REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
25 April 2014
Yvette Morris, Chief, TV and Radio Section at the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by the Spokespersons for the International Organization for Migration, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, United Nations Human Rights Council, World Food Programme, World Health Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization
Cécile Pouilly for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in the wake of the recent killings in Bentiu and Bor High Commissioner Navi Pillay would depart Geneva tomorrow to travel to Juba, South Sudan, on a joint mission with the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide. The mission was at the request of the Secretary-General and in the light this week’s discussion on South Sudan in the Security Council. More details, including on the duration of the mission, would be provided later today.
Yvette Morris, Chief, TV and Radio Section at the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said that the Security Council yesterday issued a press statement in which it expressed horror and anger at the mass violence in Bentiu last week. The members of the Security Council indicated their willingness to take additional measures, should attacks on civilians and violations of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement continue.
Ms. Morris also reported that the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had strongly condemned the attack that took place yesterday morning (Thursday 14 April) on a convoy of barges hired by the Mission to deliver urgently needed food and fuel supplies to its base in Malakal, Upper Nile State. Four crew members and UNMISS peacekeepers were wounded during the incident.
The latest figures were that there now more than 78,000 civilians seeking protection in eight United Nations Missions in South Sudan throughout the country, Ms. Morris stated.
Elisabeth Byrs for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that WFP and partners were working around the clock to try and prevent the food security situation deteriorating to catastrophic levels. In South Sudan, as of 22 April, WFP had provided food assistance to 702,213 people displaced as a result of the crisis. About 63,659 children under five years old were reached through blanket supplementary feeding in Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Lakes, Unity, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap states.
WFP continued to assist people sheltering in UN compounds and other internally displaced persons (IDP) populations. More than 78,000 people were sheltering in eight UN compounds. WFP faced serious challenges in transporting food to deep field locations due to access and security concerns. That was hampering its annual pre-positioning exercise, in which WFP stocked up warehouses in areas that would become inaccessible when the rains started in April or May.
Despite immense challenges due to insecurity, WFP had dispatched nearly 60,000 metric tons of food around the country since the start of the year. In addition, the total food airlifted and airdropped since January from Juba and Gambella was 3,433 metric tonnes. The next airdrop was due to take place today in Pochalla, Ms. Byrs confirmed.
Despite the heavy fighting in Bentiu, WFP had been able to quickly provide a 15 day food ration to around 22,000 beneficiaries, including wounded civilians at the IOM/IRC clinic and the new IDP site at the Rubkona UNMISS site, Ms. Byrs added. More information was in the press release.
Central African Republic
Christophe Boulierac, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that the number of children being treated for severe acute malnutrition in Bangui’s largest in-patient centre during the first quarter of 2014 had tripled in comparison to last year’s figures. Almost 680 children had been treated at Bangui Paediatric Hospital for severe acute malnutrition between January and March this year, compared to 214 children in the same period last year.
Officials predicted that the number of malnourished children in Central African Republic would rise steeply in the coming months, as the majority of families had been unable to plant their crops or earn a living, and also due to poor access to safe water, sanitation and health care.
Partners working on nutrition in Central African Republic estimated that 28,000 children in the country would suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year, which was a threat to the children’s lives and their future health. However, UNICEF and partners had so far treated more than 6,008 children for severe acute malnutrition nationwide, thanks to an increase in the nutrition response in Central African Republic.
Mr. Boulierac highlighted UNICEF’s need for US$11 million this year to fund therapeutic and preventive nutrition programs for children in Central African Republic. So far only US$3.8 million had been raised.
Responding to a question from a journalist, Mr. Boulierac said UNICEF had strengthened its presence in Central African Republic by establishing several country offices and supporting 27 in-patient and 127 out-patient centres for severely malnourished children throughout the country.
Jens Laerke for the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that confrontations between armed groups and direct attacks on villages had continued over the past week in the central part of Central African Republic. Up to 4,500 people in the Ouaka prefecture and 800 people in the Kemo prefecture had fled their homes and taken shelter at religious sites to avoid being caught in crossfire.
Meanwhile in the Boda prefecture the dire humanitarian situation had improved for some 24,000 vulnerable people, who had received food and medical assistance as well as nutrition, non-food items and water, sanitation and hygiene support. The response in Boda had been made possible through an emergency allocation of $US 250,000 from the Common Humanitarian Fund in Central African Republic, Mr. Laerke noted.
Mr. Laerke announced that John Ging, OCHA’s Director of Operations, would visit Boda during his forthcoming mission to Central African Republic, from 26 to 29 April.
The 2014 Strategic Response Plan for Central African Republic appeal for US$551 million, was only 28 per cent funded, which was a very serious problem. Within that global figure there were sections such as education, which needed US$8 million and was only 2.1 per cent funded. Other sectors included emergency shelter and nutrition, which were less than 10 per cent funded.
Ms. Byrs, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said WFP needed US$47 million to fund its operations in Central African Republic until the end of the August. Despite insecurity, with logistical constraints limiting humanitarian movements and WFP transportation, WFP had transferred over 1,800 metric tonnes of food of which more than 80 per cent was from Bangui, to the provinces.
WFP continued to focus on geographical expansion of interventions, starting up programme activities with partners, prepositioning of food, and assistance to vulnerable populations. Currently, distributions were ongoing in Boda to people who had been isolated due to violence with no means of livelihood or access to markets. In March, WFP distributed in Boda 50 tons of foods and expected to provide the same quantity in April.
As of 23 April, 140,101 beneficiaries were assisted with 1,460 metric tonnes of food. Of those, 15,634 children benefitted from the blanket feeding programme. In Bambari, Bouar and Paoua, 30,504 children were assisted under the school feeding programme. Furthermore, under the targeted feeding programme, 1,849 children under the age of five and pregnant and lactating women received assistance in Bouar, Bossangoa, Bangui and Bambari, Ms. Byrs added.
Questions from journalists on Central African Republic
Answering ensuing questions from journalists, Mr. Laerke confirmed that within the global figure of US$551 million appealed for under the 2014 Strategic Response Plan for Central African Republic, which was only 28 per cent funded, there were sections such as education, which needed US$8 million and was only 2.1 per cent funded. Other sectors included emergency shelter and nutrition, which were less than 10 per cent funded.
In response to another question Mr. Laerke said that John Ging was expected to arrive in Central African Republic tomorrow and would stay until 29 April, if anybody wanted to interview him during his mission they should contact him.
Ms. Byrs answered a question about the duration of the rainy season, saying it ran from the end of April until the beginning of June. Regarding the planting of new crops in Central African Republic, she said that FAO could give the best answer, but as its sister agency WFP was working closely with them. While FAO distributed seeds for planting, WFP gave the same people food rations so they did not have to eat the seeds that were intended for planting.
Health – Anti-Microbial Resistance and MERS
Tarik Jasarevic, from the World Health Organization, announced that a virtual press conference would take place at 4 p.m. on Wednesday 30 April next week, from the WHO Library Room, to launch a report on anti-microbial resistance, the first time such a report would be published, featuring data from over one hundred countries. An embargoed, electronic version of the report would be made available to the media on Tuesday 29 April, in English only.
Mr. Jasarevic also introduced his colleague Chrsitian Lindmeyer, the new WHO Head of Communications for the Western and Pacific Regions in Manila.
A journalist asked about reports of the spread of MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus - MERS-CoV) to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Mr. Jasarevic replied that WHO was aware of four recent cases, and were generally concerned about the increase in documented cases. The cases highlighted the need to learn more about the transmission of the virus and about the route of infection. WHO had proposed a mission to both Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates to work jointly with the health authorities there in order to better understand the virus, especially how it was transmitted from the primary source or between humans. The mission would be implemented in the near future, starting with the implementation of infection control measures in healthcare facilities. Mr. Jasarevic also confirmed that there had been 254 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS.
World Malaria Day
Herve Verhoosel, Head of External Relations of the United Nations Roll Back Malaria Partnership, announced that today was World Malaria Day when together with the World Health Organization and other partners they celebrated successes in the fight against malaria. Malaria was a silent killer. In 2012, 627,000 people died from malaria infections, mostly children under five, 90 per cent of whom were in Africa. Malaria was completely preventable and completely treatable. It also cost a lot of money through loss of productivity. In Africa, for example, malaria cost US$12 billion in lost productivity every year.
However, much progress was being made, despite the funding gap of US$6 billion, he said. Between 2001 and 2012 3.3 million lives were saved globally, while malaria-related infant mortality rates decreased by 54 per cent in Africa over the same period. The Roll Back Malaria partnership joined the call of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a meeting of the European Union Africa Summit in Brussels earlier this month to increase funding for the fight against malaria.
Mr. Verhoosel announced a lunch panel discussion to mark World Malaria Day would take place today at 1 p.m. at the World Health Organization with the Permanent Representatives of Zambia, United Kingdom and Viet Nam as well as an Assistant Director-General of World Health Organization, the Chief of Staff of the Global Fund and the Chief Scientist of the FID.
Dr Thomas Teuscher, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Roll Back Malaria Partnership, said the last fifteen years had shown that interventions against malaria were effective, but interventions were mostly built around malaria aid and external financing. Today, close to the Millennium Development Goal deadlines, we were at a crossroads between consolidating fifteen years of progress and potential disaster for people, said Dr. Teuscher. If Governments did not invest in the health of their people and take national ownership of health issues over 90 countries in the world could free disaster, he said.
Dr. Teuscher said the answer was to maintain advocacy to mobilize aid in health, pressure Governments to be responsible and recognize that their citizens required responsible services. The financing gap must be closed, and whatever the resources, maximum results must be generated. Next on the agenda was the smart use of resources and zero tolerance for diversion, looking forward beyond the three million lives saved to date.
Christopher Lom for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) briefed on World Malaria Day in the context of migration. Mr. Lom said that migrants and their families were a marginalized group at particular risk of malaria. They could be a group that it was difficult to access and consequently they frequently lacked the care needed to contain the spread of Malaria, particularly in cases of south-south migration. More information was available in the press note at the back of the room.
Questions from journalists on Malaria
The Central African Republic was a highly-endemic area, Dr Teuscher said in answer to a question from a journalist. There was at least one infectious mosquito bite per day, and children were more vulnerable to it. Clearly, the post-rainy season was where transmission peaked. The logistics of supplying remote, hard-to-reach populations with essential protection, diagnosis and treatment was a challenge. For example, if the WFP was delivering food aid, it was important to ensure that essential health aid was also distributed.
A journalist asked about the 90 countries said to be on the brink of malaria disaster. Dr Teuscher replied that they were 90 countries where malaria continued to be a problem, where despite significant progress domestic investment in healthcare remained abysmally short of what was recommended. On average the figure in such countries was US$10 per person per year spent on healthcare, when the figure for reliable health services should be US$40 per person per year. Economic growth and job creation could only happen if there were healthy and productive citizens, and so Governments had to change the way they financed health. More information on domestic health spending in countries, including in Africa, could be found on the World Health Organization website he noted.
Answering a question about malaria in Europe, Dr Teuscher said there were many cases of malaria in Europe but they were usually imported, for example through airplanes, tourists and migrants. The concern was the reestablishment of local transition through the mosquitos already present in many European countries. They were the vectors, and as soon as parasites were available in the mosquito population local transmission was a risk. That often happened when systems were fragile. There was a recent malaria outbreak in Greece; where for macro-economic reasons limited finance into the public health services meant that a small rural migrant population living in the Peloponnese, originally from Romania, brought the parasite from previous work assignments to Greece. Once the outbreak was acted upon, it disappeared, he noted.
World Intellectual Property Day
Samar Shamoon for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) announced that tomorrow, 26 April 2014, was World Intellectual Property Day. Ms. Shamoon announced that this year they would be celebrating innovation and creativity in the film industry. The theme was movies with global passion, and dozens of countries around the world were organizing events and activities to mark the day.
In Geneva WIPO had partnered with the Grutli cinema to showcase a series of films with an innovation and creativity theme. Ms. Shamoon highlighted the Swiss premiere of the Nigerian Film “Half of a Yellow Sun” on Monday, 28 April, to be followed by a discussion between two executive producers of the film regarding the challenges involved in its production. Ms. Shamoon also mentioned that the Standard Committee of Copyright and Related Rights was meeting to draft a treaty to protect broadcasters’ rights where exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives would be discussed.
Yvette Morris, Chief, TV and Radio Section at the United Nations Information Service in Geneva announced that the Committee against Torture would open a new session on Monday 28 April, at the Palais Wilson. The Committee would review the country reports of Uruguay, Thailand, Sierra Leone, Holy See, Montenegro, Cyprus and Lithuania.
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would also open a new session on Monday 28 April at Palais Wilson, with country reviews of Armenia, China (including Hong Kong and Macao), Czech Republic, El Salvador, Indonesia, Lithuania, Monaco, Serbia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan scheduled.
Background press releases for both Committees were available on the website and in the press room.
Cédric Sapey for the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) announced that the nineteenth session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group would be held in Geneva from 28 April to 9 May during which 14 States were scheduled to have their human rights records examined. The group of States to be reviewed by the Universal Periodic Review Working Group during the session were (in order of scheduled review): Norway, Albania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Portugal, Bhutan, Dominica, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Brunei Darussalam, Costa Rica, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Qatar and Nicaragua.
The meeting would take place in Room XX at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Mr. Sapey would send a reminder to journalists later today, with the list of side events, information on meetings and the programme of work.
Muriel Scibilia, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reminded journalists that a press conference would take place at 2.30 p.m. today in Press Room 1 on the Global Investment Trends Monitor Global Commission on Investment. James Zhan, Director of the Division on Investment and Enterprise, would present the latest edition of the UNCTAD newsletter about the investment trends worldwide.
Ms. Scibilia also announced that the Investment, Enterprise and Development Commission would open a new session on Monday 28 April in Room XXVI of the Palais des Nations, running until Friday 2 May. A theme of the event was how to promote the spirit of enterprise to help youth start their professional life, an essential question as over 75 million young people were out of work today. During the meeting UNCTAD would announce the ten finalists of a competition which celebrated the best women company leaders. The winner would be announced at the following session, in October later this year. The programme for the session was available on the UNCTAD website.
Ms. Morris announced on behalf of the spokesperson for the World Trade Organization that its schedule of activities, as well as the agenda of the Director-General, for the upcoming week was available on its website.
Elisabeth Byrs for the World Food Programme (WFP), announced details of the upcoming seventh scientific meeting of the HIV/Hepatitis conference for Francophones to be held in Montpellier, France, from 27 to 30 April. WFP worked in close partnership with UNAIDS, she said. Michel Sidibé, Executive-Director of UNAIDS and several WFP experts would be attending, as would Ms. Byrs.
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The representatives of the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Refugee Agency also attended the briefing but did not brief.
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The webcast for this briefing is available here: webtv.un.org/media