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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
9 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 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the International Organization for Migration, the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization.

Youth Day

Ms. Momal Vanian said International Youth Day was to be celebrated on Monday 12 August and a message from the Secretary-General on the occasion of the Day was available at the back of the room. This year's International Youth Day was being held under the theme of Youth Migration. In his message, the Secretary-General noted that of the annual total of some 214 million international migrants, young people constituted more than 10 per cent, yet too little was known about their struggles and experiences.

Jean-Luc Martinage for the International Labour Organization added that this was a day to which the ILO attached particular importance in terms of youth employment and Director-General Guy Ryder would be issuing a statement on this occasion which would probably be available later in the day.

In addition, the ILO would co-organize with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the UN a roundtable to be held on Monday at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on the theme of youth migration. A “Questions and Answers” document on the reasons why young people emigrate, including economic reasons, was also to be distributed.

Jumbe Omari Jumbe for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said IOM had issued a press release saying young people made up an eighth of global migrants. There were many IOM initiatives supporting young people through education, covering the risks of irregular migration and human trafficking to help them make wise choices. A 90-minute Google Hangout was planned for Monday at 3 p.m.

International Day of the World's Indigenous People

Ms. Momal-Vanian said today (9 August) was the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. A message from the Secretary-General on the occasion was also available at the back of the room. In this he said indigenous persons made up more than five per cent of the world’s population, some 370 million people and that it was important that we strive to strengthen partnerships that will help preserve cultural vigour while facilitating poverty reduction, social inclusion and sustainable development. The High Commissioner for Human Rights had also issued a statement for the Day on 7 August.

Viet Nam

Cecile Pouilly for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said OHCHR was dismayed by the resumption of the death penalty by Viet Nam, with the execution of a 27-year-old man by lethal injection in Hanoi on 6 August. Some 18 months after the last execution was reported to have taken place, this resumption represented a major setback in Viet Nam’s human rights record. It was also deeply concerning for the 116 death row prisoners who had exhausted their appeals and were now facing imminent execution.

Last month, the High Commissioner wrote to the Prime Minister of Viet Nam, noting that Viet Nam still retained the death penalty for several offences that did not meet the threshold of most serious crimes and advocating for the abolition of the death penalty. The Vietnamese Government was called upon not to carry out further executions and to join the growing number of Member States that had established a moratorium on death penalty or abolished this practice altogether, including 19 States in the Asia-Pacific region.

The OHCHR also called upon the Government to declassify the data on the use of the death penalty as a state secret, recalling the importance of transparent and effective public debate on the subject ensuring that the public had access to balanced and accurate information.

Pakistan

Tarik Jasarevic for the World Health Organization (WHO) said as flood waters in previously affected areas were receding, stagnant water was posing a danger of water-borne diseases, dengue fever and malaria. WHO’s Rapid Response Teams had started surveillance visits in flood affected areas and arranged health and hygiene sessions for control of outbreak of water-borne and vector-borne diseases. Six fixed medical camps were working round the clock in rain affected areas of Karachi, where 1,063 patients were seen on 6 August. Answering questions, he said six alerts of acute watery diarrhoea had already been reported and responded to.

In answer to other questions, Jens Laerke for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 84 persons had died, 44 were injured and 81,674 persons had been displaced so far as a result of the floods.

Syria

Jumbe Omari Jumbe for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said IOM and humanitarian partners were responding to a fresh influx of some 5,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who arrived en masse in the western Syrian town of Lattakia on 5 August.

The IDPs, who included unaccompanied minors, single women and elderly people, were displaced between 3 and 4 August from 23 towns in Alhaffah and Salam districts to the east of the Lattakia town. They arrived in the town destitute and with no possessions. The Lattakia municipality opened an empty school to accommodate 250 IDPs, but more shelter was needed in the town, where there was severe shortage of accommodation. The remaining IDPs were currently being sheltered by the host community.

IOM had so far distributed essential non-food relief items (NFIs) to 4,000 IDPs in Lattakia town, to the host community and at the public shelter, and distributed 1,000 hygiene kits. IOM had also dispatched a further 2,000 NFI kits from Damascus. On 7 August, IOM completed a rapid assessment of water and sanitation facilities at the school and subsequently delivered two pre-fab toilet sets, each containing six units. It also installed shower facilities, including a water heater and tanks to meet the most urgent need for improved sanitation.

The assessment indicated that the IDPs from Alhaffah were mostly in need of mattresses, clothes, hygiene kits, food, first aid, and psychosocial support.

Jean Laerke for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said maps of international organizations and NGO involvement on the ground were available at the back of the room. As of 5 August there were almost 5,000 staff on the ground, with the majority being from UNRWA. The UN had 15 organizations and departments present in 12 locations across the country, and a combined 97 international staff.

MERS

Answering a question about the emergence of camels as a reservoir for the MERS-Corona Virus, Tarik Jasarevic for the World Health Organization said WHO welcomed the new study which suggested that MERS-CoV or a virus very similar to the MERS-CoV had infected some populations of camels.

It was important to note, however, that the virus itself was not found in camels, only antibodies which indicated a previous infection with this or a similar virus. The next critical step for animal investigations was to find the virus itself in an animal or populations of animals. This had not yet been done.

It was possible that more than one animal species was infected with MERS-CoV or MERS-like coronaviruses. It was also important to note that these results did not provide any insights by themselves into how humans became infected. Most reported human cases had acquired infection through contact with other infected humans. However, even in the sporadic and first cases occurring in clusters, most were not reported to have had direct contact with camels.

The paper did provide a clue and a direction for further investigation, but the most critical question remained to be answered, that is, the type of human exposures that resulted in infection.

Malaria

Answering a question Tarik Jasarevic for the World Health Organization said news about a potential malaria vaccine was welcome, though there were a number of others also under development and it was too early to estimate the impact it might have on public health.

Haiti

Jumbe Omari Jumbe for the International Organization for Migration said IOM Haiti this week received GBP 4.8 million in new funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to allow the safe and dignified return and relocation of 5,164 internally displaced households from 20 camps in the Port-au-Prince area.

The relocations underway were a mixture of providing rental subsidies to families, as well as building new properties. The 20 selected camps were on the list of priority camps, either due to environmental risks such as flooding and/or mudslides, or under threat of imminent eviction. The targeted camps had also experienced gender-based violence. The latest IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) of July 2013 estimated that 278,945 individuals (or some 70,910 households) still remain in 352 sites.

Maritime Labour Convention

Jean-Luc Martinage for the International Labour Organization (ILO) said 20 August was the anniversary of the entry into force of the Maritime Labour Convention passed in 2006. This agreement aimed to ensure decent work for 1.2 million seafarers worldwide. This had just been ratified by two major countries in the maritime sector, namely Japan and the United Kingdom. With the final ratification from the UK, there were now 41 ILO members representing 75.3 per cent of world gross tonnage have signed this convention.

Answering a question, he said the full list of signatories to the Convention was available.

Geneva activities

Ms. Momal-Vanian said the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was to begin a three-week session on Monday. It was to consider the reports of Belarus, Burkina Faso, Chile, Cyprus, Jamaica, Sweden, Chad and Venezuela. The Advisory Committee also began a week-long meeting from Monday and was to examine in particular the issue of human rights in situations following a disaster or conflict and the question of the negative effects of corruption on human rights.

The Conference on Disarmament was to hold its next public plenary session next Tuesday (August 13).

Tarik Jasarevic for the World Health Organization said a press conference was to be held on 13 August 2013 in Press Room 1 at 14:00 on the launch of the World Health Report. The full launch of the report was in Beijing on 15 August. The report would be available on Monday, 12 August 2013, under embargo until 10:30 Beijing time (02:30 GMT) on 15 August. Speakers in Geneva were Dr Christopher Dye, Director, Office of Health Information, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria & Neglected Tropical Diseases, WHO and Dr John Reeder, Director, Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases.

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Also in the room but not briefing were representatives of the High Commissioner for Refugees and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/13TeGQW