PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
07 October 2022
Update from northeast Ukraine
Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), provided an update on the situation in Kharkivska oblast in north-east Ukraine where humanitarian deliveries had begun in mid-September, just a few days after the Government of Ukraine had regained control over most of the oblast.
Nearly 140,000 people were believed to remain in the towns, villages, and settlements in areas where control had changed, but they had extremely limited access to food, water, gas, electricity, and medical services. More than 73,000 people – nearly half of the population living in the retaken areas in Kharkivska oblast – had now received food. UN humanitarians had also distributed 12,000 hygiene kits and kitchen sets, solar lamps, and blankets to 15,000 people.
Medicines and surgical and emergency health kits to treat 10,000 people over the coming weeks had reached health centres across the area. UN and its NGO partners were planning more humanitarian convoys in the days ahead, said Mr. Laerke.
More information can be found here.
Aftermath of Pakistan floods
Abdullah Fadil, Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to Pakistan, speaking from Islamabad, said that he had just returned from Balochistan, the province hardest hit by the floods and one of the country’s poorest provinces. As the result of the floods, UNICEF estimated that today more than half a million children faced severe acute malnutrition and needed immediate treatment; close to 80,000 suffered from severe acute malnutrition with medical complications and needed urgent medical interventions. Even before the super-floods hit Pakistan, the average stunting rate for children under-five had already been at 50 percent in the affected districts. More than seven million children and women now needed immediate access to nutrition services, while nearly four million children lacked access to health services.
UNICEF had now revised it appeal to USD 173.5 million as part of the UN flash appeal of USD 816 million to support the Government of Pakistan’s flood response. And yet just 13 per cent of UNICEF’s appeal for the children and families of Pakistan had been funded.
Further information can be found here.
Matthew Saltmarsh, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), stated that the UNHCR was urgently seeking USD 65.8 million to help more than 650,000 refugees and members of their host communities affected by the recent devastating floods in Pakistan.
As Pakistan faced a colossal challenge to respond to this climate disaster, UNHCR reiterated its call for more support for the country and its people, who had generously hosted Afghan refugees for over four decades. The scale of devastation from the monsoon on people and infrastructure was hard to comprehend. According to the latest estimates, unprecedented rainfall and flooding in August had resulted in at least 1,700 deaths, with 12,800 injured, including at least 4,000 children. Some 7.9 million people had been displaced by the floods, according to the latest estimates, with nearly 600,000 living in relief sites.
UNHCR remained alarmed about conditions on the ground. It could take months for flood waters to recede in the hardest-hit areas, as fears rise over threats of waterborne diseases and the safety of millions of affected people, 70 per cent of whom were women and children.
The full press release is available here.
Floods in Sudan
Alyona Synenko, for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), stated that, following heavy rains and flash floods, tens of thousands of homes, hundreds of boreholes and many agricultural fields in Sudan had been destroyed or damaged over the past months. Some 80,000 families needed humanitarian assistance, according to the estimates of the Sudanese Red Crescent Society. The floods had affected large areas of the country.
People in south Darfur were saying that they did not remember last time they had experienced a flood of such magnitude. They were describing terrifying scenes of water entering through the windows, reaching 1.5 meters high, damaging walls, destroying furniture and food stocks, and carrying away valuable belongings. The damage to the essential infrastructure had considerably increased the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera.
The flooding of agricultural fields had increased the threat of hunger for millions of people. Today, approximately 10 million people across Sudan were estimated to be highly food insecure and the situation is getting worse, said Ms. Synenko. With support of Sudanese Red Crescent, the ICRC planning to provide essential households items and cash to more than 45,000 people by end of October. However, it was also critical to help people build resilience for the future, for example by helping them find sustainable sources of income that did not contribute to deforestation and further deterioration of their natural environment.
More information and B-roll can be accessed here.
Food Price Index
Upali Galketi, for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), informed that the FAO Food Price Index had averaged 136.3 points in September 2022, down 1.5 points (1.1 percent) from August, marking the sixth monthly decline in a row, following an all-time high reached in March 2022. September's decline had been driven by a sharp fall in vegetable oils and moderate declines in sugar, meat and dairy products. By contrast, the cereal price index had rebounded, partially offsetting the decline in the overall index. With this new decline in September, the Food Price Index had fallen 14.6 percent from its peak in March but remained 5.5 percent above its value in September 2021.
The rebound of the cereal price index was underpinned by heightened uncertainty about the Black Sea Grain Initiative's continuation beyond November and the potential impact on Ukraine's exports, as well as by concerns regarding dry conditions in Argentina and the United States of America, and a fast pace of exports from the European Union. Ms. Galketi also informed that the vegetable oil price index was at a 14-month low. The sugar price index’s decline in September decline was mostly related to the good production prospects in Brazil, the world's largest sugar exporter. Mr. Galketi concluded that the global markets were still very volatile, as they were affected by a number of various factors, including global energy prices and weather events.
More details are available here.
Answering to questions, Mr. Galketi said that the FAO had not conducted an analysis of the impact of speculation on the global food prices. He emphasized that the key factors included extreme weather events, energy price volatility, affordability of fertilizers, and disruptions to supply chains.
Dr. Wenqing Zhang, Head of Global Influenza Programme at the World Health Organization (WHO), informed that the northern hemisphere influenza season was coming. After a period of historically low circulations of influenza viruses from March 2020, since late 2021, influenza activity had started in many countries in the northern and southern hemispheres. In some countries, influenza activity was back to that for a typical seasonal epidemic. At the same time,
zoonotic influenza infection had not stopped over the COVID-19 pandemic. On the contrary, there were active dynamics of avian influenza virus evolution and spread, including in China, the UK, the USA, and Russia, which were all sending signals of a threat of an influenza pandemic.
Dr. Zhang reminded that on 23 September, the WHO had issued its recommendation on influenza composition after consultations based on surveillance, characterization and risk assessment by GISRS and available data. Due to the evolution of influenza viruses, the composition of influenza vaccines was being updated biannually. Finally, Dr. Zhang informed that the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), one of the very few global networks in the world, long standing and highly functioning year-round, was marking its 70th anniversary this year. It currently comprised 158 institutions. GISRS was now expanding its capacity to include not only influenza, but also SC2, RSV and next novel respiratory virus X.
Cholera outbreak in Haiti
Responding to questions, Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that there were already more than 100 suspected cholera cases in Haiti. The insecurity was one of the biggest challenges on the ground, because people could not access them safely. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) was working with the authorities and Médecins sans Frontières, to supply local people with cholera kits. Such kits could treat up to 100 people each, depending on severity of cases.
Cholera was a medieval disease, said Mr. Lindmeier, that nobody in today’s age should be dying from. Most cases could be treated with simple means, but access to the affected population was of critical importance. Time was also of essence, he stressed. Once vaccines were ready to be sent, adequate conditions on the ground were necessary for their distribution. Vaccine was only part of the equation; access to safe water to sanitation centres was of critical importance. The existing stock counted 40 million doses, enough for 20 million people. At the moment, 28 countries were experiencing cholera outbreaks, he reminded. There were two vaccine manufacturers in the world, and the current price was less than USD 2 per dose.
Nobel Peace Prize
Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said that the Norwegian Nobel Committee had just announced that the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize would go to human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organization Memorial, and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties. Ms. Vellucci congratulated the winners and expressed appreciation for their fight for human rights, one of the pillars of the United Nations’ work.
Information on the three winners can be found here.
Alessandra Vellucci, speaking for the Human Rights Council (HRC), informed that the Council had adopted a total of 21 resolutions on 6 October, and today there were 20 draft resolutions remaining to discuss and vote on. Overtime was not expected, she informed.
Ms. Vellucci also informed that the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women would open its 83rd session on 10 October at 10 am. During the session, CEDAW would review the reports of Finland, Armenia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Belgium, Ukraine, Honduras, Gambia, and Switzerland.
The Human Rights Committee would open also start on 10 October. In its 136th session the Committee would review the reports of the Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Japan, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and Russia.
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would conclude this afternoon its review of the report of Luxembourg.
Jens Laerke, for the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), informed that OCHA and IFRC would jointly launch the “Extreme Heat, preparing for heatwaves of the future” report on 10 October at 11:45 am. Speakers would be Martin Griffiths, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, and Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary-General.
Jenelle Eli, for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said that on 10 October, the IFRC would be shedding light on the hunger crisis in Africa through a high-level Food Security and Nutrition Conference, organized by the African Union, the IFRC, the FAO, and the African Development Bank, in the Nelson Mandela Hall in Addis Ababa. The 2022 projections were expected to further deteriorate as compounding challenges, including prolonged conflict cycles, the COVID-19 pandemic's effects, and the impact of climate change, were likely to increase the threat of food insecurity. The opening remarks would be livestreamed on the African Union website at 9 am local time.
On 10 October at 2:30 pm, there would be a hybrid press conference to present a new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report: Avoiding ‘Too Little Too Late’ on International Debt Relief, which would be embargoed until 11 October at 6 am. Speakers would be Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, and George Gray Molina, UNDP Senior Economist, both participating via Zoom.
Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), informed that on 11 October at 1 pm the World Meteorological Organization would present its new 2022 State of Climate Services report: Energy. Speakers would be Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General and Francesco La Camera, Deputy Executive Secretary of the International Renewable Energy Agency.
Ms. Vellucci, speaking for the World Trade Organization (WTO), said that a high-level event discussing bottlenecks in supply chains, with a special focus on regulations and standards would be held on 14 October in hybrid format. Opening the symposium, WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala would be joined by Maive Rute, Deputy Director General of the European Commission, Ambassador Maria Pagán, Permanent Representative of United States to the WTO, and Ambassador Li Chenggang, Permanent Representative of China to the WTO.
Finally, Ms. Vellucci informed that today was the World Cotton Day, 8 October would be the World Migratory Bird Day, and 9 October would be the World Post Day. UN Secretary-General’s messages on the occasion of these international days had been distributed to the journalists.