4 November 2016
Michele Zaccheo, Chief, Radio and Television Section, United Nations Information Service, chaired the briefing attended by the spokespersons for the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Organization for Migration, the World Meteorological Organization, and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Jens Laerke, for the for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that exactly one month ago Hurricane Matthew had violently hit Haiti, which had resulted in the country’s largest humanitarian emergency since the 2010 earthquake. It had cause extensive flooding, damage to road infrastructure and buildings, as well as electricity and water shortages. The latest figures from the authorities in Haiti said that Matthew had so far caused 546 deaths and left 438 people injured.
Needs were vast, especially in the areas of quality water, education, shelter, child protection, health and nutrition. A total of 1.4 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance, and an estimated 40 per cent of them were children. There was a flash appeal for USD 120 million, and so far it was only 33 per cent funded.
Christophe Boulierac, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), speaking by phone from Haiti, introduced Marc Vincent, the UNICEF Representative in Haiti. Mr. Vincent said that Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 hurricane had caused massive destruction in departments in the south-west of the country, but had also affected other areas of the country including in the Gonaïves and the north-west. At least 1.5 million people had been severely affected, including at least 500,000 children. When visiting the zone, it was shocking to drive for hours and see every community, every village, every house affected. People had lost their homes and livelihoods and it was an enormous humanitarian emergency, which would foreseeably last for the next year, and maybe longer.
Mr. Vincent said that UNICEF was focusing on the need to take care of the children. To see everything disappear overnight had caused severe shock and trauma to children. There were about 150,000 children out of school. It was estimated initially that at least 700 schools had been damaged or destroyed, and that number could double. At least 100,000 children were at risk of acute malnutrition, and a month from now there would be a serious malnutrition crisis. Some 60,000 children were still in temporary shelters across the affected areas, and a big priority was to help them go back, in a process of dignity and security. Mr. Vincent said that the destruction caused by Matthew was shocking, even from the perspective of having worked in war zones. He also underscored the resilience of the Haitian people, who were trying to rebuild. He paid tribute to the extraordinary work of UN staff, some 80 per cent of whom were Haitian. Since 24 hours after the hurricane they had been rotating through in Jérémie and Grand Anse, working under extraordinarily difficult conditions. Just to see their drive and their willingness to help their compatriots was inspiring. UNICEF was focusing on doing assessments, rebuilding schools, putting water supplies in, and looking after separated children.
The risks were still around cholera, which had been in Haiti since 2010, resulting in some 800,000 suspected cases since then, and almost 9,000 deaths. In 2016 alone, there had been 32,000 suspected cases of cholera, and about 330 deaths. In the affected areas, there had been about 3,000 suspected cases of cholera, including more than 800 children suffering from acute watery diarrhoea and possibly cholera. UNICEF’s concern was to make sure that cholera did not spread to Port-au-Prince. Cholera moved either by water transmission or the movement of people who were affected. The worry was that people would leave the affected areas in Jérémie and Grand Anse to move to Port-au-Prince, and an outbreak in the capital could mean serious outbreaks in the rest of the country. A big effort was being made to ensure the control and treatment of cholera in the impacted departments. UNICEF had quadrupled the number of rapid response teams, and was working with the Government and NGO partners to repair cholera treatment centres. With the WHO/PAHO, UNICEF was also working on a vaccination campaign in the affected areas. Also, with people still in desperate need of food aid, there would be a malnutrition crisis in a month from now and it was crucial to reinforce health care centres, to be able to provide ready to eat food to children suffering from acute malnutrition. UNICEF was doing that with rapid medical teams, mobile teams providing diagnostics and treatment.
In response to questions, Mr. Vincent said that there were about 220 cholera treatment centres in the country, and UNICEF was working with PAHO on integrating the centres into the regular health care system. In the hurricane-affected areas, the surveillance system and the health care system had been either severely damaged or totally destroyed. With partners, UNICEF had rebuilt 13 of the 18 centres that had been totally destroyed, and was making sure that they could be integrated back into the health care centres which needed to be rebuilt. At the moment the treatment centres were more provisional. The hospitals and the health care centres needed to be rebuilt over the long term, which was a reconstruction process. Right now the priority was to ensure access to treatment. He also clarified that surveillance centres were basically health care centres. The surveillance system depended on those centres operating. Immediately after the hurricane had hit, the surveillance system was damaged and was now just being reconstructed. As for the vaccination campaign, one million doses had been received and the hope was to reach between 750,000 and 900,000 people in the impacted areas, with a one-dose strategy for the moment as a protective control mechanism. The challenge was that a lot of the population were in remote areas with limited access. The hope was that another million doses could be received to vaccinate the same populations with a second dose.
In response to other questions, Mr. Vincent said that one month after, it looked like the attention of the world had moved on, whereas the crisis would last for a long time, at least one year. It was unfortunate that Haiti was being hit regularly by such disasters: the earthquake in 2010, three years of drought which had caused malnutrition, and now the hurricane. Long-term development was needed to really improve the structures and the capacity of the Government to respond to those kinds of emergencies. After the drought, there were pockets of malnutrition around the country and there would be an increase in malnutrition in the hurricane-affected areas because of lack of safe water. Many families had also lost their crops. Children had to be prevented from falling into a state of several acute malnutrition, which could be deadly. The treatment was to provide ready to eat, nourishing food which could be delivered quickly, and then regular follow-up and treatment by health professionals as well as ensuring that they had access to good nutrition to allow them to regain lost weight and their strength. UNICEF required USD 23 million to be able to carry out its actions and had so far received USD 6 million.
Mr. Vincent also added that all humanitarian agencies were facing major security challenges, which were preventing them from reaching the most affected areas. On 28 October a truck delivering medical supplies to health care centres had been hijacked and the supplies had been stolen. WFP regularly faced blockages on the roads, with people trying to take food aid. More security in the areas was needed so that the humanitarians could do their job and reach the vulnerable people in need. In response to a question, Mr. Vincent said that the UN had asked both MINUSCA and the national police to provide security, which they were doing, but at the moment it was not enough. Convoys were getting regularly stopped and there needed to be regular and consistent escorts, as well as clear communication from all parties including the Government that stopping humanitarian aid from coming through impacted the most vulnerable and stopped them from receiving aid, which was not acceptable.
In response to a final question, Mr. Vincent said that before the hurricane had hit there had been 30,000 children living in 700 institutions across the country. Most of them were not orphans but came from very poor families. UNICEF’s immediate priority was to ensure that those in the impacted areas – about 3,500 children who were in institutions in those areas – received assistance. The long-term protection goal however was that those children should not be in institutions but with their families, and the goal was to find their families and reunite them, or find host families. UNICEF had reached about 23,000 people with messaging to be very vigilant about the protection risks for children. Getting children into schools was a key priority and children in school were much less vulnerable to protection risks.
Bettina Luescher, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that WFP had delivered food to 400,000 people, as part of its work to support the Government in its work. The situation was dire on the ground, with huge logistical challenges, but together with its partners WFP had reached people by truck, helicopter and boat. Some 140,000 people were still displaced and living in temporary shelters. The food situation was worrisome: in areas hit by the hurricane crops had been destroyed, along with livestock and seeds, local markets were running out of food and the prices of imported goods were rising. The planting season was supposed to happen this month and would be affected, which meant in turn that the next harvest, in the early months of 2017 would be affected. WFP aimed to reach 800,000 people. In order to do that, it had appealed for USD 58 million overall and still needed USD 40 million urgently.
Fadela Chaib, for the World Health Organization (WHO) said that Haiti needed support to restore and rebuild its health services at various levels, ranging from cholera treatment centres to community health centres and major hospitals, according to the WHO office in Haiti. In the Sud department, 82 per cent of health facilities had sustained severe damage and eight per cent were closed, whereas in Grand Anse 43 per cent of health facilitates had been severely damaged and seven per cent were closed. Out of the 74 cholera and acute diarrhoea treatment centres in Haiti, 34 were fully functional while 40 had sustained various levels of damage.
The vaccination campaign to start on 8 November would target 820,000 people in 16 communes affected by Hurricane Matthew. It would run until 14 November. One million oral cholera vaccine doses had been sent to Haiti.
The rainy season, from now until December would increase the cholera risk in the country. The vaccine was an additional intervention helping to save lives, but did not replace the efforts of the Government in the fields of water and sanitation.
In response to questions, Ms. Chaib said that securing one million doses in a very short time was a great achievement for WHO and its partners. Ms. Chaib would check regarding another request for one million doses and would get back to the press.
Ms. Luescher said that WFP today was leading a convoy into the town of Yei, bringing in 38 trucks transporting one month of food rations, as well as water, sanitation, child protection items from UNICEF and shelter items from UNHCR. The UN had not been able to reach the town for several months. Since the violence had intensified in July 2016 people had to leave their crops in the field and were hungry. In the country, a third of the population were food insecure. Malnutrition was above emergency levels in seven of the ten states, and at nearly twice the level in two states. The threat of famine was real and a considerable humanitarian effort continued to stave off the catastrophe. WFP needed USD 113 million to provide food and nutrition assistance until the end of January. The fighting needed to stop and a political solution was necessary.
In response to questions, Ms. Luescher said that she was waiting for notification that the convoy had arrived and would inform the press as soon as she had that information. In some of the areas in South Sudan that were the most concerning, people could not harvest because they had fled and could not go to the fields. Now, the rainy season was setting in and most roads were impassible. Costly air operations had to be carried out in order to reach people and save lives.
In seven out of ten states the level of malnutrition was above the 15 per cent threshold. The general acute malnutrition level for children under five was 17.9 per cent. In the two worst-affected states, Unity and northern Bahr el Ghazal the rates were even above 30 per cent. Wasting was prevalent in 23.3 per cent of the women, which meant consistently high levels of malnutrition among women of reproductive age. Wasting was what occurred in an acute crisis where people did not have enough to eat and lost weight very quickly. The problem was the fighting, which prevented people from going to their farmlands and fishing grounds. Roads were often blocked from commercial traffic, traders and farmers could not get to the markets.
In response to another question, Ms. Luescher clarified that the risk of famine was present in fewer than the seven out of ten states that she had mentioned. Famines happened if aid workers could not reach people to bring food. This was the concern in South Sudan, for example in areas such as western Bahr el Ghazal state, where access was limited and 260,000 people – 48 per cent of the population – were in urgent need.
In the past couple of years South Sudan had always been on the verge of a famine, and because of the hard work of the humanitarian community it had been avoided so far. She would get back to the press with the number of people out of reach in South Sudan.
Cécile Pouilly, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that South Sudan’s conflict, which had spawned one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises, was continuing to generate vast suffering and huge volumes of displacement. Data for the month of October showed that on average 3,500 people had fled to neighboring countries each day - Uganda, DRC, Ethiopia and Sudan.
The biggest part of this outflow had been into Uganda, which had seen around 2,400 new arrivals every day since the beginning of October. Most of the arrivals were from the Equatoria regions of South Sudan. They reported armed groups harassing civilians, killings and torture of people suspected of supporting opposing factions, burning of villages, sexual assaults of women and girls and forced recruitment of young men and boys.
In recent weeks, refugees were increasingly using informal border crossing points, reportedly due to the presence of armed groups preventing people from using main roads. A new settlement, Bidibidi, which had been opened in August, had become one of the largest refugee-hosting areas in the world. It was now home to 170,000 South Sudanese refugees.
In Ethiopia, some 36,600 new arrivals had been registered since early September. Arrivals have been at an average of 630 people every day. A new refugee camp, Nguenyyiel, with capacity to accommodate 50,000 people, had been opened on 20 October after existing camps in Tierkidi, Jewi and Kule had become full. Shelter as well as basic water and sanitation services had been put into place and some 6,200 refugees had already been relocated to Nguenyyiel.
The vast majority of arrivals were from Upper Nile, citing conflict and the fear of renewed fighting as their main reasons for leaving, while those fleeing Jonglei state mostly mentioned food shortages.
Over 85% of the new arrivals were women and children and 65% are children under 18. Over 1,300 unaccompanied children and 6,200 separated children had been registered. Interviews showed that many children continued to flee alone, either because their parents were dead or because they had been abandoned by or had gotten separated from their family members during their flight.
In Sudan, the number of South Sudanese refugees had now passed the quarter-of-a-million mark. Although east Darfur had received the largest influx, with more 47,000 refugees as of mid-June 2016, most refugees were spread across the country and lived outside of organized camps or settlements.
Most refugees entering Sudan, especially women, children and elderly people, arrived in a very poor state. Many had fled areas facing emergency levels of acute malnutrition and had been further weakened by the insecurity and their difficult journey during the rainy season.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, refugee numbers had gone up, with an influx of 60,000 people, most of whom had arrived since July 2016. Refugees were settled along the border with South Sudan, where armed groups remained active in some areas. According to UNHCR teams on the ground, most refugees arrived from Yei, in Central Equatoria State, with hardly any belongings.
The Ituri province was facing the biggest refugee influx. This week, UNHCR had started the transfer of an estimated 40,000 refugees from remote border areas. For the time being, refugees would be sent to Biringi, a site located near the city of Aru, in the northeastern Province of Ituri, while two other sites had been identified. The operation was facing major logistical challenges as many roads are in a very bad state.
Refugees in all sites would be given plots of land, construction materials, household goods and agricultural tools to help them become self-sufficient.
In response to questions, Ms. Pouilly said that UNHCR had received information from reliable sources that the deportation of a representative of Riek Machar from Kenya to Juba had taken place. That person needed to have his rights protected and his well-being ensured by the Government. UNHCR was still collecting information, including in terms of his nationality, and whether he had dual nationality, which would have implications on refugee protection. She would try to confirm whether UNHCR had made a formal demarche to stop the deportation.
[Later this afternoon, UNHCR issued the following statement on the matter:
“UNHCR is deeply concerned about the well-being of Mr James Gatdet Dak, SPLA IO Spokesperson, who was returned to South Sudan from Kenya on Monday, 2 November. Mr Dak had previously been granted refugee status by the Kenyan authorities.
Mr Dak’s forced return is a violation of the principle of non-refoulement, which is the cornerstone of international refugee law.
We also regret that UNHCR’s interventions with the Kenyan authorities to stop Mr Dak’s forced return were not successful.
We urge the Government of South Sudan to ensure that Mr Dak is treated in accordance with human rights law and standards.”]
Ms. Pouilly also said that UNHCR had received reports of forced recruitment, but it was hard to give any estimates as the situation was extremely fluid. The situation of the UN Mission to South Sudan was deeply worrying. UNHCHR had received information that there were still lots of new arrivals, including people from Yei continuing to arrive in Juba at the moment. Many people were arriving in the PoC sites run by the UN Mission, which housed more than 200,000 civilians, in Bentiu, Malakal, Juba, Bor, Melut, Wau for instance. Those people needed protection and the Mission had to be in a position to continue to help those people. UNHCR had been trying to bring assistance to Yei and had to delay its convoy because of insecurity on the roads. The situation remained extremely difficult.
In response to a question, Jessy Chahine, for the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria (OSE), said that Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura had recently clearly said that everyone had an eye on the outcome of the upcoming United States elections. Those elections might have an impact on perceptions about the type of follow-up on the political discussions between stakeholders. However, from an OSE perspective, the Office continued to work irrespectively of the results of those elections.
In response to another question, Ms. Chahine said, regarding the meeting of the Humanitarian Task Force on 3 November, that there had been the temptation to distribute blame regarding the current situation. It was an ugly conflict and it should not be surprising if things went wrong sometimes over the lack of trust or preconditions put in place by either side. As for the Ceasefire Task Force, Mr. de Mistura would not as a rule comment on the content of those meetings.
In response to a question regarding the pause in fighting announced by Russia, the OSE’s position remained to call for a complete, nationwide cessation of hostilities. Of course, anything that contributed to saving lives was welcome.
Ms. Chahine reiterated that there was no military solution to the Syrian crisis. The nationwide cessation of hostilities must be revived, in line with Security Council resolution 2254. The Government of Syria must agree to ground its air force over Aleppo and that extremist elements must be isolated. Those two elements had been repeatedly mentioned by the Special Envoy. That would require robust and credible monitoring and compliance mechanisms, as he had already mentioned.
In response to another question about whether the Special Envoy supported the evacuation of civilians other than the wounded and the sick, Ms. Chahine said that the UN in general and Mr. de Mistura were not in favour of the evacuation of civilians except if it was voluntary. When he had called for the evacuation of the Al-Nusra fighters and had proposed to escort them, he was only calling for those fighters to leave, and not other armed groups. Evacuation operations had to be in accordance with international humanitarian law and protection standards. IHL principles featured specific rules about not forcibly displacing people. People should be given the freedom of movement and any evacuation must be voluntary.
Asked whether Mr. de Mistura had any comments on President Assad’s most recent remarks about staying in power until 2021, Ms. Chahine underscored that as an impartial mediator, Mr. de Mistura never commented on any official’s or Head’s of State public comments. For him, the central issue was and should remain a credible political transition. That was fundamental to realizing a process by which the Syrian people could achieve a new, peaceful and democratic reality, while protecting their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence, preserving an reforming their State institutions and uniting against terrorism.
In response to a question, Mr. Laerke said that there were always humanitarian efforts underway, regardless of any announcements. Humanitarian operations could not be contingent on political or military initiatives. The UN was constantly pushing ahead, and had its independent humanitarian operation for the past five years. Whenever there were windows of opportunity, the UN tried to exploit that, but what was really needed was to deliver life-saving assistance inside eastern Aleppo. It was the responsibility of all parties to ensure the security conditions to enable that. Eastern Aleppo had been under siege since early July and had suffered extreme destruction. The humanitarian conditions were worsening, and there were reports of lack of food, medical supplies, and lack of access to medical services.
In response to another question, Mr. Laerke said that the UN still did not have the security assurances to send aid into eastern Aleppo. He clarified that of course, the actual humanitarian operation was dependent on the security being provided by all the parties to the conflict.
Ravina Shamdasani, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that OHCHR had reports that ISIL had been continuing to forcibly transfer civilians over the past few days. On 1 November, OHCHR understood that trucks full of abducted civilians – reportedly some 1,600 people – had been taken from Hamam al-Alil to Tal Afar city. Some of those families had been told that they may be transported to Syria. OHCHR was very concerned that ISIL intended to use those families to shield themselves from air strikes. On 2 November, another 150 families had been transferred from Hamam al-Alil to Mosul city. Also on 2 November, ISIL had reportedly used loudspeakers to order the residents of Lazaghah and Arij villages, about five kilometers from Hamam al-Alil city centre, to leave their villages or be severely punished. OHCHR also continued to receive reports of mass killings, including one incident on 31 October, when ISIL had reportedly killed 50 of its own militants in the Ghazlani military base in Mosul city for alleged desertion. There were also credible reports that 180 people had been killed on 2 November in Kokjali town in eastern Mosul, and possibly up to another 200 people had been killed in Mosul city. OHCHR was trying to verify the details of those alleged killings.
OHCHR had reports that ISIL militants were holding captive nearly 400 women from Kurdish, Yezidi or Shi’a Muslim communities in Tal Afar. Since 17 October, ISIL had reportedly also been forcibly recruiting children from the age of nine or 10 as fighters in Mosul.
OHCHR had also received reports of civilian deaths caused by airstrikes, including one on the evening of 2 November that had reportedly killed four women and wounded 17 other civilians in the al-Qudus neighbourhood in eastern Mosul. OHCHR reminded the Government and its allies that all military operations, as well as security screening of people, must be carried out in full compliance with international humanitarian law, and that they must strictly abide by the principles of humanity, distinction, proportionality, necessity and precautions to avoid and minimize loss of civilian life.
In response to questions, Ms. Shamdasani said that OHCHR tended to get reports from multiple sources and the accounts did not always matchup, so it was necessary to be very careful. For the moment OHCHR did not have enough credible information to give details about the killings. In the case of the 50 militants, they had been executed for desertion. As for the 130, they had been killed as ISIL was retreating from Kokjali town, and they were apparently former Government employees.
OHCHR did not know how many of the women belonged to each of the minority groups, but was very worried about what might transpire.
In response to another question, Ms. Shamdasani said that OHCHR had multiple sources including from within ISIL-occupied areas. As ISIL forces retreated, they might be planning to take civilians with them to use as human shields along the route, which is why they could bring them to Syria. So far OHCHR did not have information on people who had already been displaced to Syria and did not have information on Raqqa.
In response to a question about four women killed in an airstrike in the al-Qudus neighbourhood in eastern Mosul on 2 November, Ms. Shamdasani said that this was not the first time that OHCHR had heard of civilians killed by an airstrike but it was difficult to verify the information, including because there was a lot of misinformation, on ISIL- sponsored websites for example. Regarding the execution of would-be deserters, that was not the first time that OHCHR had heard of instances of that happening over the past couple of years.
Regarding the recruitment of children, Ms. Shamdasani said that OHCHR did not have exact numbers on this, but that ISIL had been ordering the inhabitants of Hamam al-Alil city to give up all their children aged at least nine or 10, and had been using loudspeakers at the back of vehicles, threatening families with severe punishment if they did not comply. They had been knocking on people’s doors and asking them for their boys.
Itayi Viriri, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that 22,224 people had been displaced since 17 October, and 97 per cent of them were in Nineveh Governorate. Some 3,577 families made up that number. IOM had displacement tracking metrics used to ensure that humanitarian agencies were aware of the location of the displaced to be able to provide people with the necessary support.
Because of the nature of the conflict, IOM was seeing people trying to move as families. IOM and other agencies had to make sure that there would be support across the board which could cater for families and not just individuals.
In response to a question, Mr. Viriri said that the 3,577 families were returning to locations recently liberated from ISIL as the operation went on. The 22,224 displaced people were going into camps that IOM and its partners were preparing, mainly in airfields. With winter setting in it was necessary to ensure that those facilities were winterized.
Mr. Viriri also said that IOM was preparing for all eventualities, and had been planning all along to be able to provide for as many as 800,000 displaced people. So far, as the operations continued, it was not possible to tell how many people would manage to get out of Mosul and the surrounding villages. Through its displacement tracking metrics IOM had identified one million people who had been affected or displaced by the conflict since it had begun in 2014. IOM and its partners needed to be ready for whatever numbers of people would come out and had set up multiple locations with tents and other accommodations to cater for the people fleeing.
Adrian Edwards, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said that about 1,500 people had been displaced since the start of November. The situation had to be watched closely to see if an increase was being observed. There was a race to put camps and accommodations in place. If there was to be mass displacement this could be a very difficult situation indeed.
In response to a question, Ms. Shamdasani said that already last week, OHCHR had expressed concern about the detention and suspension of many democratically-elected representatives. Since then, the situation had worsened. More people had been detained and the trend was continuing. The crackdown on media was very worrying. OHCHR was calling on the authorities for there to be due process guarantees and a presumption of innocence. Given the numbers, OHCHR was worried that that was not the case. OHCHR was concerned that while Turkey had declared a state of emergency and derogation from certain principles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the steps that the authorities were taking went beyond what was permissible in those circumstances.
Mr. Viriri said that up to 240 migrants were missing, presumed dead, having left Libya for Europe. He highlighted some testimonies from survivors brought to Lampedusa. Record numbers of migrants were dying and record numbers had arrived in Italy for the month of October: 27,388 migrants had arrived in Italy in October 2016, compared to 8,900 in 2015 and 15,000 in 2014. Survivors of the latest tragedies were saying - and that information needed to be verified - that smugglers were putting them on unseaworthy vessels and saying that because the Libyan Coast guard was being trained in search and rescue and would gain a better capacity to stop them, they had to get on the boats now. The migrants did not want to go back to Libya as the conditions there were deplorable. Normally around this time of year there were not so many crossings because of the unfavorable sailing conditions. This year, a return of the rubber dinghies was also seen, and the last two tragedies had been aboard rubber dinghies, which was a great concern.
Sarah Crowe, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that UNICEF was seeing large numbers of unaccompanied children arriving. About six children may have died in the operation over the past 36 hours. Ms. Crowe referred to testimony from a gynaecologist and cultural mediator on the ground in Lampedusa. Those tragedies would continue as long as there were no safe and legal routes and no alternatives. People were being forced into unseaworthy boats and arriving with severe burns as a result of a chemical reaction from poor petrol, the rubber dinghies and salt water. A number of pregnant women had had to be evacuated from Lampedusa to Palermo. Out of the children arriving a great majority were unaccompanied. In terms of the number of children who were first asylum seekers in Europe, in 2015, the total had been 239,000 and in 2016, 275,000. Among those coming in on the latest rescue vessel into Lampedusa, the main nationalities were Senegalese, Liberians, Guineans and Nigerians. There were also many unaccompanied children coming from Egypt.
In response to questions, Ms. Crowe said that the unpredictable nature of border controls and changes was worrying. Children stranded in Greece, trying to relocate to join family in the rest of Europe. Only 93 out of the 22,000 unaccompanied children who had arrived in Italy and Greece had benefitted from the relocation schemes, only 1 per cent. Relocation schemes were far too slow because of high levels of bureaucracy. Europe’s child protection systems were inadequate. Children were not able to get their lives underway. Some positive moves had been seen in Calais from the United Kingdom side, but much more needed to be done across Europe, and the processes needed to be sped up. UNICEF’s recommendation for the duration of a procedure for a child was not more than 90 days.
In response to a question, Mr. Edwards said that border controls, impediments to movement, legal restrictions, could have an effect on reducing flows during mixed migration movements with migrants and refugees, but when it came to people fleeing wars, who could not go home without putting their lives at risk, those measures increased the risk. The situation needed to be managed, including by tackling smugglers, and having better approaches for managing migration, including its root causes. More use needed to be made of safe alternatives, for people who could not go home.
In response to a question, Ms. Crowe said that the children arriving in Italy were coming from a variety of countries - Eritrea, West African countries, etc - and that all those countries have signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was the most signed instrument in existence – only one country had not signed it. A solution was needed on both sides of the Mediterranean. It was a tragedy for the countries who were losing their children.
In response to a question, Ms. Shamdasani said that Saudi Arabia was not a party to the Convention on Migrant Workers. There was however some relevant guidance from the Committee on Migrant Workers. The Committee had maintained that the Kefala system, by which migrants were bound to their employers, allowing for exploitation and abuses, should be abolished, and that it was the State’s responsibility to ensure fair remuneration and conditions of work for all, including migrant workers, irrespective of their status. Bangladesh would be reviewed by the Committee in April 2017.
Paris Agreement/ Climate change
Mr. Zaccheo said that today, 4 November was the date of the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the result of the most complex, complete and sensitive climate negotiations ever undertaken.
Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that the WMO welcomed the entry into force of the Paris Agreement. The Agreement was entering into force four years earlier than anticipated, which was unprecedented. The planet really needed action and greenhouse gas emissions needed to be cut as a matter of urgency.
The Marrakesh Climate Change Conference would take place the following week and the WMO would be present with a delegation who would present the latest scientific advice on the state of the planet and of the climate. Specifically on 8 November WMO would have an assessment of the climate in 2011 to 2015, with a special focus on the attribution of extreme events to human-induced climate change, specifically with relation to heat waves and flooding. On 14 November, in Marrakesh, WMO would be releasing its provisional statement on the state of the climate in 2016. There would be no press conference in Geneva but the Geneva press corps would receive all the information under embargo.
In response to a question, Ms. Nullis said that today was the best day for the climate in many years. The Paris Agreement had a huge amount of backing and legitimacy. WMO saluted the leadership shown by various parties to get to this point. Of course, everyone would be watching the outcome of the US election closely. At the moment there was no plan B on climate change, and certainly no planet B.
Jonathan Fowler, for the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), said that 5 November would be the first edition of World Tsunami Awareness Day. Tsunamis did not respect borders and it was crucial that countries worked together to raise public awareness on what could be done to reign in risk. Historians would remember that 50,000 people had died in the Li8sbon earthquake and tsunami disaster in the 18th century. Some 30,000 people had died in tsunamis in Peru in the 17th and the 19th centuries. There had also been a major tsunami affecting Pakistan and Iran in 1945. Our ability to monitor tsunami risk had evolved, but the best early warning system in the world was only as good as the level of public awareness.
UNISDR was releasing two studies on the matter. In the University of Louvain study, looking at the potential increases in the number of victims and people affected if we were to see a repeat of tsunami events experienced around the world over the last 15 years in the course of the next 15 years, a 44 per cent increase in lives lost and people affected could be seen in East Africa, a 35 per cent increase in Melanesia, and a 16 per cent increase globally. It was crucial that regional and international disaster preparation prioritized areas where the largest number of people were vulnerable to tsunami risk. Demographic changes and rising sea levels needed to be taken into consideration. The risk to nuclear facilities in tsunami risk areas was also a great concern. Risk education needed to be engraved into the public’s minds.
In response to a question, Mr. Fowler clarified that if there was a strong demographic growth in the tsunami risk areas, it had to be taken into account so that the alert systems could reach the entire population.
Geneva Events and Announcements
Mr. Zaccheo reminded the press that the Cyprus talks would be starting on 7 November in Mont-Pèlerin and that accredited journalists had been asked to arrive on 7 November between 7.30 and 8.30 a.m. at the Hotel Le Mirador, to cover the opening, which would take place in the presence of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
In response to a question, Mr. Zaccheo said that the audio of the stakeout would be available but it would not be immediate. He would provide an estimate later on.
Mr. Zaccheo announced that the annual Escalade training on the grounds of the Palais des Nations would take place on 6 November, starting at 10 a.m. at the Place des Nations.
Mr. Zaccheo said that the Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review Working Group was reviewing the human rights record of the Republic of Moldova this morning. This afternoon, the UPR Working Group was scheduled to adopt reports for reviews they had conducted during the week for: Togo, the Syrian Arab Republic, Venezuela, Iceland, Zimbabwe and Lithuania. Copies of those reports, which listed all the recommendations made to those States, would be shared with the press beforehand. On 7 November, the UPR Working Group would review Haiti in the morning and South Sudan in the afternoon.
The Human Rights Committee would conclude today, at 3 p.m. in the Palais Wilson, its 118th session, following which it would publish its final observations on the reports of the seven States Parties which had been reviewed during the session, those of Slovakia, Poland, Moldova, Jamaica, Colombia, Azerbaijan and Morocco.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women would examine today (morning and afternoon) the report of Armenia. By the end of its session, scheduled for 18 November, the Committee had yet to examine (the following week) the reports of Bangladesh, Estonia and the Netherlands.
The Committee against Torture would open on 7 November, at 10 a.m. in the Palais Wilson, its 59th session, during which it would review the reports submitted by Ecuador, Finland, Monaco, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Turkmenistan and Armenia on the measures adopted by those countries in implementation of the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. During the session, the Committee would also focus on the application of the Convention in Cabo Verde, in the absence of a report. The initial report of the country was being awaited since 1993.
Mr. Zaccheo announced a press conference of the Human Rights Committee on 4 November at 1.30 p.m. in Press Room 1, on its concluding observations on Slovakia, Poland, Moldova, Jamaica, Colombia, Azerbaijan, Morocco. The speakers would be Committee members Anja Seibert-Fohr, Victor Rodriguez-Rescia and Photini Pazartzis.
On 10 November at 3.45 p.m. in Room III, the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP) would hold a press conference to update the media on its humanitarian work. The speakers would be Nestoras Nestoroas, Greek Cypriot Member, Gülden Plümer Küçük, Turkish Cypriot Member, and Paul-Henri Arni, Third Member (United Nations).
* * * * *
The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/unog041116