HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
TUESDAY, 19 OCTOBER 2021
On Ethiopia, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that the situation today in Mekelle, in Tigray, is calm but tense.
Local health workers have reported that three children were killed and one person injured in an airstrike on the outskirts of Mekelle yesterday.
A second airstrike in Mekelle town later in the day reportedly injured nine people and damaged houses and a nearby hotel.
Humanitarians are alarmed at the intensification of the conflict and once again remind all parties to the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.
The UN also calls for unrestricted and sustained humanitarian access to all people in need.
Tor Wennesland, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Security Council today. He welcomed the ongoing engagement between senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, and strongly encourages a further expansion of such efforts which can improve conditions on the ground and pave the way towards re-invigorating the peace process.
He added that we should have no illusions about the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) continues to deteriorate, and we have seen no progress towards realizing a two-State solution, he warned.
Mr. Wennesland said that the security situation in Gaza remains fragile and the security dynamics in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are deteriorating, including growing tensions in and around the Holy Sites.
We can no longer lurch from crisis to crisis, he said. Our approach cannot be to address the current situation piecemeal – incident by incident - on a short-term day-to-day basis as stand-alone issues. A broader package of parallel steps by the Government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the international community is needed, Mr. Wennesland said.
UNICEF reported today that the Yemen conflict has just hit another shameful milestone: 10,000 children have been killed or maimed since fighting started in March 2015. That’s the equivalent of four children every day for the last six and a half years.
These are of course the cases the UN was able to verify. Many more child deaths and injuries go unrecorded, to all but those children’s families.
UNICEF added that four out of every five children need humanitarian assistance. That’s more than 11 million children. In addition, 400,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, more than two million children are out-of-school and another four million are at risk of dropping out.
The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, encourages the discussion in the Parliament of a gender quota in the forthcoming elections. She noted that women’s representation in politics is critical for an effective and well-functioning democracy and ensures that those in elected leadership are more representative of the people they serve.
Ms. Wronecka said that the United Nations welcomes efforts to expand special measures for women, such as quotas, and to support Lebanese women’s participation in political life.
The Special Coordinator reiterated the importance of holding elections on time.
From Myanmar, the UN Country Team continues to remain deeply concerned over the humanitarian impact of the ongoing crises in the country.
According to humanitarians, some three million women, children and men urgently need life-saving assistance and protection due to conflict, food insecurity, natural disasters and COVID-19. This includes one million people who were in need at the start of the year, plus an additional two million people identified as needing help after the military takeover on February 1st.
Some 219,000 people have been newly displaced since the first of February, as a result of clashes between the Myanmar Armed Forces and different ethnic armed organisations and people’s defense forces. The humanitarian situation in the country has been worsened by the recent wave of COVID-19, which is affecting people who were already in need of assistance.
The UN once again calls on parties concerned to ensure that aid can be scaled up to reach people affected by the continued armed conflict.
Also in Myanmar, following floods in Rakhine and Kayin states, UNICEF and its partners have reached more than 33,000 people with water and sanitation supplies.
UNICEF continues to help nearly 150,000 internally displaced people and others in Kachin, Northern Shan, Rakhine and Sagaing.
The UN Refugee Agency today said it is alarmed by the humanitarian impact of the worst flooding in decades in South Sudan. These floods have affected more than 700,000 people across the country.
UNHCR is working with the Government and partners to help the most affected people - by providing food, emergency shelter, hygiene items and solar lanterns.
In Upper Nile State alone, UNHCR teams met around 1,000 people who had walked for seven days to reach Malakal town. Some of these people had not eaten in days. Women are deeply worried about the health of their children, with the increased risk of infections from deadly water-borne diseases.
UNHCR said that while the effects of the climate emergency are being felt on every continent and in every region, its impacts are profoundly felt in East Africa. Communities which are already struggling are facing unprecedented floods and storms, unpredictable rainfall, and distress under hotter and drier conditions as their basic needs and rights to water, food, livelihoods, land, and a healthy environment are hit hard.
The UN Mission in South Sudan continues to help authorities address the COVID-19 pandemic, including by holding workshops for students on how to keep themselves safe and healthy.
The Mission also says that fighting between armed groups continues in Warrap state.
The Mission and state authorities visited areas that have seen clashes to review the security situation and help to work towards a dialogue-based, peaceful resolution to escalating tensions.
Moving to Afghanistan. The UN Children’s Fund today said that is has delivered nearly 40 tonnes of medical supplies - including kits and medicines for acute watery diarrhoea - to Kabul. The medical supplies are part of UNICEF’s emergency response and will help treat around 10,000 people suffering from dehydration caused by the disease.
UNICEF noted that in the past weeks, the reported total number of cases of acute watery diarrhoea has surpassed 1,500 in Kabul city and surrounding districts. This outbreak comes as Afghanistan grapples with alarming levels of malnutrition amongst children under the age of five, a measles outbreak and the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNICEF said that further supplies covering the needs of an additional 90,000 people are expected to be delivered in the coming weeks.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Miroslav Jenča, the Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and the Americas of the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, is in Bosnia and Herzegovina from today to the 22nd of October. He will meet with government authorities, political leaders, representatives of civil society, and members of the international community to gain a better understanding of developments and views in the country.
Mr. Jenča intends to reiterate the Secretary-General’s message in support of dialogue, trust-building and social cohesion in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the region.
COVID-19/PAPUA NEW GUINEA
In Papua New Guinea, the UN team, led by acting Resident Coordinator Dirk Wagener, continues to help authorities respond to the pandemic.
Our team has provided health supplies and supported the vaccination campaign, following a recent rise in the number of cases. The number of new cases this week has doubled compared to last week.
Around 10 per cent of the target population has received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while just 5.7 per cent of the target population is fully vaccinated. The World Health Organization and UNICEF are working closely with the Government to increase the number of people who are vaccinated. They are also working to combat misinformation surrounding vaccines.
A new report coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization says that changing precipitation patterns, rising temperatures and more extreme weather contributed to mounting food insecurity, poverty and displacement in Africa last year.
The report, titled “State of the Climate in Africa 2020”, adds that the rapid shrinking of the last remaining glaciers in eastern Africa, which are expected to melt entirely in the near future, signals the threat of imminent and irreversible change to the Earth system.
Africa’s disproportionate vulnerability also shows how the potential benefits of investments in climate adaptation and early warning systems far outweigh the costs.
The head of WMO, Prof. Petteri Taalas, says that along with COVID-19 recovery, enhancing climate resilience is an urgent and continued need.
The report was produced in collaboration with the African Union Commission, the Economic Commission for Africa and scientific organizations. It is available online.
GLOBAL FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT
The UN Conference on Trade and Development – UNCTAD- today said that global foreign direct investment flows in the first half of 2021 reached an estimated $852 billion, showing stronger than expected rebound momentum. UNCTAD’s Investment Trends Monitor noted that the increase in the first two quarters recovered more than 70% of the loss induced by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
UNCTAD pointed out that developed economies saw the biggest rise, with foreign direct investment reaching an estimated $424 billion in the first half of 2021. This is more than three times the exceptionally low level in 2020.
There is more information online.
The World Food Programme launched a report called "Digital Foundations: digital transformation and our fight against hunger." The report describes how digital technology and innovation is being leveraged by the UN's largest humanitarian agency. It responds to the UN Secretary-General's calls to ensure the UN maximizes the benefits of technology and modernize the digital capacities of the organization as a whole.
GUESTS TODAY AND TOMORROW
Guests at the noon briefing today were Elliott Harris, the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and the UN’s Chief Economist, and Leila Fourie, the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Co-chair and CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
They briefed on the outcome of today’s third annual meeting of CEOs of the Global Investors for Sustainable Development (GISD) Alliance, as well as progress in the implementation of key deliverables aimed at scaling up sustainable investment globally.
Tomorrow, the guests will be Caitlin Williscroft, a specialist who works for UN Women on the Women, Peace and Security Programme in the Afghanistan Country Office. She will be joined by Naheed Fareed, a former Afghan Parliamentarian, as well as Mariam Safi, Executive Director of the Organization for Policy Research and Development Studies (DROPS). They will brief reporters in the context of the anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 and tomorrow’s open debate on Women, Peace and Security.