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UN Geneva Press Briefing

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, which was attended by representatives and spokespersons of the World Health Organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Refugee Agency, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Millions of children fighting for survival in Pakistan

Abdullah Fadil, Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Pakistan, speaking from Islamabad, stressed that the focus of the aid arriving to Pakistan should be on resilience. In Geneva the previous week, international donors had pledged over 9 billion USD to help Pakistan recover from the catastrophe. This was a very generous move, but children had to be at the center of recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction efforts.

UNICEF had been in Pakistan from the beginning of the crisis and had established about 1,000 temporary learning centers across the country, with some 90,000 children. Pakistan had about 23 million children out of school, and an estimated two additional millions had left school after the floods. Humanitarian efforts continued; as of today, still four million children were exposed to elements. The UN system in Pakistan was funded only about 40 percent, informed Mr. Fadil. Despite the ongoing tragedy, despite all the young lives at stake, UNICEF’s current appeal of USD 173 million was less than half funded, he informed.

Responding to questions, Mr. Fadil said that Pakistan was not able to pay its debts now, given the dire situation in the country. Some of the pledged money might be the unused money from previous years, he explained. UNICEF estimated that the children mortality rates were about three times higher than usual. Still, a cholera outbreak had been averted, thanks to an early, preemptive action. Pakistan had one of ten out-of-school children in the world, said Mr. Fadil. Both education and malnutrition continued to be big issues; UNICEF was planning to stay in an emergency, humanitarian mode throughout this year.

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), replying to a question, said that the Pakistan event, held in Geneva the previous week, had not been a humanitarian pledging conference as such; questions on the pledged amounts were to be directed to the United Nations Development Programme the UN body in charge of organizing the conference.

Comprehensive regional response needed to address rise in deadly southeast Asia sea journeys

Shabia Mantoo, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), stated that more than 3,500 desperate Rohingya had attempted deadly sea crossings in 39 boats in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal in 2022, according to the latest data from UNHCR. This represented a 360 per cent increase on the year before when some 700 people had made similar journeys. In the absence of a comprehensive regional response to address such perilous maritime movements, UNHCR warned that more people would die on the high seas, under the watch of many coastal States.

The current crisis in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea was a crisis of solidarity, said Ms. Mantoo. The Bali Process, a forum for policy dialogue, information sharing and cooperation to address people smuggling, human trafficking and related transnational crime, would hold its Eighth Ministerial meeting in February. UNHCR repeated its call for prompt search and rescue and timely disembarkation in a place of safety, and for support to countries where Rohingya refugees were disembarked.

Full statement can be found here.

Answering questions from the media, Ms. Mantoo said that some refugees saw their vulnerabilities exploited by traffickers. They were embarking on those perilous journeys because of the dire situation at home. Over 950,000 Rohingya refugees were hosted by Bangladesh, which was very generous but needed additional support from donors. UNHCR was appealing to all countries in the region to extend protection to the Rohingya refugees in need.


Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that the UN Secretary-General was due to arrive to Switzerland today to participate in the World Economic Forum in Davos. He would deliver his “State of the World” address on 18 January at 11:15 a.m., which would be webcast live here. He would also meet bilaterally with a number of world leaders. After Davos, the Secretary-General would take part in the seventeenth seminar of his current Special and Personal Representatives and Envoys in Yverdon-les-Bains.

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that Dr. Tedros was in Davos already, and would participate in the panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos “Ending Tuberculosis: How Do We Get There?”, today from 4:15 pm. The panel could be followed online. WHO Director-General would not hold his regular press conference this week.

Responding to questions, Mr. Lindmeier said that the WHO had not received any additional information from either Uzbekistan or the maker of the Indian cough syrups, which was alleged to have caused deaths in Uzbekistan. Mr. Lindmeier reminded that the WHO had issued an alert warning against the use of two Indian cough syrups blamed for the deaths of at least 20 children in Uzbekistan.

Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), informed that Rebeca Grynspan, the UNCTAD Secretary-General, was already in Davos; the focus of her bilateral meetings would be on investment in the Sustainable Development Goals.

She also said that on 23 January UNCTAD would welcome the Minister of Finance and Public Credit of Colombia, José Antonio Ocampo, who would give the prestigious Raul Prebisch Lecture, the 18th in the series. Prebisch Lectures had been instituted in 1982 to honour Raul Prebisch UNCTAD’s first Secretary General. The event could be followed in person in room XVII or online.

On 24 January in the afternoon (exact time to be confirmed), UNCTAD and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) would present the 2023 issue of the World Economic and Social Prospects, which was annually produced by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs with contributions from the UN regional commissions and UNCTAD. Richard Kozul-Wright for UNCTAD and Jose Palacin for UNECE would present the global economic situation as well as a more European perspective. The embargo would be lifted on 25 January.

On 24 January at 12 p.m. noon, Ms. Vellucci informed, there would be a hybrid press briefing to launch the UNRWA Annual Appeal for 2023. The Appeal would be presented by Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief Works Agency.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child , which had opened its 92nd session the previous day, would conclude this morning the review of the report of Sweden. It would begin this afternoon the review of the report of Mauritius. Other countries to be reviewed during the current session were Oman, Bolivia, Azerbaijan, Ireland, and New Zealand.