REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
27 November 2012
Alessandra Vellucci, Chief of the Press and External Relations Section of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for the High Commissioner for Refugees, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Children’s Fund,
the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization, the International Organization for Migration, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the International Labour Organization.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Elizabeth Byrs for the World Food Programme (WFP) said she had received reports that Goma was under a precarious calm this morning. WFP emergency food distribution continued, and the round to reach 81,000 people across 12 sites that had begun on Friday had finished.
There were reports of displacement in Masisi though there was, as yet, no way to evaluate that. Security had been stepped up in Bunia after an anti-government demonstration spilled over to the looting of a WFP office and two lorries were broken into. She reiterated that although the programme had reinforced security for its staff on the ground, there were no plans to withdraw as its crucial operations continued.
The rapid food security assessment carried out over the past weekend recommended the provision of food including corn and soy blend, sugar and vegetable oil in WFP supplementary feeding centres. Many cases of malnutrition have been identified among IDPs during the assessment.
In terms of funding $2 million had been received from Canada and $100,000 from the Czech Repulic for the emergency operations, though it required $23 million to continue this for the next six months.
Answering questions she said the looting of the office was led by taxi drivers, and the extent of the loss of food was not yet clear. She added that WFP staff had this morning heard sounds of gun fire from the direction of Minova. On another point she explained that UN blue helmets were currently on the ground ensuring the security of the WFP compound in Goma.
Marixie Mercado for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said UNICEF staff in Goma were woken this morning by the sound of heavy fire coming from the direction of Sake. She had no information at this stage on casualties but during the weekend there were already significant inflows of internally displaced persons (IDPs) into Minova.
In Goma the situation was relatively calm. There was limited running water several hours a day, and there was electricity in some areas of Goma but not all. There were several cases of cholera, but no major outbreak. At least 13,300 displaced families received soap and jerry cans over the past three days, and an estimated 9,500 families should be reached today. At Mungunga 3 site, UNICEF partner Solidarites was starting to construct 144 additional latrines.
Schools officially re-opened on Monday in Goma, but classes did not resume in some schools still occupied by IDPs. On 25 November, UNICEF together with education officials and partners visited 33 schools in and around Goma to assess conditions and support the resumption of classes as soon as possible.
Of the 33 schools visited, 20 were hosting IDPs, and 16 reported destruction or looting. Unexploded ordnance was reported in one school — Kayembe primary school. In Sake, schools did not re-open, and there were indications that schools were occupied by armed groups.
In Goma, UNICEF and partners were advocating with the IDPs to liberate classrooms during the day so that classes can resume, and in Mugunga 1 and 3 and Don Bosco sites, UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration were working to bring in tarpaulins and construct collective hangars to provide shelter to IDPs and enable them to move out of school buildings. UNICEF also planned to work with partners to repair or replace damaged furniture, and to provide emergency learning materials.
The General Reference Hospital in Minova had reported 21 cases of rape and UNICEF was delivering 200 doses of post-exposure prophylaxis to the hospital as UNICEF coordinated the response to sexual and gender-based violence, which included medical, psychosocial, legal and socio-economic support.
UNICEF's immediate funding needs were $13.8 million.
Jens Laerke for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said humanitarian organizations were working around the clock to assist 140,000 people in 12 sites for internally displaced persons in and around Goma.
At Don Bosco Centre, one of the 12 sites, the number of IDPs had increased significantly, pushing the centre’s capacities to the limit. Humanitarian organizations were deploying extra staff to the clinic, where four births took place over the weekend.
Meanwhile, IDPs from Sake in Masisi Territory continued to arrive over the weekend in IDP sites around Goma. The Kanyaruchinya site, previously home to 60,000 IDPs, remained completely empty.
Care International had conducted sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) evaluations in the IDP camps and spontaneous settlement sites and was to provide psychosocial and medical assistance to the SGBV survivors.
Humanitarian organizations had started a rapid assessment on the Goma – Rutshuru axis following a relative improvement of the security situation and the mission was set to visit Binza, Rutshuru and Rwanguba Health Zones to assess the overall needs to ensure a safe return for thousands of displaced people. There were, however, concerns about unexploded ordinance as civilians had started returning northwards on the Goma – Rutshuru axis to their villages.
A mobile clinic had been deployed as suspected cholera cases were reported in an IDP site in the village of Nzulu that hosted around 5,000 people as part of the Rapid Response to Population Movements mechanism.
The European Union had set up three generators since 24 November to provide power to the city to ensure the functioning all three Goma water pumping stations as restoring power was crucial to prevent any risk of cholera spreading in Goma.
Humanitarian organizations were continuing to truck water to IDP sites and provide water chlorination in 58 different points along Lake Kivu.
Answering questions he said he had received no reports of cluster munitions. OCHA was in contact with the UN Mine Action Group and others with particular experience in dealing with such situations.
Adrian Edwards for the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said over the weekend, UNHCR and its partners were able to resume assistance to internally displaced people in 12 sites around Goma, including Mugunga 3, with handouts of WFP food, as well as soap and water containers.
UNHCR was looking to reach 110,000 people, many of which were saying they intend returning soon to their home areas, meaning initial aid deliveries were three-day food rations only. Further assistance was being planned for areas of return.
North of Goma, in Rutshuru territory, 2,000 people had already spontaneously returned to their homes. In the coming days, exploratory visits to ensure security conditions prevailing in the return areas of Rutshuru would be organized. Assistance with transportation was to prioritise people who were in poor health, and pregnant women. Four trucks were to be used.
Many IDPs needed shelter and clean water and sanitary conditions remained a major challenge due to the lack of toilets and water supply points. Some cases of vomiting, diarrhea and respiratory infections had already been recorded. These respiratory infections were due to the fact that these people had no shelter and were sleeping in the open under the rains.
Answering questions he said a small number of people were crossing the DRC/Uganda border. He also explained that in order to meet humanitarian needs OCHA would negotiate and work with any group that had the capacity to facilitate access to the affected population.
Answering a question Ms. Vellucci drew attention to the statement of the Secretary-General last Sunday where he reiterated his support for African leaders and his determination to ensure that the UN presence in DRC was adjusted to respond to the evolving challenges.
Jens Laerke for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the OCHA-managed Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) had released $5.3 million in additional funding for life-saving assistance to persons displaced by the recent violence in Rakhine State in Myanmar. The funds were to support five UN agencies and their humanitarian partners to provide relief in the sectors of health, nutrition, shelter, water and sanitation, and food.
This was the second allocation from the CERF to help operations in Rakhine state following the inter-communal violence that displaced some 75,000 people in June and another 36,000 people in October. CERF had now allocated more than $10 million to the humanitarian situation in Rakhine this year.
Elizabeth Byrs for the World Food Programme (WFP) said that thanks to support from Australia, the European Union, France and the UN, the WFP had received enough funding to continue their food distribution in Myanmar until the end of the year. After this the WFP would be forced to borrow from other important operations in Myanmar in order to prioritise emergency distribution in the Rakhine if further funds were not received.
Cécile Pouilly for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said the OHCHR was urging Colombia’s President and President of Congress to reconsider their support to a constitutional reform that sought to modify the scope of the Colombian military justice system.
If adopted, this reform would seriously undermine previous efforts undertaken by the Colombian Government to ensure that human rights violations, allegedly committed by members of the Colombian military and police forces, were duly investigated and perpetrators held to account.
While noting that the proposed reform excluded crimes against humanity and most gross human rights violations from the military criminal jurisdiction, it was of serious concern that the proposed text established that many other human rights violations committed by the military were to be tried in military courts, including war crimes and arbitrary detention. According to the reform, the determination of the crimes would be left to a military body, with the consequent risk of impunity.
It was also worth stressing that, in the proposed bill, the preliminary investigation phase was to be led by military or police criminal justice institutions, to the detriment of an independent evaluation carried out by the competent judicial authorities. This phase was essential for the clarification of facts and responsibilities.
Noting that this bill came at a time when the government and the FARC guerrillas were in the middle of peace negotiations, the OHCHR wished to stress that transitional justice mechanisms were available for Colombia to address the serious human rights and humanitarian law violations that occurred and continued occurring during the internal armed conflict.
Jean Philippe Chauzy for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that IOM was appealing for $2.8 million to assist the voluntary return and reintegration of 37,000 former refugees from Burundi currently living in Tanzania.
The refugees have been living in two refugee camps in western Tanzania - Mtabila and Nyaragusu — since fleeing two phases of communal violence in Burundi in 1972 and 1993.
Tanzania had now decided to close Mtabila camp by year end, following an assessment by UNHCR that showed only 2,700 of the camps' 39,700 residents were in need of international protection. The assessment concluded that the remaining 37,000 could return safely to Burundi.
Returnees currently received reintegration assistance packages from UNHCR. These included a cash grant and six months of food rations, as well as health, education and shelter support. The cash asked for would go towards paying for transportation back to Burundi, assessing socio-economic reintegration needs and support to Tanzanian immigration authorities.
Jean Philippe Chauzy for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said IOM Morocco, in collaboration with the Moroccan Ministry of Justice and UNHCR, was to this week host two workshops on human trafficking in Fes and Marrakesh.
Participants were to include some 50 magistrates and public prosecutors from across Morocco, who would discuss the distinctions between human smuggling and human trafficking and the challenges facing law enforcement agencies tasked with combating the issue.
Access to copyright works for the visually impaired
Samar Shamoon for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said the WIPO top copyright negotiating committee had moved forward on talks to improve access to copyrighted works for visually impaired persons. Following these discussions the committee had agreed to recommend to the WIPO General Assembly (to be held 17 and 18 December) to evaluate the text of the document they were currently working on and look to convening a diplomatic conference to adopt the treaty next year. There were over 300 million people worldwide that would benefit from this, she said. If there was interest in the topic then a briefing could be arranged next week.
Jean Philippe Chauzy for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said
the 101st session of the IOM Council began today in Room XVII of the Palais des Nations.
The 101st Council was to see applications for membership from two more States — the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The Organization currently had 146 Member States and in addition to this request for admission the UN World Food Programme, World Vision International and the African and Black Diaspora Global Network on HIV and AIDS (ABDGN) were to also apply for Observer status.
Important issues related to migration would be discussed over the week, including the IOM's Migration Crisis Operational Framework and health issues. Video statements by Somali President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Migration and Development, Peter Sutherland, would also be featured.
Answering questions he said it was expected that Myanmar would be accepted as a Member State and the country was of interest due to its position in the region and established informal migration routes.
Answering a question Glenn Thomas for the World Health Organization (WHO) said the WHO report into the health impacts of the Fukishima nuclear incident was not yet finalised and it was hoped it could be released sometime in December. The delay laid with the fact that consultation, feedback and coordination around the report was taking longer than expected.
Ms. Vellucci announced that the United Nations Office at Geneva had organized a special meeting on Thursday, 29 November, on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The meeting was to be held in Room XIX from 16:00 until 17:30. A press release had been distributed this morning and summary of the meeting was to be published on Thursday evening (29 November).
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights this week held private sessions dedicated in particular to the adoption of its concluding observations on the reports of five countries: Tanzania, Ecuador, Mauritania, Bulgaria and Iceland. It was also to take comments on the situation in two countries that had not submitted reports: Equatorial Guinea and Congo.
The Board of Directors of the Commission of the United Nations Compensation Fund was to meet tomorrow, 28 November, until Friday. A press release was distributed yesterday.
Announcing a number of press conferences she said the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) planned a briefing on Wednesday (28 November) at 12:30 in Room III. This was for the release of the provisional WMO annual statement on the state of the global climate in 2012, which included details of average temperatures and main weather and climate extremes during the first ten months of 2012. Speakers were Michel Jarraud, WMO Secretary-General and Omar Baddour, WMO Scientific Expert.
She continued by saying the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) was also to hold a press conference on Thursday, 29 November, at 10:00 in Room III. This was to mark the launch of the Landmine Monitor 2012. Speakers were Ms. Theresa Hitchens, UNIDIR Director and Mr. Mark Hiznay, Landmine Monitor 2012 final editor/Human Rights Watch.
Catherine Sibut for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) then reminded correspondents of a press conference today, 27 November, at noon in Press Room 1 for the presentation of the Information Economy Report 2012 - The Software Industry and Developing Countries. The report itself was embargoed until tomorrow, 28 November, at 18:00 Geneva time. Speakers were Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD and Anne Miroux, Director, Division on Technology and Logistics, UNCTAD.
Hans Von Rohland for the International Labour Organization (ILO) announced a campaign to be launched on Friday, 30 November, to end forced labour entitled “End Slavery Now,” aimed at highlighting the plight of 21 million women that currently worked in forced labour conditions. A number of international artists were involved in the project and were to join forces with the ILO to put forth a call to action. More information was available at ilo.org/artworks.
Samar Shamoon for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) gave details of an Indian Film Festival at WIPO next week to mark one hundred years of Indian film-making. The opening was on Monday, 3 December, at 17:00. She added that one of the films shown was India’s representation at the Academy Awards next year; its director would be attending the projection and could talk about how the protection of copyright had helped his work.