The United Nations announced International Happiness Day on Friday — during a decidedly unhappy update on global scourges ranging from the “novel” (COVID-19) to the biblical (locusts).
“Strangely enough, today is the International Day of Happiness,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, said, managing a weak smile about eight minutes into a grim daily press briefing.
Dujarric had just finished reciting a litany of unhappy global updates that would give pause, and perspective, to any American vexed by gym and restaurant closings.
Around the world, 100 million people are living in war zones and other “emergency settings,” often in cramped refugee camps with little access to sanitation and health care, he said.
These legions of people are already struggling against such old-fashioned problems as food insecurity, cholera, measles, yellow fever.
Now comes the coronavirus.
“As the virus reaches these places, our humanitarian colleagues warn that the consequences could be devastating,” Dujarric said.
Making matters worse, relief agencies are concerned by the limited surveillance on countries hosting these “humanitarian hotspots,” he said.
Then there are all the desert locusts, which are marking International Happiness Day by mating in massive swarms above the Greater Horn of Africa.
“There is widespread breeding and new swarms are starting to form,” Dujarric said.
“As a result, this will pose an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods as the next upsurge will coincide with the main cropping season across much of the region.”
Dujarric was streaming from UN headquarters in Manhattan, where, he said, by noon Friday only 247 people had swiped into the building, including Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who is conducting meetings “virtually.”
On a normal day, 11,000 people swipe into the headquarters.