COVID-19 – UN Offices & other topics – Daily Briefing (16 March 2020)

Noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


The Spokesman said he would to do in-person briefings, but that a system will be put in place for resident correspondents so they can text in questions to the briefing.
Around the world, UN teams are also working with authorities to support national preparedness and response plans around COVID-19, including immediate health priorities and broader social and economic impacts.

In several countries, UN teams are temporarily providing full time staff members to support governments, providing additional expertise in areas such as public health, humanitarian and emergency response, as well as community awareness and risk communications. Different UN entities are fast-tracking procurement of essential items for the national response, while upholding international transparency standards. Our teams are also supporting governments to get emergency funding for their COVID-19 plans, including from the World Bank.

In Asia, some teams, with World Health Organization and other entities, are working to support government efforts in areas such as finance and economy, education and water and sanitation, with immediate support to garment factory and migrant workers and a special focus on women.

In Kenya, the UN has offered five communications experts to support the government’s efforts and also met today with 25 business leaders to boost public-private partnerships to address COVID-19.

UN communications experts in Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa are also supporting the governments’ community awareness and risk communications efforts.
And several countries in the region have UN teams participating with the Pan-American Health Organization and WHO in National Emergency Committees, with the UN’s communications experts in Costa Rica and Ecuador also supporting national communications strategies around COVID-19. In Brazil, the UN country team and national partners, in coordination with government authorities, have already activated the contingency plan in the shelters in the north  and are disseminating prevention messages in Spanish tailored to communities of migrants and refugees who have arrived from Venezuela – in addition to the regular national campaign in Portuguese.


The World Food Programme said today it is providing lifesaving medical equipment worth $500,000 to help China’s frontline hospitals in Hubei support the Government’s effort to combat COVID-19. Supporting the Government in the treatment of severe cases of COVID-19, WFP is providing oxygenation equipment and ventilators for treating critically ill patients.

UNESCO today said that an unprecedent number of children, youth and adults are not attending schools or university because of COVID-19, with 56 countries having closed schools nationwide, impacting more than 516 million children and youth. A further 17 countries have implemented localized school closures and, should these closures become nationwide, hundreds of millions of additional learners will experience education disruption.

UNESCO is providing immediate support to countries as they work to minimize the educational disruption and facilitation of continuity of learning, especially for the most vulnerable.

At UN Headquarters the Secretary-General wrote to staff before the weekend to stress that the Organization remains open for business but our work will be done from different locations using different technologies. He stressed that it is essential that we reduce social contact to a minimum and follow clear instructions of the WHO to minimize the risks of transmitting infections as well as continue to deliver on our mandates. The Secretary-General said we need to reduce the physical presence at UN Headquarters, and this reduced staffing level will be assessed in three weeks. He noted the Headquarters staff in New York will continue to provide critical support the other main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna, as well as missions in the field and to an array of intergovernmental processes that must continue, such as the work of the Security Council. This morning, the Secretary-General has been on the phone with the heads of UN duty stations in different parts of the world as well as country offices to check in on them an offer not only solidarity but support.

Central African Republic

The UN Mission in the Central African Republic reports that a peacekeeper from the Burundian contingent was killed yesterday afternoon in Grimari, a town located in the centre of the Central African Republic. 

The incident took place as peacekeepers were trying to stop an attack launched by armed members of an anti-Balaka group.

The Head of the UN Mission in the country, Mankeur Ndiaye, offered his condolences to the family of the peacekeeper as well as the Government of Burundi.

He also condemned this attack on peacekeepers and the city of Grimari, describing it as unacceptable. Any attack on the life of a blue helmet can be considered a war crime, he added.

Peacekeepers have increased patrols in the area to secure the population and prevent other incidents.


The Syrian conflict entered its tenth year, and the Special Envoy Geir Pedersen said that the suffering of the Syrian people during this tragic and terrible decade still defies comprehension and belief. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians, men and women, have lost their lives and hundreds of thousands have been detained, abducted or missing.
The Special Envoy said that the international community must demonstrate a renewed sense of urgency in supporting the Syrians in finding a UN-facilitated political solution as set out in Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) – the only framework that enjoys legitimacy and support of the entire international community.

Over the weekend, Imran Riza, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, and Kevin Kennedy, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syrian Crisis, strongly condemned the interference of non-state armed group individuals in the work of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in Idleb Governorate. Such interference also jeopardizes the provision of humanitarian relief to many innocent civilians in the northwest of the country.

UNICEF also marked this grim anniversary with a statement highlighting the devastating impact on children.

According to the data verified by the UN and compiled over the past five years:
Over 5,400 children have been killed, and more than 3,600 injured.

Close to 5,000 children – some as young as seven – were recruited into fighting.


Fighting in Tripoli and surrounding areas continues to heavily impact civilians.
On 13 and 14 March, heavy artillery shelling on the Al Nawasi base in Soug Al Jumaa impacted a nearby residential area, reportedly injuring two civilians and causing heavy damage to civilian infrastructure.

Around 749,000 people remain in areas impacted by fighting in and around Tripoli, according to estimates, including almost 345,000 people in frontline areas.

Humanitarian organizations continue to call on all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure and to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, given their likely indiscriminate effects.

Humanitarian partners are helping people affected by the fighting in Tripoli and surrounding areas, as well as other parts of the country, where access and capacities allow.

Humanitarian operations reached more than 400,000 people with assistance in 2019, including 95,000 people affected by fighting in and around Tripoli.


In a statement issued over the weekend, the Secretary-General expressed his serious concern about the repeated attacks in Iraq and the region. The Secretary-General called on all sides to take immediate steps towards de-escalating the situation to prevent further loss of life.

South Sudan

In a statement, the Secretary-General welcomed the announcement of the cabinet of South Sudan’s Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity.


The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, called for the inclusion of measures to protect children at the earliest stages possible of intra-Afghan talks. This, she said, has the potential to improve the lives of millions of children in Afghanistan.

Last month, she introduced the “Practical guidance for mediators to protect children in situations of armed conflict”, which presents examples and concrete tools to mediators to integrate the protection of children.

Honour Roll

Rwanda has paid its budget dues in full which brings the total up to 71.

In This Story: Covid-19

Covid-19 is the official WHO name given to the novel coronavirus which broke out in late 2019 and began to spread in the early months of 2020.

Symptoms of coronavirus

The main symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a persistent new cough (non productive, dry)
  • a high temperature (e.g. head feels warm to the touch)
  • shortness of breath (if this is abnormal for the individual, or increased)

Latest News about Covid-19

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