REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
6 November 2012
Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Food Programme, the International Organization for Migration and the World Health Organization.
Elisabeth Byrs for the World Food Programme (WFP) said as of Monday (5 November), WFP had dispatched and was in the process of distributing enough food for over 27,000 people in all Rakhine townships affected by the recent upsurge in inter-communal violence.
Dispatches of food rations to 35,000 people affected by the recent violence were expected to be completed by midweek. Wherever possible, WFP was delivering food directly into the hands of the camp committees.
All food supplies have been dispatched predominantly by boat, as this was the most practical way of reaching most of the affected populations. At least 12 separate boatloads have been completed. Shallow waters in many docking areas close to areas where the displaced have gathered mean that in several cases, WFP had had to use several smaller boats rather than one large one.
WFP urgently requires US$11 million to cover the food needs of 100,000 displaced people in Rakhine for the next six months. Funds were needed now to ensure food can be purchased and delivered in time. Without a strong, immediate donor response, WFP would be forced to start cutting rations to the displaced by December.
Answering questions she said the WFP was working with the Myanmar authorities and a good level of cooperation had been achieved. Staff were able to distribute rations by working with local governments to ensure access.
Ms. Momal-Vanian added that the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) gave a figure of 110,000 internally displaced persons since June 2012.
Elisabeth Byrs for the World Food Programme (WFP) said WFP needed more than $20 million to fund food assistance for some 425,000 people.
She said that the impact of Hurricane Isaac and a recent drought was still being felt, as was that of the earthquake in 2010, leaving 1.5 million people in food insecurity in the country.
The WFP was providing an immediate assistance of high energy biscuits to close to 13,000 people in temporary shelters in Port-au-Prince in Artibonite. As of 5 November the WFP, in coordination with the government, had begun distribution of a 21 day food ration to 100,000 people living in affected areas.
Answering questions she said the problem of food security in Haiti was longstanding, and the string of natural disasters in the last years had hit the most vulnerable groups. There was a need for financing in order to continue ongoing operations and preposition supplies for the coming seasons, she said.
Ms. Momal-Vanian added that there was a need to continue to draw attention to the Haitian situation, which remained very difficult.
Elisabeth Byrs for the World Food Programme (WFP) said more than a million persons were affected by Hurricane Sandy and WFP was to provide food assistance to 500,000 people.
This assistance was to be concentrated around Santiago de Cuba and Holguin (the second and third most largely populated provinces respectively) which had been the hardest hit. The WFP was working with Cuban authorities to achieve this as quickly as possible.
She added that 12,700 tonnes of food stock had been lost and close to 425,000 hectares of cultivated land, which included sugar cane and plantains had been ruined. Assistance was also being offered to those that had lost their homes in the storm.
Answering questions she said WFP had been working in Cuba for some years and had over 20 staff in the country. For example, it had supported over 136,000 children under five in 2012. Following on from this the Cuban authorities had approached the WFP for assistance and was working closely with them on providing assistance. The staple foods mentioned were for both citizens and animals she said.
Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Conference of the Parties
Tarik Jasarevic for the World Health Organization (WHO) said from 12 to 17 November the Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was to hold its fifth session in Seoul, Republic of Korea.
Dr Vijay Trivedi explained that there were 176 parties to the Convention and it was expected that this session would adopt a draft protocol on illicit trade and guidelines on measures to reduce the demand for tobacco. The COP was also to consider economically viable alternatives to tobacco farming and issues related to smokeless and electronic cigarettes. Assistance to developing countries to implement the Convention was also to on the table, as was the outcome of the last reporting cycle on implementation.
Media accreditation was available through the WHO FCTC Secretariat or at the registration centre on site as of Sunday. Press conferences would be held in Seoul on the first and last day.
Answering questions Dr Trivedi said that following the adoption of the protocol on illicit trade (which required ratification by 40 parties), its entry into force should be fast as it had a lot of support. On the topic of smokeless tobacco he said that the use of chewing or flavoured varieties was growing in the Western Pacific and African regions. These products were very harmful and non-standardised, he explained. More details were available on the WHO website.
On another point he said that trends showed tobacco companies were moving focus to the developing world, where response systems were less robust. This could lead to a sharp rise in tobacco-related deaths and it was therefore important to pay attention to the situation. A recent meeting saw many African governments come together to discuss tobacco control strategies and issues which came to light included labelling, advertisement and the control of smoking in public areas. Multi-sectoral approaches also needed to be improved.
Responding to a question on plain packaging for tobacco products, he said pictorial warnings and messages would be among topics discussed in Seoul. On the point about viable alternatives to tobacco he said the implementation reports gave updates on steps toward this and the Global Progress Report which was to be released on Monday was to offer more details.
Jumbe Omari Jumbe for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said there were between a quarter and half a million South Sudanese left in Sudan. Of those, some 40,000 were currently stranded living in open areas in Khartoum as they waited for transport.
To address this problem, UNHCR and IOM, in collaboration with the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan, were to airlift 1,370 extremely vulnerable South Sudanese from the Sudanese capital Khartoum to Aweil in South Sudan's Northern Bahr El Ghazal State. The IOM-managed airlift, which was comprised of two 47-seat charter flights a day over the next two weeks, would support extremely vulnerable South Sudanese individuals (EVIs) and their families to return to South Sudan.
The group includes EVIs who had been stranded in open areas of Khartoum for up to two years and whose health status put them at high risk of developing complications if left living in the open or undertaking the arduous road journey south by other means.
It also included elderly and handicapped people, unaccompanied minors, vulnerable female-headed households and pregnant women with medical complications, whom UNHCR and the Sudanese authorities had jointly identified as requiring emergency return support. These returnees would be met on arrival to be given initial medical assistance and then transported to their onward destination.
The Government of Sudan and the National Centre for IDPs and Voluntary Return, on behalf of the Return Task Force, expressed its appreciation to all entities facilitating the return process of the EVIs to South Sudan, particularly UNHCR, IOM, the Civil Aviation Authority and other relevant authorities, he said.
The IOM was providing advice to the governments on both sides to allow citizens of both countries to choose where to live and travel as well as the opening of borders. Allowing this to happen would facilitate those that wished to return home independently and clear this backlog, he said.
Jens Laerke for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said OCHA Geneva Director Rashid Khalikov was currently on mission in the Philippines and was to visit Manila and central and northern Mindanao. The mission began yesterday and lasted until 12 November.
The Philippines ranked third among 173 counties in the World Risk Index, which measures countries’ exposure to natural hazards and their degree of vulnerability. During the trip, Mr. Khalikov will see first-hand how the Philippines was strengthening national and local capacities for emergency preparedness.
Current preparedness work in the Philippines integrated the lessons learned from the response to Tropical Storm Washi that devastated northern Mindanao in late 2011 and affected nearly 700,000 people.
During the visit Mr. Rashid was to meet with Government officials, aid organizations, members of the diplomatic community and people affected by natural disasters and conflict situations to discuss ways to build resilience amongst communities that were prone to disasters.
Isabelle Valentiny for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said a series of events were to be held in Baku next week as part of Green Week. The key topic across all events was to be the green economy in a post-Rio context and a full media advisory was to be issued tomorrow.
Among the events was a debate where participants with an interest in green economy would review and discuss future steps based on the Green Economy Scoping Study jointly prepared by UNEP and Azerbaijani national experts. There was also a Youth Forum under the theme "What Did Youth Get Out of Rio+20?” and a course on environmental diplomacy planned.
She also introduced her colleague Wondy (Wondwosen Asnake) who was to be responsible for press briefings and enquiries during her maternity leave from 20 November until early April.
Adam Rogers for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) invited correspondents to attend a donor round table on Thursday (8 November) for Comoros which would be attended by the country’s Vice-President. The event concerned the building of trade capacity and so would take place at the World Trade Organization. The meeting would build upon the growth and poverty reduction strategy the country had recently agreed and was held ahead of the presentation of a medium term plan for trade integration. In the next three years there were 18 priority reforms to be implemented which would accelerate integration and development, and these would be further discussed during the presentation.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said the Committee against Torture this morning began its consideration of the report of Senegal, whose delegation would then take questions from the experts tomorrow afternoon. Qatar's delegation was to this afternoon answer the questions posed yesterday morning. The consideration of the report of Tajikistan began tomorrow morning, on Thursday morning that of Gabon and on Friday morning, Russia. The final report of the session, Togo, was to be considered next week.
The Committee on Enforced Disappearances yesterday held a meeting with States parties, non-governmental organizations and international institutions. Its next meeting was on the occasion of the closing of the third session, at the end of day Friday (9 November).
Mr. Laerke (OCHA) announced that the sixth Syrian Humanitarian Forum was to be held on Friday (9 November) in Geneva. The Forum was intended to provide a platform to share information and mobilize support for a common humanitarian approach for delivery of humanitarian aid in Syria. The Syria Forum was chaired by OCHA and co-facilitated by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the European Commission and the League of Arab States. There would be a press briefing after the Forum, scheduled for 13:00.