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UN Geneva Press Briefing

Rolando Gómez, Chief of the Press and External Relations Section at the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired a hybrid briefing, which was attended by the spokespersons and representatives of the United Nations Human Rights, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund, the World Meteorological Organization, the International Telecommunication Union, and the United Nations Trade and Development.

Impact on civilians of Israeli raid in Gaza to free hostages

Jeremy Laurence, for the United Nations Human Rights (OHCHR), stated that the OHCHR was profoundly shocked at the impact on civilians of the Israeli forces’ operation in An Nuseirat over the weekend to secure the release of four hostages. Hundreds of Palestinians, many of them civilians, had been reportedly killed and injured. The way the raid had been conducted in such a densely populated area seriously called into question whether the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution had been respected by the Israeli forces. 

OHCHR was also deeply distressed that Palestinian armed groups continued to hold many hostages, most of them civilians, which was prohibited by international humanitarian law. Furthermore, by holding hostages in such densely populated areas, the armed groups were putting the lives of Palestinian civilians, as well as the hostages themselves, at added risk from the hostilities. All those actions, by both parties, might amount to war crimes, said Mr. Laurence.

Full OHCHR statement is available here.

Rolando Gómez, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said that the Secretary-General was in Jordan today where he was attending a high-level conference on Gaza entitled “A Call for Action: Urgent Humanitarian Aid for Gaza”, where he would deliver remarks at 12:30 pm Geneva time. He reminded that the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel would be presenting its report to the Human Rights Council on 19 June.

Responding to questions from the media, Mr. Laurence said that he did not have specific details on how the Israeli raid had been conducted. More than 600 people had been injured in the raid, he specified. Mr. Laurence said that precaution, proportionality, and distinction ought to be essential elements of every military operation. The scale of Palestinian victims raised the question whether those international humanitarian law principles had been respected. OHCHR could not decide whether this Israeli action amounted to a war crime; that was up to relevant courts to decide. OHCHR brought to public attention multiple incidents and raised questions whether international humanitarian law rules were being adhered to. 

Mr. Laurence explained that the OHCHR had very few staff in Gaza, mostly local employees. He said that the casualty numbers came from the Ministry of Health in Gaza; OHCHR was satisfied that the numbers provided by the authorities were accurate. Under normal circumstances, those numbers would be checked, which was not possible in the current conflict. Over 270 people were reported to have been killed in the latest raid, reiterated Mr. Laurence. The fact that the four hostages were now free was clearly good news; they should never have been taken in the first place. The same applied to all remaining hostages, stressed Mr. Laurence. OHCHR had also repeatedly called for all arbitrarily detained Palestinians to be released. On another question, Mr. Laurence explained that the OHCHR was in constant contact with the Israeli authorities and had raised concerns on numerous occasions. 

Tarik Jašarević, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the WHO had gone on a mission to the Al Aqsa hospital in central Gaza on 8 June. The team had witnessed tens of people lying on the floor; it was clear that the hospital, where some 270 medical staff were providing care to 700 patients, needed more supplies. Keeping the Rafah crossing closed further exacerbated the situation. Hundreds of patients were receiving dialysis treatments at this hospital, he explained, but only two instead of three per week. There were currently 17 hospitals in Gaza that were providing some services. Mass casualty events, such as the Israeli raid in An Nuseirat, put an additional strain on the already stretched health system. 

Escalating risks for women and girls in Eastern and Southern Africa

Lydia Zigomo, Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), stated that the region was no stranger to adversity, and from climate-driven disasters to conflict and displacement, women and girls bore the brunt of those challenges. They suffered disproportionately, their vulnerabilities exacerbated by factors such as food insecurity, inadequate access to clean water, and limited health services. The aftershocks of the global pandemic had only intensified these hardships.

Ms. Zigomo said that currently, 65 million people in the region were facing unprecedented challenges. The 2023/24 El Niño season, which had brought mid-season dry spell exceeding 50 days had led to record-low rainfall across several areas including Angola, Botswana, the

Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, and

Zimbabwe, marking this period as the driest in the last 40 years. The prolonged conflict in Northern Mozambique had intensified since December 2023, leading to over 100,000 new displacements in Cabo Delgado and Nampula provinces. The ongoing conflict in Sudan had displaced almost 700,000 people into South Sudan, including many returning refugees. Thousands of others had been displaced into Chad, Ethiopia, Uganda, and other neighbouring countries. In times of crisis, the most fundamental rights of women and girls were often pushed to the backburner. The risk of sexual violence soared, and unintended pregnancies became a harsh reality. An investment had to be made in rights-based integrated sexual and reproductive health services, ensuring access even during crises. The voices of women and girls ought to be amplified, recognizing their agency and leadership. Together, escalating risks could be turned into opportunities for transformation, including rebuilding and strengthening health systems, stressed Ms. Zigomo. 

Answering questions, Ms. Zigomo explained that 7.2 million women and girls needed assistance in northern Ethiopia. In addition to inadequate funding, access to those in need remained a challenge. Health systems ought to be made more resilient and more ready to adapt, she said. 

Impact of floods in East Africa

Liesbeth Aelbrecht, Incident Manager for Greater Horn of Africa at the World Health Organization (WHO), speaking from Nairobi, said that the region was one of the most vulnerable to climate change. In recent years, there had been some unprecedented events in the Horn of Africa: a historic four-year drought had been followed by devastating El Nino-induced floods at the end of 2023; that, in turn, had been followed by weeks of relentless torrential rains causing catastrophic flooding, across Eastern Africa. OCHA reported that as of 30 May, an estimated 1.6 million people had been affected, across Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, and Tanzania. 

The toll of the current floods on health was significant, ranging from immediate risks like injury and infection, to enduring mental health impacts. Contaminated water and inadequate sanitation facilities heightened the threat of waterborne disease outbreaks. Following the flooding, new cholera outbreaks had been reported in Kenya and Uganda, and important spikes had been noted in Ethiopia and Somalia. Floodwaters served as breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which elevated the risk of vector-borne disease outbreaks, including malaria, dengue, and Rift Valley Fever. Ethiopia, for example, had reported nearly 1.9 million cases of malaria from January to April, the highest number reported during this period since 2018. 

Ms. Aelbrecht warned that weather forecasts predicted more above-average rainfall for June to September in several areas in the region such as Djibouti, Eritrea, parts of Ethiopia and Kenya, much of Uganda, South Sudan, and Sudan. In South Sudan, where already 72 percent of the population needed humanitarian assistance, they were on high alert for flooding in the northern and central parts of the country, with up to 2.5 to three million people projected to be impacted in the worst-case scenario. She stressed the importance of preparedness: WHO had mapped the flood vulnerability of all health facilities; it was prepositioning essential medicines, life-saving emergency health kits, strengthening surveillance systems with outbreak investigation and cholera treatment kits; and it was continuing to support the prevention and management of acute malnutrition. The magnitude of the task ahead required a well-funded, collective, and coordinated action with full engagement of the communities and local leaders. The time for action was now, concluded Ms. Aelbrecht.


Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), informed that the WMO Executive Council was meeting this week. One item on the agenda was on how to best use anticipatory action and early warning to help local communities. In the annual session which had started the previous day, the Council focused on the “Early Warnings for All” initiative, launched in 2022. The Council would look at a detailed roadmap so that early warning systems could become a reality for all by the end of 2027. The Council was also working on an implementation plan for the Global Greenhouse Gas Watch (G3W), which would take several years to become operational. Finally, Ms. Nullis informed said that that the WMO was looking into more details for the cryosphere, components of the Earth System at and below the land and ocean surface that are frozen. Another item on the agenda was how to improve monitoring of the cryosphere (frozen water) around the world.

Rolando Gómez, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that the UN Secretary-General would be in Geneva the following day, to attend the UNCTAD 60 anniversary event. A short press stakeout was expected after his address to the UN Trade and Development event, in Tempus, around 3:30 pm; there would be space for up to 20 journalists, who would need to inform today UNCTAD’s press team of their interest to attend.

Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said that at the end of the afternoon today, she would share the list of speakers at the event, including heads of state. As the space in Tempus was limited, journalists were encouraged to follow the event live online. Only journalists coming with state delegations would have space in Tempus during the high-level segment on 12 June. 

David Hirsch, for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), informed that the Secretary-General would visit the ITU on 12 June. Mr. Guterres would address the ITU Council on the necessity of closing the digital divide and using AI for good. He would also bilaterally meet with Doreen Bogdan-Marin, the ITU Secretary-General. The event could be watched online.

On 14 June, ITU would host the inauguration of the UN Virtual Worlds DayThis one-day event would underscore a significant milestone in technological innovation and its potential to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The event could be followed online.

Rolando Gómez, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that, after Geneva, the Secretary-General would go to Italy – Puglia and Brindisi, to attend the G7 meeting and an event marking the 30th anniversary of the UN Global Service Centre, respectively. 

He further informed that registration deadline to attend the Ninth Global Review of Aid for Trade at the World Trade Organization had been extended until 14 June. The event would take place from 26 to 28 June.

The Conference on Disarmament was holding today a public meeting titled “The challenges of new and emerging threats: Assessing the impact of emerging technologies on international security and arms control efforts”.

The Committee on Migrants’ Rights would end its ongoing session on 14 April at 5:30 pm and issue its final observations regarding the reports submitted by Türkiye, Senegal, and Congo.