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Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,

SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

MONDAY, 25 AUGUST 2014

 

FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS HAMPER WEST AFRICA EBOLA RESPONSE, WARNS U.N.

  • The United Nations system is focused on tackling the serious outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa. However, there have been challenges with air transportation into and out of the countries affected.
  • The current limitations on flights into and out of affected countries, and the restrictions placed on aircraft originating from these countries transiting through airports in neighbouring countries, though understandable, are not warranted.
  • It is not an optimal measure for controlling the import of Ebola virus disease. The measure does not reflect what is known about the way in which the virus passes between people.
  • Three considerations are important to keep in mind for the public at large: Ebola is not spread through air borne contact; transmission is unlikely to occur through water or food; a person infected with the Ebola virus is not contagious until symptoms appear; Ebola is spread through direct contact with the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with the virus.
  • Protocols can be well established to safeguard against contagion, namely, Ebola affected individuals displaying symptoms of the infection can be identified before boarding airplanes and prevented from traveling.
  • As an additional safeguard, detection on arrival can trigger, if necessary, protocols for isolation of the patient and infection verification.
  • The current trend of limitations on flights is having adverse effects on efforts to control the disease. Current flight limitations are hampering the movement of international experts involved in the control efforts.
  • The flight restrictions hinder the capacities of aid organizations like Médecins sans Frontières to deploy their personnel in support of the crisis response and mitigation.
  • The ability of programmes involved in controlling the outbreak to transport essential equipment and materials to the region is also being severely hampered.
  • The flight limitations contribute to the economic and diplomatic isolation of the affected countries and further compound the stigmatization already experienced by their citizens.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is always available to provide necessary advice on health aspects of international travel and to assist nations with establishing reliable border, airport and seaport health checks.
  • According to WHO, there have been 2,615 cases and 1,427 deaths reported in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, so far. The United Nations System Coordinator for Ebola, Dr David Nabarro, is now in Guinea, after visiting Liberia and Sierra Leone.
  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today that the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has confirmed that Ebola has resurfaced in the country.
  • The Congolese Health Minister, Felix Kabange Numbi, said the outbreak killed 13 people since July in a remote village in Boende, Equateur Province, more than 1,200 km from the capital, Kinshasa. Mr. Kabange said the strain of this outbreak was different from the one that's been ravaging West Africa.
  • The Congolese authorities, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and NGOs are mobilizing against the disease. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) has created an Ebola taskforce, and is tracking and screening its staff travelling to and from the affected countries in West Africa.
  • Ebola was first discovered in the DRC in 1976. This is the 7th time the disease has broken out, with the latest bout being in 2012 when some 36 people died in Province Orientale.

U.N. FACILITIES HANDOVER OF U.S. JOURNALIST

  • The United Nations has confirmed that it facilitated the handover of journalist Peter Theo Curtis. He was handed over to United Nations peacekeepers in Al Rafid village, Quneitra, Golan Heights, at 6:40 p.m. local time, on 24 August 2014.
  • After receiving a medical check-up, Mr. Curtis was handed over to representatives of his government.

HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN IRAQ APPALLING, WIDESPREAD – U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF

  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has condemned the appalling, widespread and systematic deprivation of human rights in Iraq by the Islamic State and associated forces.
  • Ms. Pillay said that the armed groups are systematically targeting people based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation. She added they are carrying out ethnic and religious cleansing in areas under their control.
  • Ms. Pillay warned that such persecution would amount to crimes against humanity. She urged the international community to ensure that the perpetrators of these vicious crimes do not enjoy impunity.
  • On 23 August, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, called for immediate action to prevent the possible massacre of Iraqis in the northern town of Amerli. Residents in the besieged town have been cut off from food and water supplies by the Islamic State for almost two months.
  • Mr. Mladenov urged the Iraqi Government to ensure that residents receive the aid they need. He called on Iraq’s allies and the international community to work with the authorities to prevent a human rights tragedy. The Secretary-General is following the situation very closely and shares the concerns expressed by Mr. Mladenov.
  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that Amerli continues to face insecurity and severe shortages of food, water and medical supplies. According to reports, Islamic State forces have blocked key entry routes into Amerli, virtually cutting overland access to food and supplies.
  • There have been unconfirmed reports of women dying in childbirth, unable to reach hospitals outside the town. Aid workers are continuing to search for a way to bring life-saving assistance to Amerli, but lack of access is hampering aid efforts. OCHA in Iraq will continue to monitor the situation in Amerli as closely as possible.

U.N. ENVOY WRAPS UP MISSION TO MYANMAR

  • The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, wrapped up a visit to Myanmar today – his eighth in the past year.
  • He met with the President Thein Sein, Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, and other senior officials. He also spoke with diplomats and members of political parties, representatives of ethnic armed groups, civil society, aid agencies, women and youth organizations.
  • Mr. Nambiar took part as an observer at a meeting on national reconciliation between the Government and ethnic armed groups – the first of its kind held in the country.
  • On behalf of the Secretary-General, Mr. Nambiar called on all involved to take a leap of faith and to set aside all narrow agendas in the common interest of peace and a unified Myanmar.
  • The Special Adviser also visited Rakhine to see first-hand the progress made to provide aid to local communities, as well as actions being taken to address underlying causes of recent violence.
  • In his meetings, Mr. Nambiar spoke about the reform and democratization process; development; and strengthening the cooperation between communities and ethnic groups, among other topics. He also underlined the United Nations’ commitment to support Myanmar during this critical period of reform.

U.N. IS TRYING TO GET MORE AID IN TO PEOPLE, SAYS RELIEF CHIEF

  • The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, has concluded her mission to Ukraine. On 24 August, she visited areas of eastern Ukraine to see for herself the impact of the continued fighting on millions of people.
  • Since March 2014, some 200,000 people have fled their homes in search of safety within Ukraine and tens of thousands have fled to neighbouring countries.
  • At a centre for the displaced in Krasnyi Lyman, women who had fled the fighting with their families told Ms. Amos that the fighting must stop so they could feel safe again.
  • She also met with authorities in Sloviansk and commended the progress made in getting basic infrastructure repaired and the ongoing work preparing for winter.
  • The United Nations wants to get more aid to people in affected areas, but is hampered by continued insecurity. Despite the security challenges, Ms. Amos said that the United Nations is looking at ways in which to get into the more difficult parts of eastern Ukraine, especially as winter approaches.

U.N. MISSION IN SOUTH SUDAN CONDEMNS DETENTION OF I.G.A.D MEMBERS

  • The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) condemned the detention of a team of six Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) ceasefire monitors and three aircrew in Buoth, Unity State, on 23 August, by forces allied to Sudan People's Liberation Army in Opposition.
  • A Sudan People's Liberation Army liaison officer, who was part of the team, died during the detention period reportedly due to natural causes. The monitors were part of a verification team and were in Unity State on a routine mission.
  • UNMISS assisted in locating and flying the ceasefire monitors and the aircrew to the mission’s base in Bentiu on 24 August. Efforts are currently underway by the mission to recover the IGAD-contracted aircraft that flew the monitors to Buoth.
  • The Mission reiterates its full support for the IGAD mediation and the monitoring and verification mechanism, as agreed to by both parties on 23 January 2014, and calls for the full cooperation of all parties in finding a peaceful and durable solution to the current crisis.
  • UNMISS has also reported that it is now protecting more than 102,000 civilians at 10 of its bases across the country, the highest number of people that have taken refuge in its protection of civilians’ sites since the conflict began in December 2013.
  • An estimated 47,000 civilians are currently seeking protection at its site in Bentiu, Unity State, followed by more than 17,000 each at the United Nations House site in Juba, and in Malakal in Upper Nile State. 
  • UNMISS has also begun a search operation at its United Nations House sites in Juba today as part of its regular steps and measures to enhance the safety of civilians, United Nations staff, and humanitarian partners in its camps. The exercise carried out by United Nations Police and military peacekeepers will continue during the course of the week.

NEARLY 20,000 PEOPLE DISPLACED BY INSECURITY IN NORTHWEST CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, SAYS U.N. RELIEF WING

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that insecurity is increasing in Batangafo in the north-west of the Central African Republic (CAR).
  • Some 19,000 people have been newly displaced by fighting between armed groups and international forces, and two international NGOs have temporarily relocated staff from Batangafo to the capital Bangui.
  • The Senior Humanitarian Coordinator in CAR, Claire Bourgeois, is scheduled to visit the area tomorrow. OCHA recently opened a sub-office in Batangafo to improve coordination of the humanitarian response.

MORE THAN A QUARTER OF GAZA’S POPULATION DISPLACED – U.N.

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that hostilities are continuing in Gaza, and that the number of displaced continues to rise. At least 460,000 people, more than a quarter of Gaza’s population, are now displaced.
  • As of 24 August, more than 280,000 people were sheltering in 85 schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), more than 36,000 in seven Government schools supported by UNRWA and 14,000 in 17 Government shelters. An additional 140,000 have been registered as staying with host families.
  • UNRWA and Government schools are not ready for the new school year in the Gaza Strip, which was supposed to start yesterday. More than 200 schools were affected by shelling need to be repaired, including 22 which have been completely destroyed.
  • UNRWA’s TV station will run education programs at emergency shelters and will expand psychosocial work with humanitarian organizations.

SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS NEW ENVOY FOR CYPRUS

  • On 22 August, the Secretary-General appointed Espen Barth Eide of Norway as his new Special Adviser on Cyprus to replace Alexander Downer of Australia.
  • The Secretary-General expresses his gratitude to Lisa Buttenheim, his Special Representative in Cyprus, for serving as Acting Special Adviser.

U.N. CHILDREN’S FUND: DIRECTOR RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH CHANGED LIVES OF YOUNG PEOPLE

  • In a statement issued today, United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Executive Director Anthony Lake spoke about the life of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lord Richard Attenborough, who recently passed away.
  • With the passing of Lord Richard Attenborough, the world has lost not only a great voice, but a great soul, said Mr. Lake. He touched the lives of millions of people through his remarkable films. Through his travels and work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, he changed the lives of countless children.