REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
10 April 2012
Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was also attended by Spokespersons for the World Health Organization, the International Organization for Migration, the World Food Programme, the International Labour Organization and the UN Refugee Agency.
Corinne Momal-Vanian said that the heads of the United Nations Children Fund, the World Health Organization and the UN Refugee Agency would hold a joint press conference today, 10 April at 12.00 noon in Room III on the Sahel crisis.
Two Committees would meet next week in Palais Wilson; the Committee on Migrant Workers would hold its sixteenth session for two weeks from 16 to 27 April during which it would examine reports on Paraguay and Tajikistan. The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would review the report of Peru in the course of its one-week session from 16 to 20 April 2012.
The Permanent Mission of the Republic of Rwanda and the United Nations Office at Geneva would mark the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. The ceremony would be held on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 from 4 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. in Room XIX at the Palais des Nations. The message of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Mi-moon would be broadcast, followed by statements from Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Ms. Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and H.E. Ms. Soline Nyirahabimana, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Rwanda and others, including the testimony of a survivor.
Ms. Momal-Vanian also informed the journalists of the publication last week of the 2011 Revision of the World Urbanization Prospects, which stated that Africa’s urban population would increase from 414 million to over 1.2 billion by 2050 while that of Asia would soar from 1.9 billion to 3.3 billion. Both regions together would account for 86 per cent of the total increase in the world’s urban population. The largest increases were expected in India, China, Nigeria, the United States of America and Indonesia. This unprecedented increase in urban population would provide new opportunities to improve education and public services as more concentrated populations become easier to reach. This would however pose new challenges of providing urban jobs, housing, energy and infrastructure to mitigate urban poverty, expansion of slums and a deterioration of the urban environment. Highlights of the report were available on request.
In response to a question about a possible press conference by the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon next Thursday, Corinne Momal-Vanian said that the Secretary-General’s visit to Geneva had not yet been officially announced by New York, however, the press conference would take place in Geneva on Thursday, 12 April at 3.30 p.m. in Room III. Final confirmation in writing would be sent during the day after New York officially announced the visit.
Ms. Momal-Vanian announced the launch of the new World Health Organization and UN Water report on Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water in a press conference on Thursday, April 12 2012, at 11 a.m. in Room III. Speaking at the press conference would be Michel Jarraud, Chairman of UN Water and Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, Maria Neira, Director, Public Health and Environment, World Health Organization, Madoka Saji, Human Rights Officer, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Lucia Henry, Policy and Partnership, Pan-African Intergovernmental Agency – Water and Sanitation for Africa.
Syrian refugees/Turkey refugee camps
Answering questions related to the activities of Kofi Annan, Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis, Ms. Momal-Vanian said that the Special Envoy would be leaving today to visit a refugee camp in Turkey and would then travel to Tehran. It was still not known whether any statements and declarations would be made today.
Responding to a question concerning attacks on refugee camps in Turkey, Adrian Edwards of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said that the UNHCR had received reports of the attack, but still did not have full information at the moment. The report claimed that the incident had happened in the vicinity of the border and not the camp itself, but the nature and role of persons involved remained unclear. Until now, the nine camps on the border had been run by the Turkish authorities and the UNHCR had been asked and had responded with sending a small team to provide technical assistance. The UNHCR would be present in four provinces and today a plane with 1,600 tents and 1,400 blankets had left Amman for Turkey; this was the second air lift in less than a month. UNHCR was working in cooperation with the Turkish Red Crescent and Turkish authorities to ensure this was distributed locally.
The UNHCR was monitoring the number of refugees from Syria and as of now 24,564 Syrians were registered in Turkey, indicating a slight increase over the weekend Mr. Edwards said. As far as other countries of the regions were concerned, there were 10,112 registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon; 7,021 in Jordan and 792 in Iraq. In Jordan, the UN Refugee Agency saw an increased number of people coming forward to register and this would suggest that there were more refugees who were still not registered. On why UNHCR was involved in refugee camps in Jordan and not in Turkey, Mr. Edwards said that the UNHCR must be requested by Governments to get involved.
Joint World Health Organization and Alzheimer Disease International report on dementia
Tarik Jasarevic of the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the launching of a joint report on dementia tomorrow, April 11 2012 by the World Health Organization and Alzheimer Disease International. Dementia had become a growing public health issue worldwide and was expected to rise, particularly in developing countries. The report provided the most comprehensive overview of the impact of dementia worldwide, including data from low and middle income countries and offered a collection of data, best practices and practical case studies from around the world. So far, WHO had prepared several reports about mental disorders, but this was the first time that dementia was researched as a single issue. Health and other experts, patients and their families had participated in the realization of this report which could be useful for policy-makers to create domestic policies on dementia and would contribute to raising global awareness and decrease isolation and stigma surrounding the disease. A press conference would take place tomorrow, April 11 2012 at Press Room 1 at 10 a.m. in which Dr Shekhar Saxena, Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the WHO and Mark Wortmann, Executive Director of Alzheimer Disease International would speak. A photo exhibit on dementia could be viewed tonight, April 10 2012 at 6 p.m. at Salle des Pas Perdus at Palais des Nations. The full report was available on request.
Migration in Asia
A multi-agency report entitled the 2012 Situation Report on International Migration in South and South-West Asia had been launched last week in Dhaka, Bangladesh, said Jumbe Omari Jumbe of the International Organization for Migration. The report analysed eight important issues, such as gender of the migrants, health, labour and migration, protection of the rights of migrant workers, trafficking in humans, and new emerging issues such as climate change and student mobility. It stressed the importance of coherent migration policies and increasing collaboration among countries of origin, transit and destination in South and South-West Asia.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned that many lives risked being lost to hunger and malnutrition in the drought-hit Sahel region of West Africa unless new donations were received immediately for a massive food assistance operation, said Elisabeth Byrs. WFP had been providing food assistance to 2.2 million drought-affected people across the mostly landlocked region where it took up to four months to transport food to those who needed it most. The plans to scale up the operations to reach 8.8 million people during the peak of the lean season could be derailed unless sufficient funding could be secured to help plug a shortfall of more than US$ 400 million. Ms. Byrs added that the conflict in Mali had led to the displacement of more than 200,000 people within Mali and into neighbouring countries, putting an added strain on already vulnerable and food insecure communities.
Jean-Luc Martinage and Sarah Bel of the International Labour Organization (ILO) presented the new second volume of the Microinsurance Compendium, Protecting the poor, published by the International Labour Organization and the Munich Re Foundation. Microinsurance aimed to protect poor people against risks such as accidents, illness, death in the family, natural disasters and property losses, in exchange for insurance premium payments tailored to their preferences and capacity to pay. This report said that the number of people covered by microinsurance had risen from 78 million in 2007 to 135 million in 2009, and reached almost 500 million today. Asia and its two microinsurance powerhouses, India and China, were spearheading the trend, covering roughly 80 per cent of the market, mainly because of large and dense populations, interest from public and private insurers, proper distribution channels and active Government support.