ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
In response to the ongoing eruption of the La Soufrière volcano in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock today announced an allocation of $1 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to help provide urgent humanitarian assistance to impacted people, especially those who have been evacuated.
With the funds, UN agencies will provide drinking water and hygiene kits, as well as supplies to clean water sources and cash assistance to some of the most vulnerable and food-insecure people.
According to our humanitarian colleagues, up to 20,000 people have been evacuated from the ‘red zone’ around the volcano, and about 4,500 of them are staying in shelters.
People living in close proximity to the volcano have been impacted by heavy ash fall and pyroclastic flows that have damaged crops and faming equipment and impacted livestock keeping. This is likely to worsen food insecurity and poverty which was already on the rise because of the pandemic.
Most homes in Saint Vincent are without water and most of the country’s 110,000 people have been impacted by ash fall.
For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) today said that eruptions are continuing daily. Airports remain closed with economic implications for the country and for livelihoods and food security in the longer-term.
The WFP team is supporting the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to digitize evacuee registration information to facilitate the delivery of essential food, water and other items. WFP is also deploying a truck and forklift to support the overall response.
Martin Griffiths, the Special Envoy for Yemen, briefed the Security Council on his diplomatic work, for which he has recently visited Muscat, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Berlin. He also met leaders of the Yemeni Government in Amman.
In all of these capitals, the Special Envoy has discussed in detail the current efforts to end the war in Yemen. in all cases, he said, he has come across, at a minimum, a consensus in support of the four points on which he is seeking agreement between the parties. He emphasized the need for the parties to agree to those points and to deliver Yemen from its plight.
Mr. Griffiths said that the urgency of progress towards a peaceful settlement makes the continued violence on the ground all the more concerning. Marib remains the major centre of gravity in the conflict, he said, adding that the fighting there is showing dangerous signs of escalating once again.
Mark Lowcock, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, told members of the Council that the situation in Yemen is still getting event worse, with a new wave of COVID-19 infections taking place and large-scale famine already bearing down on the country.
He said that March was a deadly month for civilians, with a quarter of civilian casualties during the month, especially in the Marib area. The Marib offensive, he said, is a threat to millions of people, with tens of thousands of people expected to move out of the area if the fighting continues.
I was asked in recent days about Somalia, and I can tell you that the Secretary-General is concerned over the latest political developments in that country. He urges the leaders to resume dialogue and reach an inclusive agreement based on the 17 September Electoral Model and the Baidoa Technical Committee’s proposals.
The Secretary-General calls on all the stakeholders to do their utmost to facilitate inclusive agreement, exercise restraint and refrain from violence. He remains of the view that inclusivity and dialogue offer the most viable path forward and appeals to Somali leaders to put their differences aside towards a consensual resolution.
And, as I mentioned to you, the Secretary-General spoke to President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo earlier this week.
U.N. INTERIM FORCE IN LEBANON
In response to questions I received about the activities of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), UNIFIL’s ongoing effort to enhance the use of cameras for monitoring at key UN positions along the Blue Line is being done in accordance with the Secretary-General’s assessment report which was welcomed by the Security Council in a resolution last year.
In Azerbaijan, our UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Ghulam Isaczai, has been supporting the national vaccination drive that kicked off nearly three months ago.
We are providing technical assistance and advice to health authorities and supporting logistics, including through the COVAX facility.
The World Health Organization has trained doctors on how to treat COVID-19 patients, as well as on how to prevent infections.
UN agencies have provided cash, food and medical assistance to refugees and asylum seekers. UNICEF has distributed medical equipment – including respirators and masks – to health workers and hospital patients.
A COVAX update for you from Mauritania today, which received nearly 70,000 doses yesterday.
These vaccines will go towards priority groups, including people over the age of 75, those who are chronically ill, health care workers and border control officials. These and future doses from COVAX aim to immunize 20 per cent of the population.
Our UN team has been supporting the national vaccination campaign that launched on March 26th. We continue supporting authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well as tackling the multiple impacts of the pandemic.
From Myanmar, our colleagues at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) say that 71 journalists have been arrested, with more than half of them still detained since the beginning of February. Some 24 people have been charged for allegedly spreading fake news.
Our team on the ground remains deeply concerned about the plight of journalists, as well as that of the thousands of people who have been arbitrarily arrested, with many subjected to enforced disappearances.
AFRICAN FREE TRADE
Today, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the African Union launched a guide to boosting intra-African agricultural trade under the new African Continental Free Trade Area agreement.
This Free Trade Area began trading on January 1st of this year and is the largest free trade area in the world in terms of the number of countries covered. It represents a market of 1.2 billion consumers.
The new guide is a blueprint for expanding agricultural trade among African countries. Increased trade is an important part of the collaborative work towards boosting food security and nutrition for all Africans.
DISARMAMENT VIDEO CHALLENGE
Today, our friends at the Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) are launching a global video challenge for young people between the ages of 18 and 24. I’m not sure that covers any of you in this room! They are asking them to submit a two-minute twenty-second video.
Titled “What if – Spesterra Youth Video Challenge”, the contest will ask young people to imagine what the world would look like if more money were spent on peace and development and less on arms.
If you wonder what Spesterra means, the word is coined from the Latin words spes, which means hope, and terra, which means land. Submissions to be received before July 15th.
Fifteen winners will attend an intensive summer course on disarmament. They will develop concrete recommendations on ways to reduce military spending in order to secure our common future, which they will present, along with the winning videos, at a side event during the seventy-sixth session of the First Committee of the General Assembly.
WORLD ART DAY
Today is World Art Day. The Day was proclaimed at the 40th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 2019 and aims to promote the development, diffusion and enjoyment of art.
In a Tweet this morning, the Secretary-General noted that art is one of the most powerful ways we can express our humanity and forge bonds with one another. As we mark World Art Day amidst a global pandemic, he called on all to join him in thanking artists around the world for continuing to be a source of inspiration, solace, and connection.
***The guest at the Noon Briefing was David Shearer, the outgoing Special Representative and Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan.