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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE

Bi-Weekly Briefing

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, attended by the spokespersons and representatives of the World Health Organization, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization.

Ukraine

Bhanu Bhatnagar, World Health Organization (WHO) Spokesperson and Media Relations, speaking from Lviv, Ukraine, said that WHO had so far delivered 216 metric tonnes of emergency and medical supplies and equipment to Ukraine, just over half of which had reached their intended destinations, mostly in the east and north of the country. WHO was doing its utmost to re-open its operations and country office in Kyiv to ensure that it was delivering the right assistance to the right places at the right time. It was also looking to expand its operational base in Dnipro.

Over the coming days, WHO would be providing 15 generators to hospitals located in oblasts in the north, east and south. Two generators had been set aside for hospitals in Mariupol as soon as personnel could access the city. It would also be importing 20 ambulances that week to be deployed by the Ministry of Health. WHO Emergency Medical Teams were assisting with the establishment of field hospitals and working with national and international partners to set up mobile primary health-care clinics. In addition, WHO was supporting the medical evacuation of patients to the Polish border town of Korczowe, where the Polish government had set up a health facility to treat up to 200 patients. The Emergency Medical Teams, in consultation with the Ministry of Health, were assessing who was eligible for evacuation, including cancer patients, people with conflict-related injuries and others currently unable to be treated in Ukraine.

As of 11 April, WHO had verified 108 incidents of attacks on health care, including health facilities, personnel, transport, supplies and warehouses, in Ukraine. At least 73 people had been killed and 51 injured in the attacks. It continued to condemn in the strongest possible terms all attacks on health care, which not only deprived people of vital health services but were also a violation of international humanitarian law.

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), drawing attention to the press briefing by the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General of 11 April, said that the United Nations and its partners were deeply concerned about the plight of civilians following the intensification of hostilities in the eastern Donbas region and the Khersonska, Kharkivska and Dnipropetrovska oblasts. They continued to call on all parties to the conflict to enable the safe delivery of assistance and facilitate the safe passage of civilians evacuating areas where hostilities were increasing, in line with the discussions held by the Under-Secretary-General, Martin Griffiths, during his visits to Moscow and Kyiv. The High Commissioner for Human Rights had recorded 4,335 civilian casualties across Ukraine since 24 February, including at least 1,842 people who had been killed. The actual civilian death was likely much higher. The United Nations staff was gradually returning to the capital, starting with a presence of senior officials.

Replying to journalists, Mr. Bhatnagar said that WHO had been able to deliver assistance and supplies in Luhansk and Donetsk – though, for reasons of operational security, he could not divulge precisely where or by what route – but had not yet been able to access Mariupol. WHO was preparing for all eventualities, hence the delivery of supplies to the east. However, supporting health-care facilities also required safe passage.

Matthew Saltmarsh, for the United Nations Refugee Agency, added that, while the numbers of Ukrainians crossing into neighbouring countries had declined significantly, recent arrivals tended to be in a more vulnerable state, to not have a travel plan and to be of fewer means.

Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report on food security in Somalia

Lara Fossi, World Food Programme (WFP) Deputy Country Director for Somalia, said that the latest data showed how rapidly the situation in Somalia was deteriorating, with 6 million people now facing acute food insecurity in the coming months – almost double the number at the start of the year and almost 40 per cent of the total population. The rains had so far failed to materialize. Families had been struggling to cope with the impacts of the drought itself but, combined with record high food and fuel prices and decreased purchasing power, the drought was creating an absolutely catastrophic situation for millions. Camps for internally displaced persons had been growing exponentially in the past few months.

Immediate action was needed to avert a famine. Despite WFP’s longstanding warnings, the gap between the growing hunger crisis and the resources available to address it was widening. With a relief funding gap of US$ 149 million, it was now having to prioritize the starving over the hungry. Furthermore, it was already having to prioritize its very limited nutrition funding for treatment of malnutrition, rather than prevention. Negative coping strategies, such as selling off livestock and other assets, would undermine people’s long-term resilience. WFP implored the world not to turn its back on Somalia or wait until it was too late.

Etienne Peterschmitt, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representative in Somalia, said that the IPC report released the previous week painted a grim picture of the fast-deteriorating food security and nutrition situation in Somalia and should sound a loud alarm for another potential famine in the country. The last famine, in 2011, had killed nearly a quarter of a million people. The current likelihood of poor rain, skyrocketing food prices and huge funding shortfalls meant that another catastrophic event in which millions of people were at risk of sliding into famine was just around the corner.

For that reason, in a joint statement released that day, FAO, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the United Nations Children’s Fund and WFP were calling for an urgent injection of funds to scale up life-saving assistance. Some 81,000 people were already facing catastrophic conditions – starvation, malnutrition, loss of all livestock, crops and assets, and eventually disease and death – and that number could rise exponentially.

Desperate families were splitting up for survival, and many Somalis were pouring into informal settlements and camps where they experienced further hardships, including measles, watery diarrhea, and physical and psycho-social risks. More than half did not receive assistance on arrival due to a lack of funds. FAO was assisting rural families in staying in their homes through cash transfers and was working with the Government and partners to conduct a nationwide emergency livestock treatment campaign. Every dollar spent on protecting rural livelihoods saved around US$ 10 in food-related assistance but, more importantly, it helped families stay together, reduced displacement-related risks and helped communities recover faster after a crisis.

However, the humanitarian response was unable to keep up with the growing needs. The Ukraine crisis had seen global attention and funding be redirected, and the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2022 was severely underfunded. The worst was yet to come, but large-scale funding received today could still prevent the worst.

For the IPC report on Somalia, see https://www.ipcinfo.org/ipcinfo-website/alerts-archive/issue-60/en/.

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), recalled that the UN Secretary-General had held a telephone call with the President of Somalia on 11 April, the transcript of which could be found here.

In response to whether funding was being diverted to the crisis in Ukraine, Ms. Fossi said that certainly some donations for Somalia that had been expected had yet to be disbursed. Mr. Peterschmitt added that not only was attention and funding being drawn elsewhere, but the cost of humanitarian operations was also increasing.

As to whether some of the funding mobilized for Ukraine could be redirected to Somalia, Ms. Fossi said that doing so depended on whether the donations to WFP were earmarked for Ukraine. If not, there might be scope to redirect. Tomson Phiri added that while there had been a momentous outpouring of solidarity for Ukraine, the needs were enormous there too. WFP required US$ 590 million to assist 3.1 million crisis-affected people and internally displaced persons in Ukraine, as well as refugees and asylum seekers from Ukraine in neighbouring countries, for the next three months.

Replying to other questions from journalists, Ms. Fossi said that WFP was prioritizing internally displaced persons and the most vulnerable households. Six areas of Somalia had already been identified as being at risk of famine, and there were anecdotal reports of deaths due to hunger. As of February 2022, 1.4 million children had been acutely malnourished, of whom more than 320,000 had been severely acutely malnourished. Mr. Peterschmitt added that failing rains were compounded by significantly below average crop yields. While some people might have already died of hunger, the threshold of IPC Phase 5 had yet to be reached.

Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), added that according to a press release by WMO's regional climate centre in Africa on 11 April, Eastern Africa was facing the very real prospect that the rains would fail for a fourth consecutive season, placing Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia into a drought of a length not experienced in the last 40 years.

IPC report on food security in South Sudan

Meshack Malo, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representative in South Soudan, said that according to findings released on 9 April, almost two thirds of the country – a record 7.74 million people – would likely face hunger between May and July that year. Of those people, an estimated 87,000 would face catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 5), which could only be remedied by urgent and sustained multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance. Some 1.34 million children and 676,000 pregnant and lactating women were expected to be malnourished in 2022.

The key drivers of food insecurity included climatic shocks, subnational and intercommunal conflict, the economic crisis and high food prices, low crop production, crop and livestock pests and diseases and the general depletion of household coping strategies owing to the protracted crisis. Going forward, there was a need to invest in urgently reaching the most vulnerable, strengthen early warning/early action systems and design interventions for both emergency needs and longer-term resilience-building.

For the IPC report on South Sudan, see https://www.ipcinfo.org/ipcinfo-website/alerts-archive/issue-61/en/.

In response to journalists, Mr. Malo said that all of South Sudan was affected. Due to the country’s sizable livestock and fisheries resources, FAO’s focus was on livelihood support. However, it had received only US$ 25 million of the US$ 90 million it required.

Announcements

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), announced that WHO Director-General would be giving a virtual press conference on coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the War in Ukraine, and other global health emergencies on 13 April.

He also announced that the statement on the 11th meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee for COVID-19, held on 11 April, was expected soon.

Adriano Timossi, for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said that FAO wished to draw attention to the latest available information on analysis and activities in response to the conflict in Ukraine and its impacts on food security, which could be found here, and to FAO policy proposals to address the global food security situation and the risks associated with the current conflict, accessible here.

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service, announced that on Tuesday, 12 April at 4 p.m., the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights would be holding a hybrid press conference at which the Committee on Enforced Disappearances would present its findings on Greece, Mexico and the Niger. Speakers would include: Ms. Carmen Rosa Villa Quintana, Chair of the Committee; Ms. Milica Kolakovic-Bojovic, Vice-Chair and Country Rapporteur for Greece; Mr. Olivier de Frouville, Country Rapporteur for the Niger; Mr. Juan José Lopez Ortega, Country Rapporteur for the Niger; Ms. Albane Prophette-Pallasco, Secretary of the Committee; Mr. Horacio Ravenna, delegation of Mexico; and Mr. Juan Pablo Alban Alencastro, delegation of Mexico.

She also announced that Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, would present the 2022 Financing for Sustainable Development Report (under embargo) at a press conference on 12 April, at 5.30 p.m. Geneva time. The report showed that the unequal ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic had had a devastating effect on the economies and progress of developing countries. It also examined how unfavourable financing terms hindered recovery in developing countries and set out concrete recommendations to breach financing divide.

Ms Vellucci recalled that the annual ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development would take place on 25 to 28 April. Heads of State and Government and other high-level participants from a range of sectors would review progress on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

She said that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, whose 106th session had opened on 11 April, would be considering the report of Cameroon on 13 and 14 April. The other States parties to be reviewed at the session were Luxembourg (19–20 April), Estonia (20–21 April) and Kazakhstan (21–22 April).

Lastly, she said that there would not be a UNIS press briefing on Friday, 15 April 2022 and that the UN Office at Geneva will be closed on official holidays on Friday 15 and Monday 18 April.

 

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