UN Geneva Press Briefing - 05 April 2024
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Press Conferences | FAO , OHCHR , WFP , WHO

UN Geneva Press Briefing - 05 April 2024

UN GENEVA PRESS BRIEFING

5 April 2024

First aid in months reaches Darfur

Leni Kinzli, for the World Food Programme (WFP), speaking from Nairobi, informed that the WFP had reached Darfur for the first time in months. Unless people of Sudan reached a constant flow of aid through all possible corridors, she said, the country’s hunger catastrophe would only worsen. Two convoys had crossed from Chad into west Darfur in late March, first cross-border convoys since the authorities in Port Sudan had revoked permissions for cross-border aid delivery; they had carried aid for 250,000 people. The temporary halt of the humanitarian corridor from Chad as well as ongoing fighting, lengthy clearance processes for humanitarian cargo, bureaucratic impediments, and security threats had made it impossible for humanitarians to operate at the scale needed to meet the hunger needs in Sudan. Ms. Kinzli spoke of a boy she had recently met in Port Sudan, who was 13 but looked no older than eight because he was so undernourished. This was the case for way too many children in Sudan.

Aid needed to be consistently reaching the vulnerable communities, especially as the lean season was about to start. There was a fear that hunger and malnutrition would be felt across the country, particularly in the Darfur region. Aid ought to be scaled up as soon as possible, but the WFP had no clarity when a next convoy could cross from Chad into Darfur. Ms. Kinzli reminded that in 2023, the WFP had assisted one million people in west Darfur. Fierce fighting, lack of security, and lengthy clearance processes by the warring parties were all obstacles; security guarantees and deconfliction measures were more needed than ever, stressed Ms. Kinzli. Harvest for cereals in Darfur this year was also significantly lower than in previous years, contributing to heightened hunger risks. The war in Sudan could trigger the world’s worst hunger crisis, stressed Ms, Kinzli. Unfettered access, faster clearance processes, and increased funding were all needed to prevent this from happening.

Replying to questions from the media, Ms. Kinzli explained that west Darfur was predominantly controlled by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. It was still not clear whether the WFP would be allowed to continue using the crossing from Adre into west Darfur, which was a preferred route. There were concerns that the lean season this year could start much earlier, and as early as the following week, and last longer than usual. Both parties to the conflict were interfering with access to the Darfur region, explained Ms. Kinzli. Getting clearances to move aid from an area controlled by one side to another made the whole process even more difficult.

Answering questions, Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), added that the health situation in Sudan was disastrous, with many people prevented from reaching health care. It was an ongoing health catastrophe. Some 24.8 million people – every second person – needed humanitarian assistance in 2024, specified Ms. Harris. The number of people displaced by the conflict continued to increase, with over six million displaced within the country, and more than eight million in neighboring countries.

Conflict in Gaza

Jeremy Laurence, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stated that as of today, over 33,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, were dead, 75,000 or more were injured, and at least 7,000 were presumed dead under the rubble. Over 1,200 were dead in Israel and hundreds injured. More than 100 hostages remained in captivity. Huge swathes of Gaza had been bombed into oblivion, and the Gaza Strip had changed forever.

Mr. Laurence stressed that the violations of international law committed since 7 October in Israel and Gaza and the destruction and suffering of civilians in Gaza over the last six months were unprecedented. The world had collectively spoken that this carnage and wanton destruction had to end immediately. The hostages had to be released unconditionally. Humanitarian aid and other goods necessary for the survival of the civilian population had to be allowed to flood into Gaza and be safely distributed to every part of the Strip. The High Commissioner stressed again that there had to be accountability for the serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law that had been perpetrated.

This week, Mr. Laurence said, the world had been shocked by Israel’s killing of seven people working for World Central Kitchen. So far, nearly 200 humanitarian workers had been killed in Gaza, including close to 180 UN staff. International law required all parties to respect and protect humanitarian relief personnel and ensure their safety, security, and freedom of movement. Israel, as the occupying power, had the additional obligation to ensure, to the fullest extent possible, that the basic needs of the population of Gaza were met. Attacking people or objects involved in humanitarian assistance might amount to a war crime. The High Commissioner had repeatedly stated that impunity had to end; independent, thorough, and effective investigations into all alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed on 7 October and subsequently needed to be conducted promptly.

Full OHCHR statement can be found here.

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that today at 3:30 pm Geneva time, the Secretary-General would address the media in New York on the occasion of the six months of the Hamas attack against Israel and the Israel’s subsequent war in Gaza. 

Responding to questions from the media, Mr. Laurence said that the Office would continue to engage with the Israeli authorities and request access to Israel and the OPT. In the meantime, their human rights work continued, as the OHCHR had a number of staff in the region, even if not necessarily in Gaza at the moment. He reiterated the call for humanitarian aid to be allowed into Gaza as the situation there was desperate. Opening new border crossings from Israel into Gaza for aid delivery was welcome, but much more ought to be done.

New NGO law in Kyrgyzstan

Jeremy Laurence, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that the OHCHR had serious concerns that a new law due to come into force in Kyrgyzstan in a week’s time would pose a serious threat to the work of numerous civil society organisations in the country, and, more broadly, violate fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and the right to take part in public affairs. The law would grant the authorities extensive oversight of non-commercial organisations and stipulated that NGOs engaging in what were broadly termed “political activities” and receiving foreign funding had to register as “foreign representatives”. Failure to do so could result in their operations being suspended for up to six months, and possibly forced liquidation.

Most NGOs actively operating in Kyrgyzstan receive grants, including from international organisations and foreign donors. OHCHR was concerned that many of the affected NGOs could feel compelled to close to avoid being stigmatised as “foreign representatives”, exposed to arbitrary checks by the authorities, and having to pay for annual audits. OHCHR thus called on the authorities to repeal the new law and ensure all future legislation fully respects international human rights law and standards.

Full press release is available here.

World Health Day

Paulina Nykänen-Rettaroli, Senior Technical Lead and Unit Head on Human Rights at the World Health Organization (WHO), said that this year, on the occasion of the World Health Day, the WHO placed the spotlight on the right to health. Every human being on the planet had the right to health, and every country had the obligation to help realize it. At least 4.5 billion people — more than half of the world’s population — had not been fully covered by essential health services in 2021. The situation had been worsening over the last two decades, but progress was possible if there was political will. Since 2000, more than 40 countries had made progress related to universal health coverage. WHO was calling for additional investment to include health coverage in low- and middle-income countries. WHO was calling for health services to be available for everyone, everywhere, without discrimination.

Ms. Nykänen-Rettaroli said that realizing the right to health also meant improving conditions for people to live healthy lives. Countries should, among other measures, tax tobacco, cigarettes and alcohol, restrict trans fats, and prohibit all forms of discrimination and ensure access to social protection. Health workers, facilities, and supplies should never be attacked or used for military purposes, stressed Ms. Nykänen-Rettaroli. The right to health and protection of health workers in conflict was of paramount importance. Even in countries that were not in war, far too many people died because they could not access timely, quality health care.

More details on the World Health Day 2024 are available here.

Food Price Index

Maximo Torero, Chief Economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), speaking from Rome, informed that the FAO Food Price Index stood at 118.3 points in March 2024, up 1.3 points from its revised February level, as increases in the price indices for vegetable oils, dairy products, and meat slightly more than offset decreases in those for sugar and cereals. The index, although it registered a first uptick in March following a seven-month long declining trend, was still down 9.9 points from its corresponding value one year ago.

The Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 130.6 points in March, up 9.7 points from February and reaching a one-year high. International palm oil prices continued to increase in March, underpinned by seasonally lower outputs in leading producing countries that coincided with firm domestic demand in Southeast Asia, while world soy oil prices recovered from multi-year lows, mostly supported by continued robust demand from the biofuel sector. The Dairy Price Index averaged 124.2 points in March, up 3.5 points from February, marking the second consecutive monthly increase; world cheese prices increased the most, reflecting the steady import demand from Asia, higher internal sales in Western Europe leading to the spring holidays, and seasonally falling production in Oceania. The Meat Price Index averaged 113.0 points in March, up 1.9 points from February, marking the second consecutive monthly increase.

International poultry meat prices increased in March, underpinned by continued steady import demand from leading importing countries. On the other hand, the Cereal Price Index averaged 110.8 points in March, down 3.0 points from February and 27.7 points below its March 2023 value. Global wheat export prices declined for the third consecutive month in March, mostly due to continued strong export competition among the European Union, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America. The Sugar Price Index averaged 133.1 points in March, down 7.6 points from February after two consecutive monthly increases, but still up 6.1 points from its value a year earlier. The March decline in international sugar price quotations was mainly driven by the upward revision to the 2023/24 sugar production forecast in India and the improved pace of sugar harvest in Thailand.

More details can be found here.

Announcements

Alessandra Vellucci, for the for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that said that today was the final day of the fifty-fifth regular session of the Human Rights Council. On the agenda today were five draft resolutions: on human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the obligation to ensure accountability and justice; on realizing the rights of the child and inclusive social protection; on right of the Palestinian people to self-determination; on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan; and on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan; on remote participation modalities for hybrid meetings of the Council. The Council would also take action on 14 proposed candidates for special procedure positions.

Ms. Vellucci also informed that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination would open on 8 April its 112th session, during which it would review the reports of Mexico, San Marino, Albania, Qatar, and Moldova.

The Conference on Disarmament would open the second part of its 2024 session on 13 May, still under the presidency of Iran.

Ms. Vellucci said that on 7 April, the thirtieth anniversary of the genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda would be marked. The Secretary-General’s message had been distributed. On 15 April, a commemoration event would be held at UN Geneva, the details of which are available here.

On 9 April, the press briefing would start exceptionally at 10 am, with the participation of Rebeca Grynspan, the UNCTAD Secretary-General. SG Grynspan would address the first ever UNCTAD rebranding in the run up to its sixtieth anniversary.

On 15 April, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) would launch its State of the World Population Report 2024 from Geneva. The Executive Director, Natalia Kanem, would hold an embargoed press conference at UN Geneva on 15 April at 2:30 pm. Embargo on both the report and the content of the press conference would be lifted on 17 April at 6:01 AM CEST, while an advanced copy of the report would be available from 9 April. Interested journalists should contact Eddie Wright at ewright@unfpa.org

Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that an embargoed press release on hepatitis should be shared out with the media later this morning, while the report itself would be sent out as soon as it was ready.

Finally, Ms. Vellucci reminded that on 16 April, the International Geneva week would commence at Balexert, featuring 16 UN and other international actors from Geneva.

 

 

TOPICS
OHCHR Jeremy Laurence (PR)

 Occupied Palestinian Territory: Protection of humanitarian workers.
 Kyrgyzstan: NGO Law

WFP Leni Kinzli, WFP Communications Officer in Sudan (From Nairobi)

 First food aid in months reaches Darfur, yet limited humanitarian access is worsening
Sudan’s hunger catastrophe

FAO Maximo Torero, FAO Chief Economist (From Rome)

 Monthly update on global food commodity prices (FAO Food Price Index)

WHO Margaret Harris (PR) with Pauliina Nykänen-Rettaroli, Senior Technical Lead and
Unit Head on Human Rights (PR)
 World Health Day (April 7) theme this year ‘My health, my right’


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