REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
15 June 2021
Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, which was attended by the spokespersons and representatives of the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unitaid, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the World Meteorological Organization and the World Food Programme.
International Labour Conference and World of Work Summit
Rosalind Yarde, for the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that the International Labour Conference was continuing until 19 June.
On 17 and 18 June, ILO would stage a virtual World of Work Summit focusing on responses to the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the world of work and the action required to build a better future of work.
On the first day of the summit, keynote addresses would be made by the Pope, the President of the United States and the Prime Ministers of the Republic of Korea and Portugal. On the second day, there would be moderated panel discussions with guests including representatives of the Governments of Côte d’Ivoire, Mexico, Portugal and Sri Lanka, as well as representatives from workers’ and employers’ organizations and the United Nations. The panels would discuss what the responses to COVID-19 had revealed about deep-seated problems in the labour market and examine the challenges to multilateralism and the key areas in which action was needed to build a world with decent work and justice for all.
Situation of children in Tigray
James Elder, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that UNICEF’s Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, had issued a statement indicating that at least 33,000 children in inaccessible parts of Tigray, Ethiopia, were severely malnourished and faced imminent death without immediate help. In the last month alone, there had been a four-fold increase in weekly admissions of children for treatment of severe acute malnutrition.
The crisis had coincided with extensive damage to essential systems, including water infrastructure. Food insecurity was expected to worsen over the coming months. It was imperative that parties to the conflict ensured that humanitarian actors, including UNICEF, had unimpeded and safe access on the ground to stave off widespread famine. Mobile health and nutrition teams needed to be able to work safely, including during the upcoming measles, polio, vitamin A and nutrition campaigns across all areas of the Tigray region.
Funding for the response remained inadequate. UNICEF required US$ 47 million to reach 1.3 million children until September but was facing a shortfall of US$ 13 million.
The full briefing note can be found here.
Replying to questions from journalists, Mr. Elder said that UNICEF and other agencies had enough access to be able to monitor and assess the situation on the ground, but that it was not sufficient for the provision of humanitarian assistance to all those who needed it. The Government had rejected the official famine classification on a technicality, since the 353,000 people who were facing catastrophic food insecurity did not equate to more than 20 per cent of the population surveyed, which was the threshold for a declaration of famine.
WFP’s Response to G7 commitment to famine prevention
Tomson Phiri, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that WFP welcomed the G7 leaders’ commitment to famine prevention and called for swift action to prevent widespread catastrophe.
More than 34 million people were teetering on the edge of famine. They could be pulled back from the brink provided that the necessary funding and access were made available. The G7 leaders had reaffirmed their commitment to provide US$ 7 billion in vital humanitarian assistance and take diplomatic action to promote humanitarian access.
Funding shortfalls continued to hold WFP back from preventing famine taking a grip in countries such as Yemen, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Madagascar and, most recently, the Tigray region of Ethiopia. For the next six months alone, WFP required US$ 4.5 billion. The consequences of inaction and funding shortfalls would be measured in lost lives. Already in South Sudan and Yemen, two countries of concern, WFP had been forced to institute ration cuts. Its ability to save lives depended on unimpeded humanitarian access and having funding commitments fulfilled.
The full briefing note can be found here.
COVID-19/Unitaid: Unprecedented cooperation with global oxygen suppliers
Hervé Verhoosel, for Unitaid, said that Unitaid welcomed the commitment made by the G7 to deliver oxygen where it was needed for COVID-19 patients.
Unitaid and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) were pleased to announce agreements with Air Liquide and Linde respectively, which would provide a pathway to increasing access to medical oxygen in low- and middle-income countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical oxygen shortages around the world had been a tragic feature of the pandemic, impacting the poorest countries disproportionately. According to the latest estimates, more than 2 million oxygen cylinders were currently needed in low- and middle-income countries, with concerning surges reported in several countries in Africa, Latin America and South-East Asia.
The agreements came following intense engagement with the world’s major oxygen suppliers by the COVID-19 Oxygen Emergency Taskforce over the past four months. The unprecedented collaboration with industry aimed to overcome fundamental issues such as unstable funding commitments and insufficient infrastructure, which had limited the availability of medical oxygen. Unitaid, CHAI and the Oxygen Emergency Taskforce would seek to mobilize resources to fund medical oxygen storage and infrastructure, pay for emergency supplies and finance the transportation of equipment and other tools needed for safe, resilient medical oxygen systems. An estimated US$ 400 million was needed immediately to enable such vital work to take place, and Unitaid was grateful to those potential donors who had already come forward.
Webinar on Post-COVID condition
Fadéla Chaib, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the second webinar on Post-COVID condition would be held on 15 June from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. CEST.
As of June 2021, over 170 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 3.5 million deaths had been reported to WHO. The estimated number of people affected by sequelae after experiencing COVID-19 remained unknown, but published reports had found that approximately 10 per cent of COVID-19 patients experienced long-lasting symptoms for weeks or months following acute SARS-CoV-2 infection, identified under the umbrella name of Post COVID-19 condition or Long COVID.
The second WHO webinar would present the consensus clinical case definition and expand on understanding the mechanisms that might cause Post COVID-19 condition and the care models to manage it. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO, would make welcome remarks. Speakers would include researchers from the UK, the US, Bangladesh, South Africa, Sweden and Canada.
New WHO report: Children and Digital Dumpsites
Fadéla Chaib, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that a new report, entitled “Children and Digital Dumpsites, e-waste exposure and child health”, would be launched at a press conference on 15 June at 4.30 p.m. CEST. The report examined the main effects of electronic and electrical waste, known as e-waste, on child health and set out solutions for the health sector at different levels. It was the first comprehensive publication WHO had produced on the issue and included new evidence and data.
Dr. Maria Neira, the WHO Director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, and Dr. Marie-Noël Bruné Drisse, WHO lead author on the report, would speak at the press conference. Press materials were available under embargo until 15 June at 16:30 CEST when the report would be launched.
Launch of LIVE LIFE guide on preventing suicide
Fadéla Chaib, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that on 17 June at 2 p.m. CEST, WHO would launch the LIVE LIFE guide on suicide prevention.
The comprehensive guide laid out a clear path to putting in place suicide prevention interventions that had been proven to work. It would be accompanied by a booklet presenting WHO’s latest data on suicide rates around the world by age, region and country, and trends since 2000.
To launch the guide, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO, would be joined by Dr. Alexandra Fleischmann of WHO, DJ Nash, Creator and Executive Producer of A Million Little Things, Jazz Thornton, mental health activist and co-founder of Voices of Hope, and Jonny Benjamin, author and founder of youth mental health charity Beyond.
Newly appointed UNCTAD Secretary-General
Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said that economist and former Vice President of Costa Rica, Rebeca Grynspan, had been appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, as Secretary-General of UNCTAD. Her nomination had been approved by the General Assembly on 11 June.
Ms. Grynspan was the first woman and first Central American to hold the position. A former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and former Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), she had served as Vice President of Costa Rica from 1994 to 1998.
Press conference on World Investment Report 2021
Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said that on 17 June at 12 p.m., UNCTAD would hold a press conference to launch the World Investment Report 2021.
Unsurprisingly, investment flows had plunged in 2020 owing to the COVID-19 crisis but were set for a partial recovery in 2021. Lockdowns imposed around the world as a result of the pandemic had slowed down existing investment projects, and the prospects of a recession had led multinational enterprises to reassess new projects.
WMO Executive Council meeting
Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that WMO’s Executive Council was meeting virtually from 14 to 25 June. Climate change was at the top of the international agenda, and there was increased demand for weather, climate and water services.
To meet the challenges, the Executive Council would discuss a major update to WMO’s data policy to include areas such as the cryosphere and space weather. The exchange of data underpinned all weather forecasts. However, only half of WMO’s 193 member States had state-of-the-art early-warning systems, and the gap in capacity undermined the accuracy of forecasts worldwide.
Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said that on 15 June, the Conference on Disarmament was holding a plenary meeting with a substantive focus on new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons and radiological weapons.
Ms. Vellucci also said that on 15 June at 3.30 p.m., the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) would launch its Global Assessment Report (GAR) Special Report on Drought 2021. The report was under embargo until 3 p.m. CEST on 17 June. Speaking at the press conference would be Ms. Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, and Dr. Roger Pulwarty, Senior Scientist, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
At 10 a.m. on 17 June, Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan of Fiji, the President of the Human Rights Council for 2021, would hold a press conference on the 47th regular session of the Human Rights Council, which would take place from 21 June to 15 July.
At 3.30 p.m. on 22 June, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) would present its New Policy Brief, entitled “An Unprecedented Opportunity to Boost Finance for Development: The Upcoming Special Drawing Rights Allocation”. The Brief was under embargo until 00.01 EST on 24 June. Speaking at the launch would be Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, Georges Ronald Gray, UNDP Chief Economist, and Lars Jensen, author and senior economist.
Lastly, Ms. Vellucci said that at 7 p.m. on 15 June, to mark the launch of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, the United Nations and the European Commission would present the film “The Great Green Wall”, followed by a debate moderated by Deborah Seward, Director of the United Nations Regional Information Centre.