Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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26-Feb-2019 00:19:31
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Secretary-General is on his way back to New York after chairing the humanitarian pledging conference in Geneva on Yemen. He told reporters there that today’s pledging conference can be considered a success, with a 30 percent increase in donations from last year to help address the dramatic humanitarian situation in Yemen. This year, $2.6 billion has been pledged, with large contributions coming in today from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Opening the pledging conference, the Secretary-General said that Yemen remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. As the conflict continues, he said, 24 million people – 80 per cent of the population – need humanitarian aid and protection.

While there is still a long way to go, he added that there are some signs of hope. The Secretary-General said the Stockholm Agreement has led to a ceasefire in Hudaydah that continues basically to hold, and he also told the plenary today that he had received confirmation that the UN has gained access to the Red Sea Mills.

The Secretary-General emphasized to reporters that there is no humanitarian solution for humanitarian problems. He said it is very important to address the dramatic needs of Yemeni people in this terrible situation, but more important to end the conflict.

A team from the World Food Programme (WFP) visited the Red Sea Mills. This visit was the first by WFP to these vital wheat stores since September of 2018. WFP has been appealing for access to the mills for the past months since they had been cut off by fighting in the area.

The World Food Programme is hopeful that Tuesday’s brief visit will pave the way for more sustained access, allowing it to carry out a full assessment of the conditions of the wheat and the milling facilities themselves. The Red Sea Mills currently hold a total of 51,000 metric tonnes of WFP wheat, which is enough to feed 3.7 million people for at least a month.

At this stage, WFP is unable to confirm how much of the wheat stored at the mills is still fit for human consumption. Properly stored wheat can last in silos for over a year, but these stocks have a two-year expiration date until 2020. WFP had been using other in-country wheat stocks as well as importing more wheat, both by sea and overland from Oman, to cover food needs for nearly 10 million people in Yemen.

In Madrid today, the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, met with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and they agreed on a joint communiqué which says, in part, that Spain and the UN commit to work towards a more nimble, effective, flexible and efficient United Nations to better serve the people and the planet.
The Deputy Secretary-General spoke at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona yesterday and said that we are in the midst of technological change unprecedented in pace and scope and we cannot predict where it will lead. We do know, she said, that we need to start working much better together if we are to steer change for the good of all.

At 3 p.m. the Security Council will meet on the situation on Venezuela. The Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, will be there to brief Council members.

This morning, the Council passed a resolution on the 2140 Yemen sanctions Committee. It was also briefed on the recent mission to western Africa and held a meeting on Syria.

During that meeting on Syria, Reena Ghelani, Director for Operations and Advocacy for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that across northwestern Syria, an estimated 2.7 million men, women and children remain in need of humanitarian assistance. Some 40 per cent of children are out of school, while 2 million residents rely on water trucking for most, if not all, of their clean water.

Each month, she said, some 1.7 million Syrians are reached with critical assistance through cross-border operations out of Turkey. Ensuring sustained humanitarian access is therefore critical.

She added that the UN welcomes all efforts to ease the suffering of people stranded at Rukban and to identify durable solutions. These efforts, however, she said, need to ensure that any return or relocation is voluntary, safe, dignified and well-informed, and abides by the core protection standards in line with international humanitarian and human rights law.

Our colleagues at the good offices mission in Cyprus report that, earlier today, the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akıncı, and the Greek Cypriot leader, Nicos Anastasiades, met in the buffer zone under the auspices of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative.

The two leaders decided to implement the confidence-building measure regarding mobile phone interoperability in order to facilitate greater interaction between the two communities. In addition, the leaders announced that the interconnectivity of the island’s two electricity grids, as agreed in 2015, has now been achieved.

Mr. Anastasiades and Mr. Akıncı also agreed on the clearance of nine suspected hazardous areas on both sides of the island, with a view to working towards a mine-free Cyprus, as well as a number of other confidence-building measures.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said there is an urgent need for $148 million to continue the response to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or risk backsliding.

WHO says, so far, under $10 million of the required funds has been pledged.

In a press release issued today, the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros, described the situation as unprecedented, noting that there has never been an Ebola outbreak in these conditions, with such a highly mobile population and with many gaps in the health system.

With that information, Dr. Tedros also condemned the burning of an Ebola treatment facility run by Doctors Without Borders in Katwa in North Kivu Province that took place on Sunday, and also the murder of a chief nurse in Vuhovi, also in North Kivu, last week. He stressed that health workers and their facilities must not be targeted.

The UN Road Safety Strategy will be officially launched at UN Headquarters and at the World Health Organization in Geneva on Thursday.

Entitled “A Partnership for Safer Journeys,” the UN Road Safety Strategy is based on a safe-system approach that manages the interactions between speed, vehicles, road infrastructure and road-user behaviour to prevent crashes resulting in deaths and serious human injuries. The Secretary-General said that “this strategy guides United Nations organizations in developing a new approach towards safer journeys”.

The Bahamas, Monaco, and Qatar have made their payment to the regular budget. The Honour Roll stands at 65.

Bhaskar Menon, the reporter many knew as “Papa Menon”, died in December of last year in Yuma, Arizona.

He served for decades as a reporter, including as a correspondent for the Times of India at the UN and as the founder of the newsletter and later a blog called the Undiplomatic Times. We send our condolences to his family.
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