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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
7 May 2013

Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for the World Health Organization, Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, International Organization for Migration, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and United Nations Environment Programme.

Syria

Jens Laerke for the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that the humanitarian team in Syria had put together a breakdown of internally displaced persons (IDPs) which estimated 4.25 million IDPs in Syria. The map, which was available online, showed particularly high numbers of IDPs concentrated in Aleppo (1,250,000) and Rural Damascus (705,200).

When Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos briefed the Security Council recently, she highlighted the difficulties in getting aid into the country. Ms. Amos told the Security Council it was very difficult to reach the north and called for a mixed response: delivering as much as possible within the country but also bringing in supplies, for example, across the Turkish borders to help people trapped in the north. So far, however, the Syrian Government had not agreed to cross-border operations.

Overall, from January to April, some 764,000 people had been reached through UN-led relief convoys to hard-to-access areas. Out of ten convoys which crossed conflict lines, five targeted opposition-controlled areas, while another five went to contested areas.

Answering questions from journalist Mr. Laerke said the last convoy was on 25 April, when a UN inter-agency convoy crossed conflict lines and reached Ter Mallah and Al Ghan in Homs governorate to deliver food and essential non-food items for 24,000 people. Responding to further questions about how many people OCHA was reaching with relief supplies, Mr Laerke said he believed the new resources were rich in data which showed that the convoys were increasingly reaching people in hard-to-access areas, as a result of OCHA putting in more applications for convoys. However there had been little movement on the bureaucratic obstacles, as each convoy needed authorizations at several levels. OCHA continued to work on that with the Syrian Government.

Mr. Laerke provided the following links to resources on Syria: Humanitarian Bulletin Syria Issue 24, 23 April - 6 May 2013 and Syrian Arab Republic: People in Need and IDPs by Governorate - as of 16 April 2013 (English and Arabic).

H7N9 Avian Influenza

Glenn Thomas, for the World Health Organization (WHO) said that this morning the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China notified the World Health Organization of two new confirmed cases of human infection with H7N9 avian influenza from mainland China. That brought the total, as of today, to 129 reported cases, including 31 deaths and 42 patients so far discharged from hospital.

Novel Coronavirus (nCoV)

Glenn Thomas, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia had informed WHO of an additional three laboratory confirmed cases of infection with the novel coronavirus (nCoV). Two of the patients died on 3 May 2013 and one was currently in critical condition. The Saudi Arabian Government was conducting ongoing investigations into the outbreak, which was linked to one health care facility in Al-Ahsa.

Since the start of May 2013 a total of 13 patients had been reported, of which seven had died. Of the 13 patients, 10 were men and three women. The age range of the patients was from 24 to 94 years old. To date, WHO had been informed of a global total of 30 laboratory confirmed cases of human infection with nCoV, including 18 deaths.

WHO did not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to the event nor did it recommend that any travel or trade restrictions be applied. Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encouraged all Member States to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns. WHO was currently working with international experts and countries where cases have been reported to assess the situation and review recommendations for surveillance and monitoring. Investigations were ongoing.

Chad

Jumbe Omari Jumbe, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) thanked all members of the press who carried the IOM appeal on Chad and said the response had been very encouraging in terms of funding, in that IOM had actually started repatriating Chadian returnees from the Tissi border area ahead of the rainy season. IOM would provide a full briefing in the coming days.

Republic of the Marshall Islands

Jumbe Omari Jumbe, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said unusually low rainfall in one of the world’s remotest ocean communities was leading to a precarious humanitarian situation for thousands of people. Officials had found some families were living on a gallon (3.8 litres) of water per day - barely half of the international standard for emergency water requirements, and often the precursor to serious health conditions.

Unusually low rainfall since February had led the Government in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which had a population of approximately 53,000, to declare a State of Emergency in its northern islands, midway between Hawaii and Australia. The inhabitants of remote northern atolls, some 3,200 people, were at risk. Food security was a major concern, as crops, plants and trees had been damaged.

Government operated ships today began transporting relief materials provided by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), including full water containers and hygiene kits stocked in IOM-managed warehouses, to 567 households in the worst-affected communities.

Ashley Carl, IOM’s Chief of Mission for the Marshall Islands, said “While this may not be a massive disaster in global terms, it is highly significant for this remote and fragile environment.” The Marshall Islands were the nation ranked the most in danger of flooding and climate change, Mr. Jumbe reminded the press.

Ukraine

Jumbe Omari Jumbe, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said seafarers and fishermen in Ukraine, seeking employment through legitimate recruitment organizations, risked ending up trafficked at sea, according to a new and unique IOM report compiled jointly with NEXUS Institute, International Human Rights Research and Policy Centre. The report was based on a study of 46 men trafficked to Russia, Turkey and South Korea on vessels under Panamanian and Russian flags engaged in illegal crab fishing or cargo transportation. It was the first of its kind to carry out a comprehensive examination of trafficking of seafarers from Ukraine.

The report details extremely harsh living conditions on board the vessels that regularly led to serious injury, illness and even death. Crews were routinely denied medical care and traffickers often used violence to control the men and prevent rebellion over working conditions and non-payment. With little or no chance to escape, seafarers and fishermen interviewed for the study reported being forced to work up to 22 hours a day, seven days a week, without pay and with little access to food and water.

Trafficking at sea had been reported in different regions and was increasingly recognized as a serious issue. However, some aspects of the Ukrainian experiences were unique. According to Ms. Surtees, author of the report, most men thought they were signing legally binding agreements with reliable crewing companies and employers. They all travelled with legal documents and crossed formal borders. The report makes key recommendations and was available online.

Geneva activities

The United Nations Office at Geneva will be closed for public holidays on Thursday, 9 May (for Ascension) and on Monday, 20 May (for Whit Monday or Pentecost).

The International Labour Organization would hold a press conference on Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 10 a.m. in Room III of the Palais des Nations to launch the Global Employment Trends for Youth. Speaking at the event would be José-Manuel Salazar- Xirinachs, Assistant Director-General and Ekkehard Ernst, Senior ILO Economist.

Isabelle Valentiny for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced a press conference for Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 11 a.m. in Room III at the Palais des Nations to launch a new analytical report titled Green Economy and Trade: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities. Mr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director, UNEP, would be speaking. Journalists were reminded that there was an embargo on the report until 8 May 2013 at 11:00 a.m. CET.

Catherine Sibut for United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) told journalists that on Wednesday 8 May 2013 at 3 p.m. in Press Room 1 of the Palais des Nations they would host an event to launch new publication The Palestinian Economy in East Jerusalem: Enduring Annexation, Isolation and Disintegration. Mahmoud Elkhafif, Coordinator of the Assistance to the Palestinian people for UNCTAD would speak.

A press briefing would be held on Friday, 10 May at the Geneva International Conference Centre to mark the closure of the high-level segment of the 2013 ordinary and extraordinary conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions (28 April – 10 May 2013, Geneva). Jointly organized by the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (UNEP/FAO), the event would feature the following speakers: Mr. Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP); Mr. José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); Mr. Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions (UNEP); Ms. Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility (GEF); H.E. Mr. Franz Perrez, Swiss Ambassador of the Environment and President of the eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal

Ms Momal-Vanian announced that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) would hold a pre-event media briefing on Friday, 10 May 2013 in Press Room 1 on its 5th World Telecommunication Policy Forum, 14-16 May. ITU Secretary General Dr. Hamadoun Touré would be speaking.

Journalists would be informed of the exact time of the ITU and UNEP/FAO press conferences on Friday once possible scheduling conflicts had been resolved.

Glenn Thomas, for the World Health Organization (WHO), told journalists that the annual World Health Assembly would take place on 20 to 28 May 2013 at Palais des Nations. A press briefing on what this year’s event would hold would take place on Monday 13 May at 2.30p.m. in Press Room 1 with Andrew Castles of the Office of the Director-General of the WHO.

Ms. Momal-Vanian said the Committee Against Torture started its fiftieth session on Monday, 6 May, at the Palais Wilson. During its four-week session it will consider the reports of the United Kingdom, Mauritania, Bolivia, Estonia, Guatemala, Japan, Kenya, & the Netherlands. States parties being reviewed this week were the United Kingdom (today, 6 May and Wednesday 8 May) and Mauritania (Wednesday 8 May and Friday 10 May). A background press release is available here.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights began the second of its three-week session on Monday (6 May) and this week would review the reports of Togo (today, 7 May), Rwanda (Wednesday 8 May) and Denmark (Friday 10 May). The reports of Japan, Iran and Jamaica were considered earlier in the session. The background press release is available here.

The representatives of the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Children’s Programme and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also attended the briefing but did not speak.

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The webcast for this briefing is available here: webtv.un.org/media.