REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
21 August 2012
Alessandra Vellucci, the Chief of the Press and External Relations Section, chaired the briefing, which was also attended by Spokespersons for the World Health Organization and the International Organization for Migration.
Ebola in Democratic Republic of the Congo
Glenn Thomas of the World Health Organization said that as of 19 August a total of 15 cases of Ebola (13 probable and 2 confirmed) with 9 deaths had been reported. The reported cases and deaths had occurred in three health zones. There were 12 cases and 8 deaths in Isiro, including 3 healthcare workers who had died; 2 cases and no deaths in Pawa; and one fatal case in Dungu.
The Congolese Ministry of Health had convened a national task force and was working with several partners including the World Health Organization, Médecins sans Frontières Switzerland and Belgium, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Similarly, a task force had been established at provincial and district levels to oversee and guide the response to this latest outbreak.
An emergency response team composed of staff of the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and Médécins sans Frontières was conducting a series of epidemiological investigations and supporting case management. In addition, the World Health Organization was supporting the Ministry of Health in the areas of coordination, surveillance, field epidemiology, laboratory and case management, and public information and social mobilization.
At the moment the World Health Organization did not recommend that any travel or trade restrictions be applied to Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Cholera in Sierra Leone
Mr. Thomas said that as of 18 August the cumulative number of cases and deaths caused by cholera since January 2012 stood at 11,189 cases and 203 deaths. The recent confirmation of cases meant that 10 of the 13 districts in the country were affected by the outbreak.
The spread to two additional districts emphasised the need to rapidly scale up the response. As of 18 August, the Western Area continued to report the highest number of cases and deaths (157 cases and one death), followed by Tonkolili with 29 cases and no deaths.
The President of Sierra Leone had declared the escalating cholera outbreak a humanitarian crisis, said Mr. Thomas. Consequently a multi-sectoral response approach had been adopted, involving the Ministry of Health and Sanitations as well as other Ministries such as the Finance Ministry and local partners and stakeholders. A national emergency task force had been established to deal with surveillance, case management, water and sanitation, logistics and social mobilization.
The World Health Organization was supporting Sierra Leone in the areas of epidemiology, social mobilization and surveillance and its Regional Office for Africa had deployed two epidemiologists and three cholera experts from Zimbabwe to support coordination, public information, social mobilization, case management and infection control.
The World Health Organization did not recommending that any travel or trade restrictions be applied to Sierra Leone.
IOM and Japan Launch Border Management Programme in South Sudan
Christopher Lom of the International Organization for Migration said that IOM would launch a new initiative, funded by Japan, to work with the Government of South Sudan to develop its capacity to police and manage its borders. This would include the building of 16 border posts, the construction of an immigration training academy in Juba, and the development of a national training curriculum on border management.
Anecdotal evidence suggested that many irregular migrants used South Sudan as a migration route to North Africa, Southern Europe and other destinations. However, the country had little capacity in border management and only 19 operational border posts were located at entry points with the neighbouring countries (Ethiopia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Kenya). The new IOM project would connect all 19 border posts to allow for automated exchange of data and information about travellers.
IOM had previously installed a passport registration and data collection system called ‘Personal Identification and Registration System’ at three land border posts and at Juba International Airport.
U.S. Government Backs IOM’s Voluntary Repatriation of Liberian Refugees from Ghana
Mr. Lom said that the U.S. State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration had provided IOM with the funds to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of some 3,500 Liberian refugees living in Ghana. Since the first Liberian civil war (1989-1996), Ghana had been hosting thousands of Liberian refugees.
IOM to Provide Pre-Departure Orientation for Kenyan Migrant Workers
Mr. Lom said that the Government of Kenya had renewed its commitment to work with IOM in providing pre-departure orientation for Kenyan migrant workers. IOM and the Kenyan Youth Enterprise Development Fund were working together very closely to help 6,000 young Kenyans every year to work abroad, with contracts and social security, and subsequently return to Kenya.
International community in Geneva celebrates World Humanitarian Day
Ms. Vellucci said that with 19 August being a Sunday, the international community in Geneva would celebrate World Humanitarian Day today. On this occasion the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the High Commissioner for Refugees and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross would engage in a panel discussion with prominent journalists, moderated by Darius Rochebin of Télévision Suisse Romande. This would be followed by a rededication of the plaque honouring the victims of the 19 August 2003 bombing. The events would take place at the Palais des Nations, in and around Room XX, this afternoon at 4 p.m. Journalists were invited to participate.
Conference on Disarmament
Ms. Vellucci said that the Conference on Disarmament would this afternoon hold a thematic debate on the revitalisation of its work. As of next week, and until the end of the session on 14 September, the Conference would then examine its 2012 report to the General Assembly.
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Ms. Vellucci said that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination would this afternoon start to review the report of the Republic of Korea, to be followed by those of Austria and Finland later this week. The last report scheduled for consideration at this session was that of Liechtenstein, which the Committee would discuss next Monday.
Ms. Vellucci said that the World Meteorological Organization would brief journalists on the ongoing drought situations and the need for national drought-management policies at 11.30 a.m. in Room III.