Geneva News Briefing - 26 March 2024
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Geneva Press Briefing - 26 March 2024


26 March 2024



Heightened risks for displaced in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo


Matthew Saltmarsh, for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said two years of cyclical conflict in the North Kivu territories of Rutshuru and Masisi had forced over 1.3 million people to flee their homes within the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), leading to a total of 5.7 million people becoming internally displaced across North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri provinces. Since violent clashes in the town of Sake, on 7 February, almost 300,000 people had arrived in the city of Goma, where conditions were dire. A further 85,000 people had fled the same violence and sought shelter in the Minova region of South Kivu, which had already hosted 156,000 displaced people since January.


The shelling of a commercial centre on 20 March killed a displaced woman and injured at least three others, including two children. Reports of indiscriminate bombings in Sake and Goma over recent weeks, which killed more than 30 people and injured at least 80, were also concerning. In 2023, 25 schools were occupied by non-state armed groups in Masisi and Rutshuru territories alone, and a further 17 schools were attacked. In 2024, seven schools were destroyed by bombings. In 2023, in North Kivu alone, there were 50,159 reported cases of gender-based violence, more than half of which were rape; 90 per cent of these victims were women and girls, while 37 per cent were children.


UNHCR was calling for an immediate end to the violence and urged all parties to the conflict to respect and uphold international humanitarian law and human rights, and to protect civilians. A scaled-up humanitarian response in the eastern provinces between June and December 2023 reached more than 3.1 million people with life-saving assistance. UNHCR had provided emergency shelter to over 40,000 of the most vulnerable arrivals in Goma, but this addressed only a small portion of the need. UNHCR had only received 14 per cent of the $250 million required for its response in the DRC in 2024. The lack of funding threatened aid deliveries, exacerbating the region’s dire humanitarian crisis.  


The full statement is available here.

Responding to questions, Mr. Saltmarsh said it was not UNHCR’s role to track who was firing the shells, but to pick up the shattered pieces of people’s lives after those shots had been fired. There were several actors in the region who had been involved in the recent activities. Over 252 non-State armed groups were operating in the eastern provinces of the DRC. UNHCR was there to support the victims. The Organization was working with the Government and stood to protect civilians while the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo withdrew their activities. UNHCR did not track where the arms were coming from, but worked on expanding displacement sites and reception centres, providing shelter kits and providing psycho-social support for traumatised displaced people. Where the Organization had access, they were providing non-food items, such as tarpaulins, blankets and sleeping bags. UNHCR did not have complete access in the region; hundreds of thousands had been displaced in multiple territories where there was no access.


Cost-saving measure at UNOG


Kira Kruglikova, Director, for the Division of Administration of the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG), said that in 2023, the UN had ended the year with lowest collection of payments in the last five years. Only 142 Member States had paid their dues in full, meaning the financial situation for 2024 was very fragile. Amidst the UN global liquidity crisis, UN Geneva’s directive was to reduce non-salary related expenses by 42 percent, which meant finding savings upwards of 15 million USD. Effective 22 April, a series of strategic adjustments would be implemented which aimed to enhance operational efficiency and cut costs. These measures included temporary and permanent moves for more efficient office space management and the enforcement of reduced opening hours. UN Geneva was committed to fulfilling its mandates, particularly in providing essential conferencing services, despite the ongoing liquidity challenges.


Responding to questions, Ms. Kruglikova said the team would assess the situation of journalists needing to operate under extended hours. This was problematic for everyone, and it needed to be ascertained if funding was available for extra security. UNOG would see what they could do to minimise any inconvenience.

Responding to further questions, Ms. Kruglikova said the question of online and hybrid meetings was not tied to the liquidity crisis. If the situation was to change with the General Assembly giving a mandate for hybrid meetings, this would trigger a request for resources which would solve the situation.


It seemed that the liquidity crisis would not be an issue for the Strategic Heritage Plan, aside from moving up the building D occupancy, which had already been planned for later in the year. The Honour Roll was available on the webpage of the Committee on Contributions, which showed which members States had paid in full. Cost-saving measures would probably be reviewed in June.


Currently, the instruction was that staff would be preserved. The Secretary-General and the Director-General were fully committed to this. There was no intention of letting any staff go, or of not extending regular contracts. This was already a difficult situation, and the Office did not want staff to feel anxious about job security while they were already being asked to perform at a higher level with fewer resources.  


Situation in Gaza


Abdulhakim Elwaer, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa, for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), speaking from Cairo, said the crisis in Palestine, particularly in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, had reached unprecedented levels since the escalation of the conflict on 7 October 2023. The conflict had severely impacted the agricultural sector, leading to disruptions in agricultural production, livestock losses, and limited access to essential resources for farmers and herders. A 43 percent of crop lands, 27 percent of greenhouses and 28 percent of agricultural wells had been lost, which made it very difficult to produce fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk, fish and dairy products. Gaza had previously exported fish to Egypt and Palestine, but the fishing sector had been stopped since 7 October. The lack of electricity had further exacerbated the situation, and the lack of care of livestock had increased the likelihood of diseases for humans. FAO had been actively engaged in the distribution of animal fodder and aimed to supply 500 tonnes of animal fodder, which would sustain minimum levels of local production. Access was still not possible in some parts of Gaza. FAO had secured funding to support some initiatives, but there was an urgent need for additional resources to scale up efforts and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.


James Elder, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), speaking from Rafah, said two major issues in Gaza that were central for survivors: the safety of those in Rafah, and aid delivery. Rafah was unrecognisable since he had visited it three months ago. The global standards stated that a maximum of 20 people should use a single toilet. In Rafah, there was one toilet for 850 people. For showers it was four times that number. This was a hellish disregard for basic human rights and dignity. Those same standards stated that people needed 15 litres of water each day. Today on average, the households in Gaza had less than one litre of safe water per person, per day. Only one-third of hospitals on the Gaza Strip were partially functioning, while more children needed health services than ever before. The endless talk of a large-scale military offensive in Rafah was highly concerning. Rafah was a city of children: 600,000 girls and boys were there, and Rafah was home to some of Gaza's last remaining hospitals and shelters and water systems. Yesterday, Mr. Elder had been in Jabalia in the north of Gaza. Tens of thousands of people crowded the streets, desperately seeking food. There were hundreds of UN trucks of lifesaving humanitarian aid, waiting to get to people in Gaza, but they were on the wrong side of the border. This was against the backdrop of the recent report released from the IPC, stating that famine was imminent in northern Gaza. Since the IPC had begun reporting two decades ago, the Gaza rating was the most severe ever given.


Before the war, wasting on the Gaza Strip was rare, with less than one percent of children under the age of five acutely malnourished. Today, of those children under two years old, one in three were acutely malnourished. The north had urgent, massive needs for food and nutrition, and efforts to provide aid were being hampered. There was an existing old crossing point in the north which could be used, just ten minutes from where people were pleading for food. If it was opened, the humanitarian crisis could be turned around in a matter of days. But it remained closed. Famine which was entirely man-made and this meant it could be reversed if the right decisions were made. Between 1 and 22 March, one quarter of 40 humanitarian aid missions into northern Gaza were denied. UNRWA was now blocked from delivering food to the north, despite being responsible for the delivery of 50 percent of the food. Lifesaving aid was being obstructed. Lives were being lost. Mr. Elder said a sense of despair was pervading the population. People often asked if there was still hope. The question had answers of varying extremes. Mr. Elder had spoken to a mother who had lost her loved ones and her home. She felt as though all she had left was hope. Then yesterday, UNICEF had sat with adolescents, several of whom said they were so desperate for the nightmare to end that they hoped to be killed. Amid all of this, so many brave and generous Palestinians continued to support one another any way they could. UN agencies and UNICEF continued despite the challenges. The ceasefire needed to be substantive, not symbolic. The hostages needed to go home. The people of Gaza needed to be allowed to live.


Responding to questions regarding Israeli accounts that no one was starving in the north of Gaza, Mr. Elder said trucks with food hadn’t gone north for several days. A week ago, he’d been in Kamal Adwan hospital, with more than 20 children dying from malnutrition. Incubators were full of babies who had been born prematurely due to the stress from their malnourished mothers. Children faced starvation due to a lack of food. People in the north were surviving on a type of grass which they were eating with lemon. Children in the north dreamed of eating vegetables. Truth mattered and life- saving aid mattered.

Ms. Vellucci quoted the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNWRA) report which said that Israeli authorities continued to reject urgent UNRWA food convoys to northern Gaza. Since 21 March, UNRWA had submitted daily requests to Israeli authorities, all of which had been denied with no reason given. A fourth request submitted on March 24 was also denied.


Mr. Elwaer said access to the north in Gaza was not assured. Most of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report outlined the presence of catastrophic phases were in the north and central parts of Gaza. There were cases of death, due to starvation, which were the early indications of famine.


Mr. Elder said 38 trucks from the World Food Programme had recently gone through to the north, which was the first-time aid had gone through in five days. This was not enough Before the war, 500 trucks had entered the Gaza strip every day. This was now down to one third of this number, and there had been periods of weeks where nothing entered the north. The IPC figures showed record catastrophic declines into imminent famine, which spoke to a lack of food and nutrition aid which was still not reaching the north. . The Palestinian Red Crescent and Egyptian Red Crescent were doing immense work.


Responding to further questions, Mr. Elwaer reiterated that the 500 trucks which had been entering Gaza prior to October 7, contained materials for further production, including seeds, fertilisers and animal fodder. This had all been lost. Currently the trucks which were only supplying food, could not be compared to this amount. There was an FAO office which communicated daily with the authorities trying to facilitate access. Trucks filled with animal fodder had been unable to cross the border for two months.


Responding to further questions regarding failed aid delivery, Mr. Elder said the situation was so desperate, that if aid was safely delivered to civilians, including from the sea, then any aid was welcome. But road networks were the most efficient and needed to be used. Ms Vellucci said the Secretary-General had stressed that the only efficient way to move heavy goods was by road.


Responding to questions, Jens Laerke, for the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said he appreciated the pursuit of the truth and facts by the media. International conventions stated that the parties to the conflict were required to facilitate rapid and unimpeded access for civilians in need. This had never been truer or more urgent than it was today. Israeli authorities had a right to control and inspect aid, but they also needed to create an enabling environment to move it around. One could not claim to adhere to provisions of war when UNRWA food convoys were blocked, when Israeli forces attacked warehouses, or when hospitals were under siege.


Responding to further questions on the trucks containing animal fodder, Mr. Elwaer said it had initially been accepted, but then denied. It had passed through the first check point but had been denied access at the second points. At least 1400 farmers had been desperately waiting for the animal fodder. A reason for the rejection was that the Israeli authorities said it was not food. This was incorrect as although it wasn’t food directly, it was a way to generate food by feeding livestock. In March, the go-ahead had been given to try again with the animal fodder, and this was currently underway.


The IPC report showed that half of the population were affected with extreme malnutrition, lack of food security and starvation. There had been reports of death due to starvation, particularly in the north. The north remained a total blockade which was inaccessible. There was enough evidence which showed ongoing starvation, a lack of food supplies and water. Those who claimed otherwise needed to provide evidence for that.


Mr. Elder said both the Erez and Karni crossings in the north needed to be opened.


Responding to further questions, Mr. Elder said there were emergency stabilisation and therapeutic centres set up for feeding. These were critical. Nutrition experts said part of the challenge was to build up the capacity of the health staff, because malnutrition had previously not been an issue for them.


Responding to questions, Tarik Jašarević, for the World Health Organization (WHO) said WHO had established two stabilisation centres in the south of Gaza and were trying to establish more in a middle area. Yesterday, WHO had managed to bring two young people from Kamal hospital out of Gaza but it was a priority to be able to treat people inside Gaza. Access was vital. There were 20,000 health workers in Gaza who were ready to help but were unable to access hospitals.

Responding to further questions, Mr Jašarević said WHO had expressed concern at the attack on the al-Amal hospital in the south. Most of the patients had been forced to leave due to hostilities in the region. This was another example of hospitals being under attack. WHO still did not have access to Al-Shifa hospital. Half of the missions to hospitals had not been given the green light. More than 400 attacks on healthcare had been recorded since October, and more than 600 people had died in these attacks. This had to stop. It was hoped that the ceasefire would be implemented.


Ms. Vellucci quoted the Secretary-General who said the cease-fire resolution must be implemented; failure would be unforgivable.


Responding to further questions, Mr. Jašarević said WHO had not witnessed Hamas using hospitals as military headquarters. What they had seen were healthcare workers trying to do their best.


Mr. Elder, said the latest numbers showed that 13,750 children were reported to have been killed in the conflict. There had been reports of double-digit numbers of children killed overnight, only hours after the Security Council cease-fire resolution was passed. The Director of Kamal-Adwan hospital, had said that 23 children had died from malnutrition and dehydration. Mr. Elder had personally seen several children that day who were skeletal. It was hard to produce precise figures on starvation.


Responding to further questions, Mr. Jašarević said figures provided by the Ministry of Health were accurate, or if anything, under-reported. It was a deadly combination of diseases and malnutrition. Disease surveillance and reporting had been interrupted.


Human Rights Council Update


Pascal Sim, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said the Human Rights Council was currently considering the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) outcome of Cuba, the last of a total of 14 UPR outcomes adopted during the 55th session. A general debate on the UPR would follow immediately after, at around 11:30 a.m. At 3 p.m., this afternoon, Council was beginning its consideration of item 7 of its agenda on the human rights situation in Palestine and in other occupied Arab territories. The Council was holding an interactive dialogue with Francesca Albanese, the Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, who was presenting her latest report. Ms. Albanese would also hold a press conference tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. in the news room. Following the interactive dialogue, the Council would hear from Deputy High Commissioner Nada Al-Nashif who would present two reports. The first, was a report of High Commissioner on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan. The second was the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Occupied Syrian Golan.



Alessandra Vellucci of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said this morning, the United Nations Deputy Special Envoy for Syria announced that 15 Syrian women had agreed to join the Syrian’s Women’s advisory board as new members. These new members of the board would bring the realities of Syrian women and men, girls and boys to the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria, over their three-year term.


The United Nations Human Rights Committee would hold a press conference to present their findings on Chile, Guyana, Indonesia, Namibia, Serbia, Somalia and the United Kingdom, on Thursday 28th of March at 1.30 pm.


This morning, the Conference on Disarmament was holding a public plenary meeting under the presidency of Ambassador Ali Bahreini, of the Islamic Republic of Iran.




Good morning. Welcome to the press briefing here in Geneva.
It's today's Tuesday 26 March.
We have quite a few
points on the agenda and I'll start immediately with
Pascal for an update on the Human Rights Council.
you have the floor.
Thank you, Alessandra. Good morning, everyone.
The United Nations Human Rights Council is currently considering the
adoption of the Universal Periodic review outcome of Cuba,
which is the last adoption. Out of a total of 14 U
outcomes to be adopted during this session
and the general debate on the U PR will follow starting
around 11:30 a.m. this morning
at 3 p.m. this afternoon.
The United Nations Human Rights Council is beginning
its consideration of Item seven of its agenda
on the human rights situation in Palestine and in other occupied Arab territories.
The council is holding an interactive dialogue with Francesca Albanese,
the special rapporteur on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967
who is presenting a latest report.
This will be followed by another interactive dialogue
with the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Nashif, who will present two reports.
The first one,
a report of the High Commissioner on
Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory,
including East Jerusalem and in the occupied Syrian Golan.
the second report is a report from the Secretary
General on the situation in the occupied Syrian Golan.
And tomorrow we will hear a presentation
of the Intergovernmental Working Groups on the
Durban Declaration and Plan of Action
uh, Pascal
Questions for Human Rights Council.
Ok, so I'm W.
Uh, I'm waiting now for my colleague uh, Mrs uh, Kira
Kova who
should join us in a few minutes. But while we're waiting for her,
uh, maybe, um, we we don't have Francois. We don't have news if she's arriving. No.
so maybe I'll I'll, uh, I'll go to, um
uh, maybe we will go If Matt is here. Maybe just let's go to the
Congo. Then we will hear from Kira, and then we will go to Gaza,
and I like to add to the agenda because it just came in
that James Elder is going to also
brief you from Gaza on Gaza
And so he will add his voice
to Mr Abdul
who is the
Assistant Director General and regional representative from
the nearest and near North Africa,
Who is going to speak about the situation of food in Gaza.
So we listen to
Matt quickly and to Mrs
Kulikova. And then we will go to Gaza with the two speakers.
Matt, you have the floor.
You talk
about the eastern
correct morning, everyone and thank you. Alessandra,
We have an update on the displacement situation and
the recent violence in the east of the DRC.
is raising the alarm as ongoing violence in eastern areas of
the Democratic Republic of the Congo reaches a devastating level.
Two years of cyclical conflict
in the North Kivu territories
Rauru and Masisi
have forced over 1.3 million people to flee their homes within the
leading to a total of 5.7 million people becoming internally displaced
across North
Kivu, South
Since violent clashes enveloped
in Masisi territory on 7 February,
almost 300,000 people have arrived in Goma and its surroundings,
swelling spontaneous and official displacement sites
as they desperately seek shelter from indiscriminate
bombing and other human rights abuses.
Conditions are dire
as growing needs for shelter, sanitation
and livelihood opportunities outstrip available resources.
A further 85,000 people
have fled that same violence
and sought shelter in Minerva, South Kivu. In
January, the town of Minova already hosted over 156,000 displaced people,
with the majority in makeshift shelters.
The deeply troubling trend of the increased use of heavy artillery
in the conflict continues amid reports of bombings targeting civilian locations.
the shelling of a commercial centre on 20 March killed a displaced woman
and injured at least three others, including two Children.
Reports from indiscriminate bombings in
sake and Goma
over recent weeks,
which killed more than 30 people and injured at least 80.
Also alarming, as is the threat of unexploded ordinance,
the latest reports from UNHCR teams are bleak.
Families continue arriving at sites traumatised and exhausted by the attacks,
scarred physically and psychologically.
Many report being abused some sexually during their flight.
New arrivals find refuge in makeshift shelters in overcrowded sites,
in schools and churches or with host families stretching their meagre resources.
humanitarian partners have observed systematic incursions by armed
groups into civilian structures like displacement sites,
hospitals and health centres
in 2023. 25 schools were occupied by non state armed groups in Masisi and
Rou provinces, territories alone
and a further 17 schools were attacked
in 2024. 7 schools have been destroyed by bombings,
while lootings of medicine and essential materials from health centres in
recent weeks has further hampered humanitarians
ability to support displaced people.
Hundreds of thousands have been identified as displaced
behind the front lines in Masisi, Rou
Naragon territories cut off from aid and assistance.
The renewed violence means many Children have been displaced and a large
number are now unaccompanied and exposed to grave risks and violations,
kidnapping, forced recruitment, mutilation and rape.
In 2023 in North Kivu alone,
there were over 50,000 reported cases of gender based violence,
more than half of which were rape.
90 per cent of these victims were women and girls
well, 37 per cent were Children.
UNHCR is calling for an immediate end to the violence and urges
all parties to the conflict to respect and uphold international humanitarian law
and human rights and to protect civilians.
The risks for displaced civilian populations are clearly multiplying.
A scaled up humanitarian response in the eastern
provinces between June and December of last year
did manage to reach
more than 3.1 million people. With life saving assistance
with our partners,
UNHCR was able to provide emergency shelter to over
40,000 of the most vulnerable arrivals in Goma.
The distribution of thousands of core relief kits and tarpaulins helped
improve daily life for those outside of the planned sites.
However, this addressed only a tiny portion
of those in desperate need.
UNHCR remains deeply committed to supporting those affected in eastern
and urgently calls for concerted international action to address the crisis.
We received only 14 per cent of the $250 million required for the
in 2024.
You may also have noted that the
recent Refugee response plan issued in late February
for almost $700 million is also chronically underfunded.
The lack of funding threatens aid deliveries,
exacerbating the region's dire humanitarian crisis.
Thank you.
Thank you very much, Matt. Thanks. And also thanks for stepping in
any question to UN HCR
on the issue of the DRC
in the room.
So I go to the platform Kathrine fianca
Good Morning, Alexandra. Good morning, Matt.
Matt, It would be very useful if we could get your notes.
Excuse me, please.
Because there are
many figures and interesting info, So could we get them as soon as possible?
Thank you so much.
Yes, indeed. I see Matt nodding.
Mike, Mike.
They'll be coming out almost immediately. Catherine.
So you should have them very soon.
They might be there already.
Lisa. Lisa
Yeah. Good morning.
Doesn't sound like a good morning at all.
Morning that,
I I'd I'd like to uh uh,
Who's doing the fighting? Is it M 23 along with other militia? How many are involved?
Where is it That, uh, I assume that it's they who are
using the heavy artillery.
Uh, where are they getting the weapons? There are all kinds of reports that
M 23 at least is being supported by Rwanda.
Has Rwanda said anything about this? Have you asked them about it?
And what is the government response to all of this?
I mean, the government sounds like
It's missing in action, if you will.
Yes. Could you please answer those? Thank
Thank you, Lisa, for the question I mean,
I think as you know, it's not our job to
track who's firing the shells. But we do try, of course, to pick up the pieces,
the shattered pieces of people's lives after those shells have been fired.
We don't
specific armed groups, but as you well know,
there are several actors in the region that have been particularly involved
in the activities. Most recently.
there are over 252 non state armed groups operating in the eastern provinces
of the
According to
reputable study.
It's really our job to support those who
have been impacted by this appalling violence.
And of course,
we call for peace in the region and
for all actors to respect the humanitarian principles
in terms of the government. Yes, of course, we work with the government.
As you well know.
The peacekeepers of UNESCO are currently drawing down
their activities,
and we think that it's important
that as that situation plays out,
civilians are protected
and that the armed groups are disarmed of their weapons and that a democratic system
can follow. Thank you.
Thank you very much. Matt. Uh uh Lisa as a follow up
uh, you know, a couple of things.
where are they getting their arms? Is this part of the international arms trade?
And then I'd like to know about,
what you and other aid groups are actually able
to do in order to support these people.
Are you able to even reach them
because of the, uh, obvious security problems that the dangers that there are
and the fact that, uh uh,
you and presumably other agencies are not being well financed.
Thank you.
Thank you, Lisa.
We don't track where the arms are coming from, so you would have to ask other,
more strategic
experts to really follow the trail of the arms.
What we're doing in the country is what we can, given those very meagre funding
that very meagre funding situation that I outlined earlier.
We've been working on the displacement sites, some of which are
incredibly dangerous,
as you've just heard, trying to expand those displacement sites,
reception centres, providing shelter kits
for the people who have so tragically been forced to move there.
We're providing psychosocial support for traumatised displaced people who
have witnessed the most appalling human rights abuses.
We are working with the authorities to try to, as I said,
improve those displacement sites
where we have access.
We are providing our non food items,
the core items that we provide things like tarpaulins, cooking kits, blankets,
sleeping, sleeping mats and so on.
And of course,
we are advocating with the authorities to provide as much
access as we can in terms of that access.
As you mentioned Lisa,
we don't have complete access in the region.
Many people have been displaced
Roo territory
to whom we do not have access.
Hundreds of thousands have been displaced
in Masisi territory,
where we cannot access them because it is simply too dangerous at the moment.
Thank you very much, Matt.
Uh uh, for these updates and we'll wait for your notes.
So, as I said before, I am happy to welcome
our director of the division of Administration. I asked for
and James patients. We will go to this briefing now on the
issue of the cost
We had been asked by the journalists and then we will
go to Gaza with you both from Cairo and Gaza.
So I give the floor now to Kira. Krulik
is the director of our division of administration
on Friday. We have shared with you a not a correspondent with all the information
about the measures you have asked for this briefing. So I'm happy to give
the floor
to give you an introductory brief, and then we will go to questions. Thank you.
Great. Thank you very much. OK,
so thank you very much for this opportunity.
Um, I think, as you may be aware,
in 2023 the organisation ended the year with the highest arrears in a very long time.
And the lowest collection of payments. Uh, within the last five years,
only 100 and 42 of our member states paid their dues in full.
This is available online in the honour roll.
If you're interested in looking at that,
the financial situation for 2024 is therefore extremely fragile.
And this, of course, limits our ability to effectively execute our mandates.
Uh, the task that we see here at Uno
is that in the midst of this global liquidity crisis, we need to reduce our non
salary salary related expenses
by about 42%. We're asked with finding over 15 million Swiss francs in cost savings.
Um, so this means.
And what? Why is it so much in specifically in non salary related expenses?
The priorities that we have been set is to preserve conferencing.
Of course, that's one of the big reasons why we have where we're here in Uno
is to host conferences,
and the direct
is to post, uh, preserve posts and salaries and entitlements.
At this point so effective April 22nd,
we will begin implementing a series of strategic adjustments.
This is aimed at enhancing our operational efficiency and cutting costs,
uh, reducing spending. So this includes temporary and permanent moves.
We're temporarily closing some of our less efficient buildings,
the ones that are waiting to be, uh, renovated by SHP.
And we'll be moving staff into the more efficient buildings,
the ones that have been either recently constructed
that would be building H or building D,
which was recently renovated.
This building as well, of course, has been recently renovated,
and we're enjoying the benefits of that in this press conference room.
reducing this office space footprint means that we will
not have to heat or cool these spaces.
We will not have to clean them. We will not have to maintain them.
So this is one way that we are able to reduce our costs.
non post budget, the budget we have for effectively operating costs.
About 60% of that is the cost for utilities, cleaning and maintenance.
So if we have to reduce that overall spending by 42% naturally,
we have to cut into some level of our utilities cleaning and maintenance.
Uh, we're concentrating our activities thus into fewer buildings on campus.
So building H, which is the new building up the hill, it's new,
It's very energy efficient, and it was designed to be flexible.
We'll be implementing a manageable staff to desk ratio,
and this is consistent with directives that we
already started at the end of last year.
In the fourth quarter of last year
will also be, as I mentioned, moving staff into the D building.
This is one that was recently renovated.
Um, and people, this is the PE people.
These people were already planned to be going in there. So
there are people who are in the E building office tower.
They'll be moving into the D building. This was planned and foreseen.
We're just pulling it up a bit.
This will allow us to have their offices, and E building is empty.
They won't have to be cooled and cleaned,
and they'll be sitting in the offices in the D building that's more efficient.
we also are gonna be reducing operating hours so the Palais will only be
open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. We'll be closed on weekends and holidays.
This is both to use less energy as well as to reduce the burden on security.
We also have a number of energy saving measures that have been
in place since, um,
the end of last year.
But since September, that includes reducing the exterior lighting.
So it's only what's we need for safety? We're minimising heating and cooling.
those of you who are here at the colder part of the year
may have noticed it was always a good idea to bring a sweater.
Uh, we also have escalators turned off,
except for periods when we have a lot of people in the house, we are, of course,
giving first priority to life and safety.
So if you're over in the E building and there's an awful lot of people moving around.
We need to make sure that the escalators are available. We don't want any accidents.
Uh, we also, of course,
we're limiting travel and procurement to the minimum.
We have a very small we travel is not really
a big issue for how our budget is structured.
And we've done whatever we can to push procurement to the end of
the year because this is a liquidity crisis is not a budget crisis.
So we're hoping that if the money shows up, we'll be able to move forward on that.
Lastly, I'd just like to underscore that Enoch
is committed to fulfilling its mandates,
particularly in providing conference services,
even though we have liquidity challenges.
Um, the team, of course, is very dedicated. Everybody is strong.
We're adapting to ensure our operations run smoothly.
Even though we're closing some office space
that will not have an impact on our conferencing.
Those people are being relocated elsewhere. We are not closing the
pale as it were.
One of the things that we are doing, though, is given.
We had a lot of experience from covid with how people can work remotely.
Um, and there's was a big uptake of that.
When people came back from Covid, people did return to the office.
But we still made very robust use of telecommuting
within the framework of regulations.
We've also learned a lot from the how we handled the situation at the end of the year.
So we are continuing to operate at full capacity.
We will make sure that conference and
operational activities proceed with minimal disruptions.
Um, and of course,
this is ties to our ability and focus
on maintaining high productivity under difficult conditions.
Thank you.
Thank you very much. Kira.
Kira has one meeting after the other,
so I'm just taking the opportunity of her being here.
See? Lots of hands. Let me start with ANAs
ANAs is our correspondent of the French news agency FP.
But then we will have to let her go.
I'll take a few questions and yes, yes,
my question would be specifically for the journalists.
As you say, the working hours will be 8 a.m. seven PM
and close on the weekend on holidays.
Will that affect our working hours as journalists? And also it says that
journalists needing to work outside these hours we need to ask for exceptions.
Does it mean that we would need to ask for exception on a daily basis,
which would be very complicated,
Uh, on a logistic point of view.
And can we ask for a general ex exception?
Because every day we could need to work at every time. Thank you.
Yes, I let Kira answer, But please remember that it is already the case.
If people want to come during the weekend
and come with guests, we already have to to ask for permission,
but not not for the people who have got the badge.
So I'll let IRA
answer. Thank you.
Great. Thanks so much. This is, uh this is very useful input.
We're having a meeting tomorrow to talk about exactly how this will work out.
your point about needing to ask for daily exceptions.
Not only is that a burden for you, it's a burden for the security team,
and others will have to look at that.
So we'll be taking a look at seeing what the situation is.
Um, what we are trying to underscore, though, is that, um
this is a sort of problematic for everyone.
I myself am gonna have to hustle out the door at seven,
and I'm usually I usually leave about between 738.
Um, so we are asking for people to be flexible.
I'll raise this in the meeting tomorrow with our security colleagues,
and we'll try to under
understand what is possible.
The thing is that they need to have,
they need to have people there at the gates to let people in.
And then we need to make sure as well that
you know somebody is available and they do go a.
After a certain point,
they go through the buildings to make sure that nobody is there.
They wanna see who's there and what they're doing.
So the question is, is,
is there funding available for them to be having
an extra officer to come and do that again?
The way it's set up right now is that when they they'll do their last sweep a
little bit after seven, and then it should be done.
If they have to go back and re sweep places, then it's an extra cost,
so we'll see what we can do.
Certainly, we understand this is gonna be an inconvenience for, um, all of us,
but we'll see what we can do to minimise that inconvenience.
Thank you,
Stephane. Musa
Thank you. Yes. Uh um
uh, I have 33 questions. First, um,
I know that there's a draught resolution by the Swiss government to,
uh, to start again. The,
uh uh, online broadcasting of the Human Rights Council is that will that be, uh, uh,
studied again?
Or do
And second question, I, uh, a RE All those cost
costing cutting measures
have an impact
on the, uh, SHP process on the renovation process.
And my last question is, uh, you talked about 142
member states, uh, which paid were due,
Uh, Who a RE. The main member states, which didn't Thank you.
Excellent. Thank you very much.
Um, the question about online, um,
and hybrid meetings that's actually not tied to the liquidity crisis.
Um, and I understand that the Swiss are running that resolution at the council.
We'll we'll see how that plays out.
the way things had been going with hybrid meetings while they were in place was that
since we never received a budget for that,
uh, so
the meeting organiser had to find money I understand.
Sometimes they got money from the member states.
Sometimes they were able to reprogram money from within their budget.
If this situation were to change, if it were to change with a new mandate,
that would then trigger a request for
resources which would resolve the whole situation.
If there's some sort of ad hoc situation, then I would pres I.
I really we'd have to see how it plays out. I don't wanna speculate,
Um, in terms of the SHP and liquidity, um, that we are expecting
looks like that's gonna be not gonna be an issue. I mean, there is some impact in that.
For instance, you know we are
going to be moving up the building D occupancy,
but that was something that was foreseen later this year anyway,
So it's a small change,
but we do not see that the liquidity crisis is going to
have a negative impact on the SS HP at this point.
And then in terms of the member states who haven't paid,
the best thing is to go online.
I don't have the latest information. So there is a
it's called the honour roll,
and we're happy to share with you the link so you
can see which member states have paid and in full Thanks.
Thank you very much. Uh, Benjamin, we,
uh, hers.
Um, thank you for the briefing. Do you mind answering in French?
If you want to ask the question in French, you want me to speak French?
I mean, we can do both, but OK, I'll give it a try, but you'll have to be patient.
a pre.
le le le met?
No se
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uh, Don
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de Ferrand.
it says
shows the
met news
Encore. Uh,
sorry. I'm just gonna We're gonna look at it again in June, so
Ok. Nous sos
Uh, no
Um, sorry. It's just
we'll we'll see what we're gonna do in June. Me pet
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OK, I'll take a last question from Catherine.
you have the floor.
Thank you, Alessandra. Good morning, Kira. Thank you for coming at the briefing.
Uh, would you be kind enough to send and share your notes.
Uh, because that will be very useful for us. Uh, in order to cover.
And I have a very short question. You say that
for the moment you're not taking any measures regarding staff.
Um, do you intend to reduce security staff?
Thank you.
Ok, thank you very much. Yeah, we were happy to share some notes. No problem.
Um, at this point, the instruction is that the staff will be preserved.
Uh, which is great as a staff member myself.
I appreciate that Not only the staff and their salaries and entitlements,
but this is an instruction from the highest level.
The director general is fully committed to this as well.
Uh, and I think it's very important again.
This is meant this is expected to be a temporary measure.
This is a liquidity measure. It's not a budget measure.
So if action were to be taken vis a vis the staff, if we were to to discontinue hiring,
you know, not extend people's contracts or let people go,
we would be a very difficult situation when the money were to come up.
So the idea is really that we address this through non post means.
Um but there certainly would not.
Is not any intention of, uh, letting any staff go not extending contracts,
et cetera, for the staff.
This is, uh, at at this point, everything is being preserved.
And I feel personally confident that this will be
remain the case through the end of the year.
Um, so but I think that's very important.
The director to the Secretary general and the
Director General have made that really clear,
this is already a difficult enough situation for staff.
and we don't want people to be in a situation where
they have that kind of anxiety on top of it,
while they're being asked to perform at an even higher level with fewer resources.
Indeed, we share your point. Thank you.
Thank you very much to Kira Krukow,
our director of the Division of administration. Thanks
for coming and briefing and we will send out your notes to the journalist. Thank you.
OK, let's go to the situation in Gaza now.
I would like to thank Mr Abdul
for his patience.
Mr. Wajir,
a is the
assistant director general and regional representative for
the Near East and North Africa.
He is coming in to us from Cairo to tell us about
the food insecurity situation in Gaza and its impact in the region.
And then we will listen from James Elder and the situation of Children in Gaza
talking from Gaza. So you have the floor, Mr
Thank you. And thanks for your patience.
Thank you. Thank you very much for, uh, giving me this opportunity.
And for this audience,
um, the, uh from the, uh, Food and Agriculture Organisation perspective.
Of course, we are all aware about the, uh, this latest release of the I PC
the integrated F classification. I don't wanna allude on to that,
but it clearly indicates what we have anticipated
earlier in the year. Uh, since December, uh, last year
that we, uh things will get worse very soon.
The crisis in Palestine, Um, particularly in Gaza, of course.
Uh, and the West Bank has reached unprecedented levels at the moment
since the escalation. Uh, from October.
Um, the ongoing hostilities, um,
have resulted in significant loss of life injuries,
of course, mass displacement and destruction
and, uh, uh, in
to the infrastructure as well as critical shortage
of essential supplies food, water and and medicine.
Now, from our perspective,
the conflict has severely impacted the agriculture sector,
leading to disruptions in agricultural production,
livestock losses and limited access to
essential resources for farmers and herders.
This may sound a little bit, um
uh uh
uh, not Not at a priority. At this stage, we're talking about saving lives of people.
But just to give you an indication, the
the the animal fodder that we intend to to
supply uh, since December last year,
uh, would would be enough to produce
milk for all the Children in Gaza for over a month.
And that is, uh,
that by itself would be a great replacement or overcome for the
ongoing malnutrition that we see today among all the Children where,
uh, perishable protein is not available and cannot be supplied through, uh,
food aid.
Uh, now, in in general to the agriculture sector, we we have lost
43% of the crop lands
27% of the greenhouses and, uh, 28% of the agricultural wealth,
and and that basically, um,
suspended all the, uh, production,
uh, either fruits, vegetables or also egg, milk, fish and and dairy products
that we used to supply bearing in mind that at certain time,
the, uh um
the Gaza used to to export fish from Gaza
to other parts either in Egypt or or Palestine.
Uh, and the whole fishery sector basically suspended, uh,
function completely since the seventh, uh, of, uh, October
and the lack of electricity has further
exacerbated the situation affected the refrigeration.
Of course, the irrigation system
has collapsed and the livestock, uh, care
and and I want to add here that the with the lack of care for the livestock,
we also run the risk of, um,
transmittable diseases from animals to humans because of lack of vaccines And, uh,
and, uh, necessary care inputs for the, uh, livestock.
Um, maybe one of the points that I would like to highlight here that, uh,
from the a UO perspective.
Uh, if U has been actively involved
in addressing the immediate needs of vulnerable farmers and livestock holders,
uh, in Gaza and the West Bank,
through distribution of animal fodder, we are currently engaged
in, uh, supplying 500 tonnes out of 1500 tonnes.
of animal fodder that will hopefully sustain
minimum levels of local production of meat,
egg and, uh, and milk, uh, for the communities in Gaza.
Although access is still not possible throughout Gaza,
basically only the south and partial central part
of Gaza that's accessible at the moment.
FA O secured funding so far, uh, of what is needed to,
uh, uh, face immediate needs, which is about 20 million, uh,
out of which 50% has been, uh, already skewed.
But access is still, uh, uh, the main challenge and constraint
to reach out to those communities with those supplies.
Um, uh, I will stop here, uh, at this stage, and they will respond to your, uh,
questions later, if there are any.
Thank you.
Thank you very much. Uh, and I'm pretty sure I'm I'm I'm talking to Sebastian.
Now, if, uh, the journalists will definitely ask for your notes. Uh, sir, uh,
if we can get them, then we can distribute it to everyone.
Um, let me go now to James. James.
James, you are in Gaza, and you have an update on what you're seeing there.
Especially for the Children.
Uh, we heard you and then you you rem muted yourself. Sorry. If you can just,
uh OK, you're on.
Oh, Sandra, Thanks for your patience. Hi, everyone. Um,
so today I'd like to speak about two
major issues that people here in Gaza
regularly say are central to their survival. That is the safety of those in Rafa
and aid delivery.
Today. Rafa
is absolutely unrecognisable to what I saw
3.5 months ago because of congestion tents on the streets,
people sleeping on the streets, people sleeping in sandy plots,
public buildings.
Any available space now, to give a sense of what this means for families,
for civilians, for Children,
the global standards for humanitarian emergencies say there should be
a maximum of 20 people using a single toilet,
20 for one
in Rafa.
It's approximately one toilet for 850 people.
I think of this every day here where we only have
to queue for five minutes There one toilet for 850 people.
For showers, it's four times that number one shower for around 3600 people.
This is a hellish disregard for the most basic human needs and of course dignity.
Those same standards, international standards say people need 15, uh,
litres of water
each day.
When I was here in November,
families and Children in Ga on the Gaza Strip were relying on three litres or less,
um, of safe water per day.
Today. On average, the households we survey have less than
access to one litre of safe water per person per day.
Neighbouring Khan Yunis is also
unrecognisable, though for different reasons.
It barely exists anymore.
In my 20 years with the United Nations, I have never seen such devastation. It's just
chaos and ruin. Debris and rubble,
every single direction. Everywhere where I look every street,
moving around those streets. I was overwhelmed by loss.
Uh, particularly so in NASA Hospital,
where I spent so much time last last mission
watching incredible medical staff do their 24 hour,
36 hour shifts such a critical place for Children with the wounds of war,
it is no longer operational, like two thirds of hospitals here.
In fact, one third, only one third of hospitals in
on the Gaza Strip are partially functioning. This is a time, of course, where
today more Children need
health services on the Gaza Strip more than ever before,
and they have less access than ever before.
This all takes us back
to Rafa
and the endless talk of a large scale military offensive here in Rafa.
Now Rafa
is a city of Children. OK, 600,000 girls and boys are here.
A military offensive in Rafa.
Offensive is the right word.
is home to some of Gaza's last remaining hospitals
and shelters and water systems.
Then, of course,
there is the North. Yesterday I was again in
Tens of thousands of people crowd the streets. They,
they they make that universal signal a sign as you
go through the streets again as they stand in rubble,
that universal signal of hand to mouth,
desperately asking and seeking for food.
When I came into the Gaza Strip just over a week ago,
there were hundreds of trucks of life saving humanitarian aid, waiting to get
to these people in urgent need.
But on the wrong side of the border,
hundreds of trucks of UN and I NGO,
um, supplies are currently backlogged,
waiting to get into Gaza,
remembering in the context of this last week's I PC,
stating that famine is imminent in northern Gaza,
UM, that Gaza now has the largest percentage of a population anywhere
to receive that most severe rating since the body began reporting
two decades ago.
Before this war, it's important to get some context.
Before this war, wasting on the Gaza Strip was rare,
with less than 1% of Children under the age of five acutely malnourished,
less than 1% today.
Of those Children under two years, one in three are acutely malnourished
Clearly, the North has massive needs for food and nutrition treatments,
and they're urgent.
But let's be clear.
Our efforts to provide aid are being hampered.
Just one example.
There is when I when we come in from the South,
remembering you were going through hundreds of thousands of people.
It's a difficult dirt journey. It's a dangerous journey. A UNICEF
vehicle, once it's been loaded from our warehouse,
will offload four different times before it gets to people.
Now there is an existing old crossing point that could be used in the north 10 minutes
from where those people are putting their hands to their mouth,
pleading for food 10 minutes
open that and we could turn this humanitarian crisis around
in a matter of days.
But it remains closed. Remember it?
Imminent famine entirely predictable, entirely preventable. Manmade.
If we want a glass half full manmade,
it can be reversed if the right decisions are made
between the first and the 22nd of March 1 quarter of
40 humanitarian aid missions into into northern Gaza were denied.
R a
the backbone of so much humanitarian aid on the Gaza Strip,
is now blocked from delivering food to the north.
And yet 50% of food going to the north was delivered by UN R. A.
So let's be clear,
life saving aid is being obstructed.
Lives are being lost. Dignity is being denied.
The deprivation, the force desperation.
It means that every time I'm among
Gazans here,
you can now hear the the the shelling and the firing from the coast.
Despair is, uh, there's a sense of despair pervading the population,
and people's nerves are shattered
unrelenting attack. People often ask me,
Is there still hope?
Uh, everything is at extremes here, and that question is no different.
So on the one hand, a mother will speak to me and explain that
she has lost loved ones. She's lost her home.
She's lost her ability to regularly feed her Children.
She will tell me all she has left is hope. Then yesterday,
then yesterday, UNICEF with a
sat with adolescents, several of whom said they're so desperate,
so desperate for this nightmare to end
that they hoped to be killed.
The unspeakable is re regularly said in Gaza from teenage girls,
saying they hope they are killed to end their nightmare
to a child being told
that little boy or girl is the last surviving member of their family.
Such horror is no longer unique in Gaza
amid it all. Amid
amid all of this,
so many brave and generous and tireless Palestinians continue to
support one another with whatever they have and sister UN,
agencies and UNICEF, we continue.
Despite the challenges
for UNICEF, we persist for every child, it's water protection, it's nutrition
and its shelter. UNICEF is here
now. As we heard yesterday, the ceasefire
must be substantive, not symbolic. The hostages must go home.
The people of Gaza must be allowed to live
when you have bombardments here at three o'clock in the morning,
and the entire building shakes.
You lie in bed,
and honestly, it feels like you're lying in a coffin, just waiting.
And then I think there are Children who have been doing this for five months.
Parents lying next to them. There is no lullaby.
You can sing when your entire building or
tent shudders from the intensity of these bombardments.
So in the three months between my visits, yes,
every horrific number facing Children and
families and civilians has risen dramatically.
Gaza has shattered humanity's records for its darkest chapters.
Humanity must now urgently write a different chapter.
Thank you.
Thank you very much, James. And thanks to Mr ER
So we've heard
assessment of the food insecurity situation, and we've heard
what the situation is on the field in Gaza by James.
And I'll open the floor to questions now to both our speakers. I'll start
and introduce you so that Mr Er
So we have a question from Christian
Erich, who is the correspondent of the German news agency.
James, thank you for your testimony. It's very moving.
Uh, we had, uh, someone from Koga
here last week who told us there's no
humanitarian crisis and that the people in the north
of the Gaza Strip per capita get more food than
anywhere else because there are fewer people living there.
What would you say to that,
James and Mr El.
If you want to add anything, just just raise your hands, I. I can see you. So, James,
uh, trucks with nor with food haven't gone north for several days.
As I say, I was in the north a week ago. I was in the north yesterday.
Uh, a week ago I was in Kamal
Adan Hospital, where we've had those reports of
20 plus Children dying of malnutrition and dehydration.
When I was there, I saw a room full of mothers and carers. Not always mothers.
Some mothers have been killed. Carers are
H shuddering over Children who are paper thin,
absolutely Paper thin.
incubators full of babies who are born prematurely
because of the stress on mothers Also malnourished.
M mothers have done so well to keep Children alive from the bombardment.
They know their Children now. Fast face starvation.
That is very simply because of a lack of food.
Uh, people in the north Now,
when I speak to them speak mainly that they are surviving on a a type of brass.
I'm sorry. I need to get the name. It is a type of brass that people have at times.
I understand. Traditionally eaten here,
uh, with lemon. The lemon plantations have not been destroyed.
Um, that's it. I can only speak to the many thousands of people who do that. Sy
symbol. Who? Whose gauntness I see in their face.
Uh, the child who yesterday asked for a single tomato.
The mother who told me that her 12 year old has a recurring dream
eating a slice of cucumber. This is what Children dream of in the north, a vegetable.
So I think it's important to share the challenges we get.
The immense complexity from getting aid from the South,
the simplicity of opening an old crossing in the north That's not being done.
increasing denials the block of UN,
truth matters life saving aid matters
and Christian
maybe I will add what UN R
a told us about going to the north with convoys. Israeli authorities.
This is I'm calling from the UNRWA report.
The latest Israeli authorities continue to reject urgent UN R
food convoys to northern Gaza.
Since 21st march, UNRWA has submitted daily requests to the Israeli authorities,
all of which have been denied with no reason given.
1/4 request submitted on the 24th of March was also denied. And we have all read.
I think the reports about
getting UNRWA to Gaza from the Palestinian Authority.
Sorry from the Israeli authorities.
just see that Mr Elwa
would like to add something. And I'll give you the floor for the follow up.
Yeah, go ahead.
Just, uh, thank you, James, For for highlighting that the North definitely is.
Is the is the most
disastrous catastrophic of the whole of Gaza.
Access to the North is not, uh in in is not assured.
Uh, even crossing to
Rapa. Um, we still have difficulty accessing the northern particular.
Now I want to Maybe quickly.
Due to the I PC data,
most of the I PC five the catastrophic, uh, phase are are actually, uh,
uh in the north, Uh, and the central part of of Gaza.
And this is where the the,
uh the situation is really worse. In terms of accessibility to food.
James has confirmed there are cases of death as a result of starvation.
And those are the early indications of famine.
And I hope we're not waiting for for famine declaration,
because the situation as it exists calls for action, which is long
Thank you.
Go ahead.
Just add I. I just like to correct myself. Uh, my understanding.
I said, I think I said no F, no food aid for, uh, several days.
Uh, there were some trucks from WFP yesterday. That is the first time,
uh, in five days. Um,
in no way will anyone
say that it is enough. Not at a humanitarian level. Not from evidence.
Not from those hungry on the ground, but to understand. Yesterday I understand.
Through that access 0.96
1st time in four or five days. Thank you.
Christian is a follow up. Um,
yeah. This is again from this CO
a briefing. Uh, they made it sound like the UN is just one little player IN the whole ga
and that
they, um
are letting 44 trucks an hour go through,
and most and a lot of that is private contractors.
They played down the role of the UN. Do you see any evidence that
aid other than from the UN is actually reaching anywhere in the north?
Thank you.
I beg your pardon?
The Palestinian Red Crescent, The Egyptian Red Crescent Doing immense work.
I guess we have to go back to numbers remembering that.
As you all know, before this war, on average, 500 trucks,
commercial and humanitarian came into the Gaza Strip every day.
during this war, the average is one third of that.
One third of the 500 remembering there have been periods of weeks. Where not where.
Nothing got into the North. So
it is best. Now we simply deal with facts. The I PC,
the most respected data we have,
uh, as IS as I said in the briefing is showing, you know, record catastrophic, uh,
declines into imminent famine.
Uh, UNICEF's own numbers. Less than one in three. Sorry. I beg your pardon.
Less than 1% of Children under five suffering acute malnutrition.
Now one in three under two year olds.
This speaks to utter deprivation. This speaks to devastation of things.
Children rely on water and health systems,
but it also speaks to
what the numbers speak to, which is a, um, lethal lack of food and nutrition aid.
not getting to the north?
Thank you very much.
Uh, no. Uh uh. Uh
uh, Gene
Thank you, Mr.
For this briefing. Uh,
two questions First, uh,
could you say, uh, what are the reasons put forward by the Israel
to block the humanitarian the trucks
on the other side of the border?
And my second question,
Do you have any kind of dialogue with the Israeli authorities about that?
How does it play out? Thank you.
How much should I?
Yeah, if II I couldn't speak to the re
Go. Go ahead. But, uh, I think it was for Mr ER,
but go ahead, James.
If you want to add something No, no, please, please,
please go ahead and then I'll give the floor to Mr
James. Go ahead. Just finish your sentence and I'll go to mr
if you want.
maybe you want to answer to our correspondent.
Thank you very much. Um, I think, um,
first, I wanna, um, highlight the fact on the tracks. Ok?
The the 500 trucks that Gaza used to receive prior to seventh of October, Mo.
Many of those trucks are actually inputs
for as raw materials for further production.
So we have to imagine the the the multiplication factor here.
We're talking about seeds and fertilisers and and and and pesticides and animal
that produces chicken and and meat and milk
and eggs and and and fruits and vegetables.
Uh, that we we lost all that. We cannot compare them
to direct trucks that are only supplying food direct to mouth,
which is 70 to 80 average.
Uh uh, daily if it, uh, persists on a day now, Do we have contacts?
Yes, we do have contacts. We have an FA O office in, uh, in Jerusalem,
uh, which communicates on a daily basis with the authorities
and trying to facilitate this access.
Uh, I also sit here as a regional office for the Near East, North Africa
in Cairo,
and I have direct contact with Egyptian
at Crescent and Egyptian authorities for the,
uh, Rafah access.
Uh, we have trucks, so we had trucks rather from December of animal fodder.
Now, when you say about difficulty, I'm talking about animal fodder.
It's purely barley.
It's just barley. Nothing else.
They were sitting there for two months, and there were challenges to get them
across. We have to return them back.
Finally, we got them cleared.
But we still have to go to go through a long process of fumigation
and preparation before reshipment again to Rafa.
And by now, even if we get them to
we may not securely get them to the north part of Gaza.
Thank you.
Thank you very much, sir. Um, and next question from Anne
Pedrero. Uh uh, the our correspondent of the French news agency IFP.
Yes. Thank you. This would be a question for for, uh
this is a question for James Elder.
The Hamas authorities say today that seven people
have drawn in the Mediterranean trying to reach
aid air dropped into Gaza and that others were injured.
So I wanted to ask you, if you are asking those countries who are doing those
hair dropping of aid
to stop these kind of operations, what is your
perspective on that? Thank you,
I think the common approach has been that
that the situation is so desperate here that,
uh, as long as aid is safely delivered and what you're speaking to,
challenges that
as long as say aid is safely delivered to the civilians who desperately need it, then
any aid is welcome. But let's ensure it's not a distraction.
The the ship that came in had the equivalent of 12 trucks worth of food aid on it again,
hundreds of trucks on the other side of the Gaza of the Gaza border.
Um, there are road networks here.
There are other crossings that can be opened the only way.
Uh, just as we say this is manmade, this imminent famine,
it can be undone, but it will only be undone by using the networks that we're here.
Typically, food aid when delivered from the air,
is because people are cut off for hundreds of kilometres hundreds of miles.
Uh, and it's the only way to reach them
The life saving aid they need is a matter of kilometres away.
We need to use the road networks,
and the Secretary General has also said yesterday uh, exactly that that's, uh,
the only efficient.
He stressed that the only efficient and effective way to move heavy goods is by road.
Um, any other question in the room. Yeah. Sorry, Emma. Sorry.
I've seen your hand before.
sorry. I just introduce you to Mr
Emma Farge, our correspondent of Reuters.
Thanks. Um, for, uh, James or anyone else from the UN.
Maybe Jens might want to weigh in on this one.
what is the plan now for? For getting food aid to starving Gazans in the North?
Now that,
uh, UN R a is barred I. I understand they were the biggest provider.
And, uh, a clarification, James,
Which crossing point do you think needs to be opened? Um, in the north.
That was very close to the delivery spot. Maybe Carney, maybe
and, uh, a specific one for Mr
Please. Since you mentioned the animal fodder,
it's hard to imagine that animal fodder is a dual use item.
What explanation did you get for the rejection?
And, um,
what has that meant?
In the meantime,
does that mean that animals have been slaughtered in the meantime
to be eaten because people couldn't get the feed for them?
Um, talk us through that. Thanks a lot.
Thank you very much. So let me start with the ends.
Uh, and the question about the planning of what we are going to do now.
Yes, Thank you, Emma. And good morning, everyone.
First of all, I really appreciate yours and all your colleagues
questions and your
pursuit of truth
and facts in
conflict where reality has been so distorted.
ask not how much of a contortionist the United Nations
is able to be.
Ask not how much we are
willing or able to bend ourselves out of shape to get a little bit of aid
to thousands upon thousands of people facing a cruel death by famine in the north.
But do ask the Israeli authorities if they are familiar with the basic tenets
of international humanitarian law.
Because I think we need to dispel this notion that their obligation
for getting aid in
stops for getting a few trucks a fraction of what is needed across the border.
And then once it's in there,
as I have seen reported, they kind of say, Well, then it's not our problem anymore.
And it's the UN and humanitarian agencies problem
that is not correct.
International conventions and customary international law says otherwise,
and they says this
in a way that applies to everyone everywhere and at all times. And
this is what it says.
The parties to the conflict must allow and facilitate rapid
and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need.
This has never
been truer
or more urgent, as it is today.
law also says that
this aid has to be impartial in character and conducted without
any adverse distinction and subject to the right of control.
They have a right of control. They inspect every single gramme,
kilo of whatever goes in
so that is taken care of.
But they cannot
that once it's inside,
we leave it with you. They must create this enabling environment that allows us
to move it around.
Thank you
so directly to your question on planning. What do we do after this message? I think
said it. Martin Griffiths said it. The secretary general says it.
The decision must be revoked
and what I've just
read out and mentioned it to you is why
you cannot put this in.
You cannot claim to
adhere to these international
provisions of law
when you block
food convoys.
When you just last week denied five missions to the north
when we have now reports of Israeli attacks on warehouses
and the police that are supposed to help secure this aid inside
Gaza. And when we hear and see and protest that hospitals are coming under siege
and we
do not have
situation whereby we can access uh,
those hospitals, this is not a facilitated or enabled environment at all.
It's very clear.
Uh, James, uh, Emma's second question.
Have we lost James?
Uh, let me see.
We might.
Yeah, I think we've lost. We've lost James. Uh, where we're trying to get him back.
Uh, Mr,
uh, our Reuters correspondents. Third question, please.
OK, well, thank you very much. Um, pertinent indeed. Um,
yes, we got, uh Well, let's let's put it that way. A no and a yes. Or rather, we got a Yes.
First followed by, uh
uh, shortly. Uh, AAA. No.
you you mentioned dual use these trucks that we
shipped went through the first security point at Karam
where all the dual use purposes have been checked
and were clear.
And they were, um, denied access at the last point in in Rafah.
uh, there are questions whether there are
animals still alive or not,
uh, from even the authority site for clearance. By then, we have a list of 1400
farmers and herders of, uh, uh,
small groups of animals that they still maintain them.
And they were desperately waiting for animal fodder.
What could be the other reasons?
The first questions we are The first responses
we had is that priorities is for water,
fuel and food.
And our response was immediate.
This is food. The only difference is that it's not direct food to the mouth.
It is to produce food sustainably and locally,
which has also offload the burden on the humanitarian aid.
Besides that,
we believe strongly you cannot overcome
malnutrition through canned and dried food.
You need perishable fresh protein produced locally,
and that's the same in every crisis.
We do the same in Sudan and Yemen and everywhere.
And finally, it took long time. Uh, could be not to support sustainable livelihood.
Maybe not to support settling it.
Um, we don't know. Um, we got in March late march, we got,
uh, another clearance to go ahead, uh, or have another try with the animal fodder,
which is being processed at the moment.
Thank you.
Thank you very much, sir.
We are trying to get James back, but for the moment, we can't find him,
so I'll go to the next question. I had seen
a hand in their room, but
I don't see it anymore. So let's go to the platform. Lisa
Schlein was of America.
Uh, thank you. Um, I hate to be a nag about notes, but I will be a nag
about it.
Is, uh, just to impress that we need the notes, like, now, not at the end of the day,
which happens,
unfortunately, on occasion.
Ok, um,
now I heard a rather what sounded like a
surrealistic interview with a member of the Israeli Knesset
who said that, uh, there is no food shortage in,
uh, Gaza and that Children are not starving.
Now, perhaps, um
uh, aha.
uh, Margaret, uh, Harris, I think is there for WHO or or somebody else? Uh, Tariq,
Tariq is there. Hi, Tariq. Uh, could update us on the situation.
Uh uh, and especially the situation of what is happening in regard to the,
uh, I Israeli, uh, offensives in, um
in, uh, at at the hospitals What is happening in regard to,
uh, deaths and whether this is continuing.
Thank you.
Thank you. Lisa. Uh, I'm not sure about your first question. Uh, Mr Eduard,
would you like to say something on that? Or maybe
And then I'll go to Tarik.
I thought you had someone from WFP
on the question of starvation.
We actually don't have somebody from WFP,
but I don't know if you want to say anything about that, and then I go to W.
Well, the the the the confirmed reports on the I PC shows that, um,
the I PC five catastrophe,
um, phenomenon, which is now half of 50% of the population. About 1 million.
Uh uh, 100,000,
um, which is, uh, affected with with this category.
And this category is extreme malnutrition, extreme lack of food,
security and, of course, starvation.
And we've seen reports of death as a result of starvation specifically in the north.
Uh, access to the north is not at all, uh, possible.
Uh, we have, uh,
indicated to the Jordanian authorities who are negotiating
the possibility of access from Jordanian side,
and we were willing to come uh, from the north,
Currently, the only available access is through, uh,
the south through Rafah border.
And that, uh, is is, uh, is, uh,
basically obstructed halfway through Gaza to the north.
And James has already mentioned that, uh,
the only few trucks that arrived in the north uh, um of WP were after, uh, uh, five days
of no supply at all, uh, to to the, uh,
to the region.
So the north remains, uh, total blockade. Uh, and it's it's inaccessible.
And definitely, uh,
we have enough evidence that shows there is ongoing starvation.
Uh, there's extreme, uh, um,
acute food insecurity and lack of major food supplies and water.
And, um
uh, those who who claim otherwise, uh, probably have to, uh, provide, uh,
evidence for that.
Thank you very much, sir. I see. Um, let me let me go to Tariq.
But I see James, we've We've got James back.
So afterwards I maybe ask, uh, Emma to repeat her question to him.
But Tariq for WHO now,
ta ta.
Sorry. Uh, I I It's completely un understandable.
Uh, you sound like Donald Duck if I miss
but it was really It was really strange.
Maybe you can just, uh, reconnect or or try again,
because the voice really comes out very strangely.
I'm afraid it doesn't work.
Maybe you can, uh, disconnect and reconnect.
And while we're doing that, I'll ask Emma to repeat her question to James.
Now we have got him back.
Thank you.
Uh, sorry. Thanks, James.
If you could just clarify which crossing you were calling on to be opened, um,
in the north was that, uh, a
or another one, or I think it's called, um Kearney.
Which one did you say needed to be open? Thanks.
Hi, Emma. Thanks.
but the one I was referring to that that which is closest to
To where I was yesterday would be errors. An old crossing, but can be used.
Of course it can.
And I think we should
get Tarik back because we desperately need a bit of light relief here.
Tariq, are you back? And maybe with a better sound system. Here, let me see Tariq.
No, not yet. He has not reconnected yet, so,
um no, not yet.
So, uh, while we're waiting for Tariq to reconnect John Zaro Costas, Uh,
our correspondent Frans Van Kat.
Uh, has, uh and the L
has a question. John?
Yes. Uh, good morning. Uh,
James, uh, I was wondering, since you're on the ground again,
uh, if you can bring us up to speed,
uh, if there are any the emergency therapeutic feeding centres
for Children who are on the verge of death, uh, through the starvation.
And if you are unable to set up these, uh, emergency therapeutic centres,
are you sending the Children over the border to
Egypt to at least try to save their lives?
Thank you,
Hi, John. Good morning. Uh, it's a great question. Yes, we have.
Uh the mission I was to the north was to set up a stabilisation centre. There is a
therapeutic centre here that one of our partners has, you know, created.
You see that happening here? UK med have constructed an entire field hospital.
These things are critical. Um, same on the nutritional front.
So, yes, not to the level that is needed. Interestingly, John
talking to nutrition experts here,
uh, my colleague here, who I can link you with who leads? Uh, the nutrition cluster
was explaining that part of the challenge as well.
When we're in the North is to try to build capacity of those health staff.
Because malnutrition was not
an issue.
Uh, for them. Yeah. And the Gaza Strip.
As per those numbers I mentioned earlier.
So there are elements that we not just
in terms of creating stabilisation centres or fee,
uh, therapeutic feeding centres building the capacity as well.
So yes, working, working on those things. But
in no way, uh are they currently, uh,
like every aspect of the aid delivery at a level that they need to be based on the need,
Thank you very much. And I think we've got Harry back, so I'll give him the floor.
Tariq, I can see your name on the list, but not yet. Your face.
we we we do have a problem with Tariq, I'm afraid.
Yeah. Uh, no, we can't. We can't get him. Um
or maybe now.
Hi. Hi. Yes, I'm really sorry.
Hi. Hi. I I'm really sorry. I have,
uh we have a problem. We have a problem of bandwidth, I think.
Tariq, we can't hear you.
Now you're back. Let's give it a try. Go ahead.
Yeah, Let's give it a try. I'm really sorry again. For the for the connection.
Can you hear me now?
For the moment? Yes. Go ahead.
OK, I'm really, really sorry for the for the bad connection.
So, Lisa, I don't know if you have seen, uh the the tweet that we have, uh, that doctor
Tatro has put out, uh, on, um,
day before yesterday where we expressed concern there was
a There was an attack and besieging of Al
Amal hospital. That is,
uh, in the in the in the in the in the south
And that, uh uh uh uh,
reportedly there was one person from a Palestinian red crescent that, uh,
has been,
uh, has been, uh,
uh, killed and another person that was sheltering at the hospital.
So most of the patients have been have been forced to leave because of
the intense facilities in the vicinity of the of the of the hospital.
So it just just a again.
Another example of of hospitals being, uh, being, uh, being under attack. Uh uh.
You've seen what happened? Uh uh. Last week, uh, and still happening in
hospital. We don't have access there. Uh, we were not able to, um
uh, to get there.
And, uh uh, uh, uh, Our, uh, our demand, uh, to, uh, to to to get, uh, for example,
to Alama
hospital has been denied
and just, like, you know, going back to the point of of of access.
Like, uh,
I remember we had the figures from January where half of our missions to hospitals.
Uh uh have, uh, not, uh uh uh uh. Given green light to go.
Uh, so the situation where you have, uh,
uh, health workers dying,
Uh, you have hospitals that are under siege,
you people who are looking for shelter in these places.
And if you can't get a shelter And if you can't feel safe in a hospital,
where else can you go?
More than 400 attacks on health,
uh, have been recorded since October.
This includes hospitals, health centres, ambulances, patients,
health workers with more,
uh uh,
with with with with with more than 600 people who died in these in these attacks.
So this really has to stop, uh, and and and? And we just can hope
the resolution will be on a ceasefire will be implemented.
It has to be implemented because what James was describing now it's just horrible.
There's no
there's no person. There's no pregnant woman.
There's no sick person that should go through this
trauma of not being able to get medical care.
Indeed. And I like to To quote the Secretary general about the resolution as
he says
that the resolution must be implemented
fail would be unforgivable.
I see John has a follow up,
and then Lisa
Yeah, I have a follow up in case
Tariq was not connected. Uh, What? I asked James,
uh, Tariq, I asked James if, uh, uh,
Children who are in need of, um,
uh, emergency therapeutic feeding.
Uh, if you are getting some of these Children,
to Egypt, given the lack of adequate, um, infrastructure in Gaza
to save their lives, uh, if possible. Thanks very much.
Uh, well, uh, WHO and partners have, uh,
have established two stabilisation centres in south of Gaza to treat the Children,
uh, from acute malnutrition.
So we are trying to see if we can We can establish more in the
middle area because because there are reports
and our teams are seeing malnourished Children.
Uh, and there was the latest analysis by I PC that, uh, that one out of three,
Children are,
uh are acutely malnourished. So So we need these centres when it's possible.
And when it's, uh uh, uh uh When it's really needed. Uh, there is, uh, also,
there's also effort to to bring people outside.
And we just, uh uh, yesterday we we managed to bring, uh, uh, two,
young persons from Kamal
Hospital. Uh uh And to try to get them outside of Gaza. One of them had, uh, uh, Lem.
So So, uh uh, So
what we need really is to be able to do things inside
Gaza and to help health workers in Gaza do their job.
That's the priority, really.
But there are patients, and we think there are some 8000 people who need to be
brought outside, uh, for, uh, uh,
for medical referrals and to get the treatment outside.
Unfortunately, only 2000 of patients have been,
uh uh uh uh have been evacuated from Gaza.
Uh, so far,
what we need really access again. It it's We are there. We are ready to help.
There are 20,000 health workers in Gaza who want to do their job,
but they cannot reach hospitals.
They are themselves victims of of being moved away.
And they have to take care of their security.
Uh, security is really the first thing you need.
If you want to have a health care system that is functioning.
Indeed. And Lisa, you had a point also for, uh,
Yeah, uh, and, uh,
IANS can weigh in as well, if he wishes. Um,
uh, Israel says that Hamas is using
hospitals Al
Shifa and others
as their military headquarters.
How do you respond to that?
And also, what are the,
on the issue of starving Children?
Ha, ha. I think the number has gone up. Do you have the latest figures on that?
And also,
just numbers in terms of, uh, deaths and injuries and so forth. Thank you,
Yes, I can I can I can I can answer on the on the issue of the hospitals we have not seen.
Uh what, uh what What you are saying?
What we have seen is places where health workers are trying,
uh, to to to do their best.
And with the little they have in the dark without electricity provide
health care.
But again, WHO role is not for to look for the, uh uh uh uh for for, uh,
for this sort of activities.
Simply. We cannot confirm. We cannot deny I, but we have not seen it.
Once we go there, what we see is volunteers,
health workers trying to do their best to help people
and JM maybe on the number of the figure of Children. Uh,
death. And
I don't know if you have any updates.
Um, I, I beg pardon. There was a number of Children reportedly killed.
I think she she just asked about the figures,
the current figures of Children's death.
Uh, my understanding is the latest, uh, number shared is 13,750
Children reported to have been killed.
reports of double digit number of Children killed overnight.
my understanding is quite close to here.
It's only hours after the res Security Council resolution was passed.
And, of course, an untold number
of, um, Children and
me under the rubble.
Lisa, you want to maybe, uh
uh, just give you the floor, because maybe you can repeat your question.
Yeah. Tha James Hi. Uh, thanks for that. But but speci
more specifically,
do you have a figure on how many Children, uh, have actually starved to death?
Because there are some, uh,
um, Israeli
Knesset members who say that nobody has star. No, no child has starved in Gaza.
Uh, I, I don't have exact. So I know at Kamal
Hospital speaking to the director of the hospital,
and explained 23 Children had died from malnutrition and dehydration.
that number, though, is now several weeks old.
I certainly Lisa myself saw Children whose malnutrition state was so severe
skeletal that I wouldn't be certain of their status.
Tarik is right on several Children. At least one who've
they tried to move down south.
But I'm sorry. It's very hard to come up with
with pre
precise numbers. Um, on that Lisa.
Thank you, O
Tariq or Mr Alber,
Let me let me just, uh, really try to make a point here because
we we hear, uh,
uh uh uh constantly this questioning of numbers that
are provided by the by the Ministry of Health.
uh uh uh We know from the past
that that, uh,
figures provided by the Ministry of Health Reporting,
uh, from the Ministry of Health has been has been accurate.
And and there were several studies that have been done showing that, if anything,
the figures have been, uh, under reported.
Uh, this has been, uh, also published in In Lancet.
Uh, so
So really, Uh uh uh uh uh.
We have heard about that. But, uh,
it's probably more, uh, because it's it's it's not only starvation,
it's is deadly combination of diseases and and malnutrition.
So So we don't have exact numbers because the the unfortunately,
also the the the disease, surveillance and reporting has been, uh, interrupted,
uh, on diseases.
Uh, but what we see in our hospitals and what our teams are seeing
is, is is is exactly that they see the malnutrition.
And then when you speak with health workers, they explain you, uh,
the the the the situation.
So when you have a combination of people who are hungry, uh, and especially travel,
they cannot fight of diseases.
And we know that there is a
increase in waterborne diseases in respiratory diseases in in in skin diseases.
So So really, it's, uh, uh, uh uh uh uh, what?
What we should really try to to do is to to get that
access and bring what is needed and and and and try to,
uh, try to,
uh, avoid, uh, further suffering instead of instead of, uh uh, questioning.
Questioning numbers.
Thank you very much. I don't see other hands up.
So I would like to thank very, very much Mr Abdul
Hakim El,
Assistant Director general, calling
him from Cairo. James, of course. Thank you very much to you.
And please take care of yourself in this very dire situation where you are.
And of course, Jens and Tariq for these updates,
I have a few announcements for you.
The first one from Jennifer from the office of the Special Envoy for Syria
who is asking me to remind you that you
should have received a notification this morning
that the UN Deputy Special envoy for Syria, Mrs Najat
announced that 15 Syrian women have agreed
to join the Syrian Women's Advisory Board
as new members. Semon would join in May 2024 and more in November,
and Mrs Rush
said that these new members of the board will bring the realities of Syrian women
and men, girls and boys to the
to the office of the special invoice for Syria.
And they all look forward to receiving their perspective and advice over
the three year term that every board member will now serve.
There is a we've heard about the various press conference of the
Human Rights Council from Pascal.
There is one by the UN Human Rights Committee
that is going to present the findings on Chile,
Guyana, Indonesia, Namibia, Serbia, Somalia and the UK.
And that is Thursday 28 march at 1. 30.
Uh, PM
and the Conference on Disarmament is having this morning a
public plenary meeting under the presidency of Ambassador Ali Bahraini
of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
And I think I have given you
all the information I had.
Is there any further question?
I don't see any,
so thank you very much. And, um,
yeah, uh,
I was just wondering whether Yeah, that's that's, um that's all I have.
Thank you very much.
Bona petit