HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY ERI KANEKO,
ASSOCIATE SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
FRIDAY, 4 FEBRUARY 2022
Today, the Secretary-General attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics Games in Beijing.
In a video message for the opening, he congratulated all the athletes participating in the Olympic and Paralympic Games and said that the Olympic spirit is one of peace, mutual respect, and understanding.
“It is my fervent hope that this spirit goes far beyond these Olympics, to remind everyone – participants and viewers – that we belong to the same human family,” he said, adding that there are no limit to what we can achieve when we work together – for peace, for human rights, and for healthy lives and wellbeing for everyone.
And earlier in the day, he met with the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, and they issued statements to the press. The Secretary-General told journalists that amid a widespread lack of respect for difference, the Olympics show that competition can be healthy and happy and he wished success to all the athletes.
He also held a virtual meeting with the UN country team in China.
Tomorrow, he will attend the Heads of State Lunch hosted by President Xi Jinping and he's also expected to meet with Chinese authorities as well as other leaders who are attending the Games.
In Ethiopia, clashes in the northern region of Afar are leading to growing humanitarian needs and preventing the delivery of aid into the neighbouring Tigray region.
More than 200,000 people have been displaced from recent fighting in the region, according to authorities there. Fighting has also prevented the UN and our partners from conducting assessments. However, those displaced are believed to be in urgent need of assistance.
In areas of Afar that can be accessed, the humanitarian response continues and more than 40,000 people have received food in the past week - and this is more than 420,000 people who have been reached since mid-October.
The delivery of humanitarian supplies into Tigray via the Semera-Abala-Mekelle road remains suspended due to the insecurity in Afar. The UN and our partners have suspended or significantly reduced programmes due to the lack of supplies and fuel.
During the past week, reduced levels of food assistance were provided to displaced people and host communities in the town of Shire. As we told you last week, the World Food Programme has found that more than 80 per cent of people in the areas it surveyed were food insecure, and nearly 40 per cent were facing severe food insecurity.
Humanitarian assistance continues to be scaled up in the Amhara region, with more than 800,000 people having been assisted with food in the past week.
In other parts of Ethiopia, as well as in neighbouring Somalia and Kenya, drought conditions are driving up humanitarian needs, affecting millions of people. Additional funding is urgently needed to support this response.
The UN Refugee Agency and its partners are rushing aid to more than 20,000 refugees after they fled clashes in Ethiopia’s Benishangul Gumuz region, which borders Sudan and South Sudan.
Fighting broke out on January 18th in the town of Tongo – reportedly between unidentified armed groups and federal forces – and the nearby camp hosting 10,300 refugees was looted and burned. This followed the looting of another camp in the area in late December. A total of 22,000 people in both camps were then cut off from access and assistance.
All humanitarian staff had to evacuate, and access to the area including the two camps remains impossible.
UNHCR is working with the Ethiopian Government and partners to provide the most urgent assistance to displaced refugees, including hot meals, clean water, and medical care.
In Malawi, following the passage of Tropical Storm Ana, which caused floods, destruction, and fatalities, our UN team there is working with authorities to assess needs and to provide life-saving assistance.
Emergency evacuation centres constructed by the UN team before the storm are now providing critical shelter.
Our team is also providing food and non-food assistance such as medicines, protection services, water, sanitation and hygiene supplies, as well as temporary learning facilities for children.
Turning to Madagascar, Tropical Cyclone Batsirai is expected to make landfall in the country’s East coast tomorrow.
Preparedness efforts are intensifying, and the Government has begun pre-emptive evacuations.
Colleagues from the World Food Programme have prepositioned food to be able to quickly provide emergency assistance. They are also ready to provide logistics support to the government and NGO partners.
Messages developed by UNICEF and the Government’s disaster management agency are being disseminated to communities likely to be impacted by the storm.
Our humanitarian partners are urgently processing local purchases to increase their relief stocks, and humanitarian teams in eastern Madagascar are on standby to support the response.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a new campaign to provide nutritional support to hundreds of pregnant and nursing women in Gaza and the West Bank, aiming to combat malnutrition and high anaemia rates among them.
The campaign, under the slogan “Your little wins add up to big achievements”, includes activities such as cooking sessions, home-garden kits and training for growing vegetables and fruits.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), iron deficiency is an intermediate public health problem in Palestine, especially among children under five. Through this campaign, WFP aims to support mothers and families in improving their nutrition while boosting dietary iron consumption. WFP will also provide participants with sessions on home gardening and iron-rich plant gardening through the “grow your own garden” activity.
From Tonga, our team on the ground says the 48-hour lockdown period that started on Wednesday has been extended. This comes after five confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Contact tracing is underway, schools have been closed, and mask wearing remains compulsory.
The World Health Organization, UNICEF, and partners are working with authorities to bring additional vaccines, antigen tests and medicine into the country.
To address the current COVID-19 community transmission, UNICEF is providing 15,000 tests, which are scheduled to arrive on Monday. UNICEF is also helping to provide educational materials, as well as supplies to disinfect and clean schools, among others.
Our UN team continues to help authorities in the areas of water and sanitation, as well as communications.
The International Organization on Migration says that more than 2,300 people remain displaced.
In response to questions about displacement in Colombia, the Spokesperson said humanitarian colleagues say that continuous clashes between non-state armed groups, coupled with violence against civilians and the Armed Forces in the department of Arauca, have led to the displacement of nearly 2,240 people.
At least 62 homicides have been recorded by authorities in the past month. At least six indigenous communities comprising 1,880 people and a community of 340 ex-combatants undergoing reintegration have been confined.
Humanitarian organizations have delivered food assistance. However, the constant displacement of people and insecurity have limited the overall response to affected communities. Assessments are ongoing to establish humanitarian corridors to ensure access to basic services.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights continues working closely with authorities and national partners to verify the situation of homicides and human rights abuses, working with religious-based and other local civil society groups.
At least 25 United Nations staff members and associated personnel – that’s one civilian and 24 peacekeepers, including two women peacekeepers – were killed in deliberate attacks during 2021, according to the Standing Committee for the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service of the United Nations Staff Union.
For the eighth year in a row, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was the world’s most dangerous, with 19 peacekeepers killed there, followed by four fatalities in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
This brings the death toll to at least 462 UN and associated personnel who were killed in deliberate attacks in the past 11 years.
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF HUMAN FRATERNITY
Today is International Day of Human Fraternity, and the theme this year is “A Pathway to the Future.” In a message, the Secretary-General says that on this Day, we reflect on the importance of cultural and religious understanding, and mutual respect.
The Secretary-General notes that around the world, we see a rise in hate speech, intolerance, discrimination and even physical attacks against people, simply because of their religion or belief, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. He calls on all to stand firm against bigotry wherever and whenever we see it and come together in solidarity to create a more inclusive, peaceful and just world for all.
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ZERO TOLERANCE FOR FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
And Sunday is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. In a message for the Day, the Secretary-General notes that female genital mutilation is an abhorrent human rights violation that causes profound and permanent harm to women and girls around the world. Every year, he says, more than 4 million girls are at risk of this extreme form of violence.
Sadly, the Secretary-General adds that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on health services, and it put even more girls in jeopardy. He stresses that this flagrant manifestation of gender inequality must be stopped.
Bahrain, Timor-Leste and Zambia have paid their dues and the Honour Roll has climbed to 47.