period was longer than expected, and I think that most people weren’t prepared for it. At first, we thought it was a week, then a fortnight, then it was a month, and now it has been two months. 

Having a daily routine is very important, as is keeping up with regular activities. Reading is the simplest, then practicing a musical instrument: engaging in artistic activities, which can really make you feel better and, when you concentrate to practice, you will soon forget other problems. 

Keeping it in the family

It can be hard being cooped up too long with the family: I only planned to visit my parents for a week, but now it’s been a long time!

I think that being together has allowed us to show more love for each other. Dizi*, Wuhan resident

If there is some friction with the family due to the small space, we can actually find ways to avoid it. For example, during certain periods of the day, the three of us will stay in different rooms: one person in the living room, one person in the study, and the other person reading in the bedroom, or exercising outside, so that everyone has different space for activities. 

In fact, I think that being together has allowed us to show more love for each other. For example, my father couldn't go out to have his hair cut, so he let me do it for him. This was the first time since I've grown up that I’ve cut his hair, and it made us both very happy.

The importance of communication

News about the development of the epidemic has been continuously broadcast on a rolling basis every day, with experts invited to tell the public about medical problems that need to be paid attention to, including psychological counselling.

Hubei TV, our local station, frequently interviews volunteers, so that we can see what ordinary people around us can do in this situation. Not only is it some positive news, it also shows how ordinary people have great power. 

As for my team at work, we report our health condition in the group every day. We also ask everyone in the community what kind of food they need every week or two. And, if old people urgently need medicine, the community can go and buy it for them.

A lot of useful information is on the internet, but there’s also a lot of negativity out there, so it’s important to spend time communicating with loved ones and close friends. Once this is passed, we will still want to live with them or have a close relationship with them! So, don’t fill your time by looking at negative social network posts.

Respect for front-line workers

vegetables delivered by community workers to Wuhan residents during quarantine, by Dizi

We certainly need to show our respect and gratitude for those who can’t stay at home. Without the doctors, nurses, and community workers, we wouldn’t have been able to contain this virus.

But we’re also making a contribution if we protect ourselves, don't catch cold, don't get sick, don't go to the hospital, and don't become a burden to anyone. And most importantly, stay at home!

Maybe after the epidemic is over, we will meet community workers or volunteers, as well as medical personnel, and show them even more respect than before.

A changed outlook on life

This experience has definitely changed my outlook on life. I have stayed at home for two months, and it feels as if the world has become smaller, and larger at the same time. I mean that, although my movements have become limited, I can still get a lot of information. I now know a lot about infectious diseases, and my own health habits. My relationship with my family members is much closer than before, and I’ve got back in touch with old friends I hadn’t heard from in many years.

We’ve also seen, since the early days of the virus, so many people volunteering, helping to find protective clothing, and offering psychological assistance. It makes me feel that these things may have been something I didn't pay attention to before. 

And for me, personally, as someone who has had some emotional problems, this has been a time for rest and study. Initially, I felt helpless, but now I can calmly accept the loss of free movement. And, if something similar happens in the future, I think I will be able to deal with it.

*Name changed to protect the interviewee’s anonymity.


Life-saving vaccinations must not ‘fall victim’ to COVID-19 pandemic – UNICEF chief

INTERNATIONAL, 26 March 2020, Health - Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is overstretching health services, medical goods are in short supply, and transport disruptions have left supply chains facing “historic strain”, according to the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

As health workers are diverted to support the response, “physical distancing is leading parents to make the difficult decision to defer routine immunization”, Henrietta Fore said in a statement on Thursday, adding that flight cancellations and trade restrictions have “severely constrained access to essential medicines, including vaccines”.

All response efforts must include everyone, including those forced to flee their homes.
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“As the pandemic progresses, critical life-saving services, including immunization, will likely be disrupted, especially in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, where they are sorely needed”, she stated, highlighting that children from the poorest families in conflict and natural disaster-affected countries were at “the greatest risk”.

Measles, cholera, polio – immunization essential

UNICEF is “particularly concerned” about countries battling measles, cholera or polio outbreaks while simultaneously responding to COVID-19 cases. Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, the Philippines, Syria and South Sudan fall into that category. 

Not only would such outbreaks tax already stretched health services, they could also result in more deaths and greater suffering. 

“At a time like this, these countries can ill-afford to face additional outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases”, asserted the UNICEF chief.

“The message is clear: We must not allow lifesaving health interventions to fall victim to our efforts to address COVID-19”.

UNICEF is committed to supporting basic health care and immunization needs in the worst affected countries in a way that limits the risk of COVID-19 transmission, by working to ensure adequate vaccine supplies in countries that need them. 

The agency is working with global vaccine suppliers to ensure production, and providing support to governments to maintain vaccine supplies during the pandemic.  

Physical distancing is leading parents to make the difficult decision to defer routine immunization

Plan ahead

While Governments may have to temporarily postpone mass vaccination campaigns to ensure that delivering immunizations does not contribute to spreading the coronavirus, UNICEF “strongly recommends” that Governments begin “rigorous planning now”, to intensify immunization programmes once the pandemic is under control. 
“These vaccination activities must focus on children who will miss vaccine doses during this period of interruption and prioritize the poorest and most vulnerable children”, Ms. Fore explained. 
To successfully roll-out an effective vaccine against COVID-19, when it becomes available, immunization programmes must remain robust and accessible to those that most need inoculations.   
“As the world's biggest buyer and supplier of vaccines, UNICEF will continue to play a pivotal role in supporting governments’ current and future immunization efforts”, the UNICEF chief concluded.

Students missing out

Meanwhile, as nationwide school closures disrupt education for more than 80 per cent of students around the world, UNICEF announced that it would scale up support in 145 nations to help learning continue, safely. 

“It is an unprecedented situation and unless we collectively act now to protect children’s education, societies and economies will feel the burden long after we’ve beaten COVID-19”, said Robert Jenkins, UNICEF Global Chief of Education. “In the most vulnerable communities, the impact will span generations”. 

Based on lessons learned with the school closures in response to the Ebola epidemics of recent years, UNICEF maintains that the longer children stay away from school, the less likely they are to ever return. 

Giving children alternative ways to learn also rebuilds a routine, which is critical to the coronavirus response.

UNICEF has allocated $13 million to support Governments and education partners to develop plans for a rapid, system-wide response to include alternative learning programmes and mental health support.


‘Rapid deterioration’ in global investment flows as Coronavirus spreads: UN trade body

INTERNATIONAL, 26 March 2020, Economic Development - Foreign direct investment flows are liable to drop by 30 to 40 per cent during 2020, into next year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, reflecting a far more severe economic blow that initially projected, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said on Thursday in its latest Investment Trends Monitor report.

Initial projections were based on data limited to February and expectations that East Asia would bear the brunt of the immediate economic impact - but with the virus spreading worldwide and with many countries in lockdown mode, a far greater shock on supply and demand looks inevitable, it said.

Many unknowns

“Ultimately, the decline will depend on the severity and duration of the pandemic across different regions and countries, and the scope of containment measures that Governments are forced to put into place”, it said.

New UNCTAD estimates on how the pandemic will impact global investment show a dramatic 30% to 40% drop in flows during 2020-2021.

This is much more than our projections of 5% to 15% earlier this month.

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“Importantly, it will also depend on the nature and scale of policy packages that most Governments are now putting together to support their economies”, the report added, “which will determine the duration of the recession and the speed of the recovery.”

Earnings guidance by companies that make up UNCTAD’s Top 100 list of transnational corporations – a bellwether of foreign direct investment trends – confirms a “rapid deterioration of prospects”, it said.

Supply chains and sales hit

Fifty-seven per cent of those companies which previously warned that the pandemic would upset their supply chains have since declared that it will drag down sales as well.

On average, the world’s top 5,000 multinational enterprises – which account for a significant share of global foreign direct investment – have revised their 2020 earnings estimates by an average of 30 per cent, UNCTAD said, adding that “the trend is likely to continue”.

Hardest hit are the energy and basic materials industries, airlines and the automotive industry.  However, the number of other sectors that expect to be feel the blow of a global slump in demand is growing rapidly.

“Downward revisions of earnings estimates are now more serious in developed countries, contrary to the situation in early March”, UNCTAD said, with average revisions particularly strong in the United States due to the weighting of energy sector multinational enterprises.

Overall, it said, profit guidance from multinationals in developed countries have been revised downwards by 35 per cent since the start of the pandemic, compared to 20 per cent in developing countries.  What’s more, downward revisions in Europe now exceed those issued in Asia. 


Human rights must be maintained in beating back the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘without exception’ – UN experts

INTERNATIONAL, 26 March 2020, Human Rights - Dozens of independent UN human rights experts stressed on Thursday that in addition to public health and emergency measures, battling the COVID-19 pandemic, must respect the fundamental human rights of every individual.

“Everyone, without exception, has the right to life-saving interventions and this responsibility lies with the government”, said the group of 42 experts – representing nearly every independent rights specialist working within the Human Rights Council-mandated system -  maintaining that the scarcity of resources or insurance schemes should never justify discrimination against certain groups of patients. “Everybody has the right to health”, they declared. 

Everybody has the right to health -- UN rights experts

They cited people with disabilities, older persons, minority communities, the internally displaced and those living in extreme poverty, as well as people in detention, the homeless, refugees and other groups needing government support.

While advances in biomedical sciences are vital for the right to health, the experts underscored that “all human rights” were equally as important and that non-discrimination, participation, empowerment and accountability must be applied “to all health-related policies”.

Prevention, detection, treatment 

The UN experts supported measures recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to defeat the pandemic and on States to act with determination to provide the needed resources to all sectors of public health systems – from prevention and detection to treatment and recovery.

But addressing this crisis is more than that. 

“States must take additional social protection measures so that their support reaches those who are at most risk of being disproportionately affected by the crisis”, they spelled out, including women, “who are already at a disadvantaged socio-economic position, bear an even heavier care burden, and live with a heightened risk of gender-based violence”.

Paying tribute

The UN experts expressed their gratitude and admiration to health workers around the world who are heroically battling the outbreak. 

“They face huge workloads, risk their own lives and are forced to face painful ethical dilemmas when resources are too scarce”, they elaborated. “Healthcare workers need to have all possible support from States, business, media and the public at large.

‘Wake-up call’

COVID-19 is a serious global challenge”, the experts acknowledged, adding that it is also “a wake-up call” to revitalize universal human rights principles, which, along with trust in scientific knowledge, “must prevail over the spread of fake news, prejudice, discrimination, inequalities and violence”.

Everyone is united in facing this unprecedented challenge. 

According to the experts, throughout this crisis, the business sector in particular has a responsibility to protect human rights. 

Only with concerted multilateral efforts, solidarity and mutual trust, will we defeat the pandemic while becoming more resilient, mature and united.

“When the vaccine for COVID-19 comes, it should be provided without discrimination”, they advocated.

“Meanwhile”, concluded the independent experts, “as it is still to come, the human rights-based approach is already known as another effective pathway in the prevention of major public health threats”.

About the experts

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Click here for the names and titles of the UN experts.

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