Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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16-Mar-2018 00:18:20
Briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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In a statement, the Secretary-General said today he is deeply concerned by the desperation shown by the people fleeing in a massive exodus from Eastern Ghouta and Afrin.

He said he profoundly regrets that resolution 2401, concerning the cessation of hostilities throughout Syria, has not been implemented. He urges all parties to the conflict to fully respect international humanitarian and human rights law and guarantee the protection of civilians. Any evacuation of civilians must be safe, voluntary, and in strict accordance with protection standards under international humanitarian and human rights law. It is also imperative that all those displaced are allowed to return voluntarily, in safety and in dignity, to their homes as soon as the situation allows it. The Secretary-General calls on the Security Council to stand united and take concrete steps to urgently end this tragedy.

The United Nations and its partners are fully mobilized to bring immediate life-saving relief to all those in need. The Secretary-General calls on all parties to ensure safe and unimpeded humanitarian access in all areas.

The Secretary-General added that the reality on the ground across Syria demands swift action to protect civilians, alleviate suffering, prevent further instability, address the root causes of the conflict and forge, at long last, a durable political solution in line with resolution 2254.

Staffan de Mistura, the Special Envoy for Syria, spoke to the Security Council by video teleconference today and said that a ceasefire has been holding in Douma for the past six days, but fighting has continued in other parts of eastern Ghouta.

Violence has also escalated across many other parts of Syria, he said, including Afrin, Foah, Kefraya and Idlib. He emphasised that resolution 2401 should not be applied piecemeal.

The Special Envoy noted disturbing new reports of the use of chlorine as a weapon, while adding that we are not in a position to confirm these reports.

Mr. de Mistura said that the United Nations remains concerned about the situation of 3 million people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas across Syria.

The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, will depart New York over the weekend for Geneva, to participate in the meeting of the International Labour Organization Governing Board and the World Summit for Information Society Forum. She will also hold consultations with UN entities on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

On 21 March, she will proceed to Monrovia, Liberia, to participate in the event to celebrate the successful completion of the UN Mission in Liberia’s mandate, as well as in the National Reconciliation Conference and the High-level Meeting on the national development agenda for 2018-2024. She will also meet senior Government officials, development partners and the UN Country Team.

On 23 March, she will travel to Nigeria for consultations with senior Government officials and other stakeholders in Lagos and Abuja.

On 25 March, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Prague to attend an ECOSOC Preparatory Meeting “Towards sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies through participation of all”. She will also meet with Czech authorities and discuss a range of matters concerning the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

On 27 March, the Deputy Secretary-General will proceed to Nouakchott, Mauritania, to attend the Strategic Consultative Meeting on the Sahel.

She will return to New York on 29 March 2018.

The Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis was launched this afternoon in Geneva by Filippo Grandi, the High Commissioner for Refugees, William Swing, Director General of the International Organisation for Migration, and Mia Seppo, the UN Resident Coordinator for Bangladesh.

It is an appeal for US$ 951 million, to assist 1.3 million people including 884,000 Rohingya refugees and 336,000 host community members until the end of the year.

Urgent funding is required to meet life-saving and acute humanitarian needs of refugees as well as affected host communities.

For example, over 16 million litres of safe water are needed per day for the Rohingya refugee population; and 12,200 metric tons of food are required per month to sustain the refugee population.

Food alone accounts for 25 percent of the appeal. The World Food Programme urgently needs USD$ 230 million for food assistance, livelihoods and engineering preparations for the monsoon season.

It also plans to expand its e-voucher programme to cover all existing refugees and the new influx by the end of 2018, dependent on funding.

Needs highlighted in the Joint Response Plan also include 43 Primary Health Centres and 144 Health posts, as well as 5,000 classrooms and 100 nutrition treatment centres.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) reports that today in Bria, in Haute-Kotto prefecture, it conducted an operation and arrested local anti-Balaka leader Jean-Francis Diandi, known as “Ramazani”. He is a prominent leader of an anti-Balaka group that positioned itself notably inside the internally displaced people camp in Bria. He was arrested in response to an arrest warrant issued by the Central African authorities accusing him of acts of criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, forcible confinement and torture.

The arrest prompted a crowd of approximately 500 people to throw stones at UN vehicles and into the UN mission premises, impacting some offices and parked UN vehicles; no injuries were reported and UN peacekeepers are securing the perimeter. The situation has since calmed down.

The UN Refugee Agency is increasingly alarmed at the plight of thousands of Central African refugees who have fled to southern Chad since late last year.

This influx is the biggest since 2014 is and overwhelming the ability of humanitarian agencies to respond.

UNHCR’s office in Chad needs some USD$149 million this year to meet urgent needs, yet as of now has received just 2 per cent of this amount.

Food shortages and rising prices are posing a direct threat to the lives of the refugees and the host population, who are sharing with the new arrivals their meagre food and other resources.

As severe floods have affected this season’s harvest, food reserves at family and community levels are almost exhausted.

In total, there are some 632,000 people under UNHCR’s care in Chad, in great need for international support.

The UN Refugee Agency is working with partner organizations in western Uganda to support a growing number of people, most of them women and children, fleeing horrific inter-ethnic violence and sexual abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

More than 57,000 refugees have been displaced by the violence in eastern DRC since the beginning of this year. An overwhelming majority are women and children.

In the space of just three days, between 10 - 13 March, more than 4,000 people crossed into Uganda from the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu.

UNHCR fears thousands more could arrive in Uganda if the security situation inside the DRC does not immediately improve.

The refugee response funding appeal for Uganda of nearly US$180 million remains poorly funded, severely restricting capacities of humanitarian organisations to deliver vital aid and assistance.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Secretary-General condemned the 14 March attack at a police checkpoint near a mosque in the outskirts of Lahore in Pakistan.

The United Nations supports the efforts of the Government of Pakistan to fight terrorism with full respect for international human rights norms and obligations.

The World Health Organization, UNICEF and national health authorities have completed a large-scale vaccination campaign to control the spread of diphtheria in Yemen.

The campaign targeted nearly 2.7 million children aged 6 weeks to 15 years in 11 governorates. It focused on locations reporting suspected cases of diphtheria and areas at high risk of spread of the infectious respiratory disease. More than 6,000 health workers were mobilized during the campaign, including for community engagement and the administration of the vaccine.

The rapid spread of diphtheria in Yemen highlights major gaps in routine vaccination coverage in recent years and signifies a collapsing health system. Only 50% of all health facilities in Yemen are partially or fully functioning.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the murder in Brazil of Rio de Janeiro city councillor Marielle Franco and her driver.
Ms. Franco was a well-known human rights defender who campaigned against police violence and for the rights of women and people of African descent, particularly of those living in poor areas.

The Human Rights Office calls for an investigation to be carried out as soon as possible, and stress that it must be thorough, transparent and independent if it is to be seen as credible. Strenuous efforts must be made to identify those responsible and bring them before the courts.
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