Sunday, March 22, 2020

Basic protective measures against the new coronavirus

Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website and through your national and local public health authority. Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others. Take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:

Wash your hands frequently
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

Maintain social distancing
Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

Stay informed and follow the advice given by your healthcare provider
Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow the advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.

Protection measures for persons who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading

Follow the guidance outlined above.
Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover. 
Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.

If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers. 
Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.

The No. 1 way to prevent coronavirus isn't wearing a face mask

As fears over the coronavirus outbreak spread, thousands of Americans are clamoring to buy face masks in an effort to protect themselves, sending prices soaring and leading manufacturers like 3M to ramp up production. However, experts say stocking up on face masks is actually misguided — and there's a much simpler thing you could be doing right now to protect yourself.

There's a lot the general public likely doesn't realize about these masks — namely, that they are not the best way to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Wearing a mask is more for people already showing symptoms of coronavirus and their caregivers than for people trying to prevent it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it "does not recommend that people who are well to wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19," referring to the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Rather, experts caution that putting on a face mask without proper fitting and training could actually increase your risk.

"If it's not fitted right, you're going to fumble with it," explained Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday. "You're going to be touching your face, which is the No. 1 way you're going to get the disease, is unclean hands touching your face."

On the other hand, if you are already coughing and showing symptoms of possible coronavirus illness, that's when wearing a mask could be helpful for protecting those around you.

"The data on the effectiveness of masks for preventing respiratory virus infections is not very clear, " explains Dr. Andrew Stanley Pekosz of Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health. "The best data suggests that if you are ill and showing symptoms, wearing a mask can reduce the chances that you spread the virus to others."

Cloth surgical masks are not helpful at all

The common surgical mask you might be picturing in your head will not help you at all, Pekosz said.

A type called an N95 respirator mask, if properly fitted, can block large-particle droplets that may contain germs, but the FDA warns they cannot filter out "very small particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs [or] sneezes."

"An N95 mask is the one that is most practical," Pekosz tells CBS News. "It stops 95% of particles of a certain size. ... There is a N99 mask, which blocks 99% of particles, but that mask is difficult to wear for long periods of time because it is hard to breathe through it."

Respirator masks are more expensive. The FDA also notes they are not designed to fit children or people with facial hair.

Even a good face mask isn't enough

"Masks shouldn't be considered to be the sole item that can protect you from infection, but it can be one of several things that can help you stay uninfected," said Pekosz.

"Wash your hands frequently. Practice social distancing — stay  5 feet away from people to avoid being close enough to be exposed to respiratory droplets from that person. More specific guidance will be given by the CDC soon, but those two things should be practiced by people on a daily basis to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses."

And he adds, "Get a flu shot — influenza has killed over 16,000 Americans this year and is still causing disease across the U.S."

You have to change masks every few hours
If you do go the mask route in spite of expert advice, it's important to note that face masks have a very specific lifespan. While there are some with longer lifespans or that have replaceable filters, the most common face masks on the market are disposable and single-use. Each one of those is only good for a few hours.

"You want to change masks every few hours to make sure that they are functioning properly and aren't getting contaminated with virus particles on the outside," Pekosz tells CBS News. "It's not like putting one on protects you. One has to follow specific procedures to ensure you are using them effectively."

Buying face masks for personal use could cause a shortage at hospitals

"There is a limited supply of masks and while companies are increasing their production, demand is increasing at a very high rate," cautions Pekosz. "There will most likely be shortages of personal protective equipment at medical institutions and this may in part be driven by supplies being purchased by the general public. Emergency preparedness efforts will address supply chains, but there really is no reason for the general public to purchase large numbers of N95 masks."

The U.S. Surgeon General put it bluntly: "Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!"

America's largest face mask manufacturer, Prestige Ameritech, is a small business based in Texas with only 100 employees. And while they have no problem fulfilling America's normal demand for face masks and respirators, they are now struggling to keep up.

Mike Bowen, the company's executive vice president, told CBS News that they now field orders of up to 100 million face masks and respirators a day. He also noted that while the company does not ship its products internationally, in the last 30 days it has sold between 1 million and 2 million masks to buyers who then sent them to others in China and Hong Kong.

This huge spike in personal orders is precisely what experts fear will cause a dangerous inventory shortage in American hospitals — a shortage that is entirely avoidable, given that there are no proven benefits to the general public wearing masks.

The best way to prevent coronavirus: Wash your hands
Experts say washing your hands is the best way to prevent the spread of infectious illnesses like coronavirus. That's because one of the most common ways infections spread is when people touch a contaminated surface and then touch their mouth or nose.

Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook points out that it's especially important to make sure that you scrub the soap into your fingertips because they are simultaneously the part of the hand most often neglected and the part of the hand most likely to touch your face and spread disease.

Soap and water is far more effective than hand sanitizer. If you're using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, you should make sure that it contains at least 60% alcohol.

Beyond that, the CDC advises that, whenever possible, you should also avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, avoid contact with sick people, cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze, and disinfect objects and surfaces frequently.

Source: CDC - CBS News

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Paying attention to women’s needs and leadership will strengthen COVID-19 response

A women on public transit in New York wears face mask in March 2020, when many appear to be doing so as a precaution against COVID-19.  Photo: UN Photo/Loey Felipe
A woman on public transit in New York wears face mask in March 2020, when many appear to be doing so as a precaution against COVID-19. Photo: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

A week since The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a pandemic and robust measures around the world attempt to contain its spread, the social impact of the Novel Coronavirus is hitting women hard.

Globally, women make up 70 percent of workers in the health and social sector, and they do three times as much unpaid care work at home as men. 

“The majority of health workers are women and that puts them at the highest risk. Most of them are also parents and caregivers to family members. They continue to carry the burden of care, which is already disproportionally high in normal times. This puts women under considerable stress,” said UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

“In addition, the majority of women work in the informal economy, where health insurance is likely to be non-existent or inadequate, and income is not secure. Because they are not well-targeted for bailouts they are financially on their own. This is not simply a health issue for many women; it goes to the heart of gender equality.”

Recent experience of other disease outbreaks, such as the Ebola and Zika, has shown that such outbreaks divert resources away from services that women need, even as their burden of care increases and their paid livelihoods suffer losses.

For instance, when health services are overstretched, women’s access to pre- and post-natal health care and contraceptives dwindle. There are rising concerns about this happening as a result of COVID-19.

In addition, the specific needs of women health workers are often overlooked. “In Asia, emerging findings from the health response showed that menstrual hygiene products for women health workers were initially lacking as part of personal protective gear,” said Mohammad Naciri, UN Women’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

When households are placed under strain and in contexts of family violence, as strategies for self-isolation and quarantine are employed, the risk of such violence tends to increase. Reports from some impacted communities are showing that COVID-19 is driving similar trends right now.

The evidence is also mounting that the economic impacts of COVID-19 will hit women harder, as more women work in low-paying, insecure and informal jobs. Disruptions, including movement restrictions, are likely to compromise women’s ability to make a living and meet their families’ basic needs, as was seen in the Ebola crisis. 

“UN Women is working with partners to make sure the gender-differential impact of COVID-19 is taken into account in the response strategies at country, regional and global levels,” said Sarah E Hendriks, Director of Policy, Programme and Intergovernmental Division at UN Women.

“This includes supporting gender analysis and sex-disaggregated data collection so that women’s needs and realities do not fall through the cracks, even as we are trying to get more data and knowledge about COVID-19. We are also focusing on programs that build women’s economic resilience for this and future shocks so that they have the resources they need for themselves and their families.”

In China, for instance, UN Women is focusing on economic recovery solutions to support small and medium businesses owned by women, to mitigate the negative economic impact of the outbreak. It has also supported outreach campaigns to promote women’s leadership and contributions in the COVID-19 response, reaching more than 32 million people.

As more countries and areas enact closure of schools and childcare facilities to contain the spread of COVID-19, women’s ability to engage in paid work faces extra barriers. Globally women continue to be paid 16 percent less than men on average, and the pay gap rises to 35 percent in some countries. In times of crisis like this, women often face the unfair and sometimes impossible choice of giving up paid work to care for children at home.

UN Women is working closely with WHO and other UN agencies and UN Country Teams to strengthen the coordinated response to the outbreak. It’s also leveraging existing networks of women-led organizations to advance women’s voice and decision-making in COVID-19 preparedness and response.

“Making sure that crisis and risk communication targets and reaches women, persons living with disabilities and marginalized groups, is critically important right now,” said Paivi Kaarina Kannisto, UN Women’s Chief of Peace and Security.

“In Liberia and Sierra Leone, UN Women’s community mobilization campaigns focused on disseminating messaging on Ebola prevention, case management, and anti-stigmatization. Through awareness-raising, community outreach, and training, the programs utilized local women speaking to other women via different media, including radio and text messaging. This helped to ensure that life-saving information shared was relatable and delivered by a trustworthy source. The approach of integrating a gender-focused response that relied on local women’s networks had a significant impact on the successful regional containment of the Ebola crisis.”

UN Women has issued a set of recommendations, placing women’s needs and leadership at the heart of the effective response to COVID-19:

  •  Ensure availability of sex-disaggregated data, including on differing rates of infection, differential economic impacts, differential care burden, and incidence of domestic violence and sexual abuse

  •  Embed gender dimensions and gender experts within response plans and budget resources to build gender expertise into response teams

  •  Provide priority support to women on the frontlines of the response, for instance, by improving access to women-friendly personal protective equipment and menstrual hygiene products for healthcare workers and caregivers, and flexible working arrangements for women with a burden of care

  •  Ensure equal voice for women in decision making in the response and long-term impact planning

  •  Ensure that public health messages properly target women including those most marginalized

  •  Develop mitigation strategies that specifically target the economic impact of the outbreak on women and build women’s resilience

  •  Protect essential health services for women and girls, including sexual and reproductive health services and

  • Prioritize services for prevention and response to gender-based violence in communities affected by COVID-19

Friday, March 20, 2020

Lady B Bless is.....

Lady B  Bless is a humanitarian. social entrepreneur, motivational speaker, radio personality, mentor, and an advocate for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, women empowerment, and girl child education.

The CEO of LBB Entertainment, a full-service entertainment management, marketing, public relation and consultant company located in Charlotte, NC (USA).

As a humanitarian, Lady B Bless is the Executive Director of The Lady B Bless Humanitarian Foundation, which advocates for social change & equality for people in undeveloped & disadvantaged area, who's mission is to actively and effectively engage in promoting human and social welfare, with no prejudice on human suffering on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, religious or national divisions. The foundation goals are to save lives, relieve suffering, and maintain human dignity.
As an advocate for women and the girl child education, Lady B Bless is the president of the Global Progressive Women Network, a membership organization, that's works to advance equality for women through advocacy, education, philanthropy, mentoring, networking on a local, regional and international level.

Lady B  Bless is the recipient of the 2020 African Community Achievement Award, The 2019 AB Good Cause Award, The 2018 DDEA Humanitarian Award, The 2018 LIBF Goodwill Ambassador of the Year Award and The 2018 1000 AWN Special Recognition Award

A true humanitarian and a people person at heart, Lady B Bless’s mission is to empower, motivate, educate and encourage people to be agents of change in their communities

WS: I AM Lady B Bless
FB @ladybbless
IG @iamladybbless

Saturday, March 14, 2020

CSW64 Opening statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women

Opening statement by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the 64th session of the Commission on the Status

Date: Monday, March 9, 2020

[As delivered]

This was always going to be a different CSW. Because this is a special year for gender equality.

It is 25 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women and the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platforms for Action. We thank all those who were there. We salute the many women – and men too – who have been implementing the Platform for Action. We also thank them for their efforts, as well as the human rights defenders, activists, midwives, scientists, young feminists, politicians and rural women who do this work.

We recognize the foresight and enlightenment of the Member States who adopted such a comprehensive agenda for gender equality. For the United Nations, this was its greatest contribution to the advancement of human rights and women’s rights.

Excellencies, we all share the disappointment that the moment to commemorate and review this historic platform for action coincided with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 disease. Respect for public health concerns has necessitated the shortening of this session of the Commission.

We all regret the absence of the many voices that we are used to hearing and being enriched by. We are considering how to ensure that those who are not here today in the halls of influence and decision-making will at some future point join these reflections when it is safe to do so. I know that the CSW Bureau is looking at a suitable opportunity to do this, along with delegates from capitals and the broad civil society networks.

This challenge has also inspired us to make efforts to use new technology to connect virtually at this time when we cannot travel internationally. We hope that this at least also contributes to the environment.

We look forward to the adoption of the draft Political Declaration that re-affirms the Beijing Platform for Action, and the adoption of the Commission’s next multi-year programme of work.

2020 has to be the year where change is intensified.

In addition to the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform Action, this year marks 20 years of implementing Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. It is also UN Women’s 10th birthday and the start of the UN Decade of Action. During this time, we will be working hard to achieve the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with the support of a variety of stakeholders whom we continue to mobilize.

We are challenged by limited implementation. Women are radically impatient for action that improves their lives. They see the progress made, but also that it is accompanied by pushback and erosion of gains. They see that the scale and pace of change has not been what it should be. Younger women do not want to go through the experiences of their elders. And the elders are tired of waiting.

The Commission has before it the findings of the milestone Secretary-General’s report: the ‘Review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly’.

The Secretary-General’s report provides rich evidence and insight to guide the accelerated action that is being mandated. I hope you have also seen our related report ‘Gender Equality: Women’s Rights in Review’ that we launched on International Women’s Day. The Secretary-General’s report provides the conclusions and recommendations that put us in a position to move ahead. It is a solid foundation of evidence that can help accelerate change as long as we have the political will. It tells replicable stories of determined innovation by countries across diverse regions.

The report draws on 170 national reports, and the contributions of hundreds of civil society and youth organizations to both national and regional reviews, as well as the latest available global data. I thank everyone who contributed to this rich process.

The positive findings in the report give us good news to celebrate.

The changing of laws in 131 countries that have enacted 274 legal and regulatory reforms in critical areas.

  • The 1 billion fewer people who are living in extreme poverty.
  • The 155 Member States that have strengthened legislation to enforce laws to combat violence against women, as against a handful in 1995.
  • Nearly 80 countries introduced legislated gender quotas distinctly raising women’s participation. In the 2019 elections, women gained 30 percent of parliamentary seats in countries with quotas, compared to 18 percent in countries without quotas.
  • Girls’ leadership has been supported by the increased profile of the challenges faced by the girl child, and the encouragement of girl children to become leaders. We have heard from one just now. Girls are leading in many areas, and in particular, as climate activists.
  • More women and governments are supporting the end of child early and forced marriage as well as female genital mutilation, both of which are gradually and progressively declining. There also, acceleration is very important because the rate of change is still very slow.
  • More girls are in school than ever before.
  • Rwanda and Ethiopia’s fast progress in the provision of access to family planning in Africa shows it can be done, against a trend of shockingly low access in Africa that is detrimental to development.
  • Strengthening women’s sexual and reproductive rights and health is also critical. We have seen that where young women know their rights, there is a decline in teenage pregnancy.
  • In 1995, only Sweden provided paternity leave. By 2015 this had grown to 94 countries.
  • Two countries in Latin America (Uruguay and Chile) have extensive childcare provision which also helps in supporting the participation of women in the labour force.
  • These encouraging elements show our proven solutions and how their benefits are interconnected. What is needed is the resolve to bring those solutions to those who have not yet benefitted from the progress. Those who are being left behind. Those whose rights are denied and violated with flagrant impunity.

Every solution has to have resources behind it. In Beijing we had a comprehensive agenda approved but there were no resources allocated to implement it. We do not want to repeat that mistake. Across the board, the percentage of development resources devoted specifically to gender equality remains on average less than 5 percent. In 80 percent of countries with data, there are national plans to achieve gender equality. Some of these plans are very strong and very good. And that is part of the positive legacy of the Beijing Platform for Action. But only one-third of those Plans are costed and resourced. It is vital that we address this gap.

It is no surprise therefore that the gains of development I have just listed have not been shared equally.

Conflict and humanitarian crises have become more complex and protracted, exposing women and girls to increasing levels of poverty, instability, and violence. The escalating environmental crisis is projected to destroy many of the development gains to date, affecting the poorest and most marginalized women.

Critical gaps remain, building serious backlogs of women whose lives are untouched by the advances that we have made thus far. To take just one example of this, there are half a billion women across the world who are illiterate and progress has stagnated in the last two decades. This means that, as each year goes by, we must not only focus on the new generation of girls going into schools but at the same time we must deal with the backlog of older women who never got this chance in the first place. When a woman or girl is educated her whole family and community advances.

We must not forget the older women who are being ’left behind’. They are unable to change their own circumstances, for example by taking advantage of training opportunities offered by governments to pull themselves out of poverty. Because these opportunities require the trainees to be literate. Everyone should be able to read and write.

Marginalized women living at the intersection of disadvantages are worst off. For example, a large share of young women living with disabilities is not in education or employment. This proportion rises as high as 80 percent in some countries.

Excellencies, economic inequality has not moved for the past 20 years. There has been almost no change in labour force participation for women over the last 20 years, except in Latin America. 740 million women are stuck in the informal economy, earning low pay, with little or no security.

One of the most striking features of the lives of many women revealed by the report is how much they work but how little advantage that brings them.

Women and girls use triple the time and energy of boys and men to look after children and the household. That costs them equal opportunities in education, in the job market and in earning power. Young women raising families are 25 percent more likely than men to live in extreme poverty, which impacts the rest of their lives.

Violence against women is also not abating. It is linked inextricably with inequality. Violence remains rife in every society, both directly and indirectly affecting women’s ability to participate, and to live in peace and prosperity.

Political participation is an area where some progress has been made. There have been spectacular underperformance, except where quotas have played a role in sustaining gains.

Women politicians are frequently under threat. They are cyberbullied, and even physically harmed, which can discourage many of them from running for office. This is a major concern for UN Women and I’m sure for many of you.

Science and innovation are also presenting a challenge; women are underrepresented in this area. And cyberviolence joins other new risks such as threats to privacy rights, or algorithms that perpetuate unconscious bias. We must eliminate these elements that are entrenching prejudice and locking women out of the benefits of the fourth industrial revolution. Science and innovation have the capacity to equalize people or to create even larger cohorts of those we are leaving behind. This is a matter that needs our close attention.

Digital technology was not considered in Beijing but this demands our attention now, and women and girls must be fully engaged in the planning of new policies that concern them, which is why we highlight it.

As governments and societies turn their attention to new, green economic plans and ‘green deals’, it is vital that these plans explicitly consider women’s aspirations. Women are not leading in climate policymaking but they must be heard on issues from land degradation to clean energy. Currently, only 14 percent of women own land. Land pushes them to less viable territories and increased insecurity including food insecurity.

Despite the progress made, women are still largely excluded in politics, policies, and budgets.

The Secretary-General’s report tells us that 75 percent of parliamentarians are men, 73 percent of managerial decision-makers are men, 67 percent of climate negotiators are men, 76 percent of the people who we see, hear or read about in our mainstream news media, are men and 87 percent of the people at the peace table are men. Even though we know that when peace settlements include women the negotiations and the outcome are more durable.

These figures show us that we have created a world where women are squeezed into just 25 percent—one quarter—of the space, both in physical decision-making rooms and in the stories that we tell about our lives. One quarter is not enough. Only half is an equal share, and only half is enough.

This is the mission of Generation Equality, to change this trend. The mission of the UN Decade of Action is to take us to equality.

Women want parity, not one quarter. As the Secretary-General told us on Friday: “Generation Equality cannot be Generation Gradual Improvement or Generation Incremental Change”.

Everywhere, we are seeing young people raising their voices and stepping forward. This is their time. They are born rejecting discrimination. They and the Beijing veterans welcome the transformation of institutions that are prepared to challenge entrenched cultural biases and that are removing the strong barriers to progress. They are impatient and they do not want to yield even an inch as they push forward to equality.

Young people and civil society are at the heart of our big campaign throughout 2020, whose focus through “Generation Equality” is to complement the efforts of Member States that are reflected in the CSW’s draft Political Declaration.

We also want to link the outcomes in Beijing and what we have now with the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) with the contemporary challenges we still face. And we want to broaden the stakeholder base, including the private sector and many constituencies who support our cause.

Civil Society will lead us in Generation Equality and the governments of France and Mexico will co-host the Generation Equality Forum planned for Mexico City and Paris, which UN Women will be convening.

This is the part of our work that will assist us to accelerate the pace of change.

Together, we can make changes that we need. But we need to hurry.

Thank you.