We welcome today’s announcement by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of its intention to undertake a number of measures to help end the conflict in Yemen, which align with the UN’s initiative. We also welcome Saudi support for UN efforts.
Special Envoy Martin Griffiths has been working to secure a nationwide ceasefire, the re-opening of Sana’a Airport to civilian air traffic, allowing additional fuel and commodities to enter Hudaydah Port and resuming a political process to end the conflict.
There is no doubt that every effort must be made to end the conflict in Yemen and address the suffering of the Yemeni people and the United Nations looks forward to continuing its work with the parties to achieve this goal.
Meanwhile, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly, visited Marib in the weekend to see first-hand the growing humanitarian impact of renewed hostilities in the governorate.
During his visit, Mr. Gressly met with local authorities, including the Governor of Marib, and with humanitarian partners working on the ground. He also visited two displacement sites, where he met with internally displaced people and community members.
Up to 15,000 people have been displaced in Marib since fighting escalated in early February. Many of them live in extremely precarious conditions.
I was asked about weekend attacks in Niger, and I can say that the Secretary-General strongly condemns the despicable attacks conducted on 21 March by unidentified gunmen in the Tahoua region of the Republic of Niger, which reportedly killed at least 60 civilians. He expresses his deepest condolences to the bereaved families and wishes a swift recovery to the injured.
The Secretary-General reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to sustain support to Niger in its efforts to counter and prevent terrorism and promote social cohesion.
Turning to Ethiopia: Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the ongoing conflict in Tigray continues to drive massive displacement across the region. Tens of thousands of people have arrived into Shire, Axum and Adwa in the last couple of weeks, most of them fleeing fighting in Western Tigray.
There are also reports of people uprooted by violence in North Western and Central Zones.
According to our humanitarian colleagues, people arriving in towns from the rural zones of Tigray are visibly malnourished and in desperate need of life-saving support, after enduring four and half months of conflict with little access to vital supplies.
Despite challenges, aid workers are scaling up the response and have assisted more than one million people with complete food baskets. Nearly 140,000 newly displaced people received emergency shelter and vital relief items and more than 630,000 people received clean water.
The new notification process established by the Government for movement of cargo and workers has enabled humanitarian partners to increase their presence and operations in Tigray.
However, the humanitarian situation is extremely dire and continues to deteriorate. We urgently need more funding to make sure we can urgently assist people impacted by the conflict.
Now, turning to Syria, we are deeply concerned about ongoing hostilities in the last days and their impact on civilians and civilian infrastructure.
In a flare-up of hostilities in northwest Syria over the weekend, at least 30 communities were affected by artillery shelling and air strikes.
Yesterday, several civilians were killed and injured as a result of artillery shelling in Al Atareb town and Aleppo city. In Aleppo city, artillery shelling caused 17 civilian causalities, including two children.
Attacks on hospitals have seriously impeded access to healthcare, as many impacted medical facilities have been forced to go out of service, depriving the vulnerable civilian population of life-saving care.
International humanitarian law prohibits directing attacks against civilians or civilian objects, including health facilities. All parties must take all feasible precautions to avoid or at least minimize civilian harm.
You will have seen that, over the weekend, UN Women issued a statement on Turkey’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention.
UN Women urged Turkey to reconsider its withdrawal and added that this action comes at a point when concerted international action and commitment to end violence against women and girls is more important than ever.
UN Women also urged the Turkish Government to continue protecting and promoting the safety and rights of all women and girls.
As you know, violence against women has been a central priority for the Secretary-General. It is important to maintain the solidarity of nations in dealing with this problem. Accordingly, the Secretary-General appeals to Turkey to review this decision.
On Myanmar, the UN Country Team remains deeply concerned over the continued loss of life following the military takeover of the Government on 1 February. At least 224 civilians have been killed at the hands of security forces, according to the UN Human Rights Office, including while in custody. We believe the real figure could be more than 250.
Hundreds more people, including women and children, have been injured.
Our colleagues continue to call on the military to halt the use of force against peaceful protestors.
The team is also very concerned over further efforts to undermine freedom of expression, with increased pressure on independent media outlets. To date, at least 40 journalists have been arrested.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
The UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA, welcomes and supports a dialogue initiative announced by the President last week. On 18 March, President Faustin Archange Touadera announced the launch of a “republican dialogue” amongst national stakeholders to unite the country and revitalize the peace process, following election-related violence.
In that context, the Mission will continue to work in close coordination with international partners to advance peace and stability in the country.
The Mission is also telling us about an incident that happened on Saturday, in Bria, in the Haute-Kotto Prefecture. Combatants belonging to the FPRC/UPC armed groups opened fire on a peacekeeping patrol that was crossing the Kotto River on a ferry. Peacekeepers returned fire and safely crossed the river, continuing their patrolling to ensure protection of civilians. No casualties were reported.
UNITED NATIONS/IE UNIVERSITY
The United Nations and IE University have signed an agreement to join forces and leverage new innovative and technological solutions for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The agreement considers several areas of collaboration, including the development of learning platforms and knowledge products, the provision of executive training and advisory services, and the promotion of social entrepreneurship.
The aim is to create a new space where practitioners, academia, governments, companies, entrepreneurs, investors, civil society, and other stakeholders can work together to address complex problems in an innovative way and promote more sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies.
Yesterday, Bolivia received more than 220,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility. Health workers and other people at risk will receive the initial doses in this first batch. Nearly 900,000 more doses are expected to arrive by the end of May.
The UN team welcomed the arrival of the vaccines. It says that equitable distribution is possible, even in hard-to-access areas, despite the complex logistics involved, including the cold chain supply requirements.
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic received its first shipment of more than 130,000 doses from COVAX on Saturday. This is the first batch of a total of 480,000 doses which will arrive in the country this year to vaccinate around 20 per cent of the population.
The national vaccination plan prioritizes people at risk and vulnerable people, including frontline healthcare workers and people above the age of 60. UNICEF also delivered 84,000 syringes, 840 safety boxes and other supplies to allow authorities to begin vaccinating people.
Today is World Water Day. This year’s theme is “Valuing water.”
In his message, the Secretary-General said there is no aspect of sustainable development that does not fundamentally rely on water.
He warned that we are not on track to ensure everyone has access to water and sanitation by 2030, and that while advances are being made, current progress needs to quadruple to achieve this goal.
The Secretary-General said he was encouraged by the statement signed by some 160 countries during the UN High-Level meeting on water last week, showing strong commitment to advancing all water-related aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals. He encouraged countries to intensify efforts to truly value water so all may have equitable access to this most precious resource.
Finally, we would like to thank our friends in Tunisia for paying their regular budget dues in full, which brings us to a total of 74 Member States who have paid in full.