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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE

Bi-Weekly Briefing

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service, chaired the hybrid briefing, attended by spokespersons and representatives of the World Food Programme, the Food and Agricultural Organization, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the International Organization for Migration, the International Telecommunications Union, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

FAO-WFP early warning analysis of acute food insecurity hotspots

Luca Russo, for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), informed that the joint FAO-WFP report referred to a “risk of famine”. Once famine was declared, it was already too late. This report thus provided an early warning for a number of contexts. “Famine” was clearly defined: it happened when 20 percent of the population were facing severe food shortages, and the level of malnutrition stood at above 30 percent. Three criteria were used in the report: 1) a high level of vulnerability among the population; 2) poor or no humanitarian access; 3) additional shocks, such as floods and other disasters.

Claudia Ah Poe, for the World Food Programme (WFP), stated that the main objective of the report was to inform action that needs to be taken now to avoid a major emergency, or series of emergencies in three to six months-time. The findings of the report were based on a joint analysis conducted by a team comprised of food security and agriculture experts, as well as conflict and early warning analysts of the FAO and the WFP.

Twenty countries and areas had been identified as hotspots. Those countries had already had significant levels of acute food insecurity in early 2020 and were now facing the risk of a further rapid deterioration over the next months. The authors of the report were particularly concerned about four countries that were facing an elevated risk of famine, if the situation were to further deteriorate over the coming months: Burkina Faso, north-eastern Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen. Once the famine was declared, that meant that many lives had already been lost. Such a scenario should be prevented, which was why the FAO and the WFP were urging early action.

The full early warning analysis of acute food insecurity hotspots can be accessed here and here.

Responding to questions, Ms. Ah Poe said that in Yemen, for example, WFP’s shortfall stood at 42 percent. Mr. Russo said that conflict was the main driver of the current crises, and more than two thirds of the affected people lived in the conflict-affected areas. Tomson Phiri, for the World Food Programme (WFP), added that Yemen was facing one crisis after another. Humanitarians needed both support and access to people in need. Air drops were continuing only in South Sudan, said Mr. Phiri, as the WFP preferred to use other methods, such as rivers and roads. Air deliveries cost at least eight times more than other modes of transport, he explained.

Typhoon Goni in the Philippines

Tomson Phiri, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that WFP was offering the Government of Philippines logistics support for the dire situation caused by typhoon Goni, and had transported 14,600 family food packs from the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Metro Manilla to the provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, and Camarines Sur in the Bicol Region; each pack could feed a family of five for two to three days. People needed food, clean water, sanitation. Many people living in the resettlement areas who had been there for five years said that this was the first time that they had experienced such a strong typhoon that destroyed their houses.

More on the WFP’s response to the typhoon Goni is available here.

Paul Dillon, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that the COVID-19 had exacerbated challenges for the emergency response. There were roughly 52,000 people in evacuation centers across the affected areas. It was difficult for people to keep physical distancing under such circumstances. IOM’s priority was timely delivery of Personal Protection Equipment, including face shield and sanitizers, and continuation of need assessments of the affected population, with partners on the ground. Good news was that a similar storm which had been tracked in recent days would not make a landfall. Responding to a question, Mr. Dillon said that the Government had identified some 1.2 million affected people.

Hurricane Eta in Central America

Tomson Phiri, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that, while degraded to a tropical depression, storm Eta was still posing threat to Nicaragua and Honduras, with reports of floods and uprooted trees. In both countries, the governments were leading assessments, and the WFP was in touch with both governments in order to provide complementary assistance. Early preparedness was playing a key role here; those in need would receive assistance as soon as possible.

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), stated that this crisis was still very much developing, and it was far from over. Eta continued to cause rains throughout Central America and raising rivers in many of the countries in the region. In Guatemala, for example, there were reports of deaths from floods and mudslides. El Salvador had also seen at least one deadly landslide. In Costa Rica, several regions had been put on red or orange alerts. The UN was very much present, monitoring developments and standing ready to help. As of the previous night, there had been no official requests for international assistance from those governments.

Geneva announcements

Alessandra Vellucci, on behalf of the Human Rights Council, informed that the Universal Periodic Review continued today with the review of Bulgaria. On 9 November, the UPR Working Group would review the human rights situation in the Marshall Islands in the morning from 9 a.m., and the human rights situation in the United States in the afternoon, starting at 2:30 p.m.

Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said that UNCTAD would publish on 12 November its 2020 Review of Maritime Transport. Global maritime trade would decline in 2020 due to the unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19. The recovery was expected to be positive in 2021 if the announced economic recovery is confirmed. How had operators adapted? What should we remember for the future? Steps towards transformation of the sector would be unavoidable. All those issues were addressed by the report. A virtual press conference would be held on 11 November at 2:30 p.m., with embargo until 12 November at 7 a.m. Geneva time.

Jovana Miočinović, for the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), announced that the ITU would hold a press conference on 12 November at 10:30 a.m. to announce a new partnership with Norway, which would scale up and strengthen digital skills training for underserved communities in Ghana, in collaboration with Cisco and the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications. The initiative would provide around 14,000 citizens with job-ready digital skills, in particular women entrepreneurs, pupils, teachers and marginalized groups, through 200 centres across the country. The press conference would be moderated by Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, while remarks would be delivered by Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General; Dag-Inge Ulstein, Minister of International Development of Norway; Wendy Mars, President of Cisco's Europe, Middle East, Africa and Russia region; and Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister of Communications of Ghana. A media advisory had been sent out.

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