Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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ENGLISH 05-Jan-2018 00:13:50
Briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
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Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said today that, although there has been progress in the past month in opening Yemen’s critical Red Sea ports to commercial fuel and food shipments, as well as the resumption of humanitarian shipments and flights, he remains deeply concerned by the deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the country.

Accordingly, he has approved today the largest-ever allocation by the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) – $50 million – to rapidly bolster the response.

At the same time, he said, there must be reduction both in fighting on the ground and airstrikes, which have greatly intensified in recent weeks. Second, we need all ports to remain open without interruption. And third, we need faster and more generous donor financing.

Mr. Lowcock stressed that the Yemeni people need an end to the conflict so that they can begin to rebuild their lives. For this to happen, the parties to the conflict must cease hostilities and engage meaningfully with the UN to achieve a lasting political settlement.

We continue to receive disturbing reports of ongoing fighting and airstrikes affecting the civilian population in northwest Syria.

On 3 January, airstrikes reportedly struck Tal Al-Tuqan village in Idleb’s southern countryside, killing five people. Also on Wednesday, airstrikes reportedly killed five people in Ma’arrat An Nu’man town, and rendered the Maternity and Pediatric Hospital out of service. This was the third time in less than a week the hospital had been damaged by an airstrike.

Such actions cause unnecessary suffering to civilians already living in dire humanitarian need. We would like to remind all parties of their obligation to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, as required by International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law.

The UN Refugee Agency said today it is registering and helping thousands of new refugees arriving in Chad, mostly women and children fleeing a recent flare-up in violence in the northwest of the Central African Republic (CAR).

More than 5,000 refugees are estimated to have arrived in southern Chad since late December, escaping clashes between armed groups in the town of Paoua in the Central African Republic. The town also has an additional 20,000 people displaced internally.

The influx is the largest movement of refugees from the Central African Republic, exceeding the total number for 2017, when about 2,000 fled into Chad. Many are reporting widespread human rights abuses committed by members of armed groups in villages alongside the CAR-Chad border.

From Geneva, the Human Rights Office says it is deeply alarmed at the actions of the security forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the recent protests in Kinshasa and a number of other cities.
Human Rights colleagues on the ground were denied access to morgues, hospitals and detention centres, and so were unable to fully conduct their human rights monitoring work.

They call on the authorities to ensure that the security forces do not resort to excessive force when policing demonstrations, and that protests are handled in line with international standards.

The Government should ensure that everyone, including political opponents, journalists and civil society representatives, are able to fully exercise their right to freedoms of association and peaceful assembly, opinion, and expression.

There should also be credible and independent investigations into alleged use of excessive force, and those responsible for human rights violations should be brought to justice.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also said today it is deeply shocked that 20 people are reported to have been executed in Egypt since last week.

The Office calls on the Egyptian authorities to reconsider the use of death penalty cases in accordance with their international human rights obligations and to take all necessary measures to ensure that violations of due process and fair trial are not repeated.

A new study from the World Food Programme shows that although more than 90 percent of Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar have received emergency food assistance, a major concern is limited access to a well-diversified and balanced diet.

The Rohingya Emergency Vulnerability Assessment (REVA) was carried out by WFP and food security sector partners in November and December 2017.

WFP will scale up its e-voucher programmes in 2018 to reach new arrivals in Cox’s Bazar.

Currently, some 90,000 people are enrolled in WFP’s e-voucher programmes, under which they receive a monthly amount on a pre-paid debit card which can be used in allocated shops to buy 19 different foods, including rice, lentils, fresh vegetables, chilies, eggs and dry fish.

By contrast, WFP’s food distribution to the new arrivals includes rice, vegetable oil and lentils – an emergency ration designed to provide basic calories, but lacking in dietary diversity.

The study also recommends the scaling up of livelihood support programmes within host communities prioritizing especially women who have no income.

WFP is providing food and food vouchers to more than 700,000 refugees.

The Deputy Secretary-General will depart New York for Abuja, Nigeria on the 6th to have informal consultations on cross-regional issues with President Kagame as incoming Chair of the AU, and with the President of Nigeria. She will also have meetings with the UN country team, and with senior Government officials of Nigeria.

The Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York on 14 January.

Today, UNESCO’s Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, condemned the terror attack on a Shiite cultural centre in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, on 28 December that claimed at least 40 lives, and left more than 80 civilians injured.

Ms. Azoulay stressed that freedom of expression and journalists’ essential role in upholding it must be protected from terror that seeks to reduce individuals and communities to unquestioning obedience.
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