Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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19-Sep-2019 00:18:32
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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This afternoon, at 3 p.m., the Secretary-General will be answering questions on Twitter on the key topics to be discussed during the General Assembly, including Climate Action and the progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. His handle is @antonioguterres.

Ursula Mueller, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, briefed the Security Council on Syria today and said that, since the 30 August ceasefire in the Idlib area, reports indicate a decline in fighting compared to the period since late April, when the military escalations began. She said it is critical that the much-needed respite for civilians continues, unimpeded humanitarian access be facilitated to all civilians in need and the protected status of civilian infrastructure be respected.

Ms. Mueller said that the humanitarian situation remains alarming. As an estimated 400,000 people fled their homes in northwest Syria from May to August of this year, including many people who have been displaced many times over.

She said that, following months of intensive fighting, the outlook in northwest Syria remains uncertain, while winter is coming. Humanitarian organizations are already planning how to help people in need before temperatures drop and inclement weather arrives. Ms. Mueller said that humanitarians estimate that an additional $68.4 million is required to address the expected winterization, shelter and other needs.

The Department of Peace Operations has provided an update from the Central African Republic. Violence in the town of Birao has now led to the displacement of over 14,000 people, who are being protected by UN peacekeepers in a camp next to the UN base and airstrip.

The UN Peacekeeping Mission has put in place additional measures to protect civilians, to prevent new clashes, and restore calm. Peacekeepers are patrolling Birao and the town’s surrounding areas to prevent the reinforcement of armed elements. They also have strengthened security around the camp for displaced people.

In addition to this, the Mission has held discussions with the Central African authorities on the deployment of national security forces, and engaged with community leaders to reduce tensions.

The acting Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, Zlatan Milisic, said he is deeply concerned about today’s attack in Zabul in the south of Afghanistan, which caused severe damage to a hospital.

Reports indicate that 15 people have died and 80 are injured. Amongst the casualties are patients, doctors and hospital staff. The number of casualties is expected to increase.

According to humanitarian partners, the hospital suffered heavy structural damage and is now out of service.

In a statement, acting Humanitarian Coordinator expressed his deepest condolences to the families of those killed and wished a speedy recovery to those injured.

The UN urges all parties to the conflict to respect and protect civilians and civilian infrastructure including health staff, patients and structures in compliance with international humanitarian law.

The UN Human Rights Office says more people are victims of intimidation and reprisals for cooperating with the UN in 48 countries.

The cases presented in the annual report of the Secretary-General on this topic range from activists suffering detention and prison sentences, to acts of intimidation, such as filming participants in meetings without their consent, even on United Nations premises.

The Secretary-General notes in the report that some people do not engage with the UN “out of fear for their safety or in contexts where human rights work is criminalized or publicly vilified.”

As he presented the report in Geneva today, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, said that putting an end to reprisals should be a priority. He called on Member States to ensure that brave human rights defenders are not cruelly targeted for cooperating with UN bodies.

Following an outbreak of polio announced today by the Government of the Philippines, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF are supporting and helping the country's response.

WHO urged that all children under the age of five be vaccinated, with UNICEF stressing that as long as one single child remains infected, children across the Philippines and even beyond are at risk of contracting polio.

The last known case of this type of poliovirus was recorded in the Philippines in 1993, and the country was declared polio-free in 2000.

UNICEFsays that more women and children are surviving today than ever before. That’s according to new child and maternal mortality estimates released today by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Since 2000, child deaths have been reduced by nearly half and maternal deaths by over one-third, mostly due to improved access to affordable, quality health services, the report says.

Still, new estimates reveal that 6.2 million children under 15 died in 2018, and over 290,000 women perished due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth in 2017.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 41 countries continue to be in need of external assistance for food, with conflicts acting as the primary cause of high levels of food insecurity and adverse weather conditions.

According to a report released by the FAO today, conditions on the countries on this list, which include 31 in Africa, remained unchanged over the last six months.

We have received full payments to the regular budget from Bolivia, Chad, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Tanzania.

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