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05-05-2023 | Press Conferences

Bi-Weekly Press Briefing 05 May 2023



5 May 2023


Conflict in Sudan

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said that the United Nations and humanitarian partners were working to deliver aid to those in need in Sudan, wherever that was possible.

Matthew Saltmarsh, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), informed that UNHCR would need USD 445 million for its refugee response for period through October, and a projected refugee population of 860,000. UNHCR had gone live with a data portal which would provide daily updates on new arrivals in neighbouring countries. UNHCR was mobilizing protection services in places where it was needed. More information is available here.

Elizabeth Tan, Director of International Protection at the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that the advice from UNHCR was regarding all individuals fleeing Sudan, regardless of their status. UNHCR advised governments not to return those fleeing conflict, and the protection needs were likely to be high. Access to the neighbouring countries should be non-discriminatory, stressed Ms. Tan. UNHCR and protection partners had reported significant humanitarian issues, as well as criminality and violence, looting of hospitals and private property. Large numbers of civilians had been fleeing fighting, both internally and across the borders. There were Sudanese, South Sudanese, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Somalis, and Syrians among those fleeing the country. Ms. Tan emphasized that Sudanese nationals who had claimed asylum in other countries should not be returned to Sudan for the time being, given the situation in the country. There were 1.1 million refugees in Sudan, said Ms. Tan. Sudanese nationals were the largest group of people crossing into neighouring countries.

James Elder, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that the situation in Sudan had become frightening for a large number of children. Some 190 children were reported to have been killed so far in the first 11 days of the conflict; a further 1,700 boys and girls had been injured. It was critical to note that those reports referred only to those children who had access to medical care; real numbers were likely to be much higher. All attacks against health care and schools limited UNICEF’s capability to reach children in need. A humanitarian ceasefire was necessary, stressed Mr. Elder.

Responding to questions, Ms. Tan said that there were 845,000 Sudanese refugees worldwide, the majority of whom in neighbouring countries. Those people needed to be protected and not sent back now, even if their visas or passports had expired. There were no reports of forced returns at the moment. She specified that 113,000 people had fled Sudan over the past three weeks. UNHCR with humanitarian partners was scaling up operations in neighbouring countries, and an intra-agency response plan for neighbouring countries had been put in place. Ms. Tan stated that the situation of IDPs in Sudan, most of whom were in Darfur, was very serious. Some of them were being displaced again, and UNHCR’s ability to provide assistance was constrained. She explained that UNHCR did not evacuate people out of the country but provided assistance to those who were fleeing. Mr. Elder reiterated that the numbers of children casualties included only those who had made it to health facilities. It was estimated than two-thirds of hospitals were not functioning.

Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that so far 28 attacks on health care in Sudan had been verified. Only 16 percent of facilities in the Khartoum area were estimated to be functional. The Ministry of Health of Sudan reported that 4,926 people had been wounded and 551 reported killed. She reiterated that the safety and sanctity of health care had to be protected at all times.

Mounting needs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that after the bi-annual meeting of the UN System Chief Executives Board (CEB) in Nairobi, which concluded today, the Secretary-General would head to Burundi to take part in the eleventh high-level meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the region.

Elizabeth Tan, Director of International Protection at the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that the DRC remained the biggest humanitarian crisis in Africa; with 6.1 million internally displaced persons and 1.3 million Congolese who had fled to neighbouring countries. A recent high-level UNHCR mission had visited North and South Kivu, where the humanitarian situation was shocking. Goma, a city of two million people, was hosting over 560,000 displaced people, the majority of whom were in makeshift, spontaneous sites. Significant overcrowding and inadequate shelter could be spotted everywhere; there were also worrying reports of measles and a risk of cholera. Shelter needs were enormous ahead of the rainy season. UNHCR had received some funding for its operations, but that was still inadequate. Main requests from people on the ground were livelihood support and shelter. The level of assistance provided was inadequate.

UNHCR statement is available here.

Responding to questions, Ms. Tan said that civilians were suffering on all sides of conflict. Significant sexual violence was reported, among other serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Hunger and malnutrition in northeast Nigeria

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), raised the alarm of widespread hunger and child malnutrition in the conflict-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, where some 4.3 million people were projected to face severe hunger between June and August.

An estimated 2 million children under five in the three states were facing wasting, the most immediate and life-threatening form of malnutrition. Approximately 700,000 of them were at risk of severe wasting. They were 11 times more likely to die compared to well-nourished children and needed immediate interventions. What was missing at this point was funding. Humanitarian partners in the north-east needed USD 1.3 billion this year but had so far received just over 11 per cent of that amount. The longer families went unassisted, the greater the risk of starvation and death, and more people might be forced into damaging and harmful coping strategies such as survival sex, selling their possessions, and child labour.

Security situation remained bad, following years of fighting, displacement, and human rights abuses, explained Mr. Laerke in a response to a question. People often struggled to access their land, the main source of livelihood.

Hand Hygiene Day

Dr. Benedetta Allegranzi, Technical Lead, Infection Prevention and Control Hub and Task Force at the World Health Organization (WHO), said that over 700 children under five died every day of diarrhea due to the lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene. Likelihood of this was much higher in conflict areas.

This year, the Hand Hygiene Day focused on hand hygiene in health care, with the objective of achieving better, safer health care for all. Infections acquired in health care were among the most serious problems in health care delivery. In Europe alone, some nine million of instances of such type of infection occurred every year, costing up to 20 billion euros annually. Recent data from WHO and UNICEF showed that 50 percent of health care facilities did not have proper hand hygiene conditions. Almost four billion people worldwide did not have access to basic hygiene when visiting toilets. There were solutions for this, and majority of such infections were avoidable, up to 50 percent. With other interventions, as many as 70 percent of such infections could be avoided. In G7 countries, 30,000 deaths caused by antimicrobial pathogens could be avoided every year. Dr. Allegranzi said that many countries had managed to improve in recent years, but progress had to accelerate, and collaboration ought to be fostered.

FAO Food Price Index

Upali Galketi Aratchilage, Senior Economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that, after falling consecutively for twelve months since reaching its peak in March 2022, the index had rebounded for the first time - 0.6 percent – in April. The rebound in the index in April resulted from a steep increase in the sugar price index, with a small upturn in the meat price index, whereas price indices for cereals, dairy and vegetable oils continued to fall.

Mr. Aratchilage explained that several factors were behind this steep increase in the sugar price index, including: the downward revisions to production forecasts for India and China by official sources; lower-than-earlier expected outputs in Thailand and the European Union; the slow start to Brazil’s sugarcane harvest; higher international crude oil prices, which led to an increase in demand for sugar as a biofuel input; and the appreciation of the Brazilian real.

Meat prices had also increased in April, again moderately, as international price quotations for pig, poultry, and bovine meats had all increased, largely reflecting tight supply conditions across all key exporting countries. Cereal Price Index, price quotations for wheat, maize, barley and sorghum had declined, outweighing an increase in rice price quotations. The decline in wheat prices had reflected large export availabilities in the Russian Federation and Australia, as well as good crop conditions in Europe and the agreement to allow Ukrainian grain exports to pass through the EU Member countries.

More information is available here.

It was hoped that the Black Sea Grain Initiative would be extended; if that was not the case, it would have multiple impacts and food prices could increase once again, said Mr. Aratchilage in a response to a question. That would have impact on both Ukrainian farmers and the global food situation. Mr. Aratchilage said that FAO had observed some local prices increasing while international food prices going down. Prices at retail level and at the international level could be different for a variety of reasons, he added.

Harm Reduction Day

Charlotte Sector, for UNAIDS, ahead of the Harm Reduction Day, 7 May, said that people in prison were 7.2 times more likely to be living with HIV than adults in the general population. UNAIDS reports that HIV prevalence among people in prisons had increased by 13 percent since 2017, reaching 4.3 percent in 2021. Although data were limited, it was thought that around one in four of the total prison population had hepatitis.

Some countries had made huge progress in recent years, said Ms. Sector. Despite the challenges faced by the influx of refugees and the repercussions of the war in Ukraine, Moldova (which had an HIV prevalence of 3.2 percent in its prisons, compared to 0.4 percent among the general population) had committed significantly more resources into its prison systems.

Full press release is available here.


Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the COVID-19 IHR Emergency Committee had met and was now preparing its recommendations for the Director-General, who would then take a decision. An update would be provided at a press conference at 3 pm today.

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women would open on 5 May its 85th session, during which it would review the reports of Timor Leste, Sao Tomé and Principe, Germany, China, Spain, Slovakia, Venezuela, and Iceland.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child would also open on 5 May its 93rd session, during which it would review the reports of France, Jordan, Sao Tomé and Principe, Finland, Türkiye, and the United Kingdom (18 afternoon and 19 morning).

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Bi-Weekly Press Briefing 05 May 2023 / 1:30:55

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