REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
8 October 2013
Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by the Spokespersons for the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Programme, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, International Organization for Migration, United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and Universal Postal Union.
Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), informed that the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) had provided USD 3 million to assist the people of Zamboanga to recover from the recent armed conflict. CERF funding had been allocated to UN agencies and IOM to enable them to quickly respond on the ground to provide life-saving assistance.
The conflict had displaced more than 125,000 people. About half of the displaced were in evacuation centres in Zamboanga. Some 10,000 families had had their homes completely destroyed and seasonal flooding over the past days in Zamboanga had knocked down temporary shelters aggravating the conditions of the displaced.
The CERF funding was channelled through UN agencies and IOM to respond to the immediate needs of camp coordination and management; water, hygiene and sanitation; protection including child protection and response to gender-based violence; health including reproductive health and food and non-food items such as cooking utensils.
Conditions in evacuation centres were overcrowded as conflict-affected people who had returned home - as well as newly displaced flood victims - were now returning to displacement sites.
Humanitarian agencies in the Philippines were requesting USD 24 million for the overall humanitarian operation which was expected to take six months. The CERF funding allowed to immediately scale up the response in support of Government departments and local authorities. There was a need for additional donor support to address the USD 21 million gap.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Elysabeth Byrs, for the World Food Programme (WFP), briefed about the humanitarian situation and WFP response in the South Irumu Ituri Territory of the Province Orientale of DRC. First assessments had showed that around 80,000 people were in need of assistance. Nonetheless, that caseload could go up to 120,000 to 150,000 people as fighting was still ongoing and assessments in some areas had been impossible due to security reasons.
Some areas were currently relatively stable and accessible, with identified concentrations of displaced households. In areas where fighting was ongoing, access was limited and displaced households were moving from location to location on a daily basis. Several INGO’s had been able to work out safe passage arrangements with the two sides, allowing them to access some of those hot spots.
WFP had started its assistance on 13 September, and had thus far assisted around 62, 000 IDP’s and host families. Beneficiary registrations were on-going in Komanda and Soke and initial working figures communicated indicated an additional 45,000 persons that WFP intended to assist between 10 and 13t October.
Ms. Byrs stressed that WFP had no resources to respond to this crisis and was currently diverting food stocks from other planned activities. Given the displacement trends, WFP needed USD 4.2 million to cover for that new emergency, which would suffice for at least 3 months’ needs for the 80,000 persons at full ration. That caseload was conservative as it was estimated that the needs might reach the 120,000 ceiling, in which case USD 6.2 million would be required to cover food assistance.
Jumbe Omari Jumbe, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), informed that, so far, some 30,000 Burundians, 10,000 Rwandis and 5,000 Ugandans had been ordered out of Tanzania for being irregular migrants. Some among them had been living in Tanzania for a long time, and some had even been born in Tanzania. For the lack of places to go to, thousands of them were now stranded in border areas.
Related to that was the issue of former refugees camps in Tanzania. At the moment, only one refugee camp remained operational in Tanzania, and that was mainly for refugees from DRC. As for the Burundians, the Tanzanian Government had given them an option to take Tanzanian citizenship. IOM and UNHCR started a process to decide which among these people still needed international protection. About 37,000 of them had decided to go home.
Nine months after they had returned to Burundi from the Mtabila Refugee Camp in western Tanzania, former Burundian refugees were still facing socio-economic challenges that hindered their effective reintegration into communities of return, according to IOM household socio-economic survey which had been conducted between 17 June and 24 August 2013. The new data revealed acute needs in livelihood, access to health, water and sanitation and access to food, among Burundian returnees who had left the Mtabila Refugee Camp between 31 October and 11 December 2012.
Although all the former refugees were back to their respective communities of origin, their houses and livelihoods had been destroyed during the civil war and after more than 15 years in Tanzania, they had returned to find destroyed homes.
With funding from the European Commission-Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), IOM was working with the returnees to construct 2,000 shelters for a corresponding number of most vulnerable returnee households. IOM was also supporting returnees from 500 families to establish livelihood opportunities. The majority of the returnees had been re-absorbed in their areas of origin but have had to cope with destruction that had been brought about by the civil strife in Burundi in the 1990s. Their houses and farms had since been destroyed. The five provinces with the biggest number of returnees were Makamba, Rutana, Ruyigi, Gitega and Karusi.
Asked about the differentiation between regular and irregular migrants and why that was taking place only now, Mr. Jumbe said that some of them had entered Tanzania decades ago. Out of 30,000 returnees to Rwanda, as many as 8,000 had been born in Tanzania.
A possible reason why that issue had resurfaced now was that there had been a dispute between the Presidents of Tanzania and Rwanda. Following the dispute, the President of Tanzania had ordered all irregulars to leave the country, including Rwandans.
The Government of Rwanda was quite organized and was providing adequate support for the returnees, while the Burundian Government had appealed for international support. IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF were engaged on that issue, working to accommodate the returnees.
Mr. Jumbe recollected that after the break-up of Sudan into two countries, the authorities of the Republic of Sudan had asked all South Sudanese to return home. Consequently, some 30,000 of them had been stranded in the area called Renk for not being able to afford going back to their final destinations. That area in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State had become a bottleneck for returns from Sudan, as it had been the only accessible crossing point between the two countries. IOM had been working with those people since 2011.
IOM had arranged for transport of another group of returnees to South Sudan. An IOM barge convoy carrying 947 returnees who had been stranded in Renk, South Sudan since 2011 had departed on 4 October. The barge would reach the capital, Juba, in approximately 15 days, where the passengers would be provided with onward transportation overland to their final destinations.
With the departure of that latest barge convoy, the total number of returnees in the Renk transit sites was estimated to be 11,000, of whom about 6,600 were awaiting longer term solutions. The barge movements were part of IOM’s larger Onward Transport Assistance (OTA) programme, which allowed returnees to reach their final destinations safely by facilitating movements via road, river and air. Prior to departure, IOM medical staff screened all barge passengers for fitness to travel, administer vaccinations and escort the barges throughout the duration of the journey. Essential services were also provided throughout the journey and on arrival, in partnership with other humanitarian agencies. Humanitarian partners also provide returnees with essential food and other assistance both on departure and when they arrived in Juba and their final destinations. The Government of South Sudan did not want those returnees to remain in the capital, partly because of the numerous issues of land ownership. After several days of recuperation in Juba, IOM was providing transportation to their final destinations.
Since the beginning of the year, IOM had provided nearly 6,000 returnees with transportation assistance to reach their final destinations in South Sudan.
International Day for Disaster Reduction
Denis McClean, for the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR),
informed that 13 October was the International Day for Disaster Reduction. In 2013, the focus was on how people with disabilities were coping with disasters. There was ample evidence that people living with disabilities were suffering and dying disproportionately in disasters, often because they were not receiving notifications in time or were not evacuated early. Some 126 countries around the world took part in the survey on this issue conducted by UNISDR, providing almost 5,500 responses. Particularly large responses came from Bangladesh, USA, Japan and Vietnam. Results of the survey, in more depth, would be presented by on 10 October at 10:00 a.m. by the Director of UNISDR. More details would be sent out shortly.
World Food Day
Silvano Sofia, for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that the World Food Day on 16 October, would feature the theme “Healthy People Depend on Healthy Food Systems”. The 2013 report emphasized nutrition. The idea was to provide help to the 842 million people suffering from hunger, according to the latest FAO estimations, but also to provide them with quality food.
In the framework of the World Food Day, an event would be organised at the University of Geneva on the issue of projected 9 billion inhabitants in 2050, and how to feed them in a balanced and sustainable way. Panellists would include the Mayor of Geneva, representatives of FAO, WFP and Nestlé. The discussion would be followed by the screening of a documentary called “As long as it rains in America”, dealing with food insecurity in Ethiopia.
Two important figures revealed by the report were that one out of every four children in the world under the age of 5 is stunted, and two billion people were in state of vitamins and minerals deficiency. Furthermore, 1,4 billion people were overweight and among them about one third were obese and at a heightened risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other health issues.
World Post Day
Rheal LeBlanc, for the Universal Postal Union (UPU), informed that 9 October would be the World Post Day. On that occasion, UPU Director General Bishar A. Hussein urged Governments to support postal reform efforts in their countries to ensure the provision of efficient postal services. In his annual message, Mr. Hussein said that postal services continued to play a vital role in the exchange of information and goods and that Posts worldwide were redefining themselves to meet customers’ evolving needs.
Posts remained important facilitators of national and international trade in the constantly evolving world. The postal network, with more than 600,000 post offices, remained the largest physical network on the planet and a fundamental infrastructure that enabled large segments of the economy to function. In a special message, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also urged Governments to take advantage of the postal network’s ‘tremendous potential’ for reaching citizens. The postal services were adapting and redefining themselves for the 21st century communication landscape.
Although the letter-post stream continued to generate, on average, almost half of a Post’s overall revenues, the steady decline in business mail, which started several years ago, was forcing national Posts to rethink their business to meet new consumer habits.
In 2012, Posts globally had delivered an estimated 350 billion letters and more than 6 billion parcels. They had also processed millions of financial transactions as more and more Posts expanded their range of postal financial services.
On 24 and 25 October, at the International Conference Center in Geneva, UPU, jointly with the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Organization of Francophonie, would hold Global Forum on Financial Inclusion for Development, as a platform for dialogue on postal financial inclusion between Government, postal operators, central banks, private sector players and international organizations.
Ms. Alessandra Vellucci, Chief of UNIS Press and External Relations Section, informed that the Committee for Elimination of Discrimination against Women would examine the report of Cambodia on 8 October, report of Tajikistan would be discussed on 9 October, and that of The Seychelles on 10 October. The session of CEDAW would finish its work the following week.
The Human Rights Committee would commence its session on 14 October and would analyze the reports of Bolivia, Djibouti, and the United States during the first week of work. In the second week, the Committee would discuss reports of Mauritania, Mozambique and Uruguay. The session would finish on 1 November. Media advisory would be sent out on 10 October.
The Committee on the Right of the Child would hold a press conference on final observations on Sao Tome and Principe, Kuwait, Moldova, Tuvalu, Lithuania, Paraguay, China, Luxembourg and Monaco, which were analysed in the latest session. President Kirsten Sandberg, Vice-President Benyam Mezmur, and expert Jorge Cardona would address the press. The briefing would take place in Press Room I on 9 October at 12:00 noon.
Inter-Parliamentary Union would hold a press conference on outcome resolutions on human rights of parliamentarians at the 129th Assembly, and on two issues of human rights violations – Iceland/Wikileaks, and “Erythrea G11”. The speakers would include representatives of IPU Committee on Human Rights; Brigitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic MP, whose case was examined by the IPU Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians; Tsedal Yohannes, family member of one of Petros Solomon, who was one of “G11”; and Rogier Huizenga, who is in charge of the Human Rights Programme at IPU. The briefing and press conference would take place in Press Room I on 9 October at 9:30 a.m.
Ali Larijani, Speaker of Iranian Parliament, would address the press in Room XV of CICG, on 9 October at 11:15 hrs. For more information, press should directly contact Jemini Pandya of IPU.
UNICEF would hold a press conference on the situation of Syrian refugee children in Jordan in Press Room I on 10 October at 2:30 p.m. Michele Servadei, who is Deputy Representative of UNICEF Jordan, would address the press.
Ms. Vellucci announced that, because of the renovation work on the windows, the Radio Studios would be operational in the E building from 2:00 p.m. on 9 October, which was half a day earlier than announced. The temporary relocation was expected to continue until 21 October. The telephone numbers would remain the same.
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The representatives of the International Labour Organization, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, United Nations Children Fund, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and World Health Organization also attended the briefing, but did not speak.
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There is no webcast for this briefing due to technical problems.