SECRETARY-GENERAL’S STATEMENT ON EVENTS IN THE GULF
Earlier this morning, we issued the following statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General:
The Secretary-General has consistently advocated for de-escalation in the Gulf. He is deeply concerned with the recent escalation.
This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint. The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf.
The heads of the UN’s political and humanitarian offices – respectively, Under-Secretaries-General Rosemary DiCarlo and Mark Lowcock – briefed the Security Council this morning on Syria.
Our humanitarian colleagues have stressed that the UN remains deeply concerned about the safety and protection of over three million civilians in Idlib in north-west Syria, over half of whom are internally displaced, with violence escalating in the past three weeks.
Nearly 300,000 people have been displaced from southern Idieb since 12 December, according to current estimates, with children and women being the most affected. Over half of the displaced, at least 175,000, are children.
The city of Ma’arrat An-Numan and surrounding areas are reported to be almost empty of civilians as families flee north to safety.
The new displacements add to over 400,000 women, children and men who were displaced by hostilities between the end of April and early December last year, many of them multiple times. Over the same period, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recorded over 1,330 civilian deaths.
Winter conditions are exacerbating the dire humanitarian situation.
Families are fleeing in torrential rain and temperatures at night are close to freezing. People who have moved further north now face a particularly difficult situation due to the rain and cold. Many are reported to be living in camps, unfinished or partially destroyed buildings, in tents, under trees, and out in the open.
Humanitarian agencies have provided emergency food and cash to over 180,000 of the newly displaced.
Additional ready-to-eat rations for more than half a million people, for up to five days, have already been pre-positioned in anticipation of further displacement.
Turning to Libya, in reaction to news that three mortars fell close to the Tripoli Gathering and Departure Facility yesterday, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has expressed its deep concern for the safety of refugees and asylum-seekers. Fortunately, there were no casualties.
The Gathering and Departure Facility was established to host refugees identified for a solution outside of Libya, pending their evacuation. With close to 1,000 people staying at the site, including groups of around 900 individuals who entered spontaneously since July, it is severely overcrowded and is no longer functioning as a transit centre.
The site falls under the jurisdiction of the Libyan Ministry of Interior. The Refugee Agency urges all sides to the conflict in Libya to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that fighting has uprooted some 40,000 people in Sudan’s West Darfur State, most of whom were already internally displaced and living in camps.
The UN and our partners are working to supply food, health supplies, medicines, water and other items.
On Zimbabwe, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that some 6.7 million Zimbabweans urgently need assistance, with 1.6 million of them facing life-threatening needs due to drought, crop failure, the aftermath of Cyclone Idai and macro-economic challenges.
Many families cannot afford basic food, with at least 70 per cent of disposable income being spent on food. The crisis has already severely affected access to health, water and sanitation, and education services.
The UN and our partners are ramping up operations to support the people of Zimbabwe and a humanitarian response for 2020 is being finalized.
And we are off to the races on the budget. On the third of the month, already we have three Member States to thank for their full contributions to 2020’s regular budget. We are grateful to Armenia, Portugal and Ukraine for their payments.
And, for the record, we closed out 2019 with 146 Member States having paid their regular budget dues in full for that year.