PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
Rhéal LeBlanc, Chief of the Press and External Relations Section at the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, which was attended by spokespersons and representatives of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Winterization in Ukraine
Jaco Cilliers, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Representative in Ukraine, stated that more than 10 million Ukrainians living in the most affected areas faced winter without water, heat, and electricity. An estimated 50 per cent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure had recently been directly affected, with power cuts affecting just about everyone in the country. Nearly 18 million people – 40 per cent of Ukraine’s population – needed humanitarian aid.
UNDP’s priority was to provide emergency support, which included the distribution of blankets, cooking stoves and heating equipment. Mr. Cilliers said that UNDP was working on repairing the grid and providing high-voltage equipment to restore and ensure uninterrupted supply of water and heating. Speaking about longer-term priorities, Mr. Cilliers also listed supporting the provision of basic services; mine action and rubble removal; and the assessment and recovery of the damaged energy infrastructure system.
Responding to questions, Mr. Cilliers explained that all UN agencies were involved in the humanitarian response, one way or the other. It was a joined effort, in which OCHA, WFP, IOM, and UNICEF were in the lead, among others. The United Nations, together with the World Bank, was assessing the damages done to the energy grid and infrastructure. Mr. Cilliers stressed that shelters had been created for people to receive support, get warm, or use electricity. Regarding funding, Mr. Cilliers emphasized the immense solidarity of the international community towards Ukraine, but more still needed to be done. The International Telecommunications Union had also been active in assessing the needs and looking into ways of strengthening the network’s resilience.
Shabia Mantoo, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) added that UNHCR’s top priority was to deliver winterization support, including through cash assistance. UNHCR was working closely with national and local actors in this regard.
Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that many hospitals were under huge pressure because of the continuous attacks. A large rise in respiratory illness was being seen; there were also concerns about diphtheria and measles, as well as the mental health of the Ukrainian population. Finally, many HIV-positive people in the Donetsk region were not able to receive their medication.
Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that the itinerary of Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths in Ukraine had been shared with the media.
Security projections for Somalia
Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), stated that the latest findings from the Integrated Phase Classification security food reports did not lead to a declaration of famine in Somalia, thanks to the commendable response of the international community and local actors. Famine was, nonetheless, expected to occur in certain population groups between April and June 2023. Somalia’s food crisis was expected to both widen and deepen next year, stressed Mr. Laerke. Five consecutive failed rain seasons; low domestic cereal production and a decreased import; and the long-running armed conflict with insecurity are the three key factors behind the dire situation. The report would be published later today.
Replying to questions, Mr. Laerke explained that even if famine had not been technically declared, that did not mean that people were not experiencing catastrophic food shortages, with such numbers growing. The reason why the previous projection had not turned into famine was because of the humanitarian organizations doing their job and local communities stepping up.
James Elder, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), added that there was good news in averting the famine for now, but stressed that this was a delay rather than a definite elimination of the threat of famine. While precise fatality numbers were difficult to obtain, there was no doubt that large numbers of children were dying.
Responding to questions from the media, Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the WHO issued recommendations, while countries, as always, made their own decisions. WHO had recommended to the countries not to go into lockdowns too easily, as many factors at community and national levels ought to be considered first. She explained that WHO staff were advised to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), announced that the December issue of the Global Trade Update was being released today. Following a record year, global trade growth now turned negative. The report went through negative and positive impacts that played in the global economy as well as factors affecting global trade patterns. It also gave trade trends in the major economies, regional ones, and at the sectoral level. The eight-page report was under embargo until 1 p.m. today.
Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), announced that the Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water report would be released tomorrow morning. An embargoed press conference would be held today at 15:00 CET.