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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 World Food Programme, the World Health Organization, and the Human Rights Council. 

Drought in Malawi

Paul Turnbull, World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director for Malawi, speaking from Lilongwe, informed that on 23 March, Malawi had declared a state of disaster in 23 out of the country's 28 districts. World Food Programme was appealing for urgent resources to deliver life-saving food assistance to two million people reeling from the devastating impacts of drought, exacerbated by the effects of El Niño. 

The country was still suffering from the impacts of tropical storms and cyclones in 2022 and 2023 and the compounded effect was to push up to 40 percent of Malawi’s population into hunger, threatening both lives and livelihoods. Prolonged dry spells had blighted harvests in southern and central regions while flooding had washed away crops in northern and central areas. As national maize stocks ran low, the country had been forced to import staple commodities, driving food prices to alarming levels. Maize prices had nearly doubled in just one year and had tripled against the five-year average. With over 80 percent of the population relying on agriculture to cover basic needs, the steep decline in staple crops such as maize, rice, soya beans, cowpeas and groundnuts had been devastating for millions of people. The Government’s preliminary estimate was that close to two million farming households were affected. The Government was coordinating an effort to procure 600,000 tons of maize; WFP would do its part and was calling for an urgent scale-up of assistance. Normally, the lean season started in October, but this year it could start in July, warned Mr. Turnbull. Early release of funding for food procurement was needed. International solidarity and common action were of particular importance in this case, concluded Mr. Turnbull.

Responding to questions, Mr. Turnbull said that exploitation was happening among refugee populations, most of whom were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. An estimated 90 percent of the population in Malawi were already engaging in negative coping mechanisms. UNICEF was organizing a comprehensive survey to estimate a proper situation of malnutrition in the country. Mr. Turnbull said that the 600,000 tons of maize would cost about USD 210 million. WFP needed USD 70 million to provide emergency food assistance to two million people for three months, delivering a combination of in-kind and cash to affected households.

Situation in Gaza

Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), responding to questions, said that horrific levels of violence had continued in Gaza over the Easter weekend. The Al Shifa hospital was now in ruins and was no longer able to function in any shape or form. At least 21 patients had died during the siege. With the destruction of the Al-Shifa hospital, the heart of the health system in Gaza had been ripped out. WHO was hoping to reach several hospitals in Gaza today. A ceasefire had to happen now - it should have happened months earlier, but it was necessary now. 

Alessandra Vellucci, for the UN Information Service (UNIS), said that Martin Griffiths, UN Humanitarian Chief, had expressed his outrage at the killing of the seven aid workers of the World Central Kitchen. Those actions were indefensible, stressed Mr. Griffiths. Ms. Harris said that this particular mission had been agreed upon in advance, using a deconfliction mechanism, and the aid vehicle had been clearly marked as such. This situation was a moral stain on humanity that should not allow to continue. WHO would continue with its mission, stressed Ms. Harris. A big rise of children born low weight was being reported; many infants and young children were suffering from malnutrition, which made them far more prone to other illnesses. Finally, Ms. Harris said that the following day, 3 April, Dr. Tedros would hold a press conference. 

Ms. Vellucci stated that on 3 and 4 April, at the Palais des Nations, there would be a Conference of Civil Society Organizations Working on the Question of Palestine, convened by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. The title of the conference was “Building Bridges with International Civil Society to Address the Ongoing Nakba.” More information is available here. A press conference would be held on 3 April at 1:30 pm, with the Ambassadors of Senegal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cuba, and the State of Palestine, Permanent Representatives of their countries to the UN in New York [later, Ms Vellucci specified that the five ambassadors will be briefing the press in-person from the UNOG press room]

Human Rights Council

Pascal Sim, for the Human Rights Council (HRC), said that today, the Council was discussing five different country situations: Ukraine, Colombia, South Sudan, Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The following day, the Council would start looking into 34 draft texts, of which 33 draft resolutions. Several of these draft resolutions would deal with renewals of a number of mandates, including investigative bodies on Ukraine and Iran, and special rapporteurs on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, environment, right of food, and adequate housing, among others. More information is available here.


Alessandra Vellucci, for the for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed the media about the International Week at Balexert in Geneva, from 16 to 20 April. The objective of this event, featuring 16 agencies and international organizations, was to showcase to the local audiences the importance of the work done by “International Geneva”. More information is available here