UN Geneva round-up: 100 million people displaced, Monkeypox ‘can be contained’

A camp for displaced people near the Turkish border. (Credit: International Committee of the Red Cross | Flickr)

A summary of the most critical issues being discussed at the United Nations in Geneva this week.

Record breaking number of forcibly displaced people. The number of people currently forced out of their homes due to violence, protracted conflicts and disasters have crossed 100 million, the highest ever in recorded history.

At the end of 2021, the number of displaced people had risen to 90 million. Since February, this has expanded to include the eight million internally displaced and the six million refugees that were produced by the Ukraine war.

Read also: Almost 60 million people displaced in 2021, more to follow Ukraine war: monitoring centre

“A 100 million is simply an incredibly stark figure. Not only sobering, but alarming. It is a record that should never have been set,” said Dominique Hyde, representing the UN High Commission for Refugees.

She highlighted the need for financial and political support for refugees and displaced people in less wealthy countries, who have been disproportionately impacted by the rising food and fuel prices, disrupted supply chains, and rising shortages, all prompted by the war in Ukraine. “The people who are displaced are pushed even more to the edge,” she said.

“Our message today is not just about hitting this milestone, we want this to be a wakeup call. A wakeup call to resolve and prevent the underlying causes that force people to actually flee,” Hyde told the press, calling for political leadership to foster stability and prosperity so the displaced people can return home.

Monkeypox outbreak not a global threat. As of 22 May, there have been over 250 confirmed and suspected cases of monkeypox across 16 countries and several regions, but there is little risk of affecting the general population, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“The outbreak can still be contained and it is the objective of the World Health Organization and its member states to contain this outbreak, and to stop it. The risk for the general public, therefore, appears to be low,” Dr. Rosamund Lewis, the head of the WHO smallpox secretariat, told reporters on Tuesday.

Monkeypox has been endemic in several countries, and was first discovered in 1958 in Congo. The disease until now was limited to those who were in close contact with infected animals and remained in small clusters of infection in forest-bordering communities in Central Africa. The spike in cases in non-endemic countries and the larger infection rate is what has caused concern in recent weeks.

The disease’s first symptoms include fever, backache and a sore throat for a few days, followed by red bumps that spread from the head to the rest of the body. Monkeypox is also characterised by swollen lymph nodes. The rash itself is infectious and the disease is transmissible through close physical contact.

Lewis stressed that the outbreak “can affect anyone, and is not associated with any particular group of people,” dispelling rumours that the disease should be associated with the LGBTQIA+ communities.