Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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11-May-2018 00:23:52
Briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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Starting this weekend, the Secretary-General will travel first to Vienna and then to Brussels.

Following those stops, the Secretary-General will be in Washington, D.C., starting on Thursday, 17 May. He will have meetings on Capitol Hill with members of Congress and key officials in the US Administration.

On Saturday, 19 May, the Secretary-General will deliver the commencement address at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He will return to New York following that event.

The World Health Organization said today they have estimated figures showing a total of 32 Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the period between 4 April and 9 May 2018.

WHO and Médecins sans frontières (MSF) already have a response team on the ground and a second team is being set up, with between 20 and 40 specialists in epidemiology, logistics, social mobilization, contact-tracing and vaccination programmes.

Personal protective equipment has been deployed and we hope that mobile laboratory facilities will be functioning by the weekend.

Access to the area is extremely problematic, as it is 15 hours by motorcycle from the closest town; WHO is discussing with the World Food Programme (WFP) the possibility of clearing the runway in Bikoro and setting up an air bridge.

The outbreak is of particular concern as it has already been identified in three locations over a range of 60 km. Furthermore, three health workers are already known to have been infected, one of them having died yesterday.

WHO is therefore planning for all scenarios, included the worst-case scenario. It has released US$1 million from its contingency fund on the day the outbreak has been declared.

Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock has announced an immediate US$2 million allocation from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to help humanitarian partners in the DRC fight and contain this new outbreak of Ebola.

On South Sudan, three senior UN officials today strongly condemned the recent escalation of violence in former Unity state and urged all parties to end the attacks against civilians, especially women and children.

In the last two weeks, reports from the former Unity state indicate intense fighting between Government forces, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), and the SPLA-in Opposition (SPLA-IO). Preliminary investigations by the United Nations have uncovered alarming patterns of serious human rights violations and abuses, including killings, pillaging, abductions, rape and gang-rape committed by both parties during the fighting, leading to forced displacement of the population. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, and the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, said these violations could constitute atrocity crimes.

They added that sexual violence as a widespread and systematic tactic of war continues in South Sudan, reportedly to punish civilians who are perceived to be associated with a particular political or ethnic group. There are more details in a joint communique available online.

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, will travel to Sudan and South Sudan from 12 to 16 May to see first-hand the protracted humanitarian situation in Sudan and the devastating consequences of ongoing violence in South Sudan.

While in Sudan, from 12 to 14 May, Mr. Lowcock will meet people displaced by conflict in South Kordofan and engage with senior Government officials and humanitarian partners in Khartoum. Sudan is one of the world’s largest protracted emergencies with at least 5.5 million people in need of assistance. The humanitarian community has appealed for US$1 billion to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need in 2018, of which $229 million has been received.

In South Sudan, from 15 to 16 May, Mr. Lowcock will witness the current humanitarian situation there and call for urgent action to alleviate suffering. The crisis in South Sudan continues to grow in severity, scale and scope with 7.1 million people at risk of becoming severely food insecure in the coming months. South Sudan’s Humanitarian Response plan is currently just 14 per cent funded, leaving a gap of nearly $1.5 billion.

In Afghanistan, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour has welcomed the commitment by the Government to improve the human rights situation, but he also urged more action to end attacks on civilians, mainly by extremists, and the continued discrimination against Afghan women at all levels of society.
“What would send a strong signal to men who continue to violently abuse women with impunity would be to start seriously prosecuting them,” Mr. Gilmour said. He also urged the authorities to investigate and prosecute military or civilian perpetrators of sexual abuse of boys.

In his meeting with President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday, Mr. Gilmour welcomed the President’s clear commitment to take additional measures to protect civilians, despite extremely difficult circumstances.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, met in Moscow today with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and he warned that the United Nations is very concerned that there is a conflagration of conflicts currently in the Middle East that are raising tensions on all levels, including the situation in Syria, the situation in Yemen, and the Palestinian track.

He said he was particularly worried about the US embassy move to Jerusalem on Monday and the planned protests in Gaza. He once more called on Israel to be very careful and calibrated in how it uses force in addressing the protestors in Gaza. He also called on Hamas and the leaders of the protests in Gaza to prevent friction and to prevent situations in which provocations can happen.

Yesterday, two groups of people reportedly reached the Al-Madiq Castle crossing point after being evacuated from northern rural Homs to the north-western parts of Syria. One of the two groups was reportedly denied entry to Al Bab city and forced to return to the crossing point after waiting for 37 hours. The total number of people evacuated from northern rural Homs was 6,194, as of yesterday.

The freedom of movement of civilians must be ensured by all parties on the ground. Any evacuation of civilians must be safe, voluntary and in strict accordance with protection standards under international law.

The United Nations continues to call on all parties, and those with influence over them, to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to allow safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access to all in need in line with their obligations under international humanitarian 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.

In a statement yesterday, the Secretary-General congratulated Malaysia on the peaceful holding of national and state legislative elections and commended the people of Malaysia for their strong commitment to the democratic process.

The Secretary-General welcomed the announcement of the formation of a new Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and he paid tribute to outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The Secretary-General looks forward to further working closely with Malaysia on issues of mutual interest.

In a statement yesterday, the Secretary-General welcomed the trilateral summit held between Japan, China and the Republic of Korea on 9 May in Tokyo, the support of the leaders of the three countries to the Panmunjom Declaration and their cooperation for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The Secretary-General hopes that the joint resolve of the countries in Northeast Asia will strengthen the path to achieve lasting peace and prosperity in this region.

Today, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme David Beasley, concluded a four-day visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

He said that while there are significant challenges ahead, he remained optimistic. “I see a country that is working hard to achieve food security and good nutrition,” he added.

During his visit, Mr. Beasley spent two days in Pyongyang meeting with senior government officials and two days visiting a number of WFP projects in different parts of the rural areas of the country. WFP aims to assist 650,000 women and children every month. However, funding shortfalls have meant that rations have had to be reduced and suspended in some cases. Mr. Beasley’s will continue his travels in East Asia and will head to China, Japan and the Republic of Korea next.

Since the onset of the rainy season in East Africa, consistent and heavy rains have caused flash and river flooding in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

Flooding has resulted in the displacement of 151,000 people in the Somali region of Ethiopia and 311,100 people in Kenya. In Somalia, flooding has affected 718,000 people, including the displacement of 220,000 people in the southern and central regions of the country.

Respective governments and humanitarian partners are providing assistance but the delivery of aid is being impeded by resource constraints.

In Ethiopia, urgent interventions are required to prevent the re-emergence of Acute Watery Diarrhoea outbreaks in the Somali region.

The Kenya Red Cross Society has reported an urgent need to replenish non-food stocks and US $23.8 million are critically required for assistance in Somalia.

Tomorrow is World Migratory Bird Day, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of protecting migratory birds and their habitats all around the world.

In his message for the Day, the Secretary-General said that migratory birds connect people, ecosystems and nations and are symbols of peace and of an interconnected planet.

He added that the Day is a reminder that ecosystems worldwide are threatened by climate change and urged governments and people everywhere to take concerted conservation action that will help to ensure the birds’ survival -- and our own.

Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritania and the United Kingdom have paid their regular budget dues in full. This takes the Honour Roll to 93.
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