2 January 2014
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs


With violence and natural disasters having driven an unprecedented number of people from their homes in the past year, United Nations relief services would be needed more than ever in 2014, the Organization’s top humanitarian official said at a Headquarters press conference today.

“Twenty-thirteen was a real test of the global humanitarian system, and there is no indication that 2014 will be any different,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos warned.  She called for sustained support to ease the suffering of millions of refugees and internally displaced persons around the world, notably those affected by the deepening crisis in Syria, November’s Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, as well as inter-communal fighting in the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Ms. Amos, who is also the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, recalled that two weeks ago, the Organization had launched its largest-ever funding appeal, $12.9 billion, with the aim of providing life-saving aid to 52 million people in 17 countries.  Of that amount, $6.5 billion, the biggest single appeal ever, was sought for some 9.3 million Syrians — about 40 per cent of the population — that required aid.

Since then, developments in the Central African Republic and South Sudan had added tens of thousands more to the list of people in need, she pointed out.  “Our collective response capacity and resources are being stretched to the limit.”   In the former, where bloody unrest continued against a backdrop of abject poverty and a failing State, more than one in six people — over 800,000 people — had been displaced, and nearly half a million faced hunger.  In the latter country, the world’s youngest State, inter-communal fighting had forced 194,000 people from their homes, and more than 57,000 of them had sought protection in the bases of the United Nations peacekeeping mission there.  The world body had aided some 107,000 people, and aimed to reach more than 600,000 in the first quarter of 2014.

She said that in mid-January, the Secretary-General would chair the second Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait, with the goal of raising funds for emergency food, medicines, shelter, clean water and sanitation for millions of internally displaced Syrians or in neighbouring States.  Humanitarian needs were great elsewhere, she said, citing Sudan, where there was still no independent cross-line access to aid for 800,000 people in areas of South Kordofan State and Blue Nile State under the control of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she continued, an estimated 6.3 million people were food insecure.  In Somalia, malnutrition was among the highest in the world.  In Mali, 2.7 million people would need food aid, while in the Sahel, where 16 million people were at risk of hunger, the United Nations was delivering food while working to increase the ability of local communities to better manage the consequences of drought.  The situations in Myanmar, Afghanistan and Haiti would remain on the Organization’s humanitarian agenda, she said, adding that aid for the Philippines would also continue.

Responding to questions about Syria, she said her Office had approached Member States and other partners to ensure that the upcoming funding appeal raised the requisite resources for Syria, as well as for neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan, which were housing millions of Syrian refugees.  Already, Saudi Arabia had announced support for Lebanon.  In addition, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had teamed with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners on the “lost generation” project to aid children in particular.

Regarding the efforts of the informal 22-nation High-level Group on Syria since its second meeting last month, she said it had made progress in administering visas for Syrians and establishing three additional relief hubs inside the country.  Still, progress was lacking on such major issues as the protection of civilians, the demilitarization of hospitals and access to besieged communities, including Palestinian refugees at Syria’s Yarmouk camp, she said, adding that she would brief the Security Council on recent developments in February.

In response to a question about aid delivery in South Sudan, she said the World Food Programme (WFP) and other United Nations organizations aimed to supply clean water and medical care to people who had sought refugee in camps run by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), in addition to its ongoing work in Abyei, Jonglei State and elsewhere.

Asked whether the Organization could divert funds meant for one crisis to aid relief efforts for another, she said it could not, but it could “frontload” money from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for underfunded crises.

Questioned about a recent letter from the non-governmental organization Médecins Sans Frontières criticizing the United Nations aid effort in the Central African Republic, she said the Organization had more active staff there today than in September.  She also expressed disappointment that the Médecins Sans Frontières letter failed to acknowledge that all United Nations operations in that country had been looted and destroyed.

As for press reports that rebels were forcibly recruiting civilians in South Sudan for a march on the capital, Juba, she said the Security Council had agreed to provide additional support to enable UNMISS to protect civilians and humanitarian workers.

Asked whether the world body Nations was prepared to handle an influx of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, she said the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would lead such an effort.

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For information media • not an official record