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UN condemns killing of WHO staffer in Myanmar transporting COVID-19 samples

United Nations, April 22: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has condemned the death of a World Health Organisation (WHO) worker in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state who was killed while driving a vehicle carrying COVID-19 samples.
Myanmar has reported 121 COVID-19 cases, including five deaths.
Pyae Sone Win Maung died after being wounded in a security incident in Minbya township in Rakhine on the evening of April 20.
The WHO driver was en route, in a clearly-marked UN vehicle, from Sittwe to Yangon, transporting COVID-19 surveillance samples in support of the Ministry of Health and Sports, a statement by United Nations Myanmar said.
Guterres strongly condemned the attack in which a government official was also seriously wounded.
He called for a full and transparent investigation into the incident and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
The attack comes after UN human rights experts voiced grave concern in February over the killing and displacement of civilians in north-west Myanmar during intensified conflict between the military and an armed group, the Arakan Army.
Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday warned of delays to annual monsoon preparations in Bangladesh, where host communities and refugees in Cox’s Bazar are considered to be most at risk of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The population density in Cox’s Bazar is 1.5 times higher than in New York City.
Preparations have been impacted by the suspension of disaster risk reduction efforts, notably improvements to drainage systems and slope stabilisation, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said.
Similarly, the relocation of refugees living in areas at high risk of flooding and landslide has been slowed. Supply delivery has also been challenging, as the COVID-19 lockdown has impacted road transport.
While there is no confirmed case of coronavirus among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, the UNHCR spokesperson said the government was working with the agency and its partners to address the risks of a potential outbreak in the camps and has ensured the inclusion of Rohingya refugees in its national response.
The refugee agency and partners have begun construction of isolation and treatment facilities with the goal of ensuring the availability of 1,900 beds to serve both refugees and host communities in the district in the coming weeks, Mahecic said.
Information-sharing has been expanded through a network of more than 2,000 community volunteers, religious leaders and humanitarian workers.
“While it is vital to prioritise public health-related preparations in the camps at this time, cyclone and monsoon preparedness activities must also continue,” Mahecic said.
Personal protective equipment is desperately needed, given the magnitude of the increased demands. The large-scale procurement and distribution of this equipment is vital to ensure that COVID-19 does not take hold and spread rapidly, he said.
The 2020 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis is seeking USD 877 million to meet the most critical needs before the COVID-19 pandemic began. To date, it is only 16 per cent funded.
“We must make every effort to ensure that the possible spread of the virus and the coming monsoon season do not exacerbate the already highly vulnerable situation of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh,” Mahecic said.
UNHCR is urging the international community to stand in solidarity with refugees and internally displaced persons to avert the bleak potential of both a natural and public health disaster, striking the world’s largest refugee camp. (PTI)

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