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UN Geneva Press Briefing

Alessandra Vellucci of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, attended by spokespersons and representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 

Ukraine: Wave of Russian missiles strike 

Jeremy Laurence, for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said the United Nations Human Rights Chief Volker Türk described the deadly blasts at two Kyiv hospitals that treated children and women as “abominable”. The Russian Federation launched a wave of strikes on densely populated areas of Ukraine, including the cities of Kryvi Rih, Pokrovsk and Dnipro. The High Commissioner deplored the attacks and scalled on those with influence to do everything in their power to ensure these attacks stopped immediately.

Alessandra Vellucci, of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said in his statement, the Secretary-General also strongly condemned the missile attacks by the Russian Federation and extended his deepest condolences to the families of the victims. He also emphasised that directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects was prohibited by international humanitarian law.

Danielle Bell, Head of Mission for the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, said the attack on Okhmatdyt hospital was one of the most egregious attacks since the onset of the full-scale invasion. Okhmatdyt was a specialised hospital where people across the country brought their chidlren for treatment. Her team had spent yesterday at the incident site speaking with medical staff, parents of children and residents of the surrounding area. Analysis of the video footage and assessment made at the video site indicated a high likelihood that the hospital suffered a direct hit, rather than receiving damages due to an intercepted weapons system. At the time of the attack, 670 child patients were there, with more than 1000 medical staff. At least two children were killed, along with a female doctor and at least 50 were injured, including seven children.

Staff had moved the children to a bunker when the air raids first went off, otherwise the casualties would have been much higher. The attack destroyed the toxicology department and damaged the intensive care, surgical and oncology wards. This terrible attack showed that no one was safe in Ukraine. Yesterday’s attack involved at least 38 different cruise missiles and ballistic rockets as well as drones, in multiple waves throughout the day. 30 of the 38 missiles were intercepted. At least 38 children had been killed and more than 190 had been injured. It would expect that these numbers would rise. Most casualties occurred in Kiev city and other parts of the region. In addition to the horrific attack on Okhmatdyt Hospital, other civilian infrastructure was damaged. In Kiev city, nine civilians were killed and five injured after debris hit a medical centre. 

Matthew Saltmarsh, for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the coordinated attacks across the country demonstrated that the tragic war was continuing relentlessly in Ukraine. People, homes, and infrastructure were being impacted on a daily basis. UNHCR stood with the people of Ukraine and called for an immediate respect of international humanitarian law. At the children’s hospital in Kiev, UNHCR was working to provide psychosocial support, legal aid, and shelter materials. Reportedly at least 30 multi-story buildings, departments, homes, factories, schools, and kindergartens had also been impacted. UNHCR were also working in Dnipro, providing construction materials, psychological support, and legal advice. Emergency materials were also being provided in other parts of the country. The full-scale war was continuing relentlessly, and the people of Ukraine must not be forgotten. More support was needed immediately, particularly in view of the upcoming winter. The Ukrainian response appeal was only one third funded, of the one billion dollars required. 

Responding to questions, Danielle Bell, Head of Mission for the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, said OHCHR had assessed the factors of the attack, which suggested that the hospital was directly hit by a KH101 missile launched by the Russian Federation. These factors were based on video footage, showing the technical specifications of the weapon used, the weapon directly impacting the hospital, and the observed damages consistent with a direct hit. Investigations were ongoing by the Kiev authorities and from OHCHR, who would continue looking at evidence. Findings would be included in the next periodic report. 

Responding to further questions, Ms. Bell said this was a horrific attack which hit a hospital that was treating Ukraine’s most vulnerable. OHCHR did not have the competence to determine with 100 percent certainty whether it was a direct hit or not. 

Also responding to questions, Ms. Bell said it was important to highlight the criticality of accountability. OHCHR would continue their meticulous documentation on the ground, to ensure that accountability one day would be a reality. This was difficult and would take a long time. The Office of the Prosecutor General had responsibility and was continuing to investigate war crimes. There were other international accountability bodies working on the ground in Ukraine, such as the commission of Inquiry. OHCHR was responsible for fact-finding on the ground which supported these mechanisms, often triggering other investigations. 

Tarik Jašarević, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said WHO was mandated to verify and report attacks on health care worldwide. In Ukraine as of today, WHO had verified 1,882 attacks on health care, resulting in 150 deaths, 379 injuries and 1,624 impacted health facilities. Primary health care was affected by 40 percent of these attacks, impeding access to basic health services. First responders and ambulance workers were three times as likely to suffer attacks. Since the start of the Russian federation invasion, 200 ambulances were damaged or destroyed in shelling attacks per year. These attacks were also causing power outages and disruption in water supply, leading to an increase in waterborne diseases. 

Responding to questions, Mr. Jašarević, said according to the Ministry of Health, there were reports of two deaths and over 50 injuries in the attack on the hospital. Deaths from attacks included patients, health workers and caregivers. 

Ms. Bell said the Chief Medical Doctor of the hospital had provided an update which said 600 children had been transferred to other hospitals in Kiev cities, with the remaining 70 being outpatients. These children required specialised care which could be difficult to provide. It had been reported that the children did have medicine now. The hospital had just been hit with a large weapon and there was extensive damage, which would take time to rebuild. 

Mr. Jašarević said WHO were not able to determine the cause or the perpetrators of attacks on health care. 

Ms. Bell said the origin of attacks on health care were difficult to determine. What was documented was where the attacks took place. A large number of attacks had been recorded in government occupied territory, although there had also been attacks in occupied territory. 

Yemen: Renewed call to release UN and NGO staff detained by Ansar Allah

Alessandra Vellucci, of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said some positive news had been received from Yemen, where the Office of the Secretary-General, Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grunberg, said that the negotiations over the weekend led to a significant breakthrough. The Yemeni parties had reached an understanding on releasing Mohamed Katan, a prominent politician who had been held incommunicado by the Houthis since 2015. Mr. Grunberg called on the parties to agree on more release operations and repeated the demand for the immediate and unconditional release of United Nations personnel and aid and civil society workers who were arbitrarily detained in Sanaa.

Jeremy Laurence, for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said OHCHR remained extremely worried about the well-being of 13 United Nations staff and a number of non-governmental organization employees who had been detained for over a month by the ‘Ansar Allah’ de facto authorities in Yemen. OHCHR continued to be refused access to them. The Office was also concerned by the situation of two other United Nations staff members who were already in prolonged detention, one since November 2021 and the other since August 2023. The Office emphatically rejected the shocking allegations, publicly broadcast, levelled against their staff, and urged the de facto authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them. The Office called on those States and entities with influence over ‘Ansar Allah’ to secure the safe and prompt release of all detained staff. It was crucial that the de facto authorities ensured that those detained were treated with full respect for their human rights and were able to contact their families and legal representatives. Further targeting of human rights and humanitarian workers in Yemen must cease immediately. The High Commissioner said he started and ended every day thinking about these detained staff. They must be released now. 

Update on Hurricane Beryl’s Response

Vanessa Huguenin, for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said OCHA and the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team were on the ground and supporting the effort of national authorities. Right now, the response efforts were being focused on Grenada, in Carriacou, Petite Martinique, in northern Grenada, in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and in Jamaica. The South Asian coast had been most affected. The first assessment indicated that shelter, food, health, water and sanitation were the key needs in Jamaica. Initial reports pointed to continued rain and debris, obstructing access and delaying aid delivery and assessment. OCHA also had a joint visit to the south and western part of Jamaica by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Food Programme. Assessments were still continuing but there were worries regarding logistics which had been damaged, including power and communication services. Reports had been received that on some islands, the airstrip, had been damaged, and so the only way to reach them was with smaller boats, which further hampered logistic efforts. However, despite all these challenges, aid was picking up, with the removal of debris being a key priority.


Responding to questions, Tarik Jašarević, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said according to the Ministry of Health, 34 people had died of malnutrition and dehydration in Gaza so far. 60 cases of severe malnutrition and dehydration were detected at one hospital alone. WHO kept appealing for all openings of crossings into Gaza. More than 10,000 people needed to receive specialised medical care outside of Gaza; they could not wait. 

Responding to further questions, Mr. Jašarević said it was difficult to have exact figures on the number of deaths not related to shelling and bombardments. Everyone in Gaza was at risk of becoming sick, due to multiple factors, including from malnutrition. It was a vicious circle of not having access to clean water, food, sanitation and basic health services, combined with military operations. Everyone in Gaza faced increased risk of health issues. 

El Niño event across southern Africa

Alessandra Vellucci, of the United Nations Information Service, read a statement on behalf of the World Food Programme (WFP), which said a historic drought fuelled by a strong El Niño event was threatening food security for millions of people across southern Africa. Shifted rainfall patterns and long dry spells during the critical planting season had left large parts of the region with insufficient rainfall and above average temperatures. This combination of factors wiped out half the expected crop production in Malawi and Zambia and nearly all of Zimbabwe’s crop with 80 percent of the expected harvest decimated. Malawi, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe declared national drought disasters, with others expected to follow. WFP field offices were reporting that household granaries were empty and that maize, the region’s most important crop, was now priced out of many people’s hands. It was expected this situation would worsen. Children and women faced heightened protection risks. There was need for a comprehensive and multi-sectorial response. 

WFP welcomed the role played by governments in driving coordinated multi-sectorial actions and expanding existing national protection schemes. However, a coordinated collaboration among humanitarian and development partners was essential to immediately scale up the response. WFP and partners had triggered anticipatory action, unlocking payouts worth 14 million dollars for half a million people across four countries of Lesotho, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Zambia, enabling early action to improve water sources and disseminate warning messaging. Governments had also requested WFP to provide direct assistance and on-demand services in transport, logistics and food procurement. In response, WFP was scaling-up to provide emergency food and nutrition support to five million people between now and March 2025. Approximately US$ 409 million was needed immediately to support approximately 4.8 million people in the three most impacted countries: Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.


Alessandra Vellucci of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said the Human Rights Council was holding three meetings today on the human rights situations in Libya, the Central African Republic and Ukraine. This afternoon, the Council would hold the panel discussion on the best ways to implement recommendations from the UPR mechanism. Tomorrow morning, the Council would discuss the human rights situation in Colombia and tomorrow afternoon, the Council would take action on 26 draft decisions and resolutions put forward by member States. A total of 30 amendment proposals had been submitted. 

The Human Rights Committee would begin its review this afternoon on the report of the Maldives. The Committee Against Torture, which opened yesterday, was beginning their review of Ecuador this morning.