The Security Council is holding an open debate today on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
The Secretary-General noted the progress made on the issue in the last two decades. He said that a culture of protection has taken root in the Security Council and across the United Nations, pointing examples such as the protection of children in armed conflict and civilians from sexual violence in conflict and how the UN peace operations have protected and saved countless of lives.
Despite such advances, the Secretary-General said, grave human suffering is still being caused by armed conflicts and lack of compliance with international humanitarian law.
He said civilians continue to make up the vast majority of casualties in conflict, with more than 22,800 civilians dying or being injured in 2018 in just six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
The Secretary-General stressed the need for the Security Council to do more to enhance compliance with the laws of war.
Yesterday afternoon, the Council met on Somalia and heard from Raisedon Zenenga, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative.
He told Council members that the UN Mission in Somalia began the new year facing a security crisis as a result of a mortar attack on the UN compound on New Year’s Day, as well as a political crisis due to the expulsion of the Special Representative, Nicholas Haysom.
Mr. Zenenga said that these two incidents on the same day severely disrupted the Mission’s engagement with the Government and its implementing mandate.
For her part, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, said that the humanitarian situation in Somalia remains among the most protracted crises in the world. She expressed particular concern over the ongoing drought, the plight of internally displaced people, and the need to enhance the protection of civilians.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) has condemned the attack that took place on Tuesday in Ooham-Pende Prefecture. As of today, more than 50 people are being reported to have been killed, and we expect a statement a bit later today.
A joint mission by the peacekeepers and the Central African Government and the African Union as well as the Economic Community of Central African States are expected to be deployed to the affected areas on 25 May to defuse tensions, assist victims and displaced persons and reassure communities. The UN peacekeepers are undertaking robust patrols in and around the area while the Mission and the Government are also engaging on local-level dialogue to ease tensions and prevent a retaliatory response by anti-Balaka fighters.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations is stepping up its response to the Ebola epidemic, which is now in its tenth month in the country and has claimed more than 1,200 lives.
The Secretary-General has set up a strengthened coordination and support mechanism at the epidemic’s epicenter in Butemba, with the deputy head of the UN Mission, David Gressly, having been appointed as the UN’s Emergency Ebola Response Coordinator.
Mr. Gressly noted that responders to Ebola are working in an environment of unprecedented complexity for a public health emergency, with insecurity and political protests having led to disruptions in the efforts to fight the disease.
Mr. Gressly will oversee the coordination of international support for the Ebola response and work to ensure that an enabling environment—particularly in terms of security and political issues—is in place to allow the Ebola response to be even more effective.
He will work closely with the World Health Organization, which will continue to lead all health operations and technical support activities with the Government.
Yesterday afternoon a note was issued on the Secretary-General’s phone conversation that day with his Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Horst Köhler, who informed the Secretary-General of his decision to step down from his role for health reasons.
The Secretary-General deeply regretted the resignation but said he fully understood the decision and extended his best wishes to Mr. Köhler. The Secretary-General expressed his profound gratitude to Mr. Köhler for his steadfast and intensive efforts which laid the foundation for the new momentum in the political process on the question of Western Sahara.
The UN remains deeply alarmed by ongoing reports of airstrikes, artillery shelling and clashes in and around the de-escalation zone in northwestern Syria, resulting in over 100 deaths since late April, as well as repeated attacks on civilian infrastructure and an increased level of displacement.
Over the past 48 hours alone, dozens of casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure has been reported in Idlib and Hama governorates, as well as in northern and northeastern Aleppo. Attacks are also reported in some government-controlled areas.
Some 201,000 people are now reported to have been displaced due to violence between 1-16 of this month, bringing the total number of displaced people from northern Hama and southern Idlib since 1 April to 240,000 men, women and children.
The provision of shelter and emergency support remains challenging while the numbers of displaced people continue to rise. Ready-to-eat rations have now been provided to more than 170,000 displaced people.
The UN continues to call on the parties to respect the obligations under International Humanitarian Law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to recommit fully to the ceasefire arrangements agreed between Russia and Turkey in September.
The Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) Ad Hoc Advisory Group arrived in Haiti yesterday for an official visit that lasts through tomorrow. The objective of the mission is to assess and make recommendations on Haiti’s long-term economic development. It will also explore the prospects for deepening the partnership between the Haitian Government and the international community in support of the country’s efforts on economic recovery and development.
During its visit, the Advisory Group will meet the President of Haiti and other officials, civil society members and representatives of the international donor community in Haiti.
Today is the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, which is one of the most serious and tragic injuries that can occur to women during childbirth. An estimated 2 million women in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Arab region, as well as Latin America and the Caribbean are living with this injury, and some 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop worldwide each year.
The Day raises awareness of the prevention and treatment of obstetric fistula to ensure maternal health worldwide.
Tomorrow we will be marking International Peacekeepers’ Day. The Secretary-General will be speaking at a ceremony and he will also deliver the Captain Diagne Award to the family of a fallen peacekeeper from Malawi and we will also have the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix here at the briefing at noon sharp to speak about peacekeeping.