Geneva Press Briefing - 01 March 2024
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Press Conferences | HRC , WMO , IPU , UNHCR , WHO , OCHA

Geneva Press Briefing - 01 March 2024

UN GENEVA PRESS BRIEFING

1 March 2024 

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired a hybrid briefing, which was attended by spokespersons and representatives of the World Health Organization, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the World Meteorological Organization, the Interparliamentary Union, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the Human Rights Council.

UNHCR warns on prospect of more Sudanese refugee arrivals in Chad 

Matthew Saltmarsh, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), speaking from

N’djamena, said that more than 553,150 new refugees from Sudan had been counted in Chad by mid-February, making the country the largest host of refugees fleeing Sudan since the start of the brutal war in April 2023. Overall, Chad now hosted 1.1 million refugees, making it Africa’s largest host per capita. The numbers included Sudanese who had arrived before the latest war, and others from the Central African Republic, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Chad also had almost half a million internally displaced people and returnees. Access to asylum had been granted and the country remained welcoming towards refugees. There were still hundreds of arrivals from Sudan per day, down from the daily tally of thousands some months earlier. Mr. Saltmarsh said that Chad itself was declared to be in state of emergency for food. 

In Sudan, where the conflict continued unabated, there continued to be a shocking array of human rights violations for people on the move, including rape and children recruitment. Extraction of fees from people on the move was also reported so that they would be allowed to flee to Chad. This was very much a gender-based violence crisis; more than 90 percent of refugees in Chad were women and children, informed Mr. Saltmarsh. Since the start of the crisis, some 2,500 children had been identified as being on high risk and had been referred for further support. In terms of education, many Sudanese refugees had missed the whole year in 2023 and were likely to miss another year in 2024. Much of the learning was informal and taking place outside. It was assessed that one in five refugees needed mental health support. Programmes for the forcibly displaced in Chad faced a chronic funding shortfall. For 2024, UNHCR alone required USD 319.5 million, with just 4 per cent funded to date, concluded Mr. Saltmarsh.

More details can be found here

Responding to questions, Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said that the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Central Africa, Abdou Abarry, had expressed concern over growing reports of violence and gun battles in N'Djamena. Mr. Abarry stated that he was following with great concern the events taking place and called on all actors to show calm and restraint, particularly at a time when Chad was entering the final stages of its political transition. Mr. Saltmarsh, for UNHCR, said that the logistical challenges of setting up structures for refugees and reaching some areas were extremely serious. Chad was among the poorest countries in the world, he reiterated, and it was important that development players support Chad so that it remained a welcoming place for refugees. 

New displacements in Mozambique

William Spindler, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that the UNHCR was deeply concerned about the escalating humanitarian crisis in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, as the recent surge in violence by non-state armed groups continued to force thousands of people to flee towards southern districts in search of safety. Since the latest outbreak of violence and attacks on civilians at the beginning of February, more than 70,000 people had been forcibly displaced across the districts of Macomia, Chiure, Mecufi, Mocimboa da Praia, and Muidumbe. In Chiure district alone, over 56,000 people had been affected. More than 33,000 had crossed into Nampula Province. Nearly 90 per cent of those displaced were women, many of them pregnant, people with disabilities, and the elderly. 

The violence had also been marked by extensive destruction of residential areas and religious and community facilities such as schools and health centres. This rampant destruction had further exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation in Mozambique, where over 709,000 people remained internally displaced due to violence perpetrated by non-state armed groups and the impact of the climate crisis. UNHCR, present in Mozambique since the 1980s, reiterated its commitment to continue to work closely with local authorities, humanitarian partners, and host communities to address the urgent needs of displaced people, providing protection, shelter and essential assistance to those affected by the conflict in Cabo Delgado. UNHCR’s total requirement for Mozambique of USD 49 million was currently only 17 per cent funded.

UNHCR briefing note is available here

WHO Issues - Improving access to hearing care in low- and middle-income settings

Dr. Shelly Chadha, Technical Lead, Ear and hearing care, at the World Health Organization (WHO), stated that over the last few years the WHO had repeatedly drawn attention towards its growing concern regarding hearing loss, as the number of people living with hearing loss, including unaddressed hearing loss, was growing. Globally, over 400 million people with hearing loss could benefit from using hearing devices; one out of every 20 people required hearing rehabilitation. However, less than 20 percent of those needs were fulfilled, which meant that one out of five people that required hearing rehabilitation e.g., a simple hearing aid, could access it.

Dr. Chadha said that today the WHO was launching the document “Hearing aid service delivery approaches for low- and middle-income settings”, which was the culmination of three years of evidence-collation, expert meetings, and stakeholder discussions. Dr. Chadha spoke health system challenges, deeply ingrained societal misperceptions and stigmatizing mindsets, which were all key factors that limited efforts for preventing and addressing hearing loss. Myths included thinking only older populations were affected by hearing loss or the idea that hearing aids were too expensive and did not work well. As a result, ear problems and hearing loss mostly remained unidentified and unaddressed. WHO estimated that globally unaddressed hearing loss incurs an annual fiscal loss of nearly USD 1 trillion. On this World Hearing Day, WHO was drawing attention to the importance of changing mindsets related to ear and hearing care. WHO was carrying out a global campaign to address prevalent myths and mitigate stigma through highlighting stories of people with lived experience of hearing loss.

Responding to a question on the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), Christian Lindmeier, also for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the eighth meeting was underway, it was a negotiation process and there were no updates to provide in between. The closing of session, expected in the afternoon, would be broadcast. 

Human Rights Council 

Pascal Sim, for the Human Rights Council (HRC), stated that this morning, High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk was addressing the Council on the recommendations made by the independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar, which would be followed by an interactive dialogue. An enhanced interactive dialogue would then be held on the report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, followed by an enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation on the report of the High Commissioner on Sudan. At the end of the day today, the High Commissioner would present reports on OHCHR activities in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Cyprus, as well as oral updates on OHCHR activities in Sri Lanka and Nicaragua. On 4 March, the High Commissioner would provide an update on the situation of human rights around the world, to be followed by a general debate.

Mr. Sim informed that today at 1:30 pm, Richard Bennett, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, would present his latest report, which covered the period from September 2023 to January 2024. Finally, Mr. Sim informed that the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples would visit Norway from 6 to 15 March to undertake a country engagement mission.

Situation in Gaza

Replying to questions, Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that the UN was continuing to provide aid to the best of its abilities, as it had done before and all the way throughout this conflict. There were indeed humanitarian actions underway in Gaza without coordination with the UN, including air drops, confirmed Mr. Laerke. Insufficient quantities were getting in, certainly inadequate to address the ongoing food crisis in Gaza, and steady land delivery of aid would be more efficient and less costly. If something did not change rapidly, famine was very much inevitable in Gaza. The entire population of 2.2 million people were facing Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) level 3, while 1.7 million of them were facing IPC level 4, and some half a million were facing IPC level 5 – “catastrophic” levels. Once the famine was declared, it would be too late for way too many people, warned Mr. Laerke. Production of food in Gaza was now almost impossible. The very foundation was people’s sustenance had been wiped out. UNRWA was the backbone of the humanitarian response and was irreplaceable, reiterated Mr. Laerke. 

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), added that now the tenth death of a child from starvation had been recorded in a hospital in Gaza. Real, unregistered numbers could be higher. All the lifelines in Gaza had been cut. People were so desperate for food and fresh water, which were so scarce, that they put themselves at high risk in order to reach those. It should not be forgotten that the food supplies had been cut off deliberately. Urgent ceasefire was needed to be followed by a steady, sustainable supply of food and other necessities. 

Also answering questions, Alessandra Vellucci, for the UN Information Service (UNIS), said that the Secretary-General had clearly condemned the killing of more than a hundred people in Gaza on 29 February. There had to be time for accountability in this case. The United Nations was present on the ground and continued to speak out about what was happening. Humanitarian ceasefire was needed. 

Climate in the month of Februar

Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), informed that the month of February had ended with extreme heat in the southern hemisphere summer and high temperatures atypical of the northern hemisphere winter. Parts of North and South America, northwest and southeast Africa, southeast and far eastern Asia, western Australia and Europe had all seen record-breaking temperatures, either on a daily basis or for the entire month. “The anomalous heat is consistent with the persisting warming observed since June 2023, with seven consecutive new global monthly temperature records, including January 2024. Global sea surface temperatures are record high. Whilst the El Niño event has stoked temperatures in some parts of the world, human induced climate change is the long-term major contributing factor,” says Alvaro Silva, a climatologist working with WMO. Mr. Nullis also informed that the WMO would issue its next El Niño Update the following week.

Announcements

Thomas Fitzsimons, for the Interparliamentary Union (IPU), announced that the 148th IPU Assembly would be held in Geneva from 23 to 27 March at the International Conference Centre in Geneva. Hundreds of parliamentarians from around the world, including dozens of Speakers or Presidents of Parliament, would be coming to Geneva including from countries at war or in conflict situation, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Israel, Palestine, Russia, and Ukraine. All UN-accredited journalists were welcome to come to the Assembly. 

Mr. Fitzsimons also informed that Martin Chungong, IPU Secretary General would present the annual analysis of women in politics at a press conference on 5 March at 1 pm. 

Alessandra Vellucci, for the for the United Nations Information Service, informed that the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would close today at 5:30 pm its 75th session and issue its concluding observations on Romania, Mauritania, Ireland, Iraq, Indonesia, and Sweden.

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances would also close today at 5 pm its 26th session and issue its concluding observations on Cambodia, Burkina Faso, and Honduras.

The Human Rights Committee would open on 4 March at 10 am its 140th session, during which it would review the reports of Chile, Namibia, Somalia, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Serbia, and Guyana.

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would also open on 4 March at 10 am its 30th session, during which it would review the reports of Kazakhstan, Zambia, Bahrain, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.

The Conference of Disarmament would hold its next public plenary on 5 March at 3 pm.  

Finally, Ms. Vellucci informed that today was the World Seagrass Day and the Zero Discrimination Day

On 8 March, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, there would be a public event at the University of Geneva entitled “Peace Begins with Her”. Participants and passersby could add their own voices to the global push for women's participation by having their portrait taken in the Inside Out Photobooth and added to the installation honoring the vital role of women in achieving peace. The work of public art was part of the global participatory project Inside Out, created by renowned artist JR, and would be followed by a panel discussion at UniMail. 

 

***

The webcast for this briefing is available here: https://bit.ly/unog01032024

The audio for this briefing is available here: https://bit.ly/UNOG01032024

 

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS  

- HRC - Pascal Sim: Human Rights Council update  

 - WMO - Clare Nullis:  February ended with much extreme and unusual heat. WMO will post a roundup on the website today. El Niño Update will be released early next week. 

 - IPUThomas Fitzsimons: The 148th IPU Assembly will take place from 23-27 March 2024 at the International Conference Centre Geneva. 

 

TOPICS  

- UNHCR - Matthew Saltmarsh (From N'Djamena): UNHCR warns on prospect of more Sudanese refugee arrivals in Chad 

 - William Spindler - New displacement in Mozambique  

- WHO - Christian Lindmeier  with Dr Shelly Chadha, technical lead for ear and hearing care at WHO:  Improving access to hearing care in low- and middle-income settings – new WHO guidance  .


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