The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the condition of the Safer oil tanker moored off the western coast of Yemen. The aging tanker has had almost no maintenance since 2015 and risks causing a major oil spill, explosion or fire that would have catastrophic environmental and humanitarian consequences for Yemen and the region.
In particular, a potential oil leak into the Red Sea would severely harm Red Sea ecosystems relied on by 30 million people across the region. It would moreover force the closure of Hudaydah port for many months, which would exacerbate Yemen’s already severe economic crisis and cut off millions of people from access to food and other essential commodities.
The Secretary-General urges the removal of any obstacles to the efforts needed to mitigate the dangers posed by the tanker without delay. He specifically calls for granting of independent technical experts unconditional access to the tanker and to assess its condition and conduct any possible initial repairs. This technical assessment will provide crucial scientific evidence for next steps to be taken in order to avert catastrophe.
We are asking today for $565 million to help the people of Lebanon move from immediate lifesaving humanitarian relief to recovery and reconstruction and eventually towards longer-term economic recovery, following the Beirut Port explosions. Properly funded, these efforts will enable humanitarian partners to help people in need by targeting food security, health, shelter and protection, as well as water and sanitation hygiene support. The Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Najat Rochdi, urged the international community to demonstrate steadfast commitment to the people of Lebanon and repay in turn Lebanon’s incredible generosity that is has shown towards Syrian and Palestine refugees with full financial support.
We have also been informed today that nearly 100 peacekeepers with the UNIFIL Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) – both military and civilian – donated blood yesterday and today for the victims of the horrific explosions. Working in coordination with the Lebanese Red Cross, UNIFIL personnel donated blood in the Mission’s hospital in Naqoura, in south Lebanon. Last week, UNIFIL personnel joined a collective effort of the UN Staff Unions in Lebanon, as part of the “#UN4Beirut” initiative, to clean up streets of the Beirut district devastated by the explosions.
The Secretary-General continues to follow the situation in Belarus very closely. We welcome the reported release of some of the detainees last night and urge this to continue. We are deeply disturbed about the reports and allegations of torture and mistreatment of persons under detention, including young people and journalists. We take note of the statement of regret by the Minister of Interior of Belarus regarding the use of force and expect these incidents and claims to be investigated thoroughly. We remain in touch with Belarusian authorities in New York, Geneva and Minsk regarding the unfolding situation.
In a statement yesterday on the joint statement issued by the US President, Donald J. Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, which suspends Israeli annexation plans over parts of the occupied West Bank – this is something the Secretary-General has consistently called for. Annexation would effectively close the door for a renewal of negotiations and destroy the prospect of a viable Palestinian State and the two-State solution. The Secretary-General welcomes this agreement and hopes it will create an opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to re-engage in meaningful negotiations that will realize a two-State solution in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements.
Peace in the Middle East is more important than ever as the region confronts the grave threats posed by COVID-19 and radicalization. The Secretary-General will continue to work with all sides to open further possibilities for dialogue, peace and stability.
On Syria, the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for that country, Imran Riza, has expressed concern and alarm over the recent deaths of eight children under the age of five last week in Al Hol camp in northeast Syria. The children, who died between 6 and 10 August, were suffering from a range of illnesses, including malnutrition-related complications, dehydration from diarrhoea, heart failure, internal bleeding and hypoglycemia.
The UN and humanitarian partners continue to provide a range of critical assistance to Al Hol. However, access to some basic services, including regular water supply and emergency healthcare, has been increasingly compromised in recent months because of disruptions to the water supply from the Alouk water station and COVID-19 precautionary measures, among other reasons.
On Cameroon, we have seen recent reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in that country, including a shocking video allegedly showing the brutal murder of a young woman in Muyuka in the South-West. We strongly and unequivocally condemn this atrocious act of violence. We call on the authorities to swiftly launch an investigation into these allegations, and to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. We call on armed actors to refrain from attacks against civilians, to respect international humanitarian and international human rights law, and to join the Secretary-General’s call for a global cease fire as the world fights the pandemic.
We reiterate the readiness of the UN to work with all stakeholders towards a political solution to the crisis in the North-West and South-West of Cameroon through meaningful dialogue.
I have an update on the situation in South Sudan’s Tonj region from our peacekeeping mission: As you know, Tonj was the scene of violent clashes last weekend between members of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces and armed youth.
The UN Mission’s team, which arrived in Tonj earlier this week, heard from local authorities that at least 150 people were killed and up to 5,000 families have now been displaced by the clashes. The Mission tells us that 45 troops plus two UN Military Observers and two Community Liaison officers are on the ground. UN peacekeepers have carried out patrols to deter a fresh outbreak of violence in the town, where they set up a temporary operating base, as well as the nearby villages of Ameth and Mabior-Yar. The peacekeepers have also continued to meet with local authorities, community leaders and youth to support the reconciliation efforts. Peacekeepers are trying to reach Romich, which was reportedly the epicentre of the violence which is about 100 kilometers east of Tonj, but, as we told you, the road remains impassable because of heavy flooding. The Mission hopes to undertake an air patrol tomorrow together with the Governor of Warrap State and other local officials.
Turning to Nigeria, the Humanitarian Coordinator for that country, Edward Kallon, said yesterday that Nigeria – in particular the states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe – is facing unprecedented challenges.
At an online briefing which brought together the Government and aid organizations, Mr. Kallon said that a resurgence in violence continues to ravage entire communities, and that Nigeria is also facing extraordinary challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Kallon warned that the hard-won gains made a few years ago in averting famine are in jeopardy, and that at least 10.6 million people in the north-east of Nigeria need humanitarian aid. We and our partners are appealing for $1 billion to help 7.9 million vulnerable people, but less than a third of those funds have been received.  Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing insecurity, aid workers have reached 2.6 million people with assistance during the first half of this year. Mr. Kallon acknowledged that many donors are facing challenges due to the pandemic, but appealed for coordinated action and sufficient resources to prevent the humanitarian crisis in the north-east from reaching catastrophic levels.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as more people are impacted by conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Food Programme (WFP) is appealing for additional support to reduce food insecurity. The agency says that four in ten people in the country are food insecure. Nearly 16 million are facing “crisis” or “emergency” hunger levels.  This year’s harvest is expected to be below-average in much of the DRC because of drought, flooding and pest infestations. In many cases, farmers also had limited access to their fields because of insecurity and COVID-19 movement restrictions. WFP plans to support 8.6 million people this year, including almost a million of those hit hardest by the pandemic. To do so, the agency needs $172 million to fully implement the emergency operations in the country over the next six months.
In response to a question about the situation in Mozambique. I can tell you that we are deeply concerned about the armed violence and escalating conflict in the Province of Cabo Delgado, including in Mocímboa da Praia, and the dire human rights and humanitarian situation that the violence is creating.
The violence, killings, enforced disappearances, kidnappings and other violations against civilians must end. Those responsible must be held to account.
It is vital that we are able to reach people impacted by the violence with life-saving assistance and protection. We call on all concerned to ensure that humanitarian agencies are guaranteed safe, unhindered and immediate access to support affected civilians.
An update on our efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic from Guatemala, where there are more than 60,000 confirmed cases and nearly 2,300 deaths: The UN team, led by the Resident Coordinator, Rebeca Arias, is working closely with local authorities. We recently provided more than $177,000 worth of medical and protective supplies to the Ministry of Health to boost treatment capacity across 23 hospitals nationwide. With funding from the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund, UN agencies have set up a programme to ensure that human rights, gender equality, multiculturalism and other key UN values are maintained during the quarantine while protecting health workers and providing support to vulnerable people across the country.
Our friends at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Migration Agency (IOM) said that they are troubled by a proposal to intercept boats and return those attempting to cross the English Channel irregularly. The UN agencies warned that the deployment of large naval vessels to deter such crossings may result in harmful incidents. UNHCR and IOM reiterate their call to governments in Europe and elsewhere to increase search-and-rescue efforts and combat human smuggling and trafficking rings.
On a separate note, IOM said that, despite the mobility restrictions put in place in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, over 1,200 migrants lost their lives during migration in the first half of the year, and this is globally. Responses to the pandemic, including border closures and other measures, have increased the risks of migratory journeys by pushing people into more perilous and deadly situations where humanitarian support and rescue is increasingly unavailable. The IOM also noted that data collection is increasingly difficult during the pandemic and that the true number of migrant deaths globally is likely to be much higher.
And just a reminder – as we told you earlier this week, the UN team in the Pacific region, led by our Resident Coordinator Sanaka Samarasinha in Fiji, is organizing a virtual concert called “Pacific Unite: Saving Lives Together.”
The event is taking place tomorrow at 7:00 p.m., Fiji time, and 3:00 a.m. in New York for those of you who don’t sleep. It will be streamed on UN WebTV as well as archived.
The virtual concert will bring together local, regional and international artists to pay tribute to essential workers across the region and to renew the Secretary-General’s call for global solidarity to fight the virus. The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, will participate by video, as well as His Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales; Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama; and New Zealand Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern.