News, June 26th

COVID-19:  World Bank Boost for Fiji’s Health Sector

The World Bank has approved funding of US$7.4 million (approx. FJ$16 million) to further support the Government of Fiji to strengthen its health systems in the wake of the COVID-19 emergency.

With Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama having declared Fiji COVID-19 contained, the focus is now turning to efforts to provide longer-term health security for Fijians, and to the economic recovery phase.

This World Bank support will assist the Government of Fiji to strengthen its response to future infectious disease outbreaks like the current COVID-19 pandemic. This support includes improved connectivity for 35 health facilities throughout Fiji, as well as support for other health sector ICT innovations.

The project will also provide additional medical supplies including Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), intensive care unit beds and ventilators, as well as the installation of a medical incinerator that will serve three divisional hospitals in Fiji, including the Colonial War Memorial Hospital, the country’s largest hospital.

At its peak, Fiji had reported 18 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country. The Government of Fiji was able to contain the initial spread of the COVID-19 virus through its quick, proactive, and intensive response measures that were implemented nationwide.

“With the pandemic still raging around the globe, Fiji can’t rest on our success against COVID-19. This critical support from the World Bank will allow us to build on our progress, further strengthening our defenses –– particularly our health systems and initiatives –– in the months ahead,” said Fiji’s Minister for Economy, Civil Service & Communications, the Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. “As we adapt to the ‘new normal’ of a post-COVID world, this support will allow us, Fiji, to arm our frontline health workers in a way that not only helps us get through this crisis, but also prepares us for future epidemics and pandemics. This aid will directly help save Fijian lives, and we thank the World Bank for stepping up.”

The World Bank’s US$7.4m commitment to Fiji is being delivered through a US$6.4m dedicated emergency health project through the International Development Association (IDA). This financing is provided on concessional terms under the Small Islands Economies Exception with 0% interest, a 10-year grace period and 40 years maturity [1]. The additional US$1 million grant will be drawn from the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) Insurance fund.

“Fiji’s swift, comprehensive response to the threat posed by COVID19 has been an achievement that has been deservedly recognized globally,” said Michel Kerf, Country Director for the World Bank in Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands. “We are proud to be standing with Fiji to help it maintain its strong COVID-19 response, while also looking more broadly and longer-term to building capacity in Fiji’s health system to reduce the risk of future outbreaks, and helping to put in place systems that will benefit Fijians beyond the fight against COVID-19.”

This project is being coordinated alongside the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS), together with other UN agencies and key partners. In the Pacific, COVID-19 response projects have already been approved for Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu with additional long-term response and recovery projects to be announced.

The World Bank works in partnership with 12 countries across the Pacific, supporting 85 projects totaling US$1.8 billion in commitments in sectors including agriculture, aviation and transport, climate resilience and adaptation, economic policy, education and employment, energy, fisheries, health, macroeconomic management, rural development, telecommunications and tourism.

For a sustainable peace

More than 1,000 European parliamentarians from across political lines strongly opposed Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank in a recently published letter. They expressed “serious concerns” about the US proposal to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict which would allow Israel to annex 30% of West Bank territory.

The European parliamentarians’ call was made as the clock counted down to the day Tel Aviv is planning to annex parts of the West Bank. In order to demonstrate Europe’s long-term commitment to finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the parliamentarians called on leaders to act decisively and respond to the challenges faced.

Legislators said that Europe needs to take the lead in mobilizing countries to unite together to block Tel Aviv’s plan, amid Israel and the US shadowing the prospect of peace in the Middle East. Many European countries have strongly opposed Israel’s move to jeopardize a two-state solution, the European Union (EU) has even discussed the possibility of imposing economic sanctions against Tel Aviv.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged Israel to abandon its plans to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, warning this would threaten the prospect of peace with the Palestinians. “If implemented, annexation would constitute a most serious violation of international law, grievously harm the prospect of a two-state solution and undercut the possibility of a renewal of negotiations”, the UN Secretary-General told the UN Security Council.

The Arab League have also opposed Israel’s plan, asserting that if the annexation is implemented, it will shatter the relationship between Israel and Arab countries. During a recent visit to the West Bank, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned that the annexation would “kill” any hope of a two-state solution, ruining all the foundations of the peace process as well as depriving all the people of the region the right to live in safety, peace and stability.

The opposition of the international community has increased in the context that Israel is urgently preparing to annex parts of the West Bank on July 1. Despite pressure from international public opinion, senior US aides and President Trump had a meeting to consider whether a “green light” should be given to Israel’s plan. This plan, which is part of the US President’s proposal on a “Deal of the Century” for the conflict in the Middle East, has been strongly opposed by Palestine.

The US’ support for Israel and its recognition that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital caused a “fire of anger” among Palestinians. The Palestinian government has suspended all commitments and agreements reached with both Israel and the US, including security coordination, and rejected Washington’s mediating role in the Middle East peace process.

Thousands of Palestinians recently joined the largest march in recent times to protest against President Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which includes Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. Attending the event were diplomats from China, Russia, Japan, and the EU, showing the support of the international community for the Palestinians.

At a recent online conference, the international community pledged US$130 million in funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in 2020. This is a practical action, showing solidarity to help Palestinians overcome their difficulties.

Although Israeli leaders and senior officials have recently mentioned the possibility of delaying the annexation plan in the West Bank, the actual moves that Israel is taking show that this “ambition” continues to be at the forefront of their activities. The Israeli army have recently placed cement blocks on the road in West Bank villages connected to the highway leading to the Jordan Valley, a move that Palestinians considered to be a blockage of their full access to these areas. The Palestinian side alleged that Israeli settlers have levelled much of the Palestinian land in the West Bank in preparation for the construction of a large new ring road in East Jerusalem, connecting Israeli settlements in the north and south of the city.

Israel’s plan to annex the occupied territory of the Palestinian people is posing a huge potential risk to peace in the region. Advancing efforts to stop this conspiracy have shown that the international community is supporting Palestinian people in fulfilling their dream of establishing an independent state with the capital being East Jerusalem, moving towards a long-term and sustainable peace in the Middle East.

Judiciary Launches Redesigned PACER Website

The Administrative Office of the U.S Courts on June 28 will launch a redesigned informational website for the Judiciary’s electronic court records system, known as PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records).

The new PACER website includes features that will make it easier for users to learn how to navigate the system, find what they are looking for more quickly, and understand the fee structure for downloading records. The update is also designed to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

It is the first major update of the PACER website in a decade. The website, now located at pacer.uscourts.gov, provides information about the PACER service and is the portal to PACER applications. The website upgrade was undertaken in response to feedback from users and as part of the Judiciary’s ongoing effort to improve public access. The new website also will allow the AO to collect additional analytical data to inform future enhancements.

“We are pleased to release this new version of the PACER website that will enable the public to not only access and use it more easily, but also have a better understanding of the electronic public access services that the Judiciary offers,” said Jane MacCracken, programs division chief in the Administrative Office’s Court Services Office.

PACER is a service of the federal Judiciary that enables the public to search online for case information from federal district, appellate, and bankruptcy courts. It was established over 30 years ago by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the policy-making body of the federal courts, as a way to improve public access to court information. Today, PACER provides instantaneous access to more than 1 billion documents – nearly all the documents filed by a court or the parties in a case.

The updated website takes advantage of the latest technologies and design best practices to improve usability and accessibility. New features include:

More modern navigation tools with helpful graphical aids.

Simplified and easy-to-grasp instructions for registering for a PACER account.

Mobile-friendly design for use with hand-held devices.

More user-friendly directions for locating specific records with systemwide searches or court-specific searches.

Directions for easy access to free judicial opinions on govinfo.gov, the website for the U.S. Government Publishing Office.

More information about pricing in simplified formats. Records downloaded from PACER are free unless a user accumulates over $30 in charges in a single quarter. The charges are 10 cents per page, with multi-page documents capped at $3.

A page that outlines how to apply for fee exemptions in the case of researchers and other eligible groups.

A set of accessibility tools for people with disabilities allowing them to, for example, adjust text size and contrast elements, or, to access documents through a screen reader.

A new tool to search for court-specific information. The website consolidates information about each court, such as court address and contact information, CM/ECF (Case Management/Electronic Case Files) version, counties served by the court, and unique flag definitions used by filers and the courts.

The new PACER website is part of the Judiciary’s ongoing efforts to improve its electronic access to court information. Last year, the Judiciary created the Electronic Public Access Public User Group to provide advice and feedback on ways to improve PACER and other electronic record services. The public user group, made up of a cross-section of PACER users, met for the first time on Feb. 28, 2020. Their next meeting is scheduled for June 29, 2020 and will take place via teleconference. The group includes volunteer members from the legal profession, media, government, and academia.

OYO to lay off several furloughed employees in US

Hospitality major OYO that announced furloughs or temporary leaves for its employees in the US in April has now confirmed that “large majority” of them would be laid off with stock options.

In a leaked email accessed by Skift, OYO Chief Operating Officer Abhinav Sinha said that owing to the pandemic, OYO US would not be in a position to create opportunities for a large majority of the ‘OYOpreneurs’ currently on furlough.

“This means it is likely that we will have to part ways with many ‘OYOprepenurs’ when this period of furlough ends. For all employees currently on furlough, OYO is providing each of you with a stock ownership opportunity; and retaining an outplacement assistance firm, whose services will be available to you immediately,” Sinha wrote in the email sent this week.

In April, OYO Founder and Group CEO Ritesh Agarwal announced furloughs or temporary leaves of 60-90 days for its employees in the US and select other international markets.

Sinha said any employee who OYO cannot return to work from the furlough will be eligible for extended health care and other separation support, which will be shared at the time each impacted individual is notified.

He informed that OYO’s global business is operating at nearly 30 per cent of pre-COVID revenue levels, with India finally starting to move up in occupancy from lows of 6-7 per cent in the beginning of June.

“While we still remain optimistic about our long term recovery and our prospects in each geography, it is also very clear to us now that the path to full recovery for OYO global will last well into the second half of 2021,” wrote Sinha.

OYO in April announced a reduction in salary of 25 per cent for all its employees in India for April-July 2020 and sent some employees on a leave starting May 4, whereby they would get limited benefits.

Sinha said that the US business is showing positive signs of recovery and the occupancy is now touching 30 per cent levels.

“That said, US revenue is still 25 per cent below the Jan levels, which for a high growth geography does set us back significantly,” he said.

“We knew this crisis was real and could take time, but we were hopeful that we could leverage our global resources to re-engage after the furlough. However, the reality is, the impact on our business has been deeper, and the recovery has been slower than what we had anticipated,” Sinha added.

Yemen:  millions of children facing deadly hunger, amidst aid shortages and COVID-19

Millions of children in the heart of the world’s worst humanitarian disaster could be pushed to the brink of starvation, due to huge shortfalls in humanitarian aid funding amid the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday.

Marking more than five years since conflict escalated in the country between Government forces and their allies, against Houthi rebel militias, the new UNICEF report warns the number of malnourished children could reach 2.4 million by end of year, almost half of all under-fives.

An additional 30,000 children could develop life-threatening severe acute malnutrition over the next six months.

Yemen five years on: Children, conflict and COVID-19 warns that as Yemen’s devastated health system and infrastructure overall struggles to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, the already dire situation for children is likely to deteriorate considerably.

UNICEF reported that an additional 6,600 children under five could die from preventable causes by the end of the year. With a health system teetering closer to collapse, only half of health facilities are operational, with huge shortages in medicine, equipment, and staff.

More than eight million people, nearly half of them children, depend directly on the agency for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), amid ongoing conflict, cholera outbreaks and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We cannot overstate the scale of this emergency as children, in what is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, battle for survival as COVID-19 takes hold”, said Sara Beysolow Nyanti, UNICEF Representative to Yemen.

“As the world’s attention focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic I fear the children of Yemen will be all but forgotten. Despite our own preoccupations right now, we all have a responsibility to act and help the children of Yemen. They have the same rights of any child, anywhere”, Ms. Nyanti added.

In the report, the agency alerts for almost 10 million children without proper access to water and sanitation, as well as for 7.8 million children without access to education, following school closures.

Widespread absence from class and a worsening economy could put children at greater risk of child labor, recruitment into armed groups and child marriage, the report highlights.

Volunteers teach people living in settlements, in Sana’a, Yemen, instructing them on social distancing and other preventative measure against COVID-19.

 “If we do not receive urgent funding, children will be pushed to the brink of starvation and many will die. The international community will be sending a message that the lives of children in a nation devastated by conflict, disease and economic collapse, simply do not matter”, Ms. Nyanti pointed.

Yemen five years on: Children, conflict and COVID-19 warns that unless US$54.5 million is received for health and nutrition services by the end of August, more than 23,000 children with severe acute malnutrition will be at increased risk of dying; there will be shortages on the children’s immunization, and 19 million people will lose access to healthcare, including one million pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and their children.

The report also highlights that crucial water and sanitation services for three million children and their communities will begin to shut down from the end of July, unless US$45 million is secured.

“UNICEF is working around the clock in incredibly difficult situations to get aid to children in desperate need, but we only have a fraction of the funding required to do this”, concluded Ms. Nyanti.

On Wednesday, the UN humanitarian chief warned that Yemen will “fall off the cliff” without massive financial support.

Speaking to a closed virtual Security Council meeting on Wednesday, Mark Lowcock said that coronavirus was spreading rapidly across Yemen, and about 25 percent of the country’s confirmed cases, have died.

“At a minimum, we can expect many more people to starve to death and to succumb to COVID-19 and to die of cholera and to watch their children die because they are not immunized for killer diseases”, he said.

The UN relief chief warned that the coronavirus pandemic is “adding one more layer of misery upon many others”. Calling for funding, he told members that the choice was between “supporting the humanitarian response in Yemen and help to create the space for a sustainable political situation, or watch Yemen fall off the cliff.”

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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