UN remains operational across Central Africa amid COVID-19: envoy

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Despite the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) remains operational, UN Envoy for Central Africa Francois Lounceny Fall told the Security Council Friday.

Noting that the region recorded its first case of COVID-19 on March 6, and that to date, all 11 member countries of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) have been affected, Fall said “UNOCA continues to support the community, during this crucial period of its evolution.”

Fall said the World Health Organization figures showed that 21,929 laboratory-confirmed cases and 462 deaths had been reported for the Central African states as of Thursday.

Citing ECCAS experts, the UN envoy said a 2.3 percent contraction in growth this year was forecast throughout Central Africa. He added that the slowdown in economic activities due to COVID-19 “deprives states of the resources they need to address the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, with the risk of creating social unrest.”

“As governments are forced to choose between urgent public health expenditures and other priorities, they risk lacking the resources needed for the smooth functioning of national institutions and the financing of crucial reforms,” said Fall.

To address the pandemic, he elaborated on a four-axes Regional Response Strategy that focuses on preventing its spread; managing cases and limiting the death rate; addressing the socio-economic and security impacts; and responding to cross-border security issues created by the pandemic.

Despite the UN secretary-general’s call on March 23 for a global ceasefire, a number of conflicts continued in the subregion, undermining response efforts to COVID-19 challenges, according to the special representative.

And while Fall commended states for their efforts to limit the impact of the pandemic on economic and social rights, he also reminded governments to ensure that law enforcement agents “abide by human rights principles and standards” as they “carefully and proportionately” apply restrictive measures to stem the virus from spreading.

Meanwhile, terrorist and armed groups have continued to destabilize the subregion. “I strongly condemn deliberate attacks on civilians, and the destruction of private property and public infrastructure, including hospitals,” Fall said.

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