REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
23 October 2012
Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for the High Commissioner for Refugees, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the World Food Programme and the International Organization for Migration.
Melissa Fleming for the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said as of yesterday the number of refugees registered in Lebanon was 101,283. Turkey and Jordan already had refugee populations in excess of this figure, and region-wide the number had climbed to more than 358,000. Governments in states bordering Syria also estimated there were tens of thousands more Syrians who had not yet registered.
However, the recent unrest in Lebanon had temporarily disrupted UNHCR operations, including registration of refugees in Tripoli, Akar, Beirut and Saida in southern Lebanon. She said that UNHCR was assessing the security situation and hoped to resume all operations as soon as conditions allowed.
Many of the refugees in Lebanon were struggling to make ends meet on the open economy and complained of high prices.
In Turkey, the registered refugee population in 14 government-run camps stood at 101,834 and, in addition to the camp population, an estimated 70,000 people were residing outside the camps.
As of October 20th UNHCR had also recorded 6,815 registered refugees in North Africa, most of them in Egypt. Egyptian officials, however, said last week that there were as many as 150,000 Syrians in the country, although very few had registered.
UNHCR continued to stress the urgent need for international support to refugee programmes in these countries - nations that should not be expected to carry the entire burden themselves. Nearly four weeks after the launch of the $487.9 million revised Syria Regional Response Plan, UNHCR’s programme remained only about a third funded. It was now a race against time to ensure that all of these hundreds of thousands of refugees were protected from the winter cold, she said.
Turkey’s borders were believed to remain open for Syrians seeking asylum. The authorities report, however, that there were more than 10,000 Syrians gathered on the Syrian side of the border, opposite both Kilis and Hatay provinces. It was not clear whether all were willing to cross into Turkey. The Turkish Red Crescent was providing assistance.
In Syria itself, UNHCR yesterday reached the half-way mark in its goal of distributing non-food aid packages to 100,000 Syrian families (500,000 people) by the end of this year. And last week, UNHCR Syria began rolling out an ongoing cash assistance programme for the displaced in Hassakeh Governorate. In anticipation of a possible truce during Eid, UNHCR had pre-positioned emergency relief in Aleppo.
Answering questions she said people were still crossing borders to arrive in neighbouring countries and that flow did not seem to be decreasing. Following up on the call to Europe to show solidarity with Syrian refugees issued previously, she reiterated once again that countries should recognise the traumatic situation that these people had come from and leave their borders open.
The situation could now be described as a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions, she said, particularly for those inside Syria.
Jumbe Omari Jumbe for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said IOM had distributed emergency relief items in Mosul and Telkaif to 46 vulnerable Iraqi families who fled Syria to escape the deteriorating security situation.
The non-food relief items included mattresses, blankets, pillows, gas stoves, kerosene heaters, carpets, personal hygiene items, cleaning materials and plastic storage cabinets from IOM's emergency warehouse in Erbil.
Beneficiaries were selected on the basis of a rapid vulnerability assessment conducted by IOM Iraq field staff. In addition to being forced to flee for their lives, many of the beneficiaries also suffered from health problems and were without any kind of income.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Jens Laerke for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said OCHA Director of Operations, John Ging, was on a five day mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which began yesterday, to take stock of the humanitarian response to the crisis, notably in the east of the country.
Ging's mission came as eastern DRC was engulfed in a new wave of violence. In recent weeks, insecurity caused by a breakaway group of soldiers from the national army had displaced thousands of people, including to neighbouring countries. In total, more than 2.4 million were internally displaced in the DRC. With over 800,000 IDPs, South Kivu was home to the largest IDP population, while North Kivu had the highest number of new displacements, which was 340,000 since April.
The humanitarian community had been supporting thousands of people with water, food, health care, protection, emergency education and other relief services across the country, notably in the east. A Humanitarian Snapshot was available.
The humanitarian Action Plan for DRC asked for $791 million and was slightly less than half funded. There was a financing gap up till the end of the year of $413 million.
Mr. Laerke also spoke of the humanitarian partnership mission to the Sahel, led jointly by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and OCHA, which had now ended its visit in Burkina Faso, after spending time in Mali and Niger.
Burkina Faso was also facing a humanitarian emergency, he explained, with three million people affected by hunger this year. The situation had been exacerbated by the arrival of some 35,000 refugees fleeing insecurity in northern Mali who were now with host communities whose resources were already stretched.
Fifty-six humanitarian organisations were currently working in Burkina Faso. More than 800,000 people have received food aid, including 200,000 through the UN and its partners. Some 600,000 people had benefitted from agricultural aid. However, even when there was no crisis, one million Burkinabe were vulnerable to chronic food insecurity.
Overall in the Sahel, the combined humanitarian requirements in nine countries stood at $1.6 billion. To date, 58 per cent of that had been received. A press release was available about the mission.
Elisabeth Byrs for the World Food Programme (WFP) said the proportion of undernourished people in the total population of Madagascar had increased from 29 per cent during the period 2007 to 2009 up to 33 per cent for 2010 to 2012.
On the ground WFP was running a number of programmes including school meals and food assistance, though for these to continue more funding was needed. The main funding stream at the current time was the CERF and then the USA, France, Japan and Brazil but there was not enough on hand for the programme next year, which targeted one million people.
Looking at the figures she said that 676,000 people were considered at risk of food insecurity and 327,000 were in need of immediate assistance as the country entered the lean season (October 2012 to March 2013). In 2011/12, due to erratic rainfall, 28 municipalities demonstrated deterioration in food security.
Shortfalls could disrupt the school meals programme, supplies to those receiving treatment for tuberculosis and the amount of aid prepositioned ahead of the cyclone season.
Nepalis rescued from Haiti
Jumbe Omari Jumbe for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said two Nepalese men helped by IOM Haiti to return home had arrived in Kathmandu after an eleven-month ordeal that took them through five countries on their way to what they thought was a job in the USA.
The two men, in their mid-thirties, were recruited in their native Nepal by a human smuggling network that charged them a fee with the promise of legal migration and work in America.
The men began a long journey last November that took them to Singapore, China, Brazil, Panama and finally Haiti - supposedly their last stop before reaching the USA.
They arrived in Haiti in January and were immediately taken to a private home in the northern city of Cap Haitien, where they were kept as virtual prisoners with little food and dirty drinking water.
The family confiscated their passports, made constant threats and demanded money.
They were allowed to call their families in Nepal to ask for the money demanded by their captors. But speaking in Nepali, the men explained to their families that they were being held hostage and described the landmarks they had seen as they were being transported to the house.
The relatives in Nepal immediately contacted the military in their village, who in turn contacted the Nepal Battalion in Port-au-Prince and the Nepal Formed Police Unit (FPU) in Cap Haitien, both part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH.) A rescue mission was successfully led by the Haitian National Police (I-INP), with the support of the Nepal FPU and the coordination of UNPOL.
Answering questions he said those involved were smuggled across borders using visas obtained from the countries in question, possibly through illegal means. He added that details would be passed to the governments concerned for further action.
Jumbe Omari Jumbe for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said IOM was to today (23 October) hand over a fully equipped Migration Management National Training Centre to the Government of Botswana.
The facility, which was equipped with migration management training materials, 17 computers, a smart board, a printer, tools for passport verification procedures, UV lamps and magnifiers.
According to the US State Department's 2012 Trafficking in Persons (TiP) Report, Botswana was a source and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said the Committee of Human Rights had this morning finished reviewing the report of Bosnia and Herzegovina and began this afternoon that of Portugal.
She also announced a press conference by the Deputy Secretary-General, Mr. Jan Eliasson on Thursday (25 October) at 10:15 in Room III where he was to brief the press on major political and development-related issues as part of his visit to UNOG.
Finally, the members of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria were to be made available to the press at a stakeout on Thursday (25 October), and although a time had not yet been confirmed, 9:40 a.m. was mentioned as possible.
Catherine Sibut Pinote for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) mentioned two press conferences, the first this afternoon (23 October) at 12:00 in Press Room 1 to discuss the release of the latest Global Investment Trends Monitor, which considered levels of foreign direct investment in the developing world.
The speaker was James Zhan, UNCTAD Director of the Division on Investment and Enterprise.
On Thursday (25 October) at 14:30 in Press Room 1 came the launch of the Technology and Innovation Report, she added. The report was embargoed until 17:00 on 31 October. Speakers included Petko Draganov, UNCTAD Deputy-Secretary General and Padmashree Gehl Sampath, UNCTAD’s Chief of the Technology and Innovation Report Task Force from the Division on Technology and Logistics.
Elisabeth Byrs for the World Food Programme (WFP) reminded correspondents that Daly Belgasmi, WFP Regional Director for the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe was to give a press conference on the situation in Syria and WFP's response in neighbouring countries at 14:30 today (23 October) in Press Room 1.