World Hunger Worsening As COVID-19 Weighs, Obesity Rises – UN

A photo of the United Nations emblem
A photo of the United Nations emblem

 

Nearly one in nine people in the world are going hungry, with the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating already worsening trends this year, according to a United Nations report published on Monday.

Economic slowdowns and climate-related shocks are pushing more people into hunger, while nutritious foods remain too expensive for many, contributing not only to undernourishment but to growing rates of obesity in adults and children.

“After decades of a long decline, the number of people suffering from hunger has been slowly increasing since 2014,” said the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World annual report.

Not only did people need enough food, but nutritious food, the study said, citing costly “health and environmental consequences” of sub-par diets.

Nearly 690 million people, or 8.9 percent of people around the globe, are hungry, the UN found.

That number rose by 10 million people in just one year to 2019, and by 60 million in the past five years, found the study, which said eradicating hunger by 2030 – a goal set five years ago – will be impossible if trends continue.

By 2030, over 890 million people could be affected by hunger or 9.8 percent of the world’s population, it estimated and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Last year, the report estimated that over 820 million people were going hungry, but estimates were recalculated following revised data from China for prior years.

– More undernourished people –
When measuring both moderate and severe food insecurity in 2019, the number balloons from 690 million to 2 billion people without “regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food”.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit hard in nations with widespread poverty, could cause another 83 to 132 million people to become undernourished this year, the report said.

Global trends had already been worsening before coronavirus, it said.

About a quarter of Africa’s population could go hungry by 2030 from 19.1 percent today, already twice the world average.

In Asia, the number of hungry people fell by 8 million people since 2015, although the continent remains home to more than half the world’s undernourished people.

Trends in Latin America and the Caribbean are worsening, with 9 million more hungry people last year than in 2015.

– Too expensive –
“A key reason why millions of people around the world suffer from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition is that they cannot afford the cost of healthy diets,” found the report.

In all regions, adult obesity is on the rise, with healthy diets of fruits, vegetables and protein-rich foods unaffordable to some 3 billion people.

Over 57 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia cannot afford a healthy diet.

Low-income countries rely on starchy staples like cereals and tubers that can cost 60 percent less than healthy diets but lack necessary proteins and key vitamins and minerals to reduce infections and ward off disease.

The report found 21.3 percent of children under five, or 144 million, experienced stunted growth due to malnutrition, most of them in Africa or Asia.

Another 6.9 percent were “wasted” with nutritional imbalances, while 5.6 percent were overweight.

Of the overweight children, 45 percent come from Asia, and 24 percent from Africa, underscoring how malnutrition takes the form of both undernutrition and obesity.

Current patterns in food consumption are estimated to result in health costs of over $1.3 trillion per year by 2030.

But healthier diets could lower those costs by up to 97 percent, the report estimated, citing a vegetarian diet with associated health costs of less than $100 million.

Costs are also associated with greenhouse gas emissions caused by today’s food production system which could also be reduced by alternative diets.

While acknowledging high prices for healthy food are due to a variety of factors from insufficient diversification and inadequate food storage to domestic subsidies that favor staples, the report called an “urgent rebalancing of agricultural policies and incentives.”

COVID-19 May Push 45m People In Latin America Into Poverty – UN

A photo of the United Nations emblem
A file photo of the United Nations emblem

 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic could push 45 million people from the middle classes into poverty in already economically troubled Latin America and the Caribbean, the United Nations said on Thursday.

“In a context of already gaping inequalities, high levels of informal labor and fragmented health services, the most vulnerable populations and individuals are once again being hit the hardest,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

The hard-hit region has registered more than three million cases of the novel coronavirus, more than half of them in Brazil, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.

Mexico, Peru and Chile have also been hard-hit.

Guterres said the region could see a stunning 9.1 percent drop in GDP, the worst in a century.

The devastating impact is being magnified, the UN said, because it follows seven years of weak growth and hits countries where millions lack adequate healthcare or easy access to potable water.

The world organization foresees a seven percent rise in the poverty rate this year, adding 45 million to the ranks of the poor, for a regionwide total of 230 million, more than one-third the total population there.

The UN also predicted a 4.5 percent rise in extreme poverty, those threatened with hunger.

The UN urged countries to provide an emergency basic income — averaging $140 a month per person — plus food subsidies for those in need.

Guterres also called on the international community to provide financial aid, help ensure the region’s liquidity and provide debt relief.

AFP

Lives At Risk As Trafficking In Faulty Masks, Other Gear Surges – UN

File: Homemade protective face masks are prepared by Sarah, a 45-year-old volunteer, who sews face masks to be distributed to people in need, at her home in Vincennes, eastern suburbs of Paris, on May 7, 2020, on the 52nd day of a strict lockdown in France to stop the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). – (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

 

 

Lives are at risk as the new coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in the trafficking of substandard masks, sanitisers and other medical products, the UN warned Wednesday.

Organised criminal groups — exploiting fears and uncertainties surrounding the virus — are providing such products to cater to a sudden surge in demand and the supply gap, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a report.

UNODC said it expected criminals to shift their focus to vaccine-related trafficking once one was developed.

Fraud and scams as well as cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure have followed the spread of the virus, it added.

“Health and lives are at risk with criminals exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to cash in on public anxiety and increased demand for personal protective equipment and medications,” UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly said in a statement.

“Transnational organised crime groups take advantage of gaps in national regulation and oversight to peddle substandard and falsified medical products.”

An Interpol-coordinated operation to target illegal online sales of medicines and medical products with participation of 90 countries in March led to 121 arrests worldwide and the seizure of substandard and fake face masks, as well as more than $14 million (12 million euros) worth of potentially dangerous pharmaceutical products, the report said.

Compared to an earlier 2018 operation, Interpol reported an increase of about 18 percent in seizures of unauthorised antiviral medication and a more than 100 percent increase in seizures of unauthorized chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug used to treat coronavirus patients in some countries.

UNODC called for increased international cooperation, strengthened legal frameworks and penalties and more training for those who work in the medical product sector, saying “only a common approach will enable effective responses”.

“We need to help countries increase cooperation to close gaps, build law enforcement and criminal justice capacity, and drive public awareness to keep people safe,” Waly said.

The UNODC report, which is a “preliminary assessment”, builds on information the body has collected from responses submitted by member states, its own field offices and analysis of open sources, official evidence, media and institutional reports.

 

Boko Haram: Buhari Condemns Attack On UN Helicopter 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned yesterday’s attack on a United Nations’ aid helicopter by Boko Haram terrorists, describing it as dastardly and unfortunate.

The President says it is yet another desperate rearguard action by the terrorists who have been under intense pressure from the military.

READ ALSO: Benue Varsity Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dies From COVID-19

He is however reassuring the international community and Nigerians that the attack which claimed the lives of two people, including a five-year-old baby, would not go without severe consequences.

He adds that the security of foreigners and Nigerians remain the top priority of this administration.

Pope Hails UN Global Ceasefire Move To Fight Pandemic

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Easter Monday, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis on Sunday threw his support behind a UN Security Council resolution calling for a halt to conflicts to facilitate the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted the resolution after more than three months of negotiations calling for “an immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations” on the Security Council’s agenda.

“The request for a global and immediate ceasefire, which would allow that peace and security necessary to provide the needed humanitarian assistance is commendable,” the pope said after his weekly Angelus prayer at St Peter’s in Rome.

“I hope that this decision will be implemented effectively and promptly for the good of the many people who are suffering.

“May this Security Council resolution become a courageous first step towards a peaceful future.”

The resolution was the Security Council’s first statement on the pandemic and its first real action since the outbreak started.

Repeatedly blocked by China and the United States, which opposed a reference in the text to the World Health Organization (WHO), the resolution aims to support an appeal in March by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire.

It “calls upon all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days, in order to enable the safe, unhindered and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance”.

AFP

UN Suspends Air Operations In North East Over Helicopter Attack

A file photo of UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon.

 

 

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon has suspended the operations of the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS).

This followed an attack that caused damage to an aid helicopter on Thursday in Damasak, a town in Borno State.

The attack was said to have been repelled by military forces who inflicted heavy injury on the insurgents who retreated and started shooting sporadically, resulting in the death of three civilians, including a minor.

In a statement on Saturday, Kallon revealed that a UN Humanitarian Air Service helicopter caught up in the crossfire was hit by bullets, causing serious damage.

He said, “I am gravely concerned about reports of another violent attack by non-state armed groups in Damasak, Borno State, on 2 July, in which at least two innocent civilians lost their lives, including a five-year-old child.

“Several others were injured, and a humanitarian helicopter was hit, sustaining serious damage.”

Although the UN representative noted that there was no aid worker aboard the helicopter, he called on the Nigerian Government to investigate the attack and swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice.

According to him, the attack and damage to the helicopter severely affect the ability of aid actors to provide urgently needed assistance to vulnerable people in remote areas across Borno State.

“The UN Humanitarian Air Service is essential to evacuate wounded civilians and remains the backbone to facilitating humanitarian access, thereby enabling UN agencies and non-governmental organisations to safely and securely reach the most vulnerable populations.

“In 2019, UNHAS transported 66,271 passengers and 147 megatons of humanitarian assistance, as well as conducted 30 medical and 70 security evacuations,” Kallon added.

He condemned the attacks against civilians, humanitarian assets, and aid workers, thereby calling on all armed parties to respect the international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

The UN official also urged the parties to allow and facilitate safe and unimpeded access for humanitarians to deliver life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable people in the North East.

According to him, 7.8 million people in the crisis-affected states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States, mostly living in remote areas need humanitarian aid.

Kallon explained that in recognition of Thursday’s incident and consultation with some humanitarian organisations, it became necessary to pause UNHAS rotary operations in the region.

He stated that this was to allow the UN to engage government partners and conduct new risk assessments for each helicopter location to ensure that they have taken all the possible mitigation measures.

“The pause will be for an initial period of one week, at which time we will review the situation.

“During this period, life-saving medical and security evacuations will be considered on a case-by-case basis with the authorisation of the Humanitarian Coordinator/Resident Coordinator/Designated Official in consultation with the WFP Country Director,” he said in a leaked memo.

Tourism Faces Minimum $1.2-Trillion Hit From Coronavirus – UN

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 04, 2018 The “Palais des Nations”, which houses the United Nations Offices, is seen at the end of the flag-lined front lawn in Geneva. – The United Nations said on June 18, 2020, it was resuming resettlement travel for refugees, which was suspended in March due to the coronavirus crisis, delaying departures for some 10,000 refugees. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

The coronavirus crisis could cost global tourism and related sectors from $1.2 to $3.3 trillion in lost revenue, the United Nations said Wednesday.

Lockdown restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 have hammered the tourism sector particularly hard, the UN Conference on Trade and Development said in a report.

The world tourism industry is expected to lose at least $1.2 trillion in the best-case scenario, UNCTAD calculated.

In a report entitled “COVID-19 and Tourism: Assessing the Economic Consequences”, UNCTAD modelled three scenarios that included the sector’s supply chain.

The scenarios are moderate, where a third of annual inbound tourism expenditure is removed, equivalent to a four-month standstill; intermediate, removing two-thirds, equivalent to an eight-month halt; and dramatic, where all expenditure is removed, equivalent to a 12-month shutdown.

In the most optimistic scenario, the world’s tourism sector could lose at least $1.2 trillion, or 1.5 percent of global gross domestic product.

That rose to $2.2 trillion or 2.8 percent of global GDP during an eight-month halt.

In the most pessimistic scenario, UNCTAD projected losses of $3.3 trillion or 4.2 percent of global GDP.

– Jamaica, Thailand hit hard –

The report said that unemployment could rise in some countries by more than 20 percentage points and some sectors could almost be wiped out if the standstill lasted an entire year.

Developing countries are among those set to suffer the steepest losses in GDP terms.

In just the moderate scenario, Jamaica would lose 11 percent of its national output; Thailand nine percent, Croatia eight percent, and Portugal six percent.

The Dominican Republic, Kenya and Morocco would all lose five percent.

In some countries, such as small island developing states, tourism accounts for more than half of GDP.

“These numbers are a clear reminder of something we often seem to forget: the economic importance of the sector and its role as a lifeline for millions of people all around the world,” said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, UNCTAD’s director of international trade.

“For many countries, like the small island developing states, a collapse in tourism means a collapse in their development prospects. This is not something we can afford.”

In absolute terms in the moderate projection, the biggest losses would be felt by the United States (-$187 billion), China including Hong Kong (-$105 billion), Thailand (-$48 billion), France (-$47 billion), Germany (-$46 billion) and Spain (-$44 billion).

– Knock-on effects –

UNCTAD also warned of heavy knock-on losses for other economic sectors, such as the goods and services used by holidaymakers, including food, beverages and entertainment.

The agency estimates that for every $1.0 million lost in international tourism revenue, a country’s national income could decline by $2.0 million to $3.0 million.

“The damage incurred in the tourism sector goes beyond cancelled flights and hotel bookings,” the report noted.

In 2019, the tourism sector accounted for around 300 million jobs globally, according to the UN World Tourism Organization. The leading destinations were France, Spain, the United States and China.

AFP

DR Congo Violence Displaces Over One Million In Six Months – UN

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

More than one million people have been forced to flee their homes in the violence-ravaged eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since the start of the year, the UN said Tuesday.

The UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, voiced alarm at an increasing number of attacks by armed groups on displaced civilians, saying it was “appalled” by the surging violence.

“In the last eight weeks, UNHCR and its partners have recorded multiple attacks by armed groups on displacement sites and villages,” it said in a statement.

It said the attacks were mainly in Djugu Territory in Ituri province; in Fizi and Mwenga Territories in South Kivu province; and Masisi and Rutshuru Territories in North Kivu province.

“Violence has displaced more than one million people in the last six months in these areas,” the refugee agency said.

The UNHCR urged the authorities in the DRC to strengthen the police and military presence in the east “to improve the security situation and hold the perpetrators accountable”.

– Killings, mutilation –

“UNHCR is receiving accounts of the way armed groups are unleashing terror on people as they flee, in displacement sites and hosting areas, and when they attempt to return, including reports of killings and mutilation, sexual violence and looting,” the agency said.

“The displaced population is also subject to reprisal attacks for their perceived support for the army by returning armed groups, once the army completes operations to clear areas and is no longer present.”

The agency said the attacks were worsening an already complex displacement situation in eastern DRC and were piling pressure on the areas hosting internal migrants, which were lacking food, water and healthcare services.

It also said health centres had been attacked, with medicines to treat people potentially exposed to HIV being looted.

The DRC has one of the highest rates of internal displacement in the world, according to the UN.

Over five million people within the country’s borders have been uprooted by insecurity, while nearly a million more have sought safety in neighbouring countries as refugees.

– Funding shortfall –

The UNHCR said those uprooted were overwhelmingly women and children and it was providing shelter, relief items and cash.

The agency appealed for further funding, saying it had only received 21 percent of the $168 million (149.59 million euros) it needed for its DRC operations this year.

Some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) from the capital Kinshasa, the eastern DRC is one of Africa’s flashpoints.

It was the theatre of two major wars, which ran from 1996-1997 and from 1998-2003, the second of which eventually involved nine countries and two dozen armed groups.

Millions died from the fighting, disease or malnutrition and violence and volatility remain acute today.

North Kivu in particular has suffered at the hands of militia groups, especially the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a mainly Muslim movement that originated in neighbouring Uganda in the 1990s.

Ethnic violence in Ituri, involving the Lendu and Hema communities, has meanwhile claimed nearly 300 lives since March.

AFP

Civilians Among Over 100 Victims Of Libya Mines – UN

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on September 5, 2018, Palestinian school children raise the victory gesture over a UN flag during a protest at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school, financed by US aid, in the Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in the occupied West Bank. – The United Nations said on June 18, 2020, that it was resuming resettlement travel for refugees, which was suspended in March due to the coronavirus crisis, delaying departures for some 10,000 refugees. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

 

Mines have killed or wounded more than 100 people, including many civilians, south of Libya’s capital following deadly combat between rival forces, the UN said Sunday.

“Mines and improvised explosive devices (planted) in or near homes have caused more than 100 victims,” including civilians and mine disposal experts, UNSMIL, the UN mission in Libya, said in a statement.

It did not give a breakdown of killed or wounded.

The toll was for casualties since early June, it said following a meeting in Rome between interim UN envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams and Government of National Accord head Fayez al-Sarraj.

Earlier this month, the Tripoli-based GNA recognised by the UN regained full control of the capital and its suburbs after more than a year of fighting off an offensive by eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar’s forces have been accused by the GNA, the UN and Human Rights Watch (HRW) of laying mines in residential southern suburbs of the capital.

HRW said earlier this month that antipersonnel mines discovered in May were “of Soviet and Russian origin”.

At the Rome meeting, Williams also expressed concern over reports claiming that “mercenaries of various nationalities” had been deployed in Libyan oil installations.

On Friday, the country’s National Oil Corporation said Russian and other foreign mercenaries had entered the key Al-Sharara oil field the previous day.

Al-Sharara is under the control of forces loyal to Haftar, who is backed by Russia.

Williams said the presence of mercenaries there “threatens” to transform Libya’s so-called oil crescent region into a “battlefield”.

Plunged into chaos by the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed its longtime leader Moamer Kadhafi, oil-rich Libya has two rival administrations.

Haftar’s forces, which are also backed by Egypt and the UAE, launched an assault in April 2019 to wrest control of the capital Tripoli from the GNA.

Haftar’s fighters withdrew from the southern outskirts of Tripoli and the entire west of the country earlier this month after a string of battlefield defeats to the Turkish-backed GNA.

On Saturday, Sarraj also held talks in Rome with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during which he stressed that a solution to the Libyan conflict cannot be military, the GNA said.

AFP

COVID-19 Pandemic Could Lead To More Narcotic Use – UN

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on September 5, 2018, Palestinian school children raise the victory gesture over a UN flag during a protest at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school, financed by US aid, in the Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in the occupied West Bank. HAZEM BADER / AFP.

 

The coronavirus pandemic could see a rise in the use and trafficking of narcotics as well as increased risks for users, the UN drugs and crime agency (UNODC) said on Thursday.

The virus could lead to an overall increase in drug use with a shift towards cheaper products and injecting, both of which could mean greater danger for users, the agency said in its 2020 World Drug Report.

The Vienna-based agency said there were lessons to be learnt from what happened in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis.

The UNODC warned that drug consumption has already been rising at an “alarming” rate over the last decade.

It also warned that countries were more likely to further reduce drug-related budgets and to give less priority to anti-trafficking operations and international cooperation in the wake of the pandemic.

Rising unemployment and a lack of opportunities would increase the chances that poor and disadvantaged people “turn to illicit activities linked to drugs -– either production or transport”, the report said.

READ ALSO: UN Urges ‘Moratorium’ On Facial Recognition Tech Use In Protests

“The COVID-19 crisis and economic downturn threaten to compound drug dangers further still, when our health and social systems have been brought to the brink and our societies are struggling to cope,” UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly said in a statement accompanying the report.

“We need all governments to show greater solidarity and provide support, to developing countries most of all, to tackle illicit drug trafficking and offer evidence-based services for drug use disorders and related disease.”

– ‘Very alarming’ –

The pandemic comes on the back of a trend of already rising drug use, especially in developing countries, with UNODC finding 269 million people in 2018 had used drugs at least once, up 30 percent from a decade earlier.

“This is a very alarming increase. Not just the increase in the amount of people using drugs, but there are more youths, adolescents, children using drugs,” Waly told AFP on Thursday.

The UNODC said the pandemic could have a further “far-reaching impact”.

Border closures and other measures linked to the virus have already caused shortages of drugs on the street, leading to higher prices and reduced purity, the report said.

Drug traffickers seemed to be relying more on maritime routes, including continuing direct cocaine shipments by sea from South America to Europe, but also now transporting drugs via rivers rather than roads in Latin America, UNODC official Angela Me told a press conference.

The report, which mostly examined data up to early 2019, said the use of cocaine and methamphetamine was rising, with growing methamphetamine markets in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Global cocaine production again reached an all-time high, continuing its record-setting trend.

While the area under coca cultivation remained stable from 2017 to 2018, production has become more efficient, Me said.

Me also noted how the market in addictive drugs had become “bigger and more complex” because of an increasing number of substances being abused, some of which are currently legal.

Cannabis remains the most widely used drug worldwide with an estimated 192 million users in 2018.

But opioids, used by around 58 million people, remained the most harmful.

Opioids accounted for two-thirds of the estimated 167,000 deaths related to drug use disorders in 2017.

AFP

UN Urges ‘Moratorium’ On Facial Recognition Tech Use In Protests

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

The UN human rights chief called Thursday for a “moratorium” on the use of facial recognition technology during peaceful protests, stressing that it could increase discrimination against people of African descent and other minorities.

Michelle Bachelet’s appeal came as her office published a report about the impact of new technologies on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of assemblies, including peaceful protests.

“There should be a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology in the context of peaceful protests, until states meet certain conditions including human rights due diligence before deploying it,” Bachelet said in a statement.

The report was requested by the United Nations Human Rights Council two years ago, but it comes as demonstrations have erupted in a number of countries.

READ ALSO: EU Body Recommends Use Of Remdesivir To Treat COVID-19

“New technologies can be used to mobilise and organise peaceful protests, form networks and coalitions, and help people to be better informed about demonstrations and the reasons they are happening, thus driving social change,” Bachelet said.

But, she stressed, “as we have seen, they can be — and are being — used to restrict and infringe on protesters’ rights, to surveil and track them, and invade their privacy.”

The UN report pointed out that technology-enabled surveillance had been a major factor in shrinking civic space in a range of countries, with some states using intrusive online surveillance and the hacking of social media accounts used by protest organisers and demonstrators themselves.

It voiced particular concern over facial recognition technology, “which allows for the automated identification, surveillance and tracking of protesters.”

Facial recognition has numerous uses that could simplify people’s lives, as seen with Apple using it to unlock smartphones.

But the technology has a dark side, with facial recognition integrated into China’s massive public surveillance system and its social credit experiment, where even minor infractions of public norms can result in sanctions.

As protests about police violence and racism spread across the United States, pressure mounted on the tech firms behind the technology.

Microsoft and Amazon announced they would suspend sales of facial recognition software to police forces, while IBM said it would quit the business.

– ‘Amplify discrimination’ –

Thursday’s report warned that the use of facial recognition technology had left many people feeling wary of demonstrating in public places or publicly expressing their views for fear they could be identified, with negative consequences.

“Moreover, facial recognition technology may also perpetuate and amplify discrimination, including against Afro-descendants and other minorities,” the rights office warned.

Protesters have marched in a number of countries in 2019 and this year on issues including racial discrimination, as with the recent global protests over the killing of George Floyd by a US police officer who has since been charged with murder.

“As people gather worldwide to protest against racism, including by law enforcement officials, the right to peaceful assembly has never been more important,” Bachelet said.

“Facial recognition should not be deployed in the context of peaceful protests without essential safeguards regarding transparency, data protection, and oversight in place.”

AFP

Millions Of Migrant Workers Head Home Due To Coronavirus – UN

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

Millions of migrant workers who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic are expected to return home to already overburdened labour markets, the UN said Wednesday.

Migrant workers were left exceptionally exposed to the virus and the economic shutdown it triggered, said the United Nations’ International Labour Organization.

“This is a potential crisis within a crisis,” said Manuela Tomei, director of the ILO’s conditions of work and equality department.

“Many millions of migrant workers, who were under lockdown in their countries of work, have lost their jobs and are now expected to return home to countries that are already grappling with weak economies and rising unemployment.”

The ILO estimates there are 164 million migrant workers worldwide — nearly half of them women — comprising 4.7 per cent of the global labour force.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Crisis Sinks Global Economy In 2020, Collapsing GDP 4.9% – IMF

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many migrant workers were unable to return home due to travel bans, and found themselves stuck.

Nonetheless, Nepal is expecting around 500,000 people who have lost their jobs abroad to return home, mainly from the Middle East and Malaysia.

India has already repatriated more than 220,000 migrant workers, mostly from Gulf states.

Meanwhile, some 250,000 have headed back to Bangladesh, more than 130,000 to Indonesia and more than 100,000 to Myanmar, Michelle Leighton, chief of the ILO’s labour migration department, told a virtual press conference.

Ethiopia is expecting between 200,000 and 500,000 to return by the end of the year.

– Essential sectors –

The ILO said that in many parts of the world, migrant workers were concentrated in sectors deemed essential during the coronavirus lockdowns, such as health care, transport, services, domestic work and agriculture.

However, they were also more vulnerable to losing their jobs and income during economic crises.

The ILO said migrant women in domestic and care work were among the most vulnerable during the crisis, facing additional work and care demands, with entire families at home during lockdowns.

Tomei said migrant workers were over-represented in sectors in which physical distancing is difficult, they very often hold temporary jobs, and job loss often means a loss of work and residence permits, pushing them into irregular status without protections.

She said migrant workers were “invisible to COVID-19 responses” despite the essential work they did, and needed to be factored into national plans.

She also called for greater cooperation between countries of origin and destination to help returning migrants.

Returning migrant workers could also bring skills that could help their home economies rebuild after the COVID-19 downturn, said the ILO.

But the families of returning migrants could suffer financially from the loss of remittances normally sent to them.

AFP