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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

2 November 2018

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was attended by the spokespersons for the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration, the World Food Programme and the International Telecommunication Union.


UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria condemns deadly attack on IDP camp in Northeast Nigeria

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), gave the following statement:

“The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, has condemned a deadly attack that took place on 31 October in a camp for internally displaced people in Dalori, just a few kilometers from Borno State capital Maiduguri. The camp hosts 12,600 civilians who are seeking refuge there after having fled the violence in north-east Nigeria in past months.

An armed group carried out the attack on the government-run camp next to Dalori village after dark. They also attacked four surrounding communities. In the attacks, the armed group killed at least eight people and injured dozens more, kidnapped women, and burned and looted homes, shelters and food stocks. Hundreds have also been displaced as a result, according to the Nigerian National Emergency Management Agency.

The Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Kallon, urged the Government of Nigeria to step up the protection of civilians, and said that attacks on IDP camps threatened innocent women, children and men who had already fled their homes as a result of the ongoing conflict.

The attack took place in one of the nine camps for internally displaced people in Dalori; the camps were set up from 2015 and are now home to 47,500 civilians. More than 20 aid organisations are providing assistance including food, safe water, sanitation, medicine and shelter to thousands of people.

The number of IDPs in the north-east of Nigeria was estimated at 1.8 million. Some 61 per cent of them resided outside the government-run IDP camps, with most of them staying in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.

The humanitarian crisis in Nigeria's north-east, that has spilled over into the Lake Chad region, is one of the most severe in the world today, with 7.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in the worst-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe in 2018.”

In response to questions from journalists, Mr. Laerke said that OCHA was issuing a blanket call for the authorities to beef up security for civilians, particularly in Borno State. The area was highly militarized and very insecure. The IDP camps were government-run; aid workers provided assistance during the day but were not present in the camp at night, which was when the attack had taken place. Following the attack, hundreds of people had been displaced; no information was available on their current whereabouts.


Venezuela

Babar Baloch, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), made the following statement:

“UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, reinforced its response at crucial border points in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia this week as thousands of refugees and migrants from Venezuela rushed into Peru ahead of a deadline for seeking Temporary Stay Permits.

On Wednesday, the number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants entering Peru from Ecuador at the main Tumbes border crossing peaked at more than 6,700 people in a single day, more than three times the level of just two weeks ago. Peru is now home to an estimated half a million Venezuelans.

Venezuelans crossing into Ecuador from Colombia via the Rumichaca and San Miguel border crossings also increased in October. Some 97,500 arrivals were registered over the course of the month.

The main reason for the surge in arrivals to Peru seems to have been a 31 October deadline for applying for a Temporary Stay Permit. This permit gives Venezuelans the right to work in Peru and access to health and education services. The Peruvian authorities announced that only those Venezuelans who entered the country before 31 October 2018 would be allowed to apply. Those eligible will be able to submit applications until December. Over 100,000 Venezuelans have already obtained the Temporary Stay Permit.

Earlier this week, Venezuelans waited in line for two to three days to complete the required border formalities, including immigration procedures and mandatory vaccinations. Thousands of people were sleeping in the open and many required medical assistance and food. The Peruvian authorities, UNHCR and its partners worked to quickly scale-up the response. In addition, strong coordination is in place between UNHCR offices in Peru and Ecuador to respond to the urgent needs of arriving Venezuelans.

In Peru, UNHCR has reinforced its presence in Tumbes with additional staff to help coordinate the response, increase protection coverage and identify and assist persons with specific needs, such as unaccompanied and separated children. Venezuelans who formally apply for asylum in Peru continue to be admitted at the border, although it appears the arrivals are falling. In Tumbes, the Peruvian authorities are processing some 1,000 asylum requests per day. Since 29 October, the Special Commission for Refugees (CEPR) has been working 24 hours a day in order to deal with the upsurge in applications. Over 150,000 Venezuelans have applied for asylum in Peru since 2014.

UNHCR has also reinforced its response in Ecuador to provide protection and assistance to refugees and migrants from Venezuela. UNHCR teams are at the northern and southern borders providing orientation to arriving Venezuelan families, identifying cases with specific protection needs and referring them to services and programmes implemented by the state and UNHCR partners.

In Colombia, to respond to the increase of departures towards Ecuador, UNHCR and partners have deployed teams to the border to provide assistance, delivering hot meals, blankets and kits for children, as well as information and orientation to Venezuelans on their way to Ecuador.”

In response to questions from journalists, Mr. Baloch said that UNHCR’s position was that people in need of international protection should be granted access to territory. The number of Venezuelans crossing into Peru had fallen now that the deadline had passed; it was unclear what services would be available to people entering Peru after 31 October. Countries in the region had so far responded generously, with more than 700,000 Venezuelans receiving legal permits.

Joel Millman, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that according to colleagues on the ground, IOM had increased the assistance it was providing to Venezuelans arriving in the city of Tumbes, including transportation to other cities in Peru, distribution of non-food items and provision of temporary accommodation. The deadline of 31 October had had a noticeable effect on inflows over the past week.


IOM monitors caravans of Central American migrants and supports voluntary returns

Joel Millman, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), made the following statement:

“The UN Migration Agency, IOM, continues to provide support and assistance to migrants who have joined the migrant caravans crossing Central America and opted to seek asylum in Mexico or return to their countries of origin.

In the Siglo XXI Migratory Station of Tapachula, managed by the National Institute for Migration (INM) of Mexico, IOM and the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs (SRE) have been supplying food and basic hygiene kits to over 1,500 migrants from the caravans seeking asylum in Mexico.

‘IOM maintains its position that the human rights and basic needs of all migrants must be respected, regardless of their migratory status,’ says Christopher Gascon, IOM Chief of Mission in Mexico. ‘In coordination with UNHCR we will continue to monitor the situation of the caravan counting on field staff, the Mexican Office of Assistance for Migrants and Refugees (DAPMyR), and partner NGOs, providing information regarding alternatives for regular and safe migration, as well as options for voluntary returns.’

A second caravan of approximately 1,800 Central American migrants and refugees admitted on Monday (29/10) by Mexican migration authorities arrived last Wednesday (31/10) in Huixtla, Chiapas state, and plan to move today, according to local authorities. This group initially started the regularization process in Mexico but later opted to continue the trek north without seeking asylum.

A third caravan of around 500 migrants departed from El Salvador last Sunday and crossed Tuesday (30/10) into Mexico, where most of them requested asylum. A fourth group of migrants and refugees left on Wednesday (31/10) from San Salvador with some 1,700 individuals, according to an IOM monitoring team. The final group spent last night in the Guatemalan town of Tecún Umán, on the border with Mexico.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the first caravan reached the town of Matías Romero in Oaxaca state yesterday (01/11). An SRE press release estimates that about 4,000 people spent the night there.

After walking some 850 kilometres from San Pedro Sula in Honduras, fatigue is evident in many of the migrants and refugees who spent last night in Matías Romero.

Exhaustion and the challenges ahead have caused many migrants to opt for voluntary return, offered by Mexican authorities and Honduran consular officials. Counting on its Mesoamerica Program funded by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), IOM is now also able to provide voluntary return assistance to migrants.

At the Honduran border control points of Agua Caliente and Santa Rosa de Copan, between 19 and 24 October, IOM provided 2,141 hygiene kits and basic food supplies to returnees. Migrants are returning to Honduras on buses that keep arriving at a rate of four to six per day while other migrants have returned by planes provided by the Mexican government.”

In response to questions from journalists, Mr. Millman said that similar caravans had taken place regularly over the past decade and were therefore not a new phenomenon. They did not generally provoke a backlash in Mexico. The current caravan was a long way from the border with the United States of America and talk of an “invasion” remained hypothetical. IOM maintained that barriers and militarized borders tended not to deter people from crossing but did fuel the activities and profits of criminal organizations and smugglers. IOM supported migration that was safe, regular and secure for all parties, including transit and destination countries. Mr. Millman said that while he was not aware of any Venezuelans participating in the caravan, there were reports that some had begun to establish communities in large cities in Mexico. The majority of those in the caravan were from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

In response to further questions, Mr. Millman said that xenophobia was a challenge in any humanitarian endeavour. Donor and public fatigue had been ongoing for many years, and the spreading of misinformation was nothing new. Politicians everywhere made statements for political reasons. Asked whether IOM had received funding from George Soros or his affiliates for its activities in Mexico and Central America, he said that to the best of his knowledge that was not the case.

Responding to questions from journalists, Babar Baloch, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that UNHCR was focusing on identifying people who were on the move in Mexico and Central America and who were in need of protection. To the best of his knowledge, those participating in the caravan were from Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. UNHCR had provided assistance to approximately 200,000 asylum seekers in Mexico.

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, recalled that migration was one of the areas in which international cooperation and multilateralism could really make a difference. The Global Compact on Migration, which had been approved by Member States in July 2018 and was due to be adopted in Marrakesh
in December 2018, would provide a framework for orderly and dignified migration. It was important that the Global Compact was implemented, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration, Louise Arbour, was working hard to ensure the success of the conference in Marrakesh.


UN Migration Agency brings life-saving health services to previously inaccessible areas of Somalia

Joel Millman, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), made the following statement:

“IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has started bringing health services to the people of Gobweyn and Bulla Gaduud – two towns in south-eastern Somalia that were recently liberated by the government. For the past 27 years, war and conflict have made healthcare access difficult or impossible in many parts of the country. Now these communities have access to vaccinations, malaria treatment, antenatal care for pregnant mothers, malnutrition screenings and referrals, among other essential health services.

Government forces have been taking back new areas like Bulla Gaduud and Gobweyn from armed non-state actors in recent months, which has in turn increased the need for health services. IOM has reached approximately 20,000 people in these areas.”


Weakened fight against hunger and malnutrition in Asia and the Pacific

Hervé Verhoosel, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that a newly launched regional report, Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition, contained warnings of a colossal human loss to Asia and the Pacific and its economies if countries in the region did not recommit themselves to ending all forms of malnutrition and achieving zero hunger by 2030.

The report, published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO), revealed that 486 million of the world’s undernourished people — 62 per cent of the total — lived in the Asia and Pacific region. It also highlighted that in that region, 79 million children, or one in four children below the age of five, suffered from stunting, and 12 million of them were suffering from severe acute malnutrition with drastically increased risk of death. The situation also resulted in economic losses to a nation’s economy due to missed opportunities of human potential.

The region was also home to the fastest growing prevalence of childhood obesity in the world. The double burden of malnutrition meant that undernourished and overweight children were living in the same communities and households. There was excessive consumption of cheap, unhealthy processed foods that were high in salt, sugar and fat but poor in essential nutrients.

The number of climate-related disasters in the region was rising, with negative consequences for food security. According to the report, Asia had suffered a staggering loss of USD 48 billion between 2005 and 2015 as a result of such disasters. There was an urgent need for countries to adapt agriculture to become more resilient to climate-related events and to mitigate the damage they could cause.

Urban malnutrition was another challenge facing many countries. At the current rate of urbanization, by 2030 more than 55 percent of the population of Asia would be living in cities and towns.

The report’s findings were worrying, and showed that progress towards ending all forms of malnutrition had stalled in large areas of the region. Immediate and urgent action was required, since the world could not meet the 2030 target of zero hunger if Asia and the Pacific — the world’s most populous region — was not leading the way.


World Tsunami Awareness Day

Jeanette Elsworth, for the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), said that World Tsunami Awareness Day would be marked on 5 November. For 2018, the focus of the Day would be on Target C of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which aimed at reducing direct disaster economic loss in relation to GDP.

Data showed that between 1998 and 2017, there had been 251,770 deaths and USD 280 billion in economic loss as a result of tsunamis. That figure represented 42 per cent of the combined total losses of USD 661.5 billion for tsunamis and earthquakes in the same period. Between 1978 and 1997, there had been 998 deaths and USD 2.7 billion in recorded losses. The difference was attributed to two major events: the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, which had killed more than 200,000 people, and the tsunami and earthquake in Japan in 2011, which had killed more than 19,000 people and caused more than USD 228 billion in economic losses. Although rare, tsunamis were the deadliest and costliest form of natural disaster.

In line with the Sendai Framework, UNISDR had a focus on early warning systems, national disaster risk reduction planning and community education and awareness programmes. Like other forms of disaster, tsunamis disproportionately affected the poorest and most vulnerable populations. The Secretary-General had said that reducing economic losses caused by disasters was vital to the eradication of extreme poverty.


Elections at ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018

Jennifer Ferguson-Mitchell, for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said that elections had taken place at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai for the organization’s top five management posts.

Mr. Houlin Zhao of China had been re-elected to the post of Secretary-General, Mr. Malcolm Johnson of the United Kingdom had been re-elected to the post of Deputy Secretary-General, Dr. Chaesub Lee of the Republic of Korea had been re-elected to the post of Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, and Mr. Mario Maniewicz of Uruguay had been elected to the post of Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau.

Ms. Doreen Bogdan-Martin of the United States had been elected to the post of Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau and was the first female elected official in the 153-year history of ITU. She would begin her four-year term in January 2019.


ITU Smart City initiative in Moscow

Jennifer Ferguson-Mitchell, for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said that a case study was due to be released on making Moscow a Smart City. ITU had been working with the city’s Information Technology Department to measure and assess the smart city indicators with regard to Moscow, which had a population of 12 million people.


Geneva announcements

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said that on the afternoon of 2 November, the Human Rights Committee would close its 124th session.

Also on 2 November, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women would review the report of Lao People’s Democratic Republic. It would be the final report reviewed by the Committee during its current session.

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances would hold its 15th session from 5 to 16 November and would review the reports of Japan, Portugal and Mexico.

Ms. Vellucci also said that as part of Geneva Peace Week, a meeting would take place at 10 a.m. on 5 November in Room XVII of the Palais des Nations on “Building Peace: Protecting Children in Conflict”. The event would be attended by the Director-General of UN Geneva, Michael Møller, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba.

Also as part of Geneva Peace Week, on 7 November at 6 p.m. in Room XIV of the Palais des Nations there would be a screening of the film “A Rose in Winter”, followed by a discussion with the filmmakers and actors, and the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.

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The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/unog021118