Skip to main content


Bi-Weekly Briefing

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service, chaired the hybrid briefing, which was attended by spokespersons and representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the World Health Organization, the World Meteorological Organization, and the United Nations Children’s Fund.


Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that the UN Secretary-General had expressed, in the strongest possible way, his total condemnation about the horrific terrorist attack in Kabul the previous day, sending his condolences to the families of all those that had perished.

Rupert Colville, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stated that the terrorist attack at the Kabul Airport was a horrendous move by ISIL-Khorasan. It had been clearly calculated to kill and maim as many people as possible: civilians -- children, women, fathers, mothers, as well as Taliban, and foreign forces protecting the airport. It was an attack specifically designed to cause carnage, and it had caused carnage. Mr. Colville stressed that this was a hideous assault on desperate civilians, and the OHCHR hoped that those responsible would be caught and brought to justice as soon as possible.

Dr. Rick Brennan, Regional Emergency Director, Eastern Mediterranean Region, at the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the situation in Afghanistan remained very volatile, and the terrorist attack the previous day further exaggerated the situation. The humanitarian needs across the country were enormous and growing. Over 18 million people were in need, in the context of hunger, drought, conflict, and COVID-19. Even after the evacuations were completed, millions of vulnerable Afghans would remain behind, and global solidarity ought to be expressed not only in words, but also in concrete actions.

WHO’s paramount priority remained the safety and security of its staff on the ground; the second priority was to ensure the continuity of the health services. WHO had presence in all 34 provinces; 97 percent of some 2,200 health facilities around the country remained open and functioning but were rapidly running out of supplies. There were only a few days of medical supplies left, and the WHO was exploring ways on how to bring more supplies in the country. The Kabul Airport was currently not an option for bringing supplies into the country; the Mazar-i-Sharif Airport was being looked at instead.

Addressing the needs of women and children, the displaced, those who had experienced trauma, the malnourished were all among the most important tasks in Afghanistan. Dr. Brennan reminded of the gains made in the past 20 years when it came to maternal and child mortality, and rollbacks on that progress should not be allowed to happen. Dr. Brennan stressed that the humanitarian needs of Afghanistan would remain immense after the evacuations from the Kabul Airport had completed.

Ms. Vellucci reminded that the UN’s appeal for Afghanistan stood at USD 1.3 billion, 39 percent of which was funded at the moment.

Responding to questions, Dr. Brennan said that there was still a lot of certainty regarding the operations of the Kabul Airport after the US departure on 31 August. WHO had not heard of instances of their local female workers being physically prevented from coming to work. The enormous brain drain of health workers was a major preoccupation. He explained that the WHO had supplies ready to bring in, to treat traumas, malnutrition, and chronic diseases alike. Ms. Vellucci, in a response to another question, explained that there were some 3,000 local Afghan UN staff in the country; according to the international law, national authorities held the primary responsibility for their safety and security.

UNICEF Gender-Migration Report 

Verena Knaus, Global Lead for Migration and Displacement at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), presented the highlights of Uncertain Pathways, a new report which challenged general assumptions about childhood, gender, and migration. The report asked some hard and uncomfortable questions, and explored how gender-specific vulnerabilities, needs, and opportunities influence the lives of girls and boys on the move. The data and experiences of the girls and boys presented in the report both challenged common assumptions about the interaction of gender, childhood and migration and point to worrying blind spots: data that did not exist.

Among the key findings was that in 2020, 35.5 million children had lived outside their country of birth as migrants or refugees, being either displaced due to conflicts violence or environmental catastrophes or having left home to pursue their dreams for an education or reunite with family. An additional 23.3 million girls and boys had been internally displaced. That meant that today close to 60 million girls and boys had migrated across borders or been forcibly displaced within their own countries.

Very often girls used migration as a tactic to delay marriage, but for boys it was frequently a way to become breadwinners. Risks along the migration routes were also quite gendered, said Ms. Knaus. Girls in refugee camps, for example, were 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys. What needed to be done was: to address the blind spots – through greater coordination and investment in gender-specific data, disaggregation and standardization to ensure our response really reaches those it needs to reach; to move away from one-size-fits-all approaches; to listen to, learn from and engage girls and boys as experts of their own migration experience to better understand their aspirations and meet different protection risks; and to get serious about not just a gender-responsive but gender -transformative responses to migration and forced displacement, concluded Ms. Knaus.

Geneva announcements

Alessandra Vellucci, speaking on behalf of the Human Rights Council (HRC), informed that the organizational meeting for the regular 48th session of the Council would be held in Room XX on 30 August 2021 from 3 pm. In-person participation would be strictly limited, and the meeting would be webcast on The 48th regular session of the Council would be held from 13 September to 8 October 2021, one week longer than standard for the Human Rights Council session held regularly at this time of year. Ambassador Nazhat Khan, President of the Human Rights Council, would duly brief the press on 8 September.

Ms. Vellucci, reading an announcement on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), informed that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in partnership with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) were convening a virtual forum of leaders from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) the following week in a major push forward to help its Members regain their momentum toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SIDS Solutions Forum 2021 would be held on 30 and 31 August, co-hosted by the Government of Fiji; it should be noted that the event would start on 29 August, 9 pm Geneva time. More information was available here, whereas registration was possible at this link.

Ms. Vellucci also informed that today at 1:30 pm, there would be a virtual press conference to present the Regional Refugee Preparedness and Response Plan for Afghanistan. Speakers were Kelly Clements, Deputy High Commissioner, UNHCR; Wafaa Saeed Abdelatef, Director of the Coordination Division of UN OCHA; Manuel Fontaine, Director of Emergency Programmes with UNICEF; and Najeeba Wazedafost, CEO of the Asia Pacific Refugee Network.

On 1 September at 11 am, there would be a launch of the ILO’s World Social Protection Report 2020-22: Social protection at the crossroads – in pursuit of a better future, under embargo until 1 pm that day. Speakers at the conference would be Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), and Shahra Razavi, Director, ILO Social Protection department.

Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that a media advisory had been sent out ahead of the launch of the report Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather Climate and Water Extremes 1970-2019. A hybrid press conference would be held on 1 September at 9:30 am, with Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, and Mami Mizutori, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). The report included 50 years’ worth of the statistics, analyses of human and economic costs of weather, climate and water disasters. The data was segregated by decades, which helped show how disasters were evolving over time. The press release would be available in all official languages, while the report was in English only.

Ms. Vellucci informed that the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was beginning at noon today the review of the report of Djibouti, which it would continue on 30 August and 1 September (at 12:30 each day).

The Conference on Disarmament would hold its next public plenary meeting on 31 August, at 10 am. It would hear the last speakers of the debate on the participation of women in international security and continue its review of the draft annual report to the GA (CD/WP.636).

Finally, Ms. Vellucci informed that on 29 August at 11 am, there would be the first in-person Ciné ONU screening of the year, featuring the documentary When Tomatoes Met Wagner. In the movie, set in Elias, rural Greece, two cousins seek to revitalize their village and its 33 inhabitants by stimulating the growth of their organic tomatoes by playing Wagner and Greek music on loudspeakers in the fields. A discussion would follow on sustainable agriculture, and how small initiatives can produce big results for our planet’s health. 150 participants of the screening would receive a coupon for a free drink of their choice at Festi’Terroir, taking place that weekend in parc des Bastions, near the cinema.

* * *