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First Person: Humankind’s ‘modern mentality to tame’ the environment: A volcanologist’s view

Ken Rubin is a professor of volcanology and geochemistry specializing in volcanoes and sea level change. Based in the Department of Earth Sciences at te University of Hawaii, he travels the world to observe active and dormant volcanoes, both on the land and beneath the sea.

“In my work, I look at specifically at how volcanic eruptions impact populations. It doesn’t have to be human populations; it could be marine communities that live in and around the submarine volcanoes. 

When I’m studying volcanoes on land, I focus mostly on understanding how frequently events happen and what hazards people face. Up until maybe a thousand years ago, humans were much more tuned into their environment and tended to stay away from the most dangerous places like volcanic areas, but it’s our modern mentality that we can tame anything. So, we encroach much more closely on very dangerous environments.

This whole area that we’re standing in was inundated in the 1940s by a tsunami created by a big earthquake in Alaska. It’s part of the reason why this coastline is now protected and there are no buildings. A tsunami event like that only happens every several decades; the last one was in 1964 and we haven’t had a big one since.  

Treating the water like a trash can

Living and working on an island, you understand quickly that there’s a lot of reliance on the nearshore environment as a resource for marine life and the protection of the coastlines. A healthy coral ecosystem, for example, helps to protect coastlines from events like tsunamis. 

There’s a legacy of people treating everything below the waterline with less direct regard than what is above water; for instance, the dumping of all types of trash. I do a fair amount of work in the submarine environment in manned submersibles and there are places around Hawaii that we can’t go because of thousands of unexploded bombs and strings of bullets. 

The damaging effects of human activity

The way I like to think about climate change is to recognize that the planet has been changing ever since it formed and that the climate fluctuates over different time scales. So, there’s a long-term time scale, which has to do with the what we call the rock cycle, the forming of materials on the land and their subsequent breakdown which affects the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. So, over the course of Earth history, CO2 levels have naturally been slowly going down. 

Then we have factors like how the Earth orbits the sun which affects the cycles of ice ages and warm periods such as the warm period that we’re in now. 

And there’s of course the shorter-term damaging human-produced or anthropogenic effects resulting from human activity which picked up pace following the industrial revolution.

Volcanic eruptions and global cooling

There’s always been a certain amount of volcanism. It waxes and wanes and affects climate in both positive and negative ways in terms of temperatures. Volcanoes can inject aerosols into the upper atmosphere which reflect light and can cause planetary cooling, rather than warming. But, it’s really only the very big eruptions, the sort which occur once or twice a century, that have any kind of measurable impact on climate.

Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in 1991 and caused a couple years of cooling afterwards which gave a lot of fuel to the anthropogenic climate naysayer types because they said, “look it’s getting cool.” In Hawaii, our eruptions aren’t so violent and don’t cause the same effect. But when volcanoes erupt in a big way, they affect climate in one place or another for a brief period of time.

What volcano eruptions mean collectively is the outgassing of the interior of the Earth which brings a lot of CO2 and water to the surface; those are the two things that modulate our atmosphere and temperature patterns. If we didn’t have water vapour and CO2 in our atmosphere, if we didn’t have the greenhouse effect, we wouldn’t be able to live here. That atmosphere is provided by volcanism.

Climate change and increased volcanic activity

I’m looking specifically at the period after the last ice age, when we had a 140-metre sea level rise over about ten thousand years. It was the last period in our history where we had sea-level change of the magnitude we predict for the next several hundred years.

Climate change can also have an impact on volcanic activity, although we have to look at this from a geologists’ timeframe. In Iceland after the ice age, when the glaciers started to retreat, the amount of volcanism increased dramatically, but it didn’t happen right away. It took several thousand years.

So, I wouldn’t want to go out on a limb and say there’s going to be more volcanism in a hundred or a thousand years as the full effects of anthropogenic climate change are felt, but that’s what we would predict based on our observations from the past.

I would say that in all the myriad ways that anthropogenic climate change is going to affect us, volcanism is pretty far down the list of things we need to worry about. But it is one of the reasons why we like to study volcanic cycles.”
 

‘Defining moment’ in Afghanistan requires leaders to work together, top UN official tells Security Council

Ingrid Hayden, also Officer-in-Charge at the UN mission in the country, UNAMA, reported that despite international engagement, President Ashraf Ghani and rival Abdullah Abdullah remain at loggerheads over the outcome of the presidential election held in September.

“Afghanistan appears to be reaching a defining moment. Almost two decades after the start of the coalition intervention, the question for the Islamic Republic now is: can its leaders rally together to engage in meaningful talks with the Taliban to achieve a sustainable peace?”, she asked.

“The choice is made stark by the all-encompassing threat of COVID-19, which poses grave dangers to the health of Afghanistan’s population and, potentially, to the stability of its institutions”.

Diversity in dialogue

The peace talks, known as the intra-Afghan dialogue, stem from an agreement signed in February between the United States and the Taliban. It also calls for the withdrawal of foreign forces in the country.

Ms. Hayden was heartened that despite deep-seated grievances, the Afghanistan establishment has agreed a diverse negotiating team for the process.

Representatives come from all major ethnic groups and include five women: an important recognition that women must be involved in efforts to achieve a lasting peace.

“UNAMA has encouraged the Taliban to reciprocate by including women in their delegation who have an empowered decisive voice at the table. Doing so would send a tangible signal that the movement has fundamentally reformed”, she said.

Under the US agreement, the Taliban also promised to reduce attacks targeting international forces. However, assaults against the national defence and security forces have been on the rise, while civilians also are affected by hostilities.

Ms. Hayden insisted this trend is reversible, pointing to the “significant reduction” in violence nationwide in the lead-up to the signing of the agreement.

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Coronavirus threat looms

To move forward, UNAMA is urging Afghanistan’s political parties to resolve their differences and work together, particularly with COVID-19 raring to threaten the country’s fragile healthcare system.

The seriousness of the impasse is reflected in the recent announcement that the US  will reduce its $4.5 billion in annual assistance to Afghanistan by $1 billion, with a further cut next year.

Ms. Hayden warned that the consequences could be severe, given Afghanistan’s “heavy reliance” on donor funding.

“Now is not the time for divisions,” she said. “Now is the time for statesmanship, accommodation and inclusivity. The interests of Afghans must come first – including the rights of all women, minorities and youth”.

UN launches COVID-19 plan that could ‘defeat the virus and build a better world’

“The new coronavirus disease is attacking societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods”, said Secretary-General António Guterres, pointing out that the potential longer-term effects on the global economy and individual countries are “dire”.

The new report, “Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19”,  describes the speed and scale of the outbreak, the severity of cases, and the societal and economic disruption of the coronavirus.

“COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” underscored the UN chief.

 “This human crisis demands coordinated, decisive, inclusive and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies – and maximum financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries.”

As strong as weakest health system

Mr. Guterres called for “an immediate coordinated health response to suppress transmission and end the pandemic” that “scales up health capacity for testing, tracing, quarantine and treatment, while keeping first responders safe, combined with measures to restrict movement and contact.” 

He underscored that developed countries must assist those less developed, or potentially “face the nightmare of the disease spreading like wildfire in the global South with millions of deaths and the prospect of the disease re-emerging where it was previously suppressed”.

“Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world”, he stressed. 

Focus on most vulnerable

In tackling the devastating social and economic dimensions of the crisis, the UN chief pushed for a focus on the most vulnerable by designing policies that, among other things, support providing health and unemployment insurance and social protections while also bolstering businesses to prevent bankruptcies and job losses. 

Debt alleviation must also be a priority he said, noting that the UN is “fully mobilized” and is establishing a new multi-partner Trust Fund for COVID19 Response and Recovery to respond to the emergency and recover from the socio-economic shock. 

“When we get past this crisis, which we will, we will face a choice”, said the UN chief, “we can go back to the world as it was before or deal decisively with those issues that make us all unnecessarily vulnerable to crises”. 

Referencing the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he maintained that in recover from the COVID-19 crisis must lead to an economy focused on building inclusive and sustainable economies that are more resilient in facing pandemics, climate change, and the many other global challenges. 

Measures to cope with coronavirus impacts

•    Global actions must include a stimulus package reaching double-digit percentage points of the world’s GDP, with explicit actions to boost the economies of developing countries. 

•    Regional mobilization must examine impacts, monetary coordination, fiscal and social measures, while engaging with private financial sector to support businesses and addressing structural challenges.

•    National solidarity needs to prioritize social cohesion and provide fiscal stimulus for the most vulnerable along with support to small- and medium-sized enterprises, decent work and education.

    “What the world needs now is solidarity,” stressed the Secretary-General. “With solidarity we can defeat the virus and build a better world”.

    Grim 2020 socio-economic estimates 

    The report includes estimates from a host of UN agencies.

    According to the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), five to 25 million jobs will be eradicated, and the world will lose $860 billion to $3.4 trillion in labor income.

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    The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) projected a 30 to 40 per cent downward pressure on global foreign direct investment flows while the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) saw a 20–30 per cent decline in international arrivals. 

    Meanwhile, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) anticipated that 3.6 billion people will be offline and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) forecast that 1.5 billion students out of school.

    The report calls for a large-scale, coordinated, comprehensive multilateral response that amounts to at least 10 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) and warns that there is no time to lose in mounting the most robust, cooperative health response the world has ever seen.

    In closing, Mr. Guterres called the pandemic “a defining moment for modern society”, saying the “history will judge the efficacy of the response not by the actions of any single set of government actors taken in isolation, but by the degree to which the response is coordinated globally across all sectors for the benefit of our human family”.

    “With the right actions, the COVID-19 pandemic can mark the beginning of a new type of global and societal cooperation”, concluded the Secretary-General.

    Economic sanctions should be lifted to prevent hunger crises in countries hit by COVID-19 – UN rights expert

    The continued imposition of such measures on Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba and Zimbabwe in particular, severely undermines the fundamental right to sufficient and adequate food,Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, stressed.

    History has shown that unilateral economic sanctions generally have dramatic and detrimental impacts on economic, social and cultural rights, she recalled. “As a result, the wellbeing of the civilian populations becomes severely compromised.”

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    The Special Rapporteur also urged the international community to pay particular attention to the situation of civilians trapped in conflict settings, and notably those already experiencing acute violations of their rights to food, such as in Yemen, South Sudan, Gaza, Syria and in refugee camps worldwide.

    “If the international community is serious about the fight against COVID-19 and the eradication of food and nutrition insecurity, States need to refrain at all times from direct and indirect interference with access to food,” she assured.

    The Special Rapporteurs 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. Their positions are honorary, and they are not paid for their work.

    UN appeals to all Somalis to ‘come together’ in fight against COVID-19 pandemic 

    “The UN family in Somalia stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Somalia during this testing time”, UN Special Representative for Somalia James Swan underscored in a press statement.

    He assured that UN would continue its support in tackling the immediate health and long-term socio-economic impact of the coronavirus, paying particular attention “to the most vulnerable”, including internally displaced people, the infirm and the elderly.

    “The United Nations appeals to everyone in Somalia to come together in this fight against the pandemic”, said Mr. Swan, echoing the Secretary-General’s call for “an immediate global ceasefire to put aside violence, mistrust, hostilities and animosity, and to focus on battling the virus, not each other”.

    “So that all resources and support can be channeled to fight the COVID-19 pandemic”, he called, on behalf of the UN, “for a cessation of acts of violence and terrorism”.

    Containing the virus

    To reinforce federal and state level efforts to contain and curb the virus, the UN has established system-wide operating, medical and support procedures.

    “Our robust support to Somalia continues,” said Deputy Special Representative, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Adam Abdelmoula. “All agencies remain engaged and continue to deliver critical assistance to those most in need.”

    The World Health Organization (WHO) is maintaining its scaled-up operational readiness and response, including by supporting a testing mechanism and isolating suspected cases to prevent onward transmission.

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    “WHO is heavily engaged with the Somali health authorities for case findings, contact tracing, testing, isolation and containment activities with the intention of virus suppression and delaying patient surge”, said WHO Country Representative Mamunur Rahman Malik. “We will continue to work as One UN and keep the country safe showing our solidarity, unity and partnership with the government”.

    For its part, the UN Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) continues to carry out its mandate to provide logistics support to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), as well as elements of the Somalia security forces engaged in joint security operations with AMISOM. 

    Within the UN COVID-19 Response Task Force, UNSOS and AMISOM were able to assist the Somali Government in responding to the first suspected COVID-19 cases.

    And other UN agencies and programmes are supporting the COVID-19 response plan by providing technical expertise and logistics, training health workers, providing equipment for isolation centres and scaling up hygiene responses. 

    Meanwhile, in anticipation of a deteriorating situation, the World Food Programme (WFP) plans to distribute two months’ worth of food rations.

    In closing, Mr. Abdelmoula emphasized that this “unprecedented crisis…requires a swift and decisive response”. 

    “We, as the UN family, will continue working side-by-side with the Government to ensure the Somali people are protected, while still maintaining our regular life-saving activities that address the needs of the most vulnerable Somalis”, concluded the Resident Coordinator.

    Coronavirus poses latest threat to battered health system in DR Congo

    As the DRC has also been battling an Ebola outbreak in the volatile eastern region, UNICEF fears mounting cases of COVID-19 will further strain the public health system in a country that is among the most at risk in Africa.

    “Coronavirus will most likely divert the available national health capacity and resources, and leave millions of children affected by measles, malaria, polio and many other killer diseases,” said UNICEF Representative Edouard Beigbeder, speaking from the capital, Kinshasa.

    While the DRC has so far recorded nearly 100 cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths, the measles epidemic has generated 332,000 cases and killed over 5,300 children since early 2019, making it the worst in the world. At the same time, 31,000 cases of cholera were reported during this period.

    And although the Ebola outbreak garnered international attention and has been contained, UNICEF said it had “unfortunate side-effects” as resources to fight childhood killers like measles, cholera and malaria, instead went towards stemming the disease.

    Health system ‘on life support’

    Strengthening the battered healthcare system in the DRC is vital to protect young lives, a new UNICEF report titled On Life Support  argues.

    Medical services there are ill-equipped and underfunded, trained staff are in short supply, and around half of all facilities lack safe water and sanitation.

    UNICEF estimates more than nine million children across the country require humanitarian assistance, including health care.

    Most live in the three eastern provinces affected by the Ebola outbreak, where many doctors and nurses chose to take better-paying jobs in Ebola response.

    Ongoing militia violence in these areas – including attacks against health centres –forced nearly one million people to flee their homes in 2019, thus making it harder for families to access health facilities.

    “Unless health facilities have the means to deliver immunization, nutrition and other essential services, including in remote areas of the country, we risk seeing the lives and futures of many Congolese children scarred or destroyed by preventable diseases”, Mr Beigbeder warned.

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    Increase support for public health

    UNICEF is calling on the Congolese Government to allocate more public funding for basic health care services that support pregnant women, newborns and young children, and to prioritise the strengthening of routine immunization.

    Currently, less than six per cent of the annual budget goes towards healthcare, which must change, according to Xavier Crespin, the agency’s Chief of Health in the country.

    “Instead of expending huge efforts and resources on an ad hoc response to individual health emergencies, those same resources should be directed towards strengthening the national health system,” he said.

    “That means a big investment in routine immunization, in adequate staffing and salaries, and in equipment that is currently in extremely short supply, especially outside urban areas.”

    UNICEF is also urging donors to support national efforts to improve routine health care services in order to better protect children against communicable diseases.

     

    FROM THE FIELD: Humanitarians on the frontline in COVID-19 fight

    Children at a primary school in Jordan take part in a handwashing demonstration., by ©UNICEF/Jordi Matas

    The UN’s humanitarian office, OCHA, says health systems of the world’s poorest nations are expected to be put under enormous pressure if the virus takes hold. Most countries have now reported at least one case.

    OCHA says many of the world’s most vulnerable people do not have access to clean water and soap to wash their hands, one of the most effective ways to ensure against infection.

    Last week the UN launched a US$2 billion humanitarian response plan to beat back COVID-19.

    Read more here about how the global humanitarian community is helping to keep people healthy and safe.
     

    ‘Immediate nationwide ceasefire’ needed for all-out effort to counter COVID-19 in Syria

    “We need the kind of sustained period of calm that a nationwide ceasefire would ensure because we need cooperation to take place across the front-lines that riddle Syria’s territory – and this is needed not tomorrow, but now”, Geir Pedersen said in a videoconference with Security Council members.

    Years of conflict have degraded or destroyed the healthcare system, the UN envoy pointed out, stressing that that the virus does not care if you live in government-controlled areas or outside; “it endangers all Syrians”. 

    Given large scale population movements, dangerously cramped conditions in multiple camps for the internally displaced, informal settlements, and places of detention, he voiced concern that “Syria is at high risk of being unable to contain the pandemic”.

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    Moreover, weak or absent governance, a hollowed-out health system, and shortages of health professionals, medical equipment and supplies, only add to the crisis. 

    Working towards peace

    Noting that agreements in the northeast broadly continued to hold, the UN envoy maintained that the current arrangements are far from ideal for the front-line response demanded by the COVID-19 outbreak.

    Mr. Pedersen expressed his readiness to work with the Syrian Government, the opposition, all relevant players on the ground, and key countries with influence, to support a scaling-up of action in a bid to ensure the ceasefire holds.

    “It will not be easy, and there are no guarantees”, he said, “but the Syrian people desperately need everyone to focus on their welfare now”. 

    He closed with the hope that if key players engage with UN appeals, everyone can “work urgently in a common effort”. 

    “This, in turn, would definitely help in the effort on the political track to implement Security Council resolution 2254”, which calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria”.

    “I am convinced this is the only way forward”, he concluded.

    ‘Tip of the iceberg’

    Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock told Security Council members that as of Monday morning, ten cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Syria, including one death. 

    “Judging from other places”, he said, this is the tip of the iceberg, with the virus having the potential to have a devastating impact on vulnerable communities across the country”.

    He added that humanitarian needs remain “enormous”, with UN data showing clear evidence of deteriorating conditions since December. 

    “We are for example seeing increased rates of stunting – a consequence of child malnutrition, from which it is rarely possible fully to recover”, said Mr. Lowcock, citing that almost three-out-of-ten displaced children in northwest Syria under the age of five are suffering in this fashion.

    “They will live with the consequences for the rest of their lives”.

    Grim anniversary

    This month the conflict entered its tenth year. And, the UN relief chief pointed out that over the past nine years, half the population has been forced to flee their homes, more than 11 million people inside Syria require humanitarian assistance, including nearly five million children.

    Nearly eight million lack reliable access to food; and people throughout the country are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. 

    “An economic crisis, mostly a result of the war but in part also a consequence of developments elsewhere in the region, have led to price hikes…forcing people to resort to ever-more negative coping mechanisms”, he informed, adding that measures to stem COVID-19 will also affect the economic situation. 

    “The UN-supported humanitarian response operation continues to respond to needs throughout the country”, updated Mr. Lowcock, enumerating that six million people each month were assisted last year, including 4.5 million with food aid; nearly eight million with emergency water, sanitation and hygiene; education assistance went to almost five million students and teachers; as well as roughly 26 million medical procedures.

    Meanwhie, Karen Abuzayd, Member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, recorded the video below on the effects of COVID-19 in Syria.

    $2.5 trillion COVID-19 rescue package needed for world’s emerging economies

    According to new analysis from UNCTAD, the UN trade and development body, commodity-rich exporting countries will face a $2 trillion to $3 trillion drop in investment from overseas in the next two years. 

    An economic downturn in these emerging economies was already evident in the last quarter of 2019 – before the new coronavirus outbreak emerged in central China last December – said Richard Kozul-Wright, UNCTAD director of globalization and development strategies. 

    Crisis yet to come 

    “The health crisis is still to come in many developing countries,” he told UN News. “Now, if that crisis comes as these countries have been significantly weakened by the economic shockwaves from the crisis. And that is a…very vicious combination of an economic crisis and a health crisis. So we’ve got to find ways of strengthening the healthcare system and services in developing countries and building up resilience on that front very quickly.” 

    Rich industrial nations have already announced a $5 trillion global rescue package plan to provide an economic safety net to their businesses and workers. 

    This unprecedented measure should reduce the extent of their shock – “physically, economically and psychologically” – said Mr. Kozul-Wright. 

    It is also expected to create $1 trillion to $2 trillion of demand among the major G20 economies, boosting global manufacturing by two per cent, he writes in his latest report.  

    Recession looms 

    “Even so, the world economy will go into recession this year with a predicted loss of global income in the trillions of dollars – this will spell serious trouble for developing countries, with the likely exception of China and the possible exception of India”, Mr. Kozul-Wright warned.  

    UNCTAD believes that part of the problem for many developing countries is that informal workers form the backbone of their emerging economies, which amplifies their difficulties in responding to the crisis. 

    Four-point recovery plan 

    Faced with a “a looming financial tsunami” this year, UNCTAD’s four-pronged strategy initially calls for a $1 trillion investment injection for weaker economies. 

    This would come from so-called “special drawing rights” governed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which would need to “go considerably beyond” the 2009 allocation made in response to the global financial crisis, the agency’s report explains. 

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    The second measure is a debt freeze for distressed economies, involving an immediate standstill on sovereign debt payments, followed by significant debt relief.  

    By way of example, UNCTAD cites how half of Germany’s debt after World War Two, was cancelled.  

    Based on this precedent, around $1 trillion in debt should be cancelled this year, overseen by an independently created body, the UN agency maintains. 

    The third measure targets $500 billion investment in poorer countries’ emergency health services and related social relief programmes. 

    Finally, UNCTAD urges the implementation of State-led capital controls to curtail already surging capital outflows from these developing countries. 

    This would help to reduce a cash shortage driven by sell-offs in developing country markets and to arrest declines in currency values and asset prices. 

    UNCTAD package equals unpaid investment pledges 

    The proposed package is similar in size to the amount that would have been delivered to developing countries over the last decade if countries in the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development had met their 0.7 per cent Official Development Assistance target. 

    “Advanced economies have promised to do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop their firms and households from taking a heavy loss of income,” said Mr. Kozul-Wright. “But if G20 leaders are to stick to their commitment of ‘a global response in the spirit of solidarity,’ there must be commensurate action for the six billion people living outside the core G20 economies.” 

    UN helps Pacific prepare for COVID-19 pandemic, warns that children are ‘hidden victims’

    The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been busy providing vital supplies to Pacific Island governments, including more than 170,000 essential medical and laboratory items. 

    “UNICEF will continue working with governments and our partners throughout the Pacific to stop transmission of the virus, and to keep children and their families safe”, said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett.

    Assistance has been delivered according to their current needs, along with communication materials to inform the public about the symptoms of COVID-19, how to treat someone feeling unwell and preventative actions to stem the spread of the virus.

    Led by WHO and partners, UNICEF is supporting the COVID-19 Joint Incident Management Team response in the Pacific, along with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government of Japan and Global Partnership for Education.

    ‘Hidden victims’

    Pointing out that in just a few months, COVID-19 has “upended the lives of children around the Pacific” along with most other regions of the world, Mr. Yett stressed that they are the “hidden victims of this pandemic”.

    The UNICEF envoy painted a grim picture of closed borders, parents and caregivers losing their jobs and “thousands of children” out of school.

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    To mitigate the consequences, the gency is supporting all countries in the region by adapting the UN?? Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention and Control in Schools for Pacific Island countries, to keep schools safe and help children continue their learning when schools are closed.

    On the ground support

    UNICEF is also providing medical items across the Pacific, including N95 respirators, surgical masks, swabs, thermometers, testing kits, gloves and medical gowns. 

    In addition to providing medical and laboratory supplies to support governments in responding to virus outbreaks, UNICEF continues to reach out to communities to share crucial information on keeping children safe and on preventing the spread of COVID-19, such as washing hands, coughing into elbows and not touching faces, especially eyes, mouth and nose.

    UNICEF action at the country level

    • Fiji: Provided tents to be used as fever clinics to treat patients.
    • Micronesia: Implemented community hand washing campaign and is working with partners to build 100 handwashing stations as part of a hygiene promotion campaign.
    • Solomon Islands: Distributed Water, Sanitation and Health dignity kits and developing training for Social Welfare officers on managing stress and self-care during the pandemic.
    • Vanuatu: Provided tents to treat patients and traiing, for community awareness outreach.
    • Kiribati: Developed SMS platform for COVID-19 text messaging, installed handwashing facilities at two hospitals and launched a community campaign on proper hand washing.

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