The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.
I have a senior appointment to announce: following consultations with the Executive Board of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Secretary‑General has appointed Natalia Kanem of Panama as UNFPA’s new Executive Director. Dr. Kanem succeeds the late Dr. Babatunde [Osotimehin].
A champion of a life of dignity for all, Dr. Babatunde was admired globally for his leadership of UNFPA and for his immense and invaluable advocacy for the world's women and girls. Dr. Kanem brings to the position more than three decades of strategic leadership and management in the fields of medicine, public health, international peace and development, human rights and social justice. She currently serves as the Acting Executive Director of UNFPA. Prior to that, she was the Deputy Executive Director for Programmes at UNFPA and earlier, the UNFPA Representative in [the United Republic of] Tanzania. Her full biography is in my office and we congratulate her.
Turning to the situation with the Rohingyas, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the number of Rohingya refugees who have fled into Bangladesh from Myanmar has reached 509,000. Yesterday the figure was 507,000.
Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock and UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] Executive Director Anthony Lake continued their visit to Bangladesh today, speaking to the reporters in Cox’s Bazar. They called for urgent funding to scale up the response. The Emergency Relief Coordinator noted the “horrific” living conditions of the refugees, stressing the need to ensure the current tragedy does not become a catastrophe with the outbreak of disease. He announced an additional $12 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund, the second allocation this month, to respond to the crisis. OCHA says that the total amount of land now occupied by refugees is 9.6 million square metres, the equivalent to 889 football fields. I don’t know if it’s European or American football, but it’s a large number.
The UN refugee agency [UNHCR], together with Bangladeshi authorities and other partners, are working to contain an outbreak of diarrhoeal disease, with nearly 4,800 cases having been reported in the past week. A diarrhoea treatment centre opened yesterday in the Kutupalong Refugee Camp, where refugees who have been living there since 1992 have taken in thousands of newcomers. By the end of this week, there will be a total of 80 beds in diarrhoea treatment centres in three locations, with two more centres planned to open next week.
UNHCR staff, along with refugee volunteers, will fan out to refugee camps and informal settlements to find people who may be sick but have not sought treatment. UNHCR is also supporting an effort by the Ministry of Health to administer vaccinations for cholera, which is endemic in Bangladesh.
As you will have seen, yesterday, we issued a statement on Cameroon, in which the Secretary-General said he remained deeply concerned about the situation in Cameroon and strongly condemns the acts of violence reported in the south-west and north-west regions of the country on 1 October, including reported loss of life. He calls on the Cameroonian authorities to investigate these incidents and urges political leaders on both sides to appeal to their followers to refrain from any further acts of violence, and to unequivocally condemn all actions that undermine the peace, stability and unity of the country.
The Secretary-General takes note of the calls by the authorities for dialogue and encourages representatives of the Anglophone community to seize the opportunity in their quest for solutions to the community’s grievances, within the framework of the Cameroonian Constitution. He reiterates the support of the United Nations for such efforts, through the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA).
Our colleagues at the UN peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) tell us they have received reports of fighting in Waat town, in Jonglei, between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) and youth belonging to the Lou Nuer tribe.
The Mission is concerned by the large number of reported casualties and is trying to gain access to the area. It calls on all sides to immediately halt hostilities and reiterates the need for an inclusive political solution to end the crisis.
We have been asked in recent days about our efforts to deal with the authorities in Baghdad and Erbil. And I can say that we welcome efforts to resolve the issues between Baghdad and Erbil based on the Constitution, notably the intervention of the religious authority Ayatollah [Ali] al-Sistani last Friday that urged respect for the Constitution and the Supreme Federal Court’s decision as regards to the referendum. We also welcome other initiatives to resolve the crisis within the constitutional framework and in full respect of Iraq’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, to re‑start dialogue and cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil on this basis.
The UN [Assistance] Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) is carefully monitoring the impact of the administrative, legal, economic and diplomatic steps and measures introduced by the federal government in discharge of its prerogatives, rights and responsibilities according to the Constitution. The UN in Iraq urges both sides to start technical negotiations on how to implement them, in the spirit of partnership. We take note of the pledges of the Government of Iraq to preserve and respect the interests of all its citizens, including the Kurdistan region, and the confirmation that the measures are not intended to prevent travel of the people and arrival of supplies, to punish the people or to impose sanctions, but that they are for controlling the entry and exit of people and goods in the region, and putting it under the control of the federal government and federal authorities.
We continue to call for calm and restraint, and strongly call on all sides to avoid statements, public announcements and steps that could raise racial or sectarian tensions, that could further inflame the situation and pave the way towards escalation.
Our colleague Nickolay Mladenov, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, was today in Gaza where he met with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. He said afterward that he was encouraged by the firm commitment of President [Mahmoud] Abbas and the Government to return to Gaza under the full control of the legitimate Palestinian Authority. This is essential for resolving the humanitarian situation as soon as possible, most notably the crippling electricity and health crises, and should facilitate the lifting of the movement and access restrictions on Gaza, in line with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009). He added that he is encouraged by the continuing engagement of Egypt with all sides to ensure the implementation of the Cairo understandings.
The United Nations stands ready to continue working with the legitimate Palestinian authorities and the region in support of the Government in taking up its responsibilities in Gaza.
UNHCR says it is becoming increasingly concerned over the funding situation for refugees and other displaced families in the Middle East, where currently only a quarter of families are likely to receive adequate support to prepare for the approaching winter.
There are nearly 15 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people scattered across the region. UNHCR estimates that as many as 4 million are in the extreme risk category and need timely and substantial help to prepare for the forthcoming winter. Of these, only one in four is likely to get the assistance they need. The $245 million Regional Winter Assistance Plan for the region is only 26 per cent funded.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
UNHCR also tells us that they are concerned at the growing violence in parts of south‑eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo [that] has driven 3,360 refugees into northern Zambia since 30 August. This is the largest influx of Congolese refugees into Zambia in the past five years.
The Global Task Force on Cholera Control will launch a new strategy tomorrow to reduce deaths from cholera by 90 per cent by 2030. Cholera kills an estimated 95,000 people and affects 2.9 million people every [year]. The new plan, Ending Cholera: A Global Roadmap to 2030, recognizes that cholera spreads in endemic “hotspots” where predictable outbreaks of the disease occur year after year.
Tomorrow, the Secretary‑General will brief you at 10:30 a.m. at the Security Council Stakeout on the countries affected by the recent hurricanes. That is at 10:30 a.m. On that note, we have Stephen O’Malley, the UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, who will join us in a few minutes from Dominica. And then we will have Brenden [Varma]. But before that, I will take your questions. Erol, then…
**Questions and Answers
Question: Stéphane, when the Secretary‑General says he would prefer swift action in Myanmar regarding the refugee crisis, et cetera, what does he really mean? In a way, who would engage in that swift action and what is the swift action?
Spokesman: I think the Secretary‑General, whether it's in his speech at the General Assembly or the stakeouts and press conferences, has been very clear. First, we need to see humanitarian help for those who have made it to Bangladesh. The Government and authorities in Myanmar need to put a halt to the security operations, and a solution needs to be found to those people… to those Rohingyas who currently have no status, whether that implies giving them nationality in Myanmar or giving them some sort of working papers. Yes, Edie?
Question: Stéph, could you give us an update on the Children and Armed Conflict report? When… when are we going to actually see it?
Spokesman: Soon‑ish. [laughter] I wish I could give you a more detailed update, but that's as detailed as I'm able to do right now. But I'd like to try to get some more information and more detail so I can actually stop fielding those types of questions. Evelyn, and then…
Question: Thank you, Stéph. Every… every day or today at least twice, you've mentioned relief operations that are short of money. Is the SG, in his reform plan, somehow going to amalgamate it? And, to add another one, yesterday, I received an email from UNAMID [African Union‑United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur], saying that they can't fly food into Darfur because they don't have enough money to have their planes operated. Do you have anything more on that?
Spokesman: No, on that I will check.
Question: But, also, the aid thing goes on endlessly…
Spokesman: We know this has been a chronic issue. We are seeing a huge number of humanitarian needs. A lot of these crises are, obviously, things you can do contingency planning for, but it's… the UN doesn't sit on a pile of cash. We have a central emergency fund, which we disperse as needed, and we just did in the case of the Rohingyas in Bangladesh. But it is a recurring problem. Our humanitarian operations are voluntarily funded. Yes, ma'am?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I was wondering if the SG has submitted his report on Cyprus to the Security Council. If not, when?
Spokesman: I don't know, and I will check.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Spokesman: Both… yes, sir?
Question: I want to ask on the brutal killings in Cameroon, English‑speaking Cameroon, eyewitness reports say that authorities have entered homes and brutally killed up to 200 people. Of course, that's eyewitness reports on the ground. What is the role of the UN… like, is not this the time for a Special Rapporteur to comment rather than the [inaudible] calls for dialogue?
Spokesman: Obviously, the issue of Special Rapporteurs is one that the Secretary‑General… that's outside of the authority of the Secretary‑General. I think we've had a number of diplomatic contacts at various levels with the Cameroonian authorities. We've expressed our concern at the ongoing situation, especially at the violence and at the loss of life that we've seen. We've seen that the authorities have called for dialogue, and we encourage those leaders in the anglophone community to seize that opportunity. Yes, sir?
Question: Yeah, there was this report by Human Rights Watch that around $137 million allocated for the education of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon have disappeared. Is there any investigation how that amount…
Spokesman: I haven't seen that report, but I will check. Okay.