PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
Rolando Gómez, Chief of the Press and External Relations Section at the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, which was attended by spokespersons and representatives from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Organization for Migration, World Food Programme, World Health Organization, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Telecommunication Union and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
Earthquake in Morocco: current emergency response, priorities and present the next steps
Caroline Holt, Global Director for Operations, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said a powerful earthquake hit Morocco, causing extreme suffering to the people affected in the area of Marrakech and the Atlas Mountain range.
IFRC expressed deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wished a speedy recovery to the injured and was working through its network of national societies, in this case the Moroccan Red Crescent, to provide assistance. Our teams were on the ground immediately, coordinating closely with the local authorities to provide help to affected people and assess the situation.
The IFRC teams were supporting local and national authorities in the search and rescue operation, also in the remote and hard-to-reach areas (mountainous areas). The teams were also providing first aid and psychosocial support, helping transport the injured to hospitals, evacuating people from damaged buildings, and supporting the provision of dignified burial management.
Ms. Holt stressed the importance of psychosocial and mental health support. Our experience taught us that we must support people immediately in communities because as well as coping with the devastation and loss that surrounds them, with every aftershock, the fear of the earthquake returned and stayed for days, weeks, and possibly months.
Logistics were very tough, particularly since the earthquake had hit remote mountains. Challenges included roads blocked by debris, difficulty in accessing fuel for vehicles in the mountain ranges, and broken water supplies, which brought with it the very real risk of disease and infection if people were unable to access safe and clean water. Over the last few days, Ms. Holt had been in discussions with Moroccan Red Crescent colleagues on the current response and the next steps.
The IFRC teams had 230 volunteers responding in Taroudant, Marrakech, Chichawa, and Haouz provinces, while other branches were on standby to support. They were also supporting a campaign for blood donation.
Ms. Holt commended the work of IFRC volunteers and their commitment: They were not only impacted by the earthquake themselves, but they immediately stepped up to support the communities impacted too.
This emergency response was a marathon, not a sprint: people affected by the earthquake would need support for the weeks and months to come. And we would need solidarity and support not only then, but in the future: such a vast-scale earthquake needed long-lasting and sustainable support.
Less than 24 hours after the earthquake, IFRC approved one million Swiss Francs from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund (the DREF) to support the Moroccan Red Crescent in their actions to provide relief. And that day, they launched its emergency appeal to further scale up its action with the Moroccan Red Crescent. IFRC appealed for 100 million Swiss Francs to be able to deliver on the most pressing needs at that time including health, water, sanitation and hygiene, shelter, relief items and basic needs (food, household essentials, cash), livelihoods, protection, and community engagement.
Ms. Holts stressed the need to avoid a second wave of disaster; IFRC was therefore supporting the Moroccan communities in their priorities in the immediate term: health, shelter, clean and safe water, and food.
The situation was still very complex, and the needs were continuing to unfold. The emergency appeal was therefore launched to channel the support and solidarity that was coming from donors and from IFRC’s membership - the 191 National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies around the world.
Through IFRC actions with the DREF and through the launch of this appeal, IFRC asked partners and donors to continue to show our solidarity with the people of Morocco and to scale up our collective support to those communities hit by the earthquake.
Read the full press release here.
Rolando Gómez of the UN Information Service recalled the statement by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued shortly after the event struck on Saturday through which he said was profoundly saddened to learn of the earthquake that hit Morocco which claimed many lives. The Secretary-General expressed his solidarity with the Government and people of Morocco in these difficult times. He addressed his most sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery to the injured. The United Nations is ready to assist the Government of Morocco in its efforts to assist the impacted population, the statement said.
Responding to questions, Ms.Holt said coordination and careful consideration at this moment in time was key and that this was extremely complex; accessing these hard-to-reach areas was a challenge and the needs were still evolving.
The Moroccan Red Crescent was on the ground and working in full coordination and cooperation with the authorities and national agencies.
Tommaso Della Longa said the priority is to work with the Morocco crescent organisation. Margaret Harris from the World Health Organization said that the help was ready, organised and 41 tonnes of emergency help were coming from Dubai.
Flooding in Libya: latest updates on the situation and IFRC response.
Tamer Ramadan, Head of IFRC’s delegation in Libya, said the humanitarian needs were huge following the flooding in Libya created by the Storm Daniel. An international appeal has been made.
According to reports from the Libyan Red Crescent on the ground, about 10,000 people were missing after the unprecedented flooding.The death toll was huge and expected to reach into the thousands in the coming days.
Responding to questions, Mr. Ramadan said the death toll was huge and could likely surpass 1,000. Thousands of families lost their houses. Communication was a major challenge given the lack of electricity and internet is the worst-affected areas.
IOM’s Missing Migrants Project’s 2022 annual report of migrant deaths and disappearances in the Americas
Paul Dillon for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said 686 deaths and disappearances of migrants were documented on the US-Mexico border in 2022, making it the deadliest land route for migrants worldwide on record.
The figure represented nearly half of the 1,457 migrant deaths and disappearances recorded throughout the Americas in 2022, the deadliest year on record since IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) began in 2014.
The data came from IOM’s MMP annual overview, which underscored the growing death toll and increasing risks that migrants faced throughout the region. These figures represented the lowest estimates available as many more deaths were likely to go unrecorded due to a lack of data from official sources.
Read the full press release here.
Impact of WFP ration cuts on global food security
Arif Husain, Chief Economist for the World Food Programme (WFP) said the organisation was forced to drastically cut rations in most of its operations as international humanitarian funding plummeted. Experts at the agency estimated that, as a result, an additional 24 million people could have slipped into emergency hunger over the next 12 months – a 50 percent increase on the current level.
“With the number of people around the world facing starvation at record levels, we needed to be scaling up life-saving assistance - not cutting it,” said WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain. “If we didn’t receive the support we needed to avert further catastrophe, the world would undoubtedly have seen more conflict, more unrest, and more hunger. Either we fanned the flames of global instability, or we worked quickly to put out the fire.”
There were currently 345 million people facing acute food insecurity (IPC3+) worldwide, with 40 million of these in emergency levels of hunger (IPC4). These were people forced to take desperate measures to survive and were at risk of dying from malnutrition. WFP’s food assistance was a vital lifeline, often the only thing separating them from starvation.
Responding to questions, Arif Husain said the needs of every donor have increased since the beginning of Covid-19 and at the same time the Covid-19 the numbers of people necessitating help jumped. Countries, rich or poor, spent a lot of money during this period which led to increasing debt but at the end of the day the root causes have to be faced. It is not one or the other but both are important.
Two new publications on suicide prevention
Dr. Alexandra Fleischmann, Scientist, Mental Health Unit, Department of Mental Health and Substance Use, from the World Health Organization (WHO) said WHO launched two resources designed to strengthen suicide prevention efforts. One in every 100 deaths globally was by suicide. Each year more than 700,000 people took their own lives. It was the fourth leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds.
Suicides were preventable, and proven interventions, including responsible media reporting, had a substantive role to play in reducing the number of deaths by suicide. WHO policy brief on the health aspects of decriminalization of suicide and suicide attempts. A significant barrier to reducing the global suicide rate, as set out in the SDG 2030 targets, was the fact that suicide and suicide attempts remained illegal in civil and criminal law in at least 23 countries worldwide, and suicide attempts were punished in some of them.
Treating suicide as a crime fostered blame towards people who attempted suicide and deterred people (and their loved ones) from seeking help due to the fear of legal repercussions and stigma. Treating suicide attempts as a crime also made it harder to collect accurate data and to plan how to support people.
Read the full press release here.
Human Rights Council update
Pascal Sim for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) said the focus of the Council on that day was on Nicaragua with a presentation of the High Commissioner report that morning at 11:30 am and the group of human rights experts would address with an oral update on their findings for the afternoon session. The interactive dialogue for human rights experts would take place at 5:15 pm and the press release would also be issued at the same time. The High Commissioner was engaged in an interactive dialogue at the Council on the OHCHR report on Afghanistan.
In the afternoon at 3 pm, he would engage in another interactive dialogue with his oral update on Sudan, with the participation of her designated expert Radhouan Nouicer.
The Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic would give a press conference at 1pm to discuss its latest reports.
The following day, the Council would hold the General Debate on item 2 of its agenda with the participation of Member States.
On Wednesday afternoon at 5 pm, the Council would begin item 3 of its agenda, which would be dedicated to issues involving civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. This session would be initiated with a series of Special Rapporteurs, starting with Fabián Salvioli the Special Rapporteur on truth, justice, and reparation would discuss the issue of transitional justice as well as his recent visits to the Republic of Korea, Serbia, and Kosovo.
He would be followed by the Special Rapporteur on Water and Sanitation, Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, who would also present his latest visits to Tunisia and Peru, and the Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures, Alena Douhan, who would also presente her latest report and visit to the Syrian Arab Republic and she would gave a press conference on Friday at lunchtime. Unilateral coercive measures (UCMs) would also be the theme of the first panel discussion of this 54th session, focusing on the impact of UCMs on the right to development and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.
View the latest updates on the programme of work of the 54th session here: https://hrc54session.sched.com.
The reports would be available on the Human Rights Council 54th session.
World Investment Forum 2023 – Abu Dhabi UAE 16-20 October
Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said UNCTAD would open in Abu Dhabi from 16 to 20 October with more than 7,000 participants from 160 countries to revitalise global investment flows for climate action, clean energy, healthcare, food security, and other development needs. This was the aim of the 8th World Investment Forum.
Heads of State, more than 50 ministers, some 150 CEOs of major companies and stock exchanges, and thousands of investment stakeholders - from sovereign wealth fund managers and investment treaty negotiators to heads of international organisations - would participate in the 130 events with more than 80 partners.
Commenting on the Forum, Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, said: “As the world faces multiple crises, we urgently need investment stakeholders worldwide to ignite action, unlock more funds and channel them to vital sectors key to reducing the effects of these crises,”
Read the full press release here.
WHO Global Conference: Engaging Patients for Patient Safety
Margaret Harris from World Health Organization (WHO) said the WHO Global Conference would be organise on the occasion of World Patient Safety Day on 12 and 13 September, "Engaging patients for patient safety" would offer a unique opportunity for diverse stakeholders to come together, share their experiences, and discuss strategies for enhancing patient safety through patient engagement.
The conference would feature patient and health worker stories and testimonies; panel discussions on patient and family engagement interventions by countries, partners, and patient organisations; panel discussions on advancing patient safety in the human rights agenda; a review of a draft Patient Safety Rights Charter by meeting participants; and the launch of WHO technical resources.
More information and registration: here.
Release of annual data on the global offline population and SDG Digital activities.
Delivering an announcement on behalf of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Rolando Gómez, Chief of the Press and External Relations Section at the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva, said ITU would provide a briefing note on the SDG Digital event taking place in New York on 17 September.
[ITU later announced that the number of people worldwide not connected to the Internet decreased to an estimated 2.6 billion people in 2023, according to the latest data. The reduction from the estimated 2.7 billion people offline in 2022 leaves 33 percent of the global population unconnected. The release of the new estimate comes before ITU’s annual Facts and Figures report which will be released later this year. Read the full press release here.
ITU would provide a briefing note on the SDG Digital event taking place on Sunday, 17 September in New York. The challenge of bringing digital technologies to the world’s offline population will be among the topics addressed on Sunday, 17 September at SDG Digital being convened by ITU and UNDP at UN Headquarters in New York. The event takes place alongside the SDG Action Weekend and ahead of the SDG Summit. The full programme is at www.itu.int/sdgdigital. For inquiries, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org]
Mr. Gómez said that the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres would be travelling to Havana, Cuba Thursday and Friday, 14 and 15 September, for the Group of 77 meeting.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child (94th session, 4-22 September, Palais Wilson), was concluding this morning the review of the report of Liechtenstein and will begin this afternoon the review of the report of Kyrgyzstan.
The Committee on Enforced Disappearances, which opened yesterday its 25th session (11-29 September), was concluding this morning the review of the report of Mauritania.
The Conference on Disarmament is having this morning (at 10am) a public plenary meeting, still under the presidency of Hungary.
At 1 pm, on Thursday, 14 September at 10 am, the World Meteorological Organization with Professor Tallas, the Secretary Director-General of WMO would launch the United in Science Report which focuses on the Sustainable Development Goals and climate change.
Today was the United Nations day for South-South cooperation, in his message for the day Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said that “in our world of deeply connected challenges, South-South cooperation plays a vital role in shaping a brighter future, the United Nations day for South-South cooperation is a powerful reminder that when nations unite, they can overcome obstacles and accelerate sustainable development for Climate action to poverty eradication, to health care, to education, trade digitalization, solidarity and strong partnerships between developing countries can pave the way for more equitable and sustainable world. As we marked the UN day for South-South cooperation, let us recognize that this form of Collaboration had an essential catalyst for change in boarding solidarity, innovation and mutual support.”