Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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10-Aug-2017 00:21:06
Briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The UN Migration Agency (IOM) has raised the alarm over a series of deeply troubling incidents off the coast of Yemen over the past two days in which smugglers have thrown migrants from the boats into the sea, causing many to drown.

According to IOM, some 280 migrants have been forced from boats in two separate incidents which took place yesterday and today. As a result, more than 50 migrants have drowned and around 30 are reported missing.

The migrants were hoping to reach countries in the Gulf via war-torn Yemen. The journey is especially hazardous, with smugglers often making fake promises to vulnerable migrants, forcing them off the boats when they fear getting caught by authorities. The IOM said it is providing urgent care to the surviving migrants, as well as food, water and other emergency relief.

The situations in the Mediterranean and in the Sahara are just as heart-breaking. 2405 people have died or disappeared during their attempts to cross the Mediterranean. As reported on Tuesday, more than 265 are dead or missing travelling across the Sahara trying to reach the sea.

The Secretary-General is heartbroken by this continuing tragedy. This is why he continues to stress that the international community must give priority to preventing and resolving a variety of situations which both generate mass movement and expose those already on the move to significant danger. We must also increase legal pathways for regular migration and offer credible alternatives to these dangerous crossings for people in need of international protection.

The Deputy Secretary-General briefed the Security Council this morning on her recent visit to Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This was the first visit of its kind: a high-level mission focused entirely on women, peace, security and development.

Ms. Mohammed said that both countries have dismayingly low levels of women’s political participation and are experiencing conflicts marked by extremely high levels of sexual- and gender-based violence. In the DRC, sexual violence is widespread. In northern Nigeria, abductions, forced marriage and the use of women as suicide bombers have taken a terrible toll.

The Deputy Secretary-General called on the international community to better understand the role of women in development and peace-building alongside the gender dimensions of conflict for our responses to be effective.

She concluded by saying that one message resounds most: investing in women and girls must be central to our efforts in Nigeria, DRC and beyond if we are to have sustainable peace and development. Giving special consideration to the context will be key to responses that deliver the right results.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the cholera outbreak in Yemen has spread to all but one of its 22 governorates, with more than 480,000 suspected cases and nearly 2,000 associated deaths from cholera and other diarrheal-related diseases.

The number of new cases has been declining for several weeks, having plateaued in the four most affected governorates of Sana’a city, Hodeidah, Hajjah and Amran.
However, there are concerns the numbers could rise as Yemen heads into its rainy season while health workers have not been paid in nearly a year and some 8.8 million people are living in areas without enough health centres.

The UN and its partners have set up more than 200 cholera treatment centres and more than 900 oral rehydration points.

Regular UN-operated flights carrying supplies to address cholera between Dijbouti and Sana’a began last week.

We have received less than half of the $254 million we need to respond to the cholera outbreak.

With decades of conflict and lack of investment having strained Iraq’s healthcare system, the UN is supporting a new campaign launched by the Iraqi Ministry of Health today to improve maternal and newborn care.

Peter Hawkins, UNICEF’s Representative in Iraq, said that providing high quality care before and after birth not only saves lives, but that it is also an investment to ensure Iraqi children have the best start in life and meet their full potential.

Also in Iraq, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is stepping up its help for families in Mosul, including thousands of people who are returning to the city after the end of the fighting.

The Agency has already distributed shelter kits to more than 3,200 families to help them repair their damaged homes.

According to Government figures, more than 90 per cent of families who had fled eastern Mosul due to the conflict have returned to the city, but the situation is more complex in the west of the city, which was extensively damaged and is littered with explosive devices.

In Ethiopia, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that 8.5 million people need humanitarian assistance during the second half of 2017 -- an increase from 5.6 million people at the start of the year.

Rainfall was lower than expected, worsening the already severe drought conditions, particularly in the Somali region. Humanitarian actors are currently scaling up operations in support of the response led by the Government.

A Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator is being deployed to the Somali region, where there are concerns that the situation may reach extreme levels if additional assistance is not immediately provided. Increased funding is required as soon as possible.

The World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed a donation of 5,000 metric tons of rice from the Government of Nigeria. This will help feed nearly half a million internally displaced people in the conflict-ravaged northeast of the country, where the threat of famine continues.

In Kenya, the agency warns that the impact of drought in the country is worsening. The number of people who cannot feed themselves has risen from 2.6 million to 3.4 million – a 30 percent increase this year. Additional funding is urgently needed for vital nutrient-rich foods.

And in Mali, some 3.8 million people (one-fifth of the population) are not sure where their next meal will come from. That’s 30 percent more than during 2016’s lean season. WFP needs US$32 million until the end of the year and their operations are only half funded.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, today condemned the killing of Syrian media worker and open-web promoter Bassel Khartabil Safadi, whose death in a Syrian prison was confirmed last week.

She praised Mr. Khartabil’s work for helping the people of Syria benefit from, and contribute to, the internet and said his death is a loss to those committed to the sharing of knowledge across open channels.

She also denounced the killing of Mexican journalist Luciano Rivera Salgado, who was a TV presenter for local channel CNR and director of the online news portal El Dictamen. He was shot on 21 July in a bar in Playas de Rosarito in the State of Baja California.
Ms. Bokova called on both the Mexican and Syrian authorities to investigate and disclose information regarding the deaths of these journalists.

UNICEF said today that six years after the crisis began, over 550,000 children need assistance because of political instability, ongoing conflict, displacement, and economic collapse. More than 80,000 children are internally displaced and migrant children in Libya are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, including in detention centres.

Following his first visit to the country, UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Geert Cappelaere, said that the agency has been expanding its assistance to respond to children’s needs on the ground. Next October, UNICEF plans to have its international staff operating full-time from Libya. It will further scale up its assistance to reach 1.5 million girls and boys and support the strengthening of national institutions and civil society.

Mohamed Chande Othman, former Chief Justice of Tanzania, has presented his report to the Secretary-General as Eminent Person in relation to the investigation into the tragic 1961 death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him.

Judge Othman’s report summarizes the new information made available to him from Member States and other sources and assesses whether and to what degree that information helps to establish the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic deaths. The Eminent Person’s report also sets out his findings, conclusions and recommendations.

The Secretary-General expresses his gratitude for the work undertaken by the Eminent Person and is now studying the report. In accordance with General Assembly resolution 71/260, the Secretary-General will transmit the report to the General Assembly before the end of its seventy-first session and report on progress made.
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