Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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28-Feb-2018 00:25:54
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali reports that a UN military vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device on the Boni-Douentza axis, in the region of Mopti. Preliminary reports indicate that four peacekeepers were killed and four others were wounded. Medical evacuations are ongoing.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, condemned this attack. We join him in extending our condolences to the families of the victims and in wishing a speedy recovery to the injured.

UNICEF said today they are deeply saddened and shocked by the killing of their colleague, along with five other education workers, who were attacked on 25 February while travelling in the north-western region of the Central African Republic, near Markounda, a remote area near the Chadian border.

They strongly condemn this senseless act against aid workers who were there to improve the lives of the most vulnerable populations.

We join them in offering our deepest condolences to the families and the colleagues of the victims.

The Secretary-General, along with the Deputy Secretary-General and the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Haiti, Josette Sheeran, will host a high-level retreat bringing together some of the world's most committed innovators in finance, health and technology to stand with the Government and people of Haiti in defeating the scourge of cholera.

Defeating cholera in Haiti is not only a matter of saving lives but of justice. Today, incidence of cholera has declined by 99 percent, and we praise the Government of Haiti and the people for their leadership on this front.

To eradicate the last 1 per cent of incidences, we will explore game-changing ways of partnering with nations or deploying new technologies in other areas of the world to brainstorm with the top leadership of the United Nations and Haiti on how we write this new chapter of hope for Haiti.

The President of Haiti has called for a shift from aid to investment, the all-critical developmental shift from ‘handouts to handshakes.' The Secretary General has pledged a new type of partnership with Haiti in achieving not only the 2030 vision of a Haiti without extreme poverty but also in defeating the devastating eight-year-long epidemic of cholera.

For more than a century, the devastation of cholera has galvanized nations from England to Italy to the Philippines to transform hygiene, water, sanitation and health systems. The dream here is that this terrible tragedy can be alchemized into a new beginning for Haiti and become an example to the world that big goals can be achieved in targeted, measurable ways by marshalling the world's best practices and ideas.

This is an opening of a new relationship between the Government of Haiti and the UN. The SG and the Special Envoy are deeply committed to partnering with Haiti to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to end the scourge of cholera.

This is an important matter of justice and saving lives and we will never waver from that commitment and will see it through until the job is done.

Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told the Security Council this morning that the brief respite the Council unanimously demanded for Syria only days ago in resolution 2401 has not materialized. The airstrikes, shelling, and ground offensives continue. There are even reports of yet another chlorine gas attack. What we need, he said, is the implementation of 2401, and that is not happening.

He said that the United Nations condemns all violations of international law by all parties, including shelling from Eastern Ghouta that has injured or killed civilians in Damascus. He added that the scale of the Government’s indiscriminate military attacks against Eastern Ghouta, an area with a civilian population of 400,000, cannot be justified on the basis of targeting Jabhat al Nusra fighters.

Mr. Feltman recalled that yesterday, the head of the Syrian Negotiations Commission transmitted to the Secretary-General a letter on behalf of the three major non-state armed opposition groups—Jaish al Islam, Failaq al Rahman, and Ahrar al Sham—and civil groups in Eastern Ghouta regarding their full commitment to the implementation of resolution 2401. Specifically, they committed to ensuring the necessary environment for UN humanitarian access as well as “to expel all elements of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, Jabhat al Nusra, and Al Qaida and all who belong to these groups from Eastern Ghouta.”

Mark Lowcock, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Security Council that more than 580 people are now reported to have been killed due to air and ground-based strikes in Eastern Ghouta since 18 February, with well over 1,000 people wounded. At the same time, hundreds of rockets from Eastern Ghouta into Damascus have reportedly killed 15 people, and injured over 200.

He said that the United Nations and its partners have convoys ready to go to ten besieged and hard-to-reach locations. They include a 45-truck convoy with aid for 90,000 people to Douma in Eastern Ghouta. But Mr. Lowcock warned that humanitarian access has decreased recently, to the point that we were reaching more than 50 times as many people in besieged and hard-to- reach areas last year as we have done so far this year.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, today delivered a message to the International Conference on Lake Chad in Abuja on behalf of the Secretary-General.

He said that the Lake Chad was once a major source of livelihoods for millions of people living throughout its basin but today the lake’s water level has shrunk 90 per cent compared with what it was in the 1960s. He added that as desertification advances and trade routes between the affected countries are interrupted, food security has become a major concern. There are 4.5 million food insecure people across the region and this is projected to increase to 5.8 million by August this year. This has also had a deep impact on the area’s socio-economic outlook and has led to increased insecurity in a region already affected by violent extremism.

Mr. Chambas called on the governments of the countries of the Lake Chad area and the international community at large to take decisive action to save Lake Chad. Doing so, he said, will help restore lives and livelihoods for millions of people, foster regional integration and development, and offer a durable solution to the Lake Chad Basin crisis.

In Brussels today the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ursula Mueller, spoke at a conference organised by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) on the humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine. She reiterated the need to keep the spotlight on the dire situation faced by millions of conflict-impacted Ukrainians.

She said it is sobering to note that four years ago, Ukraine had no need for a humanitarian appeal. Yet today, 3.4 million Ukrainians need humanitarian assistance for their protection and survival, particularly in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. At least 2,530 civilians have been killed since hostilities began, and nearly 9,000 people have been injured. Some 1.6 million Ukrainians are displaced across the country. The most vulnerable among these people are the elderly, with pensioners making up over half of the people in need.

Yesterday Ms. Mueller concluded her visit to Chad where she travelled to the Lac region to witness the humanitarian consequences of the Lake Chad Basin crisis. Upon her return to N’Djamena, she met with the Prime Minister, Albert Pahimi Padacké. She thanked Chad for hosting refugees from neighbouring countries, and discussed ways to engage donors to boost funding to meet humanitarian needs and provide durable solutions.

A statement issued yesterday said that the Secretary-General is gravely concerned over the situation of the more than 100 school girls abducted by suspected Boko Haram insurgents during an attack on an educational institution in Dapchi Town, Yobe State, on 19 February. He strongly condemned the abduction and attack.

The Secretary-General calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all missing girls and for their safe return to their families. He urges the national authorities to swiftly bring those responsible for this act to justice.

The Secretary-General reiterates the solidarity and support of the United Nations to the Governments of Nigeria and other affected countries in the region in their fight against terrorism and violent extremism.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) welcomes the Afghan Government’s renewed call for unconditional peace talks with the Taliban and the outlining of a framework for peace, presented at the Kabul Process II conference in the Afghan capital today.

Together with the 25 countries and international organizations participating in the second Kabul Process conference, the UN Mission strongly supports the vision for peace through intra-Afghan dialogue and urges all parties involved to engage at the earliest time.

UNAMA commends the stated preparedness of Afghan authorities to discuss all issues as part of a peace process, including such key aspects as the constitution and the lifting of sanctions against persons and entities, as well as the release of prisoners.

At the opening this morning of the 42nd UN International School-UN Conference, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed addressed the participants on the theme of technology, innovation and the future of work.

Her speech touched on many of the positive aspects of how technological advances are profoundly changing how we live, work and interact. But she also highlighted the concerns and risks to be mindful of.

Speaking to her young audience, which she described as “the influencers of today and the leaders of tomorrow”, she reminded them, over the coming days, to keep a clear mind about the values and aspirations that define humankind, and to “think creatively and act big.” She urged them to “think globally and act locally,” and to “be the change the world needs.”

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, has said that it welcomes the recent news coverage about possible sexual exploitation and abuse in the distribution of humanitarian aid inside Syria. UNFPA underscores that it has zero tolerance for any form of abuse or exploitation.

One of the premier tools of the humanitarian system in Syria to look at the forms of such abuse is the Voices publication, which has been produced for the last three years as a programming tool to determine needs and plan responses. By bringing such information to the attention of the entire United Nations and other humanitarian actors, it helps to direct programming to address such issues as sexual exploitation and abuse. UNFPA is proud of its work as the lead agency within the United Nations humanitarian system to combat all forms of gender-based violence.

In its own programmes providing reproductive health and gender-based violence services in southern Syria, UNFPA has put internal mechanisms in place to guard against sexual exploitation and abuse, including inspections of our programmes by independent outside monitors. UNFPA works only with two NGOs in southern Syria and has not received any allegations of abuse or exploitation.
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