HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
MONDAY, 16 AUGUST 2021
This morning, the Secretary-General took part in an open meeting on Afghanistan. He appealed to Council members and to the international community as a whole to stand together, to work and act together, and to use all tools at their disposal to suppress the global terrorist threat in Afghanistan and to guarantee that basic human rights will be respected.
The Secretary-General called upon the Taliban and all parties to respect and protect international humanitarian law and the rights and freedoms of all persons. He says he is particularly concerned by accounts of mounting human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan who fear the return of the darkest days of the history of their country.
The Secretary-General noted that the UN is committed to supporting Afghans, and that we continue to have staff and offices in areas that have come under Taliban control. He said that the UN presence will adapt to the security situation, but, above all, we will stay and deliver in support of the Afghan people in their hour of need. The Secretary-General noted that the following days will be pivotal and that the world is watching. He stressed that we cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan.
On the humanitarian front, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, since 1 July, there has been an influx of people fleeing to Kabul and other large cities, seeking safety from the conflict and other threats.
In the past month, 17,500 people have been identified as newly internally displaced. Most of the displaced people arriving in recent days are reported to have arrived from Ghazni and Logar provinces. Some 13,500 of these people have received support in the form of food, cash, health care, household items, and water and sanitation support.
Assessments were ongoing yesterday morning with inter-agency teams deployed around Kabul to assess humanitarian needs.
Despite immense challenges, humanitarian organizations – both the UN and NGOs – in Afghanistan are committed to delivering aid and services to millions of people in need while adhering to the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.
The $1.3 billion Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan remains just 38 per cent funded, leaving an almost $800 million shortfall.
AFGHANISTAN/CHILDREN AND ARMED CONFLICT
On Friday, the fifth report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict in Afghanistan was released. It highlights that an additional 5,770 boys and girls have been killed and maimed in Afghanistan between January 2019 and December 2020. Furthermore, child casualties for the first half of 2021 constituted the highest numbers of children killed and maimed for this period ever recorded by the United Nations in Afghanistan, a situation compounded in the last few weeks and days.
The other big story we’ve been following is, of course, the earthquake in Haiti, and I want to give you an update on what we’re doing therein order to support the Government and assist those impacted by the deadly earthquake.
The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, allocated $8 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support the humanitarian response. This money will provide essentials such as health care, clean water, emergency shelter and sanitation for people impacted by this disaster.
Our humanitarian colleagues are telling us that access to the southern peninsula – where the earthquake hit – is challenging because gangs are controlling movements. Local authorities are negotiating access, and an initial convoy of six vehicles with UN staff from various agencies and the Government travelled to the affected area yesterday. Further convoys carrying supplies will travel today. Staff from the UN’s Disaster Assessment and Coordination Teams are also arriving in the country to support coordination and assessments.
A UN Humanitarian Air Service helicopter managed by the World Food Programme (WFP) is transporting government and staff into impacted areas along with medical supplies and other essential needs. WFP said that they need $1.4 million for this critical service to remain
operational until the end of 2021.
The most urgent humanitarian needs are expected to be linked to the provision of medical services, and water, sanitation and hygiene. UNICEF will send three health emergency kits to the two hospitals in Les Cayes and one in Jeremie, which will help around 30,000 people.
For its part, the UN Migration Agency (IOM) is providing lifesaving assistance including blankets, hygiene kits, jerrycans, repair materials, and tarpaulins. It is also focusing on finding safe buildings where thousands of displaced residents can shelter from the approaching storm which is likely to cause flash flooding and mudslides, and of course this impending storm is very much likely to complicate rescue efforts.
You will have seen that we issued a statement over the weekend in which the Secretary-General extended his deep condolences to the people and Government of Haiti. We are also sad to report that one of our own staff members died in the earthquake.
Turning to Lebanon, our humanitarian colleagues told us that, yesterday, as you will have seen, a fuel tank exploded in Akkar in the country’s north, reportedly killing 28 people and injuring more than 80 others.
We and our humanitarian partners responded immediately by supporting area hospitals, which declared a state of emergency.
Earlier today, the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, Najat Rochdi, led an inter-agency UN mission to Tripoli to visit hospitals treating those injured by the explosion.
The incident comes as Lebanon grapples with a deepening crisis, as fuel and electricity shortages make the delivery of basic public services difficult.
Major hospitals across Lebanon are operating at reduced capacity. The delivery of life-saving care could be further curtailed due to a lack of electricity.
We, along with our partners, are trying to ensure the delivery of critical basic services.
Last week, the UN launched the Emergency Response Plan for Lebanon, which calls for almost $380 million to help 1.1 million of the country’s most vulnerable people, including migrants.
The new Emergency Response Plan complements longstanding efforts to support refugee and host communities impacted by the Syria crisis.
I can tell you the Secretary-General welcomes the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Unitary Platform of Venezuela for the start of a comprehensive negotiating process. He encourages them to fully commit to an inclusive and meaningful dialogue, with full respect for human rights.
The Secretary-General also reiterates his strong support for Norway’s facilitation efforts and welcomes the readiness to assist of Mexico as the host country and of the Netherlands and Russia as accompanying nations. He echoes the call to all members of the international community to support a negotiated solution that is owned and led by Venezuelans themselves.
Turning to Zambia, the Secretary-General congratulates the Government and people of Zambia, as well as the electoral authorities, on the conduct of the 12 August general elections.
The overall peaceful conduct of the elections is a clear testament to the continued commitment of the Zambian people to upholding Zambia’s democracy, peace and stability.
The United Nations will continue to support the Government and the people of Zambia in their efforts for a democratic, stable and prosperous country.
The World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have transported more than 15,000 kilograms of medical supplies to treat COVID-19 patients and protect frontline healthcare workers.
WFP’s Pacific Humanitarian Air Service flew oxygen concentrators, pulse oximeters, masks and other supplies at the request of Fiji’s Health Ministry.
To date, the Pacific Humanitarian Air Service has operated 30 flights, transporting 250,000 kilograms of vital cargo to 14 countries and territories in the region.
You will have seen that, yesterday, we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General said he was saddened to learn of the loss of life and damage to infrastructure due to floods and mudslides in northern Turkey following the recent devastating wildfires in the country.
He extends his deep condolences to the families affected. The UN stands in solidarity with the people and the Government of the Republic of Turkey at this challenging time.