HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
WEDNESDAY, 14 APRIL 2021
Nearly half of women in 57 developing countries are denied the right to decide whether to have sex with their partners, use contraception or seek health care. That’s according to the UN Population Fund’s 2021 flagship State of World Population report, which was released today.
“The fact that nearly half of women still cannot make their own decisions about whether or not to have sex, use contraception or seek health care should outrage us all,” said the Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr. Natalia Kanem. “In essence, hundreds of millions of women and girls do not own their bodies and their lives are governed by others.”
The report’s findings show that only 55 per cent of women are fully empowered to make decisions over health care, contraception and the ability to say yes or no to sex. In addition, the report adds, only about 80 per cent of countries have laws supporting sexual health and well-being.
The report also notes that 20 countries or territories have “marry-your-own-rapist” laws, where a man can escape criminal prosecution if he marries the woman or girl he raped. In addition, 43 countries have no legislation addressing the issue of marital rape.
Pramila Patten, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, briefed Security Council members this morning.
She presented the findings of her office’s 2020 annual report, which covers 18 country situations and documents over 2,500 UN-verified cases of conflict-related sexual violence. She called for concerted efforts to ensure that survivors of sexual violence are not obscured beneath the long shadow cast by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ms. Patten said the chronic underreporting of wartime sexual violence has been compounded by COVID-19. Proactive measures to help survivors safely come forward and seek redress have become more urgent than ever, she told the Members of the Council.
Turning to Tigray and the situation there, Ms. Patten said that women and girls have been subjected to sexual violence with a level of cruelty beyond comprehension. She said the report presented today records allegations of over 100 rape cases since hostilities began in November last year. Her Office has engaged with authorities at the highest-level and will continue to closely monitor the situation, calling for restraint, humanitarian access, service-provision, and effective investigation.
In Tigray, despite improvements in access, active conflict continues in some areas restricting the humanitarian response, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Given the highly fluid displacement situation and access constraints, the actual number of displaced people remains unknown.
According to official figures, an estimated 1.7 million people were displaced across the region, as of March 27th. Gross violations and abuses against civilians, including sexual violence, also continue to be reported.
Despite challenges, UN humanitarian partners are scaling up the response. At least 1.4 million people have received double allocations of food rations in 12 targeted districts as well as in Mekelle and Shire towns. More than 160,000 newly displaced people have been provided with emergency shelter and vital relief items. More than 630,000 people have accessed clean water through water trucking.
But the humanitarian response is still inadequate to reach the estimated 4.5 million people that need lifesaving assistance. The UN urgently needs more funding to scale up the response.
The UN Mission in Afghanistan today released a report showing the number of civilians killed and injured in Afghanistan during the first three months of 2021 has been significantly higher than a year ago.
The Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict 2021 First Quarter Report documents 1,783 civilian casualties, with 573 people killed and 1,210 people injured. This represents a 29 per cent increase compared with the same period last year.
The UN Mission notes that of particular concern is the 37 per cent increase in the number of women killed and injured, and a 23 per cent increase in child casualties compared with the first quarter of 2020. The overall increase in civilian casualties was mainly driven by the same trends that caused the increase at the end of last year: ground engagements, improvised explosive devices and targeted killings.
Today, Martin Griffiths, the Special Envoy for Yemen, is in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.
He was there to meet with the president of Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council, Aidaroos Al-Zubaidi, and they discussed the latest developments in Yemen. Mr. Griffiths stressed the unique international momentum to support an inclusive political settlement to the conflict to reach sustainable peace.
He will also meet with UAE senior officials on the status of the current negotiation efforts to agree on a nationwide ceasefire, urgent humanitarian measures and the resumption of the political process.
Mr. Griffiths will brief Security Council members tomorrow.
The UN Special Envoy for Libya, Ján Kubiš, concluded his first visit to the African Union in Addis Ababa. He held discussions with senior AU officials on ways to strengthen the UN-AU cooperation in support of Libya and the region.
Mr. Kubiš expressed his appreciation for the continuous and strong productive engagement of the African Union in the UN-facilitated Libyan dialogue under the Berlin process framework.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Earlier today, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the head of the Mission there, Bintou Keita, arrived in Beni, in the eastern province of North-Kivu. She is there to discuss the current situation in the province. Ms. Keita is scheduled to meet with local authorities, the leadership of the national security forces on the ground as well, of course, as UN personnel, including the Force Intervention Brigade of the Peacekeeping force. She also intends to meet with civil society representatives to explore the way to defuse tensions to move forward.
Ms. Keita is also concerned by this week's deadly clashes between communities that occurred in the city of Goma, in the context of protests against the Mission, humanitarian workers and national institutions. She reiterates the right to protest must be exercised peacefully at all times.
Meanwhile, the UN Mission continues to work with the Congolese authorities at the national and provincial levels to defuse tensions.
The Country Team in Myanmar remains deeply concerned over the ongoing use of force against children, including live ammunition. The Country Team continues to call on security forces to refrain from violence and to keep children and young people out of harm’s way.
According to UNICEF, as of April 13th , that would be yesterday, at least 51 children have been killed by Myanmar security forces and almost 1,000 children have been arbitrarily detained.
A week ago, several Eastern Caribbean countries received their first batches of COVAX- vaccines backed by the COVAX facility.
In addition to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and Saint Lucia received 24,000 doses each, while Dominica received nearly 29,000 doses. Saint Kitts and Nevis got nearly 22,000 vaccines. So far, nearly three million doses have been delivered across 29 countries in this region alone, with more on the way.
Meanwhile, Niger received today more than 350,000 doses of the COVAX-backed COVID-19 vaccines. These first doses of vaccines will primarily target frontline workers, teachers, and people who are at the greatest risk of contracting the virus. The vaccines will help vaccinate 20 percent of the priority population, supporting the UN-backed national vaccination plan that includes migrants and refugees, in addition to aid workers.
And the UN team in Samoa, led by Simona Marinescu, the Resident Coordinator. She and her team continue to support authorities on the vaccination roll out and are also addressing the multiple impacts of the pandemic. The country received 24,000 doses of the COVAX-backed vaccines on Friday, which will enable authorities to vaccinate about 20 percent of those over the age of 18, focusing on at-risk groups.
Samoa is the sixth country in the Pacific to receive vaccines through COVAX. Another batch is expected in May.
WORLD CHAGAS DISEASE DAY
Today is the World Chagas Disease Day. Chagas disease is prevalent among poorer populations in Latin America but is increasingly being detected in other countries and continents. It is often termed as a “silent and silenced disease” as the infected majority have no symptoms or extremely mild symptoms. It is mostly transmitted when humans come into contact with faeces and/or urine of infected blood-sucking triatomine bugs.
Without treatment, the disease can lead to severe cardiac and digestive problems and become fatal.
According to WHO, there are approximately 6 to 7 million people infected with Chagas disease worldwide, with 10,000 deaths, every year. WHO stresses that raising awareness of the disease is essential to improve the rates of early treatment and cure, together with the interruption of transmission.
China has paid its budget dues in full. There are now 88 Member States this year who have paid their dues in full.