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Bi-Weekly Briefing

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service, chaired the hybrid briefing, attended by spokespersons and representatives of the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the World Food Programme, the International Labour Organization, and the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria.

Ethiopian refugee crisis

Babar Baloch, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), informed that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, was visiting Khartoum as Sudan received a growing number of refugees from Ethiopia. Since the start of fighting in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in early November, more than 43,000 refugees had crossed into Sudan seeking protection and shelter. Even before this influx, the country had been hosting nearly one million refugees, mainly from South Sudan.

Aid was being mobilized to help refugees, almost half of whom were children. Humanitarian agencies continued to provide shelter and other facilities to help refugees, but more resources are required, and Sudan needed international support urgently. UNHCR had helped relocate nearly 10,000 refugees to the Um Rakuba site, 70 km further from the border inside Sudan, as work continued to put up shelters and improve services.

Inside Tigray region concerns were growing for the safety of civilians in the conflict, particularly in its capital of Mekele, home to more than 500,000 people. UNHCR remained concerned as the humanitarian situation continued to worsen in Tigray, including for those displaced and for some 96,000 Eritrean refugees who would run out of food as soon as 30 December if supplies could not reach them.

Full briefing note is available here.

Responding to questions, Mr. Baloch said that the previous day some 700 people had been registered as new refugees. He emphasized concerns for civilians in Mekele as well as for the Eritrean refugees in four camps in Tigray. Mr. Baloch explained that some of the Ethiopian refugees in Sudan preferred to remain close to the border as they had family members left behind.

In a response to a question, Tomson Phiri, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that flights were coming in and out of Addis Ababa as usual, and the city remained a main logistical hub.

Also in response to questions on access, Alessandra Vellucci, for the UN Information Service, informed on behalf of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), that the United Nations and the humanitarian community appreciated the Ethiopian Federal Government’s announcement acknowledging the need for urgent humanitarian assistance and protection for people affected by the conflict in Tigray. The UN look forward to working with all actors to ensure that humanitarians have unconditional, safe and immediate access to, and within, Tigray. Three weeks since the fighting began, the humanitarian situation in Tigray was increasingly critical and it was vital that humanitarians were able to urgently assist people in accordance with the globally-agreed principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and operational independence.

Drought in Madagascar

Tomson Phiri, for the World Food Programme (WFP), stated that hunger was on the rise in the southern region of Madagascar, where droughts were worsening the already difficult situation. Approximately 1.5 million people were struggling to put food on their tables. As the situation had worsened rapidly over the ten southern districts, the needs were currently much higher than anticipated. Most affected were women and children. A proportion of families were resorting to crisis coping mechanisms, including eating bugs and selling their possessions. Hunger had forced three quarters of children to drop out of school so that they could help with foraging food. The situation in Madagascar had been bad before, but this was the third successive year in which the country was facing devastating conditions. WFP was providing assistance and would scale up its operations through June 2021. Over the next six months, the WFP funding shortfall would be USD 36.5 million, and the international community was urged to step in.

Geneva announcements

Alessandra Vellucci, for the UN Information Service (UNIS), informed that the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) would present the Global Humanitarian Overview 2021 (GHO) in Geneva on 1 December at 9 a.m. The GHO was the annual overview of trends and current state of worldwide humanitarian needs, projections and inter-agency response plans. It included an overview of the funding necessary to implement the plans in 2021. This afternoon, Friday 29 November, at 3 p.m., a hybrid embargoed press conference with Mark Lowcock, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, would take place. All materials would be under embargo until 1 December at 6 a.m. Geneva time.

Jenifer Fenton, for the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria (OSE), informed that that the fourth session of the Constitutional Committee Small Body would convene from 30 November to 4 December in Geneva. As was relayed to the Security Council, in line with the mandate, the Terms of Reference and the Core Rules of Procedure, the Constitutional Committee Small Body would continue in session 4 to discuss the agenda of session 3 on national foundations and principles, and in session 5 will discuss constitutional principles (basic principles of the constitution). The Co-Chairs had further agreed on the dates for session 4, the health situation permitting, and to hold session 5 in January 2021.

On Sunday, 29 November, the Special Envoy Mr. Geir O. Pedersen would give a hybrid press briefing in Room XIV at 4 p.m. A live webcast could be viewed on All COVID-safety protocols would be implemented, as the health and safety of the participants and all present was of paramount importance.

Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), informed that UNCTAD would publish on 3 December its annual Least Developed Countries Report which highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic had increased extreme poverty in the 47 least developed countries. The COVID-19 pandemic had hit the least developed countries (LDCs) so hard that they would this year register their worst economic performance in 30 years. The new issue of the Least Developed Countries Report 2020 said that efforts to rebuild the economies of the world’s poorest nations post-pandemic would fall significantly short unless their productive capacities were drastically improved. A press conference would be held on 1 December at 2:30 p.m. with UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi and the Director of the Division in charge of LDCs Paul Akiwumi.

Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), informed that the WMO would issue its provisional statement on the state of climate in 2020. WMO was coordinating with the UN Secretary-General’s office as he would be making a major policy statement the same week. WMO would hold a press conference on their report with the WMO Secretary-General on 2 December at 3:30 p.m.

Alessandra Vellucci added that on 2 December, the UN Secretary-General would deliver a major address on the state of the climate, which would be webcast. A pre-briefing by Selwin Hart, the Assistant Secretary-General on climate change, would be organized on 1 December, and interested journalists should express their interest.

Rosalind Yarde, for the International Labour Organization (ILO), stated that on 2 December the ILO would publish its latest Global Wage Report covering the last four years. The report included regional and country data, taking into consideration the effects of COVID-19, as well as a list of policy recommendations. ILO Director-General Guy Ryder would present the report on 2 December at 11 a.m.; one of the report authors, Rosalia Vazquez-Alvarez, would also elaborate on the findings. The embargo would be lifted on 2 December at 1 p.m.

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