The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have recommited to accelerating health and well-being at all ages.
New partnership calls for key actions in universal health coverage, mental health, emergencies and nutrition.
The new Strategic Collaboration Framework builds on a robust 70-year collaboration between the two organizations, and prioritizes four strategic areas for immediate attention and action at all levels of the organizations: universal health coverage, through a primary health care and health systems approach; mental health and psychosocial well-being and development; public health emergencies; and maternal and child nutrition.
Additionally, the two organizations signed a new Joint Programme on Mental Health and Psychosocial Well-being and Development of Children and Adolescents.
This 10-year collaborative effort will promote mental health and psychosocial well-being and development, increase access to care for mental health conditions, and reduce suffering and enhance quality of life among children and adolescents, and their caregivers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed huge gaps in accessing health, well-being and nutrition services among children and vulnerable populations,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
“There has never been a more urgent need to work together. This new framework will help us strengthen health and food systems, and invest in mental health and psychosocial support in every country in the world.”
For more than 70 years, WHO and UNICEF have worked together worldwide to ensure children survive and thrive, and benefit from a safe and clean environment.
The two organizations collaborated to provide high-impact health, immunization, nutrition, HIV and early child development interventions, as well as safe water and sanitation services in every region of the world, including in fragile and conflict settings.
"At the heart of our work with UNICEF is seeing that every child not only survives but ultimately thrives and transforms their communities and future generations," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
"With great appreciation and respect for our unique and complementary roles, we stand together in our commitment to achieve health for all. As this pandemic demonstrates, no-one is safe until everyone is safe.”
WHO and UNICEF continue to work together to stop the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that every woman and every child have access to the essential health services they need, including immunizations and health check-ups.
The two organizations are also working together to support countries to introduce and deliver COVID-19 vaccines under the vaccines pillar of the “Access to COVID-19 Tools – Accelerator” (ACT-A) initiative, along with Gavi, CEPI and global immunization partners.
Additionally, the organizations are strengthening health systems through primary health care, as agreed in the Declaration of Astana, and the UN High-level declaration on UHC, in order to accelerate achievement of universal health coverage and Sustainable Development Goal 3 targets by 2030.
Experts at a webinar have shared their views on implementing governance instruments to build trust and cooperation between India and Bangladesh to benefit all stakeholders in the Meghna Basin.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Asian Confluence co-hosted the webinar on “Bringing People and Institutions Together for a Living Meghna River,” the final instalment of the Meghna Conversations series.
Meghalaya is the source of many transboundary tributaries of Barak-Meghna river system, such as the Umngot and the Myntdu, flowing from Jaintia hills into Bangladesh.
“Although the Indian state of Meghalaya receives the highest rainfall in the world, more than 50% of villages are experiencing water scarcity during the dry season. Recognising the interconnectedness of water and the need to strengthen community engagement in integrated water resource management, the state government created the Meghalaya Basin Development Authority,” said Sampath Kumar, Chief Executive Officer, Meghalaya River Basin Development Authority, Shillong, India.
He said the authority aims to coordinate the actions of different agencies to support local livelihoods.
"The MBDA has initiated several community-based livelihoods programmes. It aims to engage communities in the management of forests and other landscape based natural resources within the state.”
The webinar presented a comparative review of natural resource management policies in Bangladesh and India, in the Barak-Meghna Basin, facilitated by IUCN and Indian Environment Law Organization (IELO), Delhi.
“The Meghna Basin has more than 60 different policy instruments for the management of natural resources, including water, biodiversity, fisheries and forests,” said Shawahiq Siddiqui, Partner, (IELO), (Delhi) and Supreme Court Lawyer.
The review of policies indicates in both Bangladesh and India, there is a need for a more coordinated approach to policy and planning.
"Often,different sectors tend to work in silo, not communicating with others working on similar issues, thus preventing the development of a cohesive strategy at the basin or national levels,”said Siddiqui.
In terms of development of water policies and institutions, the state of Meghalaya is the most evolved among all the northeastern states of India.
Meghalaya has created Meghalaya Basin Development Authority (MBDA) with a mandate to facilitate inter-agency cooperation for management of water resources.
Downstream, in Bangladesh,the policies are more evolved, compared to India, and are supported by detailedaction plans and institutional setup for its implementation, the example being the Haor Development Plan.
On the Indian side, however, most states are in the process of setting up institutions to implement their water policies, and states such asAssam and Tripura have yet to adopt a state water policy.
There is a need to harmonise the natural resources policies, developed by various government agencies working independently of one another.
Harmonized regional policies can also strengthen the ecological resilience of the river.
Mahbooba Panna, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Government of Bangladesh, Dhaka,highlighted the role of the Meghna in supporting the hilsa fishery, the source of livelihoods for millions and important for the food security throughout Bangladesh.
“In 2012, Bangladesh was not able to meet their own demand for the hilsa fish. However, the implementation of ban during breeding season and conservation projects implemented with community engagement has led to a rebound in hilsa population, and earlier this year, the country began again to export hilsa,” said Panna.
Hilsa is an endemic fish species and a staple food in Bangladesh and eastern parts of India.
“River governance should be guided by an approach centered on conserving the ecosystems rather than the current anthropocentric approach,” suggested Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Chief Executive, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, Dhaka.
On expanding the scope of transboundary cooperation in the Meghan basin, she stressed, “Bangladesh and India Joint River Commission has mainly representation from the engineering sector, there is a need to revise the composition to include a broader range of experts from other sectors such as from the civil society.”
Dr. Alejandro Iza, Director, Environmental Law Centre, IUCN Bonn, further underscored the importance of expanding political will to achieve conservation outcomes.
Sharing experiences from the shared river basin from South America,he mentioned that often, central governments are unwilling to engage in transboundary cooperation.
To achieve this in the context of Meghna Basin between India in Bangladesh, there is an opportunity to engage non-traditional partners, such as local authorities and municipalities.
He suggested that changes can be enacted when you enhance the technical capacities of people, including the ability to engage meaningfully in a dialogue.
"There is a need to promote inclusive participation and engagement of stakeholders. People are essential to the solution.”
The webinar series is part of the BRIDGE GBM project, facilitated by IUCN, and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) through the Oxfam Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA) programme, aims to build the water governance capacity of a network of CSOs in the GBM River Basin. Its focus is to strengthen CSO engagement in transboundary water management issues.
Indian Border Security Force (BSF) has reiterated its policy of using non-lethal weapons on the Bangladesh-India border.
The BSF made the assurance in response to the concerns expressed by Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) on border deaths.
“I must say our policy is to bring down this killing to a zero level…we’re committed to doing that in order to reach that figure,” said Director General (DG) of Indian Border Security Force (BSF) Rakesh Asthana during a joint briefing at the BGB headquarters in the city.
The BSF assured that all unarmed and innocent trespassers and victims of human trafficking will be handed over to BGB personnel.
The BSF suggestion to launch joint operations against trans cross-border smugglers upon receipt of specific intelligence on their criminal activities was welcomed by BGB.
This was discussed at the Director General Level Talks of BGB and BSF held on September 16-19, said the Indian High Commission in Dhaka.
The 13-member Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) delegation, led by its Director General Md. Shafeenul Islam, participated in the talks.
A six-member Border Security Force (BSF) delegation, headed by its Director General Rakesh Asthana, visited Dhaka from 16-19 September 2020 to discuss various issues related to Bangladesh-India border management and security in the DGLT.
Referring to the border talks between the two border forces of the two close neighboring countries, the DG BSF said they have assured BGB counterart that they can bring it down with the Joint Coordinated Patrolling system, which was stopped due to COVID-19.
Replying to a question, the BGB DG said Major General Md Shafeenul Islam said they are satisfied over the assurance of his BSF counterpart to bring down the killing to a zero level.
He also said the DG BSF would do its best for avoiding the loss of human lives across the border taking preventive measures.
The DG BGB said the Joint Coordinated Patrolling system, which was stopped for COVID-19 outbreak, will start soon.
Expressing concern over the recent push-in of mentally challenged persons, both sides agreed to verify the nationality of the mentally challenged persons and thereafter the handing/taking process can be expedited with the cooperation from one another, sources at the meeting said.
During the discussions, both the border forces, BSF and BGB, made several proposals to reduce the cross-border crimes and strengthen their security cooperation.
BSF has launched a systematic campaign against the smuggling of codeine based cough syrup in the bordering districts of India and will redouble efforts to reduce the cross-border drugs and narcotics smuggling.
The BGB appreciated the ongoing concerted efforts of BSF in substantially reducing the smuggling of narcotics.
Both the border forces recognised the increasingly violent attacks on them by cross-border cattle smuggling gangs and agreed to exchange intelligence on smuggling syndicates and list of smugglers to make efforts to significantly reduce the smuggling in order to ensure the India-Bangladesh border remains peaceful and secure.
BSF has proposed nominating officials in both the border forces as the nodal officials for exchanging such real time intelligence.
The Director General, BSF has proposed initiating joint patrols in cattle smuggling/ smuggling prone areas to reduce the menace of all kinds of smuggling.
The BGB has welcomed the initiative and both the forces agreed that identification of vulnerable areas needs to be in response to the new methods being adopted by the trans-border smuggling syndicates.
Recognising the difficulties in identifying the nationality of mentally challenged persons, BSF has proposed creating a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to address such incidents on the border.
BGB has suggested issuing daily passes for the people residing in the bordering villages so that they can visit their relatives on the Indian side.
BSF has welcomed the suggestion and both the forces agreed to work out a mechanism in consultation with agencies/Ministries concerned to facilitate such social visits.
Reiterating the policy of zero tolerance against terrorism, BGB has requested specific intelligence and proposed conducting joint operations against insurgent groups, if any.
The DG BGB assured that there is no IIGs camp/hideout inside Bangladesh.
He mentioned that Bangladesh does not allow her soil to be used by any entity or element hostile to any country particularly India and assured all possible help in this regard.
The onset of COVID pandemic has forced both the forces to stop coordinated patrols on the border.
Both the Director Generals agreed to resume these patrols on the border to build mutual confidence in both the forces and also to reduce the cross-border crimes.
Both the border forces decided to continue their confidence-building measures and training programmes after the ongoing pandemic subsides.
Responding to the request of BGB, BSF assured its cooperation in completing all riverbank protection works in the bordering areas of Bangladesh as per approval of SAM Joint River Commission.
Earlier of the joint briefing, the both DGs signed at a Joint Record of Discussions of the 50th border conference.
Both sides agreed to undertake joint efforts to bring down the number of incidents of assault/attacks to zero by increasing coordinated patrols in vulnerable areas and educating the border population about the sanctity of IB and preventing criminals from crossing the IB (international border).
India has decided to allow export of some quantity of onions which was handed over to customs on the date imposing ban on onion export.
The ban will not be applicable for those pre-contracted shipments and necessary directives have been given to allow such eligible consignments, according to Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
But there will be no more new contract henceforth until the notification is revised, a senior official told UNB.
The Indian government imposed the ban on onion export on September 14.
The data of onions lying for exports in various custom ports of India was provided and from the data shared, it appears that some quantity of onions was already handed over to customs on the date of notification (export ban).
The restrictions imposed on export shall not be applicable to consignments already handed over to Customs for examination and subsequent exports up to public notice or notification date, reads an official communication.
Earlier, Bangladesh shared its "deep concern" with India at the sudden ban on onion exports saying it "undermines" the discussions that took place in October last year and January this year.
"The latest "abrupt announcement" of the government of India "undermines" the discussions that took place in 2019 and 2020 between the two friendly countries on the matter and the understanding shared, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote to Indian High Commission in Dhaka on September 15.
Bangladesh referred to the Commerce Secretary-level meeting between the two countries held on January 15-16, 2020 and VVIP visit to India in October last year when the Bangladesh side requested regarding the matter.
“I wish you had informed us before suddenly putting a halt in export of onions. I had to tell my cook I have no other option but to have my food without onions. I would request India to please inform us beforehand while taking such an action. After all, we are neighbours,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in Hindi in a programme in India in October last year (according to Indian media).
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs mentioned that the sudden announcement of amendments in India's export policy of onion directly impacts the supply of essential food item in Bangladesh.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Thursday said Indian Ministry of External Affairs is very "repentant" for not informing Bangladesh beforehand while imposing a ban on onion export.
"I heard that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs is very repentant. Because they didn't know about the sudden ban," he said.
Dr Momen recalled that they had an understanding between the two countries that they will inform beforehand while taking such "abrupt decision."
It would have been better, if Bangladesh knew about the ban beforehand, he said.
The Foreign Minister said there is nothing to worried about onion as there is adequate stock of it in the country.
Meanwhile, State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam said the country has a stock of around 5.6 lakh tonnes of onion and import of 11,000 tonnes onion is under process.
He said the monthly requirement of onion in the country is 2 lakh tonnes.
The government has decided to import onions from multiple sources to ensure enough supply of the key cooking ingredient in the local markets.
In line with the decision, the government has already taken steps to import onions from Turkey and Egypt, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The consignment of the onions is expected to reach Chittagong port early next month.
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