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Dominica-Flagged Cargo Ship Sinks In Ukrainian Port City After Russian Attack

ROSEAU — A Dominica-flagged cargo ship sank in the besieged southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol after being targeted by Russian missile strikes, the vessel’s flag registry said.

The Azburg was believed to have been without cargo and at berth in Mariupol when it was initially hit by two missiles on April 3, the Dominica Maritime Administration said.

“On April 4, around 2240 LT (local time) the vessel was heavily fired upon by Russian armed forces after intentionally shelling the vessel twice a day earlier,” the registry said in a statement.

“Specific characteristics of firing on the vessel remain unknown, crew reported shelling, bombing and repeated hits by missiles, causing a fire in the engine room.”

One of the 12 crew members required medical treatment while the remaining crew were evacuated onto nearby vessels, the Dominica registry said.

Russian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Moscow has said that it is not targeting civilians in what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarize Ukraine.

Ukraine said this week that it was bracing for about 60,000 Russian reservists to be called in to reinforce Moscow’s offensive in the east, where Russia’s main targets have included Mariupol and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.

Eric Dawicki, deputy administrator of maritime affairs with the registry, said the vessel sank early on Tuesday.

He said the registry assumed the sinking would “create some environmental impediments”.

“It certainly will create navigational impediments at the dock and we are certainly concerned,” he told Reuters.

“The indiscriminate shelling of a merchant vessel with a civilian crew with no place to seek refuge is the lowest of lows,” Dawicki added.

Dawicki said the information was received by the vessel’s operator which was in email contact with the crew.

A senior official with Ukraine’s Maritime Administration said earlier on Tuesday that the ship had been hit by a Russian navy missile, according to initial information.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the details of the sinking.

The vessel arrived in Mariupol on February 23 and was unable to leave Ukrainian waters because of the closure of the port, according to British security company Ambrey Intelligence and the registry.

Russia’s military took control of waterways around Ukraine when it invaded on February 24.

Two seafarers have been killed and five other merchant vessels hit by projectiles – which sank one of them – off Ukraine’s coast since the start of the conflict, shipping officials say.

UN shipping agency the International Maritime Organization (IMO) said there were 86 merchant ships still stuck in Ukrainian ports and waters as of March 30, with around 1,000 seafarers unable to sail.

Maritime officials have said supplies are running low onboard the ships, which also face multiple perils including missiles and floating mines.

“As well as the dangers arising from bombardment, many of the ships concerned now lack food, fuel, fresh water, and other vital supplies,” the IMO said.

“The situation of the seafarers from many countries is becoming increasingly untenable as a result, presenting grave risks to their health and wellbeing.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Tuesday Ukraine’s efforts to push back Russian troops from Mariupol were facing difficulties and the military situation was “very difficult”.

The Commonwealth of Dominica Maritime Administration (DMA), the ship’s flag registry, has condemned the sinking of the vessel.

While at berth in the port of Mariupol on April 3, Azburg was hit by two missile shells.

Russian armed forces had fired upon the ship after ‘intentionally’ shelling it two times a day previously, stated DMA.

The crew reported that shelling, bombing and repeated hits by missiles led to a fire in the engine room.

—REUTERS

(Reporting by Jonathan Saul; Editing by Nick Macfie and Rosalba O’Brien)

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‘Sharp rise’ In Nicaraguans Fleeing To Costa Rica, Strains Asylum System

Around three per cent of Costa Rica’s population is now made up of Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Friday.

Doubling in number over the last eight months, the agency now estimates that there are more than 150,000 Nicaraguans who have crossed over the southern border, seeking refuge in Costa Rica.

“These figures, as of February 2022, confirm more Nicaraguans are currently seeking protection in Costa Rica than all the refugees and asylum seekers combined, during Central America’s civil wars in the 1980s, when Costa Rica was a sanctuary for those fleeing violence,” UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov, told a press conference in Geneva.

Troubling Trend

UNHCR is concerned that this trend could seriously strain Costa Rica’s already stretched asylum system and overwhelm support networks in the country.  

“The sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers from Nicaragua corresponds with major socio-political events in the country,” Cheshirkov said.

Moreover, Nicaraguans are also increasingly seeking protection further afield.

During the first two months of 2022, the number seeking asylum in Mexico, represented nearly a third of the total, for all of 2021.

‘Sharp rise’ In Nicaraguans Fleeing To Costa Rica, Strains Asylum System
Lilith, not her real name, was trafficked from Nicaragua as a teenager and now lives in Costa Rica. (Photo credit: Danilo Mora)

Open Borders

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Costa Rican government has kept its doors open for those seeking international protection.

According to UNHCR’s border monitoring in Costa Rica, many of the new asylum seekers are finding employment through the seasonal coffee harvest.

“However, their economic security could be compromised once the harvest is over, increasing the pressure on response institutions and UNHCR programmes,” warned the UNHCR spokesperson.

He noted that due to the pandemic-induced economic crisis, which has weakened individual support networks that provide shelter and economic opportunities to Nicaraguans, Costa Rica is experiencing a high level of unemployment.

This adds to the need for support from UNHCR and its partners.

Off The World’s Radar

UNHCR assists Costa Rica and its host communities in welcoming asylum seekers and refugees through registration, legal aid, cash assistance, and donations of hygiene and cleaning kits, food and mattresses, Cheshirkov said.

The agency also provides psychosocial support, emergency shelter, vocational training, and activities to promote peaceful coexistence between refugees and the communities that host them.

“At a moment when the crisis in Ukraine is making daily headlines, these figures highlight the importance of remembering other less visible situations of displacement that persist and grow around the world,” the UNHCR spokesperson said.

“We urge the international community to continue supporting Costa Rica and other countries hosting Nicaraguans in their efforts to receive and provide international protection to those who are forced to flee their country.”

SOURCE: UN News

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Venezuelan Migrants Caught In Limbo As Flooding Impacts Region, UN Says

SANTIAGO — The northern Chilean village of Colchane near the Bolivia border is seeing a fast-developing situation due to unrest among migrants, mostly from Venezuela, who are neither being allowed to enter Chile nor return to Bolivia.

The scenario is linked to newly implemented migration legislation that requires migrants to self-report to a border facility in Colchane for a compulsory screening on their criminal records. However, some migrants who have been denied entry into Chile are also being denied entry back into Bolivia on claims of having entered Chile with an irregular migration status.

The situation has caused the Colchane migrant center to collapse, with local authorities indicating they do not have the resources to respond to the needs of the growing migrant population. Additionally, various migrants have taken to blocking transit along international routes to demand respect for their rights.

The governments of Bolivia and Chile report they will form a working group to address the ongoing situation and its implications on security and health, among other concerns. The UN in Chile, who has condemned recent acts of aggression against the migrants, is working to set up temporary housing in Colchane and nearby Iquique through a US$3.5 million allocation to be managed by IOM and UNHCR.

The Chilean government declared a state of emergency in northern communities of Arica, Parinacota, Tamarugal and El Loa effective 14 February. These areas have seen a steady flow of migrants seeking to enter Chile since 2020, with most using irregular crossings braving the unforgiving cold of routes as high as 4,000m above sea level. Authorities indicate at least 20 migrants have perished due to the extreme cold since 2020.

REGIONAL: STORMS & FLOODING

KEY FIGURES
– $296K ALLOCATED BY IFRC TO RESPOND TO FLOODING IN ECUADOR
– 73K FAMILIES ACROSS BOLIVIA AFFECTED BY SEASONAL RAINS

ECUADOR
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) issued a Plan of Action to support the Ecuadorian Red Cross in responding to the effects of the recent flooding in Quito and other provinces. Per IFRC, the flooding has so far affected 7,270 people. The US$296,745 allocation is targeting 2,750 people in Cotopaxi, Guayas and Pichincha with assistance for three months. The allocation comes amid forecasts that rains will continue across Ecuador over the next three months due a wet front over the Amazon that could strengthen rainfall and continue triggering flooding and landslides.

BRAZIL
Brazil continues to experience the effects of pounding rains, with authorities reporting that recent floods and landslides in the northwestern Rio de Janeiro municipality of Miracema have affected 15,000 people and displaced 1,400. The nearby Laje do Muriaé municipality also reports widespread flooding after the Muriaé river broke its banks, affecting some 900 people and displacing 500.

BOLIVIA
Seasonal rains continue to affect eight of Bolivia’s nine departments, with the number of affected families rising from 65,000 as of 3 February to more than 73,000 families as of 10 February. National and sub-national authorities continue to provide humanitarian aid.

GUATEMALA
Per the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (CONRED), recent storms in communities in the departments of Alta Verapaz, Izabal and Petén have affected some 840 people. CONRED is coordinating the delivery of humanitarian supplies.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Storms and high winds have been affecting the Dominican Republic since 7 February, leading to flooding and landslides that have left some 223,000 people without drinking water, damaged 50 homes and displaced about 250 people.

REGIONAL: COVID-19

KEY FIGURES
Cases, deaths & people vaccinated (13 Feb)
Total cases 63,036,179 +3.1% from 6 Feb
Total deaths1,625,903 +1.0% from 6 Feb

People vaccinated 483,039,121 +1.0% from 6 Feb
(% of pop) 73.7% +0.8% from 6 Feb

Fully vaccinated 420,458,825 +1.0% from 6 Feb
(% of pop) 64.1% +0.6% from 6 Feb

Sources:
• Our World in Data
• Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO)

PAHO indicates that COVID-19 cases have fallen by a third in the Americas (including the United States and Canada) but warns that health care systems and workers are still facing daunting challenges due to the sheer volume of cases brought about by Omicron. Overall, the regional trend of note for PAHO is that countries with higher vaccination coverages are seeing lower admissions to intensive care units (ICUs) and hospitals.

While infections are notably slowing down in Central America, South America and the Caribbean save for St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica, deaths continue to rise in these sub-regions, as are hospitalizations in South America’s Southern Cone. PAHO is especially concerned with elevated rates of depression and overall psychological distress among health care professionals.

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Antigua and Barbuda: Luxury Resort Puts Wetland, Healthy Environment At Risk: UN

SAINT JOHN’S — Barbuda’s fragile and biodiverse natural site of Palmetto Point, recognised as a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention, remains at risk, with serious human rights implications, due to the construction of the Barbuda Ocean Club resort, UN experts* said today. 

“More than 85 percent of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed in recent years. As we mark World Wetlands Day, it is imperative to recall that human rights and environmental standards generally preclude development on such delicate sites. This includes private tourist infrastructures such as the Ocean Club resort,” they said. Part of the resort is being constructed directly in the designated wetland area.

“Construction in fragile areas threatens natural environments including wetlands as well as aquatic and coastal ecosystems. It can also affect the human rights of the local population, including the rights to a healthy environment, food, drinking water and sanitation and cultural rights, especially if local people rely on the areas’ rich biodiversity for their livelihoods. Hence, preparing environmental and human rights impact assessments prior to commencing activities near sensitive ecosystems and following their recommendations is absolutely essential.

“On Palmetto Point, natural surroundings were altered by the removal of mangroves in certain areas and damaging habitats of protected flora and fauna, exacerbating the vulnerability of the island’s ecosystems to storms and natural disasters. Being the highest site in the area, Palmetto Point is also key for feeding fresh water to Codrington Lagoon which hosts of a variety of young fish, lobsters and conch populations,” the experts said.

Concerns have also been raised about the quality and quantity of Barbuda’s groundwater, which could be further affected by the project, sand mining, and waste pollution, as well as by climate change.

“In the midst of a global climate crisis and a pandemic, it is shocking to see the development of a yacht marina in an area known for its fragile ecosystem and a golf course on an island that relies on scarce groundwater resources,” the experts said. “It is difficult to reconcile these kinds of projects with the urgent need for sustainable development.”

“We call on the Government and the project proponents to employ rights-based and nature-based solutions to address current challenges including in conserving and restoring wetlands.”

While an environment impact assessment was conducted in the initial phase of the project in 2017, it has not yet been made public and open for scrutiny. Questions remain as to whether Barbuda’s population was meaningfully consulted, whether they gave their free, prior and informed consent at all stages of the project, and in specific, and whether recent additions to the project such as a golf course and the yacht marina were discussed.

The rights to information and public participation are at the heart of the Escazú Agreement, ratified by Antigua and Barbuda in 2020 along with 11 other countries in the region. They are key to environmental and human rights impact assessments and must guide all development processes, the experts said.

In a recent letter, Peace Love and Happiness, the company in charge of the project, said that it would engage an independent firm to conduct a human rights due diligence assessment and to prepare and implement policies aimed at preventing and remediating any human rights impacts caused by the Barbuda Ocean Club.

“This is certainly a first step, even if a delayed one,” the experts said. “However, human rights standards must guide the approval and development of related projects in Barbuda, such as the current construction of an international airport,” they added.

The issues were raised with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and other stakeholders

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UN Marks Anniversary of Devastating 2010 Haiti Earthquake

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Paying tribute to all the victims, the UN in Haiti remembered not only the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who lost their lives 12 years ago, but also the many thousands more who sustained permanent injuries.

At the time, some 300,000 people were injured, and 1.5 million became homeless during the 35-second-long tremor.

Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General in Haiti, Bruno Lemarquis, took part in a remembrance ceremony on Wednesday, to remember the lives lost. 

RESILIANCE

The UN system in Haiti honoured those staffers who perished, in a statement released on Wednesday, describing it as “one of the darkest days in its history”.

Since then, “Haiti has drawn on the resilience of its people, the work of its institutions and the assistance of its many friends and supporters to overcome the ravages caused by that calamity”.

Across the UN system, messages of remembrance were shared. UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said on a tweet that “everyday we remember the victims and honour their legacy through the Organization’s work”. And the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), renewed its support for Haiti’s “path to recovery, stability and prosperity”.

Last August, another large earthquake hit the southern regions of the country, killing more than 2,200 and injuring over 12,000 people, and leaving thousands of homes destroyed.

The same sense of resilience and solidarity was again in evidence, as Haitians promptly and effectively responded to yet another disaster.

Sustainable future

In the statement issued by the UN office, the Organization renewed its commitment to work alongside the Haitian people, and with the country’s friends and supporters.

The UN is on the ground, continuing to work on long-term reconstruction, helping communities “to build a sustainable, inclusive, and brighter future for Haiti.”

SOURCE: UN News

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As Violence In Haiti Spikes, Aid Groups Struggle To Help

PORT-AU-PRINCE — A spike in violence has deepened hunger and poverty in Haiti while hindering the very aid organizations combating those problems in a country whose government struggles to provide basic services.

Few relief workers are willing to speak on the record about the cuts — perhaps worried about drawing attention following the October kidnapping of 17 people from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries — 12 of whom remain held hostage.

But several confirmed, without giving details, that they had sent some staff out of the country and have been forced to temporarily cut back aid operations.

As Violence In Haiti Spikes, Aid Groups Struggle To Help
FILE – Barbecue, the leader of the “G9 and Family” gang, shouts slogans with his gang members after giving a speech, as he leads a march against kidnapping through La Saline neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 22, 2021. Barbecue, a former policeman, fancies himself a man of the people and an enemy of the elite. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File)

Gang-related kidnappings and shootings have prevented aid groups from visiting parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and beyond where they had previously distributed food, water and other basic goods.

A severe shortage of fuel also has kept agencies from operating at full capacity.

“It’s just getting worse in every way possible,” said Margarett Lubin, Haiti director for CORE, a U.S. nonprofit organization.

“You see the situation deteriorating day after day, impacting life at every level,” Lubin said, adding that aid organizations have gone into “survival mode.”

Few places in the world are so dependent on aid groups as Haiti, a nation frequently called “the republic of NGOs.” Billions of dollars in aid have been poured through hundreds – by some estimates several thousand – of aid groups even as the government has grown steadily weaker and less effective.

As Violence In Haiti Spikes, Aid Groups Struggle To Help
FILE – Authorities pose for a group photo in front of the portrait of late Haitian President Jovenel Moise at at the National Pantheon Museum during his memorial service in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Moise was assassinated on July 7 at his home. Less than a dozen elected officials are currently representing a country of more than 11 million people. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn, File)

Shortly after the July 7 assassination of the president, Prime Minister Ariel Henry assumed leadership of a country still trying to regain political stability. Nearly all the seats in parliament are vacant and there’s no firm date yet for long-delayed elections, though Henry said he expects them early next year.

Less than a dozen elected officials are currently representing a country of more than 11 million people.

And in the streets, the gangs hold power.

More than 460 kidnappings have been reported by Haiti’s National Police so far this year, more than double what was reported last year, according to the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti.

The agency said Haitians are “living in hell under the yoke of armed gangs. Rapes, murders, thefts, armed attacks, kidnappings continue to be committed daily, on populations often left to fend for themselves in disadvantaged and marginalized neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince and beyond.”

As Violence In Haiti Spikes, Aid Groups Struggle To Help
FILE – A boy crouches to avoid the camera as he runs past the body of a man killed during clashes between police and gang members, in the Martissant neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 2, 2021. The violence in the Martissant neighborhood forced the aid group Doctors Without Borders in August to close an emergency clinic that had served the community for 15 years. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)

The agency added: “Without being able to access these areas under the control of gangs, we are far from knowing and measuring the extent of these abuses and what Haitians really experience on a daily basis…

“Humanitarian actors have also limited their interventions due to the security risks to their staff and access challenges,” it added.

Few places in the world are so dependent on aid groups as Haiti, a nation frequently called “the republic of NGOs.” Billions of dollars in aid have been poured through hundreds – by some estimates several thousand – of aid groups even as the government has grown steadily weaker and less effective.

Shortly after the July 7 assassination of the president, Prime Minister Ariel Henry assumed leadership of a country still trying to regain political stability. Nearly all the seats in parliament are vacant and there’s no firm date yet for long-delayed elections, though Henry said he expects them early next year.

As Violence In Haiti Spikes, Aid Groups Struggle To Help
A street vendor pushes his wheelbarrow past burning barricades set up by protesters in reaction to rising fuel prices, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, December10, 2021. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Less than a dozen elected officials are currently representing a country of more than 11 million people.

And in the streets, the gangs hold power.

More than 460 kidnappings have been reported by Haiti’s National Police so far this year, more than double what was reported last year, according to the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti.

The agency said Haitians are “living in hell under the yoke of armed gangs. Rapes, murders, thefts, armed attacks, kidnappings continue to be committed daily, on populations often left to fend for themselves in disadvantaged and marginalized neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince and beyond.”

The agency added: “Without being able to access these areas under the control of gangs, we are far from knowing and measuring the extent of these abuses and what Haitians really experience on a daily basis…

“Humanitarian actors have also limited their interventions due to the security risks to their staff and access challenges,” it added.

As Violence In Haiti Spikes, Aid Groups Struggle To Help
FILE – People look into the window of a police vehicle carrying the bodies of two people killed in a shootout with police in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 8, 2021. According to Police Chief Leon Charles, the two dead are suspects in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise. Shortly after the July 7 assassination of the president, Prime Minister Ariel Henry assumed leadership of a country still trying to regain political stability. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn, File)

By DÁNICA COTO and EVENS SANON/The Associated Press

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‘People In Need’ In Carib/LatAm Jumped From 9.6M In 2018 To 26.4M In 2021

TEGUCIGALPA — Per the Global Humanitarian Overview 2022, Latin America and the Caribbean has experienced a significant increase in the number of people in need since 2018, climbing from 9.6 million people to 26.4 million in 2021.

This increase owes, in part, to the increasing frequency and intensity of sudden-onset disasters and recurrent climate shocks, the devastating impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (including being the world’s hardest-hit region with 18.5 per cent of all global cases and 30.3 per cent of all deaths despite comprising only 8.4 per cent of the world’s population), and challenging socio-economic conditions that are leaving 287 million people in poverty or extreme poverty.

As of December 2021, there are Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs) in place in Colombia, El Salvador,
Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Venezuela with a collective US$1.6 billion in requirements to respond to 13.4 million of the 27.9 million people in need for 2022, up from the region’s lone HRP in Haiti in 2016.

'People In Need' In Carib/LatAm Jumped From 9.6M In 2018 To 26.4M In 2021

REGIONAL: FOOD SECURITY

30% INCREASE IN PEOPLE LIVING IN HUNGER IN LATIN AMERICA & THE CARIBBEAN IN 2020
According to the 2021 Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition, recently published by FAO,
PAHO, WFP, UNICEF and IFAD, the number of people living in hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean rose by 13.8 million, a 30 per cent increase to 59 million people since 2019 that is the sharpest such increase of any region in the world.

While the recent spike is mostly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall increase in number of people living in hunger between 2014 to 2020 has climbed as high as 79 per cent. This increase is pushing hunger in the region to its highest levels in 15 years. Additionally, moderate-to-severe food insecurity is now affecting 60 million additional people in the region, a world-leading 29 per cent increase from 2019 that brings the region’s population of food-insecure people to 267 million people. The Regional Overview further notes rising gender disparity, with 9.6 per cent more food-insecure women than men in 2020 compared to just 6.4 per cent in 2014.

The 70.3 per cent prevalence of food insecurity in the Caribbean (31 million people) is nearly double that of Mesoamerica’s 37.5 per cent (67.4 million people) and South America’s 39.2 percent (168.7 million people).
South America’s 20.5 per cent increase in the prevalence of food insecurity between 2014 and 2020 was higher than anywhere else in the region, compared to Mesoamerica’s 7.3 per cent increase (the report does not feature these figures for the Caribbean prior to 2020).

REGIONAL: COVID-19

Cases, deaths & people vaccinated (5 Dec)
Total cases 46,803,125 +0.3% from 28 Nov
Total deaths 1,543,871 +0.2% from 28 Nov
People vaccinated ) 445,387,054 +2.5% from 28 Nov (% of pop) 67.9% +1.6% from 28 Nov
Fully vaccinated 361,029,115 +3.8% from 28 Nov (% of pop) 55.0% +2.0% from 28 Nov

OMICRON
Health authorities in Brazil are reporting the country’s first two cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, the most recent Variant of Concern designated by WHO. The two cases are the first known cases in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Several countries in the region are already taking initial precautionary measures, with some country already closing borders to air travel from various countries in Africa including Angola,
Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Lesotho,
Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

EDUCATION
According to UNICEF, 71 million children and adolescents in the region continue to be affected by the total and partial closure of schools over the COVID-19 pandemic, losing about 158 days of classes since March 2020.
As of 15 November, only 10 countries in the region have fully reopened their schools, while 23 countries maintain partial closures and 4 continue with full closure. UNICEF notes that these figures are an improvement from as recently as early October, as several countries in the Caribbean have now begun the process of reopening.

HONDURAS
Health officials are expecting a mild spike in COVID-19 cases following general elections held on 28 November, which saw voters converge on polling stations across the country. The expectation of a slight increase owes, in part, to the virus’ behavior changing due to COVID-19 vaccines and reduced transmissibility compared to past periods of community spreads, according to Ministry of Health officials.
November saw a weekly average of some 500 new cases, with health officials forecasting 620 weekly cases for December. Together with the upcoming December holiday season and the gatherings likely to take place, authorities are projecting another 6,300 cases before 2022.

BOLIVIA
Authorities are concerned with cases continuing to rise for an eighth consecutive week in what they are calling a fourth wave. Intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy remains high in several cities across the country.
After recording record lows on the year in September, with daily cases at around 300 to 400, daily cases are now climbing back to over 1,000 for the first time since cases began decreasing after the peak of the third wave in July, which saw an alltime high of 3,800 cases in a day. Active cases are back over 25,000 after falling to as low as 18,500 in October.
Deaths remain low, however, with fewer than 20 daily deaths since September, which authorities attribute to COVID-19 vaccination.

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Tens Of Millions Go Hungry In Caribbean And Latin America, UN Report Finds

CARACAS — Tens of millions are going hungry in Latin America and the Caribbean as the COVID-19 pandemic sharpens a regional malnutrition crisis to its worst levels in decades, according to the United Nations.

In just one year — from 2019 to 2020 — the number of people living with hunger in the region rose by 30 percent, or 13.8 million people, a new United Nations Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition report said.

While the coronavirus poses its own health threat, the pandemic’s economic fallout has also meant empty cupboards. Months of lockdowns and travel restrictions hit informal jobs in particular, in a region where missing work one day can mean having little to eat the next.

Women are going hungrier than men across the region, the UN found, as food insecurity disproportionately affects the most vulnerable people in society.

In 2020, approximately 42 percent of women experienced moderate or severe food insecurity, compared with 32 percent of men. That disparity has consistently widened in recent years, the report said, with a spike from 6.4 percent to 9.6 percent in the first year of the pandemic.

Julio Berdegué, regional representative for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called the overall situation “critical,” adding that the pandemic had dramatically intensified existing food insecurity.

The UN report calculates that 59.7 million people in the region are now suffering from hunger — the highest level since 2000.

In recent years, various factors have diverted the world off the path to eradicating hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition by 2030, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this trend. Latin America and the Caribbean is no exception.

This edition of the Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2021: Statistics and Trends reveals a bleak scenario for the future. In 2020, 59.7 million people in the region suffered from hunger, and between 2019 and 2020 the prevalence of hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean increased by two percentage points.

Much of this can be explained by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced the incomes of millions of people in the region. But it is not behind all the setbacks, as the region’s hunger figures have been growing for six consecutive years.

Food and Hunger

Food is central to people’s development throughout their lives. Hunger and poverty impede the enjoyment of fundamental rights.

In recent years, various factors have diverted the world off the path to eradicating hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Agenda. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this trend, and our region is no exception.

This edition of the Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2021: Statistics and Trends reveals a bleak scenario for the future of the region. In 2020, 59.7 million people suffered from hunger. Between 2019 and 2020, the prevalence of hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean increased by 2 percentage points, meaning 13.8 million more people suffered from hunger than in 2019.

Over the same period, moderate or severe food insecurity increases were even steeper at 9 percentage points. Forty-one percent of the population of the region is moderately or severely food insecure, which translates to 267 million people whose human right to food is not being met.

There is no doubt that much of this can be attributed to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced the incomes of millions of people in the region. However, the pandemic alone is not responsible for all these setbacks, as the regional statistics for hunger have been increasing for six consecutive years.

In the region, one in four adults suffers from obesity. Childhood overweight has been increasing over the last 20 years and is greater than the global average affecting 7.5 percent of children under five years in 2020. Overweight and obesity have significant economic, social and health impacts on countries as they lead to reduced productivity and increased disability, premature mortality, and to increased medical care and treatment costs.

The statistics indicate that we are going backwards in the fight against hunger. We have returned to the levels of 15 years ago, and we are losing the battle against all forms of malnutrition. Much remains to be done to ensure a healthy diet for the entire population throughout their lives.

If we do not make rapid and substantial changes, the countries of the region will fail to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2: “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” and SDG 3: “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.”

We cannot reverse these trends unless we transform our agri-food systems to make them efficient, resilient, inclusive and sustainable enough to provide a healthy diet for everyone, leaving no one behind. That was the aim of the United Nations Food Systems Summit held in September of 2021, convened by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, which brought together 23 Member States from Latin America and the Caribbean to discuss how to bring about a transformation that would benefit the most vulnerable communities.

The goal of the five United Nations agencies behind this publication is to contribute to the agri-food systems transformation by measuring and monitoring food and nutrition security indicators to promote the formulation and implementation of evidence-based policies with an agri-food systems approach.

The data and findings included in this publication will contribute to the policy dialogue for post-pandemic recovery, which is fundamental to closing gaps in equality and meeting the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Julio A. Berdegué
Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Carissa F. Etienne
Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Regional Director for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO)

Lola Castro
Regional Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) of the United Nations for Latin America and the Caribbean

Jean Gough
Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Latin America and the Caribbean

Rossana Polastri
Regional Director of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for Latin America and the Caribbean

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St. Thomas (Rock City) Celebrates World Tourism Day Today

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The official celebration of the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) World Tourism Day 2021 (September 27), around the theme “Tourism for Inclusive Growth”, resonates particularly well in the territory.

Especially because of the rich diversity of our peoples and the colorful tapestry of history woven throughout the centuries by the aspirations of several colonial powers who sailed thousands of miles away from their home countries to our shores.

We in the USVI take every opportunity to celebrate our glorious heritage. By ensuring our tourism is developed in a way which benefits all people in the Territory and educates visitors to our homeland. Inclusive development for us also means that the enhancement and conservation of our fabulous ecological assets are very much part of our tourism development. In addition, we preserve and promote relics of colonialism which provide information-rich markers in our development.

The inclusivity of our tourism development approaches is embedded in all that we do because it is the greatest job creator in our islands. Additionally, the inclusivity of our visitor industry makes it our most potent weapon in combating poverty as well as providing us an effective means of ensuring the socioeconomic inclusion of vulnerable groups.

The climatic disasters which lash our Territory occasionally have shown us in graphically tragic terms how they have hit all parts of our communities without discrimination. So, our recovery activities have to be inclusive to be totally effective and to provide us a platform for restoring our lives in the wake of disasters.

Challenge of COVID-19

Likewise, the COVID-19 pandemic posed the biggest challenges our tourism sector has ever confronted, shattering the hospitality sector which employs so many of our residents: jobs were lost, medical costs piled up and the ever-present threat of infection distressed our populace.

Fortunately, our government moved quickly to protect struggling families and worked closely with the private sector to rebuild economic opportunities for our people.

Working with all tourism stakeholders we also assured those whose plans to visit the Territory were disrupted by the pandemic that our inclusive development strategies for our destination would ensure their dreams of relaxing and rejuvenating in pristine Caribbean waters and the lush environment of the USVI will be realized.

Gratitude

On this World Tourism Day, allow us to extend gratitude to the many people and organizations which have contributed to the success of the restart and resurgence of our bread-and-butter tourism as we continue to balance the importance of protecting lives as well as the livelihoods of Virgin Islanders.

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Bahamas PM Concedes Defeat In The Polls Overshadowed By COVID-19

NASSAU — Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis conceded defeat in the general elections on the Atlantic island chain reeling from a surge in COVID-19 cases and slump in the tourism-dependent economy due to the pandemic.

Minnis called his challenger Philip Davis to congratulate him and his Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) on winning the poll.

“I offered him my best wishes as his government now faces the continued fight against COVID-19, and the restoration of our economy,” Minnis, the leader of the Free National Movement (FNM) party, said in a statement.

Minnis had been hoping to become the first prime minister in 24 years to win a second five-year term.

But Davis’ PLP gained momentum with a campaign focused on what it termed the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak and the economy, which has seen unemployment surge to an estimated 20 per cent and the fiscal deficit balloon during the pandemic.

“In the morning we will rise as one nation and meet the challenges ahead,” Davis told the media after Minnis conceded. “Thank you for seeing the possibilities of what we can build together for our children and grandchildren.”

Some 119 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed on Wednesday, taking the active number to 1,679 in the nation of just 400,000 people, while the positivity rate has hovered around 25 per cent for the past six weeks.

Julian Rolle, chairman of the Public Hospitals Authority, told Bahamian media it had become difficult to staff healthcare facilities properly given about 5-10 per cent of staff was quarantined due to exposure to the virus.

Minnis had argued that the PLP cannot be trusted with reviving one of the most prosperous economies in the Atlantic-Caribbean region where tourism accounts for around 50 per cent of output and 60 per cent of employment.

Under his watch, the Bahamas received a record 1.8 million visitors in 2019 and outgoing Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said he was targeting 1 million air arrivals for 2021.

Davis’ PLP now faces some formidable challenges in office due to COVID-19 and its continuing health and economic impact.

The scattered archipelago stretching from just off eastern Florida to near Cuba is also still rebuilding after being pummeled in 2019 by Hurricane Dorian, one of the strongest Caribbean hurricanes on record, which killed at least 74 people and left many others missing.

National debt stood at $10.356 billion at end-June 2021, according to the Bahamian Ministry of Finance, which forecasts a $951 million fiscal deficit for 2021-2022.

Gowon Bowe, chief executive of Fidelity Bank (Bahamas), a publicly-traded bank, told Reuters: “The reality is that we don’t have much wiggle room left. There won’t be a honeymoon for a new administration. It’s going to be right about the business because there’s a lot we have to right.”

Minnis had been hoping to become the first prime minister in 24 years to win a second five-year term.

But Davis’ PLP gained momentum with a campaign focused on what it termed the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak and the economy, which has seen unemployment surge to an estimated 20 per cent and the fiscal deficit balloon during the pandemic.

“In the morning we will rise as one nation and meet the challenges ahead,” Davis told the media after Minnis conceded. “Thank you for seeing the possibilities of what we can build together for our children and grandchildren.”

Some 119 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed on Wednesday, taking the active number to 1,679 in the nation of just 400,000 people, while the positivity rate has hovered around 25 per cent for the past six weeks.

Julian Rolle, chairman of the Public Hospitals Authority, told Bahamian media it had become difficult to staff healthcare facilities properly given about 5-10 per cent of staff was quarantined due to exposure to the virus.

Minnis had argued that the PLP cannot be trusted with reviving one of the most prosperous economies in the Atlantic-Caribbean region where tourism accounts for around 50 per cent of output and 60 per cent of employment.

Under his watch, the Bahamas received a record 1.8 million visitors in 2019 and outgoing Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said he was targeting 1 million air arrivals for 2021.

Davis’ PLP now faces some formidable challenges in office due to COVID-19 and its continuing health and economic impact.

The scattered archipelago stretching from just off eastern Florida to near Cuba is also still rebuilding after being pummeled in 2019 by Hurricane Dorian, one of the strongest Caribbean hurricanes on record, which killed at least 74 people and left many others missing.

National debt stood at $10.356 billion at end-June 2021, according to the Bahamian Ministry of Finance, which forecasts a $951 million fiscal deficit for 2021-2022.

Gowon Bowe, chief executive of Fidelity Bank (Bahamas), a publicly-traded bank, told Reuters: “The reality is that we don’t have much wiggle room left. There won’t be a honeymoon for a new administration. It’s going to be right about the business because there’s a lot we have to right.”

— REUTERS

(Reporting by Neil Hartnell in Nassau. Editing by Sarah Marsh, Alistair Bell, Drazen Jorgic and Michael Perry)