UN chief says organization open for business, HQ safe for meetings
UNITED NATIONS, March 19 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres assured diplomats and journalists on Thursday that they can work "in perfect safety" if it is necessary to hold meetings of the General Assembly and Security Council at headquarters despite the coronavirus threat.
"I'm working in headquarters," he told correspondents at a virtual press encounter. "Most of our staff is working at home, and I believe that when people absolutely need to come, they can come, because I think we have created the conditions to do it in perfect safety."
"It is very important to create the conditions for member states to be able to meet," Guterres said, recalling he just had held a teleconference meeting with 140 resident coordinators around the globe and that the Security Council has meetings planned for next week.
"I've been in contact every day with eight to 10 of our offices around the world and of our missions around the world," he said. "I can tell you I'm very proud because even in these very difficult circumstances, the UN everywhere is open for businesses and we are working to make sure that we deliver ... to the people we care for, the most vulnerable everywhere."
The UN chief's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, told correspondents of some aid efforts around the globe.
In Lebanon, Special Coordinator Jan Kubis assured Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti that the United Nations is ready to help deal with COVID-19 while aiding in the country's economic rescue plan, Dujarric said. The United Nations and the World Bank are working on how to increase assistance to the most vulnerable in Lebanon.
In Iraq, the United Nations reported that measures taken by the country have been aimed at reducing the spread of the pandemic, Dujarric said. The success of the containment efforts so far should not lead to complacency and mass gatherings must be restricted.
The United Nations appreciated that religious authorities in the country have urged their followers to stay at home rather than gather for prayers, the spokesman said.
In the Central African Republic (CAR), the UN peacekeeping mission and the World Health Organization (WHO) reaffirmed support for the government's COVID-19 response, the spokesman said. The peacekeeping mission has been supporting efforts to screen travelers arriving at the Bangui airport.
Peacekeeping troop rotations in the CAR have been suspended because of the crisis in a bid to limit exposure to the virus.
The head of the WHO in the country said the priority is to ensure all new cases are detected, isolated and their contacts traced. There is one confirmed COVID-19 infection in the CAR.
In South Sudan, new measures to support government efforts to prevent and prepare for COVID-19 have been announced. There are no confirmed cases of the virus and UN operations are continuing largely as normal.
However, the government recently announced restrictions on travelers entering South Sudan from a list of countries affected by local transmission of COVID-19.
In Zambia, under the leadership of the WHO, the UN family is supporting the government's contingency plan, with resource mobilization, communications and training of technical staff in surveillance and detection of COVID-19, the spokesman said. The plan also envisions UN entities' support with water and sanitation, including in health facilities, while strengthening infection prevention and control.
With the support of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the government has developed a Risk Communication and Community Engagement action plan, said Dujarric. UN-backed risk communication and health promotion campaigns are also running on radio and television stations with key messages disseminated through mobile phones and social media. Three toll-free hotlines help answer people's questions around COVID-19.
In Argentina, a UN team led by the Pan American Health Organization and the WHO is supporting containment and mitigation measures, including guidance and support on surveillance, laboratory diagnosis, infection control, risk communication, health system preparedness and measures to support social distancing, he said. "UN colleagues are also actively engaging in public communications to counteract the proliferation of 'fake news.'"
The UN Office for Project Services is helping to quickly procure eight fully equipped emergency modular hospitals to expand the health system response with 560 extra inpatient therapy beds, Dujarric said. One-third of the hospitals will be dedicated to intensive care units.
The UNICEF is supporting distance learning during the suspension of classes, ensuring continuity of social protection schemes. The UN Development Programme is supporting community kitchens and care centers in Argentina, providing food and social protection support to approximately 200,000 vulnerable people, the spokesman said.
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is supporting Argentina's educational system through its global platform to monitor the national education systems, sharing best practices to deal with massive school closures and the need to deal with online and remote education, he said.
Through the European Union-UN backed Spotlight Initiative, UN Women is supporting national and local authorities in Argentina to ensure continued service to victims of domestic violence, especially when people are asked to stay at home, Dujarric said.