Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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ENGLISH 09-Jan-2018 00:14:42
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
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The Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, briefed the Security Council this morning on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He said that despite significant progress in the preparation for elections, the implementation of the 31 December 2016 political agreement remained only partial. Political brinkmanship and a refusal to compromise will only result in further delays and deepening of the political crisis, he warned, not only fueling political tensions but also compounding an already fragile security situation.

Mr. Lacroix stressed that in recent months, armed groups in eastern DRC have launched repeated attacks on positions of the Congolese Army, with a severe impact on the civilian population.

He also briefed the Council on his recent visit to Semuliki, where an attack by suspected members of the Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF, killed 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers of MONUSCO's Force Intervention Brigade.

The asymmetric nature of the threat posed by the ADF demands a combination of military and non-military means, he said, with much closer regional cooperation, disruption of the political and economic support networks of the group, strengthened cooperation among MONUSCO and national security forces, and targeted military operations.

Mr. Lacroix also detailed ongoing efforts to increase the mobility and flexibility of the Force and the Mission's police and civilian components. Specifically, preparations are underway for the deployment of a third Rapidly Deployable Battalion (RDB), which will be operational by next month, Mr. Lacroix said.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs tell us that about 83,000 people have been impacted by Tropical Cyclone Ava, with some 29 dead and 22 missing.

The cyclone damaged 17 health centres and affected 141 schools. It also cut off road access to some south-eastern and south-western parts of the country.

Humanitarian partners are supporting the Government in the provision of sanitation, water and medical supplies, as well as in camp management. OCHA is assisting in coordination and data collection.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is currently in Madagascar, where he is meeting plague survivors and affected families, Government officials and representatives of UN agencies and health partners.

A recent nationwide outbreak of pneumonic and bubonic plague caused more than 200 deaths over four months in Madagascar.

Dr. Tedros said this unprecedented outbreak was contained due to the tireless efforts of Malagasy health workers and partners, and called on international development partners to help better understand the wider factors that allow plague to spread, and strengthen national capacities to manage similar emergencies in the future.

In Syria, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that, while fighting and clashes in eastern Ghouta have increased substantially since November, there has been a further escalation in airstrikes and ground-based strikes since 31 December. Reports received from the ground indicate a rise in airstrikes across a number of towns in the besieged enclave, including Harasta, Arbeen, Modira, Mesraba, Hamourya, and Duma. Ground-based strikes were also increasingly reported across East Ghouta.

Meanwhile, Syrian refugees in Lebanon are more vulnerable than ever, with more than half now living in extreme poverty and over three quarters living below the poverty line – according to the findings of a new survey by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP). The annual Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees reveals that 58 per cent of households are now living in extreme poverty – on less than US$2.87 per person per day. This is some 5 per cent more than a year ago. And 76 per cent of refugee households are now living below the overall poverty line, which is less than US $3.84 per day.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, is appealing to Israel to halt its policy of relocating Eritreans and Sudanese to sub-Saharan Africa. This is after some 80 cases were identified in which people relocated by Israel risked their lives by taking dangerous onward journeys to Europe via Libya.

All 80 cases involved Eritrean refugees or asylum seekers who were interviewed by UNHCR staff in Rome. All had entered Israel via the Sinai. In every case they reported torture, mistreatment and extortion before reaching Israel.

UNHCR is seriously concerned over Israel’s plans, announced on 1 January, to forcibly relocate Eritreans and Sudanese to countries in Africa or have them face indefinite detention. The Refugee Agency stands ready to work with Israel to find alternative solutions for the protection needs of asylum seekers, in line with international standards. This includes resettlement out of Israel, as has happened previously.

The UN condemns the armed attack in the Casamance region of Senegal on 6 January 2018. The Organization conveys its condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and Government of Senegal and welcomes President Macky Sall's calls for lasting peace in Casamance. It also takes note of the Government's ongoing investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice and welcomes the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance’s appeal for a peaceful solution to the situation in Casamance.

The Secretary-General sent a letter to the Secretary General of the Frente Polisario, Ibrahim Ghali, in which he stressed it was crucial to ensure that tensions do not erupt anew in the Guerguerat area.

No action should be taken that may constitute a change to the status quo of the Buffer Strip, he insisted, reiterating his strong commitment to relaunch the political process and urging both parties to continue to support the efforts of his Personal Envoy, Horst Kohler.
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