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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE

Bi-Weekly Briefing

Rhéal LeBlanc, Chief of the Press and External Relations Section at the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the hybrid press briefing, which was attended by the spokespersons and the representatives of Unitaid, the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria, and the United Nations Refugee Agency.

New agreement on generic production of injectable HIV-prevention drugs

Herve Verhoosel, for Unitaid, reminded that in March 2022 Unitaid had called on the pharmaceutical industry to facilitate equitable access to long-lasting HIV prevention solutions.

Today, Unitaid was pleased to announce that the Medicine Patent Pool (MPP), a structure created and largely funded by Unitaid, had reached a voluntary licensing agreement for patents relating to cabotegravir long-acting (LA), an injectable form of HIV prevention, or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), to help enable access to generic formulations of the product in least developed, low income, lower-middle income, and sub-Saharan African countries.

PrEP was a highly effective method of HIV prevention, but until recently had only been available in pill form, taken daily or, in some cases, before and after sex. Cabotegravir LA for PrEP was an important advancement as it could provide two months of continuous protection against HIV infection through a single intramuscular injection, therefore mitigating challenges related to pill burden.

The agreement would give selected manufacturers the opportunity to develop, manufacture and supply generic versions of cabotegravir LA for PrEP in 90 countries, where over 70 per cent of all new HIV infections had occurred in 2020.

Ninety countries were a good first step, said Mr. Verhoosel, stressing that many other countries would need access to generic or affordable solutions. Additional efforts were needed, for example in East Asia and South America. Unitaid was working with a coalition of partners on efforts to accelerate affordable and equitable access to long-acting PrEP in low- and middle-income countries.

More information is available here.

Responding to questions, Mr. Verhoosel explained that the license would give an option to generic manufacturers to develop a much more available and affordable product. It was impossible to say now when the generic versions would be ready and how much they would cost. Three companies would be chosen based on logistics, security, and availability, among other factors. The product would be given only by prescription.

Update on the Syrian political process

Jenifer Fenton, for the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria (OSE), informed that the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir O. Pedersen, had briefed the Security Council in closed consultations the previous day.

Mr. Pedersen had recalled that in agreement with the Co-Chairs, invitations for the Ninth Session of the Small Body of the Constitutional Committee had been sent, in order to convene in Geneva the week of 25 July. However, the Co-Chair nominated by the Government had later informed Mr. Pedersen that his delegation would be ready to participate in the Ninth Session only when what he described as requests made by the Russian Federation had been met.

Regretfully, the Ninth Session had to be postponed, and the Special Envoy had informed the delegations of this. The Special Envoy would continue to consult with key interlocutors and all relevant parties with the aim of reconvening the Committee at the earliest opportunity possible, ensuring full commitment to the Constitutional Committee’s Terms of Reference.

Mr. Pedersen had stressed to the Security Council that the postponement was unfortunate and disheartening, particularly since it resulted from matters unrelated to the Syria file. He had urged all the parties to firewall the Syrian process from the impact of the conflicts elsewhere in the world and put the interest of Syrians first.

The Special Envoy had appealed to the Council, noting that Syrians were in desperate need of support. He had noted that: “We must put aside our differences and offer Syrians a common and constructive position. It is also in our profound, collective interest to do so.”

Ten years of the Zaatari camp

Dominik Bartsch, United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Representative in Jordan, speaking from Amman, stated that the Zaatari camp, the largest Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, was marking its tenth anniversary. Some 80,000 Syrian refugees were calling the camp their home. The camp was a testimony to the generosity of the Government of Jordan, which had put remarkable facilities in place for the refugees. The camp had been sustained by generous international donations over the past decade, said Mr. Bartsch.

Zaatari had a very comprehensive infrastructure and functioned as a small city, with multiple educational and health facilities. There were more than 1,800 shops, many of them connected with a nearby city. Nonetheless, it was still a camp, with limited mobility and opportunities, especially for the children born in the camp. Younger refugees were frustrated about their education prospects beyond the camp. The camp was experiencing growing humanitarian pressure points, given the global rise in food prices; consequently, the level of poverty was increasing in the camp. Another concern related to the sustainability of the camp, as some caravans used for accommodation had a limited life span and were reaching their end. It was hoped that the economic integration of the camp in the surrounding Jordanian community could be expanded.

Mr. Bartsch said that, depending on the prospects of the Syrian refugees’ return to their country, the camp seemed set to stay. The environment in Syria did not seem conducive for returns; most refugees wanted to return but they were not ready to go back in the immediate future, until the right conditions were created.

Answering questions, Mr. Bartsch stated that, historically, many conflicts had been protracted, so the ten years of the Zaatari camp were not an outlier in that sense. The current population of 80,000 was a historical maximum in the camp, which made it the largest such camp in the region. There were 660,000 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan; about 20 per cent of those lived in camps. Cash assistance was being provided to about 35,000 families, or some 180,000 individuals. The Jordanian society had been very welcoming to refugees, but now growing economic strains were being felt. Continued inclusion of the refugees in the society was the path to follow, said Mr. Bartsch. Overall, it was a positive environment, especially in comparison to other countries. Finally, Mr. Bartsch explained that there were around ten million displaced Syrians in total, both within Syria and abroad.

Announcements

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that the 74th session of the Committee Against Torture was ending today, with a public meeting at 10 am. The Committee would issue its concluding observations on the reports of Botswana, Nicaragua, the State of Palestine, and the United Arab Emirates. These concluding observations, as well as the Committee’s recommendations to the four countries, would be made available on the Committee’s website.

 

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