2 August 2013
Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for the United Nations Children’s Fund, the International Labour Organization, and the World Health Organization.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Patrick McCormick for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said recent violence near the town of Kamango in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, had forced more than 66,000 Congolese, over half of whom children, to seek refuge in neighboring Uganda. Many of the refugee children recounted chaotic scenes of armed attacks in the middle of the night, causing widespread panic and individual family members to flee in different directions to avoid being killed. Some children were separated from their parents and siblings amidst the confusion, making their own way to the Ugandan border. The humanitarian situation facing many children in eastern DRC remained dire, he said, and the press release at the back of the room gave details of the efforts UNICEF was making in Uganda and on family reunification.
Answering a question about the recent election in Zimbabwe, Ms. Momal-Vanian repeated the comments of the Secretary-General’s spokesperson saying that the United Nations was not observing or monitoring these elections. He said that the United Nations was aware of the reports that were coming out after the voting had taken place and colleagues in the Department for Political Affairs were closely monitoring developments. [The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights later said that it did not have any comment on this either].
In response to another question, Ms Momal-Vanian confirmed that a team of ten experts were to visit Syria to investigate claims of the use of chemical weapons. In addition to the reported incident at Khan al-Asal, the mission would also investigate two other incidents but their locations were being kept confidential as a safety and security precaution. For the World Health Organization (WHO), Ms. Fadela Chaib added that information had been provided on-line some months ago about the potential effect of the use of chemical weapons, which could be shared again. [Ms. Chaib later provided the following link : http://www.who.int/environmental_health_emergencies/deliberate_events/chemical_release/en/ ]
Jean Luc Martinage for the International Labour Organization (ILO) said next Friday, 9 August was International Day of Indigenous Peoples. It was a day that the International Labour Organization followed particularly as it had promoted, Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention of 1989, which came into force in 1991. This convention had been ratified by 22 countries. During the week the ILO website was to illustrate the theme of indigenous peoples and an article on the consultation process currently underway in Peru with some communities of indigenous peoples, a consultation facilitated by ILO. A statement from ILO CEO Guy Ryder was to be sent on Thursday or Friday, as it became available.
He added that on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week, an interview was to be provided with an expert on issues related to maternity at work, Laura Addati with a specific angle to breastfeeding in the workplace, which was the area that concerned the ILO and was to highlight how breastfeeding in the workplace can be useful not only for the health of mother and child but also for the companies themselves. She was available for interview if required.
New guidelines for treating the mental health consequences of trauma and loss
Fadéla Chaib of the World Health Organization (WHO) said the organization was releasing new clinical protocols and guidelines to health care workers for treating the mental health consequences of trauma and loss.
Dr. Mark van Ommeren, Scientist with WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse explained that WHO was extending this programme by including care for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress and bereavement within its global programme. Using the new protocol, which was co-published with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), primary health care workers can offer basic psychosocial support to refugees as well as people exposed to trauma or loss in other situations. Types of support offered can include psychological first aid, stress management and helping affected people to identify and strengthen positive coping methods and social supports.
The new guidelines would be made public on Tuesday 6 August.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said the next public meeting of the Conference on Disarmament was to be held on Tuesday morning (6 August).
There were no press conferences to announce at this stage.
Attending but not briefing were the United Nations Refugee Agency and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.