REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
10 August 2012
Corinne Momal-Vanian, the Director of the UN Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was also attended by Spokespersons for the World Meteorological Organization, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the UN Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration, the UN Children’s Fund and the World Food Programme.
Adrian Edwards of the UN Refugee Agency said that UNHCR’s offices in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq were all reporting increases this week in the number of refugees from Syria. UNHCR data, which primarily reflected those among the refugee community who had registered or were in the process of being registered, showed a total population of 146,667 people as of 9 August. In several countries UNHCR knew that there were substantial refugee populations who had not yet registered.
In Turkey, the refugee population had now exceeded 50,000 people, with more than 6,000 new arrivals recorded this week. Many of these were from Aleppo and surrounding villages, but others were from Idlib and Latakia. While the main flow was into Turkey, around 8,000 people had returned home voluntarily during July mainly to villages in
Syria’s Idlib area. On 6 August the Turkish Government had opened a new camp at Akcakale. It had also announced its intention to double overall reception capacity
from the current 50,000 people to 100,000 people with the construction of as many as thirteen additional sites. Currently refugees were hosted in nine camps, with women and children accounting for more than two thirds of the population.
In Iraq, there were now 13,587 refugees. Most of the arrivals this past week were in the Kurdistan region, although 596 arrivals had been were recorded further south in the Al-Qaem area. Most of the people were from the Qamishli and Hassakeh areas of Syria. In the Kurdistan area, one third of the refugees were being housed in a camp at Domiz and others were living with the community. Once a new camp is established in Al
Qaem, the refugees, presently in a school, would be relocated there if they have no opportunity to be hosted by the community. Another camp was being considered near Rabia at Al-Kasis. A growing number of Iraqis were also returning from Syria, including 2,993 who had come back since the start of August. Since mid-July 23,228 Iraqis had left Syria to return home.
In Lebanon, 36,841 Syrian refugees were now either registered or assisted, but many thousands who had recently arrived in Lebanon were not yet registered with UNHCR. Information campaigns and the dissemination of our Office’s registration hotline continued in border villages to encourage newly arrived families.
In Jordan, the number of refugees who had registered or who were in the process of being registered had now reached 45,869 people, with 3,891 of these having arrived so far in August. Of the registered population, most were from the Dara’a or Homs areas of Syria. Typically this population comprised farmers, house keepers, and small business owners. All new arrivals were now being transferred to the camp at Za’atri, where the population has now reached 4,414 people. UN and NGO partners, including the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization, were working to improve living conditions in the camps, which at present were difficult.
Asked whether the Security Council had any plans to discuss the provision of humanitarian assistance to Syria, Ms. Momal-Vanian said that a meeting which would specifically address the humanitarian situation was tentatively scheduled for 30 August, called for by the presidency of the Security Council.
Sudan and South Sudan
Patrick McCormick of the UN Children’s Fund said that UNICEF’s work was concentrating on feeding the undernourished, malnourished and acutely malnourished children. The organization was also in charge of water and sanitation in the camps, as well as providing educational and recreational supplies to children. UNICEF was following very seriously the plight of unaccompanied children who had been separated from their parents in the chaos of displacement, and it had already registered over 2,000 separated and unaccompanied children.
Jumbe Omari Jumbe of the International Organization for Migration said that about 20,000 South Sudanese returnees were currently stranded within South Sudan, unable to reach their final destinations. As a convoy of river barges was leaving Renk in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State today, carrying over 2,500 vulnerable South Sudanese returnees who had been stranded in the town for months, the fate of more than 16,000 others hung in balance as a shortage of funds could force IOM to suspend operations to help them. IOM had appealed for USD 45,903,000 to provide assistance to stranded and vulnerable returnees within South Sudan but to date only 12 per cent of the appeal had been funded.
Elisabeth Byrs of the World Food Programme said that WFP had stepped up its assistance to the most vulnerable people in South Sudan and was attempting to reach 2,900,000 by the end of the year, including 600,000 children. WFP was also providing assistance to more than 165,000 refugees in the two states in the northern border region. In total, 640,000 refugees and internally displaced persons in South Sudan were in need of food assistance.
Asked why river barges were the only means of transportation to South Sudan, Mr. Jumbe said that there used to be many ways of getting to the country but since the tensions and military escalations, one needed to pass through Renk, and the roads from there were impassible during the current wet season. An estimated 116,000 persons had returned to South since January 2012, said Mr. Jumbe.
Asked for more information on UNICEF’s activities in support of children, Mr. McCormick said that teams of child protection officers were identifying unaccompanied, lost or distressed children and that so-called child-friendly spaces were being set up.
IOM Trains Namibian Immigration Officers in Migration Management
Mr. Jumbe said that senior Namibian immigration officers had completed a two-week train-the-trainer course focusing on migration management, counter-trafficking and passport examination procedures. Namibia had been cited for the country’s failure to convict and prosecute those involved in human trafficking.
USG Amos wraps up field mission
Mr. Laerke said that Under-Secretary-General Valerie Amos had wrapped up the Rwanda leg of her mission yesterday night. The mission began on 6 August in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Ms. Amos had met with the Prime Minister, the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, and the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs on Tuesday. On Wednesday Ms. Amos had visited a site for internally displaced persons before travelling to the Kigeme camp yesterday, and wrapping up the mission in Kigali last night. A press release was at the back of the room.
Central Emergency Response Fund gives additional USD 55 million to poorly funded humanitarian crises in 2012
Mr. Laerke said that while on Mission, Ms. Amos had allocated USD 55 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to beef up humanitarian operations in eight countries with neglected humanitarian emergencies (Afghanistan, Cameroon, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Sudan). A press release was at the back of the room.
Mr. Laerke said that John Ging, OCHA’s Director of Operations, ending a four-day mission to Myanmar, had expressed concern for the plight of over half a million internally displaced people. He had also appealed to donors to support the USD 32.5 million Rakhine humanitarian response plan.
Ms. Byrs said that 650,000 persons out of a total of 2.4 million affected people were being assisted. The Philippine Airlines had provided free air transport for 7.4 metric tons of food, and WFP had distributed 19 metric tons to 93,000 beneficiaries to date, including 11,400 children. WFP had pre-positioned 150 tons of food in the country and was assisting the Philippines Government.
WFP Executive Director in London
Ms. Byrs said that WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin would join high-level global representatives from Governments, businesses and civil society attending the “Global Hunger Event” hosted by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in London on Sunday 12 August.
Clare Nullis of the World Meteorological Organization said that the London Olympics were drawing to a close, and the Paralympics would start later in August. Behind the scenes the UK’s Met Office forecasters had been busy providing services to support organizers, athletes and spectators. Four years ago the UK's Met Office forecasters had visited the Chinese Meteorological Administration to see how they successfully provided services for the Beijing Olympics. During 2012 representatives from Brazil's national meteorological service were observing the teams at work to help plan for Rio 2016.
Ms. Nullis said that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration late Thursday issued its updated seasonal outlook for the Atlantic hurricane season, with a slight upward revision. It still indicated a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season, but increased the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent. Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the season – 1 June to 30 November– the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration updated seasonal outlook projected a total of 12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 63 km/h or higher), including 5 to 8 hurricanes (top winds of 119 km/h or higher), of which 2 to 3 could be major hurricanes. So far this season there had been 6 named storms – tropical storms Alberto, Beryl, Debbie, Florence and hurricanes Chris and Ernesto. Ernesto had now weakened to a tropical storm over southern Mexico.
The past month had been record-breaking, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, being the hottest July and the hottest month ever recorded for contiguous United States. Drought conditions had prevailed over almost 63 per cent of the Lower 48 and wild land fires had been burning on almost 2 million acres.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said that the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee was today adopting recommendations to the Council. Over the course of the current one-week session, which would close this afternoon, the Advisory Committee had continued to work on several studies it was conducting on the subjects of human rights and humanity’s traditional values, terrorist hostage-taking, human rights and international solidarity, and the right to food of poor urban populations and rural women.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was concluding its examination of the report of Thailand this morning, after reviewing the reports of Ecuador and Tajikistan earlier this week. Next week the Committee would review the situations in Senegal, Fiji and Belize, to be followed be the Republic of Korea, Austria and Finland.
The Conference on Disarmament would hold a thematic debate on Tuesday, discussing new types of arms, the global disarmament programme and arming transparency.
Ms. Nullis introduced Michael Williams, WMO’s new Chief of Communications and Public Affairs.