HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC

SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES

THURSDAY, 4 MARCH 2021

MYANMAR
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Ola Almgren, tweeted out that yesterday was a tragic day for Myanmar and stressed it is not acceptable that dozens of unarmed and peaceful protestors were killed and many more injured. 
Mr. Almgren stressed that the perpetrators must be held to account.
For its part, the UN Children’s Fund said today that, as of yesterday, at least five children and multiple young people and adults have reportedly been killed. At least four children have been severely wounded.
More than 500 children have also been arrested arbitrarily, according to the UN Children’s Fund.
UNICEF condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of force against children, including the use of live ammunition, and the arbitrary detention of children, and calls on security forces to immediately refrain from violence and to keep children and young people out of harm’s way.

MYANMAR/HUMAN RIGHTS
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, today called on the country’s military to stop murdering and jailing protestors after another day of deadly violence across the country.
This is the moment to turn the tables towards justice and end the military’s stranglehold over democracy, Ms. Bachelet said.

MYANMAR CREDENTIALS
In addition to the communications which we have received in the past few days concerning the Permanent Representative of Myanmar we have also received a communication yesterday from the Permanent Mission of Myanmar, informing us that the Deputy Permanent Representative of Myanmar, Mr. Tin Maung Naing, has submitted his letter of resignation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, and recalling that Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun remains the Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the United Nations.
Upon request by the Chair of the Credentials Committee, this communication has been circulated to the members of the Committee.

YEMEN
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that significant displacement is being reported in Marib Governorate, especially in Sirwah District, as fighting continues along several frontlines in recent days.
More than 14,000 people have been displaced so far. Aid agencies are warning that as many as 385,000 men, women and children could be forced to flee as a result of the offensive. Many of them may have to go to crowded displacement sites where services are overly stretched. 
We along with our partners continue to respond and have reached more than 11,000 people with food baskets, emergency shelter kits and other forms of urgent lifesaving assistance. 
Also, we are aware of reports of an alleged Houthi (who also call themselves Ansar Allah) attack earlier today against a Saudi Aramco facility in Jeddah.
While we are unable to comment on the veracity of the claims, we reiterate our condemnation of all attacks targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, which are in violation of international humanitarian law.
Also on Yemen I can tell you that we are deeply concerned by the recent reports of increased Houthi cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia. We note with further concern wider escalatory actions by all parties to the conflict in Yemen, including airstrikes, as well as the continued military offensive by the Houthis in Marib as we just talked about.
These actions undermine prospects for peace and regional stability and are detrimental to the ongoing diplomatic efforts to end the conflict. We call on the parties to refrain from further fanning the flames of conflict and remain committed to advancing the political process to reach a comprehensive negotiated settlement.
We are deeply concerned by the recent reports of increased Houthi cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia and we note with concern the wider… I’m sorry. Strike what I just said.
We also have an update for you on the SAFER oil tanker: We continue to discuss several pending logistical issues for the mission with the Houthis (also known as Ansar Allah). As you heard a few weeks ago from Mark Lowcock, these issues are a major reason why we had to delay the planned deployment that was supposed to happen this month. 
The discussions, however, have been proceeding and we recently got permits for mission personnel to travel to Yemen. But so far, we don’t have concrete solutions for some of the other pending issues. 
Until those other issues are resolved, we are not in a position to spend more donor money to rent a vessel or estimate a new timeline for the mission.

SECURITY COUNCIL/ETHIOPIA
Mark Lowcock, the Emergency Relief Coordinator briefed the Security Council today. He focused on the current humanitarian situation; access to the region; and action needed to scale up humanitarian deliveries.
Mr. Lowcock pointed out that at least 4.5 million people in Tigray need assistance, according to official estimates. Many people in rural areas remain inaccessible and food security is a major concern. 
Access to water, hygiene and sanitation services are largely disrupted across Tigray, increasing the risk of disease outbreaks, including water-borne diseases, measles and COVID-19. Health services are also disrupted with only 22 per cent of the 205 health facilities in Tigray being fully functional.  
Mr. Lowcock said that despite the recent progress, much more needs to be done to get aid to people who need it throughout Tigray. He emphasized the need to dramatically scale-up humanitarian assistance throughout the province by facilitating independent need assessments; deploying humanitarian staff throughout the province; restoring of basic communications and banking services and also called for increased urgent funding for humanitarian operations.

ETHIOPIA
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, stressed the urgent need for an objective, independent assessment of the facts on the ground in Tigray. 
She said she continues to receive distressing report of sexual and gender-based violence, extrajudicial killings, widespread destruction and looting of public and private property by all parties. 
She stressed that there are also reports of continuing fighting in central Tigray. The High Commissioner noted that a preliminary analysis of the information received indicates that serious violations of international law, possibly amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, may have been committed by multiple actors in the conflict. These include the Ethiopian National Defence Forces, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, Eritrean armed forces, and Amhara Regional Forces and affiliated militias.

DJIBOUTI
A tragic note that we received from our colleagues at the International Organization for Migration. They say that at least 20 people have drowned off the coasts of Djibouti after smugglers threw dozens of migrants – fellow human beings - overboard.
This happened yesterday and this is the third such incident on the Gulf of Aden in the past six months. The migrants were just trying to reach Yemen.
Survivors are receiving medical treatment at the IOM Centre in Djibouti and they tell us that at least 200 migrants, including children, were crowded aboard the vessel. Thirty minutes into the journey, the smugglers forced 80 of them overboard and threw them into the sea. 
COVID-19 mobility restrictions have drastically reduced travel on this route. However, IOM is concerned that, as restrictions ease, more migrants will attempt the dangerous journey, raising the prospect of future tragedies.
IOM, and of course all of us, are calling for the prosecution of crimes committed by smugglers and human traffickers, as well as for new migration pathways to allow people to pursue work opportunities abroad in a safe, legal and dignified manner.

SUDAN 
Our colleague Atul Khare, the head of the Department of Operational Support, is in Sudan this week. In Khartoum, he had discussions with Government officials, mainly focusing on the drawdown and liquidation of the UN Joint Mission in Darfur, underscoring that in line with relevant Security Council resolutions, the drawdown period would be completed by the end of June this year. Liquidation will take an additional 12-18 months.
He sought the support of Sudanese officials to ensure an orderly and safe withdrawal of the Mission, including for the handover of team sites. He further emphasized that the majority of assets would be handed over to the government for civilian end use, supporting the priorities of the Government. You will recall that there was an issue with the looting of the site not too long ago.
During the visit, a framework agreement on this issue was also signed between Mr. Khare and the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 
He will be there until Sunday.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Meanwhile, Mark Lowcock, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, made a virtual visit to Beni today. The town, located in the East of the country, and home to a decades-long protection crisis.
He spoke to internally displaced families, as well as host communities.The people he spoke to said they wanted peace, to return to their homes, and to feel safe. Mr. Lowcock’s visit a highlighted the resilience and generosity of Congolese communities hosting displaced people.
With 5.2 million men, women and children displaced the Democratic Republic of the Congo currently has the second-largest number of internally displaced persons in the world. The country also hosts 527,000 refugees from neighbouring countries.

COVID-19/MENTAL HEALTH
The UN Children’s Fund today says that at least 1 in 7 children – that’s 332 million  children globally – have lived under required or recommended nationwide stay-at-home policies for at least nine months since the start of the pandemic. The agency warns that this is putting their mental health and well-being at risk. In response, UNICEF is supporting governments and partner organizations to prioritize and adapt services for children.

AFRICA/COVAX
Lesotho and Sudan received vaccines through the COVAX facility yesterday. Our UN teams on the ground are supporting authorities to roll out their vaccination campaigns. 
More than 800,000 doses of the vaccine arrived in Sudan’s Khartoum, following the arrival of 4.5 metric tons of syringes and safety boxes that UNICEF also delivered on behalf of COVAX last week. This will support the initial vaccination of health care workers and people above the age of 45 with chronic medical conditions.
Lesotho received an initial batch of 36,000 doses of the vaccine. The shipment travelled from India via the Middle East to South Africa by plane, and then on to the capital, Maseru, by road. Healthcare workers are being trained and vaccinations will start in the coming days, first in the capital then across the country, with the initial doses targeting all healthcare workers.

WOMEN BASIC INCOME
A new report by the UN Development Programme says that a temporary basic income for hundreds of millions of women in developing countries could prevent rising poverty and widening gender inequalities during the pandemic.
The report, released ahead of International Women’s Day, shows that a monthly investment of 0.07 per cent of developing countries’ GDP could provide reliable financial security to 613 million women living in poverty. 

FOOD WASTE
An estimated 931 million tonnes of food, metric tonnes that is, or 17 per cent of all food available to consumers in 2019, went into the trash of households, retailers, restaurants and other food services. That’s according to a new report by UNEP. To give you an idea, this amount roughly equals 23 million fully loaded 40-tonne trucks — bumper-to-bumper, enough to circle the Earth 7 times.
The report shows that most of this waste comes from households, which discard about 11 per cent of the total food available.
UNEP said that at a time when climate action is still lagging, 8%-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed. Reducing food waste would cut greenhouse emissions.

FOOD PRICE INDEX
The Food Price Index for this month, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, food commodity prices rose for the ninth consecutive month in February, with quotations for sugar and vegetable oils increasing the most. 
In February, the FAO Food Price Index was 2.4 per cent higher than the previous month and up 26.5 per cent from a year ago.

SENIOR PERSONNEL APPOINTMENT
Today, the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres is announcing the appointment of Cherith Norman Chalet of the United States as Assistant Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management in the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management.  
She will succeed Movses Abelian of Armenia, who holds the position of Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management.  
Ms. Chalet brings many years of experience in foreign policy and international issues and has considerable knowledge and involvement in the UN intergovernmental machinery. You will recall her most from her time as a U.S. Ambassador and representative to the General Assembly as well as Security Council and Funds and Programmes.

GUEST TOMORROW
Tomorrow, we will be joined by Vincent Martin, the UN Resident Coordinator in Guinea. He will join us virtually to brief on the situation in Guinea, particularly the challenges due to COVID-19 and the resurgence of Ebola.