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UN Geneva Press Briefing

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired a hybrid briefing, which was attended by spokespersons and representatives of the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Food Programme, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the International Telecommunication Union, the World Health Organization, the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria, and the Human Rights Council. 

Food insecurity in Mozambique

Antonella d'Aprile, World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director in Mozambique, speaking from Maputo, stated that Mozambique was currently suffering from multiple shocks. This week, which marked five years since the disastrous cyclone Idai, tropical storm Filipo had entered Mozambique with very strong winds of up to 120 km/h. The storm had impacted some 48,000 people in the affected provinces, with damage to infrastructure and interrupted services and education. This had come on the top of the already difficult situation in the north, due to the ongoing conflict. WFP stood ready to support more than 50,000 people with food rations for 30 days. WFP in Mozambique, like other UN agencies, were already under a lot of pressure because of the multiple simultaneous shocks. Cabo Delgado was currently experiencing the second largest displacement crisis since the eruption of the conflict in 2017, with a vast majority of the displaced being women and children. In January 2023, reminded Ms. d’Aprile, the WFP had assisted one million displaced people; in January 2024, only half a million displaced people could be helped, and this would need to be further reduced to only 215,000 people in May, because of the limited resources. Ms. d’Aprile concluded by stressing that the northern part of the country was still an active conflict zone, leading to displacement, and southern and central parts affected by tropical storm Filipo and El Niño. Continuous international support was very much needed.

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), added that the 2024 Humanitarian Response Plan for Mozambique of USD 413 million was currently under 6 percent funded.

Conflict in Sudan

Jill Lawler, Chief of Field Operations for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Sudan, speaking from New York, informed that she had recently led a UNICEF team to Omdurman, Khartoum, the first UN mission since the war had broken out in April 2023. The team visited a number of hospitals, where doctors spoke of growing needs, with patients sharing beds and many staff living in hospitals and not being paid for months. Some hospitals were operating in complete darkness as there were power outages. The UNICEF mission had also learned of cases of women and girls who had been raped in the first months of the war now delivering babies. Ms. Lawler also spoke of seeing many young people carrying arms. 

Hunger was pervasive and was the number one concern people had expressed. Food was available, but too expensive for many people to afford. Numbers of acutely malnourished children were rising, and the lean season had not yet begun. Nearly 3.7 million children were projected to be acutely malnourished this year in Sudan, including 730,000 who needed lifesaving treatment. Ms. Lawler said that Sudan was now the world’s largest displacement crisis. Parties to the conflict had to provide an unimpeded, immediate, safe humanitarian access to people in need. Parties to the conflict had both moral imperative and legal obligation to protect children; killing and maiming of children, as well as their recruitment and sexual violence against children were all strictly prohibited, stressed Ms. Lawler. Sudan was being pushed towards a famine, with a potential catastrophic loss of lives. Twenty-four million children across Sudan needed and deserved peace. They needed a ceasefire. They needed a lasting political solution. In other words, they needed a chance to be children, concluded Ms. Lawler.

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said that the 2024 Humanitarian Response Plan for Sudan of USD 2.7 billion was five percent funded. She reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for a ceasefire during Ramadan.

Responding to questions, Ms. Lawler said there were many supplies in Port Sudan and explained that the availability of supplies was not an issue; unimpeded, safe access to affected populations was the key challenge. 

Thirteen years of war in Syria

Jenifer Fenton, for the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria, said that in his statement released this morning, the Special Envoy said that this solemn anniversary of the conflict was tragically marked by heightened regional tensions and concerning developments throughout Syria, as it entered its fourteenth year without a political solution in sight. Syrians had long endured unspeakable violence and devastation, indiscriminately impacting the young and old, men and women, across all societal strata. Syria's humanitarian crisis continued to intensify: an astounding 16.7 million individuals needed humanitarian assistance - the highest number of people requiring assistance since the conflict began. There were more than five million refugees living in neighboring countries and more than seven million internally displaced inside Syria. 

The Special Envoy appealed to all parties to the conflict to immediately cease all violence and fulfill their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to pursue a comprehensive nationwide ceasefire, and to work for a cooperative and strategic approach to counter-terrorism in line with international law.

He also appealed to all parties to the conflict to immediately and unconditionally release all persons held arbitrarily in their custody. The international community needed to unite to push for political process in line with Security Council resolution 2254 (2015), including confidence-building measures, the resumption of the Constitutional Committee – and ultimately the comprehensive addressing of the full range of issues that would need to be resolved to end this conflict. Peace had to be prioritized, stressed the Special Envoy in his statement. 

Full statement is available here

Matthew Saltmarsh, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), stressed that displaced Syrians ought not to be forgotten, 13 years into the conflict. The displaced people continued to suffer hugely and now, more than ever, they needed the world’s support. Sadly, the initial support and attention given to their plight were no longer there. More than five million registered Syrian refugees remained in five neighbouring countries: Türkiye, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. Those refugees still needed international protection and asylum. Inside Syria, more than 7.2 million Syrians were still displaced in their own country. Syria remained the world’s largest forced displacement crisis in the world, according to the UNHCR. Some 16.7 million people inside the country needed aid; in neighbouring countries, as many as 19 million people, both refugees and host communities, would need humanitarian assistance in 2024. 

UNHCR’s appeal for Syria for 2024 was six percent funded; for the region, its appeal for ten percent funded, informed Mr. Saltmarsh. This decline in funding had forced UNHCR and its partners to make difficult choices whom and what to prioritize. Fewer refugee families could be assisted; less assistance and higher prices meant higher debts for many displaced families. In Lebanon, an average Syrian family owed USD 462, a large amount for them. In the aftermath of the last year devastating earthquake, there had been further compounding of suffering for Syrians, and the spillover of the war in Gaza could push the country and the region further into abyss. Mr. Saltmarsh stressed that the UNHCR continued to stand in solidarity with the long-suffering Syrian people and those in neighbouring countries. 

More information can be found here.

Responding to questions, Ms. Fenton said that the Special Envoy was scheduled to be in Damascus soon where he would discuss a possible next meeting of the Constitutional Committee, which had been expected to take place in Geneva in April. Mr. Saltmarsh informed that Lebanon hosted over 800,000 Syrian refugees, being the largest host per capita. The economic situation in the country was grave, and UNHCR was working with partners to support local communities. Türkiye was still overall the largest refugee hosting country, with 3.6 million refugees. Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that the Humanitarian Response Plan for Syria in 2024 stood at USD 4.1 billion, and was currently only 0.03 percent funded.

New data on burden of neurological conditions

Dr. Katrin Seeher, Mental Health Specialist, Brain Health Unit, at the World Health Organization (WHO),  said that a major new study released by The Lancet Neurology showed that, in 2021, more than 3 billion people worldwide had been living with a neurological condition. Neurological conditions were now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. The overall amount of disability, illness and premature death caused by neurological conditions had increased by 18 percent since 1990, and the top neurological conditions contributing to loss of health in 2021 had been stroke, neonatal encephalopathy, migraine, dementia, and diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage).

Dr. Seeher informed that over the past three decades, the absolute number of individuals living with, or dying from, neurological conditions had increased, and the increases in absolute numbers were mainly driven by demographic change and people living longer. The Intersectoral Global Action Plan 2022–2031 set out a roadmap for countries to improve prevention, early identification, treatment and rehabilitation of neurological disorders. To achieve equity and access to quality care, more investments was needed for risks to brain health, improved support for the healthcare workforce and adequate services. 

Human Rights Council

Pascal Sim, for the Human Rights Council (HRC), informed that this morning the Council was continuing its general debate on promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. On 18 March, the Council would discuss the situations in Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Syria. The latest report on Ukraine would be presented in the morning on 19 March.

On 18 March at 1 pm,  there would be a press conference to present the latest report and findings of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran.


Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), informed of an UNCTAD press conference on 20 March at 3 pm to present the first Global Supply Chain Forum. The high-level forum would respond to the need to tackle ongoing and future supply chain challenges, covering issues such as financing, sustainable and resilient transport and logistics, trade facilitation, transport connectivity, digitalization, food security, transport costs, climate change adaptation and mitigation. Speakers at the press conference would be Pedro Manuel Moreno, UNCTAD Deputy Secretary General; Kerrie Symmonds, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados; and Matthew Wilson, Ambassador of Barbados to the UN and WTO.

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), announced that the World TB Day would be marked on 24 March, and on 18 March at 3 pm, there would be a related virtual press briefing. Tuberculosis caused 1.3 million deaths each year, reminded Mr. Lindmeier.

The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) had finished on 14 March, informed Mr. Lindmeier; on 19 March at 2 pm there would be a press briefing to present its recommendations [later the press briefing was announced at 3 pm instead of 2 pm] .

David Hirsch, for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), informed that the following week the ITU and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) would present a joint assessment on electronic waste (E-waste Monitor). Last E-waste monitor had been released in July 2020; an embargoed version of the new report had been already shared with the media. 

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service, said that on 18 March at 4 pm, Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator a.i for the occupied Palestinian territory, would hold a virtual press conference on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

On 19 March at 2 pm, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) would present its State of Global Climate 2023. Speakers would be Celeste Saulo, WMO Secretary-General, and Omar Baddour, Chief of Climate Monitoring. 

On 20 March at 11 am, Tom Andrews, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, would hold a press conference.

Ms. Vellucci said that the Human Rights Committee was concluding this morning the review of the report of Serbia.

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was reviewing today the report of Nicaragua. 

She informed that today was the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, on which occasion the Secretary-General had issued a message

On 21 March, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) would mark the International Day of Forests with a two-part event: "Forest Talk: Innovation 4 Climate" (10 am, Auditorium (H.200, ground floor and online), to be followed by "Glacial Threads: From Forests to Future Textiles" (12 noon) - a symbolic ceremony involving the unrolling and laying of a glacier fleece made from wood-based fibers onto Michelangelo Pistoletto’s iconic sculpture, "Rebirth." More information is available here.


The webcast for this briefing is available here:

The audio for this briefing is available here: