Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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04-Mar-2019 00:10:19
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, completed his two-day mission to Malawi on Saturday; he met with the President of the country and other senior Government leaders as well as development partners, and heard from Malawians struggling through the current lean season.

Following projections at the end of 2018 showing that 3.3 million people would be severely food insecure between January and March, Mr. Lowcock earlier released US$10 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

Also, from our humanitarian colleagues, I can tell you that we are concerned by reports of civilian casualties in Syria, both due to continued hostilities and unexploded ordinances left behind in the northwest part of the country.

At least four civilians were reportedly killed, many more injured during shelling in Idleb, Hama and Aleppo governorates in the first three days of March.

Yesterday, two civilians were reportedly killed when an unexploded ordnance went off in north-west Aleppo. The threat of explosive hazards of all kinds remains a major problem and a major concern in Syria, with more than 10 million people estimated to live in contaminated areas. One in two people live at risk of explosive hazards.

Meanwhile, our humanitarian colleagues in the country remain gravely concerned about the situation of tens of thousands of civilians who fled the last Da’esh-held areas of Al-Baghouz in rural Deir Ezzour and are now hosted at the Al Hol camp. There are now 54,800 people in the camp, of whom over 90 per cent are women and children.

Staying in the region, our humanitarian colleagues warn that, following several days of heavy rainfall and possible flooding, an estimated 300,000 people in 60 communities across Gaza are at risk of displacement due to fragile infrastructure and potential property damage.

The ability of authorities in Gaza to respond to emergencies is limited due to funding shortages, import controls and the ongoing energy crisis and the limited capacity of the Palestinian Civil Defense.

Several mitigation measures have been implemented, including advance clearing of existing drainage systems and the deployment of mobile pumps - many of which were provided by the United Nations - at various hotspots. Flooding monitoring teams have also been deployed.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) today released its annual report, which highlights the agency’s work on issues from fighting air and marine pollution, to helping nations meet their goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The report says that while 2018 was a challenging year, there was a growing global commitment from governments, civil society and businesses to tackle environmental challenges. An example of this was the accelerated action to eliminate plastic pollution, which was the theme for last year’s World Environment Day. The UNEP campaign reached people in 190 countries and India pledged to phase out single-use plastics by 2022.

In Paris, UNESCO today is holding its first global conference to promote a humanist approach to Artificial Intelligence. The conference aims to foster dialogue between public and private sectors, technical community, media and academia [to] ensure that artificial intelligence serves humanity’s sustainable development.

Conference participants include Cédric Villani, the winner of the 2010 Field Medal, the highest distinction in mathematics; Nanjira Sambuli, the senior policy manager of the Web Foundation and Member of the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, and Sy Lau, the Senior Executive Vice-President of Tencent.

And lastly, the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) will launch its Annual Report for 2018 in Vienna tomorrow at 10am GMT – 5 a.m. here in New York, if you are awake.

The Report examines the global drug control situation, with a focus on the risks and benefits of medical use of cannabis and a look at legislative developments on the non-medical use of cannabis.

A special supplement to the report looks at the progress made in improving global availability of internationally controlled medicines.

The launch will be webcast.
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