Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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16-May-2018 00:16:37
Noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

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The Secretary-General is on his way to Washington.

Earlier in the day, he was in Brussels where he started his day with a working breakfast with Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission. The two had wide-ranging discussions touching on a number of issues of common interest, including the broader situation in the Middle East and institutional cooperation between the United Nations and the European Union.

The Secretary-General then met with the EU Commissioners for a working lunch. Afterwards, he had separate bilateral meeting with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

In remarks to the press after his meeting with Mr. Juncker, the Secretary-General appealed for the European Union to make its voice more heard in international relations as a central pillar of today’s world. He said that the UN supports the efforts being made by European Union to rescue the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and its activities to move the world forward on sustainable development and climate action, among other things.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, briefed the Security Council by VTC this morning and warned that the recent reports of fighting in that country involving Israel and Iran were signs of a worrying escalation to a situation not seen in the region since 1973.

He reminded Council members of the Secretary-General’s appeal for agreement on an accountability mechanism to deal with allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria.

Mr. de Mistura warned that if the situation in Idlib becomes similar to what we say in eastern Ghouta, it could be six times worse, affecting more than 2 million people. He told the Council that the discussions held among guarantor states in Astana this week included efforts to avoid a worst-case scenario in Idlib.

Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that attacks on health facilities in Syria have continued at an unprecedented rate in 2018. A reported attack on the Central Hospital in Idlib Governorate this past weekend is the 92nd attack on health care facilities recorded this year. Reported deaths due to attacks on health care facilities have already surpassed the total number of deaths recorded in all of 2017. Across Syria, the 92 reported attacks on health care facilities in 2018 have resulted in 89 deaths and 135 injuries. In 2017 there were a total of 112 reported attacks, resulting in 73 deaths and 149 injuries.

The Fact-Finding Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed in a report that chlorine was likely used as a chemical weapon on 4 February 2018 in Saraqib, in Syria’s Idlib Governorate.

The conclusions are based, among other things, on the presence of two cylinders, which were determined as previously containing chlorine; witness testimony; environmental samples that demonstrated the unusual presence of chlorine in the local environment; and the number of patients at medical facilities shortly after the incident who showed signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine and other toxic chemicals.

Ahmet Uzumcu, the OPCW Director-General, strongly condemned the continued use of toxic chemicals as weapons by anyone, for any reason, and in any circumstances. Such acts contradict the unequivocal prohibition against chemical weapons enshrined in the Chemical Weapons Convention.

UNICEF and its partners have delivered two truck-loads of urgently needed medical supplies to the Gaza Strip – enough to meet the needs of an estimated 70,000 people. The drugs and medical equipment include antibiotics, saline solution and syringes for the treatment of injuries.

Since 30 March 2018, over 1,000 children have been injured in violence in the Gaza Strip. Many of these injuries are severe and potentially life-altering, including some resulting in amputations.

Children should be protected, and not targeted, used in violence or put in risky situations. As tensions rise across Palestine, UNICEF calls on all actors to put in place specific measures to keep children out of harm’s way and avoid child casualties.

Peacekeepers from the UN Mission in the Central African Republic are monitoring the situation in Bambari, in Ouaka Prefecture, following an exchange of fire yesterday between UPC combatants and members of a joint patrol of UN formed police unit and Internal Security Forces. This clash was followed by a second exchange, when the UN mission’s encampment in Bambari was targeted with small arms fire.

The UN Mission reports that some 300 civilians sought refuge with peacekeepers, while around 200, mainly women and children, fled to Evéché as a result of the clashes. At least 9 people were killed and the headquarters of some international non-governmental organizations were looted. All UN staff have been accounted for and UN peacekeepers have increased patrolling.

The Mission also notes that 37 prisoners reportedly escaped from the Bambari prison during the night of 15 to 16 May.

Humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock concluded his two-day mission to South Sudan today where he met with Government officials, members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in Opposition, humanitarian agencies and partners. He also met with many people affected by the crisis in Juba, Yei Town and Mundu, who all called for peace as the only solution to the humanitarian situation.

In his meetings with authorities, Mr. Lowcock called for rapid, safe, unhindered humanitarian access to all people in need. Aid agencies in South Sudan are subject to harassment, extortion, looting, kidnappings, killings, predatory fees and levies and other blockages across the country – perpetrated by all parties to the conflict.

Some 7 million people need humanitarian assistance and protection in South Sudan in 2018. Over a third of the country's citizens have been displaced, including nearly 2.5 million as refugees.

On Tuesday, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Michael Keating, joined the country’s President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmaajo” in calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities between ‘Somaliland’ and Puntland forces following recent fighting in the Tukaraq area of the Sool region. Mr. Keating encouraged the authorities of ‘Somaliland’ and Puntland to urgently seek a peaceful solution to their differences.

Mr. Keating also briefed Council members yesterday afternoon and stressed that more resources are needed to address the root causes of fragility, chronic poverty and low human development affecting Somalis. He also emphasized the role that the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) continues to play in protecting population centres, main supply routes and Somalia’s overall political progress.

In Tajikistan, the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour today called for free and open space for civil society.

He stressed that human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and others must be allowed to carry out their crucial work unhindered by intimidation, unnecessary administrative inspections, and the fear of prosecution. Mr. Gilmour also offered technical support from the UN Human Rights Office to set up a national preventive mechanism and to end torture.

During his two-day visit, Mr. Gilmour met with civil society representatives and afterwards called for effective measures to combat widespread discrimination against women, youth, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTI community.

A new report launched today by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that the world’s poorest countries can gain US$350 billion by 2030 by scaling up investments in preventing and treating chronic diseases, like heart disease and cancer.

The report states that for every US$1 invested in scaling up actions to address noncommunicable diseases in low- and lower-middle-income countries (LLMICs), there will be a return to society of at least US$7 in increased employment, productivity and longer life.

Among the most cost-effective interventions are increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol, reducing salt intake through the reformulation of food products, administering drug therapy and counselling for people who have had a heart attack or stroke, vaccinating girls aged 9 to 13 years against human papillomavirus and screening women aged 30 to 49 years for cervical cancer.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and its Goodwill Ambassador, Tunisian actress Hend Sabry, today launched an innovative digital fundraising campaign for Ramadan.

Through ShareTheMeal, WFP’s fundraising app, smartphone users can help families in need in Syria and Yemen by sharing their iftar, the meal served at sunset in Ramadan to break the daylong fast, and donating to help those in need.

As little as US$15 covers the basic food needs of a hungry child for an entire month, bringing vital support to some of the most vulnerable families in the world.

The Table feature on the ShareTheMeal app enables monthly givers to follow their donation and see exactly how it is helping families in need.

Members are virtually connected with the people they are supporting through personalized updates and exclusive stories, as well as finding out what food different families have bought using their donations.
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