UN Geneva Press Briefing - 21 June 2024
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Press Conferences | HRC , UN WOMEN , WHO , UNHCR , OCHA

UN Geneva Press Briefing - 21 June 2024

UN GENEVA PRESS BRIEFING

21 June 2024

Situation in Gaza

Maryse Guimond, for UN Women Palestine Office, who had just returned from a week-long mission in Gaza, speaking from Jerusalem, said that homes, hospitals, schools, universities, daycare centers across Gaza were all demolished. People were trapped in the world of scarcity; they were moving to any available open space, including roads, agricultural land, and damaged buildings. After nearly nine months of war, the population was almost entirely disposed of means to provide for their livelihoods. The people of Gaza were asking for the war to stop, as every day of war brought more destruction and suffering. Gaza was more than two million stories of loss; every woman Ms. Guimond had met had her own story of loss. Despite the challenges, women-led organizations continued to provide essential services. In their meeting with Ms. Guimond, some of these women emphasized, "The question is not what women need; the question should be what they don't need. Women don't want to die, they don't want to bury their loved ones, they don't want to be left alone to suffer.” Such organizations should be provided support so that they could continue their lifesaving humanitarian work. It was crucial to help protect the dignity of people in Gaza, especially women and girls. The women Ms. Guimond had met all called for the end of this war, while doing what they could to help their families and communities. Ms. Guimond concluded by stressing that conflicts were never gender-neutral, which was why it was so critical that we all ensure that men, and women of all ages sit at decision-making tables and fully access humanitarian aid.

Dr. Richard Peeperkorn, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, speaking from Jerusalem, said that an estimated 70,000 people remained in the Rafah area. The closure of the Rafah crossing had cut off the UN logistics hub, which had hindered the flow of supplies. Access through Kerem Shalom was much more challenging. Without regular fuel, humanitarian operations were severely constrained. WHO had for the first time managed to bring in supplies from Jerusalem through Kerem Shalom, which was a welcome development, said Dr. Peeperkorn. The Rafah crossing ought to be reopened, as much more of the supplies needed be regularly brought in. Some 4,800 patients had been medevacked from Gaza so far; an estimated 10,000 more patients needed medical evaluation, according to the WHO, half of whom had chronic diseases and the other half because of the conflict-inflected injuries. Before the war, up to 100 patients from Gaza used to be referred to hospitals in East Jerusalem and the West Bank every day; that was needed again. Speaking of infectious diseases, Dr. Peeperkorn said that there was water contamination, food spoilage, dehydration, in combination with the incredibly poor water and sanitation circumstances, leading to 25 times more diarrhea than normal, as well as high numbers of Hepatitis A cases.

Dr. Thanos Gargavanis, World Health Organization (WHO) trauma surgeon and emergency officer, also speaking from Jerusalem, stressed that the United Nations were trying to operate in a non-workable environment in Gaza. Closure of the Rafah crossing, ongoing hostilities, and destruction of law and order were all contributing factors. The UN was doing only a fraction of what it should be doing. The expansion of the humanitarian zone, as described by the Israel Defense Forces, did not reflect the reality: no place in Rafah, the middle area, or the north of Gaza was really safe, he stressed. WHO and the UN continued to deliver in an extremely challenging context. Right now, there were issues related to the heat, but later in the year, there would be different challenges related to humidity or cold weather. Each season brought its own challenges for the health of people in Gaza.  

Answering questions from the media, Dr. Peeperkorn, for the WHO, said that 17 out of 36 hospitals were partly functional. The largest hospital in Gaza – Al-Shifa – was not functional, he said. In Rafah, no hospitals were currently functional. He praised the incredible resilience of local health workers. There was a total of ten field hospitals in Gaza, added Dr. Peeperkorn. Many trauma cases and amputations had been noticed among adolescents and children, he said. Dr. Gargavanis, also for the WHO, said that, based on estimates and extrapolations, there were 3,000 amputees so far. WHO was focused on lifesaving and limb-saving, but there were currently no conditions for prothesis and rehabilitation of amputees, something that the ICRC used to do before the current conflict. Dr. Peeperkorn added that helping amputees and mental health would be among public health priorities after the conflict.

Ms. Guimond, for UN Women, said that the situation of pregnant and breastfeeding women was rather catastrophic. More than 37,000 people had been killed since the beginning of the conflict, majority of them women and children, emphasized Ms. Guimond. She said that never before had she witnessed such a disastrous situation. Many women she had encountered had spoken of specific hygiene and care challenges they were facing; women and girls were thus double affected. There were an estimated 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, added Dr. Peeperkorn. It was difficult to estimate if the number of pregnancies had dropped down since the start of the conflict. A lot of preterm and low-weight babies had been observed across Gaza. More and more women were asking for early Cesarian section in order to secure a safe delivery, as they did not know if they could access hospitals later. Adequate post-natal care was missing.

Responding to further questions, Dr. Gargavanis explained that the humanitarian pause had not been really reflected on the ground. Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that any initiative aiming to facilitate aid delivery was welcomed. In reality, unfortunately, such various initiative had amounted to little as fighting on the ground had for the most part continued. It was the responsibility of the Israeli authorities, as the occupying power, to address the public order and safety, and to create an enabling environment for the UN and partners to deliver the much-needed humanitarian law.

Since the closure of the Rafah crossing on 7 May, the WHO had not been able to conduct any medical evacuations from Gaza, said Dr. Peeperkorn answering another question. The 4,800 patients who had been medevacked so far were mostly in the region, including Egypt, Jordan, and Türkiye. East Jerusalem and West Bank hospitals were the most logical destinations for medical evaluations; before the conflict, over 90 percent of patients used to be sent there.  Some 67 percent of water and sanitation facilities had been destroyed or damaged, informed Dr. Gargavanis.

Supporting Rohingya refugees affected by deadly landslides in Bangladesh

Babar Baloch, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), stated that the UNHCR and its humanitarian partners were stepping up support to assist some 8,000 Rohingya refugees who had been affected by this week’s landslides in the Cox’s Bazar refugee settlements in Bangladesh. Initial reports suggested seven Rohingya refugees had been killed, including children, and many others injured. The landslides had happened in the aftermath of the first monsoon rains, bringing more misery to residents of the camp. While detailed assessments continue in the camps, initial reports indicated nearly 1,200 refugee shelters had been destroyed or damaged, displacing some 2,000 refugees.

UNHCR and partners were supporting the survivors and injured. Teams had been mobilized to find shelter for those displaced as work continued to rehabilitate or fix damaged accommodation. In addition to shelter, affected refugees also urgently required food and household items as well as access to health care and psychosocial support. The disaster had left families, especially children, traumatized. UNCR was urgently appealing to donors to make additional resources available as humanitarian efforts in the camps are severely hampered by acute underfunding. UNHCR’s financial requirements for Bangladesh amounted to USD 275 million in 2024 and were 25 percent funded. 

UNHCR statement is available here

Human Rights Council

Pascal Sim, for the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), said that the issue of IDPs was regularly addressed by the Council. Just this morning, the HRC was hearing from the expert on the rights of internally displaced people on the evacuations of people in the context of climate change and disasters, and on her mission to Mozambique. This afternoon, the Council would hold interactive dialogues on persons with leprosy, and on prostitution and violence against women. On 24 June, the Council would hear from three experts: on health, education, and the independence of judges and lawyers.

On 24 June, from 1 to 3 pm, the International Day of Women in Diplomacy would be marked with the event “Shattering Glass Ceilings: Recognizing female diplomats' contributions within the UN system”, which would feature leaders of several UN bodies, including the Director-General of UN Geneva, informed Mr. Sim.

He also said that Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences, would hold a press conference on 24 June at 3:30 pm.

Finally, Mr. Sim informed that the President of the Human Rights Council had just announced the appointment of Susan Bazilli (Canada), Karinna Moskalenko (Russian Federation) and Monika Stanisława Płatek (Poland) to serve as members of the new Group of Independent Experts on the Human Rights Situation in Belarus.

Announcements

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that on 25 June at 1 pm, Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and World Agency (UNRWA), would hold a press conference in Geneva to provide an update on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

On 26 June at 1:30 pm, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) would hold a press conference on international developments regarding regulating autonomous vehicles. Speakers would be: Dmitry Mariyasin, Deputy Executive Secretary, UNECE; Richard Damm, Chair, and Francois Guichard, Secretary, Working Party on Automated/Autonomous and Connected Vehicles (GRVA).

The next plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament would take place on 24 June, from 3 to 6 pm, under the presidency of Ireland.

Ms. Vellucci informed that on 24 June, the Secretary-General would launch the UN Global Principles for Information Integrity, a framework for coordinated international action to address the pressing global challenge of misinformation, disinformation, hate speech and other risks to the integrity of the information ecosystem. The Global Principles were the result of wide-ranging consultations with Member States, the private sector, youth leaders, media, academia, and civil society. 

Finally, Ms. Vellucci said that today was the International Day of Yoga, on which occasion hundreds of people had gathered at the Palais des Nations for a joint yoga session.

***

 

 

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

- HRC Pascal Sim: Human Rights Council update 

TOPICS

- UN Women Maryse Guimond, Special Representative, UN Women Palestine Office: Situation of women and girls in Gaza following a mission there

- WHO Christian Lindmeier with Dr Richard Peeperkorn, WHO Representative in the occupied Palestinian territory and Dr Thanos Gargavanis, WHO trauma surgeon and emergency officer (From Jerusalem): Update on health needs in Gaza

- UNHCR Babar Baloch: UNHCR and partners rush support to Rohingya refugees affected by deadly landslides in Bangladesh


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