REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
4 January 2013
Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for the High Commissioner for Refugees, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the International Labour Organization and the International Organization for Migration.
Central African Republic
Jens Laerke for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said OCHA was expressing serious concern about the protection of civilians in the fighting going on in the Central African Republic (CAR).
There were an estimated 360,000 people living in the affected areas and there are some 700,000 at further risk because of the escalation in fighting. There had been a relocation of staff, who were now working out of Cameroon, where the humanitarian team was working around the clock to get access to the Republic, all dependent on the security situation.
On the ground NGOs, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, the Red Cross and the International Medical Corps, were working to respond to the needs of displaced people.
Marixie Mercado for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said UNICEF was calling for the immediate cessation of child recruitment by all armed groups in the CAR, and urged all parties to protect children against the harmful impact of, and their involvement in, armed conflict in the country. This came following credible reports that rebel groups and pro-government militias were increasingly recruiting and involving children in armed conflict in the CAR.
UNICEF was working with partners to monitor, verify, and respond to grave violations of child rights, including recruitment into armed groups. Those at greater risk were children who had lost their homes, were separated from their families or were formerly associated with armed groups
Even before conflict erupted in December 2012, about 2,500 children – both girls and boys – were associated with multiple armed groups, including self-defence groups, in CAR. While it was impossible to give a precise figure, reports indicated that this number would rise because of the recent and escalating conflict, she said.
UNICEF was highly concerned about the harmful impact of conflict on children in the country and condemned the involvement of boys and girls below the age of 18 who may be forced to fight, carry supplies, perform other support roles and be abused as sex slaves by armed groups.
Since 2007, UNICEF had worked in CAR with both the government and rebel factions, in collaboration with non-governmental organizations, to secure the release of more than 1,000 girls and boys from armed groups and self-defence groups and supported their reintegration into families and communities.
The security situation was also hampering the delivery of humanitarian assistance to affected communities and had led UNICEF to relocate 14 international staff and consultants last week. Through a team of national experts, UNICEF maintained a critical staff presence in the CAR and collaborated with a network of partners to continue emergency activities.
According to UNICEF, more than 300,000 children had already been affected by the violence in CAR and its consequences, including through recruitment, family separation, sexual violence, forced displacement and no or limited access to education and health facilities.
Melissa Fleming for the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said UNHCR had concluded the voluntary repatriation operation for 155,000 Liberians who were forced into exile because of 14 years of civil war in their country which forced 750,000 civilians to become either internally displaced or refugees.
As part of the program, which began in 2004, each returning refugee received a small cash grant to help them restart their lives. The returnees were further helped by the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) to get jobs, including government positions for those with the required skills. LRRRC also provided scholarships and assistance in acquiring a plot of land for construction of their houses.
Jumbe Omari Jumbe for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on the night of 31st December 2012, IOM teams arrived to start a distribution of family kits composed of cooking and kitchen utensils, bedding and flashlights, to 1,160 families in the worst-hit Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur Provinces.
The families had been identified as the most vulnerable by IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix, DTM. DTM was an Excel and Android-based tool developed by IOM to gather data on the conditions of displacement in evacuation centres to better inform and coordinate humanitarian responses.
After the initial non-food aid distribution had been completed, IOM was to start to distribute 6,000 emergency shelter kits which were currently on the way to the Philippines, as well as 16,000 solar lamps which were vital for protection and for such tasks as enabling women to visit latrines at night or allowing children to do their homework.
The lack of sufficient latrines and availability of clean water were a cause of concern for eruption of diseases such as the upper respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea and skin infections, especially as 13 sites surveyed had no or limited health services. At least 10,000 people had been displaced to temporary shelters since the disaster struck on 4 December, killing over 1,000 and leaving more than 200,000 houses damaged or destroyed.
Jumbe Omari Jumbe for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said a report which looked into human trafficking trends showed half of the human trafficking cases brought before IOM for assistance in 2011 involved victims of labour exploitation.
The report, which collected information from more than 150 IOM missions showed that during the period, IOM provided assistance to some 3,014 victims of labour exploitation, which represented 53 per cent of all recorded instances of assistance sought by victims of human trafficking.
Since 2010, labour trafficking had overtaken sexual exploitation as the main type of trafficking seen in cases assisted by IOM. A second report covering 2012 was planned to be released in June this year.
Hans von Rohland for the International Labour Organization announced a press conference on Wednesday (9 January) at 10:00 in Room III to mark the launch of the report “Domestic workers across the world.” Copies of the report could be made available under embargo.