HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
WEDNESDAY, 12 MAY 2021
Today, the Secretary-General landed in Moscow. He met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss a wide range of issues and also spoke to the press.
SECURITY COUNCIL/MIDDLE EAST
This morning, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, briefed the Security Council in a close session, as the situation on the ground continues deteriorating into “the most serious escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in years”. We are very concerned by the growing civilian casualties in both Gaza ad Israel and deeply saddened by reported deaths of children in Gaza.
The Secretary-General and Mr. Wennesland have both reiterated that Hamas and other militants’ indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars from highly populated civilian neighbourhoods towards civilian population centres violates international humanitarian law, and it is unacceptable and has to stop immediately.
While recognizing Israel’s legitimate security concerns, Mr. Wennesland also reiterated that Israeli authorities must also abide by their responsibilities under international law and that Israeli security forces should exercise maximum restraint, calibrate their use of force to spare civilians and civilian objects in the conduct of military operations.
The Secretary-General is particularly appalled that children continue to be victims of violence. They should be afforded special protection from any form of violence.
He and his Envoy have called on the international community to take action to enable the parties to step back from the brink and return to the previous understandings that have maintained a relative calm in Gaza and avoid a descent into chaos, with the massive casualties and immense damage to civilian infrastructure that would result. He reminded, Mr. Wennesland reminded the Council members that it is the civilian population on both sides that bears the burden of war and that the most vulnerable are at the ones at greatest risk of suffering.
He also highlighted that these devastating cycles of violence, which destroy the lives and futures of Palestinians and Israelis alike, will only stop with a political resolution of the conflict, an end to the occupation and a realization of a two-State solution on the basis of UN resolutions, international law and existing agreements, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the current risk of escalation will likely worsen the humanitarian situation, especially in Gaza, where the health sector has been struggling to provide basic services for years and has been further burdened further by COVID-19.
Funding for the humanitarian response is critical. The Humanitarian Response Plan for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, asking for $417 million to help 1.8 million vulnerable Palestinians, is 29 per cent funded.
The Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Henrietta Fore, today said that at least 14 children in the State of Palestine and one child in Israel have been reported killed since Monday.
She noted that another 95 children in Gaza and the West Bank – including East Jerusalem – and three children in Israel have reportedly been injured in the past five days.
Ms. Fore said the situation is at a dangerous tipping point, with the level of violence and its impact on children being devastating.
In any war, she said, children – all children – suffer first and the most.
Ms. Fore called on all sides to end all violence and de-escalate tensions, urging them to protect all civilians, especially children.
This morning, the Security Council also held a meeting by video on Yemen. The Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, told the Council that, despite redoubled efforts in recent months to reach a peaceful resolution to the Yemen conflict, he, unfortunately, could not report today that the parties are closing in on a deal.
Instead, he said, there has been relentless military escalation by Ansar Allah in Marib and continued restrictions on imports through Hudaydah contributing to severe fuel shortages. There have also been restrictions on Yemenis’ freedom of movement across the country, including the continued closure of Sana’a airport, as well as the absence of a political process, which deprives Yemenis of hope that an end to the conflict is near.
Mr. Griffiths said that the Ansar Allah’s offensive in Marib, which has been ongoing for more than a year, has caused an astonishing loss of life.
He reiterated his call on Ansar Allah to immediately stop its attack on Marib, noting that the longer the Marib offensive goes on, the greater the risks to Yemen’s broader stability and social cohesion.
Also briefing the Council today was the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, who said that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is trapped in a relentless downward spiral.
He said that famine is still stalking the country, with five million people just a step away from starving. COVID-19 is still surging, pushing the healthcare system to collapse.
Mr. Lowcock underlined that famine, disease and other miseries are not simply “happening” in Yemen, but that the war is imposing them. As long as the war continues, they will keep getting worse, he said.
He called for urgent action on protecting civilians, increasing humanitarian access, stepping up funding, improving the economy and making progress towards peace.
In Myanmar, our humanitarian colleagues on the ground say they are concerned by the impact of the continued clashes in the north and north-eastern parts of the country between the Myanmar Military and ethnic armed organizations, as well as amongst ethnic armed organizations themselves.
In Kachin State, some 10,000 people have fled their homes due to renewed fighting. In northern Shan, more than 12,000 people have been displaced since the start of the year. More than half of those families remain displaced.
Our colleagues in Myanmar also tell us they are also concerned by the situation in the south-eastern parts of the country, where more than 40,000 people have been uprooted since February due to attacks by the Military and the Kayin National Liberation Army, including air strikes, artillery and mortar shelling.
Several thousand people crossed the border to Thailand and India to escape the violence.
The UN and our partners are working to help some one million people in conflict-affected parts of Myanmar. Their efforts are hampered by insecurity, as well as lack of access and funding.
In a statement released yesterday, the Secretary-General said that one hundred days since the Myanmar military takeover has left hundreds of civilians killed, including numerous arbitrary arrests and other human rights violations, the Secretary-General renews his call on the country's military to respect the will of the people and act in the greater interest of peace and stability in the country.
The Secretary-General also encourages ASEAN to swiftly follow through on its own commitments, and the international community to support regional efforts, to bring an end to the repression by the military. He also calls on the international community to respond to the increased humanitarian needs.
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Christine Schraner Burgener, is in the region and continues to engage intensively with key stakeholders, including in light of the broader ramifications of the crisis. She continues to promote coherent international action.
The Secretary-General, for his part, will continue to stand with the people of Myanmar.
Somalia is experiencing a double climate disaster. Recent torrential rains are causing the loss of lives and flash flooding, about two weeks after a drought was declared in the country.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warns that the combined effects of drought and flooding may worsen the situation in Somalia, where more than 2.7 million people are food insecure. More than 80 per cent of Somalia was facing moderate to severe drought conditions when seasonal rains started in parts of the country in late April and earlier this month.
At least 25 people have died in various parts of Somalia due to the floods, among them 9 children who lost their lives when their house flooded in the Banadir region, earlier this week. And the Juba River has now burst its banks, and there are reports of flooding in the northern part of Somalia.
The UN, along with its partners, have reached at least 353,000 people in drought-affected areas with assistance. Urgent efforts are underway to respond to flash flooding.
Despite increasing humanitarian needs, Somalia’s 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan, requiring $1 billion to help 4 million people, is only 19 per cent funded.
In Ethiopia, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that while there is some positive news on Tigray’s humanitarian access, the situation remains fluid and unpredictable. Blockades by military forces have in recent days severely impeded access in rural areas where humanitarian needs are most severe. Armed hostilities reportedly continued in North-Western, Central, Eastern, South-Eastern and Southern Zones.
Of the three million people targeted to receive emergency shelter and non-food items, only 347,000 people, that is about 12 per cent, had been reached since 3 May. With the start of the rainy season, our humanitarian colleagues warn that it is critical that aid agencies can provide minimal dignified shelter for the displaced.
An estimated 5.2 million people in Tigray, that is more than 87 per cent of the population, need food assistance.
Between 27 March and 5 May, the Government, the World Food Programme (WFP) and other partners have provided food aid to more than 1.2 million people in 32 districts. Water trucking to nearly 730,000 people is ongoing.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
The Head of United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), Bintou Keita, is in the eastern region of the country for a week-long visit. Today, in Goma, she met with the new authorities in the North Kivu province. They were appointed following a state of siege announced by the President for an initial period of 30 days in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.
Speaking to the media, she said that discussions with the Governor and Vice-Governor of North Kivu were focused on clarifying roles and responsibilities, adding that there was a “renewed hope” and that thanks to all efforts, as well as the trust and contributions of the population, she is hopeful that the security situation will improve.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) continues to provide support for the conducting of the next legislative elections, as part of their electoral mandate and to ensure the protection of civilians.
Earlier this week, with the support of the UN Mission, the National Electoral Authority began the deployment of trainers from Bangui to the prefectures. They will train members of the National Electoral Authority involved in the legislative elections, which takes place on 23 May. They will also supervise the training of polling station personnel.
The Strategic Communication and Public Information Division of the UN Mission also continues to provide support to enhance media coverage of the elections. In view of the growing threat of misinformation, the dissemination of accurate and reliable messages is even more vital.
Today, the World Health Organization’s Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, led by Helen Clarke and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, released their findings.
For his part, the Secretary-General has been briefed on the report’s recommendations. He welcomes the dynamic leadership of the Panel. He hopes that the report will bring attention to the critical issues highlighted and will prompt governments to implement its recommendations. We fully support the full package of recommendations.
In Kosovo, the second batch of COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX was received with the help of UNICEF.
The vaccine campaign there kicked off in March after Kosovo received its first shipment of COVAX. More doses are expected to arrive in a few weeks.
The Philippines has also recently received another shipment of COVAX-backed vaccines. Some 4.5 million doses have been committed to the country through COVAX in total.
The UN provided support for the national vaccination campaign, which targets priority groups first.
Haiti has now paid its regular budget dues, taking us to 101 fully paid-up Member States.