October 6, 2019

Speaking at a meeting of the Afghanistan Support Group in Kabul, the senior United Nations envoy in the country told representatives of 15 donor nations and the European Commission that while future donations were welcome, present contributions were also urgently needed. “We thank you for your billions but we need your millions today,” said Lakhdar Brahimi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. Mr. Brahimi also emphasized that the Afghan Interim Administration was “in dire need of funds now, [for] the Civil Service and police, and to get the country going, and to get this Administration functioning,” a spokesman for the envoy told reporters after the meeting. “We have started to help the Interim Administration with the basics, and we spoke about that some time ago: cars, desks, chairs, window panes, doors, paper clips, telephones, you name it, they need it,” said spokesman Ahmad Fawzi. “Donor countries need to realize that the infrastructure here was totally demolished and that we are starting from zero,” Mr. Fawzi stressed, adding, “This is like no other operation that we have been faced with before, and there are things that need to be done now, not five years from now – this Administration cannot wait for another five years for the billions to come in.” The spokesman noted that many governments had made pledges and offered expressions of support. “There have been delays in depositing the funds, and it could be bureaucracy – if so, then it is the bureaucracy that we have to get rid of in this case, because lives are at stake,” he said. “The whole country is at stake.” According to Mr. Fawzi, Afghanistan needs $100 million immediately, including $70 million to pay back – and future – salaries for some 235,000 civil servants who had not been paid for six to seven months. “If this Administration is going to have any credibility with the people of Afghanistan it will have to be able to pay the salaries of the civil servants of Afghanistan,” he explained. The remaining funds were needed “to prop up the Administration logistically and physically,” he added. read more

Old diseases and new infections will re-emerge unless urgent action is taken to close the gaps in funding, research and global immunization coverage, according to a new report jointly produced by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank.Entitled “State of the World’s Vaccines and Immunization”, the report points out that while vaccines have saved billions of lives in the past century, and are still the least expensive way of controlling the spread of infectious diseases, they are not reaching the populations that need them most.Carol Bellamy, UNICEF Executive Director and Chair of the joint initiative, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), said vaccines are among the most cost-effective public health interventions. “Today, no child should die from a vaccine-preventable disease,” she said.The report cites low donor investment as one of the major reasons for the huge gaps in coverage, stating that external aid to developing countries for immunization currently stands at approximately $1.56 billion annually. “With an additional investment of $250 million a year, at least 10 million more children would be reached with basic vaccines [while] a further $100 million a year would cover the cost of newer vaccines,” including hepatitis B and Hib vaccines, which together kill 970,000 children each year.The report also says low-income countries spend as little as $6 per person per year on health, including immunization, while access to vaccines has been limited by the countries’ poor economies and market situation for vaccines. “For instance, while a vaccine with some efficacy for HIV/AIDS is now seen as possibly achievable within the next 10 years, only one clinical trial for this vaccine has been conducted in Africa, the continent that bears 70 per cent of the world’s HIV burden.”According to a joint statement issued today in Dakar, Senegal, by the producers of the report, while children in developed nations have access to additional, newer and more expensive vaccines to protect them against major childhood diseases, only half of the children in sub-Saharan Africa have access to basic immunization against common diseases such as tuberculosis, measles, tetanus and whooping cough. “In poor and isolated areas of developing countries, vaccines reach fewer than one in 20 children,” the statement said.“In many regions of the world it is more the rule than the exception for children to die of common childhood conditions such as measles, which alone causes about 700,000 deaths a year,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, adding that access to life-saving vaccines was the only way of avoiding major epidemics of new and old diseases.For his part, James Wolfensohn, World Bank President and GAVI board member, said the key to a well-functioning immunization and health system is in building financial sustainability from the outset, and bridging the gap between rich and poor countries in terms of access to vaccines. read more

Rupert Colville told the press that the effort – mounted jointly by UNHCR and the governments of the two countries – would kick-off in Kimaza, DRC, about 140 kilometres west of Kinshasa, where some 2,000 refugees from Congo will receive identity cards over the next few days. The cards, which will be issued to every refugee and asylum seeker over the age of 14, will help to improve their legal protection and protect them from security problems.After the exercise is completed in Kimaza, the operation will move to Pointe-Noire in the Congo, where identity cards will be distributed early December, and Lumumbashi, in the south-eastern part of the DRC.Quoting government estimates, UNHCR said there are about 440,000 refugees and asylum seekers in the two Congos, most of them in areas bordering Angola and the Cabinda enclave. About 330,000 reside in the DRC while the remaining 110,000 live in Congo, the agency said, adding that the majority of the refugees and asylum seekers are Angolans. The DRC also shelters 75,000 Sudanese, 22,000 Rwandans and other nationalities. read more

After a two-day review of research progress, the WHO Consultation on SARS Vaccine Research and Development said a resurgence of the illness could speed up research and result in a vaccine within two years. Without a new outbreak, the vaccine would follow the classical development path and not be ready for four to five years. In the meantime, “we must be ready to manage a possible resurgence of SARS through the control measures that work – surveillance, early diagnosis, hospital infection control, contact tracing and international reporting. Research must continue to determine if, how, and how soon a vaccine will add to these existing control measures,” WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook said. The group of 50 experts from 15 countries examined what is known of how the SARS coronavirus causes human disease, the factors involved in choosing the best genetic strains for future vaccines and the help or the hindrance raised by patent and intellectual property issues. The consultants also reviewed recent work on experimental vaccines in animals and how that information could be used to initiate clinical trials in human volunteers. But human trials might be inappropriate, given the severity of the disease, its relatively rare occurrence and the urgency of the search for inoculation, they said. “SARS might have to be licensed in the absence of efficacy data generated in humans,” they concluded. Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, Director of the WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research, said, “If we are to develop a SARS vaccine more quickly than usual, we have to continue to work together on many fronts at once, on scientific research, intellectual property and patents issues, and accessibility. It is a very complicated process, involving an unprecedented level of international cooperation, which is changing the way we work.” read more

Under the supervision of the UN Observer Mission in Bougainville (UNOMB), the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and the Bougainville Resistance Force (BRF) have destroyed 1,588 weapons, or 81 per cent of their arsenals, while five out of 10 Bougainville districts have completed the weapons disposal programme, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Danilo Türk said in an open briefing.In the area still controlled by former separatist leader Francis Ona, Me-ekamui (Holy Land), some progress had been made, but Mr. Ona continued to avoid dialogue with Bougainville’s leaders and the National Government, Mr. Türk said. The dominant force in Mr. Ona’s Me-ekamui Defence Force (MDF), the “A” Company, had completed the destruction of its weapons, but other MDF elements had not, he added.That position could impact the pace and timing of the weapons destruction programme, he said, but Mr. Ona’s influence was steadily declining.The Bougainville Interim Provincial Government had started preparations for the next steps in the electoral process for the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), by establishing a Ministry for Peace and Autonomy, but the earliest possible time for the election would probably be the end of November or the beginning of December, Mr. Türk said.UNOMB’s mandate ends on 30 June and some speakers in the Council’s ensuing discussion argued in favour of extending it, while others suggested ending it then.A “natural exit point” for UNOMB would be after the elections, when the autonomous government would assume responsibility as the legitimate representative of the people of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea’s representative, Robert Aisi, told the Council. Video of the Council meeting [1hr 32mins] read more

In presenting a mid-term review of what was originally a six-month $977 million flash appeal, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland extended its duration to 12 months and increased the total to $1.087 billion, noting that in overall aid 92 governments had pledged $5.8 billion, with several billion more raised by private individuals and corporations.But despite this positive assessment of the immediate relief phase for the December tsunami, which killed more than 200,000 people and left up to 5 million more in need of basic services in a dozen countries, Mr. Egeland noted a growing frustration in the reconstruction phase, where houses have not been rebuilt and livelihoods restored.”We are not making as fast progress in recovery and reconstruction of livelihoods as the people would like to see,” he said. “What we have to avoid is a loss of momentum…We have to redouble our efforts in this period.”While most of the money pledged for the flash appeal is already in hand or firmly committed, this is not the case for the world’s other emergencies, excluding the appeal for Sudan, with the UN receiving only about nine per cent of what it has sought – $168 million out of $1.7 billion.”The money we ask for all of these other forgotten and neglected emergencies is one-fifth of what Europe spends on ice cream per year. It is two-and-a-half fighter jets,” Mr. Egeland said.”And it is a shame really that we are making so little progress on fundraising for forgotten and neglected emergencies, in Africa especially,” he added, referring to humanitarian crises in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Guinea, the Republic of Congo, Somalia and West Africa. read more

In a lecture Mr. Annan delivered at the India International Centre in New Delhi, he strongly rebutted the suggestion that development, and the concerns of the developing world, did not receive much attention in the report “In Larger Freedom,” his comprehensive agenda for change at the UN. “On the contrary, development is the subject of the first and longest chapter in the report, which maps out a detailed and practical strategy for reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015,” he said, referring to the targets set at a UN summit in 2000 to tackle a host of socio-economic ills. The report contained important proposals on trade and debt relief, as well as a call for all developed countries to reach a target for increased development aid of 70 cents out of every $100 dollars of gross national income, he added. The Secretary-General said it would be preferable for UN Member States to agree on Security Council reform by consensus, but inability to reach consensus should not become an excuse for postponing action. Mr. Annan also participated in an exchange of questions and answers after his lecture, and then gave a press conference before leaving New Delhi. He is expected to be back in New York in time to attend tomorrow morning’s Security Council meeting on Lebanon and the implementation of resolution 1559, which calls for a full withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon. read more

“The great apes still have a chance, but their fate lies entirely in our hands,” he said in a message to the Intergovernmental Meeting on Great Apes and the Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP) organized by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). “This meeting represents an opportunity for the governments where great apes still exist to consolidate progress and chart a way forward,” he added. Mr. Annan noted that in the 23 countries, from West Africa to the island of Borneo, where the great apes still survive, their habitat has been largely reduced to isolated forest islands. The animals probably total no more than 400,000 now whereas 50 years ago they numbered at least 2 million. “Only by protecting these remaining forests can we ensure the great apes’ survival. None of these countries is rich. All are struggling to balance the development aspirations of their people with the need to ensure environmental sustainability,” he said.“Only by working together can governments, conservation organizations, businesses and communities mobilize the money, expertise and commitment needed to protect humankind’s closest relatives.” read more

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has announced its support for an expanded campaign to immunize more than 850,000 girls and women of childbearing age in Uganda against the threat of tetanus, which poses grave risks to pregnant women and their babies.The immunizations, to be extended to nine additional, high-risk districts this month, are organized by the Ugandan Ministry of Health with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as UNICEF.A total of 20 districts have been selected by the Ministry of Health to each undergo three rounds of maternal and neonatal tetanus vaccination campaigns, in order to attain coverage levels of 95 per cent or above, UNICEF said. The nine districts to be reached in this latest effort represent the final set in the national campaign.Tetanus threatens pregnant women and their babies because infection is often contracted through non-sterile cutting of the umbilical cord and passed on to the newborn child. Antibodies provided by the Tetanus Toxoid vaccine, given to the mother, protect newborn children for the first two months of life when they will usually be vaccinated themselves.In 2004, more than 700,000 girls and women of childbearing age were immunized with the tetanus vaccine in six high risk districts, following approximately 537,000 reached in five districts in 2003. Such campaigns since 2002 have led to the reduction in reported maternal and neonatal tetanus cases from over 300 to fewer than 50 cases. UNICEF assists the immunization campaigns through the provision of vaccines, training of health staff and mobilization of communities. read more

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appointed Jordan Ryan of the United States as his Deputy Special Representative for Recovery and Good Governance for Liberia starting next month. Mr. Ryan, who will also serve as the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Liberia, works now in Viet Nam as the UN Resident Coordinator. Prior to that appointment, Mr. Ryan served as the Director of the UNDP Office of the Administrator in New York from 1997 to 2001. Earlier in his career, Mr. Ryan held the positions of UNDP Deputy Resident Representative and Senior Assistant Resident Representative in Viet Nam. He was also the UNDP Assistant Resident Representative in China. Before joining the UN, Mr. Ryan worked as a consultant and as an attorney in New York and California. read more