UN Geneva Press Briefing - 05 July 2024
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Press Conferences | FAO , IFRC , OCHA , WHO

UN Geneva Press Briefing - 05 July 2024

UN GENEVA PRESS BRIEFING

5 July 2024

 

Rolando Gómez of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, attended by spokespersons and representatives of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the World Meteorological Organization, the Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization.

 

Update on Hurricane Beryl

 

Vanessa Huguenin, for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said Hurricane Beryl was the strongest hurricane in history in the Atlantic Ocean during the month of June. It had left a trail of destruction in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Monday 1 July and then impacted Jamaica on Wednesday. It could also impact Belize and Mexico today and over the weekend. It was estimated some 40,000 people had been impacted in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, more than 100,000 in Grenada and another 20,000 in Jamaica. OCHA would continue assessments and hoped to obtain a clearer picture of the situation. In Grenada, partners said the hurricane caused extreme damage to the islands of Carriacou and Petit Martinique, where 70 per cent and 97 per cent of buildings were damaged, respectively. OCHA continued to support and work closely with authorities and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Agency to assess and respond to the devastation. Teams had been deployed from OCHA’s regional office, as well as emergency managers from the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team who would go to Barbados and Jamaica. An additional team could also be sent to Belize. Four million USD had been made available from the Central Humanitarian Response Fund and OCHA was also working on an appeal, with more details to be provided later in the day. Such a strong storm this early in the year was extremely rare and was a warning for the anticipated intense hurricane system to come. 

Rhea Pierre, Disaster Manager for the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean, for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), speaking from Port of Spain, said the IFRC was concerned about the severe impact of Hurricane Beryl, which had rapidly developed into the earliest hurricane to reach a category 5 intensity in the Atlantic Ocean. Initially monitored as a tropical storm, in 42 hours, Beryl had escalated into a devastating hurricane which had affected several Caribbean islands. The hotter sea surface temperatures were acting as catalysts for storms, causing them to strengthen quickly into hurricanes. Unfortunately, these “unprecedented hurricanes” were becoming the new reality for Caribbean countries facing the brunt of climate change. Red Cross teams on the ground confirmed that Beryl's life-threatening rains and winds severely impacted the most vulnerable populations in Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, and Jamaica.

 

Beryl brushed Jamaica’s southern coast on Wednesday and was the strongest hurricane to strike the country in 17 years. Red Cross volunteers prepositioned essential relief supplies and distributed blankets, hygiene kits and tarpaulins to vulnerable communities. Social media was utilised to share early warning and risk communication messages, ensuring public safety and preparedness. The passage of Hurricane Beryl was felt across the entire St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It was estimated roughly 90 per cent of Grenadine islands had been impacted, and the islands of Carriacou and Petit Martinique were completely destroyed. Red Cross volunteers were supporting assessment and relief efforts, including through distributing hygiene kits, blankets, and kitchen sets.

In Barbados the fishing industry had been severely impacted, with over 200 boats destroyed. Red Cross volunteers were collaborating with authorities to manage aid shipments to neighbouring islands. Yesterday, the Cayman Islands continued to feel strong impacts from the tail end of Hurricane Beryl. Right now, Beryl was making landfall in parts of Mexico. Events like these were no longer a one off and highlighted the need for local actors to lead the way in preparedness and anticipatory action. The value of the Red Cross network in the Caribbean was evident. The new reality of the impact of the climate crisis on the Caribbean nations could not be ignored. There were still five months of the hurricane season to go. Climate variations which shifted like a pendulum took countries like Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines from drought like conditions to massive storms, in the blink of an eye. Storms were more likely to become destructive and give communities less time to recover n between. This only underscored the need for a coordinated and inclusive approach to addressing humanitarian needs. The IFRC would continue to support teams across the Caribbean and called on the Government and donors to support their response.

 

Rolando Gómez of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), referred to a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General through which the Secretary-General said he was deeply dismayed by the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Beryl and expressed his solidarity with the Governments and nations affected by the disaster, as well as extending sincere condolences to the victims and their families. The Secretary-General had offered UN support to countries of the region. Mr. Gómez also said that the World Food Programme had begun to provide emergency logistics coordination and was ready to support with food or cash assistance for the communities most affected.

 

Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said Beryl had weakened slightly, then moved over warmer waters gathering strength. It was now back as a major hurricane at category 3 status as it headed towards the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. The maximum winds were near 185km per hour. Hurricanes were rated by the strength of their winds, but often it was the water which posed the greatest threat. Heavy rainfall was expected, and there was a risk of storm surge and coastal flooding in vulnerable communities. For the next few days Beryl would carry on causing damage. This was only the start on what would be a long and dangerous hurricane season.

 

Responding to questions, Vanessa Huguenin, for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that OCHA had deployed colleagues from its office in Panama and were in the process of deploying around 10-15 emergency responders. Assessments were outgoing, but OCHA knew from experience what people would need which included shelter, water, and food. Islands like Carriacou and Petit Martinique which were almost totally destroyed would need an immediate response. It was important to think about future hurricanes. Shelter was as urgent as food and water. OCHA was working on an appeal which aimed to address the individual needs of each island.

 

Tommaso Della Longa, for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said the IFRC was also working on an emergency appeal which would be launched imminently.

 

Rhea Pierre, Disaster Manager for the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean, for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said she had been on the ground in Barbados. It was anticipated there would be a full report by the end of the day. Teams on the ground in Jamaica were also conducting assessments. All companies had a strong relationship with national disaster emergency centres and had placed a representative from the Red Cross with them to receive daily updates. IFRC was reviewing incoming assessments, to inform the emergency appeal which would hopefully be launched before the end of the day.

 

Responding to further questions, Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said in the Atlantic there were currently no signs of hurricanes. The latest advisory from the national hurricane centre was that Beryl was close to landfall in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, and dangerous winds were expected as it moved on shore. The hilly terrain of the Peninsula was not conducive to Beryl sitting for long, so it would probably dissipate rapidly. It was expected that there would 150-200 millimetres of rainfall over the three days on the Peninsula.

 

Mr. Della Longa said to keep an eye on the IFRC social media accounts, as they would continue to provide updates on Hurricane Beryl. They would also provide an update on the emergency appeal once it was finalised.

 

Monthly update on global food commodity prices

 

Monika Tothova, Senior Economist for the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), speaking from Rome, said the FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) was released this morning. The index remained unchanged in June after increasing for three months in a row as higher vegetable oil, sugar and dairy prices offset lower cereal quotations. The index remained 2.1 per cent lower than its corresponding value one year ago and 24.8 per cent below its peak reached in March 2022. The FAO Cereal Price Index was down by 3 per cent from the previous month, with global export prices of all major cereals easing. The Vegetable Oil Price Index, by contrast, rose 3.1 per cent from May, buoyed by reviving global import demand for palm oil and demand in the Americas for soy and sunflower oil. The Sugar Price Index increased by 1.9 per cent from May after three consecutive monthly declines, due in large part to adverse weather concerns. The Dairy Price Index rose by 1.2 per cent, with international quotations for butter reaching a 24-month high on the back of increased global demand. The Meat Price Index was virtually unchanged in June.

 

The full FOA Food Price Index can be viewed here.

 

Situation in Gaza

 

Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), responding to a question, said she did not have updated figures on the number of children who had been evacuated from Gaza. There had been an effort to evacuate children who needed long term treatment, including for cancer. There were 10,000 people, including many children, who would only survive if they were evacuated. WHO were pleading for all avenues and gates to be opened.

 

Announcements

 

Rolando Gómez, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said the Secretary-General was continuing his official visit to Central Asia and was currently in Tajikistan. A statement had been shared from the Secretary-General to the Shanghai Corporation Organization, where he had highlighted the UN’s commitment to multilateralism, with the central goal of the multilateral system being peace. Readouts had been shared of his meetings held in the sidelines of the summit, including with the presidents of Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Belarus.

 

This morning, the Human Rights Committee was concluding its review of Honduras. On Monday the Committee Against Torture would open its 80th session, during which it would review, the reports of Ecuador, Republic of Korea, Cote d’Ivoire, and Türkiye.

 

The Human Rights Council was still underway. Today the Council was adopting outcomes for the Universal Periodic reviews of several countries. There were 26 draft resolutions and decisions which had been submitted to the Council for its consideration, starting next Wednesday, 10 July. The Council media and communications team would share these draft resolutions with journalists.


On Wednesday, 10 July, UN Trade and Development would hold a press conference with Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General, UN Trade and Development and Shamika Sirimanne, UN Trade and Development, Director of Technology and Logistics, who would speak to the publication of the Digital Equality Report. The report was under embargo until 12 pm on 10 July.

TOPICS

- OCHA - Vanessa Huguenin: Update on cyclone Beryl
 
- IFRC - Tommaso Della Longa with Rhea Pierre, IFRC Disaster Manager for the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean (From Port of Spain): Current situation following Hurricane Beryl, needs, and Red Cross response.
 
- FAO - Monika Tothova, Senior Economist (From Rome): Monthly update on global food commodity prices (FAO Food Price Inde

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