New York

22 February 2017

Full transcript of Secretary-General's Joint Press Conference on Humanitarian Crises in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen

Watch video on webtv.un.org:

[with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, UNDP Administrator, Ms. Helen Clark; Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Stephen O’Brien; Ms. Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (by video conference); Ms. Carla Mucavi, Director of FAO Liaison Office in New York, and Mr. Justin Forsyth, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF]

 
Spokesman:  Good afternoon.  We are joined by the Secretary-General, by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) Administrator, Helen Clark; the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien – who are here at the front table; and you see behind me Ertharin Cousin [by video conference], the Executive Director of the World Food Programme.  And we also have here in the front row, Carla Mucavi [Director] of the FAO Liaison Office [in New York], and Justin Forsyth, the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF. We will let the Secretary-General open up, and then we will take your questions.
 
Sir, you have the floor.
           
Secretary-General: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you very much for coming.

I am here with my colleagues to draw the world’s attention to the fact that today, more than 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and north-east Nigeria are going hungry, and facing devastating levels of food insecurity.  

Famine is already a reality in parts of South Sudan. Unless we act now, it is only a matter of time until it affects other areas and other countries. We are facing a tragedy; we must avoid it becoming a catastrophe. This is preventable if the international community takes decisive action.

The situation is dire. Millions of people are barely surviving in the space between malnutrition and death, vulnerable to diseases and outbreaks, forced to kill their animals for food and eat the grain they saved for next year’s seeds.

Throughout South Sudan, almost 5 million people desperately need food; famine has already been declared in two counties. Across North-East Nigeria, some 5.1 million people face serious food shortages. Women and girls are disproportionately affected, and nearly half a million children are suffering severe acute malnutrition. Even if they survive, this may affect their health and development throughout their lives.
 
In Somalia, food prices are rising, animals are dying, and almost one million children under the age of 5 will be acutely malnourished this year. Yemen is facing the largest food insecurity emergency in the world, with an estimated 7.3 million people needing help now. 
 
United Nations agencies are deployed with plans in place for all these countries, and we are scaling up the response. In North-East Nigeria, humanitarians are reaching more than two million people with food assistance. In South Sudan, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners aim to assist 5.8 million people this year; in Somalia, 5.5 million people and in Yemen 8.3 [million].  

We are also stepping up cooperation between humanitarian and development agencies, including the World Bank, strengthening collaboration, coordination and alignment and working [towards] common goals.  Saving lives is the first priority, but we are also looking to build longer-term resilience to shocks.

I have asked the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and the Emergency Relief Coordinator to take immediate action to ensure a coordinated long-term approach. They will set up a steering committee to link the United Nations Development Group and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee for humanitarian assistance.

One of the biggest obstacles we face now is funding. Humanitarian operations in these four countries require more than $5.6 billion this year. We need at least $4.4 billion by the end of March to avert a catastrophe. Despite some generous pledges, just $90 million has actually been received so far – around two cents for every dollar needed.  We are in the beginning of the year but these numbers are very worrying.
 
Funding shortages have already forced the World Food Programme to cut rations in Yemen by more than half since last year. Without new resources, critical shortages will worsen within months.

These four crises are very different, but they have one thing in common. They are all preventable.

They all stem from conflict, which we must do much more to prevent and resolve.
 
But even now, we can prevent the worst effects, if we act urgently and strongly.

I urge all members of the international community to step up and to do whatever is in their power, whether that is mobilizing support, exerting political pressure on parties to conflict, or funding humanitarian operations.
 
I want to make a personal appeal to the parties to conflict to abide by international humanitarian law and allow aid workers access to reach people in desperate need.  Without access, hundreds of thousands of people could die, even if we have the resources to help them.
 
The lives of millions of people depend on our collective ability to act. In our world of plenty, there is no excuse for inaction or indifference.
We have heard the alerts. Now there is no time to lose.
 
Thank you. I would like to ask my two colleagues to complete my introduction. We will be distributing also a small fact sheet with the key data relevant to this crisis.
 
Mr O'Brien:  Secretary-General, thank you very much, indeed.  And I use this opportunity very briefly to re-emphasise how much working together with development partners we want to both help people to survive, but also to have the opportunity to build a more durable solution so that they can have the opportunity to not be left in vulnerability.
 
More than 20 million people in South Sudan, in Somalia, in Yemen, and in Northeastern Nigeria are facing famine or at risk of famine or starvation over the next six months.  And that includes 1.4 million children, who are currently at imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition.
 
And the point that is so important to emphasise, which the Secretary-General has outlined, is these famines can be averted if we act now.  The lesson from the 2011 Somalia famine was, by the time we declared famine broadly as a world, half those who died had already died.  So, this is why we're sounding the alarm now so that we can actually make the difference to avert the catastrophe. 
 
And it builds on the enormous advocacy for all four countries, which is why we already have in place many of the aid workers and agencies and implementing partners, both at international and national level, and working with and through governments where they have that capacity to respond to make sure that we are averting what we can see is a famine through these many causes, different as they are, but with the common theme of conflict, which has to be in the context of trying to prevent, as well.
 
We basically need at least $4.4 billion of funds to come in by the end of March in order for us to make that scale-up and that difference.  And I can give the assurance that we are ready to scale up, providing those funds are forthcoming and providing the access in order to reach all the people in need wherever they are is made available to the very brave and committed aid workers, both in place and who we can surge on the back of increased funding. 
 
And it's to focus on food, nutrition, water, and sanitation and hygiene and health.  Those will be the interventions, and, to the extent that we need to reprogramme from already the very detailed plans for meeting humanitarian needs in these countries, they are being reprogrammed to make sure that we meet these immediate needs but, at the same time, sew in the opportunity to build a more durable resilience to the shocks of the future. 
 
I think I'll leave Helen Clark very much at that point as that segues, I think, into how we want to look at this in a comprehensive way.
 
Ms Clark:  Thank you very much.  And, definitely, there's a total commitment on the part of the development actors to work extremely closely with OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) and the humanitarian actors on the new way of working in crisis which was agreed at the World Humanitarian Summit between us. 
 
Clearly, the primary objective here is to save lives in the face of extremely dire circumstances, and part of saving lives is also about building the resilience for the future.  A lot is underway.  What we are doing is being retargeted, reprioritized.  Everything can be scaled up.
 
Now, you may say, what does resilience actually involve in circumstances like this?  I want to give you just a very brief flavour of what is involved.  Take South Sudan.  A number of the agencies are working together -- that's UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), World Food Programme, FAO -- on a comprehensive approach around stabilisation and recovery, access to basic social services, reinvigorating livelihoods locally, and enhancing the capacity of the local governments to deliver the services they need to deliver.
 
Another aspect of it, in Somalia, where UNDP and OCHA are jointly supporting the research and disaster preparedness agency to do its job in Somaliland and also in Puntland, supporting humanitarian affairs and disaster management agencies and supporting formation of local disaster committees.  The local actors are incredibly important in this. 
 
In Yemen, a number of the agencies, including UNICEF, including UNDP, are enormously supported now by major World Bank programming, coming in to support water distribution systems, solar water pumps and greenhouses, to support agricultural production.  There's a lot that can be done. 
 
So the joint focus on saving lives, the food, the nutrition support bridging into saving the lives of animals, supporting the agricultural production, where possible, this joined-up approach can be done.  It will work, but it does need the support that the Secretary-General is appealing for.  Thank you.
 
Spokesman:  Ertharin, do you want to add a few words?
 
Ms Cousin:  Thank you very much for the opportunity to participate with you here today.  I have very few words, to avoid repeating anything my colleagues have said. 
 
In each of these four countries as… as the parties… as my colleagues noted, the plans are in place.  The people are prepared to perform the work that is necessary.  What we need are the financial resources that have been identified by my colleagues as well as the access. 
 
This is a very different situation than even in Somalia than we were in in 2011.  In Somalia today, as compared to 2011, you have a functioning government.  The markets are functioning.  What we need are the resources to ensure that we can give access to the food that is available to those who have suffered from two years of drought and also, as the meteorologists are telling us, that there… that the next rains will also fail.
 
And so acting now before we reach the height of the lean season, in each one of these countries, will ensure our ability to provide the support that is necessary.
 
So I am prepared to answer any questions about the plans that we have in place.  And [audio gap] with the 1.2 billion that's required from WFP to meet the needs of those through this lean season will be deployed to scale up, to address the challenges, to avoid what we all see on the horizon, which is a famine in each one of these countries if we fail to act. Thank you very much.
 
**Questions and Answers
 
Spokesman:  Thank you.  Sherwin, go ahead.
 
Question:  Thanks, Steph.  It's quite an esteemed panel led by the Secretary-General himself.  On behalf of the UN Correspondents Association, thank you very much.  And I think it speaks to the seriousness of the issue.  I guess the short question would be: How on earth did we get here again?  I think it's unconscionable that we are again seeing starving black children on television screens around the world.  This was something that happened in the '90s, at the beginning of the century.  It's unconscionable that in 2017 we are again seeing these images. So the question, I think, is: What role does race and region have to play in this conversation we're having today?  
 
Secretary-General:  Well, first of all, these things are repeating themselves, and I believe there are two very important factors that explain why they are repeating themselves.  One is conflict, and conflict is, of course, having devastating humanitarian consequences.  The second is a number of situations of drought are being accelerated by climate change.  We always had drought.  We always had desertification.  But climate change works as a key enhancer of other factors -- desertification, food insecurity, water scarcity.  And so, not only we have the repetition of crisis, but we risk to have more and more and with more devastating consequences.  In this area, it is obvious that the cooperation with regional and national and local entities is absolutely crucial.  And I think that we can clearly underline that… namely the African context, with the cooperation of the UN, with the African Union is today an example of cooperation.  We are more and more also relying on the different sub-regional organisations.
 
Spokesman:  Thank you.  Rosiland, Al Jazeera.
 
Question:  Thank you, Mr Secretary-General.  Rosiland Jordan with Al Jazeera English.  A multipart question, and it goes to the funding.  In light of concerns that the new US Government may cut its spending on foreign aid, including on humanitarian relief, and in light of the fact that recent appeals to help the people of Syria, for example, haven't been met 100 per cent, how confident are you that the world will step up, fully fund this latest appeal?  Can the UN count on the same level of support from the US as it has in previous years?  And, finally, how worried are you in general about this concept of donor fatigue?  Have people simply said, we need to take care of our own people and countries where these crises are happening, where the risk of famine is so great, they need to find a way to take care of their own people?  How do you answer that?
 
Secretary-General:  First of all, I don't think there is donor fatigue.  There is a lot of talk about donor fatigue, but if you look at the numbers, humanitarian aid has been growing every year.  And my experience at UNHCR for ten years was that, indeed, our resources have been growing every year.  The problem is that they are not growing as quickly as the needs are growing.  This is the drama.  It's not a donor fatigue.  It's an increasing impact of different factors to make humanitarian needs exploding in our worlds.  Now, we had a combination of factors.  We had El Niño.  We have now different other weather patterns with similar effects.  We have a multiplication of conflicts that became particularly dramatic from the point of view of access.  So we are facing now in this regard a situation in which either we act now or we will have a devastating situation of famine widespread in several parts of Africa and in Yemen.  Now, if we act now, it will be cheaper.  And so, raising awareness now, when we have the capacity in place and where the resources can be used in the most effective way, is the best way also to avoid a much bigger humanitarian assistance and unfortunately coming too late.  And I don't want to need the images of children dying in big numbers alerting the public conscience of states to allow for them to finally come with their support.  This is the moment in which this support cannot solve naturally many of the problems that exist and they are already very dramatic but prevent the worst.  So, what we are appealing for is not only something that human conscience should guide governments to deliver, independently of the country that we are talking about, but it is also the smart way.  It limits the suffering, and it allows for a better use of resources and not to have… coming too late to then spend much more but with much less effective impact on the ground.
 
Spokesman:  Thank you.  Nizar?
 
Question:  Thank you, Mr Guterres.  Nizar Abboud, Al-Mayadeen Television in Lebanon.  The conflict in Yemen started with the humanitarian crisis, of course.  There is an inspection and verification mechanism in the Red Sea and it doesn't look like it is working for some time.  You've been to Saudi Arabia recently and visited United Arab Emirates.  Did you raise this issue with them?  And what's hampering aid from reaching the dying children in Yemen?  They are dying at a rate of ten, every ten minutes a person.
 
Secretary-General:  Humanitarian access is vital.  I mentioned that very clearly in my statement.  We are appealing simultaneously for funds, and for all those that are parties to the conflict to grant humanitarian access.  Unfortunately, we have seen in Yemen and in many parts of the world where conflicts take place limitations to humanitarian access for different kinds of pretexts.  My appeal is that the situation is so dire, the consequences are so dramatic, this is the moment in which international humanitarian law must be respected by all and access must be granted to all areas where people are suffering these kind of problems.
 
Spokesman:  Herman, BBC Afrique. 
 
Question:  Right, thank you.  Herman Houngbo from LC2 and BBC Afrique.  And I'm going to ask my question in French.  I would appreciate if you could answer me in French.  Les conflits sont l’une des causes des crises humanitaires que vous évoquez aujourd’hui. L’une des priorités de l’Organisation des Nations Unies, c’est de protéger les civils, tout comme ce fut le cas en Libye. A quand une résolution ou un engagement international aujourd’hui, pour tacler Boko Haram par exemple qui affecte des millions de personnes dans la zone du Lac Tchad et dans la zone ouest-africaine par exemple? Et que répondez-vous à ces organisations non-gouvernementales qui, pour le cas dun Soudan du Sud, estiment que les autorités sud-soudanaises are not qualified for the job?
 
Secretary-General:  C’est vrai que nous avons de sérieux problèmes de protection des civils. Non seulement à cause des actions des forces armées et des milices, mais aussi à cause des limitations des missions, notamment des Nations Unies. Vous avez mentionné le [Soudan du Sud], le mandat de la mission des Nations Unies limite strictement la capacité de mouvement de la mission, notamment pour la protection des civils. C’est une des questions que d’ailleurs je viens de discuter à Addis [Abeba] pendant le sommet de l’Union africaine et avec les autorités sud-soudanaises, et avec l’IGAD [Autorité intergouvernementale pour le développement] et l’Union africaine. Je crois qu’il nous faut, ce n’est pas l’objet de cette conférence de presse, mais c’est évident que la protection des civils et le respect du droit international humanitaire sont des conditions essentielles pour que l’aide humanitaire soit efficace.
 
Spokesman:  Pam, yes.
 
Question:  Thank you.  Thank you to the panel.  It's Pamela Falk from CBS News.  Secretary-General, you've mentioned that all of this is preventable.  Tony Lake said yesterday it was man-made.  And I'm going back to Sherwin's question a bit.  How did it get this far so that, in one month's time, I mean, there's over a million children that are about to die?  Was it neglect?  Was it the combination that you mentioned?  I mean, Ms Clark also mentioned it.  What… what made it happen… what… what happened, neglect?  I mean, how did it get this bad so urgently?  And then, just as a piece of that, do you think in a few weeks’ time, you will get $4 billion and where are you looking?  Thank you.
 
Secretary-General:  First, this has been a combination of factors.  We are not starting to act.  In all these areas, our people together with the NGOs, the Red Cross-Red Crescent movement are acting.  Now, what we are now seeing is an overwhelming growth of the problem.  And before it explodes, we are alerting the world to make sure that we can scale up the action to meet the requirements of this worsening of the situation we are now witnessing. I do believe that we are in the beginning of the year.  Many countries still have a lot of budget resources available.  I do believe that, if there is a clear conscience of the problem we are facing and the clear conscience of the problems we might face if we do not act, I do believe that governments will step up and that other donors will step up, and we will be able to fund the operations that are already taking place but will be scaled up as soon as resources allow it.
 
Question:  And just a clarification.  Is the 1 billion that Ms Cousins talked about part of the four…
 
Secretary-General:  Yes, yes.
 
Question:  Does that offset the four… 
 
Secretary-General:  Yes, yes.
 
Spokesman:  Kyodo News.
 
Question:  Thank you, Secretary-General.  I'm Takagi from Kyodo, Japan's news agency.  I have a question on South Sudan.  United Nations Security Council failed to adopt a resolution to import arms embargo on South Sudan last December, and Japanese Ambassador said it's counterproductive for peace and security in South Sudan.  On the other hand, United States and UK and France and other countries said it’s only way to prevent possible genocide.  So Security Council seems to be divided still now.  So what is your stance on arms embargo?  Thank you.
 
Secretary-General:  Well, first of all, that is a decision of the Security Council, and we don't control the Security Council and its decisions.  But immediately after I went to the IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development)… to the African Union summit, and we reached in a summit between IGAD, the regional organisation, African Union and the UN a total agreement on a strategy aiming at, on one side, create conditions for the prevention of the kind of genocide you are talking about.  And until now, we have been relatively successful on that, with full support of all the countries of the region putting pressure on the authorities in South Sudan in that regard. Second, we have now a common strategy in relation to the need for an inclusive national dialogue, and Mr [Alpha Oumar] Konaré, President Konaré, the envoy of the African Union, together with our own envoy, and the envoy of IGAD are shuttling between the parties and between the countries of the region to make sure that this condition is met.  And, at the same time, we are revitalizing the conditions to allow for the mission to be more effective and for the regional protection force to be implemented.  So we do not stop just complaining about the fact that one or another decision doesn't correspond to our aims.  We act in order to create the conditions to prevent underground the kind of catastrophic development that you have mentioned.
 
Spokesman:  Raghida.
 
Question:  Yeah.  It’s Raghida Dergham, Al Hayat.  Mr Secretary-General, during your recent trip to the region to the Middle East, to the Gulf area, I'm sure you raised the issue of the need that they should contribute generously to not only Yemen but also Somalia and Sudan.  Did you get any pledges?  Did you get any commitments that made you feel that, yes, they are serious about giving on these issues?  And, secondly, what strategy might you be thinking about to engage the private sector?  I know that there has been the strategy of engaging the celebrities to come in every now and then and help out when you're putting out such a plea.  Have you been thinking about a new strategy to engage the private sector in these countries and outside these countries?  Because many of them get away with it.  They just claim that they want to contribute, and they really don't do as much as they should.  Thank you.
 
Secretary-General:  Well, this visit was not to seek financial commitments.  It was a political visit.  But I must say that I am pretty confident that the countries of the region that you mentioned will step up also and respond to this appeal.  And in relation to the private sector in general and to the private sector in particular in the Gulf, there is a number of initiatives that several of our agencies have already launched, and there are forms of cooperation that have been quite positive.  I can tell you, for instance, in my past capacity, we were in contact with a group of companies based… the group was based in Dubai, that allowed for a very important mobilisation of private sector support from the area.  And I believe that all agencies are doing the same, and I'd like to ask Stephen O'Brien to give eventually some details that I'm not yet entirely aware of.
 
Mr O'Brien:  Well, I think it's very clear that already being present in these countries and having already had the agencies working with international, local national NGOs, millions of lives have already been saved.  It's the compound effect which the Secretary-General has highlighted which has brought us to this point in trying to avert the worst as so many things have come together at once and in the context of conflict.  But, even within that, particularly -- and Ertharin Cousin may want to add -- WFP has been working extensively and very effectively with the contributions of the private sector both in terms of a sense of partnership but also, not just in terms of finance, also in kind and skills and ensuring that we have the ability to extend into the latest technological opportunities to give us the most efficient way to reach people in need wherever they are and in line with our humanitarian principles.  So, with your indulgence, sir, Secretary-General, as I say, Ertharin Cousin may want to give a specific example which might help you.
 
Spokesman:  Ertharin?
 
Ms Cousin:  Thank you very much, Stephen, and Mr Secretary.  Let me just tell you that WFP has ongoing relationships with private sector companies both in the region, in the Middle East, as well as globally.  Those companies are now being mobilised by our private sector division and along with part… the other UN agencies, including in… UNICEF in particular where we're working together to drive out messaging… messages to the private sector in support of nutrition and food security in each these countries.  I can tell you that it's not just about cash, as Stephen said.  We also have a partnership… an ongoing partnership with both Facebook and Google who are providing us with information about those individuals who are in need of our assistance in areas where we don't have regular access.  So we are using the private sector to increase our capacity to serve as well as to provide us with additional financial resources.
 
Spokesman:  Thank you.  Abdelhamid.
 
Question:  Thank you.  My name is Abdelhamid Siyam from the Arabic Daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi.  That's based in London.  And my question, Mr Secretary-General, about the report had been put by a number of UN agencies, it's called Gaza 2020.  This report says that life will not be sustainable in Gaza in the year 2020 if nothing could be done to alleviate the suffering and the disastrous consequences of conflicts in Gaza in particular.  First, why there is no more… no shedding light on this disaster?  And are you prepared to do something about the disaster situation in Gaza?  And have you raised the issue of Gaza in your meeting with the leaders of the region?  Thank you very much.
 
Secretary-General:  The answer is obviously in reference to your last question.  Yes, of course.  This is about situations that correspond to an immediate emergency.  We are not talking here of all the protracted humanitarian situations in the world, and Gaza is one of the protracted humanitarian situations in the world.  And, of course, this report corresponds exactly to our position and to our appeal.  This is an immediate answer to situations that can explode, from the humanitarian point of view, tomorrow.  But the protracted crises remain, and they also need to be effectively supported with the adequate response, and Gaza is obviously one of our priorities in that regard.
 
Spokesman:  Thank you.  Majeed.
 
Question:  Thank you, Mr Secretary-General, and the panel.  This is Majeed Gly from Rudaw Media Network.  Mr Secretary-General, from day one, you focussed on… one of your priorities has been prevention of conflict, and I wanted to ask you about that with regard to Iraq.  The US and other international partners with the UN are rightly so focussed on the humanitarian and the military aspect of the war against ISIS in Iraq.  But there seems to be all the international actors forgot about the political future of Iraq after ISIS, which is… many call it a ticking time bomb, what's going on there.  Why the UN didn't… don't take the initiative to start talking of a… starting a framework talk about the future of Iraq after ISIS just like we are seeing the same process in Syria?  Totally different situation, but it's a political process the UN can take charge of.  And my other related question is, last week, you met with of President of Kurdistan region of Iraq, Masoud Barzani.  What did you talk about with him?  And did he raise the issue of the prospect of the independence of Kurdistan, as he raised it with Vice President [Michael] Pence?  Thank you very much.
 
Secretary-General:  Well, I don't see a direct link between your question and what we are dealing today.  And, obviously, we can discuss all problems in the world, but I will answer your question.  But the objective is not to divert the attention from this, because obviously, we have a very clear message.  There is a dramatic emergency situation, and it needs a response.  There are many other problems in the world.  We are dealing with them.  I met recently with the Prime Minister [Haider al] Abadi and President Barzani, and we have been saying consistently there is no way to defeat terrorism if you don't find political solutions to the different crises.  And, obviously, one of the things we need in Iraq is an inclusive political solution in which all Iraqis feel that they are part of the new Iraq.  Obviously, this was in the centre of my discussions with both Prime Minister Abadi and President Barzani.
 
Spokesman:  Let's go to the next question.  Associated Press, please.
 
Question:  Thank you, Jennifer Peltz from the Associated Press. It's a bit of a technical question.  What is the threshold for declaring a situation to be a famine?  And how close are the other places to that status, other than the counties where it's already been declared?
 
Mr O'Brien:  We use a number of measures.  There's some very technical terms I'm going to… in terms of actual famine, it's very important because the people who absolutely have to interpret when the famine is declared are, of course, the main people who can do something about it.  So I'm going to turn to Ertharin Cousin, because I think it's really important you hear it from where the trigger point happens.  But we use number of inputs, not least FewsNet (Famine Early Warning Systems Network) and others who categorize where we are in terms of people who are either starving, who are on the brink of famine and those who absolutely are not getting any kind of access to sufficient nutrition and people who are on the verge of dying or where we have had a number of deaths which are clearly attributable.  But I think it's very important you hear directly from Ertharin Cousin.
 
Spokesman:  Ertharin?
 
Ms Cousin:  Thank you very much for turning to me on this.  As you said, it's a very technical answer.  There is a technical group that we call the IPC that includes WFP, FAO, FewsNet, and the surveys are performed.  And what the data that is required is that there's a certain number of deaths per thousand that determine exactly when a famine is… has occurred.  That is the situation in these two counties in Unity State in South Sudan today is that they have met that threshold number of deaths required to actually call a hunger situation a famine situation.
 
Spokesman:  Thank you.  Sam Oakford and that will have to be the last question.
 
Question:  Thanks.  I want to ask a question on Yemen given this is meant to be an emergency press conference in a way and not just the usual request for humanitarian funding.  There's a situation in Hudaydah and the potential situation in Hudaydah, the port, where a lot of the food comes in currently, some of it is not getting in, but there's also the potential for military action there.  And I'm wondering if you can comment on that and what effect that could have on the situation in Yemen going forward.
 
Secretary-General:  Well, we have no information about what kind of military operations will be or not launched.  What we are always saying is that what matters is that all parties to a conflict respect international humanitarian law and the law for access in relation to populations in dramatic situations, as it is the case, obviously, in Yemen.
 
Question:  Can I ask a follow-up on Yemen, just a quick follow-up on Yemen?  Okay.  Thank you.  It's Joseph Klein, Canada Free Press.  According to this handout, 462,000 children are currently suffering severe acute malnutrition in Yemen.  And, as you know, Saudi Arabia, which is a party to the conflict, leading the Coalition that has caused a number of… quite a number of civilian deaths, they were removed from a list of countries that were found to have committed violence against children.  And I'm wondering to what extent -- you mentioned engaging parties to the conflict -- that you are going to specifically interact with the leaders of Saudi Arabia to try to influence them in relation to how they are conducting their operations.  Thank you.
 
Secretary-General:  In my visit to Saudi Arabia, I had occasion to ask for and to interact with the actors exactly in relation to the measures that can be taken in order to avoid the kind of collateral damage in a war that can have the consequences that you mentioned.  It was one of the key points I have discussed with the Saudi authorities, in relation to which I had an extensive briefing on the situation and education to express my concern and the concern to make sure that everything is done to limit… in a war there is always, unfortunately, collateral damage but to limit maximum as possible death that collateral damage.
 
Spokesman:  Great.  Thank you very much.
 
[Briefing concludes at 2:40 p.m.]