UN Geneva Press Briefing - 02 July 2024
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Press Conferences | HRC , IOM , ITU , UNCTAD , UNHCR , UNICEF , UNRWA , WHO , WMO , OCHA

UN Geneva Press Briefing - 02 July 2024

UN GENEVA PRESS BRIEFING

2 July 2024

 

Alessandra Vellucci of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, attended by spokespersons and representatives of the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the International Organization for Migration, the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the World Health Organization, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Trade and Development and the International Telecommunication Union.

 

10 years of protracted conflict and instability in Central African Republic

 

Meritxell Relaño Arana, Representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the Central African Republic, said today that the three million children of the Central African Republic faced the highest registered level of overlapping and interconnected crises and deprivation in the world. The country was ranked first among 191 countries as the most at risk for humanitarian disaster. 10 years of protracted instability in the Central African Republic had left every single child in the country at risk. One in two children did not have access to health services; only one-third of children attended school regularly; nearly two in three young women were married before the age of 18; and nearly 40 per cent of children suffered from chronic malnutrition. The fact the crisis had been stretched over so many years meant the children of the Central African Republic had become invisible. However, there was hope. Now was the time for the international community to rally for a change of course for the children of the Central African Republic. The Government’s new national development plan meant UNICEF and partners had a viable mechanism to chart a new course for the country. Amidst this rare moment of opportunity, the greatest risk was that those such as international donors, global media, and an informed public that the children relied on, would turn their backs in the face of simultaneous global crisis. This would mean many children would unnecessarily die and many would see their futures destroyed. It was imperative that the international community did not forget the children of the Central African Republic.


Responding to questions, Ms. Relaño said there were three million children in the Central African Republic and half the population was under 18. This was the first time the country had a national development plan which would guide investments in capital and improve social services for chidlren, including health and education. The international community should rally around this plan to support the Government and ensure the social services were implemented.

 

Responding to further questions, Ms. Relaño said 40 per cent of children in the Central African Republic were suffering from chronic malnutrition and there were 5.5 per cent who suffered from severe or acute malnutrition. These children would die unless they received treatment. For the prevention of malnutrition, there needed to be sustained investment in social protection, to overcome food insecurity and invest in society to prevent these cases.

 

James Elder, for the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), said there were thorough one-page advocacy briefs on children in the Central African Republic which had been distributed to journalists.

 

Refugee aid efforts in Sudan expand to two new countries as fighting rages

 

Ewan Watson, for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said

today that UNCHR was launching the regional refugee response plan for those forced to flee Sudan. They were looking for 1.5 billion USD from aid partners to assist and protect up to 3.3 million people forced to flee, and the local communities who were hosting them. This was currently less than 20 per cent funded. Mr. Watson had just returned from Sudan where he had visited refugee camps. The situation was incredibly difficult and an appalling tragedy for civilians. It was one of the most neglected crises globally and was the most pressing displacement crisis in the world right now. Sudan was extremely close to famine-like conditions. Floods also hampered the delivery of humanitarian aid and people were trapped and unable to flee. Schools were closed, leaving a generation in peril. Mr. Watson had visited schools in Kosti and White Nile State which had been converted into make-shift shelters. In White Nile State, the population had doubled, taking on an additional one million people who had fled from other areas. Humanitarian access in Sudan was brutally difficult and the floods did not help. Less aid reaching people in Sudan would force more people to flee. 10 million people had already fled in and outside the country, including two million into neighbouring countries. People were making horrific and impossible choices leaving Sudan.

 

The refugee response plan had added two new countries - Libya and Uganda - into the list of countries hosting refugees from Sudan who needed additional support. This was in addition to other countries including Chad, Egypt and South Sudan who were hosting refugees. In Libya, 20,000 new arrivals had been registered since the war broke out, primarily fleeing Darfur. It was thought thousands more had arrived in Libya who were not registered. Resources were overstretched, including accommodation and medical supplies. Uganda was the largest refugee hosting country in Africa and more than 39,000 refugees had arrived from Sudan since the start of the war. Many were arriving from Khartoum and had a university education and were looking to rebuild their lives. UNHCR was working with host governments to provide services such as mental health, food and transport among other critically needed services for these people.

 

Update on the humanitarian situation on Sudan

 

Vanessa Huguenin, speaking for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said the Office was alarmed by the spread of fighting in Sudan, with reports that tens of thousands of people had been displaced in recent days following clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces in Sinja in the southeastern state of Sennar. Colleagues from the International Organization for Migration stated that more than 60,000 people had fled due to the fighting in Sinja, as well as insecurity in Abu Hujar and Ad Dali nearby. The vast majority were moving east toward neighbouring Gedaref State. OCHA and humanitarian partners in Gedaref were preparing for the arrival of displaced people, with enough food and nutrition supplies on hand to meet the needs of 50,000 people, and the capability to bring in more as needed. It was critical that the parties de-escalated immediately, spare civilians, and ensure safe passage for those fleeing the fighting in Sinja and elsewhere in Sudan. Unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance was vital, so those in need could receive the life-saving support.

Time was running out and OCHA needed funding and access. This was particularly critical as the raining season arrived.

 

Responding to questions, Ewan Watson, for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said refugees had been crossing into Libya since the war began, but since October last year there had been a greater movement of people into the country. Because war was continuing and there was no safe space in Sudan, people were being forced to leave the country. It spoke to the gravity of the situation that people ended up in Libya, which was an extremely hard place for refugees at present.

 

Humanitarian crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

 

Fabien Sambussy, Chief of Mission, Democratic Republic of the Congo for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), speaking from the Democratic Republic of Congo, said the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo continued to face a complex and persistent humanitarian crisis. The eastern provinces were characterized by the presence of several active armed groups, aggravating the ongoing cycle of violence, causing significant displacement of populations, and straining an already fragile humanitarian context. As of October, last year, 6.9 million individuals were displaced across the country, a figure that was expected to rise. In North Kivu alone, at the end of May, 1.77 million people were displaced by the M23 crisis, marking a 16 per cent increase since the last report. Earlier this month, a massacre of around 42 individuals occurred in Lubero territory, and in recent days the strategically located town Kanyabayonga had reportedly been seized. So far in 2024, 16 incidents had been reported in internally displaced persons sites, resulting in the death of at least 37 people and injuring more than 50. The crisis was not confined to North Kivu; 77,784 individuals had fled from North Kivu into South Kivu. Additionally, recent rising water levels in Lake Tanganyika, heavy rains, and overflooded rivers had caused flooding and landslides in several areas, especially across South Kivu and Tanganyika. In May, this resulted in significant damage to infrastructure and agricultural land, displacing over 50,000 individuals.

 

Despite significant challenges, humanitarian organizations remained committed to provide life-saving support to people affected by the crisis. However, the current response was not enough. 421,995 resided in the 81 sites managed by IOM where they provided site and coordination management, shelter, water, and sanitation facilities. The Humanitarian Response Plan 2024 aimed to assist 8.7 million people and required 2.6 billion USD, yet it was nearly 16 per cent funded as of May 2024. IOM appealed for 190.5 million USD to target 2.4 million people. Without an increase in humanitarian capacity and resources, the catastrophic situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo would continue to worsen. Provincial authorities and humanitarian, peacebuilding, and development organizations needed to collaborate and implement a stronger and coordinated response to provide immediate relief to displaced populations and improve access to basic services. At the same time, it was important to look for medium and long-term solutions and address the underlying grievances and root causes of the conflict.

         

WMO confirms Tropical cyclone Freddy as the longest on record

 

Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said WMO had recognized a new world record tropical cyclone; there had been a detailed lengthy evaluation with a team of experts who determined that Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which crossed the entire Indian Ocean, had set a new world record at 36 days. Freddy had started off the coast of Australia and had multiple landfalls in vulnerable countries including Mozambique, Madagascar, and Malawi. WMO kept these records to inform policymaking, to understand the changing climate and understand the impact of extreme weather. This was a new world record which would be updated in the WMO’s archives.

 

Hurricane Beryl threatens Caribbean Islands         

 

Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that, unfortunately, Hurricane Beryl was at Category 5 strength. This had developed rapidly over the weekend, beginning as a tropical storm. It was the earliest category 5 hurricane on record in the central Caribbean basin. This set a precedence for what was feared would be an active hurricane season. Several factors were involved, including warm ocean temperatures. Sea surface temperatures had been at record level for 14 months. It only took one landfall in a hurricane to set back decades of development. It was a top priority for the early warning campaign to make sure people got the early warnings they needed.

 

Anne-Claire Fontaine, Scientific Officer for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Tropical Cyclone Programme, said it was atypical to have a major hurricane like this happening at this time of the year. It had been the earliest category 4 hurricane on record. One explanation was that the ocean was very warm. This was one factor which was fueling this hurricane and causing it to become so intense. It was about rapid, intensifying rainfall. Beryl was now a category 5 after hitting Grenada, and kept on intensifying in the Caribbean Sea. Tomorrow, the National Hurricane Center was expecting hurricane conditions for Jamaica, including destructive winds and heavy rainfall.

 

Responding to questions, Ms. Nullis said “on record” varied according to category. It wouldn’t be back past the middle of the 20th century (she said she would need to confirm this). The heat record, for example, dated back to 1912 or 1914.

 

Responding to questions, Ms. Fontaine said without the warmth of the ocean, hurricanes would not be able to develop the necessary energy. Warm oceans were one of the main ingredients for tropical cyclones to develop. The hurricane developed from the surface of the water and there was evaporation from the ocean which fed the cyclone.

 

Ms. Nullis said everything was interconnected, it was not just the atmosphere or the ocean, but a combination of the two. There could not be a strong powerful category 5 hurricane with cold waters. Warm water acted as petrol into the car’s engine. Ocean heat was a core ingredient.

 

Responding to further questions, Ms. Nullis said climate change had made hurricanes more intense. Ms. Fontaine said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPPC) last report outlined how the frequency of the hurricanes and cyclones would not change, but there would be a shift towards more intense tropical cyclones worldwide. With the atmosphere, it was possible for them to absorb more water and they would therefore be associated with more rain.

 

Ms. Nullis said more extreme weather was just one example of the negative impacts of climate change. There needed to be action. The climate crisis was the overriding challenge humanity faced. There needed to be urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions to get to carbon neutrality. Individual governments had made a lot of progress in forecasts and preparedness and coordinating with disaster risk authorities. Many island nations had weather-ready campaigns, helping people to spot dangers and act on them. Generally, the mortality rate from tropical cyclones had fallen dramatically in 50 years. However, more could be done. This was why WMO was one of the partners in the early warning campaign issued by the UN Secretary-General. It was not good enough to just issue an early warning; it needed to reach the people who needed it the most, so they could act.

         

New evacuation orders from eastern Khan Younis, Gaza

 

Louise Wateridge, for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), speaking from Gaza, said new displacement orders issued in eastern Khan Younis, were already resulting in people trying to leave the area. Around 250,000 people were impacted by these orders. It was another devastating blow to the humanitarian response in Gaza and the people and families on the ground who were forcibly being displaced again and again. Makeshift shelters could be seen right up to the shoreline; it was packed with families who had already had to move. Khan Younis had previously been a ghost town and after the Rafah incursion, families had been forced back to this area. Families now needed to move again; where could they go? There was no answer; there was no safe space in the Gaza strip. There was not an option to leave the Gaza strip. There had been ongoing bombardments which made it difficult for families to make a decision. 17,000 children were unaccompanied or separated from their families. It was over 30 degrees Celsius and there was limited availability for fresh drinking water. There was garbage everywhere and disease was spreading. The options on the ground were very limited.

 

Responding to questions, Ms. Wateridge said the recent orders had come through overnight. It was estimated that 250,000 people had been impacted through the area but this would be updated. UNRWA had received some fuel, but it was difficult to plan long term without access to fuel. The recent evacuation orders would impact UNRWA’s ability to reach the Kerem Shalom crossing, with the aid needed.

 

When the Rafah military operation began, people and their families made decisions based on what they could do. It was understood people were going to the west towards the coast. There was a severe lack of communication on the ground, even with UNRWA staff, as communications were continually cut due to fuel restrictions. As soon as there was more information, this would be shared across UNRWA platforms.

 

Health Update in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)

 

Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said the health care system in Gaza had lost 70 per cent of its bed capacity. There were no functioning hospitals in Rafah for the third consecutive week. The generators in the hospitals were barely functioning as they had been operating overtime, and the limited access to electricity, fuel and solar system hindered the proper functioning of health facilities and aid operations. Power blackouts particularly affected newborns, ICU services and kidney dialysis.

 

Dr. Hanan Balkhy, Regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean for the World Health Organisation (WHO), speaking from Jerusalem, said she had arrived to the OPT on Sunday to gain firsthand insights into the scale of the health crisis. In meetings with partners and senior United Nations officials, it was confirmed that WHO and humanitarian partners were committed to staying and delivering in Gaza. They had the required resources to alleviate people’s suffering, but a lack of an enabling environment was one of the biggest challenges. Today WHO had procured 30 million USD of medical supplies, 59 per cent of which had already been delivered to the Gaza strip. Emergency medical teams coordinated by WHO, had conducted around 900,000 medical consultations and 25,000 surgical operations, and facilitated the medical evacuation of 4,913 people. WHO had also worked to restore Nasser medical complex and Al Shifah hospital. But these could not replace a well-functioning health system which was needed in Gaza today. One key challenge was a shortage of fuel. Since the closure of the border, the health response operations had been significantly compromised.

 

Since June, only 125,000 litres had entered Gaza to be shared by all sectors. To maintain full operations, health alone needed 80,000 litres a day and water and sanitation needed 70,000 litres a day. Hospitals were again short on fuel risking delays to critical services. From 15 to 23 June, the water and sanitation cluster received less than five per cent of the fuel needed each day to keep these services running. As a result, water services were required to ration and reduce water reduction. A lack of sanitation of water was contributing to an increase in diseases. This situation needed to be prevented. Closure of the Rafah border crossing was preventing patients from receiving the critical care they needed. More than 10,000 patients remained stranded inside the Gaza Strip waiting to be evacuated. Patients needed to be evacuated through all possible routes. The facility in East Jerusalem was ready to receive up to 100 patients from Gaza as soon as they could be evacuated. The need for a sustainable solution in the occupied Palestinian territory was more urgent than ever. Despite the challenges, WHO and partners were unwavering in their commitment to provide critical health services. However, a long-term solution to the crisis required a concerted effort from all international communities to resume and continue with political discussions to address the root causes of this conflict and to create peace.

 

Rik Peeperkorn, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in the occupied Palestinian territory, speaking from Jerusalem, said the latest evacuation orders included the European Gaza hospital area, although the hospital itself was not under evacuation order. Yesterday, 70 patients had reportedly self-evacuated along with medical staff to the national complex. This morning more patients were evacuated and only three patients remained at the European Gaza hospital and three in the ICRC field hospital. WHO was supporting the transfer of valuable medical equipment and supplies out of the hospital. The European Gaza hospital was one of the few remaining key referral hospitals in the south of Gaza. The hospital was already overwhelmed and needed more fuel. WHO was trying to resupply the hospital and increase its capacity to provide services. Currently 16 out of 36 hospitals were partially functional and eight of the ten field hospitals were functional or partially functional. Based on data from 25 to 27 June, only 195,200 litres of fuel entered Gaza to be shared by all sectors. This meant risking disruption of critical surgeries, people suffering, and the humanitarian operation being compromised.

 

Responding to questions, Dr. Peeperkorn said the health infrastructure had been extremely damaged. WHO was mandated by the World Health Assembly to monitor, analyse, and report on attacks on health care. This occurred in conflicts all over the world. As of 25 June, WHO had reported attacks on 74 health facilities which killed 14 people and injured 960. 128 health workers remained detailed. 103 health facilities had been affected.

 

Responding to further questions, Dr. Peeperkorn said most staff had already left the European Gaza hospital; there were still three patients remaining with some staff. 10 ICRC staff were remaining in the European Gaza hospital or in the adjacent ICRC field hospital. 16 out of the 36 hospitals provided most of the secondary and referral care, including the 43 out of 99 primary health care services. The eight out of the ten field hospitals were incredibly important and were working fully or partially. None of the three hospitals in Al Shifa were functional. There was only one field hospital functioning in that area.

 

Responding to further questions, Mr. Peeperkorn, welcomed the release of the director of Al Shifa. No WHO staff members had spoken to him. WHO remained concerned about the wellbeing of health care workers who remained in detention and called for their immediate release.

 

Announcements

 

Pascal Sim, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that

today the Human Rights Council would hear from two thematic experts: the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of rights in the context of climate change, Elisa Morgera, and the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier de Schutter. Tomorrow the Council would consider five country situations: Belarus, Syria, Venezuela and Myanmar and Burundi. On Thursday, the Council would consider Universal Periodic Review adoptions, where 14 countries would have their reports adopted. Today was the deadline for member states who wished to submit a draft resolution proposal for adoption.

 

Catherine Huissoud, for UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said UN Trade and Development had published the latest update on global trade data this morning. World trade growth returned to the green in the first quarter of 2024, with the value of trade in goods increasing by around 1 per cent quarter-on-quarter, and that of services by around 1.5 per cent. This growth was fuelled by the positive trade dynamics in the United States and in developing countries, particularly in the major developing Asian economies. If positive trends continued, world trade could reach almost 32,000 billion USD in 2024, the record level reached in 2022. Trade growth varied significantly by sector, with green energy and AI-related products seeing stronger increases. Despite these positive trends, enthusiasm for 2024 remained tempered by potential geopolitical issues and the impact of industrial policies. The report warned that geopolitical tensions, rising transport costs and new industrial policies could alter the structure of world trade.

 

Ms. Huissoud also said UNCTAD had released the Digital Economy Report 2024, which highlighted the urgent need for sustainable strategies throughout the life cycle of digitalization. It was apparent that developing countries were suffering disproportionately from digitalization’s negative environmental effects, while missing out on economic developmental opportunities due to digital divides. UNCTAD called for global policies to enable a more circular digital economy and reduce environmental footprints from digitalization, while ensuring inclusive development outcomes. A time for a press conference would be confirmed, and the report and press release would be shared under embargo before the end of the week.

 

David Hirsch, for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said Giga, the joint ITU-UNICEF initiative which aimed to connect every school to the Internet by 2030, would hold the first Giga Connectivity Forum next week in Geneva from 9 to 10 July. The Connectivity Forum would explore international efforts to connect schools, including through innovations like AI-driven mapping. Reporters were invited to cover the opening session in-person on 9 July from 09:00 to 12:30 CEST.

Responding to questions, Mr. Hirsch said the Radio Regulations Board (RBB) had met last week in Geneva and the summary decisions of the meetings were available. The decisions the Board had presented were listed in the summary of decisions. The summary of decisions gave a sense to how the RRB approached its work to ensure radio stations could run free of interference.

 

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said the Human Rights Committee would begin the examination of the report of Croatia this afternoon, followed by Malta, Honduras, Maldives, Surinam, Syrian Arab Republic, and India.

 

Volker Türk would provide a background briefing on the 10th of July at 10:30am at Palais Wilson. On Thursday, July 4 at 2pm, UNHCR would launch a new report on the risk faced by refugees and migrants on the Central Mediterranean route. Everything was under embargo until Friday July 5.


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