PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
01 November 2022
Health update on Pakistan
Dr. Richard Brennan, Regional Emergency Director at the World Health Organization (WHO), speaking from Cairo, said that over the past few weeks, flood waters had begun to recede across Pakistan. However, the economy was deteriorating, and some eight million people needed assistance. Public health risks were increasing, being accentuated by stagnant waters and damaged infrastructure. There were malaria outbreaks in several areas, in addition to dengue fever, cholera, diphtheria, and measles. Access to safe water and sanitation remained limited. The needs were massive, stressed Dr. Brennan. WHO was working to provide essential services to those affected by the floods, undertaking vaccination campaigns against measles and cholera, and providing access to clear drinking water, among other activities. Dr. Brennan emphasized that many more people could die from diseases in the coming weeks and months if the international community did not scale its response rapidly.
Responding to questions from the media, Dr. Brennan said that around 1,600 people had died during the floods, but there was no effective mortality surveillance throughout the flood-affected areas. Malaria, cholera, and other diseases in the floods’ aftermath could lead to tens of thousands more casualties. Malnutrition, which had been an issue even before the floods, remained a huge problem, and managing severe acute malnutrition was a priority. WHO needed USD 81 million to do everything it needed to do, specified Dr. Brennan. The overall humanitarian response was only 16 per cent funded as of today; it was a tough time to mobilize humanitarian funds, given several simultaneous emergencies around the world.
Cholera in Lebanon and Syria
Answering questions, Dr. Richard Brennan, Regional Emergency Director at the World Health Organization (WHO), said that cholera was a problem in Lebanon, with over 700 registered cases in the country until now. Cholera was spread by contaminated water and food, and the water infrastructure in some areas was disrupted. WHO was taking all the necessary steps from the public health perspective, including surveillance and vaccines, but until the water, sanitation, and hygiene challenges were addressed, this would be an uphill battle.
Cholera was believed to have spread to Lebanon from Syria, where at least 20,000 cases had been recorded since August, across all governorates. Syria was facing the same challenges as Lebanon. As there were 29 cholera outbreaks across the globe, there was a huge demand for vaccines, the WHO needed to ration vaccines, and a single dose regimen was being implemented instead of the standard two doses.
Public hearings by the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory
Rolando Gomez, for the Human Rights Council (HRC), said that the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, would hold a first series of public hearings from 7 to 11 November, in Room XVII at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The hearings would be broadcast live in English on UN Web TV. Media without UN Geneva media credentials who wished to attend needed to register on UNOG · Indico. Mr. Gomez would be sending daily updates to the press corps.
Responding to questions, Mr. Gomez explained that commissions of inquiry had held similar public hearings in the past. The objective was to collect testimonies from witnesses in a public manner; roughly three testimonies were expected per day. Diplomats and NGOs would not participate in the hearings. The witnesses had agreed to testify publicly, and both Israelis and Palestinians would participate. Mr. Gomez stressed that the Commission of Inquiry was different from previous ones because it was looking into violations in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The three commissioners were independent lawyers appointed by the Human Rights Council. He said that the Commission had reached out to the Israeli Government for its comments and to be given access but had received no response.
Rolando Gomez, for the Human Rights Council (HRC), announced that the Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) would start its 41st session on 7 November and would last for two weeks. This would mark the beginning of its fourth cycle. Fourteen States would have their records reviewed; more information is available here.
Rhéal LeBlanc, for the UN Information Service, said that the International Media Seminar on the Peace in the Middle East would be held in Room XXVI of the Palais des Nations on 3 and 4 November, in the presence of the Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, Melissa Fleming, and others. More information about the Seminar and its three panels, which can be attended in person or watched online, is available here.
Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), provided information about the WMO’s pre-COP27 and COP27 activities. On 2 November, the WMO would release its State of Climate in Europe report, and the State of Global Climate report on 6 November. A press conference with the WMO Secretary-General would be held in Sharm El Sheikh on the eve of COP27. On 7 November, the opening day of COP27, the UN Secretary-General would unveil his action plan on early warning systems, informed Ms. Nullis.
Karima Cherif, for the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), said that UNRISD was releasing its Authentic Sustainability Assessment: A User Manual for the Sustainable Development Performance Indicators, which stressed that sustainability required contextualization, and addressed the challenge of “greenwashing”. She explained that a lot of companies measured their progress towards the SDGs, but without proper contextualization. The publication looked into economic entities rather than governments. UNRSID, being an independent entity, was also working to improve the UN’s own performance in this regard.
Fadéla Chaib, for the World Health Organization (WHO), informed that on 2 November at 2 p.m., the WHO Regional Office for Eastern Mediterranean would hold a virtual press conference on the cholera outbreaks in the region, with Dr. Richard Brennan and other speakers from the region.
She said the next WHO Director-General’s weekly press conference would be held on 2 November at 3 p.m., with a focus on climate change and health, ahead of COP27. Dr. Tedros would be joined virtually by Martin Griffiths, UN Humanitarian Relief Chief, and two NGO representatives.
Ms. Chaib also announced that a COP27-related press conference would take place on 3 November at 2 p.m. Two speakers would be Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health at the WHO, and Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Head of Climate Change and Health Unit at the WHO. More information about the WHO’s participation at COP27 is available here.
Rhéal LeBlanc, for the UN Information Service, said that on 2 November at 10 a.m., at Palais Wilson 1-016, there would be a background briefing by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), will hold a hybrid press conference on 3 November at 11 a.m. to present its Least Developed Countries Report 2022, embargoed until 6 p.m. that day. Speakers would be Rebeca Grynspan, UNCTAD Secretary-General, and Paul Akiwumi, Director, Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes at UNCTAD.
The Human Rights Committee would hold its next public meeting on 2 November at 10 a.m., to review its report on the follow-up of views concerning communications. On 3 November, at 1:30 p.m., the Committee would hold a hybrid press conference to presents its observations on the Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Japan, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and Russia.
The Committee Against Torture, which had started its 75th session the previous day, was beginning this morning its review of the report of Chad.
Mr. LeBlanc informed that on 2 November would be the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, on which occasion the Secretary-General had issued a message, in which he stressed that a free press was vital to a functioning democracy, exposing wrongdoing, navigating our complex world, and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals.