Damasak Attack: Civilians, Aid Workers Should Not Be Targets For Terrorists – UN

A google map of Damasak, the headquarters of Mobbar Local Government Area of Borno State.

 

The United Nations has condemned the attack on humanitarian facilities in Damasak, a town in Borno State.

In a statement on Sunday, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, raised concern over the recurrent reports of violent attacks by non-state armed groups putting the lives of civilians at risk.

He stated that civilians and aid workers, as well as their facilities and assets, should never be a target for terrorist attacks.

The Nigerian Army had confirmed the attack which occurred on Saturday, although it said ground troops, supported by the Air Component of Operation Lafiya Dole (OPLD), thwarted it.

READ ALSO: Two Soldiers, Several Boko Haram Fighters Killed In Borno Town – Army

It said the troops engaged the terrorists with superior firepower – both from the air and on the ground – which compelled them to withdraw in disarray with several men and equipment casualties in the process.

Sadly, two soldiers died during the encounter while two others and an officer injured were taken to a military hospital in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

In his reaction, Kallon stated that the attack, which he said lasted through the morning of the following day, targeted three international aid facilities.

He called for the safety and security of the people and aid workers, saying humanitarian operations and facilities were the lifelines for victims of violence and conflict in the North East.

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

 

The UN official said humanitarian operations in Damasak would be reduced as a result of the attack, adding that it would affect the support to 8,800 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and 76,000 people in the host community receiving humanitarian assistance and protection.

Read the full statement by Mr Kallon below:

STATEMENT ON THE ATTACK AGAINST AID FACILITIES IN DAMASAK

I am deeply concerned about recurrent reports of violent attacks by non-state armed groups putting the lives of civilians under risks. Last night and through the morning, a violent attack in Damasak town, in Borno State, was reported with three international aid partners’ facilities directly targeted, set ablaze, and sustained damage. I continue to be concerned about the safety and security of civilians and humanitarian workers.

I strongly condemn the attack, as humanitarian aid operations and facilities are the lifelines for people affected by violence and conflict in north-east Nigeria who are dependent on assistance to survive.

Humanitarian operations in Damasak will be reduced due to the violent attack, which will affect the support to 8,800 internally displaced people and 76,000 people in the host community receiving humanitarian assistance and protection there.

Civilians and aid workers, their facilities, and assets should never be a target. They must always be protected and respected.

I call on armed parties to observe and commit to international humanitarian law and human rights law and ensure the protection of civilians, humanitarian property, and personnel.

I also appeal to our generous donors and stakeholders for support in funding the nine humanitarian hubs and to the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), as these are vital enablers of the humanitarian operations in north-east Nigeria.

I also appeal to donors to urgently continue their support for the Humanitarian Response Plan for north-east Nigeria in order to provide life-saving and life-sustaining support to some 6.4 million displaced people and host communities affected by the humanitarian crisis there.

Huge Rise In Child Migrants Crossing Dangerous Panama Jungle – UN

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 number of US-bound migrant children crossing the dangerous Darien jungle in Panama on foot has increased more than 15-fold in recent years and is likely to rise further during the pandemic, the UN children’s agency warned on Monday.

Children accounted for just two percent of these migrants in 2017 but that had risen to more than 25 percent in 2020, UNICEF said in a statement.

The Darien Gap jungle, the only land corridor between Colombia and Panama, is “one of the most dangerous routes in the world due to the mountainous terrain, wildlife and insects, as well as the presence of criminal organizations,” the agency added.

Crossing the vast, roadless Darien Gap rainforest is the only option for US-bound migrants traveling overland from South America. Most of those making the crossing are Haitians and Cubans, but there are also some Asians and Africans.

“I’ve seen women step out of the jungle carrying their babies in their arms after walking for more than seven days without water, food or any kind of protection,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Over the past four years, more than 46,500 migrants, including 6,240 children and adolescents, have crossed the inhospitable jungle. The number of minors increased from 109 to 1,653 between 2017 and 2020, UNICEF said.

READ ALSO: Israel Reopens Egypt Crossing For First Time Since COVID-19 Pandemic

In 2019, a peak of nearly 4,000 children made the crossing. Half of them were under five years old and many arrive injured and with serious physical and psychological problems.

Experts believe more and more migrants are choosing to travel with their families, including young children and pregnant women, to avoid being deported to the different countries they pass through.

“These families are pushing their own limits and putting their lives in danger, often without realizing how much of a risk they are taking. Those who manage to eventually cross this perilous border are physically and mentally devastated,” Gough added.

Migration across the dangerous jungle is likely to increase in the next months due to the economic crisis and unemployment generated by the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with violence and climate change, UNICEF said.

AFP

COVID-19 Highlights Urgent Need To Reboot Global Effort To End Tuberculosis – WHO

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organised by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / POOL / AFP
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organised by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) on July 3, 2020, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / POOL / AFP

 

An estimated 1.4 million fewer people received care for Tuberculosis (TB) in 2020 than in 2019, according to preliminary data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) from over 80 countries- a reduction of 21% from 2019.

The countries with the biggest relative gaps were Indonesia (42%), South Africa (41%), the Philippines (37%), and India (25%).

“The effects of COVID-19 go far beyond the death and disease caused by the virus itself. The disruption to essential services for people with TB is just one tragic example of the ways the pandemic is disproportionately affecting some of the world’s poorest people, who were already at higher risk for TB,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Building up health systems so everyone can get the services they need is key. Some countries have already taken steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on service delivery, by strengthening infection control; expanding the use of digital technologies to provide remote advice and support, and providing home-based TB prevention and care.

But many people who have TB are unable to access the care they need. WHO fears that over half a million more people may have died from TB in 2020, simply because they were unable to obtain a diagnosis.

This is not a new problem: before COVID-19 struck, the gap between the estimated number of people developing TB each year and the annual number of people officially reported as diagnosed with TB was about 3 million. The pandemic has greatly exacerbated the situation.

One way to address this is through restored and improved TB screening to rapidly identify people with TB infection or TB disease. New guidance issued by WHO on World TB Day aims to help countries identify the specific needs of communities, the populations at highest risk of TB, and the locations most affected to ensure people can access the most appropriate prevention and care services. This can be achieved through the more systematic use of screening approaches that employ novel tools.

These include the use of molecular rapid diagnostic tests, the use of computer-aided detection to interpret chest radiography, and the use of a wider range of approaches for screening people living with HIV for TB. The recommendations are accompanied by an operational guide to facilitate roll-out.

But this will not be enough alone. In 2020, in his report to the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General issued a set of 10 priority recommendations that countries need to follow.

These include activating high-level leadership and action across multiple sectors to urgently reduce TB deaths; increasing funding; advancing universal health coverage for TB prevention and care; addressing drug resistance, promoting human rights, and intensifying TB research.

And critically, it will be vital to reducing health inequities.

“For centuries, people with TB have been among the most marginalized and vulnerable. COVID-19 has intensified the disparities in living conditions and ability to access services both within and between countries,” says Dr. Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme.

“We must now make a renewed effort to work together to ensure that TB programmes are strong enough to deliver during any future emergency – and look for innovative ways to do this.”

UN Seeks Access To Migrants Injured In Yemen Blaze

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 migration agency has urged rebels who control the Yemeni capital Sanaa to provide access to dozens of African migrants who were seriously injured in a weekend hostel fire.

The Sunday blaze at an overcrowded holding facility in Sanaa killed an unconfirmed number of migrants and injured more than 170, over half of them seriously, the International Organization for Migration said.

“As many migrants are in a critical condition, meeting their health needs must be an urgent priority,” IOM Middle East and North Africa director Carmela Godeau said in a statement Tuesday.

“We are facing challenges accessing the injured due to an increased security presence in the hospitals,” she said.

“Humanitarians and health workers must be given access to support the treatment of those affected by the fire.”

There has still been no word from the Huthi rebel authorities on what caused Sunday’s fire or how many people it killed.

The IOM said more than 350 migrants, most of them from Ethiopia, were in a hangar area where the fire broke out.

“While the cause of the fire is still unconfirmed, its impact is clearly horrific,” said Godeau.

Despite more than six years of devastating conflict in Yemen that have created what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the impoverished country is still a magnet for migrants from the nearby Horn to Africa seeking a better life in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Restrictions on movement imposed during the coronavirus pandemic have led to a reduction in migrant arrivals from more than 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020.

But they have also led to “thousands of migrants becoming stranded with little access to basic services or protection,” the IOM said.

It said it was working with Ethiopian authorities to restart a voluntary repatriation programme for stranded migrants.

More than 6,000 have registered to return home from Yemen’s government-held second city Aden, of whom a first 1,100 are are expected to leave in the coming weeks, the IOM said.

UN Expert Urges ‘Global Arms Embargo’, Sanctions On Myanmar

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 United Nations Security Council should impose a “global arms embargo” and targeted sanctions against Myanmar’s military, a top UN rights expert said Thursday, voicing alarm at the brutal repression of anti-coup protests.

In a fresh report, Thomas Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights situation in Myanmar, called for the international community to “act urgently and decisively” to support those demanding a return to democracy in the country.

“The stakes could not be higher,” he said.

The UN Security Council, he said, should urgently “impose a global arms embargo” and “impose targeted economic sanctions against the Myanmar military and its sources of revenue.”

It should also refer the situation in the country to the International Criminal Court “to investigate and possibly prosecute atrocity crimes that have occurred, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity,” the report said.

READ ALSO: Israel, Denmark, Austria Agree Deal For Vaccine Development

The UN and the international community must meanwhile deny the military junta recognitions as the country’s legitimate government, the expert said.

“I urge the members of the (Security) Council to consider the unrelenting brutality that we are witnessing in Myanmar,” he said in a statement.

Myanmar has been in uproar since the military seized power on February 1, ending a decade-long experiment with democracy and triggering a mass uprising that the junta has increasingly sought to quash with lethal force.

Wednesday marked the bloodiest day so far, with the UN saying at least 38 people died, as online images streamed out of Myanmar showing security forces firing into crowds and blood-covered bodies with bullet wounds in their heads.

The UN Security Council is due to discuss the crisis on Friday, as international pressure mounts.

Western powers have repeatedly hit the generals with sanctions, and 41 states have imposed arms embargos on Myanmar.

– ‘Terrified’ –

Andrews’ report covered the period up to March 1, so did not include the escalating violence in recent days.

But he had already said on February 17 that he was “terrified” at developments in the country, warning “we could be on the precipice of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar.”

The US national said in his report that he had requested access to Myanmar as soon as he was named to his post last year, back when Aung San Suu Kyi was still in charge of the civilian government.

But his request had been denied with reference to the pandemic.

Andrews meanwhile said it was clear that “the people of Myanmar are experiencing the illegal overthrow of their government and the brutal repression of a military authoritarian regime.”

He hailed that they had “risen up in opposition as a diverse yet powerfully unified whole.”

“The non-violent civil disobedience movement is proving to be remarkably effective, drawing its organic power from the unflinching and democratic desires of the people,” he said.

“Indeed, Myanmar appears to have never been more unified.”

He called on the international community to “rise to the occasion of this moment in history by following the lead and the inspiration of the people of Myanmar,” voicing hope that “justice, dignity, and human rights will prevail.”

AFP

Ethiopian, Eritrean Troops Behind Possible ‘War Crimes’ In Tigray: UN

People gather to mourn the victims of a massacre allegedly perpetrated by Eritrean Soldiers in the village of Dengolat, North of Mekele, the capital of Tigray on February 26, 2021. 
EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP

 

The UN rights chief said Thursday that her office had corroborated grave violations that could amount to “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, including by Eritrean troops.

Michelle Bachelet stressed in a statement the urgent need for an independent investigation into the situation in Tigray, which has been rocked by months of fighting.

Her office had “managed to corroborate information about some of the incidents that occurred in November last year, indicating indiscriminate shelling in Mekelle, Humera and Adigrat towns in Tigray region”.

It had also verified “reports of grave human rights violations and abuses including mass killings in Axum, and in Dengelat in central Tigray by Eritrean armed forces”, it said.

A preliminary analysis of the information indicated that “serious violations of international law, possibly amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, may have been committed by multiple actors in the conflict”, the statement warned.

Those actors included the Ethiopian National Defence Forces, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Eritrean armed forces, and Amhara Regional Forces and affiliated militia, it said.

“With multiple actors in the conflict, blanket denials and finger-pointing, there is a clear need for an objective, independent assessment of these reports,” Bachelet said.

 

Women mourn the victims of a massacre allegedly perpetrated by Eritrean Soldiers in the village of Dengolat, North of Mekele, the capital of Tigray on February 26, 2021.
EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP

– ‘Deeply distressing’ –

She urged the Ethiopian government to grant her office and other United Nations investigators access to Tigray “with a view to establishing the facts and contributing to accountability, regardless of the affiliation of perpetrators”.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights pointed out that her office was continuing to receive information of ongoing fighting in central Tigray in particular.

She lamented “deeply distressing reports of sexual and gender-based violence, extrajudicial killings, widespread destruction and looting of public and private property by all parties”.

“Without prompt, impartial and transparent investigations and holding those responsible accountable, I fear violations will continue to be committed with impunity, and the situation will remain volatile for a long time to come,” she said.

Bachelet also voiced concern at the detentions this week in Tigray of journalists and translators working for local and international media, including AFP.

While they had been released, she pointed to worrying remarks by a government official that those responsible for “misleading international media” would be held responsible.

“Victims and witnesses of human rights violations and abuses must not be hindered from sharing their testimony for fear of reprisals,” she said.

Tigray has been gripped by fighting since early November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced military operations against the TPLF, accusing them of attacking federal army camps.

Abiy — who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 — declared victory after pro-government troops took the regional capital Mekele in late November, although the TPLF vowed to fight on, and clashes have persisted in the region.

The presence of Eritrean troops in the Tigray conflict has been widely documented but has been denied by both countries.

-AFP

Boko Haram ‘Directly Targeted’ Aid Facilities In Borno, Says UN

A  file photo of United Nations taken on September 5, 2018,  (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

 

The United Nations on Tuesday said an attack by Boko Haram insurgents on the northeastern Nigerian town of Dikwa in Borno State had “directly targeted” aid facilities.

“The attack started last night and, as information is still coming through, I am outraged to hear the premises of several aid agencies and a hospital were reportedly set ablaze or sustained damage,” the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said in a statement.

“This violent attack will affect the support provided to nearly 100,000 people who are desperately in need of humanitarian assistance and protection,” he said.

The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) group, which split from mainstream Boko Haram in 2016, is suspected to be behind the attack.

The government and the army have yet to comment.

President Muhammadu Buhari reshuffled the military command this year, raising hopes of a shift in strategy to end a 12-year-old conflict that has killed 36,000 people and forced around two million to flee their homes.

Boko Haram insurgents on Tuesday attacked Dikwa Local Government Area of Borno State and abducted at least seven aid workers.

The insurgents during the attack also burnt the offices of the aid workers, destroyed government facilities, and hospitals belonging to NGOs.

An eyewitness told Channels Television that the insurgents stormed the town at 5:30 pm on Monday evening, and have since been in control of the town.

The eyewitness said troops have been battling to dislodge the town throughout the night.

COVID-19: UN Seeks $266million To Feed Refugees In East Africa

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)

 

The United Nations launched an appeal on Tuesday for $266 million (221 million euros) to help feed more than three million refugees and asylum seekers across East Africa, suffering extra hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lockdowns and other measures to contain the contagion have made it more difficult for refugees to get food or earn money said the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in a joint statement.

“We’ve never had such a terrible funding situation for refugees,” said WFP’s regional director for East Africa, Michael Dunford, adding that $266 million was needed for the next six months just to cover refugees’ minimum needs.

The UNHCR estimates almost three-quarters of some 4.7 million refugees living in the 11 countries where it works in the region do not have enough to eat.

“The pandemic has been devastating for everyone, but for refugees even more so,” said UNHCR’s Clementine Nkweta-Salami. “Unless more funds are made available, thousands of refugees including children will not have enough to eat.”

She said refugees faced with food rationing and cash cuts are already turning to “negative coping strategies” including skipping meals, selling assets, child labour and increased domestic violence.

“There is often a desperation and a feeling of no alternative,” she said.

The funding shortfall has led the WFP to slash its monthly assistance for refugees by more than half in Rwanda, and make big cuts in countries including Uganda, Kenya, and South Sudan.

“We are deeply concerned that if cuts continue, (refugees) will be faced with a very difficult decision: stay in the camps where food and nutrition security is deteriorating or consider risking going back when it is unsafe,” Dunford said.

UN Experts Urge Global Probe Of Navalny Poisoning

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.

 

Two UN human rights experts called Monday for an international investigation into the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, and demanded his “immediate release” from a Russian penal colony.

Agnes Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, and Irene Khan, the top expert on freedom of opinion and expression, stressed the importance of finding the truth about the “sinister poisoning” and ensuring accountability.

President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent was sentenced last month to two-and-a-half years in a penal colony for violating parole terms while in Germany recovering from a poisoning attack.

He spent months recovering from the near fatal poisoning with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok that he claims was ordered by Putin — a claim the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.

“We believe that poisoning Mr. Navalny with Novichok might have been deliberately carried out to send a clear, sinister warning that this would be the fate of anyone who would criticise and oppose the government,” said the independent UN experts, who are appointed by the UN but do not speak on its behalf.

“Novichok was precisely chosen to cause fear,” they insisted.

The two experts said they had sent a letter to Russian authorities last December, in which they had detailed evidence pointing to “the very likely involvement of government officials in the poisoning, presumably at high level,” but said the Kremlin had yet to respond.

The experts said the attack against Navalny appeared to fall within a wider trend seen over decades of arbitrary killings and attempted killings of government critics.

“This pattern requires an emphatic and persistent response by the international community to protect the fundamental rights to life and freedom of expression at the foundation of international human rights,” they said.

The experts said they and others had for months been demanding that Moscow ensure that a “credible, transparent investigation, respecting international standard, would be conducted,” and that the findings be made public.

They deplored that to date, the government had not seriously investigated the crime.

“Given the inadequate response of the domestic authorities, the use of prohibited chemical weapons, and the apparent pattern of attempted targeted killings, we believe that an international investigation should be carried out as a matter of urgency in order to establish the facts and clarify all the circumstances concerning Mr. Navalny’s poisoning,” they insisted.

“This investigation is especially critical now that Mr. Navalny is being detained by the Russian government and is subject to its control,” they said.

The experts demanded “Navalny’s immediate release,” stressing that the Russian government was responsible for his “care and protection” and would “be held responsible for any harm that may befall him.”

AFP

Investing More In Young People Will Help Fight Insecurity – Amina Mohammed

 

The Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mrs Amina Mohammed has asked the Federal Government to increase investments in young people as a means to tackling insecurity.

Speaking during a courtesy visit to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, Mrs Mohammed noted that young people and Nigerians, in general, should be given something to look forward to in order to make contributions to the growth of the country.

She added that the investment should be in areas such as skills development, education and services that strengthen governance at the local level.

UN Seeks Better Protection For Digital Platform Workers

 A logo of the United Nations  (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

 

The United Nations called Tuesday for urgent international regulations ensuring fair conditions for workers paid via digital platforms such as food delivery apps — a form of employment that has rocketed during the pandemic.

The number of online platforms offering work has grown five-fold over the last decade, according to a report released by the International Labour Organization (ILO), a UN agency.

They range from taxi-booking apps to services connecting customers with a plumber or a freelance website developer.

And the shift to finding work via such platforms has accelerated during the pandemic, due to soaring job losses and increasing demand for home deliveries in countries where restaurants and retail have been shut.

“Since the Covid‑19 outbreak, the labour supply on platforms has increased significantly,” the ILO said.

The increased competition was in some cases forcing workers to accept less money per job than before, it added.

And some sectors heavily reliant on online platforms, such as ride-hailing, have seen a drop in business, causing difficulties for drivers not receiving a regular salary.

A survey of taxi drivers in Chile, India, Kenya and Mexico found that nine out of 10 had lost earnings due to Covid, some having to take out loans or defer bill payments to get by.

“Seven out of 10 workers indicated not being able to take paid sick leave, or to receive compensation, in the event they were to test positive for the virus,” the report said.

– More opportunities for women –
The report also highlighted some of the upsides of the rise of digital labour platforms, for companies and workers alike.

The shift has given businesses access to a large flexible workforce with varied skills, while providing new opportunities for some demographics including women, people with disabilities and the young, it said.

These workers however have only limited protections because they are beholden to the platforms’ terms of service agreements — which are often unilaterally determined.

Workers employed via digital platforms frequently faced limits on access to their basic labour rights, ILO director-general Guy Ryder told journalists.

That included “the right to organise, freedom of association, and the right to bargain collectively”, he added.

Working hours can often be long and unpredictable, while workers sometimes have to pay a commission to work for a platform, the report noted.

And part of those working hours go unpaid, said ILO economist Uma Rani Amara — such as the time spent driving around looking for a customer on a ride-hailing app.

Worldwide, the average hourly income for people working via digital labour platforms is no more than $3.40 per hour, according surveys of some 12,000 workers and 85 businesses included in the report.

Half of online workers earn less than $2.10 per hour, it added.

– Common solutions ‘crucial’ –
In recent years, pressure has been growing on online giants to better protect the workers who rely on them to make a living in precarious conditions.

Last week, Britain’s Supreme Court ruled that drivers for US ride-hailing app Uber are entitled to rights such as a minimum wage and paid vacation — a judgement with huge implications for the so-called “gig economy”.

The ILO called for international cooperation to regulate digital labour platforms. National solutions were not enough because the companies operate in multiple jurisdictions, it argued.

“The only way to effectively protect workers and businesses is a coherent and coordinated international effort,” Ryder said.

“Universal labour standards are, and must be, applicable to everybody,” he added, describing common regulation as “crucial”.

Digital labour platforms globally generated revenue of at least $52 billion in 2019, the report said. But the costs and benefits were not evenly distributed around the world.

About 96 percent of the investment in such platforms is concentrated in Asia ($56 billion), North America ($46 billion) and Europe ($12 billion).

And just over 70 percent of the revenues generated were concentrated in just two countries: the United States (49 percent) and China (22 percent). Europe combined accounted for 11 percent.

Hunger Rising In Central America Amid Climate, COVID-19 Shocks – UN

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 United Nations warned Tuesday that hunger levels are soaring across much of Central America as countries battle economic crises sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic and extreme climate events.

The UN’s World Food Programme said that levels of hunger had risen nearly four-fold in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, from 2.2 million people affected in 2018 to nearly eight million now.

Of that figure, some 1.7 million people are considered to be in the “emergency” category of food insecurity, meaning they need urgent food assistance, WFP said, urging more international support.

The UN agency said the region, where years of drought and erratic weather had already disrupted food production, had been especially hard-hit by the record 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.

“Hurricanes Eta and Iota, that struck Central America in November 2020, upended the lives of 6.8 million people who lost their homes and livelihoods,” WFP pointed out.

The hurricanes came as the pandemic was already taking a devastating toll, and dealt a severe blow to millions who had previously been relatively untouched by hunger, including people working in the service economy and the tourism sector.

The hurricanes destroyed more than 200,000 hectares of vital crops across the four countries and more than 10,000 hectares of coffee farmland in Honduras and Nicaragua.

“Considering the level of destruction and setbacks faced by those affected, we expect this to be a long and slow recovery,” said WFP regional chief for Latin America and the Caribbean Miguel Barreto.

– ‘Rock bottom’ –

Before those hurricanes hit, Covid-19 was already taking a devastating toll, as an overwhelming majority of households in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador reported income losses or unemployment.

WFP surveys showed that the number of households in Guatemala reporting they did not have enough to eat had almost doubled compared to pre-pandemic figures, while the numbers in Honduras rose by more than 50 percent.

“Urban and rural communities in Central America have hit rock bottom,” Barreto warned.

“The Covid-19-induced economic crisis had already put food on the market shelves out of reach for the most vulnerable people when the twin hurricanes Eta and Iota battered them further,” he said.

“Many now have nowhere to live and are staying in temporary shelters, surviving on next to nothing.”

With so many homes and farms destroyed, food stocks running out and few opportunities to find work, nearly 15 percent of people surveyed by WFP in January said they were laying concrete plans to migrate.

That marks a significant jump from the eight percent who said they were doing so in a WFP post-drought assessment in 2018.

WFP appealed to international donors to step up support, saying it needed more than $47 million to help 2.6 million people across the four countries over the next six months alone.