HIGHLIGHTS OF THE U.N. SYSTEM
FRIDAY, 21 JANUARY 2022
The Secretary-General spoke to the General Assembly about his priorities for 2022 this morning, raising five alarms: on COVID-19, global finance, climate action, lawlessness in cyber space, and peace and security.
He stressing that now is the time to act, noting our responses to these five emergencies will determine the course of people and planet for decades to come.
The Secretary-General also spoke today to the press, saying that the problems we face were created by humanity, which means that humanity can solve them.
He noted that each challenge the world faces feeds off the others, noting that social and economic fires are creating unrest and conflict around the world.
The Secretary-General also voiced concern over the emergence of what he called “the twilight of shared values,” with injustice, inequality, mistrust, racism and discrimination casting dark shadows across every society.
“We must restore human dignity and human decency,” he emphasized. “We must prevent the death of truth and we must make lying wrong again.”
In a statement on Thursday, the Secretary-General welcomed the adoption by the General Assembly of the historic resolution which rejects and condemns without any reservation any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event.
As the Secretary-General has often said, we can never let down our guard in the face of increasing attempts to deny, distort or minimize the Holocaust. We must also adapt and respond to new forms of antisemitism fueled by ignorance or conspiracy theories, also circulating online.
The United Nations – including through UNESCO and the Holocaust Outreach Programme – will continue to develop and implement educational and advocacy programmes aimed at countering Holocaust denial and distortion.
SENIOR PERSONNEL APPOINTMENT
On Thursday, following the recommendation of the Secretary-General, after consultation with Member States, the General Assembly confirmed Maimunah Mohd Sharif of Malaysia as Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, or UN-Habitat, for a further two years.
The term began on 20 January 2022.
The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, yesterday concluded a four-day visit to Nigeria where he saw first-hand the humanitarian situation and response in the north-east.
His visit also sought to raise international awareness about the humanitarian challenges and draw attention to the ongoing regional conflict affecting the Lake Chad basin.
Mr. Griffiths met with the Vice President and other members of the Federal Government of Nigeria, Chief of Defence Staff, and the Governor of Borno State. In the north-east, he met with Nigerians who have been affected by violence, and humanitarian partners in Maiduguri, Bama and Damasak.
Mr. Griffiths said it was heartbreaking to see the deep impact of the violence and repeated displacement of so many. He said that the people he met demonstrated amazing courage in the face of vicious violence, killings, kidnappings, repeated displacement and sometimes bare survival.
The conflict in the Lake Chad basin has taken a heavy toll on communities across border areas of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, putting more than 10 million people at risk and in need of humanitarian assistance.
Last year, the humanitarian community provided assistance to more than 5 million people in need in Nigeria. The 2022 Nigeria Humanitarian Response Plan, which is expected to be launched in February, requires over $1 billion. It sets out the humanitarian community’s plan to assist 8.4 million people in need this year.
In Syria, snow, cold rain and severe winter weather across the north are compounding the misery of people of some 1.7 million displaced people who are living in over 1,400 camps and other informal settlements across the north-west.
The UN and our humanitarian partners are responding.
The most pressing needs include opening up roads to the displacement sites so that aid can reach people in need, relocating people without shelter to safer places, providing heating, replacing destroyed tents, and providing food and other essential assistance.
The UN has been preparing for the winter response before the current storms and identified 2.2 million people who need winterization assistance. But a lack of resources meant that only half of the people who need help have received it.
The UN calls for continued support to meet the humanitarian needs of millions of vulnerable people in need in north-west Syria and throughout the country.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said today that it is deeply alarmed at the deteriorating conditions faced by Eritrean refugees in the camps in Tigray.
After three weeks with no access due to the security situation, UNHCR staff managed to reach Mai Aini and Adi Harush refugee camps in the Tigray region of Ethiopia earlier this week for the first time since the recent air strikes in and near the camps. Our team found refugees scared and struggling to get enough to eat, lacking medicine and with little or no access to clean water.
Refugees told UNHCR of increasing preventable deaths linked to the overall decline in conditions, and in particular the lack of medicine and health services. The clinics in the camps have been essentially closed since early January when they finally completely ran out of medicine.
The lack of fuel means that clean water can neither be pumped nor trucked to the camps, with refugees resorting to collecting water from streams that are rapidly drying up, leading to a severe risk of water-borne diseases.
Despite concerted efforts, the complete inability to move supplies into the region means that extreme hunger is an increasing concern. With food running out in the camp and no additional stocks available for distribution, refugees told us they had resorted to selling their clothes and few belongings to try to get food.
UNHCR has been calling on all parties for a ceasefire and guarantee of safe passage that would allow us to voluntarily relocate the more than 25,000 refugees remaining in the camps to a new site provided by the government of Ethiopia in Dabat in the neighbouring Amhara region, without much progress. If food, medicine, fuel and other supplies cannot be immediately brought in, and if we continue to be unable to relocate refugees out of harm’s way to where we can provide them with life-saving assistance, more refugees will die.
CHILDREN/EASTERN AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today warned that at least 1.5 million children are not receiving life-saving treatment for severe wasting in Eastern and Southern Africa. UNICEF noted that the number represents almost half of the estimated 3.6 million children in urgent need, who are not being reached in time to save their lives or keep them from permanent development damage.
UNICEF said that despite gradual improvement in wasting treatment outreach in the region, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with climate shocks and ongoing conflict, continues to push children and families to the brink. In addition, consistent shortfalls in funding remain a barrier for UNICEF’s humanitarian response.
UNICEF is asking for $255 million to scale up its emergency nutrition response in priority countries in Eastern and Southern Africa in 2022, and support children with adequate and life- saving nutrition services, including treatment for severe wasting.
The Resident Coordinator in Ghana, Charles Abani, said the UN team is profoundly saddened by the lives and property lost as a result of yesterday’s tragic explosion in the western part of the country. He extends the UN's deepest condolences to the family of the victims and also commended the work being done by the first responders.
To restore communications access in Tonga, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is working with the private sector to support the Government of Tonga with satellite communications. ITU is ready to ship satellite phones for the Government’s use. The UN Resident Coordinator’s Office has requested connectivity support for Tonga, as well as extended support across the Pacific region.
For its part, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that, with roughly 86 percent of Tongans engaged in agriculture, it is extremely concerned about the potential impacts across all agriculture sectors, including fisheries, crops and livestock. Initial estimates are that roughly 12,000 agricultural households, will have been affected by this disaster, according to Xiangjun Yao, FAO Subregional Coordinator for the Pacific Islands.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today said that preliminary findings of a joint UN and NGO assessment in Qadis District in western Afghanistan indicate that up to 1,000 houses were damaged or destroyed by the 5.3 magnitude earthquake that struck the district on 17 January. According to information received from local sources, the number of deaths due to the earthquake has risen to 27.
While assessments are ongoing, initial observations in villages show that communities have also been heavily affected by damages to water sources. OCHA warns that they need to be repaired to prevent outbreaks of water-borne diseases.
Food, non-food items, emergency shelter and other assistance is being provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the World Food Programme (WFP), and other humanitarian partners.
Also today, OCHA said that a polio vaccination campaign in Kunduz has been carried out successfully since the start of the year. In Badakhshan Province, a house-to-house polio immunization campaign is underway.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has expressed its continued encouragement and support for the adoption of measures to improve the wellbeing and safety of refugees from Myanmar who have been arriving in Thailand since mid-December.
According to official sources, more than 9,500 civilians had been forced to flee their homes in Kayin and Kayah states in southeast Myanmar, seeking shelter and protection in Tak and Mae Hong Son Provinces in Thailand. While the majority have returned to Myanmar, UNHCR understands from the Thai authorities that approximately 1,000 refugees remain in Mae Sot, the vast majority of whom are staying in a site in Mae Kone Kane.
While recognizing the assistance provided to date by the Government with the support of local communities, this may not be sustainable nor sufficient for individuals with vulnerabilities and specific healthcare needs.
UNHCR reiterates its readiness to assist the Thai authorities in responding to the humanitarian needs of the new arrivals. To that effect, UNHCR and humanitarian partners continue to request access to the refugee population.
The UN refugee agency reiterates its call that, in accordance with international law, all those seeking international protection and fleeing conflict, generalized violence or persecution be allowed to cross borders in search of safety, and that they are not forcibly sent back to a place where their lives and freedom could be in danger.