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18 June 2020

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Hi, everyone.  It’s good to be here.  I have one favour to ask:  please mute your mics.  And we’ll have a guest with us, Amer Daoudi, shortly after I’m done with my part of the briefing. 

**COVID-19 — Policy Brief on the World of Work

Okay.  First of all, tonight, just after midnight, the Secretary-General will [release] a policy brief on the World of Work and COVID-19.  The brief will look at issues such as the dramatic effect that the pandemic is having on the jobs, livelihoods and well-being of workers and their families, as well as on businesses worldwide. 

A video message by the Secretary-General regarding this issue will also be made available. 

**Refugee Day

Ahead of World Refugee Day this Saturday, the Secretary-General reiterates his commitment to do everything to end the conflict and persecution that drive appalling numbers of refugees.  Nearly 80 million women, children, and men around the world have been forced from their homes as refugees or internally displaced people, including 10 million people this past year alone. 

He also recognizes the generosity and humanity of host communities and countries that often struggle with their own economic and security concerns.  We owe these countries our thanks, our support and our investment, says the Secretary-General in a message for the Day. 

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic poses an additional threat to refugees and displaced people, who are among the most vulnerable.  Refugees and displaced people are also prominent among those who are stepping up to make a difference on the frontlines of the response, adds the Secretary-General.  Today and every day, we stand in unity and solidarity with refugees and recognize our fundamental obligation to shelter those fleeing war and persecution, he says.

**UNHCR Global Trends

And in Geneva, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, published its annual Global Trends report, which shows that forced displacement is now affecting more than one percent of humanity — or 1 in 97 people.  The report also shows that fewer of those who flee are able to return home. 

In the 1990s, UNHCR says that on average 1.5 million refugees were able to return home each year.  Over the past decade that number has fallen to around 385,000.

The report also documents worrying new displacement, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sahel, Yemen and Syria.

**Security Council

This morning’s session of the Security Council was also dedicated to refugees.  The head of the UN refugee agency, Filippo Grandi, said twice as many people are forcibly displaced now than 10 years ago.  This, he says, is the result of a decade of crises. 

He told Members of the Council that when leadership fails, when multilateralism doesn’t live up to its promise, the consequences are not felt in the global capitals of our world, but rather in the lives of those who have no power.  Among them, he said, are the refugees and the displaced. 

**Sahel

On the Sahel, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the number of people in need of life-saving assistance and protection has reached 24 million.  This is the highest number ever recorded and half of them are children. 

In the entire region, over 4.5 million people are internally displaced or refugees.  This is 1 million more than last year.  The needs are outpacing the response and, in this context, it is critical to step up response efforts. 

Food insecurity and malnutrition are expected to spike to record peaks.  More than 12 million people are already facing a serious lack of food, the highest figure in a decade.  The socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak could double this number. 

Almost 10 million children are at risk of acute malnutrition, including 3 million suffering from its most severe form. 

In March, over 11,500 schools were closed or non-operational due to violence across the Sahel, affecting over 2.2 million children — with COVID-19, 71 million children are temporarily out of school. 

Humanitarian access in the Sahel has become increasingly difficult.  Growing insecurity deeply affects aid operations.  The increasingly militarized and politicized response constitutes a major risk to principled humanitarian action. 

Funding shortfalls are one of the most significant challenges to adequately deliver assistance. 

Five months into 2020, only 18 per cent of the $2.8 billion requested for the region’s six countries have been funded.  The additional requirement to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic stands at $620 million, with only 13 per cent funded. 

**Yemen

Turning to Yemen: A first batch of 10,000 COVID-19 tests arrived in Sana’a on a UNICEF-chartered plane today to increase the testing capacity amid the rapid increase of cases in Yemen.  An additional shipment of 8,000 tests is expected to arrive in Aden in the coming days. 

Since the first COVID-19 case was officially confirmed in Yemen on 10 April, UNICEF has shipped over 33,000 N95 respirators, 33,000 face shields, and 18,000 gowns into the country.  This crucial personal protective equipment will support 400 frontline health workers for three months, but only represents 5 per cent of the COVID-19 supplies that UNICEF requires in Yemen. 

UNICEF’s COVID-19 response in Yemen remains severely under-funded.  So far, only 10 per cent of UNICEF’s $53 million funding appeal has been received. 

**Zambia — COVID-19

In Zambia, there are more than 1,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths recorded, with the pandemic taking a toll on livelihoods and the economy. 

Led by the Resident Coordinator, Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio, and with guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN team is supporting the Government and is working to mobilize more than $130 million for the UN’s COVID-19 Emergency Appeal which aims to reach 6.2 million vulnerable people.  The UN team and our partners are working to bolster food security, social protection, public health, education, health and water and sanitation. 

The UN has provided laboratory supplies and personal protection equipment, and has also trained technical staff and improved COVID-19 surveillance and detection.  Our team has also established two national call centres.  Some 200,000 water, sanitation and hygiene supplies have been distributed to health facilities and refugee settlements.  Nearly 15,000 refugees have received soap and other supplies. 

Also, the UN is providing food assistance to 622,000 people in drought-affected areas, supporting small farmers and boosting the supply chain for the Government’s food assistance programme.  The UN also transported personal protection equipment and testing kits donated by the Jack Ma Foundation. 

**Children

Every year, half of the world’s children — or approximately 1 billion children — are affected by physical, sexual or psychological violence, leading to them suffering injuries, disabilities and death, because countries have failed to follow established strategies to protect them.

That’s according to a new report published today by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Violence against Children, as well as the End Violence Partnership. 

The head of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that there is never any excuse for violence against children.  He urges all countries to implement evidence-based tools to prevent it, stressing that protecting the health and well-being of our children is central to protecting our collective health and well-being, now and for the future. 

Today’s report is the first of its kind and it charts progress in 155 countries.  While nearly all of these countries have laws in place to protect children against violence, less than half of them said they are being strongly enforced. 

The new publication also includes the first ever global homicide estimates for children under the age of 18, finding that, in 2017, some 40,000 children were victims of homicide. 

You can read more about this online. 

**Afghanistan

And a new UN report released today said that sustained and effective efforts in fighting corruption in Afghanistan remain critical for the country’s future. 

The fourth annual anti-corruption report from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) describes how anti-corruption reforms slowed in 2019.  It notes that there were fewer legislative and strategic initiatives undertaken to fight corruption than in previous years. 

The full report is available on UNAMA’s website. 

**Personnel Announcement

I have a personnel announcement to share with you.  The Secretary-General is appointing Ms. Leni Stenseth of Norway as Deputy Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, at the level of Assistant Secretary-General. 

Currently Norwegian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ms. Stenseth brings to the position nearly twenty years of experience in international politics, humanitarian action and crisis management, fifteen of which were in leadership positions with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Red Cross. 

There’s lots more in her biographical note online. 

**Press Briefings

Today, after I’m done, our guest will be Amer Daoudi, the UN World Food Programme's (WFP) Director of Operations and COVID-19 Corporate Response Director.  He will brief you on WFP’s air and logistics services for COVID-19 humanitarian and health response. 

And tomorrow, at around 12:30 p.m., Reem Abaza, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will be back to brief you. 

And with that, turning on my recorder now, and I'm prepared to take your questions.  And, so, please send any questions in through the chat, and I will hear from you. 

**Questions and Answers

So far as I can tell, as for questions, the one thing I hear is a written question from Evelyn Leopold:  Kindly repeat the total monies collected for Lebanon [Yemen] compared to the request.  Do most of the funds come from Saudi Arabia?

We have received some funds from Saudi Arabia, but let me just check here what the funding level is for the Yemen appeal. 

One second, please. 

So, in Yemen, on 2 June, donors pledged $1.35 billion for humanitarian assistance.  That's about half of what we received the previous year and is a shortfall from what we had been requesting.  The full country‑by‑country totals are available on the website, so please go to ReliefWeb for that. 

And I see that Gloria Starr has a question.  Gloria?

Question:  Yes.  My question is, with the refugees who have to leave their homes and move to other countries and have family and are travelling with children, can we encourage them to temporarily not have more children?  because one of the problems is the babies they're having and the women who have to go through their pregnancies and have these children, it's not an easy situation on the families and on the women.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  As you know, our UN Population Fund (UNFPA) provides reproductive and health services, and it works with the UN refugee agency to provide services for refugees in places where they can do so.

I also want to add to Evelyn's question that money comes…  for Yemen, comes from [30] countries and the European Commission. 

Okay.  Does anyone else have a question?  I don't see anything up.  So, if that's the case, I will now turn the floor to Amer Daoudi, from the World Food Programme.  He can give some opening remarks, and then he'll take some questions. 

Mr. Daoudi, the floor is yours.

For information media. Not an official record.