by William M. Reilly
UNITED NATIONS, March 16 (Xinhua) -- UN teams around the world are working with national authorities to meet health priorities in the battle against the coronavirus outbreak and address broader social and economic impacts, a UN spokesman said on Monday.
Different UN entities are fast-tracking procurement of essential items for the national response while upholding international transparency standards, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
"Our teams are also supporting governments to get emergency funding for their COVID-19 plans, including from the World Bank," Dujarric said.
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 responses as well as community awareness and risk communications, he said.
Monday morning, the secretary-general was 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 and offer not only solidarity but support, the spokesman said.
From Geneva, the World Food Programme said it is supporting the Chinese government's efforts to combat COVID-19 by providing 500,000 U.S. dollars' worth of oxygenation equipment and ventilators for treating critically ill patients in Hubei Province.
From Paris, the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization reported 56 countries have closed schools nationwide with more than 516 million children and youth out of school.
In Asia, some teams, with the World Health Organization (WHO) 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, Dujarric said.
In Kenya, the United Nations has offered five communications experts to support the government's efforts, he said.
UN communications experts in Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa are also supporting governments' community awareness and risk communications efforts, Dujarric said. Several countries in the region have UN teams participating with the Pan-American Health Organization and WHO in national emergency committees.
The world organization's communications experts in Costa Rica and Ecuador are also supporting national communications strategies around COVID-19, the spokesman said.
In Brazil, the UN country team and national partners in coordination with government authorities have already activated contingency plans in northern shelters and are disseminating prevention messages in Spanish tailored to communities of migrants and refugees who have arrived from Venezuela, he said. Messages were also going out in the regular national campaign in Portuguese.
Different UN entities are fast-tracking procurement of essential items for the national response while upholding international transparency standards, said Dujarric.
"Our teams are also supporting governments to get emergency funding for their COVID-19 plans, including from the World Bank," he said.
In New York, Guterres told staffers to keep headquarters open for business by working from different locations and different technologies to reduce social contacts and minimize the risk of spreading the disease, said his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.
"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," Dujarric said, citing what the UN chief wrote in a missive sent "before the weekend."
"He noted headquarters staff will continue to provide critical support to 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," the spokesman said.
Dujarric said he would continue to deliver in-person his daily briefings, but that a system was being put in place for resident correspondents to submit queries by electronic messages.