Weekly News Update January 25-29, 2021
e Hope for Depression Research Foundation names Audrey Gruss "One of America's Most Influential People for 2020"
Photo Credits: Hope for Depression Research Foundation
Hope for Depression Research Foundation (HDRF) Founder and Chair Audrey Gruss has been named as one of America’s Most Influential People for 2020 by Marquis Who’s Who (MWW) on its famed annual list released January 19.
She is honored for her work founding HDRF, including pledging over $30 million in 2020 to provide necessary funding for five pre-clinical trials for promising new treatments for major depression and anxiety at university laboratories across the country. The new treatment initiative selected five trials that are ready for pilot testing in humans at Mount Sinai, Johns Hopkins, the University of California San Diego, the University of Utah, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Gruss also launched Hope Fragrances, for which all net profits go directly to depression research.
Gruss is one of the 20 diverse honorees from across the United States from the world of health care, philanthropy, entertainment and the arts.She is honored among other notable names including Dr. Anthony Fauci, Vice President Kamala Harris and Dolly Parton.
Established in 1898, MWW is the world’s leading biographical publisher, documenting the lives and deeds of the world’s most prominent, renowned and infamous people. The MWW family of directories includes more than a dozen focused compilations, including Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who of Emerging Leaders, and Who’s Who in Medicine and Healthcare. Click Here to read the full article.
Romania's Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Ion I. Jinga, attended the annual United National Holocaust Commemoration Service organized by Park East Synagogue of New York and the United Nations Organization.
On January 25, Romania's Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Ion I. Jinga, attended the annual United National Holocaust Commemoration Service organized by Park East Synagogue of New York and the UN, which this time took place in a virtual format. The ceremony was led by Rabbi Arthur Schneier, a Holocaust survivor, with the participation of His Excellency António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations.
In the message delivered to the audience, Ambassador Ion I. Jinga evoked the leading role Romania has undertaken at international level in combating anti-Semitism and advocating Holocaust commemoration and education. He recalled the successful adoption, under the Romanian presidency of the International Alliance for Holocaust Remembrance - IHRA (2016-2017), of the working definition of anti-Semitism and the fact that Romania was among the first countries to introduce this working definition of anti-Semitism in their national law. The Romanian legislation has very clear provisions, condemning Holocaust denial and incitement to anti-Semitism. Also, the Romanian government is at the final stage of approving the National Strategy for prevention and combating anti-Semitism, xenophobia, radicalization and Hate Speech, and the Action Plan for the implementation of this strategy.
At international level, the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs contributed to the elaboration of a series of important IHRA recommendations and to the elaboration of EU Council Declaration on mainstreaming the fight against anti-Semitism across all policy areas, adopted in December 2020. It also concluded a Memorandum of Understanding with Yad Vashem - The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, to facilitate research of the Romanian diplomatic archives on the history before and after the Holocaust of the Jewish community.
While mentioning the importance of the legacy left by the Holocaust survivors, which need to be passed on to each generation, Ambassador Jinga recalled that Romania solemnly marks this tragic episode in history on both January 27 – the International Remembrance Day and October 9 - the National Day of Commemorating the Holocaust.
On a personal note, he evoked his visits to the Holocaust Memorial Museums in New York, Washington DC and Jerusalem, and to the Majdanek concentration camp where, during World War II more than 360,000 Jews – men, women and children - died: “It is hard to describe the emotion produced by these visits; I believe that no normal person can leave a Holocaust Museum without having tears in his or her eyes”.“What I felt when I walked through the concentration camp in Majdanek cannot be expressed in words. On top of a gigantic Mausoleum which contains ashes of some of the victims, we may read a most powerful inscription: “Let our fate be a warning to you!” Therefore, legislative measures are important. But what is absolutely crucial in the fight against ignorance and misinformation, and specifically Holocaust denial and distortion, is the education of people, so we never again witness such atrocities!”
U.S. Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry at Climate Adaptation Summit
Remarks by U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry at the opening of the Climate Adaptation Summit 2021.
Video Message by H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, PRESIDENT OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY INTERNATIONAL DAY OF COMMEMORATION IN MEMORY OF THE VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST 27 January 2021 On this day, we honour the millions of Jews and the other groups who lost their lives during a time of unparalleled inhumanity in the middle of Europe. On this day, we remember those who survived the Holocaust and their pain. They were individuals just like the rest of us. Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, friends and neighbours. But they were treated as “others.” They became targets of hatred and violence because of who they are. This did not happen overnight. It was in the making for centuries. It began as intolerance and bigotry, evolved into a systematic campaign and ended as genocide. Today, we must never forget these facts. We must never lose sight of what went wrong and we must ensure that it never happens again. Unfortunately, the recent developments are not promising. We are once again faced with a rising tide of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. We are witnessing hatred towards other minorities and religious groups. Today, the onus is upon us to uphold truth, equality and protect the rights of the most vulnerable groups. All around the world. We have to be vigilant, to call out any injustice we witness and defend pluralism. We have to condemn intolerance, incitement, harassment based on ethnic origin or religious belief. We must instill within our children an understanding, that every individual is entitled to equal dignity and inalienable human rights. Inertia is not an option. In memory of the victims of the Holocaust, I ask that ‘We the Peoples’ recommit to the Charter of the United Nations, which was written in the wake of the atrocities 75 years ago. And “…reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women…” I thank you. Click here to watch the video message
Holocaust Commemoration 2021- United Nations Secretary-General
António Guterres (United Nations Secretary-General) on the 2021 International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
UNRWA DC director on restored U.S. funding
The Biden administration announced that it will restore U.S. assistance programs that support economic development and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people. In 2018, the Trump administration cut over $360 million in annual funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the UN agency that provides lifesaving humanitarian assistance to more than 5.7 million Palestine refugees. Since then, the Agency has been forced to maintain operations amidst a severe budgetary deficit. The pandemic has only made matters more dire as the Agency responds to this health threat amid the most serious financial crisis in its history, forced to manage its resources on a month to month basis due to unreliable funding.
In response to the Biden administration’s announcement, Elizabeth Campbell, director of UNRWA’s Representative Office in Washington, D.C., said: “This is a welcome announcement, because without U.S. support, UNRWA will not have the requisite resources to provide quality education and health care to refugees. UNRWA looks forward to renewing its partnership with the United States, a country that helped to create the Agency more than seven decades ago and which until recently was its largest funder. The United States has played a central role in the human development of Palestine refugees: UNRWA provides over 8.5 million medical consultations annually and is currently educating more than 530,000 children. “In addition, the United States has been UNRWA's steadfast partner in times of crisis, providing food, shelter, and other humanitarian assistance during conflicts and war in Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon. UNRWA is proud of its long-term relationship with the United States and pledges to work closely with the new administration on fulfilling its UNGA mandate to serve and protect refugees.”
Prior to joining UNRWA, Campbell was the senior humanitarian policy advisor in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs at the Department of State, where she worked on refugee and humanitarian issues in the United Nations system. If you are interested in speaking further with Elizabeth about the significance of this moment and the continued needs of Palestine refugees, please contact:
Samantha Kupferman, West End Strategy Team firstname.lastname@example.org; 202-215-9260
The Elders welcome US-Russian agreement to extend New START nuclear treaty
LONDON, 27 January 2020 The Elders today welcomed the agreement by US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin to extend New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) for five years. They also renewed their call on all nuclear powers to take credible steps towards disarmament, acknowledging the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders and former President of Ireland, said: “I welcome the agreement by Presidents Putin and Biden to extend New START for five years, which helps to halt several years of alarming deterioration of international arms control frameworks. This must only be the first step, and should be followed by serious bilateral negotiations between the US and Russian Governments to further strengthen arms control and reduce the risks of nuclear conflict.
The extension of New START, set alongside the recent entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), provides hope that 2021 can be a year of renewed momentum towards our common goal of a world without nuclear weapons. However, this will only be possible if the nuclear states give the highest priority to making tangible progress on disarmament ahead of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference later this year. They must also take seriously the fact that the majority of countries around the world support the comprehensive nuclear weapons ban enshrined in the TPNW, and will be expecting concrete action on disarmament from the nuclear states.”
Media enquiries William French, Head of Communications T: +44 (0) 7795 693903 media@theElders.org
Children and armed conflict - repatriation of children from conflict zones: from camps to homes
The Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict Ms. V. Gamba
UN Secretary-General receives COVID-19 vaccine
Receiving his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine today, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said he felt “very grateful,” and urged everyone to get “vaccinated as soon as they can.”
CRISIS UPDATE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Contact: Tim Shenk: +1-212-763-5764
Ethiopia: Violence in Tigray causes untold suffering
January 29, 2021—Since early November, a military escalation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia has caused widespread violence and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Albert Viñas, emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), provided the following account today: Almost three months after the start of the conflict, I am struck by how difficult it has been—and continues to be—to access such a needy population in such a densely populated area. Considering the means and capacity of international organizations and the UN, the fact that this is happening is a failure of the humanitarian world.
Supporting hospitals affected by the violence After several attempts, I finally entered the capital of Tigray, Mekele, with the first MSF team on December 16, more than a month after the violence started. The city was quiet. There was electricity, but no basic supplies. The local hospital was running at 30 to 40 percent of its capacity, with very little medication. Most significantly, there were almost no patients, which is always a very bad sign. We evaluated the hospital, with the idea of referring patients there as soon as possible from Adigrat, 120 kilometers to the north. We arrived in Adigrat, the second most populous city in Tigray, on December 19. The situation was very tense and its hospital was in a terrible condition. Most of the health staff had left, there were hardly any medicines and there was no food, no water and no money. Some patients who had been admitted with traumatic injuries were malnourished. We supplied the hospital with medicines and bought an emergency supply of food from the markets that were still open. Together with the remaining hospital staff, we cleaned the building and organized the collection of waste. Little by little we rehabilitated the hospital so that it could function as a medical referral center. On December 27 we entered the towns of Adwa and Axum, to the west of Adigrat, in central Tigray. There we found a similar situation: no electricity and no water. All the medicines had been stolen from Adwa general hospital and the hospital furniture and equipment were broken. Fortunately the Don Bosco institution in Adwa had converted its clinic into an emergency hospital with a small operating theater. In Axum, the 200-bed university hospital had not been attacked, but it was only operating at 10 percent capacity. On roads where the security situation remained uncertain, we trucked food, medicine and oxygen to these hospitals and began to support the most essential medical departments, such as the operating theaters, maternity units and emergency rooms, and to refer critical patients.
Medical needs going unseen and unmet Beyond the hospitals, around 80 or 90 percent of the health centers that we visited between Mekele and Axum were not functional, either due to a lack of staff or because they had suffered robberies. When the primary care service does not exist, people can't access or be referred to hospitals. For example, before the crisis, two appendicitis operations were performed per day at Adigrat hospital. In the past two months, they haven't done a single one. In every place, we saw patients arriving late. One woman had been in labor for seven days without being able to give birth. Her life was saved because we were able to transport her to Mekele. I saw people arrive at the hospital on bicycles carrying a patient from 30 kilometers away. And those were the ones who managed to get to the hospital. If women with complicated deliveries, seriously ill patients and people with appendicitis and trauma injuries can't get to hospital, you can imagine the consequences. There is a large population suffering, surely with fatal consequences. Adigrat hospital serves an area with more than one million people and the hospital in Axum serves an area with more than three million people. If these hospitals don't function properly and can't be accessed, then people die at home. And when the health system is broken, vaccinations, disease detection and nutritional programs don't function either. There have been no vaccinations in almost three months, so we fear there will be epidemics soon. In recent weeks, our mobile medical teams have started visiting areas outside the main cities and we are reopening some health centers. We believe our presence brings a certain feeling of protection. We have seen some health staff returning to work. Only five people attended the first meeting we organized in Adwa hospital, but the second was attended by 15, and more than 40 people came to the third. Beyond medical activities, you feel that you offer people some hope: the feeling that things can improve after two months without good news.
People fleeing violence, living in fear In eastern and central of Tigray, we did not see large settlements of displaced people—instead, most have taken refuge in the houses of relatives and friends, so many houses now have 20 or 25 people living together. The impact of the violence is visible in the buildings and in the cars with bullet holes. Especially at the beginning, we saw a population locked in their homes and living in great fear. Everyone gave us pieces of paper with phone numbers written on them and asked us to convey messages to their families. People don't even know if their relatives and loved ones are okay because in many places there are still no telephones or telecommunications. When we arrived in Adigrat, we saw lines of 500 people next to a water truck waiting to get 20 liters of water per family at most. The telephone line was restored in Adigrat just a few days ago. The situation is improving little by little, but as we moved westwards to new places we found the same scenario: fewer services, less transport. We are very concerned about what may be happening in rural areas. We still haven't been able to go to many places, either because of insecurity or because it is hard to obtain authorization. But we know, because community elders and traditional authorities have told us, that the situation in these places is very bad. Large areas of Tigray have a very mountainous terrain, with winding roads that climb from 2,000 meters above sea level to 3,000 meters. Cities like Adwa and Axum are built on the fertile highlands, but a large part of the population lives in the mountains and we have heard that there are people who have fled to these more remote areas because of the violence.
Logistical challenges, late response The efforts of our teams have been enormous at all levels—medical, financial, logistical and human resources. It's an incredible challenge without telephone or internet. At first there were no flights to Mekele and we had to move everything nearly 1,000 kilometers by road from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. You couldn't make money transfers because the banks were all closed. Yet we managed to start our operations. Now, other aid organizations are beginning to appear, little by little, in some areas. We still don't know the real impact of this crisis, but we have to keep working to find it out as soon as possible. Other MSF teams are currently delivering medical care in different areas of central, south and northwestern Tigray. MSF teams are also responding to the health needs of displaced people at the border of Amhara region and in Sudan. This update can be found online here. ###
Tim Shenk Senior Press Officer Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) 40 Rector St. 16th Floor, New York, NY 10006 Tel: +1 212.763.5764 Cell: +1 646.206.9387 Twitter: @timkshenk doctorswithoutborders.org