At the start of today’s Yemen Pledging Conference, the Secretary-General said that more than five years of conflict have left Yemenis hanging on by a thread, their economy in tatters, their institutions facing near-collapse. He also said that four people out of every five – or 24 million people in all – need lifesaving aid in what remains the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
We are in a race against time, the Secretary-General warned, as reports indicate that, in Aden, mortality rates from COVID-19 are among the highest in the world. He added that we must preserve the major humanitarian aid operation that is already underway – and the world’s largest – while developing new public health programmes to fight the virus and strengthen healthcare systems.
The Secretary-General said that aid agencies estimate they will need up to $2.41 billion to cover essential aid from June until December, and that includes programmes to counter COVID-19. Unless we secure significant funding, he added, more than 30 out of 41 major United Nations programmes in Yemen will close in the next few weeks.
Mark Lowcock, our humanitarian chief, told the pledging conference that COVID-19 rapid response teams are funded only until the end of June. Next month, he said, we could start winding down treatment for severely malnourished children. Support for cholera facilities will also start to reduce. Mr. Lowcock added that pledges will not save lives unless they are paid, and so far, most of the pledges made remain unpaid.
FINANCING FOR DEVELOPMENT
Today, the Financing for Development Forum’s second meeting brought together representatives from banks, funds and financial institutions to mobilize $1.2 trillion dollars in humanitarian and economic relief to developing countries reeling under the impact of the pandemic.
The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, said it is important to find multilateral solutions to address the underlying fragilities that were exposed by the pandemic. She stressed that the UN’s focus is on developing countries.
Also participating in the meeting were the IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank, which are mobilizing $1 trillion – $175 billion and $13 billion respectively in COVID-19 relief. The multi-billion dollar Green Climate Fund, which has already suspended debt repayments for the next six months, is also being represented.
NEW POLICY BRIEF ON COVID-19 AND PEOPLE ON THE MOVE
We also have a new policy brief coming out. The Secretary-General is continuing to look at the many ways COVID-19 is impacting people all around the world.
Tomorrow, just after midnight, a brief will be released that focuses on those who were already in vulnerable situations before the crisis – people on the move.
Some positive news coming out Libya: The UN Support Mission in that country welcomes the acceptance by the Government of National Accord and the “Libyan National Army” of the resumption of talks on the ceasefire and associated security arrangements. That resumption is based on the draft agreement submitted by the UN Mission to the parties during the Joint Military Commission talks on February 23rd. The UN Mission hopes that the resumption of the Joint Military Commission talks will be marked by a return to calm and a humanitarian truce to pave the way for a lasting ceasefire agreement. The Mission wants the resumption of talks to enable the competent authorities to focus on addressing the repercussions and threat of the pandemic and facilitate the response of local and international agencies to urgent humanitarian needs. The Mission looks forward to starting the new round of the negotiations by videoconference, in light of the current circumstances. It hopes that the same professional, serious and responsible spirit that characterized the first and second rounds in Geneva will prevail in these talks.
Turning to Syria, the massive UN cross-border humanitarian response continues to provide life-saving assistance to people in need throughout the northwest of the country, and that includes health items to prepare for the pandemic.
The massive scale-up has seen an average of over 1,350 trucks per month crossing from the two Security Council-authorized border crossing points from Turkey in the first five months of 2020. They carry food, health items and other critical humanitarian support.
In May alone, 1,781 trucks crossed into Syria, the highest number of trucks to go across the border since the operations were first authorized by the Security Council in 2014.
Despite the massive operation, needs remain incredibly high throughout the northwest of Syria, with 2.8 million people in need, including over one million people living in camps or informal shelters.
Meanwhile, we remain concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on people across the country, whose health care system has been decimated by almost a decade of war. Yesterday, the Syrian Ministry of Health announced that the total number of cases has reached 123, and that includes six fatalities.
Turning to Niger: More than a thousand people are on the run following a brutal attack on a displacement site in the western part of Niger. This took place on Sunday afternoon.
The UN Refugee Agency strongly condemns the targeted killing of two Malian refugee leaders and a local host community leader. The attacks took place in Intikane, in Western Niger, about 70 kilometres from the Malian border.
Over 50 armed men on motorbikes swarmed the site hosting some 20,000 refugees and 15,000 displaced people from Niger. In addition to the killings, the assailants torched stocks of relief items. They also destroyed mobile phone towers, as well as the main water station and pipes.
The UN Refugee Agency is working to support the survivors and is providing urgently-needed assistance.
As we have mentioned regularly, the past few months have seen a sharp increase in attacks in the Liptako Gourma region, where Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger share borders.
UNHCR renews its urgent call on warring parties in the Sahel to protect civilians, who of course are bearing the brunt of these attacks.
Staying in the region, about 50 people died in three separate attacks this weekend in Burkina Faso’s northern region – more precisely in the Sahel, North, Centre-North and East. This, according to our humanitarian colleagues, is the deadliest violence since March, when 43 civilians were killed following two attacks on villages in the north.
Rising insecurity in the country is making humanitarian access more difficult. Currently, 2.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. That is up from 1.5 million last year in December. More than 860,000 people are internally displaced.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, aid organizations are delivering life-saving assistance and reprioritizing their activities to ensure their programmes are safe for the population, as well as humanitarian workers.
The humanitarian community needs $371 million for the humanitarian and COVID-19 response. So far, only 21 per cent of the funds have been received.
In Somalia, there are more than 2,000 confirmed cases and nearly 80 deaths from COVID-19.
Even before the first case was confirmed on March 16th, the UN team in Somalia, led by Resident Coordinator Adam Abdelmoula, has been supporting the Government to prevent and contain the spread of the virus. The UN has helped the Ministry of Health purchase tests. The World Health Organization has trained health workers and provided medical supplies for the main hospital in Mogadishu treating COVID-19 patients.
The World Food Programme has airlifted humanitarian cargo to remote locations across Somalia and is supporting the Government’s efforts to prevent the spread of the disease.
For its part, UNICEF has reached nearly 560,000 people across Somalia with hygiene kits and emergency water supplies, among other items.
The UN has reached some  million people across the country with prevention campaigns over radio. The UN Support Office in Somalia and the UN Assistance Mission there are working closely with the UN team on providing logistical support, such as transporting materials and people.
In Ghana, there are more than 8,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 36 deaths.
As we told you yesterday, there is a new Resident Coordinator for the country, Charles Abani. The UN team continues support to the Government’s response and recovery. The UN Development Programme has helped to ensure that nearly 800 health facilities across the country are complying with health and safety protocols. The UN Population Fund has partnered with authorities for a campaign to end Fistula.
The UN team there is also engaging with the youth, who represent nearly 60 per cent of the population. More than 200 young people from across the country have taken part in online sessions backed by UNESCO to teach new skills and promote youth engagement and leadership. To support young artists, an initiative by the International Organization for Migration and the EU is using street art to share prevention messages, as well as messages of hope and solidarity, with a special focus on the protection of migrants.
In Bolivia, the Secretary-General welcomes the announcement today by the President of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal for a new date for holding the country’s general elections. That is on the 6th of September.
The Secretary-General calls upon political parties and the authorities to cooperate fully with the Electoral Tribunal to bring about a peaceful, transparent and inclusive election.
At the request of the Tribunal and with the support of the European Union, Sweden, Canada and the UK, our UN colleagues will continue to provide technical assistance to the electoral authorities, including on mitigation measures to ensure that elections are held in the best public health conditions.
Turning to El Salvador, UNICEF there is working with the Government and its partners to ensure that children are kept safe after the country was hit by tropical storm Amanda. UNICEF is providing support in the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as personal protection to prevent the spread of COVID-19, among other diseases.
I wanted to flag that the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change today kicked off a series of virtual events to take climate action forward.
The UN “Momentum for Climate Change” events will run until 10 June and will focus on making the pandemic recovery as sustainable as possible to respond to the climate crisis.
The series of online events offers opportunities for governments and partners to continue to share information to showcase how climate action is progressing under the special circumstances the world is currently facing.
And, on World Environment Day, which is this Friday, the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change will launch the “Race to Zero” [campaign] to mobilize leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions and investors for a zero-carbon recovery.
Turning to air travel, the International Civil Aviation Organization yesterday adopted a new report and recommendations. It is aimed at restarting the international air transport system and aligning its global recovery. The COVID-19 report and guidelines contain a detailed situational analysis and is supported by a series of recommendations focused around objectives for public health, aviation safety and security, as well as aviation economic recovery. The content is supplemented by the report’s special ‘Take Off’ document which contains guidelines for public health risk mitigation measures and four separate modules relating to airports, aircraft, crew, and air cargo.
To end on a positive note, I am delighted to thank our friends in Côte d’Ivoire, Guyana and Myanmar – all three Member States have paid their regular budget dues in full, which takes us up to 95.