REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
28 June 2011
Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the International Organization for Migration, the Global Fund, the United Nations Environmental Programme, and the UN Refugee Agency.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said the Conference on Disarmament was closing the second part of its 2011 session this week. The Conference was meeting in public plenary at 10 a.m. this morning under the Presidency of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The third and last part of the 2011 session of the Conference would be held from 1 August to 16 September.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, would be meeting today with the Foreign Minister of Lebanon Adnan Mansour.
There were a number of press conferences scheduled for this week. On 29 June at noon in press room 1, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang would brief journalists on her mission to Sudan. At 2 p.m. in the same room, Martin Scheinin, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, would speak to journalists about his human rights assessment of the two recently adopted landmark resolutions Nos. 1988 and 1989 of the UN Security Council on the Al-Qaida and Taliban sanctions regime. On 30 June at 2:30 p.m. in Room III, Panos Moumtzis, Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, would be briefing journalists on the humanitarian situation in Libya.
Drought in the Horn of Africa
Elizabeth Byrs of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said more than 10 million people in the Horn of Africa were severely affected in drought-stricken areas in the Horn of Africa. In some areas, 2010-2011 had been the driest period in 60 years. The food crisis was the worst since the 1950s and the situation was continuing to deteriorate and the number of people in need was continuing to increase. Populations in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda were severely affected. Child malnutrition rates in the worst affected areas were more than double the emergency threshold of 15 per cent and they were expected to rise. In Somalia, one in three children was suffering from malnutrition and there had been a 30 per cent increase in the number of affected people since the beginning of 2011. Part of the problem was the very weak funding rates for the appeals for this crisis. The drought appeal for Djibouti was 30 per cent funded. The Somalia appeal as 50 per cent funded and the Kenya appeal was 54 per cent funded. More funding was needed for this crisis that had been developing for a long time because of the poor rainy seasons. High mortality rates among children had been reported. Eleven districts in Kenya also reported malnutrition rates above the emergency threshold. Drought related displacement and refugee flows were increasing. Every month on average in 2011, some 15,000 Somalis had been fleeing their country and arriving in Kenya and Ethiopia. There were briefing notes in the back of the room as well as a map showing the worst affected areas.
Jean Philippe Chauzy of the International Organization for Migration said thousands of stranded migrants were in desperate need of immediate food, water, shelter and medical assistance in the southern Libyan desert. So far, more than 2,000 Chadian migrants had been discovered by IOM in Gatroun and Sebha. IOM staff was today distributing water, food and hygiene materials purchased from the local market to the stranded migrants in Sebha. Another distribution for migrants in Gatroun would take place on 29 June. IOM was looking into ways to evacuate them to safety. There were more details in the briefing notes.
Mr. Chauzy of IOM said despite improving security in Côte d’Ivoire following the end of the post-election crisis, the latest IOM figures on internal displacement showed that many of the displaced in the west of the country had returned to home villages, tens of thousands still remained displaced in camps. The Catholic Mission in Douekoue, which at one time was housing more than 27,500 internally displaced people sleeping in the open without adequate waster and food, was still sheltering the latest group of 18,000. There were more details in the briefing notes.
Fifth Meeting of Conference of Parties to Rotterdam Convention
Paul Whylie, Coordinator for the Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention, said the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade met at the International Geneva Conference Centre from 20 to 24 June. More than 500 participants attended the meeting. There were some very critical issues on the table, notably four chemicals had been up for listing in Annex III of the Convention as recommended by the Chemical Review Committee. Three of those chemicals were listed: alachlor, aldicarb and endosulfan. The most controversial one had been endosulfan; it had already come up before the Conference but did not make it in because of an issue on whether the chemical was being intentionally misused. The fourth chemical, chrysotile asbestos did not go through. There were more details in the closing press release.
Jon Liden of the Global Fund said twice a year, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria updated accumulated results of the programmes that the Fund supported in 150 countries. Since 2002, they had approximately disbursed around $ 13 billion. This was the mid-year account. They had three headline indicators that they followed: the number of people who received AIDS antiretroviral treatment - that had increased by 400,000 persons in the past 12 months from 2.8 million to 3.2 million people worldwide. That was just under half of the number of all people under AIDS treatment in the developing world. Then there was the accumulated number of people who had been treated for Tuberculosis and succeeded with that treatment. Since 2003, that number had gone from 7 million a year ago to 8.2 million people today. The third headline was the number of long-time impregnated bed nets that had been distributed to people to protect against malaria. Twelve months ago, the accumulated figure was 120 million. Now, it was 190 million. So in one year, 70 million bed nets had been distributed through programmes supported by the Global Fund. There were more details in the press release.
Daniel Low Beer of the Global Fund said the headline figures were very important, particularly the 190 million bed nets distributed to protect families in Africa, 3.2 million AIDS treatments and 8.2 million people treated for TB. This showed the tens of millions of people reached through their system. It also showed the global scale that they were now getting to with these results. Concerning malaria, coverage of the population in need in sub Saharan Africa was above 60 per cent. It meant that they were able to see some of the declines in mortality that were behind the Millennium Development Goals four and six. Also concerning the number on AIDS treatments, 10 years ago very few people in sub Saharan Africa were on AIDS treatment. Today, that figure of 3.2 million was enough to begin to see some decline in adult mortality among people of working age, that core group for the economy and development. The final point was nevertheless how to go forward. There were 6.6 million people on antiretroviral treatment, but this compared to the needs of 15 million by 2015, so that certainly was a big challenge ahead. Another big challenge with regard to malaria was to sustain the number of bed nets which needed to be replaced in less than five years.
Ms. Momal-Vanian, responding to questions about the situation in Sudan, reminded journalists that the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights would be briefing journalists tomorrow after her mission to Sudan. Ms. Momal-Vanian said the continued denial of freedom of movement obstructed the monitoring and assessment of needs for the 7,000 internally displaced persons who vacated the UNMIS protection perimeter in Kadugli after they were instructed by local authorities to return to the town. The parties to the conflict must ensure protection of civilians and guarantee the freedom of movement for all UN personnel. Access was something that she was sure the Deputy High Commissioner would stress again tomorrow.
Ms. Byrs of OCHA said according to the weekly situation report, on 20 June internally displaced persons who had been sheltering near the UNMIS compound outside Kadugli were instructed by local authorities to return to the town. By 21 June, some 7,000 internally displaced persons had moved back to the town. Interviews conducted with displaced people on the site and general observations indicated that a combination of incentives through assistance and intimidation was used to exert pressure on the displaced people to return to Kadugli. International humanitarian staff had not been allowed access to the civilian population in Kadugli, including the 7,000 who returned to the town.
In response to a question on whether UNHCR’s guiding principles allowed internally displaced persons to refuse to be moved, Adrian Edwards of the UN Refugee Agency said UNHCR did not believe that people should be involuntarily returned anywhere.