‘My generation has failed in its responsibility to protect our planet. That must change.’ – UN chief

UNTV News   •   September 24, 2019   •   362

Days after millions of young people took to the streets worldwide to demand emergency action on climate change, leaders gathered at the United Nations on Monday (September 23) to try to inject fresh momentum into stalling efforts to curb carbon emissions.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned governments that they would have to offer action plans to qualify to speak at the summit, which is aimed at boosting the 2015 Paris Agreement to combat global warming.

“Someone asked me the other day, ‘Doesn’t all of this make you despair?’ My answer was a clear and resounding, ‘No.’ I am hopeful and I am hopeful because of you. This is not a climate talk summit. We have had enough talk. Young people, above all, are here providing solutions, insisting on accountability and demanding urgent action. They are right. My generation has failed in its responsibility to protect our planet. That must change,” Guterres said at a climate action summit on Monday.

With climate impacts such as extreme weather, thawing permafrost and sea-level rise unfolding much faster than expected, scientists say the urgency of the crisis has intensified since the Paris accord was agreed.

Over the past year, Guterres has called for no new coal plants to be built after 2020, urged a phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies and asked countries to map out how to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. (REUTERS)

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Locusts swarm across parts of India, attacking agricultural lands

UNTV News   •   May 26, 2020

Huge swarms of locusts took over the skies of Northern and Central India on Monday (May 25) and Sunday (May 24), affecting agricultural lands.

The pests were mostly seen across large states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

On Sunday, actions were taken in the city of Mandsaur, in central India, to contain the swarm by spraying pesticides.

One of the deadliest pests for farms produce, locusts are known to destroy crops and vegetables, and whatever they find in their way, in search of food.

Animals also get affected by eating the same leaves as the locusts and can suffer from diarrhoea.

Locust swarms are not new in East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. But climate scientists say erratic weather linked to climate change has created ideal conditions for the insects to surge in numbers not seen in a quarter of a century.

If allowed to breed unchecked in favourable conditions, locusts can form huge swarms that can strip trees and crops over vast areas. (Reuters)

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UN warns of global mental health crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic

UNTV News   •   May 14, 2020

A mental illness crisis is looming as millions of people worldwide are surrounded by death and disease and forced into isolation, poverty and anxiety by the pandemic of COVID-19, United Nations health experts said on Thursday (May 14).

“The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil – they all cause or could cause psychological distress,” said Devora Kestel, director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) mental health department.

Presenting a U.N. report and policy guidance on COVID-19 and mental health, Kestel said an upsurge in the number and severity of mental illnesses is likely, and governments should put the issue “front and centre” of their responses.

The mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and will be addressed urgently, she told reporters at a briefing.

The report highlighted several regions – such as China, Iran and the United States, and sections of societies as vulnerable to mental distress, including children and young people isolated from friends and school, healthcare workers who are seeing thousands of patients infected with and dying from the new coronavirus.

Emerging studies and surveys are already showing COVID-19’s impact on mental health globally. Psychologists say children are anxious and increases in cases of depression and anxiety have been recorded in several countries.

Domestic violence is rising, and health workers are reporting an increased need for psychological support.

Reuters last week reported from interviews with doctors and nurses in the United States who said either they or their colleagues had experienced a combination of panic, anxiety, grief, numbness, irritability, insomnia and nightmares.

Outside of the health sector, the WHO report said many people are distressed by the immediate health impacts and the consequences of physical isolation, while many others are afraid of infection, dying, and losing family members.

Millions of people are facing economic turmoil, having lost or being at risk of losing their income and livelihoods, it added. And frequent misinformation and rumours about the pandemic and deep uncertainty about how long it will last are making people feel anxious and hopeless about the future.

It outlined action points for policy-makers to aim “to reduce immense suffering among hundreds of millions of people and mitigate long-term social and economic costs to society”.

These included redressing historic under-investment in psychological services, providing “emergency mental health” via remote therapies such as tele-counselling for frontline health workers, and working proactively with people known to have depression and anxiety, and with those at high risk of domestic violence and acute impoverishment. (Reuters)

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U.N. chief warns against repressive measures amid coronavirus crisis

UNTV News   •   April 23, 2020

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the coronavirus could give some countries an excuse to adopt repressive measures for reasons unrelated to the pandemic as he warned that the outbreak risks becoming a human rights crisis.

Guterres, who spoke via a pre-taped video released on Thursday (April 23), put out a U.N. report highlighting how human rights should guide the response and recovery to the health, social and economic crisis gripping the world. He added that while the virus does not discriminate, its impacts do.

The new coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, has so far infected some 2.57 million globally and 178,574 people have died, according to a Reuters tally. The virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

“We see the disproportionate effects on certain communities, the rise of hate speech, the targeting of vulnerable groups, and the risks of heavy-handed security responses undermining the health response,” Guterres said.

The U.N. report said migrants, refugees and internally displaced people are particularly vulnerable. It said more than 131 countries have closed their borders, with only 30 allowing exemptions for asylum-seekers.

“Against the background of rising ethno-nationalism, populism, authoritarianism and a pushback against human rights in some countries, the crisis can provide a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic,” he said. “This is unacceptable.”

The United Nations did not give any specific examples of such measures.

Guterres called on governments to be transparent, responsive and accountable and stressed that civic space and press freedom were “critical.” He said: “The best response is one that responds proportionately to immediate threats while protecting human rights and the rule of law.”

With businesses shut down and hundreds of millions of people told to stay home to avoid spreading the virus, the International Monetary Fund has predicted the world will suffer its steepest downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The U.N. report said the pandemic was creating further hardship that “if not mitigated, will raise tension and could provoke civil unrest,” adding that this could then spark a heavy-handed security response.

“In all we do, let’s never forget: The threat is the virus, not people,” Guterres said. (Reuters)

(Production: Bob Mezan)

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