DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Starting off unfortunately with some sad news from our peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A search and rescue operation was launched today after a Puma helicopter lost contact with our colleagues and crashed earlier today.
The helicopter, with eight people on board, including six crew members – all from the Pakistani military – and two military personnel – one from the Russian Federation and one from the Republic of Serbia – they were on a reconnaissance mission in the area of Tshanzu, south-east of Rutshuru in North Kivu. There have been clashes there between the M23 armed group and Congolese forces in recent days.
An investigation is underway. We will update you as soon as more information becomes available. Our thoughts are obviously with the families and friends of those onboard the helicopter, and all of our colleagues of the UN Mission of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Also on the Congo, briefing the Security Council this morning, was Bintou Keita, the head of the UN Mission. She said the security situation in the country has continued to deteriorate, with a rise in civilian casualties and population displacements.
In addition to existing challenges, Ms. Keita warned Council Members about an alarming resurgence of activities by the M23 armed group. Yesterday, she said, members of this armed group committed appalling attacks targeting civilians near Rutshuru. Fighting also took place in the three-border area around Rwanda, the DRC and Uganda, near the town
Since the beginning of the year, - and this is in only 3 months into this year - the Mission has documented nearly 2,300 civilian deaths in the eastern part of the DRC.
In this context, Ms. Keita said that the peacekeeping mission has redoubled its efforts to better protect civilians but, she added, we must be realistic. Without a combination of approaches targeting both the causes and the symptoms, our resources and those of the Congolese army will remain insufficient in the face of such a security deterioration. She reiterated her call for the implementation by the Government of comprehensive political strategies, including measures and reforms that will make it possible to achieve stabilization and lasting peace in the eastern DRC.
INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY
A few notes for you regarding Ukraine. I will start off with a statement on the visit of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Ukraine. The Secretary-General spoke yesterday with the Director-General of the IAEA. The Director-General advised the Secretary-General that he would lead an IAEA mission to Ukraine to assist in the safe and secure operation of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. That mission arrived today in Ukraine.
The Secretary-General reiterates his strong support for the IAEA’s efforts and calls for IAEA personnel in Ukraine to be granted safe and unfettered access to all nuclear facilities. Their important work should not be interfered with. An accident at a nuclear power plant would be a health and environmental catastrophe. All efforts must be taken to avoid this disastrous outcome.
Moving to the humanitarian situation you will recall that yesterday the Secretary-General told you that he had asked Martin Griffiths to immediately explore with the parties the possibility for a humanitarian ceasefire.
I can tell you that Mr. Griffiths who is currently in Kabul where he will lead the high-level pledging Conference on Afghanistan, on 31 March, is already working on the Ukraine issue. He’s already been in touch with both parties who have welcomed the initiative, and he will travel to the region within days, and we will keep you updated on his movements.
Also yesterday, a UN relief convoy led by our Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, Osnat Lubrani, made its way into hard-battered Kharkiv in northern Ukraine. They safely delivered five trucks with food rations, medical supplies and household items for thousands of people.
The World Food Programme colleagues are telling us they have delivered enough food to support 3,000 people for 2 weeks and WHO says there are enough medical supplies to assist 10,000 people for the next 3 months.
Speaking from Kharkiv in a video posted on Twitter, Osnat Lubrani said the supplies will now be distributed by the Ukrainian Red Cross to the most vulnerable communities in the city, as well as to the suburbs of Izium, Balakliia and Chuhuiv. I’m probably mispronouncing that name. Ms. Lubrani and the team returned safely to Dnipro yesterday afternoon.
And also, UNICEF says there are non-food items on the truck to assist 6,000 people and UNHCR also put in some non-food items to help about 500 households.
Just on the money issue, which is the backbone of our operations in Ukraine, the Flash Appeal for 2022 received $505 million so far, which puts us at about 44 per cent funded. And this afternoon, the Security Council will have an open meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine. From the UN side they will hear from Joyce Msuya, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, and they will also hear from Amir Mahmoud Abdulla, who is the Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme.
And on the refugee front I just want to flag a new initiative jointly done by UNHCR and the World Food Programme which brings together six leading footballers - three of whom are former refugees and the programme will help refugees who have fled their homes, as well as displaced people inside Ukraine. The global Appeal - #football4ukraine, with musical accompaniment by WFP’s Goodwill Ambassador, The Weeknd - comes at a time when almost a quarter of Ukraine’s population – that’s more than 10 million people - have been forced from their homes.
The players come from across the Premier League, Bundesliga and the Division 1 women’s league. The three players with a refugee background are UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and FC Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies; Mahmoud Dahoud from Borussia Dortmund – the first
Syrian refugee to play in the Bundesliga – and Everton FC goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who was forced to flee his home in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are joined by Manchester City right-back and FIFA Women’s Player of 2020 Lucy Bronze and Olympique Lyonnais’ Ada Hegerberg. We thank all of them.
The players are calling on fans - wherever they are and whatever club they support - to stand together as one team and support people driven from their homes by the war in Ukraine by donating.
Also, I’ve been asked about the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and I can tell you that that we remain concerned about the reports of continued tensions in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. We welcome both efforts for de-escalation in the trilateral format and the engagement of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. All efforts must be made to ensure full respect for the ceasefire and full implementation of agreed commitments.
We continue to urge the sides to refrain from any actions and statements that could escalate the situation and to address all outstanding issues, including humanitarian concerns of the people on the ground, through direct dialogue and within existing formats.
VICTIMS OF SLAVERY AND TRANSATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE
Back here this morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the event to mark the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
He said that today we remember the crime against humanity; the unprecedented mass human trafficking; the degrading economic transactions and unspeakable human rights violations. However, he noted that there is still much that we do not know about this topic and that we must continue to learn from the stories of courage and defiance by millions against the cruelty of oppressors. These accounts are crucial to our understanding of a past whose most pernicious cause and most persistent legacy stains our present: racism. He added that ending slavery’s legacy of racism is a global imperative for justice. We shared those remarks with you. Also speaking in addition to Member State was Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of the 1619 Project.
Turning to Somalia, a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization says that a multi-season drought in the Horn of Africa means that up to 5 million people in Somalia will require urgent humanitarian assistance to prevent famine.
This year, water shortages, livestock deaths and skyrocketing food prices - worsened by conflict and global supply shocks - have caused a rapid deterioration of food security in the country.
The report warns that Somalia faces a risk of famine if the forthcoming April to June rains fail, purchasing power declines further, and food and agricultural livelihood assistance does not reach areas of high concern. In addition, the Russia-Ukraine war, will put more pressure on Somalia, as it typically imports over 90 per cent of its wheat supplies from Russia and Ukraine.
FAO is urgently calling for $80.4 million to assist 634,800 people in rural communities of 52 districts across Somalia.
Just to note that the mayor of our host city [Eric Adams] is in the UN today to attend an event on the Transatlantic Slave Trade Commemoration and he will be meeting the Secretary-General right after this briefing. That will be the first meeting the Secretary-General has with the new mayor.
And finally, some good news. We have some more money coming in. We thank our friends Kenya, Angola and Antigua and Barbuda.