COVID-19 – UN Offices & other topics – Daily Briefing (16 March 2020)

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Noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

– COVID-19 – UN Offices
– COVID-19
– Central African Republic
– Syria
– Libya
– Iraq
– South Sudan
– Afghanistan
– Honour Roll

The Spokesman said he would to do in-person briefings, but that a system will be put in place for resident correspondents so they can text in questions to the briefing.
Around the world, UN teams are also working with authorities to support national preparedness and response plans around COVID-19, including immediate health priorities and broader social and economic impacts.
In several countries, UN teams are temporarily providing full time staff members to support governments, providing additional expertise in areas such as public health, humanitarian and emergency response, as well as community awareness and risk communications. Different UN entities are fast-tracking procurement of essential items for the national response, while upholding international transparency standards. Our teams are also supporting governments to get emergency funding for their COVID-19 plans, including from the World Bank.
In Asia, some teams, with World Health Organization and other entities, are working to support government efforts in areas such as finance and economy, education and water and sanitation, with immediate support to garment factory and migrant workers and a special focus on women.
In Kenya, the UN has offered five communications experts to support the government’s efforts and also met today with 25 business leaders to boost public-private partnerships to address COVID-19.
UN communications experts in Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa are also supporting the governments’ community awareness and risk communications efforts.
And several countries in the region have UN teams participating with the Pan-American Health Organization and WHO in National Emergency Committees, with the UN’s communications experts in Costa Rica and Ecuador also supporting national communications strategies around COVID-19. In Brazil, the UN country team and national partners, in coordination with government authorities, have already activated the contingency plan in the shelters in the north  and are disseminating prevention messages in Spanish tailored to communities of migrants and refugees who have arrived from Venezuela – in addition to the regular national campaign in Portuguese.

The World Food Programme said today it is providing lifesaving medical equipment worth $500,000 to help China’s frontline hospitals in Hubei support the Government’s effort to combat COVID-19. Supporting the Government in the treatment of severe cases of COVID-19, WFP is providing oxygenation equipment and ventilators for treating critically ill patients.
UNESCO today said that an unprecedent number of children, youth and adults are not attending schools or university because of COVID-19, with 56 countries having closed schools nationwide, impacting more than 516 million children and youth. A further 17 countries have implemented localized school closures and, should these closures become nationwide, hundreds of millions of additional learners will experience education disruption.
UNESCO is providing immediate support to countries as they work to minimize the educational disruption and facilitation of continuity of learning, especially for the most vulnerable.
At UN Headquarters the Secretary-General wrote to staff before the weekend to stress that the Organization remains open for business but our work will be done from different locations using different technologies. He stressed that it is essential that we reduce social contact to a minimum and follow clear instructions of the WHO to minimize the risks of transmitting infections as well as continue to deliver on our mandates. The Secretary-General said we need to reduce the physical presence at UN Headquarters, and this reduced staffing level will be assessed in three
 weeks. He noted the Headquarters staff in New York will continue to provide critical support the other main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna, as well as missions in the field and to an array of intergovernmental processes that must continue, such as the work of the Security Council. This morning, the Secretary-General has been on the phone with the heads of UN duty stations in different parts of the world as well as country offices to check in on them an offer not only solidarity but support.

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