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PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE

Bi-Weekly Briefing

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service, chaired the hybrid press briefing, which was attended by the spokespersons and representatives of the United Nations Refugee Agency, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Programme, and the Human Rights Council.  

Preventing famine in Somalia

El-Khidir Daloum, World Food Programme (WFP) Representative in Somalia, speaking from Mogadishu, stressed that world leaders should not turn their heads away from Somalia. A major scale-up of humanitarian aid to Somalia was making a difference, and continued funding was necessary to sustain this effort. WFP was doing its best to expand the number of people it was serving, even while its funding was very limited. In August, the WFP alone had reached 4.4 million people with life-saving assistance. In June, 7.1 million people had been facing critical food insecurity; as of today, an estimated 4.3 million people were still facing critical food insecurity, while 120,000 were suffering from catastrophic hunger, stated Mr. Daloum. Those numbers, while improving, were still unacceptable. Some 6.7 million people would still face critical food insecurity throughout December, he warned. It was critical for the international community to scale up and for humanitarian actors to continue pushing deeper into rural and hard-to-reach areas. A coordinated humanitarian response was needed, in order to address various needs, such as water and sanitation, in addition to nutrition.

James Elder, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), connecting from Copenhagen, said that there was no doubt that the humanitarian response was making a difference. However, the number of Somalia’s youngest children, six to 59 months, who were expected to suffer severe acute malnutrition had unfortunately increased, from 386,000 in June to some 513,550 today. Severely malnourished children were up to 11 times more likely to die of diarrhea and measles than well-nourished children, both of which were spiking across the region that was predicted to head into famine. More children needed urgent assistance today than during the 2011 famine, warned Mr. Elder. In other words, more than half a million children were facing preventable death right now. A radical change was needed to make sure such situations do not happen again. UNICEF’s three-year appeal for building resilience in the Horn of Africa was currently three percent funded.

Etienne Peterschmitt, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative in Somalia, speaking from Jallam, stated that the food insecurity in Somalia was reaching catastrophic levels, resembling the famine conditions of 2011. As already mentioned by the FAO representative, approximately 6.7 million people across the country were likely to experienced acute food insecurity by the end of this year – that was 41 percent of Somalia’s population. The repeated warnings were clear that we had to act now, or the famine would occur shortly. The drought situation was spreading at an alarming rate, more districts and regions were facing emergency levels of food insecurity as the cumulative effects of multiple failed rainy seasons took their toll. An estimated 55 percent of all Somali children under five were facing acute malnutrition. FAO and partners were trying to bring assistance as close as possible to affected communities in order to prevent famine in the hardest-hit rural areas. Action was necessary now to save lives and livelihoods, stressed Mr. Peterschmitt. Greater and immediate support was needed: famine could be prevented if the international community acted now. 

Responding to questions from the media, James Elder, for UNICEF, reiterated that more than half a million children needed immediate assistance to prevent severe acute malnutrition. Stabilization centers were full, and some children had to receive treatments on the floor. Mr. Elder said that over 13,000 cases of measles and 8,400 of acute watery diarrhea had been recorded in the first half of the year; some 78 percent of those had been children under five. Etienne Peterschmitt, for FAO, added that people were depending on imported powder milk as their local camels were out of milk. Some three million cattle were estimated to have perished, which was dramatic as livestock was one of the key pillars of the country’s economy. Mr. Daloum, for WFP, reminded that half of the deaths in 2011 had happened before the actual declaration of the famine. So the international community had to act now. 

Pakistan floods aftermath 

Knut Ostby, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Representative in Pakistan, speaking from Islamabad, stressed that the recent floods had been at an unprecedented scale, affecting some 33 million people and killing at least 1,400 people. Many millions of acres of crops had been destroyed, affecting both the current and the next planting season. The accelerating global warming was at the bottom of this human suffering in Pakistan today. United Nations agencies were trying to reach people in need, and at the same time recovery had to start as soon as possible. Some recovery support was already being provided, partly by pivoting existing programmes, informed Mr. Ostby. It was hoped that donors would contribute generously: the situation had been caused by the global climate change, and international solidarity was needed to solve it.

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), reminded that the UN Secretary-General António Guterres had just visited Pakistan to show solidarity with the people of the country following the destruction caused by the devastating floods. He had appealed for massive international support to bolster the response and tackle what he called a “climate carnage”. 

Announcements 

Rolando Gomez, for the Human Rights Council, reminded that the 51st session had begun on 12 September. The interactive discussion on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan was continuing this morning, to be followed by a presentation of the report on human rights in Nicaragua. A general debate on the oral update of the High Commissioner would commence in the afternoon today; more than 130 speakers were registered to speak. Water and sanitation for indigenous peoples, and unilateral collateral measures would be on the agenda on 14 September. More details are available here. 

The Commission of Inquiry on Syria would present its latest report in a hybrid press conference on 14 September at 12 noon.

On 15 September at 1:30 pm, there would be a hybrid press conference to present the first report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burundi, Fortuné Gaétan Zongo. 

Shabia Mantoo, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that at 7 pm today the UNHCR would be publishing the Refugee Education Report. An embargoed press release had been shared. UNHCR Education Section representatives would speak at the UN Spokesman’s noon briefing in New York today.  

Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), reminded that the WHO would be releasing new Global guidance framework for the responsible use of the life sciences. A press conference at 2 pm today would take place, with Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, and Dr. John Reeder, Director, Research for Health Department. The weekly press conference with Dr. Tedros would be held at 12 noon on 14 September.

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that today at 12 noon, there would be a hybrid press conference by the Presidents of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Peter Maurer and Francesco Rocca, about the the growing hunger needs they were seeing across the world. The speakers would make a joint call for urgent action ahead of the UN General Assembly in New York. 

At 3:30 pm Geneva time today, an update would be provided on the efforts to reintegrate food and fertilizers from Ukraine and Russia into the global markets. UN Coordinator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative Amir Abdulla and UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan would brief the journalists in New York and the event would be webcast on UN Web TV.

Today at 3:30 pm, at a hybrid press conference in Geneva, Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) would present the new United in Science report.

On 14 September at 11 am, there would be a hybrid press conference by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to present the UNCTAD Report on its Assistance to the Palestinian People 2022. Speakers would be Richard Kozul-Wright, Director of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, and Mutasim Elagraa, in charge of the Assistance to the Palestinian People Programme, UNCTAD. 

The Committee on the Rights of the Child was concluding this morning its review of the report of Viet Nam. This afternoon, the Committee would begin consideration of the report of the Philippines. 

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances was concluding this morning the review of the report of Mali. This afternoon, the Committee would begin consideration of the report of Czechia.

The Conference on Disarmament was holding this morning a public plenary meeting in Room XVIII. The Conference had yet to adopt its annual report. 

 

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