Solidarity needed to stop COVID increasing illicit drug threats to poor and vulnerable

By Ghada Waly

More people are using drugs, and more illicit drugs are available than ever. The COVID-19 crisis has exposed our fragility, with health systems strained and social safety nets stretched to the

Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

limit. The economic downturn caused by the global pandemic may drive more people to substance abuse or leave them vulnerable to involvement in drug trafficking and related crime.

We have been here before. In the global recession that followed the 2008 financial crisis, drug users sought out cheaper synthetic substances and patterns of use shifted towards injecting drugs, while governments reduced budgets to deal with drug-related problems.

Vulnerable and marginalized groups, youth, women and the poor have been harmed the most. Now facing the gravest socio-economic crisis in generations, governments cannot afford to ignore the dangers illicit drugs pose to public health and safety.

All over the world, the risks and consequences of drug use are worsened by poverty, limited opportunities for education and jobs, stigma and social exclusion, which in turn helps to deepen inequalities, moving us further away from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While more people use drugs in developed countries than in developing countries, and wealthier segments of society have a higher prevalence of drug use, people who are socially and economically disadvantaged are more likely to develop drug use disorders.

Only one out of eight people who need drug-related treatment receive it, according to the World Drug Report 2020 from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Some 35.6 million people suffer from drug use disorders globally.

One out of three drug users is a woman but women represent only one out of five people in treatment. People in prison settings, minorities, immigrants and displaced people also face barriers to treatment due to discrimination and stigma.

Around 269 million people used drugs in 2018, up 30 per cent from 2009, with adolescents and young adults accounting for the largest share of users. While the increase reflects population growth and other factors, the data nevertheless indicate that illicit drugs are more diverse, more potent and more available.

At the same time, more than 80% of the world’s population, mostly living in low- and middle-income countries, are deprived of access to controlled drugs for pain relief and other essential medical uses.

Governments have repeatedly pledged to work together to address the challenges posed by the world drug problem, in the SDGs, and most recently in the 2019 Ministerial Declaration adopted by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. But data indicate that support has actually fallen over time, imperilling government commitment as well as regional and global coordination.

Development assistance dedicated to drug control fell by some 90% between 2000-2017. Funding to address drugs may be provided under other budget lines, but there is little evidence of international donor attention to this priority. Assistance for alternative development – creating viable, licit forms of income to enable poor farmers to stop growing illicit opium poppy or coca – also remains very low.

Balanced, comprehensive and effective responses to drugs depend on shared responsibility. I urge governments to live up to their commitments and provide support.

Leaving no one behind requires greater investment in evidence-based prevention, as well as treatment and other services for drug use disorders, HIV, hepatitis C and other infections.

We need international cooperation to increase access to controlled drugs for medical purposes, while preventing diversion and abuse, and to strengthen law enforcement action to dismantle the transnational organized crime networks.

Expanding knowledge about the impacts of drugs on women and men, young and old, and different social groups can improve care. Use of alternatives to conviction and punishment for appropriate cases, in line with the international drug control conventions, can improve the chances for successful rehabilitation and reintegration.

Health-centred, rights-based and gender-responsive approaches to drug use and related diseases deliver better public health outcomes. We need to do more to share this learning and support implementation, most of all in developing countries, including by strengthening cooperation with civil society and youth organizations. We need to know more and care more.

As we seek to overcome and recover from the COVID-19 crisis, our societies cannot risk compounding illicit drug threats through inattention and neglect. We need drug strategies addressing the country level, as well as regional and interregional challenges. Governments need to mobilize financial resources, and more importantly, societal and institutional support – not one sector or one ministry but all efforts concerted and consolidated to achieve impact.

We need all countries to show greater solidarity, to address and build resilience to drug problems so the world can build back better from the pandemic.

Ghada Waly is the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

The Secretary General- Video Message on World Refugee Day 2020

Nearly 80 million women, children, and men around the world have been forced from their homes as refugees or internally displaced people. Even more shocking: ten million of these people fled in the past year alone.

On World Refugee Day, we pledge to do everything in our power to end the conflict and persecution that drive these appalling numbers.

Today, we also recognize the generosity and humanity of host communities and countries that often struggle with their own economic and security concerns. We owe these countries our thanks, our support and our investment.

We must all work to re-establish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime, and to implement the pledges made at the Global Refugee Forum, so that refugees and host communities receive the support they need.

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic poses an additional threat to refugees and displaced people, who are among the most vulnerable. My recent Policy Brief on COVID-19 and People on the Move called on governments to ensure that they are included in all response and recovery efforts.

Refugees and displaced people are also prominent among those who are stepping up to make a difference on the frontlines of the response.

From camps in Bangladesh to hospitals in Europe, refugees are working as nurses, doctors, scientists, teachers and in other essential roles, protecting themselves and giving back to the communities that host them.

On World Refugee Day, we thank refugees for their resourcefulness and determination to rebuild their own lives, and to improve the lives of those around them.

Today and every day, we stand in unity and solidarity with refugees and recognize our fundamental obligation to shelter those fleeing war and persecution.

Op-Ed On the Black Lives Matter Protests and other Mass Demonstrations against Systemic Racism and Police Brutality

Joint reflexions by United Nations Senior African Officials (*)

 A desperate yearning for a long-departed mother. Reaching deep from the bowels of fragile humanity. Grasping for breath. Begging for mercy. The entire world heard the tragic cry. The family of nations saw his face pounded against the harsh tarmac. Unbearable pain in broad daylight. A neck buckling under the knee and weight of history. A gentle giant, desperately clinging to life. Yearning to breathe free. Till his last breath.

As senior African leaders in the United Nations, the last few weeks of protests at the killing of George Floyd in the hands of police, have left us all outraged at the injustice of racism that continues to be pervasive in our host country and across the world.

Not enough can ever be said about the deep trauma and inter-generational suffering that has resulted from the racial injustice perpetrated through centuries, particularly against people of African descent. To merely condemn expressions and acts of racism is not enough.

We must go beyond and do more.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stated that “we need to raise our voices against all expressions of racism and instances of racist behaviour”. Following the killing of Mr. George Floyd, the cry ‘Black Lives Matter’ resounding across the United States and throughout the world is more than a slogan. In fact, they do not only matter, they are quintessential to the fulfillment of our common human dignity.

Now is the time to move from words to deeds.

We owe it to George Floyd and to all victims of racial discrimination and police brutality to dismantle racist institutions. As leaders in the multilateral system, we believe it is incumbent upon us to speak for those whose voices have been silenced, and advocate for effective responses that would contribute to fight systemic racism, a global scourge that has been perpetuated over centuries.

The shocking killing of George Floyd is rooted in a wider and intractable set of issues that will not disappear if we ignore them. It is time for the United Nations to step up and act decisively to help end systemic racism against people of African descent and other minority groups “in  promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion” as stipulated in Article 1 of the UN Charter.  Indeed, the foundation of the United Nations is the conviction that all human beings are equal and entitled to live without fear of persecution.

It was at the height of the civil rights movement in the United States and during the emergence of post-colonial independent African nations joining the United Nations, that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) came into force in 1969.

This was a pivotal time in history. The collapse of apartheid in South Africa, driven in part by the United Nations, was one of the Organization’s proudest achievements.

The human rights and dignity of black people in Africa as well as across the African diaspora resonated as a powerful signal to future generations, that the United Nations would neither turn a blind eye on racial discrimination nor tolerate injustice and bigotry  under the cover of unjust laws.  In this new era, the United Nations must in the same vein use its influence to once again remind us of the unfinished business of eradicating racism and urge the community of nations to remove the stain of racism on humanity.

We welcome the initiatives by the Secretary-General to strengthen the global anti-racism discourse, which would address systemic racism at all levels, as well as its impact wherever it exists, including in the United Nations Organization itself.

If we are to lead, we must do so by example. To initiate and sustain real change, we also must have an honest assessment of how we uphold the UN Charter within our institution.

Our expression of solidarity is well in keeping with our responsibilities and obligations as international civil servants to stand up and speak out against oppression. As leaders we share the core beliefs and the values and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations that do not leave us the option to keep silent.

We commit to harnessing our expertise, leadership and mandates to address the root causes and structural changes that must be implemented if we are to bring an end to racism.

Almost 500 years after the revolting Transatlantic trade of Africans began, we have arrived at a critical point in the arc of the moral universe as we approach in 2024 the end of the International Decade for People of African Descent, a mere four years away. Let us use our collective voice to fulfill the aspirations of our communities that the United Nations will wield its moral power as an institution to effect global change. Let us use our voice to contribute towards the realization of Africa’s own transformative vision contained in Agenda 2063 which is consistent with the world’s Agenda 2030.

Africa is the cradle of humanity and the forerunner of human civilizations. Africa as a continent must play a definitive role if the world is to achieve sustainable development and peace. That was the dream of the founders of the Organization of African Unity, that was also the strong belief of prominent leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and eminent intellectuals such as Cheikh Anta Diop.

Let us never forget the words of President Nelson Mandela: “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

Let us ever bear in mind the admonition of civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer:

“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free”, who was echoed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.  

Their words were later embodied into the rainbow of the diverse nation of South Africa, as spelled by the peacemaker Archbishop Desmond Tutu when he stated that “Black liberation is an absolutely indispensable prerequisite to white liberation – nobody will be free until we all are free.”

(*) All signatories listed below are senior UN officials who hold the rank of Under Secretary General. They signed this Op Ed in their personal capacity:

Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS

Mahamat Saleh ANNADIF

Zainab BANGURA

Winnie BYANYIMA

Mohamed Ibn CHAMBAS

Adama DIENG

François Lounceny FALL

Bience GAWANAS

Gilbert HOUNGBO

Bishar A. HUSSEIN

Natalia KANEM

Mukhisa KITUYI

Jeremiah Nyamane MAMABOLO

Phumzile MLAMBO-NGCUKA

Mankeur NDIAYE

Parfait ONANGA-ANYANGA

Moussa D. OUMAROU

Pramila PATTEN

Vera SONGWE

Hanna TETTEH

Ibrahim THIAW

Leila ZERROUGUI

Remarks by the Secretary-General at Launch of Policy Brief on Food Security

New York, 9 June 2020

There is more than enough food in the world to feed our population of 7.8 billion people.

But, today, more than 820 million people are hungry.

And some 144 million children under the age of 5 are stunted – more than one in five children worldwide.

Our food systems are failing, and the Covid-19 pandemic is making things worse.

Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that there is an impending global food emergency that could have long term impacts on hundreds of millions of children and adults.

This year, some 49 million extra people may fall into extreme poverty due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The number of people who are acutely food or nutrition insecure will rapidly expand.

Every percentage point drop in global Gross Domestic Product means an additional 0.7 million stunted children.

Even in countries with abundant food, we see risks of disruptions in the food supply chain.

We need to act now to avoid the worst impacts of our efforts to control the pandemic.

Today I am launching a Policy Brief on the Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security and Nutrition.

It has three clear findings.

First, we must mobilize to save lives and livelihoods, focusing attention where the risk is most acute.

That means designating food and nutrition services as essential, while implementing appropriate protections for food workers.

It means preserving critical humanitarian food, livelihood and nutrition assistance to vulnerable groups.

And it means positioning food in food-crisis countries to reinforce and scale up social protection systems.

Countries need to scale up support for food processing, transport and local food markets, and they must keep trade corridors open to ensure the continuous functioning of food systems.

And they must ensure that relief and stimulus packages reach the most vulnerable, including meeting the liquidity needs of small-scale food producers and rural businesses.

Second, we must strengthen social protection systems for nutrition.

Countries need to safeguard access to safe, nutritious foods, particularly for young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, older people and other at-risk groups.

And they need to adapt and expand social protection schemes to benefit nutritionally at-risk groups.

This includes supporting children who no longer have access to school meals.

Third, we must invest in the future.

We have an opportunity to build a more inclusive and sustainable world.

Let us build food systems that better address the needs of food producers and workers.

Let us provide more inclusive access to healthy and nutritious food so we can eradicate hunger.

And let us rebalance the relationship between food systems and the natural environment by transforming them to work better with nature and for the climate.

We cannot forget that food systems contribute up to 29 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, including 44 per cent of methane, and are having a negative impact on biodiversity.

If we do these things and more, as indicated by the brief we are launching today, we can avoid some of the worst impacts of the COVID19 pandemic on food security and nutrition – and we can do so in a way that supports the green transition that we need to make.

Thank you.

Secretary-General António Guterres video message on World Environment Day 5 June

Nature is sending us a clear message.

We are harming the natural world – to our own detriment.

Habitat degradation and biodiversity loss are accelerating.

Climate disruption is getting worse.

Fires, floods, droughts and superstorms are more frequent and damaging.

Oceans are heating and acidifying, destroying coral ecosystems.

And now, a new coronavirus is raging, undermining health and livelihoods.

To care for humanity, we MUST care for nature.

We need our entire global community to change course.

Let’s rethink what we buy and use.

Adopt sustainable habits, farming and business models.

Safeguard remaining wild spaces and wildlife.

And commit to a green and resilient future.

As we work to build back better, let’s put nature where it belongs — at the heart of our decision making.

On this World Environment Day, it’s Time for Nature.

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL-REMARKS ON COVID-19 AND PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

New York, 3 June 2020

COVID-19 continues to devastate lives and livelihoods around the globe — hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.

This is particularly true for millions of people on the move — such as refugees and internally displaced persons who are forced to flee their homes from violence or disaster, or migrants in precarious situations.

Now they face three crises rolled into one.

First, a health crisis — as they become exposed to the virus, often in crowded conditions where social distancing is an impossible luxury — and where basics such as health care, water, sanitation and nutrition are often hard to find.

This impact will be even more devastating to the large number of people on the move who live in least developed countries.  One-third of the world’s internally displaced population live in the 10 countries most at-risk to COVID-19.

Second, people on the move face a socio-economic crisis — especially those working in the informal economy without access to social protection.

In addition, the loss of income from COVID-19 is likely to lead to a colossal $109 billion drop in remittances.  That’s the equivalent of nearly three-quarters of all official development assistance that is no longer being sent back home to the 800 million people who depend on it.

Third, people on the move face a protection crisis.

More than 150 countries have imposed border restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.  At least 99 states make no exception for people seeking asylum from persecution.

At the same time, fear of COVID-19 has led to skyrocketing xenophobia, racism and stigmatization.

And the already precarious situation of women and girls is ever more dire, as they face higher risks of exposure to gender-based violence, abuse and exploitation.

Yet even as refugees and migrants face all these challenges, they are contributing heroically on the frontlines in essential work.

About one in eight of all nurses globally, for example, is practicing in a country different from where they were born.

The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity to reimagine human mobility.

Four core understandings must guide the way:

First, exclusion is costly and inclusion pays.  An inclusive public health and socio-economic response will help suppress the virus, restart our economies and advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

Second, we must uphold human dignity in the face of the pandemic and learn from the handful of countries that have shown how to implement travel restrictions and border controls while fully respecting human rights and international refugee protection principles.

Third, no-one is safe until everyone is safe.  Diagnostics, treatment and vaccines must be accessible to all.

Fourth and finally, people on the move are part of the solution.  Let us remove unwarranted barriers, explore models to regularize pathways for migrants and reduce transaction costs for remittances.

I am grateful to countries, especially developing countries, that have opened their borders and hearts to refugees and migrants, despite their own social, economic, and now health, challenges.

They offer a moving lesson to others in a period when doors are closed.  It is essential that these countries are provided increased support and full solidarity.

We all have a vested interest to ensure that the responsibility of protecting the world’s refugees is equitably shared and that human mobility remains safe, inclusive, and respects international human rights and refugee law.

No country can fight the pandemic or manage migration alone.

But together, we can contain the spread of the virus, buffer its impact on the most vulnerable and recover better for the benefit of all.

Thank you.

Secretary-General António Guterres video message on International day of UN Peacekeepers, 29 May

29 May 2020

Today we honor more than one million men and women who have served as United Nations peacekeepers and the more than 3,900 who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

We also express our gratitude to the 95,000 civilian, police and military personnel currently deployed around the world.

They are facing one of the greatest challenges ever: delivering on their peace and security mandates while helping countries to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The theme of this year’s observance – Women in Peacekeeping – highlights their central role in our operations.

Women often have greater access in the communities we serve, enabling us to improve the protection of civilians, promote human rights and enhance overall performance.

This is especially important today, as female peacekeepers are on the frontlines in supporting the response to COVID-19 in already fragile contexts – using local radio to spread public health messaging, delivering necessary supplies to communities for prevention, and supporting efforts of local peacebuilders. Yet, women continue to represent only 6 per cent of uniformed military, police, justice and corrections personnel in field missions.

As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, we must do more to achieve women’s equal representation in all areas of peace and security.

Together, let us continue to wage peace, defeat the pandemic and build a better future.

 

UN Observes International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on 29 May 2020

PRESS RELEASE

27 MAY 2020

UN Secretary-General to commemorate fallen peacekeepers,  and honour Military Gender Advocates of the Year

Two fallen peacekeepers from Zambia to be honoured at United Nations ceremony

UN Headquarters will observe the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on Friday, 29 May 2020. Secretary-General António Guterres will lay a wreath to honour all UN peacekeepers who have lost their lives since 1948 and will preside over a ceremony at which the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal will be awarded posthumously to the 83 military, police and civilian peacekeepers who lost their lives in 2019.

Among the fallen peacekeepers to be honoured are two from Zambia: SSGT Patrick Simasiku WAMUNYIMA and SSGT Alex Mudenda MUSANDA who both served with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

The Secretary-General will also award the ‘2019 Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award’ to Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo, a Brazilian naval officer serving with the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and Major Suman Gawani from India who served in UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Created in 2016, the Award “recognises the dedication and effort of an individual peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security”. This is the first year the award has gone to more than one peacekeeper.

In a video message to mark Peacekeepers Day, the Secretary-General said: “Today we honor more than one million men and women who have served as United Nations peacekeepers and the more than 3,900 who have lost their lives in the line of duty.  We also express our gratitude to the 95,000 civilian, police and military personnel currently deployed around the world.  They are facing one of the greatest challenges ever: delivering on their peace and security mandates while helping countries to address the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Zambia is the 20tht largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN Peacekeeping.  It currently contributes more than 1,000 military and police personnel – including 154 women —  to the UN peacekeeping operations in Abyei, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and one expert deployed with the UN Mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement in Yemen.

“The theme of this year’s observance – Women in Peacekeeping – highlights their central role in our operations.  Women often have greater access in the communities we serve, enabling us to improve the protection of civilians, promote human rights and enhance overall performance yet, women continue to represent only 6 per cent of uniformed military, police, justice and corrections personnel in field missions.  As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, we must do more to achieve women’s equal representation in all areas of peace and security,” the Secretary-General added.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, said: “As our peacekeepers continue to carry out their essential work amidst the constraints presented by COVID-19, ensuring women’s meaningful, equal and full participation in peace operations, as well as in peace and political processes, is key to protecting civilians and building durable peace.  Women who serve in peace operations play an essential role in helping communities in the fight against COVID-19. They must be a central part of all international, national and local responses.”

The International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers was established by the General Assembly in 2002, to pay tribute to all men and women serving in peacekeeping, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace. The General Assembly designated 29 May as the International Day of UN Peacekeepers in commemoration of the day in 1948 when the UN’s first peacekeeping mission, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), began its operations.

*  *  *  *

For further information, please contact Douglas Coffman, Department of Global Communications, at tel./WhatsApp:  +1 (917) 361-9923, or e-mail:  coffmand@un.org; or Aditya Mehta  of Peacekeeping Operations, at tel./ WhatsApp:  +1 (917) 775-4249 or e-mail: mehta2@un.org; or visit the Peacekeepers Day website at www.un.org/en/events/peacekeepersday, or the United Nations Peacekeeping website at www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/operations/pkday.shtml.

Follow the #PKDay #womeninpeacekeeping campaign on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

In Africa schools are closed, but learning goes on

Countries use radio, TV and internet to keep students engaged

By Franck Kuwonu

As students in Kenya were waiting for the government to announce when schools would re-

Education

Igihozo, 11, listens to a lesson on a radio after his school was closed in Rwanda. UNICEF/UNI319836/Kanobana

open from a longer than usual April school holidays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were asked to stay home for an additional four-week period.

The situation is the same in many other countries. Across the African continent, an estimated 297 million students have been affected by school closures as a result of the pandemic.

Globally, school closures due to COVID-19 have affected 1.29 billion students in 186 countries, which is 73.8 per cent of the world’s student population, according to the UN Education Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“Never before have we witnessed educational disruption on such a scale,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said recently.

Despite the challenges of limited access to internet connectivity, electricity or computers, countries are keeping learning active through various remote learning  methods such as radio and television programmes, on addition to online platforms and social media.

Online learning

In Egypt, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Morocco, Rwanda, South Africa and others, a number of schools and universities have moved some of their programmes to  online platforms and have encouraged students to get connected.

The University of Ghana, for example, has trained its lecturers on how to put together online classes, while negotiating with telecom companies to grant free internet data, usually capped at 5G, for the students.

Victoria, 21, one of the millions of young people in Ghana impacted by school closures said: “I stay connected, getting myself busy with online lectures, having interactions with friends.

Victoria told UNICEF that she avoids crowded places and prefers to stay safe at home. “I also try to learn new things I haven’t done before – getting used to cooking, reading more books. Sometimes dancing if I have to, just to take off the stress and not feel very bored at home.”

In Nigeria and Morocco, the governments have created online repositories with education materials for teachers and parents, while the Rwanda education board has set up a dedicated website to support learning and provide educational content, as well as assessment tests. The website also enables teachers and parents to communicate.

However, due to low internet connection, expensive data and an urban-rural digital divide, online classes alone are unable to cater for all students. This creates the risk of leaving millions of students in Africa behind. In sub-Saharan Africa, UNESCO says 89 per cent of learners do not have access to household computers and 82 per cent lack internet access.

At the launch in March of the Global Coalition for Education, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “We are working together to find a way to make sure that children everywhere can continue their education, with special care for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.”

The UNESCO and UNICEF-led initiative of international organizations, civil society and private sector partners aims to ensure that learning continues. It will help countries mobilize resources and implement innovative and context-appropriate solutions to provide learning remotely by leveraging on hi-tech, low-tech and no-tech approaches.

Radio schools

Countries are increasingly also promoting remote learning through traditional mass communication tools such as radio, and sometimes television. Radio’s wide reach and relatively low need for technical know-how makes its deployment faster and easier than scaling up internet connections.

With assistance from UN agencies such as UNICEF, UNESCO, the World Bank and others, countries are quickly scaling up their radio and TV programmes or launching new initiatives.

For example, Ghana’s public broadcasters have rekindled dormant programmes on tv and radio for high school students. Similar programmes are running in Madagascar and Côte d’Ivoire.
In Senegal, the government’s efforts are encapsulated in a catchy slogan: “Ecole fermée, mais cahiers ouverts,” meaning “school is closed but learning goes on”.

Radio Okapi, an UN-sponsored radio network in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), launched Okapi Ecole (Okapi School) – a twice-daily remote learning programme for primary, secondary and vocational school students.

In Rwanda, UNICEF is working with the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency to produce and air nationwide basic literacy and numeracy classes. UNICEF identified more than 100 radio scripts from around the world focusing on basic literacy and numeracy that could be adapted to align with Rwanda’s school curriculum. The same support is being provided to Malawi.

In Côte d’Ivoire, UNICEF has been working with the Ministry of Education on a ‘school at home’ initiative that includes taping lessons to be aired on national TV.

Looking beyond COVID-19, the Association of African Universities (AAU) sees an opportunity for local universities to explore expanding “technology-based platforms for teaching, learning and research.” Still, challenges such as network infrastructure, data prices and access to adequate digital equipment will need to be addressed for this to be a continent-wide success.

For more information on COVID-19, visit www.un.org/coronavirus

Africa Renewal

WHO Donates COVID-19 Supplies to MOH within the framework of the UN joint effort aimed at supporting government to scale up preparedness and response actions.

23 May 2020, Since Zambia reported its first case of COVID 19 on 18 March 2020, cases have been on the upswing. During recent weeks confirmed cases rose from 103 on 1 May 2020 to 920 by May 22 with a total number of seven deaths. Zambia has also seen an increase of cases of COVID-19 in the northern town of Nakonde due to a porous border. More than 80 health workers have been affected by the virus countrywide.

The WHO Representative, Dr. Nathan Bakyaita handing over the donated items to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Kennedy Malama (right)

On 22 May 2020, the World Health Organization Country Office donated Personal Protective Equipment, emergency equipment for the Emergency Operations Centre and laboratory supplies worth more than seven hundred thousand United States Dollars to the Ministry of Health. This donation has been made possible through the UK Department for International Development (DFID) funded Emergency Preparedness, Surveillance and Outbreak Response project and financial support from WHO Headquarters and the WHO Regional Office for Africa. The WHO Representative, Dr. Nathan Bakyaita said that WHO working jointly with other United Nations agencies in Zambia was in a race against time to help the country respond and prevent further spread of the virus. “We are supporting the country in containment and mitigation efforts by providing necessary support for coordination, surveillance, infection prevention and control, laboratory, case management, risk communication, logistics and human resource capacity”. Dr Bakyaita was accompanied by the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio, the UNICEF Representative, Ms Noala Skinner, the UNESCO Zambia Team Leader, Ms Alice Mwewa Saili and the UK DFID Country Director, Mr. Steve Beel.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio said that the donation made to the Ministry of Health by WHO of laboratory equipment and reagents and provision of

The UN Resident Coordinator, Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio making a statement at the function.

Personal Protective Equipment for health workers was of paramount importance. “Health care workers should be able to access masks, gloves, gowns, and other PPE they require to do their jobs safely and effectively. Our health systems are already facing shortages of critical human resources such as doctors and nurses, we cannot afford to lose them now” she said.

The DFID Country Director Mr. Steve Beel stated that the COVID-19 pandemic was a global challenge and that DFID was committed to continue providing support to the government in its response efforts.

When receiving the donation, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Kennedy Malama said that the donation was timely because it was targeted at supporting the implementation of the National Contingency Plan for COVID-19. He said the donated items were a high impact investment for the COVID -19 response and that support for the Emergency Operations Centre would be useful for the current emergency and other public health threats. Dr. Malama thanked the United Nations in Zambia, the WHO Regional Office for Africa, WHO HQ and the UK Government for the support rendered towards the COVID-19 response and health development programmes in general.

The United Nations in Zambia has remained a key partner in the country’s multi-sectoral response with the World Health Organization leading the joint effort.

For Additional Information or to Request Interviews, Please contact:
Nora Mweemba
Health Information and Promotion Officer
Tel: 255322 /255336, 255398, Cell: 097873976
Email: mweemban@who.int