Category Archives: Topics

Rising Heat in Europe and Central Asia Claims Nearly 400 Children Annually, Reports UNICEF

July 24, 2024 – Climate and Environment

Soaring summer temperatures across Europe and Central Asia are resulting in the deaths of nearly 400 children annually, according to a new analysis by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released on Wednesday.

UNICEF’s data from 2021 reveals that 377 children died from heat-related illnesses in 23 countries within the region. Notably, half of these fatalities occurred within the first year of life.

“Around half of children across Europe and Central Asia – or 92 million children – are already exposed to frequent heatwaves in a region where temperatures are rising at the fastest rate globally,” said Regina De Dominicis, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia.

Health Complications from Rising Temperatures

De Dominicis warned that high temperatures can swiftly complicate a child’s health, posing serious and potentially life-threatening risks without timely care.

UNICEF’s findings highlight that heat exposure can adversely affect children even before birth, leading to pre-term births, low birth weight, stillbirths, and congenital anomalies. Heat stress can also directly result in death, impact infant growth, and pave the way for pediatric diseases.

Moreover, UNICEF reported that “extreme heat caused the loss of more than 32,000 years of healthy life among children and teenagers in the region.”

Urgent Recommendations

The year 2024 has experienced unprecedented high temperatures, with June marking the hottest month on record globally. This follows 13 consecutive record-setting months.

In response, UNICEF is urging governments in Europe and Central Asia to invest in “heat health action plans and primary healthcare to more adequately support heat-related illness among children.”

The agency recommends additional measures such as:

  • Implementing heat alert systems.
  • Ensuring educational facilities reduce temperatures in play areas.
  • Securing safe drinking water provision.
  • Equipping buildings to minimize heat exposure.
  • Establishing comprehensive strategies to mitigate heatwave impacts, particularly on children.

UNICEF is actively collaborating with governments and communities to “build resilience against heatwaves” by educating teachers, family members, and community health workers on combating heat stress.

For more details, visit the original announcement.

The Gambia: UN Celebrates Landmark Decision to Uphold FGM Ban

July 15, 2024 – Women’s Rights

In a significant victory for women’s and girls’ rights, senior UN officials have praised The Gambia for maintaining its ban on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). On Monday, Gambian lawmakers voted to reject a bill that aimed to overturn the 2015 law prohibiting this harmful practice, which involves the cutting or removal of external female genitalia.

FGM, typically performed on infants and young girls, can lead to severe immediate and long-term physical and psychological damage, including infections, childbirth complications, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Commitment to Rights and Well-Being

“Following the vote today by the National Assembly of The Gambia, we commend the country’s decision to uphold the ban on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), reaffirming its commitments to human rights, gender equality, and protecting the health and well-being of girls and women,” the UN officials said in a joint statement.

The statement was issued by Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF; Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA; Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO; Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women; and Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Separately, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed hailed the decision on social media, calling it a “monumental achievement.”

Grassroots Efforts and Ongoing Advocacy

The officials praised the relentless efforts of survivors, activists, civil society organizations, and faith-based groups working to eradicate FGM. “Upholding the ban supports these grassroots initiatives, which are pivotal in ending all forms of violence, including harmful practices, against girls and women and delivering a safer and healthier future for girls and women in The Gambia and elsewhere,” they said.

They emphasized the fragility of progress towards ending FGM, noting that assaults on women’s and girls’ rights globally have jeopardized hard-won gains. “In some countries, advancements have stalled or reversed due to pushback against girls’ and women’s rights, instability, and conflict, disrupting services and prevention programmes,” they noted.

The Importance of Comprehensive Efforts

While legislative bans are critical, the UN officials insisted that they alone cannot end FGM. They highlighted that over 73 percent of girls and women aged 15 to 49 in The Gambia have undergone the practice, many before the age of five.

“It also underscores the importance of engaging with communities and grassroots organizations, working with traditional, political, and religious leaders, training health workers, and raising awareness effectively on the harms caused by the practice,” they said.

The officials stressed the urgency of supporting survivors, many of whom suffer long-term physical and psychological harm and need comprehensive care to heal.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to support the government, civil society, and communities in The Gambia in the fight against FGM,” the officials reiterated. “Together, we must not rest until we ensure that all girls and women can live free from violence and harmful practices and that their rights, bodily integrity, and dignity are upheld.”

For more details, visit the original announcement.

South Sudan Faces Growing Humanitarian Crisis, Warns WHO

July 15, 2024 – Humanitarian Aid

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a stark warning about the worsening humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, now compounded by the conflict in neighboring Sudan. Twelve years after gaining independence, South Sudan’s ongoing challenges have been intensified by an influx of refugees fleeing the war between rival militaries in Sudan, with over 650,000 new arrivals since April 2023.

Currently, nearly six million people—46 percent of South Sudan’s population—are experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity, a figure projected to rise to approximately 7.1 million during the current lean season.

El Niño and Flooding Impact

The WHO report highlighted the severe impact of the 2023-24 El Niño weather phenomenon, which brought dry conditions, erratic rainfall, and poor harvests. Additionally, the 2020-23 La Niña event caused unprecedented year-round flooding, affecting new areas previously untouched by such disasters.

These climatic challenges, combined with ongoing violence, weak governance, poverty, and inadequate infrastructure, have created a complex humanitarian crisis, significantly hindering South Sudan’s development. An estimated 8.9 million people, particularly in flood and conflict-affected areas, have been impacted, with women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities being the most vulnerable.

UNHCR’s Forced Displacement Survey

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) released findings from its first-ever Forced Displacement Survey (FDS), conducted from April to December 2023, which covered around 3,100 households in South Sudan. The survey revealed dire conditions for both refugee and host communities, including limited access to services, high unemployment, lack of education, poor infrastructure, and overcrowded shelters.

Widespread Hunger and Economic Strain

Food insecurity is a significant issue, with 74 percent of households, both refugee and host, experiencing hunger in the past month. Over 40 percent reported a decline in income compared to the previous year. The influx of refugees from Sudan has exacerbated the strain on already volatile areas and overstretched services. Furthermore, the conflict has disrupted South Sudan’s economy by shutting down the main oil pipeline.

Marie-Helene Verney, UNHCR Representative in South Sudan, emphasized the need to link humanitarian aid with stabilization and development programs. “Substantive long-term investments are crucial to improving the wellbeing of refugees and the communities hosting them,” she said.

South Sudan currently hosts over 460,000 refugees from Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Ethiopia. The ongoing conflict in Sudan is resulting in an additional 1,600 people arriving daily, including refugees and returnees. The FDS provides essential socioeconomic data on refugees and host communities to guide effective programming and policy, ensuring targeted assistance and bridging the humanitarian-development gap.

For more details, visit the original announcement.

New Support Amid Preparations for Ukraine’s Third Wartime Winter

July 18, 2024 – Humanitarian Aid

In preparation for Ukraine’s third winter amid ongoing conflict, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has announced a significant $100 million financial contribution to support displaced and war-affected individuals. This announcement was made by UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, during his third visit to the wartime city of Kharkiv.

“Kharkiv is central to our support efforts for the people of Ukraine. I’ve seen the devastating impact of continuous attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and the resulting hardships for millions of civilians. Yet, I’ve also witnessed the unwavering reconstruction efforts, a testament to the resilience and strength of the Ukrainian government and its people,” Grandi remarked.

Kharkiv remains a refuge for approximately 200,000 internally displaced persons. The situation in the city intensified in May when a renewed ground offensive by Russian forces forced over 10,000 people from frontline communities to seek safety in Kharkiv.

In his role as head of UNHCR, Grandi is urging the international community to increase support to meet the pressing needs and to show unwavering solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

Comprehensive Winter Response Plan

UNHCR is particularly concerned about the harsh winter conditions in Kharkiv, which could exacerbate the already difficult living conditions, potentially causing more people to seek protection elsewhere. To mitigate this, UNHCR has launched an extensive winter response plan. This initiative, part of a broader UN appeal, aims to provide financial aid, assist with home repairs and insulation before the cold sets in, and cover energy bills.

As an initial measure, Grandi, in coordination with Ukraine’s Ministry of Energy, has provided 10 generators to ensure critical services remain operational during power outages. Oleh Syniehubov, Head of Kharkiv’s oblast state administration, expressed gratitude for the generators, emphasizing their importance for critical infrastructure in towns and villages. Svitlana Hrynchuk, Deputy Minister of Energy, highlighted that this support is crucial in strengthening the energy system to withstand the winter months.

‘Ukraine is Home’ Digital Platform

Additionally, UNHCR has launched the ‘Ukraine is Home’ digital information platform. This innovative tool is designed to help Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced individuals make informed decisions about returning home or continuing to stay in host communities by providing timely and impartial information.

“We must continue to support Ukrainian refugees, and also be ready to assist them in returning home when they deem it safe and appropriate,” Grandi emphasized.

For more details, visit the report

China Dominates Global Generative AI Patents: UN Report

tech

3 July 2024 – Economic Development

A recent report from the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) reveals that China-based inventors are leading in the number of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) patents filed globally. Between 2014 and 2023, over 38,000 GenAI patents originated from China, which is six times more than those filed by inventors in the United States, the second-highest country in this regard.

GenAI: A Revolutionary Technology

Generative AI, or GenAI, enables users to create various content types, including text, images, music, and software code. This technology powers a wide array of industrial and consumer products, such as chatbots like ChatGPT, Google Gemini, and Baidu’s ERNIE.

According to WIPO Director General Daren Tang, “GenAI has emerged as a game-changing technology with the potential to transform the way we work, live, and play.” The WIPO report highlights that since the introduction of deep neural network architecture in 2017, the number of GenAI patents has surged by over 800 percent through 2023, reflecting significant technological advances and the vast potential of GenAI.

Shaping the Future of GenAI

Tang added that by analyzing patenting trends and data, WIPO aims to provide insights into where this rapidly evolving technology is being developed and its future direction. “This can help policymakers shape the development of GenAI for our common benefit and ensure that we continue to put the human being at the center of our innovation and creative ecosystems,” he said.

Key Findings of the Report

The report notes that GenAI patents currently represent 6 percent of all AI patents globally. The top ten applicants for these patents include:

  1. Tencent (2,074 inventions)
  2. Ping An Insurance (1,564)
  3. Baidu (1,234)
  4. Chinese Academy of Sciences (607)
  5. IBM (601)
  6. Alibaba Group (571)
  7. Samsung Electronics (468)
  8. Alphabet (443)
  9. ByteDance (418)
  10. Microsoft (377)

Geographically, China (38,210 inventions) leads the field, followed by the US (6,276 inventions), Republic of Korea (4,155), Japan (3,409), and India (1,350).

In terms of data types, image and video data dominate GenAI patents (17,996 inventions), followed by text (13,494) and speech or music (13,480). Additionally, patents involving molecule, gene, and protein-based data have grown rapidly, with 1,494 inventions since 2014 and a 78 percent average annual growth over the past five years.

For more details visit the original website

Refugees, Migrants Face Violence, Abuse, and Death on Routes Across Africa

New Data Highlights Severe Risks for Refugees and Migrants

Refugees and migrants continue to face extreme violence, exploitation, and death as they traverse Africa, according to a new report by UNHCR, IOM, and MMC. The report emphasizes the severe dangers on land routes, especially across the Sahara desert, where deaths are estimated to be double those in the Mediterranean Sea.

Abuse and Human Rights Violations

Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Western and Central Mediterranean, highlighted that migrants and refugees, regardless of their status, face serious human rights violations, including torture, physical violence, arbitrary detention, and sexual exploitation. Criminal groups and state officials are often responsible for these abuses.

Push Factors and Insufficient Protection

Push factors include political conflicts, climate change, and racism. Many refugees and migrants lack access to protection and assistance, driving them to take more perilous routes. Despite international commitments, efforts to hold perpetrators accountable are insufficient, leading to near-complete impunity.

Stepping Up Life-Saving Measures

While UNHCR, IOM, and partners have intensified life-saving protection services, they stress that humanitarian action alone is not enough. They call for legal and regular migration channels to enhance migration governance and address the urgent needs of refugees and migrants.

For more details, visit the original article.

New WHO Guidelines to Help Millions Quit Tobacco

No Smooking Sign

WHO Releases First-Ever Tobacco Cessation Guidelines

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) has introduced its first comprehensive guidelines to aid over 750 million adults in quitting tobacco. These guidelines cover a range of treatments, initiatives, and digital interventions designed to help people stop using cigarettes, waterpipes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, roll-your-own tobacco, and heated tobacco products.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus heralded this as a significant milestone in the global fight against tobacco, providing countries with essential tools to support individuals in quitting and reducing the global burden of tobacco-related diseases.

Challenges in Quitting Tobacco

Despite 60% of the world’s 1.25 billion tobacco users wanting to quit, many lack access to necessary services due to resource limitations. Rüdiger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO, emphasized the immense strength required to overcome tobacco addiction and the suffering involved for individuals and their families. He noted that the guidelines are designed to help communities and governments provide the best possible support and assistance for those on this challenging journey.

Treatment Options

WHO’s guidelines recommend a combination of pharmacotherapy and behavioral interventions to increase the chances of successfully quitting. Recommended treatments include medications such as varenicline, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), bupropion, and cytisine. Behavioral support options range from brief counseling sessions with healthcare workers to more intensive individual, group, or phone counseling sessions.

Additionally, WHO suggests using digital interventions such as text messaging, smartphone apps, and internet programs as valuable adjuncts or self-management tools to aid in the quitting process.

Global Implementation and Support

WHO encourages countries to offer these treatments at no or reduced cost to improve accessibility, especially in low- and middle-income countries. The organization also highlights the importance of integrating these guidelines into national health systems to ensure widespread availability and support for those seeking to quit tobacco.

Dr. Tedros highlighted the need for a comprehensive approach, stating, “This guideline marks a crucial milestone in our global battle against these dangerous products. It empowers countries with the essential tools to effectively support individuals in quitting tobacco and alleviate the global burden of tobacco-related diseases.”

Digital Interventions and Broader Impact

The guidelines also emphasize the potential of digital interventions to reach a broader audience. With the increasing use of technology, digital tools such as text messaging, smartphone applications, and online programs offer innovative ways to support individuals in their journey to quit tobacco. These tools can provide continuous support, motivation, and resources, making it easier for individuals to manage their quitting process and stay on track.

For more details, visit the original article.

World News in Brief: UN Responds to Bangladesh Floods, Sports and Human Rights, Polio Vaccination in Angola

flood

UN Provides Aid to Bangladesh Flood Victims

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is delivering vital assistance to communities in northeast Bangladesh affected by severe flooding. Around 1.4 million people have been impacted by heavy rains in Sylhet and Sunamganj districts, as well as areas upstream in India. The WFP’s field office in Sylhet supports government-led relief efforts, distributing fortified biscuits to over 23,000 families. Cash assistance is planned for these and an additional 48,000 households. Further heavy rains are forecast, potentially worsening the situation.

Human Rights in Sports

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, addressed the UN Human Rights Council, highlighting the human rights challenges in the sports world. Despite ideals of equality, athletes face rights violations, including racism, sexism, abuse, and corruption. Türk emphasized that mega sporting events, like the Olympics and the World Cup, should advocate against these inequalities. He noted positive steps by some businesses aligning with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, citing a case in Spain where football fans were punished for racially abusing a player.

Polio Vaccination Campaign in Angola

UN agencies are supporting Angola’s vaccination campaign to curb the spread of polio. Polio, a highly infectious disease causing paralysis, can be prevented through vaccination. The World Health Organization (WHO) aims to achieve 95% vaccination coverage for children under five. The campaign includes house-to-house visits and fixed posts in populated areas. The first round in May 2024 successfully vaccinated over 5.5 million children. The second round continues with the same strategy to ensure all at-risk children are protected.

For more details, visit the original article

400 Million Under-Fives Regularly Experience Violent Discipline at Home

under-fives regularly experience violent discipline at home

On 11 June 2024, UNICEF released alarming data revealing that six in ten children under five face psychological aggression or physical punishment at home. Nearly 400 million young children are affected, with 330 million experiencing physical punishment. UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell highlighted the detrimental impact of such abuse on children’s development.

The data, released on the first International Day of Play (IDOP), underscores the lack of play, stimulation, and interaction that many children face. UNICEF calls for stronger legal protections, increased investment in parenting programs, and enhanced play spaces to support child development.

Despite growing prohibitions against physical punishment, about half a billion under-fives lack adequate legal protection. Harmful social norms continue to perpetuate violent discipline, with one in four caregivers believing physical punishment is necessary. Additionally, four in ten children aged two to four do not receive sufficient stimulation at home, leading to emotional neglect and potential long-term issues.

The IDOP highlights the vital role of play in cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. It also addresses barriers to play, such as disabilities, gender discrimination, conflict, and learning poverty. UNICEF urges governments to strengthen legal and policy frameworks, expand parenting programs, and increase access to play spaces.

“On the first International Day of Play, we must unite to end violence against children and promote positive, nurturing caregiving,” said Russell.

For more details, visit the original article.

UN World Oceans Day Highlights Urgent Need for Marine Protection

7 June 2024 – Climate and Environment

UN World Oceans Day was celebrated on Friday at the UN Headquarters in New York, focusing on “opening minds, igniting senses, and inspiring possibilities” to safeguard marine life globally. The event featured a compelling video themed “awaken new depths,” which underscored the urgent need for immediate ocean protection and cautioned against complacency.

In a statement marking the day, which officially falls on Saturday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized the crucial role the ocean plays in sustaining life on Earth, highlighting that the problems it faces are primarily man-made. Guterres pointed out that climate change is causing sea levels to rise, posing an existential threat to small island developing states and coastal populations. He also noted that ocean acidification is destroying coral reefs, and record-high sea temperatures are leading to extreme weather events. Additionally, overfishing and other harmful practices are contributing to the degradation of marine ecosystems.

President of the General Assembly, Dennis Francis, echoed these concerns, stressing the need to learn more about the oceans and to reverse the damage being inflicted on this vital resource. Francis remarked that the ocean is humanity’s strongest ally against climate change and emphasized the collective responsibility to manage ocean resources sustainably to ensure their availability for future generations.

Both Guterres and Francis are looking forward to reflections and actions to restore and protect the oceans as the Summit of the Future in September 2024 and next year’s UN Oceans Conference approach.

Earlier in the week, UNESCO released a State of the Ocean report, urging policymakers to consider “the ocean we need for the future we want.” The report highlighted threats such as the doubling rate of ocean warming over the past 20 years and the decreasing oxygen levels suffocating coastal species. It concluded that ocean literacy is a strategic ally in optimizing resources, accelerating behavioral change, and enhancing the implementation of conservation programs and sustainability practices.

Marine biologist and oceanographer Sylvia Earle, one of the speakers at the event, emphasized the importance of sharing the significance of ocean protection to drive crucial actions for preserving coastal wildlife. Guterres called on governments, businesses, investors, scientists, and communities to unite in defense of the ocean, while Francis urged a renewed commitment to ocean action, capacity building in small island developing states and other developing countries, and innovative financing solutions to enhance resilience.

For more detailed information, you can visit the UN News website