Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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30-Jan-2019 00:15:17
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, briefed the Security Council this morning on Syria. He said that people there are suffering a cold hard winter, with freezing temperatures, snowfall and heavy rain resulting in flooding which is destroying shelters and forcing tens of thousands more people to move. Millions of civilians are living under tents or tarpaulins or in damaged buildings with no power or heating, and there are severe shortages of all the basics, he added, from blankets to baby milk to bandages.

Mr. Lowcock said the United Nations has raised $81 million, which has allowed us to assist 1.2 million people thus far. Continued support is critical to ensuring that all those in need can be reached, the Emergency Relief Coordinator told Council members.

Mr. Lowcock expressed his concern for the roughly 42,000 people who remain stranded in Rukban along the Syria-Jordan border. Conditions in the informal settlements have continued to deteriorate since the last humanitarian convoy to the area, which took place at the beginning of November last year. He said that eight infants have reportedly died since last month since the cold is making the situation even worse.

Turning to the north-east of the country, he voiced concern about the humanitarian impact of ongoing military operations in Deir Ezzour, where thousands have been displaced and an unknown number of people remain trapped under Da’esh control. Continuing and intense airstrikes and ground fighting have caused scores of civilian casualties and damaged critical infrastructure.

Before the Syria meeting, the Security Council members renewed the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Cyprus for a further six months.

The Council welcomed the opening of two new crossings in November as an important contribution in trust-building.

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, has wrapped up a 12-day visit to Myanmar.

She visited the capital, Naypyitaw, where she met Government ministers and the Chairperson of the Independent Commission of Enquiry.

In Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, the Special Envoy focused on the need for freedom of movement, which she stressed is key for all people and their access to livelihoods, as well rebuilding trust.

While recognizing that the current security situation in northern Rakhine made humanitarian access and the return of refugees difficult, she still underlined the importance of allowing aid agencies to help civilians in the area.

She also expressed the hope that Myanmar and Bangladesh can further strengthen their cooperation regarding the repatriation of refugees and she will travel to Dhaka next month.

Also wrapping up a visit to Myanmar is UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, who met Government officials in Naypyitaw and children and families in Rakhine State during a three-day visit.

The head of the Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Department, Rosemary DiCarlo, is in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, where she held discussions with President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo and the Prime Minister, Hassan Ali Khaire.

The President, Prime Minister and the Under-Secretary-General discussed practical measures for the Federal Government of Somalia and the UN to work closely together for the benefit of all Somali people as well as to support Somalia’s state building and peacebuilding priorities.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reports that hundreds of people, including women and children, were apparently killed during clashes between Batende and Banunu communities in Yumbi territory, in the northwest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Those clashes took place between 16 and 18 December last year.

According to a preliminary report by the Joint Human Rights Office, following the deployment of an investigative team, at least 535 civilians were killed in four attacks and 111 others wounded. The team identified a total of 59 burial sites in two of the attacked towns, but do not rule out more sites. Hundreds of properties were looted and destroyed in the attacks.

The UN Mission reports that the security situation there is currently relatively calm, with national security forces having been deployed to the area.

The UN and its humanitarian partners dispatched emergency help – medicine, food, water tablets and malaria kits – to further help the communities.

UNICEF said that, alongside the Government and partners, it is scaling up its response to the Ebola outbreak in the eastern part of the Democratic of the Republic of the Congo, which is now the second largest outbreak in history after the one in West Africa in 2014 to 2016.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that some 30,000 people have fled to Cameroon from Nigeria’s northeast town of Rann, with thousands of others seeking refuge in the areas of Ngala and Maiduguri following repeated attacks by armed groups. Between 60 and 100 civilians were killed in the latest attack earlier this week.

In Nigeria, humanitarian partners have activated emergency response mechanisms and are conducting assessments to respond to the needs in Ngala. Rann has been inaccessible to humanitarians since the previous attacks in mid-January. Safety concerns are continuing to rise for thousands of civilians who are either trapped in the town or have fled.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Cameroon, the World Food Programme is planning a general food distribution today for 13,500 new arrivals, while UNHCR will provide shelter and other support in the coming days. NGO humanitarian partners are assisting through water trucking and creating water well.

Jamie McGoldrick, the Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory, along with colleagues from UNICEF and UNESCO, issued a press release today expressing the UN’s concern at the high number of reported incidents of interference in or nearby schools in the West Bank since the beginning of the school year. These incidents, UN officials say, are impacting children’s safe access to education.

Following a sea tragedy that occurred yesterday off Djibouti’s Red Sea coast, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that a total of 16 survivors have been recovered, as well as the remains of 43 victims.

130 people were on board two boats that capsized on Tuesday off Godoria, in the northeast part of Djibouti.

IOM staff have been helping survivors of the tragedy and lending support to Djibouti authorities as they continue to patrol the shoreline in search of other survivors.

As of today, 28 Member States – including Malaysia and Cuba, who were added today – have paid their regular budget dues in full.
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