HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
WEDNESDAY, 20 JANUARY 2021
In the Security Council today or at least virtually in the Security Council, Geir Pedersen, the Special Envoy for Syria, told Council members by videoconference that the last 10 months have been the calmest in the history of the Syrian conflict. Frontlines have barely shifted. But, he added, this is a fragile calm that could break down at any moment.
Mr. Pedersen said the conflict is highly internationalized, with five foreign armies active in Syria. We cannot pretend that the solutions are only in the hands of the Syrians, or that the UN can do it alone, he said.
The Special Envoy said he continues to help the Syrian-led, Syrian-owned, UN-facilitated Constitutional Committee, adding that the Fifth Session of its Small Body will convene in Geneva next week as we told you - from 25 to 29 January - COVID-19 conditions permitting of course.
Mark Lowcock, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Council members the value of Syria’s currency has drastically declined, causing food prices to increase. He warned of bread shortages and a decline in domestic wheat production.
He added that there were signs that Syria is now experiencing a new wave of COVID-19 infections.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
Moving to the Central African Republic, Denise Brown, the Humanitarian Coordinator, is concerned about disruptions to the country’s main supply route because of the violence. This road connects the country’s capital, Bangui, to both the country and the closest port in Cameroon.
Ms. Brown strongly condemned the attacks on a convoy of humanitarian and commercial trucks that took place two days ago. The attack by armed combatants took place near the Cameroonian border. Three truck drivers were injured.
The disruption of the supply route prevents the safe and timely delivery of vital aid, as well as commercial goods. More than 1,600 trucks are estimated to be blocked at the border with Cameroon. This includes 500 trucks with critical UN and partners’ supplies, such as food, medicines, and non-food items.
The disruption to the delivery of supplies to and within the Central African Republic has resulted in significant spikes in food prices across the country, both for imported and locally produced goods. Meanwhile, over a third of the population, that’s 1.9 million people, face high levels of acute food insecurity.
In 2021, 2.8 million people – that’s more than half of the population of the Central African Republic– will need humanitarian assistance and protection. Nearly 200,000 people have been newly displaced inside the country since violence and tensions broke out in connection with the general elections in December. About half of them have since returned.
A note from Central America, where our UN teams in Guatemala and Honduras are working with governments and partners to protect a caravan of migrants who are currently in Guatemala.
The UN Children’s Fund, the UN Migration agency, the UN Refugee agency and the UN Human Rights Office are all on the ground. They are focusing on care and protection of unaccompanied children, observation of compliance with international human rights standards and the national legislation, as well as the distribution of water, food and hygiene kits. An assisted voluntary return programme has also been established and the UN team is monitoring that flow of people.
In Honduras, the UN team is working with the government to prepare for the voluntary return of Honduran migrants. Official estimates led the UN team and authorities to prepare for the return of 1,500 migrants, many of them are children.
COVID-19/ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
Moving on to the Pacific and Asia, today where a new joint report by several UN agencies says that the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the health and nutrition of nearly two billion people in the region.
The report was put together by the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Food Programme.
It finds that 1.9 billion people were unable to afford a healthy diet, even before the COVID-19 outbreak.
The pandemic and a lack of decent work opportunities, together with higher food prices, has led to a worsening of inequality. Poor families with dwindling incomes must further alter their diets to choose cheaper, less nutritious foods.
A sad note from the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR, who said they are deeply saddened by a shipwreck off the Libyan coast yesterday. The wreck claimed the lives of at least 43 people. This was the first shipwreck of 2021 in the Central Mediterranean.
According to IOM and the International Rescue Committee, which is UNHCR’s partner on the ground, 10 survivors were rescued and brought to shore by Coastal Security in Zwara.
We are very pleased to announce that we have reached 10 Member States in our Honour Roll. We say thank you to Armenia, Denmark, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea and Switzerland who all paid their budget dues in full and on time and they are all part of the Honour Roll.