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United Nations statement on the renewal of humanitarian lifeline to millions of people in north-west Syria
Millions of people are pressed up against the border in an active war zone in north-west Syria and remain in need of humanitarian aid to survive. The United Nations (UN) needs cross-border and cross-line access to reach those most in need.
We call for the renewal of Security Council authorization for cross-border operations from Turkey to north-west Syria. A failure to do so would immediately stop UN delivery of food, COVID-19 vaccines, critical medical supplies, shelter, protection, clean water and sanitation, and other life-saving assistance to 3.4 million people, including 1 million children.
The UN continues engagement with all concerned parties to also allow cross-line convoys into the north-west. They are critical for the expansion of the overall response, but even if deployed regularly they could not replicate the size and scope of the cross-border operation. There is simply no alternative.
A large-scale UN cross-border response for an additional 12 months remains essential to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in north-west Syria.
Mr Mark Lowcock, Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Mr. António Vitorino, Director General, International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Dr Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Mr David Beasley, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP)
Mr Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Ms Henrietta H Fore, Executive Director, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO)
Frequently Asked Questions from Operators or Managers of Pools, Beaches, Waterparks, and other Aquatic Venues
Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide, according to WHO’s latest estimates, published today in “Suicide worldwide in 2019”. Every year, more people die as a result of suicide than HIV, malaria or breast cancer ̶ or war and homicide. In 2019, more than 700 000 people died by suicide: one in every 100 deaths, prompting WHO to produce new guidance to help countries improve suicide prevention and care.
“We cannot – and must not – ignore suicide,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “Each one is a tragedy. Our attention to suicide prevention is even more important now, after many months living with the COVID-19 pandemic, with many of the risk factors for suicide ̶ job loss, financial stress and social isolation – still very much present. The new guidance that WHO is releasing today provides a clear path for stepping up suicide prevention efforts.”
Among young people aged 15-29, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence.
Rates vary, between countries, regions, and between males and females.
More than twice as many males die due to suicide as females (12.6 per 100 000 males compared with 5.4 per 100 000 females). Suicide rates among men are generally higher in high-income countries (16.5 per 100 000). For females, the highest suicide rates are found in lower-middle-income countries (7.1 per 100 000).
Suicide rates in the WHO African (11.2 per 100 000), European (10.5 per 100 000) and South-East Asia (10.2 per 100 000) regions were higher than the global average (9.0 per 100 000) in 2019. The lowest suicide rate was in the Eastern Mediterranean region (6.4 per 100 000).
Globally, the suicide rate is decreasing; in the Americas it is going up
Suicide rates fell in the 20 years between 2000 and 2019, with the global rate decreasing by 36%, with decreases ranging from 17% in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to 47% in the European Region and 49% in the Western Pacific.
But in the Americas Region, rates increased by 17% in the same time period.
Although some countries have placed suicide prevention high on their agendas, too many countries remain uncommitted. Currently only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy. A significant acceleration in the reduction of suicides is needed to meet the SDG target of a one-third reduction in the global suicide rate by 2030.
To support countries in their efforts, WHO is today releasing comprehensive guidance for implementing its LIVE LIFE approach to suicide prevention. The four strategies of this approach are:
- limiting access to the means of suicide, such as highly hazardous pesticides and firearms;
- educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide;
- fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents; and
- early identification, assessment, management and follow-up of anyone affected by suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
Banning of the most dangerous pesticides: a high-impact intervention
Given that pesticide poisoning is estimated to cause 20% of all suicides, and national bans of acutely toxic, highly hazardous pesticides have shown to be cost-effective, such bans are recommended by WHO. Other measures include restricting access to firearms, reducing the size of medication packages, and installing barriers at jump sites.
Responsible reporting by the media
The guide highlights the role the media plays in relation to suicide. Media reports of suicide can lead to a rise in suicide due to imitation (or copycat suicides) – especially if the report is about a celebrity or describes the method of suicide.
The new guide advises monitoring of the reporting of suicide and suggests that media counteract reports of suicide with stories of successful recovery from mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts. It also recommends working with social media companies to increase their awareness and improve their protocols for identifying and removing harmful content.
Support for adolescents
Adolescence (10-19 years of age) is a critical period for acquiring socio-emotional skills, particularly since half of mental health conditions appear before 14 years of age. The LIVE LIFE guidance encourages actions including mental health promotion and anti-bullying programmes, links to support services and clear protocols for people working in schools and universities when suicide risk is identified.
Early identification and follow-up of people at risk
Early identification, assessment, management and follow-up applies to people who have attempted suicide or are perceived to be at risk. A previous suicide attempt is one of the most important risk factors for a future suicide.
Health-care workers should be trained in early identification, assessment, management and follow-up. Survivors’ groups of people bereaved by suicide can complement support provided by health services. Crisis services should also be available to provide immediate support to individuals in acute distress.
The new guidance, which includes examples of suicide prevention interventions that have been implemented across the world, in countries such as Australia, Ghana, Guyana, India, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, Sweden and the USA, can be used by anyone who is in interested in implementing suicide prevention activities, whether at national or local level, and in the governmental and nongovernmental sectors alike.
“While a comprehensive national suicide prevention strategy should be the ultimate goal for all governments,” said Dr Alexandra Fleischmann, suicide prevention expert at the World Health Organization, “starting suicide prevention with LIVE LIFE interventions can save lives and prevent the heartbreak that follows for those left behind.”
Effective and binding action is urgently required to protect the millions of children, adolescents and expectant mothers worldwide whose health is jeopardized by the informal processing of discarded electrical or electronic devices according to a new ground-breaking report from the World Health Organization: Children and Digital Dumpsites.
“With mounting volumes of production and disposal, the world faces what one recent international forum described as a mounting “tsunami of e-waste”, putting lives and health at risk.” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. "In the same way the world has rallied to protect the seas and their ecosystems from plastic and microplastic pollution, we need to rally to protect our most valuable resource –the health of our children – from the growing threat of e-waste.”
As many as 12.9 million women are working in the informal waste sector, which potentially exposes them to toxic e-waste and puts them and their unborn children at risk.
Meanwhile more than 18 million children and adolescents, some as young as 5 years of age, are actively engaged in the informal industrial sector, of which waste processing is a sub-sector. Children are often engaged by parents or caregivers in e-waste recycling because their small hands are more dexterous than those of adults. Other children live, go to school and play near e-waste recycling centres where high levels of toxic chemicals, mostly lead and mercury, can damage their intellectual abilities
Children exposed to e-waste are particularly vulnerable to the toxic chemicals they contain due to their smaller size, less developed organs and rapid rate of growth and development. They absorb more pollutants relative to their size and are less able to metabolize or eradicate toxic substances from their bodies.
Workers, aiming to recover valuable materials such as copper and gold, are at risk of exposure to over 1,000 harmful substances, including lead, mercury, nickel, brominated flame retardants and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
For an expectant mother, exposure to toxic e-waste can affect the health and development of her unborn child for the rest of its life. Potential adverse health effects include negative birth outcomes, such as stillbirth and premature births, as well as low birth weight and length. Exposure to lead from e-waste recycling activities has been associated with significantly reduced neonatal behavioural neurological assessment scores, increased rates of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavioural problems, changes in child temperament, sensory integration difficulties, and reduced cognitive and language scores.
Other adverse child health impacts linked to e-waste include changes in lung function, respiratory and respiratory effects, DNA damage, impaired thyroid function and increased risk of some chronic diseases later in life, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
“A child who eats just one chicken egg from Agbogbloshie, a waste site in Ghana, will absorb 220 times the European Food Safety Authority daily limit for intake of chlorinated dioxins,” said Marie-Noel Brune Drisse, the lead WHO author on the report. “Improper e-waste management is the cause. This is a rising issue that many countries do not recognize yet as a health problem. If they do not act now, its impacts will have a devastating health effect on children and lay a heavy burden on the health sector in the years to come.”A rapidly escalating problem
E-waste volumes are surging globally. According to the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership (GESP), they grew by 21% in the five years up to 2019, when 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste were generated. For perspective, last year’s e-waste weighed as much as 350 cruise ships placed end to end to form a line 125km long. This growth is projected to continue as the use of computers, mobile phones and other electronics continues to expand, alongside their rapid obsolescence.
Only 17.4% of e-waste produced in 2019 reached formal management or recycling facilities, according to the most recent GESP estimates, the rest was illegally dumped, overwhelmingly in low- or middle-income countries, where it is recycled by informal workers.
Appropriate collection and recycling of e-waste is key to protect the environment and reduce climate emissions. In 2019, the GESP found that the 17.4% of e-waste that was collected and appropriately recycled prevented as much as 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents from being released into the environment.
Children and Digital Dumpsites calls for effective and binding action by exporters, importers and governments to ensure environmentally sound disposal of e-waste and the health and safety of workers, their families and communities; to monitor e-waste exposure and health outcomes; to facilitate better reuse of materials; and to encourage the manufacture of more durable electronic and electrical equipment.
It also calls on the health community to take action to reduce the adverse health effects from e-waste, by building health sector capacity to diagnose, monitor and prevent toxic exposure among children and women, raising awareness of the potential co-benefits of more responsible recycling, working with affected communities and advocating for better data and health research on the health risks faced by informal e-waste workers.
“Children and adolescents have the right to grow and learn in a healthy environment, and exposure to electrical and electronic waste and its many toxic components unquestionably impacts that right,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, at the WHO. “The health sector can play a role by providing leadership and advocacy, conducting research, influencing policy-makers, engaging communities, and reaching out to other sectors to demand that health concerns be made central to e-waste policies.”
Note for editors:
A significant proportion of e-waste produced every year is exported from high-income countries to low- and middle-income countries, where there may be a lack of regulation, or where regulation does exist, it may be poorly enforced. Here, e-waste is dismantled, recycled and refurbished in environments where infrastructure, training and environmental and health safeguards may be non-existent or poorly adhered to. This places e-waste workers, their families and communities in greater danger of adverse health effects from e-waste recycling.
The WHO Initiative on E-waste and Child Health, launched in 2013, aims to increase access to evidence, knowledge and awareness of the health impacts of e-waste; improve health sector capacity to manage and prevent risks, track progress and promote e-waste policies that better protect child health; and improve monitoring of exposure to e-waste and the facilitation of interventions that protect public health.
The report was produced with the input and support of the E-Waste Coalition,
a group of 10 UN agencies and international organizations, including the WHO, who have come together to increase collaboration, build partnerships and more efficiently provide support to Member States to address the e-waste challenge.