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FROM THE FIELD: Women act as ‘agents of change’ in climate emergency

A woman in Viet Nam makes environmentally-friendly biomass briquettes, a biofuel substitute to coal and charcoal cooking fuel., by UN Photo/Kibae Park

Although a changing climate affects everyone, it is the world’s most vulnerable people, and especially women and girls, who bear the brunt.

They are more likely than men to suffer from the social, environmental and economic impacts of a warming planet and can face major barriers in accessing shelter, healthcare, energy and education for their children.

But now UN Women is partnering with other United Nations agencies to demonstrate how women can bring around change.

Read more here about how women are key to finding solutions towards creating a more equitable world and sustainable planet.

World health experts will meet Thursday to assess COVID-19 pandemic

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained that the Emergency Committee meeting will mark three months since members agreed that the new coronavirus disease was an international global health emergency.

“In the three months since the Emergency Committee last met, WHO has worked day in, day out to sound the alarm, support countries and save lives”, he said.

The Emergency Committee consists of 15 independent experts from across the world brought together under a treaty known as the International Health Regulations (IHR), which guides global health response.

COVID-19 first emerged in Wuhan, China, and at the time of its last meeting, there were just over 80 cases outside the country, and no deaths. The global caseload has now approached nearly three million, and nearly 205,000 deaths.

‘We sounded the alarm early’

Tedros outlined WHO’s actions starting from 31 December 2019, when it first learned about the “pneumonia of unknown cause”, through to his pronouncement of the global health emergency on 30 January, which was based on the Emergency Committee’s advice.

The rationale for providing the timeline was “to be clear about what WHO knew, and what we did”, he said.

“From the beginning, WHO has acted quickly and decisively to respond and to warn the world. We sounded the alarm early, and we sounded it often”, he told journalists.

“We said repeatedly that the world had a window of opportunity to prepare and to prevent widespread community transmission.”

After learning about the cluster of pneumonia cases, WHO sought more information from China on 1 January. A day later, it informed the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), which includes more than 260 institutions in over 70 countries.

China came back to WHO through a face-to-face meeting in Beijing on 3 January, and the UN agency subsequently reported the unusual pneumonia cases on Twitter. Tedros added that no deaths were reported at that stage.

PAHO Barbados/Brenda Lashley
A training session on coronavirus testing takes place at the Best-dos Santos Public Health Laboratory in Barbados.

Sharing information and guidance

Two days later, WHO shared detailed technical information, including precautionary advice to its 194 Member States and IHR focal points, with guidance on the basis that there could be human-to-human transmission of the new virus.

Information was also published for use by the scientific and public health communities, as well as the global media.

Tedros detailed additional WHO actions taken over this period, such as guidance on how to detect, test and manage cases, and a checklist for countries to help assess their capacities for detection and response. WHO also published the first instructions for making diagnostic kits after China shared the genetic sequence of the virus.

Human-to-human transmission

Tedros said that on 14 January, WHO tweeted reports from China indicating that authorities there had found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus.

“This is in line with our practice of reporting to the world, information that countries report to us. We post country reports as is”, he explained.

“However, earlier the same day, WHO held a press briefing at which we said that, based on our past experience with coronaviruses, human-to-human transmission was likely. Our senior experts participated in that press conference, and that news was carried by mainstream media.”

Coronavirus Portal & News Updates

Readers can find information and guidance on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from the UN, World Health Organization and UN agencies here. For daily news updates from UN News, click here.

Additionally, WHO staff visited Wuhan on 20 and 21 January, and reported that evidence suggested human-to-human transmission was occurring.

Experts divided and Emergency Committee reconvened

Tedros convened the Emergency Committee over 22 and 23 January. As members were divided over whether WHO should declare a global public health emergency, they asked to meet again  within 10 days.

During this period, Tedros and other senior WHO staff travelled to Beijing where they met with President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders to learn more about the national response there, and to offer assistance.

It was agreed that an international team of scientists should travel to the country, consisting of experts from China, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Nigeria, the Russian Federation, Singapore and the United States of America.

Tedros reconvened the Emergency Committee on 30 January, following which he declared that the new coronavirus constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

COVID-19: Act now to avert ‘hunger catastrophe’ for millions missing out on school meals

The World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) fear these young lives will suffer devastating nutritional and health consequences as a result of the crisis.

“For millions of children around the world, the meal they get at school is the only meal they get in a day. Without it, they go hungry, they risk falling sick, dropping out of school and losing their best chance of escaping poverty”, said David Beasley, the WFP Executive Director.

“We must act now to prevent the health pandemic from becoming a hunger catastrophe and to ensure that no one is left behind.”

School as a safety net

School meals are particularly critical for girls, according to the two partners. Some parents in poor countries will send their daughter to school based on the promise of her getting a meal there. This in turn allows girls to escape domestic drudgery or even forced early marriage.

School is also more than a place of learning, as children in poor countries often benefit from health services delivered there, such as vaccinations and de-worming.

“For many children it is a lifeline to safety, health services and nutrition”, said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.

“Unless we act now – by scaling up lifesaving services for the most vulnerable children – the devastating fallout caused by COVID-19 will be felt for decades to come.”

Looking to the future

WFP and UNICEF are working with governments to support children now out of school, in line with a recent report from the UN Secretary-General which highlighted the pandemic’s impact on school meals, which are often the only reliable daily intake children can expect to receive.

They are providing children in nearly 70 countries with take-home rations, vouchers or cash transfers as an alternative.

Coronavirus Portal & News Updates

Readers can find information and guidance on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from the UN, World Health Organization and UN agencies here. For daily news updates from UN News, click here.

In the coming months, the UN agencies will also assist governments in ensuring that children will benefit from school meals and health programmes when classrooms re-open, thus providing an incentive for parents to send their children back to school.

However, the partners will need $600 million to carry out this work, which initially will focus on 10 million children in 30 low-income or fragile countries.

As pandemic encroaches on Abyei, tensions rise over disputed territory straddling Sudan, South Sudan

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, updating the Council on the work of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), said at the local level, the security situation remains volatile. The mission is mandated to protect civilians and humanitarians operating in the area.

He pointed to rising tensions between the pastoral Ngok Dinka and nomadic Misseriya communities, as well growing criminality and the presence of armed elements, including some that have exchanged gunfire with UNISFA troops.

Despite improving relations between Sudan and South Sudan, he added, it is very unlikely that progress will be made in determining the final status of the disputed territory that is administered in effect, as part of both States, given that the African Union Commission and the African Union’s High-Level Implementation Panel are stretched dealing with other priorities.

‘Serious delays’

Against this backdrop, Mr. Lacroix said that the deployment of three formed police units is facing “serious delays” due to travel restrictions that the Government of Sudan put into place to combat the novel coronavirus.

“The process for deployment of the first identified FPU from Ethiopia was well advanced by early March with the completion of the pre-deployment visit to the Mission area”, he told Council members, meeting via video-teleconference.

“However, all further steps had to be suspended in view of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak”, he said, adding that while no cases of the virus have been recorded among UNISFA personnel, medical teams are visiting all team sites and sectors to verify the Mission’s state of preparedness.

Coronavirus cases, and deaths in Sudan

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday reported a total of 275 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 22 deaths in Sudan, and six confirmed cases with no deaths in South Sudan.

Established by the Council through resolution 1990 (2011), UNISFA is mandated under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to Protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence; and protect the Area from incursions by unauthorized elements and ensure security.

It is also tasked with, among other things, monitoring and verifying the redeployment of armed forces from the Abyei area, in accordance with the 20 June 2011 Agreement between Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which led to independence in the south, for the world’s youngest nation.

UNISFA’s mandate was last renewed by the Council on 14 November 2019, which through resolution 2497 (2019) called for Sudan and South Sudan to make “measurable progress” on border issues.

At the same time, the Council kept the Mission’s manpower at 2,550 troops and 640 police officers. In doing so, it expressed concern about delays in reaching full police deployment, noting that Khartoum had not promptly issued visas.

New, unprecedented challenges ahead

Mr. Lacroix said the months ahead will no doubt pose new and unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but UNISFA will keep engaging with Khartoum and Juba to facilitate implementation of both previous agreements and the Mission’s mandate.

“UNISFA will also continue to play a stabilizing role in the Abyei area and along the border region”, he added.

The meeting also heard from the UN Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Parfair Onanga-Anyanga, who warned that the coronavirus pandemic would have a negative impact on peace processes in both Sudan and South Sudan. His full address to the Council can be viewed below: 

Parallel threats of COVID-19, climate change, require ‘brave, visionary and collaborative leadership’: UN chief

And against the backdrop of threatened lives, crippled businesses and damaged economies, the UN chief warned the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are also under threat.

“The highest cost is the cost of doing nothing”, he spelled out, underscoring the need to urgently “strengthen resilience and cut greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees” above pre-industrial levels, to mitigate climate change. 

Political will required

Heartened by technology and public opinion, especially among the younger generations, he observed that many cities and businesses are taking action.

“But we still lack the necessary political will”, he said, advocating for “significantly more ambition” on mitigation, adaptation and financing. 

On mitigation, all countries must commit to carbon neutrality by 2050. And developing countries – least responsible for climate change but most vulnerable to its impacts – need resilience-building support. This requires adequate financing, beginning with a promised $100 billion dollars a year for mitigation and adaptation efforts, added Mr. Guterres. 

‘Profound opportunity’

In planning the coronavirus pandemic recovery, there is “a profound opportunity” to steer the world on “a path that tackles climate change, protects the environment, reverses biodiversity loss and ensures the long-term health and security of humankind”, the Secretary-General said.

“By making the transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient growth, we can create a world that is clean, green, safe, just and more prosperous for all”, he emphasized.

As such, he proposed six different climate-related actions that countries can take, to shape the recovery.

Recognizing that like the coronavirus, greenhouse gases respect no boundaries, Mr. Guterres maintained that isolation is a trap in which “no country can succeed alone”.

“We already have a common framework for action – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change”, he reminded.

Carbon neutrality by 2050

Pointing out that 121 States have already committed to carbon neutrality by 2050, the Secretary-General asked all countries to “prepare enhanced national climate action plans”, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), “to reach net zero emissions by 2050”.

Actions for a climate-positive recovery

1.    Deliver new jobs and businesses through a green and just transition while accelerating the decarbonization of all aspects of the economy.
2.    Use taxpayers’ money to create green jobs and inclusive growth when rescuing businesses.
3.    Shift economies from grey to green, with using public financing that makes societies more resilient.
4.    Invest public funds in the future, to projects that help the environment and climate.
5.    Consider risks and opportunities for your own economy, as the global financial system works to shape policy and infrastructure. 
6.    Work together as an international community to combat COVID-19 and climate change.

    “I encourage the European Union to continue showing global leadership by presenting, by the end of the year, a Nationally Determined Contribution in line with its commitment to become the first climate neutral continent by 2050”, he said.

    Coronavirus Portal & News Updates

    Readers can find information and guidance on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from the UN, World Health Organization and UN agencies here. For daily news updates from UN News, click here.

    “The key to tackling the climate crisis is the big emitters”, upheld Mr. Guterres. 

    Noting that the world’s 20 leading economies collectively account for more than 80 per cent of global emissions and over 85 per cent of the global economy, he flagged that “all of them must also commit to carbon neutrality by 2050”.

    “Without the contribution of the big emitters, all our efforts risk to be doomed”, he conceded.

    “Let us use the pandemic recovery to provide a foundation for a safe, healthy, inclusive and more resilient world for all people”.

    Sudan: Coronavirus could be tipping point for ‘untold suffering’, Bachelet urges sanctions relief

    One year after long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was removed from power, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that the promise of development, democracy, justice and peace, is now being threatened by acute resource constraints. 

    Moreover, the already-grim picture is further exacerbated by a combination of ongoing unilateral sanctions, international institutions’ failure to provide debt-relief and a deficit of international support.

    “The tipping point,” the UN Human Rights Chief said, “could be COVID-19”.

    Underequipped health system

    As of yesterday, 275 people had tested positive for the coronavirus, 22 of whom have died.  And medical sources have warned of serious equipment and protective gear shortages. 

    The health system is simply not equipped to handle an outbreak on the scale we have seen elsewhere in the world”, said Ms. Bachelet.

    As the “only way to prevent a humanitarian disaster”, she appealed to donors to step up: “We must act swiftly and generously to provide financial support”, said the UN human rights chief, or “run the risk of a country which held such promise, relapsing back into political instability and potential conflict.”

    Earlier this month the Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok wrote to the Secretary-General acknowledging that COVID-19 poses profound challenges to the country’s health system, economy, and society as a whole and asked for financial and technical support to tackle the pandemic.

    Conflicts in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile state have displaced nearly two million of the 43 million people in Sudan, and most – facing dire conditions in camps or settlements – are unable to meet their basic needs. And adding to the bleak situation, Sudan hosts more than 1.1 million refugees and migrants.

    Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, high unemployment, soaring inflation and lack of social protection and safety nets left many Sudanese battling to make ends meet. 

    Free Sudan from ‘impediments of sanctions’

    Coronavirus Portal & News Updates

    Readers can find information and guidance on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from the UN, World Health Organization and UN agencies here. For daily news updates from UN News, click here.

    According to the High Commissioner, these issues have been compounded by the effects of Sudan continuing to be on the US State Sponsors of Terrorism list. It remains ineligible to access any of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank’s $50-billionTrust Fund, to assist vulnerable countries in the fight COVID-19.

    “The only way Sudan will ever be able to break out of this cycle of poverty and desperation is to be freed from the impediments of sanctions imposed at the time of the previous Government”, Ms. Bachelet argued, saying if removed, the State would be able to “attract investment for its much-needed economic reforms, and to fully access funds of the international financial institutions”.

    Separately, the UN Secretary-General has urged the international community to do all it can to support the country’s transition and its time of serious need.

    “Inequality, and economic and social grievances, were the main triggers of Sudan’s revolution last year”, concluded the UN human right chief. “If these and other root causes are not addressed as a matter of priority, Sudan’s successful transition to achieving a durable peace remains distant”.

    COVID-19 could lead to millions of unintended pregnancies, new UN-backed data reveals

    They estimate that the number of women unable to access family planning or facing unintended pregnancies, gender-based violence and other harmful practices, could “skyrocket” by millions due to the crisis.

    “This new data shows the catastrophic impact that COVID-19 could soon have on women and girls globally”, said Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director.

    “The pandemic is deepening inequalities, and millions more women and girls now risk losing the ability to plan their families and protect their bodies and their health.”

    In line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UNFPA works to serve the unmet need for family planning, and to stamp out gender-based violence and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. It also focuses on ending all preventable maternal deaths.

    Limited access to services

    The research was conducted by UNFPA, in collaboration with Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University in the United States, and Victoria University in Australia.

    COVID-19 is having an enormous impact on women and girls as health systems become overloaded and facilities close, or provide a limited set of services which they need. At the same time, many women and girls also are skipping important medical check-ups for fear of contracting the virus.

    Disruptions to global supply chains could lead to significant shortages of contraceptives, the partners said, while gender-based violence – already on the increase due to the pandemic, as UN News reported earlier this month – is expected to rise still further as women are trapped at home for prolonged periods.

    Unable to plan families

    Globally, around 450 million women across 114 low and middle-income countries use contraceptives, according to UNFPA and partners.

    They project that if health services remain disrupted and lockdowns continue for six months, some 47 million in these countries may not be able to access modern contraceptives, resulting in around seven million unintended pregnancies.

    © UNFPA Myanmar/Yenny Gamming
    UNFPA is expecting more cases of violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation and unintended pregnancy due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    There also will be 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence during the same period, with a further 15 million more cases expected for every three months the lockdowns continue.

    The pandemic has also affected programmes to prevent female genital mutilation (FGM), and the experts estimate two million FGM cases may occur over the next decade that could have been averted.

    Similarly, an additional 13 million child marriages could take place this decade as the crisis has disrupted efforts to stop this practice.

    Putting women and girls first

    UNFPA is working with governments and partners to prioritize the needs of women and girls of reproductive age during the pandemic.

    Coronavirus Portal & News Updates

    Readers can find information and guidance on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from the UN, World Health Organization and UN agencies here. For daily news updates from UN News, click here.

    The agency is focused on strengthening health systems, procuring and delivering essential supplies to protect health workers, ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence services, and promoting risk communication and community engagement.

    “Women’s reproductive health and rights must be safeguarded at all costs”, said Ms. Kanem, the UNFPA chief.

    “The services must continue; the supplies must be delivered; and the vulnerable must be protected and supported.”

    UN leads bid to help 135 countries get vital COVID-19 medical kit, amid severe global shortages

    The COVID-19 taskforce initiative follows a direct request to WHO from UN Secretary-General António Guterres to coordinate the Organization’s response to the new coronavirus.

    Demand 200 times greater than normal

    Coronavirus Portal & News Updates

    Readers can find information and guidance on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from the UN, World Health Organization and UN agencies here. For daily news updates from UN News, click here.

    It comes amid unprecedented global shortages of critical supplies, skyrocketing prices and export bans, said Paul Molinaro, Chief, Operations Support and Logistics, WHO Health Emergencies Programme.

    “The demand has obviously increased in those markets 100 or 200 times normal demand”, he told journalists via video conference. “On the supply side we saw a lot of shutdowns in manufacturing, we saw a lot of export controls, we saw the international air transport system on which we’re quite dependent for the movement of cargo, gradually shut down, so we’re at the point where we need to look for solutions to this.”

    As part of the collective effort by the UN and public and private partners, a dedicated “COVID-19 Supply Portal” is set to launch within days, offering countries the opportunity to submit supply requests via a single platform.

    This will enable the humanitarian supply chain system “to plan and coordinate allocation of critical supplies” to those 135 countries deemed to be most vulnerable, WHO said in a statement: “We need to streamline demand at country level to really look at the highest priority and to try and get the numbers to something manageable and coordinated,” Mr Molinaro said, highlighting the first of the initiative’s four priorities. 

    “Step two is collaborative procurement amongst ourselves in the UN and some of our key partners in approaching the market together. This gives us a bigger voice, particularly in a constrained market with a lot of intense competition”, he added. 

    “The third part is allocation process based on vulnerabilities and gaps and on critical needs. And then the fourth step – in light of difficulties with transportation – is to create a unified transport system, and this is something our partners are currently doing, particularly WFP.”

    Focus moves to weaker health systems

    Health workers in Guyana learn how to safely dress in personal protective equipment (PPE)., by PAHO/WHO Guyana

    After raising the alarm earlier this year about the health threat posed by the new coronavirus that emerged in central China in December, the WHO announced that it was stepping up support to countries with beleaguered public health systems.

    To date, it has distributed 1.1 million tests to 129 countries, and “we have another 1.5 million on the way”, Mr Molinaro said, noeting that the new supply chain initiative should secure a further nine million tests, which would be allocated as needed.

    In addition, partner agency UNICEF (the UN Children’s Fund) has shipped supplies to 44 countries including 1.2 million surgical masks, more than 320,000 respirators, 6.4 million surgical gloves and over 250,000 gowns. UNICEF has also shipped oxygen concentrators, basic surgical equipment, stethoscopes, medication and nutrition to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), along with personal protective equipment to Iran and Venezuela, and a 50-bed COVID-19 isolation and treatment unit to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

    According to WHO, the taskforce aims to procure 75 million face masks, 50 million respirators, 28 million surgical gloves, 10 million face shields and three million goggles for distribution. Discussions are also ongoing with the Jack Ma Foundation for 100 million surgical masks and one million respirators, WHO said in a statement.

    Border closures affecting aid deliveries

    ID verification at the Kakuma Camp in Kenya, by WFP/Florence Lanyero

    The positive development comes amid concerns about border closures or delays which are already impacting aid deliveries, including at the border between Uganda and Kenya, WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said: “We are seeing long queues of trucks waiting, because…some governments like Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda are taking the temperature of the truck drivers; this slows the delivery of food in the country.”

    There are also concerns that frontier delays and protective trade measures may hamper life-saving immunization work. “There’s enormous challenges and the longer we continue to face this situation, it’s clear there are going to be repercussions outside the COVID response,” said Mr Molinaro. “We already see UNICEF vaccine shipments which are highly dependent on commercial air cargo, we do see those having been disrupted in the month of May – in the month of April sorry- if this continues into May, there will be gaps in routine immunisation and also in campaigns against outbreaks of other diseases.”

    Asked about distribution of supplies to Latin American countries, the WHO official replied that although there may have been some “difficulties…in the beginning” when the caseload wasn’t high, “the situation has changed and as mentioned, we’re in the process of now planning that the next acquisitions and batch volumes we get, at least in PPE, will be making their way in that direction, certainly.”

    Moving forward, the COVID-19 taskforce’s strategy is to “speak up for those countries that don’t have the means to access life-saving supplies”, WHO said.
    Its partners include UN agencies, The Global Fund, the World Bank, and other partners.

    In a related development, the World Food Programme (WFP) issued an alert about a potentially massive spike in global food insecurity in East African nations and the Horn of Africa, as a direct result of the pandemic.

    “WFP estimates that 20 million people are now food insecure in many countries in the region. Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Djibouti and Eritrea,” said WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs. “We have done projections about the situation there, about the number of food insecure people, and this number is likely to increase to 34 million up to 41 million during the next three months, due to the social-economic impact of COVID-19.”

    Nearly half of global workforce at risk as job losses increase due to COVID-19: UN labour agency

    Meanwhile, more than 430 million enterprises in hard-hit sectors such as retail and manufacturing risk “serious disruption”, the UN agency added.

    ILO Director General Guy Ryder said as the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the world’s most vulnerable workers becomes even more urgent.

    “For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. Millions of businesses around the world are barely breathing. They have no savings or access to credit”, he said.

    “These are the real faces of the world of work. If we don’t help them now, they will simply perish.”

    Drop in income

    The findings appear in the ILO Monitor third edition: COVID-19 and the world of work, released on Wednesday. Globally, there are some 3.3 billion workers. Two billion have jobs in the informal economy, representing the most vulnerable workers in the labour market.

    The agency said 1.6 billion in the informal economy “have suffered massive damage to their capacity to earn a living” as a result of the economic meltdown created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Coronavirus Portal & News Updates

    Readers can find information and guidance on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from the UN, World Health Organization and UN agencies here. For daily news updates from UN News, click here.

    Due to lockdowns, or because they work in hard-hit sectors, these workers globally have seen a 60 per cent drop in income during the first month of the crisis, according to ILO estimates.

    This translates into a more than 80 per cent decline in Africa and the Americas, 70 per cent in Europe and Central Asia, and 21.6 per cent in Asia and the Pacific.

    Working hours decline

    The UN agency estimated that compared to pre-crisis levels, there will be a 10.5 per cent deterioration in working hours during this second quarter (Q2) of the year, equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs. Previous projections had put the figure at 6.7 per cent, or 195 million full-time workers.

    The situation has worsened for all major regions, again compared to pre-crisis levels. Q2 estimates suggest a 12.4 per cent loss of working hours in the Americas, and 11.8 per cent for Europe and Central Asia. All other regions are above 9.5 per cent.

    Enterprises at ‘high’ risk

    The ILO added that the proportion of workers living in countries where workplace closures have been recommended, or required, has decreased from 81 per cent to 68 per cent over the past two weeks.

    While this is largely due to changes in China, measures have been stepped up elsewhere.

    At the same time, 436 million enterprises operating in wholesale and retail, manufacturing, accommodation, and other economic sectors that have been hardest hit, face “high risks of serious disruption”.

    Effective and sustainable recovery

    The ILO is calling for “urgent, targeted and flexible measures” to support both workers and business, particularly smaller enterprises and those in the informal economy.

    “Measures for economic reactivation should follow a job-rich approach, backed by stronger employment policies and institutions, better-resourced and comprehensive social protection systems”, the agency has recommended.

    The ILO also stressed that international co-ordination on stimulus packages and debt relief measures will be critical to making recovery effective and sustainable.

    FROM THE FIELD: How refugees are helping overwhelmed health systems' COVID-19 response

    The Mobile Emergency and Resuscitation Service (SMUR) is on the front line in the fight against coronavirus, by Centre hospitalier d’Argenteuil.

    Refugee workers are often delayed from being able to join the labour force in Europe despite having expertise, because the diplomas and certificates they received in their home countries are not recognized. But a recently adopted scheme to fast-track acceptance of their qualifications, is making it easier for highly regulated health services to take advantage of their skills.

    Yasin, a doctor from Somalia, and Mohamed, a medic from Libya, both fled violence in their home countries and are now in France, working alongside other health professionals in the fight against COVID-19. Find out more about Mohamed’s experience, and Yasin’s inspirational journey from sleeping rough in Paris, to founding an NGO, here.

    And learn here how the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees is making it easier for refugees like them. to work and contribute to European health services.

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