Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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19-Mar-2018 00:22:19
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The UN in Syria is urgently appealing for help to stem the catastrophic situation for tens of thousands of people, both from East Ghouta and Afrin.

The UN and its partners have been informed of the desperate conditions of people who have left East Ghouta and Afrin, who are tired, hungry, traumatized and afraid, and we need to provide them with urgent aid. These civilians are facing harrowing humanitarian conditions. Many remain trapped by conflict. All are in desperate need.

Insecurity and fierce hostilities continue to endanger people in East Ghouta. Since 11 March, at least 25,000 people have reportedly left East Ghouta. UN teams have been visiting on a daily basis the collective shelters (Dweir, Adra and Herjelleh) in Rural Damascus where people who have left East Ghouta are staying. All of the shelters are well over capacity, with more people continuing to arrive on a daily basis.

Most of the people interviewed had some health conditions (intestinal infections, hepatitis, skin disease, trauma), likely due to years of lack of access to medicine and health care

Meanwhile, nearly 100,000 people have been displaced by hostilities in Afrin District. The majority, some 75,000 people, have fled to Tal Refaat and the remainder went to Nubul, Zahraa and surrounding villages.

The massive influx of IDPs is putting a strain on host communities, which are already overwhelmed. All 16 schools in Tal Refaat are being used as IDP shelters, resulting in the interruption of education.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock briefed the Security Council following his visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo last week.

He stressed that humanitarian needs in the country have doubled over the last year, with 13 million people in need of assistance, in a context of persistent insecurity and bureaucratic impediments.

He added that the single largest impediment to the humanitarian response was underfunding. This year, the appeal requires 1.7 $billion, nearly four times what was secured last year.

Mr. Lowcock encouraged high-level participation and pledges by the Security Council members to the first-ever Humanitarian Conference on the DRC organized on April 13 in Geneva.

He stressed that we also need solutions to address the root causes of the worsening crisis, including on the political front, as well as for Congo’s neighbors to behave responsibly.

Progress in the DRC is possible, Mr. Lowcock told the Council, saying that infrastructure had improved in many major cities, access to education had increased and child mortality had fallen. We need to strengthen our support to its people, he added.

A new report issued today by the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo says that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly was severely restricted and often violently suppressed in the country in 2017, and the trend continues so far this year.

The report is based on information collected during six main mobilization days. While some people armed with sticks and broomsticks did attempt to perpetrate violence during some protests, the vast majority of demonstrators were peaceful. The use of excessive force – including lethal force – by the authorities was thus unlawful, unjustified and disproportionate.

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in the DRC, Leila Zerrougui, said the report highlights impunity gaps and a continued shrinking of the democratic space in the country observed since the beginning of 2015.

However, she said the creation by the Ministry of Human Rights of a joint commission of inquiry with representatives of the civil society is a positive step forward for accountability and reparation for the victims.

Ms. Zerrougui and the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged the Government to allow the exercise of the rights to peaceful assembly and expression, warning that repression would only breed frustration, could lead to serious deteriorations in the security situation in the country and could pose a threat to the electoral process.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations said that it has been informed by the Canadian Government of its intention to deploy an aviation unit, including helicopters, to the UN Mission in Mali, MINUSMA. Canada’s contribution will play a valuable role in the continued efforts to bring peace and stability to Mali and the Sahel and the UN is grateful for the pledge of these important assets and for Canada’s contribution to peacekeeping.

The aviation asset should be on the ground in August. Further details are being discussed between the peacekeeping department and the Canadian Government.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that an inter-agency team has been deployed to the districts in Madagascar most affected by tropical storm Eliakim.

Access remains a major challenge as the most impacted area in the northeast is only accessible by air or sea during the rainy season.

17 deaths have been reported so far, and about 2,500 residents were forced to evacuate.

In Brasilia, UNESCO today launched its World Water Development Report, which highlights nature-based solutions, such as regenerating soils and forests, harvesting rain water, and preserving wetlands to address water management challenges.
Nature-based solutions, also known as green infrastructure, can help improve water quality, reduce risks associated with climate change, and enhance water availability.

According to the report, water management is heavily dominated by human-built or “grey” infrastructure while green infrastructure remains under-utilized. UNESCO argues that an appropriate mix of green and grey investments can maximize benefits while minimizing costs.

Thailand has paid its regular budget dues in full. The Honour Roll is now at 68.
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