REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
15 July 2011
Corinne Momal-Vanian, the Director of the UN Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for and Representatives of the World Intellectual Property Organization, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, the UN Children's Fund, the UN Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration and the UN Economic and Social Council.
Horn of Africa
Marixie Mercado of the UN Children's Fund said that UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake was in Nairobi today and would tomorrow visit Turkana, a pastoralist district in northwest Kenya, which was seeing the highest malnutrition rates on record and where mortality rates among children were above the emergency threshold. Across drought affected regions in Kenya, UNICEF was working with partners to scale up access to nutrition services and treatment and to expand access to safe water, education and protection. In Somalia, UNICEF had airlifted nutrition supplies to Baidoa, including ready-to-use therapeutic food and medicines to treat severely malnourished children, as well as equipment to supply clean water to for displaced people. This was the first UN airlift since July 2009. Health supplies in the form of 10 health kits, each sufficient to treat 10,000 people over three months, were also en route to Baidoa via road.
Tarik Jasarevic of the World Health Organization said that a poor health care system in drought-affected areas, low immunization coverage, population movements and lack of clean water and poor sanitation meant that there was an increased risk of communicable disease transmission in all crisis-affected areas. Priorities for the health sector were the management of severe malnutrition, child illness and maternal health, immunization and waterborne disease control and treatment. The health sector was underfunded, with only between 9 per cent and 22 per cent of the funding requested received so far, while the need to provide emergency health care to severely malnourished children with diseases was increasing.
On Ethiopia, Mr. Jasarevic said that on 11 July the Ministry of Agriculture’s Disaster Risk Management and Food Security Sector convened the humanitarian and donor community for the launch of the revised Humanitarian Requirements Document for the period July to December 2011. According to the document, 4.5 million people need assistance - a 47 per cent rise compared to the number put forward in April this year. Close to US$ 400 million was required to meet food and non-food needs in the country. Taking into account the size of the population in the worst hit areas in Ethiopia, WHO estimated that 2 million children under five were at risk of measles. Since the beginning of the year, close to 5,000 people were affected by measles. More than 3 million children under five should be screened for malnutrition and given vitamin A supplements. An estimated 8.8 million people living in the worst-hit areas were at risk of acute watery diarrhea.
WHO was supporting the training of health workers on the management of severe acute malnutrition. These trained personnel would be able to diagnose malnutrition and treat it. WHO was also delivering inter-agency emergency health kits to the Ethiopian government, UN agencies and NGO partners. Preparation was critical to respond to and control measles outbreaks and to manage cases of severe acute malnutrition. WHO would work with its partners to urgently strengthen disease surveillance and build up health workers’ capacities to respond to the high number of malnutrition and measles cases reported and to the expected acute watery diarrhea outbreak. WHO would procure and distribute enough medicines and medical supplies to treat 4,500 cases of complicated measles. As the Health Cluster lead, WHO would also support health facilities to ensure that appropriate and adequate quality medical care was provided to children with severe acute malnutrition, measles, and acute watery diarrhea.
With regards to Somalia, Mr. Jasarevic said that as many as 413,000 children under five would be reached during the Child Health Days currently in progress in Somaliland. Mothers and children were receiving polio, measles and tetanus toxoid vaccination, de-worming treatment and nutritional screening, and would be referred for additional treatment when necessary. Child Health Days would then be organized in Puntland on 17–21 July, targeting 156,000 children.
In Kenya, in all areas where large numbers of people had gathered, either between districts or across international borders, health facilities were overwhelmed, leading to shortages of medical and other supplies. Measles broke out in Mwingi district and in the Dadaab camps. At the latter, 462 measles cases were laboratory confirmed and 11 related deaths had been reported. Population movements increased the risk of the spread of infectious diseases, especially of polio, cholera and measles. WHO was conducting training for all district health teams and in refugee camps on the integrated disease surveillance and response as well as emergency preparedness and response.
As mentioned last Tuesday, UNICEF and WHO were preparing for a vaccination campaign along the Somali-Kenyan borders and in the Dadaab refugee camps. Early next week, WHO Geneva would send a technical team to Nairobi to work with its regional and country offices in the five affected countries as well as with health partners to harmonize interventions.
Adrian Edwards of the UN Refugee Agency said that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres had today welcomed yesterday’s announcement by Prime Minister Raila Odinga that Kenya was to open the Ifo Two extension at the Dadaab refugee complex near the border with Somalia. In separate letters to Kenya’s president and its prime minister, Guterres had applauded the decision and promised UNHCR’s full support. UNHCR believed the opening of the extension was important for easing congestion at Dadaab, where some 1,300 Somali refugees have recently been arriving every day - fleeing conflict and drought in Somalia. Including those living on the camp outskirts the number of Somali refugees in and around the Dadaab camp has now swollen to nearly 440,000. UNHCR planned to begin a massive airlift this weekend to bring tents and other aid supplies to the remote border region.
Dadaab, an already overcrowded complex of three separate camps spread over 50 square kilometres of desert some 80 kilometres from the Somali border, was struggling to cope with an influx since the beginning of the year of some 60,000 new arrivals fleeing conflict in their homeland. An average of 1,300 hungry and exhausted Somalis were arriving daily at the complex, which was already holding more than four times the number of refugees it was designed for.
The UNHCR airlift, starting with a Boeing 747 flight carrying 100 tonnes of tents from UNHCR stockpiles in Kuwait, was expected to deliver its first load to Nairobi on Sunday. It would be followed by at least six subsequent flights over the next two weeks from UNHCR’s stocks in Islamabad, Pakistan, carrying an additional 600 tonnes of tents in total. The aid supplies would replenish reduced or depleted stocks in Kenya.
As of Wednesday, the total refugee population in and around Dadaab was 439,000, including nearly 380,000 registered and another 59,000 new arrivals living on the outskirts of the three camps. The Dadaab complex was built in 1991 to hold 90,000 and was officially declared full in
2008. Today it was the largest, most congested and one the most remote refugee camps in the world. Up to five families were sharing plots designed for one family.
Mr. Edwards pointed out that the UN Refugee Agency continued to be concerned over the situation at Dolo Ado, Ethiopia, which has also seen large numbers of arrivals over recent weeks. UNHCR was concerned about shortages of cars, tents and non-food items. There were 39,000 people at Malkadida, one of the three current component camps of Dolo Ado, including 5,000 without tents. UNHCR was urgently trying to address this situation.
Jemini Pandya of the International Organization for Migration said that another few hundred migrants were being evacuated by IOM today from the Libyan port city of Misrata. IOM had received reports of an estimated 1,000 migrants thought to be in and around the desert oasis town of Kufra in south-eastern Libya. The migrants were believed to be in various places with many hiding in fear due to their irregular status and inability to leave the country and return home. While the Organization worked on how to access and assist them quickly, it had registered more than 400 migrants, mainly Chadians but also Nigerians, Nigeriens, Burkinabés, Togolese and Egyptians, in the southern city of Sebha for evacuation.
An additional 200 Sudanese migrants said they were ready for immediate departure to Khartoum with community elders reporting to IOM that there were about 3,000 Sudanese in the area who may also require evacuation assistance. IOM staff on site said more and more migrants have been coming to an IOM transit centre set up in Sebha after hearing of the successful evacuation of 529 migrants last week from Sebha to Chad. However, IOM was concerned at the fate of about 1,000 Chadian migrants in Gatroun, seen by IOM staff more than two weeks ago. Mostly women, children and the elderly, the migrants have been living out in the open on the outskirts of Gatroun with no protection from the elements for many weeks.
IOM has been trying to transport the migrants to Sebha but extremely poor security conditions on the road linking the two towns mainly due to the activities of bandits has prevented the operation from being carried out. IOM has not given up hope of getting this group of 1,000 out of Gatroun. It was too dangerous to transport them en masse, but the organization had managed to get individual families out and this may be the way it will have to proceed.
Nearly 625,000 migrants have now fled the violence in Libya since late February.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said that the ECOSOC started its operational segment yesterday and was this morning holding a dialogue with the Executive Heads of UN Funds and Programmes, including UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin, Martin Mogwanja, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, and WFP Deputy Executive Director Ramiro Lopes da Silva. This afternoon the Council would hold a round-table discussion on consolidating the authority of resident coordinators in countries benefiting from UN development programmes.
Lazarous Kapambwe, the President of the Economic and Social Council, said that the ECOSOC was particularly interested in seeing how access to education could be increased, especially for girls. The Council had attempted to identify the obstacles regarding access and was particularly focusing its attention on the quality of education. So far, the debate has been about the quantity of education, and too little attention may have been given to the quality of education. The Council was trying to find ways of aligning the needs of economies with the skills produced by education systems.
On 19 July, the ECOSOC would hold a special session on South Sudan, which was admitted as the 193rd member of the UN yesterday and is facing great challenges just to survive. During the discussion, a South Sudanese Government representative and UN officials would assess the country’s current situation and discuss the role of the UN in assisting with the transition.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said that the Secretary-General would be in Geneva on Tuesday, 19 July. Mr. Ban would address the Third Global Review of Aid for Trade at 9 a.m. at the WTO and would meet the President of the Swiss Confederation, Micheline Calmy-Rey, at 10 a.m. at the Palais des Nations. No meeting with the press was planned during Mr. Ban’s short stay.
Samar Shamoon of the World Intellectual Property Organization said that WIPO had organised a press conference in the context of the High-Level Copyright Dialogue on the Film Industry.
At the press conference, WIPO Director-General Francis Gurry and high-level personalities from the film industry would discuss their views on the evolution of the film industry with respect to digital technologies. Distinguished guests included Spanish actor Javier Bardem, British film producer Iain Smith and Indian producer and director Bobby Beddi, as well as Esaad Younis, Egyptian actress and Chief Executive Officer of Al Arabia Cinema.
The press conference would take place on Tuesday, 19 July at 3.30 p.m. at WIPO (journalists were invited to arrive by 3.20 p.m.).
Ankai Xu of the World Trade Organization said that the Third Global Review of Aid for Trade would be taking place on Monday and Tuesday 18 and 19 July. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would deliver opening remarks on Tuesday morning and the WTO Director-General, the Secretary-General of the OECD, the President of the World Bank, the Administrator of the UNDP and the Heads of the Regional Development Banks would be present at the event. Twenty-five seats would be given to journalists on a first come first served basis.
On Wednesday, 20 July the WTO would launch the World Trade Report, which was already available at the back of the room and outside the Press Room (embargoed until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday). Journalists were invited to attend a background briefing by WTO’s chief economist the day before, on Tuesday 19 July, at 3 p.m.
The Dispute Settlement Body would also be meeting on Wednesday (10 a.m.), to be followed by a briefing in the afternoon (time and place to be announced), and trade and development negotiations would be taking place at 3 p.m.
Turning to the agenda of Mr. Lamy, Ms. Xu said that he would meet with World Economic Forum key decision-makers on long-term strategic issues on Sunday, 17 July. On Monday and Tuesday he would participate in the Third Global Review of Aid for Trade and on Wednesday, 20 July Mr. Lamy would meet with the Lesotho Minister of Trade and Industry, Cooperatives and Marketing.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said that the Human Rights Committee was this morning continuing to examine the report of Kazakhstan, to be concluded this afternoon as the last country examined at this session. The Committee would make its concluding observations public at the end of its session on 29 July.
Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, would give a press conference on the mid-year review of the Humanitarian Appeal 2011 on Wednesday, 20 July at 2.30 p.m. in Room III. Press kits were available at the back of the room, under embargo until 20 July at 2.30 p.m.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said that a flag-raising ceremony marking the admission of South Sudan as a new UN member would take place on Thursday, 21 July at 10 a.m. in the Allée des Drapeaux.
Glenn Thomas of the World Health Organization said that WHO would issue a new landmark policy on tuberculosis diagnostics, a tuberculosis blood test for active tuberculosis in patients. A press conference on the subject would be held on Tuesday, 19 July at noon in Press Room III.