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23-10-2020 | Press Conferences

UNOG Bi-weekly press briefing 23 October 2020


Libya ceasefire agreement

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that at 11.15 today the delegations of the Libya 5+5 Joint Military Committee would sign an agreement resulting from the deliberations that had taken place this week.

The signing would be broadcast live on webtv.un.org and on UNSMIL and UN Geneva Facebook pages and would be followed by a press conference by ASRSG Stephanie Williams at noon in Room XIV of the Palais des Nations.

United Nations Day

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that Saturday, 24 October, would be the United Nations Day, marking the 75th anniversary since the entry into force of the UN Charter in 1945. Mr. LeBlanc referred to the message of the UN Secretary-General on this occasion, who said that the 75th anniversary of the United Nations fell in the middle of a global pandemic, and the UN’s founding mission was more critical than ever.

Mr. LeBlanc also informed that close to 200 monuments and buildings across Europe would be lit up in blue tomorrow night to mark this anniversary. In Geneva, the Palais des Nations and the Jet d’Eau would be illuminated in blue, as well as the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.

Flooding in Sudan

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that, following the unprecedented rains and floods that had affected 875,000 people across Sudan, a secondary health emergency was looming with more than 4.5 million people at risk of vector-borne diseases. Stagnant water pools were providing more breeding sites for mosquitoes which were vectors for viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF), chikungunya and malaria. The most lethal disease was malaria, which had reached an epidemic level in 15 out of 18 departments of Sudan. UN agencies were helping the authorities to purchase and distribute necessary malaria supplies, informed Mr. Laerke. The health component of the response plan in Sudan was only 19 per cent funded; there was an urgent need to raise an estimated USD 25 million to procure essential medicines and supplies to support preventative measures for vaccine-preventable, vector and water-borne diseases.

Survival of prematurely born babies

Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that dexamethasone had had good results with lowering COVID-19 mortality, but the drug had been around for a very long time and it had been saving premature babies in wealthy countries. A new study answered the question on its role in resource-poor settings.

Dr. Olufemi Oladapo, Head of Maternal and Perinatal Health Unit at the World Health Organization (WHO), said the study trial had been done in cooperation with partners from 29 hospitals in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Kenya. Dexamethasone had been around for several years, primarily in high-income settings. There was a high disparity in survival rates among infants in high-income settings versus those in low-income settings. A 2011 study had focused on whether scaling up the use of dexamethasone in low-income countries would increase the rate of pre-term infant survival; the result of the study was negative, and showed that scaling up of the drug antenatally had led to an increase in still births and preterm infant deaths. For that reason, the WHO had decided to conduct an efficacy trial and establish whether the drug caused more harm than good if used in low-income settings. While the preterm infant mortality in that population remained high, dexamethasone was found to be associated with a 16-per cent reduction in neonatal mortality. What had made a difference to neonatal survival was not only the use of dexamethasone, but the fact that additional resources had been provided to support women and identify women who were likely to give a preterm birth. In summary, dexamethasone was helpful to lowering neonatal infant mortality in low-income settings, provided that there were basic facilities for mothers and newborns.

The success of the trial was also thanks to the collaboration of maternal health and newborn experts from the WHO and hospitals where the study had been conducted. There were no shortcuts to high-quality maternal and newborn care, stressed Dr. Oladapo.

An embargoed press release had just been shared with the accredited media, said Ms. Harris.

World Polio Day

Responding to questions, Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), informed that there would be a statement soon on the occasion of the upcoming World Polio Day, 24 October.


On another question, Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said there were currently ten vaccines in Phase III clinical trials. A solid analysis of the data was necessary, and the WHO would not back any vaccine until it was proven to be of the highest safety and efficacy.

Geneva announcements

Alejandro Laguna, for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), informed that on Monday, 26 October, at 10:45 am Geneva time, UNEP would hold a virtual (Zoom) event to launch the report Used Vehicles and the Environment - A Global Overview of Used Light Duty Vehicles: Flow, Scale and Regulation. The report analysed the flow of used vehicles, mostly from Europe and the US to developing countries, its effects on the environment, health and road safety, and provided recommendations. Another report, “Used Vehicles Exported to Africa”, prepared by the Netherlands Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate, would be launched the same day. The latter report showed how many vehicles shipped from Dutch ports to Africa were outdated. The speakers at the launch would include the Executive Director of UNEP, the Minister of Transport of the Netherlands, and the Minister of the Environment of Ghana.

On 26 October at 10.00 a.m., the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) would hold a hybrid briefing on the State of the Climate in Africa report. The speakers would be Filipe Lucio, Director of Regional Strategic Office, WMO, and Omar Baddour, Coordinator of WMO Statements on the State of the Climate.

Meetings covered by UNIS

The Human Rights Committee will hold a public meeting next Friday 30 October at 4 p.m. to review the reports concerning the follow-up of concluding observations and views.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women will open its virtual 77th session next Monday, 26 October, at 12.30 a.m. It will then meet in private until the end of the session, scheduled for the 5th of November at 5 p.m.

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UNOG Bi-weekly press briefing 23 October 2020 / 39:18

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