Tomorrow morning, the Security Council will hold an open meeting by videoconference on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to hearing a briefing from UNICEF’s Executive Director Henrietta Fore, Council members will hear from the Secretary-General. He will make some brief remarks, which will include a proposal to increase vaccine solidarity.
On Libya, mid-morning, the Secretary-General spoke by phone with Mohammad Younes Menfi, the President-elect of the Presidency Council of the Libyan National Unity Government, and with Abdul Hamid Dbeiba, the Libyan Prime Minister-designate.
In his calls, the Secretary-General stressed the UN’s support to Libya’s elections, the monitoring of the ceasefire and the need for withdrawal of foreign forces. He continues to stress the need for national reconciliation and for the inclusion of 30 per cent of seats for women.
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke by pre-recorded video message to the G5 Sahel Summit that is being held in N’Djamena in Chad. He said that, despite recent promising developments, he remains concerned about the deteriorating security situation in the region, in particular in Liptako-Gourma, which borders Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. The spiral of violence there is aggravating an already difficult humanitarian situation.
The Secretary-General said that the G5 Sahel has a key role to play in addressing this crisis and he called for sustained funding for the Joint Force.
He added that, beyond the security response alone, development, the rule of law and good governance are the cornerstones of stability in the region. He noted that his Special Coordinator for Development in the Sahel, Mar Dieye, will ensure that the links between the challenges in the humanitarian, climate, security, political and, of course, development fields are taken into account in a more integrated and more effective approach.
On Somalia, you will have noticed that this morning we also issued a joint statement from the Secretary-General and the African Union Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat.
Both leaders commended the people and leaders of Somalia for progress achieved in recent years towards the stabilization of the country. The hard-won gains are a testimony to the firm determination of the people of Somalia towards lasting peace and prosperity, following decades of instability.
The Chairperson and the Secretary-General call on Somali leaders to resume dialogue and work in a spirit of compromise to overcome the last political hurdles to inclusive elections as soon as possible and respecting the agreement they reached on 17 September 2020.
Moussa Faki and Antonio Guterres reiterated their commitment to continue to support the government and people of Somalia on their path to peace and prosperity.
The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, today announced an initial rapid allocation of $15 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). These funds will go to the outbreaks of Ebola in both Guinea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
This is the first time that Ebola has been recorded in Guinea since the last outbreak that ended in 2016, as you will recall. The outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is in the same area as the 10th Ebola epidemic that claimed more than 2,200 lives from August 2018 to June 2020.
The funding will help both countries respond to the outbreak and support neighbouring countries to prepare. Detailed allocation decisions will be made in the next few days as we receive more details about specific requirements and needs on the ground.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, briefed Security Council members this morning.
She began by condemning last night’s deadly rocket attack on Erbil. Such reckless attempts to inflame tensions pose grave threats to Iraq’s stability, she said.
She went on to brief about preparations for elections in Iraq, adding that, for credible elections to take place, it is imperative that parties and candidates operate in a free and safe environment. The same goes for members of the media. In this regard, she warned, recent incidents are highly troubling, to say the least.
For elections to be trusted, she said, unfounded theories must be disproved, baseless accusations refuted, and intimidation replaced with accountability.
She also said that Iraq must build its domestic resilience and to be be shielded from rivalries.
Turning to Yemen, Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock expressed his alarm regarding intensifying hostilities in Marib.
He said the fighting is threatening to trigger a new wave of displacement and heighten an already dire level of humanitarian need. Before this escalation, there were already about one million internally displaced people in Marib.
Humanitarian partners are continuing to provide assistance in the area. Over the last several weeks, this has included more than six million litres of safe drinking water, as well as emergency shelter kits, non-food items and family tents.
However, the 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen has only received 56 per cent of what is required.
On Myanmar, our team in the country says they are concerned with the impacts of a draft cyber security bill that has been circulated to mobile network operators and licensed network service providers.
The team is deeply worried that the bill is not aligned to international human rights standards, as it would permit illegitimate military-appointed authorities to infringe on the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, privacy and security.
Two quick COVID updates for you:
First, the World Health Organization yesterday gave the green light for two versions of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine to be rolled out through COVAX.
These vaccines are produced in the Republic of Korea and in India.
WHO says that countries with no access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and populations at risk, contributing to the COVAX Facility’s goal of equitable vaccine distribution.
Also, UNICEF today launched the Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative, with  leading airlines supporting the prioritization of the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and other critical supplies.
The new Initiative will also act as a global logistics preparedness mechanism for other humanitarian and health crises over the longer term.
The participating airlines cover routes to more than 100 countries in support of COVAX. They include, among others, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, and Air France, and other airlines are pending confirmation.
From the Philippines, our UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez, has been supporting the Government with their COVID-19 readiness assessment as well as a vaccination plan.
The UN is also supporting the Asian Development Bank’s and the World Bank’s efforts to define a suitable financing model for the country’s vaccination plan.
Our team is helping the Government with national risk communication and community engagement. We have trained more than 2,000 health workers to help them address vaccination hesitation, myths and misconceptions.
Through the COVAX facility, the UN team has committed to providing 44 million doses of vaccines to address the needs of 20 per cent of the population this year. The Government plans to vaccinate 60 million people this year and the entire population by 2023.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
The UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) is telling us that its forces are on high alert in Bambari in the Ouaka prefecture. This follows heavy clashes that began yesterday between combatants of the Unité pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC) and Central African troops, supported by bilateral forces.
Peacekeepers have been conducting robust patrols to ensure the protection of civilians. They have also evacuated civilians caught in the firefight areas. Approximately 800 people have sought refuge at the Mission’s location in Elevage in the Bambari district.
In Bangassou, UN Police are assisting a Central African internal security investigation over the killing of six civilians by armed combatants. This took place in a village close to the city of Bangassou last Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Mission’s Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Unit organized a two-day workshop that brought together 20 community leaders. They represented local authorities, youth groups, women’s groups, and members of the local Peace and Reconciliation Committee. The workshop focused on mediation, conflict management, and social cohesion, in addition to providing health and safety guidelines to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Turning to nearby Burundi, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), along with 33 partners, are appealing for close to $223 million to provide humanitarian assistance to over 315,000 Burundian refugees who are currently located in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and the DRC.
The agency also pointed out that last year’s response to the Burundian refugee situation was among the most underfunded globally.
This year’s funding appeal seeks critical support to provide food, shelter and education, as well as access to healthcare and water. And, as you will recall, last week or the week before, we flagged that the World Food Programme (WFP) was also at risk of cutting food rations to Burundian refugees due to lack of funding.
In a happy belated Valentine’s Day note, your colleague Maria Khrenova gave birth on Valentine’s Day to a beautiful little baby boy named Alex.
So I know you join me in sending all of our love to Alex’s parents and wish him a strong and healthy life. I hope he starts asking a lot of questions to Maria very quickly!
***The guests at the Noon Briefing were from the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA): Navid Hanif, Director of the Financing for Sustainable Development Office, and Daniel Platz, Economic Affairs Officer. They will be spoke to reporters about the UN Handbook on Infrastructure Asset Management.