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PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE

Bi-Weekly Briefing

Michele Zaccheo, Chief of the UNTV, Radio & Webcast Section at the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, which was attended by the representatives and spokespersons for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Meteorological Organization, the World Food Programme, and the World Health Organization.

Ukraine

Denise Brown, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, speaking from Kharkiv, said this was her third week in Ukraine, and she was currently visiting the northeast of the country to assess the humanitarian situation. Constant shelling prevented UN agencies from being present in Kharkiv, a heavily affected city with numerous needs. In the non-government-controlled areas, on the other side of the front line, less than a million people had been reached as the UN had no reliable way of crossing the front line. It was difficult to get necessary security guarantees in time, but the humanitarian needs remained acute. Ahead of the winter, which started early and lasted long in Ukraine, there were many preparations that ought to be done. It was important to ensure that the world’s attention stayed on Ukraine, a country in which people had suffered and continued to suffer tremendously.

Responding to questions from the journalists, Ms. Brown explained that an assessment was underway with the Food and Agriculture Organization on how to secure farmers’ access to land and ensure continuous food production. Regarding non-government-controlled areas, Ms. Brown said that there were reports of aid coming in from the Russian Federation, but those could not be confirmed. An assumption was that people on both sides of the front line needed assistance ahead of the coming winter. Security guarantees were needed from the Russian Federation for the UN humanitarian convoys to cross the front line and help. Ms. Brown spoke of “protection through presence” by UN staff in the non-government-controlled areas, and also confirmed that the UN had not been able to cross the front line “in any significant way” since the escalation of the hostilities in February. An overall winter plan should be finalized and presented the following week, informed Ms. Brown, who explained that she was in charge of coordinating humanitarian activities of the UN system in the country.

Michele Zaccheo, for the United Nations Information Service, informed that in support of the Mayor of Kharkiv’s desire to rebuild his city and send a signal recovery to his citizens and the world, renowned artist Michelangelo Pistoletto would offer Kharkiv a “rebirth” sculpture. Mr. Zaccheo reminded that the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe was coordinating a UN4Kharkiv Task Force which brought together 14 UN agencies and international organizations, and which worked on the development of approaches for the integrated rehabilitation of cities. The Task Force piloted the approaches for the rehabilitation in the city of Kharkiv. More information is available here.

Horn of Africa weather outlook

Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that the drought was set to continue in the Horn of Africa. The outlook with seasonal projections for the October-to-December rainy season showed a high chance for a drier-than-usual period in Ehtiopia, Somalia, and Kenya. This season normally contributed around 70 percent of annual rainfall, said Ms. Nullis. The fifth consecutive failed rainy season would lead to an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe, assessed the head of the WMO’s regional center in East Africa. An annual report on the state of climate in Africa would be issued on 8 September, said Ms. Nullis.

More information is available here.

Ms. Nullis also informed that a new La Niña update would be issued the following week.

Replying to questions, Ms. Nullis reiterated that unfortunately the drought was expected to continue, and the seasonal rainfalls would not be sufficient to alleviate the ongoing crisis. In order to create artificial rain, some moisture in the atmosphere was needed, which did not seem to be an option in the Horn of Africa right now.

Tomson Phiri, for the World Food Programme (WFP), stressed that droughts were not new to this part of the world, but they were now more severe and more frequent. Temperatures continued to climb, while rainfalls decreased year after year. Hunger and malnutrition were on the rise, and there was a definite risk of famine, especially in Somalia. Humanitarian response was necessary immediately as the threat of famine was very much real.

Carla Drysdale, for the World Health Organization (WHO), added that more than 60 million people were facing food insecurity in the Horn of Africa. That meant people were eating minimally adequate diets and had to make significant reductions to their overall consumption. More than 7.3 million people were in the emergency phase, facing extreme food shortages, with very high disease levels. Malnourished people, especially pregnant women and children, were more likely to fall sick, Ms. Drysdale emphasized.

Announcements

Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), informed that on 7 September, the Clear Air and Blue Skies Day, the WMO would issue a report on air quality and climate.

Michele Zaccheo, for the United Nations Information Service, informed that on 30 August at 1:30 pm, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination would hold a press conference to present findings on the United States of America, Azerbaijan, Benin, Nicaragua, Slovakia, Zimbabwe, and Suriname. The same day, at 4 pm, the Committee would close its 107th session.

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was concluding this morning the review of the reports of Bangladesh.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child would open on 29 August at 10 am its 91st session, during which it would review the reports of North Macedonia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, South Sudan, Germany, Bolivia, Viet Nam, Philippines, and Kuwait. The session would be webcast on UNTV, as all public sessions of human rights treaty bodies.

The date of the next public plenary of the Conference on Disarmament, presently under the presidency of Ecuador, was to be announced at a later stage.

Mr. Zaccheo also referred to the statement by the UN Team in Algeria, which warned of a deteriorating nutrition situation in the Sahrawi refugee camps, including over 75 percent cuts in food rations. The UN Team in Algeria appealed for the international community’s increased support for lifesaving food and nutrition assistance to refugees risking serious food insecurity and malnutrition.

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