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Slamming ‘big formula milk companies’, WHO scientist calls for swift clampdown to protect nursing mothers

“This new research highlights the vast economic and political power of the big formula milk companies, as well as serious public policy failures that prevent millions of women from breastfeeding their children,” said Nigel Rollins, one of the authors of a series on the $55 billion-a-year industry and their marketing “playbooks”, published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet.

Actions are needed across different areas of society to better support mothers to breastfeed for as long as they want, alongside efforts to tackle exploitative formula milk marketing once and for all,” he added.

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650 million lack ‘maternity protection’

The three-paper series recommends much greater support for breastfeeding within healthcare and social protection systems, including guaranteeing sufficient paid maternity leave.

Currently, around 650 million women lack adequate maternity protections, the papers noted.

Written by a group of doctors and scientists, the series examines how formula marketing tactics undermine breastfeeding and target parents, health professionals and politicians, and how feeding practices, women’s rights and health outcomes, are determined by power imbalances and political and economic structures.

“Breastfeeding is not the sole responsibility of women and requires collective societal approaches that take gender inequities into consideration,” the authors wrote. Indeed, reviews from 2016 to 2021 and country-based case studies indicate that breastfeeding practices can be improved rapidly through multi-level and multi-component interventions.

Dairy lobbyists’ misleading claims

The World Health Assembly has already addressed the decades-long challenge of questionable marketing practices among infant formula producers. In 1981, it developed the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, following an investigative report on Nestle’s targeted marketing in low and middle-income countries in the 1970s.

The new series stated that misleading marketing claims and strategic lobbying from the dairy and formula milk industries add to the challenges parents face.

Such claims as suggesting that formula alleviates fussiness, can help with colic, and prolongs nighttime sleep, are only increasing parents’ anxiety, the papers stated.

Linda Richter, of the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa and series co-author, said the formula milk industry uses “poor science” to suggest, with little supporting evidence, that their products are “solutions to common infant health and developmental challenges”.

This marketing technique “clearly violates the 1981 Code, which says labels should not idealize the use of formula to sell more product,” she added.

Breastfeeding’s immense benefits

WHO recommends exclusively breastfeeding infants for at least six months. The practice provides immense benefits to babies and young children, from reducing infection risks to lowering rates of obesity and chronic diseases later in life.

However, globally, only around half of newborns are put to the breast within the first hour of life.

A mother breastfeeds her baby at a child health centre in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
© UNICEF/Gwenn Dubourthoumieu

A mother breastfeeds her baby at a child health centre in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Corporations exploit lack of support

At a time when less than half of newborns are breastfed, as per WHO guidelines, the series explains how the industry’s marketing exploits the lack of support for the practice by governments and society.

The tactics also misuse gender politics to sell its products, framing breastfeeding advocacy as a “moralistic judgment” while presenting milk formula as a “convenient and empowering solution” for working mothers, the authors found.

Politicizing breastmilk

Drawing attention to the power of the milk formula industry to influence national political decisions, the series stated that the companies also interfere with international regulatory processes. For instance, the dairy and formula milk industries have established a network of unaccountable trade associations that lobby against policy measures to protect breastfeeding or control the quality of infant formula.

In the face of those pressures on parents, the series’ authors made several recommendations; among them was a need for broader actions across workplaces, healthcare, governments, and communities, to effectively support women who want to breastfeed. They also called for formal recognition of the contribution of women’s unpaid care work to national development.

Set of recommendations

Series co-author Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, of the Yale School of Public Health, highlighted other critical steps.

“Given the immense benefits of breastfeeding to their families and national development, women who wish to breastfeed need to be much better supported so that they can meet their breastfeeding goals,” he said.

“A large expansion in health professional training on breastfeeding, as well as statutory paid maternity leave and other protections are vital.”

“We also continue to call on governments to end exploitative marketing of formula milk, and increase health sector support for #breastfeeding so that all families have access to reliable information and advice before and after birth.”-@DrTedros
https://t.co/wWmjUsWYvf

UN ‘blueprint’ to protect least developed nations amid global slowdown

The Doha Programme of Action, as it’s formally known, has been designed as a roadmap up to 2031, to foster strengthened commitments between the least developed countries and their development partners.

“The world is reeling under the cascading impacts of complex, interlocking challenges and structural limitations and constrained fiscal capabilities make least developed countries the ones first and often most severely impacted,” said Csaba Kőrösi at the opening of the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) high-level event on the plan being an accelerator of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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Slowing global economic growth projections are unfolding against a bleak backdrop of skyrocketing inflation, fragmented global supply chains and the triple threat of the food, fuel, and finance crises, he said.

The least developed countries (LDCs) suffering the protracted effects of these interconnected crises are often those least responsible for the global trends lashing out on them, including climate change.

Doha plan ‘opens new window’

The world’s 46 LDCs – a category reviewed every three years by the Committee for Development – are low-income nations confronting severe structural impediments to sustainable development. They are highly vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks and have low levels of human assets.

With the “domino effect” of their limitations threatening to reverse decades of development gains in the face of current crises, he said the Doha Programme for Action, “opens a new window”.

Innovative deliverables

The action plan which will be active from 2022 to 2031 “manifests a new generation of renewed and strengthened commitments” among their development partners, including the private sector, civil society, and governments at all levels, he said.

Some of the action plan’s innovative features include establishing an online university, building platforms to support online university-level science, technology, and engineering, and creating an investment support centre.

The goal is providing a pathway to overcome the impacts of ongoing global crises, build sustainable and inclusive recovery from the pandemic, and to build resilience against future shocks, Mr. Kőrösi said.

“In other words, to help us all to get back on track with the 2030 Agenda,” he said. “This is the time to show solidarity with the most vulnerable countries by fulfilling commitments instead of backtracking on them.”

The 46 countries need to do their part to expand their social safety nets and improve the domestic environment through good governance and enhancing efficiency, and development partners also need to deliver on their pledges, he said.

UN conference in Doha

Echoing this sentiment, the theme “from potential to prosperity” was adopted for the second segment of the fifth UN Conference on Least Developed Countries, to be held in Doha from 5 to 9 March.

World leaders, civil society and private sector partners and young people will gather to forge plans to implement the Programme of Action, which Member States had adopted at the first segment, held on 17 March last year at UN Headquarters. A declaration on their efforts and the challenges ahead is expected to be adopted at the Doha conference.

‘We have the tools’

The conference will be a “momentous occasion to renew the global commitment to supporting the poorest and most exposed members of our human family”, the General Assembly President said. “Through science, technology, and innovation, we have the tools to build sustainable recoveries.”

Encouraging collective efforts to ensure the plan of action is implemented on time, he said such initiatives “will give us all the chance to catch up on reaching our 2030 goals.”

To mark the start of the Doha conference, the UN Postal Administration plans to issue, on 5 March, a set of three postage stamps.

Least Developed Countries that suffer the prolonged effects of multifold crises are often least responsible for the global trends lashing out on them.

#LDC5 will be a momentous occasion to renew the global commitment to supporting the most exposed members of our human family. https://t.co/DQPvPtxqxa

Ethiopia: UN refugee agency chief calls for more aid, new long-term strategy

“While the last few years have been incredibly difficult for many of those affected by the conflict, I was very encouraged to see the progress made towards peace in northern Ethiopia and to witness all the efforts made in getting more aid to the people who lost everything,” Filippo Grandi said, concluding a three-day visit to the country.

Better services sorely needed

During this time, he met with senior government officials and displaced communities in the Tigray region. He also visited Eritrean refugees relocated to a settlement in the Amhara region, home to more than 22,000 people.

They need better health, education and sanitation services so that refugees and host communities can thrive, the UN refugee agency said, in line with the Global Compact on Refugees.

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Progress ‘is visible’

“Progress is visible on the ground,” the High Commissioner said. “People are now getting assistance. Some have started to go back to their homes, but much more needs to be done to support the reconstruction and recovery efforts in the Afar, Amhara and Tigray regions. This will be critical to improve their living conditions and work towards lasting solutions, including voluntary returns to their communities.”

Since the peace deal was signed by the federal government and opposition forces in northern Ethiopia in November, UNHCR and other partners have been able to step up the delivery of such much-needed aid as medicines, shelter materials, clothes, household items, and blankets.

The latest situation report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated that food deliveries had reached more than 3.8 million people in the Tigray region from mid-November to 26 January.

Food needs persist

UNHCR reports that Ethiopia hosts more than 800,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. In addition, 4.2 million Ethiopians are internally displaced, largely resulting from the conflict and ongoing tensions. Many in the Tigray region need food assistance.

Mr. Grandi also said long-term solutions to the current situation on the ground are also needed to assist those displaced by drought and the impact of climate change.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visits Eritrean refugees displaced by war in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.
© UNHCR/Samuel Otieno

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visits Eritrean refugees displaced by war in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

The UN refugee agency stated that its programmes in Ethiopia were half-funded in 2022, making it one of its 12 most underfunded operations globally. In 2023, with continued displacements and the dramatic effects of the drought, UNHCR requires $370 million to assist, protect, and find solutions for refugees and forcibly displaced families.

After the peace agreement, humanitarian agencies can deliver more aid in areas of Northern Ethiopia impacted by conflict. I met displaced people in Mekelle and Eritrean refugees in the Dabat area. UNHCR supports both in cooperation with the authorities, UN and NGO partners. https://t.co/hYaMiGyAbt

Continued urgent action needed to prevent food and nutrition crisis from worsening

The heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank Group (WBG), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) called for rescuing “hunger hotspots” and facilitating trade, among other measures. 

They advised countries to balance short-term urgent interventions with longer-term resilience efforts.   

Expected drop in food supplies 

Food inflation remains high in the wake of shocks from the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency, Russia’s war in Ukraine, supply chain disruptions and rising interest rates, they said in a statement – their third since July. 

Nearly 350 million people across 79 countries are acutely food insecure, and undernourishment is on the rise. 

The situation is expected to worsen, with global food supplies projected to drop to a three-year low. 

The need is especially dire in 24 countries identified as hunger hotspots, 16 of which are in Africa. 

Concern for hunger hotspots

“We call on governments and donors to support country-level efforts to address the needs in hotspots, share information and strengthen crisis preparedness,” the leaders said. 

They stressed that WFP and FAO require funds urgently to serve the most vulnerable immediately. 

WFP and partners reached a record number of people last year.  The agency delivered food and nutrition assistance to more than 140 million thanks to a record-breaking $14 billion in contributions. 

FAO also invested $1 billion to support more than 40 million people in rural areas with agricultural interventions, while the World Bank provided a $30 billion food and security package covering a 15-month period ending this July. 

Funding must also be mobilized so that the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT) can provide concessional financing to poorer countries, while its new Food Shock Window has so far supported Ukraine, Malawi, Guinea and Haiti.  

Donors and governments should also support the Global Alliance for Food Security, which promotes greater crisis preparedness. 

Minimize trade distortions 

The organization heads called for facilitating trade, improving the functioning of markets and enhancing the role of the private sector. 

“Countries should minimize trade distortions, strengthen the provision of public goods, and enable the private sector to contribute meaningfully to improved food security outcomes,” they advised. 

Furthermore, they urged governments to avoid policies such as export restrictions, which can impact poor people in low-income nations that import food, while advocating for support for trade facilitation measures that improve the availability of food and fertilizer. 

Agricultural development projects are helping to reduce poverty in rural communities in Nepal.
© ADB

Agricultural development projects are helping to reduce poverty in rural communities in Nepal.

For the public good 

Although countries have lifted some export bans on wheat and rice, they warned that new restrictions and bans, particularly on vegetables, are hampering availability worldwide. 

“Global food security can be strengthened if governments support both food producers and consumers in a smart and targeted manner, such as by strengthening the provision of public goods in ways that improve farm productivity sustainably,” they said. 

The World Bank has a $6 billion platform that supports farmers to access fertilizers and other critical supplies, while at the same time helping private companies make longer-term investments, according to the statement. 

Reform harmful subsidies 

Countries should also reform and repurpose harmful subsidies for more targeted and efficient programmes towards global food security and sustainable food systems. 

“Most of the global social protection response to inflation is in the form of subsidies, half of which are untargeted, inefficient, and costly to already constrained governments,” the leaders said. 

“Support should be scaled up for countries to strengthen and deploy comprehensive, actionable and shock responsive social protection strategies.”  

Support sustainable agriculture 

They further highlighted the need to re-examine and reform support to agriculture. While this amounted to roughly $639 billion per year between 2016 and 2018, and has been rising since then, farmers received only 35 cents for every dollar spent.  

“Much of this support incentivizes inefficient use of resources, distorts global markets, or undermines environmental sustainability, public health, and agricultural productivity,” they stated. 

Instead, funding should be used to strengthen the resilience and sustainability of the agri-food system, including through the adoption of good agricultural practices, research and innovation, and improved infrastructure.  

“Action is already underway to address underlying structural challenges in social protection and in the food and fertilizer markets, but more concerted action across these three key areas is needed to prevent a prolonged crisis,” they noted. 

Earthquake mobilization   

The leaders began their statement by offering their deepest sympathies to the people of Türkiye and Syria in the wake of the deadly and devastating earthquakes this week. 

“Our organizations are closely monitoring the situation, assessing the magnitude of the disaster, and working to mobilize necessary support in accordance with each organization’s mandates and procedures,” they said. 

Education: More investment in school health, nutrition, will realize childhood potential

It is estimated that some 584 million children have limited or no access to basic drinking water services at school.   

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Nearly half live in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the study by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP). 

A supportive environment 

Furthermore, even though practically all countries in the world provide school meals, roughly 73 million of the most vulnerable children still do not benefit from these programmes.  

“Students learn best in safe and healthy schools,” said Audrey Azoulay, the UNESCO Director-General. 

Speaking on behalf of the partners, she urged the international community to support countries in investing in health, nutrition and social protection at school “because children deserve an environment where they can reach their full potential.” 

Feeding young minds 

School meals alone increase enrolment and attendance rates by nine per cent and eight per cent, respectively, the report revealed. 

In places where anaemia and worm infections are prevalent, de-worming and micronutrient supplementation can keep children in school for an additional 2.5 years.

Additionally, students are 50 per cent less likely to skip school when the learning environment is free from violence, and absenteeism is reduced in low-income countries when promoting handwashing, particularly for girls during menstruation, when water, sanitation and hygiene is improved. 

Return on investment 

The report also addresses other issues such as the promotion of eyecare, mental health and well-being of children, and prevention of school violence. 

Measures like these represent a significant return on investment for countries, in addition to improving the lives of children and adolescents, with benefits extending to homes and whole communities. 

For example, every $1 invested in school feeding programmes generates $9 in returns, according to the report, while school programmes that address mental health can potentially deliver a return of nearly $22. 

A lesson from Malawi 

UNESCO spoke to Wezzie Kacheche, who teaches life skills education, also known as comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), at a secondary school in northern Malawi. 

Students there increasingly dropout of school due to early and unintended pregnancy, early marriage, and drug and substance abuse. 

Ms. Kaleche provides her students with appropriate information about health and sexuality, helping them to “demystify adolescence” at a time where young people get most of their information online or from their peers. 

“One of the girls in my class was on the verge of dropping out of school due to her risky sexual activity and drinking habits,” she recalled. “Upon watching a video about sexually transmitted infections during my class, she came to me to seek more information privately.” 

Unequal and insufficient 

Currently, 90 per cent of countries globally invest in school and nutrition programmes, and more than 100 nations organise school vaccination drives, said UNESCO, pointing to some of the good news in the report.  

One in two primary school children receives school meals and nearly every country includes education for health and well-being in its curriculum. 

Unfortunately, investments are unequal from region to region, and are often insufficient compared to the needs. The report advocates for stronger commitment from governments and support from the international community.  

Globally, investment stands at only $2 billion annually whereas some $210 billion is needed in low- and lower middle-income countries alone. 

Key interventions are needed, the partners said, including provision of school meals, vaccinations, de-worming, psychosocial support, and safe and inclusive learning environments that promote health and well-being. 

Just launched!

Ready to learn and thrive: School health and nutrition around the 🌍 by @UNESCO @UNICEF & @WFP.

Find out how school health & nutrition can help learners lead better, healthier lives. https://t.co/eFO4kcQgYq https://t.co/dq9JOVUR2h

Ukraine: Influx of weapons ‘must not derail aspiration for peace’, Security Council hears

Speaking during the meeting, which was requested by the delegation of the Russian Federation, Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, noted that a number of governments have already provided heavy conventional armaments and munitions to Ukraine.

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Those include battlefield vehicles, air defence capabilities, large-calibre artillery systems, and uncrewed combat aerial vehicles, or drones, among others.

More recently, she said, several States have announced their intention to provide progressively heavier, more modern systems — such as frontline battle tanks — the theatre of war.

“The large-scale influx of weapons into any situation of armed conflict amplifies concerns regarding the escalation of the conflict and risks of diversion,” she warned, underscoring the need to stick firmly to international protocols governing arms transfers.

Strict protocols

Besides arms transfers to Ukraine, the High Representative also cited reports of States transferring weapons, such as combat drones, to the Russian armed forces for use in Ukraine.

In accordance with international norms, she said, any transfers of arms and ammunition should involve pre-transfer risk assessments and post-shipment controls.

Information exchange between the importing, transit and exporting States is also critical, as are appropriate accounting and safeguarding of arms and ammunition, customs and border control measures.

Ms. Nakamitsu also emphasized the conflict’s heavy toll on civilians – noting that the UN human rights office (OHCHR) has recorded more than 18,000 civilian casualties to date since Russia’s full-scale invasion began – and reiterated the responsibility of all parties to protect civilians.

Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of the Russian Federation addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of the Russian Federation addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.

Defence profits

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, also spoke during Wednesday’s meeting, drawing attention to the “never-ending conveyor belt” of new supplies flooding into Ukraine over the last three months.

He also spotlighted rising share prices of certain defence companies, noting that Western countries have found in Ukraine a pretext with which to significantly increase their defence budgets and the revenues of domestic arms producers.

Meanwhile, he said, those same countries are sending mercenaries and service personnel to the Ukrainian battlefield, without which Kyiv would not be able to operate Western weapon systems. 

Against that backdrop, he said, Kyiv and its supporters are responsible for a range of glaring violations of international humanitarian law, carried out by their proxies.

Invasion ‘not unprovoked’

Roger Waters (on screen), Civil peace activist, addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Also addressing the Council at the invitation of Russia, was musician Roger Waters, former band member of Pink Floyd, and peace activist, who stated that he speaks for the countless “voiceless” people around the world who are concerned about the high volume of weapons currently flooding into Ukraine. 

Calling for an urgent end to the fighting, he asked the Council’s five permanent members to put their own goals – citing the example of bigger profits for war industries – to one side.

Noting that the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation was indeed illegal, he said it was nevertheless “not unprovoked”.  Both actions should be equally condemned, he said.

“Not one more Russian or Ukrainian life is to be spent,” he stressed, emphasizing that the voiceless majority – many of whom cannot afford the most basic necessities – does not willingly raise sons and daughters to serve as fodder for the cannons of the world’s major powers.

Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya of Ukraine addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.
UN Photo/Mark Garten

Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya of Ukraine addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.

‘War of choice’

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s permanent representative, demanded that Russia immediately implement the demands of the General Assembly and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – namely, to withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s territory.

Describing the conflict as Moscow’s “war of choice”, he also questioned the choice to have Mr. Waters – who “knows so little, but seems to know it so fluently” – address the Security Council.

He drew attention to Article 51 of the UN Charter, which explicitly allows countries to exercise their inherent right to “individual or collective self-defence” in the case of an armed attack against a UN Member State.

If the Security Council remains immobilized by the evil doer and cannot punish it, let us and all responsible nations do this work […] for our common good,” he stressed.

Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière of France addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.
UN Photo/Mark Garten

Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière of France addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security.

Support from partners

Several Council members echoed that sentiment, demanding Moscow’s full and immediate withdrawal from the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine alongside an urgent ceasefire.

Nicolas de Rivière, France’s ambassador, said the peaceful settlement of the war depends on Russia, “which is entirely responsible for it.”

He pointed out that if Moscow stopped the fighting today there would be peace, but if Ukraine stopped fighting, it would be annihilated

It is against that backdrop that France is providing assistance to Ukraine, both bilaterally and through the European Union, he said, emphasizing that a sovereign UN Member State has been unilaterally attacked by another.

“Let us not allow [the Russian Federation] to invert who is responsible for what,” he said. 

Today, @UN_Disarmament High Representative @INakamitsu briefed the @UN Security Council on threats to international peace and security, focusing on the war in Ukraine and the issue of supplies of armaments.
 
Read full remarks➡️ https://t.co/eO6hQAd0hu https://t.co/okaYWEXjwP

First Person: Türkiye earthquake – 60 seconds of terror

“Like hundreds of thousands of other people in South-Eastern Türkiye I was fast asleep when the world started to shake. I don’t really know how to describe to anyone who hasn’t felt an earthquake, let alone one of the biggest ever recorded in this region. 

It’s just completely surreal. The floor and the walls were shaking, bending, and as we ran down the three floors to the street our only thought was to get far, far away from buildings. 

It was sixty seconds of the worst terror I have ever felt. As we calmed down a bit and realised we had survived the shaking, we also realised it was raining, we were cold, and our legs felt like jelly, like they were not really part of our bodies. Everyone around us was calling out, shouting, screaming. 

The search for survivors continues in Samada, Syria following the February 6 earthquake .
© UNOCHA/Ali Haj Suleiman

The search for survivors continues in Samada, Syria following the February 6 earthquake .

‘Saddening beyond words’

It took us a while but eventually we found a place to shelter after the urgency of the second quake, in a school. Along with hundreds of others we sat, lay down or stood on the basketball court, getting word to our families that we were safe.

Then I checked in with work and started to assess how I could help, how I could tell them what was going on, how to pay tribute to the wonderful people who were doing all they could to help me and thousands like me.

We spent Monday night in a shelter run by the Government. We felt a few trembles but it was comfortable and we had hot drinks and some food, as well as a place to sleep. Now I’m in the office, catching up on everything, including the heart-breaking news that we lost a colleague. Some others are injured, and have lost family members and, in some cases, homes. Others like my team member survived just by a miracle in Hatay.

It’s saddening beyond words. One minute we were sleeping, and the next we are part of one of the biggest disasters on the planet.

I am screaming inside, with despair, grief and fear. But I look at my colleagues, my neighbours, and my friends, who are affected much more than me, and they inspire me to carry on.

Massive shelter needs

IOM's Spokesperson in Gaziantep, Olga Borzenkova, preparing to bed down for the night at the IOM office. More aftershocks are expected and many buildings in the city are highly unsafe.

Olga Borzenkova, IOM spokesperson, Gaziantep, Türkiye.

Türkiye is of course hugely prone to earthquakes and has built a world-class response mechanism. We’ve been working with them for more than 30 years and they are phenomenal partners. But even they will be stretched by this. This is a double whammy – over a million people who fled the war in Syria have temporary protection status in the area hardest hit by the quake.

We are talking to the government to see how best we can help. In all situations like this, the first need is for search and rescue, and I know teams are pouring into the country from across the globe to assist. There will of course be massive shelter needs – so many thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people will be homeless and the weather is freezing. They will need somewhere to sleep short term. And they  will need warm clothes, water, food, heating, there will be trauma and crush injuries, there will be huge mental scars.

Communities will have been devastated: schools and hospitals will have been damaged, workplaces wiped out. The logistics of aid will be fiendish – roads and runways will need to be rapidly repaired. This will be an enormous rescue, response and recovery operation and we are ready to respond in any way the government asks us to, for as long as it takes.

Caribbean sees first regional launch of global plan on early warning systems

The event aimed to mobilize Prime Ministers to support the Early Warnings for All initiative (EW4ALL) in the face of mounting climate hazards. 

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2021 was the region’s fourth costliest hurricane season on record, with 21 named storms, including seven hurricanes.  

Protecting vulnerable communities 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced EW4ALL at the COP27 climate change conference in Egypt in November. 

The initiative calls for investment across disaster risk knowledge, observations and forecasting, preparedness and response, and communication of early warnings, with particularly priority placed on vulnerable communities

It outlines initial new targeted investments of $ 3.1 billion between now and 2027, equivalent to a cost of just 50 cents per person per year.  

Saving lives, reducing losses 

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) are co-leads in the plan’s implementation.  

In a report last year, they noted that less than half of all countries are not protected by multi-hazard early warning systems, which are among the most proven, cost-effective climate adaptation measures

Not only do they save lives, reducing disaster mortality by a factor of eight, but they also reduce economic losses in the aftermath of climate catastrophes.  

“The number of weather-related disasters around the world has risen fivefold over the past 50 years, yet not all countries in the Caribbean have end-to-end early warning systems,” said Petteri Taalas, the WMO Secretary-General. 

Cooperation and investment 

At the regional launch in Barbados’s capital, Bridgetown, leaders outlined practical measures to ensure EW4ALL is incorporated in disaster risk management strategies, while also highlighting work already underway, including by entities such as the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). 

“The Early Warnings for All initiative offers us an opportunity to strengthen cooperation around investment in multi-hazard early warning systems to ensure the safety of the people of the Caribbean,” said Elizabeth Riley, Executive Director of CDEMA. 

While 19 States and territories participate in CDEMA, only 30 per cent have established roadmaps for multi-hazard early warning systems. 

WMO stressed that it is vital to support the Caribbean in building climate and disaster resilience so that countries can take early action. 

“Launching Early Warnings for All in the Caribbean is a critical first step toward coalescing the national, regional, and global cooperation needed to ensure everyone on Earth, especially the most vulnerable populations, are protected by multi-hazard early warning systems,” said Mami Mizutori, Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Head of UNDRR.

The launch also coincided with a WMO conference for the region, themed: Increasing weather, water and climate resilience in North America, Central America and the Caribbean

That event is taking place in Kingston, Jamaica, through Thursday. 

#Barbados hosts #EarlyWarningsForAll initiative regional launch for Caribbean today.
Only one-third of Small Island Developing States have a multi-hazard early warning system.
We can and must change this.
🔗https://t.co/FGcjMwOK8G https://t.co/dOZ7BZdtq8

UN chief ‘deeply regrets’ Mali’s decision to expel senior rights official

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The transitional Government of Mali had made the announcement on Sunday, in effect, barring the Director of the Human Rights Division of the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) from staying in the country, who is the top representative of the UN human rights office (OHCHR) there.

Critical need to protect rights

In the context of the political transition towards a return to constitutional order in Mali, the UN chief underscored the critical need for the Malian authorities to protect human rights, including in particular, freedom of expression, which is crucial for the functioning of a democratic society. 

He expressed full confidence in MINUSMA and the commitment and professionalism of its personnel to implement the mission’s mandate to support Mali and its people, including in the promotion and protection of human rights.

Designation does not apply to UN

Highlighting the doctrine of persona non grata, he noted that it is not applicable to UN personnel. The doctrine is also contrary to the legal framework applicable to the UN, including with respect to obligations under the UN Charter and those concerning the privileges and immunities of its personnel.

Entering the eleventh year of a chronic security crisis, Mali faces ongoing instability, violence and the spread of extremists and armed groups. Concerns also persist about the Wagner Group’s activities in the country, a Russia-based private military contractor.

Late last month, UN-appointed independent rights experts called on Malian authorities to launch a probe into the mass execution of civilians in 2022, allegedly by the Government forces and the military contractor.

MINUSMA was established in 2013 following insecurity in the north and a failed military coup by Islamist rebels, who still hold sway across much of the north and centre of the country.

UN Human Rights Chief @volker_turk deplores expulsion of his representative from #Mali. Calls on authorities to revoke decision as persona non grata doctrine does not apply to UN personnel and to create enabling environment for human rights work: https://t.co/FIUAztodQr

Partnerships key to boosting online safety

In Belarus, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and a local communications company launched the #InternetWithoutBullying initiative to raise awareness on safe online behaviours among children and young people and equip them with the right tools to identify, cope with and respond to bullying.

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UNICEF also provides guidelines for teenagers on how everyone can make the Internet a safer and kinder place.

Protecting children in sport

To mark the day, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is highlighting a recent policy brief on child online protection in sports. Findings show that promoting online safety has become a key aspect of child protection in sport, with the role of sports’ organizations in addressing these issues being “pivotal”.

In its brief, ITU provides guidelines for leaders in sport to help them develop online protection policies and procedures to address online risks, tackle violence against children, and promote the safe use of digital tools and environments.

Stopping online terrorist propaganda

Across the UN system, ongoing efforts continue to tackle the nefarious use of the Internet. In October, the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee adopted the Delhi Declaration on countering the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes, which includes an invitation to its Executive Directorate (CTED) to draft of a set of guiding principles.

Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj of India, serving as Committee Chair in 2022, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed “the rampant use of social media for terrorist purposes to spread terrorist propaganda”.

She told UN News that terrorist groups took advantage of young people’s increased presence online during the crisis “to spread their propaganda and distorted narratives to recruit and raise funds for terrorist purposes.”

To address that and related threats, the Delhi Declaration “lays out the foundation for the way ahead,” David Scharia from CTED told UN News.

“It speaks about the importance of human rights, public-private partnership, civil society engagement, and how we are going to work together on this challenge.”

UN Secretary-General’s call

Stemming the flow of misinformation and disinformation is among the UN Secretary-General’s top priorities for 2023.

“We will call for action from everyone with influence on the spread of mis- and disinformation on the Internet – Governments, regulators, policymakers, technology companies, the media, civil society,” António Guterres told the General Assembly on Monday.

Key recommendations to support sports organizations, clubs + associations in protecting the #OnlineSafety of children https://t.co/2MSbSiv4wU
#SaferInternetDay https://t.co/bY9AY5G131

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