| | News

UN Geneva round-up: aid to Myanmar, response plan for Lebanon, Hiroshima anniversary

UN and INGO aid reaches northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where armed conflict continues and food insecurity is high, 19 July 2021. (Credit: Keystone/UNICEF via AP)

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

Food insecurity in Myanmar. Political unrest, economic instability, and the third wave of the pandemic have worsened poverty and food insecurity in Myanmar since the military took control of the government in February; and the World Food Programme (WFP) does not have the resources it needs, the WFP’s Myanmar country director Stephen Anderson said at a press briefing on Friday.

At the start of the year, 2.8 million people in Myanmar lacked a reliable source of food. By January 2022, that number could be 6.2 million, according to the WFP. Around 220,000 people have been displaced. Of those, 17,500 have received the WFP’s aid, Anderson said. But he warned that the WFP’s hands are tied by a 70 per cent funding shortfall projected for the coming six months.

"We do need the support and attention of the international community now more than ever,” Anderson told reporters.

Emergency response plan for Lebanon. The UN launched on Friday a 12 month emergency response plan for Lebanon as the country continues to grapple with the compounding effects of the Syrian crisis, Covid-19, an economic crash, and last year’s explosion in Beirut.

The $378.5 million plan will assist 1.1 million Lebanese and migrants to Lebanon, said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which is taking part in the efforts.

“The plan is an instrument to deal with the most urgent humanitarian needs but it is not a solution to the crisis in Lebanon, where a political deadlock is fueling protests and hampering recovery efforts,” he told reporters.

Aid and ceasefire needed in Ethiopia. One hundred trucks per day are needed to help the people in Tigray who are suffering from the conflict between troops loyal to the Tigray People's Liberation Front and the Ethiopian government, said Martin Griffiths, OCHA’s under secretary general for humanitarian affairs, to reporters on Friday.

Returning from a recent mission to the country, Griffiths emphasised the need for the Tigrayan fighters to commit to a ceasefire, as Ethiopia’s prime minister has done. A bilateral ceasefire would facilitate relief efforts, he argued. He assured that the humanitarian agency would “try to get those 100 trucks in”, even without a ceasefire, but said that it would “be easier for the Tigrayan people if the war is stopped”.

Anniversary of Hiroshima bombing. As Friday marked the seventy-sixth anniversary of the US bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima, UN secretary general António Guterres urged countries to denuclearise. “We can never take the norm against the use of nuclear weapons for granted. I also urge governments to use the Tenth Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to strengthen their commitment to a nuclear-weapon-free world,” he said in a video message, to remember the world’s first atomic bombing that killed around 140,000 people.

Moratorium on booster shots. On Wednesday, the WHO called for a moratorium on booster shots citing unequal vaccine distribution. This call comes as wealthy countries consider allowing people to receive an extra dose of the Covid vaccine to boost immunity. But this would continue to concentrate vaccine supply in middle and high-income countries.

“We need an urgent reversal, from the majority of vaccines going to high-income countries, to the majority going to low-income countries,” WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom-Ghebreyesus said.

A moratorium is needed to make it possible for at least 10 per cent of the population of every country to be vaccinated by the end of September, said Tedros. The WHO also noted that more research on booster shots is needed to determine their effects.